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UCSD Doctor Resigns After inewsource Raised Questions About His China Business Ties And More Local News

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A renowned UCSD eye doctor who is part of a Chinese recruitment program under FBI scrutiny has resigned amid inewsource's questions about his foreign government affiliations and businesses. Plus, East County Congressman Duncan Hunter is expected back in court Monday to convince a judge to dismiss the case alleging his illegal use of campaign funds; a group of researchers from San Diego are using robots to help those suffering from Parkinson’s disease; and residents in Lincoln Park celebrate the evolution of their neighborhood.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 It's Monday, July 8th I'm Deb Welsh and you're listening to San Diego news matters from KPBS coming up. An East county congressman is back in court today and questions about foreign government relations leads to the resignation of now you see San Diego eye doctor

Speaker 2: 00:17 and no country poses a broader, more severe intelligence collection threat and China

Speaker 1: 00:25 that and more San Diego news stories coming up right after the break.

Speaker 3: 00:31 Mm.

Speaker 1: 00:33 Thank you for joining us for San Diego News Matters. I'm Deb Welsh or announced ucs DUI doctor resigned last week after KPBS partner. I knew source raised questions about his government and business ties to China. I knew source investigator reporter Brad Racino explains how this international issue is now surfacing in San Diego

Speaker 2: 00:54 more than ever. The adversaries targets are a nation's assets. Our information and ideas, our innovation, our research and development, our technology.

Speaker 4: 01:05 That was FBI director Christopher Wray speaking in April

Speaker 2: 01:09 and no country poses a broader, more severe intelligence collection threat in China.

Speaker 4: 01:16 The FBI says some of China's government programs incentivize scientists to illegally take intellectual property developed at u s universities to China. The goal to advance China's scientific, economic and military interests.

Speaker 5: 01:30 The thousand towns program is the one that is best known and may be the largest.

Speaker 4: 01:35 Michael Lauer is a deputy director at the National Institutes of health, the largest funder of biomedical research in the world. As of June, the agency had notified more than 60 universities and medical institutions about possible undisclosed ties by researchers to foreign governments, including the thousand talents program. Those NIH letters have prompted grant refunds, terminations, suspensions, and FBI investigations. Well, new at MD Anderson Cancer Center fires three scientists accused of sharing important research and data with [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 02:09 China, but it's for Chinese American professors at Emory university had been fired after failing to disclose financial and research ties to China while receiving federal oaks

Speaker 4: 02:19 more than a dozen members of the thousand talents program work at research institutions across San Diego. Among them was Dr Khongthong, who until last week was the chief of eye genetics at UC San Diego's Shailee eye institute by scouring Chinese business filings, archived websites in mandarin along with property and divorce records. I knew source was able to uncover the following. John joined the thousand talents program in 2010 two years later, he founded a biotechnology company in China that specializes in the same work he performed at ucs UCFD. Then he set up us subsidiaries, signed a $5 million licensing deal and patented inventions in a dozen countries. There's no evidence. Zhang has illegally shared intellectual property with China, but I, new source did discover he has not properly disclosed any of his more than half dozen Chinese businesses to ucs or the national institutes of health as required by university policy and federal regulations. He also hasn't mentioned his role in the thousand talents program.

Speaker 6: 03:23 Not telling it is lying pure and simple and is unconscionable.

Speaker 4: 03:29 Dr. Ross McKinney is the chief scientific officer at the Association of American Medical Colleges. The nonprofit has been educating officials at universities and hospitals to be alert to foreign efforts to recruit or influence their faculty. McKinney says universities were skeptical at first

Speaker 6: 03:46 and only when they started getting into it and discovering that people were being dishonest. Did they go, oh, I actually think we have a real problem here. The, in this case, the NIH and the FBI are not exaggerating. There really is just a matic dishonesty

Speaker 4: 04:00 critics say the u s crackdown on researchers is unwarranted. Michael Zigmund is an ethics expert and retired neurology professor at the University of Pittsburgh. He's lectured at China's Fudan University for more than 15 years and has colleagues in the u s who came from China,

Speaker 6: 04:17 certainly country's spy on each other. And the United States does its share of spying, but to, to, um, suggest that biomedical science is, is, uh, a target area for this kind of thing. I think is, is crazy.

Speaker 4: 04:36 Ucs d would not comment for this story other than to say, Zang resigned Thursday. Sean's attorney said most if not all of his companies have been long known to the university, though he did not provide that evidence for KPBS. I am I new source investigative reporter Brad Racino

Speaker 7: 04:52 to learn more about doctors Young's business interest here and in China, go to [inaudible] dot org I new source is an independently funded nonprofit partner of KPBS, East County Congressman Duncan Hunter is expected back in court this morning. KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman says Hunter is trying to convince a judge to dismiss the case alleging his illegal use of campaign funds. Judge Thomas Waylon is expected to take up a handful of motions in the case accusing hunter of spending more than $250,000 in campaign funds for personal use. One motion says federal prosecutors involved in the case are biased because they attended a Hillary Clinton fundraiser for a photo op and asked Whelan to throw out the case or at least recused prosecutors from the southern district of California. Hunter's team has also filed a motion arguing. He is shielded by the US Constitution speech or debate clause which has lawyer say protect members of Congress from being prosecuted for their legislative activities. Hunter is also asking for a change of venue because he says he would not get a fair trial due to the publicity generated by his case. The original indictment filed in 2018 charge both hunter and his wife Margaret for the misuse of campaign funds. Last month. Margaret struck a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring with her husband to use campaign funds for personal use. Matt Hoffman, K PBS news.

Speaker 1: 06:14 The San Diego Airport Authority announced a $500 million agreement that will fund projects aimed at making it easier to get to and from the airport. KPBS is Sarah Casianos tells us more. Last week, more than half a billion dollars was pledged towards future transit projects in hopes of making it easier to get to the San Diego International Airport. Some of these ideas include high speed transit options like a people mover or a trolley extension. Miro Copak with SDSU and bottom line marketing told KPBS about another project that could help with congestion. A new road between the city and the airport.

Speaker 8: 06:55 What this $500 million does is it solves two problems. One is the traffic on harbor boulevard. There's going to be a new road that's going to go from Laurel Avenue all the way to the airport, no traffic lights, so it makes it easy to park.

Speaker 1: 07:07 No projects have been approved yet. Sarah [inaudible] KPBS news. Robots may soon be able to help people suffering from unsteadiness KPV of science and technology. Reporter Shalina, Chet Celani spoke to researchers creating technology right here in San Diego that could help people find stability. At San Diego State University,

Speaker 9: 07:29 a robot picks up a red block. Sometimes it gets to a target. Other times, not so much. That's because Dr Peyman Mousavi has programmed it to model the human brain of a person suffering from Parkinson's disease, a condition that creates a time delay between brain signals and muscles causing shaky movement.

Speaker 4: 07:50 What are we going to see in reality and by this mimicking process, we can design a controller for the human brain in surely to fix this problem.

Speaker 9: 08:00 Mousavi says, the team has been using a computer to analyze these delays and create a code to stop them. The hope he says is that he can eventually use this code to create a chip that can be implanted in the human brain. Srilina chat, Lani k PBS News,

Speaker 1: 08:15 remittances to Mexico and may reach their highest level for any individual month on record. And that's according to new figures released by Mexico Central Bank from K Zzz Fronterra is bureau in Mexico City. Jorge Valencia reports

Speaker 10: 08:31 the money Mexicans abroad send back is one of the largest sectors of the country's economy. And in May, they sent more than three point $2 billion. According to the Bank of Mexico. May is historically one of the highest months for remittances because it coincides with mother's Day. But Grecia Raytheon who heads the Mexico City based remittances company Pony says President Donald Trump's promises of stepping up deportations is sending ripples. Households with undocumented immigrants,

Speaker 11: 08:57 people are making more sacrifices to send more money so that they can keep the minimum they need to survive in the u s and the rest of it transported over here. And there's also a factor of the dollar getting more value in terms of the exchange rates.

Speaker 10: 09:13 Remittances are a lifeline, especially in small rural communities where a majority of the population has left to work in the u s in Mexico City. I'm Jorge Valencia

Speaker 1: 09:24 for years. Those residing near the corner of Euclid and imperial avenues in Lincoln Park lived in fear of being caught in the crossfire of gang warfare. The intersection was known as the four corners of death, but then residents began reclaiming their neighborhood and for the past six years they've paused to celebrate what they now call the four corners of life. KPBS reporter Claire Tresor stopped by the annual festival and brings us this audio postcard.

Speaker 3: 10:00 [inaudible]

Speaker 12: 10:01 hold on. Here he is a celebration of life and love in the community at Southeast San Diego. Um, for, for many years this, this particular area was, had a stigma of death that, um, that is untrue and there's so much life here, so much positivity, so much growth here. We like to come here and just recognize that and show them to them, right?

Speaker 3: 10:20 They're coming out here and changing the name for four corners of death to four corners of life. You can see the trays to some that nobody would've been able to describe 10 years ago. You know, I wouldn't a lot of people around here when got, would it be over here doing this and one another in the name of Jesus and everyone says, [inaudible] man, I didn't hear an amen. All right, you still have to go to church tomorrow.

Speaker 1: 10:45 That was will Nisha Sutton, Armand King, James Bell, and Rodney stores. Thanks for listening to San Diego News matters. For more KPB as podcasts go to kpbs.org/podcasts.

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San Diego News Matters

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.