A new satellite image of a factory where North Korea makes military equipment used to launch long-range missiles shows the construction of a new structure.
The release of several images from Planet Labs comes amid concern that North Korea could launch a rocket or missile as it seeks concessions in stalled nuclear negotiations with the United States.
North Korea has warned that what "Christmas gift" it gives the U.S. depends on what action Washington takes.
One of the satellite images taken on Dec. 19 shows the completion of a new structure at the March 16 Factory near Pyongyang, where North Korea is believed to be developing and manufacturing vehicles used as mobile launchers for long-range ballistic missiles.
Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia nonproliferation program at the Middlebury Institute, said in an email that the construction seemed to be an expansion of the factory, which would be "big news."
North Korea used what appeared to be vehicles imported from China during its three flight tests of the Hwasong-14 and -15 intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2017, Lewis said. An increased capacity to produce mobile launchers would potentially help expand North Korea's ICBM force and improve its survivability during nuclear conflict.
Lewis said, as far as he knows, North Korea only imported six of the vehicles that were used during the 2017 ICBM tests.
"I would think North Korea would want 50-100 such systems," he said. "This would probably be some mix of ICBMs we have seen and the new system that North Korea claims is under development."
Nuclear talks between the U.S. and North Korea have been stalled since a February summit between leaders Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un fell apart.
Earlier this month, North Korea carried out two major tests at its long-range rocket launch and missile engine testing site in the country's northwest. Experts believe it tested a new engine for either an ICBM or a satellite launch vehicle.
The other images released by Planet Labs show that site before and after the Dec. 7 test.
Australia's drug regulator has fined a pharmaceutical company owned by the billionaire Sackler family over what it dubbed misleading advertising for one of its opioid painkillers, as the country grapples with surging rates of opioid prescriptions and related deaths.
Mundipharma Australia, the international affiliate of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, was ordered to pay penalties of 302,400 Australian dollars ($209,000) by the Therapeutic Goods Administration over its promotion of the opioid Targin, the drug regulator said in a statement.
The fine against Mundipharma comes as Purdue faces a barrage of lawsuits in the United States accusing it of deceptive marketing tactics that downplayed the addictive nature of its opioids.
In a story documenting Australia's ballooning opioid crisis earlier this year, The Associated Press reported that Mundipharma was facing accusations from a local doctor and a doctors' group that its Targin advertising was misleading. At the time, Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt told the AP he had asked the TGA to investigate those claims.
In a statement last week, the TGA said it had issued 24 infringement notices against Mundipharma after determining that its advertising of Targin to health professionals "was misleading, imbalanced and otherwise inaccurate," and thus breached the drug promotion requirements set out in the code of conduct by industry regulator Medicines Australia.
In Australia, drug companies are banned from directly advertising to consumers, though they are free to market their drugs to medical professionals -- provided they abide by the code of conduct.
The TGA found fault with a sentence that appeared in the promotional materials that said: "Opioids should be used as part of multimodal pain management plan and in an ongoing trial, as they are associated with potential harms, including unsanctioned use, addiction and overdose."
The TGA said the sentence "appeared to positively encourage the prescription of Targin medicines for chronic non-cancer pain."
"The TGA considers that opioids should not be represented as a core component of the multi-modal management of chronic non-cancer pain, and the decision to prescribe opioids should be approached with significant caution," the agency said.
Mundipharma Australia said it "respectfully disagrees" with the TGA's assessment of the sentence, which the company said is no longer in use.
"Mundipharma's intent with this statement was to proactively and voluntarily urge caution when healthcare professionals chose to prescribe an opioid, and to clarify that this should only be considered in specific circumstances and as part of an overall treatment program if deemed appropriate by healthcare professionals," the company said in a statement.
The sentence the TGA found fault with appeared in various Targin materials, and separate infringement notices were issued for each instance.
"Mundipharma has comprehensive and robust systems and processes in place to ensure that all our materials and claims are supported by strong medical evidence and scientific guidelines and are in full compliance with all applicable laws and industry standards," the company said.
Dr. Simon Holliday, an Australian addiction specialist, first complained about the marketing pamphlet for Targin in 2018. He initially filed a complaint with Medicines Australia. But membership to Medicines Australia is not mandatory, and Mundipharma declined to participate in the complaints process because it had dropped out as a member. Holliday then went to the TGA and got nowhere. So he wrote to the health minister and other lawmakers. He received no response.
Earlier this year, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners also complained to the TGA about the pamphlet.
Asked why it took so long to take action, the TGA told the AP in an emailed response that it assessed Holliday's initial complaint in 2018 "and considered it to be a low priority" for several reasons, including that health professionals have the expertise to critically appraise advertising materials. Because of that, it did not launch an investigation into the ad. After the complaint received media attention earlier this year, the TGA decided to investigate, the agency said.
"Additional time was needed for TGA to get advice from Medicines Australia as well as facilitate two face to face meetings with Mundipharma as part of ensuring they received natural justice," the agency told the AP.
Holliday said he was happy to have called attention to the issue, which he hopes becomes part of a broader discussion related to big pharma's influence over health care — from the way the drugs are marketed to the money drug companies spend on medical conferences and influential research papers.
"We've got to look at the big picture about how does business and health services interact," Holliday said. "There's this covert — or overt — manipulation of the way healthcare is being developed, and I really do think we need to be thinking about that."
A chat app that quickly became popular in the United Arab Emirates for communicating with friends and family is actually a spying tool used by the government to track its users, according to a newspaper report.
The government uses ToTok to track conversations, locations, images and other data of those who install the app on their phones, The New York Times reported, citing U.S. officials familiar with a classified intelligence assessment and the newspaper's own investigation.
The Emirates has long blocked Apple's FaceTime, Facebook's WhatsApp and other calling apps. Emirati media has been playing up ToTok as an alternative for expatriates living in the country to call home to their loved ones for free.
The Times says ToTok is a few months old and has been downloaded millions of times, with most of its users in the Emirates, a U.S.-allied federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula.
Government surveillance in the Emirates is prolific, and the Emirates long has been suspected of using so-called "zero day" exploits to target human rights activists and others.
Zero days exploits can be expensive to obtain on the black market because they represent software vulnerabilities for which fixes have yet to be developed.
The Times described ToTok as a way to give the government free access to personal information, as millions of users are willingly downloading and installing the app on their phones and blindly giving permission to enable features.
As with many apps, ToTok requests location information, purportedly to provide accurate weather forecasts, according to the Times. It also requests access to a phone's contacts, supposedly to help users connect with friends. The app also has access to microphones, cameras, calendar and other data.
A security expert who said he analyzed the app for the Times, Patrick Wardle, said that ToTok "does what it claims to do" as a communications app, which is the "genius" of the app if it is being used as a spy tool. "No exploits, no backdoors, no malware," he wrote in a blog post. The app is able to gain insights on users through common functions.
In a blog post Monday, ToTok did not respond directly to Sunday's Times report, but said that with "reference to the rumors circulated today about ToTok," the one goal of the app's creators was to create a reliable, easy-to-use communications platform. The post said ToTok had high-security standards to protect user data and a privacy framework that complied with local and international legal requirements.
ToTok said the app was temporarily unavailable in the app stores from Google and Apple due to a "technical issue."
The Times says that based on a technical analysis and interviews with security experts, the company behind ToTok, Breej Holding, is most likely affiliated with DarkMatter, an Emirati cybersecurity company that has hired former CIA and National Security Agency analysts and has close business ties to the Emirati government.
Emails sent to ToTok through its website and to the Emirates embassy in Washington were not immediately returned.
Boeing ousted CEO Dennis Muilenburg on Monday with no end in sight to the crisis that has engulfed the vaunted American aircraft manufacturer since the crash of two of its 737 Max airliners.
The Boeing board had supported Muilenburg for months despite calls for his resignation from lawmakers and relatives of the passengers killed. When it became clear in recent days that federal regulators would not certify the grounded Max to fly again by year's end as Muilenburg had hoped, the board finally abandoned him.
Board members decided to remove him on a conference call Sunday, according to a person familiar with the events who discussed the private deliberations on condition of anonymity.
The move came after another bad week for Boeing. The aerospace giant had announced it would temporarily halt production of the Max because it wasn't clear when it could deliver the planes. And Boeing's new Starliner space capsule went off course during a bungled, unmanned test flight to the International Space Station.
The company said Muilenburg departed immediately and its current chairman, David Calhoun, will take over as CEO on Jan. 13.
Boeing said it decided it needed new leadership to regain the confidence of regulators. The company — which has been criticized over the design of the Max, Boeing's failure to tell pilots about a new flight-control system on the plane, and its handling of the crisis after the first crash — promised a "renewed commitment to full transparency."
Boeing declined to make Calhoun or other executives available for comment.
Muilenburg had been CEO since mid-2015. The company's stock soared during most of his tenure, as Boeing benefited from strong demand for new planes to meet the growing demand for travel around the world, although the shares have fallen 24% since peaking just before the second crash.
Boeing began designing the Max in 2011 to compete with a new plane from Airbus that was cutting into sales of Boeing's venerable 737. Critics, including members of Congress, say that Boeing, with the Federal Aviation Administration's help, rushed the plane into production and minimized safety risks.
In October 2018, a brand-new Max operated by Indonesia's Lion Air crashed into the sea near Jakarta. Five months later, in March, an Ethiopian Airlines Max went down shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa. All 346 people aboard the two planes were killed.
Muilenburg was faulted for Boeing's initial response to the accidents, when he and the company seemed to blame the foreign pilots. Criticism of Muilenburg grew in recent months as news reports and congressional investigations disclosed internal Boeing documents that revealed concern within the company about key design features on the Max, especially the new automated MCAS flight-control system that investigators say played a role in the two crashes.
A faulty sensor caused the system to activate before the two disasters, pushing down the nose of both planes. Boeing had not told pilots about MCAS until after the Lion Air crash, and regulators at the FAA didn't know much about it either.
Earlier this month, the House Transportation Committee disclosed an internal FAA analysis made after the first crash, which estimated that there would be 15 more fatal crashes over 45 years until Boeing fixed MCAS. Yet the FAA did not ground the plane until the second crash.
Ababu Amha, who lost his wife, a flight attendant, in the Ethiopian Airlines crash, welcomed Muilenburg's departure.
"This is something that we have been asking and struggling for quite some time," he said. "The CEO reluctantly and deliberately kept the aircraft in service after the Lion Air crash. The Ethiopian Airlines crash was a preventable accident." He added: "What they did was a crime."
Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said the CEO's ouster was long overdue.
"Under his watch, a long-admired company made a number of devastating decisions that suggest profit took priority over safety," DeFazio said. "Furthermore, reports that Muilenburg attempted to pressure FAA into rushing the Max back into service are highly troubling."
FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson expressed concern this month that Boeing was pushing for an unrealistically quick return of the Max.
The worldwide grounding of the Max in the wake of the two crashes has undercut orders and deliveries of new planes and caused Boeing to burn cash. With Boeing in turmoil, European rival Airbus has surged far ahead of the Chicago-based company this year.
The shutdown in Max production is likely to ripple through the Pacific Northwest and Boeing's vast network of 900 companies that make engines, bodies and other parts for the plane.
The Max debacle has put the spotlight on Boeing's culture, which some current and former employees say changed from one driven by engineering to a top-down management system in which containing costs and maximizing profit — and driving the stock price higher — became an obsession.
Peter Lemme, an engineer at Boeing for 16 years before leaving in 1997, said the shift began more than two decades ago, culminating with the 1997 acquisition of McDonnell Douglas.
"It was really the Douglas management that infiltrated the Boeing philosophy," Lemme said.
Pilot unions, still seething over being kept in the dark about MCAS, said they want more openness from the new Boeing leadership.
"It's the perfect time to step back from the spreadsheet and focus on the reason airplanes fly, and that's to safely carry human beings around the globe," said Dennis Tajer, a 737 pilot and spokesman for the pilots union at American Airlines.
Boeing stock gained 2.9% following the news of Muilenburg's departure.
Muilenburg was eligible for $39 million in cash severance, stock and bonuses based on Boeing's stock price of $322.50 at the end of last year, according to a Boeing securities filing. The stock closed Monday at $337.55.
Analysts said it was unclear whether the change in CEOs will make any difference in how quickly Boeing can win approval to get the Max flying again.
The grounding has led airlines around the world to cancel tens of thousands of flights. In the U.S., Southwest has been hit the hardest; its pilots union is suing Boeing. Without the planes, airlines had to scale back on plans for more flying.
Boeing has estimated it will spend at least $9 billion to compensate airlines and adjust the Max production schedule. Analysts suspect that figure will go much higher.
Many analysts believe that when the Max is allowed to fly again, the sudden increase in planes and seats will cause fares to dip.
To rebuild trust, Boeing has to repair its relationship with the FAA and other authorities and must be transparent with the traveling public, said Mark Dombroff, an aviation expert and partner with the law firm Fox Rothschild.
"I've heard it said that 'If it ain't Boeing, I ain't going,'" Dombroff said. "I think that's something Boeing's taken great pride in, in my view justifiably, and I think they can get there again if they address these priorities."
Replacing Muilenburg will help Boeing distance itself from some of the problems, he added. "Mr. Muilenburg had become, rightly or wrongly, something of a lightning rod for controversy," Dombroff said.
Calhoun, 62, formerly ran General Electric's jet-engine business and later was CEO of Nielsen, the television-ratings company. He has been a Boeing board member since 2009 and became chairman in October, when the board stripped Muilenburg of that title.
As for whether passengers will feel comfortable flying the Max, that remains to be seen.
"As long as they figured out what caused the crashes and they can solve that, then I'm fine with that, I guess," Southwest passenger Troy Brasher said at the Oakland, California, airport.
The House Judiciary Committee held open the possibility Monday of recommending additional articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump as it pressed anew for the testimony of former White House counsel Don McGahn.
The committee wants a federal appeals court to order McGahn to testify as it examines potential obstruction of justice by the president during special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. The committee says McGahn's testimony could also be useful for any Senate impeachment trial.
A judge last month directed McGahn to comply with the House Judiciary Committee subpoena, and a Washington-based appeals court is scheduled to hear arguments Jan. 3.
In a court filing Monday, lawyers for the committee said McGahn's testimony remains essential even though the House has already voted to impeach Trump on two charges related to his interactions with Ukraine rather than on actions uncovered during Mueller's Russia probe.
"If McGahn's testimony produces new evidence supporting the conclusion that President Trump committed impeachable offenses that are not covered by the Articles approved by the House, the Committee will proceed accordingly — including, if necessary, by considering whether to recommend new articles of impeachment," lawyers for the Democratic-led committee wrote.
The committee also said McGahn's testimony is important for the committee's oversight role of the FBI and the Justice Department, "including in determining whether those agencies are operating free from improper political interference."
Democrats on the Judiciary Committee subpoenaed McGahn well before the start this fall of an impeachment inquiry centered around Trump's request to Ukraine's president that he investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son, as well as an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory alleging Ukraine's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The Justice Department has asked the appeals court to dismiss the case, saying there's no reason for judges to become involved in a political dispute.
The department also says the need for resolving the case is less urgent now that the House has moved ahead with impeachment articles even without McGahn's testimony.
But the committee disagrees.
"The House's vote on the Articles of Impeachment against President Trump underscores the Committee's urgent need for expedited consideration of this appeal," lawyers for the panel wrote.
"As discussed above, McGahn's testimony is critical both to a Senate trial and to the Committee's ongoing impeachment investigations to determine whether additional Presidential misconduct warrants further action by the Committee," they added.