News In Brief

The US

Democrats celebrated a gain of at least five House seats and at least a standoff in the Senate from an election that also buttressed the Clinton presidency. Democratic gains surprised political analysts and defied tradition. Not since 1934 had a president's party gained House seats in a mid-term election. At this writing, Democrats had won 17 of 34 open Senate seats with one - the race in Nevada - still undecided.

Newt Gingrich put a brave face on the unexpected results. The House Speaker, who had predicted big Republican gains, rejected suggestions that his leadership of the House might be in danger. And he rejected the suggestion, pushed by some Democrats, that voters had sent a message against impeachment. Democratic Party chairman Roy Romer said, "I never thought we'd do this well in my wildest dreams."

While voters in Ohio elected Gov. George Voinovich (R) to fill his Senate seat, John Glenn (D) was on the space-shuttle Discovery, whose crew was snaring a satellite that had flown free of the orbiter to study the fiery outer rim of the sun. Recovery of the $9 million satellite made up for an embarrassing failure a year ago when the crew was unable to switch on equipment before releasing it and then had trouble retrieving the satellite.

The White House said President Clinton had reviewed US hurricane aid to Central America and was going "to see what else we could do in light of the situation there." Clinton reportedly talked by telephone with Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo about the destruction caused by hurricane Mitch and how to respond to it.

The US is prepared to offer Russia 3.1 million metric tons of wheat and other food to help soften the effects of a looming food-supply crisis there, an official in Washington said. The size of the package was somewhat lower than what had been expected by American farm groups, but it was greeted as welcome news in the midst of a near-record US harvest that has depressed commodity prices.

A White House panel to combat sweatshops proposed creation of an independent entity to track working conditions in clothing and shoe factories of firms voluntarily adopting a code of conduct. The proposal was signed by all 17 members of the Apparel Industry Partnership, composed of labor, consumer, business, and human-rights advocates. The proposed Labor Association would seek its funding from world governments, private foundations, and corporate members.

The Pentagon ordered home six B-52 bombers sent to England as a result of the Kosovo crisis, but warned such bombers could still attack Serbian forces from US bases if necessary. The jets, armed with cruise missiles, were dispatched to England last month to pressure Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw forces from Kosovo and open talks with ethnic Albanians. Serbian forces have since been withdrawn.

US officials were to open talks with Pakistan aimed at curbing Islamabad's nuclear program. Congress recently gave the Clinton administration power to waive US sanctions imposed after Pakistan's nuclear tests in May, but a senior official said US negotiators would have to achieve a "breakthrough" before considering such a waiver.

Federal Express warned of a threatened pilots-union strike during the holiday season. The FedEx Pilots Association, which represents some 3,200 pilots, is mailing strike-authorization ballots to its members, with results of the vote due the first week of December. Contract negotiations between the two sides reportedly broke down late last week. Federal Express is the world's largest air-express package carrier.

The World

Rescue workers emphasized the need to quickly rebuild Central America's infrastructure to avoid more loss of life. The Nicaraguan and Honduran ambassadors to the US said 70 percent of their countries' infrastructure was destroyed by hurricane Mitch. Preliminary estimates show the death toll at 9,000 for the region; 7,000 in Honduras alone. The Honduran national-emergency commission said an additional 11,000 people were missing in the country. Another emergency was declared in Nicaragua when the Cerro Negro volcano erupted..

The international community tried to coordinate relief funds and supplies to Central America. In addition to $3.5 million in humanitarian aid from the US (see item at left) and $8 million from the European Union, Spain committed $3 million,Taiwan $2.6 million, Germany $2.2 million, Canada $1 million, Britain $825,000, Netherlands $747,000, and Ireland $300,000.

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat was to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak today in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh to discuss the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. Mubarak was also to hold talks with US Defense Secretary William Cohen, who is on tour in the Mideast, trying to drum up support for possible US military action against Iraq. Earlier, the Defense Secretary visited Bahrain. He was expected to travel to Turkey tomorrow.

US Mideast envoy Dennis Ross was to arrive in the Mideast today to oversee implementation of the Wye peace agreement. For the third time this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held up a Cabinet meeting that was to discuss approval of the accord. He cited security concerns as the reason for the delay. The Israeli daily Ha'aretz said US officials were "astounded" by what they considered an Israeli attempt to change the agreement.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said his country and its main ally, Angola, reinforced military positions in eastern Congo against Rwandan and Ugandan-backed rebels. Meanwhile, foreign ministers from the European Union and the 14-nation Southern African Development Community meeting in Vienna urged Rwanda to admit it had troops in Congo and said all foreign forces should be withdrawn.

France offered to supply about 50 percent of a rapid-reaction force needed to protect some 2,000 unarmed foreign observers as designated by the recently-signed truce in Kosovo. The "extraction force" of 1,500 troops would probably be based in Macedonia. The rest of the force could be supplied by other NATO members of Europe.

Colombian troops regained control of a remote state capital from leftist rebels, ending a siege in which an estimated 150 soldiers and police were killed. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia claimed only five rebels were killed in the battle for Mitu.The fight appeared to be the costliest single battle for the government in more than three decades of fighting with the rebels.

Armed militants raided a city in northern Tajikistan, battling government troops and seizing all administrative buildings in heavy fighting, officials said. At least 10 government soldiers were killed and some 30 were taken hostage. The attack on Khodzhand, north of the capital, Dushanbe, was led by Makhmud Khudoberdyev, a former Army colonel who refuses to recognize a 1997 peace agreement that ended the civil war between the government and mostly Islamic opposition.


" We don't know how to handle the situation with food - the immense scarcity of food."

- Honduran UN Ambassador Hugo Noe-Pino, on hurricane Mitch's decimation of Central American food crops.

Mohan Gangaram Yadav, a nomadic tribesman and former circus performer, is now doing tricks on the streets of Calcutta. Yadav and the dog reportedly live well on the proceeds of such roadside performances.

Out there somewhere in cyberspace is at least one hacker with a social conscience. Using the name "Bronc Buster," he or she broke into China's official Society for Human Rights Web site and left behind a political statement comparing the Beijing government's human-rights record to "everything we [thought] had left the Earth with the Middle Ages." As a parting shot, the visitor left links to Amnesty International and other China critics.

The Day's List

Pinochet Case May Be Wake-up Call to Despots

A number of notorious current and former national leaders may be losing some sleep over efforts of a Spanish judge to extradite former Chilean strongman Gen. Augusto Pinochet from London to Madrid. For ex-despots accused of serious human-rights abuses, life in exile has become more threatening. Experts say even strongmen still in power may be wondering where they will eventually seek refuge. Some current and former leaders almost certain to be following the Pinochet case and the reported whereabouts of those in exile:

Idi Amin, Uganda (now in Saudi Arabia)

Jean-Claude Duvalier, Haiti (now in France)

Saddam Hussein, Iraq

Mengistu Haile Mariam, Ethiopia (now in Zimbabwe)

Slobodan Milosevic, Yugoslavia

Gen. Alfredo Stroessner, Paraguay (now in Brazil)

- USA Today

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