FBI NOMINEE ASKED TO REBUKE TRUMP-RUSSIA CLAIMS BEFORE CONFIRMATION
Confirmation hearings for FBI Director Nominee Christopher Wray dove head first into the most pressing American political issue of the day—potential connections between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. U.S. intelligence agencies indicate that Russian cyber-attacks directly benefited Trump during the presidential election and recently released emails between Donald Trump Jr. and a spokesperson for Russian government allies have provided strong evidence that members of the campaign knew about the Russian effort and potentially even colluded with it.
At the hearing, Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, even read Wray the recently released email exchange and asked the nominee to publicly instruct U.S. politicians to contact the FBI should they be confronted with similar offers from foreign governments. He did so after some probing.
BRAZIL’S FORMER PRESIDENT CONVICTED OF CORRUPTION
A Brazilian court found ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva guilty of corruption and money laundering Wednesday, sentencing the nation’s former leader to nearly ten years in prison. Silva was convicted on charges that his family received $1.1 million via a beach front apartment and repairs on the property as bribes from a construction company. Charges against Silva in four other cases have yet to be heard in court.
The conviction is the most high profile yet in a sweeping anti-graft campaign that has thus far led to convictions of numerous other prominent Brazilian elites. But Silva’s imprisonment is perhaps all the more shocking due to his longstanding popularity—having served as the nation’s leader between 2003-2010, Silva is credited with lifting millions of Brazilians out of poverty and shaping his nation’s global reputation.
Silva’s legal team maintains his innocence, saying that he has “been the victim of lawfare, the use of the law for political ends, the famous method used to brutal effect in various dictatorships throughout history.”
APPLE OPENS CHINESE GOVERNMENT-COMPLIANT DATA CENTRE
The world’s largest tech company Apple announced that it would construct its first data centre in China by partnering with a firm owned by the Chinese government. The move comes as part of an effort to comply with new regulations that require any company storing Chinese users data to keep the information on servers within the country.
Though other American tech giants, including Microsoft and Amazon, already have data-storage centres in China, Apple’s decision to follow suit is particularly surprising as the company’s CEO Tim Cook has made his customer’s privacy central to his company’s operations. The Chinese data centre could become subject to government inspection, as the nation is known for its restrictive and invasive cyber policing—a recently announced Chinese law requires any company that transfers a significant amount of data outside the country to partake in yearly security reviews.
China represents Apple’s third largest market and currently accounts for 20 per cent of the company’s revenue. In statements released Wednesday, the company attempted to reassure users that compliance with Chinese regulations would not lead to security compromises.
FDA APPROVES REVOLUTIONARY NEW LEUKEMIA DRUG
A U.S. Food and Drug Administration committee voted unanimously to approve a revolutionary new leukemia treatment. If the FDA accepts the recommendation, which experts believe is likely, the method will become the first ever gene therapy treatment to reach the U.S. market, a milestone for researchers across the globe studying the new technology.
The treatment, patented by the company Novartis, requires doctors to freeze a patient’s cells and send them to a Novartis plant, where they can be altered and transformed into a “living drug” to be reinserted into the patient’s system. Though the panel only recommended approval for a specific type of drug-resistant leukemia, Novartis is currently pursuing similar methods to combat other particularly aggressive cancers.
The family of one patient saved by the treatment rejoiced at the announcement.
“We believe that when this treatment is approved it will save thousands of children’s lives around the world,” said the father of twelve-year-old Emily Whitehead, the first-ever child given the therapy who is now cancer free.
GOOGLE’S ACADEMIC INFLUENCE CAMPAIGN
A new report from a watchdog group has detailed Google’s efforts to influence policymakers by funding and shaping academic research. According to the Campaign for Accountability, which released the report, Google funded 329 published research papers between 2005 and 2017, by academics at leading institutions including Harvard, Oxford and MIT, contributing to a larger Google lobbying effort to reshape policy according to the company’s interests.
According to the report, 66 per cent of these papers did not disclose Google as a source of funding, despite payments ranging from $5,000 to $400,000, leading to a serious crisis of accountability.
“Google uses its immense wealth and power to attempt to influence policy makers at every level,” said CfA director Daniel Stevens. “At a minimum, regulators should be aware that the allegedly independent legal and academic work on which they rely has been brought to them by Google.”