Tag Archive: mark shuster legal shield


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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.

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A combat pilot shortage has prompted the invoking of the National Emergencies Act as an executive order was signed that allows the Air Force to voluntarily recall up to 1,000 retired aviators for active duty.  The order could help ease the combat pilot shortage in the force and improve military readiness as the administration steps up its new Afghanistan war strategy to defeat the Taliban and terrorists. The new strategy includes additional U.S. troops going to Afghanistan as well as increased U.S. air support for the Afghan military.

According to the Pentagon, the Air Force is currently short by about 1,500 pilots.  Before the order was signed, the Air Force was allowed to rehire up to 25 retired officers under what’s known as the Voluntary Retired Return to Active Duty program and bring them back to active duty in critical aviation-related staff positions.   The executive order now allows the Air Force to temporarily exceed the limit of 25 rehires.  Other branches of the U.S. military also need more pilots, including the Navy, and the executive order could be used later to help address those challenges.

A release issued by the Air Force said they are now looking to have retired pilots return to the service for up to 12 months in positions that require qualified pilots.  The service is looking for retired fliers of any pilot specialty code — which includes bomber, fighter, helicopter, tanker, and remotely operated aircraft pilots — to fill “critical-rated staff positions” and allow active-duty pilots to stay with units where they are needed to meet mission requirements.

The Air Force is combatting the pilot shortage with various incentive programs to keep officers in uniform longer.  A program launching later this year includes a 100 percent promotion opportunity and an aviator retention pay bonus worth up to $350,000 over a 10-year term that is already in effect.  Pay for officers and enlisted personnel will increase for the first time since 1999.  Incentive pay, also called flight pay, will increase for all officers, with those who have over 12 years of service potentially seeing the biggest boost, up to a maximum of $1,000 a month. Incentive pay will also increase for enlisted aircrew members — up to a maximum of $600 for those with over 14 years of service.

An Air Force official indicated they had no current plans to act on the authority granted to them by the president’s order.  “The Air Force does not currently intend to recall retired pilots to address the pilot shortage,” “We appreciate the authorities and flexibility delegated to us.”

 

 

 

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Hundreds of trials for activists who stood against the Dakota Access Pipeline have seen the courtroom but only two have received jail time so far.  A judge in North Dakota has sentenced two water protectors to jail time after they were convicted on misdemeanor charges over an October 2016 protest at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access pipeline.

Twenty-seven-year-old Alexander Simon, a school teacher from New Mexico was sentenced to serve 18 days in jail for obstruction of a government function.  Mary Redway, a 64 year old retired environmental biologist from Rhode Island was sentenced to six days in jail for disorderly conduct. The sentences were imposed by Judge Thomas Merrick despite the fact that the prosecution had not recommended the two serve jail time.

Journalist Sara Lafleur-Vetter, who was filming for The Guardian at the time of her arrest, was acquitted on misdemeanor charges stemming from her reporting on the protest on October 22.  Hundreds of unresolved criminal cases related to the months-long resistance at Standing Rock remain open.  Hundreds of cases have been

The Water Protector Legal Collective- an indigenous-led legal team defending activists arrested during the months-long Dakota Access Pipeline controversy is currently fighting over 427 criminal cases in North Dakota, according to the legal team’s website.  Another 272 cases have been dismissed due to lack of evidence of any crime being committed.  Morton County has put out warrants, dismissed cases, recharged water protectors, and failed to send mail or contact arrestees regarding scheduled court dates-all resulting in new warrants being issued for accused water protectors without their knowledge.

Three water protectors are currently imprisoned while awaiting trial: Red Fawn Fallis, Little Feather and Dion Ortiz.  Fallis, the most seriously charged water protector, was arrested at Standing Rock on October 27, 2016 accused of possessing and discharging a firearm as she was being restrained by police near construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Fallis, the organizer of the “Frontline Camp” was arrested during the October 27th raid on the camp when over 300 police officers—some carrying M16 rifles and clad in flak vests advanced to remove all remaining protestors.  Four officers left formation and tackled Fallis to the ground, holding her face down.  Four additional officers assisted in trying to handcuff her as she was being tased.   In the course of the raid, the police fired tear gas and concussion grenades and peppered the water protectors with rubber-tipped bullets and bean bag pellets, causing dozens of injuries.  Fallis was held in a Rugby, North Dakota jail until her transfer to a halfway house in Fargo in June 2017.  Her jury trial was originally slated to begin on July 17, but it has now been postponed until December 5.

 

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In California, the death toll from unprecedented wildfires has risen to at least 42, with over 400 more missing, as firefighters continue to battle 15 major blazes across the state.   At least 100,000 people have been forced to evacuate, with about 75,000 people still displaced.  Some area residents only had a brief window to escape as the fire quickly spread through neighborhoods with 20 mph winds and 40 mph wind gusts.  Search teams are using drones with three-dimensional cameras and search dogs in an effort to locate missing people in neighborhoods that have been reduced entirely to ash and rubble. The death toll has risen daily as search teams gain access to previously unreachable areas.

The state’s insurance commissioner says the unprecedented wildfires have caused over $1 billion in insured losses. The wildfires have scorched more than 200,000 acres—roughly the size of New York City.   The fires have destroyed over 8,000 homes and businesses and are now the deadliest in California since record keeping began.

The fires started Oct. 8 and 9 and steadily burning through forests, neighborhoods, farms, wineries and other infrastructure—including cell phone towers used by the state’s emergency services.  High winds and dry weather statewide have hampered efforts to contain the multiple blazes-making them the most destructive wildfires in California’s history.

Firefighters have continuously fought to contain the series of fires using air tankers, helicopters and more than 1,000 fire engines.  Hundreds of firefighters poured in to California as crews arrived from Nevada, Washington, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oregon and Arizona. Other teams came from Canada and Australia. Crews were using 840 fire engines from across California and another 170 sent from around the country.

The fires have been particularly bad in Sonoma County, where 30 marijuana farms and three marijuana manufacturers have lost everything to the blazes. Cannabis cultivators cannot insure their businesses since federal law prohibits banks and financial institutions from participating in the marijuana industry, even in the eight states where recreational pot is legal, because marijuana is illegal according to federal law.  Twenty-seven wineries have reportedly suffered damaged.  Many wineries have reported either complete losses or significant damage.

California governor Jerry Brown has remained in state capital Sacramento this week, issuing emergency declarations and securing federal disaster relief.  “This is truly one of the greatest tragedies that California has ever faced,” Brown said. “The devastation is just unbelievable. It is a horror that no one could have imagined.”

 

 

 

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Three weeks after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm, officials are warning the island’s health system is in dire condition as the island still has severely limited electricity and running water.  Many residents have contracted bacterial diseases, likely as a result of their exposure to contaminated floodwaters but without electricity and clean water-treatment is scarce.  The official death toll from Hurricane Maria has now risen to 45.

Hurricane Maria knocked out the water system for more than half the island’s 3.4 million people, leaving many reusing what little water they can get their hands on.  Medical experts say it is one of the factors that make them deeply concerned over a possible spike in infectious diseases in coming weeks.  Twenty of the island’s fifty-one sewage treatment plants are still out of service allowing raw sewage to contaminate rivers, streams and reservoirs.  Those without running water bathe and wash their clothes in contaminated streams, and some islanders have been drinking water from condemned wells.

Nine out of 10 homes on the island still have no electricity, leaving fans and air conditioning units unavailable to stave off mosquitos carrying illness in the storm’s aftermath.  Neither electricity nor running water is expected to be fully restored for months.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency says 64 of the island’s 68 hospitals are open but only 25 are hooked up to the power grid.  The remaining hospitals are running off of generators that aren’t meant to be used for such long periods and rely on erratic diesel supplies.

Some 11,000 U.S. military personnel have come to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria, and convoys of military vehicles carrying pallets of bottled water and meals are visible in the interior. Mosquito control units deployed in six municipalities, officials said, and five temporary biomedical waste stations have been set up.

FEMA has 16,000 federal and military assets are on the ground in Puerto Rico and about 350,000 Puerto Ricans have registered so far in the FEMA system to receive financial assistance.  Roads and highways have been washed out, hampering relief efforts to the interior of the island.  Some remote areas have not received any help since the storm.  Food and basic supplies remain scarce in the mountainous interior making the threat of waterborne diseases grow.

Authorities hope the arrival of the USNS Comfort will help ease problems at hospitals around the island.  The hospital ship has one of the largest trauma facilities in the United States and is equipped with three operating rooms, 50 ICU beds along with another 200 other beds, and some 500 medical personnel. Two MH-60 helicopters sit on its landing-pad deck.

The ship will treat patients and also provide services to other hospitals such as refilling tanks for medical-grade oxygen and re-sterilizing hospital gear.  The ship’s staff had already treated 64 patients shortly after its arrival and medical personnel expected to see many others with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension and lung problems.

 

Harvey Weinstein Scandal

 

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An investigation by The New York Times exposed allegations of sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact by Harvey Weinstein that stretched nearly three decades.  The scandal was uncovered through interviews with current or former employees and film industry workers as well as legal records, emails and internal documents from the businesses he has run, Miramax and the Weinstein Company.  Among other victims, the Times piece revealed that Rose McGowan had reached a $100,000 settlement with Weinstein after an encounter in a hotel room during Sundance Film Festival in 1997.  Later, the actress revealed Weinstein had raped her.

Shortly after, The New Yorker published another expose that alleges the producer raped three women.  The New Yorker article contains on-the-record accounts from 13 actresses who reported Weinstein forcibly received or performed sexual acts on the women.  A slew of women have sine come forward to accuse Weinstein of sexual harassment, assault and rape.  Among his accusers are some of Hollywood’s most well-known actresses including Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Rosanna Arquette, Kate Beckinsale and Heather Graham.

Many of the instances occurred during meetings that agents, studios and assistants set up for Weinstein under the guise of a potential movie role.  The common theme in the accusations is that the harassment took place early in their careers and they kept quiet out of fear that they would destroy their budding careers.  Other lesser known actresses and models have come forward as well.  Weinstein’s lewd behavior seemed to be an open secret in Hollywood for decades.  Fear of Harvey Weinstein’s influence helped keep his treatment of women shrouded for years with a network of aggressive publicists and lawyers helping.

New revelations have surfaced showing his studio, Weinstein Company, knew for at least two years that he had been paying off women who accused him of sexual harassment and assault. Weinstein was fired from the company shortly after the New York Times article was published.   Police in the US and outside the country are investigating allegations of sexual assault involving Harvey Weinstein as the scandal surrounding the disgraced Hollywood movie mogul mounts.

A spokeswoman for Weinstein denied the rape allegations in a statement.  “Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein,” the statement read. “Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances.”  Weinstein sent an official statement to The New York Time in response to the accusations saying “I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it.  Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go. That is my commitment.”

Shortly after The New Yorker piece came out, Harvey Weinstein’s wife of a decade, Georgina Chapman, announced she was She said in a statement, “My heart breaks for all the women who have suffered tremendous pain because of these unforgivable actions,” the statement read. “I have chosen to leave my husband. Caring for my young children is my first priority and I ask the media for privacy at this time.”

 

Tom Petty Dead At 66

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Tom Petty has died at the age of 66, after he was found unconscious and in cardiac arrest at his California home.  Longtime manager of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Tony Dimitriades released a statement “On behalf of the Tom Petty family, we are devastated to announce the untimely death of our father, husband, brother, leader and friend Tom Petty. He suffered full cardiac arrest at his home in Malibu in the early hours of this morning and was taken to UCLA Medical Center but could not be revived. He died peacefully at 8:40 p.m. PT surrounded by family, his bandmates and friends.”

The music legend was rushed to UCLA Santa Monica Hospital where he was put on life support and his pulse returned. Later the decision was reportedly made to remove him from life support after it was found that he was lacking brain activity.  Petty is survived by his wife, Dana; daughters Adria and AnnaKim, from his earlier marriage to Jane Benyo; and a stepson, Dylan.

Petty rose to fame in the 1970s as leader of The Heartbreakers and is best known for hit songs including “I Won’t Back Down,” “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” “American Girl” and “Refugee.”  Together, they released 13 albums over their 40 years together and Petty released 3 solo albums as well.  He was also a member and co-founder of the late 1980s super-group the Traveling Wilburys which included George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne.  Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1999, for their contribution to the recording industry.  In 2001, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In 2005, Petty received the Billboard Century Award, their highest honor for creative achievement.  Over the span of his music career, he won three Grammys, had 18 nominations and sold more than 33 million albums in the U.S. alone.  In interviews he frequently credited his early interest in music with meeting Elvis and watching The Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show.

On Sept. 25th, Petty and the Heartbreakers had just finished their 40th anniversary tour.  Earlier this year, in an interview Petty told Rolling Stone Magazine it would be the last major tour for the group but that it would continue to play concerts.  “I’m thinking it may be the last trip around the country,” he told the outlet. “We’re all on the backside of our sixties. I have a granddaughter now I’d like to see as much as I can. I don’t want to spend my life on the road.”

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The U.S. State Department announced that it is evacuating more than half its embassy staff from Cuba and warning US citizens not to travel to the island after a wave of mysterious sonic attacks have harmed 21 American diplomats and family members in Havana.  The evacuation was announced after a series of unexplained health problems that embassy workers are suffering, including hearing loss and brain injury. The health problems appear to be caused by some form of sonic attack.   An official said “The decision to reduce our diplomatic presence in Havana was made to ensure the safety of our personnel.  We maintain diplomatic relations with Cuba and our work in Cuba continues to be guided by the national-security and foreign-policy interest of the United States.”  Several Canadian households in Cuba are also believed to have been affected by the sonic attacks, but Canada said it had no plans to remove any staff from Cuba or warn travelers against heading to the island.

Cuban officials deny any involvement in the apparent attack and Cuban officials are cooperating with U.S. officials to investigate the incidents.  Cuba’s foreign ministry official in charge of US affairs, Josefina Vidal, said “We consider the decision announced today by the US government through the state department is hasty and will affect bilateral relations.”  The decision delivers a significant setback to the delicate reconciliation between the US and Cuba, two countries that endured a half-century estrangement despite their locations only 90 miles apart.

A senior US State Department official said some of the attacks were carried out in hotels; appear to have affected only the diplomats staying there and no other guests or hotel workers.  That gave them reason to believe the attacks were targeted, and that it may be unsafe for US citizens to travel to Cuba.  They still don’t know the means, methods and how these attacks are being carried out. Officials who announced the decision said it was still not clear who was responsible for the “targeted attacks” which have caused injuries including permanent hearing loss, brain injuries, speech problems, dizziness, tinnitus, problems with balance, visual impairment, headaches, fatigue, cognitive issues and difficulties sleeping.  The range of symptoms has raised speculation of some kind of sonic weapons, while some former intelligence officers have suggested they might be a result of a surveillance effort that went awry.  An official said the possibility that a third country was responsible for the attacks had not been ruled out but investigations are continuing.

The FBI and other agencies that searched homes and hotels where incidents occurred found no devices. Some US diplomats reported hearing various loud noises such as ringing or a high-pitch chirping similar to crickets or cicadas while others heard a loud grinding noise.  In some cases, the effects were narrowly confined, with victims able to walk “in” and “out” of blaring noises audible in only certain rooms or parts of rooms.  Others heard and felt nothing yet reported symptoms later.  The attacks seemed to come at night with several victims reporting that they were in minute-long bursts.

U.S. diplomats first complained of unexplained hearing loss in the fall of 2016 and the US first acknowledged the attacks in August – nine months after symptoms were first reported.  Some victims now have problems concentrating or recalling specific words, a sign of more serious damage than the US government initially realized.

Equifax Massive Data Breach

 

 

 

equifax.jpgA huge security breach at credit reporting company Equifax has exposed sensitive information, such as Social Security numbers and addresses, of up to 143 million Americans.  Others in the U.K. and Canada were also impacted, but Equifax hasn’t said how many. The data breach is considered one of the worst ever because of its reach and by the sensitivity of information exposed to the public.

The hackers have accessed sensitive information — including names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and the numbers of some driver’s licenses. Credit card numbers for about 209,000 U.S. customers were compromised, in addition to “personal identifying information” on about 182,000 U.S. customers.

Equifax (EFX) is one of three nationwide credit-reporting agencies that track and rate the financial history of consumers. The company gets its data from credit card companies, banks, retailers and lenders.   The data breach is among the worst ever because of the amount of people affected and the sensitive type of information exposed.  The company said it found no evidence that consumers in other countries were affected beyond the U.S., U.K. and Canada.

Equifax said the breach happened between mid-May and July 2017.  They discovered the hack on July 29th and promptly engaged a leading, independent cybersecurity firm which has been conducting a comprehensive forensic review to determine the scope of the intrusion, including the specific data impacted. Equifax also reported the criminal access to law enforcement and continues to work with authorities.

They reported the breach to the public on September 7th.  They said hackers exploited a U.S. website application vulnerability to gain access to certain files and they are investigating the breach.  New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has also launched a formal investigation into the hack.  Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is looking into the breach as well.

Equifax said it will send notices in the mail to people whose credit card numbers or dispute records were breached.   They have also established a dedicated website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com  to help consumers find out if they have been impacted.  To find out if you are potentially impacted, you can go the website-click on “Potential Impact,” and enter your last name and last 6 digits of your Social Security number.

The company is also offering a program called TrustedID Premier. It says that includes 3-Bureau credit monitoring of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit reports; copies of Equifax credit reports; the ability to lock and unlock Equifax credit reports; identity theft insurance; and Internet scanning for Social Security numbers – all complimentary to U.S. consumers for one year.  You must complete the enrollment process by November 21, 2017.  Consumers should be aware that buried in the terms of service of this program, is language that bars those that enroll in the Equifax checker program from participating in any class action lawsuits that may arise from the incident.

The best defense against identity theft and credit fraud is to monitor your credit report frequently to check for any suspicious activity, such as accounts you didn’t open, address changes, or anything else that you don’t recognize.

 

 

 

 

 

Prosecutors have asked the FBI to assist in an investigation into the rough arrest of a Utah nurse after video of her being dragged screaming from a hospital drew widespread condemnation.  Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill is overseeing a criminal investigation into officers involved in the handcuffing of nurse Alex Wubbels. He is asking for FBI help in part because his office can’t prosecute possible civil rights violations like wrongful arrest.

The incident happened on July 26 but bodycam footage that was released last week sparked national outcry.  That night, a man named William Gray was taken to the hospital after suffering severe injuries from a car crash.  Gray, a reserve police officer with the police department in Rigby, Idaho-who works as a truck driver, had been injured after being in the fiery head on car crash with a truck that was fleeing from Utah State Highway Patrol.

In the video, Salt Lake City Detective Jeff Payne is seen squaring off against Utah nurse Alex Wubbels, the charge nurse working the night shift on the burn unit at Utah University Hospital.   Wubbels was following hospital protocol and the law when she calmly refused to allow a blood draw on an unconscious patient without consent or a warrant.   She presented the officers with a printout of hospital policy on drawing blood and said their request did not meet the criteria.

Hospital policy specified police needed either a judge’s order or the patient’s consent, or the patient needed to be under arrest, before obtaining a blood sample.  “I’m just trying to do what I’m supposed to do. That’s all,” Wubbels tells the officers, according to the body camera video.  She put her supervisor on speakerphone who told Payne “You’re making a huge mistake because you’re threatening a nurse.” “No, we’re done,” Payne said. “We’re done. You’re under arrest.”

Salt Lake City police detective Jeff Payne insisted on drawing the blood, maintaining in his report that he wanted the sample to protect the man rather than prosecute him. He was supported by his supervisor, Lt. James Tracy, who said the nurse could be arrested if she didn’t agree.  The dispute ended with Payne handcuffing Wubbels and dragging her outside while she screamed that she’d done nothing wrong. She was detained for 20 minutes and later released without charge.

Payne, who has worked for the department for over 20 years, and a second unidentified officer were put on full paid administrative leave by Salt Lake City police after the video emerged.  Lt. James Tracy’s actions are also under review.  Payne has also been fired from his part-time job as a paramedic following comments he made on the video about taking transient patients to the hospital as retaliation.

The Rigby Police Department said they hope the incident will be investigated thoroughly and “appropriate action” will be taken.  “The Rigby Police Department would like to thank the nurse involved and hospital staff for standing firm and protecting Officer Gray’s rights as a patient and victim,” “Protecting the rights of others is truly a heroic act.”  “It is important to remember that Officer Gray is the victim in this horrible event, and that at no time was he under any suspicion of wrongdoing,” the statement said, adding that Gray “continues to heal.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help William Gray and his wife with expenses while he recovers at the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City.  https://www.gofundme.com/BillGray