Thursday morning news: March 7, 2019

Homeland Security secretary testifies before Congress » Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen faced a grilling from House Democrats Wednesday about President Trump’s immigration policies.

California Congresswoman Nanette Barragan accused Nielsen of lying when she testified that asylum seekers are not being turned away at legal ports of entry.

BARRAGAN: Any asylum-seeker who comes to a port of entry… You, you have basically said—

NIELSEN: They are allowed to make their claim.

BARRAGAN: OK. Well, let me tell you, Madame Secretary, either you’re lying to this committee or you don’t know what’s happening at the border.

Barragan said she personally saw a Honduran man turned away at a port of entry last weekend.

Nielsen acknowledged the number of asylum-seekers has skyrocketed and insisted that’s created the crisis President Trump is trying to solve.

NIELSEN: Make no mistake, this chain of human misery is getting worse.

While Democrats agreed about the misery, they insisted the Trump administration’s policies are what’s making it worse. Lawmakers criticized Nielsen for her role in the short-lived policy that separated parents from their children and asked whether she understood the resulting psychological effects.

Nielsen focused on the number of people trying to get into the country, noting that only 1 in 10 asylum-seekers get their request granted by immigration courts. She said the other 90 percent often disappear into the U.S. and never return home.

North Korea appears to be rebuilding nuclear sites » North Korea appears to be rebuilding a long-range rocket launch site it dismantled last year. Commercial satellite imagery shows the North began work at the facility within the last two weeks.

That news comes just a week after President Trump abruptly ended denuclearization talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The talks dissolved over disagreements about sanctions relief.

On Wednesday, national security adviser John Bolton warned rebuilding the launch site wouldn’t help North Korea’s cause.

BOLTON: President Trump has been very clear. They’re not going to get relief from the crushing economic sanctions that have been imposed on them, and we’ll look at ramping those sanctions up in fact.

Kim agreed to tear down the site after his first summit with President Trump last year. After last week’s failed talks, Trump said Kim told him the North would not conduct any missile tests while negotiations are ongoing.

FDA approves new drug for depression » The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new treatment for depression that could help patients not finding relief with other drugs. Spravato, a nasal spray created by Johnson & Johnson, is a chemical cousin to ketamine. A powerful anesthetic became a popular party drug in the 1990s due to its psychedelic properties.

Doctors like emergency physician Rahul Khare recently started using infusions of the drug on patients with so-called treatment-resistant depression.

KHARE: Usually these patients have been on three to four medications with minimal effects. And they’ve been in therapy usually an average of at least 10 years and are still having thoughts of suicide where depression is really affecting their life.

Most depression drugs take weeks to kick in. But Spravato works almost immediately, giving doctors time to address more long-term treatment options.

US trade deficit hits record high » The U.S. trade deficit jumped nearly 19 percent in December to a 10-year high of $621 billion. The gap between what the United States sells and what it buys from other countries rose to nearly $60 billion at the end of 2018. Adjusted for inflation, that’s the highest imbalance on trade goods in U.S. history.

President Trump’s trade war with China didn’t do anything to close the trade gap. But White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said a deal for more equitable market exchanges with China could come soon.

KUDLOW: Right now we are optimistic, and this is probably closer than we’ve ever been before.

Kudlow speaking Tuesday on Fox News.

U.S. and Chinese negotiators resumed trade talks last month. Kudlow said they made significant progress on several sticking points, including intellectual property theft and company ownership issues. But it’s not clear whether Chinese President Xi Jinping will back the final deal.

All missing accounted for after Alabama tornado » The search for victims of Sunday’s deadly tornado in Alabama ended Wednesday.

JONES: We are now confident that we have now accounted for all of the individuals that we had unaccounted for.

That’s Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones.

Twenty-three people died when the EF4 twister plowed through the rural community of Beauregard. Dozens of people were listed as missing on Monday. That number dropped to seven or eight on Tuesday. Jones said Wednesday his deputies had tracked down everyone who hadn’t been able to make contact with friends or family.

The National Weather Service now says at least 34 tornadoes hit four states on Sunday. And more severe storms are forecast for the weekend.


(AP Photo/Susan Walsh) Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is sworn in to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 6, 2019, before the House Homeland Security Committee. 


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