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News Briefs, part 1

Clinton Embraces Compromise Proposed by Aristide Opponents

Los Angeles Times


President Clinton embraced a compromise advanced by political opponents of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide Monday as U.S., U.N. and other mediators searched for ways to resolve the island's leadership crisis without more violence and assassinations.

In the Haitian capital, U.N. envoy Dante Caputo appealed to former President Carter and other out-of-office elected leaders from the Western Hemisphere to congregate in Port-au-Prince this week to act as high-level human rights monitors whose presence might discourage political killings and offer increased safety to parliamentarians and Aristide's supporters.

Aristide, who insists that he intends to return to Haiti Saturday under the terms of a tattered peace plan signed last July, will address the U.N. General Assembly Thursday to appeal for continued international support, U.N. officials announced in New York.

Clinton, talking to reporters after meeting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, said his hopes for a settlement were raised by a proposal advanced this weekend by a group of Haitian legislators who previously had opposed Aristide's return.

The 11-point plan calls for the former president to regain his office provided that he broaden his government to include some political opponents and Parliament passes legislation assuring coup leaders that they will not be punished.

DNA Test May Let Man Go Free

The Washington Post

A DNA test raises serious questions about the guilt of a mentally retarded man who is sentenced to die in Virginia's electric chair for raping and killing a Culpeper woman in 1982, state officials acknowledged Monday.

The news ultimately could result in the release of Earl Washington Jr., 34, who was convicted based on a confession that defense lawyers maintain was coerced because of his limited intelligence.

Attorney General Stephen D. Rosenthal said the most sophisticated DNA test was not conducted because too little sperm had been preserved well enough for examination. But another genetic test, looking for more general traits, yielded mixed results and so Washington cannot yet be eliminated as a suspect, he said.

"The test threw us a curveball," Rosenthal said. "It neither established his innocence, nor did it rule him out as a perpetrator."

Despite calls from Washington's supporters for his immediate release, the inmate will remain on death row at the Mecklenburg Correctional Center pending a review by Gov. L. Douglas Wilder and further tests, Rosenthal said.

The development is the latest in a case that has generated national debate about the mentally retarded and capital punishment. Medical tests have indicated that Washington has the mentality of a 10-year-old and an IQ of 69.

Scientists Report Discovery Of Co-Receptor Used by AIDS Virus


Discovery of a natural molecule that the AIDS virus uses like a trapdoor to invade white blood cells was reported Monday by French researchers, who hope it will lead to vaccines or treatments for AIDS.

According to a report released by the Pasteur Institute at a news conference in Paris, virologist Ara Hovanessian's research team isolated a co-receptor that the AIDS virus uses in tandem with the well-known CD4 receptor.

The CD4 cells -- white blood cells bearing CD4 surface molecules -- are the major target of the AIDS virus. It has been known that the virus needs to find CD4 molecules so it can anchor itself to blood cells. But it was not known what happens next, exactly how the virus worms its way into the cell to cause disease. Hovanessian's find -- a molecule called CD26 -- apparently answers that question. It is an enzyme that opens a portal so the virus can slip inside.

Virologist Max Essex, head of the Harvard AIDS Institute, in Boston, said the French discovery "sounds both interesting and important. It's been known by everyone for a long time that CD4 was necessary, but not sufficient," for the AIDS virus to infect cells. "But no one had come up with a clear reason why," Essex said.