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News Briefs

China Endorses Private Enterprise


Faced with a foundering economy that demands “urgent solutions,” China Tuesday gave one of its strongest endorsements ever to private enterprise, announcing that all obstacles to the development of the private sector should be scrapped.

On a day when Communist Party Secretary Jiang Zemin called for Marxist ideological education to be strengthened, the government seemed to be going in another direction when the influential State Development Planning Commission announced that private enterprises should be put on an “equal footing with state-owned enterprises” for the first time since China’s revolution in 1949.

The announcement Tuesday, made by Planning Minister Zeng Peiyan, was a remarkable acknowledgment by the government that China’s multi-billion dollar effort to resuscitate its moribund state-run sector has failed. It also indicates that China’s leadership has realized that private industry, the most dynamic piece of China’s economic puzzle, is a key to the future of China’s economy.

“This is a significant ideological shift,” said Fred Hu, the executive director for economic research at Goldman Sachs in Hong Kong. “It’s long overdue. It shows the government is getting desperate to improve the economy.”

Variant of Serotonin Gene Could Be Vital Link to Some Mental Disorders


At a time when investigators are struggling to find genes for mental illness, Canadian scientists have uncovered the first evidence that people with a specific variant of the gene that manufactures serotonin may be more vulnerable to depression and bulimia.

If this gene finding is replicated, it could lead to the first test to predict who might be at risk for these behavioral disorders. It may also trigger a hunt for medicines that would work directly on this gene and the protein it makes.

Dr. Robert Levitan of the Center for Addiction and Mental Health at the University of Toronto has been searching for a biological explanation for depression and decided to look for clues in people with seasonal affective disorder (winter depression) and bulimia. He chose these disorders, because 12 percent of people who binge eat also suffer from seasonal depression. People with this form of depression tend to consume far too many calories during their illness. If there was a genetic link, this would be an easier model in which to sort out genes from environmental effects. Only two percent of the population suffers from seasonal affective disorder.

U.S. Expects Return of Cuban Boy


Anticipating a decision by the Immigration and Naturalization Service to send 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez home to Cuba, U.S. officials have asked the Cuban government to help arrange for the boy’s father to travel to Miami to pick him up.

American authorities hope the appearance of the father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, and his clear desire to take custody of his son, will limit a legal and emotional backlash from Florida’s large Cuban-American community, according to a U.S. official. Elian has become a cause for celebration among militant exiles opposed to Cuba’s Communist government who have demanded that he be allowed to remain with relatives in this country.

The appeal to Cuba came after INS officials met for a second time with Gonzalez -- a meeting that took place in Havana on New Year’s Eve. Cuba responded that it would take “under advisement” a U.S. request that it facilitate an exit visa for the father, according to the U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Under preliminary plans discussed in weekend consultations involving the INS, the State Department and the Justice Department, Gonzalez would be issued an emergency U.S. visa, flown to Miami and brought to the home of Miami relatives where Elian is staying, perhaps accompanied by a Roman Catholic priest, the official said. Although the relatives -- who would be informed in advance -- could seek a temporary restraining order in federal court against the INS decision, legal custody of Elian would immediately revert to his father, who would be free to leave the country with him.

U.S. Court Denies Rehearing Police Case on Violating Suspects’ Rights


A federal appeals court in San Francisco on Monday denied a request by the Los Angeles and Santa Monica police departments to rehear a case in which the court held that their policies of questioning suspects after they invoke their right to remain silent violated suspects’ constitutional rights.

None of the 21 active judges of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over nine Western states , voted to rehear a Nov. 8 decision by a three-judge panel in the case of California Attorneys for Criminal Justice vs. Butts.

The panel held that both departments had questioned suspects in a manner that violated the landmark 1966 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miranda vs. Arizona, which established that a defendant had a right to remain silent and had to be warned that anything he said could be used against him.

Mark Rosenbaum, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, who served as co-counsel for the plaintiffs, praised Monday’s action.

“The failure of the Los Angeles and Santa Monica police departments to secure even a single vote from any 9th Circuit judge in support of their petition for rehearing is a stinging repudiation of their efforts to subvert the Supreme Court’s mandate in Miranda,” Rosenbaum said. “Apparently, respect for the Constitution was not on the LAPD or SMPD’s list of New Year’s resolutions.”

Debra L. Gonzales, deputy city attorney for Los Angeles, said it was likely that the city would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the ruling.