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News You Need To Know

Investigation Sought of Extensive F.D.A. Surveillance

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altWASHINGTON — Federal health officials faced pressure from Capitol Hill and outside groups on Monday to investigate a wide-ranging surveillance program that the Food and Drug Administration mounted against a group of its scientists who raised warnings about the safety of medical imaging devices.

Representative Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, sent a letter on Monday to Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, calling on her to conduct a full investigation into whether the surveillance program violated federal employee protections and whistle-blower laws.

“The tactics reportedly used by the F.D.A. send a terrible message to those who are prepared to expose waste, abuse or wrongdoing in government agencies,” wrote Mr. Van Hollen, whose staff communications were monitored by the F.D.A.

NY Times  

Protesters In Egypt Pelt Hillary Clinton's Motorcade With Tomatoes, Shoes

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altCAIRO, July 15 (Reuters) - Protesters threw tomatoes and shoes at U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's motorcade on Sunday during her first visit to Egypt since the election of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.

A tomato struck an Egyptian official in the face, and shoes and a water bottle landed near the armoured cars carrying Clinton's delegation in the port city of Alexandria.

A senior state department official said that neither Clinton nor her vehicle, which were around the corner from the incident, were struck by any of the projectiles.

Protesters chanted: "Monica, Monica", a reference to Former President Bill Clinton's extra-marital affair. Some chanted: "leave, Clinton", Egyptian security officials said.

It was not clear who the protesters were or what political affiliations they had. Protesters outside Clinton's hotel on Saturday night chanted anti-Islamist slogans, accusing the United States of backing the Muslim Brotherhood's rise to power.

The assault on her motorcade came on a day Clinton spoke at the newly re-opened U.S. consulate in Alexandria, addressing accusations the United States, which had long supported former President Hosni Mubarak, of backing one faction or another in Egypt following his ouster last year.

"I want to be clear that the United States is not in the business, in Egypt, of choosing winners and losers, even if we could, which of course we cannot," Clinton said.

Clinton also met the country's top general, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, on Sunday to discuss Egypt's turbulent democratic transition as the military wrestles for influence with the new president.

RIGHTS OF ALL

The meeting came a day after she met Mursi, whose powers were clipped by the military days before he took office.
Mursi fired back by reinstating the Islamist-dominated parliament that the army leadership had disbanded after a court declared it void, deepening the stand-off before the new leader even had time to form a government.

The result has been acute political uncertainty as the various power centres try to find a way to get along in a country that still has no permanent constitution, parliament or government more than a year after Mubarak's downfall.

In their hour-long meeting, Clinton and Tantawi discussed Egypt's political transition and the military's "ongoing dialogue with President Mursi," a U.S. official travelling with Clinton said in an email brief.

"Tantawi stressed that this is what Egyptians need most now - help getting the economy back on track," the official said.

Clinton "stressed the importance of protecting the rights of all Egyptians, including women and minorities".

The talks also touched on the increasingly lawless Sinai region and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Speaking after the meeting, Tantawi said the army respected the presidency but would not be deterred from its role of "protecting" Egypt.

"The armed forces and the army council respects legislative and executive authorities," he said in a speech to troops in the city of Ismailia. "The armed forces would not allow anyone to discourage it from its role in protecting Egypt and its people."

TIES STRAINED

Ties with the United States, which provides Egypt with an annual $1.3 billion in military aid, were strained this year when Egyptian judicial police raided the offices of several U.S.-backed non-governmental organisations on suspicion of illegal foreign funding and put several Americans on trial.

The spat ended when Egyptian authorities allowed the U.S. citizens and other foreign workers to leave the country.

During her speech, Clinton said: "When we talk about supporting democracy, we mean real democracy."

"To us real democracy means that every citizen has the right to live, work and worship as they choose, whether they are man or woman, Christian or Muslim."

"Real democracy means that no group or faction or leader can impose their will, their ideology, their religion, their desires on anyone else."

That was a message she is likely to have repeated in meetings on Sunday with women and Christians, both groups that fear their rights may be curtailed under a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government.

"She wanted, in very, very clear terms, particularly with the Christian group this morning, to dispel that notion and to make clear that only Egyptians can choose their leaders, that we have not supported any candidate, any party, and we will not," a senior U.S. official told reporters. (Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Huffington Post 

Penn St. officials concealed sex abuse

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Joe Paterno and other top Penn State officials hushed up child sex abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky more than a decade ago for fear of bad publicity, allowing Sandusky to prey on other youngsters, according to a scathing internal report issued Thursday on the scandal.

"Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State," said former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who was hired by university trustees to look into what has become one of sports' biggest scandals. "The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized."

After an eight-month inquiry, Freeh's firm produced a 267-page report that concluded that Hall of Fame coach Paterno, President Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz "failed to protect against a child sexual predator."

Freeh called the officials' disregard for child victims "callous and shocking."

"In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the university - Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley - repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky's child abuse," the report said. Paterno "was an integral part of this active decision to conceal," Freeh said at a news conference.

School leaders "empowered Sandusky to attract potential victims to the campus and football events by allowing him to have continued, unrestricted and unsupervised access" to campus and his affiliation with the football program, the report said. The access, the report states, "provided Sandusky with the very currency that enabled him to attract his victims."

Freeh said officials had opportunities in 1998 and 2001 to step in.

Sexual abuse might have been prevented if university officials had banned Sandusky from bringing children onto campus after a 1998 inquiry, the report said. Despite their knowledge of the police probe into Sandusky showering with a boy in a football locker room, Spanier, Paterno, Curley and Schultz took no action to limit his access to campus, the report said.

The May 1998 complaint by a woman whose son came home with wet hair after showering with Sandusky didn't result in charges at the time. The report says Schultz was worried the matter could be opening "Pandora's box."

Then, in 2001, after a member of Paterno's staff saw Sandusky in a campus shower with a boy, officials did bar him from bringing children to campus and decided not to report him to child welfare authorities.

"There's more red flags here than you could count over a long period of time," Freeh said.

Sandusky is awaiting sentencing after being convicted of 45 criminal counts for abusing 10 boys. The scandal led to the ouster of Paterno and Spanier. Curley and Schultz are awaiting trial on charges accusing them of lying to a grand jury and failing to report abuse. They have pleaded not guilty.

Trustee Anthony Lubrano, a critic of the board's dismissal of Paterno in November, said the board was still formulating a response.

Freeh also said Sandusky's conduct was in part a result of the school's lack of transparency, which stemmed from a "failure of governance" on the part of officials and the board of trustees. He said the collective inaction and mindset at the top of the university trickled all the way down to a school janitor who was afraid for his job and opted to not report seeing sex abuse in a school locker room in 2000.

The report also singled out the revered Penn State football program - one built on the motto "success with honor" - for criticism. It says Paterno and university leaders allowed Sandusky to retire in 1999, "not as a suspected child predator, but as a valued member of the Penn State football legacy, with future `visibility' at Penn State'," allowing him to groom victims.

Investigators, however, found no evidence linking his $168,000 retirement package in 1999 to the 1998 police investigation. Freeh called the payout unprecedented but said there was no evidence it was an attempt to buy Sandusky's silence.

Sandusky's trial last month included gut-wrenching testimony from eight young men who said he abused them as boys, sometimes on campus, and included testimony that showed he used his prestige as a university celebrity to manipulate the children.

By contrast, Freeh's team focused on Penn State and what its employees did - or did not do - to protect children.

More than 430 current or former school employees were interviewed since November, including nearly everyone associated with the football program under Paterno. The Hall of Fame coach died of lung cancer in January at age 85, without telling Freeh's team his account of what happened.

The report included a series of emails among school administrators following accusations against Sandusky in 1998 and 2001.

After Curley opted not report Sandusky for an alleged assault of a boy in the football locker room showers in 2001, Schultz called the decision to try and get Sandusky to seek professional help "humane." But he also noted that "the only downside for us is if the message isn't (heard) and acted upon and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it."

The emails also point to Paterno being aware of the 1998 accusation.

With the report now complete, the NCAA said Penn State now must address four key questions concerning "institutional control and ethics policies," as outlined in a letter sent to the school last fall.

"Penn State's response to the letter will inform our next steps, including whether or not to take further action," said Bob Williams, the NCAA's vice president of communications. "We expect Penn State's continued cooperation in our examination of these issues."

The U.S. Department of Education is examining whether the school violated the Clery Act, which requires reporting of certain crimes on campus, including ones of a sexual nature. The report said Penn State's "awareness and interest" in Clery Act compliance was "significantly lacking."

Only one form used to report such crimes was completed on campus from 2007 through 2011, according to the Freeh findings. And no record exists of Paterno, Curley or assistant coach Mike McQueary reporting that McQueary saw Sandusky in a shower with a boy in 2001, as they would be obligated to do under the Clery Act.

As of last November, Penn State's policies for Clery compliance were still in draft form and had not been implemented, the report found.

U.S. Department of Education said it was still examining whether Penn State violated the Clery Act, but declined to comment on Freeh's report.

Mary Krupa, an 18-year-old Penn State freshman who grew up in State College, said the conclusion that the school's highest officials were derelict in protecting children didn't shake her love of the town or the school.

"The actions of five or six people don't reflect on the hundreds of thousands" of students and faculty who make up the Penn State community, she said while walking through the student union building on campus.

Freeh said he regretted the damage the findings would do to Paterno's "terrific legacy" but there was no attempt to pin the blame on the late coach.

"What my report says is what the evidence and the facts show," he said.

Christian Beveridge, a masonry worker who grew up near Penn State, said the findings will ruin Paterno's legacy but not the closeness that people in town and fans feel for him.

"He built this town," said Beveridge, 40, resting in the shade on campus during a break. "All of his victories, he'll be remembered by everyone in town for a long time, but there will be that hesitation."

AP 

 

Supreme Court upholds Obama health law

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The Supreme Court upheld President Obama’s signature healthcare law Thursday in a 5-4 decision that vindicates Obama and helps define Chief Justice John Roberts.

The court said the health law’s individual mandate, which requires most taxpayers to either buy insurance or pay a penalty, is a tax and is constitutional. The court also altered the law’s Medicaid expansion without striking it down entirely.

The ruling is an enormous victory for President Obama and congressional Democrats, who had long insisted the healthcare law is constitutional.

The fact that Roberts — a bona fide conservative appointed by former President George W. Bush — wrote the majority opinion is a blow to Republicans who had claimed the mantle of the Constitution in opposing the individual mandate.

Republicans will press ahead with symbolic votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but they will have to make significant gains in November’s election to actually stop Obama’s signature domestic achievement from taking effect.

“Our mission is clear — if we want to get rid of ObamaCare, we're going to have to get rid of President Obama,” GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Thursday.

The GOP also signaled after the decision that it intends to make the question of taxes a centerpiece in its argument against Obama. Romney said the law would result in a huge tax increase, while Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) warned the decision could allow the IRS to come after the uninsured.

Roberts tacitly acknowledged the passionate opposition to the healthcare law, but he said policy decisions belong to the elected branches of government, not the court.

“It is not our job to save the people from the consequences of their political decisions,” he said.

The decision allows Roberts — whose legacy will rest in large part on this case — to avoid the severe repercussions that both sides of the case had feared. The court did not strike down the signature domestic achievement of a sitting president, nor did it give its approval to an expansion of Congress's powers.

The ruling will also change the way the political left and right view Roberts, who with his majority opinion became a target for conservatives.

Roberts’ opinion on the mandate was joined by the court’s liberal members — Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Democrats heralded the ruling even though the court took an unexpected route to uphold the law. The justices upheld the mandate as a use of Congress’ tax powers — not as a regulation of interstate commerce.

Obama argued repeatedly during the legislative debate that the mandate is not a tax, and the law would have been even more difficult to pass if Democrats had described the mandate as a tax.

But the Justice Department has consistently defended the mandate in court as both a use of Congress’ taxing power and a use of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause.

The five justices in the Supreme Court’s majority are the first judges in the country to side with the Obama administration’s tax argument. It was rejected in every lower court, even those that ultimately upheld the healthcare law.

Roberts’ majority opinion cited estimates that as many as 4 million people will choose to pay the penalty rather than buy insurance.

“That Congress regards such extensive failure to comply with the mandate as tolerable suggests that Congress did not think it was creating four million outlaws,” Roberts wrote. “It suggests instead that the shared responsibility payment merely imposes a tax citizens may lawfully choose to pay in lieu of buying health insurance.”

Politically, Democrats had insisted that the mandate is not a tax. But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wasn’t concerned that the court upheld the mandate on tax grounds.

“Call it what you will, it is a step forward for America's families. And you know what? Take 'yes' for an answer. This is a very good thing for the American people,” she said at a press conference.

Many of the law's supporters thought before oral arguments that Roberts might vote to uphold the mandate, but on different grounds. After the arguments, conventional wisdom held that Roberts would vote to strike the mandate and Justice Anthony Kennedy would be the swing vote in the healthcare case, fulfilling his traditional role on the court.

Kennedy, though, not only sided with the court's conservatives, he read a statement from the bench summarizing the strongly worded dissenting opinion.

“The majority rewrites the statute Congress wrote” by deciding the mandate is a tax, Kennedy said from the bench.

The dissenting justices said the mandate is unconstitutional and the entire law should have been struck down.

“The court regards its strained statutory interpretation as judicial modesty,” Kennedy said. “It is not. It amounts instead to a vast judicial overreaching.”

The court did chip away at the healthcare law's Medicaid expansion without striking it down entirely. It said the federal government cannot withhold all Medicaid funding from states that choose not to take part in the expansion, but must give states a choice between participating in the expanded program or leaving it as is.

Twenty-six states and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) filed the lawsuit as soon as Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law.

NFIB executive director Karen Harned said she was “very disappointed” in the court's ruling.

“There's going to be a public outcry from our members. I can assure you of that,” Harned said, speaking just outside the Supreme Court.

The ruling was met with angry protests from conservatives, who said the court had paved the way for a single-payer healthcare system. One speaker rallied protesters to elect “conservatives — not Republicans, but conservatives” in the fall, to ensure that the law is overturned in Congress.

TheHill.com 

Morsi's Win in Egypt Draws Kudos, Caveats From U.S.

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WASHINGTON—The Obama administration hailed the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood's presidential candidate in Egypt, Mohammed Morsi, as a key advance for Middle East democracy and a model for other Arab states attempting political transitions.

But beneath the White House's public pronouncements, fears are mounting inside U.S. national-security agencies about the prospects for Washington's alliance with Cairo, as well as for the regional interests of the U.S. and its allies.

The White House, while praising the election, cautioned Cairo's new leader Sunday to respect the rights of non-Muslims and women as he forms a government. It also suggested that Washington expects Egypt's new Islamist government to maintain and respect the country's peace treaty with Israel, a cornerstone of the American-Egyptian alliance for the past 30 years.

"We look forward to working together with President-elect Morsi and the government he forms, on the basis of mutual respect, to advance the many shared interests between Egypt and the United States," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said. "We believe that it is important for President-elect Morsi to take steps at this historic time to advance national unity by reaching out to all parties and constituencies in consultations about the formation of a new government."

President Barack Obama called Mr. Morsi on Sunday, the White House said, adding that Mr. Morsi told Mr. Obama he "welcomed U.S. support for Egypt's transition."

The White House also said the president called Ahmed Shafiq, who Mr. Morsi defeated, "to commend him on a well-run campaign," adding that he encouraged the general "to continue to play a role in Egyptian politics by supporting the democratic process and working to unify the Egyptian people."

Top diplomats, including the U.S. ambassador in Cairo, have had a number of "friendly contacts" with leading Muslim Brotherhood figures, including the former presidential candidate, Khairat al Shater, and members of the group's economic team, a senior U.S. official said. In these private talks, Muslim Brotherhood representatives have reassured the U.S. by saying "all the right things on the economic side," the official said, but elements of the group's social agenda remain a concern for the administration.

"Sure we'll deal with them. They're freely elected," the official said.

Depending on how much power the military cedes to the new president, Mr. Morsi's election potentially could damp U.S.-Egyptian military ties. The U.S. military maintained close relations with its Egyptian counterpart throughout former President Hosni Mubarak's rule.

In addition to $1.3 billion in annual military aid, U.S. and Egyptian officers held regular exchanges and military exercises to further bind the militaries.

At critical junctures in the transition, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other officials have called counterparts in Cairo, urging them to remain committed to elections. A little over a week ago, in a call to Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, Mr. Panetta pressed the ruling military council to continue with the presidential elections and its democratic transition after a ruling by the country's high court dissolved Parliament.

In many ways, a Morsi victory was the most desirable outcome for Mr. Obama, who waded deeply into last year's Arab Spring and had sided against longtime U.S. ally Mr. Mubarak. Still, Mr. Morsi's win raises numerous challenges to U.S. security interests across the Middle East, said U.S., Arab and Israeli officials

The Muslim Brotherhood's rise in Cairo is seen as a risk to Israel's security and a complication to efforts at promoting Arab-Israeli peace talks. Israeli officials in recent weeks have pointed to growing attacks on the Jewish state from the Egyptian-controlled Sinai as evidence that a weakening military in Cairo is less able to secure Israel's borders and underpin the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement.U.S. and Arab officials also worry the Muslim Brotherhood's rise could accelerate the continuing expansion of Islamist governments across the region in the wake of the political uprisings that started last year. Islamist governments have been formed in Libya and Tunisia.

Washington is particularly concerned about the future of Jordan's King Abdullah, a staunch ally of the U.S. and Israel who has been a key player in combating the role of al Qaeda and Iran in the region. Jordan's own Muslim Brotherhood movement is driving growing political dissent inside the kingdom.

The U.S. and allied governments also are concerned about developments in Syria, worried that the Brotherhood or a more radical form of Sunni power could gain power as President Bashar al-Assad's rule weakens.

"It's scary what the region could look like in a year," said a senior Arab official. "You could have one bloc of the Muslim Brothers and the others close to Iran."
WallStreetJournal 

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