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News In Brief

The US

President Clinton signed a disaster declaration to free federal funds for 21 Minnesota counties damaged by storms and flooding. State residents are concerned that melting ice and snow from a weekend blizzard will send the overflowing Minnesota River to even greater heights.

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Los Angeles residents reelected Republican Mayor Richard Riordan (above) over Democratic State Sen. Tom Hayden by a nearly 2 to 1 margin. Riordan made expanding the police force a key theme of his campaign. While black residents favored Hayden, Hispanics voted heavily for Riordan, according to a Los Angeles Time exit poll. Only about 20 percent of eligible voters cast ballots, the poll indicated.

A man charged with throwing a firebomb at a judge in an Urbana, Ill., courthouse was arrested and faces arraignment. The judge was to handle a civil case that involved John Ewing, the alleged bomb-thrower. The device bounced off the judge's head before starting a blaze that gutted the courtroom and injured four people.

The median price of new and existing homes rose 2.6 percent last year to $120,000 in the fourth quarter, according to the National Association of Home Builders. The national average kept up with 1996 inflation, which was 2.6 percent without including food and energy prices. While 130 of 184 metro areas showed median price increases, 39 showed declines.

As many as 13,000 Taco Bell employees in Washington state won a lawsuit that could cost the food chain millions of dollars in back wages. A jury in Seattle found dozens of the restaurants violated state laws by pressuring workers to perform tasks without pay. Regional managers were sometimes paid large bonuses to hold down labor costs, lawyers for the employees said. Damages could exceed $10 million.

A North Carolina judge refused to allow the Liggett Group to release internal documents on tobacco industry sales practices. Lawyers for R. J. Reynolds, Phill-ip Morris, Brown & Williamson, and Lorillard argued that turning over the information would violate attorney-client privilege, since legal strategies were discussed at meetings. Similar arguments are being made in courts across the country. Liggett earlier agreed to release the documents to settle lawsuits by 22 states seeking to recover the cost of smoking-related illnesses.

A San Francisco federal appeals court ruled that California's Proposition 209 is legal. The voter-approved law bans race and gender preferences by state and local government in employment, contracting, and education. The National Organization for Women and American Civil Liberties Union are seeking review by the full Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals. The case could eventually go before the US Supreme Court.

A presidential task force reached tentative agreement on a voluntary code of conduct affecting wages and working conditions for American apparel factories worldwide. The agreement among labor unions, human rights groups, and industry leaders would help to eliminate sweatshops, a Clinton administration official said. Companies complying with the code will be allowed to use labels stating that the clothing was not made in a sweatshop.

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The Air Force was scheduled to unveil its new stealth fighter at a ceremony in Marietta, Ga. The multi-million dollar F-22, also known as the Raptor, was designed "to secure air dominance over any adversary aircraft," according to its maker, Lockheed Martin.

The first two hours and 49 minutes of the average American's work day are spent making enough money to pay federal, state, and local taxes, according to a report soon to be released by Washington's Tax Foundation. That's an all-time high - one minute more than in 1996. In 1960 it was two hours and 20 minutes, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Russia's financial woes could further delay the planned International Space Station, and NASA is making costly contingency plans to go ahead on its own. In testimony to a House subcommittee on space, Wilbur Trafton, NASA's associate administrator of space flight, said Russia's space agency was in dire need of cash to build a critical service module.

The World

Zairean President Mobutu fired his new prime minister and appointed the Army chief of staff as the replacement. Etienne Tshisekedi, long a Mobutu rival, was seized by troops loyal to the president as he tried to move into his office. In Washington, the Clinton administration advised Mobutu to resign and go into exile. Meanwhile, rebels and government troops reportedly were exchanging gunfire in the country's No. 2 city, Lubumbashi.

Israeli defense officials praised the efforts of Palestinian police in working to control violence in the West Bank city of Hebron. There were more exchanges of rocks, tear gas, and rubber bullets following the funeral of a Palestinian killed by Israeli soldiers. Meanwhile, a Palestinian suspected of being an Israeli collaborator was wounded in a drive-by shooting.

A planeload of Iraqi Muslim pilgrims landed without incident at Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, despite defying a UN ban on flights stemming from the 1990 Gulf war. It was believed to be Iraq's first international flight since the sanction was imposed.

Human rights groups in Cambodia protested a government ban on public demonstrations after a March 30 grenade attack that killed 16 people at an opposition rally in Phnom Penh. The incident fed concerns that Cambodia may not be able to hold free elections next year. The interior ministry said the ban would last "until the atmosphere improves," but campaigning for the election still would be permitted.

Officials in Japan admitted covering up details of the country's worst nuclear power plant accident. They said they had lied about the seriousness of a March 11 fire at a waste-reprocessing plant 70 miles north of Tokyo, which later triggered an explosion and a release of low-level radiation. Highly radioactive plutonium is stored elsewhere in the facility.

Governments of South Asian countries are buying weapons of war with scarce resources that should be spent on alleviating poverty, a new UN report concluded. It said more children go to bed hungry every night in the region than anywhere else in the world. The report singled out Pakistan as spending $26 per person on defense as opposed to $10 on health and education.

Italy's parliament was scheduled to vote on approving a peacekeeping mission to neighboring Albania, with the future of Prime Minister Romano Prodi apparently hanging in the balance. Prodi appeared to need the votes of Communist lawmakers if the measure was to pass, and they have refused to support it. He did not offer to resign if the vote failed, but said he would leave his government's fate up to President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro.

Sixty-six representatives from the UNITA rebel movement were sworn in as members of parliament in Angola - the final hurdle to implementing a power-sharing government under the country's UN-brokered peace process. Earlier in the week, UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi was formally granted special powers as a government adviser. Many foreign heads of state are invited to tomorrow's installation ceremonies for the new Government of National Unity and Reconciliation. Angola's civil war raged for 20 years.

Angry demonstrators blocked the exits at Thailand's parliament in Bangkok and refused to let anyone leave after learning that Prime Minister Yongchai-yudh and his Cabinet had not discussed the plight of the poor at their weekly meeting. The protesters were among an estimated 13,000 farmers and villagers who have camped outside government headquarters since January to demand action on their grievances - ranging from falling prices for their crops to compensation for land taken by the government for dam-construction projects.


"Mobutu-ism is about to become a creature of history."

- From a blunt White House statement urging Zairean President Mobutu Sese Seko to resign after 32 years in power.

Anyone who has been a classroom teacher probably can sympathize with Emanu-ela Milan's plight. She was fired by a nursery school in Grisignano di Zocco, Italy, for her method of disciplining noisy students. Administrators learned of the practice when one pupil watched his mother struggling to control an unruly sibling. "Do what teacher does," the lad advised. "Tape his mouth shut."

Speaking of teachers, back in February this space cited the impending runoff election for mayor in Hesston, Kan., between civics instructor John Waltner and one of his students, Chris Friesen. The runoff was held last week, and you might say Waltner took his opponent to school. He won a fifth term. But Friesen, in his first political test, did manage to collect 30 percent of the vote.

High fives were exchang-ed around the Philadelphia Police Department over a federal judge's ruling against the punk rock band "Crucif--ks" and its record company. They were ordered to pay $2.2 million to a member of the force and to his union for unauthorized use of the officer's photo on an album containing antipolice lyrics. The photo had been taken for a police-support rally.

The Day's List

The Top 10 of Fortune's 500 Leading US Firms

Fortune magazine's annual ranking of the US's 500 largest companies will appear in the publication's April 28 edition. Together, those companies experienced a 23.3 percent increase in profits, led by Exxon's $7.5 billion. The top 10 companies, with rank change from last year (if any), and reported 1996 sales (in billions):

1. General Motors $168.369

2. Ford $146.991

3. Exxon $119.434.

4. Wal-Mart $106.147

5. General Electric (up from 7th) $79.179

6. IBM $75.947

7. AT&T (down from 5th) $74.525

8. Mobil $72.267

9. Chrysler $61.397

10. Philip Morris $54.553

- Associated Press

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