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News Briefs I

New German Cabinet Signals a Left Turn

The Washington Post

Three weeks after he led the Social Democrats to victory with a centrist campaign message, Chancellor-elect Gerhard Schroeder unveiled a legislative program and a Cabinet Monday that portend a sharp leftward turn for Germany.

After negotiations that were surprisingly free of discord, the Social Democrats and their coalition partner, the environmentalist Greens party, wrapped up plans for significant reforms in Germany's tax, social and energy policies. They also have vowed to loosen strict nationality laws, which could enable up to 3 million foreigners to obtain German citizenship.

Since last month's election, much public attention has focused on the backstage jostling for key posts in Schroeder's government. As the dust settles, the emerging powers in his Cabinet reflect a dramatic shift in the conservative mind-set that has shaped government policy for the past 16 years, a transformation that augurs important changes in Germany's political character.

Pinochet Vows to Fight Extradition

The Washington Post

Adamant even from his hospital bed, former Chilean president Augusto Pinochet said Monday he will "resolutely" fight any attempt to extradite him to Spain. But the Spanish magistrate who wants to try the former authoritarian ruler for murder and torture added to his list of charges and prepared to argue his case for extradition in a British court.

Pinochet remains under arrest here - not in a jail, but rather as a patient in a posh London clinic - pending legal and administrative hearings on his possible extradition. Jack Straw, Britain's home secretary - roughly equivalent to the attorney general in the United States - said a decision on the case would be strictly a matter of applying international law.

In fact, though, the case has become a hot political issue, sparking demonstrations and angry debate in Chile, Britain and Spain. This is partly because of Pinochet's own history, and partly because his case may set a precedent governing other former heads of state charged with systematic human rights violations.

Britain's decision to arrest the 82-year-old retired general was a considerable coup for Baltazar Garzon, the independent Spanish judge who has been investigating alleged murders of Spanish citizens by Pinochet and other South American rulers in the 1970s.

Panel to Call for Stronger Protections for Research Subjects

Los Angeles Times

A presidential advisory commission that studies bioethical issues is expected Tuesday to call for increased protections for research subjects who have mental disorders and whose decision-making capacity may be impaired.

Acknowledging the critical importance of research into mental disorders, the National Bioethics Advisory Commission nevertheless described current safeguards as inadequate and said that more needs to be done to ensure that those who participate in such studies receive ethical treatment.

"We anticipate that many new, potentially useful therapies for treating (mental) disorders will be developed over the next few years," committee members said in the draft of their report, scheduled to be formally voted upon Tuesday.

In any given year, more than 5 million Americans suffer an acute episode of a major mental illness, according to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.