Today's Papers

Prescription Payments

The New York Timesleads with word that two drug companies pay “hundreds of millions of dollars” every year to doctors who prescribe their anemia medicines, which might not actually be very effective and could even be dangerous. A few studies suggest that the medicines could shorten patients’ lives when used in high doses. The Washington Postleads with the Pentagon announcing that 35,000 soldiers could be sent to Iraq this fall, which would mean the U.S. troop increase in Iraq could be maintained at least until the end of the year and probably longer. Commanders on the ground are saying troop levels will have to be maintained into the spring of 2008. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with the new war-spending bill drafted by Democrats, which was previewed in some of the papers yesterday. The bill calls for approximately half the war funds to be withheld until late July, at which point progress would be measured on a series of benchmarks and lawmakers would have to vote on whether to release the rest of the money.   

USA Todayleads with a look at how the man President Bush has chosen to head the Consumer Product Safety Commission used to work as a lobbyist that tried to block state “fire safe” cigarette laws. Michael Baroody, who still has to be confirmed by the Senate, tried to persuade state politicians that the federal government should be in charge of setting safety standards for products. The Los Angeles Timesleads with firefighters trying to contain the fire that has engulfed Los Angeles’ Griffith Park and has already burned 600 acres. The fire forced people to evacuate their homes as well as nearby landmarks such as the zoo and the observatory.

The NYT makes sure to emphasize up high that the payments given by Amgen and Johnson & Johnson to cancer doctors and kidney dialysis centers are perfectly legal, but very few people are aware of them. And although the companies don’t release numbers on how much money they give out, it seems they do provide a nice contribution to the bottom line. One practice received $2.7 million for prescribing $9 million worth of Amgen’s drug. Critics say the payments could encourage doctors to give out potentially unsafe doses of the drugs, while the companies counter that the money offered is merely a reflection of a competitive marketplace.

The Pentagon was quick to emphasize  that yesterday’s announcement doesn’t mean a decision has been made on how long the “surge” will last. Commanders, once again, warned that violence is likely to increase in the coming months. So far the military has refused to release statistics on attack trends, but one U.S. official said that, as a whole, “the number of attacks has stayed relatively constant.” Although all the other papers mention the Pentagon announced that the 35,000 soldiers could be deployed to Iraq, the Post seems more certain and says the Pentagon announced the soldiers “will begin deploying to Iraq in August as replacements.” 

The LAT, NYT, and WP front news that authorities charged six foreign-born men with plotting to attack Fort Dix in New Jersey “to kill as many soldiers as possible.” The men were described as “radical Islamists” and do not appear to have connections to al-Qaida, although they did apparently use their videos as inspiration. One expert tells the LAT that this lack of connection to an outside group made them more dangerous because they came “from out of nowhere.” But their lack of experience was evident by some of their mistakes. The FBI first started watching the group in January 2006, when a video that showed the men firing weapons was taken into a store to have it converted to DVD. It is unclear how close the men were to actually carrying out the attack, but they were arrested after two of them tried to buy weapons from an FBI informant.    

Early-morning wire stories report that Vice President Dick Cheney made an unscheduled visit to Baghdad this morning in the first stop of his Middle East tour. Cheney met with the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and the new U.S. ambassador, Ryan Crocker. He will also meet Iraqi leaders, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Over in the Post’s op-ed page, David Ignatius says readers should pay attention to Cheney’s trip to Saudi Arabia this week. The Saudis have apparently “given up” on Maliki’s ability to solve Iraq’s problem and are “quietly backing” former interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who is working on forming a new coalition government.

In the ongoing Paul Wolfowitz-World Bank saga, his lawyer spoke up against the persistent leaks and, once again, said they weren’t given enough time to respond to a report that accused him of breaking ethics rules. European finance ministers meeting in Brussels “gave Wolfowitz a uniform thumbs-down,” says the LAT.Remember yesterday’s story in the NYT that said European countries were proposing a deal to let the U.S. government choose the next president of the World Bank if Paul Wolfowitz resigns soon? Well, it’s much ado about nothing, says the Post today. The proposed deal apparently doesn’t have the support of most European board members, and even if it did, a U.S. official says the administration wouldn’t be interested since it already has the right to name the president of the World Bank.

Alone and fabulous … The LAT bids farewell to the celebrity entourage. The rich and famous used to prove how special they really were by how many people surrounded them but now that whole attitude “is becoming passé,” says the Times. Of course, celebrities still have many people that attend to their every need but “big entourages are now widely seen as the sign of a neophyte, a has-been or a wannabe.”