Originally published Saturday, July 14, 2012 at 8:49 PM
FDA 'spied' on own scientists by reading emails
A wide-ranging surveillance operation by the Food and Drug Administration against a group of its own scientists captured thousands of emails that the disgruntled scientists sent privately to members of Congress, lawyers, labor officials, journalists and even President Obama.
By ERIC LICHTBLAU and SCOTT SHANE
The New York Times
WASHINGTON — A wide-ranging surveillance operation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) against a group of its own scientists utilized an enemies list of sorts as it secretly captured thousands of emails that the disgruntled scientists sent privately to members of Congress, lawyers, labor officials, journalists and even President Obama, previously undisclosed records show.
What began as a narrow investigation into the possible leaking of confidential agency information by five scientists quickly grew in mid-2010 into a much broader campaign to counter outside critics of the agency's medical-review process, according to the cache of more than 80,000 pages of computer documents generated by the surveillance effort.
Moving to quell what one memo called the "collaboration" of the FDA's opponents, the surveillance operation identified 21 agency employees, congressional officials, outside medical researchers and journalists thought to be working together to put out negative and "defamatory" information about the agency.
The agency, using so-called spy software designed to help employers monitor workers, captured screen images from the government laptops of the five scientists as they were being used at work or at home. The software tracked their keystrokes, intercepted their personal emails, copied the documents on their personal thumb drives, and even followed their messages line by line as they were being drafted, the documents show.
The underlying reason
The extraordinary surveillance effort grew out of a bitter, years-long dispute between the scientists and their bosses at the FDA over the scientists' claims that faulty review procedures at the agency had led to the approval of medical-imaging devices for mammograms and colonoscopies that exposed patients to dangerous levels of radiation.
A confidential government review in May by the Office of Special Counsel, which deals with the grievances of government workers, found the scientists' medical claims were valid enough to warrant a full investigation into what it termed "a substantial and specific danger to public safety."
The documents captured in the surveillance effort — including confidential letters to at least a half-dozen different congressional offices and oversight committees, drafts of legal filings and grievances and personal emails — were posted on a public website, apparently by mistake, by a private document-handling contractor that works for the FDA. The New York Times reviewed the records and their day-by-day, sometimes hour-by-hour accounting of the scientists' communications.
Congressional staff members who were regarded as sympathetic to the scientists were then cataloged by name in 66 massive directories. Drafts and final copies of letters to Obama about the scientists' safety concerns were also included.
The scientists find out
Last year, the scientists found that a few dozen of their emails had been intercepted by the agency. They filed a lawsuit over the issue in September, after four of the scientists had been let go, and The Washington Post first disclosed the monitoring in January.
But the wide scope of the FDA-surveillance operation, its broad range of targets across Washington, and the huge volume of computer information that it generated were not previously known, even to some of the targets.
The FDA defended the surveillance operation in a statement on Friday. The computer monitoring "was consistent with FDA policy," the agency said, and the emails "were collected without regard to the identity of the individuals with whom the user may have been corresponding."
The statement did not explain the inclusion of congressional officials, journalists and others referred to as "actors" who were in contact with the scientists.
While federal agencies have broad discretion to monitor their employees' computer use, the FDA program may have crossed legal lines by grabbing and analyzing confidential information that is specifically protected under the law, including attorney-client communications, whistle-blower complaints to Congress, and workplace grievances filed with the government.
White House warning
White House officials were so alarmed to learn of the FDA operation that they sent a governmentwide memo last month from the Office of Management and Budget stressing that while the internal monitoring of employee communications was allowed, it could not be used to intimidate whistle-blowers. Any monitoring must be done in ways that "do not interfere with or chill employees' use of appropriate channels to disclose wrongdoing," the memo said.
Stephen Kohn, a lawyer who represents six scientists who are suing the agency, said he planned to go to federal court this month seeking an injunction to stop any surveillance that may be continuing against the two medical researchers in the group who are still employed there.
The scientists who have been let go say in a lawsuit that their treatment was retaliation for reporting their claims of mismanagement and safety abuses in the FDA's medical reviews.
Members of Congress from both parties were irate to learn that correspondence between the scientists and their own staffers had been gathered and analyzed.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who has examined the agency's medical-review procedures, was listed as No. 14 on the surveillance operation's list of targets — an "ancillary actor" in the efforts to put out negative information on the agency.
Van Hollen said that "it is absolutely unacceptable for the FDA to be spying on employees who reach out to members of Congress to expose abuses or wrongdoing in government agencies."
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, whose former staffer's emails were cataloged in the surveillance database, said that "the FDA is discouraging whistle-blowers." He added that agency officials "have absolutely no business reading the private emails of their employees. They think they can be the Gestapo and do anything they want."
Much of the material the FDA was anxious to protect centered on trade secrets submitted by drug and medical-device manufacturers seeking approval for products. Particular concerns were raised by a March 2010 article in The New York Times that examined the safety concerns about imaging devices and quoted two agency scientists who would come under surveillance, Dr. Robert C. Smith and Dr. Julian Nicholas.
Agency officials saw Smith as the ringleader, or "point man," as one memo from the agency put it, for the complaining scientists, and the surveillance documents included hundreds of emails that he wrote on ways to make their concerns heard. (Smith and the other scientists would not comment for this article because of their pending litigation.)
Lawyers for GE Healthcare charged that the 2010 article in The Times — written by Gardiner Harris, who would be placed first on the surveillance program's list of "media outlet actors" — included proprietary information about their imaging devices that may have been improperly leaked by FDA employees.
However, the inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services found there was no evidence of a crime, noting that "matters of public safety" can legally be released to the news media.
Agency officials then began the electronic-monitoring operation on their own.
The data posted publicly by the FDA contractor — and taken down late Friday after inquiries by The Times — includes hundreds of confidential documents on the design of imaging devices and other detailed, proprietary information.
The posting was discovered inadvertently in a Google search by one of the researchers whose emails were monitored.
"I couldn't believe what I was seeing," said the researcher, who did not want to be identified because of pending job applications. "I thought, 'Oh my God, everything is out there. It's all about us.' It was just outrageous."
TOKYO (Reuters) - More than 100,000 anti-nuclear protesters marched through central Tokyo on Monday to voice their opposition to atomic power, racheting up the pressure on under fire Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.
On the hottest day of the year, protesters forsook their air-conditioned homes to say the country does not need nuclear energy after last year's Fukushima disaster raised concerns about the safety of atomic power.
It was the biggest demonstration since Noda said last month Japan needed to restart reactors shut down for safety checks to avoid electricity shortages that might hit the economy.
"Today temperatures reached record high levels," Noda told Japanese television, as the city sweltered in 36.6-degree Celsius. "We must ask ourselves whether we can really make do without nuclear power."
Noda has come under increasing pressure amid growing public distrust of nuclear power, and his Democratic Party of Japan party was hit last month by mass defections after he pushed through an unpopular sales tax increase.
Noda's Democrats still control a majority in the lower house of parliament, but are outnumbered by the opposition in the upper house. Many analysts say mid-term elections could be called.
Protest organizers said 170,000 people turned out, closing one of Tokyo's main streets. Police estimated their number at up to 75,000, local media reported.
Most demonstrators were middle aged -- the constituency that has been the bedrock of support for the governments that ruled Japan during the growth years of the post-war era, powered by nuclear energy that many thought was cheap and safe.
"Japan is going to destroy itself by building nuclear plants in such an earthquake-prone country," said one protester, who gave only his surname, Saegusa.
All of the country's 50 nuclear reactors were taken off line after last year's earthquake and tsunami triggered the world's worst atomic accident since Chernobyl in 1986.
Nuclear power had previously supplied nearly 30 percent of Japan's electricity.
The first of two reactors operated by Kansai Electric Power Co that passed widely criticized safety checks started earlier this month and another one is due to be fired up later this month.
The decision to restart the reactors as summer power-cuts loom was seen as a victory for Japan's still-powerful nuclear industry.
But Japanese people have grown wary of nuclear power since Fukushima, with surveys showing that about 70 percent want to abandon atomic energy even if not immediately.
Mercenaries Sue Blackwater Over Fake Gun Tests By Spencer Ackerman July 16, 2012 | 4:00 am Categories: Mercs
The security firm once known as Blackwater has repeatedly tried to distance itself from its bad old days of wrongful death and corporate misconduct. But a new lawsuit filed by two former employees raises questions about whether the firm’s kinder, gentler rebranding is more than skin deep.
Two former employees of the firm, now called Academi, say that they were fired from their jobs in Afghanistan after blowing the whistle on an attempt by a colleague to falsify dozens of marksmanship tests for security contractors. Robert Winston and Allen Wheeler thought that they were following Academi’s new ethics guidelines, which require employees to report suspected instances of waste, fraud and abuse. But not only were Winston and Wheeler fired, they allege Academi arranged with the State Department to blacklist the two security contractors from finding future work with private security firms.
According to the lawsuit, which Nation reporter Jeremy Scahill first tweeted about on Thursday, Winston and Wheeler witnessed a fellow firearms instructor twice fail to record the results of shotgun and machine-gun training amongst dozens of Colombian employees of Academi. The State Department, which hires Academi to protect its diplomats in conflict zones, requires weapons certification from the guards: If contractors can’t properly fire their weapons, they’re a danger to diplomats in need of protection and innocent civilians nearby.
But on two occasions in March 2012, Winston and Wheeler say that instructor Timothy Enlow informed the State Department inaccurately that Academi’s guards were proficient with shotguns and machine guns. On the second occasion, Enlow failed to bring an M249 belt-fed machine gun to the test range near Kabul, but reported a successful test anyway.
“I know there is a lawsuit about Academi not qualifying contractors properly with the belt fed machine guns,” Enlow told the would-be marksmen, according to the lawsuit, “but I am going to help you guys out.”
A spokesman for Academi, John Procter, did not dispute the factual contentions in Winston and Wheeler’s suit when asked by Danger Room. Procter said the two were fired for taking 10 days to report the first falsified weapons qualification report — even though it was Winston and Wheeler who alerted Academi to the falsification in the first place.
“The company took swift and appropriate action to address a violation of its Code of Conduct and disciplined all those involved,” Procter tells Danger Room. “The response underscores the company’s commitment to the highest caliber of ethical conduct and business practices.”
Indeed, a central aspect of Winston and Wheeler’s complaint, which Danger Room acquired, is that Academi gave clear instructions to all employees that such behavior wouldn’t be tolerated. “We commit to you that ACADEMI will celebrate the courage of those who point out existing or potential issues, and that we will not retaliate against employees who raise legitimate ethical concerns,” new CEO Ted Wright assured employees in an employment document that Winston and Wheeler signed before arriving in Afghanistan.
Similarly, the fourth page of Academi’s code of conduct instructs employees, “do not remain silent” after observing potential malfeasance.
That’s a big concern for Academi. Under its old ownership, employees killed Iraqis at Baghdad’s Nisour Square and Afghans on the roads of Kabul; abused cocaine and steroids; and set up shell companies to ensure none of the controversies would prevent the firm from losing lucrative government contracts to guard diplomats in warzones.
The company’s new ownership has made rebranding the firm (yet again) its top P.R. priority. It hired an ethics chief, former Attorney General John Ashcroft. In an interview with Danger Room in December, Wright pledged that Academi’s new focus on business ethics would “take root” and the company would “convince everyone they’re real.” Just this week, Academi won acceptance to an anti-corruption initiative run by the World Economic Forum.
Winston and Wheeler know all about Academi’s attempts at purging itself of its past misdeeds. They’ve been with the firm since its original Blackwater incarnation. Winston, a former Army Ranger and Florida cop, logged time during some of Blackwater’s most controversial assignments: post-Katrina New Orleans and post-Nisour Square Baghdad. Wheeler, a former Ohio highway patrolman, was part of Blackwater’s “quick reaction force” in Afghanistan, a dangerous rescue assignment.
But Winston and Wheeler were blacklisted from the entire private security industry, they charge, after they mistakenly believed their supervisors would want to know about the cooked weapons qualification tests.
On March 26, ten days after the first falsified weapons test and three days after the second, Winston and Wheeler alerted their superiors in Afghanistan about the misconduct. The lawsuit states that they were thanked for bringing it to their attention. Two days later, they were informed of their termination. The stated cause: waiting so long to report the suspected malfeasance. They say, they spent the intervening days verifying that Enlow submitted the false reporting to a State Department database. Enlow has since been fired as well.
Upon returning to the United States, both learned they had been placed on the State Department’s “Do Not Use” list of disreputable contractors, which impedes their ability to work for rival security firms.
Procter did not have any comment about the Do Not Use list.
This isn’t the only lawsuit Academi is facing. As Enlow alluded to in Kabul, a different lawsuit, known as Beauchamp v. U.S. Training Center, became public last July. The claim, according to a summary by the Project on Government Oversight: making “a series of false statements and certifications to the government regarding the positions its employees were performing and their qualifications.”
Unique Properties of Graphene Lead to a New Paradigm for Low-Power Telecommunications
ScienceDaily (July 15, 2012)
New research by Columbia Engineering demonstrates remarkable optical nonlinear behavior of graphene that may lead to broad applications in optical interconnects and low-power photonic integrated circuits. With the placement of a sheet of graphene just one-carbon-atom-thick, the researchers transformed the originally passive device into an active one that generated microwave photonic signals and performed parametric wavelength conversion at telecommunication wavelengths.
Ultralow-power optical information processing is based on graphene on silicon photonic crystal nanomembranes. (Credit: Nicoletta Barolini)
"We have been able to demonstrate and explain the strong nonlinear response from graphene, which is the key component in this new hybrid device," says Tingyi Gu, the study's lead author and a Ph.D. candidate in electrical engineering. "Showing the power-efficiency of this graphene-silicon hybrid photonic chip is an important step forward in building all-optical processing elements that are essential to faster, more efficient, modern telecommunications. And it was really exciting to explore the 'magic' of graphene's amazingly conductive properties and see how graphene can boost optical nonlinearity, a property required for the digital on/off two-state switching and memory."
The study, led by Chee Wei Wong, professor of mechanical engineering, director of the Center for Integrated Science and Engineering, and Solid-State Science and Engineering, will be published online in the Advance Online Publication on Nature Photonics's website on July 15 and in print in the August issue. The team of researchers from Columbia Engineering and the Institute of Microelectronics in Singapore are working together to investigate optical physics, material science, and device physics to develop next-generation optoelectronic elements.
They have engineered a graphene-silicon device whose optical nonlinearity enables the system parameters (such as transmittance and wavelength conversion) to change with the input power level. The researchers also were able to observe that, by optically driving the electronic and thermal response in the silicon chip, they could generate a radio frequency carrier on top of the transmitted laser beam and control its modulation with the laser intensity and color. Using different optical frequencies to tune the radio frequency, they found that the graphene-silicon hybrid chip achieved radio frequency generation with a resonant quality factor more than 50 times lower than what other scientists have achieved in silicon.
"We are excited to have observed four-wave mixing in these graphene-silicon photonic crystal nanocavities," says Wong. "We generated new optical frequencies through nonlinear mixing of two electromagnetic fields at low operating energies, allowing reduced energy per information bit. This allows the hybrid silicon structure to serve as a platform for all-optical data processing with a compact footprint in dense photonic circuits."
Wong credits his outstanding students for the exceptional work they've done on the study, and adds, "We are fortunate to have the expertise right here at Columbia Engineering to combine the optical nonlinearity in graphene with chip-scale photonic circuits to generate microwave photonic signals in new and different ways."
Until recently, researchers could only isolate graphene as single crystals with micron-scale dimensions, essentially limiting the material to studies confined within laboratories. "The ability to synthesize large-area films of graphene has the obvious implication of enabling commercial production of these proven graphene-based technologies," explains James Hone, associate professor of mechanical engineering, whose team provided the high quality graphene for this study. "But large-area films of graphene can also enable the development of novel devices and fundamental scientific studies requiring graphene samples with large dimensions. This work is an exciting example of both -- large-area films of graphene enable the fabrication of novel opto-electronic devices, which in turn allow for the study of scientific phenomena."
Commenting on the study, Xiang Zhang, director of the National Science Foundation Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center at the University of California at Berkeley, says, "this new study in integrating graphene with silicon photonic crystals is very exciting. Using the large nonlinear response of graphene in silicon photonics demonstrated in this work will be a promising approach for ultra-low power on-chip optical communications."
"Graphene has been considered a wonderful electronic material where electron moves like an effectively massless particle in the atomically thin layer," notes Philip Kim, professor of physics and applied physics at Columbia, one of the early pioneers in graphene research and who discovered its low-temperature high electronic conductivity. "And now, the recent excellent work done by this group of Columbia researchers demonstrates that graphene is also unique electro-optical material for ultrafast nonlinear optical modulation when it is combined with silicon photonic crystal structures. This opens an important doorway for many novel optoelectronic device applications, such as ultrafast chip-scale high-speed optical communications."
CBS Interactive Can't Escape Claims of Inducing Piracy
Can editorial commentary be held legally responsible for the theft of music and movies? A district court judge suggests yes, allowing Alki David's lawsuit against the network for promoting and distributing Limewire to go forward.
4:58 AM PDT 7/16/2012 by Eriq Gardner
Before there was Barry Diller's Aereo, there was Alki David's FilmOn, a company that streams live TV online. In November 2010, broadcasters won an injunction against FilmOn, leading David to challenge CBS' "hypocrisy" on the subject of piracy.
To prove the point, David rounded up some hip hop and R&B artists and filed a lawsuit against CBS Interactive on the theory that Leslie Moonves' digital division had contributed to the rise of anything-goes file-sharing illegalities by running a money-making business that pointed users to P2P software like Grokster and Limewire.
CBS called the claims a "desperate attempt to distract copyright holders like us from continuing our rightful claims."
But on Friday, a federal judge rejected CBS Interactive's motion to throw out a claim that subsidiary CNET Networks induced the infringement of copyrights. CBS was more successful in convincing U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer to toss allegations premised on vicarious and contributory copyright infringement, but because the company couldn't get rid of the lawsuit entirely, it may soon face a jury for allegedly promoting and fostering copyright theft with articles and download links.
As we wrote when the lawsuit was first filed, the issues raised are analagous to a bank robbery: One can hold responsible the guy who physically takes the money, and even the individual who drives the getaway vehicle, but how about the individual who sells the car and promotes it as being fast enough to evade the police?
In the lawsuit filed by David, CBS Interactive is alleged to have built its software download sites in a way that made it easy and popular to attain file-sharing software. Users also got a chance to read on CBS Interactive how to use the software and how to remove digital rights protections on the files.
These efforts were successful, as 95 percent of all LimeWire downloads were sourced to CBS' profitable websites, according to the complaint.
On defense, CBS made the same argument that many accused of facilitating copyright infringement often do -- that one can only be held liable for contributing to copyright infringement with specific knowledge of infringing material on these networks. Basically, CBS argued that it was too far way from the point of the crime to know what was happening.
Judge Fischer agrees to an extent.
"Allegations that Defendants had knowledge that the overarching purpose of the P2P software was piracy are not enough to satisfy the knowledge standard laid out by the Ninth Circuit in Napster," writes the judge, adding that CBS was never notified of infringement of the plaintiffs' works nor had the ability to learn of it.
And even if they removed P2P software from their website, the judge notes that they couldn't disable the software itself and prevent future infringement. This amounts to deciding not to punish the bank robber's car salesman because the robber could have bought a getaway vehicle from someone else.
But on the other hand, in a decision that should command attention by anyone who runs a news organization, the judge decides that free speech doesn't protect words that are offered in concert with business activity. Here's what Judge Fischer has to say:
"Defendants here are alleged to have distributed specific P2P software, while simultaneously providing explicit commentary on that software’s effectiveness in infringing copyright. Such behavior moves beyond opinion into the realm of conduct and does not directly implicate any First Amendment issues. Defendants’ argument that a finding of inducement in this case would make it difficult to counsel future parties on the proper boundaries of editorial content is greatly overstated."
In short, promoting a crime and offering the tools for a crime in tandem can be cause for trouble. CBS Interactive is now facing a damages trial for not making sufficient distinction between editorial on subsidiary CNET and product offerings from subsidiary Download.com.
David is calling it a "victory for artists," although surely not all will appreciate the limitations of the First Amendment. Nevertheless, he's scored a win on the point he was trying to make.
Lol LG you have taste, I have all the big guys movies yip I love cowboy films especially spaghetti westerns and all the golden oldies. I want those goats WC love them lol.
They actually use goats up here in the Pacific Northwest to keep the growth down alongside some roads. I thought it was a joke at first but no, they bring in the goats. I had one that lived down the street from me when I was about 8 or 9 years old. That goat hated me. It was interesting when I went by his home. Damn goat!
FDA lawyers authorized spying on agency’s employees, senator says
By Ellen Nakashima and Lisa Rein Published: July 16
Congressional investigators said Monday that the chief counsel’s office at the Food and Drug Administration authorized wide-ranging surveillance of a group of the agency’s scientists, the first indication that the effort was sanctioned at the highest levels.
In a letter to the FDA, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said that his staff had learned that the spying was “explicitly authorized, in writing” by the agency’s top legal office.
“The FDA’s actions represent serious impediments to the right of agency employees to make protected disclosures about waste, fraud, abuse, mismanagement, or public safety,” wrote Grassley, who demanded that the agency release a copy of the memo authorizing the surveillance and the name of the FDA official who requested it.
FDA spokeswoman Erica Jefferson said that the agency is looking into the matter. She said that the surveillance was limited in scope and reiterated that it was relegated to government computers. “We did not impede or interfere with any employee communication to Congress, their staff, media or federal investigators,” she said.
The disclosure marked the latest turn in an investigation of the FDA’s past efforts to monitor the communications of a group of its doctors who were expressing concerns about the safety of medical devices. As part of the effort, the FDA secretly collected thousands of private e-mails that the employees sent to one another, members of Congress, journalists, lawyers and others.
The FDA acknowledged Friday that targeted surveillance of five employees began in mid-2010, but it said that was not ongoing today, according to a letter sent to Grassley by Jeanne Ireland, the agency’s assistant commissioner for litigation. The FDA said Monday that the computer surveillance was limited to five employees. But an internal document shows that the agency targeted at least seven employees beginning in 2010.
The targeting of the employees’ communications, including e-mail and other online activities, was reported by The Washington Post in January. The agency monitored personal e-mail accounts accessed from government computers, took electronic snapshots of computer desktops and reviewed documents saved on hard drives.
The New York Times reported over the weekend that the scope of the surveillance was wider than first suspected, with the agency creating a database of 80,000 pages of computer documents collected from the scientists’ communications.
The database, apparently posted inadvertently online by an FDA contractor, included an FDA “scoping” document of targets for future e-mail interception that included congressional staff members. Also captured were draft complaints being prepared by the scientists to the Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency that investigates disclosures of government wrongdoing and retaliation against those who report it.
The OSC is investigating the FDA’s monitoring of its employees.
In June, OSC special counsel Carolyn Lerner warned federal agencies that monitoring their employees’ personal e-mail violated the law if the intent was to retaliate against whistleblowers. The White House distributed her warning to agencies across the government, an acknowledgment by the Obama administration that there are limits to employee surveillance.
Two years ago, the FDA’s parent agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, reminded it that employees have a right to air their concerns to Congress and journalists. The reminder accompanied a rejection by the HHS inspector general of the FDA’s request that it pursue a criminal investigation of the scientists’ activities.
Grassley, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has been seeking answers from the FDA since January on the extent of the surveillance and who authorized it. On Friday, he accused the agency of “stonewalling” him after officials there responded to his inquiries by saying in a letter they are “still identifying and gathering evidence” in the matter.
“It is simply not credible that FDA went to such great lengths over the course of two years to monitor employees’ personal e-mail accounts, then spent six months crafting a reply to my questions about it, and yet still cannot identify who authorized the spying,” he said.
FDA computers post a warning to users, visible when they log on, that they should have “no reasonable expectation of privacy” in any data passing through or stored on the system, and that the government may intercept any such data at any time for any lawful government purpose.
Internal documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the scientists, some of whom have been fired, show that the FDA was concerned that they had improperly disclosed confidential business information about several medical devices used to screen patients for colon cancer and breast cancer.
According to documents, the agency used software sold by SpectorSoft of Vero Beach, Fla., which is marketed to employers as a way to monitor “everything [employees] do,” including taking snapshot videos of the user’s computer screen, and sending instant alerts based on specific keywords, program activity and printing. SpectorSoft says that it can create reports on how users are communicating with one another, who is leaking confidential information or trade secrets, and who is transferring data to removable media such as USB drives.
The scientists who were targeted in the FDA’s effort have filed suit against the agency for violating their privacy and right to free speech.
“Given the public health and safety nature of the concerns raised by these doctors and scientists, any authorization by the chief counsel would be startling, disturbing and should result in a swift investigation,” said Stephen M. Kohn, an attorney for the scientists.
The extent of similar surveillance by other government agencies is unclear.
The Federal Maritime Commission, an independent agency that regulates international ocean transportation for U.S. exporters and importers, is under investigation by a House committee for spying on the personal e-mail communications of several employees with grievances against the commission’s management.
The commission apparently also used SpectorSoft software, said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, who opened an investigation of the agency in May.
N. Korea Reportedly Names New Army Vice Marshal Jul. 17, 2012 - 08:39AM By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
North Korea has named a new army vice marshal, state media said July 17, as part of a reshuffle apparently aimed at tightening young leader Kim Jong-Un’s grip on the communist state’s powerful military.
Hyon Yong-Chol, a veteran field commander, is now one of four people in the North to hold the rank of vice marshal of the Korean People’s Army, and analysts say he is likely to become head of the 1.2-million-strong military.
Ri Yong-Ho, the chief of the general staff, was relieved of all his posts on July 15 due to “illness” amid widespread scepticism over the official reason given for his departure.
“A decision on awarding the title was made by the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea and the National Defence Commission of (North Korea)” on July 16, Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
Little is known about Hyon, who is in his early 60s, but he is believed to be from a family who fought alongside North Korea’s founding father Kim Il-Sung against Japanese forces during the colonial era.
He became a general in September 2010 along with five others — including Kim Jong-Un himself and his aunt Kim Kyong-Hui.
Hyon is expected to succeed Ri Yong-Ho as head of the military, Professor Yang Moo-Jin of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul told AFP.
Hyon is also likely to take over Ri’s other key posts, becoming a member of the political bureau presidium, the party’s highest body with a handful of members, and vice-chairman of the central military commission, analysts said.
Cheong Seong-Chang, of the Sejong Institute, said the apparent move to replace Ri with Hyon showed the young leader was reinforcing his control over the military.
But unlike Ri, who has been a highly visible supporter of Kim following the death of his father Kim Jong-Il in December, Hyon has not accompanied the new leader during his public appearances.
Daniel Pinkston, Northeast Asia deputy project director at the International Crisis Group, said senior officials like Ri have “opportunities to earn windfall profits” and he “may have been purged for corruption.”
Pinkston said Ri may have also landed in trouble because of his son who is the head of the so-called Ponghwajo, a social group involving the sons of high-ranking officials who are reportedly often engaged in criminal activity.
Other analysts said Ri’s fall from power was inevitable after Choe Ryong-Hae, a civilian party official, became director of the general political bureau, the military’s top political commissar.
Despite having little military experience, Choe was also appointed as a vice marshal, and he was made one of the two vice chairmen — alongside Ri — of the central military commission, which is chaired by Kim.
“This is all part of Jong-Un’s move to tame the military,” Yoo Dong-Ryul, senior researcher at the state Police Science Institute, told AFP.
“Ri must have resented Choe’s assuming control over the military and his complaints reached Jong-Un’s ears.”
The North’s military has in recent months ratcheted up hostile rhetoric toward South Korea and its President Lee Myung-Bak, partly in a bid to burnish Jong-Un’s credentials.
Ri, at a massive anti-Seoul rally in Pyongyang in March, called South Korean leaders “mad dogs” and “psychos” and declared a “sacred war” against Seoul for allegedly insulting the North’s leadership.
The impoverished but nuclear-armed North last month also denounced U.S.-South Korean drills near the tense border as a provocation and vowed to bolster its “nuclear deterrent.”
It was the latest sign of high tensions after the North’s failed rocket launch in April, seen by the U.S. and its allies as an attempted ballistic missile test.
Two Large UFOs were seen on NASA's live stream recently. The objects began to flash lights at the ISS in what seemed to be an attempt to signal the Space Station. This is certainly not the first time an incident like this has occurred. Just read some of the quotes from former Astronauts and NASA officials....
The road roller struggles up the mountain, tar steaming in the heat. Several Chinese and Pakistani workers stand there, leaning on their shovels and observing how their boss, Mr. Li, operates the yellow machine. A few meters on, he stops and jumps out on the unpaved side of the road, directly before a chasm about 1,000-meters (3,300-feet) deep. Seemingly unfazed by the elevation, he nods to his workers and calls out: "That's how it's done. Any questions?"
Whether its high-rises, ports or streets, China is building -- worldwide and on a grand scale. The expansion of the famed Karakoram Highway from China to Pakistan, a part of the Silk Road trade routes, is just one of China's massive construction projects and an example of Beijing's strategy for the future -- investing a lot and giving generously in exchange for long-term benefits.
The almost 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) long path, which runs from Kashgar in western China's Uighur Autonomous Region almost to the Pakistani capital Islamabad, is set to be transformed from a dusty, bumpy road into a modern mountain highway. The section on the Chinese side is already finished. "For Beijing, it's about being able to export more goods to Pakistan, through the ports of Karachi and around the world," says China expert Fazal ur-Rehman of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Plans also include a future pipeline that runs along the Karakoram Highway, allowing China to bring in Iranian gas.
But government circles in India, China's rival in Asia, are concerned that after the expansion China will also be able to transport tanks and other heavy military equipment to the Indian Ocean. After all, China already showed its aggressive potential when it marched into Tibet in 1950, and a few years later when it occupied other parts of the region.
Engineer Li is still standing by the precipice near the town of Karimabad in the Hunza Valley. Below rushes the Hunza River, which joins the Indus River further south. "We Chinese are always suspected of having bad intentions," says Li, and laughs. "Doesn't that say more about those who make such insinuations than us?"
He's surrounded by Pakistani police, armed with machine guns, who keep watch over the Chinese laborers wherever they work. Under no circumstance can one of them be attacked or kidnapped, which could prompt the Chinese to stop the project over security concerns. Even photos of the Chinese are not allowed.
Li says that the highway is about getting a "reliable connection" between China and Pakistan, a road that's passable year-round and could even handle trucks with 40-foot containers. Currently, the Karakoram Highway is closed in the winter because snow plows don't work on the uneven surface. And in many places trucks with 20-foot containers still have trouble negotiating the curves.
With spectacular views of giant peaks such as Nanga Parbat and K2, the route for the highest highway in the world was blasted through the mountains during the 1960s and 1970s. Before that, the area was only traversed on dirt tracks by people on donkeys.
The road passes through the Karakoram, the Hindu Kush, the Himalayas, and long stretches of the Indus River. Along the way there are more than a hundred bridges. Policemen or military personnel also stand watch at these points along the way to ensure that no one takes pictures -- the bridges are considered strategically important targets and, as a result, they rarely show up on maps.
An Expensive Gift
The first incarnation of the enormous project was also a gift from the Chinese to their southern neighbor Pakistan. Beijing financed the project and it was implemented under the Chinese supervision of some 15,000 Pakistani workers, mostly soldiers, and up to 20,000 Chinese workers. According to official figures, more than 800 Pakistanis and 82 Chinese were killed, though there were probably even more unreported Chinese victims among the dead. Many died during blasts and others plunged to their deaths in deep gorges.
Despite being called a "highway," the road -- which reaches its highest point of 4,700 meters at the Khunjerab Pass on the border between China and Pakistan -- has mostly been gravel up until now. In the past 15 years, some sections have been paved, but they've remained only one lane wide, places where trucks push past each other at dizzying heights.
The current plans for uninterrupted pavement and widening the road to two, or in some places even four lanes, are yet another gift from China to Pakistan. The expansion will cost about $400 million, which is being financed by the Chinese government through state banks. "When we are done, the journey from the border to Islamabad will last only 20 instead of 30 hours," says Li.
Originally that was to be achieved by 2013 at the latest, but then came a violent landslide north of Karimabad. The crumbling mountain buried many villages and created an artificial lake that put some 22 kilometers of road under water. "Anyone who wants to cross from Pakistan to China or vice versa by land must change here on a boat," says Li, adding that there are no other routes and even cargo must be loaded onto boats.
A Monument to Chinese Policy
The Chinese have summarily decided to drill a tunnel to bypass the newly created Attabad Lake, now a tourist attraction. "It will now take another few years," says Li.
Undeterred by the challenge, the Chinese hauled in heavy equipment. And where bricks were needed to protect the road with walls against landslides or falling rocks, brickworks were swiftly built on site. "Where protective walls were of no use, we built a tunnel," says Li.
Kilometer by kilometer, a monument to Chinese foreign economic policy is being erected. Beijing doesn't worry about the short-term rates of return for its building projects abroad, but on the long-term trade options that they open up instead. The country is also interested in gaining allies with its generous help. In many countries besides Pakistan, Chinese engineers are working on key infrastructure projects. And often the Chinese are also investing in exactly the places from which the West has long since retreated -- such as many African countries rich in natural resources.
The Pakistanis are amazed by the knowledge of the Chinese and are learning from their building practices. But one section of the freshly paved road had to be torn up because the Pakistani workers simply spread it on the flat rolled gravel. Li says that he had to teach them that a road surface must consist of several layers, especially in regions where temperatures can get as low as minues 40 degrees Celsius (minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit) in the winter and up to 40 degrees (104 degrees) in the summer.