The Obama administration this week asked Congress for a $300 million “final” appropriation to construct a new biodefense laboratory in Kansas.
The money is the last that officials would need to finish building the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kan., the U.S. Homeland Security Department said in its budget request for fiscal 2015. Work began last May on the planned complex, which would assume animal-disease research duties now assigned to the aging Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York.
The NBAF project received $404 million for the current budget cycle, a significant boost from prior years as it moved from its planning phase into construction. However, the amount still fell several hundred million dollars short of President Obama’s request for the current fiscal year.
Kansas lawmakers this week issued a joint statement welcoming the administration’s funding proposal, and pledging to seek the “final portion of funding for construction of [the biodefense facility] during the appropriations process.”
The unfinished site would include the first “state-of-the-art” laboratory space dedicated to studying the most dangerous known pathogens capable of leaping between nonhuman species and people, the Homeland Security Department noted in its “budget-in-brief” document. Such “Biosafety Level 4” facilities are authorized to deal with fatal, air-transmissible disease agents that have no known cure.
The Obama administration separately requested $84.7 million for the Biowatch network of biological-weapon agent sensors, a decrease from the fiscal 2014 enacted level of $85.2 million.
The Biowatch system has cost more than $1 billion to deploy and maintain in more than 30 U.S. cities over the last decade, and a number of lawmakers have questioned a push by Obama officials to stand up a new generation of self-operating sensors expected to cost several times more.
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An aide to Mitt Romney confirmed to the Washington Post that the 2102 GOP nominee will not attend the Republican convention this year. He joins the two living Republican presidents, George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, as well as 2008 nominee John McCain in skipping the event. Even among living Republican nominees, that leaves only Bob Dole who could conceivably show up. Dole did say in January that he'd prefer Trump to Ted Cruz, but his age (92) could keep him from attending.
In a long-awaiting new rule, the Food and Drug Administration will ban sale of all tobacco products—including e-cigarettes—to those under 18. The rule takes effect in 90 days. It's part of a larger package of regulations that "gives FDA authority to regulate—but not to ban—all tobacco products, from e-cigarettes to cigars and hookahs." Meanwhile, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill on Wednesday that would bump the legal age to buy all tobacco products from 18 to 21.
Sen. Ben Sasse, the most prominent elected official to declare that he's #NeverTrump, wrote an open letter on Facebook to the "majority of Americans who wonder why the nation that put a man on the moon can’t find a healthy leader who can take us forward together." Calling to mind recent conversations at a Fremont, Neb., Walmart, the senator pitted the presumptive general election battle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as such a "terrible choice" that there would be an appetite for another candidate to emerge. In a parenthetical aside to reporters, Sasse ruled himself out. "Such a leader should be able to campaign 24/7 for the next six months," he wrote. "Therefore he/she likely can’t be an engaged parent with little kids." Meanwhile, his colleague Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) admitted in a private recording obtained by Politico that Trump hurts his reelection chances.
"Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, approved a joint proposal presented by Judicial Watch and the State Department to take the depositions of officials" involved in the setup and use of Hillary Clinton's private email server, "including Cheryl D. Mills, Clinton's former chief of staff, Huma Abedin, a senior adviser to Clinton, and Bryan Pagliano, a State Department employee who serviced and maintained the server." He said Clinton could be deposed later on, though that may not be necessary.