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The Humiliation of Dr. Chen

The US government has dropped charges against Dr. Gang Chen, an MIT scientist accused of concealing Chinese affiliations when he applied for $2.7 million in grants from the US Energy Department. Ellen Berry reported in the Times January 24, “Prosecutors announced that they had received new information indicating that Dr. Chen had not been obliged to disclose those affiliations, undercutting the basis of the case.


The US Department of Justice fanned the flames of nationalism in 2019 with a well publicized “China Initiative” — an Inquisition focused on US scientists collaborating with Chinese institutions. Dr. Chen, who studies the physics of heat transfer, was apprehensive enough to cancel a planned sabbatical year in China. In January 2020 Dr. Charles Lieber, the head of Harvard’s chemistry department, was arrested and charged with concealing his role in China’s Thousand Talents recruitment program. “But neither Dr. Chen nor his colleagues saw parallels with their own activities,” according to Berry.

Chen told her, “Most of us, when we looked at the government accusation, we said, ‘Wow, he did that?’ You see, you tend to believe in government.” He didn’t know that he himself was being investigated until he was detained at the airport by Homeland Security after a trip to China, Egypt and Morocco. He answered questions, Berry notes, “balking only at the end of the interview, when the agent asked for the passwords to his devices.

“At 6:30 a.m. on Jan. 14, 2021, he was making coffee when someone came to the door. He opened it to see between 10 and 20 federal agents. He was told to stand in a corner while agents went to wake his wife and daughter. When his wife saw that he was being handcuffed and led away, she began to speak to the F.B.I. agents, and he considered calling out to her, to tell her to stop, but was afraid to speak.” He spent several hours in custody before a lawyer provided by MIT got him released.

“Dr. Chen was put on paid leave, so he was not allowed on campus or to have contact with M.I.T. employees. He had five or six active research projects, and during the months that followed, they slowed and faltered. The 15 postdoctoral students he worked with were transferred to other research groups, taking their knowledge with them.

“ ‘We are all losers, right?’ Dr. Chen said. ‘My reputation got ruined. My students, my post-docs, they changed their career. They changed to other groups. MIT, the country, the US, we lose. I can’t calculate the loss. That loss cannot be calculated’.” 

In September 2021 the DOJ offered him a plea deal that his lawyer urged him to take —he could return to work and apply for grants if he would admit to having some (not illegal) ties to China. He turned it down. “My thinking is, I didn’t do anything wrong,” he told Berry. Using this line in a drop quote, an editor changed it to “My thing is…” which seemed out of character and should have been caught. But it passed the spell check, and that’s the main thing.

(How can I, guilty of so many gaffes in the AVA, criticize the Times? Because they have a big, well-paid editorial staff and we don’t.)

Ellen Berry’s excellent piece concludes, “When the government’s motion to dismiss charges was made public last Thursday, Dr. Chen was inundated with congratulations from colleagues. But he was somber. ‘It’s hard to tell them directly that there is nothing to congratulate,’ he said. ‘It’s just a sad history, sad for the country.’

“He is not certain how he will resume his scientific career. Without a research group or a funding stream, he has been working on individual research papers. On Thursday, the day the charges were dropped, he woke up at 4:30 a.m. to finish a paper on energy transfer in water.

“But he said speaking out about the China Initiative felt like an obligation. In an editorial in the Boston Globe, Dr. Chen has called for Congress and the Justice Department to review his case and hold people involved in the prosecution accountable.

In the Bay Area there has been considerable publicity around the violence wrought against Asians on the streets. That violence is coming mainly from envious and/or deranged lumpen. The harassment of Asian-American scientists is coming from high officials of the US government. 

The Pelosi Portfolio Case

 “An effort to strictly control stock ownership by members of Congress is gathering momentum on Capitol Hill,” according to a story in the Times Feb. 9. ”Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the House majority leader, initially expressed opposition, and even now, it is not clear how far Ms. Pelosi will go to ensure passage of strong legislation.”

The item triggered a flashback. For a few years in the ‘70s I had made my living as a private investigator. Then I had a respectable job at UCSF, and another at the District Attorney’s office. In 2003 I helped Dr. Tod Mikuriya launch O’Shaughnessy’s, the journal of cannabis in clinical practice. The so-called “business plan” was to sell the paper for $1/per to doctors, who would distribute it free to patients. It was actually more of a political plan.

To help pay the mortgage on our cozy cottage, an old partner whose detective agency was lucrative would give me an occasional errand to run. He’s gone now, and I hope that by publishing my last report I’m not violating the ethical code of that basically unethical profession. (A detective is usually gathering information under false pretenses. If it was info that people would readily divulge, the client would not have needed your services.)

Paul Pelosi, Jr. had invested in some cannabis stocks and the client was concerned that this might lead to embarrassment for the bold investor’s mother, the Speaker of the House. Here’s my brief report:

“Re: FreedomLeaf, Inc. Three of the principals according to have been pro-legalization activists. Richard Cowan and Allen St. Pierre are former executive directors of the Washington, DC based National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Steve Bloom was a longtime editor of High Times Magazine and currently runs a website called ‘Celebstoner.’ 

“The following assessment of FreedomLeaf, Inc., is from a longtime activist who knows the players well. I told him that a relative was considering investing, wanted to know if FreedomLeaf was reputable and a good bet. He said: 

“ ‘They don’t have a business plan other than to take people’s money. Supposedly their business plan was to develop a publication that would leverage the NORML name. Didn’t seem like a money-making idea. They reneged on a contract and NORML cut all ties to FreedomLeaf a couple of years ago.’

“‘Never make a business arrangement with Richard Cowan. He has been pumping and dumping stock for years. The grandiose claims are fraudulent. They have no business plan, no way of making money... NORML had stock as part of the original deal. We divested as soon as we could.” 

“2. Re: Cannabis Nature  A trusted source who is a major Canadian seed dealer had never heard of this company. He looked it up online while I was on the phone and said, ‘It looks like they’re trying to do it right.’ The most impressive thing on the site, he opined, was the brief resume of Paul Pelosi, Jr. Given that people checking out the site will learn of Pelosi Jr.’s involvement, which may not be in your client’s interest, I decided not to query two other Canadian cannabiz contacts about this company.

“3. Re: Sierra Cannabis They have no online presence and my sources had never heard of them.”

The AVA Index:

Percent increase in our 2022 Social Security payment: 2.7%

Percent rise in inflation acknowledged by US Bureau of Labor Statistics for past year: 7.5%

Percent rise in cost of our necessities (groceries and utilities) in past year: 32%

One Comment

  1. Douglas Coulter February 28, 2022

    The USA is investing in prison education, crime, punishment, racial hatred.
    Schools are just propaganda programs void of traditional learning. Memorize this, don”t think. Universities cost too much and student debt is staggering.
    America is doing on the sly what Mao did openly. Build a nation of peasant sheep.

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