News In Brief

The US

At least 20 states and the US Justice Department were poised to challenge Microsoft on the day it planned to ship its Windows 98 software to computermakers. Two people close to government negotiators said antitrust actions would not try to block the shipment, but would ask federal and state courts to force Microsoft to either strip its Internet browser from the Windows operating system or order the firm to also include copies of browsers made by rival Netscape Communications and one other software developer to be selected by Microsoft.

Public broadcast stations can exclude candidates not deemed "newsworthy" from debates sponsored by those stations, the US Supreme Court ruled. On a 6-to-3 vote, the justices said public stations need not invite all ballot-qualified fringe candidates to participate in such debates.

An easing of US sanctions against Pakistan was being considered in Congress. Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee said lawmakers are hoping this week to debate lifting a 1990 ban on military sales to Pakistan in an effort to boost the conventional military power of India's nervous neighbor. The ban is blocking delivery of 28 US F-16 fighter planes. President Clinton has been pushing since 1993 for the US to make good on the F-16 deal with Pakistan, which is worth more than $600 million.

The US is in a weak position to criticize India's nuclear tests in light of Washington's refusal to reduce its own nuclear arsenal, former President Jimmy Carter said. "It's hard for us to tell India you cannot have a nuclear device," but "we'll keep ours - 8,000 or so," Carter said in a commencement speech at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.

House and Senate negotiators neared an accord on a $200 billion highway and mass-transit bill. Although they refused to disclose details of their talks on remaining issues - including how much each state would get from the $168 billion set-aside for highways - they indicated agreement had been reached on major issues and the bill was likely to reach the House and Senate floors before Congress leaves at the end of the week for a one-week Memorial Day recess. Many states have complained they are running out of money and contracting authority for summer projects as the construction season nears.

Viacom said it had agreed to sell a portion of the Simon & Schuster publishing firm to the British media group Pearson for $4.6 billion. The sale of Simon & Schuster's education, professional, and reference divisions will allow Viacom to focus on its entertainment businesses. Viacom will retain the Simon & Schuster name and consumer-publishing division. Pearson then agreed to sell the professional and reference divisions to Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst, a Texas buyout firm, for $1 billion.

Mormon leaders are secretly considering a plan to disavow church doctrines once used to support claims that blacks are inferior, the Los Angeles Times reported. The teachings purport to link black skin color to curses from God recounted in Hebrew and Mormon Scriptures. The plan under review by the church's Committee on Public Affairs may result in a statement as early as next month, the Times said.

A Thailand-based journalist refused to accept a prestigious Peabody award for a TV story about Cambodian leader Pol Pot. Nate Thayer said in The New Yorker magazine that ABC and Ted Koppel "stole" his story after promising it would be a one-week exclusive with North American TV rights only. Nonetheless, he said, ABC shipped photos worldwide, put the news on its Web site, and allowed it to be previewed in a publicity effort that scooped Thayer's own print account for the Hong Kong-based Far Eastern Economic Review. ABC said the pre-broadcast publicity is common practice for such an exclusive story.

The World

Indonesian President Suharto was expected to set at least four conditions in return for agreeing to step down, reports from Jakarta said. Pressure mounted when the Speaker of parliament called on him to resign in the national interest. Analysts said Suharto would likely demand that his government's development policies be continued as well as assurances on restoring law and order, adhering to the Constitution, and maintaining the unity of the armed forces.

Palestinian Authority President Arafat held a hastily arranged meeting with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in London to discuss "some ideas that came up" for ending the stalemate in peace talks with Israel. In Jerusalem, Israel Radio reported that Prime Minister Netanyahu now was ready to accept US demands for a 13.1 percent pullback from the West Bank in return for certain Palestinian concessions. Senior Palestinians rejected the report as "not even deserving a comment."

India "can scarcely deny to Pakistan that which it claims for itself," a senior ruling party leader in New Delhi told reporters. Jaswant Singh spoke as Pakistan's Foreign Ministry registered its "deep disappointment" over the Group of Eight's "muted" response to last week's Indian nuclear tests. Pakistan has vowed to conduct retaliatory test explosions.

A new blow to prospects for the Northern Ireland peace accord in Friday's referendum was struck by moderate Protestant elder statesman Lord James Molyneaux. The former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party announced he'd vote "no" because Protestant negotiators last month were "blackmailed" to agree to the plan "within 15 minutes, or else." Meanwhile, the London Daily Telegraph reported 61 percent of respondents to its latest poll still planned to approve the deal Friday, but that low Protestant support could render it "unworkable."

The US and the European Union reached an agreement to waive sanctions against companies participating in the controversial $2 billion natural gas deal with Iran, President Clinton and British Prime Minister Blair announced in London.

September's national election is not yet lost but will be one of the toughest in German history, Chancellor Kohl told a national convention of his Christian Democratic Union. In a fiery speech to rally support for his flagging prospects for a fifth term, Kohl called Social Democratic Party challenger Gerhard Schroeder inexperienced in foreign affairs, an opponent of unification in 1990, and soft on crime. Polls show Schroeder would win easily if the vote were held today.

Voters trickled into schools, health centers, and temples to register for Cambodia's July 26 election despite an announcement by leading opponents that they'll boycott it. A four-party coalition led by deposed co-Premier Norodom Ranariddh demanded the vote be pushed back to allow more time to campaign. The move was rejected by Premier Hun Sun, who ousted Ranariddh in a violent coup last year. Hun Sen warned he wouldn't call a new vote until 2003 if the boycott stood. Cambodians still could choose from among 30 other nonboycotting parties. But none of them is considered to pose a serious challenge to Hun Sen.

A suspected right-wing "death squad" attacked Colombia's main oil town before dawn, killing or kidnapping at least 30 young men, reports said. The incident at Barrancabermeja appeared to be the latest in a campaign to generate an atmosphere of terror leading up to the country's May 31 presidential election.


"There has been a campaign of deception on the part of the Indians ... in what they have said to us diplomatically, plus what they have done on the ground."

- National Security Adviser Samuel Berger, telling CNN the US had been duped about last week's nuclear tests.

A group of Syrian guests was due in, so the staff of the Omni Hotel in Cleveland, Ohio, hoisted what appeared to be that country's flag outside the main entrance as a welcoming gesture. It made an impression, all right, but not the intended one. The flag turn-ed out not to be Syria's, but that of its hostile neighbor, Iraq. Both have identical red, white, and black bars with a field of green stars. But while Syria's has two stars, Iraq's has three. A sharp-eyed Gulf war veteran called the matter to the hotel's attention, and the flag was hastily removed.

There was yet another awkward case of mistaken identity a few miles south of Cleveland. In a pageant in Canton, Ohio, the moment arrived to crown the queen who will escort the inductees this summer into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The winner: Amy Killian. But it was Amy Grubbs who thought her name was called and step-ped forward to receive the crown. Her "reign" lasted four minutes before embarrassed officials could place it on the right head.

The Day's List

States Expecting Heavy Summer Travel Volume

Because they feel comfortable about the economy and because of low gasoline prices, Americans will travel in record numbers this summer, according to results of a new survey by the Travel Industry Association of America and the American Automobile Association. That's up 3 percent from a year ago. The most popular destinations and the percentage of respondents planning to travel at least 100 miles who said they wanted to visit them:

Florida 36%

California 30

Hawaii 16

Nevada 13

New York 10

Colorado 8

Texas 8

Alaska 7

Arizona 6

Washington 6

North Carolina 6

- Reuters

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