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The White House and congressional negotiators narrowed the gap on the spending bill needed to avoid a federal shutdown, top Republicans said. But Democrats said wide gulfs remain in the $500 billion-plus omnibus measure. Education and environmental issues top their list. The House and Senate vote today on the last legislation before Congress adjourns to campaign for Nov. 3 elections.

President Clinton returned to Washington after Republicans criticized him for attending Democratic Party fund-raisers in New York while Congress grappled with the stopgap spending measure. Aides said the president canceled fund-raising appearances in Miami to be present during the negotiations.

The House approved a $9.2 billion tax cut over nine years that would extend credits for business research and for employers who hire individuals from group such as high-risk youth, ex-felons, and food-stamp recipients. A Senate plan would extend tax credits for a shorter period and include credits for employers who hire welfare recipients. Meanwhile, the White House proposed an additional $11.7 billion tax cut over nine years to the House plan, offset by a $13.1 billion tax increase.

The House unanimously approved a bill that would crack down on pedophiles who use the Internet to lure minors into sexual relations. It also would increase penalties for other crimes against children, including increasing to 15 years the maximum sentence for transporting a minor across state lines in order to engage in illegal sex or prostitution.

Three US-based scientists won the Nobel Prize in physics for discovering how electrons acting together in strong magnetic fields and extremely low temperatures can exhibit fractions of the supposedly indivisible unit electrical charge. This is like finding half a baseball. Robert Laughlin of the US, Horst Stoermer of Germany, and Daniel Tsui of China, who is now a US citizen, will share the $978,000 prize.

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