Monthly Archives: March 2017

Treasury Department sanctions North Korean firm, individuals with alleged ties to nuclear weapons program

By Damian Paletta

A man watches a TV news program in Seoul in February showing photos of North Korea’s “Pukguksong-2” missile launch. (Ahn Young-joon/AP)

President Trump’s administration issued sanctions Friday against a North Korean business and 11 North Korean nationals who it said were tied to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program and the financial networks that support it.

The sanctions, brought by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, prohibit U.S. companies from dealing with the entities and also freeze any assets the entities have that are held by a U.S. bank.

Trump has said the United States should strike a tougher posture with North Korea, after years of failed efforts by the U.S. government to get Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program.

[North Korea might be preparing for another nuclear test, satellite images suggest]

“Today’s sanctions are aimed at disrupting the networks and methods that the government of North Korea employs to fund its unlawful nuclear, ballistic missile, and proliferation programs,” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement Friday.

As North Korea continues testing nuclear weapons, U.S. officials believe the isolated, totalitarian nation is working to develop technology that would allow it to put a nuclear weapon on a long-range missile that could reach the United States. New commercial satellite images show that North Korea could be preparing for another nuclear weapons test at an underground site.

North Korea is already heavily sanctioned by the U.S. government, and it’s unclear how the new sanctions would prompt Pyongyang to change its behavior. Trump has said that neighboring China must do more to deter North Korea. That issue will likely come up when Trump meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping next week.

Treasury said in a statement that the new sanctions will be imposed against North Korea-based Paeksol Trading …read more


‘We are in a trade war,’ Trump’s commerce secretary says after stern German warning

By Max Ehrenfreund

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel attend the weekly cabinet meeting at the chancellery in Berlin on March 29. (Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images)

Germany’s foreign minister on Friday morning said the Trump administration is taking a “dangerous step” after the commerce department announced a tariff on imports of foreign steel, indicating the tax could become a new source of conflict with the powerful U.S. ally and trading partner.

The strongly worded statement from German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel further intensified trade tensions between the United States and international officials since President Trump took office. Although Trump’s actions on trade so far have been modest and have in many respects preserved the status quo, the president and his advisers have hinted at more disruptive measures in the future, and Gabriel claimed that the administration was abandoning established international principles of free trade.

“The U.S. Government is apparently prepared to provide American companies with unfair competitive advantages over European and other producers, even if such action violates international trade law,” Gabriel’s statement read. “I very much fail to comprehend the decision.”

Gabriel is objecting to the Trump administration’s conclusions following an investigation into the pricing of certain types of steel plate from Germany, as well as from Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. The Commerce Department’s findings, announced Thursday, allow the administration to begin collecting tariffs ahead of a final determination expected in May.

“You have to think about it this way: We are in a trade war,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Friday. “We have been for decades.”

The order on Germany relates to a pair of executive actions on trade that Trump says he plans to sign Friday, including a review of U.S. trade policy.

Those actions will instruct the administration to identify areas in which foreign …read more


Trump to launch review of trade policy as he levels new threats at China

By Jenna Johnson and Damian Paletta

Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and President Trump. (AP Photo/Files)

President Trump on Friday plans to sign two executive actions that will launch reviews of U.S. trade policy, the latest in a series of measured steps that could lead to a revamp of the way the U.S. engages with the global economy.

Both executive actions could serve as preludes to more severe White House decisions regarding tariffs and trade agreements, but on their own they reflect a marked softening from the heated trade jabs Trump used on the campaign trail, when he threatened to enter into trade wars with Mexico and China.

Still, the executive orders will come one week before Chinese President Xi Jinping visits the new U.S. president, and Trump put Xi on notice Thursday when he wrote in a series of Twitter posts that he plans to have “difficult” conversations with his Chinese counterpart about trade issues.

…and job losses. American companies must be prepared to look at other alternatives.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 30, 2017

The first executive action will direct the Commerce Department and a new White House trade council to “identify every form of trade abuse and every nonreciprocal practice that contributes to the U.S. trade deficit,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told reporters Thursday.

The trade deficit is the difference between a country’s imports and its exports. The United States has large trade deficits with a number of countries because it is so wealthy and imports goods from countries where products can be manufactured more cheaply. Trump has said that trade imbalances with Mexico and China are because those countries take advantage of the United States and he has called for taking a much tougher stance with each of them, threatening them with new tariffs and taxes.

“So what this report will do is within 90 …read more


The hottest field in cancer research depends on funding Trump wants to cut

By Carolyn Y. Johnson

The patients’ entrance at the National Institutes of Health. (Gary Cameron/Reuters)

Nearly two decades ago, a pair of Boston scientists worked on an idea that had failed so many times it had been pushed to the fringes of cancer medicine: the idea that the body’s immune system could be unleashed against tumors.

Immunotherapy had been proposed as an idea for 100 years, but nothing had worked. We cured a lot of mice, but no people,” said Gordon Freeman, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Not only was it not trendy, it was in low esteem. No company was aggressively funding immunotherapy — it just didn’t have much appeal.”

As a seemingly fringe endeavor, the initial work wouldn’t have been possible without federal support — much of which came, as it happens, from a research institute that is devoted not to cancer but to allergies.

“It was really the NIH grants, from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, that really supported this work at that point in time. The funding was absolutely critical,” Sharpe, a professor of comparative pathology at Harvard Medical School, said. “The hope was, if we got a basic understanding of the molecules involved, that could then translate to different types of therapy.”

Science is, by its nature, about unraveling things we don’t yet understand, and Freeman and Sharpe’s work — along with others — laid the intellectual foundation for what has rapidly become the hottest area of cancer medicine. Multiple pharmaceutical companies licensed the patents that emerged from their research, and they helped spur development of a new type of cancer drug that unleashes the immune system on cancer cells, also releasing what Freeman calls “a tsunami of scientific enthusiasm — and pharmaceutical enthusiasm.” Today, there are more than 800 clinical trials targeted …read more