Rules for Guantanamo Urged

Two Democratic senators, just back from Guantanamo Bay, said yesterday that Congress should come up with concrete rules for handling detainees at the U.S. prison there.

Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Ben Nelson of Nebraska said more precise rules would help ensure that prisoners would not be abused and that the United States would not suffer further embarrassments because of the way detainees were treated.

Wyden and Nelson made the comments after a three-day trip to Cuba that included a tour of the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and extensive meetings with top U.S. officials and rank-and-file soldiers and sailors. The lawmakers also met with a top Cuban agriculture official in an effort to promote the trade of crops grown in their states.

"The Bush administration is correct when they say these are unique circumstances" at Guantanamo, Wyden said at a Capitol news conference. "We are in a war. These are not your garden-variety criminal defendants."

But that "does not mean there should not be any concrete rules" for prisoner treatment, Wyden said.

No Aid for Addictive Drug

When the federal government's new prescription drug benefit kicks in next year, it will not cover a category of medicines commonly used to treat anxiety, insomnia and seizures.

That means disabled and elderly people on Medicare who take Xanax, Valium, Ativan and other versions of the drug benzodiazepine will have to look elsewhere for coverage or switch to a less addictive medication.

Finding alternatives may not be easy for the 1.7 million low-income, elderly people who take the drug and will be automatically enrolled in the new prescription drug plan. They will depend on the states to continue paying for their benzodiazepines on Jan. 1, but with no guarantee.

Nunn Warns of Nuclear Arms

The government is losing the battle to keep the world's most dangerous weapons away from the world's most dangerous terrorists, largely because of a failure to monitor nuclear materials at the source, former senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) said.

Nunn, a former Senate Armed Services Committee chairman who now leads the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a group that promotes nonproliferation issues, spoke during one of a series of panel discussions on the recommendations issued a year ago by an independent commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Although the government has enacted about half the recommendations -- including the naming of a national intelligence director -- Nunn said it has largely ignored those concerning the need to find, catalog and destroy plutonium and uranium.

Part of the difficulty, Nunn said, is that the effort requires broad international support -- particularly from Russia, where hundreds of tons of loose nuclear material reportedly sit unprotected.

President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed in principle to work together on managing these materials, but Nunn said the negotiations have been scuttled by far lesser concerns, such as deciding who would be liable should something go wrong.

-- From News Services