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News Briefs, part 1

INS Proposes $130 Fee For Asylum-Seekers

Los Angeles Times

Inundated with applications from political asylum seekers, the Immigration and Naturalization Service intends to impose an unprecedented $130 fee on applicants and to delay their eligibility for work permits.

An INS official said Wednesday that the money from the fee would allow the agency to double the 150 agents assigned to processing the claims, which are flowing into INS offices at the rate of 10,000 a month.

The agency also hopes that the fee, coupled with a 150-day delay in the issuance of work permits, would discourage some applications.

The proposed regulation changes, approved by Attorney General Janet Reno, also require the approval of the Office of Management and Budget -- expected in about two weeks -- and are subject to a 60-day public comment period before they can be put into effect.

The INS official, who asked not to be identified, said the proposal has sparked considerable debate within the Clinton administration because it represents a stark departure from past practices and from the procedures in other nations.

First Lady Pledges Increased Support for Biomedical Research

Los Angeles Times

First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged Thursday to increase White House support for basic biomedical research, saying the work of medical scientists goes hand-in-hand with health care reform.

The benefits of medical research could be spread to a greater number of Americans through reforms in the health care system, Clinton said in a speech to researchers at the National Institutes of Health.

In a slap at the past two Republican administrations, the first lady complained that biomedical research has been "neglected and underfunded and even unappreciated" for much of the past decade. Those conditions will be rectified by passage of President Clinton's 1995 budget and the administration's health care reform plan, she predicted.

Mrs. Clinton listed several promising areas of biomedical research that could benefit from the added funds, including AIDS, breast cancer, and the Human Genome Project, an ambitious NIH program that is attempting to map all the genes in the body.

Violence Crimes against Lower Castes Rise in India

The Washington Post

A surge of caste violence throughout India in recent weeks has led to attacks against lower caste women, dozens of slayings and lynchings, bloody street riots and massive demonstrations that have shut down urban universities and large towns.

While class strife has long been a part of the rigid Hindu social structure -- with hereditary classes traditionally excluded from social dealings with those above and below them -- sociologists and others say the recent spate of violence has been fueled by a major shift within the strict caste sytem. Lower castes, for the first time, are emerging as political and economic forces with enough clout to strike out against age-old injustices.

"The Scheduled Castes (formerly known as untouchables) have become more assertive," said Yogendra Singh, a professor at the Center for the Study of Social Systems at Jawaharlal Nehru University here. "Now they've moved up and redefined themselves. They've found identities of their own."

With that new power, however, have come clashes with higher castes who feel threatened by the newfound strength of what they consider inferior castes in a nation where resources are so limited that all castes compete fiercely for economic survival. Some of the most bitter disputes have occurred between members of castes that have only recently become economically successful and who resent lower castes gaining on them.