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MAGELLAN'S FINAL MISSION The spacecraft Magellan headed toward its demise in the atmosphere of Venus after a five-year mapping mission that revealed towering volcanoes and crisp-edged craters on that planet's surface. Scientists were to fire thrusters Oct. 12 to send the spacecraft down through miles of Venus's carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid clouds to explore the spacecraft's aerodynamics as it plows through the atmosphere. Magellan has been the first craft to demonstrate the potential of aerobraking, which uses a planet's atmosphere to adjust a craft's orbit. Venus is 25 million miles from Earth at its closest approach. Magellan began orbiting Venus in August 1990 after a 15-month flight. Since there is no practical way to return Magellan to Earth, researchers planned the slow dive to get another batch of experimental data under controlled conditions, rather than simply wait for Magellan to wear out. Protestant cease-fire hopes

Jailed Irish Protestant guerrillas have taken part in prison talks about the possibility of an end to violence by their comrades in pro-British ``loyalist'' extremist groups in Northern Ireland. The talks Oct. 11 intensified speculation about the imminence of a cease-fire by the ``loyalists,'' who have been waging a war to ensure continued British rule in the province.

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Chinese dissident jailed

A longtime human rights activist in Shanghai has been given a three-year labor camp sentence, his wife said Oct. 12. Yang Zhou, who had tried to form a human rights study group and had spoken on behalf of detained dissidents, was taken from his home May 12. His wife, Li Guoping, had no word from him since then and had not been told of his whereabouts or the charges against him until now.

Kazakh government resigns

Kazakhstan's government resigned Oct. 12, acknowledging its failure to overcome the republic's economic crisis.

Reports of inefficiency and mismanagement had beset Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev's Cabinet since a fiscal blowout earlier this year that sent inflation surging in the former Soviet republic.

Nobel economics prize

An American, a German, and a Hungarian-born professor won the Nobel Prize in Economics for their groundbreaking study of game theories that help explain economics, the Swedish Academy announced in Stockholm Oct. 12. The winners are John C. Hasranyi, born in Budapest and now at the University of California at Berkeley; John F. Nash of Bluefield, W. Va., now living in Princeton, N.J.; and Reinhard Selten, who was born in what was then Breslau, Germany, and who now teaches at the University of Bonn.

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