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News Briefs

Bush Orders Cuts in Power Use at Some Sites

NEWSDAY -- WASHINGTON

Four days after Vice President Dick Cheney dismissed conservation as little more than a “personal virtue” that bore scant relation to sound energy policy, the Bush administration Thursday announced with some fanfare a campaign to conserve electricity at federal facilities in states facing serious power shortages.

Managers of federal installations in blackout-plagued California will be asked to reduce power consumption by as much as 10 percent at peak periods by cutting back on such things as air conditioning and lighting, President Bush said in unveiling the plan at the White House.

And government facilities throughout the nation, including the White House, will be asked to prepare contingency plans for similar cutbacks in the event their regions face power shortages. New York is still a possible candidate for such a shortage, although it appears the state may get through the peak summer period unscathed, one Energy Department official said.

Russia, China Gear Up For ‘Strategic Partnership’ Pact

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- MOSCOW

At a time when Sino-U.S. relations are going through a rocky phase, Russia and China are preparing to boost their “strategic partnership” by signing a treaty of friendship and cooperation.

After a four-day visit in which he met with Russian President Vladimir V. Putin and other high-ranking officials, Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan flew home Tuesday carrying the draft accord in his briefcase. Barring unforeseen events, Putin and Chinese President Jiang Zemin are to sign the treaty at a Moscow summit in July.

The treaty will be the first full-fledged pact between Beijing and Moscow since a 1950 accord between the People’s Republic and the Soviet Union was allowed to lapse in 1979 at China’s request.

Both countries are being careful to stress that their aim is not to re-create the military alliance embraced by Mao Tse-tung and Josef Stalin at the height of the Cold War. They also insist that the treaty is not directed against any country. Yet officials on both sides acknowledge that they see the relationship as a counterweight to the United States.

Medicare Patients Can Sue HMOs, State Court Rules

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- SAN FRANCISCO

Medicare patients in California may sue health maintenance organizations for denying necessary but expensive medical treatment, the California Supreme Court decided Thursday.

The 5-2 ruling clears the way for elderly and disabled patients and their survivors to seek hefty compensation, including punitive damages, from HMOs that improperly deny care.

Many such suits in California previously had been dismissed on the grounds that federal law requires these complaints to be filed in an administrative proceeding established by the Medicare law.

“The decision could not be better for Medicare beneficiaries,” said Carol S. Jimenez, a Los Alamitos lawyer who represents the family of a now-deceased Orange County man in the case. “It means that their HMOs can’t deny care and escape the consequences.”

Lawyers for PacifiCare of California, a defendant in the case, are considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The concern is: Do we want to have a situation where the Medicare process is bypassed and is replaced with what we believe is unnecessary litigation?” said attorney Jon Z. Manzanares, who also denied that the man, George McCall, received improper case.