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TBR News June 26, 2020

Jun 26 2020

 

The Voice of the White House
Comments:
“The downward drop of Trump’s national approval ratings (35%) is causing spastic colon in the White House. Trump believes that he is the most important man extant and to have such a drop in ratings is something impossible for him to acknowledge. He also is frantic to stop main-in election ballots because he can’t tamper with the voting as he did last time. Trump will see this negative as an evil plot against him, probably by George Soros, and we will hear him to threaten anyone in his way with a charge of treason. Donald would be much happier, as would the rest of the country, if he moved to Slovena to be with his wife and youngest child.”

Trump’s Approval Rating

June 20

USA Rating

Approve     Disapprove

35%          65%


The Table of Contents

  • The secretive government agency planting ‘cyanide bombs’ across the US
  • Trump Suggests Navy Sent $5 Billion to Wisconsin Firm to Help Him Win Election
  • Trump’s spending for border wall rejected by U.S. appeals court
  • Trump approval on handling of coronavirus hits new low: poll
  • Trump criticizes Black Lives Matter leader, blasts de Blasio over mural plans
  • Germany Weighs Measures Against U.S. Over Nord Stream Threat
  • US House passes Democratic police reform bill
  • Israel’s planned West Bank annexation is a ‘declaration of war,’ says Hamas
  • Hezbollah: The Responder
  • Looming global water problems
  • The Encyclopedia of American Loons

 


The secretive government agency planting ‘cyanide bombs’ across the US

Wildlife Services kills thousands of animals at ranchers and farmers’ behest. But it operates with little oversight – and critics describe it as out of control
June 26, 2020
by Jimmy Tobias in Pocatello, Idaho
The Guardian

The call came over Tony Manu’s police radio one March day in 2017: some sort of pipe had exploded in the hills outside Pocatello, Idaho and the son of a well-known local doctor was hurt, or worse.

Manu, a long-time detective with the county sheriff’s office, was shocked. A pipe bomb in Pocatello?

“We were like, ‘Holy shit,’” says Manu. He hit the gas and screeched up winding mountain roads outside of town. “I thought maybe [the victim] was missing a leg or something. That is what it sounded like.”

At the home of Dr Mansfield and his family, he found a frightening scene. On the driveway, just outside the sprawling timbered house, the family’s dog, Kasey, was dead. Inside the home, Canyon Mansfield, 14 years old, the youngest of three children, was sobbing. His head was pounding and his eyes were burning – he needed to go to the emergency room.

Manu soon pieced together the story. While playing in the woods behind the family home, Canyon and his dog had stumbled upon a strange device that sprayed them in the face with a dose of of sodium cyanide. The boy managed to quickly clean the poison out of his eyes, but the dog collapsed and started convulsing. As Kasey lay dying on the hillside, Dr Mansfield had wanted to give Kasey CPR, but Canyon told him that if he did, he’d ingest the deadly stuff himself.

It didn’t take detective Manu and his team of investigators long to uncover how it got there. The so-called cyanide bomb was not the work of some rogue actor or terrorist cell. It had been installed by a federal employee on official business.“The United States government put a cyanide bomb 350ft from my house, and killed my dog and poisoned my child,” said Theresa Mansfield, Canyon’s mother.

More than three years later, she and her husband are in the midst of a legal and political campaign to hold the government accountable and ban the use of cyanide bombs nationwide. “I’m after justice,” she said.

If you haven’t heard of the US agency that placed the bomb, you’re not alone.

Its name is Wildlife Services, and for years it has operated in relative obscurity, with limited oversight from Congress or the American public. Housed in the Department of Agriculture, the agency primarily works on behalf of private ranchers and farmers, killing coyotes, wolves, bears, birds and other creatures that cause problems for agricultural interests. In 2018, it exterminated nearly 1.5 million native animals, and a huge number of invasive animals as well.

Sometimes its agents shoot wolves or coyotes from helicopters. Sometimes they employ leg traps and snares. And sometimes they place poison devices on public and private land. M-44s, also known as “cyanide bombs”, are baited and spring-loaded tubes that spray an orange plume of cyanide powder when triggered. Aimed at coyotes and other canids that predate livestock, they killed 6,500 animals in 2018 alone.

Congressman Peter DeFazio of Oregon, a long-time critic of Wildlife Services, has described the agency as more secretive than the Department of Homeland Security.

“I served on the homeland security committee for a decade, and Wildlife Services, so called, is more opaque than some of our intelligence agencies,” said DeFazio. “Basically, in some cases, it is rogue.” He said that the agency, which has a century-long history and roughly 2,000 employees, is highly decentralized. State offices like the one in Idaho basically “run themselves”, with little transparency or accountability to elected officials in Washington.

Even local law enforcement agencies are sometimes unaware of the extent of the agency’s activities in their jurisdictions.

“I am telling you, I was in the total dark,” said Lorin Nielsen, the longtime sheriff of Bannock county, whose team of detectives responded to the Mansfield poisoning. “I had no idea [Wildlife Services] existed and why they existed and it still boggles me.” He said he was never notified that the agency was placing cyanide bombs in his community, or that such a thing even existed.

Supporters of the agency include influential agriculture organizations. The American Sheep Industry Association has called the M-44 a “critical tool” that has a “proven track record of protecting livestock and the environment”.

Wildlife Services declined to comment on the Mansfield case to the Guardian, and the agency only provided a link to a webpage in response to numerous questions concerning M-44s. In the past the agency, has said that it is committed “to safe and responsible use of these devices”.

But a chorus of critics says the use of cyanide bombs, and the agency that administers them, is out of control.

Theresa Mansfield is still furious about what Wildlife Services did to Canyon and Kasey, and takes every opportunity to make her feelings known.

On a late afternoon last September, she hopped behind the wheel of her white SUV, drove into downtown Pocatello, and parked in front of a squat, nondescript brick building called the Pocatello Supply Depot. The building’s unassuming name belies its purpose.

Equipped with security cameras and surrounded by barbed wire fencing, the facility is a federally owned warehouse and the key producer of M-44s in the US. The trapper that placed the devices behind the Mansfield family home, at the behest of a sheep rancher, regularly ordered sodium cyanide capsules from the depot, according to records obtained by the Western Watersheds Project, a conservation group, and reviewed by the Guardian.

After arriving at the supply depot that day, Theresa Mansfield got out of her car and marched to the building’s front door. Just then, a man in jeans and boots appeared from around the corner and approached the depot entrance. Before he could get inside, Mansfield confronted the stranger and offered him a piece of her mind.

“You here to pick up cyanide bombs?” she asked the man, who seemed taken aback by the question.

The man smiled awkwardly, laughed, and said yes.

“Don’t kill anyone,” Mansfield replied.

Again, the man laughed nervously.

“I’m serious,” she said, her voice rising. “You killed my dog and you almost killed my kid!”

The man hurried into the depot without uttering another word.

Ever since the poisoning, the Mansfields have waged a crusade of sorts against Wildlife Service and its killing practices, including filing a lawsuit against the agency in federal court in Idaho. They are seeking monetary damages, a public apology – and above all else, a ban on “cyanide bombs” nationwide.

Wildlife Services has been mostly quiet about the litigation, though lawyers representing the agency initially responded to the Mansfield lawsuit by blaming the family for the tragic M-44 incident, before walking back that position.

Still, the agency seems to be keenly aware of the rising tide of anti-cyanide-bomb sentiment. After the Mansfields traveled to Washington to meet lawmakers, the agency’s top official in Idaho sent news coverage of the visit to his colleagues, in an email obtained by the Guardian.

In a separate email exchange in June 2018, a representative of the Idaho Wool Growers Association emailed the official, Todd Grimm, with a number of new clippings concerning the Mansfields.

“One of the articles below is about M-44,” the wool representative wrote. “These people are driving me crazy.”

“#MeToo,” Grimm replied, using the hashtag employed by opponents of sexual harassment.

Public concern about Wildlife Services’ practices has been growing for years. According to a list of incidents compiled by the environmental group Predator Defense, roughly 40 domestic pets have been killed by M-44s across the country since 2000, and numerous humans have been exposed.

“M-44s are indiscriminate killers and a public safety menace,” said Brooks Fahy, the executive director of Predator Defense, who is a leading opponent of M-44s and a key ally of the Mansfields.

Yet the Mansfields and their allies in the wildlife conservation community appear to be moving the needle. In response to the Pocatello incident, Wildlife Services agreed in 2017 to impose a moratorium on the use of M-44s in Idaho, and last year, Oregon became the first state in the nation to pass a law that bans M-44s within its boundaries. Conservation organizations are also suing to force an environmental review of the Pocatello Supply Depot.

In May 2019, DeFazio and Republican congressman Matt Gaetz re-introduced a bill, dubbed “Canyon’s Law”, that seeks to ban cyanide bombs nationwide. Jeff Merkley of Oregon has introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

“I do not like the idea that if I am wandering on public land or my children are wandering on it or my wife, that we can stumble across and be poisoned by an exploding cyanide device or that our dog might be killed,” said Merkley. M-44s are “something that impinges on the ability of all of us who are co-owners of public lands to safely enjoy them”.

Such efforts are running up against inertia – M-44s continue to be used in roughly a dozen states across the nation – and the Trump administration. In December 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency reauthorized the use of cyanide bombs nationwide. Canyon’s Law is currently stalled in Congress.

But in an era of rising environmental consciousness, many advocates feel that public sentiment is shifting away from the sort of lethal predator-control practices that Wildlife Services embodies. And public sentiment is the key to reforming such an agency. The Mansfield case, said Fahy, “was the game-changer, it was the tipping point”.

Canyon Mansfield still sometimes feels sad and guilty over the loss of Kasey. He gets the occasional crippling migraine, as well as a strange numbness in his hands that he never experienced before his exposure to sodium cyanide. But, as he prepares to head to college next year, he’s certain his family will prevail.

“We are going to find a way to keep [Wildlife Services] up at night,” he said, “until we get this done.”

Trump Suggests Navy Sent $5 Billion to Wisconsin Firm to Help Him Win Election
June 25, 2020
by Robert Mackey
The Intercept

In what sounded like a confession that his administration is corruptly using federal funds to boost his re-election campaign, President Donald Trump told workers at a shipyard in Wisconsin on Thursday that “one of the big factors” in the Navy awarding a $5.5 billion contract to their firm was, “your location in Wisconsin, if you want to know the truth.”

The president’s startling admission came as he veered off-script during a speech to employees of Fincantieri Marinette Marine, the firm chosen by the Navy on April 30 to build 10 new guided-missile frigates for its FFG(X) program. The Wisconsin firm was chosen over rivals that build ships in Alabama, Mississippi and Maine — three states that are far less important in the electoral college.

As he read aloud a description that the frigates would be the “fastest, most advanced, and most maneuverable combat ships anywhere on the ocean,” Trump looked up and ad-libbed: “I hear the maneuverability is one of the big factors that you were chosen for the contract. The other is your location in Wisconsin, if you want to know the truth.”

The president then boasted that the “massive deal” would boost employment in the state, which he won by less than 23,000 votes in 2016, by allowing the firm to keep “your 1,500 full-time employees” on staff and hire another 1,000 people “all across the shipyards in Wisconsin.” (The shipbuilding firm actually employs 2,500 people in Wisconsin right now, not 1,500.)

Trump also claimed that “an estimated 15,000 additional new jobs will be created through the Wisconsin supply chain,” as a result of the contract. Moments later, Trump changed that estimate to 9,000 new jobs, without explaining why.

Both estimates seem to be vastly inflated. Rep. Mike Gallagher, a Wisconsin Republican who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, said in April that the contract could create “more than 5,000 direct and indirect jobs” over the course of its 10-year duration. The projection seemed to come from Fincantieri, the shipbuilding firm, which told reporters that the contract could create 1,000 new jobs at the shipyard and 4,000 more at the company’s suppliers.

The president’s remarks, which were transcribed by the White House, could be grounds for one of the three firms that lost out on the contract — Ingalls Shipbuilding of Pascagoula, Mississippi, Austal USA of Mobile, Alabama and Bath Iron Works of Bath, Maine — to file a protest with the Government Accountability Office’s Procurement Law Division. As the U.S. Naval Institute’s news site reported earlier this month, none of the firms contested the decision during the 30-day period after the bid was accepted, which is normally when protests are filed. But there is nothing normal about the commander-in-chief publicly admitting that the government contracting process was corrupted by political considerations.

A spokesperson for Ingalls declined to comment on the president’s remarks. Austal USA and Bath Iron Works did not immediately reply to questions from The Intercept about whether they might file a protest given this new information.

A spokesman for James Geurts, the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, who oversees more than $100 billion in spending each year, also did not reply to a request for comment.

In his speech, which he frequently delivered as if he was at a campaign rally rather than an official appearance, the president also joked about his ignorance of why the Navy’s FFG(X) shipbuilding project had that name. After reading the letters aloud, Trump mistakenly said, “FX! Is that good? FX!” The president then suggested that “nobody knows” what those initials stand for. As the Congressional Research Service explained this month, “FF means frigate, G means guided-missile ship… and (X) indicates that the specific design of the ship has not yet been determined.”

In another portion of the speech devoted to praising himself, Trump also claimed that he had personally intervened in the design of the new Navy frigate. “The ships that they were building, they looked terrible. I changed designs. I looked at it. I said, ‘That’s a terrible looking ship. Let’s make it beautiful. It’ll cost you the same, and maybe less,’” the president told workers at the shipyard.

“I said, ‘This is not a good-looking ship, let’s change the design of it.’ And I got people in, and we looked at different designs,” Trump added. “And look at what you’re doing, how beautiful it is. They gave me a beautiful model that’s absolutely…. It’s like a yacht with missiles on it.”

As the Green Bay Press Gazette reported in April, Marinette Marine, which has built ships in Wisconsin since the 1940s, was acquired by the Italian yacht-maker Fincantieri in 2009. The firm’s winning frigate design is based on an Italian warship that already exists, and was not designed by the president.

Trump’s spending for border wall rejected by U.S. appeals court
June 26, 2020
by Jonathan Stempel
Reuters

A federal appeals court on Friday said U.S. President Donald Trump was wrong to divert $2.5 billion meant for the Pentagon to build part of his long-sought wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

In a pair of 2-1 decisions, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the White House lacked constitutional authority for the transfer, noting that Congress had denied the funding and finding no “unforeseen military requirement” to justify it.

The court also said California and New Mexico, which share a border with Mexico and were among 20 states suing the government, had legal standing to sue.

Chief Judge Sidney Thomas said “the Executive Branch’s failure to show, in concrete terms, that the public interest favors a border wall is particularly significant given that Congress determined fencing to be a lower budgetary priority and the Department of Justice’s own data points to a contrary conclusion.”

Trump had declared a national emergency at the border in February 2019 to access the funds.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra praised the San Francisco-based court for halting Trump’s “unlawful money grab,” saying taxpayers deserve to know their money goes where Congress intends.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the decisions “a great victory for the rule of law,” saying Trump undermined military readiness to fulfill his “outrageous campaign promise” to build a wall.

The appeals court also ruled that the Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition could sue over the diversion and deserved an injunction.

That ruling may be symbolic because the U.S. Supreme Court said last July the nonprofits likely had no legal right to sue.

The Supreme Court also let the $2.5 billion be spent while litigation continued, blunting the likely impact of Friday’s decisions.

President Bill Clinton appointed both judges in Friday’s majority. Trump appointed the dissenting judge. Friday’s decisions totaled 184 pages and upheld lower court rulings.

The cases are California et al v Trump et al, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 19-16299 and 19-16336; and Sierra Club et al v Trump et al in the same court, Nos. 19-16102 and 19-16300.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Sonya Hepinstall

Trump approval on handling of coronavirus hits new low: poll
June 24, 2020
by Morgan Gstalter
TheHill.com

President Trump’s approval rating for how he has responded to the coronavirus pandemic has dropped to its lowest level, according to a new poll that comes amid spiking cases nationwide and criticism of the president for suggesting COVID-19 testing should be slowed.

The latest Reuters-Ipsos poll, released Wednesday, found that only 37 percent of Americans approve of the way Trump has responded to the health crisis, the lowest percentage since the poll began asking the question in early March.

Of those surveyed, 58 percent of Americans responded that they disapproved of how Trump has reacted to the pandemic.

Trump sparked confusion over the weekend when he said during a rally that he asked staff to “slow down the testing, please.”

“Testing is a double-edged sword,” Trump said in Tulsa, Okla. “We’ve tested now 25 million people. It’s probably 20 million people more than anybody else. Germany’s done a lot. South Korea’s done a lot.”

The White House had said that his comments were meant as a joke, but Trump on Tuesday appeared to undermine his own officials’ explanation on the comments, saying he doesn’t “kid.

“Let me make it clear. We have got the greatest testing program anywhere in the world. We test better than anybody in the world. Our tests are the best in the world and we have the most of them,” Trump said, adding that more tests allow the United States to detect more cases. “By having more cases it sounds bad, but actually what it is is finding more people.”

The U.S. has seen a spike in new coronavirus cases, a worrying sign for the country as a number of states move forward with plans to reopen their economies. The number of new cases nationally climbed above 30,000 per day over the weekend, after having leveled off at around 20,000 per day for weeks.

According to a database compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. has reported 2,347,102 confirmed cases and 121,225 deaths from COVID-19 as of Wednesday morning.

Senate Republicans have also warned that it is too soon to scale back testing, saying there’s no evidence the United States is ready to ease up on the number of daily tests until there is a vaccine.

Trump’s job disapproval reaches all-time high in new poll

White House task force tracking coronavirus spikes even as Trump says…

According to the Reuters-Ipsos poll, even Republicans have reached low confidence in Trump’s administration. Just 43 percent of GOP voters said they thought the country was headed in the “right direction,” the lowest recorded level since Trump took office in January 2017.

The survey also found that former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, leads Trump by 10 points among registered voters. The number is a slight dip from a 13-point lead in a similar poll last week.

The Reuters-Ipsos poll was conducted online and polled 1,115 adults, including 503 Democrats and 408 Republicans, from June 22 to 23. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Trump criticizes Black Lives Matter leader, blasts de Blasio over mural plans
June 25, 2020
by Morgan Chalfant
The Hill

President Trump on Thursday accused a Black Lives Matter leader of promoting treasonous activity and objected to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s (D) plans to install a street mural in support of the movement outside Trump Tower

“Black Lives Matter leader states, ‘If U.S. doesn’t give us what we want, then we will burn down this system and replace it,’” Trump tweeted Thursday. “This is Treason, Sedition, Insurrection!”

The president’s comments appeared to be in response to remarks made by Hawk Newsome, leader of Black Lives Matter Greater New York, in an interview Wednesday on Fox News about the movement’s objectives after the killing of George Floyd in police custody.

“If this country doesn’t give us what we want, then we will burn down this system and replace it. I can be speaking figuratively, I can be speaking literally, it’s a matter of interpretation,” Newsome said during the interview with Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum.

“Let’s be very real,” Newsome continued. “Let’s observe the history of the 1960s, when Black people were rioting. We had the highest growth in wealth, in property ownership. Think about the last few weeks since we started protesting. There have been eight cops fired across the country.”

The Black Lives Matter leader went on to say he doesn’t condone or condemn rioting, but argued that the protests have led to change.

Trump, who was aboard Air Force One while tweeting, also lashed out at de Blasio’s plan to install a Black Lives Matter mural outside Trump Tower, a move that’s been viewed negatively by police.

Similar murals have been installed in other cities, including Washington, D.C., near the White House.

“Told that NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to paint the fabled & beautiful Fifth Avenue, right in front of Trump Tower/Tiffany, with a big yellow Black Lives Matter sign. ‘Pigs in a Blanket, Fry ‘Em Like Bacon’, referring to killing Police, is their chant. NYC Police are furious!” Trump tweeted.

The president was referring to a chant used by protesters at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Minnesota five years ago that at the time sparked backlash from police.

Trump has been criticized for his response to the nationwide protests after Floyd’s death on May 25, particularly for his rhetoric encouraging an aggressive crackdown on demonstrations, some of which have turned violent.

Trump rolled out what was described as a modest executive order on reforming police training last week and has emphasized his support for law enforcement. The president has also criticized demands from activists including the Black Lives Matter movement that police departments see their funding reduced and reallocated to social programs, commonly known as the “defund the police.”

Trump has not commented extensively on Black Lives Matter but said in an interview with Spectrum News this week that the movement “means a lot to me.”

“Nobody has done more for African Americans than I have,” Trump said, noting his work on criminal justice reform, opportunity zones, and funding for historically Black colleges and universities.


Germany Weighs Measures Against U.S. Over Nord Stream Threat
June 26, 2020
by Patrick Donahue and Brian Parkin
Bloomberg

Germany is preparing to strike back against the U.S. if President Donald Trump follows through on his threat to kill off the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline with additional sanctions.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration is considering pressing for coordinated European Union action, according to two German officials familiar with the discussions. An economy ministry paper seen by Bloomberg News said such measures by the U.S. would be new and could hit significantly more German and European companies and banks as well as state agencies.

Anna Sophie Eichler, an Economy Ministry spokeswoman, said at a news conference Friday that she is unaware of any counter-sanctions being considered by the German government.

The 1,200-kilometer (745 mile) pipeline under the Baltic Sea, designed to pump Russian gas directly to Germany, has triggered deep division between EU member states. But the prospect of a direct U.S. intervention in the 27-member bloc’s energy interests should prompt a collective response, said the officials, who asked not to be identified.

The new German strategy adds the possibility of further escalation between the transatlantic allies, with the U.S. this week announcing potential tariffs on $3.1 billion of products from Germany and other European countries. Trump has also reiterated his intention to cut the number of U.S. troops in Germany and renewed a threat to hit the German auto industry with a new set of levies.

Flashpoints between the two sides are multiplying as Trump’s reelection campaign runs into trouble and the Covid-19 pandemic threatens to get out of control in the U.S.

On Friday, EU diplomats are holding talks over whether to maintain a ban on U.S. travelers when external border controls begin to lift last week. The officials are aiming to draw up a list of which countries’ nationals will be allowed in and may use infection rates as one of their criteria, which would potentially see the U.S. excluded.

In a Twitter post, German Health Minister Jens Spahn pointed to new infections in the U.S. as a sign that the pandemic has yet to peak.

The Europeans though are trying to ease the friction over digital taxes after the U.S. pulled out of talks aimed at finding a global agreement on how to tax internet giants like Facebook Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. In a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin seen by Bloomberg News, France, the U.K., Italy and Spain offered to initially limit the tax to automated digital services like search and social media, while excluding retailers like Amazon.

Trump has been ramping up his attacks on Germany since Merkel helped to derail his plans for a Group of Seven summit at Camp David this month and Nord Stream, owned by Gazprom PJSC, is a longstanding target. He told a rally last week in Tulsa, Oklahoma that Germany is “delinquent” on defense spending and dispatching “billions” to Vladimir Putin.

“We’re supposed to protect Germany from Russia, but Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for energy coming from a pipeline,” Trump said. “Excuse me, how does that work?”

U.S. sanctions signed by Trump that targeted pipe-laying vessels in December threw the pipeline’s completion into disarray. While German officials said the project would merely by delayed, new measures proposed by U.S. senators could put Nord Stream in permanent danger, the German officials said.

But any response, including sanctions, would have to be weighed carefully, one official said. With Trump’s poll numbers sagging four months ahead of the U.S. presidential election, he could follow through on previous tariff threats — notably on German autos, the official said.

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier issued a warning over the legality of the new measures earlier this month, signaling that imposing them could bring a new low to transatlantic relations.

“The German government has long had the view that sanctions with extraterritorial effects are in conflict with international law and that they’re not a contribution to advancing international cooperation,” Altmaier told reporters in Berlin on June 12. “This position hasn’t changed.”

Bundestag lawmakers on the economic affairs committee discussed potential retaliation in a June 17 meeting. The committee chairman, Klaus Ernst of the anti-capitalist Left Party, said parties were in agreement that such measures violated international law.

“The government is called upon to develop and put forward proposals for a measured, clear reaction on behalf of Germany and the European Union,” Ernst said in a statement after the closed-door meeting.

Pipeline Timing

German industry is concerned that the new raft of sanctions may prompt counter sanctions in Europe, which it opposes on the strength of U.S.-EU trade ties and traditional allegiances, Michael Harms, the managing director of the BDI lobby’s East European Committee, told reporters last week. Some 670 companies from 25 nations have worked on the pipeline, according to Harms.

Gazprom, which has vessels docked off Germany’s Baltic coast, is set on completing the pipeline in the face of U.S. resistance. It made a request with authorities in Copenhagen to operate so-called DP3-class vessels in Danish waters.

The Akademik Cherskiy, a vessel that Russia could use to build the remaining stretch of the gas-export link, arrived at a German Baltic port last month after a two-month voyage from the Sea of Japan.

The German ministry paper said it was unclear how the Russians planned to proceed with some 150 kilometers remaining for the pipeline but it would need to resume work this summer to complete the work by early 2021.

US House passes Democratic police reform bill
The US House of Representatives has approved a sweeping Democratic bill on police reform. Lawmakers passed the legislation largely along party lines, and the bill faces opposition when it reaches the Senate.
June 26, 2020
DW

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives on Thursday passed the police reform bill by 236-181, amid a high-profile debate that follows the killing of African-American George Floyd.

Only three Republicans voted for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which was passed by the Democrat-controlled House after nationwide protests against racial injustice and police brutality.

Last month, a white police officer used his knee to pin Floyd down by the neck, leading to his death.

The new measures, backed by leading civil rights groups in the US, are aimed at reducing police violence, expanding training, and creating more accountability at the national level.

“Exactly one month ago, George Floyd spoke his final words — ‘I can’t breathe’ — and changed the course of history,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, standing on the steps of the US Capitol with the Congressional Black Caucus.

The measure now moves to the Senate for a vote, where the choice is “to honor George Floyd’s life or to do nothing,” she added.

However, the Senate’s Republican majority has already said they will oppose the sweeping reforms, making it highly unlikely for it to become law.

A narrower Senate Republican proposal, backed by President Donald Trump, has been blocked by Democrats with no new negotiations in sight.

Trump has opposed the House measure claiming that Democrats were looking to end officer immunity and “weaken our police.”

The new measure looks to ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants, expanding the use of body cameras for the police. It makes provisions for a database to track officers’ misconduct. Some changes to qualified immunity are also included, which will allow officers to be sued for abuse.

However, it does not move towards “defunding the police,” which was the rallying cry during many of the protests that have swept the US over the past month.

 

Israel’s planned West Bank annexation is a ‘declaration of war,’ says Hamas

June 25, 2020
by Trey Yingst
Fox News

Israel’s planned annexation of West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley is considered a declaration of war, according to Hamas, the group in control of the Gaza Strip.

Hamas military spokesperson Abu Obeida made the statements Thursday over a video feed saying Israel would bitterly regret the decision to apply their laws over the disputed territory.

The anticipated Palestinian resistance was reiterated by Senior Hamas Official Dr. Basem Naim, who told Fox News that annexation would destroy any possibility of finding a political solution to the ongoing conflict.

“Palestinians would not accept these plans at all. They are going to resist these plans by all means available. Gaza is not excluded from this,” he said.

Naim added that Palestinian leadership is calling on the European Union to support their position and pressure Israel to reverse course before the July 1st date, put forth by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The prime minister is hoping to push forward Israeli annexation with the support of the Trump administration. President Trump already moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Both moves that led Palestinians to describe President Trump’s so-called Deal of the Century peace plan as “dead on arrival.”

WHAT IS THE GAZA STRIP?

Over the past year, clashes have erupted multiple times between Israel and Gaza. One such example occurred after Israel conducted a targeted killing of Senior Islamic Jihad commander Bahaa Abu el-Atta at his home in Gaza City.

The act led to days of rocket fire from Gaza exchanged with airstrikes from Israel. There is a serious concern from military officials in Jerusalem that annexation could lead to similar conflict.

“The upcoming events can develop into fighting in Gaza,” IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi said.

Kohavi told his soldiers at a training exercise this week that clashes could also erupt in the West Bank in the coming weeks.

On Monday, thousands of Palestinians gathered in the town of Jericho to rally against Israel. The event was attended by UN envoy Nikolay Mladenov, as well as numerous other European representatives.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh spoke with Fox News at the event, stressing there would be a unified response to Israel from the West Bank and Gaza.

“The Palestinians are hoping for a Palestinian state that is sovereign, viable, contiguous and independent. Our hearts and minds are open for any serious peace negotiations,” Shtayyeh said.

Currently, the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank and Gaza are not willing to discuss a peace process through the lens of an American deal they describe as unfair.

Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz made remarks this week saying that if Palestinians refuse to participate in talks, Israel will move forward without them. He added the Israeli military is prepared for a variety of possibilities in the wake of annexation.

“We will work to reduce as much as possible the danger of turning the State of Israel into a binational state while making sure that Israel remains in control of its security,” Gantz said.

 

Hezbollah: The Responder

Hezbollah, a Lebanese-based Shiite group, has fought the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) from the early 1980s to 2000, when the IDF was deployed in Lebanon. In 2006 the two sides clashed again, for 34 days, a war that ended in a tie but was not certainly an IDF victory.

Hezbollah is the world’s most heavily armed non-state actor, and has been described as “a militia trained like an army and equipped like a state.”

This is especially true with regard to its missile and rocket forces, which Hezbollah has in vast quantities arrayed against Israel.

The next round will happen when Israel believes that Iran has produced a nuclear weapon, a move which will certainly result in Israel attacking Iran’s nuclear sites.

Iran will retaliate with its proxies, mostly with Hezbollah.

Israel’s evaluation of the duration and cost of a war with Hezbollah, along with its other ramifications and consequences, will play a major part in Israel’s decision whether to bomb Iran or not.

Israel does not have long-range heavy bombers but the United States does, hence the constant prodding by the current Israeli government to procure an American strike on Tehran.

Meanwhile there is an ongoing tension between Israel and Hezbollah and a miscalculation by one or both sides might certainly ignite a major war.

The IDF, one of the strongest militaries in the Middle East, outnumbers and outguns Hezbollah in both troops and weapon systems. Yet Hezbollah has quite a powerful hybrid force, which has antiaircraft and anti tank missiles, hundreds of drones and above all up to 150,000 rockets and missiles, some of which cover all of Israel. Hezbollah could fire more than a 1,000 rockets a day during a confrontation with Israel and many of these missiles have GPS control systems and can strike accurately at specified targets.

Israel has systems to shoot down rockets, mostly the Iron Dome. Yet Israel does not have enough of them to intercept most of Hezbollah’s rockets, so the IDF can’t rely on a defensive strategy.

IAF (Israeli air force) has mostly fighter–bombers such as F- 15/16. The IAF has been training to launch thousands of sorties in Lebanon but the IAF might not be able to stop the pounding of Israel by Hezbollah. To do that Israel needs boots on the ground i.e. to carry out a major land offensive following a massive strategic bombing by U.S. heavy bombers.

On August 13, 2015, the IDF published the “IDF Strategy”, which explains how the IDF plans to operate in the next war. In September 2017 the IDF ran its biggest exercise in almost two decades, aimed against Hezbollah. The IDF, which had some major setbacks in the 2006 war, will be determined to prove it has learned its lessons. However, defeating Hezbollah is a tall order since Hezbollah, which is rooted inside the Shiite community in Lebanon, can always continue fighting with guerrilla and terror tactics. Israel will therefore strive for more limited objectives, mostly to destroy Hezbollah’s rockets and cause the group heavy casualties in order to deter it and other groups as well from confronting Israel.

The IDF will penetrate several dozen kilometers into Lebanon, on a wide front, to completely destroy all possible Hezbollah missiles and missile sites but it will stay there for a few weeks at most. Israel does not wish to renew its deployment in Lebanon, exposing its troops to attacks, as it was in the 1980s and the 1990s.

The IDF’s elite armor and infantry units will carry the burden of the offensive. Special Forces such as the 89th commando brigade will assist by launching raids behind the lines, collecting information etc.

The IDF relies on reserves. Tens of thousands of them will be mobilized. Many might be called while rockets hit them at their homes and on their way to their bases, where they get their weapons, vehicles etc. Rockets might continue to strike them when they will move to the frontline.

Israeli officials repeatedly warned about the danger of storing rockets in about 200 villages and towns in Lebanon. If rockets are launched from those places, the IDF will strike them, possibly causing huge collateral damage. The civilians living there will be warned in advance to evacuate their homes. Hopefully they will be able to do that, for Hezbollah might order some of them to remain behind, to serve as human shields.

The IDF can inflict a major blow to Hezbollah by catching it off guard. A massive surprise attack might be Israel’s best chance to handle the rockets and reduce Israel’s casualties. However, such an attack could cause significant collateral damage since the Lebanese population might not have sufficient time to escape.

Further, there is no guarantee that the United States would enter the conflict.

The IDF will have to run urban warfare, including underground, inside tunnels. The IDF has been training for that in various ways.  Its troops must be familiar with the terrain of Lebanon so they exercise in similar areas, in the north of Israel. Cooperation between the corps such as infantry and armor is another important factor the IDF has been working on, as part of the preparations to fight Hezbollah. The IDF will also use its advanced C4I (Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence) network.

Unfortunately for this thesis, this system has been compromised by Russian specialists and the results given to Hezbollah command.

Hezbollah got stronger and bigger during the Syrian civil war. The group is now more like a military organization, but this could actually benefit the IDF because it will be easier to find and attack Hezbollah fighters. The latter also got accustomed to enjoy air superiority and receiving air support from the Russian and the Syrian air forces while confronting Syrian rebels who had no aircraft. In a war against Israel Hezbollah will be both without air support and it will have to deal with a powerful air force, albiet one without long-range heavy bombers.

The newer Russian anti-aircraft defenses, however, are extremely effective and, like US bombers, the Israeli planes would suffer heavy losses.

The United States sees Hezbollah as a terrorist group. Prior to 9 / 11 Hezbollah killed more Americans than any other militant Muslim group. In the next war Israel will require US support. On the diplomatic level Israel will need the United States to stand by Israel in the UN Security Council, which, given the pro-Israel attidudes of President Trump, is fully expected.

Militarily the United States can provide Israel with weapons, ammunition and spare parts, without sending US troops.

The next round between Israel and Hezbollah is expected to be much more destructive than the 2006 war. The IDF wants to try to reduce the cost to Israel and to shorten the war by conducting a large scale and effective air, land and sea offensive. To accomplish this, they must somehow get the United States involved both to save the lives of IDF personnel and avoid the massive expenses of a major war. To prevent a Hezbollah missile attack on a very vulnerable Israel, the current IDF plan is to launch a sudden joint US/Israeli attack on all of southern Lebanon.

President Trump has expressed his “firm desire” to strike southern Lebanon with US forces but to date, the response of the Pentagon has been extremely negative. The area Israel wants flattened is full of very effective Russian anti-aircraft defenses and American losses of attacking aircraft would be “significant” in the opinion of American military experts.

Further, should the United States prepare to assist Israel, it is believed that Russian intelligence will quickly detect such actions and Hezbollah would be forwarned in sufficient time to launch pre-emptive strikes, to include silo-based heavy missiles.

Mashinostroyeniya, KBKhA

Specifications:

Weight: 220 tonnes

Length: 36.3 m

Diameter: 3.0 m

Warhead:10–24 MIRVs (various type and yield, including HGVs); At the maximum reported throw-weight of up 10,000 kg, the missile could deliver a 50 Mt charge (the maximum theoretical yield-to-weight ratio is about 6 megatons of TNT per metric ton, and the maximum achieved ratio was apparently 5.2 megatons of TNT per metric ton in B/Mk-41).

Engine: First stage: PDU-99 (RD-274 derived)

Propellant: Liquid

Operational range: approx. 10,900 kilometres (6,800 mi)

Speed: over Mach 20.7; 25,000 km/h (16,000 mph)

Guidance system: Inertial guidance, GLONASS, Astro-inertial

Accuracy: 10 m

Launch platform: Silo

These missiles could easily reach Amercan bases, not only in the Middle East but in Europe as well  hence the reluctance of the Pentagon officials to launch attacks against Lebanon or Iran..\

 

Looming global water problems

Water covers 70% of our planet, and it is easy to think that it will always be plentiful. However, freshwater—the stuff we drink, bathe in, irrigate our farm fields with—is incredibly rare. Only 3% of the world’s water is fresh water, and two-thirds of that is tucked away in frozen glaciers or otherwise unavailable for our use.

As a result, some 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to water, and a total of 2.7 billion find water scarce for at least one month of the year. Inadequate sanitation is also a problem for 2.4 billion people—they are exposed to diseases, such as cholera and typhoid fever, and other water-borne illnesses. Two million people, mostly children, die each year from diarrheal diseases alone.

Many of the water systems that keep ecosystems thriving and feed a growing human population have become stressed. Rivers, lakes and aquifers are drying up or becoming too polluted to use. More than half the world’s wetlands have disappeared. Agriculture consumes more water than any other source and wastes much of that through inefficiencies. Climate change is altering patterns of weather and water around the world, causing shortages and droughts in some areas and floods in others.

At the current consumption rate, this situation will only get worse. By 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages. And ecosystems around the world will suffer even more.

Droughts in Somalia. Water rationing in Rome. Flooding in Jakarta and Harvey-battered Houston. It doesn’t take a hydrologist to realize that there is a growing global water crisis. Each August, water experts, industry innovators, and researchers gather in Stockholm for World Water Week to tackle the planet’s most pressing water issues.

What are they up against this year? Here’s a quick rundown on the growing global water crisis.

1) We’re Changing the Climate, Making Dry Areas Drier and Precipitation More Variable and Extreme.

Climate change is warming the planet, making the world’s hottest geographies even more scorching. At the same time, clouds are moving away from the equator toward the poles, due to a climate-change driven phenomenon called Hadley Cell expansion. This deprives equatorial regions like sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Central America of life-giving rainwater.

Paradoxically, climate change is also increasing precipitation in other areas, and people who live near rivers and streams have the most to lose. Currently, at least 21 million people worldwide are at risk of river flooding each year. That number could increase to 54 million by 2030. All countries with the greatest exposure to river floods are least developed or developing countries – which makes them even more vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters. This summer, extreme flooding submerged over a third of Bangladesh, claiming over 115 lives and affecting 5.7 million citizens.

2) More People + More Money = More Water Demand.

It’s a simple equation: As populations increase and incomes grow, so does water demand. The world’s population, now at 7.5 billion, is projected to add 2.3 billion more people by 2050. How can the planet satisfy their thirst? Growing incomes also exacerbate the water problem, because of the water-intensive products—like meat and energy from fossil fuels—that richer populations demand.

3) Groundwater Is Being Depleted.

About 30 percent of Earth’s fresh water lies deep underground in aquifers. And it’s extracted daily for farming, drinking and industrial processes – often at dangerously unsustainable rates. Nowhere is this more evident than India, which guzzles more groundwater than any other country. 54 percent of India’s groundwater wells are decreasing, meaning that water is used faster than it’s replenished. Unless patterns shift, in 20 years, 60 percent of India’s aquifers will be in critical condition.

Unlike an incoming hurricane or a drained lake, the naked eye cannot see when groundwater reserves in aquifers are declining. Global water supplies are susceptible to this hidden and growing threat.

4) Water Infrastructure Is in a Dismal State of Disrepair.

Having enough water to go around is only the beginning. That water also needs to be transported, treated, and discharged. Around the world, water infrastructure―treatment plants, pipes, and sewer systems―is in a state of disrepair. In the United States, 6 billion gallons of treated water are lost per day from leaky pipes alone. Built infrastructure is notoriously expensive to install and repair, meaning that many localities ignore growing infrastructure issues until disaster strikes, as it did in California earlier this year.

5) And Natural Infrastructure Is Being Ignored.

Healthy ecosystems are ” natural infrastructure” and vital to clean, plentiful water. They filter pollutants, buffer against floods and storms, and regulate water supply. Plants and trees are essential for replenishing groundwater; without them, rainfall will slide across dry land, instead of seeping into the soil. Loss of vegetation from deforestation, overgrazing and urbanization is limiting our natural infrastructure and the benefits that it provides. Forested watersheds around the world are under threat: watersheds have lost up to 22 percent of their forests in the past 14 years.

6) Water Is Wasted.

Although it’s true that water is a renewable resource, it’s often wasted. Inefficient practices like flood irrigation and water-intensive wet cooling at thermal power plants use more water than necessary. What’s more, as we pollute our available water at an alarming rate, we also fail to treat it. About 80 percent of the world’s wastewater is discharged back into nature without further treatment or reuse. In many countries, it’s cheaper to receive clean drinking water than to treat and dispose of wastewater, which encourages water waste. This brings us to the next issue:

7) The Price Is Wrong.

Globally, water is seriously undervalued. Its price does not reflect the true, total cost of service, from its transport via infrastructure to its treatment and disposal. This has led to misallocation of water, and a lack of investments in infrastructure and new water technologies that use water more efficiently. After all, why would a company or government invest in expensive water-saving technologies, when water is cheaper than the technology in question? When the price of receiving clean water is closer to its actual service cost, efficient water use will be incentivized. And on the flip side, the poor often end up paying disproportionately high prices for water, stunting development.

It’s Not Too Late

Amidst these seven deadly water sins, there is good news: governments, businesses, universities and citizens around the world are waking up to water challenges, and beginning to take action. Each year brings more solutions – like using wastewater for energy, using restoration to bring water back to dry topographies, and monitoring groundwater levels more closely. However, even the best solutions will not implement themselves. Along with fresh water, political will and public pressure are critical resources in ensuring a sustainable future for all.

The Encyclopedia of American Loons

Anthony R. Mawson

Some pseudoscientists have actual education and backgrounds in research, lending them a sheen of credibility in their pseudoscientific research endeavors. A striking thing about pseudoscientists’ attempts to do research, however, is how they systematically and deliberately avoid taking simple measures to validate their findings – they deliberately select biased samples, avoid blinding, neglect asking whether something works in favor of just looking at how it works (and consequently end up churning out garbage through strategies like p-hacking). It really is striking, insofar as it would often have been relatively easy to do it right – it’s almost as if they tacitly know that doing it right significantly lowers the chance of obtaining the results they want.

The research of Anthony R. Mawson is a striking example. Now, Mawson has a real education. He is also an anti-vaxxer and a fan of Andrew Wakefield who really, really want to deploy his skills in the service of anti-vaccine propaganda. Mawson is most famous for his “research” putatively showing differences in general health outcomes between vaccinated and unvaccinated kids, and that the unvaccinated ones are healthier (of course, even if it were true, which it isn’t, it would have been largely because those unvaccinated kids would not have died due to vaccine-preventable diseases because of herd immunity; Mawson’s fans are not able to comprehend this otherwise obvious point, however). To establish the results he wanted, Mawson conducted an internet survey among home-schooling parents, where the opportunity to participate was spread by word of mouth in anti-vaccine groups, and where the largely anti-vaccine parents would report their opinion and assessment of the general health of their children without consulting medical records. It doesn’t take much knowledge of scientific methodology to realize that such a survey is less than worthless (some further details here), and the really striking thing is: why would Mawson, for a study that apparently required substantial funding (seemingly from various anti-vaccine fundraising efforts) deliberately choose a sample like this, one that any elementary school kid would be able to tell you would make the results worthless, and – in addition – deliberately avoid taking into account measures (like medical records) that would provide any kind of control? How would you explain his choice of methodology if not by i) trying to make sure the data would end up “showing” what he wanted them to show and fearing that using a proper methodology apt to track reality would not yield the results he wanted; and/or ii) it matters less to pseudoscientists and denialists that the study is properly done and reflects reality, than that it exists and can be brought up in online debates and used to scare those who don’t know enough about the methodology (or don’t have time to look at it) to realize that it is complete shit? More details about why it is shit, in case you ever wondered, are here.

As an aside, one has to wonder about the competence of the people at the Institutional Review Board at Jackson State University who approved said study. And it’s not like the anti-vaccine crowd hasn’t tried to obtain the results they want by (deliberately) incompetently done phone surveys and Internet surveys before.

Well, the fruit of Mawson’s efforts, “Vaccination and Health Outcomes: A Survey of 6- to 12-year-old Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Children based on Mothers’ Reports,” was provisionally accepted by the bottom-feeding journal Frontiers in Public Health (which had previously published – before retracting – a study on chemtrails). Frontiers went on to pull it and eventually formally retract it, something that didn’t prevent antivaxxers from touting it. The peer-reviewers included Linda Mullin Elkins, a chiropractor at Life University – a “Holistic Health University” offering studies “within the fields of Chiropractic, Functional Kinesiology, Vitalistic Nutrition, Positive Psychology, Functional Neurology and Positive Business” – which suggests that Frontier uses a too-literal interpretation of “peer-review” for their reviews of garbage pseudoscience.

The study was then, without even attempting to correct for the glaring methodological shortcomings, published in Journal of Translational Science, a predatory pseudojournal published by Open Access Text, as “Pilot comparative study on the health of vaccinated and unvaccinated 6- to 12-year old U.S. children”. Details (including further details about the utter worthlessness and painfully obvious biases of the study) here. They even published a second study, as bankrupt as the first, using the same data set, in the same predatory journal; that one, too, was eaten up and promoted with gusto by antivaccine conspiracy groups and antivaccine advocates like Bob Sears – InfoWars was all over it, for instance, with delusional comments by one Celeste McGovern, described as  a “vaccine expert”, of Claire Dwoskin’s Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute, one of the antivaccine groups that funded Mawson’s “study”.

In 2011, Mawson filed a lawsuit against the Mississippi State Department of Health, alleging that the state health officer interfered with his position at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (his contract wsa not renewed) after promoting antivaccine talking points. The suit was dismissed in 2012.

Diagnosis: Pseudoscientist and conspiracy theorist. Yes, Mawson has a real education, but what he dabbles in is not science. Dangerous.

James Maskell

James Maskell is an anti-vaccine campaigner and the CEO of Revive Primary Care, an organization promoting altmed and conspiracy theories. Maskell believes that vaccines (may – he’s JAQing off) lead to a slew of negative health outcomes, including autism, which is false, and moreover that “vaccine side effects are largely underreported because the passive nature of the legal system puts the onus on the victim to make the connection, file extensive paperwork, and report the issue,” which sort of neglects the number of large-scale studies done on vaccines. Given his complete inability to assess evidence, probabilities and health outcomes, Maskell concludes that he “fear[s] the risk of complications from vaccines more than [he] fear[s] the risk of complications from infection,” since the risk of death from, say, measles is roughly 1/1000 (if not worse) and the risk of serious vaccines reactions (not death) is one in a million or lower. Also toxins; according to Maskell, vaccines commonly contain aluminum, “antibiotics, formaldehyde, MSG and thimerosal.” Most importantly, however, “I’ve seen scientists get it wrong before, and I don’t want my daughter to be a statistic,” which she sort of is becoming by not being vaccinated and which one would particularly become by succumbing to a vaccine-preventable disease. “Between the 1920s and 1960s, the same groups that are used to sell vaccines today (doctors, industry marketing, etc.) were used to sell cigarettes, and this has become known as ‘tobacco science’,” which is quite simply false regardless of how you try to view it (though the parallel between those who denied the link between tobacco and cancer and promoters of “natural cures” rejecting the evidence of the safety and efficacy of vaccines, is rather striking). Most importantly, vaccines have, according to Maskell, been insufficiently studied, where the standards for “sufficient” would be coming to the conclusions he wants the studies to arrive at, otherwise never.

Instead, Maskell promotes natural health (apparently he also takes his daughter to a chiropractor, which is … not recommended, but hardly surprising). Indeed, according to himself, he has spent the last few decades “encouraging a shift away from conventional western medicine and toward a wellness-centered, functional medicine model,” that is, away from the cold, alienating strappings of evidence and science toward the natural, which is a more personal, warm and fuzzy dogma since you can apparently define it any way you want and it is completely impervious to evidence, fact and skeptical investigation, and the anecdotal.

Like most anti-vaccinationists and conspiracy theorists, Maskell has a complicated relationship with honesty, as shown by the interview he did on ABC’s 7:30 show. Reporter Jane Cowan should receive an honorable mention as antivaxx sympathizer for failing to declare Maskell’s conflicts of interest (no entry, since she is not American).

Diagnosis: Conspiracy theorist, denialist and hardcore promoter of pseudoscience. Though perhaps not among the most famous members of the antivaccine brigade, Maskell does seem to have some influence, and his apparently ability to formulate grammatical sentences and assume what might immediately appear to be a relatively friendly and humble demeanor, might make him somewhat more dangerous than some of his ilk.

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