News In Brief

Hurricane Floyd stayed far enough offshore to spare Florida from the worst - but winds up to 73 m.p.h. raked the state's eastern coast. Damage at the Kennedy Space Center was minimal, a spokesman said. Floyd's eye was expected to hit land today near Wilmington, N.C., with sustained winds up to 140 m.p.h. In a weakened form, the storm will likely be felt all the way up to Maine. A hurricane warning remained in effect from near the midpoint of Florida's east coast to the North Carolina-Virginia line.

Talks between the United Auto Workers and DaimlerChrysler went into the wee hours yesterday as the union granted an open-ended extension of contracts covering 407,000 workers. There was no confirmation of progress, but the fact that negotiations were continuing was taken as a sign that a deal might be imminent - even though workers at five plants in Missouri and Indiana staged a brief walkout late Tuesday.

The Miss America Pageant backed off plans to allow women who've been divorced or pregnant to compete. Spokes- man Robert Beck said the board of directors had agreed to hold off implementing the new rules - which were to take effect next year - pending talks with state pageant operators reportedly outraged by the announced changes. The new rules would require contestants to sign a document saying "I am unmarried" and "I am not pregnant and I am not the natural or adoptive parent of any child."

Meanwhile, more than 14,000 workers went on strike in Atlantic City, N.J., after contract talks with nine of 12 casinos collapsed. The strike comes in advance of the 79th Miss America Pageant, set for Saturday. Contestants and hundreds of other pageant-related people were staying at the hotels, which were expected to remain open during the walkout. Union members said they wouldn't sign a contract that would allow the casinos to continue using subcontractors who don't pay union wages.

Former World War II prisoners and other activists announced a class-action lawsuit against five Japanese corporations in the US, saying they brutalized POWs and forced them to perform slave labor. The targeted companies are Mitsubishi International, Mitsui & Co. (USA). Nippon Steel, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, and Showa Denko. The suit was filed Monday in Albuquerque, N.M., on behalf of more than 500 former POWs.

Baltimore City Councilman Martin O'Malley won a Democratic primary contest, setting the stage for him to be the city's first white mayor in more than a decade. Unofficial results showed O'Malley with 52 percent of the vote, comfortably ahead of the top two black vote-getters: former City Councilman Carl Stokes (28 percent) and City Council President Lawrence Bell (17 percent). Democrats outnumber Republicans 9 to 1 among the city's registered voters.

The number of babies arriving as twins, triplets, and more has increased markedly in the last two decades, as more fertility drugs are used and women wait longer to have children, according to a National Center for Health Statistics report. For instance, it said more twins were born to American women in their late 40s in 1997 than in all of the 1980s.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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