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News Briefs I

Clinton Announces New Plan To Take Action on Sweatshops

The Washington Post

President Clinton Monday announced agreement on a U.S. "Apparel Industry Partnership" aimed at ending sweatshop conditions around the world and reassuring American consumers that the clothes and shoes they buy are not made by exploited workers.

Many industry, labor, consumer, and human rights groups hailed it as a "breakthrough" toward eliminating child labor and abusive conditions in factories that produce garments for the U.S. market, the world's largest. But some human rights groups said it falls far short of what is needed and camouflages the "hypocrisy" of major manufacturers in seeking out low-wage countries with docile workers in the first place.

The agreement "will improve the lives of millions of garment workers around the world" and help end "deplorable and unacceptable" working conditions, "mostly overseas but, unbelievably, sometimes here at home as well," Clinton said in a White House ceremony. Stressing that the accord "is just the beginning," he added, "We know sweatshop labor will not vanish overnight." He called for "more companies to join this crusade and follow its strict rules of conduct."

The voluntary agreement bars the use of prison and other forced labor and prohibits the employment of children under 15 in most nations or 14 where the country's law allows.

Second War Crimes Trial Begins For Former Nazi Captain Priebke

The Washington Post

Erich Priebke, an 83-year-old ex-captain in the Nazi SS paramilitary police, returned to court Monday for his second war crimes trial in Italy.

Priebke's retrial will not be simply a replay of his original trial, whose verdict was thrown out on appeal last year. This time, there are new judges and defense lawyers, a bigger courtroom and, most important, another defendant.

Priebke will be tried with 84-year-old Karl Hass, who also was an SS officer stationed in Rome during the German occupation of the Italian capital. They are both charged with taking part in the massacre of 335 men and boys in the Ardeatine Caves near Rome on March 24, 1944.

The SS carried out the massacre in retaliation for a bomb attack by the Italian resistance the day before, which killed 33 occupying soldiers.

Hass was charged in the case after he testified as a hostile witness for the prosecution at Priebke's first trial and admitted that he, like Priebke, had shot two victims at the caves. Both men, while contending that the massacre was a legitimate wartime reprisal, say they had to follow orders and shoot or be killed themselves.

Hass, who had been living in Switzerland, has been recuperating in a clinic near Rome since he came to Italy for Priebke's trial last July. He tried to avoid testifying by slipping out of his hotel room and fell off a first-floor balcony, fracturing his hip.

Defibrillator Implant Found To Stop Deaths Better than Drugs


A small defibrillator implanted near the heart to stop dangerously abnormal heart rhythms reduced deaths by 38 percent after one year compared to conventional drug treatments, a study has found.

The results, announced Monday, prompted researchers to halt the study a year early, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which sponsored the study.

"This is going to revolutionize the way we treat these patients," said Dr. Douglas Zipes, who headed the steering committee for the study begun in 1993.

Zipes said the study was to include 1,200 men and women with an average age of 65 who had a history of ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia. Both forms of arrhythmia are life-threatening conditions that can lead to sudden cardiac arrest, which kills about 350,000 Americans each year.

After the data was examined for 1,001 patients, the decision was made to stop the study a year early. "The data is very definitive and extremely clear," Zipes said.