Meeting ahead of leaks?


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FILE - In this May 23, 2018, file photo, Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, leaves the Federal District Court after a hearing, in Washington. Special counsel Robert Mueller is accusing Manafort of lying to federal investigators in the Russia probe in breach of his plea agreement. Prosecutors say in a new court filing that after Manafort agreed to truthfully cooperate with the investigation, he “committed federal crimes” by lying about “a variety of subject matters.” (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

FILE - In this May 23, 2018, file photo, Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, leaves the Federal District Court after a hearing, in Washington. Special counsel Robert Mueller is accusing Manafort of lying to federal investigators in the Russia probe in breach of his plea agreement. Prosecutors say in a new court filing that after Manafort agreed to truthfully cooperate with the investigation, he “committed federal crimes” by lying about “a variety of subject matters.” (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)


Report: Manafort met with Julian Assange ahead of 2016 leaks

Tuesday, November 27

WASHINGTON (AP) — A British newspaper alleges that Paul Manafort secretly met WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London within days or weeks of being brought aboard Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

If confirmed, the report Tuesday suggests a direct connection between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks, which released tens of thousands of emails stolen by Russian spies during the 2016 election.

The campaign seized on the emails to undermine Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton.

The Guardian, which did not identify the sources for its reporting, said that Manafort met with Assange “around March 2016” — the same month that Russian hackers began their all-out effort to steal emails from the Clinton campaign.

Manafort’s lawyers did not immediately return messages from The Associated Press.

Assange’s Ecuadorian lawyer, Carlos Poveda, said the Guardian report was false.

And WikiLeaks said on Twitter that it was “willing to bet the Guardian a million dollars and its editor’s head that Manafort never met Assange.”

The Guardian cited two unidentified sources as saying Manafort first met Assange at the embassy in 2013, a year after Assange took refuge there to avoid being extradited to Sweden over sex crime allegations. The Guardian said Manafort returned there in 2015 and 2016 and said its sources had “tentatively dated” the final visit to March. The newspaper added that Manafort’s visit was not entered into the embassy’s log book and cited a source as saying Manafort left after 40 minutes.

There was no detail on what might have been discussed.

The Trump campaign announced Manafort’s hire on March 29, 2016, and he served as the convention manager tasked with lining up delegates for the Republican National Convention. He was promoted to campaign chairman in May 2016.

An AP investigation into Russian hacking shows that government-aligned cyberspies began an aggressive effort to penetrate the Clinton campaign’s email accounts on March 10, 2016.

AP Writer Franklin Briceno contributed from Lima, Peru.

The Conversation

Rogue science strikes again: The case of the first gene-edited babies

November 27, 2018

Author

G. Owen Schaefer

Research Assistant Professor in Biomedical Ethics, National University of Singapore

Disclosure statement

G. Owen Schaefer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

The idea of scientists tinkering with the genes of babies was once the provenance of science fiction, but now it’s apparently entered the realm of reality: On Nov. 26, Chinese scientist He Jiankui reported the historic live births of twin girls whose genes he had edited. The goal may have been noble: to use CRISPR to alter their genes to include a variant protective against transmission of HIV. But the announcement – yet to be verified – has quickly become mired in a deluge of scientific and ethical criticism of He as a reckless researcher who overstepped well-established boundaries.

Professional outcry

The reaction from the professional community of scientists and ethicists was swift and essentially universal in its condemnation, including by over 100 of He’s colleagues in China.

A central objection is that the study was simply too risky. Researchers have stressed that the risk of off-target effects (unintentionally changing other genes) and mosaicism (only altering the target gene in some of the child’s cells rather than all of them) could lead to unexpected and harmful health effects such as cancer later in life. There is general agreement that at present these risks outweigh any potential benefits, and more basic research is needed before proceeding.

Interestingly, some of the strongest ethical objections to the experiment came from ethicists who have in other venues defended gene editing. Julian Savulescu, for example, has gone so far as to argue that, if it were safe and not too costly, we would even have an obligation to edit our children’s genes. Yet he called the reported experiment “monstrous,” in light of the serious risks and lack of necessity. The twins were never in danger of inheriting a deadly genetic disorder, and there are far less risky ways to prevent HIV transmission.

Public perception

This backlash may have caught He by surprise. According to one report, He commissioned a large-scale public opinion survey in China a few months prior to the announcement. The survey found that over 70 percent of the Chinese public was supportive of using gene editing for HIV prevention. This is roughly in line with a recent Pew poll in the United States that found 60 percent of Americans support using gene editing on babies to reduce lifetime risk of contracting certain diseases.

But polling tells only part of the story. The same Chinese poll also found very low levels of public understanding of gene editing and did not mention the details of He’s study. Abstract polling questions ignore the risks and state of the science, which were crucial to most objections to He’s experiment. It also obscures the involvement of embryos in gene editing. In the American Pew poll, despite overall support for gene editing, 65 percent opposed embryonic testing – a necessary step in the process of gene editing to address disease.

Moreover, polling is a crude and simplistic way to engage in public debate and deliberation over the controversial issue of gene editing. Various bodies, such as the National Academies of Sciences, Medicine and Engineering in the U.S. and the Nuffield Council on Bioethics in the U.K., have emphasized that, for gene editing to proceed to human trials, a robust public discussion is first needed to establish its legitimacy.

Yet He decided to proceed in the least transparent way possible, hiding his study from public view, colleagues and his institution, and even going so far as to ban participants from sharing with anyone their participation in the trial, on pain of financial penalty.

He’s recklessness, then, was not limited to risk but also failing to earn public trust and buy-in before proceeding.

Consent and inducement

A further failing of He’s experiment was the consent process. The study recruited couples with an HIV-positive husband and HIV-negative wife. Ostensibly, the couples had a particular interest in ensuring their children never contracted HIV, in light of the intended father’s experience. But looking a little closer reveals other, more problematic motivations.

For such couples, it is possible to safely conceive an HIV-negative child using robust IVF procedures. Such therapy is expensive, prohibitively so for many couples. But He’s study offered a particularly enticing carrot – free IVF treatment and supportive care, along with a daily allowance and insurance coverage during the treatment and pregnancy. According to the consent form, the total value of treatments and payments was approximately US$40,000 – over four times the average annual wage in urban China.

This raises a serious concern of undue inducement: paying research participants such a large sum that it distorts their assessment of the risks and benefits. In this gene editing context, where the risks are incredibly uncertain and there is substantially limited general understanding of genetics and gene editing, society should be especially concerned about the distorting effect of such a large reward on the participants’ provision of free and informed consent.

Aftermath

In a video announcing the birth of the twins, He announced he was willing to take on all personal responsibility for the conduct and outcomes of the experiment. And indeed, the consequences of this unethical experiment are already piling up. His own university has disavowed him, having previously suspended him, while multiple investigations are being launched into He, his American collaborator and the hospital ethics committee that approved the experiment.

The outcome of those investigations remains to be seen, but it is part of a disturbing pattern in reproduction: rogue scientists bucking international norms to engage in ethically and scientifically dubious reproductive research. Indeed, just within the last two years another set of renegade scientists flaunted established norms to bring about the first “three-parent IVF” babies; there was tremendous outcry, but the procedure now seems to be continuing in the relatively lax regulatory environment of Ukraine.

Hard work is now needed by scientists, ethicists, policymakers and the public at large to figure out how to reverse this trend and return reproductive medicine to a path of responsible research and innovation.

The Conversation

Low-income parents want a white picket fence, not just money, before getting married

November 28, 2018

Authors

Christina Gibson-Davis

Associate Professor of Sociology, Duke University

Anna Gassman-Pines

Associate Professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University

Disclosure statement

Christina Gibson-Davis received funding from Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, US Department of Health and Human Services.

Anna Gassman.Pines received a grant from the Office of Planning Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Marriage rates in the U.S. are declining, especially among the lowest-income Americans.

However, in October, wage growth in the U.S. hit a nine-year high, with low-wage workers seeing some of the biggest gains. A turnaround in wages could spur marriage rates to climb back up. Lack of money is a primary reason why lower-income people don’t get married, particularly if they already have a child.

But as researchers who study how and why low-income parents get married, we believe that more money in a paycheck might not be enough to increase marriage rates. When asked why they don’t get married, low-income couples say that there is an “economic bar to marriage.” Before they walk down the aisle, many couples want to own a house, have a bank account and have a job that offers health insurance.

In other words, it takes a bundle of financial achievements before low-income parents feel like they are ready to wed.

Why we care

Marriage tends to lead to benefits for kids and their parents, including higher test scores for children and higher incomes for families. And if low-income parents don’t get married, they and their children might miss out on both the economic and psychological benefits that marriage could convey.

In a study published on Oct. 23, we sought to identify whether low-income parents who meet more of these financial achievements are more likely to marry than couples who meet fewer. We used data from a survey of a sample of 4,444 unmarried, low-income parents to see how couples who met a set of economic achievements – what we call “the economic bar to marriage” – were more likely to marry.

To measure the economic bar to marriage, we looked at seven items that relate to economic well-being, including experiencing wage growth, having private health insurance, owning a home, having a bank account, avoiding welfare receipt and not experiencing any economic hardship. Couples who met four of these seven items we counted as meeting the economic bar to marriage.

Our results showed that low-income parents who met the economic bar to marriage were 47 percent more likely to marry than couples who did not.

Who meets the bar

We also examined whether meeting the bar was associated with union types beyond marriage; the importance of gender in meeting the bar; and whether meeting the bar has positive associations with relationship quality.

Meeting the bar did not make couples more likely to move in together – just more likely to get married. Parents did not view cohabitation as equivalent to marriage. Our study reinforces the “specialness” of marriage, and is consistent with the idea that many Americans hold marriage in high regard.

In fact, couples who were already cohabiting were the most likely to get married after meeting the bar. Our study indicates that, for people already in a committed relationship, achieving the economic bar moved them from cohabitation to marriage.

What’s more, couples need more than just money. Economic factors besides take-home pay play into couple’s marriage decisions.

When mothers make economic gains

We also assessed couples’ self-reported satisfaction with their relationship, using a six-item scale on levels of support and affection in the relationship.

Relationship quality is important, because low-income parents with higher-quality relationships can better support and nurture their children. Couples who met the economic bar to marriage, compared to those who did not, reported higher satisfaction with their relationships.

Being more satisfied with your relationship when you are doing economically better may not sound surprising. But we found that relationship satisfaction was more likely to go up when the woman, rather than the man, was making economic contributions.

To be clear, most of the parents in our sample did not get married. In our study, as has been found before, low-income parents who have just had a child together do not stay together for very long. After 36 months, about half of the couples in our study were no longer romantically involved.

Some scholars have suggested that if low-income people have more money, they might be more likely to get married. But as our results show, couples want more than just more money to get married. They want the white picket fence.

FILE – In this May 23, 2018, file photo, Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, leaves the Federal District Court after a hearing, in Washington. Special counsel Robert Mueller is accusing Manafort of lying to federal investigators in the Russia probe in breach of his plea agreement. Prosecutors say in a new court filing that after Manafort agreed to truthfully cooperate with the investigation, he “committed federal crimes” by lying about “a variety of subject matters.” (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/12/web1_121854366-79e1726a6a564f67a75a72b380b4666a.jpgFILE – In this May 23, 2018, file photo, Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, leaves the Federal District Court after a hearing, in Washington. Special counsel Robert Mueller is accusing Manafort of lying to federal investigators in the Russia probe in breach of his plea agreement. Prosecutors say in a new court filing that after Manafort agreed to truthfully cooperate with the investigation, he “committed federal crimes” by lying about “a variety of subject matters.” (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)
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