Friday, March 28, 2008


Posted: Friday, March 28, 2008 9:27 AM by Domenico Montanaro
Filed Under: 2008, Obama

A big superdelegate get for Obama, Bob Casey Jr., the frosh senator (and one-time RIVAL of Clinton's chief Pa. supporter, Ed Rendell). Casey who hails from the ultimate working class Dem stronghold of Scranton will campaign extensively for Obama during the candidate's bus tour of the state. Interestingly, Obama, while getting the support of Casey, needs to borrow from the Rendell '02 Dem GOV primary playbook, in order to win the primary, a race that Casey lost.

According to the Philly Inq: "The endorsement comes as something of a surprise. Casey, a deliberative and cautious politician, had been adamant about remaining neutral until after the April 22 primary.

“Casey was partially influenced by the enthusiasm of his four daughters for Obama. He is expected to help Obama make inroads with white working-class voters who are supportive on gun rights and abortion like the junior senator.”

By the way, isn't this what Casey's fellow Dem frosh Claire McCaskill said when she endorsed?

The Washington Post takes a closer look at the Obama online fundraising machine. "Obama's unprecedented online fundraising success is often depicted as a spontaneous reaction to a charismatic candidate, particularly by young, Internet-savvy supporters. But it is the result of an elaborate marketing effort that has left Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, his rival for the Democratic nomination, and Sen. John McCain, the presumed Republican nominee, struggling to catch up.
Obama aides say their goal has been to "build an online relationship" with supporters who will not only give money but also knock on doors and help register voters for the candidate. To do so, they have spent heavily on Internet ads -- $2.6 million in February alone, more than 10 times as much as Clinton and more than 20 times as much as McCain."

The NYT covers Obama's econ speech from NYC yesterday and notes, "The speeches of the Democratic candidates for the presidential nomination served as a reminder of the thin wall that separates their policy views. (Mrs. Clinton gave a speech this week in Philadelphia on the housing crisis.) Both candidates have talked about spending billions to help homeowners at risk of foreclosure, and are moving so closely in step that their subordinates have shouted about stolen ideas.

“Both warned of a national credit crisis and advanced proposals to amend bankruptcy laws to aid those facing housing foreclosure. Each endorsed Democratic legislation -- sponsored by Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut and Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts -- to create a housing security program in the Federal Housing Administration that would provide incentives to refinance mortgages carrying onerously high interest rates.

“They are very close; they are pointing to very similar proposals,” said John Irons, research and policy director for the Economic Policy Institute, a labor-oriented research center. “There are minor differences, but when you compare their proposals with McCain, that’s night and day. The Democrats are more like noon and 12:30.”

The RNC pounced on the portion of Obama's CNBC interview with Maria Bartiromo where he talked cap gains. "Obama yesterday said he'd raise the capital-gains tax as president -- but softened his estimate on how much it would go up. I haven't given a firm number," Obama told CNBC's Maria Bartiromo, speaking of how much the levy would rise over the current rate of 15 percent. He "guessed" it would be "significantly lower than" the 28 percent it was under President Bill Clinton.

“Last year, when Obama proposed up to $85 billion annually in middle-class tax relief, he suggested paying for it in part by hiking the capital-gains tax to as much as 28 percent. Yesterday, he said, "We can't go back to some of the, you know, confiscatory rates that existed in the past that distorted sound economics.

"I think that we can have a capital-gains rate that is higher than 15 percent," he added, but noted people like investor Warren Buffett have said if the tax is "within that range" of 20 to 25 percent, it won't "distort . . . economic decision making."

L.A. Times coverage of the Obama-CNBC interview also focused on the tax front. "Obama went after the "We're not paying enough taxes to the government" vote today during a television interview in New York.

“First, he said the Bush tax cuts ought to die. He likes that top marginal rate of 39%. Although the non-partisan National Journal recently declared him the most liberal of the 100 senators, Obama denied being a "wild-eyed liberal," which wasn't what the Journal called him, but it sounds good on TV where everything moves by so quickly.

“Maria Bartiromo on CNBC's ‘Closing Bell’ asked, ‘Who should pay more and who should pay less?’ Predictably, the politician chose to talk about who would benefit from his higher tax plan, not who would get socked the hardest. But from his answers it sounds like the ‘wealthy’ in his mind are those making more than $75,000.

"I would not increase taxes for middle class Americans and in fact I want to.... provide a tax cut for people who are making $75,000 a year or less,'' he said. "For those folks, I want an offset on the payroll tax that would be worth as much as $1,000 for a family.

"Senior citizens who are bringing in less than $50,000 a year in income, I don't want them to have to pay income tax on their Social Security. And as part of my overall approach to housing, I actually want to provide an additional 10 percent mortgage deduction, a credit, mortgage interest credit, for those who currently don't itemize."


Thursday, March 27, 2008

FDA looks into Singulair, risks of suicidal thoughts

By Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY
The Food and Drug Administration is investigating anecdotal reports that people who use Singulair, the popular asthma and allergy drug, are at greater risk for suicidal thoughts and suicide.

Singulair is a pill prescribed to treat asthma and hay fever symptoms such as sneezing and a nose that is stuffy, runny or itchy. It blocks an inflammation pathway in the body that can cause both asthma and allergy symptoms.

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It was approved for treating asthma in 1998 and to treat seasonal allergy symptoms in 2003.

In the past year, drugmaker Merck (MRK) of Whitehouse Station, N.J., has added tremors, depression, suicidal thinking and behavior, and anxiety to the list of possible adverse side effects it gives doctors about the drug.
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Singulair had sales of $4.3 billion last year and has been used by "millions," says Merck's George Philip, who directs Singulair product development.

The FDA has asked Merck to look at Singulair study data for more information about reports of behavior and mood changes, suicidal thoughts and suicide in patients who took the drug. Because such reviews are very complex, the FDA says it may take nine months to complete its evaluation.

In the meantime, the agency is asking doctors and health care providers to carefully monitor their patients taking Singulair.

The FDA is not recommending that patients stop taking the drug, suggesting instead that they talk to their doctor if they have concerns.

Reports of possible links to suicidal thoughts have come to Merck "anecdotally from physicians, from patients and from parents or relatives," Philip says. But because the information the company receives can be "quite sketchy," Philip says it's not possible to definitively link the drug and these reported episodes.

The government agrees with that assessment. The FDA went public with its concerns about this drug as part of its ongoing safety reviews. But in a release, the agency said this "does not mean that FDA has concluded there is a causal relationship between the drug product and the emerging safety issue."

The FDA "is considering, but has not reached a conclusion" about whether it needs to further regulate the drug and will update the public as more information becomes available.

Singulair belongs to a class of drugs called leukotriene receptor antagonists. The FDA reports that it will investigate whether similar medications, such as Accolate, Zyflo and Zyflo CR, have negative effects on behavior and mood.