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University of New Brunswick investigating how Trump ally was awarded PhD in 2013

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HALIFAX — A high-profile ally of former U.S. president Donald Trump is at the centre of an academic controversy at the University of New Brunswick, where the administration has promised an independent review of how he received a PhD in 2013.

Doug Mastriano, a retired U.S. army colonel, was a little-known state senator in Pennsylvania until he took an active role in the movement to overturn Trump’s 2020 election defeat. In May, with Trump’s support, he won the Republican nomination to run for state governor, catapulting his far-right campaign into the national spotlight.

On Sept. 9, Mastriano’s academic credentials from UNB were called into question when The Associated Press reported allegations from scholars asserting that his doctoral dissertation was plagued by factual errors and amateurish archeology.

Mastriano has yet to publicly respond to the allegations. Calls to his Pennsylvania offices — in Chambersburg and Gettysburg — were not returned.

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Richard Yeomans, a PhD candidate in UNB’s history department, said students on the Fredericton campus want to know what the university is going to do to uphold its academic standards.

“I think that everybody is just shocked at the fact that the department has said nothing since this became an international news story,” Yeomans said in a recent interview. “The university has chosen to save face rather than come to terms with what this means. A certain level of trust has been breached.”

Yeomans said graduate students have raised their concerns with the chair of the history department, Lisa Todd. Todd did not respond to a request for an interview.

Earlier this month, the university issued a statement acknowledging the allegations against Mastriano were causing “concern or confusion” among students, alumni and the public.

“UNB has a clear policy for dealing with any allegations of research misconduct,” the statement said. “UNB will review its internal processes to ensure our systems and policies around the awarding of PhDs remain of the highest standard.”

The Oct. 6 statement said the review would be conducted by two independent academics, but there was no indication of a deadline or if the results would be made public.

Jeffrey Brown, a history professor at UNB, said he was among the first to raise red flags about Mastriano’s dissertation in 2012-13, which focused on U.S. army Sgt. Alvin York, a highly decorated First World War infantryman. As a member of the examining board that reviewed Mastriano’s work, Brown said he identified problems early on.

“Through subsequent drafts, those problems did not disappear,” Brown said in an interview last week. “It became evident that Mastriano wasn’t really taking my suggestions seriously.”

He said the main problem with Mastriano’s 500-page paper was that it relied too heavily on a 1928 autobiography that has been called into question by other historians for being a simplistic portrait that glorifies York’s life and battlefield exploits.

Brown, who has taught at UNB for 21 years, also cited shortcomings with an archeological dig Mastriano led in France before enrolling in the PhD program, which Mastriano claimed unearthed the site where York defeated an entire German machine-gun battalion in October 1918. The professor said two qualified experts had come forward in 2008 to dispute Mastriano’s findings.

In an internal examiner’s assessment submitted Feb. 8, 2013, Brown told Mastriano to recognize that the two researchers — geoscientist Thomas Nolan at Middle Tennessee State University and historian Michael Birdwell at Tennessee Tech University — had located the battlefield at a different site.

“These scholars explicitly reject Mastriano’s findings,” the assessment says. “Mastriano makes no mention of this debate in his dissertation.”

After Mastriano provided final revisions to his paper in April 2013, Brown submitted a letter to the dissertation supervisor, Marc Milner, saying he was considering removing his name from the paper.

“Doug (Mastriano’s) revisions may have spoken to some of what disturbs me about his work, but they have not diminished my concerns about its fairness and scholarly integrity,” says the letter, a copy of which was provided to The Canadian Press.

“The charge of dishonesty, in fact, is everywhere in the letters of concern we have both received from people who believe that Doug’s dissertation should not be accepted by UNB.”

According to Brown, Milner told him his input was no longer required because the examining board had enough members to proceed. Brown said he expected his name would be removed from the paper’s final draft, but that didn’t happen. Mastriano was awarded a PhD later that year, and the paper was subsequently used as the basis for a 2014 book by Mastriano.

Milner could not be reached for comment.

James Gregory, an instructor and PhD candidate at the University of Oklahoma, said he became concerned about Mastriano’s work after he cited a passage from the 2014 book in an article. Gregory received messages indicating the material was questionable and decided to have a closer look at the book.

In January 2021, Gregory submitted a list of 15 issues he found to the publisher, the University Press of Kentucky. And he followed up by requesting the original dissertation from UNB.

“No one would tell me where it was,” Gregory said in an interview last week. Eventually, he was told the paper had been placed under an embargo until 2030, which the university later admitted was a violation of UNB regulations that allow for only a four-year embargo.

After the dissertation was released in August of this year, Gregory discovered Mastriano had attached a list of 21 corrections, some of which addressed his original allegations.

But upon reviewing the dissertation, Gregory sent a report to UNB this month documenting 213 allegations of academic misconduct. “His dissertation and subsequent book are built upon falsified research,” Gregory’s latest report alleges.

As an example, Gregory points to a citation for a passage that describes in detail the weather conditions in France’s Argonne forest as an investigation began into York’s battlefield heroics. According to Gregory, the cited source is a telegram that includes nothing more than a brief travel itinerary.

“The university needs to do something,” said Gregory, author of “Unravelling the Myth of Sgt. Alvin York,” to be published in December.

“They either need to come out and say Mastriano’s dissertation is perfect example of the standard we uphold here at UNB, or they need to do something about it. There’s no way this should have passed.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 18, 2022.

— With files from The Associated Press

 

Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press

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Trudeau 'extremely concerned' about report Canadian parts ended up in Iranian drones – National | Globalnews.ca – Global News

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is “extremely concerned” over a report Canadian-made parts have been discovered in Iranian drones used by Russia in its war on Ukraine.

Trudeau shared his worries with reporters in Ingersoll, Ont., Monday after the Globe and Mail reported on Sunday the discovery by a non-profit organization, Statewatch. Its “Trap Aggressor” investigation detailed last month that an antenna manufactured by an Ottawa-based Tallysman Wireless was featured in the Iranian Shahed-136 attack drone.

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Canada sanctions Iranian drone makers amid Russian strikes in Ukraine


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Federal government ‘extremely concerned’ about report Canadian-made parts found in Iranian attack drones used in Russia: Trudeau


The drones have been used recently by Russia in Ukraine as Moscow increases its strikes on the country’s energy and civilian infrastructure.

“We’re obviously extremely concerned about those reports because even as Canada is producing extraordinary, technological innovations … we do not want them to participate in Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine, or Iran’s contributions to that,” Trudeau said.

“We have strict export permits in place for sensitive technology that are rigorously enforced, and that’s why we’ve been following up with this company, that’s fully cooperating, to figure out exactly how items that we’re not supposed to get into the hands of anyone like the Iranian government actually ended up there.”

The Shahed-136 is manufactured by Shahed Aviation Industries, one of two Iranian drone makers Ottawa sanctioned last month for reportedly supplying Russia with its lethal drones. After denying reports it was supplying Moscow, Iran acknowledged for the first time on Nov. 5 it had sent Moscow drones before the Feb. 24 war began.


Click to play video: 'Russian missiles smash apartment block in Ukraine’s Mykolaiv: mayor'

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Russian missiles smash apartment block in Ukraine’s Mykolaiv: mayor


It denied continuing to supply drones to Russia. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Iran of lying, previously saying Kyiv’s forces were destroying at least 10 of its drones every day.

Aside from its Iranian-made engine, the Shahed-136 consists entirely of foreign components, Statewatch said in its report. It cited Ukrainian intelligence managing to identify more than 30 European and American companies’ components, with most parts coming from the United States.


A drone is seen in the sky seconds before it fired on buildings in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Oct. 17.


Efrem Lukatsky/AP

Drones like the Shahed are packed with explosives and can be preprogrammed with a target’s GPS coordinates. They can nosedive into targets and explode on impact like a missile, hence why they have become known as suicide drones or kamikaze drones.

Shaheds are relatively cheap, costing roughly US$20,000 each — a small fraction of the cost of a full-size missile.

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‘Game-changing’ drone warfare in Ukraine may tee up new phase of conflict: official

Drones “provide a critical capability” to exploit vulnerabilities in defences, and their use may be a prelude to a new phase in the conflict, U.S. Army Lt.-Col. Paul Lushenko previously told Global News.

Gyles Panther, president at Tallysman, told the Globe the company is not “complicit in this usage” and “is 100-per cent committed” to supporting Ukraine.

Ottawa is working to understand how the parts ended up in the drones, and wants to “ensure” incidents like this don’t “happen again in the future,” Trudeau said.

&copy 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Available Nexus appointments Canada

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There’s good news for those looking to expedite their border crossing experience.

To mitigate the ongoing backlog issues at Canadian border crossings, border officials have reopened two Nexus and Free and Secure Trade (FAST) enrolment centres in Canada.

It’s the first time any Nexus and FAST offices have been open in Canada since the pandemic began, and federal officials say more offices will be opening in the future.

The Nexus program, which has over 1.7 million members, is designed to speed up the border clearance process for its members, while also freeing up more time for Canadian and U.S. border security agents to tend to unknown or potentially higher-risk travellers and goods.

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The benefit of Nexus is that it allows for those travelling between the two countries to save time, skipping long lineups and using the shorter, dedicated Nexus lanes when crossing the border, as well as designated kiosks and eGates at major airports, and quicker processing at marine crossings.

Reopening these two Canadian centres is the first phase of a larger plan to address the lengthy Nexus and FAST backlog, and will increase availability for applicants to book appointments to interview for Nexus pre-approval, the Canada Border Service Agency said in a statement Monday.

Those looking to get Nexus approval can now schedule interviews, by appointment only, at the Lansdowne, Ont. (Thousand Islands Bridge) and Fort Erie, Ont. (Peace Bridge) enrolment centres, through the trusted traveller programs portal.

Travellers looking to apply will still need to complete a new two-step process, and the Canadian offices don’t mean applicants won’t have to cross the border to finalize the process.

If conditionally approved for Nexus status, travellers can complete the first part of the interview at one of the two reopened Canadian enrolment centres, then complete the second interview portion just across the border at the corresponding U.S. enrolment centres on the other side. For Lansdowne, that’s Alexandria Bay, N.Y., and for Fort Erie, it’s Buffalo, N.Y.

To become conditionally approved, both the CBSA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have to grant approval prior to scheduling the interview portion, and interviews need to be conducted on both sides of the border.

“Nexus and FAST are a win-win for Canada and the United States – and we’re working hard to find creative solutions to reduce wait times, address the backlog and help more travellers get Nexus cards,” said Marco Mendicino, minister of public safety, in a press release. “This new, two-step process is further proof of our commitment to it. We’ll keep finding solutions that leverage technology and streamline renewals.”

Applicants also have the option to complete a one-step process and schedule complete interviews at enrolment centres in the U.S., which may be a preferred option for those who don’t live near the two centres currently open in Canada.

And those who are already members of the Nexus program and are awaiting an interview can renew their membership ahead of its expiry date in order to retain their travel benefits for up to five years.

More centres are expected to open at select land border crossings in the future, as this initial phase carries on, CBSA says.

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China slams U.S. Inflation Reduction Act for ‘disrupting international trade, investment’

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The Chinese Ministry of Commerce on Thursday criticized the U.S. for disrupting international trade and investment by adopting the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), urging the U.S. to fulfill its obligations under WTO rules.

The criticism came after the Chinese delegation attending a meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Council for Trade in Goods expressed serious concern over the ‘discriminatory and distorted subsidy provisions’ of the U.S. IRA, as well as its series of policies that disrupt the global semiconductor industry chain and supply chain.

The meeting of the WTO Council for Trade in Goods was held in Geneva between November 24 and 25.

Speaking at a press conference in Beijing, Ministry of Commerce Spokeswoman Shu Jueting said that China’s response is an exercise of its rights as a WTO member to challenge the trade measures of another member and their impact on such an occasion.

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“In its speech, the Chinese side expounded on the suspected violations of WTO rules by the relevant provisions of the U.S. law from a professional perspective, noted that the U.S. approach has seriously disrupted international trade and investment while undermining the stability of the global industrial and supply chains, and expressed grave concern over the U.S. application of double standards and acts of bullying regarding international trade rules,” Shu said.

“China urges the U.S. to strictly fulfill its obligations under WTO rules and earnestly safeguard the authority and effectiveness of the multilateral trading system,” she said.

Stressing that the world today is facing multiple challenges including setbacks in economic globalization and a sluggish economic recovery, Shu reiterated China’s commitment to opposing unilateralism and stabilizing global industrial and supply chains.

“China is ready to work with other members to follow through on the outcomes of the WTO 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12), engage fully and deeply in the reform of the WTO, stand against unilateralism and protectionism, and support the WTO in better playing its role, so as to contribute to stability of the global industrial and supply chains and recovery of the global economy at an early date,” said the spokeswoman.

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