President Bush signed into law the most sweeping changes in Medicare history amid questions about their fiscal wisdom. The $400 billion overhaul includes the first prescription-drug benefit for the elderly in the program's almost four decades; it goes into effect in 2006. Beginning next May, seniors can buy inexpensive discount cards to help offset the growing costs of prescriptions. An array of experimental programs on everything from oral cancer treatments to chiropractic services, coupled with privatization incentives, represent the bulk of the changes. As Bush signed the legislation in a campaign-style event, Democrats criticized it as a threat to Medicare's future and to the federal deficit.
The House opened debate on a controversial $373 billion spending bill that Democrats claim opens the door for what they call bad Bush administration policies on overtime pay, food labeling, and media ownership. The wide-ranging measure would finance administration initiatives for battling AIDS in Africa and for the AmeriCorps national service program. Conservatives criticize the bill as too fat. Still, analysts expected Republican congressional leaders to push it through the House Monday. A divided Senate is unlikely to vote on it before mid-December.
Cincinnati's mayor urged the city to buy stun guns for its police force in response to the death of a black man who struggled with six officers last week. Charlie Luken (D) asked City Council members Sunday to find $1 million in the 2004 budget to pay for the nonlethal weapons, which he suggested could prevent deaths like that of Nathaniel Jones, following a beating with metal nightsticks.
Major-college football was up to the shoulder pads in controversy after a computer determination late Sunday left the top-ranked University of Southern California Trojans out of the Jan. 4 Sugar Bowl, which will determine the national championship. Oklahoma and Louisiana State, the top teams according to the electronically-ranked Bowl Championship Series, will face off in the game. USC fans say their team's Rose Bowl game against Michigan should carry equal weight and that if the Trojans win they should share the national title.