News In Brief

The US

More than a million people in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas were without power yesterday, after hurricane Opal ripped through the region Wednesday, killing at least three people. In the Florida Panhandle, Opal washed away beachfront homes and tossed boats ashore. Authorities said it could be days before electricity is completely restored. Opal was downgraded to a tropical storm yesterday morning as it headed toward the Great Lakes. (Story, Page 1.)

The O.J. Simpson verdict swept a huge TV audience. About 41 million of the nation's TV homes tuned in to Judge Ito's courtroom Tuesday. Meanwhile, a few jurors went public Wednesday, making it clear that they accepted virtually the entire defense line that O.J. Simpson was an innocent victim of police bungling or even conspiracy. Meanwhile, Nicole Brown Simpson's parents had not yet decided whether to give up custody of their grandchildren.

NATO defense ministers began a two-day meeting yesterday in Williamsburg, Va., to thrash out plans to send a peace-implementation force to Bosnia, review relations with Russia, and examine plans for eastern expansion. The 16 ministers must try and agree upon a command structure for the UN force to police an eventual peace accord in the former Yugoslavia. That force could include up to 25,000 US servicemen and women. Prior to the meeting, NATO agreed to stall controversial plans to expand the alliance into central and eastern Europe in an attempt to buy time to win Russian consent. (Story, Page 3.)

Pope John Paul II visited the UN yesterday bearing a message that rich countries must do more to help the poor. His trip to the UN on its 50th anniversary was meant to reaffirm the importance of the organization as it faces a cash crisis. On Wednesday, the Pope met with President Clinton to discuss peace efforts in Bosnia. (Story, Page 3.)

Some corporate tax breaks could end as part of legislation that would offer more tax credits and relief, according to Senate Finance Committee chairman Bill Roth. Roth said he hopes to pass a $500-per-child tax credit, reduction in capital-gains tax rates, estate-tax relief for family-owned small businesses and farms, and liberalized IRAs.

Nearly 400,000 people may be entering the US illegally each year - a third more than the government estimates, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. The group, which favors reduced immigration, found that when 1990 and 1994 data were compared, the foreign-born population has grown by 4.5 million.

Former Illinois Democratic Congressman Mel Reynolds began a five-year prison term yesterday. A state appeals court rejected his bid to remain free while he appealed his conviction for having sex with an underage campaign worker and obstructing the investigation.

Westinghouse said it has voluntarily decided to run more children's programs if it takes over CBS. But a House panel is examining whether federal regulators coerced the decision.

The fraud trial of Gov. Jim Guy Tucker and two Whitewater partners, James and Susan McDougal, has been postponed until next year. The McDougals once owned the thrift and were partners with then-Gov. Clinton and Hillary Clinton in the Whitewater land-development project.

Initial claims for jobless benefits rose by 6,000 last week, the biggest gain in three weeks, the Labor Department reported. Analysts said that level of claims still points to modest job growth.

Texas executed a man Wednesday for killing a teenage cashier during a supermarket robbery in 1982. He was the 100th inmate to be put to death since the state resumed capital punishment in 1982.

A sixth person was charged Wednesday with killing a 3-year-old girl in Los Angeles when the car she was in mistakenly turned down a street into gang territory.

The World

The warring factions in Bosnia have agreed to a US-brokered cease-fire effective Oct. 10 and to peace talks in the US beginning about Oct. 25, President Clinton announced yesterday. Clinton called the agreement ''an important moment in the painful history'' of the former Yugoslavia. He said the parties involved would begin talks in the US on Oct. 25 to nail down details. As part of the agreement, the Bosnian government demanded that the cease-fire would become effective at one minute past midnight on Oct. 10 provided full gas and electrical service is restored in Sarajevo. (War crimes tribunal, Page 1.)

Prime Minister Rabin urged Israel's parliament yesterday to ''give peace a chance'' and ratify the Israel-PLO accord giving Palestinians one-third of West Bank land and some privileges of independence. The accord was expected to be narrowly approved 61-59. Meanwhile, Syria yesterday urged the US to force Israel to make more concession in pace talks, hours before Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara was due to meet US Secretary of State Christopher.

Supporters and Islamic opponents of PLO leader Yasser Arafat, in a rare show of unity, heaped scorn on Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi for what they called the ''transfer'' of Palestinians from Libya. Qaddafi, furious at the PLO-Israeli peace accord, has called on the 30,000 Palestinians to return to Palestinian self-ruled areas to expose the shortcomings of the peace deal. Libyan authorities have fired hundreds of Palestinian expatriots from their jobs and confiscated their houses. About 900 Palestinians are stranded at a Libyan-run camp on the border with Egypt, waiting to return to PLO-ruled Gaza and Jericho.

Japan will ask the US military to modify the accord governing Japan-based US troops to calm public anger after the rape of an Okinawan schoolgirl, allegedly by American servicemen, Japanese news reports said. Japan wants to allow Japanese police to take prompt custody of US servicemen accused of crimes. Thousands of Japanese rallied in Tokyo on Wednesday, calling for the removal of US troops. Thousands more were expected at a rally last night on Okinawa.

Mexico notified the US that it will repay $700 million in loans it obtained from the US to help it through its financial crisis, the White House announced.

The Security Council agreed to renew the UN Iraq-Kuwait border force but said members owed $37 million for the operation. Iraq said it was opposed to a UN resolution, which would allow it to sell limited amounts of oil to earn money for humanitarian supplies, because it compromises the country's sovereignty.

French mercenary Bob Denard completed a surrender agreement with the French military yesterday, a week after leading a coup in the Indian Ocean islands The surrender marked the second time the French military intervened to seize power from Denard. The French government said he will be taken to France for trial. (Story, Page 1.)

Kenya stunned the international tribunal investigating Rwanda's genocide by refusing to cooperate or arrest suspects living in Kenya. President Daniel arap Moi said the ''root causes'' of last year's massacre of up to 1 million people should first be investigated.

The global economy could grow in 1996 at its fastest pace in eight years if the largest countries continue to cooperate on economic policies and currency stabilization, the International Monetary Fund said.

Etcetera

Alan Jackson was named entertainer of the year, and Alison Krauss won best female vocalist and three other Country Music Association awards Wednesday at the Grand Ole Oprey House in Nashville. Jackson had the most nominations with six. Krauss, a premier bluegrass singer and fiddler, had never been nominated by the CMA before. Vince Gill, who hosted the awards, won the male vocalist award for an unprecedented fifth time in a row.

Beginning next spring, Fitchburg State College in Massachusetts will give its four-year graduates written guarantees that they can do the job in the field they studied, or they can return for more study. Guarantees are more popular at two-year colleges. All 70 Texas community colleges offer them.

The hot, dry weather this past summer has produced high-quality but smaller cranberries in Massachusetts.

Top-Rated TV Shows, Sept. 25-Oct. 1

Rank/Show/Network/Number of Homes

1. ''ER,'' NBC, 22.4 million

2. ''Seinfeld,'' NBC, 21.8 million

3. ''20/20,'' ABC, 18.8 million

4. ''Friends,'' NBC, 18.5 million

4. ''Home Improvement,'' ABC, 18.5 million

6. ''NFL Monday Night Football,'' ABC, 18.3 million

7. ''Caroline in the City,''NBC, 17.6 million

8. ''Coach,'' ABC, 17.0 million

9. ''Single Guy,'' NBC, 16.8 million

10. ''Grace Under Fire,'' ABC, 15.0 million

- Nielsen Media Research/AP

'' We need to be clear-eyed about this. It matters what the parties do, not what they say.''

- President Clinton, regarding the cease-fire agreement in Bosnia.

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