Five Best Wednesday Columns

On Paul Ryan for president, the G-8's fudged numbers, and the benefits of circumcision

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Diane Cole on the Life-saving Benefits of Circumcision  The Wall Street Journal contributor describes "the story of how my husband's circumcision saved my life" as an argument against San Francisco's new "ballot initiative [that] would prohibit circumcision on all males under the age of 18." She explains how her husband, born with hemophilia, became HIV-positive through one of the many blood transfusions that are part of a hemophiliac's life. Before her husband's HIV was detected, though, the couple spent a lot of time actively trying to get pregnant. Miraculously, Cole never contracted the virus. She discovered, after her husband's death, that it was his circumcision that kept her free of HIV even after unprotected sex. "In the same way that circumcision vastly diminishes the chance of infecting women with the human papillomavirus that causes cervical cancer, studies suggest that circumcision also helps guard against the transmission of the HIV virus," she explains. "In both cases, cells on the inside of the male foreskin are implicated in spreading the virus. But if the foreskin is removed, a source of infection is also removed." Cole urges those looking to ban circumcision in San Francisco to consider the "numerous studies demonstrating that male circumcision can substantially reduce--by more than 50 percent--the transmission of HIV virus during sex," and read her own story has anecdotal proof.

Martin Wolf on Letting the IMF Change with the World  The Financial Times columnist is "quite sure" Christine Lagarde, the French Finance minister, will become the next head of the IMF. He isn't so sure, however, that she deserves the post. "Her economics are limited," he explains. "she would have to rely on the advice of those around her." Wolf predicts the United States will support Lagarde's candidacy out of a reluctance to give up its own end of "the old bargain, which gives it a permanent lock on the presidency of the World Bank." He admits that the argument for European control of the IMF in order to handle the Euro-zone crisis "has some force, but it does not have enough force." Instead, he points out that "the place of the old advanced countries and of Europe, in particular, in the world economy is declining rapidly," making it necessary for the position of IMF head to be open to a global contest based on merit. "The time has come for the incumbent powers to recognize that they cannot continue to dominate the global scene. If they persist in running these institutions, the rising powers will, inevitably, turn away from them all together, to create replacements they can control," he writes. "Regimes that do not bow to the winds of change get blown away."

Frederick Tucker on Keeping an Ineffective Drug off the Market  The oncologist insists in today's New York Times that "the FDA should resist the aggressive campaign" to reconsider last year's decision to "rescind approval of the drug Avastin for treating breast cancer patients." Tucker recognizes the arguments of politicians, who called the decision "health care rationing" and "breast cancer patients who fear that they would be deprived of a drug that they felt had helped them immensely." But, the fact is "Avastin was rejected simiply because it didn't work as it was supposed to." The drug received "accelerated approval" from the FDA, after initial rejection, when its production company Genentech convinced regulators that--though Avastin was not proven to prolong a cancer patient's life--it could improve their quality of life. Finally, last year, the latter part of the argument was also proven false and the FDA took back its approval. Genentech's current effort to reinstate the drug's approval, Tucker observes, clearly has financial roots. "Treating a breast cancer patient with Avastin costs about $90,000 a year, and Genentech could lose $500 million to $1 billion a year in revenue if the F.D.A. upholds the ban," he points out. But, "serious progress in the treatment of cancer will not be the result of polemics, lobbying or marketing. Genentech’s money and efforts would be better spent on research for more meaningful treatments for breast cancer."

Jonah Goldberg on Paul Ryan for President  The National Review Online Editor believes "the only guy who can explain the GOP budget should run." That guy is Paul Ryan, author of the House GOP budget which, he argues, "will likely define both the presidential and the congressional elections in 2012." The presidential election should be, essentially, a choice between either President Obama's or Ryan's health care proposals. Mitch Daniels perhaps could have handled the job of defending the GOP budget, but "he can't play in the presidential primaries because his wife and daughters say he's not allowed to," and neither Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich are equipped salesmen. "So the question many are asking is, should Ryan ride to the rescue? If the election is going to be a referendum on his plan, maybe the one guy who can sell it should do just that," Goldberg argues. "Politics is about moments, and this one is calling him. Unless someone suddenly rises to the challenge, the cries of 'Help us, Paul Ryan, you're our only hope!' will only get louder."

The New York Times Editors on the G-8's Fudged Numbers  "The word on the street is that when leaders of the Group of 8 industrialized countries meet in France this week, they will claim that wealthy countries have come close to fulfilling their 2005 promise to boost annual development aid by $50 billion by 2010," The New York Times Editors predict. "They are not even in the ballpark." The editors point out that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's record of international aid shows that "aid from rich nations in 2010 was $19 billion short of the promises made at the G-8 summit meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland, six years ago." The Times argues that "it is disheartening to know how low a priority the wealthy countries still put on development in the poor world. What's more, the sleight of hand by the G-8 is unlikely to inspire much confidence in future promises."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.