Childbirth Remains Risky

For Poor, U.N. Report Says

More than 525,000 women die each year from pregnancy-related problems, making childbirth complications one of the leading causes of death for mothers in the world's poorest countries, according to a report issued yesterday by the U.N. Population Fund.

The findings were contained in a 115-page report addressing the state of global population and reproductive rights 10 years after world leaders meeting at a summit in Cairo agreed to spend as much as $6.1 billion a year to expand access to reproductive health care.

The report says that governments have provided only half of the promised funds. In poor countries, only two-thirds of women get some health care during pregnancy, and skilled doctors or midwives assist in only half of all deliveries, according to the report.

Panel Would Bar Federal

Courts From Pledge Cases

Spurred by a federal case in California, a divided congressional panel voted to prevent federal courts from declaring unconstitutional the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.

The Republican-led House Judiciary Committee approved, on a party-line vote of 17 to 10, legislation that would permit only state jurists to consider such court challenges.

Democrats accused Republicans of being more interested in scoring political points in this year's House elections than protecting the pledge.

Soros Demands Probe

Of Hastert's Drug Remark

Billionaire philanthropist George Soros has asked the House ethics committee to investigate House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) over comments suggesting that Soros could be receiving money from illegal drug groups.

"This kind of insinuation -- that a private United States citizen was in league with drug cartels and may be receiving funds derived from criminal activity -- has no place in public discourse," Soros wrote to the panel's chairman and to its ranking Democrat, Reps. Joel Hefley (R-Colo.) and Alan B. Mollohan (D-W.Va.).

During an Aug. 29 interview on "Fox News Sunday," Hastert questioned the source of the financier's wealth: "I don't know where George Soros gets his money. I don't know where -- if it comes from overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from."

Hastert's office had no immediate comment on the ethics complaint.

-- From News Services

and Staff Reports