Russian experts concerned about U.S. germ warfare research
MOSCOW - Russian experts voiced concern yesterday about U.S. plans to develop a potentially more lethal version of the bacterium that causes deadly anthrax, but the government refrained from immediate reaction.
The Pentagon confirmed its intention Tuesday to conduct the research once legal reviews have been completed and the U.S. Congress has been informed. The plan was first reported by The New York Times, which said it was part of a broader research effort to improve U.S. defenses against biological agents.
Despite assertions by U.S. officials that the research was strictly defensive, some experts have pointed out that such work could violate the 1972 global ban on developing or acquiring biological weapons.
"It's not prohibited to develop vaccines against biological weapons, but developing a new strain of anthrax would be a violation of the ban," said Alexander Gorbovsky, an expert at the government's Munitions Agency, which in charge of legal issues relating to the ban on biological weapons.
There had been no official government reaction to the U.S. research, he said in a telephone interview, as Moscow was still studying official U.S. statements on the issue.
The Russian Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment.
With the United States' rejection in July of a draft protocol intended to strengthen the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, " the report on U.S. research is causing concern," Gorbovsky said in a telephone interview.
The ban failed to make a clear distinction between defensive and offensive research and contained no mechanism of control, creating a wide gray zone.
"The Clinton administration supported the protocol as did U.S. allies in Western Europe, and the reversal of Washington's stance on the issue has vexed a liberal part of the American establishment," Alexander Pikayev, a military analyst at the Carnegie Endowment in Moscow.
"George W. Bush will now find himself in an awkward position, fending off accusations of breaching the ban."
Latest welfare rolls show slight drop in number of families receiving assistance
WASHINGTON - The number of families on welfare has increased in one of every three states, the government said yesterday, offering new evidence that the remarkable decline in welfare rolls is nearing an end.
Nationwide, caseloads still were falling, albeit slowly. They dropped 3 percent between September 2000 and March 2001, when just over 2.1 million poor families were getting monthly checks, the Department of Health and Human Services said.
Since 1994, when the welfare rolls peaked, the number of people on assistance has fallen by 58 percent, much further than anyone had predicted. Every state has seen its caseloads drop.
Experts credit a combination of the strong economy during the mid-to-late 1990s and tough new rules that required virtually everyone to work. With the economy slowing and many of those most able to make it on their own gone from the rolls, analysts have anticipated the numbers would stabilize.
Between September and March, the number of families on welfare increased in 18 states, in some cases by just a fraction and in others, by more than 10 percent. They were: Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
The numbers on welfare dropped in all other states.
HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, who pioneered welfare changes as governor of Wisconsin, focused on the positive changes under new welfare rules.
"While the caseload numbers are encouraging, the real news is that welfare reform is moving more people into work so that they can support themselves and their families," Thompson said. "Welfare reform has helped an unprecedented number of people on welfare to become self-supporting."
Thompson also announced yesterday that his department will hold national forums with state leaders and welfare recipients in preparation for next year, when Congress must renew the welfare overhaul it approved in 1996.
The sessions will start on Sept. 24 in Atlanta. Other sessions will be scheduled for this fall in Chicago, Dallas, New York and San Francisco.
Parents arrested after throwing party for minors
NEW CASTLE, N.Y. - The parents of a high school football player were arrested for allegedly holding a team party with beer, marijuana and a stripper who let students as young as 15 lick whipped cream off her body.
Robert and Rochelle Wien were charged with endangering the welfare of a child and unlawfully dealing with a child. The offenses carry up to a year in jail.
"The parents were present and aware of what was going on, not just in terms of the alcohol that was being imbibed by these high schoolers but in terms of the actual sexual acts that were taking place in their back yard," District Attorney Jeanine Pirro said.
Police said they were responding to a noise complaint Saturday when they found the naked woman on her back performing a lewd act on the Wiens' patio. Pirro said there were 30 to 40 students, including some girls, at the party.
Detective Sgt. James Carroll said the stripper was about halfway through a $325, hour-long act when officers interrupted and told her to get dressed.
Pirro said some students apparently hired the stripper. The woman was not charged.
The party marked the end of summer training camp for the team from Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua.
The Wiens, whose son is a quarterback, did not immediately return a call late yesterday.
Tucson principal charged with misdemeanor assault against student
TUCSON, Ariz. - The principal of Canyon del Oro High School has been charged with misdemeanor assault for allegedly trying to restrain a student last week by grabbing the boy by the arm and neck.
Michael Gemma, 47, is on administrative leave with pay from his $80,728-a-year job until the issue is resolved.
Oro Valley Police Commander Larry Stevens said the incident began Aug. 27 when the 17-year-old student got into an argument with a security guard at the school. The security guard took the student to Gemma's office.
"At some point, the student decided he was going to leave the principal's office, and the principal attempted to restrain the student," Stevens said. "When he did so, it left some marks on the student's arm and neck."
An assistant principal called for one of two school resource officers Oro Valley police have on campus and that officer took the student to a different office, Stevens said.
The boy, whom police would not identify because he is a minor, suffered bruises in the incident but was not seriously injured, Stevens said.
Gemma, who was the assistant to the superintendent at Tempe Union High School District before going to CDO about 14 months ago, did not return calls for comment.