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Why GM's Cash Scramble Is No Surprise

Detroit's carmakers continue to retrench as an economic slump and high fuel prices create the worst auto market in years. As reported in "GM Cuts Costs to Stop Its Cash Burn" (BusinessWeek.com, July 15), General Motors (GM) plans to thin its white-collar ranks, slash advertising, sell assets, and borrow to ride out the trouble. Readers responded to the story with a litany of criticisms. The most common: GM was simply reactive, waiting too long to invest in smaller cars and fuel-saving technology. Other readers chided all U.S. auto makers—and American consumers—for not embracing the lifestyle changes required by today's energy landscape. - By David Welch

GM's woes are not due to $4-a-gallon gas. The successful car companies recognized the [energy] problem and were proactive. GM has acted irresponsibly in the past, and it's paying the price now. It should have developed efficient cars and trucks years ago—just as Congress should have made exploration and drilling possible in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other sites. How stupid can managers and our leaders be? Very.

Screen name: TomE

To name one viable solution: Have a car-industry person with long-range vision at the [company's] helm. Stop putting in brilliant people from the financial side who are best at cost-cutting and look only at short-term gains. It's as if they're playing for Wall Street reactions. They are not acting like auto visionaries.

Screen name: Ludwig Kette

Car culture is indeed running out of gas. It's time for a Marshall Plan that can create an efficient intercity rail system, bus services to smaller communities, and good urban public transport. Europe and Asia are speeding past us because they prepared for the future. If we start now, we'll have a world-class network in 30 years—and kick-start our economy to boot.

Screen name: Jim

Disclosing Ties to Pharma: A Rebuttal

"Doctors Under the Influence?" (In Depth, July 7) was clearly slanted against the industry and physicians and factually incorrect. The most ironic part of your article is that even as you call for more physician disclosure of ties to pharmaceutical companies, you seek to penalize my co-author and me for having done just that at the end of our article in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Instead of approving of that disclosure as a way for readers to judge the content in light of any potential bias, you punished us for it by implying that it revealed a bias. Personally, I am most hurt by having my professionalism and dedication to my patients questioned.

Your article included suggestions that my co-author and I were influenced by Pfizer (PFE) to prescribe and advocate years of treatment using Chantix at a time when concerns about the drug had surfaced. In fact, our Annals article was submitted before the high-profile adverse-event reports and FDA warnings on Chantix. Our only mention of Chantix involved a single study that describes long-term safety. Our theme was that we as a society should be covering any and all treatments for smoking addiction, the leading cause of preventable death. Nowhere in our article do we advocate all smokers taking medications for years.

You have probably gained the favor of one particular and influential business sector: Big Tobacco. For this, you can be proud of your work.

Dr. Michael B. Steinberg, MPH

Medical Director, Tobacco Dependence Clinic

University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey

School of Public Health, Newark


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