Senate Updating Law

On Disabled Children

The Senate, nearing its first major update to special education since 1997, agreed yesterday to accelerate spending on disabled children but refused to lock in specific increases.

Senators considered competing plans to fulfill the promise Congress made almost three decades ago: to provide federal funding to cover 40 percent of the cost of educating children with special needs.

States and school districts must pay for whatever Congress does not. That can amount to billions of dollars for teachers, training, supplies and construction.

Spending is the major sticking point in the renewal of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, the 1975 law guaranteeing equal education to children with disabilities. As many as 6.7 million students are in special education.

Senators of both parties agree on the underlying bill, which aims to improve identification and intervention for those with disabilities, simplify paperwork for teachers, reduce lawsuits by parents and give schools more flexibility.

The Senate is likely to pass the bill today, aides said.

Wal-Mart Agrees to Pay

Fine for Water Runoff

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation's largest retailer, will pay a $3.1 million fine to settle a Clean Water Act violation stemming from excessive storm-water runoff from its construction sites, federal officials said.

Wal-Mart also agreed in the settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency and Justice Department to improve runoff controls at the more than 200 sites each year where the company builds stores, including Sam's Club outlets.

Wal-Mart spokesman Gus Whitcomb said the company, based in Bentonville, Ark., will make changes at its construction sites.

Storm-water runoff carries sediment and dirt into waterways, killing fish, destroying habitat and blocking light that spurs growth of beneficial plant life. The runoff can contain pesticides, chemicals, solvents and other toxic substances.

The settlement cites Wal-Mart violations at 24 construction sites.

HHS Urges Reviews for Medical Experiments

Researchers who use human subjects in medical and scientific experiments should set up careful reviews of their work that are independent of any potential for profit, the government said.

New guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services said every experiment involving people should be reviewed for financial conflicts of interest.

HHS has been examining the use of human research volunteers since the death in 1999 of Jesse Gelsinger, 18, during a gene therapy experiment. His doctors stood to profit from the gene therapy.

The issue has become increasingly important as academic scientists set up companies to exploit their research.

-- From News Services