Washington, Oct 26 (AP/UNB) — Less than two weeks before the midterm elections, President Donald Trump on Thursday announced a plan to lower prices for some prescription drugs, saying it would stop unfair practices that force Americans to pay much more than people in other countries for the same medications.
"We are taking aim at the global freeloading that forces American consumers to subsidize lower prices in foreign countries through higher prices in our country," Trump said in a speech at the Department of Health and Human Services.
"Same company. Same box. Same pill. Made in the exact same location, and you would go to some countries and it would be 20 percent of the cost of what we pay," said Trump, who predicted the plan will save Americans billions. "We're fixing it."
But consumers take note:
— The plan would not apply to medicines people buy at the pharmacy, just ones administered in a doctor's office, as are many cancer medications and drugs for immune system problems. Physician-administered drugs can be very expensive, but pharmacy drugs account for the vast majority of what consumers buy.
— Don't expect immediate rollbacks. Officials said the complex proposal could take more than a year to put into effect.
In another twist, the plan is structured as an experiment through a Medicare innovation center empowered to seek savings by the Affordable Care Act. That's the law also known as "Obamacare," which Trump is committed to repealing.
Trump has long promised sweeping action to attack drug prices, both as president and when he was running for the White House. He made his latest announcement just ahead of the Nov. 6 elections, with health care high among voters' concerns.
Under the plan, Medicare payment for drugs administered in doctors' offices would gradually shift to a level based on international prices. Prices in other countries are lower because governments directly negotiate with manufacturers.
Drugmakers immediately pushed back, arguing the plan amounts to government price-setting.
"The administration is imposing foreign price controls from countries with socialized health care systems that deny their citizens access and discourage innovation," Stephen Ubl, president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said in a statement. "These proposals are to the detriment of American patients."
Trump is linking the prices Americans complain about to one of his longstanding grievances: foreign countries the president says are taking advantage of U.S. research breakthroughs.
Drug pricing expert Peter Bach of Memorial Sloan Kettering's Center for Health Policy and Outcomes called the plan "a pretty substantive proposal" but one that faces "serious political challenges."
"The rhetoric about finally dealing with foreign freeloading suggests that we are going to take steps to get other countries to pay their fair share for innovation," Bach added. But that's "quite literally the opposite of what is being proposed. What is being proposed is that we freeload off of other countries' ability to negotiate more effectively."
Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill were dismissive. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said if Trump wants to save seniors money he should seek congressional approval for Medicare to negotiate prices for its main prescription drug program, "Part D." Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said "it's hard to take the Trump administration and Republicans seriously about reducing health care costs for seniors two weeks before the election."
The health insurance industry, at odds with drugmakers over prices, was pleased with the administration's action.
Matt Eyles, president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans, said: "Drug prices are out of control, and we commend the Administration for its continued commitment to reduce drug prices."
As an experiment, the proposal would apply to half the country. Officials said they're seeking input on how to select the areas that will take part in the new pricing system. HHS Secretary Alex Azar said politics would have nothing to do with it.
In advance of Trump's speech, HHS released a report that found U.S. prices for the top drugs administered in doctors' offices are nearly twice as high as in foreign countries. The list includes many cancer drugs. Medicare pays directly for them under its "Part B" coverage for outpatient care.
Physician-administered drugs cost Medicare $27 billion in 2016. HHS says the plan would save Medicare $17.2 billion over five years. Beneficiaries would save an estimated $3.4 billion through lower cost-sharing.
The plan could meet resistance not only from drugmakers but from doctors, now paid a percentage of the cost of the medications they administer. However, HHS officials said the plan is designed so it would not cut into doctors' reimbursements.
Azar said more plans are being developed on drug costs.
"This is not the end of the road, the end of the journey," he said. "There is more coming."
Trump has harshly criticized the pharmaceutical industry, once asserting that the companies were "getting away with murder." But it's largely been business as usual for drugmakers even as Trump has predicted "massive" voluntary price cuts.
A recent Associated Press analysis of prices for brand-name drugs found far more increases than cuts in the first seven months of this year. The analysis found 96 price hikes for every price cut. The number of increases slowed somewhat and they were not quite as steep as in past years, the AP found.
The Trump administration proposal is open for public comment for 60 days.
Moscow, Oct 25 (AP/UNB) — President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that Russia plans to commission new military weapons that would be unrivaled throughout the world.
Putin's statement follows U.S. President Donald Trump's announcement that he intends to opt out of a 1987 nuclear arms control pact due to alleged Russian violations.
Putin has denied any breaches and accused Washington of violating the pact.
"Russia doesn't threaten anyone, and has strictly adhered to its obligations in the sphere of international security and arms control," he reiterated while speaking at a meeting with top military officers and law enforcement officials.
At the same time, Putin said Russian arsenals would be modernized to ensure protection from potential threats. The new Russian weapons "significantly excel foreign designs and are simply unrivaled," he said.
His comments came as NATO's biggest military maneuvers since the Cold War kicked off Thursday in Norway with about 55,000 military personnel.
Washington, Oct 25 (AP/UNB) — President Donald Trump condemned the series of attempted attacks on high-profile Democrats and CNN on Wednesday, declaring that "acts or threats of political violence have no place in the United States."
Attempting a bipartisan pause during a divisive campaign season, Trump called for unity after crude pipe bombs targeting Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, CNN and others were intercepted Tuesday and Wednesday. Trump called the suspicious packages "despicable" and said a "major federal investigation" was underway, but did not specifically mention the media.
Coming just 13 days before the midterm elections, the attempted attacks underscored the deeply divided moment in American politics. The packages were directed at prominent Democrats and a cable network that have been singled out and criticized by Trump. At his rallies and on Twitter, Trump has frequently lambasted Clinton, Obama, CNN and others, often with menacing undertones.
At a rally in Montana last week, for instance, Trump praised Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte, who pleaded guilty to assaulting a reporter, saying that "any guy that can do a body slam ... he's my guy." And he has repeatedly singled out CNN as he rails against the "fake news" media, egging on his crowds as they jeer reporters covering his rallies and smiling as they chant "CNN sucks!"
In his remarks at the White House on Wednesday, Trump described "suspicious packages and devices mailed to current and former high-ranking government officials," and urged the nation to come together and send "one very clear, strong, unmistakable message that acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America."
"We're extremely angry, upset, unhappy about what we witnessed this morning, and we will get to the bottom of it," said Trump, who has sometimes struggled to show empathy at moments of national sorrow.
But Trump made no specific reference to the press, and criticism came quickly that the White House was failing to address the role that the president's incendiary rhetoric has had in stoking tensions. CNN President Jeff Zucker especially pointed in his critique.
"There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media," he said in a statement. "The President, and especially the White House Press Secretary, should understand their words matter."
In her initial statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders condemned "the attempted violent attacks recently made against President Obama, President Clinton, Secretary Clinton, and other public figures," saying, "These terrorizing acts are despicable" and calling the perpetrators "cowards." That statement was sent to reporters before news surfaced of the CNN package, but it was tweeted after the news had broken.
Sanders later tweeted that the condemnation "certainly includes threats made to CNN as well as current or former public servants." Trump's campaign also apologized for an email it sent criticizing CNN less than two hours after that network's New York headquarters was evacuated. Campaign chairman Brad Parscale said that it was an automated message and that the campaign does not condone violence against anyone who works for the network.
At his campaign rallies and in the White House, Trump has at times casually endorsed violence. At an Iowa rally in 2016, he encouraged supporters to "knock the crap" out of protesters in the crowd. More recently, he told law enforcement officers not to be "too nice" when detaining suspects. Last year, he tweeted a video that showed him tackling and punching a person whose head had been digitally replaced with the CNN logo.
But recently Trump has sought to flip the script on Democrats, citing their aggressive opposition to Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination as evidence that the party is a dangerous "mob."
Trump has also singled out, by name, all of those known to have received packages, calling Rep. Maxine Waters a "low-IQ individual" and labeling ex-CIA Director John Brennan, whose security clearance he stripped, a liar and a disgrace. The bomb sent to CNN was addressed to Brennan, who also appears on air on other broadcast and cable outlets.
Trump, who made pointed, personal attacks on Hillary Clinton a centerpiece of his 2016 bid — dubbing her "Crooked Hillary" and saying she belongs in prison — has continued to mock her in nearly every rally speech.
In tweets and interviews, he also has singled out billionaire George Soros, accusing him, without evidence, of paying the protesters who turned out to oppose Kavanaugh's nomination.
And he has recently lashed out at former Attorney General Eric Holder, zeroing in on Holder's statement that when those on the opposite side of the aisle "go low," Democrats should "kick 'em."
"He better be careful what he's wishing for, that I can tell you. He better be careful for what he's wishing for," Trump said in a recent interview on "Fox & Friends."
The president's allies pushed back on the suggestion that he contributes to a toxic political atmosphere.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said: "I don't see anything really wrong with the president. He's in a tough position, attacked on all sides, and he ought to be able to express himself."
Republicans also condemned the suspicious devices.
House Speaker Paul Ryan denounced the "reprehensible acts" as an "attempt to terrorize public figures." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called it "domestic terrorism."
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who is facing a fierce challenge from Democrat Beto O'Rourke, tweeted that "violence is never OK" and said the reports were "deeply, deeply disturbing. America is better than this."
Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who was severely wounded in a 2017 shooting that targeted Republican members of Congress on a suburban baseball field, wrote on Twitter that he had experienced "first-hand the effects of political violence" and said that as a nation "we must agree that this is a dangerous path and it cannot become the new normal."
Washington, Oct 25 (AP/UNB) — Pipe bombs packed with shards of glass were intercepted en route to several prominent Democrats, including former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, in an unnerving wave that deepened political tensions and fears two weeks before national midterm elections.
None of the seven bombs detonated and nobody was hurt as authorities in New York, Washington, D.C., Florida and California seized the suspicious packages.
One of the explosives was sent to CNN, which prompted the evacuation of the Time Warner Center in Manhattan where the news outlet has its offices.
The targets of the bombs were some of the figures most frequently criticized by President Donald Trump, who still assails Clinton at rallies while supporters chant "lock her up" — two years after he defeated her and she largely left the political scene. Trump also often singles out cable news network CNN as he rails against the "fake news" media.
Trump took a softer tone at a rally in Wisconsin Wednesday night.
"Let's get along," he said. "By the way, do you see how nice I'm behaving tonight? Have you ever seen this?"
The attacks overtook other news in an already-tense political season that could reshape Congress and serve as a referendum on the first two years of Trump's presidency. The actions, which caused panicked building evacuations and reports of additional explosives that later proved unfounded, are bound to add to fears that overheated rhetoric could lead to deadly violence as the parties engage in bitter fights over immigration, the Supreme Court and the treatment of women.
The bombs, each with a small battery, were about six inches long and packed with powder and broken glass, said a law enforcement official who viewed X-ray images and spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.
The official said the devices were made from PVC pipe and covered with black tape.
The first crude bomb to be discovered had been delivered Monday to the suburban New York compound of George Soros, a liberal billionaire and major contributor to Democratic causes.
The FBI said an additional package was intended for former Attorney General Eric Holder, but that one ended up at a Florida office of Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose return address was on it.
Later Wednesday, the FBI said two additional packages addressed for Rep. Maxine Waters had been intercepted that were similar in appearance to five others.
The White House condemned the attacks aimed at Democrats and other perceived foes of the administration.
"Acts or threats of political violence have no place in the United States," Trump said. "This egregious conduct is abhorrent."
Other Republican leaders said the same. But Democratic Senate and House leaders Chuck Schumer of New York and Nancy Pelosi of California said such words "ring hollow" when coming from Trump. They noted the president's recent praise of a GOP congressman who body-slammed a reporter, among other Trump statements.
Law enforcement officials said all the packages were similar: manila envelopes with bubble-wrap interior bearing six stamps and the return address of Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She is the former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee who was accused by Clinton rivals of secretly helping the party's eventual presidential nominee.
The package intended for Holder had the wrong address and was forwarded to Wasserman Schultz.
The devices all were sent to an FBI lab in Virginia to be studied. Officials provided no details on a possible suspect or motive.
"Suffice it to say, it appears an individual or individuals sent out multiple, similar packages," said John Miller, the New York Police Department's head of intelligence and counterterrorism, who briefed reporters.
The U.S. Secret Service intercepted the bomb that was addressed to Hillary Clinton at the Chappaqua, New York, home she shares with former President Bill Clinton, and another that was sent to Obama at his home in Washington.
A police bomb squad removed still another from CNN's New York office, which was evacuated. The CNN package was addressed to former CIA Director John Brennan, who has publicly clashed with Trump and is a regular television contributor.
Speaking at an event in Austin, Texas, Brennan called the spate of pipe bombs "a very unfortunate turn of events," particularly if he and others are being targeted for their public comments.
"Unfortunately, I think Donald Trump, too often, has helped to incite some of these feelings of anger, if not violence, when he points to acts of violence or also talks about swinging at somebody from the press, the media," Brennan said.
Overhead TV shots showed a truck carrying that device being driven away. The package sent to CNN contained a live explosive, with wires and a black pipe, and an envelope with white powder, officials said. The powder was tested and determined to have been harmless, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.
New York City Police Commissioner James O'Neill says investigators are reviewing security video to see if they can identify a courier believed to have delivered the pipe bomb package to CNN's office. O'Neill said in an appearance on CNN that he was "pretty sure those images will be caught on video, and we'll be able to find out where that person came from before they entered the building and where they went to after."
Waters, whom the president has denigrated as a "low-IQ individual," reported Wednesday afternoon that she was the target of a suspicious package. Though the FBI did not initially include her on a list of targeted individuals, the bureau later said two packages addressed to her and similar to the five others had been found. One was intercepted at a Los Angeles mail facility.
Neither Clinton nor Obama received the packages sent to them, and neither was at risk because of screening procedures, the Secret Service said.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement, "These terrorizing acts are despicable, and anyone responsible will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law."
But while stopping short of blaming Trump's rhetoric for inspiring the attacks, Jeff Zucker, the president of CNN Worldwide, contended there was a "total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media."
"The president, and especially the White House press secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that," he said.
Hillary Clinton was attending campaign events for Democrats in Florida and was not at the family's New York residence when the bomb was intercepted. But Bill Clinton was at the family's Chappaqua home, said a person familiar with his schedule. The person said the device was screened at a Westchester County facility — not near their residence — and never reached the Clintons' home.
A law enforcement official told the AP that the package discovered at Soros' home appeared to be a pipe bomb and was in a package placed in a mailbox outside the gates of the compound. A Soros employee opened it just inside the gates, not near Soros' quarters, said the official, who insisted on anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.
Washington, Oct 24 (AP/UNB) — Crude pipe bombs targeting Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama, CNN and others were intercepted Tuesday night and Wednesday in a rash of attacks aimed at prominent Democrats and a cable news network often criticized by political conservatives.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his office received a similar package, and the FBI said Florida Rep. Deborah Wasserman Schultz did, too, possibly misaddress and then sent to her as the return addressee. A similar device was found Monday at the New York compound of liberal billionaire George Soros, a major contributor to Democratic causes.
There were no explosions and no reports of injuries.
The bombs were intercepted two weeks before nationwide elections that could reshape Congress and serve as a referendum on the first two years of Donald Trump's presidency. The events quickly overtook other campaign news in an already-tense political season, which has included pitched fights over immigration, the Supreme Court and sexual violence against women.
The White House quickly condemned the attacks aimed at Democrats and perceived foes of the administration. Republican Vice President Mike Pence said they "have no place in this country," and Trump tweeted, "I agree wholeheartedly."
All the confirmed bombs appeared to come from the same person or persons, said John Miller, the New York Police Department's head of intelligence and counterterrorism, who briefed reporters in New York.
The U.S. Secret Service intercepted a bomb that was addressed to Hillary Clinton at the Chappaqua, New York, home she shares with former President Bill Clinton, and another that was sent to former President Obama at his home with Michelle Obama in Washington. A police bomb squad removed still another from CNN's New York headquarters, which was evacuated.
Overhead TV shots showed a truck carrying that device, which law enforcement officials said was linked to the other explosives, being driven away. The package sent to CNN contained a live explosive and envelope with white powder, and officials said the substance was being tested to see if it was dangerous.
New York Gov. Cuomo said at a briefing that "we will not allow these terrorist thugs to change the way we live our lives."
A U.S. official told The Associated Press that investigators believe the explosive that was discovered near the Clintons' home was linked to one found Monday at the Soros compound.
The official noted that one of the packages had the return address of Florida Rep. Schultz, an ironic reference to the former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee who was accused by Clinton rivals of secretly helping the party's eventual presidential nominee.
Neither Clinton nor Obama received the packages, and neither was at risk of receiving them because of screening procedures, the Secret Service said.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement, "These terrorizing acts are despicable, and anyone responsible will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law."
Two law enforcement officials, speaking to AP on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation, said the pipe bomb at CNN was crude but operational and was addressed to former CIA Director John Brennan, who regularly appears as a television contributor and who has publicly clashed with Trump. They said it was similar to other explosives discovered in the past few days.
Hillary Clinton was attending campaign events for Democrats in Florida on Tuesday and Wednesday and was not at the family's New York residence at the time. Bill Clinton was at the family's Chappaqua home at the time the package was intercepted Tuesday night at a Westchester County facility, said a person familiar with his schedule. The person said the device was screened at the facility — not in proximity to their residence — and never reached the Clintons' home.
A law enforcement official told the AP that the package discovered at Soros' home appeared to be a pipe bomb and was in a package placed in a mailbox outside the gates of the compound. A Soros employee opened it just inside the gates, not near Soros' quarters, the official said.