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News Briefs

Feds Find Net Loss in Cyberplan to Aid Rural Medical Care

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

After mounting major efforts to foster electronic commerce and connect schools and libraries to the Internet, the federal government is falling short on another ambitious cyberspace goal: using the Net to improve rural medical care.

A 2-year-old, $400 million federal program aimed at helping the United States’ 22,000 rural medical facilities get high-speed Internet access did not award any money last year because of bureaucratic delays. And as of July 6, just $289,424 had been distributed to 68 of 452 applicants -- less than one-fifth of the annual $1.4 million cost of administering the program.

Internet-based health care, or telemedicine once was touted as one of the Internet’s most compelling applications. Proponents envisioned medical facilities in remote areas transmitting live video of patients over high-speed Internet lines to big-city hospitals, where medical specialists could treat patients. A telemedicine program at LSU now serves about 2,000 patients annually throughout the state. Rural Louisiana facilities with high-speed Internet access can transmit X-ray film to LSU for evaluation by its radiology experts or conduct a real-time video examination of injured patients online. But the progress has mostly come through state and private support.

Mexico Opposes Plan to Sanction Businesses With Drug Ties

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

The Mexican government is opposing a push by the U.S. Congress to levy major penalties against businesses with ties to drug traffickers, saying the sanctions could smear innocent companies and damage U.S.-Mexican relations.

The legislation, approved by the Senate in July, would require the Clinton administration to publish an annual list of major international drug traffickers and their business associates. It would bar those listed from doing business in the U.S., cut off access to American banks and freeze their U.S. assets. It also would subject U.S. companies that work with the listed companies to civil and criminal penalties.

Some of Mexico’s biggest companies are leading a fierce lobbying effort to defeat the proposal. And the Mexican government fears that it is just the sort of unilateral action that, like the annual U.S. certification of other nations’ cooperation in the drug war, could roil tensions between the two countries. Although the sanctions would be global in scope, only the Mexican government has opposed them aggressively.

The legislation, offered as an amendment to an intelligence funding bill, would expand to other countries sanctions first imposed on Colombian businesses and narcotics traffickers in 1995.