WASHINGTON — Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who has warned of a nonexistent link between childhood immunizations and the development of autism, has accepted an invitation from President-elect Donald Trump to lead a commission “on vaccine safety and scientific integrity,” he told reporters Tuesday.

Kennedy, son of the late U.S. attorney general, said the president-elect “has some doubts” about vaccine policies but said both of them were in favor of vaccines.

“His opinion doesn’t matter, but the science does matter, and we ought to be reading the science and we ought to be debating the science,” Kennedy said. “Everybody ought to be able to be assured that the vaccines that we have … (are) as safe as they possibly can be.”

A wave of concern in recent years among some parents about a link between vaccines and autism, sparked by a since-discredited study, led instead to an increased risk for children in contracting diseases eradicated decades ago.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states explicitly that there “is no link between vaccines and autism,” citing its own and independent studies.

In 2015 Kennedy testified against a California bill, now law, to block parents from being waived, based on personal beliefs, from the requirement that their children be vaccinated. He apologized for comparing at one point the number of children with autism to a holocaust.

During a Republican primary debate in 2015 at the Reagan library in Simi Valley, Trump said he was “totally in favor of vaccines,” but said autism had become an epidemic. He claimed a 2-year-old child of one of his employees became autistic just after receiving an immunization.

—Tribune Washington Bureau


9/11 trial judge orders Pentagon to preserve its copy of the CIA ‘torture report’

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba — A military judge on Tuesday ordered the Department of Defense to preserve its copy of the CIA “torture report,” but left undecided whether attorneys for the men accused of orchestrating the 9/11 terrorist attacks will be allowed to read it.

Three Pentagon attorneys who saw Army Col. James L. Pohl’s four-page order said it also fell short of a request by defense attorneys to secure the full, classified 6,700-page Senate study of the CIA’s clandestine overseas prison program in a war court safe.

Instead, the judge, who earlier in his career forbade the Bush administration from razing Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, blocked any notion of the Pentagon returning its rare copy of the report to the Senate Intelligence Committee, something chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., has requested.

The Obama administration has partially declassified the report’s executive summary, a damning examination of CIA interrogations at the so-called black sites during the George W. Bush administration. But lawyers want the lurid details of detainees kept naked, deprived of food and sleep, rectally abused, waterboarded and shackled in stress positions to challenge both trial evidence and the possibility of military execution of the five men accused of conspiring in the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

Defense attorney Jay Connell called the decision “a small step toward accountability.” He represents Ammar al-Baluchi, accused of helping send money to the hijackers who killed nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001.

—Miami Herald


Texas governor meets Taiwan president, commits faux pas

HOUSTON — In a friendly gesture, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott presented Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen a clock with the Texas seal when they met in Houston on Sunday.

Only in Chinese culture, the phrase “giving a clock” is like saying “it’s your funeral,” or “your time’s running out.”

“The governor’s choice of a clock was untimely,” the Taiwan News reported wryly.

“Fortunately, Tsai did not seem to be fazed by the culturally inappropriate gift as it was surely well intentioned.”

Tsai gave Abbott a Taiwanese vase.

The meeting in Houston was controversial to begin with, as the Chinese government discourages U.S. encounters with Taiwanese leaders. China claims Taiwan, a democracy, as its territory.

Tsai also met with U.S. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who suggested that the United States’ “One China” policy was not “sacrosanct,” according to The Texas Tribune.

Abbott’s office said the governor and Tsai discussed energy, trade and other economic interests, “particularly in the exchange of natural gas and agricultural products.”

“I look forward to strengthening Texas’ bond with Taiwan and continuing my dialogue with President Tsai to create even more opportunity and a better future for our citizens,” Abbott, a Republican, said in a statement.

—Fort Worth Star-Telegram


Draghi, Renzi hacked in email cyber-spying attacks

ROME — Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, and former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi were among those hacked in a cyber-spying operation that targeted more than 18,000 email accounts, according to a court document seen by Bloomberg.

Operation “Eye Pyramid” revealed cyber-spying of institutions, state agencies, professionals, political figures and business people lasting for years, Italian police said in an emailed statement Tuesday. Police said two people were arrested: a nuclear engineer and his sister, both living in Rome and well-known in Roman financial circles.

The alleged hackers acted “with the aim of making a profit for themselves or for others,” the court document says. The Italian police inquiry was aided by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, which said the hackers targeted victims in the U.S. and Europe.

Draghi’s email at the Bank of Italy was hacked in the summer of 2016, according to the suspects’ arrest warrant issued by Rome pre-trial Judge Maria Paola Tomaselli. Draghi served as governor of the Italian central bank from 2005 to 2011. An email account belonging to Renzi was also hacked, the document says.

The ECB, Renzi’s Democratic Party and the Bank of Italy declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg. A person familiar with the matter said the Frankfurt, Germany-based ECB had no indication of a successful email breach there.

Among the hackers’ targets were oil group Eni SpA, multinational power company Enel SpA and technology company Leonardo Finmeccanica SpA, the court document shows. Political parties, law firms, politicians and ministries were also targeted.

The suspects tried to obtain confidential and sensitive data, especially on banks, at the ECB in Frankfurt and at the Bank of Italy in Rome, according to a person familiar with the investigation, speaking on the condition of not being identified by name.

The two arrested are suspected of obtaining information on national security, serious illegal access to a computer system and illicit interception of computer communications in an investigation led by Rome prosecutors, an Italian police statement said.

Thanks to a wide network of computers infected with malware called “Eyepyramid,” the pair allegedly obtained from a large number of victims “confidential information and sensitive data over many years” which was stored on U.S. servers, according to the police statement.

—Bloomberg News

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