News In Brief

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The US

Election year 1998 is on pace to set another record for campaign spending, The Wall Street Journal reported. The current record, $1.6 billion, was set during the 1996 presidential elections and came one year after President Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich vowed to reform the system. Advocates of campaign-finance reform say they will revive the issue next year.

Republicans are showing a sliver of an advantage over Democrats among likely voters in next Tuesday's elections, a new USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll found. But the 49 percent to 47 percent Republican advantage was within the survey's margin for error. The survey of 1,013 people also found that 44 percent of Republicans were more enthusiastic about voting than usual, compared with 32 percent of Democrats.

Recommended: Default

Top Democrats in Congress are accusing their party of ignoring next week's elections by holding onto funds for the 2000 presidential race and to pay off debts, The New York Times reported. Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, in particular, was upset by internal party predictions that Democrats could lose as many as 24 seats in the vote.

Consumer confidence slid to its lowest level in nearly two years in October, the Conference Board reported. The key economic indicator dropped 9.1 points to 117.3 amid increasing concerns about the global economy and political troubles.

A computer glitch halted stock trading on the world's largest exchange for an hour Monday. The New York Stock Exchange was frozen from 1:16 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. - the first interruption of trading in the US in almost three years.

A prominent murder trial took an unexpected turn when the lawyer for former prosecutor Thomas Capano admitted he had disposed of the body of his mistress, the Delaware governor's secretary. The reversal came after 2-1/2 years of denial and was the first time the defense acknowledged Anne Marie Fahey was dead. Capano still denied killing Fahey, saying her death was an accident.

NBA owners backed off their demand for a hard salary cap on Day 118 of the lockout. While the players' union downplayed the move, analysts said it should put both sides closer to an agreement.

The Labor Department sued Time Warner Inc., alleging the company denied hundreds of eligible workers the right to health care and pension plans by incorrectly classifying them as "temps" or contractors. The company denies the charges.

The rate of Americans defaulting on student loans dropped to single digits for the first time in a decade. A new Department of Education report showed the average of such defaults at 9.6 percent, down from 22.4 percent six years ago. A strong economy and more flexible repayment options are believed to be responsible for the decline.

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by antilogging protesters in California, accusing police of brutality for using pepper spray to break up sit-ins. A jury deadlocked on the case in August. The judge ruled a retrial unnecessary because no juror could find using pepper spray to be excessive force.

Two New York firefighters were fired for participating in a racist parade float Labor Day weekend. A police officer on the float, which depicted the dragging death of a black man, was also fired. The men filed federal lawsuits alleging that their First Amendment rights were violated.

A Mexican on death row in Texas is appealing on grounds that his international rights were denied. A lawyer for Humberto Leal Jr., who was convicted of rape and murder in 1994, argued police failed to tell him he could call the Mexican consulate. Leal is one of several foreign citizens on death row appealing on grounds their sentences violate the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

The World

The immediate threat of air raids against Yugoslav targets was expected to be lifted as senior NATO officials prepared to meet in Brussels. Italy's ambassador said the alliance was satisfied that "there has been sufficient compliance" with withdrawal requirements by Serb forces in Kosovo to keep 400 NATO warplanes on their runways. But in Geneva, an Albanian separatist spokesman accused Yugoslav President Milosevic of "bluffing" to persuade the West that his forces were withdrawing from Kosovo.

Concerns for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's safety grew as opponents of his land-for-peace deal with Palestinians kept up their angry protests. Security around him has been unprecedented since his return from last week's summit in the US. A large newspaper ad placed by West Bank settlers and their sympathizers showed the words "We won't forget and we won't forgive" over a photograph of Netanyahu. (Related editorial, Page 12.)

The controversy over how many banned missile warheads are still in Iraq's arsenal deepened after international experts reported to the UN Security Council they'd found evidence of a coverup by Baghdad. The report said someone had tried to "decontaminate" warheads between April - when a US laboratory found traces of the nerve agent VX - and June, when followup tests demanded by Iraq were conducted by American, French, and Swiss scientists.

Negotiations aimed at achieving a truce in Congo's civil war were headed for stalemate because of President Laurent Kabila's refusal to face representatives of the rebels seeking to topple him. At the talks in Lusaka, Zambia, rebel spokesmen said they'd neither "negotiate through third parties" nor agree to a draft cease-fire working paper prepared by foreign and defense ministers from 19 African countries.

Military planes in Honduras were ferrying coastal-island residents and tourists to safer ground before the expected arrival of hurricane Mitch. The nation was placed on maximum alert for the Category 5 storm, whose 180 m.p.h. winds were the strongest in the region since 1988. Similar precautions were under way in Cuba, Guatemala, Belize, the Cayman Islands, and Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

Questions and concerns about Russian President Boris Yeltsin's health deepened as his physicians ordered him hospitalized for indefinite "restoration treatment." His place at a key meeting in Vienna with leaders of the European Union was taken by Prime Minister Primakov. Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov accused Yeltsin's aides of "mocking" the nation by insisting that he has no disabling illness and renewed a call for him to resign. Yeltsin's ex-security adviser, Alexander Lebed, called for restoration of the office of vice president, which was abolished in 1993.

The first to shake hands with new German Chancellor Gerhard Schrder as he assumed office was his predecessor, Helmut Kohl. Schrder's Sept. 27 election was confirmed by the lower house of parliament. His left-of-center coalition will have a 21-seat majority in the powerful Bundestag. As the seventh postwar head of government, he represents a new generation of politicians with little or no memory of Germany's Nazi past.

At least 1,600 Kenyans have died since 1990 due to government-sponsored violence - and another 500,000 have been "displaced," the country's Human Right Commission reported. It said "increasingly informal terrorism has become a permanent feature" aimed at keeping President Daniel arap Moi and his Kenya African National Union in power.

Etceteras

"It's not a smoking gun, but it's indicative that Iraq was trying to cover something up."

- Chemical and biological weapons expert Jonathan Tucker, on a report to the UN Security Council that Iraqi officials had tried to 'decontaminate' missile warheads being inspected for the nerve agent VX.

The Day's List

Opponents of beauty contests have been handed new ammunition because of the Miss Croatia pageant. But this time there were no cries of exploitation over contestants having to parade across a stage in high heels and swimsuits. What's controversial is that after first bestowing the title on Lejla Sehovic Oct. 11, the judges reversed themselves Sunday and awarded it instead to her runner-up. Organizers deny forcing a second vote for religious reasons. But news reports say they were worried the choice would be unpopular. Ms. Sehovic is a Muslim in a country that's overwhelmingly Roman Catholic. She is threatening to sue.

With the holidays approaching, in the eastern Pennsylvania town of Hazleton they're celebrating the generosity of Matthew Nonnemacher. Because he wanted "to help people," he has just contributed $18,196.91 to the local United Way charity drive. That would be no small sum for any donor, but it's all the more remarkable for Matthew, who's 10 and collected it all in pennies.

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