News In Brief

The US

Democrats will use procedural tactics to force the House to decide whether a censure vote against President Clinton is appropriate, House minority leader Dick Gephardt said. Meanwhile, majority whip Tom DeLay (R) told NBC that even if a censure resolution got to the floor it could be defeated because some Democrats would vote against any sanction of Clinton.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson said he would lead a prayer vigil in Washington Thursday in an effort to stop impeachment proceedings and turn Congress toward censure. Jackson, accompanied by US Rep. Elijah Cummings (D) of Maryland, said the rally would begin at 10 a.m. on the steps of the Capitol.

There was no consensus on how to interpret results of a Puerto Rican plebiscite on the island's relationship with the US. The "none of the above" option received 50.2 percent of the votes, overshadowing the 46.5 percent in favor of statehood. Pro-statehood Gov. Pedro Rossello - arguing that his cause won because almost all who voted for an actual status definition supported statehood - said on this basis he would petition Congress to make Puerto Rico a state. Supporters of commonwealth status said that would subvert a decision of the island's voters.

The Supreme Court made it more difficult for lower federal courts to throw out death sentences imposed by state courts. On a 5-to-4 vote, the justices set aside rulings that had invalidated Russell Coleman's death sentence for a 1979 murder in San Francisco. They said a US judge and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had failed to determine whether some constitutional errors made in the instructing of the jury that sentenced Coleman were "harmless" and made no difference in the outcome of the trial.

The high court let stand, without comment, Wyoming's ballot-initiative system, which has the effect of counting abstentions as "no" votes. Term-limit advocates and other Wyoming residents have said a practice called for in the state constitution violates their equal-protection and free-speech rights by depriving them of the right to abstain on ballot measures.

US Sen. Bob Kerrey (D) of Nebraska said he will not run for president in 2000, ending months of speculation that he would make a second bid for the White House. Kerrey folded a 1992 presidential campaign after failing to win much support in any primary except neighboring South Dakota. Kerrey, whose second term ends in two years, said in Omaha he hopes to remain in the Senate.

A US panel ordered emergency limits on the catch of pollock off Alaska to make more of the fish available to endangered Steller sea lions. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council set restrictions in the Bering Sea after days of talks and bitter protests from the fishing industry, which said the limits were too severe, and from ecologists, who said they were too weak. Scientists say the sea lions are slowly starving. Pollock is one of the most important US commercial seafoods.

Morris Udall, who died in Washington, was known for his wit and his devotion to environmental causes. He retired from Congress in April 1991 after representing Arizona in the House for 30 years. In 1976, Udall ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic presidential primaries as an alternative to Jimmy Carter.

The World

With President Clinton looking on, members of the Palestine National Council revoked portions of their charter calling for the destruction of Israel. They stood with hands raised at the bidding of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. A show of hands had been demanded by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said a voice-vote on the issue would be unacceptable. Clinton received a red-carpet welcome on his arrival in Gaza, the first by a US chief executive to Palestinian territory.

In Jerusalem, Netanyahu "expressed satisfaction" at the Palestinian council vote, an aide said. But he noted the prime minister would continue to insist that Arafat meet other Israeli demands for toughened security measures and a pledge not to declare statehood for his people next May.

A meeting between Yugoslav President Milosevic and the US chief of the truce-verification mission in Kosovo was likely to be difficult, diplomats in Belgrade said. The talks were aimed at determining how fully Milosevic is prepared to support the mission. But they were scheduled before he told The Washington Post he'd regard NATO troops as hostile if they attempted to come to the rescue of any unarmed verifiers in case fighting resumes in Kosovo. NATO is assembling an 1,800-man so-called "extraction force" in neighboring Macedonia. Milosevic said the force is unnecessary.

A return to all-out civil war in Angola appeared nearer as UNITA rebels sought control of a strategic central town. UNITA reportedly had surrounded Cuito and was attempting to capture its airport. Fighting also was reported near Huambo, 70 miles west of Cuito. Meanwhile, a respected Portuguese newspaper said it had confirmed that UNITA was selling diamonds to finance its new campaign - in violation of UN sanctions.

A series of murders and disappearances of liberal Iranian writers has sent many others into hiding, reports said. The remains of three secularist writers have been found in recent days in what human-rights groups say appears to be an effort to undermine the social and political reform efforts of relatively moderate President Mohamad Khatami. Senior leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed the deaths on US intelligence agencies, which, he said, were trying to block the progress of Iran's Islamic system.

An alleged narcotics trafficker who narrowly escaped arrest in the US in July was captured in Bogot, Colombia, police said. Jaime Orlando Lara, the reputed chief of a major heroin-smuggling ring, is wanted on various charges by US authorities. Officials said he could be the first Colombian to be sent abroad for trial since that nation and the US resumed an extradition program late last year.

To a round of cheers, legislation that would reserve one-third of the seats in Parliament and state legislatures for women was introduced by the Indian government. The same measure was postponed in July when angry opponents tore the draft from the hands of the government's law minister. The bill needs a two-thirds vote to pass the lower house of Parliament. Women now hold less than 10 percent of its 545 seats.

Business and Finance

Another takeover of a US electrical utility by one from the United Kingdom - the second in two weeks - was announced in London and Westborough, Mass. In a $3.2 billion deal, New England Electric System (NEES) agreed to be acquired by National Grid, a joint English-Welsh company. The latter also is expected to assume $1 billion of NEES's debt. NEES serves customers in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Last week, ScottishPower announced the $7.9 billion takeover of PacifiCorp.

US manufacturers made significantly higher profits in the third quarter, the Commerce Department said. Total after-tax profits of 8,300 firms surveyed climbed to a seasonally adjusted $60.4 billion in the July-September quarter from $51.38 billion in the second quarter - meaning profits averaged 6.1 cents per dollar of sales, on total seasonally adjusted sales of $989.67 billion. That is an increase from 5.2 cents on second-quarter sales of $981.1 billion.

Recession in Asia is having its effect on Silicon Valley. For the first time since 1994, Santa Clara County, Calif., is expected to end the year with a rate of job growth below that of the state as a whole - producing 80 percent fewer new jobs than in 1997, according to new employment figures.

Etceteras

'I hope this will close this chapter forever.' - Yasser Arafat, after a show of hands by the 727-member Palestine National Council revoked language in its charter calling for the destruction of Israel.

FIVE-FINGER DISCOUNT

Darren White was crossing the parking lot of a restaurant in Chimayo, N.M., when a car stopped beside him. "Hey," the passenger said, "wanna buy a leather coat for $50?" And, White was assured, that was a bargain because the garment was brand-new. In fact, the original $130 price tag was still attached. White identified himself as secretary of public safety - the state's top cop. And, since he was headed to a meeting with a room full of police officers, the peddlar was quickly arrested for theft.

A SIGNATURE MOMENT

Remember Desiree Wilson? She's the Tahlequah, Okla., fourth-grader cited in this space last month who couldn't return to school with a parent's signature on her report card because President Clinton had taken it. Clinton, she maintained, had agreed to autograph the card for her when they met at an airport dedication ceremony but left without returning it. Teachers and fellow pupils who didn't buy that excuse, do now. In the mail last week: the report card, bearing the inscription, "To Desiree, from President Clinton."

The Day's List

The sort of news people look for on the Internet - survey

A recent inquiry into the news-consumption habits of 2,200 Internet users indicates almost half access the latest developments via search engines or directory Web sites. The survey found that TV is still the overwhelming choice even among online users for learning about breaking-news, but online sources have begun to outpace radio, newspapers, and some other media in getting the first word on important stories. The poll was conducted by two media-research firms: New York-based Jupiter Communications and NFO in Greenwich, Conn. The types of news Internet users said they look for online - and the percentage of respondents indicating an interest in each:

National and international 61%

Business 39

Sports 34

Entertainment 31

Local news 26

Technology 21

- Reuters

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