Jury Rules Against Bayer in 2nd Roundup Cancer Trial

 

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A San Francisco jury found that Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide was a “substantial factor” in the cancer of California resident Edwin Hardeman. Hardeman says he sprayed the widely used herbicide on his property for almost three decades and once got the product directly on his skin. He has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The jury will now consider damages owed by Bayer, which owns Monsanto.  The federal case could have implications for thousands of others accusing the company of making them sick.

More than 11,000 people have filed suit against Monsanto Company (now Bayer) alleging that exposure to Roundup herbicide caused them or their loved ones to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma, alledging that Monsanto covered up the risks. As part of the discovery process, Monsanto has had to turn over millions of pages of its internal records.  More than 760 lawsuits are pending in U.S. District Court in San Francisco and the cases have been combined for handling as multidistrict litigation (MDL) under Judge Vince Chhabria.

The jury came to this verdict despite the judge barring evidence about Monsanto’s efforts to discredit the International Agency for Research on Cancer, after it classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen in 2015.  Monsanto spent millions of dollars on various secretive tactics aimed at discrediting IARC.  Documents show the company discussing using third parties who appeared to be independent of Monsanto to publicly criticize IARC and push Monsanto propaganda points.  Internal Monsanto records show the company’s role in ghostwriting an article that appeared on Forbes’ contributors’ platform, and they show that the company was behind a story published by Reuters in 2017 that falsely claimed an IARC scientist withheld information from IARC that would have changed the classification.

The judge also barred evidence about how Monsanto worked to discredit French scientist Gilles-Éric Séralini after publication of his 2012 study findings about rats fed water dosed with Roundup. Internal Monsanto records show a coordinated effort to get the Seralini paper retracted, including an email string between Monsanto employees who apparently were so proud of what they called a “multimedia event that was designed for maximum negative publicity” against Seralini that they designated it as an “achievement” worth recognition.

The judge did allow portions of a 2015 internal Monsanto email to be introduced as evidence.  In the email, company scientist Bill Heydens discusses plans to ghostwrite a series of new scientific papers that will contradict IARC’s classification of glyphosate.   In the email, Heydens remarks on how this plan is similar to the ghostwriting of a scientific paper written and published in 2000 in response to another study that found glyphosate to be unsafe.

Officials with Monsanto owner Bayer AG are feeling the effects of the decision has the company’s share prices dropped even lower. The company’s shares already took a huge hit in August after the jury in the first Roundup cancer trial found that the company’s herbicides caused cancer.  In August 2018, a state jury awarded  former school groundskeeper DeWayne “Lee” Johnson nearly $300 million in damages after Monsanto’s Roundup was found to be responsible for his cancer, though the amount was later reduced to $78 million.  Of course, Monsanto appealed the verdict and Johnson has cross appealed, seeking to reinstate the jury award.

 

Parkland Shooting Survivor Commits Suicide

 

 

 

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On the day Nicholas Cruz opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School he killed 17 classmates and teachers and wounded 17 others.  Many students escaped with their lives but have emotional wounds that they’ll carry with them for the rest of their lives.  For Sydney Aiello, 19, the grief of losing her classmates and teachers, including close friend Meadow Pollack, weighed heavily on her. A little over a year after the shooting took place, she took her own life on March 17th.  Heather Galvez of the Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office said Aiello died from a gunshot wound to the head.  Aiello’s funeral was held Friday and she was buried at Temple Beth El Memorial Gardens in Davie, Fla.  She is survived by her parents, Cara and Joseph, and older brother Nick.

Aiello was a senior and on the high-school campus the day of the mass shooting but was not in the freshman building where the shooting occurred.  Many said she was never the same after the February 14th shooting claimed the lives of her classmates.  After graduating, she enrolled at Florida Atlantic University but her mother, Cara Aiello said she struggled to attend class because she was afraid to be back in a classroom.  She said her daughter was consumed with survivor’s guilt and recently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder from the massacre.  She said Sydney couldn’t shake the devastating trauma of the mass shooting last year and the death of her longtime friend, Meadow Pollack.  She seemed sad in recent days, her mom said, but never asked for help before taking her own life.  Cara Aiello said that she hopes Sydney’s story can help save others who are struggling with their mental health in the aftermath of the shooting.

The horrific circumstances of Meadow Pollack’s death show the unrelenting savagery of shooter Nicolas Cruz that day and would understandably haunt anyone who loved her.  Meadow was shot 4 times in the hallway on the third floor.  She crawled down the hallway to another student, Cara Loughran and covered her to shield her from the bullets.  Cruz pointed his assault rifle at Meadow’s back and shot her four more times.  The bullets pierced through Meadow and into Cara beneath her, killing both students.   Cruz then shot Meadow once in the head.

Pollack’s father, Andrew Pollack, who has become an outspoken activist for more security at schools across the country since his daughter death, retweeted a photo of Sydney Aiello and his daughter posing together in fancy gowns with the heartbreaking caption, “A little more than a year after this photo was taken, both are gone.”  Pollack said his heart goes out to her “poor, poor parents.  It’s terrible what happened. Meadow and Sydney were friends for a long, long time,” he said. “Killing yourself is not the answer.”  Pollack added “If anyone feels like that they have no one that can understand their pain, if there’s any student out there that’s having a hard time, please reach out to me on Twitter. I understand you. You aren’t alone.”

Meadow Pollack’s brother, Hunter, also weighed in on Aiello’s death on Twitter.  “Beautiful Sydney with such a bright future was taken from us way too soon,” he wrote.  Ryan Petty, who also lost his daughter Alaina in the Parkland shooting, stressed the importance of suicide prevention for Stoneman Douglas students.  “It breaks my heart that we’ve lost yet another student from Stoneman Douglas.  My advice to parents is to ask questions, don’t wait.”

Cruz, 20, has pled not guilty and his lawyers have said he’ll plead guilty in return for life in prison but prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.  His trial is tentatively scheduled for next year.

Boeing Facing Scrutiny After Plane Crashes

 

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The Ethiopian transport minister has announced that early investigations have revealed clear similarities between the crashes of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and October’s Lion Air Flight 610 in Indonesia.  The Transportation Department has launched investigations into regulators’ approvals of the Boeing 737 MAX 8, as well as into the development of the aircraft. Just after take-off, both flights, which killed all crew and passengers on board, experienced unpredictable climbs and descents before crashing.  Both pilots immediately recognized a problem and tried to return to the airport.

The United States and many other countries have grounded the Max 8s and larger Max 9s as Boeing faces the challenge of proving the jets are safe to fly amid suspicions that faulty sensors and software contributed to the two crashes in less than five months.  Both Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 lacked an optional safety feature that could have saved the lives of 346 people.  The safety feature, called an “angle of attack indicator” and an “angle of attack disagree light”—are indicators that Boeing offers only at an additional cost.  Another similarity believed to have played a role in both crashes is that the planes’ automated “anti-stall” systems inadvertently pushed both planes’ noses downward.

Pilot training requirements on this software came under scrutiny in the days after the March 10th crash with reports that the pilot and co-pilot had never received updated training on a Boeing 737 Max 8 simulator, even though the airline had the technology available since January.  A cockpit recording indicates that the pilots of the doomed Flight 302 were referencing safety manuals but were unable to fix the problem before they crashed.  Officials are probing why pilot manuals did not address the feature.  Reports are now emerging that the Lion Air flight almost went down the day before the deadly accident, but an off-duty pilot riding in the cockpit knew how to disable a malfunctioning flight control system, which was likely pushing the nose of the plane down.

U.S.-based manufacturer Boeing, which is now under heightened scrutiny around the world, has said previously pilots who have flown earlier models didn’t need additional training.  Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao ordered an audit of the training and certification process for Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 aircraft.  U.S. prosecutors are also looking into the development of Boeing’s 737 Max jets and a Justice Department probe will examine the way Boeing was regulated by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Boeing has said it has “full confidence” in the planes’ safety. Engineers are making changes to the system designed to prevent an aerodynamic stall if sensors detect that the jet’s nose is pointed too high and its speed is too slow.  American Airlines pilot and  spokesman for their union, Dennis Tajer said that airline officials told the unions that Boeing intends to offer pilots about a 15-minute iPad course to train them on the new flight-control software on Max jets that is suspected of playing a role in the crashes.  He called that amount of training unacceptable.  “Our sense is it’s a rush to comply — ‘let’s go, let’s go, let’s go,'” Tajer said. “I’m in a rush to protect my passengers.”

These disturbing updates come as families of victims of last October’s Lion Air crash say they were pressured by the airline to sign a pledge not to pursue legal action against the company, in exchange for about $90,000 in compensation which was the minimum amount the families were entitled to under Indonesian law.

Ethiopian Airlines Plane Crash Kills 157 People

 

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An Ethiopian Airlines flight traveling from the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Kenya, crashed, killing all 157 passengers and crew on board. The Boeing 737 Max 8 jetliner was carrying passengers of 35 different nationalities, including eight Americans and 21 United Nations staffers.  Sunday’s crash triggered a global grounding of Boeing 737 Max 8 jets after data suggested similarities between the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash and the Indonesian Lion Air Flight 610 crash in October that killed 189 people.

The pilot of the Boeing 737 jetliner that crashed Sunday immediately noticed trouble as the plane accelerated wildly after takeoff.  Within one minute of Flight 302’s departure, Captain Yared Getachew calmly reported a “flight control” problem.  “Break break, request back to home,” the captain told air traffic controllers as they scrambled to divert two other flights approaching the airport. “Request vector for landing.”

Air traffic controllers knew the plane was in trouble even before the pilot radioed in that he wanted to turn the plane around.  They noticed the plane’s speed accelerated inexplicably and it oscillated up and down by hundreds of feet.  Radar showed the aircraft’s altitude was well below what is known as the minimum safe height from the ground during a climb.  The plane appeared to stabilize and climbed to a higher altitude, but then began to speed up again in a way that is deemed unsafe.  The plane then sped up even more just before it disappeared from radar screens and crashed six minutes after takeoff.

The ill-fated flight crashed near the town of Bishoftu, about 39 miles southeast of Bole International Airport.  The plane’s crash left a large crater and debris from the Boeing 737 jet was broken into hundreds of small pieces, making the task of recovering each part complex. The largest engine piece on the site was around the size of a small table.  Several dozen forensic investigators and Ethiopian Airlines employees slowly combed the crash site in search of any evidence, raising their hands when they come across anything significant.

The flight data and cockpit voice recorders were sent to Paris where French aviation authorities will probe the heavily damaged black boxes for clues to the tragedy.  Preliminary conclusions will take several days and aircraft accident investigations can often take years to complete.  Senior Transportation Correspondent David Kerley said investigators will look into the MAX 8’s autopilot functions and the training of the pilots who flew the plane, as well as a mechanical part of the control system that alters the up-and-down movement of the plane’s nose.  The mechanism, called a “jackscrew,” is a threaded rod in the tail section of the aircraft that affects the plane’s stability.

Data from the “black boxes,” devices will provide further guidance for investigators as well as some answers for the families of the victims. The National Transportation Safety Board, an independent U.S. agency that investigates transportation accidents and issues widely-respected safety recommendations, also sent three additional investigators to assist in the analysis.

Many speculate whether the software in the plane’s autopilot system might have played a role in the Ethiopian Airlines crash, as it seemed to have done in the fatal crash of an Indonesian Lion Air 737 MAX 8.  In the October 2018 Lion Air crash, it appears the pilots failed to disengage the autopilot when the plane’s nose began pitching up and down.  It’s possible they were unaware of how to do so since some pilots have complained that the information to disengage autopilot was not readily available, and others have raised concerns about the adequacy of the training process.

Christchurch Mosque Shootings

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At least 49 people were killed and 48 seriously injured in mass shootings at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on March 15, 2019.  The attack occurred around lunchtime when the mosques were full of worshippers. Footage of the massacre was streamed live online, and a rambling 87 page manifesto laced with white supremacist references was published just before the shootings unfolded.  Police also neutralized two improvised explosive devices attached to one vehicle near the mosque.

The suspected shooter, Brenton Tarrant, 28, live-streamed 17 minutes of video which included footage of himself inside the first mosque, going room-to-room, victim to victim, shooting the wounded from close range as they struggled to crawl away.  In the 6 minutes Tarrant was inside, forty-one people were killed at the Al Noor Mosque.  The live streamed footage also showed the gunman casually talking and laughing as he walked out of the mosque where he shot at people near the area before driving away at high speed, heading for the Linwood Islamic Centre, about 3 miles away.  Another 7 people were killed at the Linwood Mosque, an eighth victim later died in the hospital. Tarrant was apprehended as he fled the Linwood Mosque when two police officers ran his car off the road.

Tarrant has been charged with murder and two other men remain in custody, although their link to the attack is unknown.  None of the men in custody have a criminal history.  Tarrant is an Australian-born former personal trainer who is believed to have been radicalized during his travels abroad. According to the Independent, Tarrant met with right-wing extremists while taking a trip to Europe in 2017, and also traveled to Pakistan and North Korea.  Authorities have said that Tarrant had become obsessed with terrorist attacks committed by radical Islamists in Europe in 2016 and 2017.

According to his manifesto, he started planning a revenge attack about two years prior to the attack and chose his targets three months in advance.  The manifesto expresses several anti-immigrant sentiments including hate speech against migrants, white supremacist rhetoric, and calls for non-European immigrants such as Roma, Indians, Turkish people, Semitic people and others allegedly “invading his land” to be removed.  Tarrant describes himself as an ethno-nationalist and refers to revenge for European civilians who were casualties in Islamic terrorist attacks within Europe as motivation for his attack.  He repeatedly mentions revenge for Ebba Åkerlund, a victim in the 2017 Stockholm truck attack.

Prime Minister Ardern called the incident an “act of extreme and unprecedented violence” and said “this is one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”  She also described it as a well-planned terrorist attack.  Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel stated that she never thought “anything like this” could happen in New Zealand, saying “everyone is shocked”.  Many other politicians and world leaders have condemned the attacks and world leaders attribute the attack to rising Islamophobia.

Prime Minister Ardern announced: “Our gun laws will change, now is the time… People will be seeking change, and I am committed to that.”  Attorney-General David Parker was later quoted as saying that the government will ban semi-automatic guns but later said the government had not yet committed to anything and that regulations around semi-automatic weapons was “one of the issues” the government would consider.

Hollywood Actresses and Wealthy CEOs Indicted in College Admissions Scandal

 

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Hollywood actresses and a slew of chief executives are among 50 wealthy people charged in the largest college cheating scam ever prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice.  Those indicted in the investigation, dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues,” allegedly paid bribes of up to $6.5 million to get their children into elite colleges, including Yale, Stanford, Georgetown and the University of Southern California, federal prosecutors said.

At a news conference, Andrew Lelling, the U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts said “This case is about the widening corruption of elite college admissions through the steady application of wealth combined with fraud.  There can be no separate college admissions system for the wealthy and, I’ll add, there will not be a separate criminal justice system either.” Lelling said “The parents charged in the case are a catalog of wealth and privilege. They include, for example, the CEOs of private and public companies, successful securities and real estate investors, two well-known actresses, a famous fashion designer and the co-chairman of a global law firm.”

The ringleader of the scam is William Singer, owner of a college counseling service called Key Worldwide Foundation and a company called Edge College & Career Network.  Singer allegedly accepted bribes totaling $25 million from parents between 2011 and 2018 “to guarantee their children’s admission to elite schools.”  Singer, of Newport Beach, California, pleaded guilty in a Boston federal court on charges of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice.

Steven Masera, 69, the accountant and financial officer for the Edge College & Career Network and the Key Worldwide Foundation, was also indicted.  Mark Riddell, a private school counselor in Bradenton, Florida, and Masera allegedly worked closely with Singer in the scam, according to the indictment.  According to the indictment, Mikaela Sanford, 32, of Folsom, California, another employee of the Edge College & Career Network and the Key Worldwide Foundation, and David Sidoo, 59, of Vancouver, Canada, were also indicted for allegedly working closely with Singer to facilitate the scam.

Singer would allegedly instruct parents to seek extended time for the children to take entrance exams or obtain medical documentation that their child had a learning disability, according to the indictment. The parents were then told to get the location of the test changed to one of two testing centers, one in Houston and another in West Hollywood, California, where test administrators Niki Williams, 44, of Houston and Igor Dvorskiy, 52, of Sherman Oaks, California, helped carry out the scam, the indictment alleges.  Riddell, 36, allegedly took ACT and SAT tests for students whose parents had paid bribes to Singer.  Singer typically paid Riddell $10,000 for each student’s test.

Singer also allegedly bribed school coaches to give to his clients’ admissions slots reserved for student athletes in sports including crew and soccer. He went as far as to stage fake photos of his student clients engaging in sports they never played, or to digitally place the faces of his clients onto images found online of athletes.

Others charged in the probe include nine coaches at elite schools, two SAT and ACT exam administrators, one exam proctor, a college administrator and 33 parents, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.  Robert Zangrillo, 52, of Miami, founder and CEO of the private investment firm Dragon Global; Bill McGlashan, 55, of Mill Valley, California, a businessman and international private equity investor; Gordon Caplan, a New York attorney; and Gregory Abbott, 68, founder and chairman of International Dispensing Corp., a New York food and beverage packaging company, and his wife, Marcia Abbott, 59.

Huffman’s husband, actor William H. Macy, was not indicted, but according to the court document he and Huffman were caught on a recorded conversation with a corroborating witness in the case, allegedly discussing a $15,000 payment to ensure their younger daughter scored high on a college entrance exam.  Actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli allegedly paid $500,000 to USC to have their two daughters falsely designated as crew recruits, though neither daughter ever participated in the sport.

Boulder Police Draw Gun On Man Cleaning His Yard

 

 

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Police in Boulder, Colorado, have launched an internal affairs investigation after video surfaced showing a police officer drawing a pistol on a black man who was picking up trash outside his own home on March 1st.  The police officer, who called other officers to the scene, is on paid administrative leave while the investigation continues.

According to the police department, an officer observed a man sitting in a partially enclosed patio area behind a “private property” sign and asked if the man was allowed to be there.  The man said he lived and worked at the building and produced an identification card but the officer continued to question the man.    The unidentified man is a student at Naropa University in Boulder, and the building is listed as a school residence.

The 16 minute video shows the officer approaching the man, who was using a trash picker and bucket to clean up his yard.  The officer is shown talking with the man and has his hand on his hip, near his gun.  As the video continues, several other officers arrive at the scene as the man is shouting “You’re on my property with a gun in your hand, threatening to shoot me because I’m picking up trash. I hope that camera is on.”  The man’s roommate, who is filming, is shouting “He’s picking up trash, and you have your hand on your gun? He lives here, go home!”  The officer repeatedly tells the man to drop his weapon and both the man and his roommate respond that he does not have a weapon.

The man is shouting that he lives there, on private property and is picking up trash outside his dorm.  He refuses to sit down and tells police to get off his property before asking if they are going to shoot him, tase him or beat him up for picking up trash outside his own home.  The man holds the trash picker in the air saying “you’re calling this a weapon?” and the officer responds that it can be used as a weapon.  The man argues that it is not ok for them to harass him with their hands on their guns for picking up trash in his front yard and repeatedly tells them to leave.  His roommate who is filming comments that one of the officers is holding a shotgun.

A total of eight officers responded, including a supervisor and it was later confirmed by police that the object the man was holding was used to pick up trash.  Boulder police released a statement saying “Officers ultimately determined that the man had a legal right to be on the property and returned the man’s school identification card,” the release said. “All officers left the area and no further action was taken.”  In a police report, the officer claimed the man was uncooperative and “unwilling to put down a blunt object”—even though the man and his roommate repeatedly identified the object as a trash picker.  The officer who drew his weapon has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation.

The video has gone viral and sparked outrage throughout the community.  During a city council meeting, Police Chief Greg Testa told the crowd: “All aspects of this incident, specifically the actions of the initial officer, are being investigated… in contrast to what was stated in the video that is on social media, body-worn camera video indicates that only one officer had a handgun out, and it was pointed at the ground.”