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News Briefs I

King Hussein on Deathbed

Washington Post
AMMAN, Jordan

A cancer-stricken King Hussein was carried aboard his private jet in Minnesota and borne home to Jordan Thursday in a desperate race against time to die in the kingdom he has ruled through 46 turbulent years.

Two U.S. F-16 fighter jets escorted his plane out of U.S. airspace in a tribute to the monarch, whose apparently irreversible medical condition has generated deep anxiety in Washington and the Middle East.

Hussein, who only last month interrupted his treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., to name a new successor replacing his brother with his son underwent two emergency bone-marrow transplants on Monday and Tuesday. But the king, who is suffering from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, failed to rally, and his vital organs began to fail.

His condition "has become critical due to the failure of the function of internal organs," Hussein's private physician, Lt. Gen. Samir Farraj, said as the king was lifted aboard the plane for the flight to Amman with his wife, Queen Noor, and five of his children.

Video Damages Microsoft's Case


Microsoft Corp. seriously damaged its chances of winning its antitrust trial, experts say, when it showed in court this week a controversial video that was supposed to prove a key point in its defense but instead blew up in the company's face and undermined its credibility.

The videotape fiasco is the latest in a series of courtroom gaffes that Microsoft has committed in its landmark antitrust battle with the U.S. Justice Department, 19 states and the District of Columbia.

In recent weeks Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, appearing in court on videotape, and a handful of other company executives and expert witnesses have performed poorly, sometimes drawing derisive comments from an exasperated U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson.

"I think Microsoft is doomed," said James R. Loftis, a veteran Washington antitrust lawyer who is past chairman of the antitrust section of the American Bar Association.

"This (video snafu) poses a significant problem for them because it permits the judge to make findings as to the credibility and reliability of Microsoft's witnesses," Loftis said. "Those are findings the court of appeals will not be able to reverse" should Microsoft lose this round and try to win on appeal, which some observers believe is the company's long-term strategy.

NASA Crisis May Affect Safety


Strapped by budget cuts, hiring freezes, buy-outs and early retirements, NASA now faces a personnel "crisis" that may soon leave it without the expertise it needs to manage America's space program safely, the agency's independent safety panel warned Thursday.

The shortage of trained technicians at NASA's manned space flight centers "can jeopardize otherwise safe operations." Moreover, the agency's inability to attract new talent clouds its future, the panel said.

William Readdy, head of NASA's space shuttle program, acknowledged Thursday that the agency has not been able to hire the new engineers and scientists it would like, but said that NASA's commitment to safety has not eroded.

Independent space policy analysts, however, said the panel's warnings about the agency's personnel cuts should be taken seriously. "NASA has been cutting into muscle and bone," said John Pike, space policy director at the Federation of American Scientists. "They were taking a calculated risk they could reduce overall staff and cut the number of safety and quality assurance inspectors, without appreciably increasing the risk of another Challenger accident."