TONI MORRISON WINS NOBEL PRIZE American novelist and essayist Toni Morrison, cited for writing prose ``with the luster of poetry,'' won the 1993 Nobel Prize in literature yesterday. The Swedish Academy awarded the prize to Ms. Morrison ``who, in novels, characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.'' Morrison grew up in a black working-class family in Lorain, Ohio, and now teaches at Princeton University in New Jersey. She also won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, a year after publishing ``Beloved,'' in which she widened her themes of the black world in life and legend, first described in the 1978 ``Song of Solomon.'' Her latest novel is ``Jazz,'' published in 1992. Croats expel Muslims

Bosnian Croat forces have rounded up 530 Muslim civilians and forcibly evicted them from the Croat sector of the disputed city of Mostar, a United Nations official said yesterday. The group of men, women, and small children were taken from their homes and forced to cross the dangerous no-man's land that divides the Muslim and Croat areas of Mostar, the scene of bitter fighting for several months. In another development, a UN envoy reported he has evidence that Croatian forces murdered dozens of civilians and destroyed homes in an attack last month on an area held by separatist Serbs. Prisoners demand release

Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails in the occupied territories demanded yesterday that Israel set them free before the peace agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) goes into effect. The prisoners, members of PLO chairman Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, said in the statement that if they had to stay in jail they would try to obstruct the agreement. State health spending

The first government comparison of state health spending in nearly a decade found that Northeast states with the largest concentration of doctors also have the heaviest medical bills. The lowest spending was in the Rocky Mountain states, according to the study published Wednesday in the fall issue of the journal Health Affairs. Americans in 1991 spent $1,877 per capita for hospital care, physician services, and prescription drugs. But it varied from a high of $2,177 in New England to a low of $1,567 in the Rocky Mountain states. Political ban lifted

President Clinton signed into law Wednesday provisions allowing federal employees more freedom to engage in political activity on their own time. After the changes take effect early next year, federal workers will be able to engage in activities once forbidden under the 54-year-old Hatch Act, ranging from envelope stuffing for a candidate to holding key party jobs. Still, they won't be able to run for elective public offices. Home guns tied to murders

Keep a gun in the house and your chances of getting murdered triple. That's the conclusion of a study in the current New England Journal of Medicine. In addition, the researchers found no evidence that owning a gun keeps people safe from intruders. Instead, it just increases the risk of being killed by a friend, a relative, or a lover. The researchers noted nearly half of all Americans keep firearms at home, citing protection as a major reason.

Jobless claims drop

The number of Americans filing first-time claims for jobless benefits fell by 9,000 last week to the lowest level in more than nine months, the government said yesterday. The Labor Department said new applications for unemployment insurance totaled 320,000. Tailhook garb: civvies

The Navy has warned its members that if they go to the Tailhook convention in San Diego this weekend, they'd better not do it in uniform. It's the first Tailhook Association convention since the 1991 gathering in Las Vegas, when drunken aviators were accused of groping women in a hotel hallway. The Navy cut ties to the association after the debacle. Rear Adm. Steven Briggs, commander of the Pacific Fleet, has warned 60,000 active-duty members not to attend in uniform or attend during normal working hours unless on leave.

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