News Briefs I
House Votes to Cut Off Funds for Bosnia MissionThe Washington Post
The House voted Tuesday to cut off funds for U.S. peacekeeping troops in Bosnia after June 1998, reflecting hardening congressional resistance to any further extension of America's military presence there.
President Clinton has declared that U.S. participation in the NATO peace operation in Bosnia would end by then. But administration officials have insisted on retaining some flexibility, warning that the president would veto an attempt to write a pullout date into the 1998 defense authorization bill.
Nonetheless, an amendment requiring the withdrawal passed the House, 278 to 148, with all but two Republicans and 57 Democrats voting for it.
Consideration of Bosnia came near the close of several days of often argumentative floor debate on the 1998 defense bill, with the House defying the administration on more than just Balkans peacekeeping.
Proponents in the House, upset by Clinton's decision late last year to depart from previous assurances and extend the deployment by 18 months, said they wanted to ensure the president holds to his latest pullout plan.
"It's the president's date, it's not my date," said Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind., the amendment's sponsor.
Although the year-and-a-half-long operation has gone unexpectedly smoothly, House members expressed concern about the growing cost of the U.S. involvement, estimated to top $7 billion by next year.
Settlement Would Kill Liggett, Tobacco Firm SaysThe Washington Post
The landmark tobacco settlement proposal announced last week "would kill" the Liggett Group Inc., according to a strongly worded letter the head of the company sent Tuesday to more than 20 state attorneys general.
Liggett head Bennett S. LeBow said that he was "outraged" by the settlement announced last Friday because the plans for tobacco companies to pay billions of dollars could force Liggett, the smallest and financially weakest of the major tobacco companies, into bankruptcy.
Liggett, which has $400 million in annual sales, first broke ranks with the tobacco industry in March 1996, when LeBow announced that his company was settling with the five states and private attorneys that at that point had sued the tobacco industry to recover the costs of treating sick smokers.
Mississippi attorney Richard Scruggs, who represents more than 20 states and helped negotiate both Liggett deals and the overall settlement, said that Lebow was getting "far more than he bargained for" in his deal, and noted that the company had been exempted from paying its share of the up-front, multibillion-dollar industry payment.
A Liggett spokesman said that the industry has continued to attack Lebow, and in depositions Tuesday in Florida, company attorneys hammered at LeBow over his admissions about the health risks of smoking.
Egyptian Court Overturns Female Circumcision BanLos Angeles Times
In a major setback for women's and human rights groups, a court Tuesday overturned a government ban on health workers carrying out female circumcisions, an operation traditionally performed on girls in Egypt in the belief it curbs their sexual desires.
The ruling had been sought by eight Islamic scholars and doctors who argued that the Health Ministry decree violated religious beliefs and interfered with physicians' prerogatives to perform medical duties.
Conservative Muslim clerics have been among the most vociferous defenders of female circumcision, arguing that it is rooted in Islamic beliefs. But the practice is not universally practiced among Muslims.
Opponents, who call th e procedure female genital mutilation, say the operation is cruel, harmful and sometimes deadly to the pre-pubescent girls who undergo it.
Cairo Administrative Court Judge Abdul Aziz Hamade overturned a 1996 decree that forbade doctors and other health-care workers from performing the operation, either in public hospitals or in private clinics.
The immediate impact was minimal. For practical purposes, the ban will remain in effect until a final verdict is reached in the higher courts. In addition, most girls undergo the operation at home from unlicensed midwives or barbers.
These practitioners use razor blades to cut off part or all of the labia and clitoris. In extreme cases, they also sew closed the vaginal opening until the child is old enough to be married.