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THEN THEY ALL HAD DINNER The Homestead on US Route 66 in Edgewood, N.M., isn't a casino. But that was indeed a game of chance the men sitting around a table in the caf were playing, and there was a payoff for the one who drew the high card. State law requires that ties in local elections must be broken this way, and John Romero, Richard Pledger, and Gary Chemistruck each polled 55 votes last week in a town councilman race. Chemistruck's seven of spades won him the seat.

BELLS WILL BE RINGING ANYWAY Certain citizens of - and visitors to - New Zealand have more than a passing interest in a small act of Parliament last week. The island nation will be one of the world's first to welcome in 2000, and the folks in question were hoping to schedule their weddings at the stroke of midnight Dec. 31 so they could say theirs were the first of the new millennium. But a law banned such ceremonies between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. - until the legislators voted to relax it.

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Worst 'enemies of the press' ranked by journalists group

Yugoslavia, China, and Cuba are among the most difficult places for journalists to do their jobs, according to a report by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, which seeks to safeguard press freedom worldwide. As a result, the leaders of these nations top the nonprofit group's annual Enemies of the Press list:

1. President Slobodan, Milosevic,Yugoslavia

2. President Jiang Zemin, China

3. President Fidel Castro, Cuba

4. Premier Meles Zenawi,Ethiopia

5. President/Gen. Zine al-Abdine Ben Ali, Tunisia

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6. President Laurent Kabila, Congo (formerly Zaire)

7. President Leonid Kuchma, Ukraine

8. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia

9. President Alberto Fujimori, Peru

10. President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt - Reuters

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