Today's Papers

The Safety of Drugs

The Los Angeles Timesand New York Times lead with the Senate approving a bill that would give the Food and Drug Administration new powers to keep an eye on the safety of medicines after they have been approved. The FDA would also have the authority to fine drug makers for misleading advertising, and regulators would be able to order companies to perform new safety studies of approved drugs. Senators overwhelmingly approved the bill 93-1 after they removed a provision that would have allowed the importation of medicines.

The Washington Postleads, and the NYT off-leads, word that a group of House Republican moderates warned President Bush, at a “remarkably blunt” White House meeting on Tuesday, that support for the war would continue to erode among GOP lawmakers if conditions don’t significantly improve in the next few months. The Wall Street Journal mentions the meeting in the top spot of its world-wide newsbox but focuses on Bush vowing to veto the new two-part war-spending bill that is expected to come to a vote today in the House. That probably won’t be necessary since it seems Senate Democrats don’t think it has much of a chance. USA Todayleads with Defense Secretary Robert Gates saying the Pentagon will be replacing armored Humvees in Iraq with the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle, which provides better protection against improvised explosive devices. In a memo last week, Gates said that getting the MRAPs is “the highest priority Department of Defense acquisition program.”

The Senate FDA bill “is unquestionably the biggest change in the FDA’s regulatory authority in a very long time,” a former agency commissioner tells the LAT. Assuming it becomes law, the FDA would be required to keep tabs on drugs even after they have been approved. As part of these efforts, a new system would be created to help detect potential side effects of new drugs using medical-insurance and pharmacy records. The safety provisions are part of a bill that would reauthorize the user fees that allow the government to charge companies for faster reviews of their products. Critics of the bill say this provision creates a basic conflict in the FDA since it gets so much of its money from drug companies.

The House members who met with Bush Tuesday said they would continue to support him with the new bill but made it very clear their support can’t last much longer. They presented Bush with poll numbers showing how much the Iraq war is hurting the GOP. Tony Snow emphasized to the Post that the meeting should not be seen as a “marching up to Nixon” moment, referring to the time during Watergate when Republican lawmakers pushed the president to resign.

During the meeting, one of the lawmakers asked Bush to stop the Iraqi parliament from going on vacation while “our sons and daughters spill their blood,” reports the Post. The prospect of the parliament taking a two-month vacation has riled lawmakers in Washington. But, as the LAT reports inside, even when the parliament is in session (meeting three days a week) it frequently has trouble getting started because of such things as electricity shortages and roadblocks that prevent lawmakers from getting there. Although no final decision has been made on the vacation, some Iraqi politicians aren’t too happy the United States is trying to dictate their schedules. And even if it’s decided that lawmakers shouldn’t take a vacation, there’s no guarantee they’ll listen.  

As Attorney General Alberto Gonzales prepares to go before Congress today, the Post fronts and the NYT reefers the former U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Mo., saying that he was pushed to resign in January of last year. Todd Graves said he was told he should resign to “give another person a chance.” In 2005, an aide to Republican Sen. Christopher Bond had asked the White House to replace Graves. This reveals there were at least nine U.S. attorneys who were fired last year, and also that the firings began earlier than previously acknowledged by the Justice Department.

The NYT reports that despite all the controversy, Gonzales seems confident he’ll be able to stay on as attorney general. He apparently believes the worst is behind him.

The NYT fronts an interesting look at the informant who helped the FBI penetrate the group of men accused of planning to attack Fort Dix. Defense attorneys will no doubt bring up his role in the plot, as it seems clear the men looked to the informant to show them how to carry out the attack. Among other things, the informant told them he could get them weapons and even pushed the idea of buying deadlier items than the men had initially considered.

The NYT reefers word that Rudolph Giuliani has made up his mind and now officially  supports abortion rights. To have a shot at the Republican nomination, his campaign will focus on the big states that have recently moved their primaries forward and would probably be more open to his views.  

The WSJ takes a look at how the last Harry Potter  book, which comes out July 21, will not only signal the end of the series but will also likely put a damper on the “whole literary ecosystem” that has sprung up around the success of J.K. Rowling’s creation. So far, there are at least 190 books related to Harry Potter, and more are scheduled to come out this year. Some of the more memorable titles include: If Harry Potter Ran General Electric … Harry Potter and Torah, and, of course, the upcoming The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the World of Harry Potter.

The new hot body part … is the collarbone, says the NYT.