Sunday, October 14, 2018

How to Act Like a Villain

Trump set to force drugmakers to post prices in ads


The Trump administration will require drug companies to post their list prices in consumer ads under a proposal to be announced next week — a prominent part of its drug price agenda, according to four individuals with knowledge of the plan. The move — which follows months of battles between the administration, congressional leaders and the pharmaceutical industry — is one of many proposals in President Donald Trump's blueprint to lower drug prices. But experts caution that the impact may be relatively insignificant and it could even confuse patients, considering the complexities of drug pricing. “There is a real question whether the idea could be executed [to] give meaningful, nonmisleading information to patients,” said Coleen Klasmeier, a partner at Sidley Austin who focuses on pharmaceutical law. The administration reiterated its commitment to lowering drug prices, in response to POLITICO's initial report of the looming proposal. “While we cannot comment on pending regulations, the President’s ‘American Patients First’ blueprint to lower prescription drug prices and reduce out-of pocket costs clearly states that HHS is looking at options to require drug pricing transparency," said HHS spokesperson Caitlin Oakley. "It should not come as a surprise that this would require rulemaking." HHS Secretary Alex Azar is scheduled to give a speech Monday afternoon that will address the administration’s drug pricing reforms. The agency's proposal has been under review by the White House since August and is expected to be published in the Federal Register as soon as Monday. The rule would be issued through CMS and the agency's regulatory authority under the Social Security Act. Drugmakers have opposed the idea and worked to strip a similar proposal from a congressional funding package last month. "Such a requirement would not benefit patients, could have the unintended and harmful consequence of deterring patients from seeking care and would raise legal concerns," the industry's major trade group PhRMA warned HHS this summer. Policy experts also are skeptical that the proposal will do much to rein in high prices, since drugmakers’ list prices are mostly used as a starting point for negotiations with other health care payers and few patients are asked to pay them. They also have cautioned that it could affect public health by discouraging the use of some medicines. “The price of a drug has absolutely no relation to the cost for a consumer,” said Dale Cooke, a consultant who specializes in drug advertisements and has been a vocal critic of the government's plan. He also cautioned that an ad containing a high list price could scare away patients who will assume they can't afford the cost of the drug, even if their health insurance would pick up most of the cost. "That would potentially be tragic," Cooke said. “If the government wanted to bring down the prices of drugs, you could think of a bunch of different ways ... without trying to hijack the manufacturers' own speech to do it,” added Sidley Austin's Klasmeier. But Azar and President Donald Trump have championed the idea as a simple, understandable way to address high drug prices. "I actually think it's an important part of fair balance," Azar said on POLITICO's "Pulse Check" podcast in May. "I believe consumers should have a right to know that information." source: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/10/12/trump-drug-list-prices-846181 #Headlines by: skarlin@politico.com (Sarah Karlin-Smith)

Original Post: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/10/12/trump-drug-list-prices-846181

Trump hints defence secretary Jim Mattis could resign: 'He's sort of a Democrat'


It's not the first time people have speculated over ex-general's future source: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/trump-jim-mattis-quit-resign-defence-secretary-democrat-60-minutes-interview-a8583696.html #Headlines by: Andrew Buncombe

Original Post: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/trump-jim-mattis-quit-resign-defence-secretary-democrat-60-minutes-interview-a8583696.html

Brexit deal not reached despite 'intense efforts' in Brussels


EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier confirms problems remain including Irish border source: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-deal-latest-michel-barnier-dominic-raab-meeting-brussels-a8583901.html #Headlines by: Peter Stubley

Original Post: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-deal-latest-michel-barnier-dominic-raab-meeting-brussels-a8583901.html

How the liberal wish list could bite Democrats


A Trump-inspired resurgence on the left has even many centrist Democrats embracing an outspokenly liberal wish list as their party hopes to capture one or both chambers of Congress in November. Just don’t count on any of it happening soon. Even symbolic votes on the growing roster of progressive expectations could create political headaches for Democrats seeking the White House in 2020. That means "Medicare for all," debt-free college and a $15 minimum wage will remain more the subject of liberal aspirations than represent a real shift in the nation's policies. President Donald Trump is already trying to tar progressive ideas as ballot-box poison, denouncing single-payer health care as Venezuela-style “socialism” (never mind that he endorsed it in 2000) and saying Democrats who want to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency must have a “death wish.” Democrats may have trouble uniting even on repeal of Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut, which received not a single Democratic vote in either chamber when it passed last year. At the same time, the party’s left flank warns that the biggest political mistake Democrats could make is to deflate their base’s enthusiasm — and that timid moves will not motivate progressives to flock to the polls in 2020. The Democrats’ predicament after November may mirror the difficulties Republicans faced after their tea-party-fueled House sweep eight years ago, which forced GOP leaders to put down repeated insurrections from the conservative Freedom Caucus on fights like the debt limit. Here is POLITICO’s guide to some of the most ambitious liberal causes Democrats will have to navigate amid widespread expectations that they will at least capture the House: 1. Single-payer health care More than half the House Democratic Conference and several of the party’s most prominent potential presidential candidates have endorsed some form of universally available government-funded health insurance, including independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ proposal to make all Americans eligible for Medicare. But House Democratic leaders prefer starting with a more interim step — repairing the damage they say Republicans have done to the Affordable Care Act. How aggressively to push on health care will be one of the Democrats’ defining internal debates in advance of the 2020 election. “All of us feel very strongly that health care is one of the major issues in the [midterm] election, and that Democrats are for affordable health care for all,” said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), a co-sponsor of the Medicare For All bill. “There may not be total agreement on how to do that.” Even lawmakers who favor offering government-funded health insurance to everybody are split on how to do it. Some Democrats favor creating a government-funded “public option” within Obamacare to compete with private insurers, a plan Republicans warn would eventually compel private insurers to withdraw. Others would work outside Obamacare, allowing people to buy into Medicare or herding everyone into a single government-funded system. Meanwhile, Republicans are trying to wield Medicare For All as a wedge issue to drive elderly voters away from Democrats. “Democrats would gut Medicare with their planned government takeover of American health care,” Trump warned in an Oct. 10 op-ed. If this tactic enjoys any success in the midterms, a Democratic House might hesitate to press single-payer. “I tell some of these young activists, before you were born I was for universal health care,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). “I am all for moving as fast as we can toward doing that, but there are things we can do right away.” 2. $15 minimum wage Two years ago, Sanders found few Democrats willing to support his call for raising the hourly minimum wage to $15, up from the current $7.25. Now it’s hard to find any congressional Democrat who opposes it. Bills that would phase in such an increase over several years have drawn the support of nearly two-thirds of the Senate Democratic Caucus and more than 170 House Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Polls consistently show that Republican and Democratic voters alike tend to favor raising the minimum wage. Still, Republican opposition in the Senate would likely doom a $15 wage minimum — unless Trump supported it to shore up his image as a champion of the working class. Candidate Trump said he favored a minimum wage increase to $10, though only after a series of messy flip-flops on the subject that included a suggestion that there shouldn’t be a national wage minimum at all. Another obstacle: Minimum-wage workers tend to vote Democratic; it’s their white blue-collar counterparts, who pull down bigger salaries, who favor Trump. “It’s an easy vote for the Democrats to push in the House,” said Marc Freedman, vice president of employment policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “because nobody who has to worry about it thinks it will go anywhere.” 3. Abolishing ICE Although a faction of liberal Democrats wants to shut down the agency tasked with arresting and deporting undocumented immigrants, it seems doubtful a Democratic House will even attempt it. The “abolish ICE” mantra acquired momentum as a result of Trump’s family separation policy, which split thousands of children from their parents from April through June. The message was amplified by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s defeat of Democratic stalwart Joe Crowley in his Queens congressional district. But the movement never went mainstream, and Democratic leaders don’t want to touch it. In a recent interview with POLITICO, Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-highest-ranking Democratic senator, called it an overly simplistic “campaign slogan.” ICE “should be changed, of course,” Durbin said. “Abolished? We will need some agency to do what it does.” An abolish-ICE bill introduced in the House in July by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) counts only eight co-sponsors — with half of them from immigrant-friendly New York City. If Democrats take the House, they won’t have a shortage of immigration issues to tackle, and dismantling a federal agency probably won’t be the first order of business. Approximately 700,000 undocumented Dreamers — people brought to the U.S. illegally as children — have only tenuous protection from deportation since Trump moved to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. And roughly 400,000 people with Temporary Protected Status also could face removal as the president seeks to phase out their ability live and work in the U.S. “I think all of those will take priority,” said Democratic strategist Maria Cardona. The reality of that became clear in July, when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy cornered Democrats with a resolution to stand in solidarity with ICE officers, a sort of countermove to the “abolish” movement. A majority of Democrats refused to take a stand and simply voted “present.” 4. Repealing the tax cuts Not One Penny, a coalition that includes unions, MoveOn.org and other liberal interests, is pressuring Democrats to revoke the tax cut that Republicans enacted last December. “If Democrats want to prove that they’re ready to wrench power away from the wealthy elites, then they should repeal the law,” said spokesman Tim Hogan. But even a Democrat-led House would probably flinch from repealing the tax cuts in their entirety, because they wouldn’t want to raise taxes on middle-class Democratic constituents. More likely, the House would follow former President Barack Obama’s example in 2013 when he made George W. Bush’s tax cuts permanent, except for high earners, on whom he raised rates. That’s the playbook that House Ways and Means Committee ranking member Richard Neal (D-Mass.) followed in a recent proposal to restore the top individual tax rate to 39.6 percent, where it stood before the GOP overhaul lowered it to 37 percent. One way to improve the chances for a full or partial repeal would be to make public Trump’s own tax returns, something Congress has the legal authority to do. Democrats renewed that call after a recent New York Times investigation alleged that decades’ worth of documents show a long-running pattern of tax fraud by members of the Trump family, including the president. With tangible evidence in hand that the rich man who sits in the White House evaded paying taxes, a tax hike on the rich might become a much easier sell. 5. Debt-free college Americans owe $1.5 trillion in student loans, a staggering debt that helped fuel momentum for Sanders’ idea of “debt-free” college during the 2016 Democratic primaries. This year, Ocasio-Cortez and fellow Democratic congressional candidates such as Ilhan Omar in Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib in Michigan are campaigning on the idea of free or debt-free college. In July, Pelosi joined Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott, the top Democrat on the House Education Committee, in proposing a bill that, among many other provisions, would provide federal grant aid to states that make an associate’s degree at public two-year colleges free for every student. In the Senate, meanwhile, Democrats Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California — all potential presidential candidates — have signed onto the Debt-Free College Act of 2018 by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). The bill “provides a dollar-for-dollar federal match to state higher education appropriations in exchange for a commitment to help students pay for the full cost of attendance without having to take on debt,” Schatz’s office says. The sticking point is cost. The Tax Policy Center estimated that Sanders’ free college plan would cost $800 billion over a decade. That was in a year when the federal budget deficit was $587 billion. Today, thanks in large part to Trump’s tax cuts, the Congressional Budget Office projects the 2018 budget deficit will be $793 billion. In addition, Democrats are divided about whether free college programs help wealthier young people more than less-wealthy ones, who might not attend college at all. “There are more targeted ways we could be spending this type of money,” said Tamara Hiler, deputy director of education at the center-left think tank Third Way. 6. Net neutrality Liberal activists cried foul in 2017 when Trump’s Federal Communications Commission revoked the Obama administration’s net neutrality rule, which barred providers like Verizon and Comcast from blocking or throttling certain web traffic or creating higher-priced fast lanes. “I’m determined to bring back a free and open internet and to make sure we go back to net neutrality as the national standard,” said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), who’s set to chair the Energy and Commerce Committee if Democrats win back the House. Pallone said he would hold FCC oversight hearings on net neutrality and “try to pass some legislation.” But 17 House Democrats aligned with the telecommunications industry declined to sign onto a resolution to reverse the FCC’s 2017 revocation, a sign that the party isn’t unified on the issue. And anyway, by next year the legislative window will have closed for reversing the revocation under the Congressional Review Act, a 1996 law that allows lawmakers to block regulatory actions on an expedited basis. “I know at one time the Democrats really thought that this was going to be an issue that they could run on, but I don’t see any campaign talking about it,” said Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.). “I don’t see any evidence that they’re getting much traction.” 7. A $1 trillion infrastructure plan House Democrats have made enacting a “historic” $1 trillion infrastructure plan a centerpiece of their midterm election platform, seizing on Trump’s failure to gain any headway in the Republican Congress this year for his own $1.5 trillion proposal to rebuild roads, bridges, airports and other transportation features. But the Democrats would face the same problem Trump’s plan could not overcome — that money must come from somewhere, and the obvious options all face steep political obstacles. Trump’s proposal called for cutting other federal programs, selling off government assets and making cities and states pay more, none of which appealed to Democrats. The preferred Democratic option is to reverse or roll back the 2017 tax cut, but good luck getting Republicans to go along. The traditional avenue, hiking the federal gasoline tax, has been a nonstarter for both parties — and would be especially risky just before a presidential election. 8. Defense cuts Liberal Democrats have complained for years that the Pentagon budget, which now exceeds $716 billion and represents more than half of all discretionary spending, is bloated. Progressive lawmakers in the House drafted a budget plan this year to cut more than $800 billion from the Pentagon over a decade “in a responsible manner” and redirect the money to medical research, environmental cleanup and combating climate change. This year’s marquee Democratic insurgent, Ocasio-Cortez, has noted that military spending increases under Trump have exceeded the Pentagon’s budget requests. “They’re like, ‘We don’t want another fighter jet!’ They’re like, ‘Don’t give us another nuclear bomb,’ you know? They didn’t even ask for it, and we gave it to them,” she said in July. But in Congress, nondefense spending is held hostage to defense spending, leaving Democrats with virtually no chance of cutting the Pentagon’s funding. In every major budget deal over the past decade, leaders of both parties have agreed, in the interest of “parity,” to equal-sized increases to defense and domestic programs. “On a practical level, it’s the only way you get a deal,” said Emily Holubowich, executive director of the Coalition for Health Funding. For most Democrats, she noted, maintaining a substantial pot for domestic programs is “more important … than cutting military spending.” 9. Ending “too big to fail” Republicans have succeeded in rolling back key rules imposed on banks after the financial crisis — and progressive groups hope a Democratic-controlled House can turn the tide. The activists want to impose higher capital requirements on banks and tighten limits on executive compensation, among other moves to cut the nation’s megabanks down to size. “Under Republican leadership, the House has become like a vending machine for K Street” lobbyists, said Marcus Stanley, policy director at Americans for Financial Reform. “We expect that to stop if people who call themselves progressive are in charge of the House, and it’s something we’re going to be keeping a close eye on.” But many Democrats are as eager to collect campaign contributions from Wall Street as Republicans are. Even Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), a progressive firebrand who would chair the Financial Services Committee if Democrats win back the House, collected almost $85,000 from the securities industry during the current election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Waters co-sponsored a House-passed package this year that would relax financial regulations to make it easier for young companies to raise capital. 10. Climate change The latest sobering United Nations report on the declining odds of averting a global climate catastrophe is increasing progressives’ impatience to confront Trump on his hostility to fight against global warming. But environmental groups are divided on how to proceed. Some want to push for a carbon tax to accelerate the shift away from fossil fuels to cleaner energy, while others see no political advantage in pressing for a vote given stiff Republican resistance. (The failures of Obama’s cap-and-trade bills in 2010 and Bill Clinton’s “BTU tax” in 1993, both times with a Democratic House and Senate, still haunt Capitol Hill.) Both sides agree that capturing the White House from Trump in 2020 is essential to making progress on climate change. The liberals’ argument: Democrats need to move on bold policies to rev up the progressive movement that can get them there. “If Democrats use the House to show the country what a well-run government can do — clean up the corruption and paint a vision of a better country — they'll inspire voters,” said RL Miller, founder of the super-PAC Climate Hawks Vote, which seeks bold climate policies. “And I doubt that a focus on infrastructure, tax credits, and small ball will inspire people.” Adam Cancryn, Ted Hesson, Ian Kullgren, Aaron Lorenzo, Kimberly Hefling, John Hendel, Tanya Snyder, Sarah Ferris, Victoria Guida and Anthony Adragna contributed to this report. source: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/10/14/liberals-midterms-democrats-845905 #Headlines by: tnoah@politico.com (Timothy Noah)

Original Post: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/10/14/liberals-midterms-democrats-845905

New Tom Hanks film shut down after sound mixer falls to death


'He may have suffered a medical emergency resulting in his fall' source: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/tom-hanks-mr-rogers-james-emswiller-dead-sound-mixer-fall-balcony-a8583286.html #Headlines by: Jacob Stolworthy

Original Post: https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/tom-hanks-mr-rogers-james-emswiller-dead-sound-mixer-fall-balcony-a8583286.html

Robert Mueller Has Already Told You Everything You Need To Know


With the exception of President Trump’s legal team, no one has been watching the Mueller investigation more closely than Garrett Graff. source: https://www.wired.com/story/wired25-robert-mueller #Headlines by: Emily Dreyfuss

Original Post: https://www.wired.com/story/wired25-robert-mueller/

Pentagon reveals cyber breach of travel records


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon on Friday said there has been a cyber breach of Defense Department travel records that compromised the personal information and credit card data of U.S. military and civilian personnel. source: https://www.yahoo.com/news/pentagon-reveals-cyber-breach-travel-records-205202287--politics.html #Headlines by:

Original Post: https://www.yahoo.com/news/pentagon-reveals-cyber-breach-travel-records-205202287--politics.html

Saturday, October 13, 2018

US student held in Israel for over a week because she 'backed Pro-Palestinian boycott'


Lara Alqasem has been detained at Ben-Gurion Airport since 2 October source: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/israel-us-student-held-airport-boycott-bds-movement-detained-lara-alqasem-a8580646.html #Headlines by: Adam Forrest

Original Post: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/israel-us-student-held-airport-boycott-bds-movement-detained-lara-alqasem-a8580646.html

Before-and-after satellite photos reveal devastation left by Hurricane Michael


Hurricane Michael — the fourth Category 4 storm to pummel the United States in 14 months — snapped pine trees like toothpicks, washed neighborhoods into the sea, and shredded the hangars off an Air Force base. Before the storm's 155 mph winds struck the Florida Panhandle on Oct. 10, storm scientists predicted Michael would be an extremely intense storm, in large part because it passed through ocean waters that were 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit above normal — and hurricanes thrive on warm water. The devastation, seen by satellites orbiting hundreds of miles above, is ghastly. Some of the images of destruction from #HurricaneMichael have been devastating, but I wasn't prepared for these before/after aerial shots provided by @NOAA's post storm survey of #MexicoBeach Most buildings in this area are completely gone. Link:https://t.co/VEM6x3fEQK pic.twitter.com/cQwdzSbY1b — Philippe Papin (@pppapin) October 12, 2018 Read more... More about Science, Space Photos, Extreme Weather, Hurricanes, and Science source: https://mashable.com/article/hurricane-michael-satellite-photos-devastation/ #Headlines by: Mark Kaufman

Original Post: https://mashable.com/article/hurricane-michael-satellite-photos-devastation/