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News Briefs I

Yeltsin Acknowledges Dissatisfaction with Presidency

Los Angeles Times

Boris N. Yeltsin, in a rare concession Monday, acknowledged that a majority of Russians are openly dissatisfied with him as president and said that gives him cause to worry.

Emerging from months of seclusion due to his prolonged illness, Yeltsin criticized his own administration for its inability to pay wages and pensions for months at a time, leaving millions of people destitute and bringing some government operations to a standstill.

"Many Russians are unhappy with the government, and consequently they're unhappy with the president," Yeltsin said. "People are openly speaking of that, and the dissatisfied already constitute the majority. I am worried."

The nonpayment of wages has reached a crisis throughout the country, and daily protests take many forms: demonstrations, labor strikes, hunger strikes and even suicide.

In many regions outside Moscow, power and fuel are in short supply, soldiers don't have enough to eat, teachers faint from hunger in the classroom and scientists warn of nuclear disaster if needed funds are not delivered.

Some factory workers get their wages in the form of unwanted products, like the laborers at the Akhtuba factory in Volgograd who once made high-precision navigational instruments for the military. Unpaid for 13 months, they now are paid in unsold rubber sex toys instead of rubles.

Congress Finds Fault With Pentagon Budget Estimates

The Baltimore Sun

The military's health care budget in coming years is likely to cost billions of dollars more than expected, according to congressional investigators, because the Pentagon has used "unrealistic" and "questionable" methods of calculation.

The $15 billion Defense Health Program is expected to rise 18 percent, by 2003, according to the Defense Department's calculations.

But the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said in a new report that the budget could rise by anywhere between 18 percent and 56 percent in that period. The medical program, which accounts for 6 percent of the Pentagon's budget, is used by 6.3 million personnel, retirees and dependents. There are 8.2 million people eligible.

"Our analysis showed that one key assumption DOD used to estimate future program costs appeared to be unrealistic, and another was questionable," wrote Richard Davis, director of national security analysis for the GAO.

DNC Returns Questionable Cash

The Washington Post

The Democratic National Committee is prepared this week to return dozens of additional political contributions that were questioned in a still-confidential internal audit of party fund-raising. At least one of the donations now under review came from a foreign developer who holds an advisory post with China's communist government, documents show.

The $15,000 contribution in 1994 from Ng Lap Seng, a Macao property developer, is among the growing number of DNC donations that have been called into question because of uncertainty about their origins and possible links to foreign interests. But Ng's DNC contribution - made in the name of his company's Little Rock, Ark., subsidiary - is the first to be linked to anyone with an official tie to the Chinese government.

Ng serves on the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, according to a directory of government officials and press reports. The CPPCC is a national advisory board to the government and the ruling Communist Party.

Ng's firm, San Kin Yip Inc. of Little Rock, donated $15,000 to the DNC in October 1994, 10 days after the firm was incorporated. In interviews last month, Ng acknowledged that the $15,000 did not come from U.S.-generated funds as required by law, and that other contributions by his business partner, Charles Yah Lin Trie, a Little Rock restaurateur and close friend of President Clinton's, also might have come originally from Ng's business interests in China, Hong Kong and the neighboring Portuguese enclave of Macao.