Saturday, February 12, 2005

Strong New York Times main section today: Tasers, Wal-Mart pays fine; Drug regulators trying to quash study?, new strain of HIV, Arthur Miller and mor

Disclosure, for the first time all week, I woke up after more than three hours of sleep and was able to actually eat breakfast. So maybe that's colored my perception of this morning's New York Times?

Maybe so. But I'm seeing a pretty strong main section and a really strong front page.

Erika e-mails regarding Daniel J. Wakin's "Suddenly, 'Oboist Wanted' Signs Are Everywhere"
to note that her nephew has been offered a musical scholarship because of the problem Wakin's reporting on. From the article:

Where have all the oboes gone? More precisely, where have the principal oboists in the nation's leading symphony orchestras gone?
The job -- a critical one in any orchestra -- is open, or about to be, at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the San Diego Symphony.
. . .
Observers . . . say the sudden raft of openings appears on the surface to be a confluence of health problems and retirements.
But there is also a generational change under was, as the recent musical descendants of the father of the American oboe playing, Marcel Tabuteau, who died in 1966, leave the scene.

Scott Shane is on the front page with "' '01 Memo to Rice Warned of Qaeda and Offered Plan."
Ben writes in to note that community members learned of this on Thursday (thanks to BuzzFlash's headline link -- to give credit where it's due) and not in Eric Lichtblau's long non-story. Ben: "Seems Shane's been handed the mop and asked to clean up. Is this becoming a Saturday pattern?"

Maybe so. That might be why today's edition struck me as real news. Shane's article is worth reading:

The 13-page proposal presented to Dr. Rice by her top counterterrorism adviser, Richard A. Clarke, laid out ways to step up the fight against Al Qaeda, focusing on Osama bin Laden's headquarters in Afghnistan.
. . .
Nearly nine months before the Sept. 11 attacks, the papers described the danger posed by the bin Laden network and sought to focus the attention of the new administration on what to do about it. But the texts are unlikely to resolve the debate over whether they should have sparked more urgent action by the administration.

Ben: Clarke's mistake in the strategy paper was not saying in the first sentence, "Al Qaeda is just like the Soviet Union!" If he'd said that, even though it's not true, Condi would have paid attention because that's the only thing she's an "expert" on. She might have shot back, days later, "I have spent five days now pouring over various reports and al Qaeda is nothing like the Soviet Union!" But it would have made her look at the reports. Richard Clarke's mistake was in thinking he had someone genuinely interested in and capable of protecting the national security; he didn't realize he needed to add sprinkles and toppings to get the then national security advisor to do her job.

Marilyn Berger's obiturary on Arthur Miller ("Arthur Miller, Moral Voice of American Stage, Dies at 89 ") makes the front page (as it should). And remember that it and other pieces from the Times (on and by Miller) are available currently free of charge. (This might last seven days, it might last two. So check it out soon if you have the time.)

There's a strong photo on the front page that Marcus e-mailed regarding. It's credited to James Hill (of the Times) and entitled "Russian Protests Questions Putin's Course." Marcus found it to be "a very powerful photo and probably the strongest capturing the reality of an event since they were covering the tsunami."

Marcus: It illustrates an article, Stephen Lee Myers's article ["Mounting Discontent in Russia Spills Into Streets"] which is strong but it is not on A6 as the front page photo caption says it will be, it's on A8. So please pass that on in case anyone else finds the photo powerful and attempts to track down the article that goes with it.

A rare strain of H.I.V. that is highly resistant to virtually all anti-retroviral drugs and appears to lead to the rapid onset of AIDS was detected in a New York City man last week, city health officials announced on Friday.
It was the first time a strain of H.I.V. had been found that both showed resistance to multiple drugs and led to AIDS so quickly, the officials said. While the extent of the disease's spread is unknown, officials called a news conference to say that the situation is alarming.

The above is the opening two paragraphs of Marc Santora and Lawrence K. Altman's " Rare and Aggressive H.I.V. Reported in New York ."

Billie: We are toying with the idea of bringing back the death squads, we have gone beyond accepting torture to embracing it and now we learn there is a new strain of AIDS. I'd say things could not get any worse but no doubt the new strain will bring an increase in homophobia and some of the more ignorant 'policy suggestions' from the eighties back. No doubt, the Bully Boy's official response will be one of waste more money on just-say-no to sex. Unofficially, his surrogates will attempt to demonize those with a disease. At times like this, we need a real leader and not having one our country suffers.

Inside the paper, Gardner Harris continues to explore the FDA issue (see yesterday morning's entry for a link to the story Harris and Benedict Carey filed on Friday) with "Drug Regulators Are Trying to Quash Study, Senator Says:"

The tension and intrique surrounding a crucial federal drug advisory committee meeting next week, already high, reached a boil on Friday when Senator Charles E. Grassley charged that top federal drug regulators intend to suppress an important study.
The panel has been convened to discuss whether Celebrex and Bextra, heavily selling arthritis pills from Pfizer, hurt the hearts and are worth their potential risks. But top officials of the Food and Drug Administration have forbidden Dr. David Graham, a drug-safety officer at the agency, to discuss before the panel a large study of that very question, said Dr. Gurkirpal Singh of Stanford University's School of Medicine, Dr. Graham's coauthor.
"We have significant new information that will alter the thinking about these drugs," Dr. Singh said. "I don't understand why they won't let us present this information."
Mr. Grassley, an Iowa Republican, wrote a letter Friday to the agency's acting commissioner, Dr. Lester Crawford, demanding to know by Monday the reason for the agency's decision.
Dr. Graham expressed frustration that Food and Drug Administration officials had instructed him not to discuss the new study in a presentation he is scheduled to give to the committee on Thursday.

Benedict Carey also continues to cover the issue with "Therapists Question Canada's Action on Hyperactivity Drug" in today's paper.

"Wal-Mart Agrees to Pay Fine in Child Labor Cases" by Steven Greenhouse is a story of note:

Wal-Mart Stores, the nation's largest retailer, has agreed to pay $133,540 to settle federal charges that it violated child labor laws in Connecticut, New Hampshire and Arkansas.
Labor Department officials said most of the 24 violations covered by the settlement involved workers under age 18 operating dangerous machinery, including cardboard balers and chain saws. In the agreement, Wal-Mart denied any wrongdoing.

And I'd also recommend Monica Davey and Alex Berenson's "Chicago Rethinks Its Use of Stun Guns:"

Until this tumultous week, few residents of this city even realized that the police had added an alternative weapon to their arsenal, the Taser stun gun.
But by Friday, after the death of a man who struggled with police in the hallway of a high-rise apartment building and the shooting earlier in the week of a boy, 14, after a confrontation inside the group home were he lives, Chicago found itself swept into the center of a national debate over the use of the weapons.
. . .
In Chicago, the week began with the 14-year-old boy, who lives in a group home because he is a ward of the state, being shot with a Taser and collapsing in what medical authorities said was cardiac arrest. By Friday, the boy was conscious and no longer on a ventilator, but he remained in a hosptial.
. . .
Then on Thursday, the police fired a Taser at a man they said had been screaming and threatening them in the 26th-floor hallway of an apartment building.
When the police approached the man, Ronald Hasse, whom paramedics were trying to help, Mr. Hasse began threatening to "kill them with his blood" and began swingint he handcuffs that the police were trying to put on him, Mr. Bayless said. After he was shot with a Taser from seven feet away, Mr. Hasse, 54, of Cedar Lake, Ind., collapsed and died.

Those are the stories that caught the attention of some members and myself. If we missed something you enjoyed (or didn't enjoy) or if you want to weigh in on another topic, the e-mail address is and I'm not sure that I put that in once yesterday, so my apologies there. There are groaners in this morning's paper, to be sure, (and no mention of Lynne Stewart though I'm hoping something will appear in the Sunday paper) but I'd rate today very high overall. (See disclosure at the top. My good mood may have effected my evaulation.)