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News In Brief

The US

A bill that would extend health insurance to more children by raising cigarette taxes was to be introduced today by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) of Mass. Hatch said the bill, which would raise the US tax on a pack of cigarettes by 43 cents, was aimed at the working poor. It was attacked by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R) of Miss. as a big-government program.

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President Clinton is preparing to ask Congress for "fast track" authority to negotiate new international trade agreements, The Los Angeles Times said. The new authority would require Congress to vote quickly on proposed trade deals without the ability to amend them. Senior trade strategists told the Times the legislation may reach Congress this month.

Astronauts scrambled to finish as many experiments as possible before returning to Earth today - 12 days ahead of schedule - because of problems with a power generator on space shuttle Columbia. Scientists who spent more than three years coordinating the mission hoped 15 percent of the scheduled tests could be accomplished.

The Bankers Trust New York Corp. was expected to announce plans to shatter the divide between banks and brokers by buying the nation's oldest stock-brokerage firm. Reports in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The (Baltimore) Sun said the bank would pay $1.7 billion in stock for Alex. Brown & Sons Inc. of Baltimore. If federal regulators allow the acquisition, a flurry of similar deals is expected.

Microsoft announced plans to pay $425 million for Web TV Networks, a California-based seller of systems that allow people to use television sets to surf the Web. The deal comes as computer and TV industries compete to decide the shape of digital TV. Computer makers foresee a large-screen computer that not only has a crystal-clear picture, but can explore the Internet and send e-mail. Firms that have been making TV sets prefer not to add a computer dimension.

Lockheed Martin machinists in Fort Worth, Texas, overwhelmingly ratified a new contract, averting a threatened strike at an F-16 assembly plant. The vote came only hours before their old pact was to expire. The accord gives workers an average $3,162 increase in take-home pay for each of three years. The nation's largest defense contractor also agreed to pay 100 percent of the workers' medical expenses.

Social Security records of millions of Americans are vulnerable to abuse on the Internet, USA Today reported. The Social Security Administration put the records on-line a month ago, making it easier for taxpayers to review them. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in San Diego told the newspaper it's easy to abuse the system by obtaining Social Security numbers of others and using them to gain on-line access to records. The agency says the danger is minimal and the system can save millions of dollars.

Law-enforcement officials are testing devices that would allow police to spot people carrying concealed weapons on the street, The New York Times reported. The devices - using X-rays, ultrasound imaging, and computer-assisted metal detectors - also could improve building security. Tests are reportedly to be launched soon at a prison in North Carolina and at the US courthouse in Los Angeles.

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The son of Martin Luther King Jr. said his father's real killer had been located. Dexter King met last week with James Earl Ray, who is serving a 99-year sentence for the 1968 murder of the civil-rights leader and said he was convinced Ray is innocent. Ray initially confessed but later recanted, saying he had been coerced by his lawyers. He identified the killer as "Raoul." King, speaking on CNN's "Crossfire Sunday," said the man Ray identified had been located and three witnesses had corroborated that Ray was not the shooter. King declined to identify Raoul.

President Clinton will name Democratic activist Sandy Thurman as the new director of national AIDS policy, the activist group ACT UP said. Thurman, a former director of AID Atlanta, played an active role in Clinton's 1996 reelection campaign.

The World

Israeli Prime Minister Netan-yahu was scheduled to meet US President Clinton at the White House for discussions aimed at rescuing the Middle East peace process. But against that backdrop, Israeli crews began round-the-clock shifts to complete the controversial Har Homa housing project in East Jerusalem even though Clinton was expected to appeal for a halt in construction.

Palestinian Authority President Arafat accused Israel of "declaring war against the peace process." He visited the two-day conference of the Nonaligned Movement in New Delhi, where he urged member countries to follow Arab League governments in "reviewing" their diplomatic ties with Israel.

An Anglican minister comforted Catholic parishioners in Northern Ireland after fire destroyed their church - the third such attack in three days. The blaze began after midnight in mostly Protestant Tandragee in rural County Armagh. Other fires damaged or destroyed Catholic churches west of Belfast Friday and Saturday. They were seen as retaliation for the burning of a Baptist church in Belfast March 22 and arson attacks on two Protestant homes March 25.

Troops loyal to Zairean President Mobutu whipped, beat, and used tear gas against supporters of controversial new Prime Minister Etienne Tshisekedi at a rally in Kinshasa, the capital. Meanwhile, Mobutu was urged by rebel leader Laurent Kabila to engage in face-to-face peace talks. Kabila's forces reportedly advanced to within 30 miles of Zaire's No. 2 city, Lubumbashi.

A parcel bomb explosion in Rangoon killed the eldest daughter of Burma's Army chief of staff, sources close to the family said. Lt. Gen. Tin Oo himself apparently was unhurt. Security in the city was intensified after the attack. Tin Oo, a hardliner, is second secretary of the ruling Law and Order Restoration Council. He frequently has urged the "annihilation" of anyone attempting to undermine national stability.

Improving relations between India and Pakistan will result in a meeting between their prime ministers next month, a senior official in Islamabad said. He said the meeting would take place at a regional conference in the Maldives. Foreign secretaries of the two countries resumed long-stall-ed peace negotiations last month in New Delhi and agreed to follow-up talks, but did not set a date for them.

Vietnamese officials disagre-ed publicly with US Treasury Secretary Rubin on which country was responsible for closer economic ties. Rubin, on a visit to Hanoi, said Vietnam should intensify market reforms and offer better treatment for foreign companies if it wanted trade concessions from the US. A foreign ministry official called Rubin's position "unfair" and said Washington should take "more positive measures" to improve relations. The two sides signed a document that gives Vietnam un-til 2019 to repay $145 million in loans and credits owed to the US.

Because of terrorist warnings, US military forces in the Gulf were placed on heightened alert, a Navy spokesman in Bahrain said. Shore leave for 12,000 sailors was restricted, and clubs and restaurants were put off limits to prevent large numbers of Americans from gathering in places where they might make easy targets.

Additional US experts were expected in Lithuania to join a team working to improve safety at one of the world's most dangerous nuclear power plants. The plant, at Ignalina, 40 miles from the capital, Vilnius, supplies 80 percent of Lithuania's electricity. According to news reports, it could cost $120 million to bring it up to international safety standards. Its reactors are the same type as those at Chernobyl, scene of the world's worst nuclear accident in 1986.


"We cannot impose an outcome. We can't wave a magic wand and put things back on track."

- Middle East envoy Dennis Ross, on why the US may resist a more direct role in the stalled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

An Israeli Arab couple with 17 children by previous marriages has been told by their physician to expect quintuplets. Whether they've simply run out of names or because they want to make some sort of political statement, they've already settled on what to call four of the future members of the family: Rabin (for the late Israeli prime minister), Hussein (for Jordan's king), Clinton (for you know who), and Shalom (the Hebrew word for peace).

Exactly 127 years after it became law, legislators in Tennessee have decided that the 15th Amendment to the US Constitution is OK with them. The article guarantees the right to vote regardless of "race, color, or previous condition of servitude." Black lawmakers brought the issue to the floor after a constitutional scholar noted that Tennessee had not yet ratified it. The measure passed both houses of the legislature by a combined 129-to-0. The last previous state to ratify it was Kentucky, in 1976.

Here's one that had heads shaking in amazement at the Weather Channel. Only a week after temperatures hit 104 degrees F. in Mexico's Altar desert, eight inches of snow fell there - the first such observation in 37 years.

The Day's List

States With the Most Foreign-Born Residents

Almost 1 of every 10 persons in the US is foreign-born, the Census Bureau says in a newly released report. The following are states where sample surveys show that in March 1996 at least 10 percent of the population was made up of people not born in the US, Puerto Rico, or any other outlying area of the country - and whose parents were not US citizens:

1. California 25.1

2. New York 17.7

3. Hawaii 16.6

4. Florida 15.2

5. New Jersey 14.6

6. Nevada 11.4

7. Texas 11.1

8. Arizona 10.9

9. Rhode Island 10.4

- US Bureau of the Census

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