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World Briefs II

House Votes to Ban Funds For Physician-Assisted Suicide

Los Angeles Times

The House Thursday overwhelmingly approved legislation forbidding the use of federal dollars to pay for physician-assisted suicide, a largely symbolic action since no government money currently is used for that purpose.

But backers of the bill, saying they feared court decisions may make doctor-assisted suicide legal, said the legislation is needed to deflect any future attempts to use funds from Medicaid, Medicare or any other federal assistance programs to pay for the practice.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule this year on the constitutionality of laws in 42 states that ban assisted suicide. The bill's supporters said it is critical for Congress to act before the high court releases its decision. But the legislation stipulates that, regardless of the judicial outcome, no federal funds will be used for the practice.

The White House issued a statement saying President Clinton "has made it clear that he does not support assisted suicides" and would not oppose the bill because it reaffirms current federal policy.

For the measure to become law, the Senate also would have to approve it but no comparable legislation has been introduced there.

The 39816 House vote was a reflection of the lawmakers' almost universal disapproval of the procedure.

U.S., Japan Signal Concern Over Dollar's Rise

The Washington Post

Top U.S. and Japanese economic officials signaled their concern Thursday over the recent rise in the dollar against the yen, causing the dollar to recede on currency markets.

But the U.S. currency didn't fall much, and analysts said it remains unclear whether the financial authorities' new posture will be enough to keep the dollar from soaring anew against the yen - a development that would erode the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers against Japanese rivals.

With the dollar trading overnight in Asian markets above 127 yen for the first time in 56 months, Japanese Finance Minister Hiroshi Mitsuzuka said the yen's weakness was "obviously excessive," and his top aides hinted that to reverse the trend they might order official sales of dollars.

Then in Washington on Thursday morning, Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin issued a statement asserting that the Clinton administration's policy favoring a strong dollar "is unchanged," but "we share the concern expressed by the Japanese authorities last night about recent movements in the yen."

The comments were the clearest expressions of unease that Rubin and his Japanese counterparts have made about the dollar's recent surge against the yen, which evokes worry in both capitals.