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News briefs

Clinton Picks Up Labor Backing, Targets Bush's Economics

By Cathleen Decker

Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON

Democratic presidential nominee Bill Clinton picked up the endorsement of the 13 million voting members of the AFL-CIO Thursday, and used the occasion to deride President Bush's contention that Bush should be trusted to fill out the sparse details of his economic plan after his re-election.

Continuing his three-day escalation of assaults on Bush's proposals, Clinton said that it was folly to take the president's word that he would find appropriate budget reductions to offset the tax cuts he has pledged to offer.

The Arkansas governor also took special aim at the campaign promises the president has made in recent days, some of which have reversed long-standing administration policy.

Singling out the president's belated support for the V-22 Osprey aircraft, the M-1 tank, F-16 sales to Taiwan and a wheat farmers' subsidy program, Clinton noted that each was announced in the state most benefiting by the switch.

"Now, I'm a Baptist, so I believe in deathbed conversions. But this is amazing," he said, implying to several hundred labor leaders that the change of heart was prompted by Bush's political ambitions.

"I tell you what," he joked, "no matter what happens, our campaign has done some good for some people in this country."

Later in the day, Clinton flew to Florida's Homestead Air Force Base, which was ravaged by Hurricane Andrew. Along with a coterie of television cameras, he toured the affected area, which has been the recipient of two visits from President Bush.

Clinton has targeted the president's economic proposals for special attack in recent days as he strives to portray Bush as a man who has deserted hard-working Americans. That theme rang loud and clear through all of Clinton's remarks as he formally accepted labor's endorsement.

Hussein Regime Remains Solid While Foundations Crack

By Susan Sachs
Newsday

BAGHDAD, Iraq

On the surface the sprawling city of Baghdad, stretching in miles of concrete homes on each side of the muddy Tigris River, works and plays with reasonable efficiency. Power, telephones, potable water, sewage service -- all have been restored to something close to their pre-gulf war level.

Confident soldiers in crisply pressed uniforms stroll the city streets and guard the palm-shaded villas of government officials. Neon signs light up Revolution Square proclaiming Iraq's "victory" in the "Mother of All Battles" -- as President Saddam Hussein calls the war. The twin pillars that prop up Hussein's authority, the military and self-serving propaganda, appear solid.

But two years of isolation and economic sanctions, combined with Hussein's refusal to sell oil for food and medicine under United Nations monitoring, exact an increasing cost in the suffering of ordinary families. Among themselves, Iraqis bitterly make a pun out of the last word in their leader's boastful phrase. They call the gulf war the "Mother of Misery."

In a developed country that could be rich, the standard of living for most Iraqis is falling. The private sector, which kept the country supplied with basic commodities as well as previously unheard-of luxury items, is paralyzed. Businessmen blame the government's economic policy, saying it is both capricious and, for those unlucky enough to run afoul of the changing rules, deadly.

During July, 42 traders accused of price-gouging were executed without trial. Since then, Iraq's import lifeline has collapsed.

Despite frantic efforts by the government to coax wary traders to resume the flow of goods, most refuse to empty their bulging warehouses at the Jordan-Iraq border. The flow of trucks from Jordan to Iraq has slowed to 12 a day, down from a high of nearly 200. Such basic commodities as rice and tea have all but disappeared from Iraqi markets.

"We just want to wait and see," said an Iraqi merchant, interviewed in Jordan where he usually arranges the import and transport of food items to Baghdad. "With the economic situation as it is now in Iraq, we want to make sure we will get paid, and we want to be sure we won't be executed for doing business."

Weather

Sunny and Dry

By Michael Morgan
staff meteorologist

A cell of high pressure, building in from the Great Lakes, will provide sunny mild days and clear cool nights for the upcoming weekend.

Today: Clearing and milder. Winds northeast becoming northwest at 10 mph (16 kph). High 77F (25C).

Tonight: Clear and cool. Low 58F (14C).

Tomorrow: Mostly sunny and cool. High around 73F (22C).

Tomorrow night: Clear and quite cool. Low 54F (12C).

Sunday: Mostly sunny and continued cool. High 75F (23C). Low 57F (14C).