News In Brief

The US

The Clinton administration voiced objections to a proposed three-year freeze on new NATO members if the Western military alliance is expanded to include Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. The Senate is expected to vote this week on open-ended expansion of the alliance, beginning with the three former Soviet-bloc nations. But Sen. John Warner (R) of Virginia has proposed an amendment that would temporarily block expansion beyond those three, saying it could prove too expensive.

James Hoffa can seek the Teamsters Union presidency, a court-appointed election overseer ruled. Son of a notorious former Teamsters chief, Hoffa is the front-runner in his own bid for the union's top spot in a rerun of a race he narrowly lost to Ron Carey two years ago. Carey is barred from running again because his campaign raised funds illegally. Although Hoffa was cleared to run, his campaign was fined for improprieties in the last campaign - and his chief spokesman was barred from this year's effort.

US Rep. Gerald Solomon (R) of New York said he would retire this year after 10 terms in office. A blunt ex-marine and political conservative, Solomon is chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee.

A Pentagon panel recommended the remains of a serviceman from the Vietnam War be removed from the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., to be tested for identification. Defense Secretary William Cohen's decision on the matter - expected in the next 10 days - could end controversy over a request by the family of Air Force Lt. Michael Blassie that it be ascertained whether he was buried in the tomb in 1984.

Consumer confidence rebounded in April, nearing a 29-year high. The Conference Board said its index of consumer confidence rose to 136.7 in April from a revised 133.8 in March. It had reached 137.4 in February, its highest level since June 1969.

Sales of existing homes rose to a new record in March, apparently spurred by a strong economy and movement of baby boomers into bigger houses, the National Association of Realtors said. Sales climbed 2.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.89 million units, up from 4.77 million in February.

Orders for costly manufactured goods rose modestly in March, restrained primarily by weak demand for new commercial aircraft. The Commerce Department said orders increased 0.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted $186.63 billion in March, following a revised 0.8 percent decline in February.

A college professor fired in 1995 as US House historian was scheduled for a court hearing of her challenge to a Georgia Board of Regents rule barring her from running for Congress against House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Christina Jeffrey, a political science teacher, said a US district judge in Atlanta had granted the hearing. Jeffrey was fired a week after she became House historian because of reports that she once said a Holocaust course failed to reflect the Nazi viewpoint. She is challenging a rule that professors at state universities cannot run for Congress because they handle federal grants and could unduly influence students.

There has been significant progress in the past year in helping millions of youngsters considered at risk of dropping out of school and falling into crime, according to a report released on the first anniversary of a meeting on voluntarism organized by President Clinton and four ex-presidents. Retired Gen. Colin Powell, chairman of America's Promise: The Alliance for Youth, released the organization's report.

Ridership on Amtrak rose 6.4 percent in the first six months of the fiscal year, the national passenger railroad said. There were reportedly just over 10 million riders from October to March, up from 9.4 million for the same period a year earlier.

The World

Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza will be denied entry into Israel for the latter's 50th anniversary celebrations, the Army announced. Israel Radio said 30,000 police would deploy throughout the country to watch for potential terrorist attacks. Israel Radio also reported Prime Minister Netanyahu was likely to increase his previous offer of a 9 percent troop pullback from the West Bank to stimulate Middle East peace talks but wouldn't agree to the 13 percent sought by the US and Palestinians.

Public support for Japanese Prime Minister Hashimoto slid to its lowest level yet, a new national poll indicated. Aides said he was "concerned" at results that showed half the respondents hold him responsible for the country's economic woes despite last week's announcement of a $128 billion stimulus plan. Visiting Secretary of State Albright called the plan "important" but said Japan still must import more and deregulate its economy further.

So-called Contact Group nations are to meet today in Rome for discussions on how to calm the Kosovo crisis. A US proposal that mixes tough new sanctions against Yugoslavia with incentives if it ends a crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists reportedly is not popular with the five European states that also make up the group.

Roman Catholic Church leaders gave the government of Guatemala 72 hours to find the killers of a bishop who had issued a scathing report on human rights abuses in the nation's civil war. Juan Gerardi Conedera was found dead late Sunday, two days after blaming the Army and paramilitary forces for most of the 200,000 deaths and "disappearances" during the 36-year fight against leftist rebels. The church warned the government would pay an unspecified "price" if Gerardi's murder wasn't solved.

Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene's government was expected to survive three no-confidence votes in parliament over the escape from prison of a notorious criminal. Late last week, Marc Dutroux stole a gun and a car and eluded a manhunt for three hours before being recaptured. Dutroux is to stand trial later this year for the abduction, rape, and murder of four young girls. Two Cabinet ministers and a police commander resigned because of the lax prison security.

One of the most-wanted suspects in the 1994 Rwandan genocide was arrested on orders of the UN International Criminal Tribunal. As a regional governor, Col. Alphonse Nteziryayo is accused of ordering Hutu extremists to kill all minority Tutus in his jurisdiction. He was captured in Burkina Faso, where he had fled to escape retribution.

Women from across Africa gathered in Ethiopia for a conference to gauge their economic and political progress over the past three years. Critics said the likely finding would be that there has been little. The session is a followup to the UN's 1995 global conference on women, at which those in Africa were found to be harder-working and less corrupt than African men.

Dangerously high flood waters that strain the containment capacity of a new hydroelectric dam on the Argentina-Paraguay border caused the official opening of its final phase to be suspended. Dedication of the $8.5 billion Yacyreta project won't be held until the flooding is over, it was announced. Weeks of rain have caused 16 deaths and the evacuation of more than 100,000 people. An estimated 12 million acres of land are under water, wiping out most local crops. Damage could total $2.5 billion, experts said.


John Anderson didn't win last Sunday's London Marathon. In fact, he was well back in the pack - and there were more than 30,600 entries. But he may have had more motivation than any of the others to complete the grueling event. You see, just before the starting gun he asked Kim Wilkie to marry him. But she wouldn't give him her answer until the race was over. So he ran the whole 26.2 miles in suspense. Once he finished, though, his effort was rewarded. She said yes.

Speaking of 26-mile jaunts, did you hear about the ride through the Czech countryside late last week by a woman railroad passenger? She was the only other person aboard a train when the engineer stopped for a break. While he was inside the station at Brno, an automatic acceleration device somehow engaged, sending the train down the tracks at 40 m.p.h. It sped through several more stations before emergency crews could divert it safely off the rails. No word on whether the woman overshot her destination.

The Day's List

'Titanic' Sets New First: $1 Billion in Earnings

"The Big Hit," a kidnapping caper, was tops at the box office over the weekend. But although "Titanic" slid from No. 1 in the ratings three weeks ago, it once again stole the show - becoming the first film to gross more than $1 billion globally. "Titanic," which won 11 Academy Awards, is reportedly the No. 1 moneymaker in 59 countries from Argentina to Yugoslavia. Estimated grosses for the top movies at North American theaters April 24-26 (in millions):

1. "The Big Hit" $11.0

2. "City of Angels" 9.0

3. "The Object of My Affection" 5.0

3. "Titanic" 5.0

5. "Lost in Space" 4.4

6. "Paulie" 4.3

7. "Neil Simon's The Odd Couple II" 2.5

8. "The Players Club" 2.2

9. "Mercury Rising" 2.1

10. "Scream 2" 1.8

- Exhibitor Relations Inc./AP

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