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January 21, 1999 - Image 16

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-01-21

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16A - Thc Michigan Daily - Thursday, January 21, 1999

NATION/WORLD

Police
blame bin
Laden for
NEW DELHI, India (AP) --
Indian police say suspected terrorist
Osama bin Laden was behind a plot to
bomb the U.S. Embassy and two
American consular offices in the
country, local newspapers reported
yesterday.
The State Department expressed
grave concern yesterday about the
reported threat, and an embassy
spokesperson said U.S. counterterror-
ism experts were in the Indian capital
assessing the alleged plot.
Local newspaper reports said
police had arrested four people,
including a Bangladeshi man suspect-
ed of working for Pakistan's intelli-
gence agency.
The reports said terrorists had tar-
geted the U.S. Embassy and con-
sulates in the southern city of Madras
and the eastern city of Calcutta. The
attacks were reportedly to have taken
place before a national holiday on
Jan. 26.
In Washington, State Department
spokesperson James Rubin said the
threats were directed only at con-
sulates in Madras and Calcutta, and
not at the embassy. He also said U.S.
officials had no knowledge of the
alleged involvement of Pakistan.
"There has been a heightened level

AP PH
Members of the polce guard the U.S. Embassy at dusk yesterday in New Delhi, India. U.S. counter-terrorism experts
have arrived In New Delhi to assess an alleged plot by Islamic militant Osama bin Laden to bomb the U.S. Embassy.

of protection around all of our diplo-
matic facilities in India since the
bombings in East Africa. We are
maintaining that enhanced protection
and will continue to do so," Rubin
said.
Security at U.S. embassies and con-
sulates around the world, including
those in India, has been tightened fol-
lowing the August bombings of the
U.S. embassies in Tanzania and
Kenya, which killed a total of 224
people, including 12 Americans.
Washington has accused bin Laden of
being behind those attacks.

A U.S. Embassy spokesperson,
speaking on customary condition of
anonymity, said yesterday that U.S.
counterterrorism experts from several
federal agencies arrived Tuesday to
assess the reported plot. No other
details were available.
Indian Home Minister Lal Krishna
Advani has assured the U.S. Embassy
of full -government protection, the
Press Trust of India reported.
In Islamabad, Zameer Akram, the
senior Pakistani Foreign Ministry
official for South Asia, told The
Associated Press that "Indian authori-

ties have not informed us about any
arrests and we don't have any infor-
mation about the case."
The alleged ringleader of the plot
was identified as Sayed Abu Nasir of
Bangladesh. Nasir, said to be working
for Pakistani intelligence, was arrest-
ed last week and is now in a high-
security prison in New Delhi, city
police chief R.N. Singh was quoted as
telling the Indian Express,
He said 4 1/2 pounds of powerful
explosives were recovered from Nasir
at the time of his arrest at New Delhi's
railroad station.

Brazilian House.
adopts economic
reform bill
The Washington Post fall with the International Monetary
BRASILIA, Brazil - The lower Fund and the Clinton administration.
house of Congress yesterday night More than anything, passage of the
approved the most controversial section bill was meant to rebuild confidence in
of a government austerity package Cardoso's ability to cut the deficit in the
aimed at cutting $20 billion from the wake of an acute currency crisis last
country's massive budget deficit - a week. As investment capital flowed
vote that represented a major victory in rapidly out of Brazil, the government
President Fernando Henrique Cardoso's moved to dam the flood by announcing
attempts to restore global confidence in it would allow the value of the real to
Brazil's battered economy. fall by 8 percent against the dollar. But
The measure - a pension reform the move only exacerbated investors'
plan that is widely unpopular here - fears of further devaluations and a new W
was adopted by the Chamber of eruption of global financial turmoil. '
Deputies on a vote of 334 to 147 after Brazil's announcement two days later"
exhaustive, last-minute lobbying by that it would let the exchange markets,
the administration. Once formally determine the value of the real, rather
enacted, it will significantly raise the than continuing to prop it up with dwin
amount of money that public sector dling supplies of foreign reserves, has
employees must contribute to their somewhat eased those fears. But the"
retirement plans and require govern- Clinton administration and the IMF,'
ment retirees to begin paying taxes on among other concerned parties, remain,
the generous benefits they now worried that if Brazil does not bring its
receive. deficit under control, renewed capital,
The measure, viewed by investment flight and plummeting currency values
analysts around the world as a sign that would follow, spreading economic
Brazil is determined to stabilize its chaos around the world.
economy, may face yet another hurdle, Federal Reserve Chair Alan
however, as opposition leaders pledged Greenspan said in testimony on Capitol
to challenge it as unconstitutional in the Hill yesterday that markets had reacted
Supreme Court. For now, though, the "reasonably well" to Brazil's devalua-
bill will go to the staunchly pro- tion of the real last week - a move that
Cardoso Senate, which is virtually cer- raised fears of a collapse of the world's,
tain to pass it with little opposition later eighth-largest economy and a domino
this week. effect among its Latin American neigh- ,
"This shows the Brazilian govern- bors.
ment's absolute commitment to cutting "But follow-through in reducing,
the budget deficit," said budget imbalances and in containing
Congressperson Fabio Feldmann, a the effects on inflation ... will be
member of Cardoso's party - one of a needed to bolster confidence and to
five-party alliance in Congress. "It limit the potential for contagion to .
sends the clearest sign we can to the Brazil's important trading partners,
international community about how including the United States,
serious Brazil is about taking the neces- Greenspan said.
sary steps to get out of this crisis." Cardoso used that sense of economic
Global financial markets had anx- emergency to his advantage Wednesday *
iously awaited the outcome of the to win what is surely one of the greatest
debate in the normally quarrelsome political victories of his presidency..
chamber. In Sao Paulo yesterday, the Congress had voted down the pension
country's key stock market index rose 2 reform measure four times in the past
percent on hopes that the legislators four years, so this time Cardoso took no
would back the government's efforts to chances. When just a few of his con-
prevent Brazil's currency, the real, from gressional supporters showed up for a
sliding further in value on international debate on the bill Tuesday, the vote was
exchanges. quickly shifted to yesterday evening.'
The pension reform measure was the Then, a flurry of political lobbying that
most divisive measure in the austerity included frantic, last-minute cellular
package, which is designed to meet the phone conversations to and from the'
requirements of a $41 billion loan chaotic floor of the house, scaled the
Cardoso's government negotiated last triumph.

i s i Mug r _.. __. -_______-__

Court expands consumers'

rights

The Washington Post
WASHINGTON - Consumers can sue insurers for
fraud under a federal racketeering law that provides
for triple damages, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday
in a unanimous decision.
The court decided that tens of thousands of Nevada
residents can invoke the Racketeer Influenced and
Corrupt Organizations Act, a law originally designed
to combat organized crime, in a lawsuit alleging that
Humana Inc., a health insurer, systematically cheated
them of millions of dollars.
The ruling would allow insurers and regulators to
use the same powerful weapon to combat fraud
against health plans, legal observers said.
In the case before the court, Humana Health
Insurance of Nevada allegedly obtained discounts
ranging from 40 percent to 96 percent for hospital ser-
vices that it didn't reveal or pass on to policy benefi-
ciaries when determining their 20 percent copayment.

Thus, a beneficiary could have ended up paying 65
percent of the actual charges for a hospital stay while
Humana paid only 35 percent.
The decision means Humana beneficiaries can pursue
treble damages for the money they say they were
improperly charged. Along with interest and legal fees,
the stakes could reach $20 million to $30 million in the
decade-old case, plaintiff's attorney Will Kemp said.
The decision "is going to make people who are
thinking of defrauding consumers think twice about
doing so" said Ross Myers, a lawyer for the National
Association of Insurance Commissioners, which sup-
ported the Nevada consumers' cause.
But Franklin Burt, who filed a friend-of-the-court
brief on behalf of insurers outside the health care arena,
called the decision "very bad for the insurance industry."
He predicted that large class action suits would result,
"and that means higher rates for all of us"
Attorney Nancy Perkins, who filed a brief for major

health insurance groups, said the legal standard the
court advanced was "not the best for the insurance
industry but it's reasonable."
The ruling is unlikely to make a difference for con-
sumers alleging malpractice or wrongful denial of
coverage, because the racketeering law applies to
widespread, systemic schemes, lawyers said.
In a statement, Humana said that its conduct "has
been both legal and ethical" and that the billing prac-
tice at issue was widespread in the industry.
Humana, which operates health insurance plans,
had argued that use of the law would infringe on
states' authority to regulate the insurance industry
under the McCarran-Ferguson Act. The court dis-
agreed, saying, "We reject any suggestion that
Congress intended to cede the field of insurance reg-
ulation to the states, saving only instances in which
Congress expressly orders otherwise." Lower courts
had split on the issue.

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