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News Briefs, part 1

Court Lets Ruling Stand On Admitting Comatose Patients

Los Angeles Times

The Supreme Court, acting Monday in a case that has alarmed emergency medical professionals, let stand a lower court ruling that requires hospitals to admit and resuscitate comatose patients, even when doctors say there is no hope for recovery.

The ruling grew out of the case of a baby born in 1992 in Fairfax County, Va., with most of her brain missing. Although she was deemed by doctors to have no chance of long-term survival, she was placed on a ventilator and has been repeatedly revived at her mother's insistence.

Doctors disputed the wisdom of such aggressive treatment, but a divided U.S. appeals court ruled in February that federal law requires medical professionals "to provide stabilizing treatment" to a hopelessly ill patient, even when they "consider it morally and ethically inappropriate."

Lawyers for several national medical groups, who pressed the case before the Supreme Court, said the ruling expanded greatly the prevailing interpretation of an 1986 federal law that barred hospitals from refusing to treat poor patients. Unless overturned, it could require hospitals to treat dying patients of all ages aggressively, no matter what their chance of survival, they said.

Clinton Meets with Chinese Leader

Los Angeles Times

President Clinton welcomed Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen to the White House Monday, and other U.S. officials met with their Chinese counterparts in what appeared to be a broad effort by the two governments to clear the way for a possible Clinton visit to Beijing next year.

A China sojourn by the president - complete with pictures of Clinton shaking hands with leaders like hard-line Premier Li Peng - would be the capstone and grand finale in China's largely successful five-year effort to regain international legitimacy after the 1989 Tian An Men Square crackdown.

Over the past few weeks, the Chinese press and Chinese officials have been floating the idea that Clinton may visit China. On Monday, soon after Qian met with Secretary of State Warren Christopher, he raised the issue again, the secretary said. U.S. officials have denied that the president will make any visit this year, but have not ruled out the possibility of a trip next year.

Shortly after Clinton's one-hour meeting with Qian in the Oval Office, the White House issued a statement saying that China and the United States had made significant progress "in some areas" over the past year. However, the statement acknowledged that "the president expressed disappointment" about the lack of progress from China on human rights.

Earlier, Qian, who is also a vice premier, told reporters that relations between the United States and China are at a "critical" juncture.

Broadcasters Must Give Candidates Same Ad Slots as Companies

The Washington Post

The Federal Communications Commission ruled Monday that broadcasters need not run advertisements by political candidates that are five or ten minutes long. Instead, broadcasters must only give candidates the same advertising slots they sell to commercial companies, typically 30 or 60 seconds, or 30 minutes.

Candidates began requesting longer time slots for their commercials during the 1992 campaign, in response to public criticism about political "sound bites." Broadcasters were unwilling to use ads that ran 5 to 10 minutes long, however, because the odd length of time disrupted their normal program schedules.

According to an FCC official, the decision is "consistent with the way the commission has intrepreted reasonable access." He said the FCC tries to balance "the need for political access with the political practices of the broadcasters."

Public interest groups called the ruling a mistake. "This equates political candidates speech with the needs of automobile dealers," said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, executive director of the Media Access PROJECT, a public advocacy group.