Nation & World briefs, Nov. 14, 2017

Monday, November 13, 2017
Trump names new health secretary

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has picked a former top pharmaceutical and government executive be his Health and Human Services secretary.

If confirmed by the Senate, Alex Azar will oversee a $1-trillion department responsible for major health insurance programs, medical research, food and drug safety and public health.

In making the pick, Trump turned to an industry he has rebuked.

The Azar nomination is unusual because HHS secretaries have tended to come from the ranks of elected officials such as governors — not industries regulated by the department.

Azar, 50, a lawyer by training, has spent the last 10 years with pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, rising to president of its key U.S. affiliate before leaving in January to start his own consulting firm.

Half US adults have high blood pressure

ANAHEIM, Calif. — New guidelines lower the threshold for high blood pressure, adding 30 million Americans to those who have the condition, which now plagues nearly half of U.S. adults.

High pressure, which for decades has been a top reading of at least 140 or a bottom one of 90, drops to 130 over 80 in advice announced Monday by a dozen medical groups.

The change means an additional 14 percent of U.S. adults have the problem, but only an additional 2 percent will need medication right away; the rest should try healthier lifestyles, which get much stronger emphasis in the new advice. Poor diets, lack of exercise and other bad habits cause 90 percent of high blood pressure.

“I have no doubt there will be controversy. I’m sure there will be people saying ‘We have a hard enough time getting to 140,’” said Dr. Paul Whelton, a Tulane University physician who led the guidelines panel.

China border traders losing money

BEIJING — Chinese traders are complaining about new U.N. sanctions on North Korea, saying they have all but dried up business in the border city of Dandong.

They say they’re unable to collect payment from impoverished North Korean state companies for goods such as toothpaste, instant noodles and other household items.

Large-scale trade involving North Korean iron ore and coal has been banned entirely, dealing a big blow to Dandong’s port, whose operator defaulted on a $150 million corporate bond.

China has long been the North’s biggest economic partner. Beijing accounted for more than 90 percent of its neighbor's foreign trade of about $6.5 billion in 2016, and continues to be a key source of food and fuel aid to help keep North Korea’s weak economy from collapsing.

Could anyone stop Trump from launching nukes? The answer: No

WASHINGTON — It was a question rarely raised before Donald Trump ran for the White House: If the president ordered a pre-emptive nuclear strike, could anyone stop him? The answer is no.

Not the Congress. Not his secretary of defense. And by design, not the military officers who would be duty-bound to execute the order. As Bruce Blair, a former nuclear missile launch officer and expert on nuclear command and control, has put it, “The protocol for ordering the use of nuclear weapons endows every president with civilization-ending power.” He said Trump, “has unchecked authority to order a preventive nuclear strike against any nation he wants with a single verbal direction to the Pentagon war room.”

— The Associated Press