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World Briefs I

General Warns Against Hasty Judgment in Cable Car Crash

The Washington Post

Gen. Charles Krulak, the Marine Corps commandant, cautioned Thursday against a rush to judgment about what caused a Marine jet to slice a wire carrying an Italian cable car, but pledged that if the pilots were to blame, they would be held accountable.

Krulak said that it was a still a mystery to him how the EA-6B Prowler aircraft had collided with the cable car line. He speculated that some mechanical malfunction might explain why the aircraft was flying too low, perhaps a problem with the cockpit altimeter which provides altitude readings to the pilot.

But he also said the pilot may have flown the plane poorly, drifting off the intended course or letting the aircraft fall under the required minimum altitude.

"If it's pilot error, the Marine Corps will hold not only the issue of responsibility but also the issue of accountability," the four-star officer said in an interview Thursday.

The general said he would insist on as rapid and open an investigation as possible.

Clinton Accepts Tobacco Suit Limits

The Washington Post

The Clinton administration Thursday told Congress that it could accept some limits on lawsuits against the tobacco industry, if that were necessary to secure approval of a comprehensive national tobacco settlement.

The issue of legal protection from lawsuits for cigarette makers has become a pivotal and increasingly contentious point in the political battle over the proposed tobacco deal. Lawmakers and factions on all sides of the deal are analyzing each nuance of every phrase, as key officials stake out positions on legal protection and other provisions in the proposed $368.5 billion agreement.

Thursday, when a Justice Department official testified in Congress that the administration could accept "reasonable" limits on civil lawsuits in a bill with strong public health components, a flurry of concern ensued, particularly among Senate Democrats. Some were angered that the White House would send this public signal when the political tide appears to be turning against the legal protections the industry wants as part of a deal.

"I want to remind the White House and Republicans: Momentum is moving rapidly against special protections for the industry, and now is not the time to send a signal that puts us in reverse," said Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J., a vocal tobacco opponent.

Senate Stalls on Human Cloning Ban


Senate Democrats blocked action Thursday on a bill to permanently ban cloning of human beings, but the measure could see floor action next week.

Democrats, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., argued that the Republican-sponsored bill is imprecise and could hamper legitimate biomedical research. They also complained the bill was being hustled to the floor without adequate committee review.

But Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., promptly filed a motion, to be voted upon Tuesday, that would end the Democratic hold and allow the Senate to proceed to full debate on the bill.

There is bipartisan agreement that attempts to make genetically identical clones of human beings should be prohibited. The scientific community also has backed such a ban in the wake of last year's cloning of a sheep, named Dolly, by researchers in Scotland.

Senate Republicans say quick action on anti-cloning legislation is necessary because Richard Seed, a Chicago physicist, recently announced his intention to market cloning techniques to infertile couples. Researchers are skeptical about Seed's ability to follow through on his plans.