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News Briefs I

Panel's Report Condemns S. Africa's Former Regime, Rebels

Los Angeles Times
PRETORIA, South Africa

In a public damnation of the evils perpetrated under apartheid, South Africa's truth commission Thursday released its final report after the ruling African National Congress lost an 11th-hour court battle to keep it under wraps.

The milestone document lays blame for killings, beatings and torture on the former white-minority regime, which it identifies as the No. 1 villain of the country's racist past. It says the apartheid state's "criminal misconduct" spanned the tenure of both presidents P.W. Botha and F.W. De Klerk, the country's last white rulers, and flourished in a "prevailing culture of impunity."

In equally incriminating language, the commission accuses several liberation groups, including the ANC, of gross human rights violations in their armed struggle to end white rule. While acknowledging the insurgents were "motivated by a just cause," the commission concludes they used unnecessary violence and recommends they apologize to victims in South Africa and abroad.

FDA Approves First Drug Designed to Prevent Breast Cancer

Los Angeles Times

The Food and Drug Administration Thursday approved the use of tamoxifen as the first drug to prevent breast cancer in healthy women who are regarded at very high risk of developing the disease.

But the drug, which has long been a potent treatment for already-diagnosed breast cancer, can bring potentially serious side effects. Women at significant risk for developing breast cancer will have to decide which threat is greater - and whether it is worth the gamble to start taking the drug when they are still healthy, the FDA said.

"This is not a simple, straightforward decision, but calls for a fairly sophisticated choice," said acting FDA Commissioner Michael Friedman. "We know that tamoxifen has real serious side effects, and that not all women who take it get benefits from it. But we do know that some women at high risk have a very meaningful reduction in that risk."

The agency stressed that a woman's decision to take the drug must be made very carefully, in consultation with her physician and taking multiple risk factors into account.

Chief among tamoxifen's side effects is a higher-than-average chance of developing uterine cancer and blood clots of the major veins and lungs.

Tobacco Spent $43 Million To Kill Tobacco Legislation

The Washington Post

The tobacco industry spent more than $43 million on lobbying in the first half of this year - 23 percent more than in all of 1997 - much of it to kill a national tobacco bill championed by public health groups and the White House, according to a report released Thursday by Public Citizen, which favored the bill.

More than $18 million of Big Tobacco's expenditures went to outside lobbying firms, with the largest chunk going to the D.C. law firm where former Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell and former Texas governor Ann Richards worked on the tobacco issue.

The huge lobbying outlays - nearly three times what the industry spent in the first half of last year - "put the voice, the message and the pressure of the tobacco industry way ahead of the citizen," said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, a Washington-based interest group founded by Ralph Nader.