470,000 opioid deaths, three criminal charges

Ashley Shaffer, USA TODAY
·5 min read

A drug company is held responsible for the opioid epidemic. Pope Francis has given same-sex civil unions his stamp of approval. And surprise, surprise: We don't have a coronavirus aid package.

It's Ashley. Missed the headlines today? Let's catch you up.

But first, October surprises keep coming: President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani was pranked by Sacha Baron Cohen in the new "Borat 2" movie. It was an eyebrow-raising situation.

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The maker of powerful painkiller OxyContin to plead guilty to federal charges

Purdue Pharma, the company whose OxyContin painkiller experts say helped create an opioid abuse epidemic, agreed to plead guilty to three federal criminal charges as part of an $8 billion settlement with the Justice Department. The settlement is the highest-profile display of the government seeking to hold a drugmaker responsible for an opioid crisis linked to more than 470,000 deaths in the USA since 2000. The agreement met immediate resistance from lawmakers who said it did not go far enough to address the swath of human destruction caused by the epidemic. The criminal charges include fraud and violations of federal kickback laws, and they do not save the company's owners from future criminal liability.

OxyContin's manufacturer faces criminal charges related to the national opioid epidemic.
OxyContin's manufacturer faces criminal charges related to the national opioid epidemic.

Pope Francis gives the thumbs-up to same-sex civil unions

Pope Francis endorsed same-sex civil unions for the first time as pope. While being interviewed for the feature-length documentary “Francesco,” which premiered at the Rome Film Festival on Wednesday, Francis said, “Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God.” When he served as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis endorsed civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages but hadn't come out publicly in favor of civil unions as pope. In one of his sit-down interviews for the film, he said, “What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.”

Pope Francis gathers his thoughts during Easter Sunday Mass on April 12 behind closed doors at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.
Pope Francis gathers his thoughts during Easter Sunday Mass on April 12 behind closed doors at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.

What everyone’s talking about

Senate fails to pass $500 billion COVID-19 relief package

Another day, another failed attempt to pass a new COVID-19 aid bill as millions of Americans struggle financially after a wave of job losses in the coronavirus recession. The Senate didn't reach a deal Wednesday to pass a $500 billion package that would have given a federal boost to weekly unemployment benefits, sent $100 billion to schools and allocated funding for testing and vaccine development. Nearly all Democrats opposed it over concerns that more money was needed to combat the virus and help Americans. It’s back to the drawing board, but will it be too late? Less than two weeks before the election, 1 in 5 Americans could be out of money by Election Day, data shows.

'She didn't deserve to die': Officer involved in Breonna Taylor case speaks out

The Louisville Metro Police Department sergeant who was shot in the same attempted drug raid that cost Breonna Taylor her life, said her death is a tragedy – but it shouldn't be lumped in with the slayings of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery that led to protests from coast to coast. Jonathan Mattingly, 44, described publicly for the first time what happened the night police tried to serve a search warrant at Taylor's apartment in Louisville, Kentucky, as part of a larger narcotics investigation. "This had nothing to do with race," Mattingly said in an exclusive interview with The Courier Journal and ABC News.

Louisville Metro Police Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly  was wounded during the botched raid on Breonna Taylor's apartment.
Louisville Metro Police Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly was wounded during the botched raid on Breonna Taylor's apartment.

Real quick

Trump or Biden? A painful election for survivors of sexual violence

For survivors of sexual violence, the first presidential election post-Me Too has come down to two men who have both been accused of sexual assault. Nineteen women have come forward with allegations against Trump that include sexual assault and rape. In April, Tara Reade, a former Biden staffer, accused him of sexually assaulting her in 1993. This is not how many women hoped this election would go. In the USA, one in three women experiences some form of sexual violence in her lifetime – those are millions of survivors who have watched as this election rendered them largely invisible. Sexual violence hasn't come up in either the presidential or vice presidential debates. Outside of a handful of headlines, Trump's latest accuser sparked little outrage when she spoke out last month, while media coverage of Reade has been inconsistent. Survivors always face difficult choices, experts say. This election is another example of the difficult decisions survivors must make.

A break from the news

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: OxyContin, Pope Francis, stimulus bill, Breonna Taylor: Wednesday's news