Five Best Tuesday Columns

On drug labels, Tibet, and Dominique Strauss-Kahn

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Steven Woloshin and Lisa Schwartz on Labeling Drugs  "The government should follow through on proposals to require fact boxes, similar to those that appear on food packaging, in every ad drug makers produce and along with every package of medication they sell," Steven Woloshin and Lisa Schwartz propose in The New York Times today. They insist that "data on how well drugs work compared with placebos or other drugs" should be prominently displayed on the package, since many drugs--like cholesterol medicine--have no immediately noticeable side effects. By providing consumers a medication's effectiveness over a placebo and the data on which side effects are most common, they can then make "an informed decision" on whether "the benefits [are] worth the side effects." The FDA has already required such informative labels for sunscreen, so, they argue, "given how central pharmaceuticals have become to the everyday health of millions of Americans, the Food and Drug Administration must enable them to do the same for prescription drugs."

Lobsang Sangay on Tibet's New Government  Lobsang Sangay, Tibet's new Prime Minister as of August 8, explains in today's Washington Post that "the decision of the 14th Dalai Lama to end the 400-year reign as the Tibetan people's political leader shocked many Tibetans and the world at large. But this development was neither abrupt nor surprising. In fact, it was a long time coming." The current Dalai Lama forged the path to Tibet's first free elections and helped ratify the constitution to allow the Dalai Lama's impeachment and create the position of Kalon Tripa, or prime minister. Sangay argues that though "this transition doubtless has been a source of anxiety for many Tibetans. This moment, however, also provides an opportunity to work toward a more secular, stronger and sustainable Tibetan freedom movement." Sangay urges China to follow the Dalai Lama's lead. Instead of hosting indicted war criminals such as Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in the Great Hall, Beijing's leadership has a golden opportunity to prove its sincerity, garner good will, and improve the image of China if it would, as the Dalai Lama ceded his political authority, cede its power to Tibetans to resolve the issue of Tibet.
Bret Stephens on Lessons Learned from DSK  The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens suggests that everyone was so quick to believe Dominique Strass-Kahn's accusers story because "people generally, and columnists especially, want news that has the qualities of a parable--the surprise that turns out to be no surprise at all. With a story like DSK's, the temptation of a tidy moral tends to overwhelm whatever doubts might be cast upon it by a countervailing point of data." Stephens wonders "where else we might be committing similar blunders? The climate change obsession...The Wall Street obsession...The China obsession...The Israel obsession?" He points out that "in each of these cases, the media (broadly speaking) has too often been guilty of looking only for the evidence that fits the preexisting story line." What the DSK story teaches us, he argues, is that "not every sleazy character is a criminal, a fine distinction of the sort that might keep us from going astray on stories that, unlike this one, really do matter."
Mike Pflanz on Africa Helping Itself Out of Disaster  "Reacting to disasters," such as the current draught that's starving people through parts of Kenya, Somalia and Ethopia, "has seen Western spending on emergency aid to Africa rise by 20 per cent a year, to more than £3 billion a year," writes Mike Pflanz at the Telegraph.  "Why--after all of that expense, on top of huge amounts funnelled into projects designed to protect people from ever-more frequent droughts--is there a crisis again?" he asks. Though the fact that "12 million people are in urgent need of food" is shocking, Pflanz notes that "the situation is not as severe as it was during the appeals of the early 1990s." Still, part of why the effects of the drought have gotten so extreme is that it's difficult for aid programs to get funding for disasters before they happen, even though this famine-inducing drought was long predicted. "It is easy to look at the current situation and blame Western aid for failing to prepare people for the disasters that are now unfolding. But such international assistance is necessary only because Africa's leaders seem unwilling to do the job themselves," he argues.
Gideon Rachman on European and American Debt  "America and Europe are on the same sinking boat," declares Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times. "Both the U.S. and the European Union have public finances that are out of control and political systems that are too dysfunctional to fix the problem," he explains. Pre-crisis growth in both locations "was driven by an unsustainable and dangerous boom in credit. In the U.S. it was homeowners who were at the center of the crisis; in Europe it was entire countries like Greece and Italy what took advantage of low interest rates to borrow unsustainably." After having economically shocked both places, "the economic crisis is polarising politics, so making it much harder to find rational solutions to the debt problem." The West's dual dilemma has allowed countries like China some smugness. "However, their pride and confidence risks glossing over the extent to which the rise of China, India and the rest has depended on a prosperous and confident west. If the western illness worsens, there will be a temptation to try new and more radical cures," he predicts. "Those may include a drive towards protectionism and capital controls. If globalisation goes into reverse then China may experience its very own economic and political crisis."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.