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HILLARY CLINTON: P A R T I S A N S H I P TAKING US BACKWARD NEW YORK (AP) -- Hillary Rodham Clinton says excessive partisanship is causing the U.S. to march “backwards instead of forward” and the nation needs to create “an inclusive prosperity” that helps young people find good jobs. The former secretary of state says at the annual Women in the World summit in New York that the Obama administration restored American leadership around the globe while she led the State Department. She compares her time at the State Department to a relay race, saying “you run the best race you can” and then pass the baton. Asked about her future, Clinton says the U.S. needs to find consensus but has been hurt by “pure ideology” and “pure partisanship” in its political system. Clinton spoke Thursday night during a panel with International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde.
VA S T O C E A N F O U N D BENEATH ICE OF S A T U R N M O O N This undated photo provided by NASA on April 2, 2014 shows Saturn’s moon Enceladus. The “tiger stripes” are long fractures from which water vapor jets are emitted. Scientists have uncovered a vast ocean beneath the icy surface of the moon, they announced Thursday, April 3, 2014. Italian and American researchers made the discovery using Cassini, a NASA-European spacecraft still exploring Saturn and its rings 17 years after its launch from Cape Canaveral.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- Scientists have uncovered a vast ocean beneath the icy surface of Saturn’s little moon Enceladus. Italian and American researchers made the discovery using Cassini, a NASA-European spacecraft still exploring Saturn and its rings 17 years after its launch from Cape Canaveral. Their findings were announced Thursday.
Volume 003 Issue 13
US SECRETLY CREATED ‘CUBAN TWITTER’ TO STIR UNREST
WASHINGTON (AP) -- In July 2010, Joe McSpedon, a U.S. government official, flew to Barcelona to put the final touches on a secret plan to build a social media project aimed at undermining Cuba’s communist government. McSpedon and his team of high-tech contractors had come in from Costa Rica and Nicaragua, Washington and Denver. Their mission: to launch a messaging network that could reach hundreds of thousands of Cubans. To hide the network from the Cuban government, they would set up a byzantine system of front companies using a Cayman Islands bank account, and recruit executives who would not be told of the company’s ties to the U.S. government. McSpedon didn’t work for the CIA. This was a program paid for and run by the U.S. Agency for International Development, best known for overseeing billions of dollars in U.S. humanitarian aid.
plans to look into the initiative next week.
“If you’re going to do a covert operation like this for a regime change, assuming it ever makes any sense, it’s not something that should be done through USAID,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees USAID’s budget. But several other lawmakers voiced their support for ZunZuneo.
Students gather behind a business looking for a Internet signal for their smart phones in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, April 1, 2014. The U.S. Agency for International Development masterminded the creation of a “Cuban Twitter,” a communications network designed to undermine the communist government in Cuba, built with secret shell companies and financed through foreign banks, The Associated Press has learned. The project, which lasted more than two years and drew tens of thousands of subscribers, sought to evade Cuba’s stranglehold on the Internet with a primitive social media platform. Its users were neither aware it was created by a U.S. agency with ties to the State Department, nor that American contractors were gathering personal data about them. In 2012, the text messaging service vanished as mysteriously as it appeared.
According to documents obtained by The Associated Press and multiple interviews with people involved in the project, the plan was to develop a bare-bones “Cuban Twitter,” using cellphone text messaging to evade Cuba’s strict control of information and its stranglehold restrictions over the Internet. In a play on Twitter, it was called ZunZuneo - slang for a Cuban hummingbird’s tweet.
Documents show the U.S. government planned to build a subscriber base through “non-controversial content”: news messages on soccer, music and hurricane updates. Later when the network reached a critical mass of subscribers, perhaps hundreds of thousands, operators would introduce political content aimed at inspiring Cubans to organize “smart mobs” - mass gatherings called at a moment’s notice that might trigger a Cuban Spring, or, as one USAID document put it, “renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society.” At its peak, the project drew in more than 40,000 Cubans to share news and exchange opinions. But its subscribers were never aware it was created by the U.S. government, or that American contractors were gathering their private data in the hope that it might be used for political purposes. “There will be absolutely no mention of United States government involvement,” according to a 2010 memo from Mobile Accord, one of the project’s contractors. “This is absolutely crucial for the long-term success of the service and to ensure the success of the Mission.” The program’s legality is unclear: U.S. law requires that any covert action by a federal agency must have a presidential authorization and that Congress should be notified. The Obama administration on Thursday said the program was not covert and that it served an important purpose by helping information flow more freely to Cubans. Parts of the program “were done discreetly,” Rajiv Shah, USAID’s top official, said on MSNBC, in order to protect the people involved. The administration also initially said Thursday that it had disclosed the program to Congress - White House spokesman Jay Carney said it had been “debated in Congress” - but hours later shifted that to say it had offered to discuss funding for the program with several congressional committees. “We also offered to brief our appropriators and our authorizers,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. Two senior Democratic lawmakers said they knew nothing about the effort, and the Republican chairman of a House oversight subcommittee said his panel
Back in 2005, Cassini detected a plume streaming from cracks in the south polar region. Scientists suspected these jets of salty water vapor and ice - containing some light organic molecules like methane - might come from a subsurface ocean. On Thursday, they confirmed its presence. Their findings appear in the journal Science. Cassini provided gravity measurements from three close fly-bys of Enceladus from 2010 to 2012. The Doppler data indicated a dense material beneath the surface of the south pole, most likely liquid water. continued on page 2
The Associated Press obtained more than 1,000 pages of documents about the project’s development. The AP independently verified the project’s scope and details in the documents - such as federal contract numbers and names of job candidates - through publicly available databases, government sources and interviews with those directly involved in ZunZuneo. Taken together, they tell the story of how agents of the U.S. government, working in deep secrecy, became tech entrepreneurs - in Cuba. It all began with a half million cellphone numbers obtained from a communist government. ZunZuneo would seem to be a throwback from the Cold War, and the decades-long struggle between the United States and Cuba. It came at a time when the historically sour relationship between the countries had improved, at least marginally, and Cuba had made tentative steps toward a more market-based economy. It is unclear whether the plan got its start with USAID or Creative Associates International, a Washington, D.C., for-profit company that has earned hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. contracts. But a “key contact” at Cubacel, the stateowned cellphone provider, slipped the phone numbers to a Cuban engineer living in Spain. The engineer provided the numbers to USAID and Creative Associates “free of charge,” documents show. In mid-2009, Noy Villalobos, a manager with Creative Associates who had worked with USAID in the 1990s on a program to eradicate drug crops, started an IM chat with her little brother in Nicaragua, according to a Creative Associates email that captured the conversation. Mario Bernheim, in his mid-20s, was an up-and-coming techie who had made a name for himself as a computer whiz. “This is very confidential of course,” Villalobos cautioned her brother. But what could you do if you had all the cellphone numbers of a particular country? Could you send bulk text messages without the government knowing? “Can you encrypt it or something?” she texted. She was looking for a direct line to regular Cubans through text messaging. Most had precious little access to news from the outside world. The government viewed the Internet as an Achilles’ heel and controlled it accordingly. A communications minister had even referred to it as a “wild colt” that “should be tamed.”
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Only 646 out of millions of donors in the election cycle of 2011-2012 gave the now-defunct legal maximum, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. For the current election cycle, the limit is $123,200, broken down as $48,600 to all candidates combined and $74,600 to all party committees and political action committees in total. The ruling will “mean there will be much greater emphasis by the campaigns and the parties on those donors with the biggest checkbooks who can make those very large contributions,” said Bob Biersack, who works for the CRP and is a 30-year veteran of the Federal Election Commission.
The data do not show if the ocean extends to the north pole, said the lead researcher, Luciano Iess of Sapienza University of Rome. At the very least, it’s a regional sea some 25 miles deep under miles-thick ice. On Earth, it would stretch from our South Pole up to New Zealand - at the very least.
This latest discovery makes the interior of Enceladus “a very attractive potential place to look for life,” said Cornell University planetary scientist Jonathan Lunine, who took part in the study.
Bob Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said USAID should be applauded for giving people in Cuba a platform to talk to each other. “The whole purpose of our democracy programs, whether it be in Cuba or other parts of the world, is in part to create a free flow of information in closed societies,” Menendez said.
BIG DONORS MAY GIVE EVEN MORE UNDER COURT’S RULING
This new ocean of liquid water - as big as or even bigger than North America’s Lake Superior - is centered at the south pole of Enceladus and could encompass much if not most of the moon. Enceladus (ehn-SEHL’-uh-duhs) is about 310 miles across.
Cassini’s rudimentary instruments also cannot determine whether the moon’s ocean harbors any form of life. Another mission using more sophisticated instruments is needed to make that search.
April 7, 2014
“Whether that’s good or bad depends on your perspective on how this whole system should work, but it absolutely means that the small number of people who can give at those levels” will be asked to give more, he added.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., right, followed by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. leave a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 2, 2014, where they talked about the Supreme Court decision in the McCutcheon vs. FEC case, in which the Court struck down limits in federal law on the aggregate campaign contributions individual donors may make to candidates, political parties, and political action committees.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court ruling Wednesday erasing a long-standing limit on campaign donations will allow a small number of very wealthy donors to give even more than is currently the case, according to students of the complex campaign finance system, and could strengthen the establishment in both parties.
While Republicans cheered the ruling on philosophical grounds and Democrats criticized it, there was a general agreement that the decision itself was unlikely to benefit one party over another. “This is not a decision that advantages one party over the other. It advantages wealthy people over everybody else,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. On a 5-4 ruling, the court struck down a limitation on the amount any donor may give to candidates, committees and political action committees combined.
The ruling leaves unchanged a parallel system in which individuals donate unlimited amounts, sometimes undisclosed, to certain outside groups. Biersack said the same small group of 646 donors gave a total of about $93.4 million in the last campaign. Their largesse will still be avidly sought, as Republican presidential hopefuls recently demonstrated by travelling to Las Vegas to meet with casino magnate and conservative donor Sheldon Adelson. In the realm of limited donations, Cleta Mitchell, an election lawyer for Republicans, said the court’s ruling means that various party committees and candidates no longer will have to vie for money from the same contributors. The law permits a donor to contribute $5,200 for the primary and general election combined to any candidate, and if they did so, could donate only to nine office-seekers before reaching the $48,600 limit to all federal office-seekers. Similarly, while Republicans and Democrats in Washington each maintain a national party committee, a Senate campaign committee and a House campaign committee, a donor could give the maximum allowable amount to only two of the three without violating the overall limitation the court discarded. Now, Mitchell said, “the donors get to choose obviously, but the committees don’t have to feel like they’re pinching another party’s donors.” In all, she described the ruling as “a positive for the parties.”
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The Weekly News Digest, April 7, 2014
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O F F I C I A L S : 4 D E A D AT F O RT HOOD, INCLUDING GUNMAN
FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) -- A gunman opened fire Wednesday at the Fort Hood military base in an attack that left four people dead, including the shooter, at the same post where more than a dozen people were killed in a 2009 mass shooting, law enforcement officials said.
The president spoke without notes or prepared remarks in the same room of a steakhouse where he had just met with about 25 donors at a previously scheduled fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee. White House officials quickly pushed tables to the side of the room to make room for Obama to speak to the nation.
One of the officials, citing internal U.S. Justice Department updates, said 14 others were hurt. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release information by name.
The November 2009 attack happened inside a crowded building where soldiers were A U.S. law enforcement official said the shooter died of what apwaiting to get vaccines and routine paperwork after recently returning peared to be a self-inflicted wound. from deployments or preparing Lucy Hamlin and her husband, Spc. Timothy Hamlin, wait for permission to re-enter the Fort Hood military base, where they live, following a shooting on the base, The official spoke on the condition of to go to Afghanistan and Iraq. Wednesday, April 2, 2014, in Fort Hood, Texas. anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan was convicted and sentenced to death last year in that mass A Texas congressman said the shooting happened at a medical shooting. He said he acted to protect Islamic insurgents abroad from center at the base. Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House American aggression. Homeland Security Committee, also identified the suspect as Ivan Lopez. But additional details about the gunman were not immediately According to testimony during Hasan’s trial last August, Hasan available. walked inside carrying two weapons and several loaded magazines, shouted “Allahu Akbar!” - Arabic for “God is great!” - and opened fire The injured were taken to Darnall Army Community Hospital at Fort with a handgun. Hood and other local hospitals. Dr. Glen Couchman, chief medical officer at Scott and White Hospital in Temple, said the first four people Witnesses said he targeted soldiers as he walked through the admitted there had gunshots to chest, abdomen, neck and extremities building, leaving pools of blood, spent casings and dying soldiers on and that their conditions range from stable to “quite critical.” the floor. Photos of the scene were shown to the 13 officers on the military jury. The 2009 assault on Fort Hood was the deadliest attack on a domestic military installation in U.S. history. Thirteen people were killed and The rampage ended when Hasan was shot in the back by Fort Hood more than 30 wounded. police officers outside the building. He was paralyzed from the waist down and is now on death row at the military prison at Fort LeavenThe military offered few details on Wednesday’s attack. After the worth in Kansas. shooting began, the Army’s official Twitter feed said the post had been locked down. Hours later, all-clear sirens sounded. After that shooting, the military tightened security at bases nationwide. Those measures included issuing security personnel long-barOn Wednesday evening, a fatigue-clad soldier and a military police reled weapons, adding an insider-attack scenario to their training and officer stood about a quarter-mile from the main gate waving away strengthening ties to local law enforcement, according to Peter Daly, traffic. Other lanes were blocked by a police car and van. a vice admiral who retired from the Navy in 2011. The military also joined an FBI intelligence-sharing program aimed at identifying terror Meanwhile, relatives of soldiers waited for news about their loved threats. ones. In September, a former Navy man opened fire at the Washington Tayra DeHart, 33, said she had last heard from her husband, a soldier Navy Yard, leaving 13 people dead, including the gunman. After that at the post, that he was safe, but that was hours earlier. shooting, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the Pentagon to review security at all U.S. defense installations worldwide and exam“The last two hours have been the most nerve-racking I’ve ever felt. ine the granting of security clearances that allow access to them. I know God is here protecting me and all the soldiers, but I have my phone in my hand just hoping it will ring and it will be my husband,” Asked Wednesday about security improvements in the wake of DeHart said. other shootings at U.S. military bases, Hagel said, “Obviously when we have these kinds of tragedies on our bases, something’s not Brooke Conover, whose husband was on base at the time of the working.” shooting, said she found out about it while checking Facebook. She said she called her husband, Staff Sgt. Sean Conover, immediately to make sure he was OK, but he could not even tell her exactly what was going on, only that the base was locked down. continued from page 1
S A T U R N
Children Incorporated 4205 Dover Road
“I’m still hearing conflicting stories about what happened and where the shooting was exactly,” Conover said in a telephone interview, explaining that she still did not know how close the incident was to her husband. “I just want him to come home,” said Conover, who moved to Fort Hood with her husband and three daughters two years ago. President Barack Obama vowed that investigators would get to the bottom of the shooting. In a hastily arranged statement in Chicago, Obama said he was following the situation closely. He said the shooting brought back painful memories of the 2009 attack. Obama reflected on the sacrifices that troops stationed at Fort Hood have made - including enduring multiple tours to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“They serve with valor. They serve with distinction, and when they’re at their home base, they need to feel safe,” Obama said. “We don’t yet know what happened tonight, but obviously that sense of safety has been broken once again.”
M O O N
The ocean is believed to be sandwiched between miles of surface ice and a rocky core. “It’s extraordinary what Cassini has been able to do for this small moon,” California Institute of Technology’s David Stevenson, part of the research team, told reporters this week. But “this is not like mapping the surface of the Earth or mapping the surface of the moon, it’s nothing like that. It’s much cruder, and it’s amazing that we’ve been able to do as much as we can.” Enceladus is hardly the only moon in the solar system with a subsurface sea. Titan, the largest of Saturn’s dozens of moons, is believed to have a global ocean. Evidence points to oceans inside the giant Jupiter moons of Callisto and Ganymede. And Jupiter’s Europa also has a hidden reservoir similar to that of Enceladus, complete with plumes and a rocky bottom. Cassini, already exceeding its life expectancy, is to make three more fly-bys of Enceladus before the mission ends in 2017.
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Y A N U K O V Y M I S T A K E S President Barack Obama making a statement on Ukraine, on the South Lawn at the White House in Washington. Even if Russia makes no further advances into Ukraine, can the West’s relationship with Moscow go back to business as usual? That’s the complex question underlying President Barack Obama’s discussions in Europe this week, one that poses particular challenges for the U.S. leader, whose foreign policy agenda has seemingly inextricable links to Russia
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) -- Defensive and at times tearful, Ukraine’s ousted president conceded Wednesday that he made a mistake when he invited Russian troops into Crimea and vowed to try to negotiate with Vladimir Putin to get the coveted Black Sea peninsula back. “Crimea is a tragedy, a major tragedy,” Viktor Yanukovych told The Associated Press in his first interview since fleeing to Russia in February, following monthslong protests focused on corruption and his decision to seek closer ties to Russia instead of the European Union. Putin said last month that Yanukovych had asked Russia to send its troops to Crimea to protect its people - a request seen as treason by many Ukrainians. Russian troops quickly overran Crimea, which has an ethnic Russian majority, taking over government and military facilities on the pretext of protecting Russians. Asked about the move, Yanukovych said he made a mistake. “I was wrong,” he told the AP and Russia’s state NTV television, speaking in Russian. “I acted on my emotions.” Still, Yanukovych insisted that Russia’s takeover of Crimea wouldn’t have happened if he had stayed in power. He also denied responsibility for the sniper deaths of about 80 protesters in Kiev in February, for which he has been charged by Ukraine’s interim government. As the world has watched the tumultuous events in Ukraine, the 63-year-old Yanukovych has rarely been seen, even as he has insisted he is still the country’s true leader. While Putin has been openly dismissive of Yanukovych, the Russian president has also described him as the legitimate leader and his ouster as illegal. Yanukovych said he has spoken with Putin only twice by phone and once in person since he arrived in Russia, describing their talks as “difficult.” He said he hopes to have more meetings with the Russian leader to negotiate Crimea’s return to Ukraine. “We must search for ways ... so that Crimea may have the maximum degree of independence possible ... but be part of Ukraine,” he said. Russia annexed Crimea last month following a hastily called referendum held two weeks after Russian troops took control of the region. Ukraine and the West have rejected the vote and the annexation as
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The court’s ruling also means that donors will be able to give $10,000 a year to as many state party committees as they want, so-called joint committees, in which a lawmaker can now solicit funds simultaneously for their own campaign, their own political action committee, their party and for an unlimited number of other candidates without donors exceeding the old limits. Biersack cited House Speaker John Boehner’s fundraising efforts as an example, said he would now be able to use a joint fundraising committee for hundreds of Republican House candidates simultaneously, greatly expanding their ability to receive funds. In theory, this ability could once more allow parties and their leaders to assert more discipline over rank-and-file lawmakers, who have become increasingly beholden to outside groups in recent years. Ryan Call, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party and a campaign finance attorney, said the court’s ruling will be a boon to state parties, which he said have been neglected previously because donors hit the overall spending limit before they could distribute funds lower on the political food chain. “We have lots of optimism that this new decision would enable people who want to support us to do so,” he said. Under the court’s ruling, a donor could donate the maximum $10,000 a year to each of their party’s 50 state committees, or a total of $1 million - and still donate to candidates as well as national party committees and political action committees. Matt Canter, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, called the ruling a “win for national party committees” and said it will “greatly enhance our ability to raise resources to support our voter contact and field program ... in states across the country.” He referred to a new field project to boost turnout in certain states with key Senate races this year. While there was general agreement about the short-term impact of the ruling, there was a strong divergence of opinion on the wisdom of the court’s conservative majority. The case was the latest in which the justices found that many limits on contributions violate the givers’ constitutional free-speech rights. Republicans who backed the suit challenging the overall limits cheered the ruling. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who filed a brief in support of the challenge, said the court “has once again reminded Congress that Americans have a constitutional First Amendment right to speak and associate with political candidates and parties of their choice.” He added that court’s ruling makes it clear that it is the “right of the individual, and not the prerogative of Congress, to determine how many candidates and parties to support.” Democrats said the ruling must be viewed in the context of earlier ones that they said strengthened the power of the wealthy. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., a former state attorney general, criticized the court’s majority in unusually sharp terms, saying the majority seems interested in “aligning political power in this country with political wealthy.” Schumer said a Senate committee he chairs would hold hearings on the issue.
C H O N
Yanukovych’s comments on the Black Sea peninsula appeared to represent an attempt to shore up at least some support in his homeland, where even his backers have deserted him. While there is no expectation that Russia will roll back its annexation, Yanukovych’s statements could widen Putin’s options in talks on settling the Ukrainian crisis by creating an impression that Moscow could be open for discussions on Crimea’s status in the future. Echoing the Kremlin’s position, Yanukovych said the Crimean referendum, in which residents overwhelmingly voted to join Russia, was a response to threats posed by radical nationalists in Ukraine. However, he did not answer several questions about whether he would support a move by Russia, which has deployed tens of thousands of troops near the Ukrainian border, to move into other areas of the country on the pretext of protecting ethnic Russians. Yanukovych echoed the key Kremlin demand for settling the Ukrainian crisis, pushing for a referendum that could turn Ukraine into a loosely knit federation. He said such a vote should be followed by constitutional reform, and only after that should Ukraine have a national election. The interim government in Kiev has scheduled a presidential election for May 25. Yanukovych has now lost the Ukrainian presidency twice in the past decade. In 2004, his presidential win was thrown out after the Orange Revolution protests caused the fraudulent election to be annulled. Born in the Donetsk coal-mining region of eastern Ukraine, Yanukovych worked at a metal plant before becoming an industrial manager and rising through the ranks to become a local governor and then prime minister, the country’s second-most powerful job at the time. His
CUBAN UNREST continued from page 1
Yet in the years since Fidel Castro handed over power to his brother Raul, Cuba had sought to jumpstart the long stagnant economy. Raul Castro began encouraging cellphone use, and hundreds of thousands of people were suddenly using mobile phones for the first time, though smartphones with access to the Internet remained restricted. Cubans could text message, though at a high cost in a country where the average wage was a mere $20 a month. Bernheim told his sister that he could figure out a way to send instant texts to hundreds of thousands of Cubans- for cheap. It could not be encrypted though, because that would be too complicated. They wouldn’t be able to hide the messages from the Cuban government, which owned Cubacel. But they could disguise who was sending the texts by constantly switching the countries the messages came from. “We could rotate it from different countries?” Villalobos asked. “Say one message from Nica, another from Spain, another from Mexico”? Bernheim could do that. “But I would need mirrors set up around the world, mirrors, meaning the same computer, running with the same platform, with the same phone.” “No hay problema,” he signed off. No problem. After the chat, Creative hired Bernheim as a subcontractor, reporting to his sister. (Villalobos and Bernheim would later confirm their involvement with the ZunZuneo project to AP, but decline further comment.) Bernheim, in turn, signed up the Cuban engineer who had gotten the phone list. The team figured out how to message the masses without detection, but their ambitions were bigger. Creative Associates envisioned using the list to create a social networking system that would be called “Proyecto ZZ,” or “Project ZZ.” The service would start cautiously and be marketed chiefly to young Cubans, who USAID saw as the most open to political change. “We should gradually increase the risk,” USAID proposed in a document. It advocated using “smart mobs” only in “critical/opportunistic situations and not at the detriment of our core platform-based network.” USAID’s team of contractors and subcontractors built a companion website to its text service so Cubans could subscribe, give feedback and send their own text messages for free. They talked about how to make the website look like a real business. “Mock ad banners will give it the appearance of a commercial enterprise,” a proposal suggested. In multiple documents, USAID staff pointed out that text messaging had mobilized smart mobs and political uprisings in Moldova and the Philippines, among others. In Iran, the USAID noted social media’s role following the disputed election of then President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2009 - and saw it as an important foreign policy tool. USAID documents say their strategic objective in Cuba was to “push it out of a stalemate through tactical and temporary initiatives, and get the transition process going again toward democratic change.” Democratic change in authoritarian Cuba meant breaking the Castros’ grip on power. USAID divided Cuban society into five segments depending on loyalty to the government. On one side sat the “democratic movement,” called “still (largely) irrelevant,” and at the other end were the “hard-core system supporters,” dubbed “Talibanes” in a derogatory comparison to Afghan and Pakistani extremists. A key question was how to move more people toward the democratic activist camp without detection. Bernheim assured the team that wouldn’t be a problem. “The Cuban government, like other regimes committed to information control, currently lacks the capacity to effectively monitor and control such a service,” Bernheim wrote in a proposal for USAID marked “Sensitive Information.” ZunZuneo would use the list of phone numbers to break Cuba’s Internet embargo and not only deliver information to Cubans but also let them interact with each other in a way the government could not control. Eventually it would build a system that would let Cubans send messages anonymously among themselves. At a strategy meeting, the company discussed building “user volume as a cover ... for organization,” according to meeting notes. It also suggested that the “Landscape needs to be large enough to hide full opposition members who may sign up for service.” In a play on the telecommunication minister’s quote, the team dubbed their network the “untamed colt.” At first, the ZunZuneo team operated out of Central America. Bernheim, the techie brother, worked from Nicaragua’s capital, Managua, while McSpedon supervised Creative’s work on ZunZuneo from an office in San Jose, Costa Rica, though separate from the U.S. embassy. It was an unusual arrangement
The Weekly News Digest, April 7, 2014
A D M I C R I M
critics note his criminal record for assault and robbery during his youth and say he lacks a proper education to qualify for running the country. After he fled Ukraine, crowds of Ukrainians flocked to view Yanukovych’s opulent country residence outside of Kiev and were shocked by its extravagant display of wealth amid the country’s financial ruin. On Wednesday, he denied any corruption surrounding the estate. He spoke with pride and affection about his collection of dozens of classic cars, saying he bought them over many years. He also said he hadn’t seen or used a golden loaf of bread found in his residence that attracted much attention and sarcasm. Yanukovych insisted he gave no advantages or special privileges to his dentist-turned-billionaire son, Alexander, who is said to have amassed a fortune during his father’s rule and angered other Ukrainian tycoons by taking over some of the country’s most profitable assets. He firmly denied that he gave the orders to shoot demonstrators in downtown Kiev in February, saying his reluctance to use force against the protesters who paralyzed Kiev for months brought criticism from his supporters that he was being too soft. The government now in power has slapped Yanukovych with criminal charges in connection with those deaths. The long-time politician said he hopes to return to Ukraine someday, but didn’t offer any details on how he could reclaim power. With tears welling in his eyes, Yanukovych said he was ready to sacrifice his life during the escalating protests but realized that doing so would be simply a gift to the “neo-fascists” who he said seized power by force. He claimed they opened fire with machine guns on his convoy as he was leaving the Ukrainian capital. “I didn’t want to give them my life just for nothing,” he said. that raised eyebrows in Washington, according to U.S. officials. McSpedon worked for USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI), a division that was created after the fall of the Soviet Union to promote U.S. interests in quickly changing political environments - without the usual red tape. In 2009, a report by congressional researchers warned that OTI’s work “often lends itself to political entanglements that may have diplomatic implications.” Staffers on oversight committees complained that USAID was running secret programs and would not provide details. “We were told we couldn’t even be told in broad terms what was happening because `people will die,’” said Fulton Armstrong, who worked for the Senate Foreign Relations committee. Before that, he was the US intelligence community’s most senior analyst on Latin America, advising the Clinton White House. The money that Creative Associates spent on ZunZuneo was publicly earmarked for an unspecified project in Pakistan, government data show. But there is no indication of where the funds were actually spent. Tensions with Congress spiked just as the ZunZuneo project was gearing up in December 2009, when another USAID program ended in the arrest of the U.S. contractor, Alan Gross. Gross had traveled repeatedly to Cuba on a secret mission to expand Internet access using sensitive technology typically available only to governments, a mission first revealed in February 2012 by AP. At some point, Armstrong says, the foreign relations committee became aware of OTI’s secret operations in Costa Rica. U.S. government officials acknowledged them privately to Armstrong, but USAID refused to provide operational details. At an event in Washington, Armstrong says he confronted McSpedon, asking him if he was aware that by operating secret programs from a third country, it might appear like he worked for an intelligence agency. McSpedon, through USAID, said the story is not true. He declined to comment otherwise. On Sept. 20, 2009, thousands of Cubans gathered at Revolution Plaza in Havana for Colombian rocker Juanes’ “Peace without Borders” concert. It was the largest public gathering in Cuba since the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1998. Under the watchful gaze of a giant sculpture of revolutionary icon Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the Miami-based Juanes promised music aimed at “turning hate into love.” But for the ZunZuneo team, the concert was a perfect opportunity to test the political power of their budding social network. In the weeks before, Bernheim’s firm, using the phone list, sent out a half a million text messages in what it called “blasts,” to test what the Cuban government would do. The team hired Alen Lauzan Falcon, a Havana-born satirical artist based in Chile, to write Cuban-style messages. Some were mildly political and comical, others more pointed. One asked respondents whether they thought two popular local music acts out of favor with the government should join the stage with Juanes. Some 100,000 people responded - not realizing the poll was used to gather critical intelligence. Paula Cambronero, a researcher for Mobile Accord, began building a vast database about the Cuban subscribers, including gender, age, “receptiveness” and “political tendencies.” USAID believed the demographics on dissent could help it target its other Cuba programs and “maximize our possibilities to extend our reach.” Cambronero concluded that the team had to be careful. “Messages with a humorous connotation should not contain a strong political tendency, so as not to create animosity in the recipients,” she wrote in a report. Falcon, in an interview, said he was never told that he was composing messages for a U.S. government program, but he had no regrets about his involvement. “They didn’t tell me anything, and if they had, I would have done it anyway,” he said. “In Cuba they don’t have freedom. While a government forces me to pay in order to visit my country, makes me ask permission, and limits my communications, I will be against it, whether it’s Fidel Castro, (Cuban exile leader) Jorge Mas Canosa or Gloria Estefan,” the Cuban American singer. USAID saw evidence from server records that Havana had tried to trace the texts, to break into ZunZuneo’s servers, and had occasionally blocked messages. But USAID called the response “timid” and concluded that ZunZuneo would be viable - if its origins stayed secret. Even though Cuba has one of the most sophisticated counter-intelligence operations in the world, the ZunZuneo team thought that as long as the message service looked benign, Cubacel would leave it alone. Once the network had critical mass, Creative and USAID documents argued, it would be harder for the Cuban government to shut it down, both because of popular demand and because Cubacel would be addicted to the revenues from the text messages. In February 2010, the company introduced Cubans to ZunZuneo and began
continued on page 5
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NONPROFIT INSURERS STRUGGLE I N N E W M A R K E T P L A C E S numbers - about 650 people had signed up for coverage through early March - were blamed on technical issues with the exchange’s website. Until recently, the exchange failed to even give shoppers the actual costs of Evergreen’s policies that included out-of-pocket expenses.
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- A smorgasbord of options and lower prices for consumers were two of the chief selling points for President Barack Obama as he promoted his overhaul of the nation’s health insurance industry, predicting Americans would see “competition in ways we haven’t seen before.” Companies were even started as a way to encourage innovation and competition, namely 23 consumer-run, co-op insurers created with the help of $2 billion in federal loans.
The slow starts prompted some smaller nonprofits to adjust their enrollment goals and change their business plans. HealthyCT is now selling insurance outside the state’s marketplace to larger employers and hopes to educate the public about its patient-centric model of care in time for the next open enrollment in November. Evergreen changed gears to focus more on offering small group insurance plans rather than individual ones and enrollment picked up, said Dr. Peter Beilenson, its CEO and president.
But rather than promote competition, the co-ops and smaller nonprofits in some states have languished behind major insurers, attracting in some cases minuscule shares of the market. While Obama celebrated an early projection this week of 7.1 million enrollees under the Affordable Care Act, it’s too early to say whether the law ultimately will foster sufficient competition to keep premiums and deductibles affordable for consumers. Many of the nonprofit insurers are startups and have faced challenges as they tried to attract customers, including: the computer problems that plagued many of the signup websites; plans that weren’t priced to compete; and a failure to develop brand recognition, due in part to restrictions on advertising and lobbying that were a condition of the co-ops accepting the federal funding. “Between no lobbying and no direct marketing, that’s what you get,” said Ken Lalime, CEO of HealthyCT, a co-op in Connecticut. “It’s kind of tough to get your name out there and get exposure.” Like nonprofits in other states, HealthyCT watched in recent months as customers chose big-name insurers on the marketplaces created under the federal health care law. Before Monday’s enrollment deadline, HealthyCT had 3 percent of signups in the state. Just 5 percent of enrollees in Washington state’s marketplace had chosen community nonprofit insurers by the end of February. In California, more than 95 percent of people signing up for coverage went with four major insurance companies rather than seven regional or community nonprofits. About 97 percent of Oregon’s enrollees have selected plans offered by the larger insurers in the state while 3.3 percent chose the two co-ops. In New Mexico, an estimated two-thirds of those signing up selected one of three major insurers. And through February in North Dakota, where Blue Cross Blue Shield had 80 percent of the market before the law went into effect, just 516 people chose coverage offered by the nonprofit Medica. “When you had the lion’s share before, you’re going to have the lion’s share again,” said Neil Scharpe, a service contract specialist with North Dakota Center for Persons with Disabilities, who coordi-
March 26, 2014 photo, Ken Voorhees examines a board for defects while building a stairway for a customer in Lisbon, Maine. Voorhees, who is self-employed, signed up for health insurance with Maine Health Community Options. The nonprofit cooperative is capturing about 80 percent of the customers in the state seeking coverage under the health care law.
nates enrollment outreach workers. The federal government, which operates the insurance marketplaces for 36 states, has not released data on what type of insurers people enrolled with on those marketplaces, said Courtney Jenkins, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In the absence of federal data, The Associated Press surveyed the status of nonprofit insurers in numerous states, primarily those running their own marketplaces, or exchanges. In some states, some of the larger insurers are also not-for-profit. And while the federal government has loaned $2 billion to the 23 co-ops, officials are not expressing concern with their enrollment figures or their ability to repay the loans. Jenkins said her agency is encouraged so far but will be monitoring the co-ops’ progress. The struggles have been pronounced for the newly created co-ops, and some congressional Republicans have voiced concern about their long-term financial viability. HealthyCT, for example, only ran TV ads after it began bringing in money from premiums. Near the end of March, it had signed up about a quarter of its original, modest goal of 10,000 customers. The two major insurers on the state’s exchange, including Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, had 97 percent of the market. For Maryland’s Evergreen Health Co-op, lackluster enrollment
I R A N I A N S AV O I D B A D L U C K W I T H O U T D O O R F E S T I VA L by a gunman.
The Transportation Security Administration conducted its own review of security at nearly 450 airports nationwide after the Nov. 1 shooting at LAX that killed TSA Officer Gerardo Hernandez - the agency’s first line of duty death. Two officers and a passenger were also wounded. Paul Ciancia, 24, opened fire with an assault rifle in an attack targeting the TSA, authorities said. The Pennsville, N.J.-native has pleaded not guilty to 11 federal charges, including murder of a federal officer.
Iranians spend time outdoors observing the ancient festival of Sizdeh Bedar, an annual public picnic day on the 13th day of the Iranian new year, west of Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, April 2, 2014. Sizdeh Bedar, which comes from the Farsi words for “thirteen” and “day out,” is a legacy from Iran’s pre-Islamic past that hard-liners in the Islamic Republic never managed to erase from calendars. State media and calendar makers choose to call the festival “Nature Day” instead of Sizdeh Bedar, given the bad-luck associations with the number 13
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The head of a union representing 45,000 Transportation Security Administration officers says a report conducted by the TSA after a Los Angeles airport shooting last fall doesn’t go far enough in addressing threats posed by individuals targeting its officers. The Transportation Security Administration recommended Wednesday that airports post armed law enforcement officers at security checkpoints and ticket counters during peak hours.
TSA has held over 100 town hall meetings with officers across the country since the shooting to field suggestions to improve airport security. Dozens of groups have provided input, including law enforcement, airlines, airport operators and the TSA union. Report recommendations include requiring that TSA employees go through twice yearly active shooter training and participate in related training exercises. The TSA also recommends acquiring panic alarms for areas where gaps have been identified, having these alarms routinely tested and encouraging that these alarms be linked to security cameras. The Associated Press has reported that though TSA officers told airport officials that an officer hit the panic button, there was no evidence it happened. An airport-wide audit of red phones and panic buttons found some of those devices weren’t working properly, including in Terminal 3- where the shooting took place.
The agency made 14 recommendations after a nationwide review of airport security prompted by a fatal shooting at LAX last fall. Authorities say a gunman targeted TSA officers.
A TSA supervisor picked up an emergency phone but fled the gunman before being able to speak. The airport police dispatcher only heard shouts and gunshots because the phone system didn’t provide a location.
J. David Cox Sr., national president of the American Federation of Government Employees says the recommendation further justifies the union’s call for creating an armed unit of law enforcement within TSA.
Because officers weren’t in the terminal, an airline contractor called police dispatch directly on his cellphone, alerting officers nearly a minute and a half after the shooting began.
TSA Administrator John Pistole doesn’t believe more guns at checkpoints are the solution.
Another recommendation would extend the temporary redeployment of special teams to conduct random security sweeps.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
The review found that though most Federal Air Marshals were notified by phone that there was a shooting at LAX, they didn’t receive automatic notification. The TSA has changed protocol to ensure marshals nationwide are now notified through its operations center and local field offices.
The Transportation Security Administration recommended Wednesday that airports post armed law enforcement officers at security checkpoints and ticket counters during peak hours. The recommendation was one of 14 determined after a nationwide review of security at airports prompted by a fatal shooting at Los Angeles International Airport last fall. The 25-page report to Congress was obtained by The Associated Press. Congress will now review the recommendations. The AP has reported that the two armed officers at the LAX terminal had left for breaks and were out of the terminal at the time of the shooting. Airport police decided months earlier to have officers roam terminals instead of staffing checkpoints such as the one approached
Los Angeles World Airports, which operates LAX, released its review last week that found the airport’s emergency response was hindered by communication and coordination problems. The 83-page report spotlighted flaws in various airport divisions and systems that were in place, but didn’t single out individuals responsible for problems. It also made no mention of the two armed officers who were out of position without notifying dispatchers as required or the policy change to roaming patrols months earlier. A congressional field hearing is scheduled Friday in Los Angeles to discuss the shooting review.
Beilenson said he’s confident the added business will enable his co-op to enroll greater numbers of people with less effort, and he hopes Evergreen will be able to return to its priority of offering high-quality care to working and middle class families, once Maryland’s enrollment system is improved. “I would hope that it works vastly better next year than this year,” he said. But if enrollments do remain low, there are some protections over the next several years. The law included temporary programs that basically provide money to participating insurers to help them financially balance the risk and offset rising insurance premiums, said Dylan H. Roby, director of the Health Economics and Evaluation Research Program at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. The competition to date might not be what Obama envisioned but it’s also not fatal to the exchanges because the law is so new. But all nonprofits selling plans on the exchanges, including the co-ops, will need market share eventually, acknowledged Roby. Sharp Health Plan, owned by a San Diego regional health care provider, has received about 10,000 applications, or a 10 percent market share. CEO Melissa Hayden-Cook said the financial viability of competing on the Covered California health exchange won’t be clear until months after the first year people have policies. “It takes time to know how the business model is going to perform,” she said. “But with federal protection to help offset some of those risks, we’re cautiously optimistic.” Most people buying plans through the exchanges are getting subsidies that lower their premium costs, but deductibles remain costly, so the enrollment numbers will likely grow as people become more aware of the law’s requirement to have coverage or risk larger and larger financial penalties. “You’ll probably see more people biting the bullet and signing up,” Roby said. Some states’ smaller nonprofits stand out as bucking the trend. Nonprofits and regional insurers appear to be competitive in Wisconsin, though the companies have long histories in the state, and thus name recognition. And nearly 80 percent of everyone who signed up on Maine’s exchange through the beginning of March, or about 20,000 residents, chose the one nonprofit co-op offering plans, Maine Community Health Options. Ken Voorhees, of Litchfield, south of Maine’s capital of Augusta, said he chose the co-op’s plan over Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield for the $130 a month savings over his previous coverage, its benefits, including a health coach, and its status as a local business. The 58-year-old, who operates a business that builds timber frames, said he feels like his money is more likely to trickle down to the services he receives, rather than funding corporate executives’ salaries. “It’s nice to keep the money in the community,” said Voorhees.
CUBAN UNREST continued from page 3
marketing. Within six months, it had almost 25,000 subscribers, growing faster and drawing more attention than the USAID team could control. Saimi Reyes Carmona was a journalism student at the University of Havana when she stumbled onto ZunZuneo. She was intrigued by the service’s novelty, and the price. The advertisement said “free messages” so she signed up using her nickname, Saimita. At first, ZunZuneo was a very tiny platform, Reyes said during a recent interview in Havana, but one day she went to its website and saw its services had expanded. “I began sending one message every day,” she said, the maximum allowed at the start. “I didn’t have practically any followers.” She was thrilled every time she got a new one. And then ZunZuneo exploded in popularity. “The whole world wanted in, and in a question of months I had 2,000 followers who I have no idea who they are, nor where they came from.” She let her followers know the day of her birthday, and was surprised when she got some 15 personal messages. “This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!” she told her boyfriend, Ernesto Guerra Valdes, also a journalism student. Before long, Reyes learned she had the second highest number of followers on the island, after a user called UCI, which the students figured was Havana’s University of Computer Sciences. Her boyfriend had 1,000. The two were amazed at the reach it gave them. “It was such a marvelous thing,” Guerra said. “So noble.” He and Reyes tried to figure out who was behind ZunZuneo, since the technology to run it had to be expensive, but they found nothing. They were grateful though. “We always found it strange, that generosity and kindness,” he said. ZunZuneo was “the fairy godmother of cellphones.” By early 2010, Creative decided that ZunZuneo was so popular Bernheim’s company wasn’t sophisticated enough to build, in effect, “a scaled down version of Twitter.” It turned to another young techie, James Eberhard, CEO of Denver-based
The Weekly News Digest, April 7, 2014
C H I L E ’ S M 8 . 2 Q U A K E L I T T L E D A M A G E ,
IQUIQUE, Chile (AP) -- Hard-won expertise and a big dose of luck helped Chile escape its latest magnitude-8.2 earthquake with surprisingly little damage and death.
had no margin for error. The last time she presided over a major quake, days before the end of her 2006-10 term, her emergency preparedness office prematurely waved off a tsunami danger. Most of the 500 dead from that magnitude-8.8 tremor survived the shaking, only to be caught in killer waves. Some 220,000 homes were destroyed as large parts of many coastal communities were washed away.
The country that suffers some of the world’s most powerful quakes has strict building codes, mandatory evacuations and emergency preparedness that sets a global example. But Chileans weren’t satisfied Wednesday, finding much room for improvement. And experts warn that a “seismic gap” has left northern Chile overdue for a far bigger quake. Authorities on Wednesday discovered just six reported deaths from the previous night’s quake. It’s possible that other people were killed in older structures made of adobe in remote communities that weren’t immediately accessible, but it’s still a very low toll for such a powerful shift in the undersea fault that runs along the length of South America’s Pacific coast. “How much is it luck? How much is it science? How much is it preparedness? It is a combination of all of the above. I think what we just saw here is pure luck. Mostly, it is luck that the tsunami was not bigger and that it hit a fairly isolated area of Chile,” said Costas Synolakis, an engineer who directs the Tsunami Research Center at the University of Southern California. Chile is one of the world’s most seismic countries and is particularly prone to tsunamis, because of the way the Nazca tectonic plate plunges beneath the South American plate, pushing the towering Andes cordillera ever higher. About 2,500 homes were damaged in Alto Hospicio, a poor neighborhood in the hills above Iquique, a city of nearly 200,000 people whose coastal residents joined a mandatory evacuation ahead of a tsunami that rose to only 8 feet (2.5 meters). Iquique’s fishermen poked through the aftermath: sunken and damaged boats that could cost millions of dollars to repair and replace. Still, as President Michelle Bachelet deployed hundreds of anti-riot police and soldiers to prevent looting and round up escaped prisoners, it was clear that the loss of life and property could have been much worse. The shaking that began at 8:46 p.m. Tuesday also touched off landslides that blocked roads, knocked out power for thousands, briefly closed regional airports and started fires that destroyed several businesses. Some homes made of adobe also were destroyed in Arica, another city close to the quake’s offshore epicenter. Shaky cellphone videos taken by people eating dinner show light fixtures swaying, furniture shaking and people running to safety, pulling their children under restaurant tables, running for exits and
The U.S. Geological Survey said more than 60 significant aftershocks, including one of magnitude 6.2, followed the Tuesday night quake centered 61 miles (99 kilometers) northwest of Iquique. And seismologists warn that the same region is long overdue for an even bigger quake.
Fishing boats washed ashore by a small tsunami, sit in Caleta Riquelme, adjacent to the port, in the northern town of Iquique, Chile, after magnitude 8.2 earthqauke struck the northen coast of Chile, Wednesday, April 2, 2014. Authorities lifted tsunami warnings for Chile’s long coastline early Wednesday. Six people were crushed to death or suffered fatal heart attacks, a remarkably low toll for such a powerful shift in the Earth’s crust.
shouting to turn off natural gas connections.
“Stay calm, stay calm! My daughter, stay calm! No, stay calm, be careful, cover yourself,” said Vladimir Alejandro Alvarado Lopez as he recorded himself pushing his family under a table. “Shut the gas ... It’s still shaking. Let’s go,” he said as he then hustled them outside. The mandatory evacuation lasted for 10 hours in Iquique and Arica, the cities closest to the epicenter, and kept 900,000 people out of their homes along Chile’s 2,500-mile (4,000 kilometer) coastline. The order to leave was spread through cellphone text messages and Twitter, and reinforced by blaring sirens in neighborhoods where people regularly practice earthquake drills. But the system has its shortcomings: the government has yet to install tsunami warning sirens in parts of Arica, leaving authorities to shout orders by megaphone. And fewer than 15 percent of Chileans have downloaded the smartphone application that can alert them to evacuation orders. Alberto Maturana, the former director of Chile’s Emergency Office, said Chileans were lucky the quake hadn’t caught them in the middle of the day when parents and children are separated, or in the middle of the night. And he was highly critical of the government’s response, citing the need for better access to roads, transportation, health care, coordination and supplies. Bachelet, who just returned to the presidency three weeks ago,
L AW M A K E R S A C C U S E G M O F POSSIBLE CRIMINAL COVER-UP “If this is the new GM leadership, it’s pretty lacking,” Boxer said. Senators aggressively questioned Barra about how GM approved a replacement switch in 2006 but never changed the part number. Failing to change the number makes the part harder to track. In this case, anyone investigating the cars wouldn’t know why earlier switches were failing at a higher rate than later ones. While Barra called the failure to change the part number “unacceptable,” several members of the panel implied that it was done intentionally by a person or group within the company. “I don’t see this as anything but criminal,” said Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., a former prosecutor.
General Motors CEO Mary Barra listens as she testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 2, 2014, before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee. Barra is back before Congress, where members of a Senate subcommittee are expressing doubts that the culture at the nation’s No. 1 automaker has really changed.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Lawmakers on Capitol Hill accused General Motors of a potentially criminal cover-up of its defective ignition switches and fumed at the lack of answers from its new CEO during a second day of hearings Wednesday into why GM waited a decade to recall cars with the deadly flaw. Members of a Senate subcommittee also said GM should tell owners of the 2.6 million cars being recalled to stop driving them until they are repaired. But CEO Mary Barra gave assurances that the cars, mainly Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions, are safe to use while owners wait for the replacement part, saying she would let her own son get behind the wheel if he took certain precautions. GM has linked the switch to 13 deaths and dozens of accidents. Others, including relatives of some victims, have a higher count of fatalities. The automaker has said the ignition switch can move from the “run” position to the “accessory” position because of weight on the key chain. That causes the engine to shut off, disabling power steering, power brakes and the front air bags. As she did Tuesday at a House hearing, Barra said many of the answers Congress is seeking will come out in an internal GM investigation that should be completed in 45 to 60 days. She also said she was unaware of certain details about GM’s handling of the problem - an assertion that frustrated some of the senators. “You don’t know anything about anything,” Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., bristled. Barra also tried to assure lawmakers that GM is now more focused on safety and the consumer. Few sounded convinced.
C A U S E S D E A T H
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who is also a former prosecutor, told Barra that the more he learns about GM, “the more convinced I am that GM has a real exposure to criminal liability.” The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation of GM’s handling of the recall. Barra promised the company will cooperate.
“Could be tomorrow, could be in 50 years; we do not know when it’s going to occur. But the key point here is that this magnitude-8.2 is not the large earthquake that we were expecting for this area. We’re actually still expecting potentially an even larger earthquake,” said Mark Simons, a geophysicist at the California Institute of Technology. Nowhere along the fault is the pressure greater than in the “Iquique seismic gap” of northern Chile. “This is the one remaining gap that hasn’t had an earthquake in the last 140 years,” said Simons. “We know these two plates come together at about 6, 7 centimeters a year, and if you multiply that by 140 years then the plates should have moved about 11 meters along the fault, and you can make an estimate of the size of earthquake we expect here.” The USGS says the seismic gap last saw quakes of more than magnitude 8 in 1877 and 1868.
$ 4 2 5 M I L L I O N POWERBALL WINNER W A N T S P R I VA C Y SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The winner of one of the largest Powerball jackpots in history has finally come forward - but he still hasn’t quite revealed his identity. B. Raymond Buxton, a Northern California man, waited more than a month to accept his prize on Tuesday at the California Lottery headquarters in Sacramento. In a photo taken after he claimed the money on Tuesday, Buxton was covering his face with an oversize check for $425 million. Perhaps the only clue to his identity was his unusual shirt, which featured a picture of the Star Wars character Yoda and read, “Luck of the Jedi I have.” “He really wants to live a private life as best he can,” Buxton’s publicist Sam Singer told The Associated Press. “He was a solidly middle-class American, and today he is a solidly wealthy one.” Buxton is hoping to remain out of the limelight and doesn’t want to speak directly to the media, Singer said. He also won’t reveal his age, address or what he did for a living until his very recent retirement. One reason that Buxton waited to come forward on April 1 - April Fool’s Day - is simply that he has a healthy sense of humor, Singer said. “He still can’t believe it’s not a prank on him. But the reality is Ray Buxton is the winner.” Another reason is that Buxton has been working since February with an attorney and financial adviser to establish new bank accounts, set up a charity and sort out tax issues. “I’m going to enjoy my new job setting up a charitable foundation focused on the areas of pediatric health, child hunger and education,” Buxton said Tuesday in a prepared statement. Buxton bought the sole winning ticket for the Feb. 19 drawing at the Dixon Landing Chevron station in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Milpitas, about 10 miles north of San Jose.
Barra said the company has not yet fired any employees in connection with the recall. But she said if inappropriate decisions were made, GM will take action, including firing those involved.
Buxton was getting lunch at a Subway restaurant inside the station when he decided to buy another ticket because the jackpot was so large, lottery officials said.
As she began her testimony, Barra faced an angry and skeptical Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., the head of the subcommittee, who recounted the story of a woman who died in an accident involving a faulty switch.
After the winning numbers were announced, Buxton said, he sat in front of his computer in disbelief, checking and rechecking his ticket - and telling no one else that he had won. “Sitting on a ticket of this value was very scary,” he said.
McCaskill said GM had “a corporate culture that chose to conceal rather than disclose.”
“Once the initial shock passed, I couldn’t sleep for days,” Buxton said in the statement on Tuesday.
McCaskill also dismissed Barra’s claim that there is a new culture at GM. She said that when emerging from bankruptcy in 2009, GM had ample time to recall cars with the faulty switch.
The $425 million jackpot is one of the largest lottery jackpots in U.S. history, though far from the record. The nation’s biggest lottery prize was a Mega Millions jackpot of $656 million in 2012. The biggest Powerball jackpot was a $590.5 million in May.
GM did not begin recalling the vehicles until February. Blumenthal said GM should immediately tell owners of the recalled cars not to drive them until they’re repaired because they’re unsafe. GM plans to begin repairing the cars this month but has said it might take until October to get them all fixed. Barra said GM has already provided 13,000 loaner cars to drivers who are concerned. But she said the company’s testing on different types of roads shows the cars are safe as long as there is nothing but the ignition key on the key chain. “I would allow my son and daughter - well, my son, because he’s the only one eligible to drive - if he only had the ignition key,” she said.
The Feb. 19 jackpot was the largest jackpot in California history, according to lottery officials, and the sixth-largest ever won in the United States. “It’s amazing how a little slip of paper can change your life,” said Buxton, who estimates he has been playing the lottery for 20 years. The odds of matching all six Powerball numbers are 1 in about 175 million, according to statistics from the Multi-State Lottery Association in Iowa. Powerball is played in 43 states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The Weekly News Digest, April 7, 2014
E G Y P T : B O M B I N G S B R I N G E S C A L AT I O N I N C A M P U S WA R S CAIRO (AP) -- A series of three bombs went off Wednesday outside Cairo University, killing a police general and wounding seven people, introducing a new level of violence to the almost daily battles at campuses fought by Egyptian police and students loyal to the ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.
later, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press. Ajnad Misr said in its statement that the third blast was delayed to spare civilians nearby. The tactic has been frequently used in Iraq by Sunni militants fighting the Shiite-led government - using secondary explosions to target members of the emergency services and reinforcements who come to the aid of those wounded in the first blast.
Universities have emerged as the main center of the campaign of protests by Morsi’s supporters against the military-backed government that replaced him, because a fierce crackdown the past nine months has made significant rallies by Islamists in the streets nearly impossible.
The first two blasts sprayed nails packed into the explosives, killing police Brig. Gen. Tareq al-Mergawy, with a nail that pierced his heart, a spokesman for the state forensics department, Hesham Abdel-Hamid, told the private TV CBC.
The result has been increasingly deadly clashes between protesters and security forces in and around the walled campuses, with several students killed the past weeks. Wednesday’s blasts targeted a post of riot police deployed outside Cairo University in case of protests, in apparent retaliation for police assaults. That would be a significant escalation and raises the likelihood of a fierce response by security forces that would further push a spiral of violence at the universities. A new group that first appeared in January, Ajnad Misr, or “Egypt’s Soldiers,” claimed responsibility for the bombing. In a statement, it said it was waging a campaign of retribution and that the slain police general had been involved in killings of protesters. It said the attack also came in response to increased detentions of female protesters. The main pro-Morsi university group, “Students against the Coup,” led by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, denied involvement in the bombings. But a leading figure in the group, Youssef Salheen, warned that excessive violence by the security forces and the broader crackdown on the Brotherhood was fueling a violent response. “All that is incitement to all those who go down to protest to turn from peacefulness to violence and terrorism because of all what they see,” said the 21-year-old Salheen, a student at Cairo’s Islamic Al-Azhar University, another campus that sees frequent clashes. He said his group is working against the radicalization of protesters.
Four civilians and three senior police officers were wounded, including the deputy police chief of Giza province, where Cairo University is located.
Plainclothes Egyptian security forces detain people at the scene of deadly explosions that hit the area outside the main campus of Cairo University, in Giza, Egypt, Wednesday, April 2, 2014. Three bombs exploded Wednesday, hitting riot police deployed against near daily protests by Islamist students amid a fierce crackdown by security forces against protesters and supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.
bombs and suicide bombings hitting security facilities and assassinations of officers. In some cases, security officers’ cars have been torched. Many of the biggest and most sophisticated attacks have been claimed by an al-Qaida-inspired militant group based in the Sinai Peninsula. Ajnad Misr has claimed several smaller bombings since January. The government accuses the Brotherhood of orchestrating the violence, branding it a terrorist organization - a claim the group denies and calls a pretext for wiping it out. Wednesday’s blasts - using what authorities said were crude homemade explosives - were rare in that they targeted police forces in the field directly deployed to face protesters.
Since the military removed Morsi in July, the interim government has been waging a fierce crackdown on the Brotherhood and other Islamists, killing hundreds and arresting more than 16,000.
The three blasts were also staggered in time. The first two bombs, which security officials said were hidden at the foot of a tree, went off less than a minute apart near a security post of riot police, security officials said.
At the same time, police and the military have faced a campaign of car
The third, concealed up another tree nearby, exploded nearly two hours
C O A S T G U A R D C A D E T A C C U S E D O F T O U C H I N G C L A S S M A T E The cadet said she found it hard to sleep and concentrate after the encounter, and her grades suffered. “I think he should be kicked out of the Coast Guard. I think he should be a registered sex offender, and I think he should go to jail,” she said. Stevens said in an interview that he went into the fellow cadet’s room and touched her with his hand, said Eric Gempp, a special agent with the Coast Guard Investigative Service. Stevens said he was startled when the cadet said, “Hey!” He quickly left the room, Stevens told investigators. Stevens said he went into the room by mistake, believing it was his girlfriend’s room, Gempp testified.
NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) -- A U.S Coast Guard Academy cadet should face a court martial for entering the room of a classmate and touching her leg, a government attorney said Wednesday, rejecting defense claims that the cadet accidentally went into what he thought was his girlfriend’s room. Cadet Alexander Stevens was on a mission for sexual gratification that September night, Lt. Tyler McGill said during a pretrial investigation at the academy. The room Stevens entered was about 300 feet from his girlfriend’s room, McGill said, and noted that the classmate was lower in rank. “Cadet Stevens did not walk into the room right next door,” McGill said. Lt. John Cole, who represented Stevens, said the government didn’t prove sexual intent. He said Stevens was drunk at the time and made a mental mistake. “Just because he accidentally touched the wrong cadet’s leg doesn’t mean he should go to court martial,” Cole said. Cole said Stevens should face administrative punishment, which can include expulsion. A court martial can lead to prison time if the person is convicted. The pretrial investigation, similar to a civilian grand jury, will determine how to dispose of the case. An investigating officer presiding over Wednesday’s hearing made no immediate recommendation. The officer could recommend that the case be dismissed, dealt with administratively or referred for trial by court-martial. Stevens, who is accused of abusive sexual contact, housebreaking and unlawful entry, did not testify. The classmate testified that a man entered her room in the middle of the night, touched her on her thigh and moved his hand up her leg before she screamed and kicked him. “I remember someone fumbling with my blanket that was on top of me and touching my leg,” she said, describing skin-to-skin contact and the swirling motion of a hand moving up her leg. “I kicked my legs and I screamed.” The man either fell or jumped off her bed and fled. She says she chased him and located a friend. “I kept telling him (the friend) that’s not right,” she said, noting that she was shaking and crying.
Chief Robert Cain testified that Stevens voluntarily came to him and told him during a night of drinking he got into an argument with his girlfriend. Cain said Stevens told him after returning to his room that he decided to apologize and went to what he thought was his girlfriend’s room, tapped her on the leg and realized he was in the wrong room.
After the bombing, police chased down and detained several students on the streets nearby, but there was no immediate word on the number of arrests made. The country’s most powerful political figure, former military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi - who removed Morsi and this month left the military to launch a run for president - denounced the bombings in a statement issued by his election campaign. “Egypt will march forward and will not succumb to black terrorism,” he vowed. After an emergency meeting of top security and intelligence officials, the government announced it would deploy more forces outside universities and will expedite the issuing of a new anti-terrorism law. The new law reportedly expands the definition of terrorism, allows for greater Internet surveillance and creates a special prosecutors’ office for terrorism crimes with expanded powers. Cairo University and other universities around the country have seen countless clashes with police since last July’s ouster of Morsi. But the level of violence has grown since classes resumed this month following the mid-term break - which was extended for around a month in an attempt to bring calm. At least two students in Cairo have been killed in clashes since classes resumed, and a 15-year-old was killed near campus clashes in southern Egypt. The protesters have also become more violent, hurling firebombs and stones at security forces. On Sunday at Al-Azhar University - where one student was killed - protesters with steel bars smashed a wall recently built to prevent them from taking to the street outside the campus. A group of activists called “Freedom for Students” has documented more than 1,300 arrests of students since last summer. Already, some have been tried and sentenced, including 12 from Al-Azhar University who received 17 years’ imprisonment for taking part in protests. Dozens of Cairo University students have been expelled for taking part in protests after the interim president gave university heads the power to summarily expel students. In March, 24 were expelled for raising a black jihadi banner on campus. The wave of protests has hiked tensions among students, as well. There have been instances of fights and scuffles between Islamist and anti-Islamist students. Universities have long been a center of political activities. Islamist students were powerful on campuses in 1970s and 1980s. In recent years, more secular revolutionary student activists - who were part of the 2011 uprising that ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak - gained greater prominence. Those secular activists, who oppose both the Brotherhood and the military’s power, are now being overshadowed by the violence surrounding Islamists. They have refused to join Islamist protests, instead trying to pursue their own agenda of documenting arrests and expulsions and demanding jailed students’ release.
Another cadet testified that classmates often go into the wrong rooms, but said the mistake typically involves going into a room one or two doors away.
Osama Ahmed, a leftist Cairo University student, warned that police force is building sympathy for the Brotherhood and weakening non-Islamist students.
The only cadet ever court-martialed at the academy, Webster Smith, was tried in 2006 and convicted on extortion, sodomy and indecent assault charges.
“The Brotherhood considers what it does as draining the authorities. But in reality, these protests are building nothing,” he said. “What is being drained is the student movement, and the circles of sympathy around (Islamists) increase slowly because of the absence of an alternative.”
CUBAN UNREST continued from page 3
Mobile Accord Inc. Eberhard had pioneered the use of text messaging for donations during disasters and had raised tens of millions of dollars after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Eberhard earned millions in his mid-20s when he sold a company that developed cellphone ring tones and games. His company’s website describes him as “a visionary within the global mobile community.” In July, he flew to Barcelona to join McSpedon, Bernheim, and others to work out what they called a “below the radar strategy.” “If it is discovered that the platform is, or ever was, backed by the United States government, not only do we risk the channel being shut down by Cubacel, but we risk the credibility of the platform as a source of reliable information, education, and empowerment in the eyes of the Cuban people,” Mobile Accord noted in a memo. To cover their tracks, they decided to have a company based in the United Kingdom set up a corporation in Spain to run ZunZuneo. A separate company called MovilChat was created in the Cayman Islands, a well-known offshore tax haven, with an account at the island’s Bank of N.T. Butterfield & Son Ltd. to pay the bills. A memo of the meeting in Barcelona says that the front companies would distance ZunZuneo from any U.S. ownership so that the “money trail will not trace back to America.” But it wasn’t just the money they were worried about. They had to hide the origins of the texts, according to documents and interviews with team members. Brad Blanken, the former chief operating officer of Mobile Accord, left the project early on, but noted that there were two main criteria for success. “The biggest challenge with creating something like this is getting the phone numbers,” Blanken said. “And then the ability to spoof the network.” The team of contractors set up servers in Spain and Ireland to process texts,
contracting an independent Spanish company called Lleida.net to send the text messages back to Cuba, while stripping off identifying data. Mobile Accord also sought intelligence from engineers at the Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica, which organizers said would “have knowledge of Cubacel’s network.” “Understanding the security and monitoring protocols of Cubacel will be an invaluable asset to avoid unnecessary detection by the carrier,” one Mobile Accord memo read. Officials at USAID realized however, that they could not conceal their involvement forever - unless they left the stage. The predicament was summarized bluntly when Eberhard was in Washington for a strategy session in early February 2011, where his company noted the “inherent contradiction” of giving Cubans a platform for communications uninfluenced by their government that was in fact financed by the U.S. government and influenced by its agenda. They turned to Jack Dorsey, a co-founder of Twitter, to seek funding for the project. Documents show Dorsey met with Suzanne Hall, a State Department officer who worked on social media projects, and others. Dorsey declined to comment. The State Department under then-Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton thought social media was an important tool in diplomacy. At a 2011 speech at George Washington University, Clinton said the U.S. helped people in “oppressive Internet environments get around filters.” In Tunisia, she said people used technology to “organize and share grievances, which, as we know, helped fuel a movement that led to revolutionary change.” Ultimately, the solution was new management that could separate ZunZuneo from its U.S. origins and raise enough revenue for it to go “independent,” even as it kept its long-term strategy to bring about “democratic change.” Eberhard led the recruitment efforts, a sensitive operation because he intended to keep the management of the Spanish company in the dark. “The ZZ management team will have no knowledge of the true origin of the operation; as far as they know, the platform was established by Mobile Accord,” the memo said. “There should be zero doubt in management’s mind and no insecurities or concerns about United States Government involvement.”
The Weekly News Digest, April 7, 2014
D E E P WA T E R S E A R C H F O R J E T C O U L D T U R N O N R O B O T S U B S “Air France 447 is a bit different from Malaysian Air 370 in that we had a few more clues to work with,” said Dave Gallo, who led the search team from Woods Hole, located on Massachusetts’ Cape Cod. The independent research institution has offered its services to investigators but has not been asked to join the current search effort. Before unmanned subs can be sent down to look for the Malaysian jet, the search zone must be narrowed considerably. That depends on finding wreckage on the surface. Officials cautioned Wednesday that search planes, which have scoured the ocean for more than three weeks without finding any sign of the downed jet, aren’t certain to find any wreckage and that investigators may not be able to determine the reason for its disappearance. The size of the search area changes daily because of factors such as currents; on Wednesday it was 85,000 square miles (221,000 square kilometers).
CORRECTS IDENTIFICATION OF EQUIPMENT TO AN AUTONOMOUS UNDERWATER VEHICLE INSTEAD OF A TOWED PINGER LOCATOR - An autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) sits on the wharf at naval base HMAS Stirling in Perth, Australia, ready to be fitted to the Australian warship Ocean Shield to aid in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, Sunday, March 30, 2014. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which oversees the search, said the ship will be equipped with a black box detector — the U.S. Navy’s Towed Pinger Locator — and the AUV, as well as other acoustic detection equipment.
Two miles down or more and darker than night, the ocean becomes a particularly challenging place for human searchers. If the wreckage of a missing Malaysian airliner rests somewhere in the Indian Ocean’s depths, then investigators will likely need to entrust the hunt at least partly to robot submarines and the scientists who deploy them to scan remote swaths of the seafloor. Such unmanned subs, called autonomous underwater vehicles or AUVs, played a critical role in locating the carcass of a lost Air France jet in 2011, two years after it crashed in the middle of the south Atlantic. The find allowed searchers to recover the black boxes that revealed the malfunctions behind the tragedy. That search keyed off critical information: The search area for the Air France jet was much smaller than that for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, and the first pieces of wreckage were recovered within days of the crash. Even then, it required two years and four deep water search missions before a team from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, using an AUV equipped with side-scan sonar, located the jet about 12,800 feet (3,900 meters) underwater.
But if investigators can zero in on an approximate crash location, they will likely turn to AUVs to begin the methodical task of tracking back and forth across miles of ocean floor in search of anomalies that might be wreckage. “I like to think of it as mowing the lawn. You want to cover every bit of it,” Gallo said. “You need a little bit of luck and a lot of prayer that the oceans are going to cooperate, and then off you go.” The unmanned subs used by the Woods Hole team were developed as tools to research and monitor relatively shallow coastal waters, measuring variables like salinity and temperature over wide areas for hours on end. But AUVs are increasingly harnessed to perform some of the most demanding underwater jobs. The U.S. Navy uses them to search for underwater mines because they can stay below the surface of even very cold water much longer than any diver, without the worry of exposing a human to danger. Energy companies employ unmanned subs to survey the floor at underwater drill sites. In 2009, California’s Waitt Institute sent down a pair of AUVs that surveyed more than 2,000 square miles of South Pacific ocean bottom over 72 days in an unsuccessful search for Amelia Earhart’s plane. The area off western Australia where search planes and aircraft are looking for the Malaysian jet slopes from about 2,600 feet (800 meters) to about 9,800 feet (3,000 meters) deep. But part of the zone drops into the narrow Diamantina trench, about 19,000 feet (5,800 meters) down.
STEM CELL CONTROVERSY SETS B A C K J A PA N E S E S C I E N C E Noyori, the Riken director, said that after allowing for an appeal, disciplinary action would be taken, including calling for retraction of the suspect paper. Scientists hope to harness stem cells to replace defective tissue in a wide variety of diseases. Making stem cells from a patient would eliminate the risk of transplant rejection. The researchers in Boston and Japan participating in the project used a simple procedure to turn ordinary cells from mice into stem cells by exposing cells from spleens of newborn mice to a more acidic environment than they are used to. Cells from other tissue of newborn mice appeared to go through the same change if exposed to any of a variety of stressful situations, the researchers said.
The Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz TMA-12M space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station (ISS) blasts off at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Wednesday, March 26, 2014. The Russian rocket carries U.S. astronaut Steven Swanson, Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev.
Shunsuke Ishii, chairman of the investigating panel at Riken, told reporters Tuesday that Obokata had said she altered images used in the research to make the results “look more beautiful.” Data she recorded also was fragmented and incomplete, he said. Obokata said some of the images were chosen by mistake. The institute said it would take months more to determine whether the stem cell findings are valid regardless of any questions about the data. Obokata asserts the findings are genuine.
“Let’s hope the wreck debris has not landed over this escarpment. It’s a long way to the bottom,” said Robin Beaman, a marine geologist at Australia’s James Cook University.
The U.S. Navy last week sent a Bluefin-21 autonomous sub to Australia to prepare for an eventual deep water search. That sub can dive to about 14,800 feet (4,500 meters). The largest unmanned subs used by Woods Hole researchers are built to reach depths of about 19,700 feet (6,000 meters). Searchers can also use tethered submersibles, towed by ships from cable that allows for real-time data transmission to the surface and a continuous supply of power to the vehicle. But it is a very slow process. AUVs can scan a larger area more quickly, without being affected by conditions on the surface. But they must be brought back to the surface to recharge, and for researchers to download and analyze their data. Even so, they are much better suited to the job of deep water search than any manned sub, whose descents are limited by air, light and power, as well as safety concerns, said William Sager, a professor of marine geophysics at the University of Houston. Sager recalled that in 2000, when he climbed aboard a sub and ventured 5,600 feet (1,700 meters) down to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, all those factors limited time on the sea floor to just four hours, moving at a crawl. A researcher looking out a porthole into even the clearest water with a very bright light can’t see beyond 100 feet, he said. Unmanned subs are far more flexible. When Woods Hole engineers built their first REMUS 6000 sub a little more than a decade ago, they tested it off the Bahamas by driving it down a trench the scale of the Grand Canyon, said Chris von Alt, who led the team that developed the craft and then co-founded Hydroid Inc., the Massachusetts manufacturer of the subs. The REMUS sub - nearly 13 feet long, 1,900 pounds and mustard yellow is equipped with sonar that can be programmed to capture images of vast stretches of seafloor and the objects resting there. Powered by a lithium battery, the unmanned subs stay below the surface for 20 to 24 hours. Scientists on the surface are now able to modify instructions to the sub via an acoustic link that allows them to look at bits of data gathered by the vehicle, von Alt said. But they don’t know what the sub has found until it surfaces and its data is fully downloaded to a computer. The task requires patience and, for researchers whose livelihoods are focused on ocean life, a willingness to harness their expertise in a grim but necessary pursuit of answers. “That’s why you do it,” von Alt said. “One of (the reasons) is, `Why did it happen?’ But the other is to get closure for the families who have suffered through the tragedy.”
CUBAN UNREST continued from page 3
The memo went on to say that the CEO’s clean conscience would be “particularly critical when dealing with Cubacel.” Sensitive to the high cost of text messages for average Cubans, ZunZuneo negotiated a bulk rate for texts at 4 cents a pop through a Spanish intermediary. Documents show there was hope that an earnest, clueless CEO might be able to persuade Cubacel to back the project. Mobile Accord considered a dozen candidates from five countries to head the Spanish front company. One of them was Francoise de Valera, a CEO who was vacationing in Dubai when she was approached for an interview. She flew to Barcelona. At the luxury Mandarin Oriental Hotel, she met with Nim Patel, who at the time was Mobile Accord’s president. Eberhard had also flown in for the interviews. But she said she couldn’t get a straight answer about what they were looking for. “They talked to me about instant messaging but nothing about Cuba, or the United States,” she told the AP in an interview from London. “If I had been offered and accepted the role, I believe that sooner or later it would have become apparent to me that something wasn’t right,” she said. By early 2011, Creative Associates grew exasperated with Mobile Accord’s failure to make ZunZuneo self-sustaining and independent of the U.S. government. The operation had run into an unsolvable problem. USAID was paying tens of thousands of dollars in text messaging fees to Cuba’s communist telecommunications monopoly routed through a secret bank account and front companies. It was not a situation that it could either afford or justify - and if exposed it would be embarrassing, or worse.
TOKYO (AP) -- The finding that a lead researcher falsified data in a widely heralded stem-cell research paper is a setback for Japan’s efforts to promote its advanced research, but also a symptom of the pressure for breakthroughs in the field, experts say.
Noyori warned against any “personal attacks or violations of human rights of the authors,” vowing to revamp the ethical standards, training and procedures at Riken, a prestigious institution founded in 1917 by Eiichi Shibusawa, a leading Japanese industrialist.
The government-funded Riken Center for Development Biology in Kobe, western Japan said Tuesday it had found malpractice by scientist Haruko Obokata in the work on using a simple lab procedure to grow tissue for treating illnesses such as diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.
“Research misconduct occurred due to a young researcher’s lack of experience and awareness of the importance of research ethics,” Noyori said.
In a searing evaluation, Creative Associates said Mobile Accord had ignored sustainability because “it has felt comfortable receiving USG financing to move the venture forward.”
Obokata has not recently appeared in public and Juliette Savin, a spokeswoman for Riken, said that she could not comment on her status.
Mobile Accord declined to comment on the program.
Obokata disputed the allegations, saying in a statement issued by Riken that she plans to appeal the findings issued by a committee set up to investigate discrepancies in the research published in January in the scientific journal Nature. Nature has refused comment on whether the article might be retracted but said it is conducting its own evaluation and considering Riken’s findings.
The longer-term implications of the case will depend on how it is handled, said Oransky. “Riken seems to have acted swiftly and mostly transparently, and that’s a good thing,” he said.
While Obokata alone was blamed for manipulating images of DNA fragments used in the research, Riken’s director Ryoji Noyori held her co-authors “gravely responsible” for negligence in failing to fully verify their findings. “The Riken incident says much more about the pressures to publish, and the harsh competition in stem cell research, than it does about Japan, I think,” Ivan Oransky, global editorial director of MedPage Today, a news service for doctors, said in an email. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made greater gender equality and female advancement in the workforce a plank of his economic revival strategy for Japan. But the recognition of Obokata, a fashionable young woman, as a leading scientist still made waves in conservative, male-dominated Japan. The developments at Riken are a setback for government efforts to market Japan’s research and development expertise as a 21st century industry needed to revitalize the country’s manufacturing. Arthur Caplan, an expert on bioethics at New York University Langone Medical Center, said the doubts about the research are a “devastating blow” for Japanese science. “The government has invested in cutting edge bioscience to promote Japan’s economy, so the revelation of fraud and misconduct at a major institute is both an embarrassment for the government and a huge setback for the Japanese research community,” he said.
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In increasingly impatient tones, Creative Associates pressed Mobile Accord to find new revenue that would pay the bills. Mobile Accord suggested selling targeted advertisements in Cuba, but even with projections of up to a million ZunZuneo subscribers, advertising in a state-run economy would amount to a pittance. By March 2011, ZunZuneo had about 40,000 subscribers. To keep a lower profile, it abandoned previous hopes of reaching 200,000 and instead capped the number of subscribers at a lower number. It limited ZunZuneo’s text messages to less than one percent of the total in Cuba, so as to avoid the notice of Cuban authorities. Though one former ZunZuneo worker - who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about his work said the Cubans were catching on and had tried to block the site. Toward the middle of 2012, Cuban users began to complain that the service worked only sporadically. Then not at all. ZunZuneo vanished as mysteriously as it appeared. By June 2012, users who had access to Facebook and Twitter were wondering what had happened. “Where can you pick up messages from ZunZuneo?” one woman asked on Facebook in November 2012. “Why aren’t I receiving them anymore?” Users who went to ZunZuneo’s website were sent to a children’s website with a similar name. Reyner Aguero, a 25-year-old blogger, said he and fellow students at Havana’s University of Computer Sciences tried to track it down. Someone had rerouted the website through DNS blocking, a censorship technique initially developed back in the 1990s. Intelligence officers later told the students that ZunZuneo was blacklisted, he said. “ZunZuneo, like everything else they did not control, was a threat,” Aguero said. “Period.”
Published on Apr 8, 2014