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News Briefs (part 1)

Officials Fight for Vaccine Program Despite Shortcomings

Los Angeles Times


The Clinton administration vowed Tuesday to press ahead with its embattled preschool vaccination initiative even as lawmakers released a congressional report raising fundamental questions about the program.

"This is no time to reverse course," U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala said a news conference called to respond to the report by the congressional General Accounting Office. "Congress and the president have set a course and our goal is within reach."

The GAO report questioned whether the Vaccines for Children program could begin on time, assure the integrity of highly sensitive vaccines and achieve its goal of boosting immunization rates by expanding the distribution of free vaccine. Four members of Congress who released the assessment promised to seek to delay the start of the program or scrap it entirely.

But a short time later, a phalanx of senior administration officials defended the $500 million-a-year plan and expressed confidence that they can meet the Oct. 1 starting date. The program would expand the purchase of discounted vaccines and distribute nearly one-third of the nation's supply through a single facility in New Jersey.

The new program, which was touted by President Clinton as his first domestic policy initiative, will provide free vaccines to private physicians to immunize Medicaid recipients who are children, uninsured children and Native Americans. In addition, children whose insurance does not cover vaccines will be eligible if they receive their shots at a federally approved community health center or rural clinic.

Bosnian Serb Leaders Won't Disclose Peace Plan Decision

Special to the Los Angeles Times

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia

Bosnian Serb leaders ended two days of heated debate Tuesday, refusing to publicly disclose their decision on a "last-chance" international peace plan that would partition war-ravaged Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Bosnian Serb officials, however, reportedly voted to give conditional approval to the accord - an answer previously described as a rejection by the plan's architects: the United States, Russia, Britain, Germany and France.

These five nations, acting in concert to try to end the two-year conflict that has claimed an estimated 200,000 lives, had set a Tuesday deadline for the warring parties to give a decisive "yes" or "no" to the peace plan, devising a package of punishments and rewards for them depending on their response.

In Washington, Anthony Lake, the White House national security adviser, warned the Bosnian Serbs they will face "consequences," if they reject the plan or attach unacceptable conditions to it. The plan would give the federation of Muslims and Croats 51 percent of Bosnia, leaving the rest to the Bosnian Serbs, who have seized control of 70 percent of the country.

Although he indicated the Clinton administration would be flexible on details of a peace accord, he said the U.S. government will not go along with attempts to annex Serb-controlled parts of Bosnia to Serbia.

Female Officers Charge The CIA with Discrimination

The Washington Post


Nearly one-third of the CIA's female case officers have joined to allege that the agency's clandestine service has discriminated against women in promotions, country assignments and spying tasks.

Lawyers representing this group of women were prepared to file a class action complaint in U.S. District Court last year, but held off when the CIA agreed to enter negotiations to resolve the matter, according to the women's lawyers and CIA officials.

The dispute began in December 1992, when a mid-level female officer went to an attorney after she was denied promotion upon her return to the United States from an overseas tour. In succeeding months more women came forward with claims of discrimination, and agreed to file a lawsuit unless a settlement is reached.

According to an attorney representing the complainants, female CIA intelligence officers' careers have suffered because they have been given administrative and reporting functions when assigned overseas, rather than being sent to develop important agents.

Although agency officials say they are moving promptly to address the women's allegations, there has been some tension surrounding the dispute. CIA officials have required materials in the matter to be kept classified and are skittish about public reporting of any instances of alleged intentional CIA discrimination.

The settlement negotiations are expected to see the exchange of statistical data next month, with detailed talks beginning in September, according to both sides. The hope is for filing of an agreement in court next spring, according to the lawyers.