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News Briefs I

Joe DiMaggio, The Yankee Clipper, Dies


Joe DiMaggio, the New York Yankees baseball great who became an American icon, died Monday at 84. He had been in failing health for several months.

He often said he was prouder of the Yankees’ success in his time than the 56-game hitting streak in 1941. The streak started May 15 at Yankee Stadium and ended July 17 in Cleveland.

DiMaggio led the league in batting in 1939 and 1949; in RBI in 1941 and 1948; in home runs in 1937 and 1948.

He was voted the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1939, 1941, and 1947. At baseball’s centennial celebration in 1969, he was voted the game’s “Greatest Living Player.”

Qatar Opens Door to Democracy, Women in First Elections


Qatar proved itself on Monday to be a leader in bringing democracy to the region. It held its first elections, and in a step that was nothing less than revolutionary for the conservative region, women were permitted both to vote and to run for office.

But by calling the elections, Sheikh Hamed ibn Khalifa al-Thani sent a not-so-subtle message to his fellow gulf rulers that the best way for monarchs to stay in power is to voluntarily empower the people.

Voters acknowledged that the council on local government was not in itself likely to be very powerful. But the vote still was seen as important because it was the first time since independence in 1971 that Qataris had the chance to vote for official representatives.

Elected government is largely an untried model for the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the tribally-run, conservative Islamic and Arab states that control much of the world’s petroleum. Among the six, only Kuwait has a parliament. And there, women are not allowed to participate. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates have no direct elections, only consultative councils whose members are appointed to help advise the rulers.

Qatar’s decision was startling, and the move was likely to embolden democrats and women in the region.

Justice Department Backs Supreme Court in Miranda Case


The Clinton administration came to the defense Monday of the Supreme Court’s controversial 1966 Miranda decision, arguing that Congress had no power to tell courts to accept confessions by criminals who had not been given “Miranda warnings” about their rights.

In a case that appears headed for the Supreme Court, the Justice Department asked the full 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in Richmond, Va., to reconsider and scuttle a ruling last month by three of its members.

Under the 1966 Miranda decision, police are required to tell any suspects they are holding -- before any questioning -- of the right to remain silent and the right to have a lawyer present, and to warn them that anything they say can be used against them in court. The warnings are designed to prevent coerced confessions.

By a 2-1 vote, the panel ruled that Miranda is not a constitutional ruling, so Congress was free to displace it, as it did, with a federal law that said a confession that was voluntary is to be admitted in federal court even if the suspect did not get Miranda warnings.