Day: February 13, 2017

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$89,000 drug delays launch


CEO says drugmaker will meet with advocates to explain company's plans and review the community's concerns. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

A high-priced drug approved last week to treat a rare disease that affects young boys is not hitting the market after criticism over its $89,000-a-year price tag.

Marathon Pharmaceuticals said Monday that it is delaying the launch of Emflaza, a drug to treat the rare muscular disorder Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The Illinois drugmaker didn’t say how long the drug would be delayed or when it initially planned to hit the market.

The company’s CEO, Jeff Aronin, said in a letter that it is pausing the launch to meet with drug advocates and “explain our commercialization plans, review their concerns, discuss all options, and move forward with commercialization.”

The delay announced Monday comes the same day that Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., demanded answers about the $89,000 annual price for Emflaza.

The drug is a steroid that has been marketed overseas for $1,000. The Food and Drug Administration approved the drug to treat Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy last week.

Trump 'evaluating the situation' with national security adviser Mike Flynn

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President Trump is “evaluating the situation” regarding national security adviser Michael Flynn role in the administration, the White House said Monday.

“The president is evaluating the situation,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer. “He is speaking to vice president relative to the conversation the VP had with General Flynn and also speaking to various other people about what he considers he single most important subject there is – our national security.”

Spicer’s statement came approximately one hour after Kellyanne Conway said on TV that Flynn has “the full confidence of the president.

02/13/17 5:17 PM

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Kellyanne Conway says Mike Flynn enjoys Trump's 'full confidence'


Flynn (center) has come under fire for statements he made about his contact with the Russian ambassador before Trump took office. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, said Monday the president’s embattled national security adviser continues to enjoy Trump’s full support despite a spate of reports suggesting he may have misled the vice president over his pre-inaugural contact with Russia.

“Gen. [Mike] Flynn does enjoy the full confidence of the president,” Conway said during an interview with MSNBC.

Flynn has come under fire for seemingly false statements he made to reporters and to Vice President Mike Pence about whether he discussed sanctions relief with the Russian ambassador before Trump took office.

Pence later repeated Flynn’s denial as fact.

Reports that indicate Flynn did indeed broach the topic of removing sanctions against Russia during his conversation with the Russian official have since surfaced, calling into question Flynn’s previous characterization of that conversation.

On Friday, Trump said he had not seen the reports about Flynn and promised to look into them.

Conway’s assurances on Monday marked the first time an administration official has spoken out in defense of Flynn since the allegations resurfaced late last week.

Democratic lawmakers have begun to call for Flynn’s resignation over what they have described as credibility issues.

Trump avoids questions on Mike Flynn during press conference

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Trump did not call on major news outlets that would have likely asked him about Flynn.

02/13/17 3:10 PM

Trump avoids questions on Mike Flynn during press conference

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Trump did not call on major news outlets that would have likely asked him about Flynn.

02/13/17 3:10 PM

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Trump's awkward compensatory gestures


When Trump feels inadequate about a subject matter, he ends up overcompensating for his deficiency. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Often, when President Trump feels inadequate about a subject matter, he ends up overcompensating for his deficiency.

During his Monday press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trump referenced a White House meeting with women business leaders and said, “We know, the full power of women can do better than anyone else. We know that.” He went on to state that he is dedicated to removing the barriers women face.

Can women do better than anyone else? Or would it be more accurate to say that women can do just as well as anyone else? Most people would say the latter. But for a man with an affinity for overstatement and a need to push back against the image of himself as a misogynist, he probably feels he needs to ratchet up the rhetoric a bit.

He’s done the same thing many times in the past. “I love Hispanics,” Trump has said on numerous occasions in a transparent attempt to combat the media-created image of him as a bigot intent on ridding the country of every Spanish-speaking person at gunpoint.

Or consider his statement in the primaries that there would have to be “some sort of punishment” for women who abort their pregnancies under a Trump presidency. Trump seemed to have no clue that pro-lifers completely oppose such a policy. But he was also acutely aware that he was not one of them but needed to say whatever would win their support. So he made a grand gesture but overshot his mark and ended up hurting his own cause. The Trump campaign quickly walked back his “punishment” idea, though it dogged him for the rest of the campaign and is still mentioned occasionally even now.

It’s a minor point, but Trump’s awkward compensatory gestures make the listener — at least this one — think he’s being insincere. Then again, many listeners have probably become inured to Trump’s hyperbole. At this point, if he ever said something more restrained — such as “Women can do just as well as men,”—he’d probably be accused of misogyny.

Daniel Allott is deputy commentary editor for the Washington Examiner

Trump avoids questions on Mike Flynn during press conference

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Trump did not call on major news outlets that would have likely asked him about Flynn.

02/13/17 3:10 PM

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Mexican lawmaker threatens a corn war


Tariff wars have consequences. CNN reports Armando Rios Piter, a Mexican lawmaker, is proposing a bill as retaliation for President Trump’s threats. The measure would somehow (the mechanism is not made clear) cause Mexico to begin importing its corn from South America instead of the U.S.

The report doesn’t explain much in depth, so let me note that you should take it with a grain of salt. Rios Piter is a member of the socialist PRD party — quite radical politically, and third-place electorally by a long way in the Mexican Congress behind the center-left PRI (the party of President Enrique Peña Nieto) and the conservative PAN.

Last September, Rios Piter was talking about passing a bill to expropriate Americans’ property in Mexico in the event that Trump won. So his word has a somewhat smaller chance of translating into anything real than the average bill proposed by Bernie Sanders in our own Senate.

Still, U.S. corn farmers have a lot to lose if this kind of thinking goes mainstream south of the border — as much as a quarter of their export market.

American farmers sent $2.4 billion of corn to Mexico in 2015, the most recent year of available data. In 1995, the year after NAFTA became law, corn exports to Mexico were a mere $391 million.
Experts say such a bill would be very costly to U.S. farmers.
“If we do indeed see a trade war where Mexico starts buying from Brazil … We’re going to see it affect the corn market and ripple out to the rest of the ag economy,” says Darin Newsom, senior analyst at DTN, an agricultural management firm.

Mexico is the number two destination for U.S. corn, consuming 26 percent of U.S. corn exports. (Japan is number one, at 29 percent.) You can perhaps get a sense, then, of why farmers like free trade. Today, they export about six times as much corn to Mexico as they did before NAFTA.

Trump avoids questions on Mike Flynn during press conference

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Trump did not call on major news outlets that would have likely asked him about Flynn.

02/13/17 3:10 PM



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McConnell: Democrats using double standard on Gorsuch


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell argued Monday that Democrats are requiring a “special test” for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch that conflicts with a standard set by Ruth Bader Ginsburg during her confirmation hearing.

McConnell, R-Ky., said Democrats are demanding Gorsuch, a federal appellate judge, prove his judicial independence by giving them “drive-by legal conclusions” that would signal how he would rule on key issues.

“This new special test and special obligation are not about ensuring Gorsuch’s judicial independence, but is about compromising it,” McConnell said. “In the upside-down world of my Democratic friends, judge Gorsuch must lose his his judicial independence as a sitting circuit court judge and future Supreme Court Justice in order to prove his judicial independence.”

Democrats are demanding a 60-vote procedural hurdle for Gorsuch, and many Democratic lawmakers said they are skeptical of his nomination, while some have already announced their opposition.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to hold a confirmation hearing in March. McConnell said Democrats should not expect Gorsuch to declare how he would rule on specific cases.

He pointed to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s confirmation hearing in 1993, when, he said, she set the standard for nominees to maintain their independence on the high court by refusing to give specifics on how they might rule on specific cases.

“I do not want to give here any hints,” Ginsburg said when asked how she would rule on abortion cases. “I cannot say one word on that subject that would not violate what I said would have to be my rules about.”

McConnell said Supreme Court nominees who followed Ginsburg also declined to declare their position on specific issues. McConnell said Democrats “are in a pickle” because they cannot find a reason to oppose Gorsuch on the merits of his qualifications and are instead employing a “double standard,” with Gorsuch.

The Ginsburg standard will continue with Gorsuch, McConnell said. “No hints, no forecasts, no previews. Fair consideration and an up or down vote,” he said.

Trump avoids questions on Mike Flynn during press conference

Also from the Washington Examiner

Trump did not call on major news outlets that would have likely asked him about Flynn.

02/13/17 3:10 PM

Trump avoids questions on Mike Flynn during press conference

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Trump did not call on major news outlets that would have likely asked him about Flynn.

02/13/17 3:10 PM



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More mainstream media mess-ups: The Muslim Olympian 'detained because of President Trump's travel ban' was detained under Obama


Reporters are at it again – and again, and again and again.

The latest spun-up, anti-President Trump story involves Ibtihaj Muhammad, a New Jersey native who made headlines last year when she became the first female Muslim-American to win an Olympic medal for the United States.

Muhammad, a lifelong American citizen, claimed in an interview last week that she was detained “just a few weeks ago” by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents. She said she was held for a few hours without explanation.

It’s important to recognize from the get-go that Muhammad didn’t put a hard date on when the alleged detaining occurred. It’s also probably worth noting that she is an outspoken Trump critic, and that she is extremely displeased with his executive order temporarily barring immigration from seven Middle Eastern countries.

Here’s a transcript of what Muhammad told Popsugar’s Lindsay Miller on Feb. 7 about the alleged incident [emphasis added]:

Popsugar: Do you know anyone who was directly impacted by Trump’s travel ban?
Ibtihaj Muhammad: Well, I personally was held at Customs for two hours just a few weeks ago. I don’t know why. I can’t tell you why it happened to me, but I know that I’m Muslim. I have an Arabic name. And even though I represent Team USA and I have that Olympic hardware, it doesn’t change how you look and how people perceive you.
Unfortunately, I know that people talk about this having a lot to do with these seven countries in particular, but I think the net is cast a little bit wider than we know. And I’m included in that as a Muslim woman who wears a hijab.

Many journalists skipped over the “when” of her story, and rushed to publish reports tying her anecdotal claim to the president’s immigration order.

“Olympic athlete Ibtihaj Muhammad was detained because of President Trump’s travel ban,” read a headline published by Time magazine’s Motto.

The U.K.’s Independent went with a story titled, “US Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad says she was detained by customs after Donald Trump’s ‘Muslim ban.’

DOJ: TSA workers smuggled 20 tons of cocaine into the US

Also from the Washington Examiner

About $30 million was seized from the conspirators.

02/13/17 2:19 PM

The Daily Mail said of the incident that it, “comes after Donald Trump signed an executive order – currently suspended – banning travel from seven largely Muslim countries causing chaos in US airports.”

“U.S. Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad being detained illustrates why Trump’s Muslim ban is not who we are as Americans,” read the headline to an article published by the New York Daily News.

The Hill published an article whose opening paragraph read, “A Muslim-American Olympic medalist says she was detained by Customs for nearly two hours without explanation after President Trump’s travel ban was instituted a few weeks ago.”

Sports Illustrated and ESPN published stories whose entire purpose was to tie Muhammad’s customs tale to Trump’s immigration order, though the reports don’t come right out and say it.

Journalists reacted to the story on social media with the usual mixture of despair and outrage.

Homeland Security Democrats worry Trump's cellphone a national security risk

Also from the Washington Examiner

“Subsequent reports, however, suggest that President Trump may still be using his personal smartphone.”

02/13/17 2:17 PM

The problem with this particular news cycle, however, is that the alleged detaining apparently occurred in December, before Trump had even been sworn in as America’s 45th president.

Muhammad noted casually several days after her Feb. 7 interview that she meant last year when she said, “just a few weeks ago.”

“Thanks to all who reached out regarding the December incident at customs. I will continue be a voice for all impacted by profiling & bigotry,” she said in a tweet on Feb. 11.

Let’s pause now to review some quick facts:

– Barack Obama was still president in December 2016, meaning Muhammad was reportedly detained under America’s 44th commander in chief.
– Trump wasn’t sworn into office until Jan. 20.
– The executive order on immigration wasn’t signed into law until Jan. 27.

To put it plainly, claims that Trump’s temporary immigration ban ensnared an American champion appear to be totally false, and by that champion’s own admission.

Before we go, a few points bear further discussion, and none of them reflect well on Muhammad or the press.

First, it’s mind-boggling that no one in that room on Feb. 7 thought to ask her for the exact date on which she was reportedly detained. It’s a basic duty of journalism to get the who, what, where, when, why and how to every story. That Muhammad’s interviewers didn’t think to pursue the “when” is astounding.

Secondly, Muhammad isn’t blameless in all of this. A less-than-charitable person would suspect her of being purposefully vague and imprecise. She was asked a simple “yes or no” question about the president’s immigration order. Instead of giving a simple answer, she provided an anecdote involving the very misleading use of “just a few weeks ago.”

Her follow up remarks in that interview are also suggestive. Here’s the next part of the transcript:

PS: That must have been a scary moment for you.
IM: It’s really hard. My human response is to cry because I was so sad and upset and disheartened — and just disappointed. At the same time, I’m one of those people who feels like I have to be strong for those people who may not be able to find that strength.
I feel like I have to speak up for those people whose voices go unheard. It was a really hard two hours, but at the same time, I made it home. I try to remember to be positive and to try to leave all these situations, even if they may be very difficult, with love. I think that we will come out on top as women, as people of color, as Muslims, as transgender people, as people who are part of the disabled community — I think that we’ll come out on top.

She’s not doing anyone any favors with this language. Her remarks seem to suggest her alleged detainment had something to do with the president’s executive order. This much is evident from the fact so many reporters took her response to mean the executive order affected her personally.

Lastly, the biggest problem with the original story and Muhammad’s eventual clarification is that they both rely on her say-so. Few, if any, reporters have attempted to corroborate her overall claim of being detained. That much is evident from the fact that several journalists thought the incident occurred post-executive order. It has not yet been proven that she was ever even detained. Spokespersons for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency and Muhammad did not respond to the Washington Examiner’s request for comment.

Basically, this entire news cycle is the result of reporters rushing to fill in the blanks in vague remarks made by a Muslim woman who may or may not have been detained by U.S. Customs when Obama was still in office.

That’s some quality work.

This story has been updated.

Trump avoids questions on Mike Flynn during press conference

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Trump did not call on major news outlets that would have likely asked him about Flynn.

02/13/17 3:10 PM



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Trump avoids questions on Michael Flynn during press conference


President Trump on Monday managed to avoid potentially uncomfortable questions related to National Security Adviser Michael Flynn while hosting a press conference at the White House with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Much of the national news media’s attention in recent days has been centered on Flynn after it was reported that he, contrary to what other White House officials have said, had contact with top members of the Russian government related to sanctions currently in place by the U.S.

Trump and Trudeau took two questions each at the joint conference on Monday but, as some reporters pointed out after it was over, Trump did not call on major news outlets that would have likely asked him about Flynn.

Instead, Trump called on a reporter from the conservative Daily Caller website and a reporter from Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns several local news stations.

The Daily Caller reporter asked Trump what he considered to be the biggest national security threat. Trump replied it was North Korea.

Reporters from news organizations that got shut out fumed afterward and accused Trump of deliberately avoiding questions about the big topic of the day.

Jennifer Griffen, Fox News’s national security correspondent, reacted on Twitter, “No questions about Flynn’s status even though it is leading every newscast?? Are these planted questions on the Washington side?”

Katy Tur, a White House correspondent for MSNBC, said Trump dodged talking about Flynn by not calling on any journalist “with some real heft.”

GOP senator: 'Troubling' if Flynn talked sanctions with Russia

Also from the Washington Examiner

If Flynn didn’t tell Pence the truth about the call, Collins said it would be a “huge issue.”

02/13/17 2:51 PM

Jennifer Epstein of Bloomberg said in the last two days, Trump has only called on “conservative news orgs that did not ask about Flynn.”

And Peter Baker of the New York Times said that Trump managed to “get through news conference without being asked about Flynn.”

Trudeau, Trump emphasize need for tougher border security

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“We had a very strong and fruitful discussion,” Trudeau told reporters

02/13/17 2:47 PM



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Trudeau, Trump emphasize need for tougher border security


President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday emphasized the need for tougher security along their shared border, despite previous clashing over immigration restrictions that Trump believes will keep both countries safe.

“We had a very strong and fruitful discussion,” Trudeau told reporters at a joint press conference when asked if they discussed immigration policy.

“The last thing Canadians expect is for me to come down to another country and lecture them on how they choose to govern themselves,” he later added.

In a joint statement released Monday afternoon, both leaders said their administrations would examine how to enhance border security without impacting cross-border trade or immigration

US says it was ready to shoot down North Korean missile

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The U.S. determined the missile would not reach Japan, but was ready to shoot it down if it looked like it might.

02/13/17 1:03 PM

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Protests as Iowa considers its own 'Scott Walker bill'


In 2011, when Wisconsin passed Act 10, 100,000 left-wing activists descended upon Madison. When the bill passed and the reforms saved local governments billions of dollars, all the rancor looked pretty silly in hindsight.

The opposition to Iowa’s version of Act 10 is not proving to be nearly as bitter or numerically overwhelming, but the teachers’ unions sense the danger.

Hundreds of Iowa teachers, school children and other activists rallied outside the statehouse Sunday, voicing opposition to legislation filed last week that would overhaul the state’s collective bargaining law … The legislation would gut Chapter 20 — which sets the parameters for contract negotiations with public employee unions — Iowa Democrats have said, while Republicans have argued the changes would provide more local control and modernize the 1974 law.
Under the proposed legislation, public employees except for police and firefighters would only be able to bargain for base wages.

Another difference: Although the Iowa law is trying to do what Walker did in Wisconsin — treating public safety workers differently from other state and government workers — public safety unions are visibly protesting as well, arguing that this distinction between the two classes is artificial and could be undone in the future.

In Wisconsin, Act 10 limited collective bargaining to wages only (though wage bargaining was also sharply limited). The abolition of collective bargaining over work rules and benefits returned decision-making to elected officials at all levels. This created all kinds of new budgetary flexibility for school districts that they had never enjoyed before.

Previously, they had been bound to spend much of their budgets according to negotiation or arbitration procedures with the public-sector unions rather than decision-making by elected officials. But under Act 10, instead of massively overpaying on (for example) negotiated sweetheart deals to buy insurance plans from the union itself, they could bid competitively, save a fortune and spend the money on actually hiring teachers and educating students. What’s more, they could create their own work rules — merit pay, rewarding excellence instead of seniority and innovate without being hauled into court.

This is why Act 10 was so revolutionary. Because of the windfall it brought to local governments and school districts, the state contribution to these local government units could be scaled back without their having to raise property taxes. This, in the end, was the only realistic solution to the state’s massive recession-era budget crisis, and it’s the reason Act 10 has become so popular in the state today.

Like Wisconsin’s bill, Iowa’s would require public-sector unions to be recertified in regular elections. As noted in this explainer, union representation in many of the collective bargaining units in state and municipal government was voted on 40 years ago and hasn’t been revisited since. In those cases, no one working today had any part in the decision. Workers who want a different union or no union are bound by decisions made in some cases before they were born.

Like Wisconsin’s, this bill would also end the state’s practice of automatically deducting union dues from paychecks. In cases where wage disputes go to arbitration, arbitrators would actually be bound (it’s amazing this wasn’t the case already) by the government employer’s budget limitations.

Trump, Trudeau launch women business leaders' council

Also from the Washington Examiner

The bilateral initiative is aimed at boosting women entrepreneurs in the U.S. and Canada.

02/13/17 12:59 PM

Republicans in the state legislature in Des Moines may find there is less resistance there, in part because Iowa is already a right-to-work state — Wisconsin was not when Act 10 passed in 2011 — and in part because Madison isn’t its capital. But at a moment when the Left is especially restive and seems to be protesting everything, this reform isn’t gaining the same kind of national attention Wisconsin’s did.

US says it was ready to shoot down North Korean missile

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The U.S. determined the missile would not reach Japan, but was ready to shoot it down if it looked like it might.

02/13/17 1:03 PM



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Music sales skyrocket for singer Joy Villa who wore pro-Trump dress to Grammys


On Amazon alone, Joy Villa's "I Make the Static" increased by more than 18,106 percent. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

In less than 24 hours after setting social media on fire by wearing a pro-Trump “Make America Great Again” dress, singer Joy Villa reached her all-time high in sales.

On Amazon alone, Villa’s 2014 album “I Make the Static” increased by more than 18,106 percent, reaching No. 1 in their album sales charts. Just the day before her record was the 543,202 most-bought album on the website.

Villa experienced a big bump on iTunes as well. As of Monday morning, she had the No. 5 biggest-selling album, outpacing Grammy performers and winners including Adele, Lady Gaga, The Weeknd and Lukas Graham.

Read more at Red Alert Politics.

Could Trump save the media?

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The president’s Twitter barbs, and a public hungry for news, means a better forecast for 2017.

02/13/17 12:01 AM

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