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Briefs (right)

E-Mail Notes Say Lobbyist Met President Many Times

By Philip Shenon

The disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff told a magazine editor in recent days that he had met with President Bush many times and was invited to the president’s Texas ranch for a gathering of campaign contributors in 2003, the editor said Thursday.

The journalist, Kim Eisler, national editor of Washingtonian magazine, said in an interview that he had received the information in e-mail messages from Abramoff, a major Republican fund-raiser who pleaded guilty last month to conspiring to bribe public officials. The messages suggest an effort by Abramoff to cast doubt on Bush’s insistence that he does not recall the two of them meeting and that whatever contact they might have had was fleeting and for the purposes of a handshake and a picture.

In one message, Abramoff is reported as saying that Bush had “one of the best memories of any politician I have ever met” and that he “saw me in almost a dozen settings and joked with me about a bunch of things, including details of my kids.” He is reported to have added: “Perhaps he has forgotten everything. Who knows.”

An Abramoff defense spokesman, Andrew Blum, said he could not comment on the e-mail messages or confirm their authenticity.

Eisler said he had been in contact with Abramoff since interviewing him six years ago while researching a book he was writing about Indian reservation gambling; Abramoff’s most lucrative lobbying clients were Indian casinos.

Panel Advises Risk Warning
On Stimulants

By Gardiner Harris

Stimulants like Ritalin could have dangerous effects on the heart, and federal regulators should require manufacturers to provide written guides to patients and place prominent warnings on drug labels describing these risks, a federal advisory panel voted on Thursday.

The panel’s recommendation promises to intensify a long-running debate about whether the medicines are overused. Nearly 4 million patients take the drugs to treat attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity, and committee members said they wanted to slow explosive growth in the drugs’ use.

The committee’s action was entirely unexpected. The Food and Drug Administration had convened the panel to help it determine how to research possible heart risks of the drugs. The agency had not asked it to address the drugs’ labels at this time, and agency officials seemed taken aback by the votes, saying they would not act on the committee’s recommendations anytime soon. “We don’t think anything different needs to be done right now,” Dr. Thomas Laughren, director of the FDA’s division of psychiatry products, said at a hastily arranged news conference after the meeting. “We think the labeling right now is adequate.”

The committee voted unanimously to recommend patient guides, and it voted 8-7 to suggest that stimulant labels carry the most serious of the FDA’s drug-risk warnings -- a “black box.”

“I must say that I have grave concerns about the use of these drugs and grave concerns about the harm they may cause,” said Dr. Steven Nissen, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic who is a member of the panel.