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News Briefs, part 1

North Korean Demands Puzzle U.S. Negotiators

The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

Several unexpected new demands by North Korea for Western cash and German or Russian nuclear technology have puzzled U.S. officials and dampened hopes for a speedy accord to eliminate North Korea's capability to make nuclear arms.

Senior U.S. and North Korean officials are scheduled to resume their negotiations in Geneva Friday over nuclear matters, after a six-week hiatus in which the two sides exchanged informal ideas about the financial and political rewards North Korea would get in exchange for dropping its nuclear ambitions.

"We have a fair amount of work to do," said Ambassador at Large Robert L. Gallucci this week, explaining that one of his initial aims will be to affirm North Korea's adherence to what was agreed at the last session in August and subsequently undermined by North Korea's new demands during informal discussions in Berlin earlier this month.

The new demands include a request that Washington arrange for a payment of $2 billion in cash, ostensibly as compensation for North Korea's development of "graphite style" civilian nuclear reactors to generate electrical power.

Washington has demanded that North Korea scrap these reactors, arguing that they are solely meant to make plutonium for nuclear arms. North Korea agreed last month that it would do so if Washington arranged for construction of two replacement nuclear reactors less suited to plutonium production, and helped arrange interim energy supplies.

But it had not previously sought $2 billion in cash, in addition to the two reactors valued at $4 billion.

New York's Stumble in Health Reform Raises Warning Signals

The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

The New York state legislature in 1992 tried to cure one of the worst problems in the health care system - it voted to force insurance companies to stop turning away or charging exorbitant rates to the old and the ill.

When the law went into effect last year, the premiums of John Hadjisky, who is young and healthy, jumped $900 a year overnight and he dropped health insurance because he could not afford it.

The experience of Hadjisky and others like him has become the focus of a huge dispute about what happened under insurance reform in New York as Congress considers similar changes nationwide.

One thing is clear: New York's reform failed to increase the number of individuals with health insurance policies. But whether it caused coverage to shrink, or whether the number would have shrunk anyway, is hotly debated. More important is the question: what did New York do wrong and how can the federal government avoid making the same mistakes?

"The problem in New York was that they tried to do it all at once," said Kala Ladenheim, principal author of a study of state reform efforts conducted by George Washington University.

Pope Heeds Doctors' Advice, Postpones U.S. Trip

Los Angeles Times
VATICAN CITY

The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, and on Thursday Pope John Paul II reluctantly heeded his doctors, scrapping a scheduled October trip to the United States and a speech to the United Nations.

The Vatican called it a postponement and said the pope needed more time to fully recover from surgery last spring to repair a broken right leg.

Still, the cancellation can only serve to fuel rumors already rife at the Vatican that the 74-year-old pontiff is in failing health.

"It is exclusively because of his leg. It is a question of mobility, not health. There is no other reason," spokesman Joaquin Navarro told reporters. "The Holy Father will continue his full activities at the Vatican in a busy month ahead."