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Thursday, April 8, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Across The Nation

Whitman Launches Her Bid To Become A U.S. Senator

TRENTON, N.J. - Republican Gov. Christie Whitman today launched her bid for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Frank Lautenberg.

The second-term governor, long seen as a GOP party star, ended speculation about her political future by kicking off an effort to become New Jersey's first elected Republican U.S. senator since the 1970s by forming a fund-raising committee.

Whitman, 52, is New Jersey's first woman governor. She would be the state's first woman U.S. senator if she won.

Whitman's second term as governor is scheduled to end in January 2002. She is banned by the state Constitution from running for a third consecutive term as governor.

Whitman ran for the U.S. Senate in 1990, her first statewide race. She nearly beat heavily financed Democratic incumbent Bill Bradley in a campaign that targeted Democratic Gov. Jim Florio's tax increases. Three years later, Whitman used that argument to defeat Florio.

Lautenberg, 75, a three-term Democrat, announced in February that he would not seek re-election.

Starr, judge panel to testify on independent-counsel law

WASHINGTON - Independent counsel Kenneth Starr and members of the three-judge panel that oversees him will testify next Wednesday before a Senate committee considering whether to renew the independent-counsel law.

Starr's appearance before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee will bring him face to face with some Senate Democratic critics of his 4 1/2-year investigation, which led to President Clinton's impeachment on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.

The committee will also hear testimony from federal judges Richard Cudahy, Peter Fay and David Sentelle. They make up the three-judge Special Division of the U.S. Court of Appeals here, which appoints independent counsels.

Sharp criticism of Starr's investigation has bolstered congressional sentiment to do away with the 1978 independent-counsel law, which is due to expire on June 30 unless reauthorized by Congress. Even many supporters of the law say it should undergo a major overhaul to make independent counsels more accountable.

2 police officers charged with coercing prostitutes

HARTFORD, Conn. - Prosecutors have charged two Hartford police officers with coercing sexual favors from prostitutes under threat of arrest, and another officer and a former colleague pleaded guilty to related charges.

Since October, a federal grand jury has been investigating alleged corruption in the department, including the prostitutes' allegations and the possibility that officers were involved in two unrelated, unsolved slayings.

Patrol officers Michael Basile, 41, and Jesus Rivera, 30, were charged with violating the civil rights of Hartford-area prostitutes. Both pleaded not guilty yesterday and were released on $100,000 bond.

Officer Salvatore Abateillo III, 35, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting Rivera. Former Officer Jose L. Pizarro, 35, pleaded guilty to providing Rivera with a camera used to take nude pictures of the women.

Angered by delays, riders stage mutiny on transit train

WASHINGTON - Frustrated and angry Metro riders staged a rush-hour mutiny yesterday afternoon at the Smithsonian Station when they refused to obey transit officials' orders to get off a crowded train being taken out of service.

It took 25 minutes and a visit by transit police for officials to persuade passengers to comply, and the slowdown spread throughout the system, delaying many passengers by an hour or more. One woman was arrested.

The trains have been unusually crowded this week. Metro set a ridership record of 600,061 on Tuesday, creating conditions so tight that tourists were wedged into rail cars already crowded with harried commuters, many of whom got home late because of train delays. Two rush-hour trains broke down Tuesday afternoon.

After attack, woman hangs on to rabid fox for 12 hours

BROOKSVILLE, Fla. - A 79-year-old woman says she was knocked down, bitten and clawed by a rabid fox before she managed to grab it and hang on for 12 hours until her landlord came by and killed it.

Lucy Dover was hospitalized in serious condition and will need rabies shots. "Either she knew what she was doing or she got lucky," sheriff's Officer Cathy Lee said.

Dover told authorities she was attacked Monday night when she went outside her trailer to smoke a cigarette. The 15-pound fox knocked her to the ground, breaking her hip.

She said she seized the animal behind the neck and near the tail and held it until her landlord came by.

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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