By Nate Raymond and Brendan Pierson April 16 (Reuters) - Four drugmakers, including Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd , will go to trial on Monday over claims they helped fuel an opioid crisis that has resulted in nearly 500,000 overdose deaths in the United States. The trial is one of several looking to hold companies accountable for the overdose and abuse crisis that are set to take place this year after the coronavirus pandemic delayed litigation, putting renewed pressure on them to enter into multi-billion dollar settlements. J&J, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd , Endo International PLC and Abbvie's Allergan unit are accused by several California counties of deceptively marketing painkillers in ways that downplayed their addictive risks to boost sales. If the companies are held liable by Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter Wilson following a trial conducted virtually, the counties say they should have to pay $50 billion to help foot the costs of abating the public nuisance they created plus penalties. Opioids have resulted in the overdose deaths of nearly 500,000 people from 1999 to 2019 in the United States, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We need these companies to fund what it takes to try to undo the harms that they have caused, and the scope and scale of that is enormous," Santa Clara County Counsel James Williams said in an interview. His county is suing the companies along with Los Angeles and Orange counties and the city of Oakland. The drugmakers deny wrongdoing, arguing they acted appropriately in marketing medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and that the counties cannot prove their promotion of opioids caused the crisis. J&J in a statement called its marketing of the drugs "appropriate and responsible," Israel-based Teva said it will defend itself against these "unproven allegations." Endo and Allergan declined to comment. More than 3,400 lawsuits brought largely by states and local governments are pending against companies accused of fueling the opioid epidemic. The state of Oklahoma in 2019 won a $465 million judgment against J&J in only such trial so far. Opioid cases that were set to go to trial in 2020 were put off as a massive new public health crisis made gathering jurors and lawyers in the same room untenable. 'DAY OF RECKONING' Some plaintiffs' lawyers said the delays benefited the companies at the cost of states, counties and municipalities who say they need settlements to help pay for the costs of addressing a painkiller addiction epidemic that only grew worse during the coronavirus pandemic. The nation's three largest drug distributors - McKesson Corp , AmerisourceBergen Corp and Cardinal Health Inc - and J&J have proposed paying a combined $26 billion to resolve the cases against them. The proposal, a version of which was first put forward in 2019, has yet to be finalized, and some plaintiffs lawyers say that only with trials will they and other companies come to the table to finalize payouts. "They keep putting off the day of judgment," Elizabeth Chamblee Burch, a law professor at University of Georgia, said of the companies. "You really need trials to create that moment of pressure." Next month, a closely-watched case is set to go to trial in West Virginia accusing the three drug distributors of ignoring red flags indicating the highly addictive painkillers were being diverted for improper uses. They deny the allegations. That case will be followed in June by a jury trial in New York against several drugmakers and distributors, which was delayed on the eve of trial in March 2020 because of the pandemic. "The day of reckoning is coming," said Hunter Shkolnik, a lawyer at Napoli Shkolnik who is representing New York's Nassau County. "They've been able to slow roll because there was no trial like looming over their heads. Now they have a trial." (Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston and Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Bill Berkrot)
- Associated Press
Thousands of Muslims led by activists from an Islamic political party demonstrated in Bangladesh's capital on Friday to denounce attacks by Israel against Palestinians. After the end of Eid a—Fitr prayers at Dhaka's main Baitul Mokarram Mosque, activists from the Islamic Andolan Bangladesh, or Islamic Movement Bangladesh, began protesting and were joined by thousands of others. Muslim-majority Bangladesh celebrated the key festival of Eid a—Fitr in a subdued manner after the government urged people to avoid large gatherings.
- Associated Press
Israeli artillery pounded northern Gaza early Friday in an attempt to destroy a vast network of militant tunnels inside the territory, the military said, bringing the front lines closer to dense civilian areas and paving the way for a potential ground invasion. Israel has massed troops along the border and called up 9,000 reservists following days of fighting with the Islamic militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza. The stepped-up fighting came as communal violence in Israel erupted for a fourth night, with Jewish and Arab mobs clashing in the flashpoint town of Lod.
- Business Insider
Liz Cheney's likely replacement, Elise Stefanik, isn't nearly as conservative, but she tells 'MAGA tales about the election with gusto,' expert says
Cheney voted with Trump's position 93% of the time, while Stefanik voted with Trump 78% of the time, but he still endorsed her to replace Cheney.
- Associated Press
Jordan Spieth had his longest stretch all day of mere pars — a whopping four holes — on the besieged new home course of the AT&T Byron Nelson when the local favorite stepped over a 55-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th. Spieth, Spaun and plenty of others had little trouble with TPC Craig Ranch north of Dallas. Hideki Matsuyama sputtered on the front nine in his first appearance since becoming the first Japanese player to win the Masters, then stalled again after three straight birdies to start the back nine.
- The Daily Beast
Focus FeaturesWriter/director Timur Bekmambetov’s breakthrough Russian fantasy epics Night Watch and Day Watch were so heavily indebted to Hollywood productions that it made sense when he subsequently gravitated to America for Wanted and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Yet having made his name with conventional blockbuster productions, Bekmambetov has in the past few years carved out a more unique path for himself, producing works—including Unfriended and its sequel Unfriended: Dark Web, as well as the John Cho-led Searching—that play out entirely on a computer screen. Known as Screen Life, it’s a format that seeks to tell stories about our 21st-century device-filtered reality by translating our digital experiences to the movies.The latest in Bekmambetov’s ongoing venture is Profile, a new inspired-by-real-events thriller which he directed for the big screen, where it’ll premiere on May 14. Nonetheless, it’s hard to imagine a film better suited for at-home viewing—especially on a desktop, tablet or smartphone—than this, since its entire tale takes place on the laptop of Amy Whittaker (Valene Kane), a British journalist working on an exposé about the growing trend of Western women traveling to Syria to join up with ISIS. Sparked by a recent incident in which a young, blonde English teen went from playing guitar in YouTube videos to journeying to the Middle East to marry a jihadist, Amy seeks to find out both what compels women to choose such a future and, more importantly, the logistical process that ISIS recruiters employ to ferry their converts from Europe to Syria.Is ‘Benny Loves You’ the Next Great Killer-Doll Horror Film?Amy has sold this story as a freelancer to her editor Vick (Christine Adams), and her reporting entails perpetrating an online ruse in which she poses as a young radical eager to take up ISIS’ cause. Profile’s first few minutes depict her concocting a new digital persona for this scheme, which involves creating a pseudonym and a fake Facebook account (replete with a profile image of Snow White in a hijab), and then sharing a post by notorious ISIS fighter Abu Bilel Al-Britani (Shazad Latif), who made headlines when he left London for the murderous company of the Islamic State. Amplifying Bilel’s content is all it takes to attract his attention; he immediately messages her and begins inquiring about her situation. What Amy tells him is a sob story—about her parents’ abandonment, her disgust with her Western peers, and her desire for something more fulfilling—that she’s culled from a video on YouTube, which is where she also learns makeup tips to appear younger, and how to properly wear a hijab.Profile details this with rapid-fire swiftness, as Amy switches between her web browser, iMessage, Skype, and hard-drive photos and videos like a master digital juggler. Notifications constantly intrude upon what she’s doing at a given moment, be it from her friend Kathy (Emma Cater), who wants advice about dresses for an upcoming party, or from her boyfriend Matt (Morgan Watkins), who’s trying to find a new apartment for them and their noisy dog Sparky. The film incessantly flip-flops between Amy’s numerous points of screen interest as she googles things and messages bosses while simultaneously carrying on Skype calls that she’s recording—either by herself, or with the aid of IT guru Lou (Amir Rahimzadeh), with whom she shares her desktop. It’s akin to a blitzkrieg of fast and furious digital action, forcing one’s eyes to dart around the frame in sync with Amy’s conduct.As Amy strikes up an increasingly close relationship with Bilel, Profile becomes a portrait of the internet as a vehicle for forming both authentic and phony identities. That process is, in one respect, extremely easy, since it only entails setting up new accounts on social media platforms and on your own computer. Amy’s ensuing ordeal, however, also underlines the difficulty of maintaining such a ruse in a world where everyone has access to the same tools, knows the same tricks, and is able to make inquiries that put cons in jeopardy. Bekmambetov generates tension from simple requests from Bilel to Amy (which require her to quickly create and/or manipulate her digital circumstances), as well as from unexpected calls and messages that threaten to destroy the fanciful fiction that Amy is creating in real time with Bilel as he promises her a happy life together in war-torn Syria.Despite his lovey-dovey talk and reassurances about the bliss and safety that await her, Bilel is clearly a cunning viper engaged in his own dangerous fraud, thus further marking Profile as a canny, multifaceted snapshot of digital deception. Moreover, the fact that Amy soon begins to lose sight of herself and fall under Bilel’s spell speaks to the seductive power of online lies and radicalization. Amy knows that Bilel’s every word is false and yet the further she commits to this role-playing scam, the more his pledges of love and matrimony begin to sound authentic—a twist that gets at the persuasiveness of even the most obvious internet bullshit.Bekmambetov executes his formal gimmick with a speed and urgency that maintains suspense, although at 106 minutes, it eventually grows a bit wearisome—one can only take so much of this claustrophobic structural gambit before starting to crave a camera pan or a view outside that isn’t spied via a QuickTime player. Thankfully, Kane and Latif’s lead performances alleviate some of that limited-perspective monotony, exhibiting a charisma—and sly deviousness—that captures the dangerous allure of believing everything you see on your screen. Despite Amy’s somewhat less-than-wholly plausible late behavior, the two develop a chemistry that proves crucial to the film’s success as an examination of complex modern online dynamics.Set less to Amy’s streaming-music playlist than to a soundtrack of clicks, beeps, rings and other familiar notification sounds, Profile boasts a fundamental understanding of How We Live Now but never succumbs to preachiness or corny handholding in conveying its core ideas. From Bilel’s fondness for posting cat GIFs and memes—which Amy recognizes as a deliberate recruitment tool—to Amy’s deciphering of a photo’s coded meaning, the film mines the new world internet order for a harrowing saga about the thin line between who we are and who we pretend to be when we log on, and the peril that such confusion can put us in even once we’ve logged off.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
11 of the most expensive and exclusive golf clubs on the planet - including the one where Bill Gates is hiding during his divorce
The top golf courses in the world are secretive about what it costs to become a member. If you have to ask, you'll never know.
- USA TODAY
Biden and Netanyahu's rapport has been marked by awkward diplomatic slights, deep policy rifts, and a mutual recognition of the U.S.-Israel alliance.
- Business Insider
AOC calls Marjorie Taylor Greene a 'belligerent person that's not in control of themselves' after the GOP lawmaker chased her down a hallway in the Capitol
"I used to work as a bartender. These are the kinds of people that I threw out of bars all the time," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told reporters.
- Business Insider
Ted Cruz accuses the Squad of being 'shills for terrorists' who 'don't like the Jews' in Fox News interview
Cruz's comments feed into a longstanding trope that any criticism of Israel is inherently antisemitic.
Buckingham Palace asked a Trump supporter to remove a doctored image of Queen Elizabeth from his campaign bus, a report says
An unofficial campaign bus known as the "Trump Train" displays a doctored image of Queen Elizabeth II wearing a MAGA hat.
- Associated Press
In the 1980s, Rabbi Meir Kahane's violent anti-Arab ideology was considered so repugnant that Israel banned him from parliament and the U.S. listed his party as a terrorist group. Today, his disciples march through the streets by the hundreds, chanting “Death to Arabs” and assaulting any they come across. This week, they took part in a wave of communal violence in Jerusalem and mixed cities across Israel in which Arabs and Jews viciously attacked people and torched cars.
Kat Dennings and Andrew W.K. both posted the same three photos on Thursday, seemingly taken after he proposed.
- The Independent
Trump lashes out as more than 150 senior Republicans threaten to form new party if GOP doesn’t disown him
Move came after Liz Cheney lost House leadership role for criticising ex-president’s election lies
SINGAPORE (Reuters) -Singapore announced on Friday the strictest curbs on social gatherings and public activities since easing a COVID-19 lockdown last year, amid a rise in locally acquired infections and with new coronavirus clusters forming in recent weeks. The new measures announced by the health ministry, which will be force from Sunday to mid June, include limiting social gatherings to two people and ceasing dining in at restaurants. "This is clearly a setback in our fight against COVID-19, " said Lawrence Wong, the minister for education who co-chairs Singapore's coronavirus taskforce.
- Business Insider
A former Fox News host who was ousted amid sexual harassment allegations will fill in for anchor Greg Stinchfield following the Israel comments.
The move marks an escalation amid this week's ongoing violence between Israel and Palestinian militants.
- Business Insider
Norwegian has unveiled a new cruise ship complete with a food hall, Starbucks, and its largest staterooms ever - see inside
The announcement of the new Norwegian Prima vessel comes at a hopeful time for the cruise industry, which could be sailing again as soon as July.
- The Daily Beast
Samuel Rajkumar/ReutersNEW DELHI—With India ravaged by an unprecedented second wave of the COVID-19 virus—and its health-care system on its knees—some public health and former military officials are voicing outrage over the government’s apparent refusal to use the full force of the army to assist with the crisis.“The army is not being utilized to the fullest extent,” even though it has “tremendous capacities” to ease the current disaster, Deependra Singh Hooda, former chief of the Indian army’s strategic northern command, told The Daily Beast.For weeks experts have been pleading with the government, urging it to rope in the military to help with a health crisis never before seen in India’s modern history.Earlier this month, the deputy chief minister of the country’s capital, Delhi—which is facing the worst COVID situation in India—asked the defense minister to lend the services of the armed forces to help it set up and run COVID-19 health facilities. But the request was turned down, even after the local government reached out to Delhi’s high court, which claimed that Indian forces were stretched.Why Biden’s Push for Vaccine Patent Waivers Won’t Save IndiaWhile the army has set up a few hospitals and provided limited supplies of oxygen, most forces remain uninvolved even as the country’s health-care system is on the brink of collapse. India’s armed forces have around 13,000 officers who are medical professionals and an additional 100,000 medical support staff, whose expertise could save countless lives.“We are going through an emergency situation. The network and infrastructure of the armed forces need to be leveraged,” public health expert Anant Bhan told The Daily Beast. “It will minimize the loss of life.”The demand is being echoed after the top U.S. public health official, Dr. Anthony Fauci, suggested last week that India should marshal all of its resources, including the armed forces, to handle the situation.For India, the army may be the last resort. On Wednesday, 4,205 Indians died of the virus, and 348,421 tested positive for COVID, pushing the total number of confirmed cases so far in the country to 2.5 million. The total death count climbed to 25,8351—which experts say is a massive undercount. Hospitals in the country have been running at capacity for weeks, and hundreds of people have died because they did not get oxygen in time.The downward spiral is showing no signs of plateauing anytime soon, with new variants toting up the intensity of India’s second wave, and the prospect of a third wave that is likely to follow. The virus is also rapidly engulfing India’s rural areas—home to 65 percent of the country's population—where health-care systems are even worse than in the already overwhelmed cities.Mass Grave Dug on Banks of Ganges for 100 Possible COVID Victims Found Floating Down River“This is the first time we have gotten into a situation like this,” General Ved Prakash Malik, former Indian army chief, told The Daily Beast. “There is scope for the civil administration to use the services of armed forces. Other than the medical services, engineering services can be utilized to set up quick infrastructure.”Even though most of India’s population is still struggling to get a first dose, India’s 1.5 million armed personnel were first to be vaccinated. This is one of the reasons why experts are pressing the demand that their services should be utilized quickly.“The army is trained to deal with such situations,” said General Hooda, “We have seen in the past, whenever there has been a crisis, you call the army to [help]. Not only are they trained, but they are very well equipped to handle the crisis.”Hooda says that the focus of the government has been mostly on utilizing the health services of the armed forces, but there’s much more it could do. “The army has tremendous engineering skills to build infrastructure,” he said. “If you need to build infrastructure, like hospitals, and other medical facilities in rural areas, the army can do it as quickly as possible.”Experts also blame the lack of coordination amongst civil authorities for worsening the crisis in the country, and say that it has created tremendous panic and stress among the public. One of the key areas, which most of the health officials and former military commanders agree on, is the need for a centralized communication system so that essential medical supplies are transported and utilized efficiently.“For communications, the army can set up war rooms and certain expertise of the commanders who manage these war rooms can help immensely,” said General Malik, who was head of the Indian army during the war with Pakistan in 1999.General Hooda agrees.“Some emergency links can be set up with a dedicated emergency centre… we have the Indian-wide Movement Control Organisation (MCO), which is used in wars to mobilize and track the military,” said Hooda, adding that that MCO could be utilized to keep track of essential resources like oxygen tankers. Besides engineering and communications, a large fleet of armed forces could also be employed for the transportation of medical supplies.“The armed forces have the capacity to create 100 field hospitals with 100 beds each,” Harcharanjit Singh Panag, a former lieutenant in Indian army, wrote for The Print. “With the help of private doctors, medical students and additional medical equipment, many more temporary facilities can be made operational in a short span of time. It is these resources which can be superimposed on the civilian hospitals to take on the overload.”Some believe that India is not using the services of the military because it would be an embarrassment for the civil government—an acknowledgment that they haven’t been able to handle the situation. Another reason cited is tensions at India’s borders with China and Pakistan, making authorities reluctant to transfer troops stationed there.A Right-Wing Demagogue Is Letting COVID Ravage His People“If the army is brought in it would be somewhat of an admission that [the civilian government] is not able to do this,” General Hooda said. “Second is, there is also talk that we need force preservation [at our] borders.”Last year, the Indian army cancelled its border exercise in Ladakh due to the first wave of the novel coronavirus. But around the same time, violent skirmishes took place when Chinese troops reportedly intruded into Indian land. Both countries reinforced their positions with tens of thousands of troops, and an altercation ensued, killing 20 Indians and an unknown number of Chinese nationals.Given the intensity of the crisis, it’s clear to much of India that there is no other option but to bring in the armed forces if the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to quickly take control of the situation.“The fact is, when you are facing a sort of national emergency, this idea of force preservation needs to be put on the backburner, ” Hooda said. “Once the army comes in, if nothing else, it could bring some degree of hope for people.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
- Reuters Videos
EDITOR'S NOTE: RESENDING TO FIX TYPO IN HEADLINEFor 17 million salmon in California there’s been a drastic change of plan. Extreme drought here means the rivers are too warm for the salmon to survive. Come spring, the young fish – called Smolts – would usually be released from the Nimbus Fish Hatchery into the American River.Instead, California State is loading them up onto trucks and releasing them into the sea from San Francisco Bay.Harry Morse is the spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife."Today we're trucking about 670,000 young salmon, called Smolt, from the hatchery up over 100 miles away around the Sacramento River. We have very low water conditions, we have high temperatures, and under those situations, a high percentage of the young fish would not make it all the way out here to the ocean so they could start their natural cycle."It’s an emergency step not taken since the last major drought in 2014.Droughts in California are becoming more frequent and more intense as climate change continues,threatening the state's already tenuous supply of water for wildlife, farmers and urban areas.[Jason Julienne, senior environmental scientist supervisor, California Department of Fish and Wildlife:] "So this is a response to the drought conditions that we're currently experiencing here in California. We had low amounts of rain, low amounts of snow, and that has created conditions in our reservoirs where we have really low storage. And with that low storage, we typically experience higher than average river temperatures and lower flows. And those are conditions for juvenile Chinook salmon that create low survival. And we are taking our hatchery raised fish and moving them to bay release sites to increase survival by reducing the amount of time that they're spending in those poor river conditions."Even without drought and climate change, salmon and other fishwere struggling to survive on the West Coast,as water projects such as dams and reservoirs inhibit their ability to migrate to the sea and back,a natural part of their life cycle that can take about three years.[Jason Julienne, senior environmental scientist supervisor, California Department of Fish and Wildlife:] "Every year we evaluate the number of salmon that are returning to our rivers. You know, there's oscillations in those numbers. It appears that we're on a downward trend. But we're hoping that the actions that we take today are going to increase the numbers of fish that are going to be returning as adults and returning to our rivers."
- The Independent
‘Do Palestinians have a right to survive?’ AOC makes impassioned speech against Biden policy on Israel crisis
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said that the United States ‘must acknowledge its role in the injustice and human rights violations of Palestinians’