Call to Action

EarthLink – News

EarthLink – News

NY finds $1B in hidden transfers by family behind OxyContin
By ADAM GELLER | Fri, September 13, 2019 11:17 EDT
NEW YORK (AP) — The family that owns OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma used Swiss and other hidden accounts to transfer $1 billion to themselves, New York’s attorney general contends in court papers filed Friday.
New York — asking a judge to enforce subpoenas of companies, banks and advisers to Purdue and its owners, the Sackler family — said it has uncovered the previously unknown wire transfers among family members, entities they control and several financial institutions.
The transfers bolster allegations by New York and other states that the Sacklers worked to shield their wealth in recent years because of mounting worries about legal threats.
Scores of those transactions sent millions of dollars to Mortimer D.A. Sackler, a former member of Purdue’s board and a son of one of its founders, according to the filings.
They point to $20 million shifted from a Purdue parent company to Sackler, who then redirected substantial amounts to shell companies that own family homes in Manhattan and the Hamptons. Another $64 million in transfers to Sackler came from a previously unknown family trust, using a Swiss account, prosecutors said in their filing.
The filing, made in a New York court, follows decisions by that state and others to reject a tentative settlement with Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue, announced this week, arguing it does not do enough to make amends for the company’s and family’s alleged roles in flooding U.S. communities with prescription painkillers.
A spokesperson for Mortimer D.A. Sackler called the attorney general’s contention an attempt to “torpedo a mutually beneficial settlement that is supported by so many other states and would result in billions of dollars going to communities and individuals across the country that need help.”
The transfers were “perfectly legal and appropriate in every respect,” the spokesperson said.
As part of the settlement, Purdue is likely to soon file for bankruptcy protection. But New York and other states have promised they will continue to pursue the Sacklers, alleging that family members drained more than $4 billion from the company over the past dozen years. The family has used a complex chain of companies and trusts to control their holdings, some located in offshore tax havens.
The Sacklers had an estimated net worth of $13 billion as of 2016, making them America’s 19th-richest family, according to Forbes magazine.
In its filing Friday, New York told a state judge that the only way it can determine the full extent of those transfers is if all those it has subpoenaed are forced to provide documents detailing their interactions with the Sackler family.
“While the Sacklers continue to lowball victims and skirt a responsible settlement, we refuse to allow the family to misuse the courts in an effort to shield their financial misconduct. The limited number of documents provided to us so far underscore the necessity for compliance with every subpoena,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a prepared statement.
Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Read More…

EarthLink – News

States split by party on accepting Purdue Pharma settlement
By STEVE KARNOWSKI and GEOFF MULVIHILL | Fri, September 13, 2019 10:20 EDT
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The opioid crisis has hit virtually every pocket of the U.S., from rural towns in deeply conservative states to big cities in liberal-leaning ones. But a curious divide has opened up.
The nation’s Republican state attorneys general have, for the most part, lined up in support of a tentative multibillion-dollar settlement with OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, while their Democratic counterparts have mostly come out against it, decrying it as woefully inadequate.
Exactly why this is so is unclear, and some of those involved suggested it can’t necessarily be explained by the fact that the Republican Party is considered more friendly to big business.
Some of the attention has focused on the role played by Luther Strange, a Republican former Alabama attorney general who has been working for members of the Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharma.
People familiar with the negotiations say he was at a meeting of the Republican Attorneys General Association over the summer, sounding out members about a settlement months before a tentative deal was struck this week.
Purdue has been generous in recent years to RAGA, contributing more than $680,000 to its campaign operation from 2014 through 2018. The company also gave to the organization’s Democratic counterpart, the Democratic Attorneys General Association, over the same five-year period, but far less: about $210,000.
Strange would not comment Friday.
The proposed settlement with the Stamford, Connecticut-based drugmaker could ultimately be worth up to $12 billion, though critics doubt it will be close to that much.
Nearly half the states and lawyers representing some 2,000 local governments have tentatively accepted the settlement deal, according to people familiar with the talks. Under the deal, the company would declare bankruptcy and remake itself as “public benefit trust,” with its profits going toward the settlement. An Associated Press survey of attorney general offices shows 25 states and the District of Columbia have rejected the current offer.
Purdue is perhaps the highest-profile opioid maker, but governments are also suing other drugmakers, distributors and pharmacies to try to hold them accountable for a crisis that has claimed more than 400,000 lives in the U.S. since 2000, including deaths linked to illicit drugs such as heroin and fentanyl.
The first federal trial over the toll exacted by opioids is scheduled to start next month in Cleveland.
The only states with Democratic attorneys general to sign on are Mississippi and Michigan, which is one of the few states that haven’t actually sued Purdue.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel noted the partisan split in a statement this week.
“While I have tremendous respect for my Democratic colleagues who have elected to opt out of settlement discussions,” she said, “ultimately each attorney general is obligated to pursue the course of action which is most beneficial to our respective states.”
The Republican-led attorney general offices in Idaho and New Hampshire have publicly rejected the settlement. Several GOP-led states have not said where they stand, but people with knowledge of the negotiations say they are accepting the settlement.
The GOP attorneys general have generally contended that getting a settlement now is better than uncertainty and years of litigation, while the Democrats have mostly argued that the deal does not provide enough money and does not hold adequately accountable members of the Sackler family.
“The Sacklers have blood on their hands,” said Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings, a Democrat.
The states that have refused to sign on are expected to object in bankruptcy court and to seek to continue lawsuits in state courts against Sackler family members, who have denied wrongdoing.
“I don’t think you should read a whole lot into it,” Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, a Democrat, said of the partisan divide. “My view is it’s a pretty close call to join or not. There are good arguments on both sides. All my colleagues who have made their decisions have made them in good faith.”
Miller said he expects a bipartisan group of states to keep working together on possible settlements with other defendants in the opioid cases.
While Strange was part of negotiations with a bipartisan group of attorneys general, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, a Democrat, said he never spotted Strange at a gathering of the Democratic Attorneys General Association.
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, was one of the lead negotiators on the settlement and said that Strange played a big role.
“He was lawyer to the family, and so we had multiple discussions with the family in which I indicated that a supermajority of states could agree to a deal if the Sacklers would simply provide more certainty as to the payment,” Stein said in an interview. “Almost all states would agree to the deal if the Sackler family would guarantee it 100%. Just make a payment. Those were discussions we had. The Sacklers rejected those offers and said it was take it or leave it, and I’m leaving it.”
Paul Nolette, a Marquette University political scientist, said in an email that the GOP attorneys general and local governments “don’t see this as a bad deal under the circumstances.” But he said Democrats have been stung by a backlash over settlements over foreclosures years ago, and they “see political risks for not pushing for more.”
___
Mulvihill reported from Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
___
Associated Press writers Kim Chandler in Montgomery, Alabama; Emery Dalesio in Raleigh, North Carolina; David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan; and Richard Lardner in Washington contributed to this report.
Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Read More…

EarthLink – News

Ex-PM David Cameron ‘sorry’ for creating Brexit divisions
By GREGORY KATZ | Sat, September 14, 2019 01:34 EDT
LONDON (AP) — The British prime minister who called the 2016 Brexit referendum and then saw the public vote to leave the European Union, creating the nation’s prolonged political crisis, says he is sorry for the divisions it has caused.
David Cameron said in an interview published Saturday that he thinks about the consequences of the Brexit referendum “every single day” and worries “desperately” about what will happen next.
“I deeply regret the outcome and accept that my approach failed,” he said. “The decisions I took contributed to that failure. I failed.”
It is the closest the 52-year-old Cameron has come to a public apology for setting in motion events that led to the abrupt end of his premiership the next month and brought Britain into an unending political crisis. He admitted that many people blame him for the Brexit divisions that have deepened since the referendum and will never forgive him, but he defended his decision to call the vote.
Cameron, who served as prime minister from 2010 to 2016, spoke to The Times newspaper to promote his soon-to-be-published memoir.
He had supported remaining in the EU and resigned the morning after the 2016 referendum, staying out of electoral politics and largely out of the public eye since then.
His successor — Theresa May — wrestled with all the issues that leaving the EU entails and was not able to win parliamentary backing for a divorce plan that she agreed upon with EU leaders. She resigned, bringing fellow Conservative Boris Johnson to power in July.
Johnson, who faces an Oct. 31 deadline for leaving the EU, has said he plans to leave on that day “do or die.” He has been instructed by Parliament to seek a Brexit extension, which he says he will not do despite concerns that leaving without a deal would cause severe economic problems and possible food and medicine shortages. He is meeting with European leaders on Monday to search for some compromise.
In the interview, Cameron attacked former allies Johnson and Michael Gove, who helped spearhead the “Leave” campaign.
Cameron says they “left the truth at home” during the campaign, citing among other things the false claim that Britain could save 350 million pounds per week that was being sent to the EU and give it to the country’s beloved National Health Service.
He said the Brexit referendum turned into a Conservative Party “psychodrama” and that he had been “hugely depressed” about leaving his post as prime minister.
Cameron’s negative comments about Johnson came after it was revealed in court that Johnson referred to Cameron as a “girly swot” in written notes.
Cameron also turned to Twitter on Saturday to draw more attention to his book and the excerpts being published in The Times, tweeting “for 3 years I have kept relatively quiet about politics. But I think it’s right former PMs write their memoirs, to explain what they did and why.”
His book, “For the Record,” is out Thursday.

Read More…

EarthLink – News

UAE says 6 troops killed in ‘collision,’ without elaborating
By JON GAMBRELL | Sat, September 14, 2019 01:34 EDT
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Six Emirati troops have been killed in a “collision,” the United Arab Emirates said Friday, without elaborating or offering a location or time for the incident that comes after the federation of sheikhdoms began pulling out of a Saudi-led war in Yemen.
Details about what happened remained vague, with the state-run WAM news agency citing the General Command of the UAE Armed Forces for the information. However, Yemeni officials speaking to The Associated Press said the troops were killed in a road crash in southern Yemen.
Among the six troops killed was a captain, the WAM report said, identifying those killed by name.
“The General Command of the Armed Forces extends its condolences and sympathy to the families of the martyrs,” its statement said. “May Allah Almighty grant them peace and forgiveness and life in paradise.”
The statement gave no details of the crash, nor the vehicles involved.
Yemeni security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that the Emirati troops died in a traffic crash in Yemen’s southern Shabwa province. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to journalists.
The UAE entered Yemen’s war in March 2015 alongside Saudi Arabia to back Yemen’s internationally recognized government, which the Houthis rebels had pushed out of the capital, Sanaa. The Emirates largely has handled ground operations in Yemen’s south in the conflict, while the Saudis have bombed from the air and handles operations in northern Yemen.
The war has pushed Yemen to the brink of famine and killed more than 90,000 people since 2015, according to the U.S.-based Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, or ACLED, which tracks the conflict.
The UAE has not published overall casualty figures in the war. However, it has acknowledged individual incidents, the worst of which came in the war’s opening months when 45 Emirati troops were killed by a rebel missile attack. It marked the deadliest day for its military in the 47-year history of the federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula home to Dubai.
The UAE has not publicly acknowledged how many troops it withdrew from Yemen since June. Yemeni officials have suggested Emirati troop strength has dropped by as much as 75% out of around 10,000 troops.
The Emirati withdrawal followed rising tensions between Iran and the U.S. over Tehran’s collapsing nuclear deal with world powers, suggesting Abu Dhabi worried about having forces at home in case an armed conflict broke out.
While Emirati troops often weren’t directly involved in front-line combat, they organized local forces and handled intelligence operations in Yemen’s south. Those forces included separatists seeking their own nation who have swept into areas to seize control from Yemen’s internationally recognized government, leading to clashes between the supposed allies.
___
Associated Press writer Ahmed Al-Haj in Sanaa, Yemen, contributed to this report.

Read More…

EarthLink – News

AP Photos: Nepal festival season starts with goddess, dance
Fri, September 13, 2019 09:22 EDT
KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Devotees pulled a girl believed to be a living goddess, Kumari, around Nepal’s capital on a wooden chariot as tens of thousands of people lined the streets to get a glimpse and receive a blessing.
President Bidhya Devi Bhadari and other top officials were among those seeking a blessing Friday from the girl, one in a long series who have been worshipped as a living goddess.
Indra Jatra is an eight-day festival celebrated mostly by the Newar community, the native residents of Kathmandu. It is also known as the festival of deities and demons. It especially honors Indra, the Hindu god of rain, to mark the end of the monsoon season.
Indra Jatra begins a festival season that runs until October, during which both Hindus and Buddhists celebrate with family, feasts and merry making.
Families gathered Friday for feasts and at shrines to light incense for the dead, and men and boys in colorful masks and gowns representing Hindu deities danced to traditional music and drums, drawing throngs of spectators to the city’s old streets.
The masked dancers, one of the highlights of the ceremony, can be fearsome, entertaining and awe-inspiring, depending on the performers’ movements.

Read More…

informationonline