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News Briefs I

Clinton Wins Victory on Scrambling Technology Abroad

The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

The Clinton administration scored a sizeable victory Thursday in its battle to limit the use of data-scrambling technology abroad when the United States and 32 other nations agreed to a framework that would restrict exports of such technology from their countries.

The agreement calls for governments to let companies include more complex scrambling, or "encryption," technology in the packaged software products they export than do current U.S. regulations. As a result, U.S. industry spokesmen and privacy advocates Thursday said that the administration's claims of benefit to the U.S. industry would not ring true until the U.S. policies are loosened.

Industry has argued that such restrictions only hurt U.S. companies and don't slow terrorists, who could get the scrambling technology from other countries. Slowing use of encryption will hold up development of Internet commerce, they say, because customers want to know that such personal data such as credit card numbers can flow over the network securely.

Guidelines Set on Return of Art Stolen by Nazis

The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

Thousands of works of art looted by the Nazis could be restored to their rightful owners or their heirs under "guidelines" approved by 44 countries at a State Department conference.

Conference organizers and participants described the agreement as a breakthrough that will change the worldwide art market and make legitimacy of ownership a criterion equal to authenticity of the work in decisions on sale and display.

The "Principles With Respect to Nazi-Confiscated Art" call for, among other things, the opening of all records and archives; the allocation of human and financial resources to the identification effort; encouragement of potential claimants to come forward; and negotiation of "a just and fair solution," such as compensation, when claims are validated.

Clinton Unveils New Water Protection Standards

The Washington Post
NEWPORT, R.I.

President Clinton announced new environmental rules Thursday intended to help clean up the nation's tap water, targeting invisible microbes that sometimes infect the drinking supply and once laid low within the water supply of a major Midwestern city.

The half-day visit was the president's first domestic trip since impeachment hearings opened last month and provided a welcome respite from the polarized atmosphere back in Washington.

The new water standards Clinton announced were mandated by the revision of the Safe Drinking Water Act two years ago and were designed to reduce the presence of contaminants such as cryptosporidium and giardia lamblia, as well as disinfection byproducts. The rules will increase the typical household water bill by less than $2 per month.

Cryptosporidium, a microscopic parasite found in animal waste, was responsible for a wave of illnesses in Milwaukee in 1993 that left more than 100 people dead, 4,000 people hospitalized and 400,000 people sick. The new standards target the microbe for the first time, requiring improved filtration that the government predicts will prevent 460,000 illnesses a year.