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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - July 7, 2001, New Braunfels, Texas Page 6A— HeraLD-ZeituNG — Saturday, July 7, 2001F ORUM Contact Managing Editor Margaret Edmonson at 625-9144 ext. 220. NHW Bleu INI HLS Herald-Zeitung New Braunfels Zeitung was founded 1852; New Braunfels Herald was founded 1890. The two papers merged in 1957 and printed in both German and English until 1958. Doug Toney, Editor and Publisher Margaret Edmonson, Managing Editor (830) 625-9144 Editorial- Fan club is very cool idea If you cannot afford to keep your cool this summer, help is at hand. The Canyon Lake Chamber of Commerce has created the Canyon Lake Fan Club. No, it is not for enthusiasts of fishing, boating or spelunking at Canyon Lake, although we are sure many of these folks could be members. The Fan Club is a community service project bringing fans to needy residents who otherwise would be left to battle the Texas heat on their own. At this time of year, heat is a big health concern, particularly for the elderly, very young or people taking certain medications. The heat inside a home can reach dangerous levels without someone inside even realizing it, local physicians said. Residents needing help acquiring fans can call Janeta Cox, executive director of the Canyon Lake Action Center, at (830) 964-2324. If you would like to donate fans, drop them off at these Canyon Lake locations: Marlin Floors, 6000 Farm-to-Market Road 2673; Edward Jones, 1362 FM 2673; First State Bank, 1805 F< 2673; Farmers Insurance, 1439-A FM 2673; or Canyon Lake Chamber of Commerce, FM 2673 and TViple Peak. * FffcRt 'hea’t -related illnesses by keeping your cool and helping your neighbors keep theirs. Today in History By The Associated Press Today is Saturday, July 7, the 188th day of 2001. There are 177 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On July 7, 1865, four people were hanged in Washington, D.C., for conspiring with John Wilkes Booth to assassinate President Lincoln. On this date: In 1846, U.S. annexation of California was proclaimed at Monterey after the surrender of a Mexican garrison. In 1898, the United States annexed Hawaii. In 1930, construction began on Boulder Dam (later Hoover Dam). In 1949, the police drama “Dragnet,’- starring Jack Webb and Barton Yarborough, premiered on NBC radio. In 1954, Elvis Presley made his radio debut as Memphis, Tenn., station WHBQ played his first recording for Sun Records, “That’s All Right (Mama).” The ecoocmy i% intrcobie L you ) Keep uti oordFa reces&ioo! J TWn tole p e^endtrcf6iYnore,more. more.... Youte robing enough I Letters Policy The New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung encourages letters on any public issue. The editor reserves the right to correct spelling, style, punctuation and known factual errors. Letters should be kept to 250 words. Also, an address and a telephone number, which are not for publication, must be included for confirmation purposes. Preference is given to writers who have not been published in the previous 30 days. Mail letters to: Letters to the Editor c/o the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung P.O. Drawer 311328 New Braunfels, TX 78131-1328 Texas has cure for nation’s health woes Congress is debating the Patients’ Bill of Rights legislation to help patients get the kind of medical treatment they deserve without delay or legal haggling. When we are dealing with the health care of most Americans, it is important to avoid unintended consequences, such as increasing the cost of providing quality medical care. We don’t want to do anything that would discourage employers from providing their employees with medical coverage. We need to make sure we are not creating more problems than we are solving with the bill. Getting good medical care in our country has grown complicated. The vast majority of us like and trust our doctors. We don’t want an insurance company telling our doctors what kind of care to give us. Parents should be able to take their child to the pediatrician without having to get permission from their insurance company or health maintenance organization first. People should be able to see a specialist when they need one and to get emergency treatment at the nearest emergency room without calling a health care gatekeeper first. If an HMO denies the treatment you need, then you should have the right to an immediate, impartial appeal to a panel of doctors. If the panel rules in your favor, you should receive your treatment, period. If the HMO ignores the findings, you should be able to go to court. Such a system should favor Kay Bailey HUTCHISON patients, first and foremost, with quick action to make sure they get the treatment they need in a timely manner. We can’t afford to turn over patient care decisions to accountants and insurance companies and trial lawyers. Texas already has taken the lead on patients’ rights and is showing the rest of the country the way. In our state, if an HMO denies coverage for a certain procedure but the patient and the doctor disagree with that decision, a patient can make an internal appeal within the HMO first. If, after the HMO reviews the appeal and still refuses to cover the treatment, the patient can appeal again to a panel of outside experts not associated with the HMO. If the outside panel has made a decision and the patient stills believes he or she has been unfairly denied care, the patient can sue the HMO in court. It works. Fewer than 20 lawsuits emerged from more than 300 appeals heard under Texas’ external review system since 1997. At the same time, the system has proved to be fair. The conclusions of the appeals are virtually 50/50 in favor of both the patients and the health plans. Federal law would do well to follow Texas’ lead. Texas law also gives employers protection from lawsuits involving health coverage. Employers are not required to provide health insurance coverage to their employees. Small businesses often can barely afford to give their employees this benefit. Exposing them to lawsuits and millions of dollars in potential damages because they voluntarily provide their employees with medical insurance just doesn’t make sense. I offered an amendment to the bill that would have applied Texas’ employer protection provisions to the entire nation. Unfortunately, it failed, but I will continue to work to secure this protection for employers in the final bill. Congress has to get this right. If health costs continue to climb, the result could be disastrous. Answering a recent series of nationwide polls, an overwhelming majority of employers stated unequivocally they would have to pass on any new health-insurance costs to their employees, by either raising employees' premiums — or by eliminating coverage. Small businesses are especially vulnerable. The best prescription for America’s health provides more protection for patients, enhances the quality of care and promotes greater access and affordability. (Kay Bailey Hutchison represents Texas in the U.S. Senate.) Write ’Em U.S. SENATORS Phil Gramm Room 370 Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. 20510 (202) 224-2934 Fax: (202) 228-2856 404 E. Ramsey Road San Antonio, TX 78216 (210) 366-9494 Kay Bailey Hutchison Room 284 Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. 20510 (202) 224-5922Bush administration not money laundering AUSTIN — The trial of Slobodan Milosevic is a rather noble effort to hold rulers accountable for genocide. At great pain and cost, the man has been extradited and is on trial for crimes against humanity, on the theory that his having to face an international tribunal will give future genocidal dictators some pause. But what if the crime of a dictator is not slaughter but massive theft? Various ex-presidents of Mexico; Fujimori of Peru; Idi Amin of Uganda; Mobutu Sese Seko, the late kleptocrat head of Zaire; Suharto of Indonesia; the late Shah of Iran — all have skimmed millions if not billions of dollars out of their countries’ economies, and most of them then headed off for la dolce vita in foreign parts. The Bush administration now is backing away from international efforts to reduce money-laundering, a banking procedure used by drug cartels, arms traffickers and terrorist groups, as well as crooked dictators. In the current issue of foreign affairs, William Wechsler, who worked on these problems as special adviser to the secretary of the treasury from 1999 to 2001, has a fascinating account of the progress that has rn Molly Ivins been made over the years in building international cooperation against rogue banking. I am indebted to him for all the following information unless otherwise indicated. Until this administration, the United States has been the leader in trying to stop money-la undering. Several organizations work to stop this and other banking abuses — the G-7’s Financial Stability Forum, the Financial Action Task Force, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, along with the IMF. Th give you an idea of how big this problem is, the U.S. Treasury loses $70 billion annually through offshore tax evasion by individuals. That leaves the rest of us with more than our share of the tax burden and less money for schools, the military and quite a few other things. Wechsler reports, “According to the Russian Central Bank, $74 billion was transferred from Russian banks to offshore accounts in 1998, the year of the ruble devaluation and the Russian financial meltdown.” The most popular new havens, in addition to the usual suspects, are small islands in the South Pacific, Nauru, Niue and Vanuatu. In the old days — IO years ago — money-launderers needed to be near the banks that kept their secrets: Europeans could easily get to Switzerland with a suitcase full of cash, Americans to the Cayman Islands. But with the advent of banking by Internet, many small, poor countries around the world realized that all they need do was establish strict bank secrecy, criminalize the release of customer information and ban international law-enforcement cooperation — and the money would roll in. The international community gradually figured out a strategy to combat this new plague — “name and shame.” The FSF (ll nations with advanced financial systems) and FATF (29 nations) slowly developed criteria for international banking, focusing on bank regulation, customer identification, the reporting of suspicious activity, international cooperation and the criminalization of money laundering. The FATF developed a list of 15 noncooperating nations and another 14 with serious banking deficiencies. The only way these efforts can succeed is with multilateral countermeasures, with penalties ranging from stronger warnings up to economic sanctions, including the wholesale restriction of financial transactions. Unfortunately, Bush’s chief economic adviser, Lawrence Lindsey, is opposed to legislation to deter international money-laundering, apparently because he is generally opposed to banking regulation. As Wechsler notes, there are legitimate privacy concerns that do need to be addressed, but this is not a choice between privacy and law enforcement, but a question of how to balance them both. Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill told The Washington ’rimes he shares “many of the serious concerns that have been expressed recently about the direction of the OECD initiative” and “the project is too broad, and it is not in line with this administration’s tax and economic priorities.” That mindboggling gobbledygook is an indication that the United States will not go along with the OECD on multilateral sanctions. So far, all O’Neill had done is institute a study of the situation. Unfortunately, the study is headed by Dina Ellis, formerly senior lawyer at the Senate banking committee under Phil Gramm, no friend to banking regulation he. According to The Financial Times of London, political pressure is being put on the administration by a coalition of small bankers (especially from Texas), privacy advocates and libertarians. Here we move off the radar and into the wiggy conspiracy theories of the U.N.-black-helicopter set. I am as ready as anyone to oppose faceless, international regulatory agencies — I’m against trade agreements without labor and environmental provisions, always happy to fault NAFTA and GATT, and generally opposed to secret and unaccountable organizations. But we are talking here about an international anti-crime effort that involves more transparency, not less. How this one ever got to be a bogeyman of the far right is beyond me. Why should we make life easier for kleptocratic dictators, drug traffickers, arms dealers and terrorists? Give us a break. (Molly Ivins is a syndicated columnist.) ;