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More rain was expected to worsen conditions in North Carolina, where damage estimates from hurricane Floyd were floating as high as $6 billion. Flooding virtually shut down the third of the state east of the capital, Raleigh. Reports of fatalities rose to 32. The Tar River was falling at Tarboro after cresting at 24 feet above flood stage. But the area was under a new flood watch. Two more inches of rain were expected from a cold front and moisture associated with tropical storm Harvey. The Neuse River was expected to crest in Clayton, 15 miles southeast of Raleigh, today - but not begin to recede near the coast until Saturday.

Harvey was already bringing rain to Florida's west coast. A tropical storm watch stretched from an area just south of Fort Myers to the mouth of the Suwannee River, southwest of Gainesville. Up to six inches of rain were forecast for parts of the Southeast as a result of the storm. Top sustained winds were about 45 m.p.h. Harvey could come ashore near Tampa, cross Florida from west to east today and shoot into the Atlantic, a hurricane specialist in Miami said.

Democrats and GOP moderates were to launch a bid today to raise the minimum wage, The Washington Post reported. Democrats said they would try to use a pending bankruptcy bill to force votes on increasing the hourly minimum by $1 (to $6.15) over the next two years. Meanwhile, in the House, moderate Republicans said they would appeal to Speaker Dennis Hastert (R) of Illinois this week to schedule a vote on the measure. And minority whip David Bonior (D) of Michigan will seek signatures on a "discharge petition" under which a majority of House members could force votes on the issue.

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Republicans plan to issue subpoenas this week to gain testimony and documents on the reason for President Clinton's controversial decision to offer clemency to 16 imprisoned Puerto Rico nationalists. Meanwhile, 15 New York politicians have asked the Senate to hold hearings on the political status of Puerto Rico along with those on clemencies. The lawmakers - including two members of Congress, Reps. Jose Serrano (D) and Nydia Velsquez (D) - made the request in a Sept. 16 letter to majority leader Trent Lott. Last year, the House passed a bill setting terms for a Puerto Rican vote to seek and implement a final political status for the island. But the measure died in the Senate.

Security has improved markedly at the three US nuclear-weapons laboratories in the wake of Chinese spying allegations, but investigators were able to penetrate some sensitive areas of the facilities' computer systems, the Energy Department reported. Security experts were reportedly unable to enter the top-secret computer network used for nuclear-weapon design during the review.

Some 3,200 firefighters were battling blazes in the Los Padres National Forest about 150 miles south of San Francisco, the Forest Service said. The fires, which have been burning since Sept. 8, have been difficult to fight because of steep terrain. Also, in Alabama, officials said more than 1,000 wildfires had burned 15,584 acres since early August. Gov. Don Siegelman (D) has declared an emergency for 33 northern counties, making any kind of outdoor burning illegal.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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