TO OUR READERS: Today the Monitor begins a new feature - ``News Currents'' - which will weave together varying events on news topics into a single strand of information. We hope this will help readers to be more informed about the political, economic, and social forces at work in the world today. - THE EDITORS. EARTHQUAKE
Northern California braced for aftershocks in the aftermath of the second-worst earthquake in US history Oct. 17. At press time, California's lieutenant governor said at least 271 people had perished and 475 had been injured in the tremor. More than 250 people died when a half-mile-long section of freeway collapsed in Oakland, crushing people in their cars. A span in the double-decker San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge also collapsed, as did at least two bridges in the Santa Cruz area. The quake, 6.9 on the Richter scale, caused several fires and left more than 1 million people without electrical power. It was centered about eight miles northeast of Santa Cruz, or 75 miles south of San Francisco, along the San Andreas fault. (Detailed earthquake coverage, page 8.)
In Athens, the World Psychiatric Association Oct. 18 conditionally readmitted the Soviet Union after a Soviet official acknowledged that psychiatry had been abused in that country for political reasons. Meanwhile, an Amnesty International report issued in London said that human rights abuses in the Soviet Union have declined drastically, but that political and religious persecution continues. In Moscow, human rights activist Andrei Sakharov said the Soviet parliament should strip the Communist Party of its monopoly on power. Legislators will probably reject the idea.
An Oct. 17 East German Politburo meeting in East Berlin ended with no indication of new policies or leadership changes. There were indications the meetings might continue Oct. 18 amid pressure for reform from four small parties allied to the Communist Party. But subtle shifts were visible in the promise by the chief prosecutor to investigate charges of police brutality during this month's huge street protests in favor of democratic reforms, and by increased East German television coverage of dissent. Elsewhere, the first 124 of 1,500 East German refugees in Warsaw flew to D"usseldorf, West Germany, Oct. 17.
President Bush promised Oct. 17 to veto legislation allowing federally financed abortions for rape and incest victims. In Georgia, state officials have asked a federal appeals court to let them enforce a law requiring girls under 18 to inform their parents before having an abortion. Elsewhere, a committee of the Illinois House of Representatives blocked a bill to restrict abortions, while a Pennsylvania state House committee approved more restrictions. Both bills now move to the full Houses for consideration.