Flynn Is Said to Have Misled White House on Russian Talks

"The Justice Department warned the White House that Mr. Flynn had misled senior Trump administration officials about whether he had discussed American sanctions against Vladimir V. Putin’s regime during a phone call with Russia’s ambassador to the United States weeks before the inauguration, and that he could be open to blackmail by Russia, said a former senior official. At the same time, Mr. Pence has told administration officials that he believes Mr. Flynn lied to him by saying he had not discussed the topic of sanctions on a call with the ambassador in late December. Even the mere discussion of policy — and the apparent attempt to assuage the concerns of an American adversary before Mr. Flynn took office — represents a remarkable breach of protocol. "

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.@TimCunniff Dollar-a-dose, off-patent drug being marketed in the US for $89,000 as a muscular dystrophy treatment

Deflazacort, a steroid, can be purchased online from non-US sources for $1.00, but now it’s being marketed by Illinois’s Marathon Pharmaceuticals for $89,000 as Emflaza, to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which predominantly affects men in their 20s.

The drug’s never been approved in the US, and Marathon has a special dispensation to market it for the rare disease, so it gets to name its price.

In many ways, Marathon is taking a page from Shkreli’s playbook. By bringing a drug that’s been well-established as safe in other markets to the U.S. for the first time in order to treat a rare disease, the company doesn’t just control its pricing destiny — it will also receive a coveted "priority review voucher" which it can hawk to another firm for tens (or even hundreds) of millions of dollars. If not, the company can use it to expedite a future drug approval in order to gain a first-to-market advantage.

In fact, one of Marathon’s clinical trials that the FDA used as part of its decision-making process was conducted more than 20 years ago, saving the firm plenty of study costs.

Duchenne drugs have fostered recent controversy in the U.S. Last year, the FDA approved a pioneering Duchenne treatment from Sarepta Therapeutics (SRPT, -5.15%) over the protests of its own scientific advisers who said it lacked proven efficacy. Unlike Sarepta, Marathon’s product doesn’t actually address the protein deficiency at the heart of the disease, but rather has shown promise in improving muscle strength.

This Pharma Company Is Selling a Decades-old Drug to Treat Muscular Dystrophy for $89,000 [Sy Mukherjee/Fortune]

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Republican Lawmaker Files Bill To Abolish Dept. Of Education

"The Hill:

On the same day the Senate confirmed President Trump’s secretary of Education pick by a historically narrow margin, a House Republican introduced legislation to abolish the entire department Betsy DeVos will lead.

Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie’s bill is only a page long, after merely stating the Department of Education would terminate on Dec. 31, 2018.

Massie believes that policymakers at the state and local levels should be responsible for education policy, instead of a federal agency that’s been in place since 1980.

“Unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. should not be in charge of our children’s intellectual and moral development. States and local communities are best positioned to shape curricula that meet the needs of their students,” Massie said in a statement.

Former President Reagan called for dismantling the Department of Education, along with the Department of Energy. But that proposal ultimately never came to fruition."

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A Vote for Tom Price is a Vote to Destroy Medicare

"no one voted to destroy Medicare. Yet, the first battle in the war over Medicare has arrived.

Why would anyone want to destroy Medicare? It has stood the test of time. The smart policy is to expand it to everyone. Medicare shows government at its best.

Government at its best! There’s the rub: Given Medicare’s proven success — its low administrative costs, its efficient coverage of those with the greatest medical needs and costs, and its enormous popularity — it is no wonder that anti-government zealots hate the program.

Medicare demonstrates that there are some services that the federal government provides better than the private sector. The mere existence of Medicare (and Social Security) puts the lie to the claim that everything should be privatized. For that reason, today’s Republicans, who hate government and want to privatize everything, are determined to end Medicare as we know it.

One of those anti-government zealots, Representative Tom Price (R-GA), has been nominated by Donald Trump to be the fox in the Medicare hen house — Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Department responsible for the administration of Medicare. He has made his antagonism to Medicare clear.

Against all evidence, Price claims that “nothing has had a greater negative effect on the delivery of health care than the federal government’s intrusion into medicine through Medicare.” Of course, the exact opposite is true. Medicare saves lives. It allows seniors and people with disabilities, those with the greatest health needs, to obtain life-saving health care.

With true radical zeal, Price has said “we will not rest until we make certain that government-run health care [e.g., Medicare] is ended.” If confirmed by the Senate, Price will be in a powerful position to carry out his threat to end Medicare.

589a2c3f2800002500997752.jpg Rep. Tom Price

There are two ways to destroy Medicare. One is legislatively. The other is administratively. If Representative Tom Price is confirmed to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services, he will be in a position to destroy it both ways, and along with it, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, and so many other programs vital to the health and well-being of all of us.

Let’s start with destruction by legislation. Right after the election, Speaker Paul Ryan made clear his plan to end Medicare legislatively. He falsely announced that repealing Obamacare requires “reforming” Medicare. His reform? Send seniors and people with disabilities into the private insurance market armed with nothing but an inadequate amount of cash. Anyone who knew the world before Medicare knows that seniors and people with disabilities were often unable to buy insurance at any price. Those who could were forced to pay exorbitant prices.

That is the world to which the aptly named Price wants to return us. Price, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and Ryan co-conspirator, reinforced Ryan’s Medicare threat by revealing that the Republicans planned to enact Medicare privatization in the first six to eight months of the Trump administration.

As Secretary of Health and Human Services , Price would be in an even more powerful position to work to end Medicare. Rather than one of 435 members of the House of Representatives, he would, if confirmed, be the Trump administration’s chief Medicare spokesman.

And, as the top Medicare person, he could do even more destruction than pushing legislation that ends Medicare. As Secretary, he could revoke regulations that protect Medicare beneficiaries and could issue regulations that harm them. Moreover, policymakers, researchers and others rely on the Department of Health and Human Services for accurate, reliable data. In this world of alternative “facts,” could anyone trust the data put forward by a Department Secretary who is determined to end Medicare?

Senate Democrats recognize the threat. To deprive Price of all this power over Medicare, they boycotted the Committee vote on his nomination, since the rules require the presence of at least one member of the opposition party. So, what did their Republican counterparts do? They ignored the rules and unanimously voted him out of Committee with no Democrats present.

With the Muslim ban appropriately dominating the national news and with Senate votes coming up on so many nominees who want to undermine the very missions of the agencies they will control, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Anti-public schools advocate Betsy DeVos was just confirmed as Secretary of Education after an unprecedented tie vote . Racist Senator Jeff Sessions may, in the next few days, be confirmed as Attorney General, and therefore be in charge of our civil rights.

But here is the oddly good news. Sessions’ confirmation vote is scheduled to come before the vote on Price. Outrageous as it will be, if Sessions is confirmed, it will mean that other Cabinet nominees, including Price, can be blocked with just two Republican Senators voting with the Democrats.

I am deeply suspicious that Senators Susan Collins’s and Lisa Murkowski’s votes against Betsy DeVos were not courageous and principled. Rather, I believe that they may have been just the opposite – cowardly and cynical. After all, if they really wanted to block DeVos they could have done it in committee. McConnell may have granted Collins and Murkowski permission to vote against DeVos, knowing their votes were not needed and recognizing that their constituents were strenuously opposed to DeVos’s confirmation.

Collins and Murkowski can prove me wrong by voting against putting Tom Price in charge of Medicare, a program that he himself has proclaimed he wants to end. After all, bad as DeVos is, education is still largely a state and local matter. Not true for Medicare, which is a completely federal program.

If Price is confirmed by all (or all but one) Republican Senator voting for confirmation, it will be clear that Collins and Murkowski acted cynically in voting for DeVos. It will also be clear that the Republican Party wants to destroy Medicare.

Those of us working to expand, not cut Medicare will do everything we can to assure that the American people understand that a vote for Price is a vote to destroy Medicare. We will do all we can to assure that the electorate never forgets who voted for Price, and, in so doing, voted to destroy Medicare.

That may feel like a threat. I prefer to think of it as a promise."

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If Republicans won’t take a stand on someone as incompetent as Betsy DeVos, what will they take a stand on?

"To put it baldly, she showed at her confirmation hearing that not only did she have no real background in public schools, she had nothing to contribute to the ongoing debates on how to make them better. Actually, she didn’t even seem to know what the debates are — or about the existence of existing laws governing education. Let’s forget the silly remark about some schools needing guns for protection against grizzly bears — please — and remember that she was unfamiliar with the key ways in which student achievement is measured, or the federal law for protecting students with disabilities, and that she refused to say she’d hold all kinds of schools equally accountable.

A few heads should be hanging with shame in the Senate today. If they were unable to show integrity or basic guts in such a clear-cut matter, Americans can expect no courage from them in the worrisome years to come."

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House Republicans voted to eliminate Election Assistance Commission

"This move is particularly worrisome given reports that suspected Russian hackers attempted to access voter-registration systems in more than 20 states during the 2016 election. Moreover, the Presidential Commission on Election Administration set up by President Obama in 2014 outlined an “impending crisis” in voting technology and the Brennan Center found that 42 states used voting machines in 2016 that were at least a decade-old and at risk of failing. The EAC was the agency tasked with making sure these voting systems were both modernized and secure.

The EAC is not a perfect agency. It lacked a quorum of members from 2010 to 2014 and was paralyzed by inaction. Then, last year, its executive director unilaterally approved controversial proof-of-citizenship laws in Kansas, Georgia, and Alabama, which the federal courts subsequently blocked.

But given the threats to American democracy at this moment, the EAC needs to be strengthened, not replaced.

It’s particularly ironic that the Trump administration is preparing to launch a massive investigation into nonexistent voter fraud based on the lie that millions voted illegally while House Republicans are shutting down the agency that is supposed to make sure America’s elections are secure. It’s more proof of how the GOP’s real agenda is to make it harder to vote. "

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