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Drop Your Guns
Gore AIDS Scandal
Minimum Rage
EPA Cooks the Stats
President or Bust



Drop Your Guns
Unconditional Disaster in the Balkans

While international media attention has focused on the nonstop peace diplomacy of Viktor Chernomyrdin over the last month, members of Congress who have attended closed-door briefings at the White House and State Department have been telling a very different story about the real intentions of the Clinton administration.

Returning shaken to their Capitol Hill offices, these members insist that Clinton will settle for nothing short of surrender. And, they add, he is running the war the way he played the Monica crisis— i.e., hanging tough. In this scenario, winning means the fall of Milosevic, the abject defeat of the Serbs, and probably an occupation force. Looking back, some members now suspect the White House has been using Chernomyrdin as a foil while it seeks to sabotage peace talks.

In one meeting with House members last month, Bernie Sanders, the independent congressman from Vermont, asked Secretary of State Albright whether U.S. policies were aimed at forcing Milosevic to surrender. Thumping the table, Albright replied, "You're damn right."

Now, with Milosevic branded as an international pariah and facing war crimes charges, why should he quit? He can spread the war by shelling the refugee camps in Albania. Or he can agitate in Montenegro and Macedonia, setting both states aflame with ethnic conflict— although in Macedonia it could drag in Bulgaria and Greece, both of which also have ambitions there. Finally, he could begin a campaign of ethnic cleansing in Vojvodina, the northern province of Serbia where many Hungarians live, and which NATO has been methodically bombing even though the residents oppose Milosevic. If that happens— and there were reports of rising tensions in Vojvodina all last week— Hungary would find itself pulled into the war.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has been speaking hopefully of the resurgence of the Kosovo Liberation Army, after mistakenly bombing a KLA camp recently, suggesting that it might function as a foreign legion for NATO. "I don't think it's outside the realm of possibility that they could reestablish control of some areas," Rear Admiral Thomas Wilson, head of the Joint Chiefs intelligence directorate, said at a briefing last week.

Wilson claimed that the KLA now has between 15,000 and 17,000 guerrillas in Kosovo, compared to 5000 when NATO started bombing in late March. Such a surrogate army could obviate the involvement of a large NATO ground force from Europe and the U.S. (although now Clinton is said to be considering sending in 90,000 ground troops). However, reports from the field suggest that the KLA is a pretty feeble fighting force. A Washington Post account last Friday described confused KLA guerrillas charging across open fields into Serb artillery barrages."It's madness," said one military observer.

Perhaps the most menacing news came last weekend, with a top Turkish commander's announcement that his nation's armed forces might join the fighting. "There may be a land operation," said Turkish air force chief Ilhan Kilic. "And we, as members of the alliance, may join in." Turkey, with about 500,000 ground troops, has ancient territorial ambitions in Kosovo. The war is widely supported in Turkey, and many Turks have family ties to the Balkans, a region that Turkey ruled for 500 years.

An expanded war in Europe means a more chaotic situation within NATO. After the near collapse of U.S.-Russian relations at the start of the war, Germany and Italy are now chafing against U.S policies. In addition, there is the break with China in the wake of the Los Alamos spy imbroglio and the bombing of China's Belgrade embassy. By Memorial Day, it seemed quite literally true to say that U.S. foreign policy was in chaos.


Gore AIDS Scandal
Helps Drug Companies Nix Cheap Medicines

Al Gore, Internet inventor, hog farmer, and tobacco grower, now has landed in another controversy, leading the charge for pharmaceutical manufacturers against South African AIDS patients struggling to get affordable medicine.

An estimated 3.2 million people are infected with the virus in South Africa, where the cost of multi-drug therapies— starting at $1000 a month— is far beyond the means of most patients, the overwhelming number of them poor blacks. The average annual income in South Africa is $2600.

"Medicines to treat HIV/AIDS are far too highly priced for the mass of our people," Dr. Ian Roberts, adviser to the South African Health Ministry, said recently. "With up to 16 percent of our people already HIV-positive, this can be seen as a national disaster."

In an effort to make medicine more available, the South African government this year passed a law to bypass drug company patents and permit the import of cheaper drugs. But the international pharmaceutical industry, led by U.S.­based companies, sued to overturn the law, and top U.S. officials led by Gore— who chairs a commission on South African trade— have joined forces with the drug companies in threatening South Africa with trade sanctions.

"Patents are the lifeblood of our industry," David Warr, associate director of tax and trade policy at Bristol-Myers Squibb, the New York­based pharmaceutical giant, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "Compulsory licensing and parallel imports expropriate our patent rights."

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