Today's Papers

Mad Money

The Washington Postleads with a new report that reveals more than one in 100 adults in the United States is behind bars. Holding the rank as the country that imprisons more people, both in terms of raw numbers and as a percentage of population, is hardly a cheap proposition, as states spend almost $50 billion a year on corrections. The New York Timesleads with news that the Food and Drug Administration has found problems at a Chinese plant that made most of the active ingredient for Baxter International’s blood thinner heparin. Baxter announced a recall of most of its products containing the lifesaving drug, which is made from pig intestines.

USA Todayleads with a look at how the huge turnout in the presidential primaries is making election officials nervous about potential problems in November. Officials in several states across the country are requesting more voting machines, paper ballots, and poll workers to make sure they won’t have problems on Election Day. The Wall Street Journal leads its world-wide newsbox with, and the WP fronts, Sen. Hillary Clinton’s campaign announcing that it raised $35 million in February. Sen. Barack Obama’s camp hasn’t released official figures, but aides said their total was “considerably more.” There are estimates that he raised about $50 million, which, combined with Clinton’s total, would surpass the record that was set by President Bush and Sen. John Kerry in March 2004. It seems that lending her campaign $5 million was a good strategy for Clinton because online donations, which accounted for $30 million of the total, soared after the news got out. The Los Angeles Timesleads locally with news that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appears to have cured himself of his long-held allergies to more taxes. California’s governor said the state’s huge budget shortfall could be decreased by closing “tax loopholes.”

The report by the Pew Center on the United States that found a total of 2.3 million people are incarcerated highlights how minorities have been particularly affected by the tougher sentencing laws imposed in the 1980s. One in 15 black men, and more specifically, one in nine black men ages 20 to 35, are behind bars. For Hispanic men, the figure is one in 36. Although the violent-crime rate has decreased 25 percent since 1987, spending on corrections has increased 127 percent (adjusted for inflation). Meanwhile, many believe that nonviolent criminals could be better served by other types of punishment, including community service, which would be far cheaper. “Getting tough on crime has gotten tough on taxpayers,” a Pew director tells the NYT.

The NYT makes much of the fact that the FDA revealed the number of deaths that could be associated with heparin has risen to 21 from four that had been announced earlier. But the FDA warned that the precise link to heparin was still unclear, and the WSJ says a dozen of those who died were using the Baxter drug. Although the agency said it found problems in the quality-control procedures at the Chinese plant that supplied most of the raw ingredients for Baxter’s heparin, it also emphasized that the “root cause” of the problem is still not known. USAT highlights that despite the 448 adverse reactions to Baxter’s drug that had been discovered, the company apparently delayed a recall until its main competitor was certain it would have enough supply to go around. Looking at the big picture, this is yet another reminder of how the FDA is struggling to catch up to the changing nature of drug manufacturing that is increasingly being carried out in China and India. The WSJ visited suppliers of the raw heparin in China and last week had a story that detailed how the whole supply chain was often plagued with poor oversight and that some of the material from pig intestines came from small villages that had little in the way of quality control (the NYT published a similar story yesterday). 

The NYT fronts, and everyone mentions, news out of Kenya, where President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga signed a power-sharing deal yesterday. There is hope that the agreement, which creates a powerful new prime minister position for Odinga, will bring an end to the violence that broke out after the disputed elections in December and has killed at least 1,000 people. The two leaders also agreed to form a sort of coalition government and split cabinet positions between their two parties. But it remains to be seen whether the two sides can truly work together and if Kenyans will accept the compromise.

The LAT catches late-breaking news that Iraq’s three-member presidential council has approved the execution of Ali Hassan Majid, more commonly known as “Chemical Ali.” Early-morning wire reports reveal that the council decided not to execute Majid’s two co-defendants, who were also convicted of genocide in June. There’s no official date set for the hanging, but it must be carried out within 30 days.

All the papers go inside with the latest from the Middle East, where Israeli airstrikes on Gaza continued for a second day and killed at least 19 Palestinians, including four boys who were playing soccer. Meanwhile, Palestinian militants fired dozens of rockets and mortar shells into Israel, where officials emphasized that at least eight of them were Iranian-made devices that are more technologically advanced and have a longer range than the crude, locally made rockets that are normally used. Israeli officials characterized the use of these rockets as an escalation, and the defense minister said there’s a “real and tangible” possibility of a large-scale ground offensive in Gaza. 

The Post is alone in fronting the revelation that Prince Harry has been fighting in Afghanistan for 10 weeks. Amazingly, the British news media, which is hardly known for its discretion, knew about this all along and stayed quiet. All major news outlets in Britain agreed to not reveal anything about the prince as long as they got some access to him in the war zone so they could have good stories when he got back. Oh, and the military agreed to bring him home on a Friday so it’d be convenient for both daily and Sunday papers. The deal lasted much longer than most were expecting but came undone after the Drudge Report blasted the news to the world  yesterday. The British media quickly published all their information on the prince in the front lines of war. “It’s very nice to be sort of a normal person for once,” he said in an interview. As could be expected, officials are now making arrangements for him to get back home.

Happy Leap Day … The NYT’s op-ed page carries a nice little history of how it is that we came about adding an extra day every four years. It may seem like a crazy idea, but the “problem has confounded calendar makers for centuries, and prompted corrections far more clumsy than an occasional extra day in February.” Meanwhile, the fact that no one ever seems to remember when we have a leap year is a good thing, says the WP’s Style section. “Leap Day functions for us the same way it functions for Earth, after all: as a breather, a day to catch up, a wild card in the synced order of the rest of our lives.”