State layoffs on the horizon:
Top state lawmakers said last week that they agree with the governor that layoffs are inevitable. But they could not say how many state workers would have to be laid off to solve the $243 million budget shortfall announced Thursday by state budget analysts.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer said he favors laying off 1,800 state workers Jan. 1 to bridge the growing gap between state revenues and expenses.
The governor outlined five plans to solve the deficit, including one that would throw 12,800 state employees out of work. His proposals were prompted by gloomy revenue figures released by the Board of Revenue Estimates, revealing that the current year's budget would wind up $423 million in the red if no spending cuts were made.
In addition to layoffs, Schaefer's menu of options calls for a new round of spending cuts and a raid on the state's savings account. The proposals come in the middle of what budget officials say is Maryland's worst economic tailspin since 1982, the last time state workers were laid off.
* The U.S. jobless rate jumped to 5.9 percent, a rise of two-tenths of 1 percent in November, the government reported Friday, prompting the Federal Reserve Board to lower key interest rates and some banks to reduce their prime lending rate to 9.75 percent.
Port strike ends:
Striking members of Local 953 of the International Longshoremen's Association ended a two-day work stoppage and returned to their jobs at the Port of Baltimore Wednesday after reaching a tentative agreement with waterfront employers. The 400 members of the local, which represents cargo clerks, are to vote on the proposal. If approved, it would be in force until the fall of 1994.
"I'm extremely pleased," Richard P. Hughes Jr., business agent for Local 953, said of the agreement.
The clerks wanted specific guarantees to create or preserve work for the union. In the end, the union agreed that clerks in each port have the right to work they have traditionally performed, which will mean that some computer work now done by non-ILA members at some places will become union work.
The space shuttle Columbia, beset with problems since it was launched Dec. 2, could return to to Earth tomorrow. Multiple computer failures and other troubles have persisted throughout the mission and have forced the astronauts to skip more than 100 planned observations with the Johns Hopkins Ultraviolet Telescope. About 250 celestial targets were to have been studied.
Aaron Copland, the immigrants' son from Brooklyn, N.Y., who used jazz rhythms of the South, folk songs of Appalachia and cowboy tunes of the prairie to create classical music that was unmistakably American, died of pneumonia Dec. 2 in North Tarrytown, N.Y. He was 90.
* Robert Cummings, who played a swinging bachelor in the 1950s sitcom "The Bob Cummings Show" and starred in dozens of films, died Dec. 2 at age 80 in Woodland Hills, Calif., of kidney failure and complications from pneumonia.
In the gulf region:
The Iraqi parliament Friday overwhelmingly endorsed President Saddam Hussein's decision to free hundreds of Western hostages. The vote cleared the way to freedom for more than 8,000 people stranded by the invasion of Kuwait, including about 900 U.S. citizens. The first group after Saddam's announcement arrived in the United States over the weekend.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon said 30,000 fresh Iraqi troops have been sent to the Arabian desert, bringing Saddam's buildup in Kuwait and southern Iraq to 480,000. An additional 10,000 U.S. troops also arrived in the Persian Gulf. The 350,000-strong multinational force now includes about 250,000 Americans.
Saddam said he no longer needs to keep foreigners as a deterrent to a U.S.-led attack. He said his troops are now fully deployed in Kuwait, which he seized Aug. 2 in a dispute over oil, land and money.
* In Maryland, two National Guard units -- the 290th Military Police Company, from Towson, and 200th Military Police Company, from Salisbury -- headed Friday for Persian Gulf duty. Two more Army Reserve units were put on alert Thursday for possible activation: the 402nd Military Police Battalion, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, and the 290th U.S. Army Hospital.
'A day of great joy':
"This is a day of great joy," German Chancellor Helmut Kohl declared Dec. 2, claiming victory 90 minutes after polls closed. "This is a tremendous success and we can be proud of it."
Voter turnout in the recently unified Germany was said to be the lowest since 1949 -- a reflection of both a lackluster campaign and voter exhaustion after a year of stunning change that redrew the map of the European continent.
Kohl's center-right coalition scored 54.8 percent. The opposition Social Democrats suffered their worst defeat since 1957, garnering just 33.5 percent. Kicked out of parliament altogether were the environmentalist Greens.
The elections marked the first free balloting in a united Germany since Adolf Hitler's rise to power before World War II. A partial cease-fire between Mozambique's government and the tenacious Renamo guerrilla movement was being hailed last week as a major breakthrough toward ending an almost 16-year civil war that has killed 200,000 people and displaced more than 2 million.
At least 3,000 people were made homeless by an earthquake Dec. 1 in the Central Asian republic of Kirgizia, the Soviet news agency Tass reported last Monday. Tass said 940 homes and public buildings were destroyed in three villages, but no one was killed.