News In Brief

The US

SBC Communications agreed to purchase rival Ameritech Corp. for $62 billion in a stock-swap deal that might be the second-largest merger in corporate history, the companies said. The only one that would be larger, a $72 billion merger of Travelers Group Inc. and Citicorp, also is pending. The new SBC deal would create a powerhouse company with operations in nearly every region of the US. An SBC-Ameritech combination would give the combined company 57 million phone lines, or nearly one-third of the nation's total.

The government grounded older models of the Boeing 737, the world's most popular jet, after mandatory inspections of some aircraft found extensive wear in power lines running through their wing fuel tanks. The Federal Aviation Administration said early indications were that about half of the Boeing 737s with more than 50,000 flight hours had noticeable wear and tear. The order affected 15 percent of the 737s operating in the US and caused scattered flight cancellations as the business week began.

The US is "deeply disappointed" by India's surprise nuclear tests, a White House spokesman said. He had no comment on the possibility of sanctions, but other officials said India could be subject to a series of measures based on laws designed to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons. Among other things, they deny US credits and credit guarantees to countries violating terms of the legislation. President Clinton was expected to visit India and Pakistan later this year.

The United Arab Emirates was expected to announce today its intention to buy some $6 billion worth of US warplanes following talks at the White House. Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Khalifa bin Zaid al-Nahayan was to hold talks with Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.

China has released a leading religious prisoner in another apparent attempt to ease human-rights criticism ahead of Clinton's visit in June, a US religious leader reported. Roman Catholic Bishop Zeng Jingmu of Shanghai was freed six months before the scheduled end of his three-year sentence for holding unauthorized services in a private home, said New York Rabbi Arthur Schneier. He received the news in a call from James Sasser, US ambassador to China.

The federal government is unable to ensure the safety of many imported foods, a General Accounting Office study said. The findings by the congressional investigative agency were expected to boost administration efforts to strengthen the authority of the Food and Drug Administration to set standards for imported fruits, vegetables, fish, and processed foods. Food imports, growing more than 50 percent since 1990, were valued at about $33 billion in 1996.

Seagram Co. was poised to make another huge investment in the entertainment industry with a planned buyout of Polygram, The Wall Street Journal reported. Seagram planned to make the purchase for $9 billion to $10 billion, the newspaper said. Seagram's talks with another record company, EMI Group PLC, recently unraveled. Seagram entered the entertainment business in 1995 with the $5.7 billion purchase of MCA Inc.

Legislation opposing a plan to turn New York's Governors Island into a casino resort is to be introduced in Congress this week, The New York Times reported. It said bills to be filed by New York and New Jersey Democrats would create an 11-member commission to study potential use of the island. Clinton has promised to give the federally owned island to New York once the city has a suitable plan for it. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (R) reportedly believes a casino is one of the few businesses that could generate the $30 million a year needed to maintain the former Coast Guard base.

The World

Palestinian officials rejected a reported Israeli compromise strategy for ceding additional territory on the West Bank. The plan, detailed by the Jerusalem Post, would ultimately give the Palestinians 13 percent more land, as proposed by the US, but in two installments: 9 percent up front and the remainder as the Palestinians stepped up their promised efforts to curb extremist terror tactics. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu hinted he would take his dispute with the Clinton administration over West Bank land directly to the American people when he visits the US later this week.

In a move certain to anger rival Pakistan, India conducted three underground nuclear weapons tests at its Pokhran desert site, 330 miles southwest of New Delhi. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said the explosions - the first since 1974 - released no radiation into the atmosphere. He made nuclear-weapons development a priority of his new government when he took office March 20, prompting Pakistan to conduct a "review" of its own nuclear policy.

A coalition of retired generals and politicians and a prominent opposition leader joined the growing chorus of demands for Indonesia's President Suharto to step down. The retirees asked the electoral college that gave Suharto a seventh term in March to revoke the appointment. In a separate move, Muslim opposition leader Amien Rais urged the Army to desert Suharto. Students, who have demonstrated for Suharto's ouster for weeks, were mostly quiet because of a national holiday, but vowed to resume their protests today.

Last week's blockbuster auto-industry merger between Chrysler and Daimler-Benz of Germany may be about to gain a third partner, Nissan Motor Co. of Japan said. A spokes-man confirmed negotiations currently are focusing on Nissan's truck and commercial-vehicle operations but could expand to include passenger cars. Nissan's diesel-truck division and a combination of losses in the US market and sluggish sales in Japan have become an increasing burden to the company, analysts said.

US envoys Richard Holbrooke and Robert Gelbard returned to Belgrade for another try at persuading Yugoslav President Milosevic to open internationally mediated negotiations with Albanian separatists in Kosovo province. Milosevic, who stripped Kosovo of its autonomy in 1989, rejects outside involvement in what he calls an internal matter. Meanwhile, in Kosovo, new fighting between the separatists and Serb police closed the main east-west highway.

Hungary's ruling Socialists fell well short of a majority in the first round of voting for a new parliament, prompting opposition parties to plot a strategy to help each other in the May 24 second round. The Socialists won 32 percent of the vote Sunday. But close behind, with 28 percent, were the centrist Young Democrats. The opposition parties pledged to step aside in runoff races where one or the other has a stronger candidate - improving prospects for unseating the Socialists.

Police kept hundreds of irate Muslims away from a Christian neighborhood as violence flared for a second straight day in Faisalabad, Pakistan. Muslim leaders called for a strike in the city and vowed to topple Pakistan's government if it made any concessions to the Christian community. The city's Roman Catholic bishop committed suicide last week to protest the death sentence imposed on a parishioner for insulting Islam.


" You've done enough for us. I'm asking you to step down because

there [are] new people who can take your place."

- Indonesian opposition leader Amien Rais, joining the growing demands for seven-term President Suharto to quit.

Mabel Lowman might have known she was courting trouble when she chose to seek political office in Burke County, N.C. She ran for clerk of the courts in the Democratic Party primary, citing 22 years' experience as an assistant in that department - and won. But she also lost. Her rival was the incumbent, who fired her the next day. At least, now she'll have ample time to campaign for the November election against the Republican primary winner.

In March 1997, when Ford Motor Co. announced it was retiring its storied Thunderbird model, a sportier version was promised - sometime after the turn of the century. True to its word, late last week Ford said a rear-wheel-drive T-bird would go into production in time for the 2000 model year.

Speaking of birds, you can't blame a Pasadena, Calif., couple for wanting another place to perch when they returned from a trip to find their house being used as an aviary by about 1,000 chimney swifts. What lured the birds into their dwelling isn't known, but the fire department needed two hours to shoo them back outside.

Which College Grads Are Most in Demand: Survey

With US unemployment at its lowest since early 1970, this spring's college graduates are likely to enter a job market prepared to offer them a bonanza of rewards and opportunities. Romac International, a Boston personnel-placement firm, surveyed almost 700 employers to ascertain anticipated hiring goals. The poll indicated graduates with BA or BS degrees in the following disciplines will be most in demand:

1. Computer Service/Information Technology

2. Finance

3. Accounting

4. Engineering

5. Chemistry

6. Biotechnology

7. Marketing

8. Economics

9. Communications

- PRNewswire/AP

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