News In Brief

The US

Energy Secretary Federico Pea resigned. White House officials said his letter of resignation indicated Pea, who served as secretary of transportation in the first Clinton administration, would stay in his latest post through June. He reportedly expressed an interest in leaving Washington when President Clinton finished his first term in early 1997, but then agreed to take over the sprawling Energy Department for one year.

Citicorp and Travelers Group announced a mammoth merger of the second-biggest US bank with a leading provider of financial services. The companies valued the transaction at $70 billion, which would make it the biggest on record. The new company, to be called Citigroup Inc., would reportedly have more than 100 million customers in 100 countries. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained more than 100 points in early trading, buoyed in part by news of the merger.

The US Supreme Court agreed to speed up its study of the Whitewater special prosecutor's attempt to get notes taken by the lawyer for White House aide Vince Foster during a meeting shortly before Foster's 1993 suicide. An expedited decision is expected by late June or early July. In other cases, the high court:

* Cleared the way for release of 39,000 tobacco-industry documents in a Minnesota trial. The justices rejected industry arguments that the papers should be kept secret.

* Let stand without comment a ruling that former Panamanian ruler Manuel Noriega had received a fair trial.

* Refused without comment to revive an antitrust lawsuit against Domino's Pizza Inc. by 11 franchise holders who accused the company of monopolizing the $500 million-a-year market for pizza ingredients.

Clinton declared a permanent ban on the import of military-style rifles modified for sport shooting. Most of the affected guns are variations of AK-47 and Uzi semiautomatic weapons, a White House official said. After a 1989 law banned the import of all assault weapons except those used for sport, some manufacturers altered their weapons to give them a sporty appearance. Clinton's order comes after a US review of 59 such weapons, only one of which was found acceptable.

US officials reacted cautiously to charges of mistreatment of visiting Iranian wrestlers by immigration officials. The wrestlers, traveling to an international competition in Okla- homa, were photographed and fingerprinted for two hours at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. A State Department spokesman said such procedures are legally required for "nonimmigrant" visitors from Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Sudan. An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman was quoted as saying the team's mistreatment indicated the absence of any shift in US policy toward Iran. It was not clear how the incident might affect an apparent thaw in US-Iran relations.

Hollywood actors and producers said they had tentatively agreed on a new contract, apparently averting what would have been their first strike in 18 years. However, negotiators reportedly did not reach an accord on the most delicate issue before them: how payments from basic cable revenues as well as foreign residuals should be divided. Details of the contract were not released.

Alcohol abuse is a factor in nearly 40 percent of violent US crimes, the Justice Department reported. Its study combined several years of law-enforcement data on murders, rapes, sex assaults, robberies, and other types of assaults with thousands of interviews of victims and offenders. The results of the study come at a time when statistics indicate alcohol-consumption rates and the offenses associated with alcohol use are declining in the US.

Joyce McMillin, who passed on recently in Boston, was head librarian of the Monitor. She joined the Christian Science Publishing Society in 1971, serving in the advertising, controller's, and information-services departments, before her transfer to the library in 1986. She also was active in national-newspaper library circles and was an experienced world traveler.

The World

The militant Islamic group Hamas rejected a finding that some of its own members - and not Israel - were responsible for the death of master bombmaker Muhyideen al-Sharif. Palestinian Authority Secretary -General Tayed Abdel Rahim cleared Israel in the case, saying Sharif died in an internal Hamas power struggle. The Hamas reaction was interpreted as an sign that the movement would not back away from a vow to avenge the death by carrying out attacks in Israel.

Japan's economy faces its toughest challenges in half a century but is not on the verge of collapse, Prime Minister Hashimoto told parliament. He promised to convene a special committee to consider new stimulus measures - widely expected to include a large tax cut - once his government's 1998-99 budget becomes law, possibly as soon as tomorrow. Late last week, as Hashimoto was leaving for an international economic conference in London, a Bank of Japan survey reported business confidence at its lowest since mid-1994.

Protestant and Catholic delegates awaited the presentation of a key document on bringing negotiations for the future of Northern Ireland to a conclusion by Thursday. The paper, expected to be a framework for a settlement of three decades of violence in the British-ruled province, was due from US mediator George Mitchell last Friday. But it was held up by disputes over a proposed new parliament. Two weeks ago, Mitchell set the deadline to inject a sense of urgency for ending the talks successfully.

The trial of a key political ally of Iranian President Mohamad Khatami will open in about three weeks, reports from Tehran said. The city's mayor, Gholamhossein Karbaschi, was arrested over the weekend on graft charges following the convictions last year of several aides on the same grounds. But analysts said the move pointed to an ideological "battle" between relative moderates such as Khatami and rigid conservative opponents in parliament and the Islamic clergy.

At the UN in New York, France and Britain were to present documents showing they are the first two nuclear powers to ratify the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Eleven nonnuclear states also have ratified the treaty; at least 29 other governments must take the same step before the pact can take effect. The US Senate currently is considering ratification.

The successful test-firing of a missile believed capable of carrying a nuclear warhead deep into rival India was announced by Pakistan. Late last month, the government said it would "review" its policy on restraint after India's new prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, vowed to keep open the option of producing nuclear weapons.

Paramilitary "death squads" are operating again in Honduras as they did more than a decade ago, civil-rights groups said. A spokesman in the capital, Tegucigalpa, said unidentified gunmen attacked four government officials - one of them a Cabinet minister - along with indigenous leaders and representatives of humanitarian organizations in recent weeks. In the 1980s, such squads were blamed for the deaths of dozens of leftists and the "disappearances" of 184 others.

Tensions between Russia and Latvia rose when a bomb exploded outside the former's embassy in Riga, the capital. The incident damaged embassy vehicles but injured no one. In Moscow, the Foreign Ministry called it a "terrorist act . . . spurring anti-Russian hysteria [that] has to be stopped." Deteriorating ties between the former Soviet republics hit a low point last month when Latvian police shoved Russian-speaking retirees at a protest rally.


"Making predictions is foolish. None of us can foretell the future."

- Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble, downplaying hopes that pro-British and republican rivals may reach a deal on the future of Northern Ireland by Thursday's deadline.

In February, 800,000 Americans answered a Postal Service call to choose their favorite images of the 1950s to be featured on a new series of stamps next year. Among the possibilities: poodle skirts; rock 'n' roll music; the first US space satellite; and cars with chrome tail fins. But the winner was none of the above. Instead, the top vote-getter was drive-in movies.

That must have been one honey of an air freshener that Betty Robinson had on the dashboard of her car. The Albany, Ga., resident and her husband returned from an errand to find the outside of the vehicle covered with thousands of bees, attracted by the powerful lure of the device. They might still be there if the city's animal-control officer hadn't suggested entering the car from the passenger side and stomping on the gas. It worked. The bees - well - buzzed off.

Psst, want an early tip on which Major League team will win this year's World Series? Try the New York Yankees. Why? Because the University of Kentucky won the NCAA men's basketball title. The last five times that happened - 1949, 1951, 1958, 1978, and 1996 - the Yankees were baseball's champions.

The Day's List

Most Affluent City: New Survey Says Aspen, Colo.

The April issue of the Robb Report, an international luxury-lifestyle magazine, lists the 10 most affluent US cities. The ranking - by realtors around the country - is based on land and median home costs, public services, schools, crime rates, recreational facilities, and cultural activities. The list:

1. Aspen, Colo.

2. Palm Beach, Fla.

3. Greenwich, Conn.

4. Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich.

5. Kapalua, Hawaii

6. Boca Raton, Fla.

7. Hilton Head, S.C.

8. Gold Coast neighborhood of Chicago

9. Newport, R.I.

10. La Jolla, Calif.

- Associated Press

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