The New York Times leads with a largely overlooked legal obstacle to the federal government’s would-be financing of stem cell research: a University of Wisconsin foundation holds the U.S. patent for stem cells and the method used to isolate them from embryos. And the foundation has sold certain rights of control over the cells to a Californian biotech company, which as a result also has a considerable say over them. The paper says this tangle of intellectual property rights is “a pressing concern” at the federal agency charged with implementing President Bush’s stem cell funding plan as it sets about to negotiate its own deal with the Wisconsin foundation. USA Today leads with the decision by three major retail chains to pull off its shelves a Taiwanese-made gel candy thought to have been implicated in the choking deaths of four young children in the U.S. and Canada. Although these incidents date back to 1999 and there have apparently been deaths related to the candies in Japan since 1995, the paper says the FDA has just begun collecting candy samples to see if a recall is warranted and that the agency’s decision might take a few weeks. The story does not explain why the FDA waited so long. The Washington Post lead runs under the headline, “D.C. DECLARED DISASTER AREA”–no, it’s not more Washington bashing from the Crawford ranch, it’s President Bush’s finding that last weekend’s torrential rains in the nation’s capital qualified it for special financial relief.
The NYT lead says that many scientists fear that the stem cell patent situation might hinder research and also says that because the foundation’s patent is only valid in the U.S., it could help push the field’s advancements overseas.
The NYT and WP go inside with far clearer details about the Bush administration proposal to revise Clinton administration protections for Medicaid recipients in health plans than the Post provided when it broke the story earlier this week. Both papers explain that the Bush rules allow more time for resolving disputes over courses of care in emergencies–three working days vs. the Clinton plan’s three days. The NYT cites a similar loosening for disputes relating to nonemergency care–45 days vs. 30. The Post notes that while the Clinton rules required health plans participating in Medicaid to either provide family planning and infertility services or to tell patients where they could get information about such services, the Bush rules require neither. Also, the Post says the new rules loosen requirements that health plans communicate effectively with patients who don’t speak English well, and omit the requirement that states have newspapers publish the names of plans punished for poor performance.
The NYT fronts a reminder of what poor Medicaid performance can mean: a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme that prosecutors in South Florida are going after, in which recruiters who were paid a bounty by dentists or dental workers allegedly used Pokémon cards, trips to McDonald’s, and $5 bills to get children, often without their parents knowledge or consent, some as young as 2 years old, to come along to dozens of dental offices for unnecessary and often improperly performed X-rays and extractions, often repeatedly, until their benefits ran out. Although the story doesn’t make a point of it, its details make clear one key condition that helps such schemes mightily: large numbers of kids entrusted by their mothers to irresponsible child-care providers.
The WP reports inside that yesterday President Bush telephoned Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, urging him to avoid further escalation. In response, says the paper, Sharon told Bush Israel will continue its practice of assassinating Palestinians it believes to be involved in terrorism. (The NYT reports the same details via an inside AP story.)
The NYT fronts word that five major movie studios–MGM, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Warner Brothers, and Universal Pictures–have unveiled plans for a joint venture under which they will allow computer users paying a rental fee to download their films via high-speed Internet connection. (The downloads will erase themselves 24 hours after they’re first viewed.) The story adds that two other big studios, 20th Century Fox and Disney, will announce similar ventures soon. The move is viewed as a first step towards true video-on-demand as well as an indication that the studios feel they’ve made major advances against piracy technology.
The papers report that the dot-com magazine the Industry Standard will cease publication. The main reason is the evaporation of the magazine’s advertising base.
The NYT goes inside with a little item on Beverly Hills Ford, if not the first, then at least “one of very few car dealerships in the nation to aim exclusively at gay customers.” The story says BHF has an all-gay sales staff. Question the story doesn’t answer: “How can you have an all-gay sales staff without breaking the law?”
The NYT op-ed page runs a piece imagining that the August news vacuum will eventually become so oppressive that for instance, USAT will rename itself North Dakota Today. But a quick glance around the sheets shows it’s already gotten that oppressive. The NYT fronts a story under the headline “CONCERN FOR POLICE WITNESS IN LOUIMA CASE,” which makes it sound like there’s something scary going on with the cop who provided key testimony against the officers who sodomized and beat Louima. But actually, it turns out the story is about the fears the NYPD had for him four years ago. And the WP runs a piece on the arrest of Princess Diana’s former butler on charges of filching loads of personal property from her, Prince Charles, and Prince William. The story finishes up alerting readers that British press reports say the queen is now ready to back off her earlier stance that Prince Charles could not marry his longtime mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles. The WP sniffs that the butler news “came as manna from heaven for London’s insatiable tabloid editors.” Ahem–not to mention the Post’s editors, who run the story at 820 words, on Page One.