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US Cancels A Planned Alcohol Study Over Trust Issues

NIH Director Francis Collins temporarily suspended the study

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A photo made with a fisheye lens shows bottles of alcohol in a liquor store in Salt Lake City. The National Institutes of Health said Friday that it was canceling a study of moderate drinking's health benefits because the results could not be trusted. Beer and liquor companies were helping to underwrite it.
This June 16, 2016, file photo, taken with a fisheye lens, shows bottles of alcohol during a tour of a state liquor store, in Salt Lake City. Cheap liquor, wine and beer have long been best-sellers among Utah alcohol drinkers, but new numbers from Utah's tightly-controlled liquor system show local craft brews, trendy box wines and flavored whiskies are also popular choices in a largely teetotaler state. VOA
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The U.S. government is shutting down a planned study testing whether moderate drinking has health benefits over concerns that its funding by the alcohol industry would compromise its credibility.

The National Institutes of Health said Friday that the results of the planned $100 million study could not be trusted because of the secretive way that employees negotiated with beer and liquor companies to underwrite the effort.

Government officials say it is legal to use industry money to pay for government research as long as all rules are followed. However, in this case, NIH officials say employees did not follow proper procedures, including keeping their interactions with industry officials secret.

NIH Deputy Director Lawrence Tabak said the interactions between the employees and industry representatives appeared to “intentionally bias” the study so that it would have a better chance to conclude that moderate drinking is beneficial.

An NIH review panel was also concerned that the study’s proposed span of 10 years was too short a time period to adequately test the potential problems of a daily drink, such as an increased risk of cancer or heart failure.

Red wine
Red wine, Pixabay

NIH Director Francis Collins temporarily suspended the study last month after reporting by The New York Times first raised questions about the funding policy violations. Collins said Friday that he was completely shutting down the research.

“This is a matter of the greatest seriousness,’’ he said.

The study had planned to track two groups of people, one group drinking a glass of alcohol a day and another abstaining from alcohol. The study had planned to compare new cases of cardiovascular disease and the rate of new cases of diabetes among participants.

Some of the world’s largest alcoholic beverage makers, including Anheuser-Busch InBev and Heineken, had contributed to the study, although Anheuser-Busch InBev had recently withdrawn its contribution.

The NIH said of the $67.7 million raised from private donations, nearly all from the alcohol industry, $11.8 million, had been spent for the study.

Also read: New Link Found Between Alcohol, Genes And Heart Failure

The NIH’s National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) had planned to spend $20 million of its own money for the study. It said $4 million had been spent.(VOA)

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U.S. Hacking From China On The Rise: U.S. Intelligence Official

The U.S. Congress is looking into the allegations of increased Chinese hacking activity.

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Cyber crime, U.S.
A man types on a computer keyboard in front of displayed cyber code in this illustration picture. VOA

A senior U.S. intelligence official said on Tuesday that Chinese cyber activity in the United States had risen in recent months, targeting critical infrastructure in what may be attempts to lay the groundwork for future disruptive attacks.

“You worry they are prepositioning against critical infrastructure and trying to be able to do the types of disruptive operations that would be the most concern,” National Security Agency official Rob Joyce said at a Wall Street Journal cybersecurity conference.

Joyce, a former White House cyber adviser for President Donald Trump, did not elaborate. A spokeswoman for the NSA said Joyce was referring to digital attacks against the U.S. energy, financial, transportation and healthcare sectors.

Bitcoin Price, Cryptocurrency surge, Computer, U.S.
Experts: Cyber attacks Growing Increasingly Sophisticated. Pixabay

The comments are notable because U.S. complaints about Chinese hacking have to date focused on espionage and intellectual property theft, not efforts to disrupt critical infrastructure.

China has repeatedly denied U.S. allegations it conducts cyber attacks.

Joyce’s remarks coincide with U.S. prosecutors preparing to unveil as early as this week a new round of criminal hacking charges against Chinese nationals. They are expected to charge that Chinese hackers were involved in a cyber espionage operation known as “Cloudhopper” targeting technology service providers and their customers, according to people familiar with the matter.

Also Read: The Secrets Of The North Korean Hacker Army

The U.S. Congress is looking into the allegations of increased Chinese hacking activity.

Senior officials from the Department of Homeland Security and Justice Department are scheduled to testify Wednesday morning at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “China’s Non-Traditional Espionage Against the United States: The Threat and Potential Policy Responses.” (VOA)