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World Briefs I

U.S. Launches Anti-Disease Effort

Los Angeles Times

The U.S. Agency for International Development announced Thursday a new initiative aimed at controlling the global emergence of lethal infectious diseases, saying it will develop programs in targeted countries to fight the escalating health threats posed by bacterial resistance, tuberculosis and malaria.

Congress, recognizing the significance of infectious diseases overseas, awarded the agency an additional $50 million for fiscal 1998 specifically for control of infectious diseases. In response, the agency is pursuing a 10-year effort that it hopes will reduce by at least 10 percent the deaths caused by infectious diseases, excluding those caused by AIDS, by 2007. The $50 million is in addition to the agency's public health budget of $850 million, which is spent on maternal and child health, family planning, and the control of AIDS and the human immunodeficiency virus that causes it.

USAID has estimated that more than 17 million people worldwide will die from infectious diseases in 1998. This health problem has gotten worse in recent years because of numerous factors, including rapid population growth, poor sanitation, poverty, loss of trained health personnel and decreasing resources available to public health services in the poorest countries, according to USAID.

The new strategy will focus on developing programs that will discourage the indiscriminate use of antibiotics, which increases their resistance, developing a global tuberculosis control plan, and developing programs in Africa - where the most troublesome malaria problems exist - to prevent and control spread of the disease.

Senate Fundraising Probe Ends

The Washington Post

The Senate committee investigating campaign finance finally agreed to disagree without partisan bombast, and Thursday quietly released findings detailing widespread abuses during the 1996 presidential contest.

Eight Governmental Affairs Committee Republicans approved the 1,100-page final report in a 15-minute meeting. Seven dissenting Democrats issued their minority report, to be attached to the larger document when it is presented to the full Senate Tuesday.

"It is clear we are going to have two reports," Committee Chairman Fred D. Thompson (R-Tenn.) said. "We could revisit all those old heartaches and throw some more stones if we choose to." But they didn't, and the short meeting put a subdued ending to an enterprise that began almost exactly one year ago as an investigation of serious fund-raising abuses by President Clinton's 1996 re-election campaign and lurched through 32 often vituperative and partisan public hearings at a cost of $3.5 million.

The issuance of the report, held up for more than a month while the Republicans negotiated its contents with the intelligence community and with each other, allowed neither Republicans nor Democrats to claim credit for substantial accomplishments.

Sen. Leaders Back Transit Increase

Los Angeles Times

Senate leaders agreed Thursday to boost federal funding of mass transit programs by an additional $5 billion over six years to help cities buy new buses and finance construction projects.

The extra transit funds were negotiated behind closed doors as the full Senate continued to debate a $173 billion, six-year highway spending bill. The measure could pass the Senate as soon as next week, with House action expected to follow shortly.

The transit breakthrough was announced at a Capitol news conference by a bipartisan group of senators from states with large metropolitan areas. It was blessed by both the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate, and will be incorporated into the highway funding bill."The additional transit funding is good news for the nation's infrastructure, good news for our environment and vital to our cities," said Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan (D-N.Y.) one of the architects.

The agreement would essentially double the amount of new money earmarked for mass transit, bringing the total to $41.3 billion over six years. That represents an increase of nearly $10 billion over the existing $31.5 billion funding level, according to Sen. AlD'Amato (R-N.Y.) chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, which has jurisdiction over mass transit funding.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.) vowed to make cuts elsewhere in the budget to pay for the additional mass transit funding. "That's not going to be difficult," he said.