Feb 8, 2018

U.S. proposed "direct channel" prisoner negotiations with Iran

Wax detainee displayed in prison cell in Tehran. ATTA KENARE / AFP via Getty Images

The Wall Street Journal reports that the White House secretly contacted Iran in December to suggest a "direct channel" between the two countries in order to kick off negotiations to release prisoners held by both the United States and Iran. At least four Americans are known to currently be held by Iran.

Why it matters: The proposal marked the Trump administration's first diplomatic outreach to Iran regarding prisoner negotiations. A 2016 prisoner swap with Iran — which also included the unfreezing of $400 million in Iranian assets — had prompted then-candidate Trump to openly criticize Obama administration policy on the issue.

Plot twist: Iran didn’t respond. The WSJ reports that although there have been at least three additional attempts from D.C. to discuss the release of the prisoners, Tehran has refused to engage with U.S. officials on the offer. The Trump administration has reportedly been considering toughening its policy on Iran's support for militant groups and nuclear capabilities.

Think back: Egyptian American prisoners freed thanks to Trump.

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Coronavirus stress tests drug industry's dependence on China

A Hong Kong commuter wears a face mask. Photo: Miguel Candela/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

It's unclear whether the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus will actually result in prescription drug shortages, but it has undoubtedly highlighted the potential vulnerabilities of having the supply chain for American drugs so dependent on China.

Driving the news: About 150 prescription drugs — including antibiotics, generics and some branded drugs without alternatives — are at risk of shortage if the coronavirus outbreak in China worsens, per two sources familiar with a list of at-risk drugs compiled by the Food and Drug Administration.

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Bernie's path to the presidency

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks yesterday during a rally at Houston University. Photo: Mark Felix/AFP via Getty Images

Lots of Democrats are in full panic that Bernie Sanders will win the nomination and get clobbered in the general election — and bring the party down, too. But the evidence, particularly the polling, doesn't back those doomsday warnings.

Why it matters: Virtually every national and swing state poll shows Sanders tied with or beating President Trump.  And, unlike every rival, he has a huge base of fervent, unshakable supporters he can only grow.

These swing voters don't like Trump’s environmental rollbacks

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Swing voters in four battleground states decisively oppose President Trump’s sweeping rollbacks of environmental regulations — but it’s unlikely to sway their votes.

Why it matters: It’s voters living in states like these, including Florida and Pennsylvania, who fill pivotal roles electing America’s presidents, so we should listen.