Opinion

Stories I’d like to see

CVS and the doctoring business, Sochi consequences, and getting Cohen’s side of the story

Steven Brill
Feb 11, 2014 05:00 UTC

1. How far can CVS and other pharmacy chains get into the doctoring business?

In announcing Wednesday that CVS Caremark would stop selling tobacco, chief executive officer Larry Merlo said selling cigarettes would be, according to a company press release, “inconsistent with our purpose.” He explained, “As the delivery of health care evolves with an emphasis on better health outcomes, reducing chronic disease and controlling costs, CVS Caremark is playing an expanded role in providing care through our pharmacists and nurse practitioners.”

I’d like to know more about what Merlo has in mind vis a vis that “expanded role in providing health care.”

Drugstore chains like CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens already offer flu shots. How is that regulated? Is it allowed in all states? Do licensed nurses have to provide them? Did doctors’ groups or health clinics lobby against it?

How else might CVS and its competitors use its pharmacists and nurse practitioners? How much can nurses do before a doctor is required? (And, again, how does that vary by state?) Do any drugstore chains have plans to put doctors on duty? Have any done so?

Finally, with hospitals now expanding their reach and control of their markets by buying competing hospitals as well as doctors’ practices, are any partnerships in the talking or planning stages between dominant hospital systems in various regions of the country and one or more of these drug chains? Imagine the expanded footprint a hospital system would have if it had an outpost in hundreds of retail outlets.

Is NBC soft on Sochi terror threats, political stalling, and the lawyer who could nail Christie

Steven Brill
Feb 4, 2014 05:00 UTC

1. Is NBC soft on Sochi terror threats? Or are its rivals overdoing it?

I may be imagining it, but while the other network news organizations are giving full, even avid, coverage to the threat of terrorism at the coming Sochi Olympics, NBC — which is televising the games — seems to be playing it down. Or at least not playing it up.

It’s no surprise that NBC has been full of segments featuring the arrivals or practice sessions of members of team America, especially the good-looking ones. That’s a time-honored, if cheesy, effort to use ostensible news shows to boost the games’ ratings.

But it also seems that its coverage of the security threats and accompanying precautions is nothing like what we’re seeing on CBS, ABC, Fox or CNN — where images of barb wire-encased arenas and helmeted Russian security forces abound.

Christie’s legal bills, who profits from retailer hacking, and Davos economics

Steven Brill
Jan 28, 2014 16:46 UTC

1. Christie’s legal bills and lawyers’ conflicts:

When it was announced earlier this month that Governor Chris Christie had hired Randy Mastro, the New York litigation head of California-based Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, to represent the Christie administration in dealing with all of the investigations involving Bridgegate, some observers told reporters that signing on Mastro signaled that Christie and his team might be gearing up to take an aggressive posture that is inconsistent with the governor’s initial promise to cooperate fully in all investigations.

That’s a logical assumption: Mastro, a former protégé of tough-guy New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, is a notoriously hard-nosed litigator.

But what’s also intriguing is that Gibson, Dunn is one of the country’s most expensive law firms. Which raises the question of how much the state is paying to bring in this non-New Jersey team to represent the New Jersey governor’s office? And what is Christie’s rationale for passing over the local talent in a state full of terrific lawyers and law firms?

Why isn’t Chuck Todd anchoring ‘Meet the Press,’ how Sochi happened, and watching LGA crash

Steven Brill
Jan 21, 2014 15:22 UTC

1. Why isn’t Chuck Todd anchoring “Meet The Press”?

NBC’s “Meet The Press” is not simply mired in third place behind “Face the Nation” (CBS) and “This Week” (ABC). It has also become a boring hour weighed down with predictable guests answering bland questions from anchor David Gregory.

So can someone please do a story explaining why NBC chief White House reporter Chuck Todd hasn’t replaced Gregory?

Todd — who is also the host of MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown” — arguably should have been chosen in the first place as the successor to Tim Russert after Russert’s untimely death. In terms of political smarts, enthusiasm for political horse races, and instinct for asking the right follow-ups, Todd was Russert’s natural heir.

Bezos and the Post, America’s worst-run agency, and who’s paying Dennis Rodman?

Steven Brill
Jan 14, 2014 12:28 UTC

1. Bezos and the Washington Post: A nothingburger?

It has now been more than six months since Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced his deal to buy the Washington Post. It’s been more than four months since the transaction closed and Bezos was legally in charge. But so far nothing seems to have changed. The paper still seems to be in a defensive crouch rather than back on the offense, fueled by Bezos’s promise to invest both his money and his brain in the enterprise and launch a bunch of think-outside-the-box initiatives.

For example, Ezra Klein, the maestro of the Post’s Wonkblog, is reported to be about to leave because Bezos and Washington Post executives turned down his proposal to start an ambitious offshoot of his widely-followed domestic policy blog. Without looking at Klein’s business plan it’s impossible to know if their decision makes sense, but the situation is eerily similar to when the prior ownership of the Post turned down the pitch by then-star-reporters John Harris and Jim VandeHei to start something called Politico — which they then took to rival media company Allbritton Communications.

Over the weekend the New York Times announced  that it has beefed up its already-strong China team by hiring the award-winning reporter whose pending story about ties between China’s richest man and the country’s rulers was held or killed (depending on whose account you believe) by Bloomberg News, after which the reporter abruptly left the company. The moment he became available it seemed to me that Bezos could have sent a clear and relatively inexpensive signal that the Post was back in the game by snagging him.

Marijuana rules of the road, grading the CBO, and hiring journalists in war zones

Steven Brill
Jan 6, 2014 21:57 UTC

1. Marijuana rules of the road:

With Colorado legalizing pot last week, I’ve been waiting for a story about whether the bomb-sniffing dogs at the Denver International Airport will now have an expanded portfolio.

This story on CNN.com says that travelers will not be searched for marijuana per se but that carrying pot through the airport is not allowed. If a traveler is searched for any other reason and pot is found the traveler will be subject to a “$999 administrative fine.”

Does this relatively laid back approach mean that people coming in and out of Colorado will be free to take marijuana cigarettes or brownies home with them? With that in mind, how do the purchase limits — one ounce per transaction for Colorado residents and a quarter of an ounce for non-residents — work? Is there a limit on the number of transactions a non-resident can make in a day or a week?

The Oracle Oregon fiasco, crying wolf on an Obamacare tax, and anointing the ‘Politico 50′

Steven Brill
Dec 31, 2013 16:01 UTC

1. The Oracle Oregon fiasco:

We all know by now that the dominant story line of the Obamacare website’s failed launch is that the federal government is terrible at doing high-tech projects — let alone one that involves the e-commerce wizardry that has made Silicon Valley the envy of the world.

But it turns out that one state exchange to sell Obamacare insurance plans has had an even more disastrous launch than the 36-state HealthCare.gov. It’s CoverOregon.com — the website for the Oregon exchange.

In fact, as this Associated Press story notes, last week state officials cancelled an advertising campaign to get people to sign up at CoverOregon.com because the website still isn’t up and running.

MSNBC’s book promotion machine, helping Dasani, and profiling Eric Schneiderman

Steven Brill
Dec 24, 2013 11:53 UTC

1. MSNBC’s book promotion machine:

Lately it seems as if it must be written into MSNBC anchors’ contracts that if he or she writes a book, no matter how related to current news, the anchor will get endless opportunities to promote it on the cable channel’s air.

The most blatant example is “Hardball”’s Chris Matthews, who recently came out with Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked — about how the friendship between then-House Speaker Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan supposedly produced productive, bipartisan governing during the Reagan years.

Since Matthews’ book was published in October (in fact, even in the weeks leading up to its publication) whenever there has been a story about Washington gridlock — which is just about always — MSNBC has used it as a pretext to feature Matthews on its various shows talking about how things were different in the good old O’Neill-Reagan days, when Matthews was O’Neill’s chief of staff

Profiling John Miller, the Snowden dilemma, and options for national security whistleblowers

Steven Brill
Dec 17, 2013 12:26 UTC

1. Profiling John Miller:

This story  in the Huffington Post last week speculated that CBS News senior correspondent John Miller might be appointed to run the New York City Police Department’s counterterrorism unit, now that Bill Bratton has been named police commissioner by Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio.

The story makes sense. Miller and Bratton are close friends and Bratton had Miller running counterterrorism in Los Angeles when he was police chief there. Miller — who began his career in the 1970s as a reporter for local New York City TV outlets before being promoted to the networks — had served as the NYPD’s deputy commissioner for public affairs during Bratton’s first tour running the NYPD in 1994. And just before coming to CBS in 2011 he had held senior positions at the FBI and in the office of the Director of National Intelligence.

But here’s why CBS should do everything possible to make sure Miller doesn’t leave — and why a newspaper or magazine editor would be smart to assign a profile of him: If major league television news organizations named a Most Valuable Player the way baseball does, Miller would get the honor this year, hands down.

Behind a legislative triumph, Mandela memorial security, and a question for Politico

Steven Brill
Dec 10, 2013 11:28 UTC

1. Behind a legislative triumph:

According to this article in the Capitol Hill newspaper the Hill, the House is poised this week to pass legislation that relates to three controversial issues: the federal budget, airport security, and funds for the military. Yet the bill is co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of 43 House members.

Does this bipartisan breakthrough signal an end to Washington gridlock? Hardly. In fact, the bill seems more like it was drafted by Saturday Night Live scriptwriters looking for a new way to make fun of Congress.

The law, spearheaded by Republican Congressman Jeff Miller of Florida, doesn’t amount to much more than loose change. Literally.

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