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JURY MAY DECIDE ALASKA SENATE RACE

WASHINGTON

In the coming days, a dozen District of Columbia residents will have a big say in deciding who will represent Alaska in the Senate over the next six years. If they acquit Sen. Ted Stevens in his trial, the 84-year-old Republican is likely to win another term. If they convict him on the corruption-related charges, his Democratic opponent, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, could get the seat. "It's all about what happens in the trial," Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, the head of the Republicans' Senate campaign effort, said over breakfast at the National Press Club Tuesday. If "he is found innocent, I think that he will win," Ensign said. "If it goes the other way, obviously, it really won't matter what happens in the election." The jury begins deliberations today, and the government's once-powerful corruption case against Stevens looks too close to call.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska

Palin to give deposition Friday

Gov. Sarah Palin, already found by one investigation to have abused her power, will take time from her campaign for vice president Friday to give a deposition in a second inquiry into her firing of the state's top public safety official. It will be the first deposition in the affair by the Republican candidate. She wasn't subpoenaed to answer questions in an investigation by the state Legislature, though her husband, Todd, gave an affidavit. The Legislature's investigator, former Anchorage prosecutor Stephen Branchflower, found that Palin violated ethics laws in attempts to get her former brother-in-law, a state trooper, fired. The trooper, Mike Wooten, had gone through a contentious divorce with Palin's sister. But Branchflower found Palin was within her right to fire Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan. The Palins' attorney, Thomas Van Flein, said Tuesday that the governor and her husband will both give depositions Friday afternoon outside the state, but declined to say where.

NEW YORK

Thursday vote set on Bloomberg's future

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal to extend New York's term-limits law was put on the fast track for a vote Thursday in City Council, even though some members are still undecided about bypassing voters to give themselves and the mayor a chance at third terms. Opposition to Bloomberg's plan has gained momentum this week, and the failure of council Speaker Christine Quinn to schedule the vote Monday was seen as a sign the bill lacked support. On Tuesday afternoon, the bill was put on the agenda for Thursday's council meeting. The bill needs 26 votes to pass the 51-member council. The latest count shows 20 have declared they will vote against it, about 17 publicly support it and the rest say they are undecided.

SAN FRANCISCO

City voters get a say on prostitution

In this live-and-let-live town, where medical marijuana clubs do business next to grocery stores and an annual fair celebrates sadomasochism, prostitutes could soon walk the streets without fear of arrest. San Francisco would become the first major U.S. city to decriminalize prostitution if voters next month approve Proposition K - a measure that forbids local authorities from investigating, arresting or prosecuting anyone for selling sex. Prostitution cannot be legalized since state law prohibits it, but the measure would eliminate the power of local law enforcement officials to go after prostitutes. Proponents say the measure will free up $11-million the police spend each year arresting prostitutes. Even in tolerant San Francisco - where the sadomasochism fair draws more than 400,000 tourists and a pornographic video company is housed in a former armory - the measure faces an uphill battle, with much of the political establishment opposing it.

Washington

Assisted suicide measure on ballot

At the end of life, Bainbridge Island, Wash., resident Ron Erickson points out, "There's only one door." In Initiative 1000, the state's voters have an opportunity to decide how quickly they reach it. For Erickson, a proponent of the initiative, the law would allow the terminally ill to "simply make a decision to have that end come in the way of their choosing." For Patrick Middleton, also of Bainbridge, the initiative is "a dangerous concept" that is tantamount to suicide, and that puts a vulnerable patient at risk. For everyone involved, it's an issue that transcends traditional politics. It's also a decidedly political issue: $3.1-million has been spent on the campaign in favor of the initiative.

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