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Clinton to suggest fixes for drug law

President Clinton said Wednesday that he plans to send Congress suggestions next week on how to fix a law aimed at cutting prescription drug prices by allowing them to be reimported from abroad.

"What we'd like to see is a law that protects safety that will lower consumer prices," said Clinton, a day after his health secretary blocked the law's implementation. "As soon as Congress comes back, I will send them a statement of the things I believe would meet the standard of the law."

The drug reimportation law would let drugstores and medical distributors buy U.S.-made, Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs in certain countries where they sell more cheaply, and then resell them here.

First black judge picked

for federal appeals court

President Clinton on Wednesday used his power to make appointments during congressional recesses to name Roger Gregory as the first black judge on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., a move carefully calculated to create difficulties for the Republican Party.

In making the recess appointment, which temporarily bypasses the Senate confirmation process, Clinton complained pointedly about how Republicans had blocked his efforts to name an African-American to the 4th Circuit, the only circuit court never to have had a black member.

The appointment effectively lobs a political hand grenade to Senate GOP leaders, who have faced criticism for blocking the nominations of four African-Americans, including Gregory, to the Richmond appeals court during Clinton's term. The Black Congressional Caucus cites studies showing that black judicial nominees waited significantly longer for confirmation hearings since Republicans took control of Congress in 1995.

FCC: Anti-drug scheme

should have been public

Federal regulators say the TV networks should have named the Office of National Drug Control Policy as a sponsor of ER and other prime-time shows that included anti-drug messages paid for by the government.

The ruling by the Federal Communications Commission found "no basis for enforcement action" and does not impose any fine. But it warned the networks about running afoul of the nation's 73-year-old payola laws, which require that any broadcast "for which money, service, or other valuable consideration" is received "be announced as paid for" by a named sponsor.

In its ruling, the FCC said ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox and the WB networks misled viewers about a government advertising scheme that gave the networks more than $20-million over the last two years to include anti-drug messages in the scripts of popular TV shows. In congressional hearings this year, lawmakers were told that the White House reviewed the scripts of more than 100 shows to determine if program plots contained anti-drug messages strong enough to warrant payment.

Also . . .

INTELLIGENCE SPENDING: President Clinton signed legislation Wednesday authorizing about $30 billion in spending by the CIA and other intelligence agencies after lawmakers agreed to remove a provision that would have made leaking government secrets a criminal offense.

CENSUS FIGURES: States with booming populations in the South and West are expected to gain seats in the House at the expense of states in the Northeast and Midwest when the first figures from this year's census are released today. Florida is expected to gain one seat.