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F1 Race Engineer To Switch To Formula E Mercedes Role

first_imgMercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff explained after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – where Bottas finished fifth – that Ross will now take up the position of chief race engineer for the manufacturer’s works FE programme.“Tony Ross is going to be the chief race engineer of our Formula E programme,” Wolff told the media in his post-race press conference.“He has had enough of you guys – and wants to dash off into a fun environment with only one race day in funky cities.When asked who would replace Ross as Bottas’s race engineer for the 2019 F1 season, Wolff replied: “We are discussing it. That is a bit of a lie, but give me a few weeks.“I didn’t really actually lie – it was the first time in six years [as Mercedes F1 team principal].”Mercedes will enter the 2019/20 FE season as a full works operation after quitting the DTM at the end of the current campaign to focus its efforts on F1 and its new venture in the electric championship.The new team will receive support from the Mercedes F1 squad and the manufacturer will develop its FE powertrain at its Brixworth engine base.Mercedes-affiliate HWA is competing in the upcoming fifth FE season, which gets underway with the Ad Diriyah E-Prix next month.Motorsport.com understands that Ross will be working with the HWA squad – that will run Stoffel Vandoorne and Gary Paffett as its race drivers – during the 2018/19 championship.The exact timing of Ross’s switch to the FE project is not yet clear, but it is understood to be happening soon.Mercedes will take over HWA’s slot on the FE grid for 2019/20. Ross, who has worked at Mercedes since 2011 when he joined from Williams, also previously engineered Nico Rosberg and the pair worked together when Rosberg won the 2016 F1 world title.More Formula E News Formula E: Let’s Look Inside The Gen 2 In CGI Watch Formula E Gen 1 Vs Gen 2 Battle: Plus CNET Drives Audi FE Car Valtteri Bottas’s Formula 1 race engineer Tony Ross will switch to Mercedes’ Formula E programme now that the 2018 season has concluded.center_img Seven Female Drivers Named In Saudi Arabia Formula E Lineup Source: Electric Vehicle News Author Liberty Access TechnologiesPosted on November 26, 2018Categories Electric Vehicle Newslast_img read more

Delhi Would Like To Achieve 25 Electric Car Penetration By 2023

first_img India To Get 1,000 New Electric Buses Next Year Delhi will give example to the whole of IndiaDelhi, the capital of India, is trying to do something with its air pollution, which according to WHO survey of 1,600 world cities, is the worst of any major city in the world (see Wikipedia).The new Draft Delhi EV Policy 2018 envisions support of vehicle electrification for the next five years and achieve 25% BEVs in the city by 2023. After a 30-day consideration period (December 27, 2018) final policy to be announced.Delhi will promote only all-electric vehicles, two-wheelers, cars, and buses, as well as the charging infrastructure project, which at a population of some 17 million (over 26 million in the metro area) should translate into volume EV projects. Just imagine that at least 1,000 electric buses to be ordered by the end of 2019 (50% of the fleet to be BEVs by 2023).More from India In the case of two-wheelers, owners will get some cash for scrapping and deregistering their old gasoline bikes, as well as incentives to purchase EV. Delhi will support also electrification of shared transport.“The policy further encourages the usage of electric rickshaws, three wheeler goods carriers, app-based e-autos and e-cabs. For all for short first and last mile connectivity trips on e-cab/e-auto rides taken through an app-based aggregator, GNCTD plans to offer ‘cash back’ rebates. These rebates will be capped at a maximum of 20% of the trip cost and an absolute value of ₹10 per ride.“The objective of the rebate will be to make an e-cab/e-auto ride at least 10-20% cheaper than an equivalent ride in an ICE cab/auto,” the report said.”On the other hand, additional road taxes will be levied on diesel and petrol vehicles. Highest taxes will fall on high-end models. There will be also a congestion fee for non-BEVs.The plan envisions 100% subsidy (up to INR 30,000) for the first 10,000 points (residential or non-residential).Annexure 1 – Summary of incentives available for various classes of EVs Author Liberty Access TechnologiesPosted on December 25, 2018Categories Electric Vehicle News India To Get 1 Million Electric Three-Wheelers For Ride-Hailingcenter_img See Draft Delhi Electric Vehicle Policy 2018 here.Source: inc42.com Tata Motors & Zoomcar Deploy 500 Tigor EV For Car Sharing Source: Electric Vehicle Newslast_img read more

On The Eve Of Trial Battle Over The FCPAs Local Law Affirmative

first_imgThis previous post highlighted U.S. v. Ng Lap Seng (pictured), a criminal enforcement action involving alleged bribery of United Nations officials that includes FCPA charges. Trial was to begin in late May but was adjourned at the last minute and trial is set to begin today.As highlighted in this post, on the eve of trial the parties are battling over jury instructions regarding the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act’s “local law” affirmative defense.In terms of background, the affirmative defense (added to the FCPA in 1988) provides that it should be an affirmative defense to an otherwise prima facie violation of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions if:“the payment, gift, offer, or promise of anything of value that was made, was lawful under the written laws and regulations of the foreign official’s, political party’s, party official’s, or candidate’s country.”It is believed that the local law affirmative defense has been subjected to judicial scrutiny just once.In U.S. v. Bourke (582 F.Supp.2d 535 (S.D.N.Y. 2008), an enforcement action concerning an alleged bribery scheme in connection with the privatization of Azerbaijan’s state-owned oil company, Bourke argued that the alleged payments were legal under Azeri law and thus under the FCPA given its local law affirmative defense. Bourke’s expert opined that under Azeri law a “person who has given a bribe shall be free from criminal responsibility if, [among other things] the person after giving the bribe voluntarily made a report of the occurrence.”The judge framed the disputed issue as follows.“As a threshold matter, I must determine the meaning of “relieved (or free) from criminal responsibility.’  Bourke contends that if an individual is relieved of criminal responsibility, his action was ‘lawful’ and he may thus avail himself of the FCPA’s affirmative defense.”The judge disagreed and concluded:“For purposes of the FCPA’s affirmative defense, the focus is on the payment, not the payer.  A person cannot be guilty of violating the FCPA if the payment was lawful under foreign law. But there is no immunity from prosecution under the FCPA if a person could not have been prosecuted in the foreign country due to a technicality (e.g., time-barred) or because a provision in the foreign law ‘relieves’ a person of criminal responsibility. An individual may be prosecuted under the FCPA for a payment that violates foreign law even if the individual is relieved of criminal responsibility for his actions by a provision of the foreign law.”As to the Azeri law at issue, the judge stated:“The structure of the reporting exception to liability in [Azeri law] illustrates that the initial payment of a bribe was certainly not lawful.  [Azeri law] relieves the payer of a bribe from criminal liability if the bribe is properly reported not because such an action retroactively erases the stain of criminality, but because the state has a strong interest in prosecuting the government official who received the bribe. By waiving liability for reporting payers, the state increases the likelihood that it will learn of the bribery.  But at the moment that an individual pays a bribe, the individual has violated [Azeri law]. At that time, the payment was clearly not ‘lawful under the written laws’ of Azerbaijan.  If the individual later reports the bribe, she can no longer be prosecuted for that payment. But it is inaccurate to suggest that the payment itself suddenly became ‘lawful’ – on the contrary, the payment was unlawful, though the payer is relieved of responsibility for it.”Back to U.S. v. Ng Lap Seng.In a June 20th letter brief, the DOJ states:“Under the FCPA, it is an affirmative defense that the “payment, gift, offer, or promise of anything of value that was made, was lawful under the written laws and regulations of the foreign official’s . . . country.” 15 U.S.C. §§ 78dd-2(c)(1) and 78dd-3(c)(1). The pertinent countries here are Antigua and Barbuda (“Antigua”) as to the Antiguan Ambassador, and the Dominican Republic as to the Dominican Ambassador.The Court need not, and therefore should not, look beyond the plain language of the statute, which makes clear that to establish this affirmative defense, the defendant must prove that the “written laws” of Antigua and/or the Dominican Republic expressly make “lawful” the bribe payments at issue here.Such a commonsense reading of the statute is squarely supported by its legislative history. When Congress enacted this affirmative defense, it specifically sought “to make clear that the absence of written laws in a foreign official’s country would not by itself be sufficient to satisfy this defense.” H.R. Rep. No. 100-576 (1988), at 922. As the Fifth Circuit explained, the amendments that codified this defense “illustrate an intention by Congress to identify very limited exceptions to the kinds of bribes to which the FCPA does not apply.” United States v. Kay, 359 F.3d 738, 750 (5th Cir. 2004). “Both houses [of Congress] insisted that their proposed amendments only clarified ambiguities ‘without changing the basic intent or effectiveness of the law.’” Id. (citing S. Rep. No. 100-85 (1987), at 53 and H.R. Rep. No. 100-40, pt.2, at 77). “[B]y narrowly defining exceptions and affirmative defenses against a backdrop of broad applicability, Congress reaffirmed its intention for the statute to apply to payments that even indirectly assist in obtaining business or maintaining existing business operations in a foreign country.” Kay, 359 F.3d at 756.Thus, to use the most extreme hypothetical, payments to a foreign official of a country that has no laws or regulations whatsoever would not remove those payments from the ambit of the FCPA. That is because there is a world of difference between, on the one hand, conduct that is affirmatively lawful under the written laws of a foreign country, and, on the other hand, conduct that is not specifically criminalized (or even addressed) by foreign laws. Congress understood that in fashioning this affirmative defense, and by doing so, it did not delegate power to foreign countries to determine the applicability of the FCPA. See, e.g., United States v. Kozeny, 582 F. Supp. 2d 535, 539-41 (S.D.N.Y. 2008) (defendant not entitled to affirmative defense instruction regarding laws of Azerbaijan because those laws did not make the charged payments “lawful”).Far from maintaining written laws that legalize bribery, the Dominican Republic and Antigua expressly outlaw bribery. Indeed, the defendant and the Government have submitted a proposed jury instruction about these very laws. Thus, the defendant cannot even attempt to meet the standard necessary to establish the affirmative defense under the FCPA. Faced with this incontrovertible fact, the defendant appears to contend that he is entitled to a jury instruction on this affirmative defense merely by asserting that the Government, in his view, will fail to establish a violation of the applicable foreign laws. That assertion does not entitle the defendant to the affirmative defense instruction, for multiple reasons.First, as described above, the FCPA’s plain language and its legislative history make clear that the defendant’s position rests on a misreading of the affirmative defense. The proposition that the defendant appears to ask this Court to accept—that “lawful under the written laws and regulations of the foreign official’s . . . country” means simply that no written law or regulation expressly prohibits the allegedly unlawful conduct—is inconsistent with the statute’s plain language. Indeed, if the defendant were correct, the phrase “under the written laws and regulations” would become meaningless. Congress could have simply written “lawful.” But Congress deliberately chose to limit further the defense by requiring that the legality of the particular conduct be expressly codified. See, e.g., Leocal v. Ashcroft, 543 U.S. 1, 12 (2004) (“[W]e must give effect to every word of a statute wherever possible”); Ratzlaf v. United States, 510 U.S. 135, 140-41 (1994) (courts “should hesitate . . . to treat statutory terms” as “surplusage—as words of no consequence”); United States v. Nordic Vill. Inc., 503 U.S. 30, 36 (1992) (It is a “settled rule that a statute must, if possible, be construed in such fashion that every word has some operative effect.”). The only reading of the statute that gives meaning to “under the written laws and regulations” is that the written laws and regulations themselves must expressly condone the types of payments at issue and thus make the conduct lawful.An FCPA case from this district, United States v. Kozeny, 582 F. Supp. 2d 535 (S.D.N.Y. 2008), illustrates the narrow applicability of this affirmative defense. In Kozeny, the district court held that a defendant was not entitled to an affirmative defense instruction under the FCPA regarding the laws of Azerbaijan even though Azeri written laws relieved a bribe payer of criminal liability under certain circumstances, because those laws did not make the bribe payments themselves “lawful,” as is required. 582 F. Supp. 2d at 539-41. In that case, the defendant was charged with bribing foreign officials in connection with a scheme to secure interests in the privatization of Azerbaijan’s state-owned oil company. Id. at 536-37. The defendant requested the district court to instruct the jury on potential defenses under Azeri law that relieved an individual of criminal responsibility for paying a bribe if he paid the bribe under threat of extortion, or if he self-reported the payment. The defendant argued that, because he bribed certain officials as a result of extortion, and because he eventually reported the payments, his actions were “lawful” under Azeri law, and therefore he was entitled to “avail himself of the FCPA’s affirmative defense.” Id. at 539. The district court disagreed, holding that the written laws of Azerbaijan did not render the payments lawful. The court explained that the Azeri defense in question merely encouraged bribe-payers to report bribes in order to help the government to prosecute corrupt officials; it did not, however, “retroactively erase[] the stain of criminality” on the bribe payment itself. In rejecting the defendant’s request to charge the jury on the affirmative defense, the court reasoned it did not matter whether an “individual is relieved of criminal responsibility for his actions by a provision of foreign law” because, “for purposes of the [FCPA’s] affirmative defense, the focus is on the payment, not the payer.” Id. (emphasis in original).Second, the defendant’s reading of the affirmative defense would lead to a truly absurd result. Under the defendant’s interpretation, every time the Government charges an FCPA case, it would not only need to establish that every element of the FCPA itself was met, but also that every element of the applicable criminal law, if any, in the pertinent foreign country was also met. Stated differently, under the defendant’s reading, the FCPA would prohibit only conduct that was already outlawed by a pertinent foreign country because, so the defendant’s argument goes, if a country’s laws are silent as to the particular payments at issue, then the FCPA cannot apply. There is no support in the statute, the legislative history, or the case law for such an absurd result. The statute therefore cannot be construed in such a manner. See, e.g., United States v. Turkette, 452 U.S. 576, 580 (1981) (“absurd results are to be avoided”); Griffin v. Oceanic Contractors, Inc., 458 U.S. 564, 575 (1982) (“interpretations of a statute which would produce absurd results are to be avoided if alternative interpretations consistent with the legislative purpose are available”); Church of Holy Trinity v. United States, 143 U.S. 457, 459 (1892) (“absurd results which [would] follow from giving such broad meaning to the words[] makes it unreasonable to believe that the legislator intended” such a meaning).Indeed, to the Government’s knowledge, no court has ever required that, for the Government to prove a violation of the FCPA, it must also prove a violation of foreign law. See, e.g., United States v. Bourke, No. 05 Cr. 518 (SAS) (S.D.N.Y. Jul. 8, 2009) (jury instructions), conviction aff’d, United States v. Kozeny, 667 F.3d 122 (2d Cir. 2011); United States v. Esquenazi, No. 09 Cr. 21010 (JEM) (S.D. Fla. Aug. 5, 2011) (jury instructions), conviction aff’d, United States v. Esquenazi, 752 F.3d 912 (11th Cir. 2014). 2 The FCPA is not structured so as to merely turn violations of foreign law into violations of U.S. law. Rather, it establishes that certain conduct is criminal under U.S. law even where foreign authorities are unable or unwilling to criminalize or prosecute the conduct themselves. See, e.g., Kozeny, 582 F. Supp. 2d at 539-41 (that foreign country relieves the defendant of criminal liability does not entitle him to affirmative defense under FCPA). Simply put, the FCPA does not rest on foreign law and the statute does not make payments to foreign officials criminal only if they are already criminalized in the applicable foreign country.Finally, if the defendant were correct, then the FCPA’s affirmative defense is not, in fact, an affirmative defense at all, because the defendant need not make any showing whatsoever. He merely needs to claim that his conduct is not criminal under foreign law. An affirmative defense cannot rest on a defendant’s assertion that, in his view, he did not commit a crime prosecutable in a foreign country. As the Second Circuit has explained, “A defendant is entitled to an instruction on an affirmative defense only if the defense has a foundation in the evidence.” United States v. Gonzalez, 407 F.3d 118, 122 (2d Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks omitted). The defendant offers none.”In a June 22nd letter brief, counsel for Ng Lap Seng states:“Defendant Ng Lap Seng respectfully submits this response to the government’s letter dated June 20, 2017, concerning the jury instructions he requested for his affirmative defense under the FCPA. The government’s claim that Mr. Ng’s requests “fail as a matter of law” is entirely meritless.It is an affirmative to the FCPA charges in Counts Three and Four that “the payment, gift, offer, or promise of anything of value that was made, was lawful under the written laws and regulations of the foreign official’s … country. This simply means that if Mr. Ng shows that the written laws and regulations of Antigua and the Dominican Republic did not make the alleged payments unlawful, he is not guilty of violation the FCPA.The government asserts that this provision’s ‘plain language’ requires proof that Antiguan and/or Dominican law “expressly makes lawful the bribe payments at issue here. […] What is ‘plain,’ however, is that the government is inserting the words ‘expressly’ and ‘affirmatively’ into the FCPA. Congress did not use those words. Congress could have required proof that the written laws of the foreign country ‘affirmatively authorized’ or ‘expressly approved’ the conduct at issue, but it did not.Instead, Congress merely required the defendant to show that his conduct was ‘lawful under the written laws or regulations of the foreign country – in other words, not prohibited by those written laws or regulations. “Lawful’ means “not contrary to law; permitted or recognized by law.” Lawful, Black’s Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014) (emphasis added). The Second Circuit has defined “lawful” as “conformable to law” or “allowed or permitted by law.” United States v. Johnson, 968 F.2d 208, 212 (2d Cir. 1992) (quoting Webster’s Third New International Dictionary 1279 (1971)). This is the natural interpretation of the word. For example, in Shaw v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 463 U.S. 85 (1983), the Supreme Court referred to practices “not covered by Title VII” as “lawful under Title VII,” even though “Title VII is neutral on the subject of all employment practices it does not prohibit.” Id. at 103-04, 108 (emphasis added).The government argues that if Congress had meant to provide an affirmative defense whenever “no written law or regulation expressly prohibits the allegedly unlawful conduct,” it “could have simply written ‘lawful.’” (Gov’t Ltr. at 3). This is false, since if the defense applied to all conduct that is “lawful” in the foreign country, it would necessarily be broader and more ambiguous. As the commentators cited by the government (id. at 2 n.1) acknowledge, common practices in many countries deviate from the written law.2 Defendants whose bribe payments were in accordance with local custom or authorized by a powerful official could very well attempt to argue that their conduct was “lawful,” even if inconsistent with the applicable statutes. They could even argue that those statutes had fallen into desuetude. By tethering the affirmative defense to “written laws and regulations,” Congress ensured that “lawfulness” would be determined by reference to those texts, and not some other, less verifiable standard.To mimic the appearance of real statutory interpretation, the government also invokes the canon against absurdities. According to the government, Mr. Ng’s reading of the affirmative defense would produce the “absurd result” of requiring the government to establish “every element of the applicable criminal law, if any, in the pertinent foreign country.” (Gov’t Ltr. at 4). This is nonsense. First, this is not the result of Mr. Ng’s interpretation, which does not require the government to “establish” anything related to his affirmative defense. Regardless of whether Mr. Ng must show that foreign law expressly authorized his conduct or merely failed to prohibit it, the burden rests with him. (See Dkt. 478 at 27 (requests to charge)).3 Second, it would not be absurd at all to require the government to prove a violation of foreign law. As the money laundering charges in this prosecution amply demonstrate, certain types of charges incorporate foreign law into the elements of a federal crime. And it is not absurd to believe that Congress would be wary of criminalizing payments that are legal in foreign countries, which would put American businesses at a disadvantage in foreign markets and potentially affect foreign relations. The government’s belief that this would be bad policy is not a legitimate basis for construing a statute in its favor. See Catskill Mountains Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Inc. v. Envtl. Prot. Agency, 846 F.3d 492, 517 (2d Cir. 2017) (holding that the “absurdity canon” applies “only where the result of applying the plain language would be, in a genuine sense, absurd, i.e., where it is quite impossible that Congress could have intended the result and where the alleged absurdity is so clear as to be obvious to most anyone”) (quotation marks omitted).If anything, it is the government’s interpretation that is absurd. According to the government, the applicability of the affirmative defense turns entirely on the form of the foreign country’s bribery laws, rather than their substance. The foreign statute would have to say something to the effect of, “Bribing a UN ambassador shall be lawful.” It would not be sufficient to say, “Bribing an official other than a UN ambassador shall be unlawful.” Nor would it be sufficient to list classes of officials who are prohibited from accepting bribes, and omit UN ambassadors from that list. In each scenario, however, the result is the same: bribes to UN ambassadors are lawful. The government offers no reason why Congress would have wanted to distinguish among these scenarios. Although the government suggests that United States v. Kozeny, 582 F. Supp. 2d 535 (S.D.N.Y. 2008), supports its interpretation of the term “lawful” (Gov’t Ltr. at 2-4), that case does nothing of the sort. In Kozeny, the relevant Azeri laws prohibited bribery and merely “relieve[d] the payer of a bribe from criminal liability” if the payer was extorted or later reported the bribe to the authorities. Kozeny, 582 F. Supp. 2d at 539-40 & nn.27-30. The court found that the FCPA’s foreign-law affirmative defense did not apply to bribes that were extorted or reported to the authorities because those bribes were still criminal under Azeri law, just as a bribe remains criminal even though the statute of limitations has run. See id. This is fully consistent with applying the affirmative defense to payments that are not criminal under foreign law because they are not covered by any statute or regulation. The fact that a payment is not prohibited under foreign law is not a mere “technicality” that prevents prosecution, id. at 539—it is dispositive proof that the payment is “lawful.”The government also mischaracterizes the FCPA’s legislative history in an attempt to bolster its position. (Gov’t Ltr. at 2). The 1988 conference report indicates that “[t]he House bill created a defense for payments ‘expressly permitted under any law or regulation’ of the foreign official’s country,” and “[t]he Senate amendment created an affirmative defense for payments that are ‘lawful’ under the laws and regulations of the foreign official’s country.” H.R. Conf. Rep. 100-576 (1988), 921, reprinted in 1988 U.S.C.C.A.N. 1547, 1954. Ultimately, “[t]he House receded to the Senate,” with an amendment that implemented the language currently codified. Id. at 922 (emphasis added). In other words, Congress thoroughly considered and rejected a version of the bill that would have limited the affirmative defense to payments “expressly permitted” by law or regulation. This is fatal to the government’s position. See Pan Am. World Airways, Inc. v. C. A. B., 380 F.2d 770, 781 (2d Cir. 1967) (“That Congress adopted the House version of the bill, specifically rejecting the Senate’s conflicting version, is of course an extremely significant factor in determining what was Congress’ intention which respect to the matters in issue.”), aff’d sub nom. World Airways v. Pan Am. World Airways, 391 U.S. 461 (1968).The government relies heavily on the conference report’s statement “that the absence of written laws in a foreign official’s country would not by itself be sufficient to satisfy th[e] defense.” H.R. Conf. Rep. 100-576, 922. We are not, however, dealing with a situation in which there is an “absence of written laws.” Rather, Antigua and the Dominican Republic have enacted anti-corruption statutes with elements that differ from those of the analogous laws in the United States. These countries considered the problem of corruption and drew lines between lawful and unlawful conduct. Nothing in the legislative history suggests that Congress meant to disregard those lines and criminalize conduct excluded from the reach of those statutes. Had this been Congress’s intention, the conference report would undoubtedly have said that “the failure of the written foreign laws to criminalize certain conduct would not be sufficient,” instead of referring to the “absence of written laws.” Moreover, the report would not have said that the absence of written laws “would not by itself be sufficient” id. (emphasis added), which suggests that the absence of written laws is relevant to the determination of lawfulness. This would be impossible if the question turned entirely on whether written laws expressly authorized the conduct.5In any event, legislative history is not a permissible reason to adopt the government’s interpretation. “[I]t is not consistent with the rule of lenity to construe a textually ambiguous penal statute against a criminal defendant on the basis of legislative history.” United States v. Pabon-Cruz, 391 F.3d 86, 102 n.19 (2d Cir. 2004) (quoting United States v. R.L.C., 503 U.S. 291, 307 (1992) (Scalia, J., concurring in part and in the judgment of the plurality)); accord Hughey v. United States, 495 U.S. 411, 422 (1990) (“[L]ongstanding principles of lenity . . . preclude our resolution of the ambiguity against petitioner on the basis of general declarations of policy in the statute and legislative history.”). The rule of lenity is crucial in part because it “ensures that criminal statutes will provide fair warning concerning conduct rendered illegal.” Liparota v. United States, 471 U.S. 419, 427 (1985). And while “the proposition that the words of the United States Code or the Statutes at Large give adequate notice to the citizen is something of a fiction,” this “fiction descends to needless farce when the public is charged even with knowledge of Committee Reports.” R.L.C., 503 U.S. at 309 (Scalia, J., concurring); accord Crandon v. United States, 494 U.S. 152, 160 (1990) (“Because construction of a criminal statute must be guided by the need for fair warning, it is rare that legislative history or statutory policies will support a construction of a statute broader than that clearly warranted by the text.”). Simply put, it is a violation of due process to construe a statute against a criminal defendant on the basis of legislative history. Ambiguous language in a conference report therefore cannot justify depriving Mr. Ng of an affirmative defense to the charges against him.As explained above, however, this is a case in which the plain language of the statute, legislative history, and canons of construction all point in the same direction. The Court should instruct the jury on the foreign-law affirmative defense using the instruction proposed by Mr. Ng.” Order Your Copy Strategies For Minimizing Risk Under The FCPA A compliance guide with issue-spotting scenarios, skills exercises and model answers. “This book is a prime example of why corporate compliance professionals and practitioners alike continue to listen to Professor Koehler.”last_img read more

FCPA Challenge

first_imgHow much do you know about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act? Let’s find out.To commemorate the FCPA’s 40th year, FCPA Professor is presenting the FCPA Challenge.Each Thursday during 2018, a question will be posed and the answer will be below the fold.This week’s question is: in 2010 a federal trial court judge refused to sentence this individual to any time in federal prison after pleading guilty to FCPA offenses involving conduct in Kyrgyzstan and commented that the CIA routinely bribes Afghan warlords and this “sort of goes to the morality of the situation.”Answer: Bobby ElkinSee here and here for prior posts.last_img

The Difficulty of Reconciling Existing Legal Authority And Even Enforcement Agency Guidance

first_imgThis recent FCPA Flash podcast episode focused on the SEC’s “unlawful” enforcement, in certain instances, of the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions.Off-the-rails SEC FCPA enforcement is a topic frequently discussed on these pages (see here among numerous other posts) and sometimes it is important to take a step back and review actual legal authority, as well as even prior enforcement agency guidance, relevant to the books and records and internal controls provisions.Upon reviewing the below information, ask yourself whether it is possible to reconcile this legal authority and other sources of information with enforcement theories advanced in certain FCPA enforcement actions.I’ve asked this question on occasion to former enforcement officials and a common answer I receive is something along the following laws: the resolution document does not capture the entire range or breadth of the alleged improper conduct and if you knew what we knew you would understand.Even accepting that answer, all that means is the FCPA space has a transparency problem and transparency in law enforcement is a fundamental tenet of the rule of law. Like others, I take the position that the enforcement agencies have a duty to defend the enforcement record they create.Another point to keep in mind is that several instances of seemingly “off-the-rails” SEC enforcement have originated with voluntary disclosures. In these situations, perhaps the best question is – based on the information in the resolution documents – why did the companies voluntarily disclose and upon receiving the disclosure what is the SEC really supposed to do?Legal Authority The entire text of the FCPA’s books and records provisions state that issuers shall:“make and keep books, records, and accounts, which, in reasonable detail, accurately and fairly reflect the transactions and dispositions of the assets of the issuer”The text of the FCPA’s internal controls provisions state that issuers shall: “devise and maintain a system of internal accounting controls sufficient to provide reasonable assurances that:transactions are executed in accordance with management’s general or specific authorization;transactions are recorded as necessary (I) to permit preparation of financial statements in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles or any other criteria applicable to such statements, and (II) to maintain accountability for assets;access to assets is permitted only in accordance with management’s general or specific authorization; andthe recorded accountability for assets is compared with the existing assets at reasonable intervals and appropriate action is taken with respect to any differences.”Against this general statutory framework, the provisions set forth some important qualifications. For instance, “reasonable assurances” and “reasonable detail” are defined to mean “such level of detail and degree of assurance as would satisfy prudent officials in the conduct of their own affairs.” Further, the FCPA provides the following qualification:“If an issuer “holds 50% or less of the voting power with respect to a domestic or foreign firm, [the books and records and internal controls provisions] require only that the issuer proceed in good faith to use its influence, to the extent reasonable under the issuer’s circumstances, to cause such domestic or foreign firm to devise and maintain a system of internal accounting controls …. Such circumstances include the relative degree of the issuer’s ownership of the domestic or foreign firm and the laws and practices governing the business operations of the country in which such firm is located. An issuer which demonstrates good faith efforts to use such influence shall be conclusively presumed to have complied with the requirements of [the books and records and internal controls provisions].”Even though Congress viewed the books and records and internal controls provisions as useful supplements to the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions, it is clear from the legislative history that Congress intended for these provisions to be qualified by concepts of reasonableness and good faith.  A 1977 Senate Report stated:“The establishment and maintenance of a system of internal controls and accurate books and records are fundamental responsibilities of management.  The expected benefits to be derived from the conscientious discharge of these responsibilities are of basic importance to investors and the maintenance of the integrity of our capital market system.  The committee recognizes, however, that management must exercise judgment in determining the steps to be taken, and the cost incurred, in giving assurance that the objectives expressed will be achieved.  Here, standards of reasonableness must apply.  In this regard, the term ‘accurately’ does not mean exact precision as measured by some abstract principle.  Rather it means that an issuer’s records should reflect transactions in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles or other applicable criteria.  While management should observe every reasonable prudence in satisfying the objections called for [in the books and records and internal controls provisions] the committee recognizes that management must necessarily estimate and evaluate the cost/benefit relationships to the steps to be taken in fulfillment of its responsibilities … The size of the business, diversity of operations, degree of centralization of financial and operating management, amount of contact by top management with day-to-day operations, and numerous other circumstances are factors which management must consider in establishing and maintaining an internal accounting controls systems.”A 1977 House Conference Report likewise stated as follows regarding the “in reasonable detail” requirement of the provisions:“The conference committee adopted the ‘in reasonable detail’ qualification to the accurate and fair requirement in light of the concern that such a standard, if unqualified, might connote a degree of exactitude and precision which is unrealistic.”In 1988, the books and records and internal control provisions were amended to better address a parent company issuer’s responsibility for the books and records and internal controls of minority-owned subsidiaries. A 1988 House Conference Report stated:“[The provision] recognizes that it is unrealistic to expect a minority owner to exert a disproportionate degree of influence over the accounting practices of a subsidiary.  The amount of influence which an issuer may exercise necessarily varies from case to case.  While the relative degree of ownership is obviously one factor, other factors may also be important in determining whether an issuer has demonstrated good-faith efforts to use its influence.”The FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions were further amended in 1988 by defining the terms “reasonable assurance” and “reasonable detail” to mean such level of detail and degree of assurance as would satisfy prudent officials in the conduct of their own affairs.”  Legislative history states as follows:“The prudent man qualification [was adopted] in order to clarify that the current standard does not connote an unrealistic degree of exactitude or precision.  The concept of reasonableness of necessity contemplates the weighing of a number of relevant factors, including the costs of compliance.”In addition to statutory text and legislative history, judicial decisions are also another form of legal authority concerning the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions. However, notwithstanding the broad scope of the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions, SEC v. World-Wide Coin Investments is the only judicial decision to directly address the substance of these provisions and because of this the decision is discussed below in detail.Factually, World-Wide Coin was an egregious case and like many enforcement actions involving the books and records and internal controls provisions it was a “non-FCPA FCPA enforcement action” in that the case had nothing to do with foreign bribery. Instead, the case involved a wide-ranging securities fraud involving a company engaged primarily in the wholesale and retail sale of rare coins. As the judge stated:“The deterioration of World-Wide’s internal controls and accounting procedures constituted the primary thrust of the SEC’s complaint. The SEC contended that the combination of late filings, lack of internal controls, transactions unsupported by adequate documentation, and a total disregard for proper accounting procedures resulted in the precarious position of the company. […] The company’s accounting books were virtually ignored. General ledgers and general journals were not kept, and the checks written on World-Wide’s five checking accounts were not reconciled.”The judge described the bookkeeper hired by the company as follows. “[She] was not a high school graduate; her only experience for this position consisted of five months of vocational school training and seven years of bookkeeping for a privately held lumber company.”  The judge’s findings of fact further highlighted how the accounting firm retained by the company as an independent auditor wrote a letter to the company “expressing grave concern over certain accounting procedures and lack of internal controls that [it] considered to be detrimental to the company.” Yet, as stated by the judge, company management “did nothing to remedy the situation” and the company had “total disregard for an adequate internal control system.”Thereafter, the judge called that the books and records and internal controls provisions were “short and deceptively straight-forward” and stated as follows.“The only express congressional requirement for accuracy is the phrase ‘in reasonable detail.’ Although [the books and records provisions] expect management to see that the corporation’s recordkeeping system is adequate and effectively implemented, how the issuer goes about this task is up to management; the FCPA provides no guidance, and this court cannot issue any kind of advisory opinion. Just as the degree of error is not relevant to an issuer’s responsibility for any inaccuracies, the motivations of those who erred are not relevant. There are no words in [the books and record provisions] indicating that Congress intended to impose a scienter requirement …”.“Like the recordkeeping provisions of the Act, the internal controls provision is not limited to material transactions or to those above a specific dollar amount. While this requirement is supportive of accuracy and reliability in the auditor’s review and financial disclosure process, this provision should not be analyzed solely from that point of view. The internal controls requirement is primarily designed to give statutory content to an aspect of management stewardship responsibility, that of providing shareholders with reasonable assurances that the business is adequately controlled.”“Internal accounting control is, generally speaking, only one aspect of a company’s total control system; in order to maintain accountability for the disposition of its assets, a business must attempt to make it difficult for its assets to be misappropriated. The internal accounting controls element of a company’s control system is that which is specifically designed to provide reasonable, cost-effective safeguards against the unauthorized use or disposition of company assets and reasonable assurances that financial records and accounts are sufficiently reliable for purposes of external reporting. […] Internal accounting controls must be distinguished from the accounting system typically found in a company. Accounting systems process transactions and recognize, calculate, classify, post, summarize, and report transactions. Internal controls safeguard assets and assure the reliability of financial records, one of their main jobs being to prevent and detect errors and irregularities that arise in the accounting systems of the company. Internal accounting controls are basic indicators of the reliability of the financial statements and the accounting system and records from which financial statements are prepared.”“Among the factors that determine the internal accounting control environment of a company are its organizational structure, including the competence of personnel, the degree and manner of delegation and responsibility, the quality of internal budgets and financial reports, and the checks and balances that separate incompatible activities. The efficiency of the internal control system of a company cannot be evaluated without considering the company’s organizational structure, the caliber of its employees, the strength of its audit committee, the effectiveness of its internal audit operation, and a host of other factors which, while not part of the internal control system itself, have an impact on the function of the system.”“Although not specifically delineated in the Act itself, the following directives can be inferred from the internal controls provisions: (1) Every company should have reliable personnel … and all should be supervised. (2) Account functions should be segregated and procedures designed to prevent errors or irregularities. The major functions of recordkeeping, custodianship, authorization, and operation should be performed by different people to avoid the temptation for abuse of these incompatible functions. (3) Reasonable assurances should be maintained that transactions are executed as authorized. (4) Transactions should be properly recorded in the firm’s accounting records to facilitate control, which would also require standardized procedures for making accounting entries. Exceptional entries should be investigated regularly. (5) Access to assets of the company should be limited to authorized personnel. (6) At reasonable intervals, there should be a comparison of the accounting records with the actual inventory of assets, which would usually involve the physical taking of inventory, the counting of cash, and the reconciliation of accounting records with the actual physical assets. Frequency of these comparisons will usually depend on the cost of the process and upon the materiality of the assets involved.”“The main problem with the internal accounting controls provision of the FCPA is that there are no specific standards by which to evaluate the sufficiency of controls; any evaluation is inevitably a highly subjective process in which knowledgeable individuals can arrive at totally different conclusions. Any ruling by a court with respect to the applicability of both the accounting provisions and the internal accounting control provisions should be strictly limited to the facts of each case.”Thereafter, the judge offered the following key language:“The definition of accounting controls does comprehend reasonable, but not absolute, assurances that the objectives expressed in it will be accomplished by the system. The concept of ‘reasonable assurances’ contained in [the internal controls provisions] recognizes that the costs of internal controls should not exceed the benefits expected to be derived. It does not appear that either the SEC or Congress, which adopted the SEC’s recommendations, intended that the statute should require that each affected issuer install a fail-safe accounting control system at all costs. It appears that Congress was fully cognizant of the cost-effective considerations which confront companies as they consider the institution of accounting controls and of the subjective elements which may lead reasonable individuals to arrive at different conclusions. Congress has demanded only that judgment be exercised in applying the standard of reasonableness. The size of the business, diversity of operations, degree of centralization of financial and operating management, amount of contact by top management with day-to-day operations, and numerous other circumstances are factors which management must consider in establishing and maintaining an internal accounting controls system. However, an issuer would probably not be successful in arguing a cost-benefit defense in circumstances where the management, despite warnings by its auditors or significant weaknesses of its accounting control system, had decided, after a cost benefit analysis, not to strengthen them, and then the internal accounting controls proved to be so inadequate that the company was virtually destroyed. It is also true that the internal accounting controls provisions contemplate the financial principle of proportionality—what is material to a small company is not necessarily material to a large company.”Consistent with the World-Wide Coin holding, various courts have held in the context of civil derivative actions that just because improper conduct allegedly occurred does not mean that internal controls must have been deficient. As you read certain of the enforcement actions highlighted later in this chapter, you can analyze for yourself whether the allegations giving rise to books and records and internal controls charges were consistent with the above legal authority. Free 90 Minute 2017 FCPA Year In Review Video A summary of every corporate enforcement action; notable statistics and issues to consider; compliance take-away points; and enforcement agency and related developments. Click below to view the engaging video tutorial. Non-Legal Sources of InformationIn addition to the legal authority dissected above, there is also non-legal sources of authority relevant to the books and records and internal controls provisions. Highlighted below in chronological order is DOJ and SEC guidance regarding these provisions.1979 SEC GuidanceSoon after the FCPA was enacted in 1977, the SEC adopted rules to supplement the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions.  In promulgating the rules, the SEC received numerous comments that “false entries of insignificant or nominal amounts would give rise to a violation” and that “in view of the large number of books, records and accounts kept by some corporations, particularly large corporations, application of the [provisions] to any falsification of such books, records and accounts would make compliance impossible.”The SEC responded to these concerns by referencing congressional intent, specifically that the provisions were “qualified” by Congress “to make clear that issuers are required to ‘make and keep books, records and accounts, which in reasonable detail, accurately and fairly reflect the transactions and dispositions of the assets of the issuer.” The SEC concluded that the “presence of the words ‘in reasonable detail’ in [the books and records provisions] should alleviate much of the concern expressed in comments …”.  In addition, the SEC concluded that concerns expressed “with respect to inadvertent and inconsequential errors is unwarranted” because the FCPA “does not require perfection but only that books, records and accounts ‘in reasonable detail’ accurately and fairly reflect the transactions and dispositions of the assets of the issuer.”  The SEC further stated that “the legislative history reflects that ‘standards of reasonableness’ are to be used in applying the provisions.”1981 SEC GuidanceIn 1981, the SEC issued additional formal guidance concerning the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions in the form of a speech given by the SEC Chairman that was thereafter adopted by the SEC as a formal statement of policy. Because this speech is most extensive guidance ever issued by the enforcement agencies regarding the books and records and internal controls provisions, it is highlighted below in detail.The SEC Chairman began his remarks as follows:“When viewed from an abstract perspective, the Act’s accounting provisions seem merely to codify a basic and uncontroversial management principle: no enterprise of any size can operate successfully without maintaining effective controls over its transactions and the disposition of its assets. Perhaps in part because these provisions were considered truisms, the Act was passed without Congressional dissent. However, practical experience with new legislation – even a law thought to be noncontroversial – often will reveal unanticipated problems. Newly enacted standards, for example, may be subject to differing constructions or raise compliance difficulties and ambiguities unforeseen by their draftsmen. And, until these problems are resolved by an agency, the courts or the Congress, those who are subject to these laws are often faced, unfortunately, with some disquieting circumstances. The anxieties created by the FCPA – among men and women of utmost good faith – have been, in my experience without equal.”The Chairman noted that “such uncertainty can have a debilitating effect on the activities of those who seek to comply with the law” and stated:“My sense is that, as a consequence, many businesses have been very cautious – sometimes overly so – in assuring at least technical compliance with the Act. And, therefore, business resources may have been diverted from more productive uses to overly-burdensome compliance systems which extend beyond the requirements of sound management or the policies embodied in the Act. The public, of course, is not well served by such reactions.”As to the FCPA’s books and records provisions, the Chairman stated:“This provision is intimately related to the requirement for a system of internal accounting controls, and we believe that records which are not relevant to accomplishing the objectives specified in the statute for the system of internal controls are not within the purview of the recordkeeping provision. […] Nor could a company be enjoined for a falsification of which its management, broadly defined, was not aware and reasonably should not have known.”As to the FCPA’s internal control provisions, the Chairman stated:“The Act does not mandate any particular kind of internal controls system. The test is whether a system, taken as a whole, reasonably meets the statute’s specified objectives. ‘Reasonableness,’ a familiar legal concept, depends on an evaluation of all the facts and circumstances.”[…]“Private sector decisions implementing these statutory objectives are business decisions. And, reasonable business decisions should be afforded deference. This means that the issuer need not always select the best or the most effective control measure. However, the one selected must be reasonable under all the circumstances.”[…]“The accounting provisions principal objective is to reaching knowing or reckless conduct.”As to the “purposes of the Act,” the Chairman provided a brief review of the “events which led to the [FCPA]” and stated:“Clearly, Congress went further than determining whether the payments which gave the new law its name were ethically and commercially justifiable. It also chose to consider the corporate accounting and control deficiencies which had been breeding grounds for these practices. And, by doing so, it addressed the far more serious issues raised by these disclosures. […] These payments and falsifications were not only previously unknown to public investors and independent auditors, but many were also unknown to the payer’s board and, in numerous examples, even to its senior management. In some of these instances, internal controls existed, but they were shown to be ineffective or easily subverted. Unauthorized payments and related falsifications of corporate records seemed to evidence – indeed, were fostered by – a lack of adequate accounting records and controls. Consequently, in the legislation which ultimately emerged from Congress, prohibiting questionable payments and mandating control and recordkeeping were inexorably interconnected.”[…]“The primary thrust of the Act’s accounting provisions, in short, was to require those public companies which lacked effective internal controls or tolerated unreliable recordkeeping to comply with the standards of their better managed peers. That is the context in which these provisions should be construed.”The Chairman then addressed “four of the most important” interpretative questions concerning the FCPA: “first, the degree of exactitude in recordkeeping mandated by the Act; second, the deference it affords business decisions concerning internal controls; third, whether a particular state of mind is necessary for a violation to exist; and finally, liability for compliance by subsidiaries.”As to the “degree of exactitude,” the Chairman stated:“I turn first to the question of whether the Act’s text or purpose mandates that business records and controls conform to a standard of absolute exactitude or that a company’s control system meet some absolute ideal. The answer is ‘no.’ Both of the Act’s accounting provisions, it should be noted are modified by the key term ‘reasonable.’ […] In essence, therefore, the Act does provide a de minimus exemption, though not in absolute quantitative terms.”The Chairman noted that Congress specifically declined to adopt a materiality test and stated that “internal accounting controls are not only concerned with misconduct that is material to investors, but also with a great deal of misconduct which is not.” He noted that while materiality is “appropriate as a threshold standard to determine the necessity for disclosure to investors, [it] is totally inadequate as a standard for an internal control system.”The Chairman stated that “procedures designed only to uncover deficiencies in amounts material for financial statement purposes would be useless for internal control purposes” and noted that “systems which tolerated omissions or errors of many thousands or even millions of dollars would not represent, by any accepted standard, adequate records and controls.” Indeed, he noted that many of the “questionable payments that alarmed the public and caused Congress to act […] were in most instances of far lesser magnitude than that which would constitute financial statement materiality.”According to the Chairman, “reasonableness, rather than materiality, is the appropriate test” and he further stated:“Reasonableness, as a standard, allows flexibility in responding to particular facts and circumstances. Inherent in this concept is a toleration of deviations from the absolute. One measure of the reasonableness of a system relates to whether the expected benefits from improving it would be significantly greater than the anticipated costs of doing so. Thousands of dollars ordinarily should not be spent conserving hundreds. Further, not every procedure which may be individually cost-justifiable need be implemented; the Act allows a range of reasonable judgments.”As to the “specific recordkeeping requirement” in the FCPA, the Chairman stated:“This provision is not an independent unrestrained mandate to the Commission to establish novel or unprecedented corporate recordkeeping standards; it is, rather, an integral part of Congress’ efforts to assure that the business community records transactions and assets in such a way as to maintain adequate control over them. And this leads to two important conclusions: First, the Act does not establish any absolute standard of exactitude for corporate records. And, second, records which are not related to internal or external audits or to the four internal control objectives set forth in the Act are not within the purview of the Act’s accounting provisions.”As to “deference” with respect to “issuer liability for recordkeeping violations,” the Chairman stated that the SEC “will look to the adequacy of the internal control system of the issuer, the involvement of top management in the violation, and the corrective actions taken once the violation was uncovered.” He then stated:“If a violation was committed by a low level employee, without the knowledge of top management, with an adequate system of internal control, and with appropriate corrective action taken by the issuer, we do not believe that any action against the company would be called for.”The Chairman next turned to the “state of mind needed to violate the Act’s accounting provisions,” reiterated that the “Act’s principal purpose is to reach knowing or reckless misconduct,” and stated:“Depending on the circumstances, intentional circumventions of a company’s system of records and of accounting controls by a low-level employee would not always be considered violations of the Act by the issuer. No system of adequate records and controls – no matter how effectively devised or conscientiously applied – could be expected to prevent all mistaken and improper transactions and disposition of assets. Given human nature, regardless of the adequacy of the system, a bookkeeper may still erroneously post entries, an overzealous agent may make unauthorized payments, or an unscrupulous employee may falsify records for his own purposes. The Act recognizes each of these limitations. Neither its text and legislative history nor its purposes suggest that occasional, inadvertent errors were the kind of problem that Congress sought to remedy in passing the Act. No rational federal interest in punishing insignificant mistakes has been articulated. And, the Act’s accounting provisions do not require a company or its senior officials to be the guarantors of all conduct of company employees.”In concluding this portion of the speech, the Chairman stated:“The test of a company’s internal control system is not whether occasional failings can occur. Those will happen in the most ideally managed company. But, an adequate system of internal controls means that, when such breaches do arise, they will be isolated rather than systemic, and they will be subject to a reasonable likelihood of being uncovered in a timely manner and then remedied promptly. Barring, of course, the participation or complicity of senior company officials in the deed, when discovery and correction expeditiously follow, no failing in the company’s internal accounting system would have existed. To the contrary, routine discovery and correction would evidence its effectiveness.”As to the SEC’s enforcement policy, the Chairman concluded his remarks as follows.“The genius – and challenge – of [the FCPA’s books and records and internal controls provisions] , it should be remembered, is their reliance on private sector decisionmaking – rather than specific federal edicts – to address an area of public concern. The Act’s eventual success or failure will, therefore, depend primarily upon business’s response. The Commission’s obligation, in turn, is to provide a regulatory environment in which the private sector can address these issues meaningfully and creatively. In this regard, we must encourage public companies to develop innovative records and control systems, to modify and improve them as circumstances change, and to correct recordkeeping errors when they occur without a chilling fear of penalty or inference that a violation of the Act is involved.”In addition to the above 1981 formal statement of SEC policy, the SEC has also at various times affirmed statements of congressional intent relevant to the books and records and internal control provisions.  For instance, in a 1999 SEC Staff Accounting Bulletin, the SEC cited with approval the following from the FCPA’s legislative history:“[Congress] adopted the prudent man qualification [in the FCPA’s books and records and internal control provisions] in order to clarify that the current standard does not connote an unrealistic degree of exactitude or precision.  The concept of reasonableness of necessity contemplates the weighing of a number of relevant factors, including the costs of compliance.”In the same Bulletin, the SEC also cited with approval various aspects of its above highlighted 1981 formal statement of policy:“The books and records provisions of the [FCPA] do not require registrants to make major expenditures to correct small misstatements.  […] As [the SEC] Chairman noted with respect to the internal control provisions of the FCPA, “thousands of dollars ordinarily should not be spent conserving hundreds. […] Because the judgment of [‘reasonableness’ under the accounting provisions] is not mechanical, the [SEC] staff will be inclined to defer to judgments that ‘allow a business, acting in good faith, to comply with the Act’s accounting provisions in an innovative and cost-effective way.”2012 FCPA GuidanceIn 2012 the DOJ and SEC jointly issued FCPA Guidance setting forth its “FCPA enforcement approach and priorities” and a specific chapter concerned the books and records and internal control provisions.  Like previous enforcement agency guidance, the FCPA Guidance cites legislative history or the FCPA itself for the following statements:Books and Records Provision“The ‘in reasonable detail’ qualification was adopted by Congress ‘in light of the concern that such a standard, if unqualified, might connote a degree of exactitude and precision which is unrealistic.’”“The term ‘reasonable detail’ is defined in the statute as the level of detail that would ‘satisfy prudent officials in the conduct of their own affairs.’ Thus, as Congress noted when it adopted this definition, ‘the concept of reasonable­ness of necessity contemplates the weighing of a number of relevant factors, including the costs of compliance.’”Internal Controls Provision“Like the ‘reasonable detail’ requirement in the books and records provision, the Act defines ‘reasonable assurances’ as ‘such level of detail and degree of assurance as would satisfy prudent officials in the conduct of their own affairs.’”“The Act does not specify a particular set of controls that companies are required to implement. Rather, the internal controls provision gives companies the flexibility to develop and maintain a system of controls that is appro­priate to their particular needs and circumstances.”“Companies may not be able to exercise the same level of control over a minority-owned subsidiary or affiliate as they do over a majority or wholly owned entity. Therefore, if a parent company owns 50% or less of a subsidiary or affiliate, the parent is only required to use good faith efforts to cause the minority-owned subsidiary or affiliate to devise and maintain a system of internal accounting controls consistent with the issuer’s own obligations under the FCPA. In evaluating an issuer’s good faith efforts, all the circumstances—including ‘the relative degree of the issuer’s ownership of the domestic or foreign firm and the laws and practices governing the business operations of the country in which such firm is located’—are taken into account.” FCPA Institute – Boston (Oct. 3-4) A unique two-day learning experience ideal for a diverse group of professionals seeking to elevate their FCPA knowledge and practical skills through active learning. Learn more, spend less. CLE credit is available.center_img View Learn More & Registerlast_img read more

Energy Companies Concerned About Jump in Investigations and Regulatory Matters

first_img Remember me Password Energy company general counsel face significantly different litigation issues than the corporate legal departments in other business sectors. Norton Rose Fulbright’s 10th Annual Litigation Trends Survey found that 56 percent of energy GCs faced litigation over contract disputes during the past year. Personal injury and environmental/toxic tort litigation were the next, followed closely by labor and employment . . .You must be a subscriber to The Texas Lawbook to access this content. Not a subscriber? Sign up for The Texas Lawbook.center_img Lost your password? Usernamelast_img

Delayed childbearing plays role in increasing number of multiple births

first_imgReviewed by Alina Shrourou, B.Sc. (Editor)Sep 12 2018Starting in the 1980s, the number of multiple births — twins, triplets, quadruplets and quintuplets — steadily increased from about 20 sets per 1,000 live births to almost 35 sets per 1,000 live births in the 2010s.That trend presents some concerns, says Dr. Eli Adashi, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School — multiple births come with various medical risks to both mother and babies, chief among them the risk of premature birth.Adashi and colleague Roee Gutman, an assistant professor of biostatistics at Brown’s School of Public Health, analyzed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) birth data to determine how much of this surge in multiple births is the natural result of women choosing to have children later in life — as compared to assisted reproductive technologies, to which the phenomenon is most commonly attributed.Their results were published on Tuesday, Sept. 11, in the October issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.Adashi has a long history of analyzing the sources of multiple births. Until he met a colleague’s natural quadruplets, however, Adashi controlled for maternal age in his analyses but didn’t focus on the role that delayed childbearing may have on the boom of twin, triplet and quadruplet births.”Our question was: Does this social phenomenon of delayed childbearing have an impact on the incidence of multiple births in the United States?” Adashi said. “In the paper, we showed that yes, indeed, not all the multiple births out there have to do with fertility drugs or in-vitro fertilization (IVF). There’s a sizable proportion of multiple births that are attributable simply to delaying childbearing. And the percentage of these spontaneous multiples seems to be growing.”The fact that older women are more likely to have twins, triplets and quadruplets has been known for quite some time, Adashi said. In fact, he found a 150-year-old medical paper on the topic. But while the role that delayed childbearing plays in the increase in multiple births from the 1980s onward has been observed, it hadn’t been analyzed with reference data allowing statistical projections until now, he said.Related StoriesNew therapeutic food boosts key growth-promoting gut microbes in malnourished childrenNew curriculum to improve soft skills in schools boosts children’s health and behaviorResearchers identify gene mutations linked to leukemia in children with Down’s syndromeUsing CDC data from 1949 to 1966, before assisted reproductive technologies were available, the researchers found that by the time white women reach age 35, they are about three times more likely to have fraternal, non-identical twins. African American women are four times more likely to have twins at age 35. The risk for triplets and quadruplets goes up four and a half times and six and half times, respectively.In addition to the advent of assisted reproductive technologies, the study noted that the period of 1971 to 2016 also brought pronounced social changes and more choices by families to delay childbearing. The study found that the fraction of white mothers who were between 30 and 40 years old increased from 16 percent in 1971 to 42 percent in 2015. Black mothers of this age increased from 14 percent to 31 percent over the same time period. The researchers found that this increase in the number of older women having children without assisted reproductive technologies played a definite role in the number of multiple births that exceeded the expected rate of about 20 multiples per 1,000 live births.In 2016, delayed childbearing was solely responsible for 24 percent of the multiple births for white women beyond expected rates and 38 percent for black women. Furthermore, by extrapolating delayed childbearing rates, the researchers projected that by 2025, women having children later without using assisted reproductive technologies could account for 46 percent of the excess multiple births for white women and 40 percent for black women.Adashi said the goal of the research is not to intrude upon personal choices about how and when to have families, but to understand the factors that have contributed to the surge in multiples and raise awareness of the risks of delayed childbearing.”People need to be aware of the increased risk of multiple births among the other more established concerns for advanced maternal age, such as Down syndrome, preterm birth and pre-eclampsia,” he said. Source:https://news.brown.edu/articles/2018/09/multipleslast_img read more

Sandalwood mimicking odorant could stimulate hair growth in humans

first_imgRed sandal wood. Image Credit: Rifad / Shutterstock Related StoriesNovel miniature probe measures tissue damage in the lungVitamin D supplementation may not reduce the risk of heart diseaseResearch sheds light on sun-induced DNA damage and repairThey noted that there is a receptor called OR2AT4 that can be stimulated by Sandalore. This receptor was found in the outer layers of the hair follicles. They explain that the hair follicle receptors are capable of “smelling” the chemical using their special receptors. When applied over the outer scalp tissues, Sandalore could decrease hair fall or follicular death as well as stimulate new hair growth. The results were clinically significant say the researchers.This study was sponsored by a company in Italy – Giuliani Pharma S.p.A., that provides Sandalore in a cosmetic product to stimulate hair said Paus. Scalp tissues were taken for this study from patients undergoing a face lift surgery. The tissues were exposed either to Sandalore or to rose-like odour Phenirat. Phenirat is known to be a OR2AT4 blocker. Within 6 days hair growth was seen in the tissues exposed to Sandalore. Paus explained that this was followed by a “very small, short and preliminary clinical pilot study” with just 20 female volunteers who were given Sandalore to be applied over their scalp. Larger clinical trials are expected to start next year said Paus.Source: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-05973-0 By Dr. Ananya Mandal, MDSep 18 2018A chemical that mimics sandalwood has been found to have the ability to stimulate hair growth among humans finds a new study. This brings hope for people losing hair worldwide.Researchers from Monasterium Laboratory, Münster, have expressed hope that this new chemical could treat hair loss effectively and are trying the drug for its effectiveness on human volunteers. Professor Ralf Paus, a scientist at the University of Manchester who led the research called this an “amazing finding.” He said that this widely used odorant that is used cosmetically in multitude of products has been seen for the first time to remodel a “normal human mini-organ [a hair].” The team found that there was a chemical pathway in the hair follicles that was affected by this chemical. This promoted hair growth and also slowed the death of the follicles. The results of the study appeared in the latest issue of the journal Nature Communications.The chemical in question is called Sandalore. The chemical is used to make perfumes and soaps to recreate the smell of sandalwood. The team noted that this odorant chemical stimulates special cells within the nose. The team found that not just cells within the nasal passages these chemicals also stimulates other cells in the body such as hair follicles.last_img read more

Study Annual wellness visits improve delivery of preventive services in elderly population

first_imgReviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Sep 21 2018new Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute study assesses the effect of receiving an Annual Wellness Visit (AWV) between 2011 and 2013 on the annual rate of eight preventive services recommended for the Medicare population following the AWV. The study is published online in Preventive Medicine.”The annual wellness visit assesses patients’ health risk factors, reviews medical and family history, and more importantly, develops or updates a personalized prevention plan that includes a screening schedule for appropriate preventive services,” said Miao Jiang, PhD, lead study author and senior consultant at IQVIA. “Our study provides important evidence that annual wellness visits improve the delivery of preventive services in the elderly population.”Related StoriesOlympus Europe and Cytosurge join hands to accelerate drug development, single cell researchTAU’s new Translational Medical Research Center acquires MILabs’ VECTor PET/SPECT/CTNew research links “broken heart syndrome” to cancerJiang and her co-investigators used retrospective Medicare claims from 2009-2014 for a 5% national sample of fee-for-service beneficiaries in the United States. Among 845,318 patients who met the inclusion and exclusion criteria, 23% had an AWV in 2011-2013. The percentage of preventive services among AWV participants ranged from 7.6% (vs. 4.9% for non-AWV participants) for prostate cancer screening to 63.3% (vs. 56.8% for non-AWV participants) for influenza vaccine. The AWV is associated with significantly higher odds of undergoing preventive services across the six primary outcomes examined (mammography, 1.63; Pap smear test, 1.86; bone mass measurement, 1.99; prostate cancer screening, 1.83; colon cancer screening, 2.43; and influenza vaccine, 1.46). Findings for the two secondary outcomes also showed significantly higher odds ratio among people with an AWV (depression, 4.00; alcohol screening, 6.15).”Promoting preventive care among the Medicare population is essential to enable the elderly to stay healthy, avoid or delay the onset of disease, and live productive lives,” stated co-author Danny R. Hughes, executive director of the Neiman Institute and Georgia Tech professor of economics. “Given recent efforts to trim covered healthcare benefits as a mechanism to control rising costs, it’s clear that the annual wellness visit is an important benefit that provides real value to patients, providers, and payers by effectively facilitating preventive care to this population.”Source: http://www.neimanhpi.org/press-releases/new-research-finds-annual-well-visit-increases-likelihood-of-preventive-services/last_img read more

Conflict Swirls as US House Nears Vote on Permanent RD Tax Break

Email Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe The problem with permanence: paying for it. Fiscal conservatives from both parties have long demanded that backers of making the credit permanent find a source of revenue, or identify budget cuts, to make up for the lost cash. Budget analysts estimate that the government would forgo $156 billion in revenue over the next decade under the proposal before the House today (H.R. 4438), which provides no mechanism for recovering that money.That’s why the Obama administration, which has its own proposal for making the tax credit permanent, “strongly opposes House passage of H.R. 4438,” the White House’s Office of Management and Budget said in a statement released yesterday. And it chided the House’s Republican leaders for promoting legislation that bucks their own party’s commitment to reducing—and not adding to—spending deficits.“Last month,” the statement notes, “House Republicans themselves passed a budget resolution that required offsetting any tax extenders that were made permanent with other revenue measures. … [M]aking traditional tax extenders permanent without offsets represents the wrong approach.”The White House’s veto threat hasn’t gone over well with many business groups. Some argue that Congress shouldn’t worry about offsets, predicting the tax break will more than pay for itself by generating new economic activity. Others suggest the government should get on with making the tax break permanent to provide companies with some certainty as they make long-term investment decisions, and then figure out how to pay for it.Think tanks that support a permanent R&D tax break are also unhappy. “Given that the Obama Administration has publically supported increasing the R&D credit and making it permanent, it is troubling that they are now threatening to veto this pro-growth measure,” said Robert Atkinson, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, in a statement today.In Congress, fault lines have appeared in both parties. Not all Democrats are lining up with the White House against the bill—and not all Republicans are expected to support it. Nine of the bill’s 23 co-sponsors are Democrats. But the legislation received just a single Democratic vote—from Representative Earl Blumenauer (OR)—in a 22 to 12 committee vote to send it to the full House. Another Democratic co-sponsor, Representative John Larson (CT), told the Bloomberg BNA news service that he is thinking about voting for the bill on the floor (after voting against it in committee). Some Republican spending hawks, meanwhile, may vote against the measure because it would add to deficits.In part, the split reflects the varying nature of the industrial bases in different House districts. Many lawmakers backing the bill come from districts with a strong concentration of high-tech, pharmaceutical, and other businesses that invest heavily in research. In contrast, lawmakers from rural, agricultural districts may feel less pressure to back the measure—and get complaints from antideficit voters if they do.Whether the bill’s backers can tack together enough votes to get it through the House should be known soon: A vote on H.R. 4438 could come as early as Wednesday evening.The Senate, meanwhile, is working on its own bill, which would extend the R&D tax break for just 2 years. The U.S. House of Representatives is nearing a vote on a bill that would make a popular tax break for corporate research spending a permanent part of the tax code. But although the House bill has bipartisan support, the White House is threatening a veto. The Senate, meanwhile, is working on a less sweeping proposal. The legislative flurry highlights the complicated politics surrounding efforts to renew the so-called R&D tax credit, which Congress last year let expire for the sixth time in 21 years.The credit, created in 1981, “is probably one of the least controversial provisions of the tax code,” said Representative Tom Cole (R-OK) today in a statement on the House floor. It allows companies to write off about one-fifth of their spending on research and was worth some $7 billion to U.S. firms last year. Both Democrats and Republicans have long endorsed making it permanent in an effort to spur innovation and job creation. This year, lawmakers in both the House and Senate have introduced legislation to do just that.In practice, however, Congress has traditionally extended the R&D credit for just one year, or a few, at a time. Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) read more

Viruses may explain why small animals are more prone to cancer

Larger animals have many more cells, and should therefore have more of these endogenous retroviruses. That they have fewer means they must have found efficient ways to remove them, Katzourakis says. That suggests ERVs can be harmful to their hosts, and this harm is more costly, in an evolutionary sense, to large animals.How do ERVs harm their hosts? Katzourakis suspects that some ERVs cause cancer. The viruses embed in an organism’s genome and make copies of themselves, and these duplicates then split and reinsert randomly at different locations in the genome. More often than not, these viruses do no harm, but occasionally their reinsertion transforms a healthy cell into a cancerous one. One such event led to the untimely death of the world’s first cloned sheep, Dolly, who succumbed to lung cancer caused by the Jaagsiekte sheep retrovirus. Katzourakis proposes that the higher number of ERVs in small-bodied animals may account for their higher rates of cancer.“It’s nice to see real experimental results that can help explain the vast differences in cancer susceptibility per gram of tissue between small, short-lived animals and large, long-lived animals,” says epidemiologist Richard Peto of the University of Oxford, who was unconnected to the new study. He first recognized the unexpected differences in cancer susceptibilities between animals of different body sizes in the 1970s, an observation that became known as “Peto’s Paradox.”From an evolutionary perspective, Peto explains, it makes sense that larger animals are better at protecting their genomes from potentially cancer-causing viruses. Large animals tend to live longer and reproduce later, so it is more important for them to postpone the onset of cancer.Although the findings pinpoint one mechanism underlying the vast difference in cancer rates, they don’t explain all cancers, says George Kassiotis, a virologist at the National Institute for Medical Research in London who studies ERVs in humans and mice. Despite having few ERVs, he explains, humans still get cancers. ERVs are therefore likely to be one of many factors contributing to cancer rates. “One important aspect of this new study is that it provides a framework to quantify the contribution of ERVs to cancer,” he says, “which in turn will inform the contribution of other causes of cancer.” Email Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Cancer is a numbers game. Larger, longer-lived animals with more cells should get more tumors than do small, short-lived animals. And yet mice are more susceptible to cancer than we are. Now, a new study offers a tantalizing explanation. The genomes of smaller mammals contain more viruses, which the authors suggest may account for their higher rates of cancer.Aris Katzourakis, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, didn’t set out to explain rates of cancer in animals. He was interested in why over the last 10 million years the genomes of mice have accumulated 10 times more small RNA viruses, called endogenous retroviruses (ERVs), than has the human genome. He teamed up with researchers from Plymouth University and the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom to mine for retroviruses in the genomes of a range of mammals—including shrews, humans, dogs, and dolphins. The researchers then tested whether differences in how long mammals live and in how quickly they mature affects how many ERVs they harbor.By the time the team had identified more than 27,000 unique viral sequences across 38 different mammals, it saw a clear pattern emerging: Small mammals have more ERVs than do larger ones. Mice have more than 3000, whereas dolphins have just 55, and humans are somewhere in the middle with 348, the researchers report online today in PLOS Pathogens. Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe read more

Satellites spot hidden villages in Amazon

first_imgThe Amazon is home to perhaps dozens of isolated tribes who make their living far off the grid from the wider society, growing crops and hunting and gathering in the forest. These reclusive peoples are threatened by drug running, illegal logging, and highway construction, even if they dwell in “protected” reserves in Peru or Brazil; one group, apparently pushed out of its lands, made contact this summer. Now, researchers have a new way of examining their fate without disruptive and frightening flyovers by aircraft. In a study published today in Royal Society Open Science, researchers use high-resolution WorldView or GeoEye satellite images to monitor demographic changes in isolated Amazon tribes. The scientists got location and population estimates for five isolated villages along the Brazil-Peru border from Brazilian government reports and other sources. Then they examined 50-centimeter resolution satellite images taken in 2006, 2012, and 2013 and could spot the peoples’ horticultural fields and characteristic pattern of either longhouses or clusters of small houses, shown above; these villages could be clearly differentiated from the transient camps of illegal loggers or drug runners. The images revealed demographic change over time. In just 14 months, between May 2012 and July 2013, for example, the inhabitants of a 2-decade-old village known as Site H cleared 16 hectares of forest to make new fields, bringing the total cultivated area to about 28 hectares. Such rapid growth may be due to indigenous families fleeing to Site H from their traditional lands, the researchers note. At about this time, loggers and would-be farmers from the outside world began pushing into the region on a road only 30 kilometers away.last_img read more

Cougars living near humans kill more deer

first_imgPeople seldom see cougars, America’s largest wild feline, because of the cats’ secretive ways. But their skittishness comes at a cost, says a team of researchers who tracked the movements of 30 cougars in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains between 2008 and 2013. The researchers fitted the cats with GPS and radio collars, then used a special software program to identify 208 sites to which the cougars (Puma concolor) returned over the course of several days—a sign that they likely had made a kill. In urban areas with between two and nine houses per hectare, female cougars killed 36% more deer than female cats in rural areas and spent less time feeding on each carcass, the scientists report online today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Male hunting patterns did not appear to be affected. The findings suggest that female cougars expend more energy hunting in urban areas and may be paying a price in terms of reproductive success, the researchers say. They note that one of their collared females has lost three of her litters in the last 3 years—and she lives in the most developed habitat.last_img read more

US diplomats in Cuba have unusual brain syndrome but theres no proof

first_imgA new report says diverse symptoms of personnel affiliated with the U.S. Embassy in Havana constitute a novel syndrome. Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) U.S. diplomats in Cuba have unusual brain syndrome, but there’s no proof they were attacked, study says By Richard StoneFeb. 15, 2018 , 5:00 PM LEXANDRE MENEGHINI/REUTERS/Newscom Emailcenter_img Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country In December 2017, a panel of Cuban scientists evaluating limited medical information and sound recordings provided by U.S. investigators concluded that the likeliest explanation of the disparate symptoms in most of the diplomats is mass psychogenic illness—a conclusion shared by some U.S. neuroscientists. The Cuban experts also found that the frequency of a grating sound in the recordings they analyzed matched the chirping of the Jamaican field cricket.Smith says it’s “premature” to conclude that the diplomats were attacked. But he and his colleagues believe an as-yet-unidentified exposure triggered a “constellation” of neurological symptoms consistent with a concussion—or as Smith puts it, “a concussion without an impact.”Although what happens to the concussed brain remains murky, researchers say the brain’s network of connections often appears perturbed, perhaps because of temporary damage to the axons that connect nerve cells. A concussion’s symptoms include slower mental processing speeds and memory loss, says Smith, whose team noted such deficits in 17 of the 21 patients they studied. “It’s not that any patient can’t do a given task, but it requires way more effort,” co-author Randel Swanson, a brain injury rehabilitation specialist at UPenn, stated in an accompanying news article in JAMA. The U.S. personnel, the UPenn team concludes in the new paper, “appeared to have sustained injury to widespread brain networks without an associated history of head trauma.”MRI scans of the U.S. personnel were largely normal, apart from three individuals with nonspecific abnormalities in their white matter—the axons that link nerve cells—that appear to be unrelated to the new syndrome, Smith says. The clear scans are not surprising, he says, because standard MRIs generally don’t reveal signs of a concussion. Rather, damage to the brain’s connections is picked up by a finer-grained MRI technique, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). The UPenn team is planning to conduct DTI scans of the diplomats. Any connectivity damage should still be visible, Smith says, because DTI scans can pick up such abnormalities months or even years after a concussion.The UPenn investigators discount psychogenic illness as an explanation. The U.S. personnel “weren’t all together,” Smith says, so his team believes some patients developed symptoms without knowledge that others were affected. And the deficits in eye movement and balance they measured in some diplomats are objective evidence of damage, Smith adds. “You couldn’t fake those tests.”Others are not ready to dismiss psychogenic illness as a factor. In an accompanying editorial in JAMA, Christopher Muth, a neurologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, and Steven Lewis, a neurologist at Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown, Pennsylvania, point out that the UPenn team evaluated the diplomats on average 203 days after onset of symptoms. Therefore “it remains unclear whether individuals who developed symptoms were aware of the previous reports of others.” Cuban panel member Mitchell Valdés-Sosa, director of the Cuban Neurosciences Center in Havana, emphasizes that the panel “did not deny that some of the diplomats are ill … nor do we believe that mass psychogenic illness is the only explanation.” Rather, he says, psychogenic illness “could act as an amplifier causing more individuals to feel ill, and could explain many of the subjective complaints.” Valdés-Sosa also asserts that many of the reported symptoms could be attributable to pre-existing conditions.In their editorial, Muth and Lewis conclude that “a unifying explanation for the symptoms … remains elusive.” Valdés-Sosa concurs on that point—as does the UPenn team.But Smith and his colleagues are convinced that the cases are a cluster, and are working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to further probe what they maintain is a new condition. One urgent task, Smith says, is defining the syndrome’s criteria. That will be important for evaluating any future cases, including U.S. civilians who visited Cuba and have since contacted the UPenn team claiming to have suffered similar symptoms. U.S. diplomats who fell ill in Cuba are victims of a new neurological syndrome, according to brain researchers at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn). But the team was unable to shed light on the malady’s mysterious cause, which the U.S. Department of State has characterized as a “health attack.”From late 2016 through August 2017, as many as 24 U.S. citizens affiliated with the U.S. Embassy in Havana reported symptoms ranging from vertigo and sleeplessness to cognitive impairment. Many described hearing loud or disconcerting sounds before the onset of symptoms, or pressure sensations in their ears akin to the baffling that occurs in a moving car with the windows cracked open. “They felt something weird going on,” and when they moved away from the perceived exposure, some of “the symptoms abated,” says Douglas Smith, director of UPenn’s Center for Brain Injury and Repair. The State Department called in the UPenn group after initial examinations of diplomats at the University of Miami in Florida revealed persistent and inexplicable symptoms. The UPenn team’s report on the diplomats’ health appears in today’s issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).The coincidence of the diplomats’ impairment and the auditory phenomena fueled speculation they were victims of a “sonic attack.” Last summer, citing what it saw as Cuba’s inability to protect U.S. diplomats, the State Department pulled most of its personnel out of Cuba and expelled from the United States a corresponding number of Cuban diplomats. The Cuban government has denied knowledge of an attack and has cooperated with the U.S. investigation, which is being spearheaded by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.last_img read more

Ig Nobel prizes honor doityourself colonoscopies a curious use for postage stamps

first_imgThe Ig Nobel Prizes are awarded each year in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to research that “makes people laugh, then think.” Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe Tonight, as has become a yearly tradition, a historic theater at Harvard University was packed to the rafters with Nobel laureates and a rapt audience. They weren’t there to witness a sacrosanct scientific ceremony, but rather the 28th annual Ig Nobel Prizes, an honor bestowed on studies treasured as much for their hilarity as their scientific value. Although the theme of this year’s event, put on by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research, was “the heart,” much of the winning research focused on decidedly less glamorous parts of the human anatomy.Take this year’s prize in medicine, which went to a pair of doctors who investigated whether riding a rollercoaster can help pass a kidney stone. The duo took 3D-printed kidney models for 20 rides on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Sitting in the back sections of the car yielded a 64% success rate for passing a stone, compared with 17% when seated at the front, the researchers reported in 2016 in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.A trio of urologists took home the prize in reproductive medicine for their now 4-decade-old technique for measuring nighttime erections. They instructed several male volunteers to wrap a ring of postage stamps snugly around their penis at bedtime and check in the morning for tears in the perforation. The method, they reported in 1980 in The Journal of Urology, was nearly 100% accurate. The researchers clarified that they manufactured their own stamps for the experiment, as using official U.S. postage “required permission from the Secret Service.” By Frankie SchembriSep. 13, 2018 , 7:00 PM Improbable Research center_img Ig Nobel prizes honor do-it-yourself colonoscopies, a curious use for postage stamps, and other peculiar research Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Email Japanese gastroenterologist Akira Horiuchi won the medical education prize for an experiment in which he reviewed the comfort and efficiency of self-colonoscopy in the sitting position by performing a colonoscopy on himself while seated. He reported only “mild discomfort.”Other winners included a team that demonstrated that most people who use complicated products do not read the instruction manual (Literature Prize); researchers who surveyed Spanish drivers to determine the frequency, motivation, and effects of shouting and cursing while in a car (Peace Prize); a group that investigated whether using Voodoo dolls to retaliate against abusive bosses makes employees feel better (Economics Prize); and a team that tested the effectiveness of a “spit shine” by cleaning 18th century sculptures with saliva and several alcohol-based cleaners (Chemistry Prize). Spit won.Past Nobel Prize winners handed out the awards, including Eric Maskin (Economics, 2007), Wolfgang Ketterle (Physics, 2001), Oliver Hart (Economics, 2016), and Michael Rosbash (Medicine, 2017). As has been tradition, each award was accompanied by a cash prize in the form of a $10 trillion bill from Zimbabwe, worth only a few U.S. cents. The organizers capped acceptance speeches at exactly 60 seconds, with winners cut short by an 8-year-old girl repeating: “Please stop. I’m bored.”The ceremony also included the world premiere of The Broken Heart Opera, a musical that featured a gaggle of children attempting to build a mechanical heart, then breaking it, and—as the Bee Gees’s 1971 song “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” played—eventually repairing it. The audience was also encouraged to participate in the ceremony by folding pages from the program into paper airplanes and launching them at the stage.last_img read more

Aging Voyager 1 spacecraft undermines idea that dark matter is tiny black

first_img JPL Caltech/NASA An illustration of Voyager 1, now 21.7 billion kilometers away Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe Humanity’s most far-flung spacecraft, NASA’s 41-year-old Voyager 1, has poked a hole in a long-shot theory of dark matter. Some theorists have argued that the mysterious, unseen stuff, which makes up 85% of the universe’s matter, could consist of countless black holes lingering from the big bang. But Voyager 1, which launched in 1977 and slipped out of the solar system 6 years ago, sees no signs of such hordes, a pair of theoretical physicists reports. The data don’t kill the idea that dark matter is black holes entirely, however, as Voyager 1 can detect only tiny black holes.“I never thought we’d be able to contribute in any way to studying dark matter,” says Alan Cummings, a space scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena who has worked on Voyager 1 since 1973 and who was not involved in the analysis. “That’s great!”For decades, astrophysicists have thought some sort of unseen matter provides the gravity needed to hold galaxies like our Milky Way together. For nearly as long, some scientists have speculated that dark matter might consist of black holes, knots of ultraintense gravitational fields typically created when massive stars collapse under their own weight to infinitesimal points. Aging Voyager 1 spacecraft undermines idea that dark matter is tiny black holescenter_img Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country But making black holes work as dark matter is tricky. In the universe, dark matter outweighs ordinary matter six to one, and there can’t have been enough collapsing stars to produce that lopsided ratio. So the black holes would have had to arise in a different way, through the collapse of tiny fluctuations in the soup of fundamental particles that filled the newborn universe long before stars formed. Such primordial black holes could have nearly any mass, but they cannot be too abundant without running afoul of astronomical observations. For example, throngs of black holes much more massive than the sun would shred galaxies like cannon balls crashing through chandeliers. Hordes of smaller black holes should distort the images of more distant stars and galaxy through so-called gravitational lensing.Such observations leave just three possible mass ranges for primordial black holes, says Bernard Carr, a cosmologist at Queen Mary University of London, who has worked on the idea for 40 years. They could have masses between one and 10 times that of the sun; about one-billionth that of the sun; or below about a quadrillionth that of the sun—10 billion metric tons. Those smallest black holes would only be as wide as an atomic nucleus.But if they’re there, the tiny black holes should produce a telltale radiation that Voyager 1 should see, argue Mathieu Boudaud and Marco Cirelli, theorists at Sorbonne University in Paris, in a paper in press at Physical Review Letters. Black holes earn their name because anything that gets too close to one, even light, cannot escape. However, in 1973, the late Stephen Hawking reasoned that black holes should radiate some light and particles nonetheless.According to quantum mechanics, empty space roils with particle-antiparticle pairs flitting into and out of existence. Hawking realized that if such a pair pops into existence at just the right distance from a black hole then one particle might fall into the black hole while the other flies away in what is now called Hawking radiation. The smaller the black hole, the hotter it would be and the more it would radiate.Tiny black holes weighing 10 billion metric tons should be hot enough to radiate electrons and positrons. Earth-bound detectors would not be able to spot those low-energy particles, as they would be deflected by the sun’s magnetic field. But Voyager 1 should be able to spot them from its position outside the sun’s magnetic bubble, the heliosphere.In fact, since it exited the heliosphere in 2012, Voyager 1 has measured a small, consistent flux of positrons and electrons. But even if they all come from tiny black holes, there wouldn’t be enough black holes to account for more than 1% of the Milky Way’s dark matter, Boudaud and Cirelli calculate. Cummings says the energy spectrum of the particles suggests they all come from more mundane sources such as the remnants of supernova explosions.The new work comes close to ruling out the lowest mass primordial black holes as dark matter, Carr says, although he adds that he has always favored the scenario in which the black holes weigh several solar masses. “This [low] mass window has never been my favorite,” he says. “It doesn’t personally bother me if the constraints now rule it out.”Voyager 1 can’t search for the higher mass primordial black holes. They would be so heavy and cold that they could not radiate massive particles such as electrons and positrons. Instead, they would only shine an exceedingly feeble and likely undetectable light. So, for the moment, the idea of black hole dark matter lives on. By Adrian ChoJan. 9, 2019 , 2:25 PM Emaillast_img read more

Data sharing will be a major thrust of Trumps 500 million childhood

first_imgBrain cancer survivor Grace Eline (right) and first lady Melania Trump (left) at the State of the Union address. That’s welcome news to University of California, Santa Cruz, genomics researcher Olena Morozova Vaske, who with David Haussler runs a pediatric cancer genome project. She and Haussler say that because pediatric cancers are very rare, it’s crucial to combine patient data from academic and industry clinical trials as well as international patients. That will take implementing new standards and building new digital infrastructure. Existing databases “need to all be talking to each other so we can consolidate data,” Vaske says. “You really have to make sure you’re capturing information from every single patient.”But some pediatric oncologists aren’t so sure that’s the best way to spend the first $50 million. “Data sharing is of the utmost importance and the community is already doing it arguably as well as possible,” says Crystal Mackall of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. And efforts to pool genetic data on childhood tumors may be less productive than for adult cancers because pediatric cancers have relatively few mutations, which makes them less vulnerable to gene-targeted or immunotherapy drugs, says Peter Adamson of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, chair of the NCI-funded Children’s Oncology Group. He suggests “the answers [to treatments] are not going to be revealed necessarily through whole genome sequencing” of children’s tumors.He and Mackall point to other needs, such as figuring out how to target so-called fusion proteins produced when two genes combine, which often drive the growth of pediatric tumors. Fusion proteins are already a focus of the cancer moonshot launched by former Vice President Joe Biden, but the investment could be larger, Adamson says. “It’s a harder problem [than data sharing] but will probably yield a higher return,” he says.Advocacy groups also point to the Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access, and Research (STAR) Act of 2018, a law Trump signed last summer that authorizes Congress to put $30 million annually for 5 years into pediatric cancer including biobanking and studies of survivors. “A lot of us want to build on and leverage what already exists,” which means the funding called for by Trump should come in addition to fully funding the STAR Act, says Danielle Leach, senior director of advocacy and government relations for St. Baldrick’s Foundation in Arlington, Virginia, and co-chair of the Alliance for Childhood Cancer.Another worry is whether the expected 5% cut for many research agencies in Trump’s 2020 budget request means the increase in pediatric cancer funding will come at the expense of other programs. “Until we see what [Trump] is proposing in funding for NIH and NCI in FY [fiscal year] 2020, we remain guarded and concerned,” says Jon Retzlaff, chief policy officer for the American Association for Cancer Research in Washington, D.C.As for the details of the initiative, NCI doesn’t expect to form a blue-ribbon planning committee, as it did for the moonshot. But, “We look forward to working with the cancer community and we will continue engaging them in the coming months,” the spokesperson says. Data sharing will be a major thrust of Trump’s $500 million childhood cancer plan President Donald Trump’s proposal in his State of the Union address earlier this month to spend $500 million over 10 years on pediatric cancer research will begin in 2020 with a focus on sharing patients’ data, federal officials say. That plan is getting a mixed response from researchers and patient advocates, who also worry that the initiative will come at expense of other parts of the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI’s) budget.During his speech, Trump described a “very brave” guest sitting with first lady Melania Trump—10-year-old brain cancer survivor Grace Eline, who raised funds for pediatric cancer research before developing the disease herself. “Many childhood cancers have not seen new therapies in decades. My budget will ask the Congress for $500 million over the next 10 years to fund this critical life-saving research,” Trump said. A $50-million-a-year boost would mean an 11% increase over the $462 million that NCI and other National Institutes of Health (NIH) institutes expect to spend this year on pediatric cancer. (In contrast, Trump administration officials have warned that they expect to issue a budget request to Congress next month that calls for an overall 5% cut to nondefense spending in the 2020 fiscal year that begins 1 October.)The Trump announcement came as a surprise to staff at NCI and cancer patient groups. NCI officials say details are still being worked out. But during a conference call with researchers and advocates on 14 February, NCI Director Ned Sharpless in Bethesda, Maryland, who has made “big data” part of his agenda, said data sharing will be a major initial thrust of the initiative. An NCI spokesperson explains to ScienceInsider that $50 million in 2020 “would afford a unique opportunity to leverage the power of existing data and develop new knowledge that will drive discovery and development of new approaches to treat childhood cancers.” Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! 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Ship spies largest underwater eruption ever

first_img Email Multibeam sonar waves, reflecting off the sea floor near the French island of Mayotte, reveal the outline of an 800-meter-tall volcano (red) and a rising gas-rich plume. Ship spies largest underwater eruption ever Last week, Marc Chaussidon, director of the Institute of Geophysics in Paris (IPGP), looked at seafloor maps from a recently concluded mission and saw a new mountain. Rising from the Indian Ocean floor between Africa and Madagascar was a giant edifice 800 meters high and 5 kilometers across. In previous maps, there had been nothing. “This thing was built from zero in 6 months!” Chaussidon says.His team, along with scientists from the French national research agency CNRS and other institutes, had witnessed the birth of a mysterious submarine volcano, the largest such underwater event ever witnessed. “We have never seen anything like this,” says IPGP’s Nathalie Feuillet, leader of an expedition to the site by the research vessel Marion Dufresne, which released its initial results last week.The quarter-million people living on the French island of Mayotte in the Comoros archipelago knew for months that something was happening. From the middle of last year they felt small earthquakes almost daily, says Laure Fallou, a sociologist with the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre in Bruyères-le-Châtel, France. People “needed information,” she says. “They were getting very stressed, and were losing sleep.” Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country By Roland PeaseMay. 21, 2019 , 1:20 PMcenter_img The authorities knew little more. Mayotte has a seismometer, but triangulating the source of the rumblings would require several instruments, and the nearest others are several hundred kilometers away in Madagascar and Kenya. A serious scientific campaign started only in February, when Feuillet and her team placed six seismometers on the ocean bottom 3.5 kilometers down, close to the activity.Data from the seismometers, retrieved by the expedition this month, show a tightly clustered region of earthquake activity, ranging from 20 to 50 kilometers deep in Earth’s crust. The team suspects a deep magma chamber fed molten rock to the sea floor and then contracted, driving the cracking and creaking of surrounding crust. GPS measurements on Mayotte also suggest a shrinking magma chamber: They show the island has sunk by 13 centimeters and moved 10 centimeters east in the past year.The map of the sea floor, made by the ship’s multibeam sonar, indicates that as much as 5 cubic kilometers of magma erupted onto the sea floor. The sonar also detected plumes of bubble-rich water rising from the center and flanks of the volcano. Feuillet says her team didn’t see the shoals of dead fish that fisherman reported, but they did collect water samples from the plumes. The chemistry of the water will give clues about the composition of the magma, the depth from which it came, and the risk of an explosive eruption.The crew also dredged up rocks from the flanks of the newborn volcano. “They were popping as we brought them on board,” Feuillet says—a sign of high-pressure gas trapped inside the black volcanic material.Explaining the eruption isn’t easy. Most submarine volcanoes are found along midocean ridges, where tectonic plates in Earth’s crust slowly spread apart, allowing magma from relatively shallow magma chambers to ooze up in rifts. Others mark deep mantle plumes that periodically burst through the crust, forming a chain of volcanoes, as plate tectonic forces drag it over the hot spot. The islands of Hawaii, the Galápagos, and nearby Réunion—on the opposite side of Madagascar from Mayotte—are all thought to have formed this way.The Comoros are clearly volcanic. Mount Karthala on Grande Comore, at the west end of the chain, erupted as recently as 2007. Petite Terre, the volcano nearest to Mayotte, last erupted 7000 years ago. But there are competing explanations for the volcanism, and the new eruption will intensify the debate. To some, the exceptional depth of the collapsing magma chamber, tens of kilometers down, offers a clue. “A really deep chamber might be consistent with melting by a plume from below,” says Mike Cassidy, a volcanologist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. But Cindy Ebinger, a geologist at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, who studies African tectonics, sees rifting at work—related to the spreading in the East African Rift Valley that is slowly separating Somalia from the rest of the continent. “Historic earthquake patterns suggest that Africa is splitting into a number of rigid blocks separated by rifts and volcanic zones,” she wrote in an email. The Comoros Islands, she adds, appear to run along the northern edge of one of these suspected blocks.Feuillet and her team are reserving judgment until they have a complete analysis ready to publish. Meanwhile, anxieties persist on Mayotte. The continuing earthquake activity, now much closer to the island, along with the possibility of a tsunami triggered by an undersea landslide from the flank of the new volcano have both alarmed the population.Cassidy says the new volcano is probably too deep to cause a dangerous tsunami onshore. But he is worried by the westward migration of the small earthquakes toward Mayotte, which could potentially trigger a collapse of the submarine flank of Mayotte itself. “This scenario could certainly create a tsunami,” he says.Feuillet wants to extend her team’s mission by several months to monitor this geological mystery as it develops. 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Not ready to share water Punjab gets ready to present its case

first_img Karnataka crisis: SC verdict a moral victory for rebel MLAs, says Yeddyurappa Best Of Express Related News supreme court, supreme court of india, punjab water treaty, punjab haryana water issue, satluj yamuna link, capt amarinder singh, punjab chief minister, india news, Indian Express The Supreme Court has given the state an opportunity to get its point conveyed across the table to Haryana and Centre.With Punjab already facing water crisis, having 79 per cent of its underground water area in dark zone, Punjab seems in no mood to share its water with Haryana through the Satluj Yamuna Link (SYL) and the Supreme Court has given the state an opportunity to get its point conveyed across the table to Haryana and Centre. SC rules: Rebel Karnataka MLAs can’t be compelled to participate in trust vote According to the state’s own report on underground water situation, there is over-exploitation of ground water to meet its agriculture requirement. the reportsaid that about 79 per cent area of the state is over-exploited. Out of 138 blocks, 109 blocks are “over-exploited”, two blocks are “critical” five blocks are “semi-critical” and only 22 blocks are in “safe” category.In the light of these facts, sources said, the state would put forward its case to Centre and Haryana. The CM called a meeting of Water Resources Department, its Minister Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria, Adminsitrative Secertary Sarvjit Singh, Advocate General Atul Nanda and Principal Secretary to CM Tejveer Singh and took a quick briefing on the issue.Sources said the CM would comment on the issue only after getting a copy of the judgment. But it is likely that the state would reiterate its earlier stand on the sharing of water.“In no case, Punjab can part with its water. The central groundwater department’s report says several areas in Punjab could go dry by 2029. How can then the state give its precious resource to neighbouring state?” asked a functionary of the government on condition of anonymity. Advertising Even as Punjab government plans to await the judgement of Supreme Court Tuesday directing Punjab, Haryana and Centre to sort out the issue of water sharing before September 3, it is likely to take its case on the table with Haryana and the Centre.Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had, after taking over the reins of the state in March 2017, asked the then Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to mediate a meeting between warring Punjab and Haryana over the issue so that he could explain the state’s position. But even two years later the meeting is yet to take place. The SC has now provided Punjab with that opportunity.For the last several days, the fast depleting underground water table in the agrarian state was hogging headlines and the CM had initiated the process of constituting Punjab Water Authority for regulation of water usage. After Masood Azhar blacklisting, more isolation for Pakistan center_img Advertising Karnataka trust vote today: Speaker’s call on resignations, says SC, but gives rebel MLAs a shield Virat Kohli won’t have a say in choosing new coach Written by Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh | Published: July 11, 2019 7:51:37 am Harish Salve: The lawyer who represented India in Kulbhushan Jadhav case The chief minister, who during his previous tenure disobeyed his then party president Sonia Gandhi and passed The Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004, thereby abrogating the December 1981 inter-state agreement with Haryana and Rajasthan on the apportioning of waters available in the Ravi-Beas river system, is in no mood to go soft on the issue, said sources.The argument that Punjab has been putting forward is that the “government respects the law but going by the niceties in law, how can it allow the state, that grows food for the entire nation, be allowed to turn into a desert?”it has been lamenting that the over 30 years ago Eradi Tribunal “in a jiffy” determined the total amount of water available at 17.17 MAF and there was no “evidence” of this availability. “Things have only worsened over the three decades. Where is this much water available now?” asked the functionary while demanding a fresh Tribunal arguing that world over new Tribunals are constituted after 20 years but nothing has been done here. The government has been stating that in the 1980s, terrorism gripped the state when SYL was being constructed. “Do we want the same to be repeated?” the official added. 1 Comment(s)last_img read more