Ridge- Battle against terror should obey rights

Saturday, January 18, 2003

WASHINGTON -- The nation faces a long struggle to protect against terrorists, Tom Ridge told a Senate panel weighing his nomination to head the new Homeland Security Department. Lawmakers said the fight should not come at the expense of civil rights or the free flow of commerce.

Ridge, expected to win quick confirmation, spoke of the "enormity of our task" of bringing together 22 federal agencies with 170,000 employees for the security campaign.

The new department, he told the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on Friday, "will not in and of itself be able to stop all attempts by those who wish to do us harm."

Ridge, a former congressman and governor of Pennsylvania, has been President Bush's chief adviser on homeland security since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Kmart fires remaining execs who got loans

DETROIT -- Kmart Corp. said Friday it has fired the five remaining executives who received millions in retention loans just months before the retailer filed for bankruptcy.

In all, 25 executives received $28 million in loans during the tenure of former chairman and chief executive officer Charles Conaway. Kmart has demanded they repay the money.

"The company felt it was important to put the controversy surrounding employees involved in the special retention loans behind it as the company prepares to emerge from Chapter 11," chairman James B. Adamson said in a statement announcing the firings.

The Troy-based retailer has said it may sue the executives, including Conaway, who got the loans in 2001. Conaway left the company in March of that year.

The FBI and Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating possible wrongdoing at Kmart.

White House OKs limits on emergency Medicaid

WASHINGTON -- Poor people on Medicaid seeking emergency care may have a more difficult time getting coverage by managed care organizations under a new policy by the Bush administration.

The new guidelines, outlined in a recent letter to state Medicaid directors, narrows standards set out in a 1997 law and in rules issued by the Clinton administration and more recently, by the Bush administration in June 2002.

The 1997 law allowed states to put participants in Medicaid into cost-cutting health maintenance organizations and other managed care plans, but it required that these plans include certain patient protections.

Among them: Medicaid HMOs must pay for emergency room visits if a "prudent layperson" would consider the health problem to be an emergency. As a result, HMOs and case managers could not arbitrarily limit the number of visits of Medicaid enrollees to the emergency room.

The change of policy, reported first by The New York Times in its Friday editions, allows states to place certain limits on coverage of emergency services.

Weekend of protests planned across U.S.

WASHINGTON -- Fearing war could start in weeks, protesters are massing in Washington and cities around the country to press for a peaceful way out of the crisis with Iraq and an end to America's own weapons of mass destruction.

The weekend demonstrations coincide with America's military buildup in the Persian Gulf region and a time of remembrance for the nonviolent struggle embodied by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Even as U.S. military personnel ship out, protesters are packing Washington-bound buses and organizing local marches and vigils from Tampa, Fla., to San Francisco.

"We are attacking a poor country that has enough problems," said Al Svitesic, a retired pile driver and World War II veteran who will be rallying in Pittsburgh next week. "It is unjust."

The largest crowds are expected in the nation's capital, where President Bush and many in Congress are united on the move toward war and protest leaders hope they can draw tens of thousands, at least, to march in dissent.

--From wire reports

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