GINGRICH CHOOSES HIS TEAM Speaker-to-be Newt Gingrich is reportedly passing over several senior Republicans as he chooses who will lead the committees in the House of Representatives. Rep. Bob Livingston of Louisiana, fifth in seniority on the Appropriations Committee, for example, is expected to become chairman. Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois will likely chair the Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Thomas Bliley of Virginia is expected to head the Energy and Commerce Committee. They would be stepping over Rep. Carlos Moorhead of California who is senior on both committees. In addition, three committees are almost certain to be absorbed by other panels those dealing with the District of Columbia, Post Office and Civil Service, and Merchant Marine and Fisheries. The ethics and administration panels would also reportedly go. Housing starts drop

Housing starts in the US fell 5.2 percent in October, the first drop in four months. Analysts said rising mortgage rates finally were dampening consumer demand fed by a surging economy.

The costs of Gordon

Tropical Storm Gordon left an expensive wake in Florida. More than 35,000 acres of winter vegetables were damaged or wiped out in Dade County. And in central Florida, the citrus groves were too wet for picking - a serious blow for the Christmas-gift fruit shipping market. The worst damage was in Barefoot Bay and Snug Harbor Lakes (see photo), where a tornado Tuesday night destroyed 68 mobile homes and damaged more than 380. Six deaths were reported.

Judge stays Prop. 187

A US judge has temporarily blocked enforcement of Proposition 187, California's voter-approved effort to deny public services to illegal immigrants, saying it may be unconstitutional. US District Judge Matthew Byrne Jr. said the law may violate the right of due process because it doesn't provide for hearings.

National Book Awards

William Gaddis's scathing and humorous examination of a litigious America, ``A Frolic of His Own,'' has won the 1994 National Book Award for fiction. The nonfiction winner was surgeon Sherwin B. Nuland's ``How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter,'' a meditation on death and the choices it poses.

The poetry prize was awarded to James Tate, a University of Massachusetts professor, for his collection, ``Worshipful Company of Fletchers.''

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