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News Briefs, part 1

Over 100,000 Rwandans May Have Been Killed, Red Cross Says

the Washington Post

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday that more than 100,000 Rwandans may have been killed in the past two weeks of ethnic slaughter and called it a "human tragedy on a scale we have rarely witnessed."

The report coincided with a recommendation by U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to sharply scale back the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Rwanda, and with news accounts that the blood-soaked Central African nation was edging closer to a deadly outbreak of disease and famine sparked by growing fighting.

Human rights groups charged that any withdrawal of U.N. forces would put at risk of massacre more than 20,000 Rwandans who have sought U.N. protection in hospitals and a stadium in Kigali, the capital.

The Red Cross said Rwandans wounded in fighting between the majority Hutu and the Tutsi tribes "can no longer be taken to medical centers for fear they will be killed before they arrive, and those that have been saved cannot leave the hospitals because to do so would mean certain death," the Red Cross said.

Thousands of decomposing corpses litter the streets of Kigali, the Rwandan capital, the Associated Press reported Thursday. It said some people have been barricaded in their homes for two weeks without food, and hundreds of thousands of Rwandans have fled their homes and are believed walking through hilly, forested countryside to avoid the slaughter that has raged for two weeks between the majority Hutu and the Tutsi tribes.

Agreement Clears Way for Hata To Become Japan's Prime Minister

The Washington Post

The seven parties that make up Japan's governing coalition reached agreement early Friday on a broad policy platform, clearing the way for the reform-minded Tsutomu Hata to become prime minister and form a government.

The new cabinet, Hata has said, will be almost identical in policy and personnel to the government led by the outgoing prime minister, Morihiro Hosokawa, and will continue Hosokawa's sometimes-uphill push toward political realignment, deregulation and reduction in Japan's $60 billion trade surplus with the United States.

The 58-year-old Hata went home for his nightly half-hour of Zen meditation before the agreement was settled. He could afford to. Having succeeded Hosokawa as leader of the governing coalition, he has the votes to be elected head of government of the world's second-richest nation.

Few here expect Hata to adopt dramatic initiatives to simulate the economy, remove import barriers or eliminate burdensome regulations, as the Clinton administration has been urging. Hata, however, is a firm believer in the importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance, insiders say, and thus will strive to appease Washington with enough new measures to avoid a serious rupture.

Smoking Ban Expected To Save Billions of Dollars

Los Angeles Times

Legislation that would prohibit smoking in public places would reap economic savings ranging from $39 billion to $72 billion annually as a result of lower health costs, fewer premature deaths, less employee absenteeism, and reduced operating and maintenance expenses in smoke-free buildings, the Environmental Protection Agency projected Thursday.

Furthermore, the law would cost less than $5.5 billion annually to implement and enforce, the agency predicted in a report. EPA estimated the costs of enforcement as ranging from $800 million to $2.4 billion to a maximum of $5.5 billion if institutions chose to establish separately ventilated rooms for smokers that would vent tobacco smoke directly to the outside air.

"Cigarettes don't just kill people who smoke - they also kill people who choose not to smoke," said EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner at a joint news conference with Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., author of the bill. "We have a responsibility to protect children and adults who choose not to smoke."