New York state announced a sweeping lawsuit against members of the Sackler family, the owner of Purdue Pharma, which makes OxyContin, the highly addictive drug at the center of the opioid epidemic. New York Attorney General Letitia James accused the Sacklers of masterminding a scheme that “literally profited off of … suffering and death.” This is Letitia James speaking at a press conference Thursday.
Attorney General Letitia James: “And as Purdue sold more and more opioids, the Sackler family transferred more and more and more wealth to their personal accounts. And as the lawsuits have piled up against the Sackler family and Purdue for their roles in this crisis, they continue to move funds into trusts and, yes, offshore accounts.”
Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family are facing multiple lawsuits. A group of over 500 cities, counties and Native American tribes filed a lawsuit against the Sacklers last week, accusing them of lying about the dangers of OxyContin and deceitful marketing of the drug. The New York suit names five other opioid manufacturers, including Johnson & Johnson and Israeli company Teva.
The Justice Department said Thursday that special counsel Robert Mueller’s full report is over 300 pages long, as Democrats continue to call for its full release, as well as “the underlying evidence.” Democrats argue Attorney General William Barr’s four-page summary, released just two days after receiving Mueller’s report, cannot be trusted, and question his conclusion that Trump did not obstruct justice—a charge Mueller did not reach a definitive conclusion on. Barr reportedly told House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler he would not commit to sharing the full report; he is currently redacting the report, which could take weeks, meaning he will likely miss Democrats’ stated deadline of next Tuesday to hand it over.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development is suing Facebook for violating the Fair Housing Act. HUD says Facebook allows companies that advertise housing on the social media platform to block their ads from select groups of users based on factors such as race, religion, gender and disability. Some of the categories available to advertisers include “foreigners,” or people who selected “Hispanic culture” or “hijab fashion” as an interest. Facebook says it is working on the issue; last week the company reached a settlement with civil rights groups, agreeing to overhaul its microtargeting system to curb discriminatory advertisement. HUD is reportedly also reviewing Twitter and Google’s targeted advertising practices.
The war of words between President Trump and Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló heated up Thursday, two days after Trump told Republican lawmakers that Puerto Rico has received too much aid since 2017’s devastating Hurricane Maria. This is Governor Rosselló speaking to CNN’s Jim Acosta.
Jim Acosta: “Does it feel that way sometimes? Are you dealing with a bully?”
Gov. Ricardo Rosselló: “If the bully gets close, I’ll punch the bully in the mouth.”
In response, Trump told reporters, “I’ve taken better care of Puerto Rico than anyone, ever.” President Trump has still not acknowledged more than 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico after the hurricane.
In the Philippines, award-winning journalist Maria Ressa has been freed on bail after authorities arrested her Friday for the second time in two months. The arrest stems from charges barring foreign ownership of press—an accusation Ressa denies. Ressa is the founder of the independent news site Rappler and a vocal critic of the Philippines’ authoritarian president, Rodrigo Duterte, and his war on drugs, which has killed thousands of people. Ressa spoke to reporters after her release.
Maria Ressa: “You cannot harass and intimidate journalists to silence. We’ll stand up and fight against it. And as long as we are a democracy under a constitution, which has a bill of rights, we will demand our rights be respected.”
In Venezuela, the government of President Nicolás Maduro has banned opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaidó from running for public office for 15 years. Government officials cited irregularities in Guaidó’s financial disclosures. The opposition leader dismissed the charge and called on his supporters to keep taking to the streets.
In Somalia, a car bomb detonated on a busy road by a hotel and restaurants in the capital Mogadishu Thursday, killing at least 15 and wounding at least 17 others, according to local reports. Al-Shabab militants claimed responsibility for the attack. This is a witness and Mogadishu resident, speaking after the deadly attack.
Mogadishu resident: “As a mother, it is shocking for me. And I request those behind the explosions to stop. We are crying every day over dead bodies, and it is very hard for us to talk about.”
The attack comes just days after a car bomb and a gun battle between security forces and al-Shabab militants killed at least 15 people at a government building in Mogadishu.
In news from Egypt, pro-democracy activist and blogger Alaa Abd El-Fattah was freed from prison after five years. El-Fattah was jailed on charges of organizing a protest in 2013 in violation of a newly-enacted law that effectively bans all protests in Egypt. He still faces five years’ probation, which means he will have to spend 12 hours in a police station every night.
Just two weeks away from the new Brexit deadline, British lawmakers will vote on a framework for Britain’s relationship with the European Union through the end of 2020. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Theresa May said she would step down if her deal—which was already rejected twice by lawmakers—passed in Parliament. Lawmakers on both sides fear the failure of today’s vote could result in a dreaded “no-deal” Brexit.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned leaders to come to an upcoming climate summit with concrete plans to stem climate change, as the U.N. presented a new report by the World Meteorological Organization on Thursday.
Secretary-General António Guterres: “Every week brings a new example of climate-related devastation. No country or community is immune. And as is always the case, the poor and vulnerable are the first to suffer and the worst hit. … Global climate marches are sending a clear message. Young people are demanding that today’s leaders act on behalf of future generations. I echo that demand.”
President Trump told reporters Thursday he was reversing a proposed budget cut to the Special Olympics, after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos came under fire for requesting government zero out its funding for the third straight year. “I’ve overridden my people,” Trump told reporters.
In healthcare news, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., struck down a Trump administration rule enabling so-called association health plans, which allows small businesses to jointly offer less expensive and more restrictive health plans, outside of the Affordable Care Act. Trump promoted the rule to business owners as a way to circumvent the ACA and save money. The ruling comes days after the Justice Department argued the ACA should be fully overturned, siding with a Texas judge who declared President Barack Obama’s signature health law unconstitutional last December.
Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan is stepping down as the banking giant faces multiple scandals related to its predatory lending practices and misleading and defrauding customers. Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted in response to the news, “About damn time. Tim Sloan should have been fired a long time ago. He enabled Wells Fargo’s massive fake accounts scam, got rich off it, & then helped cover it up. Now—let’s make sure all the people hurt by Wells Fargo’s scams get the relief they’re owed.” Earlier this month, Democratic lawmakers grilled Sloan on consumer fraud, as well as Wells Fargo’s relationship to the NRA, private prisons and the fossil fuel industry. The following day, Wells Fargo increased his salary to $18.4 million, including a $2 million bonus.
Maryland has become the latest state to adopt the $15 minimum wage, after the Legislature overrode Republican Governor Larry Hogan’s veto of the bill. Companies must adopt the law by 2025, or 2026 if they have fewer than 15 employees. Maryland is now the sixth state to sign a $15 minimum wage into law.
And organizers in Gaza have called for a “million-strong” demonstration Saturday, on the first anniversary of the start of the Great March of Return protests at the occupied enclave’s separation barrier with Israel. A recent U.N. report found that 189 Palestinians were killed between March 30 and December 31 last year. Local reports put the total number of deaths at over 200, with thousands of others wounded. Israel has ramped up its military presence in preparation for the demonstration.