News In Brief

By , and Lance Carden

A key vote was expected in Congress Sunday on President Clinton's request for expedited authority to negotiate trade deals. The White House and GOP leaders were offering concessions on major spending bills in return for elusive votes on trade. A showdown on trade, scheduled for last Friday, was delayed to give the president more time to seek support. To keep government running, lawmakers passed an emergency spending bill effective through Sunday.

Unemployment tumbled to a 24-year low amid brisk hiring in October, the Labor Department reported. It said the jobless rate fell from 4.9 percent in September to 4.7 percent last month, the lowest level since October 1973.

A Massachusetts judge was deciding whether the murder conviction of British au pair Louise Woodward would stand or fall. Judge Hiller Zobel's unprecedented decision to e-mail his ruling to news groups - as early as today - for posting on the World Wide Web added to the notoriety of the case.

Recommended: Default

Both houses of Congress approved a $270 billion health, labor, and education bill that would delay, but not kill, Clinton's proposed national education tests. The measure bars the White House from pilot-testing exams of fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math during the 1998 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. But massive, must-pass budgets bills for foreign aid, for the District of Columbia, and for the Departments of State, Justice, and Commerce were bogged down in heated policy debates.

The Senate passed a scaled-down, stop-gap highway bill to get states through the next six months after Congress failed to enact a six-year transportation measure. Without a bill, governors complained that the 1998 contracting and bidding seasons would be disrupted and basic programs, among them safety, would be curtailed. The Senate compromise needed to be reconciled with a significantly different House approach.

The Senate threw Amtrak a $2.3 billion lifeline in exchange for business reforms at the money-losing national passenger railroad. The money was earmarked for upgrades of rolling stock and other equipment that Amtrak hopes will cut costs and increase speed and ridership. It was uncertain whether the House would approve the measure before Congress recessed for the remainder of the year.

The Senate also voted to make it easier to adopt abused and neglected children, including those in foster care. The measure would make children's safety - not family reunification - the primary goal. Currently, states must make "reasonable efforts" to keep families together before allowing children to be adopted. The bill would give states cash bonuses - $3,000 for each foster child adopted, and $6,000 for each special-needs child. The Senate bill needed to be reconciled with a House version that had no provision for funding.

House lawmakers voted to extend US agricultural research programs for another year. This measure needed to be reconciled with a Senate bill that would boost such research by $1 billion over five years by tapping administrative funds for food-stamp programs.

Clinton became the first sitting president to address a homosexual rights organization. He spoke in Washington at a $250-a-person fund-raiser for the Human Rights Campaign that drew 1,500 people. Clinton said his vision was one America in which "we come together across all our lines of difference."

US Sen. John Ashcroft of Missouri said he was "seriously considering" a bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 2000. He spent the weekend in Iowa, building ties with Republicans who will vote in the first electoral contest of the next presidential campaign.

It was unclear whether Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz would plead Iraq's case in the impasse over weapons inspections via an address to the UN Security Council today - or privately in discussions with some council members. He told CNN Iraq would expel American inspectors if there was no breakthrough at the UN. He also threatened again that Iraq might fire on American U-2 planes scheduled to resume surveillance flights today. Iraq turned back three more inspection teams Sunday because they included Americans.

Former Thai Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai officially return-ed to the office, taking on the challenge of leading the country out of its deep economic crisis. Chuan maintained a reputation for honesty despite a scandal that collapsed his first government in 1995. He succeeds Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who quit over steep drops in the stock market and in the value of Thailand's currency, the baht.

No meeting with President Clinton appeared likely for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on his visit to the US next week - a sign that Mideast peace talks are going nowhere, analysts said. Netanyahu's foreign minister, David Levy, denied assertions that four days of talks last week in Washington had broken down and said Israel hoped a Netanyahu meeting with Secretary of State Albright in London Friday might yet lead to an appointment with Clinton. Albright also is to meet with Palestinian Authority President Arafat Saturday in Switzerland.

Kuwait became only the fourth Arab country to say it will send a delegation to next Sunday's regional economic conference in Qatar. Most other Arab states have ignored a US appeal to send high-level delegations to the meeting, calling instead for a boycott. They blame Israel for stalemated Middle East peace negotiations. Israeli Foreign Minister Levy said it might be pointless for him to go "just to be present."

Colombia asked Cuba's Communist president, Fidel Castro, to help mediate negotiations aimed at ending three decades of war with leftist guerrillas that has cost at least 35,000 lives. The move came at a conference of Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking government leaders in Venezuela. Castro would not say publicly whether he agreed to join Spain, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Venezuela in trying to kick-start the talks.

The news editor of a Bosnian Croat TV station quit rather than read an on-air apology for inflammatory broadcasts. All 113 staffers of the Mostar station said they supported Milan Sutalo, who had been ordered by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to read a prepared text for five consecutive days. OSCE said the station aired anti-Muslim propaganda and unwarranted accusations against NATO-led peace-keepers.

The final striking Ontario teachers union was to meet Sunday amid speculation it would join the others in ending their illegal walkout, which has kept 2.1 million schoolchildren home since Oct. 27. Leaders of the returning teachers said the strike had succeeded in raising public awareness of a government bill to weaken local control of schools.

The first oil from fields in the Caspian Sea surged into a pipe-line and on its way to market, Azerbaijan's International Operating Company announced. The Chirag field is one of three in a deal signed with foreign companies in 1994 in what was hailed as the "contract of the century." The three fields are estimated to hold at least 650 million tons of recoverable oil. It will be shipped to buyers via pipelines from Baku, the capital, to Russian and Georgian ports on the Black Sea.

"There will be no retreat by Iraq unless changes are made."

- Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, telling CNN his government seeks to negotiate with the UN when and by whom future weapons inspections will be conducted.

Etceteras

Every time there's an election, you hear the refrain: One vote can make the difference. In Dillworth City, Minn., last week, one vote did. In the race for a vacant town council seat, Michael Varriano defeated Jeff Fowler, 457 to 456. Or, so it seemed until a recount showed Fowler had won by five votes. Now Variano must decide whether to ask for another count.

Remember Don Hensley? He's the Simpsonville, S.C., magistrate cited in this space last month who sentenced petty offenders to pay their fines in cans of food for the poor. That's sentenced in the past tense, because the state Supreme Court has ordered him to stop. This, despite the gratitude of local relief agencies, which received more than $4,000 worth of donations. Hensley hopes to resume the practice once legal issues are resolved.

The Day's List

Kids Test, Rate New Toys For Holiday Buying

A Duracell-sponsored survey has produced a list of recommended toys, based on input from about 500 children aged 4 to 11. They "play-tested" 28 new toys and games for two weeks, then voted for their favorites. Eight of 10 receiving the most votes had a suggested retail price of less than $25. The top 10 and their manufacturers:

1. Bop It Parker Brothers

2. Hoppin' Poppin' Spaceballs DSI Toys

3. Light Wars Tiger Electronics

4. Game.com Tiger Electronics

5. Chicken Croquet Milton Bradley

6. Milk & Cookies Parker Brothers

7. Bulldog Dozer Parker Brothers

8. Spray FX Ohio Art

9. Kid-Cala University Games

10. K'NEX Ultrabots K'NEX

- PR Newswire

TO OUR READERS:

The Christian Science Monitor will not be published Veterans Day, Tuesday, Nov. 11, a legal holiday in the United States.

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