Tag Archive: mark shuster legal shield


 

 

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On February 11, 2018, a Russian commercial plane crashed near Moscow, killing all 71 people on board. Among the victims of the crash were 65 passengers including 3 children and 6 crew members. The cause of the crash is unknown. The Saratov Airlines flight 703, crashed shortly after take-off from Moscow’s Domodedovo airport. The plane was headed to the city of Orsk on the Kazakhstan border and officials have said most of the passengers were from the eastern part of the Orenburg region which is on the southern end of the Ural Mountains.
Officials say the aircraft’s speed and altitude started to fluctuate soon after take-off. A preliminary analysis of the on-board flight recorder indicated the plane had problems two-and-a-half minutes after it took off, at an altitude of around 4,265ft. Moments before the crash, Flight 703 had gained an altitude of 5,900 feet. The 7 year old passenger jet then went into a steep decent until it disappeared from the radar at an altitude of around 3,000 feet.
The Russian Interstate Aviation Committee is investigating the crash. They said that faulty instruments could have given the pilots wrong speed data. The instruments began displaying different speed readings, probably because of iced speed sensors while their heating systems were shut off, the committee said. When the crew detected the issue, they switched off the plane’s autopilot. They eventually took the plane into a dive at 30-35 degrees.
Witnesses say the plane, an Antonov An-148 aircraft, was in flames as it fell from the sky. The crash was caught by a surveillance camera in a nearby house. The footage showed that the aircraft slammed into the ground and immediately burst into flames. The plane crashed near the village of Argunovo, about 50 miles south-east of Moscow. Wreckage and body parts are strewn over a large area of about 74 acres. More than 1,400 body parts and hundreds of plane fragments have been recovered from the crash site.

 
Rescue workers reached the site 2.5 hours after the crash. More than 700 people are involved in the search operation, struggling through deep snow. The emergencies ministry is collecting DNA samples from victims’ relatives as part of the identification process of the 65 passengers and 6 crew members. The wreckage of Flight 703 was scattered over a half mile wide area.
News outlets have reported that the pilot had declined to have the aircraft de-iced before the departure even though the weather at the time of departure included snow showers and −5°C temperature at Domodedovo Airport. The procedure is optional and the crew’s decision is based mainly on the weather conditions.

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Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine filed suit against chemical giant DuPont, charging the company with illegally dumping a toxic chemical from its Washington Works plant into the Ohio River for decades. The Ohio lawsuit comes as the Environmental Protection Agency ordered DuPont to test water near its Washington Works plant for another chemical, GenX—which was billed as a replacement for C8 but which is linked to many of the same health problems.
The suit charges DuPont released the chemical, which is used in Teflon coating, even though it knew of the dangers of PFOA, also known as C8, which has been linked to cancer, thyroid disease, high cholesterol and low birth weight in babies. Studies have found Tristate residents have a higher level of the chemical in their bodies, likely a result of industrial discharge into the Ohio River.
“Human Exposure to PFOA — even at very low levels — has been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, pregnancy-induced hypertension and low birth weight, high cholesterol and ulcerative colitis,” the lawsuit says. PFOA is known to be toxic and carcinogenic in animals and is resistant to typical environmental degradation processes. The lawsuit alleges DuPont negligently caused environmental contamination and created a public nuisance by allowing PFOA to enter air, soil and water in Ohio. “DuPont’s conscious disregard for the right of Ohio and the safety of its citizens has caused and continues to cause substantial harm to Ohio, and the property and natural resources it holds in a trust for its citizens and will likely cause substantial harm in the future,” the lawsuit says.
DuPont has been hit with a number of lawsuits in recent years after many have said the company released toxins into the environment. The company now faces 3,500 lawsuits filed in federal court by Mid-Ohio Valley residents in a 185-square-mile area around Parkersburg, West Virginia. An Ohio man who developed cancer was awarded $5 million in compensatory damages against DuPont in 2016.
A New Jersey city filed a $1.1 billion lawsuit against DuPont, alleging the company spun off the Chambers Works facility to avoid environmental cleanup costs. It alleges the Chambers Works site, where Teflon has been manufactured since 1938, is polluted because of a toxic chemical used in the product’s manufacturing. The lawsuit claimed DuPont dumped over 100 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the water and ground since the plant opened in 1892. Toxins from these products, which generated billions of dollars in sales for DuPont, impacted residents as far as two miles away from the plant. Hazardous substances including mercury, benzene and ethyl chloride were all used at the plant. DuPont settled that class action suit for $8.3 million.

 

 

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A new study finds that roughly half of all U.S. veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan don’t get the mental healthcare they need. According to the congressionally mandated report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, while many veterans receive good mental health care through the VA, it’s inconsistent across the system. The report recommends changes to improve the care offered by the Veterans Affairs health system.
Roughly half of those veterans surveyed who showed a need for mental health care said they do not currently receive any such care, either through VA or private physicians. That group includes many veterans with prior diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or related challenges.
The assessment, which was ordered by Congress in 2013 found that veterans who seek help for post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, depression and other mental health conditions are unable to find treatment because of the VA’s bureaucracy or staffing shortages at clinics and hospitals. The report shows that other factors such as lack of social support, distance and fear of revealing a mental health issue may discourage veterans from seeking care at all.
According to the report, the majority of those who could use these services don’t know whether they are eligible, don’t know how to get the services and don’t even know that the VA provides mental health care while others- frustrated with red tape or long waits-stop pursuing care. The study found that those who do get care encounter “tremendous mental health care expertise” and that the system can deliver care in a “truly integrated and strategic manner.” But the report added that chronic staffing challenges and confusing procedures and policies continue to be a challenge. Researchers said more work needs to be done to improve outreach to veterans in need and public awareness of resources available.
Veterans are often confused as to how to get benefits, unsure of eligibility or frustrated by the red tape and long waits. The VA has had consistent problems with providing care for the more than 4 million service members who have left active duty since the start of the 16 year war in Afghanistan. The report shows that many who served in Iraq and Afghanistan often did multiple tours, served longer deployments and had less time at home compared with earlier conflicts.
In 2014, the stresses of such deployments became hard to ignore when the suicide rate among veterans rose 22% higher than those who had not served in the military. The Department of Veterans Affairs recently reported about 20 U.S. veterans commit suicide each day. An estimated 265,000 service members transition out each year, adding to the pool of veterans who may need mental health care.
The report recommends that the VA develop a plan to deliver quality mental health care throughout its system in three to five years. On Jan. 9th, an executive order was signed, giving military and VA officials 60 days to develop a plan to give people leaving military service seamless access to mental health treatment and suicide prevention in the year following their service. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin has pledged to seek major reform of the VA.

 

 

 

 

opioid epidemic.jpgNew York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced the city is suing major pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors over their role in the opioid crisis.   The lawsuit filed in state Supreme Court seeks $500 million in damages for current and future costs from what the mayor described as “corporate drug pushers.”  Among the companies being sued are Purdue Pharma, which is the maker of OxyContin, Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc., Johnson & Johnson, and Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

The lawsuit alleges opioid manufacturers used deceptive marketing to flood the city with prescription painkillers, creating “a substantial burden on the city through increased substance use treatment services, ambulatory services, emergency department services, inpatient hospital services, medical examiner costs, criminal justice costs and law enforcement costs.”

John Puskar, director of public affairs at Purdue, issued a statement saying the company “vigorously” denies the charges leveled by the city.  “We are deeply troubled by the prescription and illicit opioid abuse crisis, and are dedicated to being part of the solution. As a company grounded in science, we must balance patient access to FDA-approved medicines, while working collaboratively to solve this public health challenge. Although our products account for approximately 2% of the total opioid prescriptions, as a company, we’ve distributed the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, developed three of the first four FDA-approved opioid medications with abuse-deterrent properties and partner with law enforcement to ensure access to naloxone. We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense.”

The opioid crisis killed nearly 64,000 Americans in 2016 and provisional data for 2017 from the CDC show no signs of the epidemic abating, with an estimate of more than 66,000 overdose deaths for the year.   While overdose rates increased in all age groups, rises were most significant in those between the ages of 25 and 54.  Overdoses are now the leading cause of death of Americans under the age of 50.  “Based on what we’re seeing, it doesn’t look like it’s getting any better,” said Bob Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the National Center for Health Statistics.

 

 

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A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy has been charged with operating a large-scale drug trafficking scheme.  Deputy Kenneth Collins and three other men were arrested by FBI agents in a sting operation when they arrived to what they thought was a drug deal, according to records unsealed after the arrest.

Court documents outlining the case show that Collins, 50, has been under investigation for months. He was recorded by agents discussing “his extensive drug trafficking network, past criminal conduct, and willingness to accept bribes to use his law enforcement status for criminal purposes,” according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court.

Last year, an undercover agent met with Collins while posing as the relative of a wealthy investor looking to finance an illegal marijuana grow house.  Collins offered to provide security and said he had three teams already working in the region, including one that was protecting an illegal marijuana grow house disguised as an auto repair shop, according to the complaint.

At a second meeting, Collins showed off his sheriff’s badge and lifted his shirt to show a gun in his waistband, the complaint said.  He later said that he could provide teams of security made up of cops who “travel … with guns”.  Collins sold about 2 pounds of marijuana to the agent for $6,000 as a “test run” to demonstrate his ability to arrange and carry out deals, federal authorities allege. The deputy said he had connections to marijuana operations in Northern California and could sell the agent $4 million of marijuana each month, according to the court records.

Undercover agents hired Collins to provide security while they drove several pounds of methamphetamine and other contraband from Pasadena to Las Vegas, the court records said.  On the drive to Las Vegas, one of the other men charged in the case, David Easter, drove a lookout car while another, Grant Valencia, rode with the undercover agent in the vehicle with the drugs, according to court records. Collins rode in a third car keeping watch from behind.

In the complaint, agents said that Collins, Easter and Valencia had agreed to provide security for a large drug transaction at an events venue in Pasadena in exchange for $250,000.  Collins and his team were p to help oversee the transport of a large cache of drugs and cash.  Collins said he had a team of six men, including three other law enforcement officers, who could ensure the cargo made it to its destination “untouched, unscathed,” the document says.

According to court documents, after a Dec. 11th meeting to plan the transport, Collins called another L.A. County sheriff’s deputy to discuss the deal, according to the complaint. Thom Mrozek, a U.S. attorney’s office spokesman, said that the investigation is continuing but that no other law enforcement officers had been implicated so far.

 

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Two men have been arrested in the grisly murders of a same-sex couple and two children in Troy, New York.  James White, 38, and Justin Mann, 24 have been charged with one count of first-degree murder and four counts of second-degree murder.  The victims were 36-year-old Shanta Myers, her partner 22-year-old Brandi Mell and Myers’ two children, Jeremiah, 11, and Shanise, five.  Myers’ oldest son, 15-year-old Isaiah, was not home at the time of the murders.

Their bodies were discovered in their basement apartment around noon on Dec. 26th by the property manager while doing a well-being check.  According to family members, the Myers family moved in with Brandi Mells following an eviction earlier this year but because of apartment’s small size, Isaiah stayed with a relative.

Mells’ cousin, Sharonda Bennett said she last spoke to Brandi on Dec. 19 to discussed holiday plans  The couple were deciding between celebrating in Troy or in Paterson, New Jersey, where the Mells family lives, she said.  She said that the couple became unreachable around 11 p.m. on Dec. 21st, after Mell’s mother couldn’t reach her by phone and no one answered at the apartment.   Bennett said her calls to Brandi went straight to voicemail and she assumed maybe they had decided to spend Christmas in New Jersey.

Two days later, Isaiah stopped by to deliver Christmas presents to his siblings but no one answered the door, which was locked.   He left for a basketball tournament, thinking they’d stepped out for a bit.  After still not being able to reach them the day after Christmas, Mells’ mom called the property manager and asked the manager to see if her daughter was home.  The manager found the bodies and immediately called cops.

The motives of these murders have not been revealed but Troy Police Chief James Tedesco said these victims were targeted and confirmed that the victims were killed late in the evening of Dec 21st.  He called the slayings the worst “savagery” he’d ever seen in his 42-year career.  Police did not detail how they caught the suspects, and a family member of one of the victims said that she had never heard of the men and knew no reason why the women and children would be targeted.

Police have said Justin Mann was “acquainted” with Brandi Mells.  He said that both suspects have a criminal history and that Justin Mann was on parole.   Department of Corrections records show Mann was released on parole in June 2017 after serving time for a first-degree robbery conviction in 2014. Both men, from nearby Schenectady, were apprehended without incident Friday night and arraigned Saturday.   Both are being held without bail in the Rensselaer County Jail with a preliminary hearing scheduled for Jan. 4th.

New York Bombing Attack

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New York City police have identified the suspect in the bombing attack in a Midtown Manhattan subway station that took place during the busy Monday morning commute.  The accused attacker was identified as 27-year-old Brooklyn resident and Bangladeshi immigrant Akayed Ullah.  Ullah was carrying a pipe bomb strapped to his body with Velcro and zip ties whe he detonated it in a tunnel connecting the busy Port Authority and Times Square terminals.   Five people were treated for minor injuries at area hospitals, while the suspect was said to be seriously injured.

Investigators have been pouring over surveillance footage of the area.  Ullah was first spotted on a security camera as he climbed the subway station stairs to the 18th Avenue F. train platform in Brooklyn at 6:25 a.m.  He then switched to the A train at Jay St./MetroTech stop in Brooklyn before exiting the train at the Port Authority Bus Terminal stop in Manhattan.

The blast detonated around 7:20 a.m. in an underground walkway connecting two subway lines beneath the Port Authority Bus Terminal, near Times Square, which accommodates 220,000 passenger trips a day.  Surveillance footage shows commuters walking through a tunnel when a burst of smoke erupts into the hallway, quickly filling it.  Commuters flinch and take cover, and when the smoke clears, an injured man, Ullah, can be seen lying on the ground in the hallway.

Law enforcement officials say Ullah was inspired to set off a bomb in retaliation for U.S. attacks against ISIS in Syria.  He faces five federal terrorism-related charges and three state terrorism-related charges after he allegedly detonated the homemade device made of a battery, wires, metal screws and a Christmas tree lightbulb during the busy morning commute.  According to Department of Homeland Security, Ullah is a Bangladeshi immigrant who has been living in the United States since 2011 on an F43 family immigrant visa.  He is a legal permanent resident living in Brooklyn and has no criminal record in the United States.

According to a federal complaint, Ullah admitted to investigators that he built and detonated the device and said he was inspired to do so by ISIS.  He said that he was prepared to die and told investigators he was motivated in part by pro-ISIS Christmas attack propaganda circulated about a month ago online with an image of Santa Claus over Times Square.  Investigators recovered a passport in his name with a handwritten message: “O America, die in your rage.”  Investigators say Ullah’s ISIS radicalization began in 2014 and he began researching how to build improvised explosive devices about a year ago.  He began collecting the necessary items to make the device two to three weeks ago, and built the bomb in his home a week ago.

According to law enforcement officials, Ullah had two homemade devices with him but they did not elaborate on the second device.  Andrew Cuomo said in an interview that the device was an amateur, “effectively low-tech device” that partially detonated.  The explosive chemical ignited, but the pipe itself did not explode, lessening its impact.  Cuomo added “Fortunately for us, the bomb partially detonated, he did detonate it, but it did not fully have the effect that he was hoping for.”

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South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeals has more than doubled the prison sentence for Olympic and Paralympic runner Oscar Pistorius, who was convicted of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in 2013.  The sentence has now been increased from six years to 15 years, with time served.  Under that initial sentence, which the court called “shockingly lenient,” Pistorius could have been released on parole in mid-2019. Now, the earliest he’ll be eligible for parole is 2023.  Supreme Court judges are generally reluctant to change sentences handed down by trial courts, and it’s rare for them to change one so dramatically.

Pistorius killed Steenkamp in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine’s Day 2013 by shooting four times through a closed toilet cubicle door with his 9 mm pistol. He claimed he mistook the 29-year-old model and reality TV star for an intruder.  Throughout the trial, the prosecution had been looking to prove that the couple had gotten into an argument, and Pistorius intentionally murdered his girlfriend.  A few of Pistorius’s neighbors testified to hearing an argument that lasted nearly an hour, followed by a woman screaming before and during the shots being fired.

A police ballistics expert concluded that the first shot fired through the bathroom door hit Steenkamp in the hip and caused her to collapse.  The second shot missed.  Prosecutors tried to prove that Steenkamp screamed while she was hit by two more shots as she covered her head with her arms in a desperate attempt to protect herself.

Pistorius was initially convicted of manslaughter by trial Judge Thokozile Masipa.  That conviction was overturned and replaced with a murder conviction by the Supreme Court in 2015.  Masipa then sentenced Pistorius to six years for murder, which prosecutors called much too lenient.

Supreme Court Justice Willie Seriti said a panel of judges unanimously upheld an appeal by prosecutors against Pistorius’ original six-year sentence for shooting Steenkamp.   The Supreme Court agreed that the sentencing was too leniant, saying in a full written ruling released later that “the sentence of six years’ imprisonment is shockingly lenient to a point where it has the effect of trivializing this serious offence.”  The Supreme Court said Pistorius “displays a lack of remorse, and does not appreciate the gravity of his actions.”  As Seriti delivered the verdict he said “Pistorius should have been sentenced to the prescribed minimum of 15 years for murder.”

The new sentence of 13 years and five months took into account the one year and seven months Pistorius served in prison and under house arrest after his manslaughter conviction.  The new sentence was backdated to start on the day he began his murder sentence, on July 6 last year.  Pistorius must serve at least half of the 13 years and five months — nearly seven years — before he can be considered for parole. He has served a year and five months of his murder sentence.

 

 

 

 

puerto_rico_usda_flickr.jpgThe White House requested Congress approve $44 billion in disaster relief in what would be the largest single round of disaster aid to address the widespread damage inflicted by hurricanes and wildfires over the last three months.  It is the third request since hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria slammed the Gulf Coast and Caribbean.  The new request would add another $24 billion to the disaster relief this fall and bring the total close to $100 billion.  It would also establish a new $12 billion grant program for flood risk mitigation projects. Smaller amounts would go to small business loans and to aid farmers suffering crop losses.

The White House is proposing the increased funding be offset by cuts to federal programs in hopes to deter members from Congress who might not vote for a disaster assistance package that adds to the deficit.  Two previous disaster relief bills totaling nearly $51.8 billion that Congress approved earlier this year had no such offsets.

And that’s before most of the money to rebuild Puerto Rico’s devastated housing stock and electric grid is added in.  Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has asked the federal government for $94.3 billion in disaster relief funds to help repair critical infrastructure and rebuild housing following Hurricane Maria.  He said the sum will help the U.S. territory adequately recover from Hurricane Maria.  Over half of Puerto Rico is still without power almost two months after Hurricane Maria made landfall.  More than 10 percent of the island is still without running water.

The largest chunk of Rosselló’s request, $31 billion, goes to housing assistance with $17.7 billion to rebuild the island’s power grid and $14.9 billion for health care.  “This is a critical step forward in the rebuilding of Puerto Rico where we’re not only looking to rebuild as was before but we want to make it much stronger and much more resilient and make Puerto Rico a model for the rest of the Caribbean,” Rosselló said.  Ricardo Rosello also urged Congress to adopt a tax overhaul plan that addresses the territory’s specific needs to avoid an exodus of the companies that currently generate 42% of the island’s gross domestic product.

The relief request is over $30 billion more than a $61 billion relief request from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott after Hurricane Harvey flooded parts of metro Houston and East Texas.  The Florida congressional delegation has asked for $27 billion.  It is likely that Congress will pare down the amount as they did after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

 

 

 

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In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, men across the world are continuing to resign, be fired or face intense criticism over a slew of allegations of sexual harassment and assault that have surfaced.  Accusations against those in Hollywood, the media industry, universities, restaurants and the highest reaches of government have revealed inappropriate conduct from many notable men.  The list of those accused of sexual harassment or misconduct continues to grow each day and is sweeping many industries.  Let’s take a look at some of those recently accused.

Producer and director Brett Ratner was accused of sexually harassing six women, including actresses Olivia Munn and Natasha Henstridge.  Director James Toback was accused of sexually harassing over 300 women over several decades, including Julianne Moore, Selma Blaire and Rachel McAdams.  Chris Savino, 46, an animator and writer best known for creating The Loud House, was fired from Nickelodeon after multiple women lodged complaints against him, the network confirmed in a statement.

Actor Kevin Spacey has been accused of sexual harassment by actor Anthony Rapp, who claims he was 14 when Spacey made advances towards him in 1986. Spacey apologized to Rapp via Twitter.  The actor also came out as gay in the statement which drew criticism as an attempt at distracting from disturbing claims against a child.   Several other accusers have come forward against Spacey, including a former House of Cards crew member, filmmaker Tony Montana and actor Rob Cavazos.  On Oct. 31, Netflix announced it would shut down production of the sixth and final season of Cards “until further notice.”  In addition, the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences said it would no longer honor Spacey with the 2017 Emmy Founders Award.

In the media industry, Michael Oreskes, NPR’s senior vice president for news, has resigned after multiple women accused him of kissing them without their consent during meetings for possible employment.  At least a dozen women have accused journalist Mark Halperin of sexually harassment or assault, with at least some of the incidents during his time as political director at ABC News.  Lockhart Steele, the editorial director for Vox Media, was fired after engaging in several incidents of sexual misconduct.  Roy Price, the head of Amazon Studios, quit five days after being put on leave after a producer accused him of sexual harassment.

Celebrity chef John Besh stepped down from the company he founded after about two dozen current and former female employees accused him and other male workers of sexual harassment in what they described as a hostile corporate culture where sexual harassment flourished.  The New Republic’s publisher, Hamilton Fish, has been placed on leave, after a slew of allegations of sexual harassment when he was the president of The Nation Institute.  The New Republic’s most prominent longtime editors, Leon Wieseltier, was also fired over sexual harassment allegations.

Meanwhile, two top staff members at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), have been ousted over sexual harassment allegations.  National leader Kendall Fells has resigned and Detroit leader Mark Raleigh has been fired.   Three Dartmouth professors, Todd Heatherton, Paul Whalen and William Kelley from the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences- have been put on paid leave amid a criminal investigation into accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct.