News In Brief

The Pentagon said it was sending five B-1 bombers plus additional air-defense-jamming planes and refueling tankers to Europe to intensify NATO strikes on Serb ground forces. Each B-1 can carry 84 500-pound bombs and 30 cluster-style munitions capable of knocking out Serb armor and artillery, targets in the second phase of the week-old air campaign to defend ethnic Albanians.

The Clinton administration seemed to be gaining support for a US role in Kosovo airstrikes. A new survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found 60 percent of respondents approving airstrikes, twice the number disapproving - although only 44 percent approved sending 4,000 US troops to Kosovo as part of an eventual peacekeeping force. A Washington Post/ABC survey found 55 percent supporting the airstrikes. Polls late last week showed about 50 percent of respondents favoring the air campaign.

Social Security and Medicare trustees released new estimates of how long the two funds will remain solvent. Citing a booming economy, they added seven years to the Medicare trust - to 2015 - and two years to Social Security - to 2034.

A weapon designed to knock enemy missiles out of the sky failed a sixth direct-hit attempt, raising more doubts about the feasibility of a defense system that is now a US priority. Lockheed Martin, maker of the antimissile system, was charged a $15 million penalty for not passing the test required by its $15 billion contract. Officials in charge of the Army's Theater High-Altitude Area Defense program put a positive spin on the failure, saying targeting, radar, and launch systems worked well. The US has spent more than $50 billion on research and limited testing of missile-defense systems.

Sexual abuse of US female prisoners is prevalent, a UN investigator reported. Special Rapporteur Radhika Coomaraswamy, a Sri Lankan lawyer, called for reforms after interviewing 44 women prisoners and 10 corrections officers in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Georgia, California, and Minnesota. She also cited alleged abuses in Michigan prisons, where she was denied access. Coomaraswamy condemned the use of chains or leg irons to restrain women - and said the presence of male officers in female housing invites sexual misconduct.

Two of Mexico's biggest banks reportedly agreed to plead guilty to laundering millions in drug money in a case that has roiled relations with the US. Grupo Financiero Bancomer will pay $9.9 million in fines and penalties and Grupo Financiero Serfin will pay $4.7 million, the Los Angeles Times reported. Prosecutors were expected to drop charges against Banca Confia, which has sold most of its assets to Citibank. Confia will reportedly forfeit about $12 million.

Connecticut upset heavily favored Duke in the finale of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, giving the Huskies their first national title. The 77-74 victory in a battle between the only two teams to be ranked No. 1 in the country this year denied Duke its third NCAA title of the decade.

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