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HeadlinesAugust 27, 2019

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Oklahoma Wins Case Against Johnson & Johnson as Court Finds Pharma Giant Fueled State’s Opioid Crisis

Aug 27, 2019

A judge in Oklahoma has found that Johnson & Johnson helped fuel the state’s opioid crisis, and ordered the pharma giant to pay over half a billion dollars — $572 million. It’s the first major ruling against a drug company as part of the opioid epidemic, which has led to hundreds of thousands of overdose deaths around the country. Although hailed as a victory, the damages are much lower than the $17 billion Oklahoma had sought in the case. Some 2,000 other lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors are pending around the country. A massive federal lawsuit brought by almost 2,000 cities, counties and Native American tribes is scheduled to begin in October. This is Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter speaking after the ruling.

Attorney General Mike Hunter: “Johnson & Johnson, motivated by greed and avarice, is responsible for the opioid epidemic in our state. Johnson & Johnson will finally be held accountable for thousands of deaths and addiction caused by their activities. … At the end of the day, you can’t sit in a corporate suite somewhere for the last 20 years and oversupply the country. Ten times more of this drug was coming in, and then you had, concomitantly, 15 times more people dying from opioid overdoses. So, there’s no question in my mind that these companies knew what was going on at the highest level.”

Johnson & Johnson has vowed to appeal the ruling. We’ll have more on this story after headlines with Mother Jones reporter Julia Lurie.

Brazil Rejects G7 Amazon Aid Amid Mounting Environmental Disaster

Aug 27, 2019

Brazil is rejecting a pledge by G7 nations to provide $22 million to help combat the raging Amazon wildfires. On Monday, Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro accused French President Emmanuel Macron and other G7 world leaders of treating Brazil like a “colony or no-man’s land.” Bolsonaro’s chief of staff suggested the funds could be used for reforesting in Europe instead. He also said Macron had no place intervening after he failed to prevent a destructive fire earlier this year that burned down a large part of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. Many have called out the G7 for not putting nearly enough resources toward the mounting disaster, with some noting that $1 billion was raised within just two days of the Notre-Dame Cathedral fire.
The dispute between Presidents Bolsonaro and Macron took a personal turn after Bolsonaro commented on an image posted by a supporter on Facebook, suggesting Macron was jealous of Bolsonaro because his wife is 30 years younger than French first lady Brigitte Macron. Bolsonaro’s comment expressed amusement and read, “Do not embarrass the guy.” President Macron called the comment “incredibly disrespectful.”

Prosecutors Investigate After Gov’t Ignored Warnings About Planned Amazon Fires

Aug 27, 2019

In Brazil, federal prosecutors from the state of Pará have launched an investigation after revealing they warned the Brazilian Environment Ministry that agriculturalists were planning a “fire day” in the Amazon but government authorities did nothing to stop it. One farmer told a local news site they were planning the action to send a message to President Jair Bolsonaro that the only way they could work was to clear the land by cutting down and burning trees. Some environment officials say they requested help from the central government once they learned of the plan, but that they were ignored. Public outrage over the record-breaking Amazon fires has focused on Bolsonaro’s anti-environmental policies and his support for agribusiness, logging and mining.

Trump Dismisses Wind Power Again at G7 as WH Walks Back Comments on Kim Jong-un

Aug 27, 2019

As the G7 summit wrapped up in Biarritz, France, Trump yet again dismissed wind power as being ineffective — despite his own energy secretary touting the energy source.

President Donald Trump: “We’re the number one energy producer in the world. Soon it will be by far the number one. Its tremendous wealth and LNG is being sought after all over Europe and all over the world, and we have more of it than anybody else. And I’m not going to lose that wealth. I’m not going to lose it on — on dreams, on windmills.”

Trump has previously falsely said windmills can cause cancer.

Trump told a number of lies during his time at the G7. On Monday, Trump claimed China called him to make a trade deal, but China denies any such call took place. Meanwhile, the White House had to clarify comments from Trump claiming that first lady Melania Trump had gotten to know North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “extremely well.” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham then followed up with a statement saying, “President Trump confides in his wife on many issues including the detailed elements of his strong relationship with Chairman Kim — and while the First Lady hasn’t met him, the President feels like she’s gotten to know him too.”

Lebanon Says Air Attacks Over Weekend Amount to “Declaration of War” from Israel

Aug 27, 2019

Tensions are mounting across the Middle East following multiple air attacks over the weekend that were blamed on Israel. Hezbollah held funeral services for two fighters who died after two drones crashed in Beirut Sunday. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri accused Israel of violating Lebanese sovereignty, while President Michel Aoun likened the attack to a “declaration of war.” Meanwhile, Iraqi Shiite leaders called for the U.S. to withdraw its troops in the country, and said the U.S. bears responsibility for Israeli airstrikes that targeted an Iranian base in Iraq over the weekend, killing at least one fighter. Israel has only claimed responsibility for an attack on Syria Saturday, which they said targeted an Iranian-operated base that was preparing to launch a drone assault on Israel.

U.N. Says Floods in Sudan a “Humanitarian Emergency” as Death Toll Tops 60 People

Aug 27, 2019

In Sudan, more than 60 people have been killed by major flooding, which has affected nearly the entire country. Tens of thousands have been displaced, and thousands of homes have been destroyed. The U.N. called the situation in Sudan a humanitarian emergency. Torrential rains and flash floods are expected to continue until October.

Iran Sentences Journalist and Activist Marzieh Amiri to 10 Years & 148 Lashes

Aug 27, 2019

Iran has sentenced journalist and activist Marzieh Amiri to 10.5 years in prison and 148 lashes, charging her with “collusion against national security,” “propaganda against the state” and “disturbing public order.” Amiri was arrested along with other labor activists as they protested in Tehran on May 1, International Workers’ Day. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the harsh sentence and said, “Iranian authorities are escalating their threats against journalists who report on economic issues amid the country’s ongoing crisis. Amiri’s reporting on the economic hardships of Iranian citizens is not a criminal act nor does it warrant this vindictive and violent response. She should be released immediately.”

19 States and D.C. Sue to Block Trump’s Termination of Flores Agreement

Aug 27, 2019

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia sued Monday to block the Trump administration’s recent move rolling back limits on detaining child migrants and migrant families. The 1997 Flores agreement caps the jailing of migrant children and families to 20 days before they must be released or transferred to a licensed care facility. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said, “This new Trump rule callously puts at risk the safety and well-being of children. No child deserves to be left in conditions inappropriate and harmful for their age. We’re taking the Trump Administration to court to protect children from the irreparable harm caused by unlawful and unnecessary detention.”

Judge Allows More Witnesses to Testify Against Harvey Weinstein

Aug 27, 2019

In New York City, the judge overseeing the case against accused sexual predator and former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein will allow three more accusers to testify against him. One of those is “Sopranos” actress Annabella Sciorra. The accusers will testify as “prior bad acts” witnesses, allowing prosecutors to get around a statute of limitations on rape charges. Also on Monday, Weinstein pleaded not guilty to two new sexual assault charges. Weinstein’s trial has been delayed to January.

30 Women to Testify Against Jeffrey Epstein

Aug 27, 2019

Up to 30 women are expected to testify at a hearing today against Jeffrey Epstein, the accused serial sexual predator who took his own life in a Manhattan jail cell earlier this month. U.S. District Judge Richard Berman scheduled the hearing after prosecutors asked that he drop the case because Epstein is dead. He said that he would offer survivors, prosecutors and Epstein’s lawyers a chance to speak. Bradley Edwards, a lawyer representing some of Epstein’s accusers, told NBC News the hearing marks “a historic day for crime victims in the United States.”

Tropical Storm Dorian Picks Up Speed as It Hurtles Toward Puerto Rico

Aug 27, 2019

The National Hurricane Center has issued a hurricane watch for Puerto Rico today as Tropical Storm Dorian moves toward the island, picking up strength. The Dominican Republic also issued a hurricane watch for parts of the island. Some 30,000 homes in Puerto Rico still do not have solid roofs following 2017’s devastating Hurricane Maria. The electrical grid also remains vulnerable to power outages.

U.S. and France Agree on Terms of French “Digital Tax” on Tech Giants

Aug 27, 2019

The U.S. and France have reached a compromise on a new French digital services tax that targets internet giants like Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple. Under the deal, France would repay those companies the difference between its digital tax and taxes levied under an upcoming mechanism set by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. French President Emmanuel Macron said that France will eliminate the 3% tax as soon as an international agreement on digital taxation is reached.

Protesters Draw Attention to Newark Water Crisis Outside of MTV’s Video Music Awards

Aug 27, 2019

In Newark, New Jersey, protesters came out to call for action in the face of the city’s mounting water crisis. They demonstrated in front of the Prudential Center, where MTV was hosting its annual Video Music Awards Monday night. Police made several arrests as protesters chanted “We Want Our Water CLEAN! We Don’t Want no MTV!” Earlier in the day, New Jersey officials announced a plan to replace Newark’s pipe system within 24 to 30 months. Essex County will take out a loan to complete the project, which the city of Newark will reportedly have to pay back at a cost of $6.2 million per year over 30 years. Studies show Newark’s water has some of the highest levels of lead contamination in the country.

Meanwhile, inside the awards ceremony, pop star Taylor Swift won Video of the Year for her song “You Need to Calm Down.” The video features cameos from well-known LGBTQ figures and endorses the Equality Act, which, if passed, would amend civil rights laws to explicitly protect LGBTQ people against discrimination. This is Swift accepting her award.

Taylor Swift: “At the end of this video there was a petition, and there still is a petition, for the Equality Act, which basically just says we all deserve equal rights under the law. And I want to thank everyone who signed that petition, because it now has half a million signatures, which is five times the amount that it would need to warrant a response from the White House.”

RBG Accepts Honorary Degree from SUNY at 1st Public Appearance Since Cancer Treatment

Aug 27, 2019

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was presented with an honorary degree by the State University of New York in Buffalo Monday evening. It was her first public appearance since she recently completed a three-week course of radiation treatment for a cancerous tumor on her pancreas. It was her fourth battle with cancer. Her doctors say she does not require further treatment for now. This is Ruth Bader Ginsburg accepting the award.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: “It was beyond my wildest imagination that I would one day become the Notorious RBG. … For the first time in history, it became possible to urge before courts, successfully, that equal justice under law requires all arms of government to regard women as persons equal in stature to men.”

Indonesia Announces Plan to Move Capital to Borneo as Jakarta Sinks into Sea

Aug 27, 2019

Indonesia announced plans Monday to relocate its capital city from Jakarta to the island of Borneo. Jakarta, which is home to over 30 million people, has been steadily sinking into the Java Sea, and a study found that over a quarter of the city will be under water within the next 10 years. Excessive extraction of groundwater and poorly managed environmental policies have led to Jakarta’s surface water becoming polluted and unfit for consumption. Rising sea levels from climate change further compound the issue. This is Indonesian President Joko Widodo announcing the plans.

President Joko Widodo: “The ideal location for the new capital is part of it in North Penajam Paser and part of it in Kutai Kartanegara in East Kalimantan province. … The place has minimum risk of natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, forest fires, volcanoes and landslides. Secondly, the location is strategic, as it’s located in the center of Indonesia. And thirdly, it’s close to other developed cities.”

Moving the country’s political center will cost an estimated $33 billion in construction and infrastructure projects. It’s not clear what will happen to the millions of Jakarta residents at risk of losing their homes and livelihoods as the city is submerged in coming years. Conservationists also warn the plan could threaten Borneo’s tropical rainforests if efforts aren’t made to respect protected areas and the area becomes overdeveloped.

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