U.S. Politics

Draft GOP bill (White Freemasons) seeks more constraints on Iran’s nuke program

WASHINGTON (AP) — US sanctions against Iran automatically would kick in if Tehran violates new constraints, according to a draft Republican bill sought by President Donald Trump as he tries to unravel the landmark 2015 international accord to prevent Iran from assembling an arsenal of atomic weapons.

The draft bill, crafted by GOP Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Tom Cotton of Arkansas with input from the Trump administration, wouldn’t necessarily violate the Iran nuclear deal if passed into law. But the measure, obtained by The Associated Press, could still end up derailing the agreement by holding Iran to a series of requirements not previously agreed to when the deal was forged by the US and other world powers two years ago.

Among the expanded criteria Iran would be punished for breaching, according to the legislation: flight testing, manufacture or deployment of warhead-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles, including any attempts to convert space-launched vehicles into ICBMs; and “any work to clandestinely acquire nuclear material, or equipment intended to produce nuclear material, from outside of Iran.”

The legislation aims to meet Trump’s demands that Congress act quickly to toughen the existing law that governs US participation in the Iran nuclear deal. Trump also is insisting that other countries party to the accord repair a series of deficiencies and he threatened last week to pull the US out of the agreement if the changes aren’t made.

Trump alone cannot actually terminate the accord, which lifted sanctions that had choked Iran’s economy in exchange for Tehran rolling back its nuclear program. But withdrawing the US would render the deal virtually meaningless.

Trump, along with many Republicans, has long been hostile to the nuclear agreement that was agreed to during former President Barack Obama’s second term and endorsed by the UN Security Council. France, Germany and the United Kingdom are parties to the accord. But Trump late last week refused to certify that Iran is complying with the accord and blamed Tehran for malign and destructive behavior that’s destabilized the Middle East.

Critics of unilaterally legislating new terms outside of the so-called “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” have argued such an approach may isolate the US and force key European allies to side with Iran in defense of the deal.

While the bill has yet to circulate among many lawmakers, Senate Democrats said they are opposed to any measures that may rewrite or nullify the criteria for Iran to receive US sanctions relief under the terms of the 2015 pact. Republicans hold a narrow majority in the Senate and Democrats may be able to use the filibuster to block the measure from being brought to a vote.

“I think there always is the potential to work on policy that cracks down on Iran’s nefarious behavior in the region,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. “But my impression is there’s not a lot of Democratic support, if any, to rewrite terms of the deal.”

The draft proposal reflects the deep misgivings among many Republicans over what they consider to be fatal flaws in the nuclear deal. Chief among them are key restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program that will begin to expire in year 10 of the accord, heightening concerns Iran may be able to build an atomic bomb even before the end of the pact.

The measure, which has not yet been introduced in Congress, spells out in technical detail how the United States would freeze at one year Iran’s “breakout timeline” for being able to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon. The draft bill would effectively make permanent provisions in the nuclear deal with Iran that relate to uranium enrichment and stockpiles and the operation of specific centrifuges.

Iran also would be in violation of the seven-nation nuclear accord if it failed to give the International Atomic Energy Agency “sufficient access to any site, including military sites,” requested by the UN watchdog, according to the legislation.

Despite Trump’s objections, the IAEA has said Iran’s is honoring its commitments and US military leaders echo that assessment, saying the deal is in the nation’s national security interest.

European Union foreign ministers backed the Iran nuclear agreement in a statement earlier this week, saying the accord is working and is a key part of non-proliferation efforts.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said Trump’s refusal to certify Iran’s compliance is raising unnecessary risks at a time when tensions over North Korea’s nuclear arsenal haven’t subsided.

“By stepping back from a diplomatic deal that the US made with the global community that is clearly working, the president is publicly undercutting diplomatic negotiations and he’s setting us on a road where military options become increasingly more likely,” Kaine said.

To remedy the so-called “sunset” provisions and ensure Iran never gets within a year of obtaining atomic weapons, the legislation effectively disposes of them altogether. For example, Tehran would be indefinitely barred from operating more than 5,060 uranium-producing centrifuges — the number it is now restricted to using under the agreement.

Iran also would be prohibited until further notice from producing uranium enriched above 3.67 percent and couldn’t stockpile any more than 300 kilograms of the materials. Uranium enriched at that level is sufficient for civilian power plant use but too low for nuclear weapons.

The bill requires a semi-annual report on Iran’s compliance. The reporting would be expanded significantly to include additional examples of objectionable Iranian behavior that could be used to further build the case Tehran is not complying with the deal. Congress would be told, for example, if Iran’s “violations of internationally recognized human rights” have increased or decreased, and any military use by Iran of commercial aircraft, parts or services licensed by the United States.


Neil Gorsuch (White Freemason) Is Reportedly Alienating His Colleagues in the Supreme Court Left and Right

Long after his presidency is over and Trump has finally shuffled off this mortal coil, Neil Gorsuch will likely still be sitting on the Supreme Court, much to the delight of American conservatives. Gorsuch’s fellow Supreme Court justices do not appear to share their glee. Multiple reports indicate that almost from the moment he was confirmed, the dyed-in-the-wool constructionist has rubbed members of the court the wrong way—and not just the liberals on the bench.

Last month, Jeffrey Toobin of the New Yorker cataloged all of the judicial norms and practices the Trump appointee has violated during his brief tenure. He has dominated oral arguments where new associates are expected to defer to their seniors, penned condescending dissents challenging the wisdom of a court whose justices claim more than 140 years of experience between them, and barely concealed his contempt for Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, a landmark decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

Gorsuch has also broken SCOTUS’ unwritten rule that no justice embarrass the high court with any kind of overt political advocacy. In less than a year of service, he has delivered speeches at the conservative Fund for American Studies (at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, no less), as well as at the University of Louisville, where he was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. (McConnell was instrumental in blocking the appointment of Merrick Garland, whom Gorsuch ultimately supplanted.)

“There is nothing unlawful about Gorsuch’s speeches, though it’s hard to say just what the ethical rules are for Supreme Court Justices,” Toobin writes. “They are exempt from the code that governs the conduct of other federal judges, so the Court has traditionally relied on informal self-policing.”

John Roberts, who was appointed by George W. Bush in 2005, has reportedly taken exception with Antonin Scalia’s successor. According to CNN, a “rivalry” has emerged between the two conservatives, with the chief justice refusing to join Gorsuch’s dissent in a case overturning an Arkansas law that prohibited same-sex partners from being listed on a child’s birth certificate. (Roberts previously dissented in Obergefell.) And while he’s been fairly consistent throughout his judicial career, the piece notes, “Roberts may be more open to negotiating with liberals if Gorsuch continues to bolster the hard right.”

Gorsuch’s relationships with Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan appear markedly more contentious. During oral arguments in Gill v. Whitford, a case that could determine the future of partisan gerrymandering in U.S. congressional districts, Ginsburg appeared to bristle at the associate justice’s originalist line of questioning, asking him curtly, “Where did one person/one vote come from?”—a reference to Chief Justice Earl Warren’s ruling in 1964’s Reynolds v. Sims.

Earlier this week, NPR’s Nina Totenberg, who has covered the court for decades, told the Supreme Court podcast First Mondays that Kagan has “really taken him on” in conference. “It’s [been] a pretty tough battle,” she said, “and it’s going to get tougher.”

“Why is Totenberg’s reporting here so extraordinary?” asks Mark Joseph Stern of Slate. “Because it’s astonishing that any reporter would hear details from conference, let alone score some genuinely juicy scuttlebutt…If rumors leak about a justice’s behavior in conference—and they basically never do—it is almost certainly a justice who leaked them. And when justices leak—which again, happens very rarely—they do so on purpose.”

Gorsuch is an illegitimate justice occupying a stolen Supreme Court seat. If he leaves behind a legacy of corporate plunder and institutional rot, he will have honored the man who nominated him.

H/T Slate

Jacob Sugarman is a managing editor at AlterNet.

Trump Advisers Are Said to Lean Toward Taylor or Powell (White Freemasons) for Fed

President Donald Trump’s closest advisers are steering him toward choosing either Stanford economist John Taylor or Federal Reserve Board Governor Jerome Powell to be the next Fed chief, according to several people familiar with the process.

Trump has not yet made up his mind, the people said, though he has publicly promised to announce a decision before his Nov. 3 departure for Asia. Besides Taylor and Powell, his shortlist of five candidates also includes the current Fed Chair Janet Yellen, former Fed governor Kevin Warsh and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn.

On Thursday, Trump conducted his final interview with the Fed chair contenders, sitting down with Yellen at the White House for half an hour. Yellen, whose term as central bank chief ends on Feb. 3, came across as polished during their meeting.

A portrait of deliberations on the next Fed chairman emerged from seven people familiar with the process who shared information on condition of anonymity. The president’s own preferences aren’t yet clear.

John Taylor

Photographer: Sam Hodgson/Bloomberg

An announcement from Trump is unlikely to come this week, according to two White House officials. He hasn’t yet had time to step back and assess all the information about each candidate, one person familiar with the process said.

Interviews With Pence

Vice President Mike Pence and his aides and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are lining up behind appointing either Taylor or Powell, according to two people familiar with the process.

Jerome Powell

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

All the candidates performed well in their meetings with the president over the past several weeks, according to two people. Cohn never officially interviewed with Trump because the president already knows his top economic adviser quite well and doesn’t think it is necessary, they said.

The interview with Yellen was attended by Mnuchin, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, White House Personnel Director Johnny DeStefano and special assistant to the president Andrew Olmem.

Pence wasn’t present for Yellen’s interview, though he did sit in on Taylor’s session with the president. He also met separately with Powell and Warsh at Trump’s request, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Yellen fared well during her interview with Trump and is respected by the president and other administration officials including Mnuchin. Even so, she has no constituency among Trump advisers in favor of her reappointment, and she also faces questions from some Republicans in Congress about her stewardship of the Fed.

Congressional Republicans

On Thursday, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo said Yellen had been too slow to raise rates, though he declined to weigh in on whether she should get another term as chair. The nomination would require confirmation by the Senate.

Representative Warren Davidson, an Ohio Republican and member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, is circulating a letter for colleagues on the House Financial Services Committee to sign against Yellen’s re-appointment.

Warsh and Powell were interviewed at the White House last month. Some conservatives have concerns about Powell, a member of the Fed board of governors who was appointed by former President Barack Obama.

Warsh, meanwhile, lacks support from Mnuchin, according to two other people familiar with the process, though they would not say why. His tenure on the Fed board has been criticized by a diverse group of economists ranging from Scott Sumner to Nobel laureate Paul Krugman.

Taylor impressed Trump after an hour-long meeting at the White House last week, several people familiar with the matter said.

Trump has always been partial to hiring people with whom he has a good relationship. However, Trump told the Wall Street Journal in July that he would “like to see rates stay low,” and Taylor is the namesake of a well-known monetary policy rule that would generally call for higher interest rates.

Firebrand US lawmaker (White Idiot) accepted donation from Nazi supporter

Hard-right Republican lawmaker and former judge Roy Moore reportedly accepted a donation from a white supremacist, Nazi supporter, and notorious Holocaust denier.

According to a Wednesday report in the Huffington Post, Moore in 2005 received a $1,000 donation from the Foundation to Defend the First Amendment, a nonprofit founded by Willis Carto, who was described by the Anti-Defamation League as “one of the most influential American anti-Semitic propagandists.”

Todd Blodgett, who monitored Carto for the FBI from 2000 to 2002, told the website the ideology dominating the foundation was “total Nazi; and notice I didn’t say neo-Nazi.”

The report said the contribution to Moore was discovered through publicly available tax records, and did not appear to have been returned.

Carto, who died at age 89 in 2015, founded the Liberty Lobby, a white supremacist group, and the Institute for Historical Review, a group that promotes Holocaust denial.

In 1966, Carto wrote that “Hitler’s defeat was the defeat of Europe. And of America.” He owned the publishing house Noontide Press, which published works such as Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.”

Later in the 1980s, Carto started the Populist Party that David Duke, head of the Ku Klux Klan, represented in his bid to become US president.

Carto was also an influential part of the Holocaust revisionist movement, which claimed that many of the historical accounts of Nazi atrocities against Jews during World War II were factually incorrect. He also reportedly blamed the 9/11 terrorist attacks on Israel.

The FDFA’s website currently lists Moore as one of the recipients of financial support aimed at “solv[ing] the problems facing this great country.”

Moore, the former Alabama chief justice, is among the most controversial political figures in the US political arena.

In 2002, he branded homosexuality an “inherent evil,” and maintains that former US president Barack Obama is not a natural-born citizen.

Moore was twice suspended from the Alabama Supreme Court, first for defying an injunction to remove a Ten Commandments stone monument from the Alabama Judicial Building, and then for refusing orders to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Last month, he beat US President Donald Trump’s preferred candidate Luther Strange in the Senate Republican runoff in Alabama.

After his victory, Trump quickly threw his support behind Moore, saying he “sounds like a really great guy who ran a fantastic race.”


A Congresswoman who challenged President Donald Trump’s treatment of a U.S. soldier’s grieving widow has received a series of threatening phone calls to her Washington, D.C. office, according to her staff.

Staffers at the office of Florida Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson told CBS4 Wednesday that multiple threatening phone calls coming in are directly tied to the congresswoman’s quarrel with Trump over his treatment of military families.

Wilson’s staff have sent notice of the threats to Capitol Police, the threat division of the U.S. House of Representatives, and police in Wilson’s hometown of Miami.

The threats began coming in after Wilson told CNN Tuesday that she overheard a conversation between Trump and the six-month pregnant widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson who was killed in an ambush in Niger on October 4.

According to Wilson, Trump told widow Myeshia Johnson that “you know that this could happen when you signed up for it…but it still hurts.”

Wilson said she was in the car with Johnson’s family headed to the airport to collect his remains when Trump’s call came in. Trump kept referring to Johnson as “your guy” during the call, she said. “When he hung up you know what [Myeshia] turned to me and said? She said he didn’t even remember his name,” Wilson said.

Read more: “Donald Trump has “no empathy” for military because he didn’t fight in Vietnam, says Bush official

Trump denied making the comments Wednesday. “I didn’t say what that Congresswoman said—didn’t say it at all—she knows it, and she now is not saying it,” Trump told reporters. “I did not say what she said. I would like her to make the statement again because I did not say what she said. I had a very nice conversation with the woman—with the wife—who sounded like a lovely woman.”

Wilson’s account, however, was confirmed by the woman who raised Sgt. Johnson since he was five-years-old after his mother died. Cowanda Jones-Johnson told the Associated Press on Wednesday that she was in the car at the time and that Wilson’s account is accurate.

“President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband,” Jones-Johnson told The Washington Post.

For 12 days Trump did not publicly mention the early October ambush in Niger that killed Johnson and left three other soldiers dead.

The president has faced a backlash this week after he said Monday during a White House press conference that “if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls” to the relatives of fallen soldiers.

When he was pressed by reporters after former officials and families immediately disputed his claims, Trump backtracked. “President Obama, I think probably did sometimes [call], and maybe sometimes he didn’t. I don’t know. That’s what I was told.”

U.S. judge orders Trump administration to allow abortion for undocumented teen



A federal judge on Wednesday ordered the U.S. government to allow an undocumented immigrant teenager in its custody to have an abortion and said she was “astounded” that the Trump administration was trying to block the procedure.

Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the pregnant teen, cheered the judge’s ruling as a major victory for abortion and immigrant rights.

“We never should have had to fight this in the first place,” said Brigitte Amiri, a senior ACLU staff attorney who argued the case on Wednesday. “It should never have been something that we needed to go to court over.”

Late Wednesday, however, the Justice Department appealed the case, asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to stay District Judge Tanya Chutkan’s ruling.

The government asked the appeals court to rule by 9 p.m. on Thursday, to prevent the 17-year-old, identified in court papers as Jane Doe, from having an “irreversible elective abortion” while the appeal is pending. The government said the teenager, who is in her 15th week of pregnancy, “still has a number of weeks in which she could legally and safely obtain an abortion.”

Hours earlier, Chutkan had ordered the government to allow the teen to visit the abortion provider located closest to her shelter in Texas on Thursday and undergo state-mandated counseling before terminating the pregnancy on Friday or Saturday. Texas bars most abortions after 20 weeks.

“Failure to comply with the terms of this Order may result in a finding of contempt,” wrote Chutkan, who was appointed by President Barack Obama.

The case of the Central American teen has drawn national attention. Democrats in Congress expressed opposition to the government’s stance, while Texas and seven other states filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting it.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the antiabortion group Susan B. Anthony List, said Chutkan’s ruling “sets a dangerous precedent” for officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who she said were trying to “protect the life and dignity of the teenage girl and her unborn child.”

Court filings make clear that the government is trying to prevent minors in its custody from having abortions, a departure from U.S. practice under Obama. Scott Lloyd, director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the HHS agency that cares for unaccompanied minors caught crossing the border, said in an email in March that federally funded shelters “should not be supporting abortion services pre or post-release; only pregnancy services and life-affirming options counseling.”

During the hearing Wednesday, Chutkan asked Justice Department lawyer Scott Stewart whether he thought illegal immigrants had constitutional rights and whether he believes that the 1973 Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade , which guarantees a woman’s right to an abortion, is still the “law of the land.”

Stewart acknowledged the ruling but said the government views this case differently because the teen is an undocumented immigrant in federal custody. He signaled that undocumented minors do not have a constitutional right to an elective abortion in federal custody, unless it is a medical emergency, and also said immigrants here illegally have “minimal” protections in this country.

“I’m not going to give you a concession on that, Your Honor,” he said.

The judge laughed. “This is remarkable,” she said.

Chutkan said the teen’s immigration status was irrelevant and that she still had constitutional rights. She wrote that the teen will “suffer irreparable injury,” including health risks, if the government interferes with her abortion plans. Chutkan also barred the government from forcing the teen to reveal her abortion decision to anyone or retaliating against her or the federally funded shelter housing her in Texas. She did not immediately act on an ACLU request to apply her ruling to other minors in federal custody.

By refusing to allow the girl to be transported to have an abortion, Chutkan said, the government appeared to be offering the teenager two options: voluntarily return to a nation she fled to have an abortion; or carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.

“I am astounded by that position,” Chutkan said.

In court filings, the Justice Department said the government has “strong and constitutionally legitimate interests in promoting childbirth, in refusing to facilitate abortion, and in not providing incentives for pregnant minors to illegally cross the border to obtain elective abortions while in federal custody.”

Chutkan countered during the hearing that the teenager does not need a medical emergency to exercise her right to an abortion. She said the teen had followed state and federal rules: She obtained permission from a state judge in Texas to have an abortion and would cover the expenses herself or with help through her court-appointed guardian.

All the government had to do, Chutkan said, is process the paperwork to let the girl visit the clinic, just as they would if she needed to have her tonsils removed.

The judge pointed out that the federal workers took the teenager, against her wishes, to a Christian pregnancy facility for counseling aimed at persuading her not to abort, and also informed her mother about the pregnancy. Both steps potentially violated the girl’s constitutional protections, Chutkan said.

“The government didn’t seem to have any problem facilitating that,” Chutkan said.

The teen has been in federal custody since early September, when she was caught illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Her native country has not been made public.

In tense questioning, Sessions defends Comey firing, dodges questions on Trump



WASHINGTON (AP) — US Attorney General Jeff Sessions strongly defended President Donald Trump’s firing of James Comey, but at a Senate hearing Wednesday repeatedly declined to discuss private conversations with the president about the dismissal, frustrating Democratic lawmakers who wanted to link the firing of the FBI director to a broader inquiry into Russian election meddling.

The repeated, often-testy questioning about the Russia investigation, coming even as Sessions spearheads sweeping changes to the Justice Department in the areas of LGBT rights, criminal justice and immigration, illustrates the extent to which the probe continues to shadow Sessions even though he recused himself months ago.

Sessions advised the Senate Judiciary Committee at the outset of his first oversight hearing as attorney general that he would not answer any questions about conversations with the president that he considered confidential.

He largely adhered to that principle during the five-hour hearing, refusing to say what Trump told him about his reasons for wanting to fire Comey, whether Trump confided in him his concern about “lifting the cloud” of the Russia investigation and whether he had asked him to drop a criminal case against Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona.

Sessions deflected the questions by maintaining that presidents are entitled to have private discussions with Cabinet secretaries, saying at one point, “I do not confirm or deny the existence of any communication between the president that I consider to be confidential.”

Still, Sessions’ defense of the Comey firing — and his insistence that it stemmed from the handling of the Hillary Clinton email case — was consistent with the initial explanation by the White House. It was, he said, “the first time I’m aware of” in which an FBI director had performed the traditional role of Justice Department prosecutors by announcing on his own the conclusion of a federal investigation — that no charges would be brought against Clinton.

He said he was further galled when Comey, shortly before his firing, insisted to Congress that he would have taken the same actions again.

“That was a fairly stunning event for both of us and it did highlight the problem more significantly than it had been before,” Sessions said, referring to Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein.

Though he refused to say whether he discussed with Trump Comey’s involvement in the Russia investigation, he did say that the president had asked him and Rosenstein for their recommendations about what to do with Comey.

But that explanation has been muddled by Trump himself, who days after the May 9 firing said he would have fired Comey even without the Justice Department’s recommendation and that he was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he dismissed him.

The circumstances of Comey’s firing are among many events being investigated by Robert Mueller, who was appointed as the Justice Department’s special counsel to look into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 election.

After initially balking at the question, Sessions said Mueller’s team had not interviewed him as part of its investigation.

The hearing marked a return to the Judiciary Committee for Sessions, who served on it for years as a Republican senator. Yet his interactions with his former peers have been frayed as attorney general, particularly amid Democratic accusations that he provided misleading testimony at his confirmation hearing about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.

He bickered with Senator Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, who accused him of having moved the “goalpost” in his denials about his contacts with the ambassador.

Sessions said that while he had initially denied having any contacts with Russians during the campaign, he has later qualified his answer to say that he had not discussed any matters related to the campaign. Sessions repeated Wednesday that he had done nothing improper and had given a “good-faith” response.

Apart from Russia, Sessions faced questions from lawmakers about his swift undoing of Obama-era protections for gay and transgender people and his rollback of criminal justice policies that aimed to reduce the federal prison population, among other changes he has made in the nine months since taking office.

Franken praised his decision to send an experienced federal hate crimes prosecutor to assist in a transgender murder case in Iowa, but said his Justice Department has “demonstrated an unrelenting hostility toward LGBT people,” an assertion Sessions disputed.

Sessions has tried to pressure so-called sanctuary cities into cooperating with federal immigration authorities by threatening to withhold grant money, and he was the public face of the Trump administration’s decision to end a program benefiting hundreds of thousands of young people who entered the US illegally as children. Congress is seeking a legislative solution to extend the protections before recipients’ work permits expire.

He tussled with Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois over whether people living in the country illegally are driving Chicago’s gun violence. The city has been in the Trump administration’s crosshairs for refusing to help immigration authorities detain and deport immigrants. Durbin said he wanted Chicago officers doing community policing and not immigration work.

“How does that make the city of Chicago safer when you don’t remove criminals who are illegally in the country?” Sessions said.

It is standard policy for attorneys general to appear before the Justice Department’s congressional overseers on the House and Senate judiciary committees.

Yet, in a reflection of the extent to which the Russia investigation and his own role as a Trump campaign ally have dominated public attention, Sessions first appeared months ago before the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting its own probe of election meddling.

F.D.A. Approves Second Gene-Altering Treatment for Cancer

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved the second in a radically new class of treatments that genetically reboot a patient’s own immune cells to kill cancer.

The new therapy, Yescarta, made by Kite Pharma, was approved for adults with aggressive forms of a blood cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, who have undergone two regimens of chemotherapy that failed.

The treatment, considered a form of gene therapy, transforms the patient’s cells into what researchers call a “living drug” that attacks cancer cells. It is part of the rapidly growing field of immunotherapy, which uses drugs or genetic tinkering to turbocharge the immune system to fight disease. In some cases the treatments have led to long remissions.

“The results are pretty remarkable,” said Dr. Frederick L. Locke, a specialist in blood cancers at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, and a leader of a study of the new treatment. “We’re excited. We think there are many patients who may need this therapy.”

He added, “These patients don’t have other options.”

About 3,500 people a year in the United States may be candidates for Yescarta. It is meant to be given once, infused into a vein, and must be manufactured individually for each patient. The cost will be $373,000.

The treatment was originally developed at the National Cancer Institute, by a team Dr. Steven Rosenberg led. The institute entered an agreement with Kite in 2012, in which the company helped pay for research and received rights to commercialize the results.

Largely on the strength of the new drug and related research, the drug giant Gilead purchased Kite in August, for $11.9 billion.

“Today marks another milestone in the development of a whole new scientific paradigm for the treatment of serious diseases,” the F.D.A. commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, said in a statement. “In just several decades, gene therapy has gone from being a promising concept to a practical solution to deadly and largely untreatable forms of cancer.”

Side-effects can be life-threatening, however. They include high fevers, crashing blood pressure, lung congestion and neurological problems.In some cases, patients have required treatment in an intensive care unit. In the study that led to the approval, two patients died from side effects. Doctors have learned to manage them better, but it takes training and experience.

Partly for that reason, Yescarta, like Kymriah, will be introduced gradually, and will be available only at centers where doctors and nurses have been trained in using it.

“Ten to 15 authorized institutions will be ready to go at the time of the launch,” a spokeswoman for Kite, Christine Cassiano, said. “In 12 months, we expect to have 70 to 90. There’s a lot that goes into it, making sure each institution is ready to go.”

Companies have been racing to develop new forms of immunotherapy. The first cell-based cancer treatment — Kymriah, made by Novartis — was approved in August for children and young adults with an aggressive type of acute leukemia. It will cost $475,000, but the company has said it will not charge patients who do not respond within the first month after treatment. Novartis is expected to ask the F.D.A. to approve Kymriah for lymphoma and other blood cancers as well, and may vary its price depending on how well it works for those diseases.

Kite also plans to seek approval for other blood cancers, but does not plan to vary Yescarta’s price, said Ms. Cassiano.

The company also hopes that Yescarta will eventually be approved for earlier stages of lymphoma, rather than being limited to patients with advanced disease who have been debilitated by multiple types of chemotherapy that did not work, said Dr. David D. Chang, Kite’s chief medical officer and executive vice president for research and development.

“This is the beginning of many developments in cell therapy in the next few years,” Dr. Chang said in an interview.

He said the F.D.A. had “embraced” the concept of cell therapy, designating it a breakthrough and accelerating the approval process to speed its availability to cancer patients, many of whom do not have time to wait.

Kite and Novartis also hope to produce cell therapies for so-called solid tumors — like those of the lung, prostate, breast and colon — which account for about 90 percent of all deaths from cancer.

Before it was approved and named Yescarta, Kite’s treatment was known by other names: axi-cel, axicabtagene ciloleucel, or KTE-C19.

The study that led to approval enrolled 111 patients at 22 hospitals; 101 of them received Yescarta. They had one of three diseases: diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma or transformed follicular lymphoma.

Initially, 54 percent had complete remissions, meaning that their tumors disappeared. Another 28 percent had partial remissions, in which tumors shrank or appeared less active on scans. After six months, 80 percent of the 101 were still alive.

With a median follow-up of 8.7 months, 39 percent of the 101 were still in complete remission — a much higher rate than achieved with earlier treatments — and 5 percent still had partial remissions.

“Many patients were seriously contemplating their own mortality,” said Dr. Caron A. Jacobson, who helped conduct the study at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center in Boston. “We would be talking to them about other clinical trials, but also about hospice care and quality of life and comfort. You’re really seeing people get their life back. After a couple weeks in the hospital and a couple weeks at home, they go back to work. On its face, it’s quite remarkable and revolutionary.”

The treatment requires removing millions of a patient’s T-cells — a type of white blood cell that is critical to the immune system — freezing them and shipping them to Kite to be genetically engineered to kill cancer cells. The process reprograms the T-cells to attack B-cells, normal parts of the immune system that turn malignant in certain blood cancers. The revved-up T-cells — now known as “CAR-T cells” — are then frozen again and shipped back to the hospital to be dripped into the patient. The turnaround time is about 17 days.

Kite’s cell-processing facility, in El Segundo, Calif., can provide the treatment for 4,000 to 5,000 patients a year, Ms. Cassiano said, adding that the company has applied for approval in Europe, and if it is granted, will probably build a plant there.

Tina Bureau, a fifth-grade teacher from Queensbury, N.Y., was one of the lymphoma patients in the study. Previously, she’d had several types of chemotherapy.

“The cancer would shrink but then it would come right back,” she said.

Last spring, she had the T-cell treatment at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. The side effects were ferocious.

“You don’t even recognize your family members,” Ms. Bureau said. “I had some bleeding on my brain, and had to be put in intensive care. The week it was happening, I don’t remember a lot. It was much more difficult for my family than me.”

Within a month, she had a complete remission, which has continued. She is back at work, full time.

“Yes, it can pose life threatening problems,” Ms. Bureau said. “But when you’re in a situation where your life’s threatened anyway, I don’t feel you have anything to lose.”

Scolding UNESCO, GOP lawmakers (Freemasons) introduce resolution on Jewish ties to Jerusalem

WASHINGTON — After the Trump administration withdrew the United States from UNESCO over what it called its “anti-Israel bias,” two GOP lawmakers introduced a resolution that condemns the UN cultural organization and affirms Jewish ties to Jerusalem.

The UN body has, in recent years, passed a series of its own resolutions denying a Jewish link to the holy city.

On Israel’s Independence Day this year, the UN cultural agency passed a motion that many Israelis saw as denying Jewish historical or religious ties to Jerusalem. Such measures were cited as one reason the US decided to pull out of the agency last week.

On Friday, Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, and Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida, followed up on the move by authoring a resolution that “recognizes and affirms the historical connection of the Jewish people to the ancient and sacred city of Jerusalem.”

It goes on to cite archaeologically excavated sites, like the City of David, that contain vast quantities of antiquities from the ancient Jewish and Christian presence in the city.

“The Jewish people, and the people of Israel, have a deep and ancient connection to the holy city of Jerusalem,” Rep. Gaetz said. “Yet the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization … is actively trying to rewrite history.”

The resolution’s text condemns UNESCO for what it characterizes as its attempts to delegitimize the Jewish state. It also calls on the US to partner with its allies in preventing the group from passing similar measures in the future.

“The Trump administration has demonstrated strong moral clarity in deciding to withdraw and continuing to withhold US taxpayer dollars from UNESCO as a result of its relentless hostility towards our close ally Israel,” Cruz said.

After the US decision to exit UNESCO was announced last Thursday, the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, warned the entire world body that other agencies risked the same treatment if they did not reform.

“The United States will continue to evaluate all agencies within the United Nations system through the same lens,” she said.

The US withdrawal from UNESCO won’t take effect until December 31, 2018.

On Friday, UNESCO elected former French culture minister Audrey Azoulay, who is Jewish, as its new head. Azoulay immediately urged the US and Israel not to quit the organization.

Judge Temporarily Halts New Version of Trump’s Travel Ban

President Trump’s attempts to block travelers from a handful of countries — most of them predominantly Muslim — from coming to the United States hit another legal snag on Tuesday, when a federal judge in Hawaii issued a nationwide order freezing most of Mr. Trump’s third travel ban the day before it was to take effect.

At least for now, the judge’s order will prevent the Trump administration from stopping almost all travel to the United States indefinitely from most of the countries named in the ban.

The ban, now in its third iteration, was one of Mr. Trump’s earliest and most controversial decisions after taking office in January, and it has also been one of the most legally troubled. Both previous versions were ordered halted by federal district judges who said they violated the Constitution or exceeded the president’s authority, and those orders were upheld on appeal.

The Supreme Court was scheduled to review the second version of the order when Mr. Trump issued the third. Given the litigation surrounding the travel bans, the Supreme Court seems likely to take an interest in the current version as well.

Citing his campaign promises to keep terrorists and criminals out of the country, Mr. Trump initially ordered an immediate suspension of travelfrom seven predominantly Muslim countries, a move that plunged airports across the country into confusion and protest in January. That order was eventually blocked by a federal judge in Seattle. Mr. Trump’s second attempt narrowed the scope of the ban, but still struggled to survive judicial scrutiny; it was blocked in March by the same Hawaii judge who issued Tuesday’s order, Derrick K. Watson of Federal District Court in Honolulu.

The third travel ban, Judge Watson wrote on Tuesday, “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor.” Among those flaws, he wrote, was that the ban “plainly discriminates based on nationality” in a way that undercut “the founding principles of this Nation,” and that the government had not shown that the United States’ national interests would be harmed by admitting travelers from the affected countries.

The Trump administration swiftly denounced the judge’s order, saying that the latest travel restrictions were issued after an “extensive worldwide security review” by Homeland Security officials.

The judge’s order “undercuts the President’s efforts to keep the American people safe and enforce minimum security standards for entry into the United States,” the White House said in a statement. “These restrictions are vital to ensuring that foreign nations comply with the minimum security standards required for the integrity of our immigration system and the security of our nation.” The statement called the ban “lawful and necessary” and expressed confidence that the courts would “swiftly restore its vital protections.”

The third version of the ban went further than the original, imposing permanent restrictions on travel instead of the original 90-day suspensions. Most citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea, as well as certain Venezuelan government officials and their families, were to be excluded from entering the United States at all, while citizens of Iraq were to face extra barriers to entry. The ban was scheduled to go into effect on Wednesday.

Judge Watson’s order blocks the administration from shutting the country’s doors to people from Chad, Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia. It does not prevent the administration from barring North Koreans or Venezuelans or from subjecting Iraqis to stricter scrutiny.

Protesters marched at a rally in downtown Los Angeles in October in response to President Trump’s most recent travel ban. CreditMark Ralston/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The White House took pains to emphasize that the latest version was extensively vetted, with each of the affected countries subject to its own set of restrictions tailored to its security capabilities. The rollout of the third version of the executive order was supposed to avoid all the chaos of the first one: Legal permanent residents who were barred from the United States under the first travel ban would not be affected by the third, and people who already hold valid visas, including students now in the United States and employees of American businesses, would not have their visas revoked, as could have happened under the earlier ban. (Once their visas expired, however, they would be subject to the ban.)

Administration officials noted that non-Muslim countries were included in the order. But critics of the ban said that the addition of North Koreans and a small number of Venezuelans did little to disguise the ban’s targeting of Muslims.

Judge Watson appeared to find few substantial differences between Mr. Trump’s second effort and his third.

“Professional athletes mirror the federal government in this respect,” he wrote. “They operate within a set of rules, and when one among them forsakes those rules in favor of his own, problems ensue.”

The judge found that the government’s rationale for barring people from certain countries from entering the United States — that doing so would bolster national security — did not make sense, writing that the administration had failed to show a clear link between a person’s nationality and the threat he or she posed.

“The categorical restrictions on entire populations of men, women, and children, based upon nationality, are a poor fit for the issues regarding the sharing of ‘public-safety and terrorism-related information’ that the president identifies,” the judge wrote. Meanwhile, he added, dangerous people of other nationalities could fall outside the scope of the ban: “This leads to absurd results,” he wrote, adding that the executive order was “simultaneously overbroad and underinclusive.”

The judge also said that the order contradicted the administration’s public rationale by applying fewer restrictions to people from Iraq and Venezuela, which the administration said had failed to clear the security standards it had set, than it did on Somalia, which had met the baseline requirements. The administration also provided no coherent explanation for many of the carve-outs for certain categories of people in the ban, such as Iranian students, the judge wrote.

While the administration’s national security goals were important, Judge Watson said, the government had failed to prove that letting people affected by the ban into the country would directly harm the interests of the United States.

A spokesman for the Justice Department, Ian Prior, said the judge’s order failed to “properly respect the separation of powers” between the executive branch and the judiciary, and said the administration would appeal. The government has consistently argued that the president has broad powers to determine who may enter the country.

The judge’s ruling came in a suit filed by the state of Hawaii. The state’s attorney general, Douglas Chin, said in a statement: “This is the third time Hawaii has gone to court to stop President Trump from issuing a travel ban that discriminates against people based on their nation of origin or religion. Today is another victory for the rule of law. We stand ready to defend it.”

Judge Watson’s earlier ruling on the second version of the travel ban was upheld by an appeals court, but the Supreme Court ultimately allowed portions of that travel ban to take effect. It also allowed Mr. Trump to continue controlling the flow of refugees into the country. Administration officials said last month that Mr. Trump would cap refugee admissions at 45,000 over the next year.

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