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News Briefs

Some Democratic Lawmakers Say Gore’s Chances Are Slipping
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

Congressional Democrats predicted Monday that pressure will mount on Al Gore to concede the presidential election if his legal effort to have hand-counted totals included in Florida’s final vote tally fails.

As Gore’s lawsuit was being argued before the Florida Supreme Court, some Democratic lawmakers said they feared the vice president’s hopes of overtaking Republican George W. Bush were slipping -- no matter what the outcome of the court battle.

One centrist Democrat, Rep. James P. Moran of Virginia, said publicly what others were mulling privately as the clock continued to tick without any apparent trend-breaking shifts in the unofficial recount totals. Bush on Monday afternoon led by 930 votes statewide in the official count.

“I’m not sure Gore is going to win on a hand recount,” Moran said. “The chances of a Gore presidency are diminishing with every day that passes.”

Democrats on Capitol Hill are a key constituency in Gore’s fight for the White House. Since the Nov. 7 election, the Gore campaign has kept prominent lawmakers apprised of its strategy through several conference calls and at least one day of face-to-face briefings from campaign chairman William M. Daley.

Time Warner, to Ease AOL Merger, Will Offer Earthlink Service
NEWSDAY -- Time Warner Monday bowed to federal regulators by announcing a deal in which it will offer its cable TV customers Internet service from a rival of megamerger partner America Online.

AOL and Time Warner hope the “definitive agreement” with Earthlink Inc., a distant second to AOL, will pave the way for regulators to approve the merger. The companies said they expect the deal to serve as a model for other cable operators to offer customers a choice of Internet service providers.

AOL and Time Warner said they expect the Federal Trade Commission to extend its review of the merger by two weeks beyond a Nov. 30 deadline, which was already extended three weeks, to study the Earthlink agreement. But a source close to the FTC said that is uncertain. Time Warner is in “productive negotiations” with other ISPs, said Glenn Britt, its cable president, and reportedly is negotiating to offer online services from Microsoft and Juno.

The merger partners said they now expect to complete their union by early 2002. That pushes back their earlier predictions of closing by this fall, but it reduces the likelihood the FTC, which has pushed for at least one and possibly three ISP deal, would file a lawsuit to block the merger.

U.S. Drug Policy Director Tries to Boost Colombian Resolve
THE WASHINGTON POST -- BOGOTA, Colombia

The U.S. drug policy director, Barry R. McCaffrey, predicted Monday that the United States will pursue its strong support of Colombia’s efforts to reduce drug production regardless of who becomes the next president of the United States.

But McCaffrey, on a visit here in the waning days of the Clinton administration, also warned that winning back Colombia’s vast coca-producing regions from armed groups on the left and right will “not be easy.”

McCaffrey’s valedictory visit to a country that has posed perhaps his most vexing challenge came as Colombia, among the world’s largest producers of cocaine and heroin, enters a new phase with the start of a U.S.-backed anti-drug program. His remarks, delivered to students and faculty of Colombia’s diplomatic academy and war college, were meant to steel Colombian resolve for the $7.5 billion Plan Colombia economic development and anti-drug campaign in the face of mounting clashes between armed groups vying for control of drug-producing regions.

“There will be no change in the long-term U.S. commitment for Plan Colombia,” McCaffrey said in a speech at the Spanish colonial-era Foreign Ministry building. “This is a democracy three hours from Miami. We simply have no choice but to understand that our interests are wrapped up in the success of Venezuela, Colombia and other regional partners.”

Pressure Mounts in Renewal of Libyan Travel Restrictions
THE BALTIMORE SUN -- WASHINGTON

Facing a Friday deadline, the State Department is poised to renew U.S.-Libyan travel restrictions for only several months instead of the full year allowed under law, angering relatives of people killed in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and amounting to what some see as a new step in warming U.S. relations with Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright is considering a measure that would extend the restrictions on Americans in Libya for another three or six months, according to congressional aides and families of bombing victims who have been briefed by the department.

Such a move would strike a compromise between contending parties, both of which have their champions within the Clinton administration, and would delay a decision on permanently lifting the travel restrictions until early in the term of the next president.

On one side are U.S. oil interests, who fear that Europeans are getting a head start on the redevelopment of Libyan petroleum resources and see a lifting of U.S. travel restrictions as a first step toward full economic relations with Tripoli. The oil companies are backed by administration officials who contend that Gadhafi has changed his ways.