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Even though many analysts gave Al Gore the edge in his first debate with George W. Bush, the latter headed into their second presidential debate with the lead in several opinion polls. Tonight's event is expected to be a more conversational, informal exchange, with Bush and Gore sitting at a table. Before traveling to the debate site at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., each candidate stepped up attacks on the other. Gore's camp tried to portray Bush as unable to defend his proposals coherently, while the Bush team alleged that Gore repeatedly has made untrue statements.

The Supreme Court agreed to decide whether political parties may be restricted in how much they spend to support congressional candidates. The justices are taking on the case, considered key in regard to federal election law, after an appeals court in Denver struck down a federal spending-limit law on grounds it violated free-speech rights. The court is expected to hear arguments early next year.

The justices also agreed to hear the appeal of a Christian youth group banned from using a New York public school after hours. At issue is whether the ban violates the group's free-speech rights and wrongly lets school officials decide what constitutes "religious instruction."

In a first-of-its-kind encounter, a top aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il met with President Clinton, who hoped to build on recent progress with a once-bitter rival state. Cho Myong-rok, vice chairman of his country's National Defense Commission, is the highest-level official from North Korea to visit Washington to date. His meetings were expected to focus on North Korea's strategic weapons programs, its status as a "state sponsor of terrorism," and on how to reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula.

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