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News Briefs

Ginsburg's Performance in 1st Week On High Court Impressive

Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON

In her first week as a Supreme Court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has emerged as the new star on the bench.

In one session of oral arguments after another, on subjects as diverse as voting rights, drug paraphernalia and the Federal Mine Safety Act, the new justice peppered competing attorneys with dozens of polite, but pointed questions.

She poked large holes in arguments put forth by prominent Washington lawyers. During several sessions, she clarified where the two sides actually disagreed. And in nearly every instance, she displayed a remarkable grasp of the law and the thick lower court record.

Ginsburg's snappy style and impressive grasp of the legal complexities stands in sharp contrast to virtually all other newcomers to the court. Typically, rookies sit quietly on the bench, listening but adding little to the arguments. Because of the heavy work load, most new justices say it takes a year or more to feel comfortable during the arguments.

"She was incredible," said one lawyer who sat through three hours of argument on Monday in which Ginsburg asked 46 questions. "She was very pointed in focusing the cases. Not berating the attorneys, but narrowing the issue. And she was totally on top of the record," he said.

Spending Bills Altered to Pave Way For Cuts In Federal Work Force

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON

Congressional appropriators, bowing to a last-minute request by the Clinton administration, have altered 1994 spending bills to pave the way for substantial reductions in the size of the federal work force.

The Office of Management and Budget sought the changes late last month as a first step toward eliminating 252,000 jobs over five years, a key element of the administration's National Performance Review plan.

With Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., leading the way, House and Senate appropriators agreed to eliminate mandated personnel levels in dozens of federal departments and agencies -- from the Farmers Home Administration to the Indian Health Service -- to make it easier to shrink the government.

The personnel floors were dropped from spending bills that cover the Agriculture Department and the Food and Drug Administration; the Labor, Education and Health and Human Services departments; and the Treasury Department and U.S. Postal Service. Leon E. Panetta, director of the OMB, warned that unless those provisions were eliminated, a third of the non-Defense Department civilian work force would be exempt from reductions.

"The problem we were concerned about is having our hands tied so that ... it would make it impossible to look at all the agencies and departments to see where savings could be achieved," Panetta said Thursday.

He said the administration hopes to eliminate 100,000 of the 252,000 targeted positions by fiscal 1995.

FDA Takes Action to Cut Number of Birth Defects

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON

The Food and Drug Administration took action Thursday to cut the number of birth defects in America through flour power.

The agency published new regulations that require makers of grains and breads labeled "enriched" to add folic acid, a chemical that has been linked to reduction in birth defects, to their products.

The regulations also allow food companies and manufacturers of vitamins and other dietary supplements for the first time to tout the benefifcial effects of folic acid on product labels and in advertising.

Since 1991, scientific studies have shown a link between taking .4 milligrams of folic acid a day and a reduction in neural tube defects. These devastating abnormalities include spina bifida (an imperfect closure of the spinal column, which often leads to brain damage and paralyis) and anencephaly (little or no brain tissue).