The state of Oklahoma has reached a $270 million agreement with Purdue Pharma—the makers of OxyContin—settling a lawsuit that claimed the company contributed to the deaths of thousands of Oklahoma residents by downplaying the risk of opioid addiction and overstating the drug’s benefits. As part of the settlement, more than $100 million will fund a new addiction treatment and research center at Oklahoma State University in Tulsa. This is the first settlement Purdue has made amid some 2,000 additional lawsuits connecting its painkiller OxyContin to the opioid crisis. After headlines, we’ll spend the rest of the hour looking at the opioid crisis.
The House of Representatives failed Tuesday to overturn Donald Trump’s veto of a resolution nullifying the president’s declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border. Just 14 Republican lawmakers joined Tuesday’s 248-181 vote, which failed to muster the two-thirds majority needed to override the first veto of Donald Trump’s presidency. Trump’s move to declare an emergency to circumvent Congress in order to pay for the wall still faces a number of legal challenges in federal court.
The Senate on Tuesday rejected the Green New Deal, after 43 Democrats voted “present” on the measure introduced by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Four other Democrats joined all 53 Republican senators in voting against the Green New Deal. Democrats—including the bill’s champion, New York Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—blasted McConnell’s move as a “stunt vote.”
The Green New Deal seeks to transform the U.S. economy through funding renewable energy while ending U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. Democratic leaders have resisted backing the deal, which has the support of all 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls in Congress.
In more climate news, global greenhouse gas emissions rose to an all-time high in 2018, with countries adding over 33 billion tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. An International Energy Agency study found global CO2 levels rose by 1.7 percent last year. U.S. emissions rose by over 3 percent, while Europe and Japan saw slight decreases.
Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said Tuesday that Cyclone Idai is the latest “alarm bell” about the dangers of climate change. The storm killed over 750 people and has left nearly 2 million people in need of assistance in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
Secretary-General António Guterres: “Cyclone Idai was an uncommonly fierce and prolonged storm, yet another alarm bell about the dangers of climate change, especially in vulnerable, at-risk countries. Such events are becoming more frequent, more severe and devastating and more widespread, and this will only get worse if we do not act now.”
In Yemen, the charity Save the Children says an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition killed seven people—including four children—after a missile tore through a hospital Tuesday outside the city of Saada. The chief executive of Save the Children said, “Innocent children and health workers have lost their lives in what appears to been an indiscriminate attack on a hospital in a densely populated civilian area. Attacks like these are a breach of international law.” Meanwhile, thousands of Yemenis rallied in the capital Sana’a Tuesday to protest on the fourth anniversary of the start of the Saudi-led assault on Yemen.
A new study by the Yemen Data Project found more than 17,500 civilians have been killed or injured in air raids since the U.S.-backed assault began in March of 2015. A quarter of the more than 8,000 civilians killed were women and children. The war has devastated Yemen’s infrastructure and economy, pushing half of the country’s 28 million people to the brink of starvation.
Israeli warplanes pounded the Gaza Strip overnight and into Wednesday morning—despite reports of a ceasefire—after a Palestinian rocket was fired toward the Israeli city of Ashkelon. Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad denied responsibility for the rocket fire, saying it was an “individual act.” Meanwhile, Israeli forces shot and killed an 18-year-old Palestinian in the West Bank during an arrest raid in a refugee camp near Bethlehem.
The latest violence came as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned to Israel early from a trip to the U.S. where he met President Trump at the White House and welcomed both Republican and Democratic lawmakers to the annual conference of AIPAC—the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
In Brazil, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has ordered the Army to commemorate the U.S.-backed military coup in 1964 that ushered in two decades of dictatorship. Bolsonaro said generals should organize celebrations across Brazil on March 31—which will mark the 55th anniversary of the coup. Under military rule, Brazil’s media was widely censored, and political dissidents faced death, exile and torture. Despite this, Bolsonaro’s spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday, “[T]he president does not consider what happened March 31, 1964, a military coup.” Meanwhile, Bolsonaro’s predecessor, former President Michel Temer, was released from jail on Monday after a judge overturned his “preventative detention” while he faces corruption charges. Temer was arrested last Thursday and charged with leading an embezzlement and money laundering scheme. Temer took power after his predecessor Dilma Rousseff was impeached in what many critics called a “legislative coup.”
In Brussels, the European Parliament has approved a massive overhaul of copyright laws that critics say will bring widespread censorship to the internet. One measure would effectively tax internet sites like Google when they display snippets of copyrighted material including news articles. Another measure will likely prompt sites like YouTube to install filters that search for—and then automatically delete—uploads that are determined to be copyright violations. Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, the proposed copyright rules prompted massive protests, with more than 100,000 marching in cities across Europe over the weekend. In a statement, OpenMedia Executive Director Laura Tribe said, “Today’s vote is a major blow to the open internet. This directive positions the internet as a tool for corporations and profits—not for people.” NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden condemned the vote in a tweet, writing in German, “Never forget what they did here.”
The New York Times is reporting that President Trump’s nominee to head the Interior Department killed a major study in late 2017 that found three widely used pesticides posed an existential risk to 1,200 endangered species. The Times reveals that David Bernhardt— a former oil industry lawyer who was then the deputy secretary of the interior—canceled publication of a years-long study into the pesticides’ dangers just before the results were set to be made public. Bernhardt’s move benefited major pesticide makers including FMC Corporation and Dow AgroSciences. Dow was a major donor to President Trump, giving $1 million to his inaugural committee. On Thursday, David Bernhardt will testify to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources at his confirmation hearings.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos refused to state Tuesday whether schools should be allowed to discriminate against students based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This is Betsy DeVos being questioned by Wisconsin Democrat Mark Pocan during testimony before a House Education Appropriations Subcommittee.
Rep. Mark Pocan: “Do you think it’s all right for a school to discriminate based on someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity?”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos: “We have laws that cover discriminatory efforts, and our Office for Civil Rights has continued to be very diligent in investigating any allegation of discrimination and will continue to do so.”
Rep. Mark Pocan: “So, is that a yes, or is that a no? I’m trying to get a yes or no, I guess, on that.”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos: “We follow the law as this body has”—
Rep. Mark Pocan: “So, personally, you don’t have an opinion on it?”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos: —”has defined. And”—
Rep. Mark Pocan: “OK. Because you are giving money—it leads me to the next question. You are giving money to some charter schools that do discriminate.”
The Trump administration says it will expand the so-called global gag rule, a Reagan-era policy that bans U.S. funding for any international healthcare organization that performs abortion, advocates for the legalization of abortion or even mentions abortion. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday the U.S. will cut funding to foreign NGOs that fund other groups that provide or promote abortions. On Twitter, NARAL Pro-Choice America warned the Trump administration’s global gag rule policies will result in “2.2 million unsafe abortions and 21,700 preventable maternal deaths by 2020.”
A federal judge has struck down a 1973 North Carolina law that banned women from having abortions after the 20th week of their pregnancies. The ruling came as an increasing number of states have passed so-called fetal heartbeat laws, highly restrictive bans on abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected—something that typically happens just six weeks into a pregnancy before many women even realize they’re pregnant.
Former Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday he regretted his role in confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991. During the hearings, Anita Hill—an African-American woman who worked as a lawyer for Clarence Thomas—was questioned by an all-male, all-white Senate Judiciary Committee over her allegations that Thomas had sexually harassed her in the workplace. Speaking at a ceremony for the Biden Courage Awards in New York Tuesday evening, Joe Biden condemned “a white man’s culture” for not taking Hill’s claims seriously.
Joe Biden: “We knew a lot less about the extent of harassment back then, over 30 years ago. But she paid a terrible price. She was abused through the hearing. She was taken advantage of. Her reputation was attacked. I wish I could have done something.”
Biden’s comments drew widespread condemnation, with many social media commentators noting Biden was chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time of Anita Hill’s testimony. Joe Biden has launched a new political action committee ahead of a widely expected announcement he’ll seek the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 2020. It’s not clear whether he’s ever personally apologized to Anita Hill.
And in Chicago, prosecutors have dropped felony charges against actor Jussie Smollett, who was arrested last month and charged with faking an attack in January that sparked widespread outrage. Smollett, a star on Fox’s hit TV show “Empire” who is African-American and gay, initially told police he was violently attacked on the street in an apparent hate crime, saying his attackers placed a rope around his neck while shouting homophobic, pro-Trump and racist slurs. But police investigators believe Smollett paid two brothers, who were personal acquaintances, to carry out a staged attack. On Tuesday, prosecutors said they dropped charges against Smollett after he agreed to perform community service and to forfeit his $10,000 bond. Jussie Smollett maintains he gave a truthful account of the event.
Jussie Smollett: “I have been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one. I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of one drop of what I’ve been accused of.”
State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said, despite the move, her office has not exonerated Smollett. The decision drew outrage from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who called it a “whitewash of justice.” Chicago’s police union, the Fraternal Order of Police, called on the Department of Justice to investigate. This is Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson.
Superintendent Eddie Johnson: “Do I think justice was served? No. What do I think justice is? I think this city is still owed an apology.”