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News In Brief

The US

The Idaho-based Freemen Patriots were set to rally in support of the besieged Montana antigovernment freeman group. The standoff between the freemen, who are holed up on a farm in Jordan, Mont., and federal agents is now in its second week. The rallying supporters obeyed Montana Senator Baucus's request that other militant groups stay away from the siege. Their protest was to take place in Lewistown, Idaho 125 miles away. (Story, Page 3.)

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Companies who fire employees over 40 and replace them with substantially younger people may violate a federal anti-bias law even if the replacements are also over 40, the Supreme Court ruled. Also, the court agreed to decide a voting-rights dispute over how municipal judges are elected in Monterey County, Calif. The decision, expected in 1997, could provide new guidelines for local elections across the US. And the court rejected an appeal by a Houston reporter who claims a judge wrongly ordered him to identify a confidential source.

The "Freedom to Farm" bill is expected to be signed into law by President Clinton this week. The bill, passed by Congress last week, implements the most far-reaching change in farm policy in 60 years. It will remove most federal controls on what farmers plant, put the first-ever cap on farm spending, and end federal authority to force farmers to hold land out of production. Farmers will be guaranteed their annual, though declining, payments through 2002.

The Pentagon is pushing to increase its use of private contractors in a report to be released this week. It is seeking to repeal the "60-40" law, which mandates that 60 percent of the military's maintenance work be performed by the nation's 30 depots rather than contractors. Depot employees and their lawmakers oppose the move. (See related list at right.)

A series of freight train accidents across the US could have been avoided if the Federal Railroad Administration had ordered use of electronic braking systems. The system has been available for over a decade, and railroad unions have been urging its use for years. But railroad officials expressed concern about the $5,000 installation cost per train. (Related story, Page 3.)

Philadelphia officials were set to take the stand, over a decade after the 1985 police fire-bombing that led to the deaths of 11 members of the radical group MOVE. Ramona Africa (right), the only adult member who survived the fire, and two other MOVE members are seeking unspecified damages from the city.

Jack Kevorkian, twice-acquitted of assisted-suicide charges, faces a third trial for the 1991 deaths of two women - this time under Michigan's common law. The state only has to prove that Kevorkian knew the women wanted to commit suicide and gave them the means to do so. Kevorkian's lawyer says it's unfair to prosecute him under the common law, which was never put on the books.

Consumers can now be charged a second fee to use an ATM outside their own banks. There is no limit on the fee, although Visa International, the bank association that makes rules for ATMs, has suggested between 25 cents and $2.50.

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SBC Communications and Pacific Telesis Group have agreed to merge in the first union of two regional Baby Bell phone companies. The $16.7 billion merger will form the biggest phone company after AT&T Corp., with 25 million customers in seven western and southwestern states.

Some 1,200 nursing home employees of Beverly Enterprises are striking in Pennsylvania in protest of what they call repeat violations of federal labor law. The nursing home union has 350 complaints against Beverly pending before federal and state labor authorities.

Aetna Life and Casualty Co. and US Healthcare Inc. are going to merge in an $8.9 billion transaction, forming a new holding company called Aetna Inc.

Radioactive fuel rods are stuck in a reactor at a Palo Verde, Ariz., nuclear power plant. A plant spokesman says there is no chance of gas escaping the containment building, but damaged rods could lead to an expensive cleanup and delay restarting the reactor.

The World

The World Bank gained a new member: Bosnia. The shattered country immediately secured $269 million in credit to rebuild transport, farming, and sanitation sectors. Bosnia needs $1.8 billion the first year and a total of more than $5 billion to rebuild its economy and infrastructure, according to Bank estimates. And US troops will provide security this week for UN war crimes investigators searching for mass graves and other evidence of atrocities near Srebrenica.

Israel eased a five-week ban on Palestinian workers imposed during a rash of suicide bombings and allowed 3,000 Gazan farm workers into the Jewish state. Meanwhile, the leader of the militant Palestinian group Islamic Jihad threatened new bombings. And Israel's Shin Bet security service investigated Yi-gal Amir months before he killed Prime Minister Rabin, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported. Shin Bet apparently determined he was not a threat, it said.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev offered to help set up talks between Russia and separatist Chechen leader Dzhokhar Dudayev, Itar-Tass News agency reported. And Chechen rebels stepped up attacks on Russian troops in Chechnya as Russian President Yeltsin declared a halt to military operations. Some 27 Russian servicemen were killed and 75 injured in the attacks.

French President Chirac launched a two-day meeting of the Group of Seven economy and labor ministers in Lille, France. He urged a "third path" between unbridled free-market economics and interventionist policies to get the G-7s' 22 million unemployed back to work. Germany and Japan have their highest unemployment rates since World War II, while the US created 8.5 million jobs in the past three years.

North Korea appealed for international aid for 5.2 million victims of flooding whose losses amounting to $15 billion, according to the country's estimates. In South Korea, former President Roh Tae Woo, on trial with Chun Doo Hwan for treason and mutiny, denied that Army generals imposed martial law to propel Chun into power 16 years ago. The action was taken to quell student riots that would have driven the country into anarchy and possibly provoked an attack from North Korea, he said.

China slashed tariffs on 4,994 products in an effort to win entry into the World Trade Organization. The cuts are meant to prove China's intention to liberalize its still heavily controlled economy. But they were designed to have a limited effect on local industries. (Story, Page 1.)

Gross human rights violations are being committed in southeastern Burma's Karen state by Burmese security forces and a rebel splinter faction allied to the Army, according to a new Amnesty International report. Karen civilians fleeing troops are frequently shot while others are executed because of suspected links with a Karen guerrilla group fighting the junta for autonomy, the report said.

EU farm ministers began a crisis meeting in Luxembourg aimed at eradicating mad cow disease and restoring the continent's beef industry. They are considering a costly mass slaughter of British cattle.

Inmates at a Brazilian prison south of Brasilia are holding 17 people hostage after a riot during an official visit to investigate claims of abuse. Among the hostages: the prison director, the head of public security in Goias state, and several judges. Meanwhile, in Argentina, about 1,000 inmates seized control of a maximum-security prison and demanded better treatment, sparking revolts at three other jails in that country.


An expanded museum about the atomic bombing of Nagasaki opened with new displays showing the history of Japanese aggression that led to World War II. The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum is just a short distance from the hypocenter of the bomb that the US dropped on Aug. 9, 1945, killing 70,000 people.


A mother cat named Scarlet raced into a burning building in New York five times to rescue her kittens, one at a time. (One is shown above being fed.) She wasn't content until she had touched each one with her nose. Now this once-homeless brood is famous. A shelter, where they are recovering from injuries, has received over 700 calls from people wanting to adopt the litter.

Pentagon Follies

Despite belt-tightening and budget-slicing, the Pentagon wasted $29.2 billion in the last decade, states a report by the Council for a Livable World and Taxpayers for Common Sense. Budget-busters include:

$2,817 - Rush job on a door hinge for C-17 cargo plane (Usual cost: $31).

$1.2 million (annually) - Herd of 319 cows owned by the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

$5.1 million - Third golf course at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington.

$10.4 million -Construction of a second fitness center at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

$27.2 million (annually) - Federal subsidy needed to break even on a hotel near Disney World leased by the military.

$2 billion - Canceled Air Force radar jammer.

$4 billion - Canceled Navy A-12 fighter.

$15 billion -Unaccounted for funds due to poor record-keeping and financial management practices.

- Associated Press

" My wife and I came here three months ago just in time for the blizzard. They said it wouldn't last long, but I was beginning to doubt these people."

- Japanese Ambassador Kunihiko Saito, celebrating the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington.

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