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Dropped Charges

The US Justice Department has dropped visa fraud charges against five Chinese visiting researchers, who were accused of hiding their ties to the Chinese military, the Wall Street Journal reports.

It adds that the researchers were arrested last year after another researcher, Wang Xin, was stopped while trying to leave the US and admitted he had omitted his Chinese military service on his US visa application. According to the Sacramento Bee, the trial of one of the other five researchers, Tang Juan, was to begin this week. Tang, a cancer researcher who was to work at the University of California, Davis —the COVID-19 pandemic prevented her from doing so — was accused of also lying on her visa application about whether she had been in the Chinese military, it adds, noting that her lawyers argued that she had been a civilian who worked a Chinese military facility.

The Bee reports that federal prosecutors asked the judge to dismiss the case. While it notes they gave no reason for doing so, it adds that the judge dismissed a previous charge related to lying to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents as investigators had not properly advised Tang of her Miranda rights.

The Journal adds that prosecutors additionally were no longer pursuing charges against the other researchers. It reports that a memo from FBI's counterintelligence division said these cases "did not yield heretofore-unknown instances of technology transfer," and that there did appear to be confusion about the status of civilian employees of the China's People's Liberation Army. Prosecutors in Tang's case said the memo did not reflect the government's position, it notes

The US, the Journal notes, has been focused on eliminating foreign influence on research in the country, which it says has increasingly become criticized by the scientific community, particularly as inquiries have focused on Asian or Asian-American researchers.

The Scan

Booster for At-Risk

The New York Times reports that the US Food and Drug Administration has authorized a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for people over 65 or at increased risk.

Preprints OK to Mention Again

Nature News reports the Australian Research Council has changed its new policy and now allows preprints to be cited in grant applications.

Hundreds of Millions More to Share

The US plans to purchase and donate 500 million additional SARS-CoV-2 vaccine doses, according to the Washington Post.

Nature Papers Examine Molecular Program Differences Influencing Neural Cells, Population History of Polynesia

In Nature this week: changes in molecular program during embryonic development leads to different neural cell types, and more.