Settlement short of national deal
HARTFORD, Conn. — A tentative settlement announced Wednesday over the role Purdue Pharma played in the nation’s opioid addiction crisis falls short of the far-reaching national settlement the OxyContin maker had been seeking for months, with litigation sure to continue against the company and the family that owns it.
The agreement with about half the states and attorneys representing roughly 2,000 local governments would have Purdue file for a structured bankruptcy and pay as much as $12 billion over time, with about $3 billion coming from the Sackler family. That number involves future profits and the value of drugs currently in development. In addition, the family would have to give up its ownership of the company and contribute another $1.5 billion by selling another of its pharmaceutical companies, Mundipharma.
Several attorneys general said the agreement was a better way to ensure compensation from Purdue and the Sacklers than taking their chances if Purdue files for bankruptcy on its own.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said the deal “was the quickest and surest way to get immediate relief for Arizona and for the communities that have been harmed by the opioid crisis and the actions of the Sackler family.”
Opioid addiction has contributed to the deaths of some 400,000 Americans over the past two decades, hitting many rural communities particularly hard.
Govt plans ban of e-cig flavors
WASHINGTON — The federal government will act to ban thousands of flavors used in e-cigarettes, President Donald Trump said Wednesday, responding to a recent surge in underage vaping that has alarmed parents, politicians and health authorities nationwide.
The surprise White House announcement could remake the multibillion-dollar vaping industry, which has been driven by sales of flavored nicotine formulas such as “grape slushie” and “strawberry cotton candy.”
The Food and Drug Administration will develop guidelines to remove from the market all e-cigarette flavors except tobacco, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters during an Oval Office appearance with the president, first lady Melania Trump and the acting FDA commissioner, Ned Sharpless.
Trump, whose son Barron is 13 years old, said vaping has become such a problem that he wants parents to be aware of what’s happening. “We can’t allow people to get sick and we can’t have our youth be so affected,” he said.
Melania Trump recently tweeted her concerns over the combination of children and vaping, and at the meeting, the president said, “I mean, she’s got a son — together — that is a beautiful, young man, and she feels very, very strongly about it.”
America vows to ‘never forget’
NEW YORK — People who were too young on 9/11 to even remember their lost loved ones, and others for whom the grief is still raw, paid tribute with wreath-layings and the solemn roll call of the dead Wednesday as America marked the 18th anniversary of the worst terror attack on U.S. soil.
“Eighteen years. We will not forget. We cannot forget,” Bud Salter, who lost his sister, Catherine, said at ground zero.
President Donald Trump laid a wreath at the Pentagon, telling victims’ relatives: “This is your anniversary of personal and permanent loss.”
“It’s the day that has replayed in your memory a thousand times over. The last kiss. The last phone call. The last time hearing those precious words, ‘I love you,’” the president said.
Later, former President George W. Bush, who was in office on 9/11, and then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld attended another wreath-laying at the Pentagon.
Trump’s promise takes shape
YUMA, Ariz. — On a dirt road past rows of date trees, just feet from a dry section of Colorado River, a small construction crew is putting up a towering border wall that the government hopes will reduce — for good — the flow of immigrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.
Cicadas buzz and heavy equipment rumbles and beeps before it lowers 30-foot-tall sections of fence into the dirt. “Ahí está!” — “There it is!” — a Spanish-speaking member of the crew says as the men straighten the sections into the ground. Nearby, workers pull dates from palm trees, not far from the cotton fields that cars pass on the drive to the border.
South of Yuma, Arizona, the tall brown bollards rising against a cloudless desert sky will replace much shorter barriers that are meant to keep out cars, but not people.
This 5-mile section of fencing is where President Donald Trump’s most salient campaign promise — to build a wall along the entire southern border — is taking shape.
The president and his administration said this week that they plan on building between 450 and 500 miles of fencing along the nearly 2,000-mile border by the end of 2020, an ambitious undertaking funded by billions of defense dollars that had been earmarked for things like military base schools, target ranges and maintenance facilities.
Suspension of Parliament unlawful
LONDON — A Scottish court dealt another blow to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans Wednesday, ruling that his decision to suspend Parliament less than two months before the U.K. is due to leave the European Union was an unlawful attempt to avoid democratic scrutiny.
The government immediately said it would appeal, as the political opposition demanded Johnson reverse the suspension and recall lawmakers to Parliament.
With Brexit due in 50 days, the court ruling deepened Britain’s political deadlock. Johnson insists the country must leave the EU on Oct. 31, with or without a divorce deal to smooth the way. But many lawmakers fear a no-deal Brexit would be economically devastating, and are determined to stop him.
Their case got a boost late Wednesday as the government gave in to a demand from lawmakers and published a document showing that a hard exit could lead to logjams for freight, shortages of some foods and medicines, major travel disruptions and possible rioting.
The document’s release was the day’s second setback for Johnson and followed the surprise judgment by Scotland’s highest civil court, which found that the government’s action suspending lawmakers was illegal “because it had the purpose of stymieing Parliament.”
The DIY foreign policy president
WASHINGTON — Donald Trump has said he doesn’t mind if the U.S. is on its own in the world. Now, it seems he doesn’t mind running American foreign policy on his own as well.
With the ouster of John Bolton as his national security adviser, the president has again pushed away an experienced hand in international affairs and a counter-weight to his DIY approach to Iran, North Korea, China and more.
Trump told reporters Wednesday that Bolton had made “some very big mistakes,” did not get along with others in the administration and was out of step with him on policy. “John wasn’t in line with what we were doing,” the president said.
Bolton is a hardliner with well-known hawkish views, working for a president known more for improvisation than ideology. His departure, as world leaders prepare to converge on New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly this month, produces new uncertainty in international affairs already clouded by Trump’s do-it-yourself instincts.
“The president doesn’t have any fixed views on anything, so that people around him are constantly trying to get into his good graces by playing to his whims, and because his whims are all over the map, their policy positions end up being all over the map,” said Stephen Biddle, a professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University.
Trump denies ordering rebuke
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday denied instructing an aide to urge a federal agency to repudiate weather forecasters who contradicted his claim that Hurricane Dorian could hit Alabama.
Trump responded to a New York Times report that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to have the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration publicly disavow the position that Alabama was not at risk.
NOAA said in a statement last Friday that National Weather Service forecasters in Birmingham, Alabama, “spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time.” The statement raised questions of whether NOAA was placing politics over science in its priorities and has prompted an investigation from the Commerce Department’s inspector general and a House committee.
Trump was asked if he told Mulvaney to disavow the Alabama forecasters. “No, I never did that,” the president said, then called the story a hoax.
Many of his comments about the storm have defended his erroneous claim that Alabama was likely to face significant impact from Dorian. On Friday evening, NOAA issued an unsigned statement that came to the president’s defense and seemed critical of the National Weather Service in Birmingham.
CRISPR tried out to fight HIV
Scientists are reporting the first use of the gene-editing tool CRISPR to try to cure a patient’s HIV infection by providing blood cells that were altered to resist the AIDS virus.
The gene-editing tool has long been used in research labs, and a Chinese scientist was scorned last year when he revealed he used it on embryos that led to the birth of twin girls. Editing embryos is considered too risky, partly because the DNA changes can pass to future generations.
Wednesday’s report in the New England Journal of Medicine, by different Chinese researchers, is the first published account of using CRISPR to treat a disease in an adult, where the DNA changes are confined to that person.
The attempt was successful in some ways but fell short of being an HIV cure.
Still, it shows that gene editing holds promise and seems precise and safe in this patient so far, said Dr. Carl June, a University of Pennsylvania genetics expert who wrote a commentary in the journal.