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3 months ago · by · Comments Off on Harvey Weinstein Sentenced To 23 Years

Harvey Weinstein Sentenced To 23 Years

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A Manhattan judge sentenced former Hollywood producer and convicted sex offender Harvey Weinstein to 23 years in prison.  His 20-year sentence for a criminal sexual act, the more serious of the two counts he was convicted of last month, is on the higher end of New York state’s guidelines. For the other count, rape in the third degree, Weinstein was sentenced to three years in prison.

After his sentencing, Weinstein was taken under armed guard and bussed from the Manhattan courthouse to the Rikers Island jail. He was later transferred to Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital after complaining of chest pains. 

Weinstein was found guilty last month of raping then-aspiring actress Jessica Mann in a hotel room in 2013 and of sexually assaulting production assistant Mimi Haley at his apartment in 2006.  Meanwhile, prosecutors in Los Angeles are working to extradite Weinstein to face further charges of rape and sexual assault in California.

In a rambling statement during his sentencing hearing, Weinstein expressed remorse, defended his relationships with the women who testified against him, said he was “confused,” bragged about the charity money he raised after 9/11 and Superstorm Sandy, lamented that his children won’t speak to him and fretted about the future of the American legal system.

His statement was unexpected and, perhaps, unwise. In general, defendants like Weinstein, who plans to appeal his guilty verdict and faces other rape and sexual assault charges in Los Angeles, are advised not to speak because what they say can be used against them, according to Michelle Simpson Tuegel, an attorney who has worked in criminal defense.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said in a statement “We thank the survivors for their remarkable statements today and indescribable courage over the last two years.  Harvey Weinstein deployed nothing less than an army of spies to keep them silent,” he added. “But they refused to be silent, and they were heard. Their words took down a predator and put him behind bars and gave hope to survivors of sexual violence all across the world.”

 

 

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4 months ago · by · Comments Off on Chelsea Manning Released

Chelsea Manning Released

 

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A US judge ordered Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning released from jail after one year behind bars on contempt charges for refusing to cooperate in a federal grand jury investigation into WikiLeaks. The order for her immediate release came one day after Manning was hospitalized in Virginia after she reportedly attempted suicide at a federal prison in Alexandria. 

Judge Anthony J. Trenga wrote, “The court finds Ms. Manning’s appearance before the grand jury is no longer needed, in light of which her detention no longer serves any coercive purpose.” Judge Trenga, however, rejected a request to cancel the fines imposed against Manning for refusing to testify. Manning will now have to pay $256,000. 

Manning and her legal team showed that her imprisonment was nothing but punitive, and thus unjustifiable under the legal statutes governing federal grand juries. Yet for nearly a year, Manning has been caged and fined $1,000 per day. Ever since she was subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury, which is investigating WikiLeaks, Manning has also insisted that there was never any justifiable purpose to asking her to testify.

In 2013, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking documents and video to WikiLeaks showing evidence of U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Obama granted her clemency in 2017.  WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been charged in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia for violating the Espionage Act, and is accused of helping Manning try to access the Department of Defense computers. Assange is fighting extradition from London.

 

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4 months ago · by · Comments Off on Coronavirus Cases In The US

Coronavirus Cases In The US

 

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The World Health Organization is warning the number of cases of COVID-19 caused by coronavirus is approaching 100,000 worldwide, with more than 3,100 deaths due to the illness. Most of the deaths and infections have occurred in China, where health officials reported 139 new cases and 31 new deaths recently.  

South Korea confirmed 438 new cases, making their total number of confirmed cases over 5,700.  Italy has over 3,000 confirmed cases and more than 100 deaths have been reported. Officials have closed down schools in Italy, South Korea, Japan, France, Pakistan, Iran and elsewhere, with nearly 300 million children kept home from school worldwide. 

In the United States, there are now more than 300 confirmed cases and the death toll has reached 11 — with 10 of the deaths occurring in Washington state. California recorded its first coronavirus death: an elderly man who traveled on a Princess cruise ship that departed from San Francisco and traveled to Mexico in February. Governor Gavin Newsom has ordered the ship quarantined off the coast of California and is airlifting tests for passengers and crew. Governor Newsom made the announcement as he formally declared a state of emergency across California.

The CDC issued new guidance for clinicians on screening patients for novel coronavirus and assessing their risk for infection. The agency also started shipping its coronavirus assay to labs across the U.S. and in other countries.  According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13 states in the US have reported confirmed or presumptive positive cases of COVID-19. Washington State has the highest number of cases with 70 confirmed illnesses and 10 associated deaths. California has 60 positive cases and 1 death. 

Of the confirmed cases in California, 42 of them are linked to repatriation or international travel. Cases are rising rapidly in New York, where there are 22 confirmed cases across the state with an additional 24 testing results pending, and 122 individuals under investigation.  In response to the rise in cases, the US Senate passed an $8.3 billion bill to fight the outbreak. This came just a day after the bill was approved by the House of Representatives. More than $3 billion is expected to be put into research and development of treatments, vaccines, and testing.

 

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4 months ago · by · Comments Off on Coronavirus Continues to Spread-What You Should Know

Coronavirus Continues to Spread-What You Should Know

 

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The death toll from Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases has surpassed 3,000 with the number of cases reaching over 90,000.  While 51,000 people who have contracted the illness have since recovered, the head of the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) said that the global mortality rate for Covid-19 was 3.4 percent, a figure that primarily reflects the outbreak in China, where the vast majority of cases have been detected.

 

The organization’s director general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said at a news conference that Covid-19 is deadlier than the seasonal flu but did not transmit as easily.  Dr. Tedros said. “By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1 percent of those infected.” He added “While many people globally have built up immunity to seasonal flu strains, Covid-19 is a new virus to which no one has immunity,” meaning more people can be infected and some will suffer severe illnesses, Dr. Tedros said. The coronavirus does not transmit as efficiently as the flu but “causes more severe disease.” 

 

While the prospect of being infected with a new virus can be frightening, the CDC warns that the symptoms to look out for are fever, coughing and shortness of breath. These symptoms usually appear between two days and two weeks of exposure to the virus.  According to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association, as many as 98% of COVID-19 patients have a fever, between 76% and 82% have a dry cough, and 11% to 44% report exhaustion and fatigue. 

 

The disease appears to become more severe with age, with the 30 to 79 year-old age range predominating the detected cases in Wuhan.   The severity of COVID-19 symptoms can range from very mild to severe. People who are older or have existing medical conditions, such as heart disease, may be at higher risk of serious illness. This is similar to what is seen with other respiratory illnesses, such as influenza.

 

It’s unclear exactly how contagious the new coronavirus is but it appears to be spreading from person to person among those in close contact. It may be spread by respiratory droplets released when someone with the virus coughs or sneezes.  Although there is no vaccine available to prevent infection with the new coronavirus, you can take steps to reduce your risk of infection. Although there is no vaccine available to prevent infection with the new coronavirus, you can take steps to reduce your risk of infection. WHO and CDC recommend following the standard precautions for avoiding respiratory viruses:  

 

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth if your hands aren’t clean.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick.
  • Avoid sharing dishes, glasses, bedding and other household items if you’re sick.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces you often touch.
  • Stay home from work, school and public areas if you’re sick.

 

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5 months ago · by · Comments Off on Leaked Recording Shows Iran Knew Missile Hit Plane Despite Denial

Leaked Recording Shows Iran Knew Missile Hit Plane Despite Denial

 

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A leaked audio recording between an air traffic controller and an Iranian pilot appears to show aviation authorities were aware that a Ukrainian passenger jet had been shot down last month, killing all 176 people on board. The Iranian government denied it was involved in the plane’s downing for three days following the crash, before conceding the Iranian Revolutionary Guards accidentally launched a missile at the Boeing 737 jet.

Tehran has said it is halting cooperation with Kiev following the release of the leaked exchange by Ukrainian media.  Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy acknowledged the recording’s authenticity in a report aired by a Ukrainian television channel.  He also repeated his demands to decode the plane’s flight recorders in Kyiv – something Iranian officials had promised last month but later backtracked on.

A transcript of the recording shows a conversation between the air-traffic controller and a pilot reportedly flying a Fokker 100 jet for Iran’s Aseman Airlines from the southern Iranian city of Shiraz to capital Tehran.  “A series of lights like … yes, it is missile, is there something?” the pilot calls out to the controller.  “No, how many miles? Where?” the controller asks.  The pilot responds that he saw the light by Payam airport, near where the IRGC’s Tor M-1 anti-aircraft missile was launched from.

The controller says nothing has been reported to them, but the pilot remains insistent.  “It is the light of missile,” the pilot says.  “Don’t you see anything anymore?” the controller asks.  “Dear engineer, it was an explosion. We saw a very big light there, I don’t really know what it was,” the pilot responds.  The controller then tries to contract the Ukrainian aircraft, but unsuccessfully.

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5 months ago · by · Comments Off on Trial for Ex CIA Engineer Begins

Trial for Ex CIA Engineer Begins

 

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The trial has begun for a former CIA software engineer that allegedly leaked a massive trove of the agency’s secret hacking tools to take revenge on his former colleagues and bosses.  Joshua Schulte, 31, is charged with disclosing classified information to WikiLeaks after allegedly stealing it from a secretive CIA unit where he worked. In more than 8,000 pages of material published in 2017 — known as the Vault 7 leaks — WikiLeaks showed how the CIA breaks into smartphones and Internet-connected devices, including televisions.

The disclosure “was the single biggest leak of classified national defense information in the history of the CIA,” Assistant U.S. Attorney David Denton told jurors. Denton said that as a result of the disclosure, CIA operations had “come to a halt,” U.S. intelligence officers serving overseas had been exposed and American adversaries were able to turn cyber weapons developed by the CIA against the United States.

Schulte’s lawyers have described the government’s charges as vague and overreaching. They also complained that prosecutors have been slow to share information about their case with the defense and placed burdensome rules on the handling of classified information.  Sabrina Shroff, Schulte’s lead defense attorney, accused the government of prosecuting Schulte out of embarrassment over losing such a huge volume of sensitive information, and because he was “an easy target.”

Shroff said that the government had no conclusive evidence that tied the leaks to Schulte, and that the network from which the hacking tools allegedly were stolen was open to “hundreds” of people.  Schulte himself has said previously that he was targeted for speaking out against what he described as incompetent CIA management. From 2010 to 2016, Schulte worked in the CIA’s Engineering Development Group, which produced the computer code published by WikiLeaks.

Schulte claimed that he reported “incompetent management and bureaucracy” at the CIA to the agency’s inspector general and to a congressional oversight committee. He asserted that when he left the CIA, he immediately became a suspect in the leak as “the only one to have recently departed the engineering group on poor terms.”

On March 13, 2017, less than a week after the original WikiLeaks publication, FBI agents searched Schulte’s apartment in New York, where he had moved to take a new job after leaving the agency, and found a computer server and several external drives, as well as notebooks and handwritten notes, court filings show. Schulte was not arrested and denied to FBI agents that he had leaked the CIA materials.  In August, Schulte was arrested after investigators searching his computer found evidence of child pornography, including more than 10,000 photos and videos, prosecutors alleged. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges, which will be tried separately.

 

 

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5 months ago · by · Comments Off on Founder of Insys Sentenced For Role In Opioid Epidemic

Founder of Insys Sentenced For Role In Opioid Epidemic

 

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Former billionaire and pharmaceutical executive John Kapoor has been sentenced to five years and six months in prison. His sentencing is the first successful prosecution of a pharmaceutical executive tied to the opioid epidemic.  The 76-year-old is the founder of Insys Therapeutics, which made and aggressively marketed the potent opioid painkiller Subsys.  Kapoor’s 66-month prison term is substantially less than the 15-year sentence recommended by federal prosecutors, but it is more than the one year requested by his defense attorneys.  U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs explained that she reached the lesser sentence after considering Kapoor’s advanced age and philanthropy, as well as “his central role in the crime.”

Kapoor and four other executives were found guilty last year of orchestrating a criminal conspiracy to bribe doctors to prescribe the company’s medication, including to patients who didn’t need it. They then lied to insurance companies to make sure the costly oral fentanyl spray was covered.  The painkiller, which was intended for cancer patients, could cost as much as $19,000 a month.  An investigative report found at least 908 deaths in which Subsys is a primary suspect.  The company entered into an agreement with the government to settle criminal and civil investigations.  Insys admitted to the kickback scheme and agreed to pay $225 million.  Shortly after the agreement was announced the company filed for bankruptcy.

Two other executives pled guilty and became cooperating witnesses.  Former CEO and President of Insys Therapeutics was sentenced in federal court for bribing practitioners to prescribe Subsys, a fentanyl-based pain medication, often when medically unnecessary.  Approved by the FDA only for cancer pain, doctors receiving kickbacks, prescribed the spray for routine back pain, migraines and other ailments.

Michael Babich, 43, of Scottsdale, Ariz., was sentenced to 30 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution and forfeiture to be determined at a later date. In January 2019, Babich pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud and one count of mail fraud, and agreed to cooperate with the government.  Insys sales chief Alec Burlakoff was sentenced to 26 months in prison for his role in the bribery and fraud scheme.  The sales executive hired a stripper as a Subsys sales representative to help persuade doctors to boost prescriptions. The woman, named Sunrise Lee, eventually was promoted to oversee a third of the company’s sales force.  She was sentenced to one year in prison for her role in the scheme.

 

 

 

 

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5 months ago · by · Comments Off on Crash Kills Kobe & Gianna Bryant, Seven Others

Crash Kills Kobe & Gianna Bryant, Seven Others

 

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On Sunday, January 26th, nine people were killed in a helicopter crash in Casablancas California.  The crash claimed the lives of basketball ball legend Kobe Bryant and his 13 year old daughter Gianna. The other crash victims were identified as John Altobelli, 56; Keri Altobelli, 46; Alyssa Altobelli, 13;  Sarah Chester, 45; Payton Chester 13, Christina Mauser, 41 and the 50 year old pilot, Ara Zobayan.  The private helicopter was headed to the Lady Mambas’ basketball game at Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks where Gianna was scheduled to play and Kobe scheduled to coach.

Minutes before the crash, the pilot was trying to get special permission to fly though foggy conditions.   Just seconds before the crash, the pilot told air traffic control he was trying to avoid a cloud layer.  It was the last time anyone on the ground heard from him.  While federal investigators try to determine what caused the crash, excerpts of air traffic control recordings will help build a timeline of what happened in the final moments of the Sikorsky S-76B helicopter before it crashed into the hillside.  Meanwhile, the nation is mourning alongside the families of those lost in the crash.

Kobe and Vanessa Bryant were married for 19 years before the basketball star’s sudden death.  They shared four daughters, Gianna, 13, was the second oldest.  Left behind are Natalia Bryant, 17;  Bianka Bryant, 3 and Capri Bryant, 7 months old.

Passengers’ relatives and loved ones are telling their stories.  Christina Mauser was an assistant basketball coach at Mamba who had been personally selected for the job by Kobe Bryant, her husband, Matt Mauser.  Both Matt and Christina were teachers working at a small private school that Bryant’s daughters attended.  Christina left behind three children ages 11, 9 and 3.

John Altobelli was a respected baseball coach, a man who treated his players like family and was known as “Coach Alto.”  Altobelli’s daughter Alyssa, was best friends with Kobe’s daughter Gianna and also loved playing basketball for the academy.  Keri Altobelli was described as a great mom to the couple’s children. They have two surviving children,  a daughter Lexi, in high school, and J.J., who is in his 20s.  Payton Chester, a 13-year-old basketball player, and her mother, Sarah, were also passengers on the helicopter.  They are survived by husband and father Chris and two boys Hayden and Riley, both 16.

 

 

 

 

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5 months ago · by · Comments Off on Public Outrage in Puerto Rico After Warehouse of Unused Emergency Supplies Discovered From 2017

Public Outrage in Puerto Rico After Warehouse of Unused Emergency Supplies Discovered From 2017

 

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In Puerto Rico, protesters took to the streets calling for the resignation of Governor Wanda Vázquez, after a video was posted showing undistributed emergency supplies sitting in a warehouse in the city of Ponce.   Many are still reeling after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit the island earlier this month, forcing thousands to leave their homes. Some of the supplies, which include cots, emergency radios, bottled water, baby diapers and propane gas, date back to 2017 and were reportedly intended as emergency aid for victims of Hurricane Maria.  Vázquez is also under fire over her handling of the recent 6.4 magnitude earthquake, which killed one person and left thousands homeless.  

The warehouse filled with unused emergency supplies was discovered when desperate residents broke in to retrieve goods as the area struggles to recover from the earthquake.  After the video went viral, Governor Vázquez ordered an investigation and fired three members of her Cabinet as public outrage mounted. Vazquez ordered the dismissal of Carlos Acevedo, the director of Puerto Rico’s Office of Emergency Management days after the video emerged.  She then ordered the dismissal of two more cabinet members — her secretaries of family services, Glorimar Andújar, and housing, Fernando Gil-Enseñat. The dismissals mean Vázquez fired three members of her cabinet in a little over 24 hours.  

Vázquez said inaction by the fired official, Carlos Acevedo, was unacceptable.  During a news conference, Vazquez said, “Under my administration nobody can come to me with lies. I have a commitment [with the people of Puerto Rico. Public officials serving with me have to have the same commitment.”  Acevedo has denied allegations that his office mishandled the supplies saying the agency continued to distribute them, including during the time Hurricane Dorian and Hurricane Karen threatened the territory. Some of the pallets of water that remained in the warehouse had expired, he said.  He said no residents had been denied the supplies in the warehouse, including food, diapers, baby formula and cots.

Vázquez announced that Nino Correa will be the new chief of operations for Puerto Rico’s Emergency Management Office, replacing Acevedo.  The governor had previously said that Secretary of State Elmer Román will now coordinate emergency aid and Adjutant General of the Puerto Rico National Guard José Reyes will be in charge of the Office of Emergency Management.  

 

 

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5 months ago · by · Comments Off on Five Confirmed Cases of Coronavirus In The US

Five Confirmed Cases of Coronavirus In The US

 

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The deadly coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China less than a month ago, has spread to 13 other countries.  It has spread to Australia, Cambodia, Canada, France, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the US, and Vietnam.  The US now has five confirmed cases of a deadly coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, less than a month ago. The confirmed cases in the US are in Washington, Illinois, California and Arizona.  Four of the US patients had recently traveled to Wuhan and one was a Wuhan resident traveling through California. 

The outbreak has killed 81 people and infected more than 2,800 in mainland China.  Authorities have sealed off the city of Wudan, the epicenter of the outbreak. All of Wuhan’s public transportation — including buses, ferries, and trains have been shut down.  Trains and airplanes coming in and out of the city were halted and roadblocks were installed to keep taxis and private cars from exiting the city.

The World Health Organization called the lockdown of the city of 11 million people unprecedented.  In an effort to contain the outbreak, two smaller Chinese cities, Huanggang and Ezhou, travel restrictions were also imposed.  Authorities then expanded the number of cities on lockdown to 10. The lockdown is affecting some 33 million people, as medical workers struggle to slow the spread of a novel strain of coronavirus.

The coronavirus family is a large group of viruses that typically affect the respiratory tract. Coronaviruses can lead to illnesses such as the common cold, pneumonia, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which resulted in 8,000 cases and 774 deaths in China from November 2002 to July 2003.  Patients with the new coronavirus — known as 2019-nCoV — have reported symptoms like fever, coughing, and difficulty breathing. Those who have died were elderly or otherwise unwell, according to Chinese officials. No deaths have been reported outside China.

Initially, authorities suspected that the coronavirus — which likely originated at a wholesale seafood market — could spread to humans only from animals but it was later determined that humans could transmit the virus to one another.  The CDC recommends avoiding all nonessential travel to China’s Hubei province, where Wuhan is. They also recommend that people traveling to China avoid contact with sick people, particularly those with cold symptoms like coughs or runny noses.  Travelers are advised to wash their hands frequently with soap and water and scrub for at least 20 seconds. They should refrain from touching their eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands. Elderly travelers and anyone with preexisting health conditions should consult a doctor before traveling to China. 

The CDC said the risk in the United States is still low but they are advising precautions and monitoring the situations.  All of the US patients who have tested positive for the virus have been isolated and are recovering. The CDC said 32 people who had contact with the US cases have tested negative for the virus and the agency plans to test more people in the coming days. 

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