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World Briefs I

House Votes to Dismiss Dornan's Election-Fraud Challenge

Los Angeles Times

The House voted overwhelmingly Thursday to dismiss the election challenge filed against Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif. and then rejected a Republican attempt to tighten voter-registration procedures to prevent voting by noncitizens.

Rejection of the election challenge was expected after the House Oversight Committee wrapped up a lengthy investigation last week by finding insufficient evidence to void Sanchez's 1996 victory over Republican Robert K. Dornan. It was former Rep. Dornan who filed the challenge, blaming his upset defeat primarily on illegal votes cast by noncitizens.

The voter-fraud legislation the House also considered Thursday would have launched a pilot program in California and four other states to allow officials, at their discretion, to verify citizenship before people registered.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Steve Horn, R-Calif., received majority support - 210 - 200 - but a two-thirds margin was required for passage because it was voted on under special parliamentary rules.

The measure will likely be brought up again as part of a package of voter reform bills, GOP leaders said, at which time the two-thirds rule will not apply.

Cuba to Release Dozens of Prisoners

The Washington Post

Cuba announced Thursday it has decided to release dozens of prisoners in what the Vatican called "an act of clemency and goodwill" resulting from an appeal made by Pope John Paul II during his trip to the island last month.

The release was announced first in a Vatican statement that said the inmates were on a list of several hundred prisoners presented by the Vatican to Cuban authorities during the pope's visit. The list included the names of prisoners jailed for their political opposition to the Communist government.

The release was later confirmed in Havana by Cuban Foreign Ministry spokesman Alejandro Gonzalez, who said "several dozen" people on the Vatican's list were in the process of being freed.

The names of the prisoners were not released, and it was not immediately clear how many were political detainees. Human rights groups estimate there are about 500 political prisoners in Cuba.

U.S. officials said the initial release of prisoners fell short of expectations. State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said the pardons were "woefully inadequate" because they were far less than the Vatican had sought.

"These are a very small number," Rubin said. "There are dozens of political prisoners in Cuba, and we would like to see them all released."

IBM Hired to Build Supercomputer For Nuclear Test Simulations

Los Angeles Times

The Energy Department awarded an $85 million contract to IBM Corp. on Thursday to build a new supercomputer that will be used to simulate the detonation of nuclear warheads, allowing scientists to evaluate the U.S. arsenal without performing test explosions.

The contract is part of a multiyear federal program to acquire computers thousands of times more powerful than everyday PCs for use in national defense laboratories.

The credibility and success of the program is key to White House efforts to demonstrate that actual nuclear tests are unnecessary and to persuade the Senate to ratify a test ban treaty signed by President Clinton two years ago.

The new machine has 8,192 processors working in tandem to execute up to 10 trillion calculations per second, roughly 250,000 times faster than a typical PC. It is scheduled to be delivered to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California in 2000.

Thursday's announcement was the latest in a series of Energy Department purchases of supercomputers for national laboratories. IBM is already under contract to deliver a separate machine to Livermore in 1999. Intel Corp. and Cray Research also have deals to supply supercomputers to laboratories in New Mexico.