Rushing to fight cancer the expensive way; it's down to the wire in the presidential race.

Rushing to fight cancer the expensive way; it's down to the wire in the presidential race.

Rushing to fight cancer the expensive way; it's down to the wire in the presidential race.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Dec. 26 2007 6:16 AM

Eight Days A Week

The New York Timesleads with a look at how several hospitals are rushing to set up proton-therapy centers that use nuclear particle accelerators to fight cancer. Until 2000, there was only one in the entire country, but now there are five and the number continues to grow. Some are convinced the nuclear tool can fight cancer more effectively by precisely targeting tumors, but others contend the high price tag isn't worth it for the vast majority of patients. The Wall Street Journal leads its world-wide newsbox with the countdown on the presidential race as candidates return to full-blown campaigning and it's do-or-die with eight days to go before the Iowa caucuses. USA Todayleads with word that many state and local governments are cutting next year's budget to deal with the downturn in the housing market and increasing fears of a tanking economy. Not surprisingly, some of the most affected are those that experienced big drops in the housing markets, but revenue is also dropping from a slump in sales and business taxes.

The Washington Postleads with a look at how a group of U.S. manufacturers that specialize in high-end or specialty products are increasingly exporting more of their products. The fact that some believe rising exports will protect the country from a looming recession is hardly new, and the paper emphasizes that much of this demand from abroad is for "complex niche products," where quality is key. The WP also notes many Americans believe free-trade agreements, along with globalization in general, are bad for the United States. The Los Angeles Timesleads locally with the rising cost of prisons in California and devotes its top nonlocal story to the increasing signs that there really has been a slowdown in the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States. Some insist it's the result of stepped up enforcement efforts, but others contend it has more to do with the slumping economy and the decline of the construction market.

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Some describe the recent push to set up hospital-based proton-therapy centers as representative of "the best and worst of the nation's market-based health care system," which favors expensive innovation even when there's little evidence of its benefits. Setting up a center can cost more than $100 million and there's concern that doctors will push patients to use that type of therapy to recoup investments even when it's not needed. It seems clear that protons can help patients with certain types of tumors, such as those near the eye, that need to be targeted more specifically to avoid negative side effects on the whole area. But the proton centers that are being built will undoubtedly rely on the run-of-the-mill prostate cancer patient to make money, who could, for the most part, be just as well-served by the much cheaper X-ray therapy.

Over the next eight days, everyone will make some sort of stop in Iowa, but the Democratic front-runners will spend most of their time there and Barack Obama doesn't plan to leave the state until the caucuses. On the Republican side, Mitt Romney appears determined to beat back Sen. John McCain in New Hampshire, and McCain will be in Iowa to see if he can capitalize on the recent buzz surrounding his campaign. Whatever happens, it's going to be an intense couple of days for the candidates. USAT says that "never in modern times" have the nominating contests in both parties been so up in the air at the beginning of an election year. As the LAT points out in a story inside, this means that absolutely everything on these final days will become more important and any missteps will certainly be magnified.

The papers certainly will have to consider that in the coming days and weeks, knowing that anything they publish can be used by a candidate's opponents. In the Post's Style section Philip Kennicott takes a look at the importance of the "hangdog candidate image" and notes that pictures such as the highly unflattering portrait of Hillary Clinton that was posted in the Drudge Report Web site will surely increase in circulation in the coming weeks. Of course, the Post can't help itself and goes ahead and publishes the unflattering photo (although it's not on the Style's front page).

With that in mind, the NYT delivers Clinton a big lump of coal (too late for Christmas metaphors?) on its front page today. In an examination of Clinton's years as first lady, the paperconcludes that she wasn't much involved in the big issues of foreign policy and mostly carried out "soft" diplomacy. Notably, the piece glosses over some of these "soft" diplomacy successes, particularly her China speech on women's rights, which many have called her best moment as first lady. Of course, this is an issue because she's often talked about how she was a partner in foreign policy with her husband but Clinton was really "more of a sounding board than a policy maker, who learned through osmosis rather than decision-making," says the NYT. Clinton didn't attend National Security Council meetings and didn't have a security clearance, but it's unclear whether she should have gone or could have obtained one. Shouldn't the piece have at least brought up that perhaps Clinton was forced to take a back seat because of the way the president was criticized for giving his wife a prominent role in the whole health care debacle?

The NYT fronts word that due to the decline in the use of the death penalty across the country, Texas carried out more than 60 percent of all executions this year. Out of 42 total executions, 26 were in Texas. Some believe there will come a time when "essentially all executions in the United States will take place in Texas."

Coming soon: A chewing gum that won't stick to shoes (or sidewalks), courtesy of an "unassuming professor" in Bristol, England, reports the NYT.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.