The News in Brief

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The US

Whitewater prosecutors asked a judge in Little Rock, Ark., to extend by six months the term of their grand jury, citing "extensive evidence" of possible obstruction of justice and new information from the Clintons' former business partner, James McDougal. Independent counsel Kenneth Starr asked that the special grand jury's term be extended to Nov. 7. It was scheduled to expire May 7.

Nearly 2 out of 3 Americans believe House Speaker Newt Gingrich should be allowed to use a $300,000 loan from Bob Dole to pay an ethics-committee assessment, a USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll indicated. It found 63 percent approving the idea, although only 24 percent of those surveyed had favorable opinions of Gingrich. Among other findings: President Clinton's approval rating slipped to 54 percent, from 62 percent in January. Some 51 percent believed Clinton took part in a coverup of fund-raising activities, but only 28 percent said fund-raising allegations are of great importance. Clinton was scheduled to fly to North Dakota for a first-hand look at flood damage in the Grand Forks area. The president promised a "very creative" federal approach to helping people affected by flooding rebuild their homes and lives. The crest of the swollen Red River continued to roll north, threatening towns on both sides of the US-Canadian border. A 30 percent expansion of the number of industrial firms required to disclose levels of toxic chemicals released into the air was announced by Clinton. He took the action as Earth Day observances were held throughout the nation. Limitations on future US investments in Burma were expected to be announced by the State Department in response to persistent human-rights abuses by that country's military government, an administration official said. A law enacted last year authorized sanctions against Burma under certain conditions. US Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided a San Francisco club that supplies marijuana to ill people, seizing 331 plants and some equipment, officials said. The raid reignited controversy over Proposition 215, a measure passed by California voters last year. It allows sick people and their primary care givers to grow and possess marijuana for medical use when recommended by a doctor. The measure puts California at odds with US statutes that make marijuana an illegal drug. Strong economic growth is helping keep the US budget deficit 13 percent below last year's level, the Treasury Department said. A March deficit of $21.3 billion brought the overall deficit from October through March - the first half of fiscal 1997 - to $111.3 billion. The deficit for the first half of fiscal 1996 was $127.7 billion. Effects of an 11-day-old strike by 1,800 employees at a Chrysler engine plant in Detroit were rippling through company operations in Indiana, Michigan, and Mexico. Some 21,000 additional workers already had been laid off, and more layoffs were expected. Talks continued by telephone between Chrysler and the United Auto Workers. Wind-driven snow kept an Air Force recovery team from examining the suspected Colorado crash site of a missing warplane. The Air Force believes debris at the site is a $9 million A-10 Thunderbolt that vanished April 2 while on a training flight. Senate minority leader Tom Daschle urged Republicans to allow a vote on the nomination of Alexis Herman to be Secretary of Labor. Herman was approved by the Senate Labor Committee April 10, but majority leader Trent Lott said last week the full Senate would not vote on her nomination until Clinton clarified an administration policy requiring that federal construction contracts be performed by union labor. Jane Garvey will become the first woman to head the Federal Aviation Administration, USA Today reported. The paper said Clinton is expected to announce the nomination this month. Garvey is currently the acting head of the Federal Highway Administration. …