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DRUG CONTROVERSY SURROUNDS ELDERS Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, no stranger to controversy, finds herself enmeshed in a new one after suggesting that legalizing drugs could help make America's streets safer. The White House quickly made it clear Tuesday that President Clinton does not agree with that statement. Republicans and conservatives who opposed her confirmation expressed outrage. But Ms. Elders also was praised for ``her usual courage'' by Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, who felt some of the same wrath five years ago when he suggested decriminalizing drugs. Elders, responding to questions at a National Press Club luncheon after a speech decrying violence, said 60 percent of violent crimes are drug- or alcohol-related. ``I do feel that we would markedly reduce our crime rate if drugs were legalized,'' she said. Bombing conviction

Two neo-Nazis were convicted by a German court of murdering three Turks in a 1992 firebombing in Moelln, Germany. One suspect got a life sentence, the harshest sentence ever handed down for an antiforeigner attack. The other got 10 years, the maximum penalty for a juvenile offender. The decision is a major victory for German justice authorities who have been attempting for three years to deter attacks against foreigners. (Austrian letter bombs, Page 6). Worker productivity jumps

The productivity of US workers shot up at a 4.3 percent annual rate from July-September, the first advance in six months and the biggest in more than six years, the Labor Department said yesterday. The figure bested expectations. Higher productivity is essential to improving US living standards and making US products competitive. Xerox, Nabisco job cuts

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Xerox Corporation said yesterday it will eliminate more than 10,000 jobs, or about 10 percent of its worldwide work force, to cut costs and improve productivity. The copier maker said it also will close and consolidate a unspecified number of its plants. In related news, RJR Nabisco Holdings Corporation, stung by the cigarette price wars, is slashing 6,000 jobs worldwide, including 1,000 announced in September. The maker of Winston cigarettes, Ritz crackers, and Oreo cookies is the latest consumer products company to cut costs in response to declining sales of brand-name goods. Commuter shooting

A man wielding an automatic pistol walked down the aisle of a packed rush-hour Long Island Rail Road commuter train Tuesday, shooting at random in a racially-motivated assault. The black gunman told police he disliked whites, Asians, and ``conservative blacks.'' Four passengers were killed and 21 injured. PBS kids' programming

The Public Broadcasting Service is offering an answer to the national debate over the quality of TV programming: It will offer up to nine hours of children's shows daily beginning in July. This will be in two blocks, from 7 a.m. to noon and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. The shows will be accompanied by outreach efforts including home-teaching materials. Such shows now take up six hours a day. NATO ministers meet

NATO defense ministers opened two days of talks yesterday to review their post-cold-war military build-down and increased cooperation with their former Warsaw Pact foes. Both issues will figure on the agenda of a Jan. 10-11 meeting in Brussels of President Clinton and the other 15 NATO leaders. Early reports found the ministers divided over the details of East-West cooperation. Mideast peace delays

US Secretary of State Warren Christopher said yesterday the US would not object to a short delay in implementation of the Israel-PLO peace agreement if the two sides felt it was necessary. His statement effectively placed the US on the side of Israel in a dispute over the firmness of a Dec. 13 deadline for Israel to start removing its military from the Gaza Strip and West Bank town of Jericho. It was the first time Christopher had publicly said a delay would be acceptable (Intifadah anniversary, Page 7).

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