News In Brief

The US

America's major cigarette-makers rejected a potentially historic tobacco settlement making its way through Congress, saying the Clinton administration and lawmakers had launched an attack that could lead their industry into bankruptcy. Led by Steven Goldstone, head of RJR Nabisco, the firms vowed to fight tobacco price increases and tougher restrictions on advertising. Clinton and a number of congressional leaders promised to continue pressing for the legislation.

Raising the cigarette tax will do little to stop teenagers from smoking, researchers at Cornell University reported. Their computer analysis of student surveys challenged Treasury Department findings that an increase of $1.10 per cigarette pack would reduce teen smoking by 46 percent over five years. The Cornell researchers said price had little effect on decisions by teenagers to start smoking.

Tornadoes swept through northern Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, leaving at least 20 people dead and many others injured. Hardest hit was Jefferson County, west of Birmingham, Ala. More than 160 people were reportedly taken to Birmingham hospitals. The Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency said 100 homes had been destroyed or heavily damaged in the county.

The Clinton administration urged Congress to waive the two-year statute of limitations for decades-old discrimination cases filed by black farmers against the Agriculture Department. Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus said they would oppose the measure because it would also prevent the farmers from banding together in a class-action suit, which some say is crucial to getting the government to resolve the cases.

Amtrak was the target of a $100 million class-action lawsuit alleging race discrimination against black track-maintenance workers and job applicants. The suit, filed in US district court in Washington, covers about 5,000 former and current employees as well as some who sought work with the railroad, particularly in the Boston region.

A lawyer for 12 news groups asked an appeals court in Washington to open up hearings on executive privilege and other issues in the investigation of Clinton's ties to former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Attorneys for Clinton, Lewinsky, and the White House said the judge had correctly closed the hearings because it is difficult to separate legal arguments from secret grand jury information.

Ford Motor Co. said it would introduce side air bags into its North American car lineup over the next three years. The bags are designed to protect passengers in accidents when vehicles in which they are riding are hit from the side.

The World Court ordered the US to halt the scheduled execution Tuesday of a convicted murderer at a prison in Virginia. Paraguay has asked for a new trial of Angel Francisco Breard, saying he was not allowed access to Paraguayan consular officials during his detention, in breach of the 1963 Vienna Convention. Breard was sentenced in 1993 for the attempted rape and murder of a woman in Arlington, Va. The World Court has no enforcement powers. Meanwhile, the US Supreme Court asked for a Clinton administration opinion on whether the execution would violate either the Vienna Convention or an 1859 treaty with Paraguay.

Wholesale prices fell in March for the fifth straight month, the Labor Department said. The producer price index fell 0.3 percent.

The World

Northern Ireland's bitter sectarian rivals raced the clock to reach a mutually acceptable compromise on the province's political future. Both British Prime Minister Blair and his Irish counterpart, Bertie Ahearn - on hand to pressure Protestant and Catholic negotiators - said they were optimistic that a historic deal could be reached.

Finally bowing to international pressure, Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto announced a $30.5 billion income tax cut to stimulate the economy. The cut will be spread over two years. But the announcement was greeted with skepticism by analysts, business leaders, and financial traders, all of whom said it wasn't bold enough.

A dispute between the Palestinian Authority and the militant Islamic movement Hamas flared into the open. A Hamas videotape accused Yasser Arafat's government of collaborating with Israel in the death of chief bombmaker Muhyideen al-Sharif. Hamas has vowed revenge attacks against Israel and Jewish interests "worldwide." No attacks against Arafat's government were threatened, despite its claim that Sharif died in an internal Hamas power struggle. A senior Palestinian official said Hamas had not cooperated in investigating Sharif's death and that its accusations were "not a respectable way to deal with things."

Singing "Give Peace a Chance," an estimated 30,000 Albanians marched in protest against Serbian rule in troubled Kosovo province. Heavily armed police did not intervene, except to keep the demonstrators from reaching the main government building in the capital, Pristina. The march was the fourth of its type since early last month.

Hyundai, South Korea's largest automaker, announced it will lay off 6,000 workers, many of whom are already on paid vacation because of a 60 percent cut in production. Other large conglomerates are expected to follow suit as the nation struggles to emerge from its deep economic crisis. National unemployment is predicted to rise from 2.5 percent a year ago to 8.5 percent.

Iran's most powerful cleric tried to keep the lid on a rare but urgent political crisis arising from the impending trial of Tehran's mayor. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called government and judicial officials to discuss the case of Mayor Gholamhossein Karbaschi. Karbaschi is accused of graft, but his supporters say hard-liners had him arrested as a way of getting even for his backing of moderate President Mohamad Khatami. There have been warnings that the dispute may erupt in street protests.

Australians moved one step closer to early elections after the upper house of Parliament rewrote a controversial bill on limiting Aboriginal rights, which was then rejected by the lower house. The same measure also was defeated in December. Prime Minister John Howard had threatened to dissolve Parliament and call a new election if it lost again. But he refused to comment on a published report that he now was committed to that decision.

A vote on whether to impeach former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet from his lifetime seat in the Senate was to be held in the lower house of Congress. Pinochet assumed the seat last month after retiring as armed forces chief but is accused by a special legislative commission of damaging Chile's honor. Opponents say he does not deserve the seat since he shut Congress down after seizing power in 1973.

Another one-sided defeat looms for German Chancellor Kohl's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in an April 26 state election, a new poll showed. Following losses in Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein, the CDU is likely to command only 25 percent of the vote in Saxony-Anhalt, poll results indicated. The eastern state supported Kohl for unifying Germany in 1990, but now has massive unemployment. Other polls say Kohl also trails Social Democratic Party rival Gerhard Schroeder in his bid for reelection Sept. 27.


"We can achieve many of the objectives ... without the help of the tobacco industry, but in the end I think they're gonna come around."

- Clinton adviser Bruce Reed, on the decision by cigarette makers to oppose the tobacco settlement before Congress.

When Gerald Ford was president, he once tumbled partway down the ramp of Air Force One. Bob Dole toppled off a stage in 1996 while campaigning for the White House. Now comes Bhichit Rattakul, the mayor of Bangkok, Thailand. En route to a wreath-laying ceremony, he fell into an open manhole. Bhichit resisted the impulse to make jokes about gutter politics. But he did say the mishap was his own fault. Then, in true public-official fashion, he called for greater attention to safety on the streets.

In Fullerton, Calif., debate is in - um - full flower over how to discourage youth gangs. Some city councillors favor changing the name of one gang's turf from Baker Street to Pansy Circle in the hope it would send the toughs somewhere with a more macho-sounding name. But homosexual activists objected. Now under consideration: rhododendron and chry-santhemum - which, it's assumed, would be too hard for spray-painters to spell.

The Day's List

26 TV Stations Pledge to Begin Digital Broadcasts

The following stations have told the Federal Communications Commission they will begin digital-TV programming - with its promise of vastly better pictures and sound - by November:

Atlanta: WSB (ABC), WXIA (NBC)

Boston: WGBH (PBS), WCVB (ABC)

Chicago: WMAQ (NBC)

Dallas-Fort Worth: KDFW (Fox), KXAS (NBC), WFAA (ABC)

Detroit: WJBK (Fox), WWJ (CBS)

Los Angeles: KNBC (NBC), KTLA (Warner Brothers), KABC (ABC)

Manchester, N.H.: WMUR (ABC)

New York: WCBS (CBS)

Philadelphia: KYW (CBS), WPVI (ABC), WCAU (NBC), WTXF (Fox)

San Francisco/Oakland: KRON (NBC), KPIX (CBS), KGO (ABC)

Washington: WRC (NBC), WJLA (ABC), WUSA (CBS), WETA (PBS)

- Associated Press

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