Today's Papers

Weld: Done

The FDA recall of apparently dangerous diet drugs leads at USA Today, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, and is the top item in the Wall Street Journal front-page “Business and Finance” news digest. William Weld’s decision to abandon his quest for the ambassadorship to Mexico leads at the New York Times, and is the number two story at USAT and the WP. (The LAT plays it on the front too, but below the fold.)

At the FDA’s request, Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories withdrew fenfluramine, half of the wildly popular “fen-phen,” and also dexfenfluramine, which is marketed as “Redux.” The request came because of new findings from doctors that indicated use of the substances was correlated with serious abnormalities in heart valves, a suspicion first revealed to the FDA and in the press last July. USAT says that 92 of the 291 patients in the group evaluated exhibited the valve problems. The agency also recommended that dieters stop using any of the drugs they have and contact their doctors. The paper reports that the drugs were prescribed more than 20 million times last year. The WP makes the extent of the drugs’ use a little clearer, stating that about 300,000 people are taking each one. The Post quotes an obesity expert expressing the worry that these developments will hinder the general development and marketing of weight control drugs. USAT makes the same point, but by quoting fat people expressing it.

The papers’ consensus on the Weld pull-out is that he never had much of a chance, that President Clinton’s support for him once the Jesse Helms problem presented itself was lukewarm at best, and that the source of Helms’s enmity was never completely clear. The NYT views the whole quixotic episode as indicative of Weld’s ulterior pursuit of some other greater political goal–either a senate or presidential bid down the road–a claim the paper makes both in its news story and in an editorial. The paper quotes Dick Morris as saying that he thought Weld had successfully used the attempt to become the leader of moderate Republicans.

The Post floats the view that the dispute was on balance a plus for Clinton, saying that several White House advisors were delighted at the fissures inside Republican ranks it opened up.

The WP has a front-page piece about an emerging national trend–close-in parking spaces at retail locations for expectant and new mothers, known as “stork parking.” And it’s not just a voluntary trend. The Post reports that Dade County, Florida, passed an ordinance last year–the first of its kind in the country–requiring businesses with more than 100 parking spaces to provide at least two spots for “stroller parking.”

There’s also an emerging national backlash. The paper notes that some reject the suggestion that pregnancy is a disability, while others wonder why parents with children should receive a special benefit the elderly do not. “How about special parking zones for golfers who need to lug heavy golf bags to the clubhouse?” is one irate response to the Dade measure the paper quotes. The WP also comments that doctors don’t think pregnant women need special access, and in fact, some doctors advise them to park far away from stores, for the extra exercise.

The WSJ’s “Work Week” reports that flag and touch football have become very big at many companies. Maybe a little too big. One company wrote an entire playbook and spent $2,000 on a practice field, and the NEC Corp. pulled its team out of the Tokyo league, citing too many injuries.