The Washington Post leads with word that Japan's prime minister, Yoshiro Mori, is preparing to resign. Mori fell into the job less than a year ago when Keizo Obuchi suffered a fatal stroke, and the Japanese regard his tenure as an unmitigated failure. The Los Angeles Times goes with a report that Warner-Lambert was able to strong-arm government officials into approving a diabetes pill that many believe causes liver failure. Among other things, the drug company got the Food and Drug Administration to reassign a medical officer who questioned the pill's safety before it hit the market. Finally, the New York Times leads with an inside look at the President Bush's timelier, friendlier White House.
The NYT and the LAT reefer Mori's resignation, making it the only news to be fronted by all three papers. As is typical in Japanese politics, Mori has not indicated publicly that he will resign, and he probably won't until next month at the earliest. The papers give a few reasons for this. First, there are summits later this month with President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the government is working on a new budget. Then in July, Japan will hold elections for the upper house of parliament. Mori's party is in danger of losing, and he is very much to blame. But surprisingly, that may make it even less likely that he will get dumped soon. Under Japanese election law, the party leader has to step down if his party loses, so a pol who takes over as prime minister in April could be out of a job just three months later.
The FDA approved the sale of Rezulin, a pill that purported to lower blood sugar, four years ago. It was taken off the market last March and is suspected in 63 deaths involving liver failure. Throughout most of the controversy over the drug, Warner-Lambert maintained there was little evidence that it caused liver damage. But according to documents obtained by the LAT, the company actually considered warning users the drug could cause liver damage even before they submitted it to the FDA for approval. Warner-Lambert dropped the labeling idea, which would have hurt sales, and then suppressed an FDA medical examiner's report that would have suggested the drug could cause liver damage, says the LAT.
The NYT leads with an inside look at how the first president with an M.B.A. conducts his affairs. President Bush, we are told, is in the Oval Office by 7 a.m., and he rarely stays past 6:30 in the evenings. And gone is the back-stabbing of previous administrations; nowadays, everyone in the Cabinet works together, says the Times. Even that incorrigible tree-hugger Christie Whitman asked George for permission before announcing she wouldn't review the slate of new regulations Clinton approved in his last days in office.
The WP takes up that thread with a broad look at how the business lobby is pushing its agenda now that Republicans have taken the White House. Business interests already have one win to their credit--Congress has overturned Clinton's new ergonomic rules. And they are about to score another victory once Congress passes and Bush signs a new bankruptcy bill that will make it harder for individuals to get rid of their debts. Now the business lobby is turning its attention to other goals: ending the government's prosecution of tobacco companies, making it harder to collect large awards in court, and perhaps even loosening some environmental restrictions (sorry Christie), says the WP.
Both the NYT and the WP reefer reports that former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers is about to be tapped as the new president of Harvard University. Summers apparently beat out several high-profile academics, including, yes, Columbia professor and ex-Vice President Al Gore. (Columbia is about to start searching for a new president, too, so there's hope for Gore yet.) But what is most interesting about this story is the source. Both papers credit the Harvard Crimson for breaking the news two days ago--a rare scoop for a student-run newspaper.
The WP fronts a disclosure that shouldn't surprise anyone who's read a Harry Potter novel recently: Kids' books have some downright adult themes. How adult? "Bree's lean body might have suggested adolescence, but there was nothing juvenile about her manner of participation in the sex act. She was as focused and fearless in the pursuit of her passion as any grown woman," reads a selection from a book marked for ages 12 and up. Publishers counter that kids learn plenty about sex, drugs, and violence elsewhere, and the Post also points out that a previous generation did have Judy Bloom. Both are pretty good points. Then there is that one parent the Post quotes, who says that young teens switch freely between reading Pynchon and the Stinky Cheese Man. You've got to hope he doesn't mean that literally, but it makes you wonder if it's the publishers who are out of touch.