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News Briefs I

Vietnam Refugee Plan Raises Fears

Los Angeles Times

For the 36,000 Vietnamese boat people languishing in detention camps around Southeast Asia, a new U.S. plan to resettle qualifying refugees could be their last chance for life in America - or, by some accounts, a trap.

On Monday, the U.S. government announced a program aimed at helping to end the long, often bitter odyssey of the thousands of economic and political migrants who fled Indochina and washed up in countries around the region in the years after the Vietnam War.

Washington said it will find homes for Vietnamese refugees who can demonstrate genuine ties to the United States. There is one condition, though: They must return to Vietnam to apply. The plan is designed to lure home thousands of holdouts in camps across Southeast Asia, many of whom fear they will be harassed or imprisoned if they return to Vietnam. The still-crowded camps are scheduled to close at the end of June, except for the largest settlement, in Hong Kong.

The plan offers resettlement to those who can show close ties to the United States or the former South Vietnamese government before 1975, and to members of certain ethnic or religious groups. And it offers a glimmer of hope to those who say they fled Vietnam to escape persecution.

Navy Probes Sexual Misconduct

Los Angeles Times

Navy criminal investigators are looking into allegations that three women were sexually assaulted or harassed by fellow members of a squadron that tests weapons at the Navy base, officials said Monday.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service has interviewed more than two dozen people during the three-week probe into allegations of inappropriate grabbing, fondling and comments at Point Mugu's detachment of the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 9.

"The Navy takes this very seriously," said Point Mugu spokesman Alan Alpers. A team of investigators continues to look into the allegations focused on four enlisted men who work at the squadron, known as VX-9. No commissioned officers are targeted by the investigation.

Yet a 25-year-old who reported being improperly grabbed said she and others are dissatisfied with the progress of the investigation.

"We are being made out to be the problem," said the woman, who requested anonymity. "This is not the Navy I thought I was joining. I've been discriminated against and sexually harassed. It's like Tailhook has never ended."

Smoking Toxins Appear in Babies


New tests of mothers who smoke show that the chemical poisons from tobacco smoke are being found in the blood of their newborns, scientists reported Sunday.

Although the poisons are not as concentrated in the infants as they are in the mothers' blood, researchers from the University of Louisville School of Medicine, in Kentucky, said the amount of carcinogenic material in newborn blood is directly proportional to the number of cigarettes the pregnant woman smoked per day.

Other researchers reported that women who smoke also show evidence of tobacco carcinogens in their cervical mucus. This discovery strengthens a long-held suspicion that smoking is linked to cervical cancer.

According to toxicologist Steven Myers, from Kentucky, the recent study of infants' health is the first to yield direct evidence of fetal exposure to the carcinogens from smoking. It is also the largest study attempting to assess the damage being done to material hemoglobin. A total of 410 women participated in the study.

"For many years the placenta was thought to be a barrier" that prevents toxic substances from the mother getting into the baby, Myers said. "But we show they actually do get across that barrier."

He also said there is strong evidence that a pregnant woman who is exposed to secondhand smoke for at least six hours a day similarly passes some carcinogens to the blood of the fetus.