HONG KONG GOVERNOR PRESSES REFORMS Hong Kong Gov. Chris Patten pressed on with democratic reforms before the British colony's 1997 handover to China by revealing details of a second-stage package yesterday, only hours after Hong Kong lawmakers passed the first. Adding fuel to the fire, the British version of the fruitless Sino-British negotiations about the reforms was released in Hong Kong, demonstrating the yawning gulf between the two sides. Analysts said the move was designed to stiffen Hong Kong's resolve. Beijing reacted with predictable fury, denouncing Governor Patten for breaching confidentiality and accusing him of slamming the door on any resumption of talks. China pledged that any system agreed to in Britain's twilight rule of Hong Kong and even the legislature itself would be scrapped at the handover on July 1, 1997. North Korea inspections
North Korea reportedly has offered to let a UN team into the country next week for some nuclear inspections, and the United States has accepted the proposal. The offer, reported by a South Korean news agency, would mark a small breakthrough in the communist North's standoff with the international community over its suspected development of nuclear weapons. But the offer does not include the inspection of two sites that the UN suspects the North has been using for nuclear weapons production. Pennsylvania abortion law
Pennsylvania's restrictive abortion law requiring a 24-hour wait and other measures will take effect March 20, ending five years of legal wrangling. State officials and abortion-rights advocates reached a settlement Wednesday that allows enactment of the law. It requires minors to get parental consent, and everyone to undergo a 24-hour waiting period and be given information on abortion risks and alternatives. US economy
Orders to US factories for durable goods jumped a surprising 3.7 percent in January, marking the first time since 1987 that the indicator of manufacturing growth has climbed for six straight months, the Commerce Department said yesterday. Economists said the steady rise is a sign of economic expansion. In related news, however, the number of people filing first-time claims for state jobless benefits last week jumped an unexpectedly high 25,000, to 385,000, the Labor Department said yesterday. Corporate restructuring, defense layoffs, and government cutbacks have caused persistent weakness in the labor market, despite overall economic recovery.