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Media mogul Harvey Weinstein is seen leaving the NYPD 1st Precinct after surrendering himself in New York, NY on May 25, 2018. (Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones)(Sipa via AP Images)
The Manhattan district attorney has announced new criminal charges against 66 year old film producer Harvey Weinstein that could have the disgraced Hollywood mogul spending the rest of his life in prison. In May, Weinstein was arrested on charges related to sexually assaulting two women. The new allegations involve a forcible sex act on a third woman that occurred in 2006. Experts believe he could take a plea bargain to avoid facing 25 years in a criminal case that may hinge on actresses providing “prior bad acts” testimony, a key contributor to the Bill Cosby guilty verdict.
More than 100 women have accused him of sexual misconduct spanning decades. Weinstein denied all allegations of nonconsensual sexual activity. In early June, he pled not guilty on two counts of rape and one first-degree criminal sex act charge. He remained free after he turned in his passport, paid $1 million bail and agreed to wear a monitoring device while under house arrest. Those charges stem from allegations from two women — one involving an incident in 2004, and one in 2013 — according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
As more women came forward with allegations against Weinstein, the New York Police Department and the Manhattan DA’s Office launched a joint investigation culminating in the charges. A grand jury indicted Weinstein on three felony counts on May 30.
Weinstein surrendered to authorities, seven months after The New Yorker and The New York Times published accounts from several women accusing him of various forms of sexual misconduct. The New Yorker article contained on-the-record accounts from 13 actresses who reported Weinstein forcibly received or performed sexual acts on the women. The accounts unleashed a flood of accusations of sexual harassment, assault and rape against Weinstein.
Among his accusers are some of Hollywood’s most well-known actresses including Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Rosanna Arquette, Kate Beckinsale, Daryl Hanna, Salma Hayek, Lena Headey, Lauren Holly, Natasha Henstridge, and Heather Graham. He was also accused of retaliating against women who refused his advances by discouraging studios from working with them. Harvey Weinstein’s wife of a decade, Georgina Chapman, announced in a statement that she was leaving him. Chapman received primary custody of their two children in their divorce.
The scandal emboldened women around the world to accuse powerful men of sexual harassment as part of the #MeToo movement and led to the ousting of many of them from their positions. It also led a great number of women to share their own experiences of sexual assault, harassment, or rape on social media under the hashtag #MeToo. The scandal’s impact on powerful men in various industries came to be called the “Weinstein effect”. The Times and the New Yorker jointly won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for their reporting on Weinstein.
For the first time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a cannabis-based drug. The drug, Epidiolex, has been approved to treat two types of epileptic syndromes. The drug’s approval comes as an increasing number of states have approved medicinal and recreational marijuana use. Epidiolex was recommended for approval by an advisory committee in April, and the agency had until this week to make a decision.
The twice-daily oral solution is approved for use in patients 2 and older to treat two types of epileptic syndromes: Dravet syndrome, a rare genetic dysfunction of the brain that begins in the first year of life, and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a form of epilepsy with multiple types of seizures that begin in early childhood, usually between 3 and 5.
FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in a statement “This is an important medical advance because of the adequate and well-controlled clinical studies that supported this approval, prescribers can have confidence in the drug’s uniform strength and consistent delivery.”
The drug is the “first pharmaceutical formulation of highly-purified, plant-based cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid lacking the high associated with marijuana, and the first in a new category of anti-epileptic drugs,” according to a statement from GW Pharmaceuticals, the UK-based biopharmaceutical company that makes Epidiolex. Justin Gover, chief executive officer of GW Pharmaceuticals, described the approval in the statement as “a historic milestone.”
He added that the drug offers families “the first and only FDA-approved cannabidiol medicine to treat two severe, childhood-onset epilepsies.” “These patients deserve and will soon have access to a cannabinoid medicine that has been thoroughly studied in clinical trials, manufactured to assure quality and consistency, and available by prescription under a physician’s care,” Gover said. He said Epidiolex will become available in the fall would not give any information on cost, saying only that it will be discussed with insurance companies and announced later.
Cannabidiol is one of more than 80 active cannabinoid chemicals, yet unlike tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, it does not produce a high. The FDA has approved synthetic versions of some cannabinoid chemicals found in the marijuana plant for other purposes, including cancer pain relief.
According to the Epilepsy Foundation, up to one-third of Americans who have epilepsy have found no therapies that will control their seizures. With this approval, Epidiolex could be a new option for those patients who have not responded to other treatments to control seizures.
Nationwide outrage and protests has grown over the practice of forcibly separating immigrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, in violation of international human rights law. At least 3,700 immigrant children have been separated from their parents since October and Border Patrol says it has separated more than 2,300 kids since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy in April. The separated children have been sent to detention facilities in at least 17 states.
It had long been a misdemeanor federal offense to be caught illegally entering the US, punishable by up to six months in prison. However, the administration didn’t always refer everyone caught for prosecution. Those apprehended were swiftly put into immigration proceedings and unless they met the threshold to pursue a valid asylum claim, were quickly deported from the country. The “zero tolerance” policy plan makes no special arrangements for those who claim asylum when apprehended and refers all apprehended for prosecution-thus the increase in family separations. While they will be allowed to pursue their claims and could eventually be found to have a legitimate right to live in the US, they could still already have a conviction for illegal entry.
Outrage grew as images of immigrant children housed in chain-linked cages covered with foil blankets circulated through social media and news outlets. Investigative news source ProPublica obtained audio of children desperately crying for their parents at an immigrant detention facility. ProPublica: “The desperate sobbing of 10 Central American children, separated from their parents one day last week by immigration authorities at the border, makes for excruciating listening. Many of them sound like they’re crying so hard, they can barely breathe. They scream ‘Mami’ and ‘Papá’ over and over again, as if those are the only words they know.” The audio can be hard to listen to for many and sparked mass outrage from both sides of the political parties.
Governors of eight states—Maryland, Massachusetts, Virginia, Rhode Island, Colorado, New York, North Carolina and Connecticut—said they would either withhold or recall their National Guard troops from the border, in protest of the practice of separating children. The resources in question from each state are relatively small, so the actions a more of a strong symbolic political gesture.
American Airlines and United Airlines have asked the administration to stop transporting immigrant children who have been separated from their families aboard their companies’ planes. American Airlines said in a statement, “We have no desire to be associated with separating families, or worse, to profit from it.” United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz said, “Our Company’s shared purpose is to connect people and unite the world. This policy and its impact on thousands of children is in deep conflict with that mission and we want no part of it.”
On Wednesday, the US President signed an executive order claiming to end the separation of children from their parents at the border, by detaining them together while their legal cases go through the courts. The order does not say where the families will be detained or whether children will continue to be separated from their parents until the facilities are ready. Critics warn the order will lead to the indefinite detention of entire families. The order has not outlined any plans for reuniting children already separated from their families.
Massachusetts has filed a lawsuit against 16 top executives of Purdue Pharma, the maker of the popular drug OxyContin, claiming they misled doctors, patients and the public about the dangers posed by the opioid-based painkiller. Attorney General Maura Healey said “Their strategy was simple: The more drugs they sold, the more money they made—and the more people died. We found that Purdue engaged in a multibillion-dollar enterprise to mislead us about their drugs. Purdue pushed prescribers to give higher doses to keep patients on drugs for longer periods of time, without regard to the very real increased risk of addiction, overdose and death.” Texas, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota and Tennessee have filed similar lawsuits in state courts against the drug maker, whose headquarters are in Stamford, Connecticut.
The Texas’ lawsuit accuses Purdue Pharma, the privately held manufacterer of OxyContin, of violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act by aggressively selling its products “when it knew their drugs were potentially dangerous and that its use had a high likelihood of leading to addiction,” state Attorney General Ken Paxton said. “As Purdue got rich from sales of its opioids, Texans and others across the nation were swept up in a public health crisis that led to tens of thousands of deaths each year due to opioid overdoses,” Paxton said.
State officials in Arizona, Alabama, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia, — sued various pain-killer manufacturers and distributors for their roles in helping the opioid epidemic grow. In 2007, Purdue Pharma did not admit wrongdoing when it paid $19.5 million to settle lawsuits with 26 states and the District of Columbia after being accused of aggressively marketing OxyContin to doctors while downplaying the risk of addiction. Nevada, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas were part of that agreement while Florida and North Dakota were not.
Opioids were the cause of nearly 42,250 deaths in 2016, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Research suggests that since heroin and opioid painkillers, (including prescription ones) act similarly in the brain. Opioid painkillers are often referred to by some doctors as “heroin lite” and taking one (even “as directed”) can increase one’s susceptibility to becoming hooked on the other. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50, with opioids as the number-one driver.
Deaths from opioids (including fentynals) have been rising sharply for years with an estimated 100 drug overdoses a day across the country. Experts say the epidemic could kill nearly half a million people across America over the next decade as the crisis of addiction and overdose accelerates.
Aaron Persky, the California judge who drew national attention in 2016 when he sentenced Stanford student Brock Turner to just six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, was recalled on Tuesday. He is the first judge recalled in California in more than 80 years. Almost 60% of voters were in favor of removing Judge Persky from the Santa Clara County Superior Court, where he had served since 2003. Prosecutor Cindy Hendrickson was elected to replace him.
The recall stemmed from the case of Brock Turner, who was caught sexually assaulting a woman near a dumpster in 2015 after she had blacked out from drinking. In 2016, a jury found the 20 year old Stanford swimmer guilty on all three felony charges against him: sexual penetration with a foreign object of an intoxicated person, sexual penetration with a foreign object of an unconscious person, and intent to commit rape.
The maximum sentence in Turner’s case was 14 years but Judge Persky had sentenced him to six months. During sentencing Judge Persky said he thought Mr. Turner would “not be a danger to others” and expressed concern that “a prison sentence would have a severe impact” on him. His decision along with the fact that he did not mention the impact of the assault on the victim, outraged victims’ advocates nationally.
Turner served only three months before being released in September 2016. He also received three years of probation and was required to register as a sex offender. Stanford forced him to withdraw and barred him from campus. His victim, known publicly only as Emily Doe, described her suffering in a more than 7,000-word statement that went viral soon after it was published. The sentence and resulting backlash, prompted California lawmakers to change the law. Within four months, they enacted mandatory minimum sentences in sexual assault cases and closed a loophole in which penetrative sexual assault could be punished less harshly if the victim was too intoxicated to physically resist.
Talk of a recall campaign began immediately after he handed down his sentence. The recall campaign was led by Ms. Dauber, whose daughter is friends with Emily Doe — had collected enough signatures to put the question on the ballot. In a statement, Judge Persky said he had a legal and professional responsibility to consider alternatives to imprisonment for first-time offenders. LaDoris Cordell, a retired judge and a spokeswoman for Judge Persky, called the recall an attack on judicial independence and said it had “encouraged people to think of judges as no more than politicians.”
Among the effort’s most prominent backers were Anita Hill and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. Ms. Dauber said the results “demonstrated that violence against women is a voting issue,” and that “if candidates want the votes of progressive Democratic women, they will have to take this issue seriously.”
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), arrested 114 undocumented immigrants working at an Ohio gardening business in one of its largest workplace raids in recent years. Tuesday’s arrests targeted employees of Corso’s Flower and Garden Center in Sandusky and Castalia, Ohio. Those arrested are expected to face criminal charges, including identity theft and tax evasion.
About 200 ICE personnel were involved in the operations, which began at 7 a.m. and continued late into the evening. Agents surrounded the perimeter of the Castalia locations, blocking off nearby streets as helicopters flew overhead. Search warrants were served at both locations without incident. They arrested 114 workers suspected of being in the country illegally and loaded many onto buses bound for ICE detention facilities.
Khaalid Walls, spokesman for ICE’s Northeastern region, said the investigation into Corso’s began in October 2017 with the arrest of a suspected document vendor. They reviewed 313 employee records and found that 123 were suspicious. He added that the majority of those arrested were Mexican nationals and some individuals were processed and released for humanitarian reasons.
Authorities are pursuing a bevy of allegations against Corso’s, including allegations of harboring illegal aliens, unlawful employment of aliens, false impersonation of a US citizen, fraud and aggravated identity theft, Walls said.
Steve Francis, special agent in charge of Homeland Security investigations said “We are attempting to identify what criminal network brought over 100 illegal aliens to Ohio to work.” “If your business is operating legitimately, there’s nothing to fear. If you are hiring illegal aliens as a business model, we will identify you, arrest you and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”
In October 2017, Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Tom Homan said he ordered the investigative unit of ICE to increase work site enforcement actions by as much as fivefold. “We’ve already increased the number of inspections in work site operations, you will see that significantly increase this next fiscal year,” Homan said at the time. Homan also said that those actions would target both the employers and the employees in violation of immigration law. “Not only are we going to prosecute the employers that hire illegal workers, we’re going to detain and remove the illegal alien workers. The aggressive efforts are meant to deter people from entering the country illegally and protect jobs for American workers.”
Corso’s employee Salma Sabala told news outlets that undercover officers showed up in an employee break room initially offering to give out Dunkin’ Donuts. Then, they started rounding up workers. “ They’re armed. They had the dogs. We hear the helicopters on top of us,” Sabala said. Videos captured by workers and reporters showed immigration agents putting employees in handcuffs and separating authorized U.S. residents from undocumented immigrants. No employees were seen fleeing.
The 114 people arrested were taken to detention facilities in St. Clair County, Michigan; Seneca County, Ohio; and the Youngstown, Ohio, area. Families of the arrested workers gathered at St. Paul Catholic Church in Norwalk, Ohio, seeking answers as to the whereabouts of their loved ones.
FEMA has ordered the evacuation of parts of a neighborhood on Hawaii’s Big Island as fast-moving lava from Kilauea volcano threatens to destroy more homes. The volcano first erupted on May 3, 2018 and has destroyed over 100 houses. Since the first eruption, 22 fissure vents have opened on the volcano’s East Rift Zone in the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions.
Hawaii’s Highway 137 has been blocked by lava, cutting off access to Kapoho Bay, Vacationland, Hwy 132 and the Puna Geothermal power plant. The flowing lava completely filled Kapoho Bay, inundated most of Vacationland and covered all but the northern part of Kapoho Beach Lots. There are several hundred homes in these two subdivisions. Homes in Kapoho Beach Lots and Vacationland are on smaller lots and are closer together than in other parts of the Puna district.
More than 2,500 local residents have been forced to evacuate the dangerous lava flows and toxic sulfur dioxide fumes that have consumed the neighborhoods. Officials have warned residents of the threat of toxic gases, choking ash plumes, and volcanic glass falling from the sky. When the sulfur dioxide from the fissures mix with sunlight and oxygen it forms a type of volcanic smog called “vog,” which can cause pneumonia and bronchitis-like symptoms.
Lava continues oozing from volcanic fissures, burning homes to the ground and turning into rivers of molten rock. The lava from Kilauea has spread across 2,000 acres of land into the surrounding neighborhoods on Hawaii’s Big Island. The rate of lava flow in the East Rift Zone has increased, advancing at rates up to 300 yards per hour. Officials say flowing lava has reached the Pacific Ocean, creating a steam cloud of lava haze commonly called “laze”. Laze is a mix of hydrochloric acid and fine glass particles. The laze extends 15 miles west of the Big Island and can cause breathing issues and skin irritation.
On May 29, 2018, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported that an ash eruption at Kīlauea summit occurred overnight at around 2 am. According to officials, the resulting ash plume reached 15,000 feet and the wind was blowing in the Northwest direction, sending ash fall out into the surrounding area. A a 4.5 magnitude earthquake was also reported in the summit region of the Kīlauea Volcano at 1:56 a.m. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a statement saying that no tsunami was expected.
Hawaii Civil Defense Service officials said they went through the neighborhood to warn residents this was their last chance to evacuate before their final escape route was cut off by lava Some chose to stay in the area, which now has no power, cell reception, landlines or county water, officials said. Authorities are planning to airlift people out if the lava spreads farther and endangers the dozen or so holdouts. Hundreds of residents are now living in shelters and emergency tents as local residents provide food and supplies.
Officials have identified nine Puerto Rico Air National Guard airmen killed when their plane crashed shortly after taking off in Savanna, Georgia. The plane, a C-130-type cargo plane from Puerto Rico’s 156th Airlift Wing, had been in Savannah for several days for routine maintenance. It took off about 11:30 a.m on Wednesday morning heading to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group in Arizona, where it was set to be decommissioned since it was one of the oldest such aircraft still flying—at more than 60 years old.
The plane made it about a mile from Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport before it nose-dived toward a state highway intersection and exploded into a ball of fire and black smoke. Witnesses say the aircraft, with four turboprop engines on its overhead wing, banked left as it rapidly descended. The plane then plummeted behind trees. Seconds later, a fireball and thick black smoke erupted from the tree line. The wreck left a debris field of 360,000 square feet — about the area of six football fields. Chatham County officials said that Georgia Highway 21 will remain closed indefinitely as investigators examine the crash site and debris field.
Those killed in the crash have been identified as the pilot, Maj. Jose R. Roman Rosado from Manati, who left behind a wife and two sons; co-pilot, 1st Lt. David Albandoz from Madison, Alabama who left behind a wife and daughter; navigator, Maj. Carlos Perez Serra from Canovanas, who left behind a wife, two sons and a daughter; Senior Master Sgt. Jan Paravisini from Canovanas who left behing two daughters and son; Master Sgt. Jean Audriffred from Carolina who left behind a wife and two sons; Master Sgt. Mario Brana from Bayamon who left behind a daughter; Master Sgt. Eric Circuns from Rio Grande who left behind a wife, two stepdaughters and son; Master Sgt. Victor Colon of Santa Isabel, who left behind a wife and two daughters and Senior Airman Roberto Espada, from Salinas, who is survived by his grandmother.
An investigation into the cause of the crash is being carried out by the National Guard Bureau and the Air Force including whether it could be related to maintenance performed on the plane shortly before it took off or the craft’s age. A team from Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina is conducting the investigation, while a team from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware was sent to recover the airmen’s remains.
The destroyed C-130 and all nine crew members killed had helped with the hurricane recovery effort. The plane had been used to rescue Americans stranded in the British Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean late last year. Days later, Hurricane Maria slammed into the 156th Airlift Wing’s home base in Puerto Rico, and the plane subsequently transported supplies from the U.S. mainland to the ruined island. Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Roselló declared nine days of mourning for the crew, during which flags in the territory will fly at half-staff, according to a statement from his office.
During a historic meeting between Kim Jong-un and South Korean leader Moon Jae-in at the Demilitarized Zone between the two countries, Kim Jong-un told Moon Jae-in that North Korea would be willing to denuclearize in return for a commitment that the U.S. will not invade the country. During the meeting, which was broadcast live on the Korean Peninsula and around the world, the two leaders held hands and pledged to work for peace and replace the 1953 armistice with a formal peace treaty. The two countries have been involved a tense standoff on the Korean Peninsula that’s been in place since fighting in the Korean War ended 65 years ago.
The meeting was aimed at paving the way for Kim’s upcoming summit with President Trump. During the meeting, Kim signed a joint declaration affirming a “complete denuclearization” and “a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.” According to the South Korean government, the North Korean leader said he would invite experts and journalists from South Korea and the U.S. to witness the closing of the country’s only known underground nuclear test site. Kim announced an end to nuclear and long-range missile testing last week.
The Trump administration has been firm that complete denuclearization is required for the lifting of economic sanctions that have been placed on the country for years. U.S. officials spoke cautiously about the chances of reaching a deal and laid out a plan for the dismantling of the North’s nuclear program over a two-year period. National security adviser John R. Bolton said That would be accompanied by a “full, complete, total disclosure of everything related to their nuclear program with a full international verification.”
The two countries have recently taken other steps toward peace since the meeting with the South Korean military beginning to dismantle loudspeakers that have been blaring propaganda into the North since 2016. North Korea has announced it will shift its clocks forward 30 minutes to align with South Korea’s time zone. South Korean leader Moon Jae-in has also convinced North Korea’s Kim Jong-un to hold an upcoming summit with President Trump at the Demilitarized Zone, known as the DMZ.
Skeptics warn that North Korea previously made similar pledges of denuclearization on numerous occasions, with little or no intention of abiding by them. Kim’s could turn out to be nothing more than empty promises aimed at lifting sanctions on his isolated country. They say the closing of the nuclear site could be symbolic since the site may already be too unstable for further testing. They also question the honesty of Kim’s intentions siting the practicality of monitoring and inspections of supposedly closed sites.
The Denuclearization announcement came as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke for the first time about a “good conversation” he had with Mr. Kim during his secret visit to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, over Easter weekend. “We had an extensive conversation on the hardest issues that face our two countries. I had a clear mission statement from President Trump. When I left, Kim Jong-un understood the mission exactly as I described it today” Mr. Pompeo said. Pompeo added that the administration’s objective was “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization” with North Korea, and that Mr. Kim was prepared to “lay out a map that would help us achieve” denuclearization.
A federal jury convicted three Kansas militia members were for their role in plotting to bomb a mosque and apartment complex housing Somali refugees. The plot was thwarted by another member of the group who tipped off federal authorities about escalating threats of violence. Gavin Wright, Patrick Stein and Curtis Allen were convicted of one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and one count of conspiracy against civil rights. Wright was also convicted of a charge of lying to the FBI. Sentencing is scheduled for June 27.
An FBI informant said they were plotting to use guns and car bombs to mass murder Somalis. The three men belonged to a militia called the Crusaders which was a splinter group of the militia Kansas Security Force. Testimony and recordings indicate the men tried to recruit other members of the Kansas Security Force to join them. The men were indicted in October 2016 for plotting an attack for the day after the presidential election in the town of Garden City, about 220 miles west of Wichita.
According to prosecutors, Stein was recorded discussing the type of fuel and fertilizer bomb that Timothy McVeigh used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people. The men discussed obtaining vehicles and filling them with explosives and parking them at the four corners of the apartment complex to create an explosion that would level the entire complex. They downloaded recipes from the internet and they experimented with and tested those explosives. Stein was arrested when he delivered 300 pounds of fertilizer to undercover FBI agents to make explosives. Wright is captured in one recording saying he hoped an attack on the Somalis would “wake people up” and inspire others to take similar action against Muslims.
Defense attorneys argued that the FBI set up the men with a paid informant and all the talk about violence wasn’t serious. They said the men had a right to free speech and association under the U.S. Constitution. Prosecutors argued that the plot was more than just words and presented enough evidence to convince the jury of a conviction.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the verdicts a significant victory against domestic terrorism and hate crimes. “The defendants in this case acted with clear premeditation in an attempt to kill people on the basis of their religion and national origin,” Sessions said in a news release. “That’s not just illegal — it’s immoral and unacceptable, and we’re not going to stand for it.”