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Last night in Iowa, the first caucuses, the first vote of the year 2000, it was Vice President Al Gore and George W. Bush fastening their front-runner labels tighter. Amid light turnout, the Texas governor fought off a tough challenge by publishing heir Steve Forbes, while the Vice President easily beat Bradley by almost two to one. Alan Keyes, an ex-ambassador with not much money, finished a solid third among Republicans as the conservative vote showed its strength. We’ll be speaking with a representative of Alan Keyes in just a minute. Arizona Senator John McCain got about five percent of the vote, but he skipped the state to focus on New Hampshire’s February 1st primary. Presidential campaigns now enter a frantic decisive six-week stretch.
The Supreme Court has reaffirmed its backing for political donation limits in a case watched for any shift in court sentiment on the landmark 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision. Justices decided six-to-three that a Missouri law capping contributions didn’t violate free speech rights. Meanwhile, in a five-to-four ruling dissenters say will perpetuate bias against minorities, justices limited federal authority to veto changes in state and local election laws. The Court, citing changes in Florida’s execution policy, pulled back from an earlier decision to rule on whether use of the electric chair should be prohibited.
Elian Gonzalez’s grandmothers flew to Miami after initially resisting the trip, but after five hours left without seeing the boy. Anti-Castro relatives, demanding that the women come to their home, refused to bring Elian to the airport. Meanwhile, Senate Leader Trent Lott joined in introducing a bill to make Elian Gonzalez a U.S. citizen.
Russia’s advance appears stalled amid intense house-to-house fighting in Chechnya’s capital. As Moscow media challenged official casualty estimates, Interfax News Agency, quoting unnamed security officials, said 529 Russian soldiers died in the past month. Defense officials had no response.
Thai troops stormed a hospital held by Burmese rebels. A Thai officer said nine rebels died and all hostages were freed. An ethnic Karen faction calling itself “God’s Army” seized the hospital to protest Thai shelling in a border offensive by Burma.
Germany’s Christian Democrats fear the worsening scandal involving Chancellor Kohl and other officials could cost the party at least $18.5 million. An audit shows that amount of donations of unknown origin from 1989 to 1998 is much greater than initially thought.
African leaders have promised to bolster a ceasefire in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but insist it will falter without U.N. peacekeepers to supervise a truce among the combatants. After an extraordinary U.N. Security Council debate yesterday, 10 African presidents and foreign ministers hold a series of talks with Secretary-General Kofi Annan today and consult with various U.S. officials and Security Council members. The high-level discussions, expected to continue for several days, are to see how a faltering six-month ceasefire can be implemented, and when or if U.N. troops will be sent to back it. The United States has been the most reluctant council member to approve a force, estimated at between 5,000 and 25,000 troops, until countless violations of the ceasefire stop. At the center of Monday’s council meeting was Congo President Laurent Kabila, who arrived for his first visit to New York with an entourage of 90 people and pledged to cooperate with efforts to end the civil war that involves troops from more than half a dozen nations.