FDA approves controversial Alzheimer’s drug. Manchin backs watered-down voting rights protections. N Korea declares war on foreign slang, fashion.
FDA approves controversial Alzheimer’s drug
The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new drug from Biogen labs for treatment of Alzheimer’s patients. Aducanumab aims to clear harmful protein buildups from the brain. In the past, other drugs have targeted these proteins, but haven’t shown any promise in either reversing or slowing cognitive decline in patients. Despite Aducanumab’s hefty price tag ($30,000-$50,000 per year), experts have criticized that it shows little more promise than its predecessors. In fact, only one study has shown that Aducanumab has any effect on slowing the progress of the disease.
Some patient advocate groups argue that any drug that has any effect on the disease, however miniscule, is worthy of FDA approval. Others fear that the FDA’s approval of Aducanumab will open the way for any drug with dubious efficacy.
The FDA approved Aducanumab despite the less-than-enthusiastic verdict of one of the agency’s own outside panels. A survey asked the group whether the data showed the drug to be effective. The group answered “no”.
Manchin throws weight behind watered-down voting rights legislation
Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), now a well-established thorn in the Democratic side, has announced he will not back the Democrats’ For the People Act to protect voter rights. Instead, Manchin says he will support the competing John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which has broader bipartisan support.
Both the For the People Act and the John Lewis Act aim to combat new voter restrictions in Republican states. The John Lewis Act would restore some provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. This would include requiring federal clearance for any changes to voting laws in states with a history of racially-motivated voter restrictions. It would also require federal approval for any redistricting decisions.
What’s the difference?
In the Shelby County v. Holder decision of 2013, the Supreme Court ended many provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. There’s no question among voting rights advocates that many of these provisions need to be restored. They argue that the new laws in Republican states all over the US disproportionately impact voters of color.
However, the John Lewis Act does not include other key provisions in the more expansive For the People Act. Many see the provisions in the For the People Act as necessary steps to improving institutional election integrity.
For example, the For the People Act would require greater transparency for political campaign contributions. It would also match small-dollar donations (typically under $200) to campaigns with federal funds. This would both boost the power of individual donors, and reduce the time Congress people have to spend dialing-for-dollars while in office. By comparison, the John Lewis Act has no provisions regarding campaign finance.
The For the People Act would also direct funds to improving election security, actively curb partisan gerrymandering, and strengthen ethical oversight of elections and election laws. The John Lewis Act does none of these things.
North Korea wages war on blue jeans, foreign slang and movies
Apparently distressed by young people sporting hairstyles and fashions similar to those of South Korean “K-Pop” idols, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un is cracking down on anything that smacks of foreign influence. North Korea has long had strict prohibitions against foreign materials, such as books and magazines, entering the country. Anyone violating these restrictions has either suffered the death penalty or incarceration in one of North Korea’s infamous labor camps.
The restrictions are now extending to other forms of media, including movies, TV shows and music. Anyone caught possessing large amounts of such media from the US, South Korea or Japan now faces the death penalty. Those who are caught merely consuming such media face 15 years in a prison camp.
A recent open letter from Kim called on the country’s youth league to report anyone exhibiting foreign dress, using foreign slang, which Kim called “dangerous poisons”.
Lee Sang Yong, editor-in-Chief of The Daily NK (based in South Korea), says that North Korea has also passed a new law. According to Lee, the law “states that if a worker is caught, the head of the factory can be punished, and if a child is problematic, parents can also be punished. The system of mutual monitoring encouraged by the North Korean regime is aggressively reflected in this law”.
According to observers and defectors from the North, the new laws are a reaction to harder times in the Hermit Kingdom. One recent defector says “the harder the times, the harsher the regulations, laws, punishments become”.
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