News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

Bill Curbs Lawsuits Over Child Vaccines

A provision shielding drug companies from liability for making childhood vaccines that contain a mercury-based preservative almost held up passage of the homeland-security bill last week.

Several class actions have been filed in recent years by parents and other activists who believe that the vaccine preservative caused autism in children. Recent studies have thrown doubt on that suspected linkage. ("New Study Discounts Autism-Vaccine Linkage," Nov. 20, 2002.)

Lawmakers inserted the vaccine measure and other disputed items into the House version of the bill at the last minute, sparking opposition when the bill to establish a federal Department of Homeland Security arrived in the Senate.

An amendment introduced by Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman, D-Conn., and Tom Daschle, D- S.D., sought to remove the vaccine provision, along with six other items they deemed "acts of political favoritism."

The amendment failed, 52-47, after Republican leaders reportedly promised that three of the most controversial provisions, including the one on vaccines, would be taken out or significantly watered down next year.

Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine, had threatened to vote for the Lieberman-Daschle measure unless Republican leaders in both the House and the Senate made the promise.

—Lisa Fine Goldstein

Federal Aid Boosts Work On New Digital Texts

The Department of Education has chosen the Center for Applied Special Technology to develop a new type of digital file that can present textbooks to students who cannot read printed texts easily, or at all.

The file format would use hidden "tags" that could activate devices such as Braille printers, audible text-readers, and other assistive software run on electronic tablets, e-books, and personal or hand-held computers.

If the file format works and catches on, students with various physical and cognitive disabilities might one day enjoy the full "media equivalent" of a printed textbook, said Skip Stahl, a center official who chairs the project's advisory panel.

The nonprofit research group in Wakefield, Mass., known as CAST, has one year—and $199,911 in federal money—to create the format. Three teams will work together: one representing "print-disabled students," which will propose useful features; a second, of technology experts, will craft the technical specifications; and a third, which includes a legal expert and representatives from textbook publishers, will rule on issues of commercial viability and intellectual property.

—Andrew Trotter

Vol. 22, Issue 13, Page 23

Published in Print: November 27, 2002, as News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories