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Federal Government
National Park Service: No Unmanned Aircraft Allowed On Park Land Or Water PDF Print E-mail
Federal Government
By Administrator   
Friday, 27 June 2014 10:41

RALEIGH, (SGRToday.com) - After a serious of incidents with unmanned aircraft disrupting visitors and wildlife in national parks, the head of the National Parks Service has ordered superintendents to prohibit them on park and water.

 
“We embrace many activities in national parks because they enhance visitor experiences with the iconic natural, historic and cultural landscapes in our care,” NPS director Jonathan Jarvis said in a memorandum. “However, we have serious concerns about the negative impact that flying unmanned aircraft is having in parks, so we are prohibiting their use until we can determine the most appropriate policy that will protect park resources and provide all visitors with a rich experience.”
 
Disruptive incidents have occurred at the Grand Canyon, Mount Zion, and Mount Rushmore, according to the agency.
Last Updated on Friday, 27 June 2014 10:42
 
Homeland Security To Receive More Money In Wake Of Immigrant Children Influx At Border PDF Print E-mail
Federal Government
By Administrator   
Thursday, 26 June 2014 12:42

WASHINGTON (AP) — A key Senate panel has given swift bipartisan approval to a $47 billion budget for the Department of Homeland Security, boosting funding to cope with an influx of Central American children who arrive in the U.S. unaccompanied by their parents.

 
The Appropriations Committee approved the measure by a voice vote after a brief hearing. The measure comes as the once-promising pace of the annual appropriations cycle is slowing. A procedural battle stalled an effort to bring a measure funding several other Cabinet departments to a floor vote and several contentious bills have seen committee consideration delayed.
 
The bill boosts the administration's request for the Customs Service and Border Patrol for initial handling of unaccompanied immigrant children arriving on the southern border by $77 million.
Last Updated on Thursday, 26 June 2014 12:43
 
Federal Judge: People On Government No-Fly List Must Have Due Process PDF Print E-mail
Federal Government
By Administrator   
Wednesday, 25 June 2014 09:32

 

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — When it comes to its no-fly list, the U.S. government has a choice to make.
 
More than a dozen Muslims sued after learning they were likely on the list — something the government still won't confirm — and they found their only recourse was to fill out an online appeal form.
 
Then on Tuesday, a federal judge in Oregon ruled that the Department of Homeland Security must give people a better avenue to pursue a claim that they were wrongly put on the list.
 
Now, the government can seek some way around U.S. District Judge Anna Brown's order. Or, they can do what she asked.
 
But Brown didn't want to dictate the rules. In fact, federal prosecutors specifically told her in court, "We urge you not to take over the policymaking."
 
Instead, Brown set out a handful of guidelines that were issued by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in an unrelated case.
 
She said the government must tell people what unclassified information was used to put them on the list. And if the information's classified, at least tell them the nature and extent of it.
 
She said it shouldn't leave people without an option to challenge their status or make blanket rulings that ignore the specifics of people's lives.
 
"The (challenge) process falls far short of satisfying the requirements of due process," Brown wrote in her ruling Tuesday.
 
U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson said government attorneys were reviewing the decision.
 
"This should serve as a wake-up call to the government," said American Civil Liberties Union attorney Hina Shamsi. "This decision also benefits other people wrongly stuck on the no-fly list because it affords them (an opportunity to challenge) a Kafkaesque bureaucracy."
 
Thirteen people — including four military veterans — challenged their placement on the list in 2010.
 
Initially, Brown said she couldn't rule on the case. In 2012, the 9th Circuit disagreed and sent the case back to her. Brown ruled in August that the 13 people challenging their presence on the list had a constitutional right to travel and, on Tuesday, found the government violated that right.
 
"For many," Brown wrote in Tuesday's decision, "international travel is a necessary aspect of liberties sacred to members of a free society."
 
The judge said placement on the no-fly list turns routine travel into an "odyssey," and some of those on the list have been subjected to detention and interrogation by foreign authorities.
 
The no-fly list, a well-protected government secret, decides who is barred from flying at U.S. airports, and it's shared with ship captains and 22 other countries. The FBI has said the list requires secrecy to protect sensitive investigations and to avoid giving terrorists clues for avoiding detection.
 
The no-fly list contains thousands of names and has been one of the government's most public counterterrorism tools since 9/11. It also has been one of the most condemned, with critics saying some innocent travelers have been mistaken for terrorism suspects.
 
The plaintiffs argued that being on the list harms their reputations. Several who filed suit said they have been surrounded at airport security areas, detained and interrogated.
 
Brown expressed skepticism at the government's arguments in several court hearings in 2013 and earlier this year.
 
The process "does not provide a meaningful mechanism for travelers who have been denied boarding to correct erroneous information in the government's terrorism databases," Brown ruled.
 
In January, a California woman successfully challenged her placement on the list, but the ruling did not address the broader constitutional implications.
 
Researcher Charged In HIV Vaccine Fraud Case Funded By National Institutes Of Health Grant PDF Print E-mail
Federal Government
By Administrator   
Wednesday, 25 June 2014 09:29

 

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Responding to a major case of research misconduct, federal prosecutors have taken the rare step of filing charges against a scientist after he admitted falsifying data that led to millions in grants and hopes of a breakthrough in AIDS vaccine research.
 
Investigators say former Iowa State University laboratory manager Dong-Pyou Han has confessed to spiking samples of rabbit blood with human antibodies to make an experimental HIV vaccine appear to have great promise. After years of work and millions in National Institutes of Health grants, another laboratory uncovered irregularities that suggested the results — once hailed as groundbreaking — were bogus.
 
Han was indicted last week on four counts of making false statements, each of which carries up to five years in prison. He was set to be arraigned Tuesday in Des Moines, but he didn't show up due to an apparent paperwork mix-up. A prosecutor said Han will be given another chance to appear next week.
 
Han, 57, didn't return a message left at his home in Cleveland, where he's been living since resigning from the university last fall. A native of South Korea, he surrendered his passport following his arrest and initial court appearance in Ohio last week.
 
Experts said the fraud was extraordinary and that charges are rarely brought in such cases. The National Institutes of Health said it's reviewing what impact the case has had on the research it funds.
 
"It's an important case because it is extremely rare for scientists found to have committed fraud to be held accountable by the actual criminal justice system," said Ivan Oransky, co-founder of Retraction Watch, which tracks research misconduct.
 
Oransky, a journalist who also has a medical degree, said there have been only a handful of similar prosecutions in the last 30 years.
 
He said Han's case was "particularly brazen" and noted that charges are rarely brought because the U.S. Office of Research Integrity, which investigates misconduct, doesn't have prosecution authority, and most cases involve smaller amounts of money.
 
"It's a pretty extraordinary case involving clear, intentional falsification," added Mike Carome, a consumer advocate and director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group. "The wool was pulled over many people's eyes."
 
Carome noted that Han's misconduct wasted tax dollars and caused researchers to chase a false lead. He said such cases also undermine the public's trust in researchers.
 
Finding an HIV vaccine remains a top international scientific priority. A 2009 study in Thailand is the only one ever to show a modest success, protecting about a third of recipients against infection. That's not good enough for general use, so researchers continue exploring numerous approaches.
 
According to the indictment, Han's misconduct caused colleagues to make false statements in a federal grant application and progress reports to NIH.
 
The NIH paid out $5 million under that grant as of earlier this month. Iowa State has agreed to pay back NIH nearly $500,000 for the cost of Han's salary.
 
Han's misconduct dates to when he worked at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland under Michael Cho, who was leading a team testing an experimental HIV vaccine on rabbits.
 
Starting in 2008, Cho's team received initial NIH funding for the work. Cho reported soon that his vaccine was causing rabbits to develop antibodies to HIV, which left NIH officials "flabbergasted," according to a criminal complaint against Han.
 
Cho's team sent blood samples in 2009 to Duke University researchers, who verified the apparent positive impact on the vaccinated rabbits. The confirmation was seen as "a major breakthrough in HIV/AIDS vaccine research," according to the complaint.
 
Iowa State recruited Cho in 2009, and with his team — including Han — he soon received a five-year NIH grant to continue the research. The team kept reporting progress. But in January 2013, a team at Harvard University found the promising results had been achieved with rabbit blood spiked with human antibodies.
 
An investigation by Iowa State pinpointed Han, after he was caught sending more spiked samples to Duke University. In a Sept. 30, 2013 confession letter, Han said he started the fraud in 2009 "because he wanted (results) to look better" and that he acted alone.
 
"I was foolish, coward, and not frank," he wrote.
 
Cho has said he was devastated and angered that he wasted years on the research, but he has vowed to continue his work. He has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
 
Stephen Brown, medical director for the AIDS Research Alliance, said the case highlights the fierce competition to win increasingly scarce NIH research funding.
 
"Han's case also indicates the need for greater transparency and oversight of the peer review funding process, which is cloaked in secrecy and often leads to large sums being given to favored organizations, despite a lack of output," Brown said in a statement.
 
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