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News Briefs

Democrat Leads in VA Gubernatorial Race


Mark R. Warner, the Democratic candidate for Virginia governor, holds a sizable lead over Republican rival Mark L. Earley across a spectrum of voters in every region of the state, according to a new Washington Post survey.

With 10 weeks to go before the Nov. 6 election, Warner leads Earley 51 percent to 37 percent among registered voters and by 11 percentage points among those most likely to vote. The Democrat enjoys wide margins of support among men and women, in every age group, among Northern Virginians and small-town voters, and among blacks, the survey found.

The race has already received widespread national attention, in part because it is the only gubernatorial contest besides New Jersey this year, but mostly for what it might reveal about the power of GOP themes a year into the Bush administration.

Berlin Candidate Faces Racial Allegations


His image-masters have relentlessly cast him as Berlin’s answer to Jack Kennedy -- youthful with a nice head of hair and a high-profile Jackiesque wife.

But Frank Steffel, 35, the conservative candidate for mayor of Berlin, is now battling allegations that he was an old-fashioned racial bigot.

The glossy magazine Max alleged this week that as a teen-ager, Steffel referred to Turks as “Kanaken,” disabled people as “Mongos” and blacks as “Bimbos” -- all words that in German resonate with as much hatred as the worst English-language terms of racial abuse.

The report in Max was based on interviews with unidentified school friends who said that Steffel was known on the schoolyard as “Franco,” after Gen. Francisco Franco, the former Spanish dictator.

Steffel, the Christian Democratic Union candidate, said “the Max story is simply false” and part of a “dirty campaign aimed at my character.”

Max, which had confronted Steffel with the allegations, released a tape of its one-hour interview and posted the audio transcript on the Internet. Without telling Steffel it had interviewed his former classmates, Max asked him if he had routinely used racist language to describe minorities, citing specific words.

Taliban to Allow Visits To Relief Workers


Eight Western relief workers, including two American women, held incommunicado for the past three weeks by Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban militia, will be allowed to receive visits from diplomats, the Red Cross and their families, Afghan officials said Saturday.

Delegates from the International Committee of the Red Cross will be allowed to see the prisoners Sunday, the Afghan Islamic Press reported. It also said the Taliban’s embassy here in Pakistan’s capital will issue visas Monday for diplomats from the United States, Germany and Australia to visit the detainees in Kabul, the Afghan capital.

“We are pleased to hear reports that the Taliban have decided to issue visas to consular officials and the families,” said a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad -- for most countries, the closest diplomatic post to Kabul. “We don’t have visas yet, and we’re not exactly sure when we’ll get them. But once we do, we will head for Kabul as expeditiously as possible.”

Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, the Taliban’s foreign minister, told the Associated Press in a telephone interview that he had met with Red Cross officials Saturday in Kandahar, the southern Afghan city that is the headquarters for the Islamic clerics who head the Taliban movement. Muttawakil said he told the officials, “You can visit them any time.”