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News Briefs II

Pinochet Linked to Crimes Before He Seized Power

Los Angeles Times

Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet is not immune from prosecution as a former head of state because many of the crimes he allegedly committed took place before he seized power, lawyers for the British and Spanish governments told Britain's highest court Monday.

The lawyers, seeking Pinochet's extradition to Spain on charges of murder, torture and kidnapping, made the argument on the opening day of an unprecedented rehearing of the court's own case.

Later that month, London's High Court ruled that Pinochet was immune because he was head of state when the alleged crimes against humanity were committed. That decision was overturned in November when five judges in the House of Lords Britain's highest court ruled 32 that Pinochet was not entitled to immunity for such heinous crimes.

But in December, another panel of Law Lords took the unprecedented step of setting aside the ruling after lawyers for Pinochet complained that the judge who provided the deciding vote against the retired dictator, Lord Hoffmann, had failed to disclose his close ties with Amnesty International. The human rights organization supported the case against Pinochet.

Virginia Insurance Program Reaches Few Children

The Washington Post

A program created by the legislature last year to provide free health insurance to more than 50,000 children of the working poor has enrolled only about 2,000, leading supporters to accuse Gov. James S. Gilmore III's administration of dragging its feet on an initiative it had opposed.

Critics point to a state report last week indicating Virginia social services workers have so far located only five eligible children in Richmond, a city where nearly half of the 201,000 residents live in poverty.

Nearly a third of the children enrolled in the program across the state live in rural Southwest Virginia, where local organizations signed up families on their own, rather than wait for a slow-starting state search that began only recently.

Del. Anne G. Rhodes was angry after learning of the Richmond numbers and told Social Services Commissioner Clarence H. Carter that she wants regular reports on the progress of the enrollment effort.

"Those numbers are not acceptable," Rhodes said in an interview. "I'm very concerned and expect the state to show more of an interest in working with the city."

NIH to Fund Research on Human Embryonic Stem Cells

The Washington Post

The National Institutes of Health has decided to fund research on human embryonic stem cells recently discovered cells that appear to have great therapeutic potential but have also stirred controversy because they are derived from intentionally destroyed human embryos.

The decision, announced Tuesday by NIH Director Harold Varmus at a Washington meeting of the National Bioethics Advisory Commission, makes the $14 billion federal agency a reluctant participant in the nation's longrunning battle over abortion rights and embryo research just a month before Congress starts considering appropriations for the 2000 fiscal year.

Varmus told the presidentially appointed commission that the general counsel of the department of Health and Human Services had determined that research on the embryo-like cells does not constitute research on human embryos. Under that interpretation, he said, the research is not subject to a four-year-old congressional ban on federal funding of human embryo research.

These stem cells were first isolated last year by privately funded researchers from surplus human embryos that were about to be discarded by a fertility clinic. They have many of the properties of embryos, including the capacity to grow into virtually any kind of human tissue when cultured under the right conditions. But they do not have the potential to grow into an entire person.

Salt Lake City's Virtuous Image Tarnished by Scandal

Washington Post
Salt Lake City

Fifteen months ago, in a statewide radio broadcast, Gov. Mike Leavitt predicted that after the 2002 Winter Olympic Games conclude "the world will never see Utah the same."

Three years before the opening ceremony, Leavitt's prediction has come true, but certainly not in the way he envisioned.

Reeling from a still-unfolding scandal involving charges that Utah won the right to host the Games by showering cash, gifts and other financial favors on International Olympic Committee (IOC) members and their families, this prosperous and booming city nestled against the Wasatch Mountains is undergoing a kind of civic and psychic crisis.

For a city sensitive to the world's view of it as a place of great beauty, weird liquor laws and a mysterious religion, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the 2002 Winter Games were going to paint things in richer colors.

"Utahans are very ashamed of what they are seeing," said Ted Wilson, a former mayor who teaches politics at the University of Utah. "We felt we had earned the Games and now we find out we probably bought them."