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News Briefs

Japanese Woman Wins Precedent-Setting Sex Harassment Suit

Los Angeles Times

TOKYO

A judge yesterday awarded a woman $12,400 in a ruling that for the first time recognized verbal "sexual discrimination" as illegal in the Japanese workplace.

"Although the term `sexual harassment' was not used, the judge recognized that sexual discrimination is illegal," said Ikuko Tsujimoto, lawyer for the plaintiff. "It is a complete victory."

The case was widely called the first sexual harassment suit in Japan, a country where women traditionally have remained silent about unwelcome physical actions and verbal abuse from men. Indeed, the concept of sexual harassment remains so alien that the English phrase is commonly used to describe it, along with the explanation, "sexually unpleasant statements," in Japanese.

Judges in the last two years awarded two other women $8,460 and $22,560 in compensation for physical actions by male co-workers, but Thursday's ruling in Fukuoka District Court was the first to deal with verbal abuse.

"Today's judgment opens a new path for women throughout the country who are suffering the same kind of sexual harassment," said the plaintiff in a statement issued to reporters in Fukuoka.

U.S. Trade Deficit Sinks to Lowest Level Since 1983

Los Angeles Times

Washington

The nation's trade deficit improved dramatically in February, reaching its lowest level since 1983, the Department of Commerce reported yesterday.

However, analysts cautioned that the shrinking gap between exports and imports may be difficult to sustain in the months ahead.

Exports, which had been declining during the past few months, surged by $2.4 billion over January. At the same time, imports dipped slightly, reducing the deficit more than 40 percent, to $3.4 billion for the month.

Secretary of Commerce Barbara Hackman Franklin hailed the report, noting that exports for the first two months of this year ran 8.1 percent ahead of overseas sales during the same period last year. The comparison is significant, because 1991 marked the first time in eight years that the annual trade deficit fell below $100 billion.

However, she cautioned, "the slower pace of economic growth among key foreign markets presents an export challenge for the rest of 1992," and called for stepped-up trade promotion efforts by government and industry.

Overdrafters' Names Released

The Washington Post

Washington

The House ethics committee yesterday released the names of 303 active and former members of Congress who wrote overdrafts at the House Bank during the 39 months ending Oct. 3, 1991. The list included two speakers of the House, a majority leader, five senators, and four Cabinet secretaries.

The list did not include the 22 "abusers" named April 1 for having run account deficits exceeding their next month's pay for 20 percent of the months they held an account at the bank. Those listed Thursday, Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) said in a news conference, "violated no laws, violated no rules of the House, and did not abuse the privileges of the House Bank in any way."

They were, however, covered by a resolution passed 426 to 0 on March 13 calling for "full disclosure" of every member and former member who had overdrafted his or her account at least once in the period covered by the ethics committee investigation. The bank made good on thousands of members' overdrafts without penalty during the period. The House ordered the bank closed on Dec. 31, 1991.

Thursday's list, delivered to the House press room in early afternoon on a quiet day in the Easter recess, was topped by Rep. Ronald V. Dellums (D-Calif.), with 851 overdrafts. Eleven current members named Thursday had at least 200. In all, with the 22 "abusers," the overdrafters included 205 Democrats, 119 Republicans and one independent.

House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), one of those who argued most forcefully for a full accounting, issued a statement describing his 22 overdrafts for a face value of $26,890.65. He apologized for "the errors with my checking account," but expressed pride in "leading the fight for disclosure."

Weather

Forecast by Marek Zebrowski

Staff Meteorologist

A low pressure system will move through southern New England on Friday, bringing cold rain into our area. A warm front advancing northeastward will unfortunately remain to our south for the weekend, and with a cold high pressure ridge just north and east of us, the resulting easterly flow promises typical (read: miserable) spring weather for the next few days.

Friday afternoon: Periods of rain gradually tapering off to showers and drizzle. High around 47 F (8 C). Easterly winds 10-20 mph (16-32 kmh) gradually subsiding towards nightfall.

Friday night: Cloudy with light rain or drizzle, low around 40F (4 C), light onshore winds persisting.

Saturday: Cloudy start with a few breaks possible in the afternoon, especially to the north; otherwise mostly cloudy and damp. High about 50F (10 C), light north to northeasterly winds.

Sunday outlook: Continued mostly cloudy, unsettled and cool with highs in mid to upper 40s (6-8C) near the coast and mid 50s to low 60s (12-16C) well inland.