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News In Brief

The US

Several large computer companies plan to announce voluntary curbs to keep children from accessing adult-oriented sites on the Internet, The Washington Post reported. The companies, including America Online and Walt Disney Co., plan to release their own tools for parents to screen Internet content at a meeting in Washington with government officials. They also are agreeing to work more closely with law-enforcement agencies fighting child pornography, the Post said. The companies are trying to avoid more government regulation of the Internet.

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The US Supreme Court plans to hear arguments tomorrow in a precedent-setting case on whether unlawful sexual harassment in the workplace extends to incidents involving employees of the same sex. The court will consider expanding the reach of federal civil rights law to prohibit sexual harassment in cases of supervisors or other employees of the same sex. The case involves a Louisiana oil rig worker who quit after he was allegedly sexually assaulted, battered, and threatened with rape by two supervisors. The number of lawsuits alleging such harassment has increased nationwide.

Vice President Gore will briefly attend the global warming conference in Kyoto, Japan, the White House announced. Gore's aides put the decision off until the 11th hour because sending him to the international pow-wow could backfire if the negotiations didn't yield tough new restrictions on emissions, the Associated Press said.

National City Corp. announced it's buying First of America Bank Corp. for about $6.5 billion in stock. The Midwestern banks together will rank as 13th largest in the US and have combined assets totaling $74.4 billion.

NASA nixed a plan to rerelease the Spartan solar observatory because the shuttle Columbia doesn't have enough fuel to go after the $10 million craft a second time, agency officials said. Spartan was grabbed by Columbia's astronauts and brought aboard earlier when it malfunctioned on its mission.

The US government melted down gold plates, buttons, and other objects apparently seized by Nazi Germany from Holocaust victims and turned them into more than 40 gold bars, The New York Times reported. The bars were then handed over to European central banks, according to newly declassified documents. The Federal Reserve Bank plans to release the documents at a three-day conference that begins in London today to review ways to compensate victims.

A growing number of US cities use curfews to reduce crime and truancy and encourage parents to set rules for teenagers, a survey released by the US Conference of Mayors reported. It found 276 of 347 responding cities had nighttime curfews, while 76 had daytime curfews as well.

The head of the Nation of Islam religious movement is embarking on a trip that includes stops in Iraq, Iran, China, and Cuba, and - if granted a visa - Israel. Bill Richardson, US ambassador to the UN, called Farrakhan's trip to Iraq "unhelpful" and illegal on NBC's "Meet the Press."

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The manufacturing sector slowed its rate of growth during November to 54.4 percent from 56.0 percent in October, the National Association of Purchasing Management said. Its report is widely followed by economists because it is usually the first indicator of how the economy fared the previous month. Any reading over 50 percent in the purchasing index is a sign that manufacturing is growing.

The World

Iraq should be allowed to sell more than $2 billion worth of oil every six months in exchange for food, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan recommended. He did not specify a quota, leaving that decision to the Security Council. Although almost $1 billion of oil revenues still has not been spent, the government told Iraqis they will not get their full food rations this month, prompting angry demonstrators in Baghdad to pelt UN officials with stones. No injuries were reported.

The Palestinian Authority made formal its rejection of Israel's offer to withdraw from additional occupied territory in the West Bank. A spokesman called the offer a "ploy" to rewrite previous peace agreements. A Jerusalem newspaper also reported that Palestinian Authority President Arafat had turned down a request by Prime Minister Netanyahu for a meeting to discuss the issue. Meanwhile, Israel's Cabinet approved construction of 900 more housing units in the West Bank settlement of Alfei Menashe.

One day after announcing it had agreed to terms for a multibillion-dollar bailout of its troubled economy, South Korea backtracked. The Finance Ministry said "a few points require adjustment" in discussions with the International Monetary Fund. There were indications that the issues involved lower growth targets for gross domestic product than South Korea wants and how soon to liquidate the country's shaky merchant banks.

The Czech Republic's central bank would not confirm that it had intervened to support the koruna as the political leadership crisis in Prague deepened. Talks between President Vaclav Havel and leaders of the ruling coalition failed to produce a new Cabinet after Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus and half his ministers resigned. A power struggle within Klaus's Civic Democratic Party added to the challenge of forming a replacement government. The koruna opened sharply lower against the US and German currencies in the first trading since Klaus quit.

Twenty-three leaders of Herri Batasuna, the political wing of Spain's Basque separatist movement were sentenced to seven years in prison each for collaborating with the armed guerrillas. Herri Batasuna had no immediate comment on the verdicts but had threatened a general strike in the Basque region if the leaders were convicted.

Swiss commercial banks received three times more gold from Nazi Germany during World War II than previously believed, a government-appointed panel of historians reported. But it said the $61 million (in 1945 dollars) was dwarfed by the $389 million taken in by the central bank. Switzerland maintains that as a neutral country it had to trade with all sides in the war.

Newspaper owner Carlos Flores Facusse appeared to have won the presidency of Honduras in weekend elections. He led his closest rival, Nora Gunera de Melgar, widow of a former military ruler, 53 percent to 42 percent. Flores Facusse represents the same party as outgoing President Carlos Roberto Reina, but has distanced himself from Reina's policies.

Voters in Ecuador entrusted the rightist Social Christian Party with leading a national assembly that will rewrite the Constitution. The party appeared to have won 24 of the assembly's 70 seats, with the rest divided among 11 other movements. A national referendum setting up the assembly was approved in May after Congress removed President Abdala Bucaram as "mentally unfit" to govern.

"Curfews are not the end-all. [They're] just one tool in the toolbox."

- Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson, chairman of the US Conference of Mayors task force on youth violence, referring to a report that shows a growing number of US cities are using curfews to curb crime and truancy .


Lyle Lough is one politician whose campaign message got through to the voters. They did just what he asked and - by 753 to 73 - turned him out of office as Lassen County supervisor in California. Lough had resigned in August, leaving the post vacant until next June. So he was formally recalled, ran for a reelection he didn't want, and lost to another candidate.

Let's say you're Hawaiian and can't wait to see Queen Liliuokalani or King Kamehameha on the reverse side of the quarter, under a new measure OK'd by Congress allowing states to come up with their own designs. Well, be patient. Starting in 1999, five commemoratives will be issued each year, in the order in which the states joined the union. Hawaii's turn won't come until 2008.

An indoor farmer's plans went to pot in Montreal because of a meter-reader who noticed exceptionally high power-usage levels at a warehouse that was listed as storing toys. An investigation revealed 950 marijuana plants growing under intense artificial light. They were seized by police, although the grower hasn't been - yet.

The Day's List

Trade-Ins of Violent Toys Promote Holiday Peace

The Bethesda, Md.-based Lion and Lamb Project is cosponsoring violent-toy trade-ins and buy-backs modeled on similar events for real guns. These include exchanging such toys for creative ones, sculpture-making from violent toys, and hands-on games. For a Parent Action kit, "dirty dozen" list of violent toys, or a list of creative alternatives, check the project's Web site: or call (888) 708-4201. Dates and sites scheduled:

Dec. 4 Dallas

Dec. 6 Rockville, Md.

Dec. 6 Princeton, N.J.

Dec. 8-12 Crescent Springs, Ky.

Dec. 13 Pittsburgh

Dec. 18 Winston-Salem, N.C.

Dec. 1-23 Oakland, Calif.

Jan. 17 Vancouver, Wash.

Jan. 19 Concord, Mass.

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