position:judge

  • Federal judge rules Uber calling its drivers independent contractors may violate antitrust and harm competition / Boing Boing
    https://boingboing.net/2019/06/21/labor-uber.html

    A federal judge has ruled that alleged misclassification of drivers as independent contractors by the ride-hailing service app Uber could harm competition and violate the spirit of America’s antitrust laws.

    • Lawsuit says misclassifying workers creates competitive harm
    • 30 days to amend complaint with new information

    The ruling by Judge Edward Chen of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California is not a final decision in the case, but is a “significant warning to ride-hailing companies,” Bloomberg News reports.

    “It signals how a 2018 California Supreme Court case and future worker classification laws could open the floodgates to worker misclassification and antitrust claims.”

    Uber’s Worker Business Model May Harm Competition, Judge Says
    https://news.bloomberglaw.com/daily-labor-report/ubers-worker-business-model-may-harm-competition-judge-says

    Uber’s Worker Business Model May Harm Competition, Judge Says
    Posted June 21, 2019
    Suit: Misclassifying workers produces competitive harm
    Complaint must be amended within 30 days with new information
    Uber‘s alleged misclassification of drivers as independent contractors could significantly harm competition and violate the spirit of antitrust laws, a federal judge ruled.

    The ruling, although not a final decision in the case, is a significant warning to ride-hailing companies. It signals how a 2018 California Supreme Court case and future worker classification laws could open the floodgates to worker misclassification and antitrust claims.

    Judge Edward Chen of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California declined to dismiss all of the claims brought against Uber by Los Angeles-based transportation service Diva Limousine, saying the company established a causal link between Uber’s behavior and real economic harm being felt by competitors.

    Driver misclassification could save Uber as much as $500 million annually just in California, according to Diva’s lawyers.

    “Diva’s allegations support the inference that Uber could not have undercut market prices to the same degree without misclassifying its drivers to skirt significant costs,” the judge wrote in the June 20 ruling.

    Unlike employees, independent contractors aren’t entitled to benefits such as health care, unemployment insurance, minimum wages, and overtime.

    An attorney for Diva said he was pleased with the court’s decision and that it was a warning that the company couldn’t skirt California labor laws.

    “There’s an acknowledgement here that Uber not only harms its drivers but also that its conduct crosses the line from robust competition to unfair competition,” said attorney Aaron Sheanin of Robins Kaplan LLP. “And that injures its competitiors, including Diva.”

    Uber didn’t return a request for comment.

    Overall, Uber was only able to get part of Diva’s complaint fully dismissed—specifically, its claims under the state’s Unfair Practices Act. Diva’s claims under the California Unfair Competition Law can proceed once it amends its complaint to address jurisdictional issues and other legal arguments.

    Diva’s lawyers have 30 days to refile an updated complaint which is likely to move forward given the judge’s ruling that the claims have merit.

    The ruling was based in part from language drawn from the California Supreme Court’s April 2018 ruling in Dynamex Operations West Inc. v. Superior Court. That decision made it harder for California employers to classify workers as independent contractors rather than employees. It also condemns misclassification as a type of unfair competition.

    Uber identified Dynamex in regulatory filings as a long-term potential risk factor for its business success.

    The case is Diva Limousine, Ltd. v. Uber Technologies, Inc., N.D. Cal., No. 3:18-cv-05546, Order Issued 6/20/19.

    #USA #Uber #Wettbewerb #Monopol #Urteil #Justiz

  • Does Being ’Zionist Feminist’ Mean Betraying Women for Israel? - Tikun Olam תיקון עולם
    https://www.richardsilverstein.com/2017/03/16/zionist-feminist-mean-betraying-women-israel


    Rasmea Odeh participates in Detroit Black Lives Matter rally

    March 16, 2017 by Richard Silverstein Leave a Comment

    Yesterday, I wrote a critique of Emily Shire’s diatribe against the Women’s Strike Day USA protest. She especially singled out platform statements supporting Palestinian rights. Shire, a professed Zionist feminist, dismissed the criticisms of Israeli Occupation contained in the event platform as irrelevant to the issue of women’s rights. Then she launched into an attack on one of the conveners of the Strike Day, Rasmea Odeh. Shire alleges that Odeh is a convicted terrorist and former member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a U.S. designated terror group.

    A comment Deir Yassin published yesterday here got me to thinking further about this issue. I researched Rasmea’s case and the torture she endured. My view is this is precisely the sort of case and individual any women’s movement should embrace. Here is a summary of the facts of the case. In 1969, a cell of the PFLP planted bombs at a Jerusalem Super-Sol. They exploded, killing two Hebrew University students.
    shin bet torture

    Afterward, security forces arrested Odeh and jailed her without charges or access to counsel. She was tortured, by her account, for 45 days. Here is how she described her treatment in testimony to a UN commission on torture in Geneva:

    …”They beat me with sticks, plastic sticks, and with a metal bar. They beat me on the head and I fainted as a result of these beatings. They woke me up several times by throwing cold water in my face and then started all over again.”

    In addition to this physical torture, Odeh also faced sexual torture. Her father, a U.S. citizen, was also arrested and beaten, “and once they brought in my father and tried to force him under blows to take off his clothes and have sexual relations with me.” Later, interrogators “tore my clothes off me while my hands were still tied behind my back. They threw me to the ground completely naked and the room was full of a dozen or so interrogators and soldiers who looked at me and laughed sarcastically as if they were looking at a comedy or a film. Obviously they started touching my body.” In her father’s presence, interrogators threatened to “violate me” and “tried to introduce a stick to break my maidenhead [hymen].” Shackled naked from the ceiling, interrogators “tied my legs, which were spread-eagled, and they started to beat me with their hands and also with cudgels.”

    Every method described in her account is known from previous descriptions of the treatment of Arab terror suspects. We know, for example, that Doron Zahavi, an IDF AMAN officer, raped Mustafa Dirani in Prison 504. The beatings and positions she describes are also previously described in testimony by the Public Committee to Prevent Torture in Israel. Therefore, it’s not just conceivable that Rasmea endured the treatment she claims, it’s almost a certainty. Especially given that two Israelis were killed in the bombing.

    In summary, the Shin Bet tried to force her father to rape her. The interrogators themselves raped her and further degraded her sexually. And her father was tortured as a means of compelling her to confess. If this isn’t a perfect portrait of a cause that all feminists should embrace, I don’t know what is. So when Shire claims that Palestine is the farthest thing from what Women’s Strike Day’s mission should be, she’s engaging in willful blindness to the plight of another woman. A woman who happens to be Palestinian.

    Rasmea was tried and convicted in an Israeli military court, which features military judges and prosecutors using rules that favor the prosecution and shackle the hands of the defense. It can rule any evidence secret and so prevent the defense from seeing it, let alone rebutting it. Such a conviction could never withstand scrutiny under U.S. criminal procedures or even Israeli civilian courts.

    Further, Shire justifies her denunciation of Odeh by noting that Israel denies torturing Rasmea. So you have an Israeli security apparatus which is well-known for lying when evidence against it is damning. And you have Rasmea’s testimony, supported by scores of accounts by other security prisoners as to their treatment under similar circumstances. It reminds me of the story of the husband who returns home to find his wife in bed with another man. The man jumps out of bed and says: “Hey, this isn’t what this looks like. Nothing happened. I swear it. Who are you going to believe? Me, or your lyin’ eyes?” Emily Shire prefers to believe the agency that lies to her with a straight face. In doing so, she shows that she is a Zionist first and foremost; and a feminist second, if at all.

    As for the citizenship application infractions which the Justice Department is exploiting in order to expel her from the U.S.: she had been tortured once by Israel. Her decision to hide her previous conviction was surely founded on a fear that she might be deported once again back to Israel or Jordan (where Israel had sent her after her release from prison). The Jordanian security apparatus collaborates closely with Israeli intelligence. The former is quite handy with torture itself. Further, the U.S. judge in her first trial prohibited her attorney from raising torture as part of her defense. Her second trial will explicitly permit such testimony. Though I’m not privy to the defense strategy, I hope it will demand that a Shabak officer who participated in her interrogation testify at trial. And if his testimony diverges from the truth, I hope there is means to document this and hold him accountable. It would be one of the first times such an agent would be held accountable legally either inside or outside Israel.

    In the attacks against Rasmea, it’s certainly reasonable to bring up her participation in an act of terrorism: as long as you also examine the entire case against her. She admitted participation in the attack. But she denied placing the bomb in the supermarket. Despite her denial, this was the crime for which she was convicted. Further, Rasmea was released after serving ten years as part of a prisoner exchange. If Israel saw fit to release her, what is the point of using her alleged past crime against her today?

    As for her membership in a terror organization, she has long since left the militant movement. Her civic activism is solely non-violent these days. Further, virtually every leader of Israel for the first few decades of its existence either participated directly in, or ordered acts of terror against either British or Palestinian targets. Why do we grant to Israel what we deny to Palestinians?

    It may be no accident that two days before Shire’s broadside against the U.S. feminist movement (and Rasmea) in the NY Times, the Chicago Tribune published another hit-piece against her. The latter was credited to a retired Chicago professor. Her bio neglected to mention that she is also a Breitbart contributor who is the local coördinator for StandWithUs. This sin of omission attests either to editorial slacking or a deliberate attempt to conceal relevant biographical details which would permit readers to judge the content of the op-ed in proper context.

    The Tribune op-ed denounces Jewish Voice for Peace’s invitation to Rasmea to address its annual conference in Chicago later this month. As I wrote in last night’s post, what truly irks the Israel Lobby is the growing sense of solidarity among feminist, Jewish, Palestinian, Black and LGBT human rights organizations. Its response is to divide by sowing fear, doubt and lies in the media. The two op-eds in the Times and Tribute are stellar examples of the genre and indicate a coordinated campaign against what they deride as intersectionality.

    #Palestine #femmes #résistance #zionisme

  • Woman who turned over husband’s guns to police after saying she feared for her life gets arrested
    https://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/449877-woman-who-turned-over-husbands-guns-to-police-after-saying-she

    Irby’s husband was reportedly released from police custody a day after his arrest. He was later reportedly ordered by a judge turn over in firearms in his possession as a condition of his pretrial release.

    That’s when Irby reportedly went to her husband’s home to retrieve his firearms and hand them over to police because she said “he wasn’t going to turn them in.” Only, once Irby arrived at the local Lakeland Police Department, she was arrested for the act after police said she admitted to burglary and theft.

    As a result, Irby reportedly spent six days in police custody before she was released on bond.

    #violences

  • Egypt’s Former President Morsi Dies in Court : State TV | News | teleSUR English
    https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/Egypts-Former-PresidentMorsiDies-in-Court-State-TV-20190617-0010.htm

    Egypt’s former President Mohamed Morsi died after fainting during a court hearing.

    Former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has died in court, state television reported Monday.

    It said Morsi had fainted after a court session and died afterward. He was pronounced dead at 4:50 pm local time according to the country’s public prosecutor.

    “He was speaking before the judge for 20 minutes then became very animated and fainted. He was quickly rushed to the hospital where he later died,” a judicial source said.

    “In front of Allah, my father and we shall unite,” wrote Ahmed, Morsi’s son on Facebook.

    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan paid tribute to Morsi saying, "May Allah rest our Morsi brother, our martyr’s soul in peace.”

    According to medical reports, there were no apparent injuries on his body.

    Morsi, who was democratically elected after the popular ouster of Hosni Mubarak, was toppled by the military led by coup leader and current President Abdul-Fattah el-Sissi in 2013 after protests against his rule.

    “We received with great sorrow the news of the sudden death of former president Dr. Mohamed Morsi. I offer my deepest condolences to his family and Egyptian people. We belong to God and to him we shall return,” Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani wrote on Twitter.

    The United Nations spokesperson Stephane Dujarric offered condolences to his supporters and relatives.

    State television said Morsi, who was 67, was in court for a hearing on charges of espionage emanating from suspected contacts with the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas, which controls the Gaza strip that is under blockade by the current Egyptian government and Israel.

    He was facing at least six trials for politically motivated charges according to his supporters. The former president was also serving a 20-years prison sentence for allegedly killing protesters in 2012.

    Morsi was suffering from various health issues including diabetes and liver and kidney disease. During his imprisonment, he suffered from medical neglect worsened by poor prison conditions.

    Mohammed Sudan, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, said that Morsi’s death was "premeditated murder” by not allowing him adequate health care.

    "He has been placed behind [a] glass cage [during trials]. No one can hear him or know what is happening to him. He hasn’t received any visits for months or nearly a year. He complained before that he doesn’t get his medicine. This is premeditated murder. This is a slow death,” Sudan said.

    Morsi was allowed 3 short visits in 6 years. One in November 2013 after being forcibly disappeared for 4 months, and another in June 2017 when only his wife and daughter were allowed, and the third in September 2018 with security official recording the whole conversation.
    — Abdelrahman Ayyash (@3yyash) June 17, 2019

    #Égypte #islamisme #prison

  • Maintaining a Jewish majority: Jerusalem Municipality to demolish entire Palestinian neighborhood, leaving 550 people without a roof over their heads | B’Tselem
    http://www.btselem.org/jerusalem/20190613_wadi_yasul

    Ever since 1967, planning policy in Jerusalem has been geared toward establishing and maintaining a Jewish demographic majority in the city. Under this policy, it is nearly impossible to obtain a building permit in Palestinian neighborhoods. The outline plans the city has prepared for these neighborhoods are largely aimed at restricting and limiting building opportunities in Palestinian neighborhoods. One way the plans do so is by designating vast areas as open green spaces, thereby barring Palestinians from building there. The resulting housing shortage forces Palestinian residents to build without permits. At the turn of the millennium, the city estimated that about 20,000 housing units had been built without a permit in East Jerusalem. This estimate was made before the Separation Barrier cut off Kafr Aqab and Shu’fat Refugee Camp from the city. Since that time, many high-rises have been built in those areas.

    The justices who heard the appeals that residents filed against the demolition orders issued for their homes chose to follow in the footsteps of all previous Israeli courts. They chose to ignore this policy which has been applied openly for more than fifty years. Instead, they focused solely on the question of whether or not the residents had building permits. District Court Judge Chana Miriam Lomp held that, “the residents have no one to blame but themselves,” as they had chosen to build without a permit and did not wait for planning conditions to change. Supreme Court Justice Yosef Elron refused to consider the residents’ arguments regarding planning discrimination and the fact that the Jerusalem Municipality deliberately avoids promoting a plan that would regulate construction in the area, saying they were not pertinent “to a criminal proceeding hearing.”

  • UK rights advocate co-owns firm whose spyware is ’used to target dissidents’
    https://www.theguardian.com/law/2019/jun/14/yana-peel-uk-rights-advocate-serpentine-nso-spyware-pegasus

    A leading human rights campaigner and head of a prestigious London art gallery is the co-owner of an Israeli cyberweapons company whose software has allegedly been used by authoritarian regimes to spy on dissidents, the Guardian can reveal.

    Yana Peel, the chief executive of the Serpentine Galleries and a self-proclaimed champion of free speech, co-owns NSO Group, a $1bn (£790m) Israeli tech firm, according to corporate records in the US and Luxembourg.

    NSO is the subject of multiple ongoing lawsuits and has been criticised by human rights groups, including Amnesty International, which has asked Israel’s ministry of defence to revoke the company’s export licences.

    However, Peel, who has declared the Serpentine a “safe space for unsafe ideas” and served as a judge for international freedom-of-expression awards, defended her stake in NSO, which she has held since February. She described criticism of the company as “misinformed”.

    #surveillance

  • U.S. is using unreliable dental exams to hold teen migrants in adult detention

    The young Bangladeshi sitting in the dentist’s chair last October thought he was getting checked for diseases.

    Dental staff examined his teeth, gave him a cleaning and sent him back to the juvenile facility where he had been held for months since illegally crossing the border in July.

    But a checkup wasn’t the real purpose of the dental work. The government wanted to figure out if “I.J.,” as the young migrant has been identified, really was 16, as he said, or an adult.

    The use of dental exams to help determine the age of migrants increased sharply in the last year, one aspect of the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration and illegal border crossings.

    The accuracy of forensic testing to help determine the age of migrants is very much a subject of the debate. And with the stakes so high, the exams are becoming another legal battleground for the government.

    Federal law prohibits the government from relying exclusively on forensic testing of bones and teeth to determine age. But a review of court records shows that in at least three cases – including I.J.’s – the government did just that, causing federal judges to later order the minors released from adult detention.

    In a case last year, a Guatemalan migrant was held in adult detention for nearly a year after a dental exam showed he was likely 18, until his attorneys fought to get his birth certificate, which proved he was 17.

    For I.J., the results had serious ramifications. Based on the development of his teeth, the analysis showed an 87.70% probability that he had turned 18.

    An immigration official reported that it was apparent to the case manager that I.J. “appeared physically older than 17 years of age,” and that he and his mother had not been able to provide a second type of identification that might prove his age.

    The next month, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents took him away in shackles and placed him in a medium-security prison that houses immigrant detainees.

    He spent about five months in adult detention and 24 of those days in segregated custody. Whenever he spoke with an officer, he would say he was a minor — unaware for more than a month that his teeth had landed him there.

    “I came to the United States with a big dream,” I.J. said. “My dream was finished.”

    But when the Arizona-based Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project took I.J.’s case to federal court, a district judge found that the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s age re-determination violated federal law and the agency’s own guidelines.

    In April, the judge ordered I.J. released back into Office of Refugee Resettlement custody, a program responsible for unaccompanied migrant children. He has since reunited with his family in New York. The Florence Project also filed another case in federal court that resulted in the government voluntarily returning a Bangladeshi minor to ORR custody and rescinding his age re-determination.

    As the government grappled with an influx of the number of families and children arriving at the border in fiscal year 2018, approvals of ORR age determination exams more than doubled.

    These handful of cases where a minor was released from adult detention is almost certainly an undercount, as most migrants held in adult detention do not have legal representation and are unlikely to fight their cases.

    It is unclear how often migrants pretend to be minors and turn out to be adults. In a call with reporters earlier this year, a Customs and Border Protection official said that from April 2018 to March 25 of this year, his agents had identified more than 3,100 individuals in family units making fraudulent claims, including those who misrepresented themselves as minors.

    Unaccompanied minors are given greater protections than adults after being apprehended. The government’s standard refers migrants to adult custody if a dental exam analysis shows at least a 75% probability that they are 18 or older. But other evidence is supposed to be considered.

    Dr. David Senn, the director of the Center for Education and Research in Forensics at UT Health San Antonio, has handled more than 2,000 age cases since 1998.

    A program that Senn helped develop estimates the mean age of a person and the probability that he or she is at least 18. In addition to looking at dental X-rays, he has also looked at skeletal X-rays and analyzed bone development in the hand and wrist area.

    He handled a larger number of cases in the early 2000s, but last year he saw his caseload triple — rising to 168. There appears to be a slowdown this calendar year for Senn, one of a few dentists the government uses for these analyses.

    He said making an exact age determination is not possible.

    “We can only tell you what the statistics say,” Senn said. “I think the really important thing to note is that most people who do this work are not trying to be policemen or to be Border Patrol agents or immigration …. what we’re trying to do is help. What we’re trying to do is protect children.”

    In 2007 and again in 2008, the House Appropriations Committee called on the Department of Homeland Security to stop relying on forensic testing of bones and teeth. But it was the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 that declared age determinations should take into account “multiple forms of evidence, including the non-exclusive use of radiographs.”

    In a Washington state case, an X-ray analysis by Senn showed a 92.55% probability that Bilal, a Somali migrant, already had reached 18 years of age. ICE removed him from his foster home and held him in an adult detention center.

    “Not only were they trying to save themselves money, which they paid to the foster family, but they were wrecking this kid’s life,” said Matt Adams, legal director for the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, which represented Bilal. “They were just rolling the dice.”

    In 2016, a federal judge found that the Office of Refugee Resettlement relied exclusively on the dental exam and overturned the age determination for the young Somali.

    Last year, in the case of an Eritrean migrant who said he was 17, Senn’s analysis of dental X-rays showed a 92.55% probability that he had turned 18, and provided a range of possible ages between 17.10 and 23.70.

    It was enough to prompt his removal from a juvenile facility and placement into an adult one.

    Again, a district judge found that the government had relied exclusively on the dental exam to determine his age and ordered the migrant released back into ORR custody.

    Danielle Bennett, an ICE spokeswoman, said the agency “does not track” information on such reversals.

    “We should never be used as the only method to determine age,” Senn said. “If those agencies are not following their own rules, they should have their feet held to the fire.”

    Similar concerns over medical age assessments have sprung up in other countries, including the United Kingdom and Sweden.

    The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ guidance about how adolescent migrants’ ages should be analyzed says that if countries use scientific procedures to determine age, that they should allow for margins of error. Michael Bochenek, an attorney specializing in children’s rights at Human Rights Watch, said that for adolescents, the margin of error in scientific tests is “so big that it doesn’t tell you anything.”

    An influx of Bangladeshi migrants claiming to be minors has contributed to the government’s recent use of dental exams. From October through March 8, more than 150 Bangladeshis who claimed to be minors and were determined to be adults were transferred from the Office of Refugee Resettlement to ICE custody, according to the agency.

    In fiscal year 2018, Border Patrol apprehensions of Bangladeshi migrants went up 109% over the year before, rising to 1,203. Similarly, the number of Bangladeshi minors in ORR custody increased about 221% between fiscal 2017 and fiscal 2018, reaching 392.

    Ali Riaz, a professor at Illinois State University, said Bangladeshis are leaving the country for reasons including high population density, high unemployment among the young, a deteriorating political environment and the “quest for a better life.”

    In October, Myriam Hillin, an ORR federal field specialist, was told that ICE had information showing that a number of Bangladeshi migrants in their custody claiming to be underage had passports with different birth dates than on their birth certificates.

    Bochenek said it’s common for migrant children to travel with fake passports that make them appear older, because in some countries minors are more likely to be intercepted or questioned by immigration agents.

    While I.J. was able to regain status as a minor, three Bangladeshi migrants who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally in the San Diego area in October 2018 are still trying to convince the government they are underage.

    Their passports didn’t match their birth certificates. Dental exams ordered by immigration officials found that each of them had about an 89% likelihood of being adults.

    “Both subjects were adamant that the passports were given to them by the ‘agent’ (smuggler), however, there is little reason to lie to any of the countries they flew into,” wrote one Border Patrol agent, describing the arrest of two of the migrants. “Also, it is extremely difficult to fake a passport, especially for no reason. I have seen [unaccompanied children] fly into each of the countries (except for Panama and Costa Rica) and pass through with no problem. This is a recent trend with Bangladeshis. They do it in order to be released from DHS custody faster.”

    During interviews, the young migrants, Shahadat, Shahriar and Tareq, told asylum officers that smugglers had given them the passports, according to records from the interviews.

    When asked why they had been given those birth dates, they said it had something to do with smugglers’ plans for their travel.

    “I don’t have that much idea,” Shahadat told an asylum officer, according to the officer’s notes in a summary-style transcript. “When I asked why, they told me that if I don’t give this [date of birth] there will be problems with travel.”

    Shahriar told the officer that the smuggler became aggressive when questioned.

    The migrants have submitted copies of birth certificates, school documents and signed statements from their parents attesting to their claimed birth dates. An online database of birth records maintained by the government of Bangladesh appears to confirm their date of birth claims.

    Shahriar also provided his parents’ birth certificates. If he were as old as immigration officials believe him to be, his mother would have been 12 years old when she had him.

    In each case, immigration officials stood by the passport dates.

    Shahadat and Shahriar are being held in Otay Mesa Detention Center. Tareq was held at the facility for months before being released on a $7,500 bond. All three are moving through the immigration system as adults, with asylum proceedings their only option to stay in the U.S..

    At least one of the migrants, Shahadat, was placed in administrative segregation, a version of solitary confinement in immigration detention, when his age came into question, according to documents provided by their attorney.

    A judge ordered him deported.

    https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-immigrant-age-migrants-ice-dental-teeth-bangladesh-20190602-story.
    #tests_osseux #os #âge #USA #Etats-Unis #mineurs #enfants #enfance #rétention #détention_administrative #dents #migrations #asile #réfugiés #USA #Etats-Unis

  • As Thousands of Taxi Drivers Were Trapped in Loans, Top Officials Counted the Money - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/19/nyregion/taxi-medallions.html

    [Read Part 1 of The Times’s investigation: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers]

    At a cramped desk on the 22nd floor of a downtown Manhattan office building, Gary Roth spotted a looming disaster.

    An urban planner with two master’s degrees, Mr. Roth had a new job in 2010 analyzing taxi policy for the New York City government. But almost immediately, he noticed something disturbing: The price of a taxi medallion — the permit that lets a driver own a cab — had soared to nearly $700,000 from $200,000. In order to buy medallions, drivers were taking out loans they could not afford.

    Mr. Roth compiled his concerns in a report, and he and several colleagues warned that if the city did not take action, the loans would become unsustainable and the market could collapse.

    They were not the only ones worried about taxi medallions. In Albany, state inspectors gave a presentation to top officials showing that medallion owners were not making enough money to support their loans. And in Washington, D.C., federal examiners repeatedly noted that banks were increasing profits by steering cabbies into risky loans.

    They were all ignored.

    Medallion prices rose above $1 million before crashing in late 2014, wiping out the futures of thousands of immigrant drivers and creating a crisis that has continued to ravage the industry today. Despite years of warning signs, at least seven government agencies did little to stop the collapse, The New York Times found.

    Instead, eager to profit off medallions or blinded by the taxi industry’s political connections, the agencies that were supposed to police the industry helped a small group of bankers and brokers to reshape it into their own moneymaking machine, according to internal records and interviews with more than 50 former government employees.

    For more than a decade, the agencies reduced oversight of the taxi trade, exempted it from regulations, subsidized its operations and promoted its practices, records and interviews showed.

    Their actions turned one of the best-known symbols of New York — its signature yellow cabs — into a financial trap for thousands of immigrant drivers. More than 950 have filed for bankruptcy, according to a Times analysis of court records, and many more struggle to stay afloat.

    Remember the ‘10,000 Hours’ Rule for Success? Forget About It
    “Nobody wanted to upset the industry,” said David Klahr, who from 2007 to 2016 held several management posts at the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the city agency that oversees cabs. “Nobody wanted to kill the golden goose.”

    New York City in particular failed the taxi industry, The Times found. Two former mayors, Rudolph W. Giuliani and Michael R. Bloomberg, placed political allies inside the Taxi and Limousine Commission and directed it to sell medallions to help them balance budgets and fund priorities. Mayor Bill de Blasio continued the policies.

    Under Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. de Blasio, the city made more than $855 million by selling taxi medallions and collecting taxes on private sales, according to the city.

    But during that period, much like in the mortgage lending crisis, a group of industry leaders enriched themselves by artificially inflating medallion prices. They encouraged medallion buyers to borrow as much as possible and ensnared them in interest-only loans and other one-sided deals that often required them to pay hefty fees, forfeit their legal rights and give up most of their monthly incomes.

    When the medallion market collapsed, the government largely abandoned the drivers who bore the brunt of the crisis. Officials did not bail out borrowers or persuade banks to soften loan terms.

    “They sell us medallions, and they knew it wasn’t worth price. They knew,” said Wael Ghobrayal, 42, an Egyptian immigrant who bought a medallion at a city auction for $890,000 and now cannot make his loan payments and support his three children.

    “They lost nothing. I lost everything,” he said.

    The Times conducted hundreds of interviews, reviewed thousands of records and built several databases to unravel the story of the downfall of the taxi industry in New York and across the United States. The investigation unearthed a collapse that was years in the making, aided almost as much by regulators as by taxi tycoons.

    Publicly, government officials have blamed the crisis on competition from ride-hailing firms such as Uber and Lyft.

    In interviews with The Times, they blamed each other.

    The officials who ran the city Taxi and Limousine Commission in the run-up to the crash said it was the job of bank examiners, not the commission, to control lending practices.

    The New York Department of Financial Services said that while it supervised some of the banks involved in the taxi industry, it deferred to federal inspectors in many cases.

    The federal agency that oversaw many of the largest lenders in the industry, the National Credit Union Administration, said those lenders were meeting the needs of borrowers.

    The N.C.U.A. released a March 2019 internal audit that scolded its regulators for not aggressively enforcing rules in medallion lending. But even that audit partially absolved the government. The lenders, it said, all had boards of directors that were supposed to prevent reckless practices.

    And several officials criticized Congress, which two decades ago excepted credit unions in the taxi industry from some rules that applied to other credit unions. After that, the officials said, government agencies had to treat those lenders differently.

    Ultimately, former employees said, the regulatory system was set up to ensure that lenders were financially stable, and medallions were sold. But almost nothing protected the drivers.

    Matthew W. Daus, far right, at a hearing of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission in 2004. CreditMarilynn K. Yee/The New York Times
    Matthew W. Daus was an unconventional choice to regulate New York’s taxi industry. He was a lawyer from Brooklyn and a leader of a political club that backed Mr. Giuliani for mayor.

    The Giuliani administration hired him as a lawyer for the Taxi and Limousine Commission before appointing him chairman in 2001, a leadership post he kept after Mr. Bloomberg became mayor in 2002.

    The commission oversaw the drivers and fleets that owned the medallions for the city’s 12,000 cabs. It licensed all participants and decided what cabs could charge, where they could go and which type of vehicle they could use.

    And under Mr. Bloomberg, it also began selling 1,000 new medallions.

    At the time, the mayor said the growing city needed more yellow cabs. But he also was eager for revenue. He had a $3.8 billion hole in his budget.

    The sales put the taxi commission in an unusual position.

    It had a long history of being entangled with the industry. Its first chairman, appointed in 1971, was convicted of a bribery scheme involving an industry lobbyist. Four other leaders since then had worked in the business.

    It often sent staffers to conferences where companies involved in the taxi business paid for liquor, meals and tickets to shows, and at least one past member of its board had run for office in a campaign financed by the industry.

    Still, the agency had never been asked to generate so much money from the business it was supposed to be regulating.

    Former staffers said officials chose to sell medallions with the method they thought would bring in the most revenue: a series of limited auctions that required participants to submit sealed bids above ever-increasing minimums.

    Ahead of the sales, the city placed ads on television and radio, and in newspapers and newsletters, and held seminars promoting the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

    “Medallions have a long history as a solid investment with steady growth,” Mr. Daus wrote in one newsletter. In addition to guaranteed employment, he wrote, “a medallion is collateral that can assist in home financing, college tuition or even ‘worry-free’ retirement.”

    At the first auctions under Mr. Bloomberg in 2004, bids topped $300,000, surprising experts.

    Some former staffers said in interviews they believed the ad campaign inappropriately inflated prices by implying medallions would make buyers rich, no matter the cost. Seven said they complained.

    The city eventually added a disclaimer to ads, saying past performance did not guarantee future results. But it kept advertising.

    During the same period, the city also posted information on its website that said that medallion prices were, on average, 13 percent higher than they really were, according to a Times data analysis.

    In several interviews, Mr. Daus defended the ad campaigns, saying they reached people who had been unable to break into the tight market. The ads were true at the time, he said. He added he had never heard internal complaints about the ads.

    In all, the city held 16 auctions between 2004 and 2014.

    “People don’t realize how organized it is,” Andrew Murstein, president of Medallion Financial, a lender to medallion buyers, said in a 2011 interview with Tearsheet Podcast. “The City of New York, more or less, is our partner because they want to see prices go as high as possible.”

    Help from a federal agency

    New York City made more than $855 million from taxi medallion sales under Mayor Bill de Blasio and his predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg.

    For decades, a niche banking system had grown up around the taxi industry, and at its center were about half a dozen nonprofit credit unions that specialized in medallion loans. But as the auctions continued, the families that ran the credit unions began to grow frustrated.

    Around them, they saw other lenders making money by issuing loans that they could not because of the rules governing credit unions. They recognized a business opportunity, and they wanted in.

    They found a receptive audience at the National Credit Union Administration.

    The N.C.U.A. was the small federal agency that regulated the nation’s credit unions. It set the rules, examined their books and insured their accounts.

    Like the city taxi commission, the N.C.U.A. had long had ties to the industry that it regulated. One judge had called it a “rogue federal agency” focused on promoting the industry.

    In 2004, its chairman was Dennis Dollar, a former Mississippi state representative who had previously worked as the chief executive of a credit union. He had just been inducted into the Mississippi Credit Union Hall of Fame, and he had said one of his top priorities was streamlining regulation.

    Dennis Dollar, the former chairman of the National Credit Union Administration, is now a consultant in the industry. 

    Under Mr. Dollar and others, the N.C.U.A. issued waivers that exempted medallion loans from longstanding rules, including a regulation requiring each loan to have a down payment of at least 20 percent. The waivers allowed the lenders to keep up with competitors and to write more profitable loans.

    Mr. Dollar, who left government to become a consultant for credit unions, said the agency was following the lead of Congress, which passed a law in 1998 exempting credit unions specializing in medallion loans from some regulations. The law signaled that those lenders needed leeway, such as the waivers, he said.

    “If we did not do so, the average cabdriver couldn’t get a medallion loan,” Mr. Dollar said.

    The federal law and the N.C.U.A. waivers were not the only benefits the industry received. The federal government also provided many medallion lenders with financial assistance and guaranteed a portion of their taxi loans, assuring that if those loans failed, they would still be partially paid, according to records and interviews.

    As lenders wrote increasingly risky loans, medallion prices neared $500,000 in 2006.

    ‘Snoozing and napping’

    Under Mr. Bloomberg, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission began selling 1,000 new medallions.

    Another agency was also supposed to be keeping an eye on lending practices. New York State banking regulators are required to inspect all financial institutions chartered in the state. But after 2008, they were forced to focus their attention on the banks most affected by the global economic meltdown, according to former employees.

    As a result, some industry veterans said, the state stopped examining medallion loans closely.

    “The state banking department would come in, and they’d be doing the exam in one room, and the N.C.U.A. would be in another room,” said Larry Fisher, who was then the medallion lending supervisor at Melrose Credit Union, one of the biggest lenders. “And you could catch the state banking department snoozing and napping and going on the internet and not doing much at all.”

    The state banking department, which is now called the New York Department of Financial Services, disputed that characterization and said it had acted consistently and appropriately.

    Former federal regulators described a similar trend at their agencies after the recession.

    Some former employees of the N.C.U.A., the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said that as medallion prices climbed, they tried to raise issues with loans and were told not to worry. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve Board also oversaw some lenders and did not intervene.

    A spokesman for the Federal Reserve said the agency was not a primary regulator of the taxi lending industry. The rest of the agencies declined to comment.

    “It was obvious that the loans were unusual and risky,” said Patrick Collins, a former N.C.U.A. examiner. But, he said, there was a belief inside his agency that the loans would be fine because the industry had been stable for decades.

    Meanwhile, in New York City, the taxi commission reduced oversight.

    For years, it had made medallion purchasers file forms describing how they came up with the money, including details on all loans. It also had required industry participants to submit annual disclosures on their finances, loans and conflicts of interest.

    But officials never analyzed the forms filed by buyers, and in the 2000s, they stopped requiring the annual disclosures altogether.

    “Reviewing these disclosures was an onerous lift for us,” the commission’s communications office said in a recent email.

    By 2008, the price of a medallion rose to $600,000.

    At around the same time, the commission began focusing on new priorities. It started developing the “Taxi of Tomorrow,” a model for future cabs.

    The agency’s main enforcement activities targeted drivers who cheated passengers or discriminated against people of color. “Nobody really scrutinized medallion transfers,” said Charles Tortorici, a former commission lawyer.

    A spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg said in a statement that during the mayor’s tenure, the city improved the industry by installing credit card machines and GPS devices, making fleets more environmentally efficient and creating green taxis for boroughs outside Manhattan.

    “The industry was always its own worst enemy, fighting every reform tooth and nail,” said the spokesman, Marc La Vorgna. “We put our energy and political capital into the reforms that most directly and immediately impacted the riding public.”

    Records show that since 2008, the taxi commission has not taken a single enforcement action against brokers, the powerful players who arrange medallion sales and loans.

    Alex Korenkov, a broker, suggested in an interview that he and other brokers took notice of the city’s hands-off approach.

    “Let’s put it this way,” he said. “If governing body does not care, then free-for-all.”

    By the time that Mr. Roth wrote his report at the Taxi and Limousine Commission in 2010, it was clear that something strange was happening in the medallion market.

    Mr. Daus gave a speech that year that mentioned the unusual lending practices. During the speech, he said banks were letting medallion buyers obtain loans without any down payment. Experts have since said that should have raised red flags. But at the time, Mr. Daus seemed pleased.

    “Some of these folks were offering zero percent down,” he said. “You tell me what bank walks around asking for zero percent down on a loan? It’s just really amazing.”

    In interviews, Mr. Daus acknowledged that the practice was unusual but said the taxi commission had no authority over lending.

    Inside the commission, at least four employees raised concerns about the medallion prices and lending practices, according to the employees, who described their own unease as well as Mr. Roth’s report.

    David S. Yassky, a former city councilman who succeeded Mr. Daus as commission chairman in 2010, said in an interview that he never saw Mr. Roth’s report.

    Mr. Yassky said the medallion prices puzzled him, but he could not determine if they were inflated, in part because people were still eager to buy. Medallions may have been undervalued for decades, and the price spike could have been the market recognizing the true value, he suggested.

    Meera Joshi, who became chairwoman in 2014, said in an interview that she was worried about medallion costs and lending practices but was pushed to prioritize other responsibilities. Dominic Williams, Mr. de Blasio’s chief policy adviser, said the city focused on initiatives such as improving accessibility because no one was complaining about loans.

    Worries about the taxi industry also emerged at the National Credit Union Administration. In late 2011, as the price of some medallions reached $800,000, a group of agency examiners wrote a paper on the risks in the industry, according to a recent report by the agency’s inspector general.

    In 2012, 2013 and 2014, inspectors routinely documented instances of credit unions violating lending rules, the inspector general’s report said.

    David S. Yassky, the former chairman of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission.

    The N.C.U.A. chose not to penalize medallion lenders or impose extra oversight. It did not take any wide industry action until April 2014, when it sent a letter reminding the credit unions in the taxi market to act responsibly.

    Former staffers said the agency was still focused on the fallout from the recession.

    A spokesman for the N.C.U.A. disputed that characterization and said the agency conducted appropriate enforcement.

    He added the agency took actions to ensure the credit unions remained solvent, which was its mission. He said Congress allowed the lenders to concentrate heavily on medallion loans, which left them vulnerable when Uber and Lyft arrived.

    At the New York Department of Financial Services, bank examiners noticed risky practices and interest-only loans and repeatedly wrote warnings starting in 2010, according to the state. At least one report expressed concern of a potential market bubble, the state said.

    Eventually, examiners became so concerned that they made a PowerPoint presentation and called a meeting in 2014 to show it to a dozen top officials.

    “Since 2001, individual medallion has risen 455%,” the presentation warned, according to a copy obtained by The Times. The presentation suggested state action, such as sending a letter to the industry or revoking charters from some lenders.

    The state did neither. The department had recently merged with the insurance department, and former employees said it was finding its footing.

    The department superintendent at the time, Benjamin M. Lawsky, a former aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, said he did not, as a rule, discuss his tenure at the department.

    In an emailed statement, the department denied it struggled after the merger and said it took action to stop the collapse of the medallion market. A department spokesman provided a long list of warnings, suggestions and guidelines that it said examiners had issued to lenders. He said that starting in 2012, the department downgraded some of its own internal ratings of the lenders.

    The list did not include any instances of the department formally penalizing a medallion lender, or making any public statement about the industry before it collapsed.

    Between 2010 and 2014, as officials at every level of government failed to rein in the risky lending practices, records show that roughly 1,500 people bought taxi medallions. Over all, including refinancings of old loans and extensions required by banks, medallion owners signed at least 10,000 loans in that time.

    Several regulators who tried to raise alarms said they believed the government stood aside because of the industry’s connections.

    Many pointed to one company — Medallion Financial, run by the Murstein family. Former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, the current governor’s father, was a paid member of its board from 1996 until he died in 2015.

    Others noted that Mr. de Blasio has long been close to the industry. When he ran for mayor in 2013, an industry lobbyist, Michael Woloz, was a top fund-raiser, records show. And Evgeny Freidman, a major fleet owner who has admitted to artificially inflating medallion prices, has said he is close to the mayor.

    Some people, including Mr. Dollar, the former N.C.U.A. chairman, said Congress excepted the taxi trade from rules because the industry was supported by former United States Senator Alfonse D’Amato of New York, who was then the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

    “The taxi industry is one of the most politically connected industries in the city,” said Fidel Del Valle, who was the chairman of the taxi commission from 1991 to 1994. He later worked as a lawyer for drivers and a consultant to an owner association run by Mr. Freidman. “It’s been that way for decades, and they’ve used that influence to push back on regulation, with a lot of success.”

    A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo said Medallion Financial was not regulated by the state, so the elder Mr. Cuomo’s position on the board was irrelevant. A spokeswoman for Mr. de Blasio said the industry’s connections did not influence the city.

    Mr. Murstein, Mr. Woloz, Mr. Freidman and Mr. D’Amato all declined to comment.

    The aftermath
    “I think city will help me,” Mohammad Hossain, who is in deep debt from a taxi medallion loan, said at his family’s home in the Bronx.

    New York held its final independent medallion auction in February 2014. By then, concerns about medallion prices were common in the news media and government offices, and Uber had established itself. Still, the city sold medallions to more than 150 bidders. (“It’s better than the stock market,” one ad said.)

    Forty percent of the people who bought medallions at that auction have filed for bankruptcy, according to a Times analysis of court records.

    Mohammad Hossain, 47, from Bangladesh, who purchased a medallion for $853,000 at the auction, said he could barely make his monthly payments and was getting squeezed by his lender. “I bought medallion from the city,” he said through tears. “I think city will help me, you know. I assume that.”

    The de Blasio administration’s only major response to the crisis has been to push for a cap on ride-hail cars. The City Council at first rejected a cap in 2015 before approving it last year.

    Taxi industry veterans said the cap did not address the cause of the crisis: the lending practices.

    Richard Weinberg, a taxi commission hearing officer from 1988 to 2002 and a lawyer for drivers since then, said that when the medallion bubble began to burst, the city should have frozen prices, adjusted fares and fees and convinced banks to be flexible with drivers. That could have allowed prices to fall slowly. “That could’ve saved a lot of people,” he said.

    In an interview, Dean Fuleihan, the first deputy mayor, said the city did help taxi owners, including by reducing some fees, taxes and inspection mandates, and by talking to banks about loans. He said that if the City Council had passed the cap in 2015, it would have helped.

    “We do care about those drivers, we care about those families. We attempted throughout this period to take actions,” he said.

    Federal regulators also have not significantly helped medallion owners.

    In 2017 and 2018, the N.C.U.A. closed or merged several credit unions for “unsafe business practices” in medallion lending. It took over many of the loans, but did not soften terms, according to borrowers. Instead, it tried to get money out as quickly as possible.

    The failure of the credit unions has cost the national credit union insurance fund more than $750 million, which will hurt all credit union members.

    In August 2018, the N.C.U.A. closed Melrose in what it said was the biggest credit union liquidation in United States history. The agency barred Melrose’s general counsel from working for credit unions and brought civil charges against its former C.E.O., Alan Kaufman, saying he used company funds to help industry partners in exchange for gifts.

    The general counsel, Mitchell Reiver, declined to answer questions but said he did nothing wrong. Mr. Kaufman said in an interview that the N.C.U.A. made up the charges to distract from its role in the crisis.

    “I’m definitely a scapegoat,” Mr. Kaufman said. “There’s no doubt about it.”

    Glamour, then poverty
    After he struggled to repay his taxi medallion loan, Abel Vela left his family in New York and moved back to Peru, where living costs were cheaper. 

    During the medallion bubble, the city produced a television commercial to promote the permits. In the ad, which aired in 2004, four cabbies stood around a taxi discussing the perks of the job. One said buying a medallion was the best decision he had ever made. They all smiled. Then Mr. Daus appeared on screen to announce an auction.

    Fifteen years later, the cabbies remember the ad with scorn. Three of the four were eventually enticed to refinance their original loans under far riskier terms that left them in heavy debt.

    One of the cabbies, Abel Vela, had to leave his wife and children and return to his home country, Peru, because living costs were lower there. He is now 74 and still working to survive.

    The city aired a commercial in 2004 to promote an upcoming auction of taxi medallions. The ad featured real cab drivers, but three of them eventually took on risky loans and suffered financial blows.
    The only woman in the ad, Marie Applyrs, a Haitian immigrant, fell behind on her loan payments and filed for bankruptcy in November 2017. She lost her cab, and her home. She now lives with her children, switching from home to home every few months.

    “When the ad happened, the taxi was in vogue. I think I still have the tape somewhere. It was glamorous,” she said. “Now, I’m in the poorhouse.”

    Today, the only person from the television commercial still active in the industry is Mr. Daus. He works as a lawyer for lenders.

    [Read Part 1 of The Times’s investigation: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers]

    Madeline Rosenberg contributed reporting. Doris Burke contributed research. Produced by Jeffrey Furticella and Meghan Louttit.

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • Nation’s first opioid trial could set precedent for massive pharma payouts - POLITICO
    https://www.politico.com/story/2019/05/28/opioid-trial-pharma-payouts-1344953

    The Oklahoma trial, which will be broadcast online, is expected to last for much of the summer, putting a national spotlight on the opioid crisis, which is still killing 130 people in the United States every day. The testimony will focus on how much manufacturers of highly addictive painkillers are to blame for getting patients hooked on opioids through misleading medical claims and aggressive marketing practices.

    The trial involving Johnson & Johnson will be closely watched by the hundreds of parties participating in the larger multi-district litigation overseen by U.S. District Court Judge Dan Polster, who has been pushing for a massive settlement before the first of those cases go to trial in the fall.

    “It’s going to be one of the first times that there will be evidence presented in an open forum about how we got to where we are,” said Joe Rice, co-lead counsel in the federal litigation targeting drugmakers and distributors in Ohio. “That’s a big question that a lot of people in the health community want to know. … Why and how did we get here?”

    On Sunday, Oklahoma also announced an $85 million settlement with Teva. That left Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals as the sole remaining defendant, barring a last-minute settlement.

    Purdue and its owners, the Sackler family, settled with Oklahoma for $270 million in March, which some state lawmakers and public health experts condemned as too meager. The biggest chunk of that settlement, $200 million, will be used to establish a new addiction treatment center at the University of Oklahoma. Another $60 million will be paid to attorneys involved in the case, and just $12 million will filter down to cities and towns struggling to deal with the addiction epidemic.

    Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter stressed that the settlement was the best option because of the threat that Purdue would declare bankruptcy and the state might end up with nothing. But that means Oklahoma’s attorneys will have to make the potentially trickier case that other, less notorious players in the opioid pipeline created a “public nuisance” in the state by pushing misleading medical claims.

    #Opioides #Oklahoma #Sackler

  • Liquid used in e-cigarettes damages cells crucial for a healthy heart - EHN
    https://www.ehn.org/vaping-hurts-your-heart-2638041485.html

    The flavors used in e-cigarettes—especially menthol and cinnamon—damage blood vessel cells and such impacts increase heart disease risk, according to a new study.

    The study, published today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, is the latest to link e-cigarettes, or vaping — which has been touted as a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes—to heart problems. It is the first study to test how e-liquids affect the endothelial cells that line the interior of blood vessels. These cells are crucial in delivering the blood supply to the bodies’ tissues and sending cells to promote healthy blood vessels, tissue growth and repair.

    E-cigarettes are small devices that heat up liquids (usually propylene glycol or glycerol) to deliver as aerosol (vape) mixture of nicotine and flavors.

    The study comes as e-cigarette use continues to rise. Roughly 1 in 20 U.S. adults now use e-cigarettes but the real growth is happening among youth: use among U.S. high school students went from 11.7 percent in 2017 to 20.8 percent in 2018, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In addition, about 4.9 percent of middle school students use e-cigarettes, the FDA found.

    The study was limited in that the e-liquids weren’t heated, which could alter how the exposed cells react. The research, however, is just the latest linking e-cigarettes to heart impacts.

    In March, researchers presented a study of nearly 100,000 Americans that found e-cigarette users are more likely to suffer heart attacks and strokes compared to non-users.

    Another large national study in January of 400,000 Americans reported e-cigarette users have a 70 percent higher risk of stroke and a 60 percent higher risk of heart attack, when compared to non-users.

    With use rising, health groups continue to push for more strict regulation. A judge this month ordered the FDA to review all U.S. e-cigarette products.

    The ruling was a response to a federal lawsuit filed by health groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, that alleged the FDA hasn’t adequately regulated e-cigarettes and is leaving a generation of U.S kids on the path to nicotine addiction.

    #Tabac #E_cigarettes #Vaping #Santé_publique

  • Chelsea Manning’s May 10 Video Statement
    https://www.aaronswartzday.org/chelsea-may10

    Chelsea Manning speaks from the heart in a YouTube video on May 10, 2019.
    Chelsea was incarcerated for 63 days for refusing to testify to a Grand Jury.
    28 of those days were under solitary confinement conditions.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDZGRRk4MnM&feature=youtu.be

    Good evening.

    Two months ago, the federal government summoned me before a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia.

    As a general principle, I object to grand juries.

    Prosecutors run grand juries behind closed doors and in secret, without a judge present.

    Therefore, I declined to cooperate or answer any questions.

    Based on my refusal to answer questions, District Court Judge Hilton ordered me held in contempt until the grand jury ended.

    Yesterday, the grand jury expired, and I left the Alexandria Detention Center.

    Throughout this ordeal, an incredible spring of solidarity and love boiled over. I received thousands of letters, including dozens to hundreds of them a day.

    This means the world to me, and keeps me going.

    Jail and prisons exist as a dark stain on our society, with more people confined in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world.

    During my time, I spent 28 days in solitary confinement–a traumatic experience I already endured for a year in prison before.

    Only a few months before reincarceration, I recieved gender confirmation surgery.

    This left my body vulnerable to injury and infection, leading to possible complications that I am now seeking treatment for.

    My absence severely hampers both my public and private life.

    The law requires that civil contempt only be used to coerce witnesses to testify.

    As I cannot be coerced, it instead exists as an additional punishment on top of the seven years I served.

    Last week, I handwrote a statement outlining the fact I will never agree to testify before this or any other grand jury.

    Several of my closest family, friends and colleagues supported this fact.

    Our statements were filed in court.

    The government knows I can’t be coerced.

    When I arrive at the courthouse this coming Thursday, what happened last time will occur again.

    I will not cooperate with this or any other grand jury.

    Throughout the last decade, I accepted full responsibity for my actions.

    Facing jail again, this week, does not change this fact.

    The prosecutors deliberately place me in an impossible situation: I either go to jail, or turn my back on my prisons.

    The truth is, the government can construct no prison worse than to betray my conscience or my principles.

    Thank you, and good night.

  • Refugee, volunteer, prisoner: #Sarah_Mardini and Europe’s hardening line on migration

    Early last August, Sarah Mardini sat on a balcony on the Greek island of Lesvos. As the sun started to fade, a summer breeze rose off the Aegean Sea. She leaned back in her chair and relaxed, while the Turkish coastline, only 16 kilometres away, formed a silhouette behind her.

    Three years before, Mardini had arrived on this island from Syria – a dramatic journey that made international headlines. Now she was volunteering her time helping other refugees. She didn’t know it yet, but in a few weeks that work would land her in prison.

    Mardini had crossed the narrow stretch of water from Turkey in August 2015, landing on Lesvos after fleeing her home in Damascus to escape the Syrian civil war. On the way, she almost drowned when the engine of the inflatable dinghy she was travelling in broke down.

    More than 800,000 people followed a similar route from the Turkish coast to the Greek Islands that year. Almost 800 of them are now dead or missing.

    As the boat Mardini was in pitched and spun, she slipped overboard and struggled to hold it steady in the violent waves. Her sister, Yusra, three years younger, soon joined. Both girls were swimmers, and their act of heroism likely saved the 18 other people on board. They eventually made it to Germany and received asylum. Yusra went on to compete in the 2016 Olympics for the first ever Refugee Olympic Team. Sarah, held back from swimming by an injury, returned to Lesvos to help other refugees.

    On the balcony, Mardini, 23, was enjoying a rare moment of respite from long days spent working in the squalid Moria refugee camp. For the first time in a long time, she was looking forward to the future. After years spent between Lesvos and Berlin, she had decided to return to her university studies in Germany.

    But when she went to the airport to leave, shortly after The New Humanitarian visited her, Mardini was arrested. Along with several other volunteers from Emergency Response Centre International, or ERCI, the Greek non-profit where she volunteered, Mardini was charged with belonging to a criminal organisation, people smuggling, money laundering, and espionage.

    According to watchdog groups, the case against Mardini is not an isolated incident. Amnesty International says it is part of a broader trend of European governments taking a harder line on immigration and using anti-smuggling laws to de-legitimise humanitarian assistance to refugees and migrants.

    Far-right Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini recently pushed through legislation that ends humanitarian protection for migrants and asylum seekers, while Italy and Greece have ramped up pressure on maritime search and rescue NGOs, forcing them to shutter operations. At the end of March, the EU ended naval patrols in the Mediterranean that had saved the lives of thousands of migrants.

    In 2016, five other international volunteers were arrested on Lesvos on similar charges to Mardini. They were eventually acquitted, but dozens of other cases across Europe fit a similar pattern: from Denmark to France, people have been arrested, charged, and sometimes successfully prosecuted under anti-smuggling regulations based on actions they took to assist migrants.

    Late last month, Salam Kamal-Aldeen, a Danish national who founded the rescue non-governmental organisation Team Humanity, filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights, challenging what he says is a Greek crackdown on lifesaving activities.

    According to Maria Serrano, senior campaigner on migration at Amnesty International, collectively the cases have done tremendous damage in terms of public perception of humanitarian work in Europe. “The atmosphere… is very hostile for anyone that is trying to help, and this [has a] chilling effect on other people that want to help,” she said.

    As for the case against Mardini and the other ERCI volunteers, Human Rights Watch concluded that the accusations are baseless. “It seems like a bad joke, and a scary one as well because of what the implications are for humanitarian activists and NGOs just trying to save people’s lives,” said Bill Van Esveld, who researched the case for HRW.

    While the Lesvos prosecutor could not be reached for comment, the Greek police said in a statement after Mardini’s arrest that she and other aid workers were “active in the systematic facilitation of illegal entrance of foreigners” – a violation of the country’s Migration Code.

    Mardini spent 108 days in pre-trial detention before being released on bail at the beginning of December. The case against her is still open. Her lawyer expects news on what will happen next in June or July. If convicted, Mardini could be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison.

    “It seems like a bad joke, and a scary one as well because of what the implications are for humanitarian activists and NGOs just trying to save people’s lives.”

    Return to Lesvos

    The arrest and pending trial are the latest in a series of events, starting with the beginning of the Syrian war in 2011, that have disrupted any sense of normalcy in Mardini’s life.

    Even after making it to Germany in 2015, Mardini never really settled in. She was 20 years old and in an unfamiliar city. The secure world she grew up in had been destroyed, and the future felt like a blank and confusing canvas. “I missed Syria and Damascus and just this warmness in everything,” she said.

    While wading through these emotions, Mardini received a Facebook message in 2016 from an ERCI volunteer. The swimming sisters from Syria who saved a boat full of refugees were an inspiration. Volunteers on Lesvos told their story to children on the island to give them hope for the future, the volunteer said, inviting Mardini to visit. “It totally touched my heart,” Mardini recalled. “Somebody saw me as a hope… and there is somebody asking for my help.”

    So Mardini flew back to Lesvos in August 2016. Just one year earlier she had nearly died trying to reach the island, before enduring a journey across the Balkans that involved hiding from police officers in forests, narrowly escaping being kidnapped, sneaking across tightly controlled borders, and spending a night in police custody in a barn. Now, all it took was a flight to retrace the route.

    Her first day on the island, Mardini was trained to help refugees disembark safely when their boats reached the shores. By nighttime, she was sitting on the beach watching for approaching vessels. It was past midnight, and the sea was calm. Lights from the Turkish coastline twinkled serenely across the water. After about half an hour, a walkie talkie crackled. The Greek Coast Guard had spotted a boat.

    Volunteers switched on the headlights of their cars, giving the refugees something to aim for. Thin lines of silver from the reflective strips on the refugees’ life jackets glinted in the darkness, and the rumble of a motor and chatter of voices drifted across the water. As the boat came into view, volunteers yelled: “You are in Greece. You are safe. Turn the engine off.”

    Mardini was in the water again, holding the boat steady, helping people disembark. When the rush of activity ended, a feeling of guilt washed over her. “I felt it was unfair that they were on a refugee boat and I’m a rescuer,” she said.

    But Mardini was hooked. She spent the next two weeks assisting with boat landings and teaching swimming lessons to the kids who idolised her and her sister. Even after returning to Germany, she couldn’t stop thinking about Lesvos. “I decided to come back for one month,” she said, “and I never left.”
    Moria camp

    The island became the centre of Mardini’s life. She put her studies at Bard College Berlin on hold to spend more time in Greece. “I found what I love,” she explained.

    Meanwhile, the situation on the Greek islands was changing. In 2017, just under 30,000 people crossed the Aegean Sea to Greece, compared to some 850,000 in 2015. There were fewer arrivals, but those who did come were spending more time in camps with dismal conditions.

    “You have people who are dying and living in a four-metre tent with seven relatives. They have limited access to water. Hygiene is zero. Privacy is zero. Security: zero. Children’s rights: zero. Human rights: zero… You feel useless. You feel very useless.”

    The volunteer response shifted accordingly, towards the camps, and when TNH visited Mardini she moved around the island with a sense of purpose and familiarity, joking with other volunteers and greeting refugees she knew from her work in the streets.

    Much of her time was spent as a translator for ERCI’s medical team in Moria. The camp, the main one on Lesvos, was built to accommodate around 3,000 people, but by 2018 housed close to 9,000. Streams of sewage ran between tents. People were forced to stand in line for hours for food. The wait to see a doctor could take months, and conditions were causing intense psychological strain. Self-harm and suicide attempts were increasing, especially among children, and sexual and gender-based violence were commonplace.

    Mardini was on the front lines. “What we do in Moria is fighting the fire,” she said. “You have people who are dying and living in a four-metre tent with seven relatives. They have limited access to water. Hygiene is zero. Privacy is zero. Security: zero. Children’s rights: zero. Human rights: zero… You feel useless. You feel very useless.”

    By then, Mardini had been on Lesvos almost continuously for nine months, and it was taking a toll. She seemed to be weighed down, slipping into long moments of silence. “I’m taking in. I’m taking in. I’m taking in. But it’s going to come out at some point,” she said.

    It was time for a break. Mardini had decided to return to Berlin at the end of the month to resume her studies and make an effort to invest in her life there. But she planned to remain connected to Lesvos. “I love this island… the sad thing is that it’s not nice for everybody. Others see it as just a jail.”
    Investigation and Arrest

    The airport on Lesvos is on the shoreline close to where Mardini helped with the boat landing her first night as a volunteer. On 21 August, when she went to check in for her flight to Berlin, she was surrounded by five Greek police officers. “They kind of circled around me, and they said that I should come with [them],” Mardini recalled.

    Mardini knew that the police on Lesvos had been investigating her and some of the other volunteers from ERCI, but at first she still didn’t realise what was happening. Seven months earlier, in February 2018, she was briefly detained with a volunteer named Sean Binder, a German national. They had been driving one of ERCI’s 4X4s when police stopped them, searched the vehicle, and found Greek military license plates hidden under the civilian plates.

    When Mardini was arrested at the airport, Binder turned himself in too, and the police released a statement saying they were investigating 30 people – six Greeks and 24 foreigners – for involvement in “organised migrant trafficking rings”. Two Greek nationals, including ERCI’s founder, were also arrested at the time.

    While it is still not clear what the plates were doing on the vehicle, according Van Esveld from HRW, “it does seem clear… neither Sarah or Sean had any idea that these plates were [there]”.

    The felony charges against Mardini and Binder were ultimately unconnected to the plates, and HRW’s Van Esveld said the police work appears to either have been appallingly shoddy or done in bad faith. HRW took the unusual step of commenting on the ongoing case because it appeared authorities were “literally just [taking] a humanitarian activity and labelling it as a crime”, he added.
    Detention

    After two weeks in a cell on Lesvos, Mardini was sent to a prison in Athens. On the ferry ride to the mainland, her hands were shackled. That’s when it sank in: “Ok, it’s official,” she thought. “They’re transferring me to jail.”

    In prison, Mardini was locked in a cell with eight other women from 8pm to 8am. During the day, she would go to Greek classes and art classes, drink coffee with other prisoners, and watch the news.

    She was able to make phone calls, and her mother, who was also granted asylum in Germany, came to visit a number of times. “The first time we saw each other we just broke down in tears,” Mardini recalled. It had been months since they’d seen each other, and now they could only speak for 20 minutes, separated by a plastic barrier.

    Most of the time, Mardini just read, finishing more than 40 books, including Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, which helped her come to terms with her situation. “I decided this is my life right now, and I need to get something out of it,” she explained. “I just accepted what’s going on.”

    People can be held in pre-trial detention for up to 18 months in Greece. But at the beginning of December, a judge accepted Mardini’s lawyer’s request for bail. Binder was released the same day.
    Lingering fear

    On Lesvos, where everyone in the volunteer community knows each other, the case came as a shock. “People started to be... scared,” said Claudia Drost, a 23-year-old from the Netherlands and close friend of Mardini’s who started volunteering on the island in 2016. “There was a feeling of fear that if the police… put [Mardini] in prison, they can put anyone in prison.”

    “We are standing [up] for what we are doing because we are saving people and we are helping people.”

    That feeling was heightened by the knowledge that humanitarians across Europe were being charged with crimes for helping refugees and migrants.

    During the height of the migration crisis in Europe, between the fall of 2015 and winter 2016, some 300 people were arrested in Denmark on charges related to helping refugees. In August 2016, French farmer Cédric Herrou was arrested for helping migrants and asylum seekers cross the French-Italian border. In October 2017, 12 people were charged with facilitating illegal migration in Belgium for letting asylum seekers stay in their homes and use their cellphones. And last June, the captain of a search and rescue boat belonging to the German NGO Mission Lifeline was arrested in Malta and charged with operating the vessel without proper registration or license.

    Drost said that after Mardini was released the fear faded a bit, but still lingers. There is also a sense of defiance. “We are standing [up] for what we are doing because we are saving people and we are helping people,” Drost said.

    As for Mardini, the charges have forced her to disengage from humanitarian work on Lesvos, at least until the case is over. She is back in Berlin and has started university again. “I think because I’m not in Lesvos anymore I’m just finding it very good to be here,” she said. “I’m kind of in a stable moment just to reflect about my life and what I want to do.”

    But she also knows the stability could very well be fleeting. With the prospect of more time in prison hanging over her, the future is still a blank canvas. People often ask if she is optimistic about the case. “No,” she said. “In the first place, they put me in… jail.”

    https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/feature/2019/05/02/refugee-volunteer-prisoner-sarah-mardini-and-europe-s-hardening-
    #criminalisation #délit_de_solidarité #asile #migrations #solidarité #réfugiés #Grèce #Lesbos #Moria #camps_de_réfugiés #Europe

    Avec une frise chronologique:

    ping @reka

  • The family that took on Monsanto: ’They should’ve been with us in the chemo ward’ | Business | The Guardian
    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/apr/10/edwin-hardeman-monsanto-trial-interview

    Becoming ‘the face’ of the fight
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    Edwin Hardeman and his wife, Mary, never expected that they would become de facto leaders of the federal court fight against the world’s most widely used weedkiller. They just wanted Monsanto to acknowledge the dangers – and potentially save other families from the horror they endured.

    “This is something that was egregious to me. It was my personal battle and I wanted to take it full circle,” said Edwin, whose cancer is now in remission. “It’s been a long journey.”

    Mary bristled when she thought about Monsanto’s continued defense of its chemical: “They should have been with us when we were in the chemo ward … not knowing what to do to relieve the pain.

    “I get angry,” she added. “Very angry.”

    Monsanto first put Roundup on the market in 1974, presenting the herbicide, which uses a chemical called glyphosate, as a breakthrough that was effective at killing weeds and safe. The product has earned the corporation billions in revenue a year, and glyphosate is now ubiquitous in the environment – with traces in water, food and farmers’ urine.

    Hardeman didn’t recognize the term glyphosate when he saw the news report about the Iarc ruling on TV. At that time, the chemotherapy side effects had devastated him – causing violent nausea, swelling that made his face unrecognizable and terrifying feelings of electric shocks jolting his body.

    But when he realized that glyphosate was the main ingredient in Roundup and that research suggested it could be responsible for his form of NHL, diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, it clicked: “It just hit me. There’s something going on here.”

    He filed a lawsuit in February 2016. So did hundreds of other cancer survivors and families who lost loved ones, and many of the parallel suits were consolidated as one case under federal judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco.

    The judge selected Hardeman to be first – the so-called “bellwether” trial, meaning it would be the official test case that would inform future litigation and potentially impact settlements for others.

    It was a lot of pressure.

    “Learning I was going to be the plaintiff, the one, the face of the … litigation, was a shock,” he said.

    The unsealed emails and documents suggested that Monsanto had an aggressive PR strategy for years that involved attacking negative research and ghostwriting and pushing favorable studies.

    In one email, a Monsanto executive advised others in the company to be cautious about how they describe the safety of the product, warning: “You cannot say that Roundup is not a carcinogen … we have not done the necessary testing on the formulation to make that statement.”
    Edwin and his wife, Mary, never expected that they would become de facto leaders of the federal court fight against the world’s most widely used weedkiller.

    Edwin and his wife, Mary, never expected that they would become de facto leaders of the federal court fight against the world’s most widely used weedkiller. Photograph: Brian Frank/The Guardian

    Monsanto officials also privately talked about the company writing science papers that would be officially authored by researchers, with one email saying: “We would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing and they would just edit and sign their names.” The internal documents also shined a harsh light on Monsanto’s cozy relationship with US regulators and its media campaign to combat the Iarc ruling.

    (The company has said it was open about its involvement in research.)

    One executive eventually revealed that the company had a roughly $17m budget for PR and public affairs related to Iarc and glyphosate.

    The unusual and severe limitations made the message of the victory all the more powerful, Wagstaff said in an interview: “We were forced, over our objections, to argue just the science. Any argument by Bayer or Monsanto that this was a sympathetic jury to Mr Hardeman … is just not supported by the facts.”

    Mary, who was home sick the day the jury announced, first saw the verdict on Twitter before her husband could break the news: “I let out a scream. It’s a wonder one of my neighbors didn’t come in.”

    With the cancer science proven, Hardeman’s legal team was finally allowed to present evidence and arguments about Monsanto’s “despicable” and “reckless” behavior – and that was a success, too. The jury ruled Monsanto was negligent and owed him $80m in damages.

    Within minutes of the final verdict, a Bayer spokesperson issued a response: The company would appeal.

    In US federal court, there are around 1,200 plaintiffs with similar Roundup cancer cases – and roughly 11,000 nationwide. Despite two jury rulings saying Roundup causes cancer, the corporation’s defense has not changed: Roundup is safe for use.

    “We continue to believe strongly in the extensive body of reliable science that supports the safety of Roundup and on which regulators around the world continue to base their own favorable assessments,” a Bayer spokesperson told the Guardian. “Our customers have relied on these products for more than 40 years and we are gratified by their continued support.”

    Bayer, which has faced backlash from investors and a share price drop in the wake of the Roundup controversy, could be pushed to negotiate a massive settlement with plaintiffs following Hardeman’s victory.

    Hardeman said the very least the company could do is warn consumers: “Give us a chance to decide whether we want to use it or not … Have some compassion for people.”

    Hardeman said it also disturbed him that Bayer and Monsanto still have not done their own study on the carcinogenicity of Roundup, even after all these years. (Monsanto has said the company has gone beyond what was required in testing glyphosate exposure risks.)

    “I worry about the younger generation,” Hardeman said. “Why haven’t you tested this product? Why, why, why? You’ve got the money. Are you afraid of the answer?”

    #Roundup #Perturbateurs_endocriniens #Pesticides #Monsanto #Bayer

  • #Venezuela : du fait des sanctions états-uniennes, le Venezuela est dans l’impossibilité de régler les indemnités d’expropriation de mines d’or. Les sociétés créancières essaient de mettre la main sur la pépite de PDVSA, sa filiale pétrolière aux É.-U. (article de décembre 2018)
    Venezuela’s deals to shield Citgo from creditors now in doubt - Reuters
    https://fr.reuters.com/article/bondsNews/idUKL1N1YG26B

    Venezuela is facing the possible unraveling of a pair of billion-dollar settlements aimed at protecting the cash-strapped country’s U.S.-based Citgo Petroleum Corp from seizure by creditors.

    A lawyer for Canadian mining company Crystallex International Corp said on Tuesday Venezuela had breached the $1.4 billion November agreement that resolved a long-running fight over an expropriated gold mine.

    Separately, Venezuela’s $1.3 billion settlement in October with Rusoro Mining of Vancouver, also over expropriated mining assets, has been upended by U.S. sanctions on Caracas, a source told Reuters.

    Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

    Both companies had their sights on getting a U.S. court order to auction the parent company of Citgo, which is indirectly owned by Venezuela through its state oil company, PDVSA.

    • Après avoir éjecté du procès PDVSA, maison mère de Citgo, comme n’ayant pas intérêt à agir, un juge états-unien accède à la requête de Juan Guaidó en lui reconnaissant un intérêt à agir en tant que représentant légitime du Venezuela et en accordant un délai de 120 jours pour préparer l’argumentaire juridique.

      U.S. court allows Venezuela’s Guaido to argue in Crystallex case - Reuters
      https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-politics-crystallex-idUSKCN1R22C4

      In a March 20 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit said Guaido’s representatives could request a stay in the dispute with Crystallex, which is going after Citgo to collect on an arbitration award in compensation for Venezuela’s expropriation of a gold mining project.

      We grant the Republic of Venezuela’s motion to intervene,” Judge Thomas Ambro wrote, referring to a March 1 request by Venezuela’s lawyers for a 120-day stay to allow Guaido’s interim government “sufficient time to evaluate its position in this and other cases.

  • Purdue’s Sackler family fights ’inflammatory’ Massachusetts opioid case | Reuters
    https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-opioids-litigation/purdues-sackler-family-fights-inflammatory-massachusetts-opioid-case-idUSL1

    La nouvelle bataille juridique des Sackler : expliquer qu’ils étaient juste les crétins utiles de Purdue Pharma votant les budgets.

    BOSTON, April 2 (Reuters) - Members of the Sackler family behind OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP have asked a judge to toss a lawsuit by Massachusetts’ attorney general claiming they helped fuel the U.S. opioid epidemic, arguing it contains “misleading and inflammatory allegations.”

    The wealthy family in a motion on Monday argued that Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who brought the suit, had mischaracterized internal records to create the “false impression” they personally directed privately-held Purdue’s marketing of painkillers.

    Her lawsuit, filed in June in Suffolk County Superior Court and revised earlier this year to include new allegations, was the first by a state to try to hold Sackler family members personally responsible for contributing to the opioid epidemic.

    The case is among roughly 2,000 lawsuits filed by state and local governments seeking to hold Purdue and other pharmaceutical companies responsible for the U.S. opioid crisis.

    Opioids were involved in a record 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017 in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Healey’s complaint cites records to argue that family members, including Purdue’s former President Richard Sackler, personally directed deceptive opioid marketing while making $4.2 billion from Purdue from 2008 to 2016.

    They did so even after Purdue and three executives in 2007 pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the misbranding of OxyContin and agreed to pay a total of $634.5 million in penalties, the lawsuit said.

    Advertisement

    But in their motion, the Sacklers said nothing in the complaint supports allegations they personally took part in efforts to mislead doctors and the public about the benefits and addictive risks of opioids.

    They said their role was limited to that of typical corporate board members who participated in “routine” votes to ratify the management’s staffing and budget proposals.

    “Not a single document shows an individual director engaging in any unlawful conduct regarding the sale of prescription opioids or ordering anyone else to do so,” the Sacklers’ lawyers wrote.

    Healey’s office had no comment.

    At least 35 states have cases pending against Purdue. A handful have also named Sackler family members as defendants, including Richard Sackler, Theresa Sackler and Mortimer D.A. Sackler.

    Last week, Purdue reached its first settlement in the recent wave of lawsuits, agreeing with the Sacklers to a $270 million deal with Oklahoma’s attorney general. The Sacklers were not named as defendants in Oklahoma’s lawsuit.

    Purdue had been exploring filing for bankruptcy before the accord’s announcement, Reuters reported in early March. (Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston Editing by Noeleen Walder and Tom Brown)

    #Opioides #Sackler #Cynisme

  • U.S. judge scraps Trump order opening Arctic, Atlantic areas to oil leasing | Reuters
    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-oil-trump-leases-idUSKCN1RB0FP

    A federal judge in Alaska has overturned U.S. President Donald Trump’s attempt to open vast areas of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans to oil and gas leasing.

    The decision issued late Friday by U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason leaves intact President Barack Obama’s policies putting the Arctic’s Chukchi Sea, part of the Arctic’s Beaufort Sea and a large swath of Atlantic Ocean off the U.S. East Coast off-limits to oil leasing.

    Trump’s attempt to undo Obama’s protections was “unlawful” and a violation of the federal Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, Gleason ruled. Presidents have the power under that law to withdraw areas from the national oil and gas leasing program, as Obama did, but only Congress has the power to add areas to the leasing program, she said.

  • ’Endless trip to hell’: Israel jails hundreds of Palestinian boys a year. These are their testimonies - Israel News - Haaretz.com

    (C’est sous paywall)

    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium.MAGAZINE--1.7021978

    They’re seized in the dead of night, blindfolded and cuffed, abused and manipulated to confess to crimes they didn’t commit. Every year Israel arrests almost 1,000 Palestinian youngsters, some of them not yet 13

    #palestine #israel #enfants #violence

    • ’Endless trip to hell’: Israel jails hundreds of Palestinian boys a year. These are their testimonies
      They’re seized in the dead of night, blindfolded and cuffed, abused and manipulated to confess to crimes they didn’t commit. Every year Israel arrests almost 1,000 Palestinian youngsters, some of them not yet 13
      Netta Ahituv | Mar. 14, 2019 | 9:14 PM | 2

      It was a gloomy, typically chilly late-February afternoon in the West Bank village of Beit Ummar, between Bethlehem and Hebron. The weather didn’t deter the children of the Abu-Ayyash family from playing and frolicking outside. One of them, in a Spiderman costume, acted the part by jumping lithely from place to place. Suddenly they noticed a group of Israeli soldiers trudging along the dirt trail across the way. Instantly their expressions turned from joy to dread, and they rushed into the house. It’s not the first time they reacted like that, says their father. In fact, it’s become a pattern ever since 10-year-old Omar was arrested by troops this past December.

      The 10-year-old is one of many hundreds of Palestinian children whom Israel arrests every year: The estimates range between 800 and 1,000. Some are under the age of 15; some are even preteens. A mapping of the locales where these detentions take place reveals a certain pattern: The closer a Palestinian village is to a settlement, the more likely it is that the minors residing there will find themselves in Israeli custody. For example, in the town of Azzun, west of the Karnei Shomron settlement, there’s hardly a household that hasn’t experienced an arrest. Residents say that in the past five years, more than 150 pupils from the town’s only high school have been arrested.

      At any given moment, there are about 270 Palestinian teens in Israeli prisons. The most widespread reason for their arrest – throwing stones – does not tell the full story. Conversations with many of the youths, as well as with lawyers and human rights activists, including those from the B’Tselem human-rights organization, reveal a certain pattern, even as they leave many questions open: For example, why does the occupation require that arrests be violent and why is it necessary to threaten young people.

      A number of Israelis, whose sensibilities are offended by the arrests of Palestinian children, have decided to mobilize and fight the phenomenon. Within the framework of an organization called Parents Against Child Detention, its approximately 100 members are active in the social networks and hold public events “in order to heighten awareness about the scale of the phenomenon and the violation of the rights of Palestinian minors, and in order to create a pressure group that will work for its cessation,” as they explain. Their target audience is other parents, whom they hope will respond with empathy to the stories of these children.

      In general, there seems to be no lack of criticism of the phenomenon. In addition to B’Tselem, which monitors the subject on a regular basis, there’s been a protest from overseas, too. In 2013, UNICEF, the United Nations agency for children, assailed “the ill treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system, [which] appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized.” A report a year earlier from British legal experts concluded that the conditions the Palestinian children are subjected to amount to torture, and just five months ago the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe deplored Israel’s policy of arresting underage children, declaring, “An end must be put to all forms of physical or psychological abuse of children during arrest, transit and waiting periods, and during interrogations.”

      Arrest

      About half of the arrests of Palestinian adolescents are made in their homes. According to the testimonies, Israel Defense Forces soldiers typically burst into the house in the middle of the night, seize the wanted youth and whisk him away (very few girls are detained), leaving the family with a document stating where he’s being taken and on what charge. The printed document is in Arabic and Hebrew, but the commander of the force typically fills out the details in Hebrew only, then hands it to parents who may not be able to read it and don’t know why their son was taken.

      Attorney Farah Bayadsi asks why it’s necessary to arrest children in this manner, instead of summoning them for questioning in an orderly way. (The data show that only 12 percent of the youths receive a summons to be interrogated.)

      “I know from experience that whenever someone is asked to come in for questioning, he goes,” Bayadsi notes. She’s active in the Israeli branch of Defense for Children International, a global NGO that deals with the detention of minors and promotion of their rights.

      “The answer we generally get,” she says, “is that, ‘It’s done this way for security reasons.’ That means it’s a deliberate method, which isn’t intended to meet the underage youth halfway, but to cause him a lifelong trauma.”

      Indeed, as the IDF Spokesman’s Unit stated to Haaretz, in response, “The majority of the arrests, of both adults and minors, are carried out at night for operational reasons and due to the desire to preserve an orderly fabric of life and execute point-specific actions wherever possible.”

      About 40 percent of the minors are detained in the public sphere – usually in the area of incidents involving throwing stones at soldiers. That was the case with Adham Ahsoun, from Azzun. At the time, he was 15 and on his way home from a local grocery store. Not far away, a group of children had started throwing stones at soldiers, before running off. Ahsoun, who didn’t flee, was detained and taken to a military vehicle; once inside, he was hit by a soldier. A few children who saw what happened ran to his house to tell his mother. Grabbing her son’s birth certificate, she rushed to the entrance to the town to prove to the soldiers that he was only a child. But it was too late; the vehicle had already departed, headed to an army base nearby, where he would wait to be interrogated.

      By law, soldiers are supposed to handcuff children with their hands in front, but in many cases it’s done with their hands behind them. Additionally, sometimes the minor’s hands are too small for handcuffing, as a soldier from the Nahal infantry brigade told the NGO Breaking the Silence. On one occasion, he related, his unit arrested a boy “of about 11,” but the handcuffs were too big to bind his small hands.

      The next stage is the journey: The youths are taken to an army base or a police station in a nearby settlement, their eyes covered with flannelette. “When your eyes are covered, your imagination takes you to the most frightening places,” says a lawyer who represents young Palestinians. Many of those arrested don’t understand Hebrew, so that once pushed into the army vehicle they are completely cut off from what’s going on around them.

      In most cases, the handcuffed, blindfolded youth will be moved from place to place before actually being interrogated. Sometimes he’s left outside, in the open, for a time. In addition to the discomfort and the bewilderment, the frequent moving around presents another problem: In the meantime many acts of violence, in which soldiers beat the detainees, take place and go undocumented.

      Once at the army base or police station, the minor is placed, still handcuffed and blindfolded, on a chair or on the floor for a few hours, generally without being given anything to eat. The “endless trip to hell” is how Bayadsi describes this process. Memory of the incident, she adds, “is still there even years after the boy’s release. It implants in him an ongoing feeling of a lack of security, which will stay with him for his whole life.”

      Testimony provided to Breaking the Silence by an IDF staff sergeant about one incident in the West Bank illustrates the situation from the other side: “It was the first night of Hanukkah in 2017. Two children were throwing stones on Highway 60, on the road. So we grabbed them and took them to the base. Their eyes were covered with flannelette, and they were handcuffed in front with plastic cuffs. They looked young, between 12 and 16 years old.”

      When the soldiers gathered to light the first candle of the Hanukkah holiday, the detainees remained outside. “We’re shouting and making noise and using drums, which is a kind of company thing,” the soldier recalled, noting that he assumed the kids didn’t know Hebrew, although maybe they did understand the curses they heard. “Let’s say sharmuta [slut] and other words they might know from Arabic. How could they know we aren’t talking about them? They’ll probably thought that in another minute we were going to cook them.”

      Interrogation

      The nightmare can be of differing duration, the former detainees relate. Three to eight hours after the arrest, by which time the youth is tired and hungry – and sometimes in pain after being hit, frightened by threats and not even knowing why he’s there – he’s taken in for interrogation. This may be the first time the blindfold is removed and his hands freed. The process usually starts with a general question, such as, “Why do you throw stones at soldiers?” The rest is more intense – a barrage of questions and threats, aimed at getting the teen to sign a confession. In some cases, he’s promised that if he signs he’ll be given something to eat.

      According to the testimonies, the interrogators’ threats are directed squarely at the boy (“You’ll spend your whole life in jail”), or at his family (“I’ll bring your mother here and kill her before your eyes”), or at the family’s livelihood (“If you don’t confess, we’ll take away your father’s permit to work in Israel – because of you, he’ll be out of work and the whole family will go hungry”).

      “The system shows that the intention here is more to demonstrate control than to engage in enforcement,” suggests Bayadsi. “If the boy confesses, there’s a file; if he doesn’t confess, he enters the criminal circle anyway and is seriously intimidated.”

      Imprisonment

      Whether the young detainee has signed a confession or not, the next stop is prison. Either Megiddo, in Lower Galilee, or Ofer, north of Jerusalem. Khaled Mahmoud Selvi was 15 when he was brought to prison in October 2017 and was told to disrobe for a body search (as in 55 percent of the cases). For 10 minutes he was made to stand naked, along with another boy, and in winter.

      The months in detention, waiting for trial, and later, if they are sentenced, are spent in the youth wing of the facilities for security prisoners. “They don’t speak with their families for months and are allowed one visit a month, through glass,” Bayadsi relates.

      Far fewer Palestinian girls are arrested than boys. But there is no facility specially for them, so they are held in the Sharon prison for women, together with the adults.

      The trial

      The courtroom is usually the place where parents have their first sight of their child, sometimes several weeks after the arrest. Tears are the most common reaction to the sight of the young detainee, who will be wearing a prison uniform and handcuffs, and with a cloud of uncertainty hovering over everything. Israel Prisons Service guards don’t allow the parents to approach the youth, and direct them to sit on the visitors’ bench. Defense counsel is paid for either by the family or by the Palestinian Authority.

      At a recent remand hearing for several detainees, one boy didn’t stop smiling at the sight of his mother, while another lowered his eyes, perhaps to conceal tears. Another detainee whispered to his grandmother, who had come to visit him, “Don’t worry, tell everyone I’m fine.” The next boy remained silent and watched as his mother mouthed to him, “Omari, I love you.”

      While the children and their family try to exchange a few words and looks, the proceedings move along. As though in a parallel universe.

      The deal

      The vast majority of trials for juveniles ends in a plea bargain – safka in Arabic, a word Palestinian children know well. Even if there is no hard evidence to implicate the boy in stone-throwing, a plea is often the preferred option. If the detainee doesn’t agree to it, the trial could last a long time and he will be held in custody until the proceedings end.

      Conviction depends almost entirely on evidence from a confession, says lawyer Gerard Horton, from the British-Palestinian Military Court Watch, whose brief, according to its website, involves “monitoring the treatment of children in Israeli military detention.” According to Horton, who is based in Jerusalem, the minors will be more prone to confess if they don’t know their rights, are frightened and get no support or relief until they confess. Sometimes a detainee who does not confess will be told that he can expect to face a series of court appearances. At some stage, even the toughest youth will despair, the lawyer explains.

      The IDF Spokesman’s Unit stated in response: “The minors are entitled to be represented by an attorney, like any other accused, and they have the right to conduct their defense in any way they choose. Sometimes they choose to admit to guilt within the framework of a plea bargain but if they plead not guilty, a procedure involving hearing evidence is conducted, like the proceedings conducted in [civilian courts in] Israel, at the conclusion of which a legal decision will be handed down on the basis of the evidence presented to the court. The deliberations are set within a short time and are conducted efficiently and with the rights of the accused upheld.”

      Managing the community

      According to data of collected by the British-Palestinian NGO, 97 percent of the youths arrested by the IDF live in relatively small locales that are no more than two kilometers away from a settlement. There are a number of reasons for this. One involves the constant friction – physical and geographical – between Palestinians, on the one hand, and soldiers and settlers. However, according to Horton, there is another, no less interesting way to interpret this figure: namely, from the perspective of an IDF commander, whose mission is to protect the settlers.

      In the case of reported stone-throwing incidents, he says, the commander’s assumption is that the Palestinians involved are young, between the ages of 12 and 30, and that they come from the nearest village. Often the officer will turn to the resident collaborator in the village, who provides him with the names of a few boys.

      The next move is “to enter the village at night and arrest them,” Horton continues. “And whether these youths are the ones who threw the stones or not, you have already put a scare into the whole village” – which he says is an “effective tool” for managing a community.

      “When so many minors are being arrested like this, it’s clear that some of them will be innocent,” he observes. “The point is that this has to be happening all the time, because the boys grow up and new children appear on the scene. Each generation must feel the strong arm of the IDF.”

      According to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit: “In recent years, many minors, some of them very young, have been involved in violent incidents, incitement and even terrorism. In these cases, there is no alternative but to institute measures, including interrogation, detention and trial, within the limits of and according to what is stipulated by law. As part of these procedures, the IDF operates to uphold and preserve the rights of the minors. In enforcing the law against them, their age is taken into account.

      “Thus, since 2014, among other measures, in certain instances, the minors are invited to the police station and are not arrested at home. In addition, proceedings relating to minors take place in the military court for juveniles, which examines the seriousness of the offense that’s attributed to the minor and the danger it poses, while taking into consideration his young age and his particular circumstances. Every allegation of violence on the part of IDF soldiers is examined, and cases in which the soldiers’ actions are found to be flawed are treated sternly.”

      The Shin Bet security service stated in response: “The Shin Bet, together with the IDF and the Israel Police, operates against every element that threatens to harm Israel’s security and the country’s citizenry. The terrorist organizations make extensive use of minors and recruit them to carry out terrorist activity, and there is a general tendency to involve minors in terrorist activity as part of local initiatives.

      “Interrogations of suspected terrorists are conducted by the Shin Bet under the law, and are subject to supervision and to internal and external review, including by all levels of the court system. The interrogations of minors are carried out with extra sensitivity and with consideration of their young age.”

      Khaled Mahmoud Selvi, arrested at 14 (October 2017)

      “I was arrested when I was 14, all the boys in the family were arrested that night. A year later, I was arrested again, with my cousin. They said I burned tires. It happened when I was sleeping. My mother woke me up. I thought it was time for school, but when I opened my eyes I saw soldiers above me. They told me to get dressed, handcuffed me and took me outside. I was wearing a short-sleeved shirt and it was cold that night. My mother begged them to let me put on a jacket, but they didn’t agree. Finally, she threw the jacket on me, but they didn’t let me put my arms in the sleeves.

      “They took me to the Karmei Tzur settlement with my eyes covered, and I had the feeling that they were just driving in circles. When I walked, there was a pit in the road and they pushed me into it, and I fell. From there they took me to Etzion [police station]. There they put me in a room, and soldiers kept coming in all the time and kicking me. Someone passed by and said that if I didn’t confess, they would leave me in jail for the rest of my life.

      “At 7 A.M., they told me the interrogation was starting. I asked to go to the toilet before. My eyes were covered and a soldier put a chair in front of me. I tripped. The interrogation went on for an hour. They told me that they saw me burning tires and that it interfered with air traffic. I told them it wasn’t me. I didn’t see a lawyer until the afternoon, and he asked the soldiers to bring us food. It was the first time I had eaten since being arrested the night before.

      “At 7 P.M., I was sent to Ofer Prison, and I remained there for six months. In that period, I was in court more than 10 times. And there was also another interrogation, because a friend of mine was told while being questioned that if he didn’t confess and inform on me, they would bring his mother and shoot her before his eyes. So he confessed and informed. I’m not angry at him. It was his first arrest, he was scared.”

      Khaled Shtaiwi, arrested at 13 (November 2018)

      Khaled’s story is told by his father, Murad Shatawi: “On the night he was arrested, a phone call from my nephew woke me up. He said the house was surrounded by soldiers. I got up and got dressed, because I expected them to arrest me, on account of the nonviolent demonstrations I organize on Fridays. I never imagined they’d take Khaled. They asked me for the names of my sons. I told them Mumen and Khaled. When I said Khaled, they said, ‘Yes, him. We’re here to take him.’ I was in shock, so many soldiers showed up to arrest a boy of 13.

      “They handcuffed and blindfolded him and led him east on foot, toward the settlement of Kedumim, all the while cursing and hitting him a little. I saw it all from the window. They gave me a document showing that it was a legal arrest and I could come to the police station. When I got there, I saw him through a small hole in the door. He was handcuffed and blindfolded.

      “He stayed like that from the moment they arrested him until 3 P.M. the next day. That’s a picture that doesn’t leave me; I don’t know how I’ll go on living with that picture in my head. He was accused of throwing stones, but after four days they released him, because he didn’t confess and there was no other evidence against him. During the trial, when the judge wanted to speak to Khaled, he had to lean forward in order to see him, because Khaled was so small.

      “What was it like to see him like that? I am the father. That says it all. He hasn’t talked about it since getting out, three months ago. That’s a problem. I’m now organizing a ‘psychology day’ in the village, to help all the children here who have been arrested. Out of 4,500 people in the village, 11 children under the age of 18 have been arrested; five were under the age of 15.”

      Omar Rabua Abu Ayyash, arrested at age 10 (December 2018)

      Omar looks small for his age. He’s shy and quiet, and it’s hard to talk to him about the arrest, so members of his family recount the events in his place.

      Omar’s mother: “It happened at 10 A.M. on Friday, when there is no school. Omar was playing in the area in front of the house, he threw pebbles at birds that were chirping in the tree. The soldiers, who were in the watchtower across the way here, picked up on what he was doing and ran toward him. He ran, but they caught him and knocked him down. He started to cry, and he wet his pants. They kicked him a few times.

      “His grandmother, who lives here below, immediately went out and tried to take him from the soldiers, which caused a struggle and shouts. In the end, they left him alone and he went home and changed into dry pants. A quarter of an hour later, the soldiers came back, this time with their commander, who said he had to arrest the boy for throwing stones. When the other children in the family saw the soldiers in the house, they also wet their pants.”

      Omar’s father takes up the story: “I told the commander that he was under 12 and that I had to accompany him, so I rode with him in the jeep to the Karmei Tzur settlement. There the soldiers told him not to throw stones anymore, and that if he saw other children doing it, he should tell them. From there they took him the offices of the Palestinian Authority in Hebron. The whole story took about 12 hours. They gave him a few bananas to eat during those hours. Now, whenever the children see a military jeep or soldiers, they go inside. They’ve stopped playing outside since then. Before the incident, soldiers used to come here to play soccer with the children. Now they’ve stopped coming, too.”

      Tareq Shtaiwi, arrested at 14 (January 2019)

      “It was around 2 P.M. I had a fever that day, so Dad sent me to my cousin next door, because that’s almost the only place in the village with a heating unit. Suddenly soldiers showed up. They saw me watching them from the window, so they fired shots at the door of the building, knocked it down and started to come upstairs. I got scared, so I ran from the second floor to the third, but they stopped me on the way and took me outside. The soldiers wouldn’t let me take my coat, even though it was cold and I was sick. They took me on foot to Kedumim, handcuffed and blindfolded. They sat me on a chair. I heard doors and windows being slammed hard, I think they were trying to scare me.

      “After a while, they took me from Kedumim to Ariel, and I was there for five-six hours. They accused me of throwing stones a few days earlier with my friend. I told them I hadn’t thrown any stones. In the evening they moved me to the Hawara detention building; one of the soldiers told me I would never leave there. In the morning I was moved to Megiddo Prison. They didn’t have prisoners uniforms in my size, so they gave me clothes of Palestinian children who had been there before and left them for the next in line. I was the youngest person in the prison.

      “I had three court hearings, and after 12 days, at the last hearing, they told me that it was enough, that my father would pay a fine of 2,000 shekels [$525] and I was getting a three-year suspended sentence. The judge asked me what I intended to do after getting out, I told him I would go back to school and I wouldn’t go up to the third floor again. Since my arrest, my younger brother, who’s 7, has been afraid to sleep in the kids’ room and goes to sleep with our parents.”

      Adham Ahsoun, arrested in October 2018, on his 15th birthday

      “On my 15th birthday, I went to the store in the village center to buy a few things. Around 7:30 in the evening, soldiers entered the village and children started to throw stones at them. On the way home with my bag, they caught me. They took me to the entrance of the village and put me in a jeep. One of the soldiers started to hit me. Then they put plastic handcuffs on me and covered my eyes and took me like that to the military base in Karnei Shomron. I was there for about an hour. I couldn’t see a thing, but I had the feeling that a dog was sniffing me. I was afraid. From there they took me to another military base and left me there for the night. They didn’t give me anything to eat or drink.

      “In the morning, they moved me to the interrogation facility in Ariel. The interrogator told me that the soldiers caught me throwing stones. I told him that I hadn’t thrown stones, that I was on my way home from the store. So he called the soldiers into the interrogation room. They said, ‘He’s lying, we saw him, he was throwing stones.’ I told him that I really hadn’t thrown stones, but he threatened to arrest my mother and father. I panicked. I asked him, ‘What do you want from me?’ He said he wanted me to sign that I threw stones at soldiers, so I signed. The whole time I didn’t see or talk to a lawyer.

      “My plea bargain was that I would confess and get a five-month jail sentence. Afterward, they gave me one-third off for good behavior. I got out after three months and a fine of 2,000 shekels. In jail I tried to catch up with the material I missed in school. The teachers told me they would only take into account the grades of the second semester, so it wouldn’t hurt my chances of being accepted for engineering studies in university.”

      Muhmen Teet, arrested at 13 (November 2017)

      “At 3 A.M., I heard knocking on the door. Dad came into the room and said there were soldiers in the living room and wanted us to show ID cards. The commanding officer told my father that they were taking me to Etzion for questioning. Outside, they handcuffed and blindfolded me and put me in a military vehicle. We went to my cousin’s house; they also arrested him. From there we went to Karmei Tzur and waited, handcuffed and blindfolded, until the morning.

      “In the morning, they only took my cousin for interrogation, not me. After his interrogation, they took us to Ofer Prison. After a day there, they took us back to Etzion and said they were going to interrogate me. Before the interrogation, they took me into a room, where there was a soldier who slapped me. After he hit me in one room, he took me to the interrogation room. The interrogator said I was responsible for burning tires, and because of that the grove near the house caught fire. I said it wasn’t me, and I signed a document that the interrogator gave me. The document was also printed in Arabic, but the interrogator filled it out in Hebrew. I was taken back to Ofer Prison.

      “I had seven hearings in court, because at the first hearing I said I hadn’t intended to confess, I just didn’t understand what I signed and it wasn’t true. So they sent me back for another interrogation. Again I didn’t confess. Then they sent me to interrogation another time and again I didn’t confess. That’s what it was like in three interrogations. In the end, my lawyer did a deal with the prosecutor that if I confessed in court – which I did – and my family would pay 4,000 shekels, they would release me.

      “I’m a good student, I like soccer, both playing and watching it. Since the arrest I hardly wander around outside.”

      Khalil Zaakiq, arrested at age 13 (January 2019)

      “Around 2 A.M. someone knocked on the door. I woke up and saw a lot of soldiers in the house. They said we should all sit in the living room sofa and not move. The commander called Uday, my big brother, told him to get dressed and informed him that he was under arrest. It was the third time they arrested him. My father was also once under arrest. Suddenly they told me to put my shoes on too and go with them.

      “They took us out of the house and tied our hands and covered our eyes. We went like that on foot to the base in Karmei Tzur. There they sat me on the floor with hands tied and eyes covered for around three hours. At about 5 A.M., they moved us to Etzion. On the way there in the jeep they hit us, they slapped me. In Etzion, I was sent to be checked by a doctor. He asked if I had been beaten and I said yes. He didn’t do anything, only checked my blood pressure and said I could stand up to an interrogation.

      “My interrogation started at 8 A.M.. They asked me to tell them which children throw stones. I said I didn’t know, so the interrogator gave me a slap. The interrogation went on for four hours. Afterward, they put me into a dark room for 10 minutes and then took me back to the interrogation room, but now they only fingerprinted me and put me into a detention cell for an hour. After an hour, Uday and I were moved to Ofer Prison. I didn’t sign a confession, neither about myself nor about others.

      “I got out after nine days, because I wasn’t guilty of anything. My parents had to pay 1,000 shekels for bail. My little brother, who is 10, has been really afraid ever since. Whenever someone knocks at the door, he wets his pants.”

  • Press Release on the Protest in #Ellwangen March 14, 2019

    Ellwangen has become a symbol of our protest!

    Picket from 11 a.m. onwards, Am Fuchseck in Ellwangen, rally at 3:30 p.m.

    Refugees take legal action against their sentences.

    Trial dates before the Ellwangen district court on March 14, 2019 cancelled!

    Detained refugees must be released.

    Since May 3, 2018 various groups and trial observers have presented criticism of the brutal police operation carried out by 500 officials at the first reception centre in Ellwangen. The police operation itself triggered more than 25 criminal proceedings. Letters and e-mails to the police headquarters in Aalen, to the democratic factions in the state parliament and to the Ministry of the Interior, Digitisation and Migration were not answered, or only partially or briefly. Evidently there is little interest to question the legality of the police action.

    After the first trials began at the Ellwangen local court in July 2018 and a refugee was sentenced to six months in prison without probation for assaulting the police (tätlicher Angriff), there were already serious doubts about the legality of the police operation. Shortly afterwards, various groups wrote a multi-page inquiry to the Aalen police headquarters. The letter was sent to all democratic factions in the Stuttgart state parliament. It was also brought to the attention of the Ministry of the Interior.

    The letter of 29 August 2018 already pointed out that “there was sufficient time between the protest action on 30 April and the police action on 3 May 2018 to obtain a court order. Since the time span between the two police operations was long, this does not constitute an exigent circumstance (Gefahr im Verzug)”. This point was taken up now by the judge of the Ellwangen local court, because also rooms in a refugee accommodation are protected by the Basic Law article 13 GG “inviolability of the home”.

    After further proceedings at the district court Ellwangen and issuing of orders of punishment (Strafbefehl), numerous further inhabitants have taken legal action. In one case meanwhile the proceedings were terminated (Einstellung). The three scheduled trial dates for March 14, 2019 have been cancelled. The background to this is that the court has given up on the public prosecutor’s office to conduct further investigations. The proceedings are continuing, but hearings will not take place due to this court order for the time being. It is obvious that the police raid had no legal basis. And if a search has not been lawful, defendants did not make themselves punishable. In this context, we demand the immediate termination (Einstellung) of all cases and the annulment of all sentences already imposed on residents of the camp. We also demand the release of the detainees!

    Alassa M. took legal action before the Stuttgart administrative court against the police operation of May 3, 2018. Since his legal re-entry and renewed application for asylum, the public prosecutor’s office has tried to criminalise him in connection with the protest in Ellwangen and to present him as a criminal. Months later, criminal investigations are initiated and orders of punishment (Strafbefehl) issued. The impression of a political guideline by the Green Party – CDU-led state government, in particular by the CDU-led ministry of the interior, is obvious here.

    On Thursday March 14, 2019 we call for a protest to Ellwangen. We would like to commemorate the police operation that took place exactly a year ago in Donauwörth and of the questionable, violent role of the security personnel in the mass camps, especially in Bavaria. Mass camps, ANKER centres or first reception facilities are increasingly revealed as state institutions in which more and more basic and human rights of the residents are latently undermined. These institutions are increasingly developing their own dynamics and questionable power structures, which enable police operations such as those that took place in Ellwangen, Donaueschingen, Donauwörth, Plattling, Bamberg, Fürstenfeldbruck and other camps. We understand the protest in Ellwangen on March 14 also as a protest against these state power centres, which in the end can only be classified as a stage on the way to sealing off refugees and eliminating the right to asylum. Together we must put a stop to this development.

    First signatories

    Stoffwechsel e.V. Karlsruhe

    Aktion Bleiberecht Freiburg

    Freiburger Forum aktiv gegen Ausgrenzung

    Solidarity International

    Julia Scheller Landesvorsitzende MLPD Baden-Württemberg

    Haru Schuh Mannheim

    Justizwatch

    Forim Azilon – Asyl und Menschenrecht Konstanz

    Daniel Tandol

    Komitee für Grundrechte und Demokratie

    KOP – Kampagne für Opfer rassistischer Polizeigewalt

    Freundeskreis Alassa & friends

    Ausbrechen

    Unabhängiger Freundkreis Asyl Murrhardt

    Solinet Hannover

    Karawane Hamburg

    Lili Mirecki

    Antifaschistisches Aktionsbündnis Stuttgart & Region (AABS)

    OTKM Stuttgart

    IL Stuttgart

    http://cultureofdeportation.org/2019/03/13/press-release-for-march-14-2019
    #Allemagne #réfugiés #asile #migrations #violences_policières #manifestation #Anker-Zentrum

    In German :
    https://refugees4refugees.wordpress.com/2019/03/13/pressemitteilung-zum-protest-am-14-03-2019-in-ellwangen

  • Exclusive: OxyContin Maker Purdue Pharma Exploring Bankruptcy - Sources | Investing News | US News
    https://money.usnews.com/investing/news/articles/2019-03-04/exclusive-oxycontin-maker-purdue-pharma-exploring-bankruptcy-sources

    By Mike Spector, Jessica DiNapoli and Nate Raymond

    (Reuters) - OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP is exploring filing for bankruptcy to address potentially significant liabilities from roughly 2,000 lawsuits alleging the drugmaker contributed to the deadly opioid crisis sweeping the United States, people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

    The potential move shows how Purdue and its wealthy owners, the Sackler family, are under pressure to respond to mounting litigation accusing the company of misleading doctors and patients about risks associated with prolonged use of its prescription opioids.

    Purdue denies the allegations, arguing that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved labels for its opioids carried warnings about the risk of abuse and misuse associated with the pain treatments.

    Filing for Chapter 11 protection would halt the lawsuits and allow Purdue to negotiate legal claims with plaintiffs under the supervision of a U.S. bankruptcy judge, the sources said.

    Shares of Endo International Plc and Insys Therapeutics Inc, two companies that like Purdue have been named in lawsuits related to the U.S. opioid epidemic, closed down 17 percent and more than 2 percent, respectively, on Monday.

    More than 1,600 lawsuits accusing Purdue and other opioid manufacturers of using deceptive practices to push addictive drugs that led to fatal overdoses are consolidated in an Ohio federal court. Purdue has held discussions to resolve the litigation with plaintiffs’ lawyers, who have often compared the cases to widespread lawsuits against the tobacco industry that resulted in a $246 billion settlement in 1998.

    “We will oppose any attempt to avoid our claims, and will continue to vigorously and aggressively pursue our claims against Purdue and the Sackler family,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said. Connecticut has a case against Purdue and the Sacklers.

    BANKRUPTCY FILING NOT CERTAIN

    A Purdue bankruptcy filing is not certain, the sources said. The Stamford, Connecticut-based company has not made any final decisions and could instead continue fighting the lawsuits, they said.

    “As a privately-held company, it has been Purdue Pharma’s longstanding policy not to comment on our financial or legal strategy,” Purdue said in a statement.

    “We are, however, committed to ensuring that our business remains strong and sustainable. We have ample liquidity and remain committed to meeting our obligations to the patients who benefit from our medicines, our suppliers and other business partners.”

    Purdue faces a May trial in a case brought by Oklahoma’s attorney general that, like others, accuses the company of contributing to a wave of fatal overdoses by flooding the market with highly addictive opioids while falsely claiming the drugs were safe.

    Last year, U.S. President Donald Trump also said he would like to sue drug companies over the nation’s opioid crisis.

    Opioids, including prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl, were involved in 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017, a sixfold increase from 1999, according to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Purdue hired law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP for restructuring advice, Reuters reported in August, fueling concerns among litigants, including Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, that the company might seek bankruptcy protection before the trial.

    Companies facing widespread lawsuits sometimes seek bankruptcy protection to address liabilities in one court even when their financial condition is not dire. California utility PG&E Corp filed for bankruptcy earlier this year after deadly wildfires raised the prospect of large legal bills even though its stock remained worth billions of dollars.

    DECEPTIVE MARKETING

    Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in June became the first attorney general to sue not just Purdue but Sackler family members. Records in her case, which Purdue has asked a judge to dismiss, accused Sackler family members of directing deceptive marketing of opioids for years while enriching themselves to the tune of $4.2 billion.

    Some other states have since also sued the Sacklers. The Sacklers are currently discussing creating a nonprofit backed by family financial contributions to combat addiction and drug abuse, a person familiar with their deliberations said.

    The drugmaker downplayed the possibility of a bankruptcy filing in a Feb. 22 court filing in the Oklahoma case. “Purdue is still here - ready, willing and eager to prove in this Court that the State’s claims are baseless,” the company said in court papers.

    Sales of OxyContin and other opioids have fallen amid public concern about their addictive nature, and as restrictions on opioid prescribing have been enacted. OxyContin generated $1.74 billion in sales in 2017, down from $2.6 billion five years earlier, according to the most recent data compiled by Symphony Health Solutions.

    Purdue Chief Executive Officer Craig Landau has cut hundreds of jobs, stopped marketing opioids to physicians and moved the company toward developing medications for sleep disorders and cancer since taking the helm in 2017.

    In July, Purdue appointed a new board chairman, Steve Miller, a restructuring veteran who previously held leadership positions at troubled companies including auto-parts giant Delphi and the once-teetering insurer American International Group Inc.

    Mortimer D.A. Sackler no longer sits on Purdue’s board, according to a filing the company made with the Connecticut secretary of state late Monday.

    The Oklahoma case and other lawsuits seek damages from Purdue and other pharmaceutical companies accused of fueling the opioid crisis. In addition to lawsuits consolidated in an Ohio federal court, more than 300 cases are pending in state courts, and dozens of state attorneys general have sued manufacturers, including Purdue.

    Settlement discussions have not yet resulted in a deal.

    Purdue and three executives in 2007 pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the misbranding of OxyContin and agreed to pay a total of $634.5 million in penalties, according to court records.

    (Reporting by Mike Spector and Jessica DiNapoli in New York and Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

    Copyright 2019 Thomson Reuters.

    #Opioides #Sackler #Bankruptcy

  • Meet Francis Malofiy, the Philadelphia Lawyer Who Sued Led Zeppelin
    https://www.phillymag.com/news/2019/02/11/francis-malofiy-led-zeppelin

    Francis Malofiy may be the most hated man in the Philadelphia legal community. He may also be on the cusp of getting the last laugh on rock’s golden gods.

    #droit_d_auteur #musique #plagiat

    • @sandburg Voillà

      Meet Francis Malofiy, the Philadelphia Lawyer Who Sued Led Zeppelin
      https://www.phillymag.com/news/2019/02/11/francis-malofiy-led-zeppelin

      People Laughed When This Philly Lawyer Sued Led Zeppelin. Nobody’s Laughing Now.

      Francis Malofiy may be the most hated man in the Philadelphia legal community. He may also be on the cusp of getting the last laugh on rock’s golden gods.

      By Jonathan Valania· 2/11/2019


      Philadelphia-area attorney Francis Malofiy. Photograph by Bryan Sheffield.

      The fact that Philadelphia barrister Francis Alexander Malofiy, Esquire, is suing Led Zeppelin over the authorship of “Stairway to Heaven” is, by any objective measure, only the fourth most interesting thing about him. Unfortunately for the reader, and the purposes of this story, the first, second and third most interesting things about Malofiy are bound and gagged in nondisclosure agreements, those legalistic dungeons where the First Amendment goes to die. So let’s start with number four and work our way backward.

      At the risk of stating the obvious, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, let the record show that “Stairway to Heaven” is arguably the most famous song in all of rock-and-roll, perhaps in all of popular music. It’s also one of the most lucrative — it’s estimated that the song has netted north of $500 million in sales and royalties since its 1971 release. Malofiy’s lawsuit, cheekily printed in the same druidic font used for the liner notes of the album Led Zeppelin IV, alleges that Jimmy Page and Robert Plant — Zep’s elegantly wasted guitarist/producer/central songwriter and leonine, leather-lunged lead singer, respectively — stole the iconic descending acoustic-guitar arpeggios of the first two minutes of “Stairway” from “Taurus,” a song with a strikingly similar chord pattern by a long-forgotten ’60s band called Spirit. At the conclusion of a stormy, headline-grabbing trial in 2016 that peaked with testimony from Page and Plant, the jury decided in Zep’s favor.

      When the copyright infringement suit was first filed in Philadelphia by Malofiy (pronounced “MAL-uh-fee”) on behalf of the Randy Craig Wolfe Trust — which represents the estate of Randy “California” Wolfe, the now-deceased member of Spirit who wrote “Taurus” — people laughed. Mostly at Malofiy. The breathless wall-to-wall media coverage the trial garnered often painted him as a loose-cannon legal beagle, one part Charlie Sheen, one part Johnnie Cochran. “Everybody kind of dismissed me as this brash young lawyer who didn’t really understand copyright law,” he says, well into the wee hours one night back in December, sitting behind a desk stacked four feet high with legal files in the dank, subterranean bunker that is his office.

      Hidden behind an unmarked door on the basement floor of a nondescript office building in Media, the law firm of Francis Alexander LLC is a pretty punk-rock operation. The neighbors are an anger management counselor and a medical marijuana dispensary. “I think of us as pirates sinking big ships,” Malofiy, who’s 41, brags. Given the sheer number of death threats he says he’s received from apoplectic Zep fans, the fact that mysterious cars seem to follow him in the night, and his claim to have found GPS trackers stuck to the bottom of his car, the precise location of his offices remains a closely guarded secret. Failing that, he has a license to carry, and most days, he leaves the house packing a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson.

      While most lawyers are sleeping, Malofiy is working through the night to defeat them, often until sunrise, fueled by an ever-present bottle of grape-flavored Fast Twitch as he chain-chews Wrigley’s Spearmint gum and huffs a never-ending string of Marlboro menthols. We’ve been talking on the record for going on eight hours, and Malofiy shows no signs of fading; in fact, he’s just announced the arrival of his third wind.

      He has a pretty good ‘fuck you’ attitude that comes from an inner confidence. He might have had a little too much early on,” attorney Jim Beasley Jr. says of Malofiy. “If you piss the judge off with your pirate act, the judge can make it difficult for you. Sometimes you could avoid all that by not swinging your pirate sword around.

      Talk turns to the distinctly pro-Zep tenor of the media coverage of the “Stairway” trial. “I was a punch line for jokes,” he says, spitting his gum into a yellow Post-it and banking it into the trash for, like, the 42nd time. Nobody’s laughing now, least of all Page and Plant. Nor, for that matter, is Usher. Back in October, at the conclusion of a dogged seven-year legal battle marked by a bruising string of dismissals and sanctions, Malofiy won a $44 million verdict — one of the largest in Pennsylvania in 2018 — for a Philadelphia songwriter named Daniel Marino who sued his co-writers after being cut out of the songwriting credits and royalties for the song “Bad Girl” from the R&B heartthrob’s 2004 breakout album, Confessions, which sold more than 10 million copies.

      Also, in late September of last year, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Malofiy’s appeal of the 2016 “Stairway to Heaven” verdict and ordered a new trial on the grounds that the court “abused its discretion” when the judge refused to allow Malofiy to play a recording of “Taurus” for the jury. (Members were only allowed to hear an acoustic-guitar rendition played from sheet music.) The retrial is expected to begin in the next year, and Page and Plant, along with bassist John Paul Jones, are again anticipated to take the stand. Copyright experts say Led Zeppelin — which has a long history of ripping off the ancient riffs and carnal incantations of wizened Delta bluesmen and only giving credit when caught — should be worried.

      Malofiy, who calls Zep “the greatest cover band in all of history,” will go to trial armed with reams of expert testimony pinpointing the damning similarities between the two songs — not just the nearly identical and atypical chord pattern, but the shared melodic figurations, choice of key and distinctive voicings. He’ll also show the jury that Page and Plant had ample opportunity to hear “Taurus” when Zep opened for Spirit on their first American tour in 1968, two years before they wrote and recorded “Stairway.”

      “Most big companies rely on the concept of wearing you down, forcing you to do so much work it literally drives you broke,” says Glen Kulik, a heavy-hitter L.A.-based copyright lawyer who signed on as Malofiy’s local counsel when the Zep case was moved to federal court in California. “If you have any chance of standing up to them, it’s going to require an incredible amount of persistence, confidence, and quite a bit of skill as well, and Francis has all those things in spades.” And Kulik would know, having successfully argued a landmark copyright infringement case before the Supreme Court in 2014 that paved the way for the Zeppelin suit.


      Francis Malofiy. Photograph by Bryan Sheffield.

      Ultimately, Malofiy doesn’t have to prove Led Zeppelin stole Spirit’s song; he just has to convince a jury that’s what happened. Assuming the trial goes forward — and that this time, he’s allowed to play recordings of both songs for the jury — there will be blood. Because contrary to his hard-won rep as a bull in the china shop of civil litigation, Malofiy possesses a switchblade-sharp legal mind, an inexhaustible work ethic, and a relentless, rock-ribbed resolve to absorb more punches than his opponents can throw. He’s a ruthlessly effective courtroom tactician with a collection of six-, seven- and eight-figure verdicts, not to mention the scalps of opposing counsel who underestimated his prowess. “I don’t plink pigeons; I hunt lions and tigers and bears,” he says. The big game he’s targeted in the past decade include deep-pocketed transnational corporations like Volvo (an epic seven-year case that ended in an undisclosed settlement) and Hertz (against whom he won a $100,000 verdict).

      In the arena of civil litigation, where the odds are increasingly stacked against plaintiffs, Malofiy claims to have never lost a jury trial, and that appears to be true. “I have lost twice — in the Zeppelin case and a lawsuit against Volvo — but got both decisions reversed on appeals,” he says, unsheathing a fresh stick of Wrigley’s. “Now, the same people that were asking me for years why I’m doing it are asking me how I did it.”

      If Malofiy prevails in the coming “Stairway” retrial, he’ll completely shatter the Tolkien-esque legend of the song’s immaculate conception — that it was birthed nearly in toto during a mystical retreat at a remote Welsh mountain cottage called Bron-yr-aur, to which many a starry-eyed Zep disciple has made a pilgrimage once upon a midnight clear when the forests echo with laughter. It will be like proving that da Vinci didn’t paint the Mona Lisa, that Michelangelo didn’t sculpt David. Barring a last-minute settlement, many legal and copyright experts predict that Malofiy may well emerge victorious, and credit for the most famous rock song in the world will pass from the self-appointed Golden Gods of Led Zeppelin to some obscure, long-forgotten (and not even very good) West Coast psych band, along with tens of millions in royalties, effectively rewriting the sacred history of rock-and-roll. And the man who will have pulled off this fairly miraculous feat of judicial jujitsu is the enfant terrible of Philadelphia jurisprudence.

      Malofiy hates wearing a suit and tie. Outside the courtroom, he dresses like a rock star masquerading as a lawyer: a crushable black trilby perched at a jaunty angle atop a blue bandana, a collarless black and orange leather Harley jacket, and a pair of beat-to-fuck brown Wesco boots, unlaced. “I’m always in jeans and boots when I meet new clients,” he says. “I warn them up front: ‘If you want a fancy lawyer in a suit, you should go elsewhere.’”

      The barrier to entry for new clients at Francis Alexander LLC is steep, because Malofiy doesn’t take on new cases so much as he adopts new causes. A case has to register on a deeply personal level if he’s going to eat, sleep, and fight to the death for it for the next five to seven years.

      “Lawyers have an ethical responsibility to advocate zealously for their clients,” says attorney Max Kennerly, who’s worked with Malofiy on a number of cases. “But frankly, in this business, a lot of lawyers play the odds and just do a ‘good enough’ job on a bunch of cases. Sometimes they win, and sometimes they lose. Francis really throws himself into his cases.”

      After 10 years of struggle, things finally seem to be breaking Malofiy’s way. Fat checks from cases settled long ago are rolling in, alleviating some fairly crippling cash-flow issues, and big cases just keep falling out of the sky — more than his two-lawyer outfit can field. They need to staff up, stat. Malofiy wants to hire some young bucks fresh out of law school — preferably Temple — as force multipliers in his quest to hold the powerful accountable on behalf of the powerless. “Most kids in law school right now will never see the inside of a courtroom,” he says. “Law schools don’t want to teach you how to change the system; they want to load you up with debt so you have to go do grunt work for some corporate law firm that specializes in maintaining the status quo.”


      Francis Malofiy. Photograph by Bryan Sheffield.

      Malofiy doesn’t have a website. He doesn’t do social media. He doesn’t trawl the watering holes of the rich and powerful. He doesn’t even have a business card. Thanks to the notoriety and name recognition that came with the Zeppelin trial, new clients chase him. He just got off the phone with a Brooklyn puppet maker who wants him to sue the band Fall Out Boy for alleged misuse of two llamas — Frosty and Royal Tea — that it created. Right now, he’s on a conference call with a trio of British songwriters who want Malofiy to sue the Weeknd for allegedly lifting a key section of their song “I Need to Love” for a track called “A Lonely Night” on his 2016 Starboy album, which has sold more than three million copies to date.

      “Why are you guys calling me?” he asks.

      “We’re looking for an honest person fighting for ordinary working people,” says Billy Smith, one of the Brit songwriters in question. Malofiy clearly likes the sound of that. After thinking it over for a few moments, he tells them he’ll take their case and gives them his standard new-client spiel. “I can’t promise we’ll win, but I can promise I won’t turn yellow when things turn bad. I won’t put my tail between my legs and run,” he says. “If there is any bad news, you will hear it from me first.”

      His teeth have been bothering him for days, and near the end of the call, one of his dental caps comes loose. He spits it out, and it skitters across his desk before he traps it under his palm. Most lawyers would be mortified. Malofiy thinks it’s hilarious. “I got teeth like you people,” he says to the Brits. Everybody laughs.

      Many people mistake Malofiy’s unconventionality as a design flaw when it’s actually a feature. “I think that’s an incredibly important part of what makes him so good as an attorney,” says A.J. Fluehr, 33, Malofiy’s right-hand man, co-counsel and, though eight years his boss’s junior, voice of reason. “Because he’s so unorthodox, I believe it causes a lot of other attorneys to underestimate him and think, ‘Oh, he’s not serious; he doesn’t know what he’s doing.’ All of sudden, there’s a massively serious case against them.”

      Even some of the defense lawyers who’ve done battle with Malofiy begrudgingly acknowledge his chops. “I’ve known Francis for four years now. He is difficult to deal with but a fierce advocate for his clients and his cause,” says Rudolph “Skip” DiMassa, a partner at Duane Morris. “Calling him ‘abrasive’ would be putting it mildly. But he wears it like a badge of honor that he is not like all the other lawyers in town.”

      When I read that and similar assessments from other lawyers back to Malofiy, he chalks them up to blowback for the heresy of Robin Hooding a corrupt status quo. “I have a target on my back because I sue big corporations, politicians, big law firms. Hell, I sued DA Seth Williams,” he says one night at the Irish Pub, as he’s nursing a screwdriver he’ll chase with a root beer. “When you start stepping on toes and suing the wrong people and get a few million shifted from those who have it to those who don’t — that’s where the change happens; that’s where you make a difference. And there is a price you have to pay for that.”

      According to family lore, Francis Malofiy’s maternal grandfather was murdered by Nazis in occupied Greece; his great-grandmother had to cut the body down from a tree and carry it home on the back of a mule. Concurrently, his paternal grandfather was murdered by Nazis in Ukraine, while his father and grandmother were frog-marched to camps in Germany. Some things can never be forgotten or forgiven. That’s why Malofiy is always kicking against the pricks. A slight child, he was often bullied at school, and after a brief experiment with turning the other cheek, he started fighting back. Hard. He recalls the day that a bully was picking on a girl half his size; young Francis cold-cocked him and threw him into a closet door. The kid had to be taken out on a stretcher. After that, the bullies moved on to easier prey. “I was always fighting for the little guy, even back then,” he says.

      In the third grade, friends turned him on to Poison’s Look What the Cat Dragged In and Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet, indelibly imprinting the spandexed bikers-and-strippers aesthetic of ’80s hair-metal onto his psyche. He started channeling the energy he once put into beating back bullies into beating the drums. One day in the sixth grade, he came home to tell his dad about a band all the kids were into: “The Led Zeppelins.”

      “He said, ‘No, son, it’s just Led Zeppelin.’”

      “No, I’m pretty sure it’s the Led Zeppelins.”

      So his father, who’d seen the band at the Electric Factory, drove Francis to the record store at the Granite Run Mall, where the clerks set him straight. His father bought the four-cassette Zep box set that had just come out. On the way home, Malofiy heard “Whole Lotta Love” for the first time, and before the song even ended, it was official: Led Zeppelin was his favorite band. When he was in high school, his drum teacher gently broke the news that Zep didn’t exactly, um, write all their own music — that key parts of their iconic songs had been cherry-picked from old, obscure blues recordings. “I said, ‘C’mon, don’t talk shit about Jimmy Page!’” Malofiy recalls. Then his teacher played him the Willie Dixon-penned Muddy Waters track “You Need Love” — which is what “Whole Lotta Love” was called before Zep hijacked the lyrics and the riff and Frankensteined them into the gloriously scuzzy heavy-metal Viking porno movie for the ears we’ve come to know and love. It was hard for Francis to process, and even harder when he was tipped to the uncanny similarity between Spirit’s “Taurus” and “Stairway.” Still, the spell Zep cast over him remained unbroken.


      Francis Malofiy. Photograph by Bryan Sheffield.

      As a young teenager, he built go-karts, dirt bikes and small-block Chevys. To make spending money for guitars and records, he started buying beater cars, fixing them up, and flipping them for quadruple what he paid for them. He almost didn’t graduate from high school because he’d played hooky too many times, to go fishing or work on cars or play guitar. When he finally got his high-school diploma, he raced home from school to show his mother in his Chevy S-10 lowrider. Tearing ass on the backcountry roads of Media, he blew past a cop who immediately lit up his cherry top and gave pursuit. Soon, one cop car became two, then three, until there were five cars tailing him.

      Much to his parents’ dismay, his run-ins with the law became common. They were never for anything all that serious, just the usual teen-rebel monkeyshines: fighting, speeding, the occasional high-speed car chase. He got a big wake-up call in 1998 when his beloved Uncle Nick — a.k.a. Nicholas “The Greek” Vasiliades — was handed a life sentence for running a high-volume meth lab in a warehouse in Manayunk that supplied the drug networks of the Pagans and the Mafia, as well as for his 50-gun arsenal of illegal weaponry. Malofiy was devastated. “I was going down a bad path,” he says. “My uncle pulled me aside and said, ‘You’re smart enough to do it the right way. You need to step away.’”

      Malofiy took the warning to heart and focused on getting a college education, graduating from Penn State in 2000 with a degree in finance. After college, he went back home to Media and his true loves: cars, girls and heavy metal. With a revolving cast of musicians, he formed multiple go-nowhere suburban hard-rock bands with cringe-y names like Prada G and Sluts ’n Slayers. Unimpressed, his parents urged him to enroll in law school. Eventually he relented, forging this pact: He would go to law school if he: a) could do whatever he wanted with the unfinished basement of his parents’ home (i.e., build a high-end recording-studio-cum-man-cave tricked out with a kitchen, bedroom and bathroom); and b) nobody hassled him about having long hair, rocking out and chasing girls. Deal. Malofiy took the LSATs and scored just south of 160 — hardly off the charts, but good enough to get into Temple, where he found himself drawn to copyright law.

      He graduated from law school in December of 2007 and took the bar exam the following July. On the night of August 16, 2008, he stopped into the Liberty Bar at 22nd and Market with his then-girlfriend. It was crowded, but they found a table in the back. After ordering drinks, they started getting static from a group of three young men in ball caps and white t-shirts. “Three drunken jerkoffs, white privilege out the ass,” says Malofiy. According to Malofiy’s testimony, the trio mocked his bandana and called him “cunt,” “pussy” and a “dirty spic.” (It was summer; Malofiy was tan.) According to Malofiy, at some point the men apologized and the situation seemed defused, but then one of them grabbed Malofiy’s girlfriend’s ass. “I said, ‘That’s it. Follow me out,’ and made for the door,” Malofiy says, but he was blocked by a member of the group. As they stood chest-to-chest, Malofiy says, the man struck him twice. Finally, Malofiy, who boxed in college, unloaded with a right cross that landed squarely on the guy’s left cheekbone, shattering the glass still clenched in Malofiy’s fist.

      The man suffered a deep gash in his cheek that would require 150 stitches and reconstructive surgery. Malofiy nearly severed the tendons in his thumb. Bleeding profusely, he had his girlfriend drive him to the emergency room at Penn Presby to get stitched up and then to Central Detectives to file a criminal complaint.

      Two months later, in October, notice came in the mail that he had passed the bar. His mother was ecstatic and insisted on driving him to the Pittsburgh office of the Prothonotary of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania immediately to obtain his law license rather than wait two weeks for the formal ceremony. When they got home the next day, Malofiy got a call from Central Detectives, who said they had a “body warrant” for his arrest on aggravated assault and related charges stemming from the Liberty Bar fight. The next day, he turned himself in and spent a night in jail awaiting a bail hearing. Had he not gone to Pittsburgh at his mother’s behest, it’s unlikely he’d have gotten his law license with a felony arrest on his record.

      Malofiy’s first case as a newly minted lawyer would involve defending a client staring down decades in prison if convicted: himself. Heeding the maxim that a man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client, Malofiy hired Sam Stretton, one of the most respected criminal defense attorneys in the city. Malofiy took the stand and delivered an impassioned defense of his actions. “He had already hit me twice, blocked my exit-way,” he testified. “I was scared for my safety and my girlfriend’s safety, and his friends had just yelled ‘Fight!’ and came up to me with fists drawn. I thought I had no other option.” The jury found him not guilty on all charges.

      “Welcome to Hogwarts,” Malofiy jokes as he shows me around the vast oak and stained-glass room that houses the law library at the Beasley Firm, possibly the most fearsome and feared personal-injury law firm in the city, where he worked, in an of-counsel capacity, from 2012 to 2014.

      Fresh out of law school and still wet behind the ears, Malofiy showed up one day in search of mentoring. Granted an audience with Jim Beasley Jr., one of the most successful plaintiff’s attorney in the city, Malofiy ended up with a promise of rent-free office space, the phone extension 666, and a commitment to help finance some of the highly ambitious cases he was mounting — a product-liability suit against Volvo, and a breach-of-contract suit, against a marble manufacturer that had screwed his client out of an ownership share, that resulted in a $4.2 million verdict — not to mention the Usher case. “Jim was like, ‘I keep getting calls from defense lawyers saying That kid’s the fucking devil, so you must be doing something right,’” Malofiy recalls.

      During Malofiy’s tenure at Beasley, he took out a controversial full-page ad in this magazine that depicted him crashing through a courtroom in a hot rod, looking every bit James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. Many members of Philadelphia’s uptight, buttoned-down legal community thought it was disrespectful. “Everyone was outraged, but I thought it was funny,” says Beasley. “He has a pretty good ‘fuck you’ attitude that comes from an inner confidence. He might have had a little too much of that early on, but I think he’s throttled back a bit. So many of a judge’s decisions are ties and jump-balls that are not reversible, and if you piss the judge off with your pirate act, the judge can make it difficult for you. Sometimes you could avoid all that by not swinging your pirate sword around.”

      Malofiy has learned this the hard way. In 2015, a three-judge panel voted to suspend his license to practice law in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for improper conduct in the Usher case — despite the fact that the special prosecutor recommended what amounted to a slap on the wrist: a reprimand.

      “It’s highly unusual that they would disregard the disciplinary recommendations of the special prosecutor after he has heard the facts,” says Stretton. The matter is currently on appeal before the Third Circuit.

      At Malofiy’s insistence, I’ve been tailing him for the better part of a month: from a big-dollar NDA’d settlement in a judge’s quarters, to a Port Richmond dive bar called Chuckles, to a Bucks County gun shop where he plunked down $1,729 for a handsome Benelli shotgun (a gift for his right-hand man Fluehr), to a back-alley strip bar in Center City and the disused factory under the Commodore Barry Bridge that he’s purchased and plans to renovate into office space, living quarters and a beer garden. I watched him hide his $82,000 Land Rover from the repo man (“It’s all a misunderstanding”) and then, days later, saw a pile of white letter-size envelopes stacked on his desk, each containing what looked to be thousands in cash. What I have come to learn is this: When you write about lawyers, there is so much you can’t write about lawyers.

      Malofiy slowly, methodically and unflinchingly parceled out the most personal details of his backstory — the good, the bad and the ugly — as I incrementally earned his trust. But always on his timetable, not mine. It could be exasperating, but by the end, I discovered the method to his madness: He’d been pacing his revelations as he would a trial presentation. And now we’re reaching the crescendo of his closing argument — the big reveal.


      Francis Malofiy. Photograph by Bryan Sheffield.

      It’s a few clicks shy of midnight at Malofiy’s house in Media on a Sunday night shortly before Christmas. In the morning, he’s jetting off to an auction in London to bid on the Helios recording console that captured “Stairway to Heaven” for the ages. (Malofiy, true to form, won’t confirm that he won or lost the auction.) Though he’s been locked in a nasty four-year legal fight with Led Zeppelin, they’re still his favorite band.

      Malofiy called to insist that I come to his house tonight. “Why? What for?” I demanded. He said he wanted to show me something I could only see there. I begged off, explaining that this article was due in the morning and I already had more than I could use. But he insisted, promising it would be worth my while. He doesn’t disappoint. He tells me to open the freezer. There’s a bottle of Tito’s vodka, an ice tray, and half a lemon on a plate with a yellow plastic knife. “That’s the lemon Robert Plant squeezed into his tea when we deposed him in London back in 2016,” he claims. This is deeply ironic and, if you’re acquainted with the role lemons play in Plant’s legend, cosmically hilarious. One of Led Zeppelin’s most infamous tracks is “The Lemon Song,” a sultry blooze ramble from 1969’s deathless Led Zeppelin II stitched together from pieces of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor” and Robert Johnson’s “Travelling Riverside Blues.” (Zep settled a 1972 copyright suit over the Howlin’ Wolf portion of the song.) In the fifth verse, Plant sings:

      Squeeze me baby, till the juice runs down my leg
      The way you squeeze my lemon, ah
      I’m gonna fall right out of bed

      By swiping that lemon rind at the deposition, Malofiy stole Robert Plant’s metaphoric penis the way Prometheus stole fire from the gods. Zep famously invoked the mythic “Hammer of the Gods” from Norse legend. For Jimmy Page, that hammer was his guitar, but for Plant it was his, um, mighty lemon tree.

      Incredible though it may seem, Malofiy says he’s kept the lemon on ice for the past three years and had it in his briefcase like a talisman when he gave oral arguments for what proved to be his successful appeal of the 2016 “Stairway” verdict. He has every intention of taking it to the retrial that will, barring unforeseen developments, commence in the next year.

      “Robert Plant is always going on about his lemon, and at the deposition he made a big deal out of slicing it up and squeezing it into his tea and then sucking on the rind,” he says with a cat-who-ate-the-canary grin. “Jimmy Page famously dabbled in black magic and was always going on about Aleister Crowley, and I said to myself, ‘If they are going to use black magic to try to beat me on technicalities — well, two can play at that game.’”

      Published as “The Devil’s Advocate” in the February 2019 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

  • #Shamima_Begum: Isis Briton faces move to revoke citizenship

    The Guardian understands the home secretary thinks section 40(2) of the British Nationality Act 1981 gives him the power to strip Begum of her UK citizenship.

    He wrote to her family informing them he had made such an order, believing the fact her parents are of Bangladeshi heritage means she can apply for citizenship of that country – though Begum says she has never visited it.

    This is crucial because, while the law bars him from making a person stateless, it allows him to remove citizenship if he can show Begum has behaved “in a manner which is seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the UK” and he has “reasonable grounds for believing that the person is able, under the law of a country or territory outside the UK, to become a national of such a country or territory”.


    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/feb/19/isis-briton-shamima-begum-to-have-uk-citizenship-revoked?CMP=Share_Andr
    #citoyenneté #UK #Angleterre #apatridie #révocation #terrorisme #ISIS #EI #Etat_islamique #nationalité #déchéance_de_nationalité

    • What do we know about citizenship stripping?

      The Bureau began investigating the Government’s powers to deprive individuals of their British citizenship two years ago.

      The project has involved countless hours spent in court, deep and detailed use of the freedom of information act and the input of respected academics, lawyers and politicians.

      The Counter-Terrorism Bill was presented to Parliament two weeks ago. New powers to remove passports from terror suspects and temporarily exclude suspected jihadists from the UK have focused attention on the Government’s citizenship stripping powers, which have been part of the government’s counter-terrorism tools for nearly a decade.

      A deprivation order can be made where the home secretary believes that it is ‘not conducive’ to the public good for the individual to remain in the country, or where citizenship is believed to have been obtained fraudulently. The Bureau focuses on cases based on ‘not conducive’ grounds, which are related to national security and suspected terrorist activity.

      Until earlier this year, the Government was only able to remove the citizenship of British nationals where doing so wouldn’t leave them stateless. However, in July an amendment to the British Nationality Act (BNA) came into force and powers to deprive a person of their citizenship were expanded. Foreign-born, naturalised individuals can now be stripped of their UK citizenship on national security grounds even if it renders them stateless, a practice described by a former director of public prosecutions as being “beloved of the world’s worst regimes during the 20th century”.

      So what do we know about how these powers are used?
      The numbers

      53 people have been stripped of their British citizenship since 2002 – this includes both people who were considered to have gained their citizenship fraudulently, as well as those who have lost it for national security reasons.
      48 of these were under the Coalition government.
      Since 2006, 27 people have lost their citizenship on national security grounds; 24 of these were under the current Coalition government.
      In 2013, home secretary Theresa May stripped 20 individuals of their British citizenship – more than in all the preceding years of the Coalition put together.
      The Bureau has identified 18 of the 53 cases, 17 of which were deprived of their citizenship on national security grounds.
      15 of the individuals identified by the Bureau who lost their citizenship on national security grounds were abroad at the time of the deprivation order.
      At least five of those who have lost their nationality were born in the UK.
      The previous Labour government used deprivation orders just five times in four years.
      Hilal Al-Jedda was the first individual whose deprivation of citizenship case made it to the Supreme Court. The home secretary lost her appeal as the Supreme Court justices unanimously ruled her deprivation order against Al-Jedda had made him illegally stateless. Instead of returning his passport, just three weeks later the home secretary issued a second deprivation order against him.
      This was one of two deprivation of citizenship cases to have made it to the Supreme Court, Britain’s uppermost court, to date.
      In November 2014 deprivation of citizenship case number two reached the Supreme Court, with the appellant, Minh Pham, also arguing that the deprivation order against him made him unlawfully stateless.
      Two of those stripped of their British citizenship by Theresa May in 2010, London-born Mohamed Sakr and his childhood friend Bilal al Berjawi, were later killed by US drone strikes in Somalia.
      One of the individuals identified by the Bureau, Mahdi Hashi, was the subject of rendition to the US, where he was held in secret for over a month and now faces terror charges.
      Only one individual, Iraqi-born Hilal al-Jedda, is currently known to have been stripped of his British citizenship twice.
      Number of Bureau Q&As on deprivation of citizenship: one.

      https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2014-12-10/what-do-we-know-about-citizenship-stripping
      #statistiques #chiffres

    • ‘My British citizenship was everything to me. Now I am nobody’ – A former British citizen speaks out

      When a British man took a holiday to visit relatives in Pakistan in January 2012 he had every reason to look forward to returning home. He worked full time at the mobile phone shop beneath his flat in southeast London, he had a busy social life and preparations for his family’s visit to the UK were in full flow.

      Two years later, the man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is stranded in Pakistan, and claims he is under threat from the Taliban and unable to find work to support his wife and three children.

      He is one of 27 British nationals since 2006 who have had their citizenship removed under secretive government orders on the grounds that their presence in the UK is ‘not conducive to the public good’. He is the first to speak publicly about his ordeal.

      ‘My British citizenship was everything to me. I could travel around the world freely,’ he told the Bureau. ‘That was my identity but now I am nobody.’

      Under current legislation, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, has the power to strip dual nationals of their British citizenship if she deems their presence in the UK ‘not conducive to the public good’, or if their nationality was gained on fraudulent grounds. May recently won a Commons vote paving the way to allow her to strip the citizenship of foreign-born or naturalised UK nationals even if it rendered them stateless. Amendments to the Immigration Bill – including the controversial Article 60 concerning statelessness – are being tabled this week in the House of Lords.

      A Bureau investigation in December 2013 revealed 20 British nationals were stripped of their citizenship last year – more than in all previous years under the Coalition combined. Twelve of these were later revealed to have been cases where an individual had gained citizenship by fraud; the remaining eight are on ‘conducive’ grounds.

      Since 2006 when the current laws entered force, 27 orders have been made on ‘conducive’ grounds, issued in practice against individuals suspected of involvement in extremist activities. The Home Secretary often makes her decision when the individual concerned is outside the UK, and, in at least one case, deliberately waited for a British national to go on holiday before revoking his citizenship.

      The only legal recourse to these decisions, which are taken without judicial approval, is for the individual affected to submit a formal appeal to the Special Immigration and Asylum Committee (Siac), where evidence can be heard in secret, within 28 days of the order being given. These appeals can take years to conclude, leaving individuals – the vast majority of whom have never been charged with an offence – stranded abroad.

      The process has been compared to ‘medieval exile’ by leading human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce.

      The man, who is referred to in court documents as E2, was born in Afghanistan and still holds Afghan citizenship. He claimed asylum in Britain in 1999 after fleeing the Taliban regime in Kabul, and was granted indefinite leave to remain. In 2009 he became a British citizen.

      While his immediate family remained in Pakistan, E2 came to London, where he worked and integrated in the local community. Although this interview was conducted in his native Pashto, E2 can speak some English.

      ‘I worked and I learned English,’ he says. ‘Even now I see myself as a British. If anyone asks me, I tell them that I am British.’

      But, as of March 28 2012, E2 is no longer a British citizen. After E2 boarded a flight to Kabul in January 2012 to visit relatives in Afghanistan and his wife and children in Pakistan, a letter containing May’s signature was sent to his southeast London address from the UK Border Agency, stating he had been deprived of his British nationality. In evidence that remains secret even from him, E2 was accused of involvement in ‘Islamist extremism’ and deemed a national security threat. He denies the allegation and says he has never participated in extremist activity.

      In the letter the Home Secretary wrote: ‘My decision has been taken in part reliance on information which, in my opinion should not be made public in the interest of national security and because disclosure would be contrary to the public interest.’

      E2 says he had no way of knowing his citizenship had been removed and that the first he heard of the decision was when he was met by a British embassy official at Dubai airport on May 25 2012, when he was on his way back to the UK and well after his appeal window shut.

      E2’s lawyer appealed anyway, and submitted to Siac that: ‘Save for written correspondence to the Appellant’s last known address in the UK expressly stating that he has 28 days to appeal, i.e. acknowledging that he was not in the UK, no steps were taken to contact the Appellant by email, telephone or in person until an official from the British Embassy met him at Dubai airport and took his passport from him.’

      The submission noted that ‘it is clear from this [decision] that the [Home Secretary] knew that the Appellant [E2] is out of the country as the deadline referred to is 28 days.’

      The Home Office disputed that E2 was unaware of the order against him, and a judge ruled that he was satisfied ‘on the balance of probabilities’ that E2 did know about the removal of his citizenship. ‘[W]e do not believe his statement,’ the judge added.

      His British passport was confiscated and, after spending 18 hours in an airport cell, E2 was made to board a flight back to Kabul. He has remained in Afghanistan and Pakistan ever since. It is from Pakistan that he agreed to speak to the Bureau last month.

      Daniel Carey, who is representing E2 in a fresh appeal to Siac, says: ‘The practice of waiting until a citizen leaves the UK before depriving them of citizenship, and then opposing them when they appeal out of time, is an intentional attack on citizens’ due process rights.

      ‘By bending an unfair system to its will the government is getting worryingly close to a system of citizenship by executive fiat.’

      While rules governing hearings at Siac mean some evidence against E2 cannot be disclosed on grounds of national security, the Bureau has been able to corroborate key aspects of E2’s version of events, including his best guess as to why his citizenship was stripped. His story revolves around an incident that occurred thousands of miles away from his London home and several years before he saw it for the last time.

      In November 2008, Afghan national Zia ul-Haq Ahadi was kidnapped as he left the home of his infirmed mother in Peshawar, Pakistan. The event might have gone unnoticed were he not the brother of Afghanistan’s then finance minister and former presidential hopeful Anwar ul-Haq Ahadi. Anwar intervened, and after 13 months of tortuous negotiations with the kidnappers, a ransom was paid and Zia was released. E2 claims to have been the man who drove a key negotiator to Zia’s kidnappers.

      While the Bureau has not yet been able to confirm whether E2 had played the role he claimed in the release, a source with detailed knowledge of the kidnapping told the Bureau he was ‘willing to give [E2] some benefit of the doubt because there are elements of truth [in his version of events].’

      The source confirmed a man matching E2’s description was involved in the negotiations.

      ‘We didn’t know officially who the group was, but they were the kidnappers. I didn’t know whether they were with the Pakistani or Afghan Taliban,’ E2 says. ‘After releasing the abducted person I came back to London.’

      E2 guesses – since not even his lawyers have seen specific evidence against him – that it was this activity that brought him to the attention of British intelligence services. After this point, he was repeatedly stopped as he travelled to and from London and Afghanistan and Pakistan to visit relatives four times between the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2012.

      ‘MI5 questioned me for three or four hours each time I came to London at Heathrow airport,’ he says. ‘They said people like me [Pashtun Afghans] go to Waziristan and from there you start fighting with British and US soldiers.

      ‘The very last time [I was questioned] was years after the [kidnapping]. I was asked to a Metropolitan Police station in London. They showed me pictures of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar [former Afghan prime minister and militant with links to the Pakistani Taliban (TTP)] along with other leaders and Taliban commanders. They said: ‘You know these guys.’

      He claims he was shown a photo of his wife – a highly intrusive action in conservative Pashtun culture – as well as one of someone he was told was Sirajuddin Haqqani, commander of the Haqqani Network, one of the most lethal TTP-allied groups.

      ‘They said I met him, that I was talking to him and I have connections with him. I said that’s wrong. I told [my interrogator] that you can call [Anwar al-Ahady] and he will explain that he sent me to Waziristan and that I found and released his brother,’ E2 says.

      ‘I don’t know Sirajuddin Haqqani and I didn’t meet him.’

      The Haqqani Network, which operates in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas and across the border in Afghanistan, was designated as a terrorist organisation by the United States in September 2012. It has claimed responsibility for a score of attacks against Afghan, Pakistani and NATO security forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The UN accuses Sirajuddin Haqqani of being ‘actively involved in the planning and execution of attacks targeting International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF), Afghan officials and civilians.’

      E2 says he has no idea whether Haqqani was involved in Zia’s kidnapping, but he believes the security services may have started investigating him when he met the imam of a mosque he visited in North Waziristan.

      ‘The imam had lunch with us and he was with me while I was waiting for my father-in-law. I didn’t take his number but I gave him mine. That imam often called me on my shop’s BT telephone line [in London]. These calls put me in trouble,’ he says.

      If E2’s version of events is accurate, it would mean he gained his British citizenship while he was negotiating Zia’s release. He lost it less than three years later.

      The Home Office offered a boilerplate response to the Bureau’s questions: ‘The Home Secretary will remove British citizenship from individuals where she feels it is conducive to the public good to do so.’

      When challenged specifically on allegations made by E2, the spokesman said the Home Office does not comment on individual cases.

      E2 says he now lives in fear for his safety in Pakistan. Since word has spread that he lost his UK nationality, locals assume he is guilty, which he says puts him at risk of attack from the Pakistani security forces. In addition, he says his family has received threats from the Taliban for his interaction with MI5.

      ‘People back in Afghanistan know that my British passport was revoked because I was accused of working with the Taliban. I can’t visit my relatives and I am an easy target to others,’ he said. ‘Without the British passport here, whether [by] the government or Taliban, we can be executed easily.’

      E2 is not alone in fearing for his life after being exiled from Britain. Two British nationals stripped of their citizenship in 2010 were killed a year later by a US drone strike in Somalia. A third Briton, Mahdi Hashi, disappeared from east Africa after having his citizenship revoked in June 2012 only to appear in a US court after being rendered from Djibouti.

      E2 says if the government was so certain of his involvement in extremism they should allow him to stand trial in a criminal court.

      ‘When somebody’s citizenship is revoked if he is criminal he should be put in jail, otherwise he should be free and should have his passport returned,’ he says.

      ‘My message [to Theresa May] is that my citizenship was revoked illegally. It’s wrong that only by sending a letter that your citizenship is revoked. What kind of democracy is it that?’

      https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2014-03-17/my-british-citizenship-was-everything-to-me-now-i-am-nobody-a

  • No More Deaths volunteers prosecuted for providing humanitarian aid to migrants - World Socialist Web Site

    https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/02/16/nmde-f16.html

    On January 18, a federal judge rendered a guilty verdict against four volunteers from the humanitarian organization No More Deaths (NMD) for their actions in the Cabeza Prieta Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Arizona along the US-Mexico border a year and a half ago. Judge Bernardo Velasco’s ruling marks the first conviction of humanitarian aid volunteers in the US in a decade.

    The volunteers—Natalie Hoffman, Oona Holcomb, Madeline Huse and Zaachila Orozco-McCormick—were found guilty of misdemeanors related to entering a wildlife refuge without a permit and leaving behind “personal property.” The latter was a reference to basic lifesaving necessities such as food, water and other small items left behind by the volunteers in order to ensure migrants survive the dangerous desert crossing.

    #états-unis #migrations #asile #mexique #humanitaire

  • Brazil dam disaster: police arrest eight employees of mining company | World news | The Guardian
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/feb/15/brazil-mine-collapse-vale-arrests-employees-latest

    “The eight Vale employees … had full knowledge of the situation of instability in the dam and each one of them, as part of their job, also had the power and ability to adopt measures for either stabilizing the structure or evacuating areas at risk,” a judge in Minas Gerais wrote in an arrest warrant, issued in response to a petition from the state prosecutor’s office.

    Vale said in a securities filing it was cooperating with the investigation.

    The most senior Vale employees arrested on Friday were Joaquim Toledo, Vale executive director of geotechnical operations, who led the team given the task of monitoring the dam’s stability, and Alexandre Campanha, Vale executive corporate director of geotechnicals.

    No top Vale executives have been arrested.

    #fusibles

  • US court throws out lawsuit against academic boycott of Israel | The Electronic Intifada

    https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/us-court-throws-out-lawsuit-against-academic-boycott-israel

    A federal judge in Washington, DC, on Monday dismissed a lawsuit against the American Studies Association over its decision to support the boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

    The ruling is a significant blow to efforts by Israel lobby groups to use courts to harass, intimidate and silence supporters of Palestinian rights in US universities – a tactic known as lawfare.

    In April 2016, several current and former members of the ASA filed the lawsuit against the group over its 2013 resolution backing the academic boycott.

    In his 20-page ruling, US District Judge Rudolph Contreras wrote that the plaintiffs had no standing to file a lawsuit seeking damages on behalf of the ASA, and that their individual damage claims came nowhere near the $75,000 minimum required for them to seek relief in federal court.

    At most, the individual plaintiffs could seek damages of a few hundred dollars to cover membership dues they allege were misappropriated, but they would have to find some other venue to pursue their claims, the judge found.

    “The court basically said, in no uncertain words, that the plaintiffs suing ASA lied when they claimed to have ‘suffered significant economic and reputational damage.’” Radhika Sainath, senior attorney with the civil rights group Palestine Legal, told The Electronic Intifada. “But, as the court explained, ‘nowhere’ in the lawsuit could the plaintiffs explain what that damage was. It didn’t pass the smell test.”

  • Gantz, son of Holocaust survivor, mentions Bergen-Belsen but ignores the camp that is Gaza
    If Benny Gantz had the courage, he’d go to The Hague himself
    Amira Hass
    Feb 03, 2019

    https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-gantz-son-of-holocaust-survivor-mentions-bergen-belsen-but-ignores

    Benny Gantz frequently mentions his mother, a survivor of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, Anshel Pfeffer wrote in Haaretz on January 30. My mother also survived Bergen-Belsen. The former IDF chief of staff’s mother encouraged him to continue fighting in Gaza, but not to stop sending food to its inhabitants. (To make things straight: Israel did not and does not send food to the Palestinians. The food is bought at full price from Israeli merchants and producers. What Israel can do is to prevent food and other essential products from entering Gaza, as it has done more than once.) My mother was revolted by generals, their wars against the Palestinians and the trafficking in the memory of the murdered Jews.

    If Gantz had the courage, he would go to The Hague himself, to the Dutch district court there. The judge would have to decide whether the Dutch court has the authority to hear a civil suit against the former Israeli chief of staff for war crimes in Gaza in 2014 – the killing of six members of a family in one bombardment. Gantz’s lawyer would argue that the judge should reject the suit because the court has no jurisdiction, and in any case Gantz has immunity because he did what he did for the State of Israel, in the framework of his state-sanctioned role. This is also whyIsrael pays for his legal representation.

    >> Read more: Like Netanyahu, Gantz plays on the anxieties of his would-be voters ■ 180 Palestinian women wounded by live Israeli fire since start of Gaza protests

    Suing for war crimes specific people, who were serving in official capacities, is based on the concept that human beings, even soldiers and certainly their supreme commander, are creatures capable of thinking and are therefore responsible for their actions. They are not just following orders. A civil suit for a war crime committed in another country is based on the concept that universal values exist and that when international law is breached, a third state has the right to adjudicate.

    If Gantz had the courage, he would leave his new Knesset (or cabinet) seat for a day or two and stand in The Hague before the plaintiff Ismail Ziada. But even if Gantz doesn’t go, two tracks of uprootedness, injustice and trauma, will intersect there. Europe made clear to Gantz’s parents, who were born in Hungary and Romania, that they were not wanted there. In fact, that they didn’t deserve to live. They were not killed, and they arrived in this country. In Israel we became the victors, and we continue to take revenge on those who have nothing to do with the expulsion and murder of the Jews.