President Urges Broad Powers
For New Intelligence Chief
President Bush proposed giving a new national intelligence director broad powers to plan intelligence agencies' spending priorities and clandestine activities, making a concession to lawmakers moving to implement the more sweeping proposals of the Sept. 11 commission.
The legislation Bush proposed would give the director control over more than two-thirds of the overall intelligence budget, which is estimated at $40 billion a year for the nation's 15 intelligence agencies. The White House said the proposed changes would help solve the lack of coordination among agencies blamed for intelligence failures in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
In several aspects, Bush's proposal stops short of the recommendations of the 9/11 commission. The commission concluded that the intelligence director should be in the executive office of the president and needed authority over the full budget to assure deployment resources to meet rapidly shifting threats and demands.
Bush's plan would not place the intelligence chief in the office of the president and would give the chief full authority over only the 70 percent of the intelligence budget that is not related solely to military operations. The White House would leave intelligence gathering organizations, such as the National Security Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office, under the Pentagon's authority.
-- Walter Pincus and Dana Milbank
Support for Bush Surges
After Republican Convention
President Bush emerged from his New York convention with a solid lead over Democratic challenger John F. Kerry, strengthening his position on virtually every important issue in the campaign and opening up a clear advantage on many of the personal characteristics that influence voters in presidential elections, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.
For the first time in a Post-ABC News poll this year, a majority of likely voters say they plan to vote for Bush. Among those most likely to vote in November, Bush holds a 52 percent to 43 percent lead over Kerry, with independent Ralph Nader receiving 2 percent of the hypothetical vote. Among all registered voters, Bush leads Kerry 50 percent to 44 percent.
Among a smaller sample in 19 battleground states, where strategists believe the election will be decided, Bush holds a narrower lead among likely voters, 50 percent to 46 percent. Among all voters in these states, the two candidates are running even.
The survey highlights the damage to Kerry in August and during the Republican National Convention. Bush got a four-point "bounce" up in support among likely voters from his convention, about what Kerry received from his convention in July. But in other important ways, the poll suggests that Republicans achieved virtually all their objectives last week in New York, particularly their goal of making Kerry less acceptable to voters.
What will not be known for another few weeks is whether Bush's gains are transitory, as Kerry's were in the immediate aftermath of his convention.
-- Richard Morin and Dan Balz
Editors Won't Publish Research
Unless Drug Studies Are Public
A dozen editors of medical journals announced Wednesday they will refuse to publish drug research sponsored by pharmaceutical companies unless the studies are registered in a public database from the outset -- a step designed to ferret out unpublished studies that find medications to be ineffective or dangerous.
The initiative creates a potent incentive for companies to register their drug trials and is expected to give physicians and the public a window on unfavorable studies that companies suppress.
More than two-thirds of studies of antidepressants given to depressed children found the medications were no better than sugar pills, but companies published only the positive trials.
But according to documents and testimony released at a congressional hearing Thursday, federal regulators have repeatedly urged manufacturers not to disclose the negative findings.
The Food and Drug Administration suppressed the information on the grounds it might scare families and physicians away from the drugs, according to testimony by drug company executives.
-- Shankar Vedantam
By 2014, $2.3 Trillion
In New Debt Is Expected
This year's federal budget deficit will reach a record $422 billion, and the government is expected to accumulate $2.3 trillion in new debt over the next 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office reported.
The expected deficit for the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, is $56 billion less than the CBO predicted in March, as a recovering economy added to tax receipts. But it is $46 billion more than last year's record shortfall, with even more red ink possible, the nonpartisan agency reported: The expected total 10-year deficit would climb from $2.3 trillion to $3.6 trillion if President Bush is able to extend the tax cuts he has promoted. They are set to expire in 2011.
About half of the projected 10-year deficit is based on an assumption that conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will continue. CBO policy requires that deficit projections be based on current conditions.
-- Jonathan Weisman
Greenspan Cites Oil's Restraints
On Economy's Ability to Grow
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said that U.S. economic growth picked up in recent weeks but is still restrained by high oil prices.
Greenspan, appearing before the House Budget Committee, said the spring surge in energy prices weakened the economy more than analysts had expected.
The Fed chairman stressed that he was speaking only for himself, not for his central bank colleagues. Yet by noting signs of improvement, he bolstered analysts' expectations that Fed policymakers will stick to their plan to raise a key short-term interest rate when they meet Sept. 21.
Greenspan noted that retail sales and housing starts rebounded in July after falling in June, that job growth revived in August after essentially stalling the previous two months and that business investment has continued to rise.
August retail sales for stores that market primarily to middle-income households reported lackluster back-to-school sales. But those with a more upscale clientele reported stronger results.
-- Nell Henderson
Studies Chart Benefits
Of Fitness Over Thinness
Being fit appears to be far more important than being thin for decreasing the risk of heart disease, while the opposite seems to be the case for diabetes, according to two new studies in women.
One study of more than 900 women with chest pain found those who were unfit were much more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than those who were overweight; but the other, a study of more than 37,000 healthy nurses, found that being fit did little to reduce the huge risk that overweight women face of developing diabetes.
The new studies, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, rekindled an intense debate over the relative risks and benefits of being overweight versus thin, fit versus unfit.
The seeming conflict may be the result of the different diseases and populations of women that were studied, with weight perhaps playing a greater role in diabetes and fitness possibly more important for heart disease, experts said.
-- Rob Stein