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News Briefs, part 1

U.S. Officials Question POW Document

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON

A recently disclosed document from Russian archives indicates that Vietnam may have held hundreds more U.S. prisoners than it acknowledged at the end of the Vietnam War. But U.S. officials cautioned Monday that the document may not be accurate.

Presidential emissary John W. Vessey Jr., who is going to Vietnam this weekend, has been instructed to make a discussion of the document "the first order of business," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

As described by U.S. officials who have read it, the document appears to be riddled with erroneous statements, but Boucher said it is still being evaluated by the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Vessey, a retired general, is to assess for President Clinton the extent of Hanoi's cooperation with U.S. officials seeking information about the fate of American servicemen still missing from the war. He has said in the past that Vietnam appears to be cooperating fully and is entitled to some reward from Washington, perhaps a lifting of the trade embargo that blocks U.S. firms from doing business there.

But if the information in the Russian document is correct, it would indicate that Vietnam has engaged in massive deception about missing Americans for more than 20 years.

Health Industry Groups Launch Advertising Blitz

The Washington Post

The magazine ad casts the health care question in highly personal terms. There is a picture of a balding, genial-looking fellow with the headline: "Ask Mike what he'd do if you took away the ulcer drug that's saving him from a $25,000 operation."

This is the pitch of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, one of several trade groups, corporations and lobbying organizations that have launched an advertising blitz about health care reform. While the ad touts the "cost-saving power" of prescription drugs, it neglects to mention that the industry spends $1 billion more each year on advertising and lobbying than on developing new drugs.

The recent media offensive is reminiscent of last year's presidential campaign, with sweeping claims about solving the health care mess and snappy slogans about protecting consumers. This time, however, the object is not to win public office but to influence the recommendations of Hillary Rodham Clinton's health care task force.

As in political ads, the agendas of these organizations are not always made clear. All proclaim themselves strongly in favor of "reform" and insist that preserving their particular financial interest somehow will lower health costs. Some make questionable or misleading assertions.

Russia to Get $3 Billion If Yeltsin Moves on Inflation

Los Angeles Times

ANCHORAGE, Alaska

The United States and other major economic powers have agreed to extend Russia a quick $3 billion in long-term loans as soon as the government of President Boris N. Yeltsin takes initial steps to bring inflation under control, senior Clinton administration officials said Monday.

The new loans, which could begin to flow from the International Monetary Fund within two months, are a key part of a multinational aid package of about $40 billion that the world's seven leading industrial powers plan to announce in Tokyo this week.

In addition, U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher said the administration plans to announce new proposals for direct U.S. aid to Russia -- beyond the $1.6 billion promised last week -- "aid that will go right into the bloodstream of the (Russian) economy."

Senior officials who spoke aboard Christopher's airplane on its way to Japan said they hope the IMF loans, which are designed to reach the Russian government unusually quickly, would bolster Yeltsin in his campaign for support in an April 25 referendum.

The official said the only condition for the release of the money would be a serious effort by Russian authorities to bring inflation under control by slowing their grants of credit. Western economic authorities have frequently pointed to the Russian Central Bank's practice of granting easy credit to state industries as an important cause of the runaway inflation that has exceeded 30 percent per month. Another cause has been the bank's rate of issuing new banknotes.

Weather

April Showers

By Arnold Seto
Staff Meteorologist

The remnants of yestersday's storm will continue to give us overcast skies and light showers through this afternoon. A ridge of high pressure will then move in, bringing clear skies and continued cool temperatures Wednesday and Thursday. On Thurday night, a deepening low pressure system will bring increasing cloudiness with significant rain on Friday and Saturday.

Today: Continued cloudiness with chance of light showers. Light winds, north, 10-15 mph (16-24 kph). High 45-50F (7-10C).

Tonight: Partial clearing. North winds 10-15 mph (16-24 kph). Low 38-42F (3-6C).

Tomorrow: Scattered clouds, otherwise clear. Winds north 12-16 mph (19-26 kph). High 48-53F (9-12C). Low 35-40 (2-4C).

Thursday: Increasing clouds. Winds shifting to the south, 10-14 mph (16-22 kph). High 48-55F (9-13C). Low 40-45F (4-7C).