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World Briefs I

Albright Comments On Mideast Peace

The Washington Post

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright said she was coming to the Middle East to administer a "reality check" to Arabs and Israelis alike, but she also got one herself.

The anger and recriminations she heard on her first swing through the region as secretary of state indicate that the situation "is probably even worse than I thought," she told reporters aboard her plane.

Albright, who concluded her week-long Middle East tour Monday, said she achieved "small steps," such as agreement by Israel and the Palestinians to send cabinet-level officials to Washington next week. But she added: "I am not going to overestimate what's going on here. We've got a long way to go."

If the region's leaders are not prepared to make the "hard choices" required to achieve peace, she said, she has other things to do and will not allow the Middle East to dominate her attention.

This message that a U.S. secretary of state is prepared to let the Middle East stew in its own juice for a while capped a tour that was aimed at shaking up the psychology of the Middle East. She said things U.S. officials rarely say, in language diplomats rarely use, in what aides described as an effort to overcome the pessimism and cynicism that have overtaken once-bright prospects for peace.

President Takes Action Against Medicare Fraud

The Washington Post

President Clinton Monday took an unprecedented step to curb Medicare fraud, placing an immediate moratorium on all new home health care companies seeking to provide services until the government creates better ways to protect itself against "scam and rip-off artists."

The moratorium represents the first time in its history that Medicare, the vast government insurance program for the elderly and disabled, has stopped admitting an entire segment of the nation's health care industry. It erects a sudden dam in what has become by far the fastest-growing part of Medicare, with nearly 100 new companies signing up each month.

As part of a broader effort to crack down on fraud in the program, Clinton also announced that all existing home health companies will have to reapply periodically to remain eligible for Medicare payments.

Through the moratorium on new companies and the new reviews of existing ones, the president is responding to recent evidence that the government is wasting billions of dollars on home care, a part of the health care system that has proliferated as elderly patients have been released from hospitals sooner and sicker than in the past.

About 4 million Medicare patients, about 10 percent of all beneficiaries, receive some type of care at home, ranging from cancer treatments to help in bathing and getting out of bed. Yet federal investigators estimate that $4 of every $10 that Medicare pays for such services are unwarranted, because of accidental overbilling or outright fraud.

Right-Wing Vote Apparently Topples Ruling Party in Norway

The Washington Post
OSLO, Norway

Norwegian voters drove the governing Labor Party from power Monday and gave a right-wing populist party its strongest showing yet, according to partial vote tallies.

Prime Minister Thorbjorn Jagland, in office only since last October, gambled the future of his minority government by promising repeatedly during the election campaign to resign if his party's popular-vote total in Monday's balloting did not match the 36.9 percent it received in national elections four years ago.

With results in from 89 percent of Norway's polling places, Labor had 35 percent of the popular vote.

Early Tuesday, Jagland said he would resign after he submits the state budget on Oct. 13, news services reported.

The voting results suggest that a new centrist government will be formed in the coming weeks, probably in a coalition of the Liberal, Center and Christian People's parties-which even as a bloc would have just 43 of parliament's 165 seats. The Labor Party will have 64.