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News Briefs I

Still Dangerous, Hurricane Heads Toward Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands

The Washington Post
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico

Hurricane Georges battered the northeastern Caribbean Monday, flooding roads, toppling power lines and shearing off rooftops before churning further west toward the U.S. and British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

On the tiny island of Antigua, at least one death was reported after a man ran outside as the tempest raged early Monday morning and was struck by flying debris.

In the twin-island state of St. Kitts and Nevis, residents ventured out briefly to survey storm damage and check on neighbors when Georges' 35-mile-wide eye passed overhead before dawn, bringing with it a welcome yet ephemeral calm.

Somewhat diminished in strength since the weekend, but still awesome in its destructive power, the hurricane took aim Monday afternoon at the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands declared states of emergency and activated National Guard troops in anticipation of the storm's arrival.

In Puerto Rico, wind gusts of 60 mph and rains were sweeping across parts of the island Monday afternoon.

Forecasters predicted that Georges would start pounding Puerto Rico with maximum force by Monday evening and that the hurricane would traverse the entire island of 3.8 million people. Georges would be the largest and most powerful hurricane to hit Puerto Rico since hurricanes San Felipe in 1928 and San Ciprian in 1932.

With Crops Up and Prices Down, Farmers Are Looking East

The Washington Post
HOLTON, Kan.

A clamor is rising in Congress and the Clinton administration to provide emergency payouts to farmers in the face of the worst agricultural crisis in decades. The farmers are aware of the momentum building in the House and Senate in an election year to enact some kind of major aid package, and of the ideological divide between Democrats and Republicans over how the aid should be delivered.

Democratic proposals are based on a major increase in price supports, which Republicans view as an attempt to repudiate the 1996 farm law that was supposed to end budget-busting farm subsidies forever. The Republicans favor more direct - and less permanent - farm support that will not become "engraved in stone" and return the government to an era of subsidy entitlements.

The price of wheat last week was $2.15 a bushel, compared with $3.20 a bushel this time last year. Corn was getting $1.56 a bushel, compared with $2.28 a year ago, and soybeans $4.80 a bushel compared with $5.85. Moreover, hog prices were at a 24-year low, and beef cattle were selling at $50 per hundredweight, compared with $60 a year ago.

In some parts of the country, bad weather and disease have severely reduced crop yields. Nationally, net farm income is expected to be down $7.5 billion this year, resulting in the failure of thousands of small farms.

Demonstrators Challenge Authority of Malaysian Prime Minister

Los Angeles Times
JAKARTA, Indonesia

Demonstrators demanding reform clashed with police in Kuala Lumpur for a second day Monday, challenging the authority of Malaysia's autocratic prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, the longest-serving leader in Southeast Asia. The clash upped the ante in a dispute that started when Mahathir fired and arrested his deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, whom the demonstrators support.

Anwar, 51, was dumped Sept. 2 in a power struggle with the 73-year-old Mahathir amid allegations of sexual improprieties, attempted murder and corruption, all of which Anwar denies. Rather than go quietly, Anwar toured the country denouncing Mahathir. He was arrested at his home on Sunday.

With Mahathir exercising absolute control of the media, Anwar has no public forum to either defend himself or push his case for reform. Two men have been arrested for allegedly engaging in sodomy with Anwar. Sodomy is a crime in Malaysia, a Muslim country, and local newspapers have been full of steamy details provided by the government.

With police helicopters buzzing overhead, officers on Monday chased mobs of protesters down side streets and blocked roads in Kuala Lumpur. Several thousand more demonstrators took to the streets in other parts of the capital, where they were chased by riot police.

But given the widespread strife in economically troubled Southeast Asia, Western envoys say that events in Kuala Lumpur are worrying.