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News In Brief

The US

US Sen. John Glenn (D) of Ohio was set to make history a second time when he became the oldest astronaut in space. The shuttle Discovery was to carry Glenn and six fellow astronauts on a nine-day mission. Glenn's return to space comes 38 years after he became the first American in orbit. President Clinton plan-ned to be among an estimated 300,000 people witnessing the shuttle launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

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Americans' wages jumped 3.7 percent this year, the biggest increase in more than six years. The increase raises questions for the Federal Reserve, which has been cutting interest rates to protect the US economy from a global financial slump. Until last month, however, the Fed was poised to raise interest rates to keep higher wages from fueling inflation. Unemployment was at 4.6 percent, up slightly from this spring's 28-year-low of 4.3 percent.

Clinton announced a $70 billion surplus, the first time the government has run in the black since 1969. The surplus for fiscal 1998 was the largest ever and sparked election-year wrangling. Republicans propose using some of the projected surpluses over the next few years to cut taxes; Clinton has argued Social Security should be strengthened first.

The senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee said he's launching a probe into how independent counsel Kenneth Starr justified investigating the president's relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Rep. John Conyers of Michigan,who has said Democrats will be focusing on Starr's conduct during the impeachment inquiry, has asked to see documents that the latter submitted to obtain permission to look into the Lewinsky matter.

The entire month of November was wiped off the schedule as the National Basketball Association's lockout dragged into its fourth month. So far, 194 games have been cancelled, and players have lost about $200 million in salaries.

The director of the Congressional Budget Office announced she would not seek a second term. June O'Neill denied criticism from House Republicans prompted her decision. GOP leaders threatened to cut the CBO's budget this summer if the agency kept underestimating the federal surplus.

A Texas judge declared teenage gymnast Dominique Moceanu an adult, granting her financial independence. Moceanu, a member of the 1996 US Olympic team, sought the ruling so she could learn what happened to the money she alleges her parents lost. Her father says he used her trust fund to build a multimillion dollar gym in Houston. It's unclear how much money, if any, is left in her trust.

A man who spent seven years in prison for murder based on one witness's testimony was expected to be set free after officials conceded the latter had lied. The Brooklyn, N.Y., district attorney planned to ask a that Jeffrey Blake's 1991 murder conviction be set aside after witness Dana Garner admitted to lying under oath, The New York Times reported. Garner can't be charged with perjury because the statute of limitations has expired.

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More than 30,000 volunteers will patrol Detroit's streets tonight in an effort to continue stamping out "Devil's Night" - an annual arson spree of abandoned homes the night before Halloween. At its height in the mid-1980s, gangs and landlords in search of insurance claims set more than 800 fires over a three-day period. Over the past three years, the "Angel's Night" initiative brought the number down to 65 - the norm for a typical night.

A federal judge in Florida upheld school busing, saying Tampa schools still held vestiges of segregation and needed to remain under federal supervision. A number of school districts around the US have requested an end to busing, which was instituted decades ago to integrate schools.

A New Jersey woman was sentenced to 15 years in prison for killing her baby at a high school prom and then returning to the dance. Under a plea agreement, Melissa Drexler could go free in less than three years.

The World

New doubts arose about the viability of the latest Israeli-Palestinian accord after a car laden with explosives rammed a school-bus escort in the Gaza Strip. The militant Islamic group, Hamas, claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed the driver of the car and one Israeli soldier and injured seven other people. It was the second anti-Israel assault in less than a week and came as Prime Minister Netanyahu awaited delivery of the Palestinian Authority's action plan for countering terrorism. Authority President Arafat condemned the attack.

Hurricane Mitch backed away from the coast of Honduras and was weakening, but storm-trackers were unable to predict its next move. At least 32 people died as the powerful hurricane continued to menace Central American and the western Caribbean for a third straight day. Belize's capital was virtually abandoned, and resort hotels along Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula were only about 20 percent occupied.

Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov ignored his own birthday to discuss anticrime measures with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. His trip to the troubled Caucasus region followed presentation of his long-awaited plan for coping with Russia's deep economic crisis and his substitution for President Yeltsin at a vital meeting with European Union leaders in Vienna. Analysts said Primakov's intense pace showed he was solidifying his role as "unofficial vice president" with the announcement that Yeltsin would serve a mainly ceremonial role for the remainder of his term.

South Africans were poring over the long-awaited Truth and Reconciliation Commission report on apartheid-era abuses after their Supreme Court refused a last-minute appeal to block its release. The five-volume document does not recommend prosecution of individuals responsible for murder, torture, and other crimes but apportions blame to white former governments and to the black movement fighting to bring apartheid to an end. The ruling African National Congress sought to delay the release, claiming the panel hadn't given it enough time to offer a defense.

Saying, "I don't feel guilty; I plead not guilty," Serb war-crimes suspect Goran Jelisic rejected charges that he'd participated in systematic genocide against Muslims during Bosnia's civil war. But at the UN's international tribunal in The Hague, the ex-mechanic then confessed to 31 murders while working at a Serb-run prison camp in May 1992. Jelisic, who called himself the "Serb Adolf Hitler," was forcibly arrested last January by NATO troops. No date was set for his trial on the genocide charges.

Reinforcing its role as guard-ian of Turkey's secular system, the Army paraded tanks and heavy artillery through the streets of Ankara, the capital, as a week of celebrations on the 75th anniversary of its founding as a republic came to an end. The ceremonies, joined by foreign diplomats and celebrities, stood in sharp contrast to the efforts of Islamic activists to convert the country to fundamentalism.

Slovakia prepared to begin a new experiment in coalition government as four opposition parties assumed power and pledg-ed to "redemocratize" the country. The swearing in of their newly elected delegates to parliament ended the rule of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, who'd dominated Slovak politics since the fall of communism in 1989. Meciar's hard-line approach to democratic reform caused Slovakia to be excluded from "fast track" negotiations on joining the European Union.


"This is not gonna be a joy ride for Senator Glenn. He is very, very heavily loaded with ... experiments." - Discovery pilot Steve Lindsey, on the main reason that the Ohio senator is returning to space.

The spectators were assembled and the band was playing as the contestants relaxed on couches, waiting for the starting gun. Then it went off and they proceeded to ... relax even more. What sort of competition was this, anyway? Answer: last weekend's Couch Potato Marathon in Beaver, Pa. The entrants had gathered pledges from sponsors for each of the 26.2 miles they wouldn't be running. Oh, the course was right there in front of them - unfolding on video screens - but with arrows pointing to a spot marked "You Are Not Here." The proceeds went to a homeless shelter.

Update: Lejla Sehovic will represent her country after all in this year's Miss World contest. As reported in this space two days ago, she was the original winner of the Miss Croatia pageant, only to have her title revoked - because, critics alleged, she's a Muslim and the country is 80 percent Roman Catholic. Confronting a public relations fiasco, pageant organizers decided runner-up Ivana Petkovic, who took the honor after the judges were forced to vote again, would represent Croatia in 1999.

The Day's List

Starting a Business? Try Nevada, Study Suggests

The Mountain West - and particularly Nevada - emerged as No. 1 in a Cognetics Inc. analysis of regions, states, and metropolitan and rural areas in offering an attractive climate for entrepreneurs. Among its yardsticks, the Cambridge, Mass.-based research firm uses the frequency with which companies are launched and grow across the US. At the bottom of the list: Iowa. The top 10 states in Cognetics' most recent study and their last previous rankings:

1. Nevada 3

2. Utah 1

3. Arizona 2

4. Georgia 6

5. Alabama 4

6. Colorado 7

7. Virginia 5

8. North Carolina 11

9. Indiana 12

10. Tennessee 8

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