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NEWS CAPSULES

Around the world

RAIL STRIKE: Britain's rail network was reduced to a virtual standstill Wednesday as 4,600 signal workers staged a 24-hour nationwide strike in protest at a breakdown in talks over pay and conditions. An estimated 400,000 rail commuters were forced to either begin their journeys early, brave heavily congested roads, take a bus or stay at home.

TWIN DIES: A conjoined twin died Wednesday hours after she was separated from her sister in a grueling 16-hour operation. Nine-month-old Nthabiseng Makwaeba died of congenital heart failure just four hours after the completion of the surgery, which was performed by a team of 50 doctors and medical staff in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her sister, Mahletse, was in critical condition.

REJECTED: Northern Yemen Wednesday rejected a southern proposal that international observers supervise a cease-fire in their six-week-old civil war. The offer reportedly was conveyed by U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi, who has met in recent days with the rival northern and southern leaders, Ali Abdullah Saleh and Ali Salem Al-Beidh.

ANGOLA: Government troops in Angola were holding out Wednesday against a furious rebel artillery barrage that has killed dozens of people and left the encircled city of Kuito in flames, Angolan radio reported. Hand-to-hand battles had broken out on the city's southern edge, where penned-in government troops were trying to prevent a UNITA rebel breakthrough, an Angolan National Radio correspondent said.

Across the nation

WHALE OF A COMEBACK: The California gray whale, long a symbol of the ravages of commercial whaling, was taken off the U.S. endangered species list Wednesday. There are now 21,000 gray whales, according to a 1992 U.S. government survey, which is at least as many as in the pre-whaling days before the California gold rush in the 1800s and more than double the number in the late 1930s.

CASH SPILLS: An armored truck flipped over on an Indiana highway and dumped $10 million in coins into a roadside ditch. The Brinks truck crashed south of Michigan City, police said. It took work crews about 31/2 hours to pick up the money, but police didn't know if all of it was recovered.