- The Baltimore City Council is asking for Mayor Catherine Pugh to resign after a report showed that she had been working on book deals with the University of Maryland Medical System while she was on its Board of Directors.
- The State Prosecutor opened an investigation into the incident.
- Pugh is currently on a leave of absence for medical reasons but says she intends to return when in good health.
Pugh’s Book Deal controversy
Members of the Baltimore City Council signed a letter on Monday requesting the resignation of the city’s mayor, Catherine Pugh.
Pugh is currently embroiled in a scandal surrounding book deals she made with the University of Maryland Medical System, a group she was on the Board of Directors of. Between the years 2011 and 2018, UMMS paid Pugh $500,000 for 100,000 copies of her children’s book “Healthy Holly.” They then distributed them to locals schools and daycares.
According to the Baltimore Sun, who first reported on the controversy in March, Pugh also sold copies of Healthy Holly to Kaiser Permanente and Associated Black Charities.
When these deals started, Pugh was a state senator. During this time frame, Pugh signed onto legislation that aided UMMS. Kaiser Permanente was also working on a contract with the city of Baltimore for employee benefits.
Since the controversy has unfolded, Pugh has stepped down from the board at UMMS. She also returned her most recent payment of $100,000, as the books in that order had yet to be published. The Maryland State Prosecutor has also opened an investigation into her various book deals, as not disclosing these deals on ethics forms could count as perjury or misconduct.
“I sincerely want to say that I apologize that I have done something to upset the people of Baltimore,” she said issuing an apology at a public appearance. “I never intended to do anything that could not stand up to scrutiny.”
On April 1, Pugh announced she would be taking a leave of absence from her role as mayor, but cited reasons unrelated to the scandal. Instead, she said the leave was to recover from pneumonia, which she had recently been hospitalized for. Her spokesperson said that she plans to return to the job when her health allows it.
Pugh’s Resignation is Requested
Fourteen councilmembers signed the resignation request. The only member who did not sign was Jack Young, who is serving as the acting mayor while Pugh is out.
The letter is a brief two sentences, and states that her resignation would be in “the city’s best interest.”
With the letter, Councilmember Eric Costello released a statement claiming that the ongoing investigations make it “impossible for Mayor Pugh to govern effectively.”
Peter Franchot, Maryland’s Comptroller, has also asked that Pugh resign. On Sunday, he made an appearance on WBAL-TV saying that this scandal has harmed the city’s reputation and that the first step in repairing it is her leaving office.
“Now (Baltimore) is kind of a laughing stock around the country because of this crazy scandal that the mayor is involved in,” he said during an interview. “We need to emphasize that this kind of disgrace is not what we’re known for in Maryland or in Baltimore. And we need to recover from it. But at a minimum, she has to step aside.”
See what others are saying: (The Baltimore Sun) (CBS Baltimore) (PBS)
California Parents Who Starved and Shackled Their Children Sentenced to Life in Prison.
- Louise and David Turpin, the parents who pled guilty to locking up and abusing their children, have been sentenced to life in prison.
- The abuse included beating, starving, and chaining up 12 of their 13 children, among other acts.
- The couple has the possibility of parole in 25 years.
Louise and David Turpin Receive Life Sentence
The California couple who pled guilty to locking up and abusing 12 of their 13 children were sentenced to life in prison on Friday.
Both Louise and David Turpin pled guilty to fourteen charges of torture, dependent adult abuse, child endangerment, and false imprisonment in February. They were charged with the crimes in January 2018, when one of the children escaped from their Perris, California home. The child climbed out of a window and eventually alerted police of the situation.
The Turpin children ranged in age from two to 29-years-old at the time they were found in the house. Of the 13 kids, only the youngest appeared to have never been subject to abuse.
The Turpins chained their children to beds and other furniture, starved them, beat them. They would sometimes keep them chained for months at a time, not allowing them access to the bathroom.
The children were only allowed to shower once a year and seldom left the house. Their parents would also bake pies and not let the kids eat them and buy toys and not let the kids open or play with them. The abuse lasted for over a decade.
The Turpin’s Speak Out
The Turpins’ life sentence leaves them with the possibility of parole after 25 years. Louise Turpin spoke at the sentencing in Riverside County Superior Court, apologizing for the pain she caused her children.
“I’m sorry for everything I’ve done to hurt my children. I love my children so much,” she said. “I want them to know that mom and dad are going to be ok.”
David Turin also had a prepared statement, but it was read by his attorney, as he was too emotional to deliver it himself.
“I’m sorry if I’ve done anything to cause them harm,” his attorney read on his behalf.
Judge Bernard J. Schwartz condemned them both for their actions and spoke about the long-term effects of their abuse.
“Their lives have been permanently altered in their ability to learn, grow and thrive,” he said in court. “What the parents did was selfish, cruel, inhumane treatment.”
The Children Share Statements
The children, who have not been named since the case was first reported, also had a chance to speak in court.
“My parents took my whole life from me, now I’m taking my life back,” one daughter, who is now a college student, said. “Life may have been bad, but it made me strong.”
One son said he still often thinks about what he and his siblings went through.
“Sometimes, I still have nightmares of things that have happened,” he read. “Like my siblings getting chained up or beaten.”
Another child was sympathetic to their parents and expressed that they believed the Turpins deserved less jail time.
“I think 25 years is too long,” the child read in a statement. “I believe our parents did their best to raise all 13 of us.”
U.S. Labeled ‘Problematic’ Place for Journalists
- Reporters Without Borders dropped the U.S. to No. 48 out of 180 countries on its annual World Press Freedom Index.
- The ranking is three places lower than it was last year, changing the U.S. label from “satisfactory” to “problematic.”
- The Index states that increased threats against journalists in the U.S. are becoming more normalized.
- The report specifically cites the U.S. ranking as “marred by the effects of President Donald Trump’s second year in office.”
World Press Freedom Index
The United States has been ranked as a “problematic” place for journalists, as the threats they face continue to become more standard, according to a new report about press freedom.
The 2019 World Press Freedom Index, an annual report compiled by Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) or Reporters Without Borders (RWB), downgraded the U.S. to No. 48 out of 180. The ranking is three spots lower than its place last year.
The downgrade officially changes the press freedom status of the U.S. from “satisfactory” to “problematic,” marking the first time the country has received that label.
#RSFIndex: For the first time, the #UnitedStates is coloured orange (“problematic”) on the World Press Freedom Map.— RSF (@RSF_inter) April 18, 2019
A man opened fire inside a newsroom, killing five people, but @realDonaldTrump continued to systematically denigrate the media.https://t.co/QYCSKKs2xB pic.twitter.com/uVObO1wwVH
“Never before have US journalists been subjected to so many death threats or turned so often to private security firms for protection,” the report said.
According to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, 10 journalists have faced physical attacks this year, and 46 journalists were physically attacked in 2017.
The World Press Freedom Index report also cited the five journalists who were shot and killed at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland last June. The attack was carried out by a man who had threatened the publication for years before the attack.
The report also cited the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey last October.
The section of the report on North America specifically stated that the drop in rankings was “marred by the effects of President Donald Trump’s second year in office.”
“Amid one of the American journalism community’s darkest moments,” the report said.“President Trump continued to spout his notorious anti-press rhetoric, disparaging and attacking the media at a national level.”
Since being elected, Trump has referred to journalists as the “enemy of the American people,” and continuously accused nearly every mainstream media outlet of reporting “fake news.” He has also commended violence against journalists, like giving praise to a GOP congressman who assaulted a reporter in 2017.
According to the report, Trump has also called for the revocation of broadcasting licenses and attempted to block certain media outlets from access to the White House. In November, the Trump administration was forced to restore the press credentials of a CNN reporter that had been stripped of his pass after a heated exchange with Trump.
Back in August, United Nations human rights leaders stated that Trump’s attacks have undermined press freedom, and increase the risk of violence against journalists.
“The president’s relentless attacks against the press has created an environment where verbal, physical and online threats and assault against journalists are becoming normalized,” RSF Interim Executive Director Sabine Dolan told NPR.
The Index also found that the Americas has experienced “the greatest deterioration” in its press freedom regional score.
This is not just because of the United States. The report also cited instances in Brazil, where journalists have been targeted by supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro “both physically and online.” Experts often noted that Bolsonaro uses the same “fake news” refrain to discrediting negative media about him.
The report also stated that Mexico is one of the world’s deadliest countries for journalists, noting that “at least ten journalists were murdered in 2018.”
RSF identified North Korea and Turkmenistan as the most dangerous countries for the media, stating that their governments control the flow of information and censor journalists who defy them by using tactics including arrest, torture or killing.
In contrast, Norway ranked as the safest country, a title it has held for the past three years. Finland received second place.
Only 24 percent of the 180 countries in the report were given the rank of being “safe” or “satisfactory” for the press. This is lower than the 2018 Index, which gave 26 percent of countries “safe” or “satisfactory” rankings.
“If the political debate slides surreptitiously or openly towards a civil war-style atmosphere, in which journalists are treated as scapegoats, then democracy is in great danger,” said RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire. “Halting this cycle of fear and intimidation is a matter of the utmost urgency for all people of good will who value the freedoms acquired in the course of history.”
Woman Wanted Over Columbine Threats Found Dead
- After a day-long manhunt, the woman who posed as a threat to Denver area schools has been found dead by FBI officials.
- Sol Pais was known to have an obsession with Columbine and had made credible threats to the area, causing schools to close on Wednesday as a result.
Woman Found After Search
Officials have confirmed that a woman whom FBI officials were searching for after allegedly making threats to Denver-area schools has been found dead.
On Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday morning, Colorado Police, Jefferson County Police, and the Denver FBI were actively searching for an eighteen-year-old woman named Sol Pais.
At 10:44 a.m. local time, they announced that there was no longer a threat to the area, but did not say whether or not they had found Pais. Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader confirmed at a press conference an hour later that she had been found dead on a search. The cause of death appeared to be a self-inflicted gun wound.
According to the Jefferson County Sherriff’s Office, Pais traveled from her home state of Florida to Colorado on Monday night and bought a shotgun and ammunition upon arriving. She was known to be “infatuated” with the school shooting that occurred at Columbine in 1999, killing 13 people. The twentieth anniversary of the tragic event is this week.
Authorities said Pais made threats that warranted investigation and was considered armed and dangerous. This prompted schools all school in the Denver Metropolitan area, where Columbine is located, to close on Wednesday. Several schools were also on lockdown on Tuesday afternoon.
The Denver FBI learned about Pais from the bureau’s Miami branch. They alerted the Denver branch of her travels, and of her past comments regarding Columbine, which have not been specified.
“She has expressed an infatuation with Columbine,” Dean Phillips, an FBI special agent said at a press conference on Tuesday. “With the events and shooting that happened tragically 20 years ago. Because of that, we were concerned.”
School Officials Look Forward
The superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools, Dr. Jason Glass, thanked both school staff, as well as the public officers and officials who worked to find Pais.
“We are relieved that the threat to schools and the community is no longer present,” he said at a press conference on Wednesday.
Executive of Safety and Security at Jeffco Public School, John McDonald, said that threats to this district are nothing new, but that everyone knew this was serious.
“We are used to threats at Columbine,” he said. “This felt different. This was different.”
The FBI is expected to hold a press conference later today. They are still processing the scene where Pais died.
Dr. Glass said that schools will be open tomorrow with extra safety and security measures on site.