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News Briefs

Pentagon Toughens Policy On Sexual Assault

Acknowledging serious flaws in how it has dealt with sexual assaults within the military, the Pentagon announced steps on Tuesday to prevent the crimes, investigate them more thoroughly when they occur and treat victims with more consideration.

Defense Department officials said that from now on there would be one set of definitions of what constitutes sexual assault for all services, and at every base within each service. There will also be uniform procedures for dealing with accusers and the accused, the officials said.

“The department understands that our traditional system does not afford sexual-assault victims the care and support they need across the board, and we are moving aggressively to put new systems in place to address this shortcoming,” David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said at a Pentagon briefing.

Until now, every military branch has had its own programs to deal with sexual assault, said Brig. Gen. K.C. McClain of the Air Force, who was named last September to a newly created post, policy chief for sexual assault prevention and response.

A key component of the new policy is the appointment of a sexual assault response coordinator at every U.S. military installation in the world. The coordinator will follow a case from accusation through resolution, with particular attention to helping the victim, Chu said. "It has an acronym, like all Pentagon titles: SARC," he said.

Panel Lists Drugs It Wants New Law to Cover

A federal advisory panel, working closely with the Bush administration, announced a list of 146 types of prescription drugs on Monday that should be covered under Medicare’s new drug benefit.

The panel, the U.S. Pharmacopeia, a venerable organization that sets standards for the pharmaceutical industry, said prescription drug plans should offer beneficiaries at least two drugs of each type. Insurers that follow the recommendations will be presumed to meet one of the major criteria in the new Medicare law.

The executive vice president of the panel, Dr. Roger L. Williams, said its guidelines were “the only classification system specifically developed” to ensure that beneficiaries had access to all the drugs that they needed.

Some advocates for patients said the guidelines did not guarantee coverage for new costly effective drugs that might be needed to treat certain disorders, including some mental impairments.available.”

The writing of the guidelines touched off a huge battle between insurance and drug companies that could determine how many medicines will be readily available to beneficiaries.

Under the law, officials will rely on private health plans to deliver drug benefits to the elderly and disabled starting next year.