Nation digest 02/15/05

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Bush's request for wars pushes past $300 billion

WASHINGTON -- President Bush asked Congress on Monday to provide $81.9 billion more for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and for other U.S. efforts overseas, shoving the total price tag for the conflicts and anti-terror fight past $300 billion. Republicans hope to push the package through Congress by early spring. About $77 billion of the total was for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while about $5 billion was for aid to U.S. allies. Of the total package for the wars, the vast majority -- $74.9 billion -- was for the Defense Department, with other agencies sharing the rest.

Bush fills FDA vacancy with acting commissioner

WASHINGTON -- President Bush said Monday he will nominate Lester M. Crawford to be commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, filling a position that has been vacant for nearly a year amid rising concerns about the safety of drugs on the market. Crawford has been acting commissioner since March 2004, when the Senate confirmed then-director Mark McClellan to oversee the agency that runs the Medicaid and Medicare programs.

Painkiller sales plunge at end of last year

TRENTON, N.J. -- For years, Americans have been popping painkillers like they were candy to treat everything from headaches to arthritis. But new data shows America's love affair with the medications may have cooled off after the blockbuster drug Vioxx was pulled from the market over safety concerns. New data show sales of prescription arthritis drugs plunged at the end of 2004, after Merck & Co. Inc. of Whitehouse Station, N.J., pulled Vioxx from the market Sept. 30 and a string of recent studies raised safety concerns about other widely used pain medicines.

Woman accused of killing baby ruled incompetent

McKINNEY, Texas -- A mother who cut off her baby's arms was ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial on murder charges Monday. The jury's verdict came after just minutes of deliberations in Dena Schlosser's brief competency trial. Both the prosecution and the defense had requested that she not stand trial. Attorneys said they expect the judge today to commit Schlosser to a state hospital. She could still stand trial if she is someday found competent. Schlosser, 36, was charged with murder Nov. 22 after she told a 911 operator she had severed her 10-month-old daughter's arms.

Prosecutor: Gunman had Columbine fascination

KINGSTON, N.Y. -- A man who opened fire in a crowded shopping mall with an assault rifle, wounding two people, seemed to have a "lurid fascination" with the Columbine High School bloodbath, a prosecutor said Monday. Robert Bonelli Jr., 25, sent shoppers scrambling for safety Sunday after shooting his way into the Hudson Valley Mall, authorities said. He gave up after he ran out of ammunition. Police searched Bonelli's room that night found a cache of "Columbine memorabilia," District Attorney Donald Williams said. He would not give details.

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