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FOOTHOLD: Israel signed over the Ramallah school district to the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday, giving PLO chief Yasser Arafat his first formal foothold in still Israeli-occupied parts of the West Bank. The Israeli head of the education department, Mahfouz Zaher, handed over responsibility for 150 government-run schools in Ramallah and surrounding villages to Naim Abu al-Humos, director general of education in the Palestinian Authority, which is now in charge of Gaza and the West Bank enclave of Jericho. "This is an opportunity and a beginning for the Palestinian National Authority to enter into the (rest of the) West Bank in accordance with the peace agreement," Abu al-Humos said after the signing ceremony.FIREBOMBS: Firebombs wrecked several shops Wednesday on the Isle of Wight. No one claimed responsibility, but police were investigating the involvement of animal rights extremists, implicated in thousands of crimes in Britain in recent years. "No person nor group has claimed responsibility for the fire attacks on the shops," said Pete Young, spokesman for the Hampshire police. There have been no arrests, but "the attacks on the premises have all the hallmarks of similar previous attacks (by animal rights groups)," Young said.

Across the nation

JUDGMENT: A New York social worker handed subway tokens to a mental patient and told him to move to a different hospital. The patient jumped in front of a subway train and lost his legs. Now a judge has awarded him $4.2 million. Hector Manuel Rivera, 43, will use the money to move himself and his mother out of their subsidized home, his lawyer, Robert Tessler, said Tuesday. The money also will buy equipment such as a motorized wheelchair and will pay for Rivera to live in an institution when his mother is no longer able to care for him, Tessler said.

SHOT: An elderly woman tending the grave of her husband was shot and killed Tuesday when a group of bank robbers apparently came across the woman while changing vehicles at the cemetery, police said. Ruby Parker, 81, was shot in the cemetery near the central Texas town of Normangee, about 100 miles north of Houston, after eight men robbed the Normangee State Bank of about $100,000.