Navy Officer Admits He Took Bribes

SAN DIEGO (CN) – A Navy commander on Tuesday pleaded guilty to bribery, including accepting prostitutes and cash to give a defense contractor classified ship schedules and other internal Navy information.

Commander Jose Luis Sanchez, 42, is the fifth of seven defendants to plead guilty in the scheme involving Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), a Singapore-based defense contractor.

He is the highest-ranking official to plead guilty in what U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy called a “pernicious fraud and bribery scheme.”

Sanchez admitted that he took at least seven bribes from GDMA CEO Leonard Glenn Francis from 2009 to 2013. He also “admitted that he tipped Francis off about investigations into GDMA overbillings and briefed Francis on internal U.S. Navy deliberations,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

The four men who previously pleaded guilty were Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent John Beliveau, Petty Officer First Class Dan Layug, and GDMA executives Alex Wisidagama and Edmond Aruffo.

Also Tuesday, Navy Commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz, 47, who was previously charged via information, was indicted by a federal grand jury on seven additional bribery counts, similar to the ones to which Sanchez pleaded guilty. Continue reading “Navy Officer Admits He Took Bribes”

USA gives up control of Internet

Friday, 14 March 2014

U.S. officials announced plans Friday to relinquish federal government control over the administration of the Internet, a move likely to please international critics but alarm some business leaders and others who rely on smooth functioning of the Web.

Pressure to let go of the final vestiges of U.S. authority over the system of Web addresses and domain names that organize the Internet has been building for more than a decade and was supercharged by the backlash to revelations about National Security Agency surveillance last year. Continue reading “USA gives up control of Internet”

Bitcoin exchange CEO found dead in Singapore

Autumn Radtke, 28, was CEO of First Meta

Elizabeth Weise, USATODAY     4:40 p.m. EST March 5, 2014
The American CEO of a Bitcoin and virtual currency exchange was found dead in her Singapore apartment late last month, multiple sources report.

Autumn Radtke, 28, was CEO of First Meta, a virtual currency exchange based in Singapore.The company allowed users to buy and sell virtual currencies, as well as exchange national currencies for virtual currencies and virtual currencies for national currencies, according to Forbes.

On the website Quora, Radtke described her company as a virtual currency exchange that takes “virtual currencies and pay out real $ via paypal.” Continue reading “Bitcoin exchange CEO found dead in Singapore”

A British businessman has been forced to apologise after scathing Facebook comments he made about Singapore emerged online sparking a fierce backlash

British businessman receives death threats in Singapore over Facebook comments

–  “Daddy where is your car and who are all these poor people?”

–  “Ahhhhhhhhh reunited with my baby. Normal service can resume, once I have washed the stench of public transport off me…!”

A British businessman has been forced to apologise after scathing Facebook comments he made about Singapore emerged online sparking a fierce backlash

Wealth manager Anton Casey was forced to apologise for his derogatory remarks Photo: Sax Rohmer

By Miranda Prynne, News Reporter

11:00AM GMT 22 Jan 2014

A British businessman has received death threats after calling Singapore commuters poor people on Facebook.

Man admits spitting at bus interchange, but claims it was only once

Saturday, Dec 28, 2013

SINGAPORE – The odd-job worker accused of spitting at two women at a bus interchange has admitted to spitting at one woman once, but is claiming trial to the other five of the six charged he faces.

Chinese daily Lianhe Wanbao reported that 48-year-old Juraimi Kamaludin admitted to the judge that he spat once at Ms Lee Kuan Eng, 34, but claimed that he is innocent of the other accusations. Continue reading “Man admits spitting at bus interchange, but claims it was only once”

Another US Navy officer suspended in widening corruption probe

Another US Navy officer suspended in widening corruption probe

The US Navy said on Thursday it has suspended the deputy commander of a unit responsible for port and harbor security as a result of allegations in connection with a widening corruption probe involving Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine (Asia).

Continue reading “Another US Navy officer suspended in widening corruption probe”

Feds: Navy Secrets Bought With Hookers, Gaga Tix

SAN DIEGO November 4, 2013 (AP)
By JULIE WATSON Associated Press

Nicknamed “Fat Leonard,” the gregarious Malaysian businessman is well known by U.S. Navy commanders in the Pacific, where his company has serviced warships for 25 years.

But prosecutors in court papers say Leonard Francis worked his connections to obtain military secrets by lining up hookers, Lady Gaga tickets and other bribes for a U.S. commander, in a scandal reverberating across the Navy.

The accusations unfolding in a federal court case in San Diego signal serious national security breaches and corruption, setting off high-level meetings at the Pentagon with the threat that more people, including those of higher ranks, could be swept up as the investigation continues. A hearing Nov. 8 could set a trial date.

Navy commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz passed confidential information on ship routes to Francis’ Singapore-based company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd., or GDMA, according to the court documents.

Misiewicz and Francis moved Navy vessels like chess pieces, diverting aircraft carriers, destroyers and other ships to Asian ports with lax oversight where Francis could inflate costs, according to the criminal complaint. The firm overcharged the Navy millions for fuel, food and other services it provided, and invented tariffs by using phony port authorities, the prosecution alleges.

“It’s pretty big when you have one person who can dictate where ships are going to go and being influenced by a contractor,” said retired Rear Adm. Terry McKnight, who has no direct knowledge of the investigation. “A lot of people are saying how could this happen?”

So far, authorities have arrested Misiewicz; Francis; his company’s general manager of global government contracts, Alex Wisidagama; and a senior Navy investigator, John Beliveau II. Beliveau is accused of keeping Francis abreast of the probe and advising him on how to respond in exchange for luxury trips, prostitution services, etc. All have pleaded not guilty.  Defense attorneys declined to comment.

Senior Navy officials said they believe that more people would likely be implicated in the scheme, but it’s too early to tell how many or how high this will go in the naval ranks. Other unnamed Navy personnel are mentioned in court documents as getting gifts from Francis.

Francis is legendary in military circles in that part of the world, said McKnight, who does not know him personally. He is known for extravagance. His 70,000-foot bungalow in an upscale Singapore neighborhood drew spectators yearly since 2007 to its lavish, outdoor Christmas decorations, which The Straits Times described as rivaling the island city-state’s main shopping street with replicas of snowmen, lighted towering trees, and Chinese and Japanese ornaments.

“He’s a larger-than-life figure,” McKnight said. “You talk to any captain on any ship that has sailed in the Pacific and they will know exactly who he is.”

Navy spokesman, Rear Adm. John Kirby said Navy Criminal Investigative Service agents initiated their probe in 2010, but declined to comment further, citing the ongoing investigation.

That same year, Misiewicz caught the world’s attention when he made an emotional return as a U.S. Naval commander to his native Cambodia, where he had been rescued as a child from the violence of the Khmer Rouge and adopted by an American woman. His homecoming was widely covered by international media.

Meanwhile, Francis was recruiting him for his scheme, according to court documents.

Misiewicz’s family went to a Lion King production in Tokyo with a company employee and was offered prostitution services. Within months, the Navy commander was providing Francis ship movement schedules for the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group and other ships, according to the criminal complaint.

Shortly after that, the manager wrote to Francis: “We got him!!:),” according to court documents.

Misiewicz would refer to Francis as “Big Brother” or “Big Bro” in emails from a personal account, while Francis would call him “Little Brother” or “Little Bro,” according to the complaint.

The company bilked the Navy out of $10 million in just one year in Thailand alone, U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said.

In December 2011, the two exchanged emails about the schedule of the USS Blue Ridge, investigators say. According to court documents, Francis wrote Misiewicz: “Bro, Slide a Bali visit in after Jakarta, and Dili Timor after Bali.”

The complaint alleges Misiewicz followed through on the demands: In October 2012, the USS George Washington was scheduled to visit Singapore and instead was redirected by the Navy to Port Klang, Malaysia, one of Francis’ preferred ports where his company submitted fake contractor bids.

After Francis offered Misiewicz five tickets to a Lady Gaga concert in Thailand in 2012, Francis wrote: “Don’t chicken out bro we need u with us on the front lines,” according to court documents.

The federal government has suspended its contracts with Francis.

The defendants face up to five years in prison if convicted of conspiracy to commit bribery.


Associated Press writers Lolita C. Baldor in Washington and Satish Cheney in Singapore contributed to this report.

Warning of Potential Side Effects of a Product Can Increase Its Sales

Sep. 24, 2013 — Drug ads often warn of serious side effects, from nausea and bleeding to blindness, even death. New research suggests that, rather than scaring consumers away, these warnings can improve consumers’ opinions and increase product sales when there is a delay between seeing the ad and deciding to buy or consume the product.

“Messages that warn consumers about potentially harmful side effects — presumably with the intent to nudge them to act more cautiously — can ironically backfire,” says psychological scientist Ziv Carmon of INSEAD in Singapore.

Working with Yael Steinhart of Tel Aviv University and Yaacov Trope at New York University, Carmon has been exploring how adding a warning of potential side effects affects consumer decision making. Their new findings are published in the September 2013 issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“We were struck by just how detailed, clear, and scary many warnings had become with regard to potential negative side-effects of products,” says Carmon. “It then occurred to us that such warnings might perversely boost rather than detract from the appeal of the risky product.”

Carmon and colleagues tested their hypothesis in four experiments. In one experiment, for example, smokers saw an ad for a brand of cigarettes: one version of the ad included a warning that smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, and emphysema, while another version did not include the warning.

Predictably, participants who had the opportunity to purchase the cigarettes soon after seeing the ad bought less if the ad they saw included the warning.

In contrast, participants who were given the opportunity to purchase the cigarettes a few days later bought more if the ad included the warning. The same outcome emerged when the researchers ran a similar experiment with ads for artificial sweeteners.

According to Carmon and his colleagues, the warnings backfired because the psychological distance created by the delay between exposure to the ad and the customer decision made the side effects seem abstract — participants came to see the warning as an indication of the firm’s honesty and trustworthiness.

In fact, participants evaluated drugs for erectile dysfunction and hair loss that had potentially serious side effects more favorably, and as more trustworthy, when they were told the products weren’t on the shelves yet.

While conventional wisdom suggests that explicit warnings about dangerous side effect will make people think twice before taking medical risks, these findings suggests otherwise. The researchers believe that their findings are important because these kinds of warnings are so ubiquitous, accompanying many different products or services beyond medications, including medical procedures, financial investments, and sporting activities.

Given how frequently we are exposed to such warnings, Carmon hopes to bring greater attention to their potential to backfire.

“This effect may fly under the radar since people who try to protect the public — regulatory agencies, for example — tend to test the impact of a warning shortly after consumers are exposed to it,” says Carmon. “By doing so, they miss out on this worrisome delayed outcome.”


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Two teaspoons of pesticide wipe out insects on 10-mile stretch of river

Minister demands curb on pesticide sale after it wipes out insects on 10-mile stretch of river


Two teaspoons of an insecticide poured down a kitchen sink has been held responsible for wiping out insect life on a 10-mile stretch of one of the country’s prime fishing rivers.

Richard Benyon demands curb on pesticide sale

Richard Benyon demands curb on pesticide sale Photo: Berkshire Media Group


3:42PM BST 26 Aug 2013

The incident, last month on the Kennet, caused ecological devastation on a stretch of river where anglers pay as much as £3,000 a season to fish.

Now Richard Benyon, an environment minister who is also the local MP, has asked his official to draw up curbs on the domestic sale of chlorpyrifos.

He has intervened after being approached by the Angling Trust.

“We have been pushing for regulations on how it is sold,” said Mark Lloyd, the Trust’s chief executive.

“It is freely available to everybody and without proper disposal it can cause a lot of damage.

“People will have tins which they then rinse out and even tiny amounts can be fatal to insects, which fish and birds feed off.

“In large enough quantities it can be fatal to fish as well.”

The incident on the Kennet was the latest in a series of scares involving the pesticide, which is regularly used on lawns and golf courses.

It was also held responsible for wiping out insect life on a large stretch of the River Roding in 1985, the River Wey in 2002 and 2003 and led to a significant number of fish being killed on the Rover Ouse in Sussex in 2001.

Following the incident on the Kennet, people were advised not to allow water from a stretch between Marlborough and Hungerford to come into contact with their skin.

In America the US Environment Protection Agency has placed limits on its use and the chemical was banned outright in Singapore for use in termite control in 2009.

Mr Benyon, who is the Conservative MP for Newbury, has asked officials to draw up measures to restrict its sale in Britain.

“I’m firmly on the side of those who want to make sure this never happens again.

“I think something as toxic as this should only be available to people with the qualifications to use it safely.

“I’ve asked Defra’s chemical regulations directorate to provide me with advice and I will act upon it.

“We want to make sure in the medium to the long term that we are protecting rivers like this from pollution incidents, whether they come agricultural use or personal use.

“Somebody could have just been cleaning out their garden, trying to clean algae out of their fishpond. We don’t know.”

Mr Benyon added: “In any river such an incident would cause me great concern but I am particularly upset that this should happen in my local river. I am really angered to hear of the devastating impacts for the ecology of the Kennet. This type of pollution is totally unacceptable”

Parents of U.S. software engineer found dead in Singapore quit inquest saying the police evidence is fake and they do not trust the country’s legal process

  • Shane Todd, an American working on an  18-month assignment in Singapore, was found hanged in his apartment in June  2012
  • Dr Todd was researching new technology that  could be used by the military
  • His family believe he was murdered over his  research project
  • Authorities in Singapore say he committed  suicide

By  Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED: 00:00 EST, 1  March 2013 |  UPDATED: 09:00 EST, 22 May 2013


Rick and Mary Todd, the parents of an  American software engineer Shane Todd – who was found hanged in his apartment in  Singapore in June 2012, said on Wednesday they were withdrawing for the  country’s inquest into their son’s death.

The Todds do not believe their son committed  suicide and want a thorough investigation into the circumstances of Shane’s  death but say they have no confidence in the city-state’s legal  process.

They believe he may have been murdered over  his research  into material used to make heat-resistant  semiconductors, a technology with  both civilian and military  applications.


Enough: Rick and Mary Todd believe their son was  murdered last year in Singapore. They withdrew from the inquest on Wednesday,  saying they have no confidence in the city-state’s legal process



Tragic: Shane Todd, a high-tech researcher, was found  hanged in his apartment in Singapore in June 2012. His parents believe he was  murdered due to the sensitive research he was involved in

The body of 31-year-old Shane Truman Todd’s  was found in  his Singapore apartment by his girlfriend Shirly  Sarmiento, a Filipino nurse, on June 24, 2012.

Police have  said he killed himself.

The engineer was found hanging after he had  reportedly been unhappy at work and had written suicide  notes before he died,  authorities have said.

Police  found no signs of forced entry into the apartment and he had no visible signs of injury on his body except redness on his forearms and  legs.

But police did find links to suicide websites  on his laptop and suicide letters written to Todd’s family members and loved  ones.


Close: Mary and Rick Todd, center, are mourning the death of their son Shane  (back right, pictured with brothers John, back left, Dylan, front right, Chet  and his wife Corynne , front left)

Shirly Sarmiento had earlier told the inquest  that he suffered from depression and that  he had mounting unhappiness with the  ‘dishonest environment’ in his  workplace.

She also mentioned he feared ‘heavy hands  coming after him.’

His parents Rick and Mary Todd have said they  consider the evidence presented by police to be fake.

Rick Todd said his son in early 2012  had  expressed concerns to his parents that he was being asked to  compromise U.S.  security. But he said Shane Todd wasn’t specific.

Mary Todd also said the alleged  suicide note  was obviously fake because it thanked the Institute of  Microelectronics, the  former employer he had grown to hate, and had  other false details.


Family: Shane Todd’s brothers John (left), Dylan (second  from left), Chet (second from right) and his sister-in-law Corynne (right) had  traveled to Singapore this May to attend the inquest


Witness: Shane’s girlfriend Shirley Sarmiento (center on  May 14 with the Todd family) testified at the inquest into the 31-year-old death

On Tuesday, a key witness in the ongoing  inquest withdrew his initial claims that Todd was strangled. The state,  meanwhile, introduced a witness who contradicts the parents’ claim that their  son was killed before June 23.

The parents, who traveled to Singapore from  their home in Montana, issued a statement Wednesday saying they will no longer  participate in the inquest and will return to the U.S.

‘We have been told that the coroner’s inquiry  is not adversarial, rather it is a fact-finding mission with the sole purpose of  getting to the truth,’ the statement said.

‘This has not been our experience. We no  longer have confidence in the transparency in the findings of the system. It  appears to us that the outcome has already been predetermined.’

The parents, who had been expected to testify  at the inquest, also have said the crime scene at their son’s apartment was  compromised, with key computer evidence mishandled.

The FBI, however, has supported Singapore  police claims that a hard drive found at Todd’s apartment was handled by  Singapore authorities who were checking for evidence, and not by an unknown  person.

‘We were looking forward to an honest and  transparent court proceeding,’ the parents’ statement said. ‘Sadly, this has not  been the case. Therefore, we have decided that our presence in Singapore will  have no bearing on the outcome of this case.’



kBrothers: Shane Todd was one of four boys and is  grieving family want to know the truth about his death

Warning signs: Todd became increasingly paranoid during his last couple weeks in Singapore Warning signs: Todd became increasingly paranoid during his last couple weeks in Singapore

Warning: Shane Todd’s father Rick said his son had  become fearful for his safety due to the sensitive technological research he was  engaged in


Singapore Foreign Affairs Minister K.  Shanmugam said the government regrets the family’s decision to leave the  inquiry.

‘For reasons best known to them, they walked  out and it’s unfortunate that  they decided to leave,’ Shanmugam told a news  conference.

‘The family had said previously that they had  found the hard drive  themselves, and they asserted that this hard drive had  been processed by a third party,’ he said.

‘It would have been useful to hear the  family’s side as to how they had come to a different view of the  facts.’

Gloria James-Civetta, a lawyer for the Todds,  said the family would leave  Singapore this week, but she would not comment on  what their intentions  were.

While Singapore  authorities insist there was  no evidence of foul play in Todd’s death,  the parents maintain he was murdered  over his work researching  semiconductor technology in a secretive project  involving the Institute  of Microelectronics and Chinese telecom giant  Huawei.

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France ups the ante in EU tax evasion battle after scandal: Budget minister tried to hide 15 million Euros

07    Apr    2013

France said Sunday it was looking to tighten Europe-wide measures against tax evasion as it scrambles to contain a fraud scandal that has rocked President Francois Hollande’s government.

The move comes as Jerome Cahuzac — the former budget minister who triggered the scandal last week when he revealed owning an undeclared foreign bank account — faced fresh allegations of tax fraud.

Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici announced that France would seek to reinforce the exchange of banking information throughout Europe, based on a US ruling in place since 2010 that seeks to fight offshore tax evasion.

The so-called US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) requires foreign financial institutions to provide the IRS tax agency with information on accounts held by American clients, such as withdrawal and payment amounts.

“I propose that there be an automatic exchange of information, a European FATCA,” Moscovici said on Europe 1 radio.

Hollande’s government has been shaken by the scandal, which erupted Tuesday after Cahuzac — once in charge of tackling tax evasion — admitted to investigators that he had a foreign account containing some 600,000 euros ($770,000).

Cahuzac — who resigned on March 19 after prosecutors opened a probe into the account, first revealed by the Mediapart news website in December — had repeatedly denied its existence to the president, in parliament and in media interviews.

French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici answers journalists questions on April 4, 2013, in Strasbourg, France. France said Sunday it was looking to tighten Europe-wide measures against tax evasion as it scrambles to contain a fraud scandal that has rocked President Francois Hollande’s government.

Further fanning the flames of the scandal, the Zurich-based Tages Anzeiger newspaper reported over the weekend that Cahuzac had lied to a bank about the 600,000 euros when he had them transferred from Switzerland to Singapore.

According to the newspaper, he presented a “bogus” certificate to the Singapore branch of a wary Julius Baer bank, purportedly proving that his money had been declared to tax authorities.

Swiss broadcaster RTS also reported Sunday that Cahuzac had tried to place 15 million euros with a fund management firm in Switzerland, which refused the money for fear of future complications, “Cahuzac being a politically prominent figure.”

The former budget minister’s lawyer, however, told AFP the RTS report was “not credible.”

Critics have been quick to round on Hollande and his ministers, accusing them of either trying to cover up the scandal or of mismanagement for having believed Cahuzac’s denials.

Many have called for a government reshuffle — a move that was rejected by Hollande and Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault last week.

On Sunday, former foreign minister Alain Juppe also entered the fray, saying Ayrault’s government “no longer has credibility.”

“A reshuffle, yes, but only if there is a change in policy,” he said on TV channel Canal+, pointing to an “extremely serious” economic situation.

In a survey published Sunday in the Journal du Dimanche newspaper, three in five respondents said they were in favour of a reshuffle over the “Cahuzac affair.”

A majority of the more than 1,000 respondents also said the scandal had had a negative impact on Ayrault, his government and on the president himself.

Hollande has tried to contain the fall-out from the scandal, saying he was unaware of the account and announcing Wednesday that a new law would be submitted within weeks that will establish greater control over ministers’ wealth.

The law would also ban any elected representative found guilty of tax fraud or corruption from holding any form of public office.

“Everyone is going full tilt to produce a (legal) text as quickly as possible,” one governmental advisor said on condition of anonymity.

On Sunday, Moscovici also announced that France and Germany — which has said it will strengthen its fight against tax evasion — would soon put forward a proposal with regards to money laundering, without elaborating.

François Hollande rocked as minister confesses to lying over tax evasion

Former Budget Minister admits he had €600,000 in an illegal offshore bank account


Tuesday 02 April 2013

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Jerome Cahuzac, former French finance minister: ‘I was caught up in a spiral of lies’
Getty Images

In a bombshell confession, the former French Budget Minister, Jerome Cahuzac, has admitted that he had lied repeatedly to the President, parliament and public and had cheated on his taxes for 20 years.

Mr Cahuzac’s admission he had €600,000 in an illegal offshore bank account dealt a devastating blow to a Socialist president and government already facing public rage over tax rises, cuts and high unemployment.

President François Hollande said tonight that Mr Cahuzac had committed an “unpardonable moral fault” by lying for four months to the Elysée Palace and the National Assembly. However, in a further, deep embarrassment for the President, the investigative newspaper, Le Canard Enchainé will report today that Mr Hollande saw evidence pointing to Mr Cahuzac’s possible guilt as long ago as December.

Mr Cahuzac, 60, previously a highly paid plastic surgeon, was fired by the Elysée last month from his high-profile job as Budget Minister – in effect the minister responsible for spending cuts and tax enforcement. This followed a declaration by the state prosecution service that the voice in a recorded telephone conversation from 2000, admitting ownership of an illegal, Swiss account, appeared to be the minister.

At the time, Mr Cahuzac continued to proclaim his innocence. After months of denials, he made a double confession: publicly in his blog and privately, to two magistrates.

“I was caught up in spiral of lies,” he wrote. “I fought a torturous internal battle to try to resolve the conflict between my duty to tell the truth and my anxiety to fulfil the mission with which I had been entrusted.”

The admission bears some resemblance to the confession, after years of denials, by the former British environment minister, Chris Huhne, that he had conspired with his wife Vicky Pryce to avoid speeding penalty points. Several French newspapers have suggested that media allegations about Mr Cahuzac’s off-shore account, may be linked to a contested divorce with his wife, Patricia Cahuzac.

Mr Cahuzac, admitted that he had held illegal accounts abroad – first in Switzerland and then in Singapore – for 20 years. He said that he had ordered that €600,000 remaining on his Singapore account to be transferred to France.

The French investigative website, Mediapart, which has also led the way in allegations of wrongdoing against ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy, first revealed the existence of Mr Cahuzac’s Swiss account last December.

Mediapart placed online a recorded telephone conversation from the year 2000 in which a politician discussed his embarrassment at having an account with UBS in Switzerland. Mr Cahuzac denied to President Hollande and to the Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, that the voice was his. However, Le Canard Enchainé will report today that President Hollande was told by the interior ministry in December that the voice on the tape was “close to” that of Mr Cahuzac.

The former minister also faces investigation over the source of the funds paid into the Swiss and Singapore accounts. His lawyers said that the money came from his lucrative and successful practice as one of Europe’s leading specialists in hair transplants.

Magistrates are, however, investigating allegations that some or all of the money came from under-the-counter payments by pharmaceutical companies to promote their products.

The shockwaves from Mr Cahuzac’s initial dismissal last month were rapidly overwhelmed by news that ex-President Sarkozy had been formally accused of abusing the mental weakness of a billionaires to fund his 2007 campaign.

Politicians on the moderate left said that Mr Cahuzac’s repeated lies had compounded a “crisis for democracy in France”.

French budget minister Had a secret Swiss bank account, from which funds were transferred to Singapore

French budget minister resigns amid investigation

© 3.0

French President Francois Hollande has granted a request by the French Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac to terminate his responsibilities and accept his resignation.

 According to French media reports Bernard Cazeneuve has been appointed as his replacement.

 In early 2013 the Paris prosecutor’s office began a preliminary investigation into the affairs of Cahuzac who is suspected of tax evasion.

 The case was initiated after an internet resource called Mediapart reported that the minister had a secret Swiss bank account, from which funds were transferred to Singapore.

 Bernard Cazeneuve previously served as Minister for European Affairs and before that was the official representative of the Hollande campaign.

 Voice of Russia, RIA

Was he murdered? Mystery death of American engineer working in Singapore on cutting-edge military technology ‘who had deep misgivings about his work’

  • Shane Todd, an American working on an  18-month assignment in Singapore, was found hanged in his apartment in June  2012
  • Family claims he was murdered and Singapore  police refuse to accept help from FBI
  • Todds also recovered hard drive with backup  data from son’s project
  • Dr Todd was doing research on high-tech  chemical and was collaborating with Chinese company, according to  report

By  Beth Stebner

PUBLISHED: 13:10 EST, 18  February 2013 |  UPDATED: 14:38 EST, 18 February 2013

Suspicious: Shane Todd was found dead in his Singapore  apartment last summer; he apparently hanged himself, but his family claims he  was murdered

The hanging death of an American electronics  engineer in Singapore last summer has ignited an international mystery, after  his family and girlfriend developed suspicions that he may have been murdered  the week before he was scheduled to return home to the U.S.

The family of Shane Todd visited his  apartment in the Chinatown district of Singapore days after they received news  of his June 2012 death, saying that their son had misgivings about some of the  work he was doing for the company.

Dr Todd, 31, was slated to return to the U.S.  after completing an 18-month stint at the Institute of Microelectronics, and his  family is now desperately searching for how – and why – their son is  dead.

A February 15 piece published in the Financial Times magazine tells of how Mr Todd’s parents, Mary and Rick Todd, traveled from Montana to  Singapore days after their son’s death on June 23, 2012.

Mrs Todd told the magazine in no uncertain  terms: ‘We think our son was murdered.’

The Todds did not immediately respond to a  request sent by MailOnline.

According to the magazine, the Todds, joined  by their sons, John and Dylan, went to see where Shane had spent his last hours.

His parents have said he was murdered because  of his involvement in the project, which they say involved exporting sensitive  military technology to China.

IME did not immediately respond to  MailOnline’s request for comment.

The family told the FT that they discovered  several things awry at Dr Todd’s Colonial-era apartment.

Piles of laundry were neatly folded and ready  to be packed in suitcases, packed moving boxes littered the apartment, and his  plane ticket back to the States was sitting on his dining room table.

Family matters: Mary and Rick Todd, center, went to  Singapore with sons John, back left, and Dylan, far right, to look into the  death of Shane, back right; Chet Todd and his wife

The Singapore police report from last summer  states that Mr Todd – who stood more than 6ft and 200 pounds – constructed a  sort of noose by bolting a pulley to the bathroom wall and wrapping a strap  through the contraption.

However, when the Todd family arrived days  later, they were appalled to find that their late son’s front door was unlocked,  there was no crime tap indicating an active investigation, and more importantly  – no bolts drilled into the bathroom.

The Singapore Police released a statement  today in response to the FT article, reading in part: ‘The police investigate  all unnatural death cases thoroughly, working closely with the pathologist and  other relevant experts, and no prior assumptions are made on the cause of  death,’ according to Yahoo! Singapore.

The FT article also states that the FBI  bureau in Singapore has volunteered their forensic help on two separate  occasions, but said that the local police had declined their help.

An FBI source in Washington told the paper  that they could do nothing to help the investigation until the Singapore Police  formally accepted their assistance.

In the statement, Singapore police added: ‘Since the death of Mr Shane Todd, the Police have engaged and assisted the family without impending the objectivity of our investigation process. We will continue to do so. Police have also kept the American Embassy and FBI informed of this case.’

The family also recovered a hard drive with  backup data from his time at IME. The FT gave information on the hard drive to  Professor Sir Colin Humphreys to analyze. The professor works as the director of  research at Cambridge University’s Centre for Gallium Nitride.

Trimming the tree: The Todd brothers at Christmas,  decorating the family tree from their parents’ home in Montana

According to the centre’s website, the  chemical, known as GaN, is ‘probably the most important semiconductor material  since silicon.’

The chemical is used in many of today’s  high-tech products, from Blu-ray players to hybrid electric cars, and can  withstand heat to much higher capacity than silicone. It is the building blocks  for blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

Sir Colin told the FT that the data on Dr  Todd’s hard drive was fore a high-electron mobility transistor made from GaN,  adding that the project had applications for both the military and commercial  use.

Singapore police said they were still  investigating the death of Dr Todd and would submit their evidence to a coroner.  Singaporean pathologists concluded in an autopsy last June that he died by  hanging in his Singapore flat.

Chemicals: Dr Todd was working with Gallium Nitrate  (GaN), a synthetic material used in many high-tech objects like Blu-ray players  and hybrid electric cars

‘IME approached Huawei on one occasion to  cooperate with them in the GaN field, but we decided not to accept, and  consequently do not have any cooperation with IME related to GaN,’ Huawei said  in a statement.

Huawei said that the development of GaN  technology was commonplace across the telecommunications industry.

Interviews with the family, colleagues and  friends revealed conflicting views on Dr Todd’s state of mind before his death,  the nature of his work and how he died.

Colleagues said that he was increasingly  depressed in his last few months, but said that his concerns appeared to centre  on a sense of failure about his work, and an ambivalence about returning to the  United States.

On assignment: Dr Todd lived in the Chinatown district  of Singapore; here the skyline is pictured

Researchers in unrelated fields have also  questioned how, if his work was so sensitive, he was able to take home computer  files from his office.

IME is part of a network of research  institutes managed by government-run Agency for Science, Technology and  Research, or A*Star.

A former A*Star researcher now working in the  United States pointed out that IME and other A*Star institutes were not military  research organizations.

Huawei is one of the world’s largest  telecommunication equipment companies, but has been blocked from some projects  in Australia and deemed a security risk by the U.S. congress on the grounds that  its equipment could be used for spying, according to Reuters.

Huawei has routinely denied such accusations  and has said it is not linked to the Chinese government.

Dr Todd’s parents said in interviews in July  that Singapore police and IME had failed to properly investigate his death after  his body was found hanging from a door in his Singapore apartment on the evening  of June 24, two days after he quit IME.

Singapore police say they have handled the  case as they have handled other cases, and their procedures follow high  international standards. They said in such cases of unnatural death, ‘no prior  assumptions’ were made about the cause.

Big business: Huawei is one of the world’s largest  telecommunication equipment companies, but has been deemed a security risk by  the U.S. congress on the grounds that its equipment could be used for  spying

Mrs Todd said in a telephone interview with  Reuters last July that he had been scared.

‘I had been talking to him for months for at  least an hour every week and he told us he was afraid of being murdered because  of his contacts with the Chinese government,’ she said.

‘He quit his job because of it.’

Huawei declined to say whether they had been  working on other projects with IME. Colleagues said shortly after Todd’s death  that he had told them at one point he had been working on a project with Huawei  but that it was not sensitive or high-level in nature.

One described it as carrying out ‘measurement  test reports’ of semiconductors.

The FT said that Dr Todd had been involved in  proposing a joint project with Huawei.

While it did not say whether the project was  approved, it quoted his parents as saying that subsequently he complained to  them of being asked to do things with a Chinese company he did not identify that  made him uncomfortable.

Dr Todd was described in his obituary as an  avid baseball player and a brilliant scientific mind. He earned his PhD in  Electrical Engineering from the University of Santa Barbara.

Reuters  contributed to this report.

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Outdated version of WordPress leads to MasterCard Hack


Author : Mohit Kumar on 1/09/2013 07:29:00 AM


MasterCard Hacked By Syrian Electronic Army
On tip of a readers, yesterday we came across a new MasterCard hack, performed by Syrian Electronic Army. Hackers was able to breach MasterCard Blog ( and make a new blog post on the website with title “Hacked By Syrian Electronic Army” on January 5, 2013.
For now MasterCard deleted that post, but readers can check Google cache. Today we tried to contact the hacker, but may be they are busy in Hacking Next Target , I started my investigation that how they can hack such a big economic website’s blog.
Starting from very first step, Information gathering about your target. Simple by reviewing the source code we found that MasterCard blog is using WordPress. We all know, WordPress is particular a popular attack vector for cyber criminals.
To know this, I just tried to access the readme.html file of CMS , that’s it – MasterCard #fail ! They are using an old WordPress 3.3.2 version, instead of the current version 3.5 and Proudly vulnerable to many flaws like Cross Site scripting, File upload vulnerability, Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) etc.
As far I know, There is a good Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) exploit available on internet for Wordpress 3.3.2 Cross-site request forgery, that allow attacker to add a new admin user, using bit of social engineering with administrator.
Possibly Hacker may use any one of these vulnerability to hack MasterCard blog. WordPress and its plug-ins are always primary attack vectors for many attacks. You should always be using the latest version of your software, especially if you’re a major company that is often targeted by hackers.
If you’re also not using the latest version of WordPress, you should upgrade immediately.

Read More News on – The Hacker News..

About Author:

Photo Mohit (Mobile) aka ‘Unix Root’  is Founder and Editor-in-chief  of ‘The Hacker News’. He is a Security Researcher and Analyst, with experience in various aspects of Information Security. His editorials always get people thinking and participating in the new and exciting world of cyber security. Other than this : He is an Internet Activist, Strong supporter of Anonymous & Wikileaks. His all efforts are to make internet more Secure. Follow him @ Twitter | LinkedIn |   | Email | Facebook Profile

McDonald’s to give away 200,000 free burgers: “initiative was to reinforce the importance of starting the day with a wholesome breakfast”

The Star/Asia News Network Saturday, Nov 17, 2012

PETALING JAYA – They say eat breakfast like a king and McDonald’s Malaysia has decided to celebrate the most important meal of the day by giving away over 200,000 free Egg McMuffin burgers on Monday.

Called the McDonald’s Breakfast Day, all of its restaurants nationwide will be giving away freshly-made Egg McMuffin burgers to the first 1,000 customers.

McDonald’s Malaysia managing director Sarah Casanova said the initiative was to reinforce the importance of starting the day with a wholesome breakfast.

“By offering Malaysians breakfast on us, we want to start a movement and rally people to make a good breakfast an essential part of a great morning,” said Casanova, who is also McDonald’s Malaysia and Singapore regional manager, in a statement here yesterday.

According to McDonald’s Malaysia, the Egg McMuffin is made from farm fresh egg and high-quality golden cheese with a slice of chicken roll on freshly toasted English muffin.

The first 1,000 customers at all 215 breakfast restaurants nationwide, including Genting and airport stores, will receive the free burger between 7am and 10am while the offer lasts.

It is limited to one Egg McMuffin per customer per visit and is only valid for in-store, take-away and drive-through purchases.

For more information on McDonald’s Breakfast Day and a list of its breakfast restaurants, visit

The Big Bang Theory of Education

Authoritarian countries don’t seem to be doing well at the knowledge business. That’s probably no accident.


China just doesn’t manufacture more stuff than the rest of us — it’s also about to dominate the world intellectually. Chinese universities are preparing to conquer the world. China is now taking the lead in the publication of academic papers. Each year Chinese campuses are producing legions of super-qualified engineering graduates — and no wonder, given those Spartan study habits!

In fact, none of these things is (entirely) true. Of course China is amply supplied with great minds, and of course many of its students are hard workers. But a lot of the oft-quoted statistics about China’s academic triumphs turn out to be hollow. Yes, Chinese academics publish a lot of papers — but that’s because they’re meeting government-set publication quotas. The quality of most of those Chinese-authored monographs (which can be measured by how often they’re cited by other scholars) is spotty. And those awe-inspiring figures on engineering graduates have been thoroughly debunked as well. Some of the numbers have unclear origins, and many of those “engineers” are better described as “technicians,” people whose actual qualifications are minimal. (And let’s not even get started on the fraud and corruption that apparently permeate the Chinese education system.)

In short, talk of China’s academic rise needs to be taken with a grain of salt. All this came to mind the other day, when I spotted a story in the New York Times that bore the ominous headline: “U.S. Falls and Asia Gains in University Rankings.” The article refers to the latest study of global universities conducted by Times Higher Education magazine (one of the few organizations that offers an annual ranking of institutions of higher education around the world). Here’s one of the takeaways:

Asian universities were the biggest gainers, with universities in China, Singapore, and Australia moving up the table, as did every university in South Korea, led by Seoul National University, which jumped to 59th place from 124th. “We’ve been talking for years about the rise of Asia,” said Phil Baty, editor of the rankings. “But this is the first solid empirical evidence.”

Entirely aside from the question of whether Australia ought to be considered part of Asia, I found this thesis somewhat intriguing. A closer look at the rankings quickly revealed that, yes, universities from Asia are certainly on the move. But the more interesting question turns out to be: From which Asia?

Given all the talk about the stunning rise of Chinese academia, you’d expect that universities from the People’s Republic would be over-represented here. But that’s not the case at all. Altogether, 57 universities from Asia make the top 400 in the rankings this time around. Of those, nine are from mainland China. That’s nine out of 400. The highest-ranked Chinese institution is Peking University, at number 46 (right after Washington University in St. Louis).

But this doesn’t mean that all Chinese universities are playing academic catchup — as becomes apparent when you take a look at the rest of the rankings. Taiwan boasts seven out of the top 400, and tiny Hong Kong — the real stunner of this survey, in my view — six. So why should these two Chinese-inhabited territories be so far ahead that their combined total outdoes that of the mainland — even though they have only a miniscule fraction of its population?

Let me hazard a guess: I think it might have to do with the nature of the societies in which these universities are embedded. Though the people of Hong Kong can’t properly elect their leaders, the culture of the territory is indisputably democratic, with a strong rule of law and well-established habits of assembly and debate. (Yeah, I know: Hong Kong is officially part of the People’s Republic. But it enjoys considerable autonomy and still jealously defends its unique character.) Taiwan, of course, is a multi-party democracy — no qualifiers needed.

So why would my theory that the difference has to do with democracy make sense? Presumably because it’s really hard to build a proper research university without freedom of information and inquiry — just the sort of thing that authoritarian regimes have a hard time allowing. “Academic freedom is a fundamental part of the formula for creating a world-class university,” says Phil Baty, who was in charge of the survey (and yes, he’s the same guy who was quoted in the Times article cited above). “You have to give your professors the room to question received wisdom.” Throw enough money and infrastructure at the problem and you can do quite a lot, he notes; Chinese leaders, who understand the importance of technical knowledge and innovation, are definitely making up for lost time in this respect. But even when it comes to math and science, you probably won’t get the best bang for your buck unless professors and students are allowed to think freely.

Perhaps this is why the overwhelming majority of the other East Asian nations prominently represented in the top 400 — Japan (with 13) and South Korea (6) — also happen to be vigorous democracies. The only possible exception is the tiny, authoritarian city-state of Singapore, which has two universities in the rankings — quite an impressive achievement. But it’s an exception nonetheless — and it becomes even more so when one notes that the vast majority of the institutions in the top 400 still hail from the democratic nations of Western Europe and North America. (American universities account for seven of the top 10 and 76 of the top 100.)

Of course, we could also see it from the other way around: Of the world’s autocracies, mainland China is the only that really has any serious presence in the top 400 at all. Only two universities from Russia made it in. In the Middle East, Israel and Turkey both have a clutch of schools; but Saudi Arabia and Iran can only manage one each. (Yes, that’s right: The entire Arab world, once the storehouse of the world’s knowledge, can claim just one of the world’s top 400 universities.)

Perhaps the autocrats should take a closer look at the No. 1 school in the survey: the California Institute of Technology. As Baty points out, Cal Tech is distinguished not only to its innovative approach to learning (where small groups of students actively solve problems, rather than passively listening to lectures, with the world’s leading scientists), but also by its spirit of free-wheeling creativity, which includes a love of creative pranks and general craziness. The same applies to MIT (fifth in the rankings), which also prides itself on its unorthodox teaching approach — as well as its rich history of “hacks.”

A successful research university, Baty argues, has to allow “academics to follow their noses and to think in a blue-skies way.” (In this context, I don’t think it’s any accident that the main characters in the hit U.S. TV comedy The Big Bang Theory, which celebrates the virtues of iconoclastic nerdiness, are Cal Tech grad students.)

Of course, things are not all rosy at universities in the United States and Britain, either, as Baty is quick to point out. Costs are rising. Research funds are, increasingly, narrowly targeted, crowding out financing for the sorts of fundamental research that are essential to big discoveries. And yes, there’s rising pressure from new players on the global scene.

This should not be a source of undue hysteria. To the contrary: Established universities should welcome the competition (not to mention the new possibilities for collaboration). But that certainly doesn’t mean that the schools with successful traditions of untrammeled inquiry should lose sight of the values that got them where they are today. Freedom is the air that good thinking breathes.

If Germany were to leave the euro, it would be better off

Another week, another conference about the euro. This time it was in Singapore. Nevertheless, it was Germany that was uppermost in my mind, not least because several Singaporeans asked me why Germany doesn’t leave the euro.

Another week, another conference about the euro. This time it was in Singapore. Nevertheless, it was Germany that was uppermost in my mind, not least because several Singaporeans asked me why Germany doesn't leave the euro.

A worker walks by rolls of steel awaiting galvanization at the ThyssenKrupp steelworks in Duisburg, Germany. Whereas consumer spending has grown by about 30pc in America and the UK, in Germany it has grown by only 10pc. The reason is that over the last 13 years, German workers’ average real incomes have fallen by 4pc. The very success in keeping costs down has also kept pay down. Photo: Getty Images

7:35PM BST 07 Oct 2012

Last week I gave the political explanation. This week I am going to discuss the economic aspect.

From the formation of the euro in 1999 to now, German unit labour costs have hardly risen.

Since costs have continued rising briskly elsewhere, Germany has gained competitiveness enormously. The result is now a surplus of exports over imports of about 6pc of GDP. It is this surplus – and the associated income and jobs – that defenders of the status quo say would be threatened without the euro.

But there is a catch. Germany has supplied BMWs to southern Europe and they have given it IOUs in return. Will those IOUs ever be honoured? That is the problem with trying to grow through unbalanced trade. In the end, your trade partners need something to pay you with.

Not that the German economy has been a stonking success during the euro’s existence. Its average growth rate has been only 1.4pc, below the UK’s – and below Spain’s and Ireland’s. The explanation is clear. Whereas consumer spending has grown by about 30pc in America and the UK, in Germany it has grown by only 10pc. The reason is that over the last 13 years, German workers’ average real incomes have fallen by 4pc. The very success in keeping costs down has also kept pay down.

To listen to some German businessmen singing the praises of the euro, you could be forgiven for thinking that life must have been hell beforehand. In fact, it was just the opposite. It was under the deutschemark that Germany achieved its “economic miracle”. True, there was a persistent tendency for the deutschemark to rise. But Germany still tended to run a current account surplus, albeit smaller than today – less than 1pc of GDP, on average, between 1970 and 1998. Meanwhile, consumer spending grew by 2.5pc per annum.

It was the same Germans then as now. They were well trained, good at engineering – and good at keeping costs down. The difference is that the rising deutschemark prevented these admirable qualities from resulting in a massive trade surplus – and ensured that German workers got a good deal of the spoils.

What’s more, the flipside of the rising currency for Germany was a tendency for those countries which are now peripheral euro members to undergo periodic bouts of currency weakness. They were the same then as now – rather bad at keeping costs down and not as successful as the Germans at manufacturing. But their weak currencies kept them in the game and ensured that they enjoyed decent growth of exports as well as consumption. The result was that they had something with which to pay for imports from Germany.

If, one way or another, the link between Germany and the southern euro member countries is broken, for Germany this would not be a trip into the unknown so much as a return to the days of the deutschemark. By reducing the domestic price of exports and imports, a stronger currency would transfer income from producers to consumers. The result would be increased consumption.

Admittedly, there might still be a net loss of aggregate demand. In that case it would fall to the German government to stimulate it. For all its anti-Keynesian rhetoric, in 2010 the German government enacted the largest fiscal stimulus of any advanced country. And the current budget deficit of about 1pc of GDP is low enough to permit some stimulatory action now. On top of this there are structural reforms which could help to increase consumer spending, including the relaxation of restrictions on credit.

I know that devaluation is not a magic cure. It won’t cure fundamental structural ills or transform your country overnight into a brilliant manufacturer. But what has gone wrong between Germany and the peripheral members of the eurozone is not a “real” phenomenon of this sort. Contrary to much German propaganda, Germany’s success in keeping down unit labour costs is not due to rapid productivity growth. In fact, during the euro period its productivity growth has been rather low – lower than Greece’s.

Rather, its success has been due to tight control of wages. In other words, what Germany has done relative to its trading partners is to stage an internal devaluation. In the end, though, this will have achieved little for Germany because a large chunk of the customer base will not be able to pay.

To operate a successful monetary union, Germany must merge only with countries which are able to keep their costs in step with hers. That is not the position in the eurozone today. The suspicions of my Singaporean interlocutors were right: if Germany left the euro, not only would the peripheral countries be better off, but so also would Germany.

Roger Bootle is managing director of Capital Economics

For the first time more millionaires call Asia-Pacific, instead of North America, ‘home’

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, September 19, 2012 4:10 EDT

Swimming pool on a sunny day.Pattaya city in Thailand via Shutterstock

Asia-Pacific has overtaken North America as home to the most millionaires for the first time, boosted by a rise in the number of wealthy in China and Japan, a report released on Wednesday showed.

The region had 3.37 million high net worth individuals (HNWIs) in 2011 compared to North America’s 3.35 million, a study jointly published by consulting firm Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management found.

Europe possessed 3.17 million HNWIs, which are defined as those having investable assets of $1 million or more excluding their primary residence and luxury possessions including art.


“Asia-Pacific is now home to more high net worth individuals than any other region for the first time,” Barend Janssens, head of emerging markets for RBC, told a press conference in Singapore.

Asia-Pacific overtook Europe in 2010 to take second place and a strong growth in the millionaire population — particularly in Japan and China — coupled with a fall in the number of the rich in North America led to the region taking first, Janssens said.

“The most significant finding is that Asia-Pacific’s population of high net worth individuals grew at a rate of 1.6 percent in 2011, twice the rate of the global population of 0.8 percent,” he said.

“This is driven by growth in Japan of up to 4.8 percent and China of up to 5.2 percent.”

Japanese formed the bulk of the HNWIs in the Asia-Pacific, constituting 54.1 percent of the total regional population of the rich.

China and Australia ranked second and third at 16.7 percent and 5.3 percent respectively.


Together, the three countries accounted for 76.1 percent of HNWIs in the region.

Despite hosting the most HNWIs, Asia-Pacific still lagged behind in terms of total investable wealth at $10.7 trillion, compared to $11.4 trillion for North America.

International factors such as the eurozone crisis coupled with domestic issues, including, sinking property prices and inflation bit into the pockets of millionaires, said Claire Sauvanaud, vice president of Capgemini Asia-Pacific.

International capital outflows from the region also held back its rich, with China and India seeing $1.6 billion and $4.09 billion in foreign institutional investor funds leave their markets last year, data showed.

But Sauvanaud said the region — led by economic powerhouses China and India — would be able to weather the problems.

“The diverse nature of Asia-Pacific exports and economies means the outlook for the region as a whole remains very strong,” she stated.

“China and India are the ones to watch. Despite their challenges they are likely to remain two of the fastest-growing economies in the world in the very near future.”

[Swimming pool on a sunny day.Pattaya city in Thailand, via]

US risks losing out to Asia in medical research, U-M team warns

Contact: Kara Gavin 734-764-2220 University of Michigan Health System

Strong, sustained growth in research spending in Asian nations contrasts with US cuts and short-term approach – and a ‘brain drain’ could result

Medical research saves lives, suffering and dollars – while also creating jobs and economic activity. The United States has long led the world, with hundreds of thousands of jobs and marketable discoveries generated by government research funding every year. Top students from around the world come here for training — and often stay to help fuel medical innovation.

Now, warns a team of researchers in the New England Journal of Medicine, the U.S. risks losing out to Asia as the hub of medical discovery.

The result, they caution, could be a “brain drain” of top young researchers, and the loss of untold discoveries and economic activity. The authors are two physician researchers from the University of Michigan Medical School and VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, and an American researcher who left the U.S. for better job prospects in Singapore.

They compiled data on five Asian countries – China, India, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan – that are all boosting their government support for medical research right now. All five have a long-term plan for increased support for such research, as part of efforts to boost their national economies and world standing.

By contrast, American medical scientists and physician researchers face almost certain cuts to federal research funding.

At best, the authors say, funding for the National Institutes of Health – which supports most U.S. medical research – will fail to keep pace with inflation next year.

At worst, if the federal budget falls off the ‘fiscal cliff’ of automatic cuts, American medical research spending will fall by 8 percent, with thousands of researchers cut off from funding. One estimate says this could cost the U.S. $4.5 billion in economic activity. There are also proposals to cut entire health research agencies.

By contrast, China has increased spending on medical research by 67 percent, South Korea by 24 percent, India by 15 percent, Singapore by 12.5 percent and Taiwan by 4 percent in the most recent year for which data was available.

“In recent years, NIH funding has not kept pace with growth in biomedical innovation, making it harder for scientists to win grants,” says first author Gordon Sun. M.D., an otolaryngologist and health researcher who is currently a 2011-2013 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar at U-M, supported by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Meanwhile, these five Asian countries have pledged long-term increases in funding.”

He notes that the number of clinical trials of new medical ideas in the U.S. has fallen, while the number in countries like China has grown.

Sun and his co-authors warn that this trend could lead to long-term economic damage for the United States and the loss of its stature as a global leader in the field. “Powerful incentives that can retain an elite biomedical research workforce are necessary to strengthen the U.S. health care system and economy,” they write.

The stakes of this Asian rise and American decline are highest for current and future postdoctoral fellows – young researchers who have finished their M.D. or Ph.D. training and have decided to go into research as a career.

Post-doctoral training in a laboratory or health research specialty usually primes them for their first full-time research position – and their first grant applications as independent researchers. Winning grants year after year is vital to a research career – making sustained federal research support important.

But with grant dollars becoming harder to find in the U.S., and easier to obtain in Asia, young researchers may choose to take their very portable talents overseas.

In fact, China has started programs to attract young Chinese scientists back to China after training in the U.S.

And with English being the common language for researchers in India and Singapore, those nations may attract increasing numbers of American-born researchers – such as Jeffrey Steinberg, Ph.D., Sun’s co-author and personal friend. He now works at the Singapore Bioimaging Consortium, supported by the nation’s Agency for Science, Technology, and Research.

“In researching this article, we were surprised at how well-developed other countries’ plans are for including medical research and scientific research as part of long-term goals,” says Sun. “All of them have a fairly well-defined plan, which is part of their overall efforts to become economic powers. Whereas in the U.S., NIH funding is considered as just another part of the annual budget, and can be cut at any time.”

The American approach to budgeting for medical research appears to ignore the long-term economic payoff of sustained research, says Sun. “Simply cutting research spending off will end a lot of projects immediately. Then, all these well-trained people – what are they going to do? Many will go somewhere where their work may be more appreciated.”


In addition to Sun and Steinberg, the Perspectives article was co-authored by Reshma Jagsi, M.D., D.Phil. (RWJF), an associate professor of radiation oncology at U-M and the Ann Arbor VA. She is a member of the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine, a joint program sponsored by the U-M Medical School and the Ann Arbor VA.

Reference: NEJM 367;8, August 23, 2012 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMicm1206643

NTU-led research probes potential link between cancer and a common chemical in consumer products

study led by a group of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) researchers has found that a chemical commonly used in consumer products can potentially cause cancer.

The chemical, Zinc Oxide, is used to absorb harmful ultra violet light. But when it is turned into nano-sized particles, they are able to enter human cells and may damage the cells’ DNA. This in turn activates a protein called p53, whose duty is to prevent damaged cells from multiplying and becoming cancerous. However, cells that lack p53 or do not produce enough functional p53 may instead develop into cancerous cells when they come into contact with Zinc Oxide nanoparticles.

The study is led by Assistant Professor Joachim Loo, 34, and Assistant Professor Ng Kee Woei, 37, from NTU’s School of Materials Science and Engineering. They worked with Assistant Professor David Leong, 38, from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, National University of Singapore, a joint senior author of this research paper.

The findings suggest that companies may need to reassess the health impact of nano-sized Zinc Oxide particles used in everyday products. More studies are also needed on the use and concentration levels of nanomaterials in consumer products, how often a consumer uses them and in what quantities.

“Currently there is a lack of information about the risks of the nanomaterials used in consumer products and what they can pose to the human body. This study points to the need for further research in this area and we hope to work with the relevant authorities on this,” said Asst Prof Loo.

The groundbreaking research findings were published in this month’s edition of Biomaterials, one of the world’s top journals in the field of biomaterials research. The breakthrough also validated efforts by Asst Prof Loo and Asst Prof Ng to pioneer a research group in the emerging field of nanotoxicology, which is still very much in its infancy throughout the world.

Nanotoxicology studies materials to see if they are toxic or harmful when they are turned into nano-sized particles. This is because nanomaterials usually have very different properties when compared to when the materials are of a larger size.

Asst Prof Ng said the team will carry out further research as the DNA damage brought about by nano-sized Zinc Oxide particles is currently a result of an unknown mechanism. But what is clear is that besides causing DNA damage, nanoparticles can also cause other harmful effects when used in high doses.

“From our studies, we found that nanoparticles can also increase stress levels in cells, cause inflammation or simply kill cells,” said Asst Prof Ng who added that apart from finding out the cellular mechanism, more focused research is also expected to ascertain the physiological effects and damage that nano-sized Zinc Oxide particles can cause.

Asst Prof Loo pointed out that besides enhancing the understanding of the potential risks of using nanomaterials, advancements in nanotoxicology research will also help scientists put nanomaterials to good use in biomedical applications.

For example, although killing cells in our bodies is typically undesirable, this becomes a positive outcome if it can be effectively directed towards cancer cells in the body. At the same time, the team is also studying how nanomaterials can be “re-designed” to pose a lesser risk to humans, yet still possess the desired beneficial properties.

This research discovery is one of the latest in a series of biomedical breakthroughs by NTU in healthcare. Future healthcare is one of NTU’s Five Peaks of Excellence with which the university aims to make its mark globally under the NTU 2015 five-year strategic plan. The other four peaks are sustainable earth, new media, the best of the East and West, and innovation.

Moving forward, the team hopes to work with existing and new collaborative partners, within and outside of Singapore, to orchestrate a more concerted effort towards the advancement of the fledgling field of nanotoxicology here, with the aim of helping regulatory bodies in Singapore formulate guidelines to protect consumer interests.

The research team would also like to work with the European Union to uncover the risks involving nanomaterials and how these materials should be regulated before they are made commercially available. Asst Prof Joachim Loo, who received his Bachelor and Doctorate degrees from NTU, was the only Singaporean representative in a recent nanotechnology workshop held in Europe. At the workshop, it was agreed that research collaborations in nanotoxicology between EU and South-east Asia should be