Connect with us


White House ‘absolutely’ stands by claim Trump weighs 239

Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, the White House physician who also served Barack Obama, declared Trump t..



  • Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, the White House physician who also served Barack Obama, declared Trump to be in 'excellent health' on Tuesday
  • He advised the 71-year-old to improve his diet and exercise but claimed 'good genes' had kept Trump in good shape
  • Trump is teetering on the edge of obesity at 239 pounds and a height of 6 feet 3 inches, giving him a BMI of 29.9 report revealed
  • Social media users who are being called girthers pointed out that Trump cannot be in the same weight and height range as athletes like Tom Brady

By Francesca Chambers, White House Correspondent For

Published: 16:37 EST, 17 January 2018 | Updated: 17:01 EST, 17 January 2018

The White House says it 'absolutely' stands by Dr. Ronny Jackson's claim that President Trump weighs a mere 239 pounds.

'He is the only doctor that has weighed in on this matter that has actually examined the president,' White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday, which makes him 'not only the most qualified but the only credible source.'

Jackson's report declaring Trump, who does not exercise and routinely ate fast food on the campaign trail, in great shape for his age, 71, has been widely mocked on social media.

Trump could not possibly be in the same weight range as professional athletes like Tom Brady, the people, who are being called 'girthers' – a play on 'birthers' – have said.


The White House says it 'absolutely' stands by Dr. Ronny Jackson's claim that President Trump weighs a mere 239 pounds 

The White House says it 'absolutely' stands by Dr. Ronny Jackson's claim that President Trump weighs a mere 239 pounds

Social media users are comparing Trump to New England Patriots quarterback Tom BradySocial media users are comparing Trump to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady

Social media users are comparing Trump to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady

According to Jackson's report, Trump, who used to claim he was 5 feet 2 inches, weighed 239 pounds at 5 feet 3 inches.

Brady, age 40, is registered at 6 feet and 4 inches with a weight of 225 pounds.

Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn offered to donate $100,000 to a charity of Trump's choice if he steps on a scale in front of an impartial medical professional.

Gunn tweeted pictures of Trump standing next to other men such as former President Barack Obama who are roughly the same height and weight he's claiming to be.

Obama is seen standing next to Trump at last year's inauguration in the picture Gunn shared. At 6'1" he appears to be the same height or slightly taller than his 6'3" successor.

Another photograph shows a much-younger looking Trump standing next to former New York Yankee Alex Rodiguez.

'Two 6'3" men standing next to each other. #Girther #GirtherMovement,' Gunn, who was accused of fat-shaming Trump, wrote.

Backing up Trump's physician on Wednesday, Sanders noted that Jackson has worked at the White House for the last decade.

'We support what he said yesterday 100 percent,' she said, 'that the president is in excellent health.'

President Donald Trump is officially overweight, Jackson revealed Tuesday, yet he is in 'excellent health.'

'He has a lot of energy and a lot of stamina,' Jackson said of the 71-year-old-president, who he admittedly said needs to eat better and exercise more.

The president is also cognitively sound, Jackson assessed after giving Trump a test that screens for issues like Alzheimer's, saying that he believes the president to be mentally 'sharp' and 'intact.'

President Donald Trump is officially overweight, his physician revealed TuesdayPresident Donald Trump is officially overweight, his physician revealed Tuesday

President Donald Trump is officially overweight, his physician revealed Tuesday

Dr. Ronny Jackson, the White House physician who also served Barack Obama, declared Trump to be in 'excellent health' but he advised him to improve his diet and exerciseDr. Ronny Jackson, the White House physician who also served Barack Obama, declared Trump to be in 'excellent health' but he advised him to improve his diet and exercise

Dr. Ronny Jackson, the White House physician who also served Barack Obama, declared Trump to be in 'excellent health' but he advised him to improve his diet and exercise

Trump is known to have indulged in McDonalds and other fast food on the campaign trail - but Jackson said he has changed his habits since becoming president and has been eating healthierTrump is known to have indulged in McDonalds and other fast food on the campaign trail - but Jackson said he has changed his habits since becoming president and has been eating healthier

Trump is known to have indulged in McDonalds and other fast food on the campaign trail – but Jackson said he has changed his habits since becoming president and has been eating healthier


As part of his medical assessment, the president underwent a transthoracic echocardiogram, or 'echo,' on Friday.

The test is the most common measure of heart functionality and health.

The technology behind the echo

The test uses ultrasound imaging to monitor how well both ventricles – the two muscular chambers – of the heart are working and how much blood each is able to pump in real time, as the heart beats.

Ultrasound sends pulses of sound into the body. As they reflect of of soft and hard tissues, they bounce back to a probe outside the body.

An ultrasound machine then uses the information gathered from the sound pulses to create an image of internal structures.

The test is noninvasive and performed at a patient's bedside.

What the echo images mean for heart health

Technicians can watch how the heart is functioning in real time, or take still images to assess the shapes and sizes of parts of the heart more carefully.

The test can also reveal signs of heart disease and deterioration in the walls separating the heart's chambers.

Images taken from the echo show how strong the heart is and how much blood each ventricle is able to pump.

Watching the heart pump can indicate to a technician or doctor if the heart's contractions are too weak, poorly timed, not contracting or contracting too much.

If the echo reveals an enlarged heart or one with thickened walls, there may be greater risks to overall cardiac health.

How to address the echo's results

Depending on how hard the heart appears to be working at rest, doctors may prescribe diet and exercise to strengthen the organ.

Trump's official physician Rear Admiral Dr Ronny Jackson said that the president's heart health was 'excellent,' but prescribed him a better diet and an aerobic exercise plan.

Exercise can improve the heart's efficiency by strengthening the muscles that pump blood through the body.

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes a week of intense exercise.

A better diet would help lower the president's cholesterol and blood pressure, meaning his heart would not have to work as hard.

Trump's cognitive assessment came at the president's request, Jackson told White House reporters during a televised briefing.

'I had absolutely no concerns about his cognitive ability or his – you know, his neurological function. So I was not going to do a cognitive exam. I had no intention of doing one,' Jackson recalled.

He scored a 30/30 on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment test, Jackson said, and there was 'no indication that he has cognitive issues.'

'He's very sharp. He's very articulate when he speaks to me,' Jackson said.

Trump does not drink alcohol, he confirmed, does not use tobacco products and does not abuse drugs.

In terms of medications, he continues to take Propecia for male hair loss, one for Rosacea and a multivitamin.

President Trump had a weight of 239 pounds and a height of 75 inches, Jackson said, making him 6 feet 3 inches. That makes him overweight at best by industry standards.

One pound heavier at the same height and Trump would be categorized as obese.

If were going by his New York driver's license, which claims he is 6 feet 2 inches, according to Politico, the president would also be over the line.

Trump said during the presidential campaign that he would like to lose some weight, although, by Jackson's assessment he's gained three pounds since the physical he shared on Dr. Oz in the fall of 2016.

He does not have a dedicated or defined exercise program, Jackson admitted.

'We can build on that pretty easily,' he joked.

Jackson said he will recommend a low-impact exercise routine like a stationary bike for him.

Trump also plays frequent rounds of golf, which Jackson said contains a 'certain amount' of exercise.

Jackson said he did not check to see if Trump had bone spurs, a condition that warranted a draft deferment in Vietnam, only because the president did not bring it up as an ailment and he was pressed for time.

Despite his sedentary lifestyle, Jackson gave Trump a glowing review after spending several hours with him on Friday, saying that life-long abstinence from tobacco and alcohol had contributed to his good health.

'He has incredibly good genes,' Jackson also said. 'That's the way God made him.'

Jackson further said that Trump does not have a drug addiction of any type.

Trump is known to have indulged in McDonalds and other fast food on the campaign trail – but Jackson said he has changed his habits since becoming president and has been eating healthier.

On Air Force One, for instance, Jackson says he's watched Trump eat the meals that everyone else does on the plane, and they tend to be on the healthier side, with the exception of the desserts.

As far as sleep is concerned, Jackson said he believes that Trump only rests for four – five hours a night, which he considers to fine in the president's case.

'He's probably been that way his whole life,' Jackson said. 'That's probably why he's been successful'


Why doctors wanted Trump to have a CT scan

President Trump's Friday medical assessment included a CT scan to check the president's internal health.

Because they create a composite out of multiple X-ray images, CT scans allow doctors to view the inside of any part of the body from multiple angles and in greater detail than with regular X-rays or other imaging technologies.

The clinicians at the Walter Reed Medical Center already knew that Trump had calcium deposits in his lungs.

The CT scans' advanced imaging allowed them to see if there were any worrisome changes to the deposits, as well as to get a clear look at all of the president's vital organs.

How a CT scan takes detailed images in the body

A CT scan, or computerized tomography, takes many detailed X-ray images of cross sections of the body.

To undergo a CT scan, a patient lies down inside a large box-like machine with a rotating set of X-ray imaging machines surrounding them.

The X-rays pass through the body, and their patterns – as they come into contact with different kinds of tissues in different places – are recorded on special plates.

The scan can capture images of bones, blood vessels and soft tissues.

Doctors analyzed advanced images for signs of disease

The imaging test is used to look for signs of a broad range of conditions and diseases including cancers, blood vessel disorders, abdominal and pulmonary problems and bone issues, especially in the spine or delicate hands and feet.

CT scans are particularly useful for detecting problems in soft tissues, like the lungs.

Rear Admiral Dr Ronny Jackson, the president's official physician, said that Trump was already aware of the deposits, which are growing slowly as the 71-year-old ages, meaning that they are not a cause for concern.

Calcium can build up anywhere in the body, and these areas are typically not themselves dangerous to health, but can be a sign of more serious underlying conditions.

They sometimes develop in the aftermath of infections.

Jackson's stellar review of President Trump is likely to take his critics – who have been claiming he is mentally unfit for office – by surprise, particularly as they have insisted he shows signs of dementia, Alzheimer's and other cognitive deterioration.

The president's physician was adamant that Trump, however, is not in mental decline.

'I'm very confident at this particular stage that he has nothing like that going on,' Jackson said. 'Absolutely no cognitive, mental issues whatsoever. He is very sharp.'

The Montreal Cognitive Assessment is a 30-question test that includes measures of short-term memory, concentration and attention.

A score of 26 or higher is considered 'normal.' In one study, test-takers with mild cognitive impairment typically scored 22. Alzheimer's patients scored an average of barely 16.

'We picked one of the ones that was a little more involved,' Jackson said of the Montreal test, comparing it to others he could have chosen. 'It was longer. It was the more difficult one of all of them.'

Taking a slap at 'Fire and Fury' author Michael Wolff's claim that Trump has begun to tell the same stories three times in 10 minutes, Jackson said that he has never heard Trump repeat remarks to him.

Jackson said that people speculating about Trump's mental health 'shouldn't be making those kinds of assessments' unless they have spent a good deal of time with the former real estate executive.

The White House physician said several times that there was nothing he was keeping back and that neither Trump nor his aides had coached him on what to say.

'I can promise you there's absolutely nothing that I'm withholding,' he asserted, as he took questions from reporters on-camera for close to an hour.

An incident involving Trump urgently needing a glass of water and another one in which he slurred his speech are nothing to be alarmed by, Jackson said.

One working theory had been that Trump has dentures, but Jackson said that's not the case. Jackson said the water-gulping incident was caused by a dosage of Sudafed that must have dried out Trump's sinuses, backing up the White House's claims that it was a simple case of dry mouth.

'I think he will remain fit for duty for the remainder of this term and even for the remainder of another term if he’s elected,' Jackson said of Trump, who holds the title of the oldest person elected president.

Trump, who is coming up on the end of his first year in office, was one year older when he was inaugurated than Ronald Reagan, the eldest president before him.

Here's the bad news: Trump's hair loss drug is tied to anger, depression, self-harm and erectile dysfunction

The prostate-reducing drug that Donald Trump uses to treat hair loss has been linked to an increased risk of depression, self-harm and erectile dysfunction.

Finasteride is a widely-used drug that reduces the size of prostate glands and stimulates hair growth – and is widely believed to be a significant factor affecting the president's low PSA (prostate) levels and thick mane.

However, it has been tied to many severe and uncomfortable side effects.

A research paper published in March 2017 by Western University in Ontario offered the first concrete evidence showing the pills' mental health risks, and appeared to confirm many medics' fears that it increases a risk of suicidal tendencies.

The same week, a study by Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine found most study participants were left impotent for four years after taking Propecia (the brand name for finasteride).

Finasteride belongs to a class of medications known as 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors (5ARIs).

5ARIs have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years by regulators in the United States and Canada because of a possible link to mental health issues, according to the researchers.

Finasteride was originally developed to treat urinary problems in men.

Potential cost: Maintaining his famous hairstyle is now known to involve a daily pill - but its potential side effects include impotence and angerPotential cost: Maintaining his famous hairstyle is now known to involve a daily pill - but its potential side effects include impotence and anger

Potential cost: Maintaining his famous hairstyle is now known to involve a daily pill – but its potential side effects include impotence and anger

Studies showed the drug made prostate glands smaller by reducing the levels of the hormone dihydrotestosterone in participants.

But during the clinical trials, scientists saw an unexpected side effect – hair growth.

And so in 1997, the FDA approved the steroid inhibitor as the first ever drug to treat male pattern baldness.

Taken once a day, the drug is mainly sold under the brand name Propecia. Millions of American adults use the pills, which are proven to be 90 percent effective.

Indeed, last month Donald Trump's doctor Harold Bornstein revealed the president takes a small dose of finasteride to stimulate hair growth.

Bornstein told the New York Times that he, too, takes the drug, saying it helped him keep his shoulder-length locks and helped Trump keep his own hair.

The doctor said: 'He has all his hair. I have all my hair.'

The news that Trump takes finasteride explained why his PSA (prostate specific antigen, produced for the cells by the prostate) is so low.

Finasteride reduces PSA levels to reduce swelling of prostate glands.

Men aged 60-69 normally have between 4.0 and 5.0ng/ml. That is higher than younger men since PSA and testosterone levels rise with age.

The number may be lower than usual if a man has prostate cancer or inflammation, causing more PSA to seep into the bloodstream.

Trump's PSA level was 0.15, Bornstein said in two letters he'd written about Trump's health. The first letter came out in December 2015, followed by the other letter in September 2016.

The level prompted urologists – who weren't linked to Trump – to say he had to have received care for an enlarged prostate or prostate cancer.

Bornstein told the Times that the commander-in-chief hasn't had an enlarged prostate nor prostate cancer, and attributed Trump's PSA level to Propecia.

The White House physician released detailed health reporting about Trump on TuesdayThe White House physician released detailed health reporting about Trump on Tuesday

The White House physician released detailed health reporting about Trump on Tuesday

Among Dr. Ronny Jackson's findings  were that Trump had normal neuro-physiology and a perfect score on a standard cognitive function screening testAmong Dr. Ronny Jackson's findings  were that Trump had normal neuro-physiology and a perfect score on a standard cognitive function screening test

Among Dr. Ronny Jackson's findings were that Trump had normal neuro-physiology and a perfect score on a standard cognitive function screening test

Dr. Jackson says Trump's 'overall health is excellent' and that he's fit to serve in the Oval OfficeDr. Jackson says Trump's 'overall health is excellent' and that he's fit to serve in the Oval Office

Dr. Jackson says Trump's 'overall health is excellent' and that he's fit to serve in the Oval Office


The researchers at Western University examined finasteride and dutasteride, another 5ARI.

'There wasn't a lot of good studies in this area, and it's a very common medication for urologists to use,' said lead author Dr Blayne Welk.

Welk's team analyzed data from 93,197 men who were at least 66 years old when they received prescriptions for 5ARIs between 2003 and 2013, plus another 93,197 similar men who had never filled a prescription for a 5ARI.

Overall, 5ARIs were not linked with an increased risk of suicide, the researchers reported in JAMA Internal Medicine.

During the first 18 months, however, the men using 5ARIs had an 88 percent higher risk of harming themselves. That risk did not extend beyond 18 months.

Men in the 5ARI group also had a 94 percent higher risk of depression in the first 18 months, compared to men not using these drugs. Beyond 18 months, the increased risk of depression fell to 22 percent.

The type of 5ARI did not appear to significantly alter the results.

Welk cautions that the actual risk of depression and self-harm is very low.

If the drugs were actually causing these side effects – which this study wasn't design to prove – 'you'd need 470 men to take this medication for a full year to have a new case of depression,' Welk said.

That number would have to be even higher to cause a new case of self-harm, since self-harm is less common than depression.

'It is a risk potentially and patients and physicians should be aware of it,' Welk said.


A separate study in the journal PeerJ evaluated another concern about 5ARIs – erectile dysfunction.

Drs Tina Kiguradze and William Temps of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago and colleagues found that when erectile dysfunction occurred in men taking 5ARIs for at least 180 days, the dysfunction was more likely to last at least 90 days after stopping the medication.

Erectile dysfunction, when it occurred, resolved faster in men who took the medications for shorter periods.

The proportion of men taking 5ARIs and experiencing erectile dysfunction is likely around 5 percent, according to Dr. Landon Trost, who is head of andrology and male infertility at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

But it's not clear how many men suffer persistent erectile dysfunction after stopping 5ARIs, said Trost, who was not involved with either of the new studies.

'I think it's important to be educated about the potential side effects,' he said.

Men who are already at increased risk for these potential side effects must weigh the risks and benefits of the drugs, Trost said.

He said older men taking 5ARIs for prostate problems might come to different conclusions than young men taking the pills for hair loss.

Additionally, he said, men should tell their doctors if they experience these symptoms.

Can YOU pass President Trump's cognitive test?

This is a copy of the sheet the examiner and patient fill out during the 10-minute testThis is a copy of the sheet the examiner and patient fill out during the 10-minute test

This is a copy of the sheet the examiner and patient fill out during the 10-minute test

President Donald Trump received a perfect score on a standard cognitive assessment test, his doctor revealed in a White House briefing.

The 10-minute test, known as the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA), was created in 1996 for medical professionals to identify mild cognitive dysfunction.

It assesses concentration, attention, memory, language, calculations, orientation, executive functions and visual skills.

Trump scored 30 out of 30. A score above 26 is deemed 'normal,' while anything lower than that is cause for concern.

Those who do well on the test do not need further cognitive examinstion.

The average score is 27.4. People with mild cognitive impairment score an average of 22.1, while Alzheimer's patients tend to score around 16.

First used in Montreal, Canada, the test is now one of the most respected methods of assessing cognitive health worldwide, available in 55 languages and dialects, and formats for testing illiterate patients and in other cultural settings (by changing certain references).

Trump is the first U.S. president to undergo the test as part of his presidential physical.

This is how a doctor performs the test, and how a patient is graded:


TEST: The patient is told to pair up five numbers and letters (1-5, A-E) in ascending order (pairing 1 with A, 2 with B, etc) while drawing connect-the-dots lines.

RESULT: The patient gets a point for every successful pair: 1-A; 2-B; 3-C; 4-D; 5-E. No lines can be crossed. The patient earns 0 if they make a mistake that is not immediately corrected.


TEST: Draw your own version of the cube in the space next to it.

It must be exactly the same as the one printed on the page.

RESULT: One point if it is drawn correctly (i.e. three-dimensional, all lines are drawn, no line is added, lines are relatively parallel and their length is similar – no point if any of those criteria are missing).


TEST: Draw a clock, putting in all the numbers and set the time to 10 minutes past 11 o'clock.

RESULT: One point is allocated for each of the following three criteria:

  • Contour (ONE POINT): the clock face must be a circle with only minor distortion acceptable (i.e. slight imperfection on closing the circle).
  • Numbers (ONE POINT): all clock numbers must be present with no additional numbers; numbers must be in the correct order and placed in the approximate quadrants on the clock face. Roman numerals are acceptable. Numbers can be placed outside the circle contour.
  • Hands (ONE POINT): there must be two hands jointly indicating the correct time; the hour hand must be clearly shorter than the minute hand. Hands must be centered within the clock face with their junction close to the clock center.

A point is not assigned for a given element if any of the above-criteria are not met.


TEST: Name each animal.

  • Lion
  • Rhinoceros (or rhino)
  • Camel (or dromedary)

RESULT: One point for each



The doctor tells the patient that they are going to read a list of words that the patient must remember. At the end the patient has to tell them as many as they remember; it doesn't matter what order.

The doctor then reads five words, one per second:


As the patient recites the words, the doctor marks a check in the box for each word said aloud.

The patient indicates when they have recalled all they can.

The doctor reads the list a second time. At the end the patient has to recall all of them again.

As the patient recites the words, the doctor marks a check in the box for each word said aloud – including the first five again.

The patient indicates when they have recalled all they can.

At the end of the test, the doctor asks the patient to recall the five words, unprompted. This is the part of the test that is scored.

SCORING: No plus points, only minus if they get it wrong.



Recall numbers: The doctor reads a list of five numbers at a rate of one number per second; the patient recalls them exactly as they were said:

2 1 8 5 4

Recall numbers backwards: The doctor reads three numbers at a rate of one number per second; the patient recalls them backwards:

7 4 2

SCORING: One point per sequence correctly recited.

TEST (LETTERS): The doctor reads a list of letters at a rate of one per second. Every time they say the letter 'A', the patient has to tap their hand:


SCORING: One point if there is zero errors or just one error (i.e. the patient tapped their hand on another letter just once).

TEST (MATH): The patient starts at 100, then must count down by subtracting seven every time, until the examiner tells them to stop:

  • 93
  • 86
  • 79
  • 72
  • 65

SCORING: Total of three points.

  • No points if there are no correct subtractions
  • One point for just one correct subtractions
  • Two points for two or three correct subtractions
  • Three points for four or five correct subtractions

If the first subtraction is wrong, but each subsequent subtraction follows the pattern of seven, they still earn every other point. For example, they may say '92 – 85 – 78 – 71 – 64'. While '92' is incorrect, all subsequent numbers are subtracted by seven, meaning they only made one mistake, and would a score of three.



Step one: The examiner reads this sentence, and the patient has to repeat it exactly: 'I only know that John is the one to help today'.

Step two: The examiner then reads another sentence, with the same instruction: 'The cat always hid under the couch when dogs were in the room'.

SCORING: One point for each correct sentence.

  • Exact repetition
  • No synonyms substituted (i.e. it must be 'hid' not 'hides')


TEST: The doctor reads out a letter (F), and the patient has to think of words that starts with that letter. The aim is to reach 11 words or more in 60 seconds.

  • The words cannot be proper nouns, like Bob or Boston
  • The words cannot be the same sounding word but with different suffixes (like love, lover, loving)

SCORING: One point if they reach 11 words or more in one minute.


TEST: The patient has to describe what the relationship is between certain words (i.e, an orange and a banana; a train and a bicycle; a ruler and a watch).

There is one practice trial (ORANGE AND BANANA) before two scored pairs (TRAIN AND BICYCLE; WATCH AND RULER).

SCORING: One point for each of the last two pairs.

Acceptable answers:

  • Train and bicycle: means of transport, means of traveling, used to take trips
  • Ruler and watch: means of measurement, measuring instruments

Unacceptable answers:

  • Train and bicycle: they have wheels
  • Ruler and watch: they have numbers


TEST: The patient has to recall all the words they heard earlier (FACE, VELVET, CHURCH, DAISY, RED).

SCORING: One point for each word recalled (with no cues from the examiner).


TEST: Say the exact date, and the name of the place they are in, including the city.

SCORING: One point for each correct answer. No points if they make any errors.


Add up all the points accumulating, adding a point if the patient has fewer than 12 years of formal educations.

  • Around 16: cognitive health of an Alzheimer's patient
  • Around 22: cognitive health of someone with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)
  • Above 26: Normal
  • 30: Perfect score (Trump scored 30/30).

Original Article

Continue Reading


Ben Roberts-Smith: Top soldier won’t apologise for alleged war crimes



Ben Roberts-Smith is proud of his actions in Afghanistan, the former Australian soldier said in his first comments since a judge ruled claims he committed war crimes were true.

A landmark defamation case this month found Mr Roberts-Smith was responsible for the murders of four Afghans.

The Victoria Cross recipient says he is innocent and will consider an appeal.

“I’m devastated… It’s a terrible outcome and it’s the incorrect outcome,” he said on Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters from Nine as he returned to Australia for the first time since the judgement was delivered, Mr Roberts-Smith also said he would not apologise to those affected by his alleged crimes.

“We haven’t done anything wrong, so we won’t be making any apologies,” he said.

Mr Roberts-Smith sued three Australian newspapers over a series of articles alleging he had carried out unlawful killings and bullied fellow soldiers while deployed in Afghanistan between 2009-2012.

But Federal Court Judge Anthony Besanko threw out the former special forces corporal’s case against The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, and The Canberra Times, ruling it was “substantially true” that Mr Roberts-Smith had murdered unarmed Afghan prisoners and civilians, and bullied peers.

The 44-year-old, who remains Australia’s most-decorated living soldier, was not present for the civil court ruling, having spent the days leading up to it on the Indonesian resort island of Bali.


Mr Roberts-Smith, who left the defence force in 2013, has not been charged over any of the claims in a criminal court, where there is a higher burden of proof.

None of the evidence presented in the civil defamation case against Mr Roberts-Smith can be used in any criminal proceedings, meaning investigators must gather their own independently.

This week it was confirmed that the Office of the Special Investigator (OSI) – which is responsible for addressing criminal matters related to the Australian Defence Force in Afghanistan – would work alongside Australian Federal Police (AFP) to examine three alleged murders local media say involve the former soldier.

The killings allegedly took place at a compound codenamed Whiskey 108 and in the southern Afghan village of Darwan.

The OSI was set up following a landmark inquiry in 2020, known as the Brereton Inquiry, which found “credible evidence” that Australia’s special forces unlawfully killed 39 people in Afghanistan.

There are currently 40 matters that are being jointly investigated by the OSI and the AFP.

Earlier this year former SAS soldier Oliver Schulz became the first Australian defence force member to ever be charged by police with the war crime of murder.


Read from:

Continue Reading


Why Australia decided to quit its vaping habit



He’s talking about students in his class, teenagers, who can’t stop vaping.

He sees the effect of the candy-flavoured, nicotine-packed e-cigarettes on young minds every day, with children even vaping in class.

“The ones who are deepest into it will just get up out of their seat, or they’ll be fidgeting or nervous. The worst offenders will just walk out because they’re literally in withdrawal.”

Those who are most addicted need nicotine patches or rehabilitation, he says, talking about 13 and 14-year-olds.

is enough and introduced a range of new restrictions. Despite vapes already being illegal for many, under new legislation they will become available by prescription only.

The number of vaping teenagers in Australia has soared in recent years and authorities say it is the “number one behavioural issue” in schools across the country.

And they blame disposable vapes – which some experts say could be more addictive than heroin and cocaine – but for now are available in Australia in every convenience store, next to the chocolate bars at the counter.

For concerned teachers like Chris, their hands have been tied.

“If we suspect they have a vape, all we can really do is tell them to go to the principal’s office.

“At my old school, my head teacher told me he wanted to install vape detector alarms in the toilet, but apparently we weren’t allowed to because that would be an invasion of privacy.”

E-cigarettes have been sold as a safer alternative to tobacco, as they do not produce tar – the primary cause of lung cancer.

Some countries continue to promote them with public health initiatives to help cigarette smokers switch to a less deadly habit.

Last month, the UK government announced plans to hand out free vaping starter kits to one million smokers in England to get smoking rates below 5% by 2030.

But Australia’s government says that evidence that e-cigarettes help smokers quit is insufficient for now. Instead, research shows it may push young vapers into taking up smoking later in life.

‘Generation Vape’

Vapes, or e-cigarettes, are lithium battery-powered devices that have cartridges filled with liquids containing nicotine, artificial flavourings, and other chemicals.

The liquid is heated and turned into a vapour and inhaled into the user’s lungs.

Vaping took off from the mid-2000s and there were some 81 million vapers worldwide in 2021, according to the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction group.

Fuelling the rise is the mushrooming popularity of flavoured vapes designed to appeal to the young.

These products can contain far higher volumes of nicotine than regular cigarettes, while some devices sold as ‘nicotine-free’ can actually hold large amounts.

The chemical cocktail also contains formaldehyde, and acetaldehyde – which have been linked to lung disease, heart disease, and cancer.

There’s also a suggestion of an increased risk of stroke, respiratory infection, and impaired lung function.

Experts warn not enough is known about the long-term health effects. But some alarming data has already been drawn out.

In 2020, US health authorities identified more than 2,800 cases of e-cigarette or vaping-related lung injury. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 68 deaths attributed to that injury.

In Australia, a major study by leading charity The Cancer Council found more than half of all children who had ever vaped had used an e-cigarette they knew contained nicotine and thought that vaping was a socially acceptable behaviour.

School-age children were being supplied with e-cigarettes through friends or “dealers” inside and outside school, or from convenience stores and tobacconists, the report said.

Teens also reported purchasing vapes through social media, websites and at pop-up vape stores, the Generation Vape project found.

“Whichever way teenagers obtain e-cigarettes, they are all illegal, yet it’s happening under the noses of federal and state authorities”, report author and Cancer Council chair Anita Dessaix said.

“All Australian governments say they’re committed to ensuring e-cigarettes are only accessed by smokers with a prescription trying to quit – yet a crisis in youth e-cigarette use is unfolding in plain view.”

In addition to the government’s move to ban the import of all non-pharmaceutical vaping products – meaning they can now only be bought with a prescription – all single-use disposable vapes will be made illegal.

The volume and concentration of nicotine in e-cigarettes will also be restricted, and both flavours and packaging must be plain and carrying warning labels.

But these new measures are not actually all that drastic, says public health physician Professor Emily Banks from the Australian National University.

“Australia is not an outlier. It is unique to have a prescription-only model, but other places actually ban them completely, and that includes almost all of Latin America, India, Thailand and Japan.”

‘We have been duped’

Health Minister Mark Butler said the new vaping regulations will close the “biggest loophole in Australian healthcare history”.

“Just like they did with smoking… ‘Big Tobacco’ has taken another addictive product, wrapped it in shiny packaging and added sweet flavours to create a new generation of nicotine addicts.”

“We have been duped”, he said.

Medical experts agree. Prof Banks argues that the promotion of e-cigarettes as a “healthier” alternative was a classic “sleight-of-hand” from the tobacco industry.

As such vaping has become “normalised” in Australia, and in the UK too.

“There’s over 17,000 flavours, and the majority of use is not for smoking cessation”, she tells the BBC.

“They’re being heavily marketed towards children and adolescents. People who are smoking and using e-cigarettes – that’s the most common pattern of use, dual use.”

Professor Banks says authorities need to “de-normalise” vaping among teenagers and make vapes much harder to get hold of.

“Kids are interpreting the fact that they can very easily get hold of [vapes] as evidence [they’re safe], and they’re actually saying, ‘well, if they were that unsafe, I wouldn’t be able to buy one at the coffee shop’.

But could stricter controls make it harder for people who do turn to vapes hoping to quit or cut down on tobacco?

“It is important to bear in mind that for some people, e-cigarettes have really helped. But we shouldn’t say ‘this is great for smokers to quit’, says Prof Banks.

“We know from

Australia, from the US, from Europe, that two-thirds to three-quarters of people who quit smoking successfully, do so unaided.”

“You’re trying to bring these [vapes] in saying they’re a great way to quit smoking, but actually we’ve got bubble gum flavoured vapes being used by 13-year-olds in the school toilets. That is not what the community signed up for.”


Read from:

Continue Reading


Australia: Scott Morrison saga casts scrutiny on Queen’s representative



In the past fortnight, Australia has been gripped by revelations that former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison secretly appointed himself to several additional ministries.

The move has been labelled a “power grab” by his successor as prime minister, and Mr Morrison has been scolded by many – even his own colleagues.

But the scandal has also dragged Australia’s governor-general into the fray – sparking one of the biggest controversies involving the Queen’s representative in Australia in 50 years.

So does Governor-General David Hurley have questions to answer, or is he just collateral damage?

‘Just paperwork’

Governors-general have fulfilled the practical duties as Australia’s head of state since the country’s 1901 federation.

Candidates for the role were initially chosen by the monarch but are now recommended by the Australian government.

The job is largely ceremonial – a governor-general in almost every circumstance must act on the advice of the government of the day. But conventions allow them the right to “encourage” and “warn” politicians.

Key duties include signing bills into law, issuing writs for elections, and swearing in ministers.

Mr Hurley has run into trouble on the latter. At Mr Morrison’s request, he swore the prime minister in as joint minister for health in March 2020, in case the existing minister became incapacitated by Covid.

Over the next 14 months, he also signed off Mr Morrison as an additional minister in the finance, treasury, home affairs and resources portfolios.

Mr Morrison already had ministerial powers, so Mr Hurley was basically just giving him authority over extra departments.

It’s a request the governor-general “would not have any kind of power to override or reject”, constitutional law professor Anne Twomey tells the BBC.

“This wasn’t even a meeting between the prime minister and the governor-general, it was just paperwork.”

But Mr Morrison’s appointments were not publicly announced, disclosed to the parliament, or even communicated to most of the ministers he was job-sharing with.

Australia’s solicitor-general found Mr Morrison’s actions were not illegal but had “fundamentally undermined” responsible government.

But the governor-general had done the right thing, the solicitor-general said in his advice this week.

It would have been “a clear breach” for him to refuse the prime minister, regardless of whether he knew the appointments would be kept secret, Stephen Donaghue said.

Critics push for investigation

Ultimately, Mr Hurley had to sign off on Mr Morrison’s requests, but critics say he could have counselled him against it and he could have publicised it himself.

But representatives for the governor-general say these types of appointments – giving ministers the right to administer other departments – are not unusual.

And it falls to the government of the day to decide if they should be announced to the public. They often opt not to.

Mr Hurley himself announcing the appointments would be unprecedented. He had “no reason to believe that appointments would not be communicated”, his spokesperson said.

Emeritus professor Jenny Hocking finds the suggestion Mr Hurley didn’t know the ministries had been kept secret “ridiculous”.

“The last of these bizarre, duplicated ministry appointments… were made more than a year after the first, so clearly by then the governor-general did know that they weren’t being made public,” she says.

“I don’t agree for a moment that the governor-general has a lot of things on his plate and might not have noticed.”

The historian says it’s one of the biggest controversies surrounding a governor-general since John Kerr caused a constitutional crisis by sacking Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1975.

Prof Hocking famously fought for transparency around that matter – waging a lengthy and costly legal battle that culminated in the release of Mr Kerr’s correspondence with the Queen.

And she says the same transparency is needed here.

The Australian public need to know whether Mr Hurley counselled the prime minister against the moves, and why he didn’t disclose them

The government has already announced an inquiry into Mr Morrison’s actions, but she wants it to look at the governor-general and his office too.

“If the inquiry is to find out what happened in order to fix what happened, it would be extremely problematic to leave out a key part of that equation.”

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – Mr Morrison’s predecessor – has also voiced support for an inquiry.

“Something has gone seriously wrong at Government House,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“It is the passive compliance along the chain… that did undermine our constitution and our democracy… that troubles me the most. This is how tyranny gets under way.”

PM defends governor-general

Prof Twomey says the criticism of Mr Hurley is unfair – there’s was no “conspiracy” on his part to keep things secret.

“I don’t think it’s reasonable for anyone to expect that he could have guessed that the prime minister was keeping things secret from his own ministers, for example.

“Nobody really thought that was a possibility until about two weeks ago.”

Even if he had taken the unprecedented step to publicise the appointments or to reject Mr Morrison’s request, he’d have been criticised, she says.

“There’d be even more people saying ‘how outrageous!'” she says. “The role of governor-general is awkward because people are going to attack you either way.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has also defended Mr Hurley, saying he was just doing his job.

“I have no intention of undertaking any criticism of [him].”

A role fit for purpose?

Prof Hocking says it’s a timely moment to look at the role of the governor-general more broadly.

She points out it’s possible the Queen may have been informed about Mr Morrison’s extra ministries when Australia’s parliament and people were not.

“It does raise questions about whether this is fit for purpose, as we have for decades been a fully independent nation, but we still have… ‘the relics of colonialism’ alive and well.”

Momentum for a fresh referendum on an Australian republic has been growing and advocates have seized on the controversy.

“The idea that the Queen and her representative can be relied upon to uphold our system of government has been debunked once and for all,” the Australian Republic Movement’s Sandy Biar says.

“It’s time we had an Australian head of state, chosen by Australians and accountable to them to safeguard and uphold Australia’s constitution.”

But Prof Twomey says republicans are “clutching at straws” – under their proposals, the head of state would also have been bound to follow the prime minister’s advice.

“It wouldn’t result in any changes that would have made one iota of difference.”


Read from:

Continue Reading


Copyright © 2020 ,