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Copyright 2000 Gannett Company, Inc.  

January 14, 2000, Friday, FINAL EDITION


LENGTH: 923 words

HEADLINE: GOP leader pushes for patients' bill of rights

BYLINE: Paul Leavitt; With staff and wire reports

Congress will pass a managed-care health bill this year and it
should allow patients to sue health maintenance organizations,
House Majority Leader Dick Armey said Thursday.

The comment by Armey, R-Texas, is the first indication that the
Republicans who control Congress expect to pass the legislation,
which was left in limbo when lawmakers went home in November.

"We can't leave this issue uncompleted," Armey said at a conference
of advocacy groups seeking medical coverage for the uninsured.
"We need to get it done," he said.

Democratic congressional aides found Armey's words encouraging,
and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, a Democrat who spoke after Armey,
called the comments "pretty conciliatory."

The so-called patients' bill of rights passed the Senate in July
and the House in October, but in different versions. A panel of
members from each body must craft a compromise in order for the
legislation to have a chance to become law. Congress returns Jan.

ANTI-TERRORISM: The National Guard will form 17 more elite
units to help states cope quickly with any terrorist attack involving
nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, Defense Secretary William
Cohen said.

Ten WMD teams, so-called because of weapons of mass destruction,
were formed in 1998. The 22-member teams, which would help local
authorities identify the weapon and the extent of the threat,
will be based in 26 states. California will have two teams. All
are drawn from the ranks of Army and Air Force National Guard

Unlike the regular military anti-terrorism units, the WMD teams
will be under the primary command of governors.

The Defense Department has already spent more than $ 60 million
on the program and will spend another $ 75 million in the current
2000 budget, officials said.

WAR ON DRUGS: Secretary of State Madeleine Albright flies
to Colombia today for an anti-drug summit that comes amid a burgeoning
growth in coca leaf production that has made cocaine even cheaper.

Albright is carrying a $ 1.6 billion administration proposal for
U.S. aid to help Colombia's counternarcotics efforts. It includes
money for aircraft, intelligence gathering and training for special
battalions to fight drug trafficking.

Critics say pouring money into the anti-drug effort is useless.
"The drug war is futile," says Tim Lynch of the libertarian
Cato Institute. "Progress is not being made, and we need to look
at alternatives, including legalization."

John Walsh of Drug Strategies, a private group, says $ 26 billion
has been spent over the past 20 years on interdiction and international
supply control programs. Yet, "by key measures with which we
can gauge drug availability, they are all going in the wrong direction,"
Walsh said. He said the focus of anti-drug efforts should be switched
from interdiction and eradication to treatment of drug users.

Y2K GLITCH: An intelligence-processing computer that broke
down New Year's Eve had not been properly tested for the Year
2000 computer bug, officials said.

Defense Department spokesman Kenneth Bacon said the Pentagon would
have had to shut down the computer system to make an "end-to-end"
test of its Y2K fix. Instead, the fix was tested piecemeal, allowing
the system to keep running. "They tested it in sections, and
it turned out that it was a mistake because the sections didn't
fit together," Bacon said. The breakdown interrupted the flow
of spy satellite data for several hours.

The computer system with the glitch is operated by the Pentagon's
highly secretive National Reconnaissance Office, and Bacon said
some aspects of the problem could not be discussed publicly because
of the sensitivity of spy satellite operations. He denied a news
report that said U.S. photo reconnaissance satellites were all
but blinded by the Y2K breakdown for nearly three days.

"At no time were our intelligence collection systems blinded.
That is because we have redundant systems designed precisely to
deal with a variety of situations," he said.

NATIONAL SERVICE: President Clinton chose Republican Gov.
Marc Racicot of Montana to help oversee the administration's prized
AmeriCorps program of public service.

Racicot, a Republican, has been an outspoken defender of the program,
despite attempts by GOP lawmakers in Congress to kill it.

Clinton said he would nominate Racicot as a member of the board
of directors of the Corporation for National Service, which runs
the domestic Peace Corps program.

Since the voluntary national service program was founded five
years ago, more than 150,000 people have spent a year building
houses for the poor, teaching children to read and working with
police on domestic violence and gang intervention in exchange
for a few thousand dollars to pay for college or student loans.

Earlier this week, the White House said Clinton's 2001 budget
will include $ 73 million more to expand enrollment to 100,000
new members a year over four years.

PENTAGON PROMOTION: Bernard Rostker, who has headed up
the Defense Department's long-running investigation into Gulf
War illnesses, is being promoted to undersecretary of Defense
for personnel.

Many veterans of the war with Iraq in 1991 complain that the Defense
Department has been slow to address health complaints that they
blame on service in the Persian Gulf region.

Rostker has been undersecretary of the Army, the No. 2 civilian
post in the Army, since October 1998.

GRAPHIC: PHOTO, B/W, Chris Kleponis, Fox; PHOTO, B/W, Michael Smith, Reuters; PHOTO, B/W, AP; Armey: Urging passage of the patients' bill of rights Albright: Attending anti-drug summit in Colombia Racicot: To oversee AmeriCorps

LOAD-DATE: January 14, 2000

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