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Published: Wednesday, January 7, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 6, 2004 at 9:55 p.m.

Not so fast

Florida politicians are already bragging about a state law signed by Gov. Jeb Bush last June that promised large discounts for prescription drugs 250,000 low-income seniors. There's only one problem - Florida's plan may have been preempted by the recent Medicare reform bill passed by Congress and signed by President Bush. And under that plan, the discounts won't fully go into effect until 2006.

State officials are hoping that Florida's discount plan will be approved for implementation by the federal government, but so far that hasn't happened. Melanie Nathanson, a health policy analyst for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told The Miami Herald recently that it remains "unclear whether the federal government has the stomach to allow the states to run Medicaid pharmacy programs" on their own.

No matter. The politicians, state and federal, are already running for re-election on the claim that they've helped seniors get cheaper prescription drugs. The fact that the help hasn't actually arrived yet - and may not for some time - won't stop all of the bragging.

Shark relief

In the movies, sharks are relentless killers who must be tracked down and slaughtered to make the water safe for human beings. In reality, it sharks that are being pushed to the brink of extinction by relentless overfishing. Now, after several years of litigation by environmental groups, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries has issued new regulations intended to protect large coastal sharks such as the nurse, lemon, bull, tiger, hammerhead and sandbar varieties. Among other things, recreational fishermen will be limited to taking one large shark per vessel per trip, with minimum size limits established. And sharks may be taken only with the use of hook-and-line gear.

"Now we can get these much-needed regulations in place to strengthen our rebuilding plan for large coastal sharks and manage all Atlantic sharks for the long-term benefit of the species and the nation," NOAA Fisheries Director Bill Hogarth said recently. The new restrictions are welcome; contrary to popular belief, sharks have more to fear from human predators than the other way around.

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