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World Briefs I

AIDS Discrimination Case Begins

Washington Post

The Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday in a case that will decide whether a law protecting the disabled from discrimination covers people infected with the AIDS virus but not yet showing symptoms.

The dispute is the first involving AIDS discrimination to be heard by the court, as well as its first review of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Gauging by their reaction yesterday, the justices are struggling with the confluence of the two.

The case arose when Randon Bragdon, a dentist in Bangor, Maine, refused to fill the cavity of HIV-infected patient Sidney Abbott unless she would have the procedure done in a hospital rather than his office. Abbott sued Bragdon for discrimination under the 1990 law, which prohibits doctors and others who serve the public from discriminating against people with disabilities.

Bennett H. Klein, Abbott's lawyer, faced skepticism from some justices when he argued that Abbott, 37, is disabled because she is hindered in her ability to engage in sexual relations and have children. Abbott had successfully argued in lower courts that as a fatal disease, Some justices questioned whether reproduction is the kind of activity that Congress had in mind when it drafted the law, and included examples such as walking, seeing, hearing, breathing and speaking. Justice David H. Souter said that unlike breathing, for example, a person does not have to reproduce to survive. He also asked whether Klein was confusing "the moral limitation" Abbott placed on herself, so that she would not infect others, with a true physical limit on life's important functions.

Chinese Institutions May Be Exempted From Hong Kong Laws

LOs Angeles Times
Hong Kong

After a Chinese institution's public failure to comply with Hong Kong's privacy law, the post-colonial government is trying to quickly enact a bill that could put Chinese state institutions in the territory above the law.

The Adaptation of Laws Bill would restore a British colonial practice of exempting the government from local laws and would expand the definition of the government to include mainland representatives in Hong Kong as well as local officials.

Passing the bill would be one of the final acts of Hong Kong's appointed legislature before it is dissolved April 8 and replaced with an elected legislature.

Critics say that the bill goes expressly against the Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini-constitution, which states that Chinese branches in Hong Kong must obey local laws.

"When I was a member of the Basic Law drafting committee, we were assured by mainland drafters that all branch offices were subject to the Basic Law and ordinary laws of Hong Kong," Martin Lee, a lawyer and the leader of the Democratic Party said today. "But this new bill is a major threat to the rule of law."

Armenian Poll Results Awaited

Washington Post
Armenia

Armenians voted Monday in the decisive runoff round of the country's presidential election. While the outcome remained unclear, it was quickly apparent that there were problems in holding a clean vote.

Voters were choosing between two men who emerged from a 12-candidate field in the election's first round: Prime Minister Robert Kocharian, who has served as caretaker president since last March, and Karen Demirchyan, a former Communist Party first secretary who governed Armenia when it was a Soviet republic. The result of the runoff is not expected until Tuesday.

Workers at Demirchyan campaign headquarters, who predicted a close finish, said they were receiving complaints from around the country of poll watchers being ejected from precincts and of efforts to stuff ballot boxes.

Kocharian campaign officials, who claim their candidate will win by at least seven percentage points, said that Demirchyan was trying to disqualify the outcome in advance.