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News Briefs

Mayor Declares ‘State Of Emergency’ Against AIDS

THE BALTIMORE SUN -- BALTIMORE

Mayor Martin O’Malley declared a “state of emergency” Monday in Baltimore’s battle against AIDS, calling for a coordinated assault by public and private interests on an illness that disproportionately afflicts the black community.

His declaration -- which promised little new money or initiatives -- came after intense lobbying by an organization of black ministers and an AIDS commission spearheaded by Baltimore City Council President Sheila Dixon, who lost her brother and sister-in-law to the disease.

Since June, both groups had called on the mayor to dedicate more resources toward prevention, treatment and education -- saying the city’s efforts had been woefully inadequate. Monday, Dixon said she had been frustrated by the delay but was grateful he finally acted.

Joined by City Health Commissioner Peter Beilenson, O’Malley made the announcement at a hastily called news conference that was apparently meant to capture the momentum of World AIDS Day, which was observed just a day earlier.

“I’m declaring a public health emergency with respect to HIV and AIDS,” O’Malley said. “I’m urging all citizens to step up efforts so this scourge can be conquered in the city, this country and this globe.”

New York Expected to Lower Blood-Alcohol Limit

NEWSDAY -- ALBANY, N.Y.

New York lawmakers agreed Monday to drop the state’s blood alcohol limit for drunken drivers from 0.10 percent to 0.08 percent after the state Senate’s leaders abandoned a major demand that had led to a lengthy impasse.

The Senate plans to pass the bill when it returns for a special session Dec. 17. The action will allow the state to begin collecting millions in federal funds withheld from states that have not lowered their driving while intoxicated limits.

Senators said an average-sized man would reach the new .08 limit by drinking four beers within an hour.

Thirty-one states have adopted the stricter limit. Legislation stalled here because the Republican-led Senate insisted the bill also increase penalties for repeat drunken drivers, which the Democrat-controlled Assembly opposed.

Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno said the Senate will still press for harsher penalties for repeat DWIs when the Legislature reconvenes in January. Those penalties must be passed by October for the state to receive $20 million in additional federal incentive money.

A spokesman for Gov. George Pataki said the governor will sign the bill.