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In an appeals court reversal, five cigarette manufacturers now face a lump-sum settlement that could exceed $300 billion and threaten the industry's existence, legal experts said. Last month, the appeals panel in Miami sided with tobacco companies in ruling that punitive damages could be paid to a half-million ill Florida smokers on a case-by-case basis. With the reversal, the same jurors who found the companies liable in a July verdict will determine punitive damages in the trial's second phase, set to begin Nov. 1.

The Justice Department took "extraordinary steps" in encouraging the clemency process for militant Puerto Rican nationalists freed by President Clinton, The New York Times reported. Documents released at a Senate hearing indicate the prisoners did not apply for clemency themselves, but were granted it after the department acted upon what were termed "regular expressions" of interest by the White House.

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Lawyers for the survivors in the wrongful-death suit by the Branch Davidians offered to disprove FBI claims that none of its agents shot during the final hours of the 1993 siege of the group's Texas compound. The lead lawyer proposed to recreate the conditions under which aerial infrared footage recorded flashes of light of questionable origin. The FBI said it doubts the conditions can be duplicated.

Illinois Gov. George Ryan (R) will lead a five-day "humanitarian mission" to Cuba beginning tomorrow. The trip, the first led by a US governor during Communist President Fidel Castro's years in power, was OK'd by the Treasury Department. Ryan's party will deliver some $1 million in supplies.

Clinton is prepared to lift US economic sanctions against India but not Pakistan until the latter's military regime restores civilian and democratic rule, the White House announced. Both countries were sanctioned after conducting underground nuclear weapons tests last year.

House critics of bilingual education led the charge in passing a bill that would require parental consent before children are placed in federally funded programs. Backers of the provision claim bilingual programs often keep students from learning English and contribute to a high Hispanic dropout rate.

In a reversal of a jury verdict against ABC-TV, an appeals court in Richmond, Va., threw out a $315,000 damage award and ruled the network did not commit fraud in a 1992 hidden-camera investigation of questionable meat-handling practices by the Food Lion super- market chain.

America Online and Gateway announced an agreement to market and distribute each other's products. AOL is the world's largest Internet service provider; Gateway the leading US seller of made-to-order PCs.

Correction: An Oct. 14 item in this space gave wrong ballot figures for the defeat of an Alabama referendum that would have established a state lottery to benefit education. Fifty-four percent of voters opposed the plan; 46 percent favored it.

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(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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