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Minority report

"Minority report" Continued...

Issue: "Race to the finish," Nov. 3, 2012

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to deflect blame from the White House on Oct. 15 by saying that the State Department handles security at diplomatic posts: “I take responsibility.”

But the widening scandal could hound President Barack Obama, as lawmakers—and mothers like Pat Smith—demand answers.

Pakistan’s little hero

Thousands of Pakistanis held candlelight prayer vigils and gathered to protest following the Taliban shooting of Malala Yousufzai, a 14-year-old whose outspoken support of girls’ education made her an international symbol for Pakistani progressivism. Two gunmen stopped Malala’s school bus Oct. 9 and shot the girl in the head, also injuring two female classmates. Doctors in Pakistan performed surgery to remove a bullet before sending Malala to the United Kingdom for continued treatment. Although doctors were hopeful she would recover from the assassination attempt, a Taliban spokesman said the group still intended to kill both Malala and her father, a girls’ school headmaster.

Malala earned the hatred of the Taliban after she chronicled life in her hometown of Mingora, in northern Pakistan’s Swat Valley, for the BBC’s Urdu-language website in 2009, when the Taliban took control of Swat and destroyed dozens of schoolhouses. She gave numerous interviews with Pakistani and Western journalists, criticizing Taliban militants as “barbarians” who had “destroyed the peace of Swat.” Some political leaders in Pakistan are reluctant to criticize the Taliban movement, but observers speculate Malala’s shooting might rally public opinion against extremism.

Deadly shots

Federal lawmakers called for broadening the power of the Food and Drug Administration in the wake of a fungal meningitis outbreak linked to steroid injections. The injections, used to treat back and joint pain and produced in Massachusetts by the New England Compounding Center, were tainted by a fungus commonly found in dirt and grass. By Oct. 15 the shots had sickened 212 and killed 15 in 12 states. Health officials said nearly 14,000 people might have received the tainted injections, putting them at risk for meningitis, a potentially fatal infection of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

Oversight of compounding pharmacies like the NECC currently falls to states. Compounding pharmacies create patient-specific formulations of drugs and aren’t subject to FDA requirements that apply to large-scale drug manufacturers. Massachusetts officials said NECC had violated its license by marketing drugs like a manufacturer.

Abortion conversation

Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., a pro-life doctor, asked a woman he was having an affair with to get an abortion over 10 years ago, according to a phone transcript The Huffington Post unearthed recently. “You told me you’d have an abortion, and now we’re getting too far along without one,” DesJarlais said to the woman, who was a patient of his, according to the transcript. “If we need to go to Atlanta, or whatever, to get this solved and get it over with so we can get on with our lives, then let’s do it.” DesJarlais didn’t deny the conversation, but said the woman turned out not to be pregnant and thus did not have an abortion. He was married at the time, but going through divorce proceedings. The congressman won a seat from a Democrat in 2010, and for now his current Democratic challenger, state Sen. Eric Stewart, is well behind him in polls.

Man knows not his time

Former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter died Oct. 14 at age 82 of complications from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The moderate but often polarizing Specter served on the Republican side of the aisle for most of his 30 years as Pennsylvania’s longest-serving U.S. senator. Crossing party lines, he voted in 2009 for President Barack Obama’s healthcare and economic stimulus bills. The resulting Republican fury spurred him to switch parties, but he went on to lose the Democratic primary, while his former seat stayed in Republican hands. Although he never authored a piece of landmark legislation, he was prominent in Supreme Court confirmation hearings, including derailing Judge Robert H. Bork’s nomination in 1987 but four years later wooing conservatives with his support for Justice Clarence Thomas.

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