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News Briefs, part 1

South Africans Attempt To Attract Dissidents

The Washington Post

South Africa's multiparty negotiating forum, reconvening for the first time in three months, approved a series of changes in the new interim constitution Monday, but did so without the participation of the parties the changes were intended to appease.

The amendments would give regions more powers, provide for separate ballots for the regional and national elections on April 26-28, and require the next parliament to appoint a council that will consider proposals for the creation of an ethnic state for Afrikaners, white descendants of mostly Dutch settlers.

The changes, expected to be approved by Parliament next week, are designed to draw members of the Freedom Alliance, an anti-election group of white right-wing and black homeland parties, into the democratic process. The alliance boycotted Monday's session, and said the changes did not grant sufficient regional powers or guarantee the creation of an Afrikaner state.

Back-channel negotiations continue among the government, the African National Congress and all members of the alliance -- the Inkatha Freedom Party, the Afrikaner Volksfront and the homeland government of Bophuthatswana. Sources close to the talks were optimistic only about the prospect of bringing Bophuthatswana into the election.

Meantime, police reported the bloodiest weekend of the year in the province of Natal, where the rivalry between the ANC and Inkatha always has been the most intense. At least 42 people have been killed there since Friday -- including six people who were shot as they were proceeding toward an Inkatha rally outside of Pietmaritzburg, police said.

Federal Managers' Jobs to Be Cut

The Washington Post

Administration plans to cut costs and red tape by reducing the number of federal supervisors and managers in $49,000 to $90,000 annual pay range could set back -- and maybe derail -- another program to increase the number of women and minorities in the Grade 13 through 15 jobs.

The administration is set to cut many of those jobs to reduce the ratio of supervisors to employees. Many positions in the Washington area also are in danger because of another White House goal: To reduce headquarters operations. Most headquarters jobs are here, and more than 115,000 people -- almost a third of the total federal workforce in the region -- are GS 13s, 14s or 15s.

Administration officials point with pride to a 200 percent increase in the number of women at the GS 13 through 14 grade levels over the past decade. Many were hired or promoted within the last few years. But while there are more women than ever at the middle and upper management ranks, most are relative newcomers compared to their male colleagues.

Men at those grade levels tend to be older, have more federal service and are more likely to have veterans preference. Seniority and veterans preference are key protections when agencies undergo reductions-in-force (RIFs).

Unless Congress gives the White House the tools to persuade senior civil servants to take regular or early retirement, most federal agencies will be forced to RIF to meet several sets of targets set by the administration. One is an overall cut of 252,000 federal jobs -- about 13 percent of the white collar workforce -- by 1999. About 118,000 of the cuts are supposed to take place by Sept. 30.

China's Detention Of Dissidents Faulted

The Washington Post

Wang Wanxing, 44, a veteran Chinese political dissident, was confined in a police-run psychiatric hospital after staging a one-man demonstration in Tiananmen Square in 1992. His wife said she now fears for his life.

Without a trial or independent medical examination, his wife, Wang Junying, said, the police have detained Wang to treat him for "political paranoia."

Wang Wanxing has smuggled letters out of the Ankang Hospital for the criminally insane complaining that doctors are forcibly administering drugs to him daily and "trying all the time to destroy my body and spirit."

His case is one of more than 1,000 documented in a report on people imprisoned in China for their political or religious views. China denies it holds political prisoners.

The report was issued during the weekend by Asia Watch, a New York-based organization that monitors human-rights violations. It states that 1993 was the worst period for political arrests and trials in China since mid-1990 in the aftermath of the June 4, 1989, crackdown on China's democracy movement.

Asia Watch accused China of using political prisoners as bargaining chips, to be released for political effect. Western governments, it said, interpret the releases as evidence of human rights improvements and ignore thousands of prisoners who have not benefited from international attention.