Connect with us

U.S.

Las Vegas Mayor Faces Backlash for Offering City as Control Group

Published

on

  • In an interview with Anderson Cooper on Wednesday, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said she wants the city to reopen early, offering up her constituents as a control group to test the effects of lifting lockdown orders.
  • Goodman said she doesn’t have a plan for how businesses should safely operate and that it’s up to them to figure that out.
  • She also said any business found to be spreading the coronavirus would eventually be destroyed by market competition.
  • Her comments drew the ire of city and state officials, including Governor Steve Sisolak who assured Nevadans that no one would be used as a control.

Goodman Say Competition Will Kill Businesses Spreading COVID-19

Offering up constituents to be a placebo group for the coronavirus hasn’t been an option for most mayors across the United States, but Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman admitted to having explored the idea.

In fact, Goodman said as much in a Wednesday interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN. In that interview, now largely derided and ridiculed for Goodman’s startling responses, the mayor said she backed off from the idea after a statistician told her the plan wouldn’t work. The statistician reminded her that Las Vegas is a major travel destination and that people frequently enter and leave it. 

“I said, ‘Oh that’s too bad,’ because I know when you have a disease, you have a placebo that gets the water and the sugar and then you get those that actually get the shot. We would love to be that placebo,” Goodman said. 

Earlier in the interview, Goodman told Cooper that he was being alarmist when he pressed her about previous comments she made about wanting to reopen Las Vegas. 

“But you’re encouraging, I mean, hundreds of thousands of people coming there in casinos, smoking, drinking, touching slot machines, breathing circulated air, and then, returning home to states around America and countries around the world,” Cooper said. “Doesn’t that sound like a virus petri dish? I mean, how is that safe?”

“No,” Goodman said, “it sounds like you’re being an alarmist. I’m not. I’ve lived a long life. I grew up in the heart of Manhattan. I know what it’s like to be with subways and on buses and crammed into elevators.”

I’m being alarmist?” Cooper said. 

“I think you are by saying what you have just said,” she replied. 

Cooper then continued to press Goodman by asking her how she would regulate social distancing in public areas like casinos, to which she replied, “That’s up to them to figure out. I don’t own a casino.

“I am not a private owner,” she went on to say. “That’s the competition in this country. The free enterprise and to be able to make sure that what you offer the public meets the needs of the public. Right now, we’re in a crisis health wise, and so for a restaurant to be open or a small boutique to be open, they better figure it out. That’s their job.”

When Cooper pressed her on this, asking her if she was saying that competition would weed out businesses spreading the coronavirus, the conversation became very circular. She then accused Cooper of trying to get her to slip up.

However, one of the key takeaways from that exchange was actually something she said on Tuesday with Katy Tur on MSNBC.

“And let the businesses open and competition will destroy that business if, in fact, they become evident that they have disease, they’re closed down,” Goodman said. “It’s that simple.” 

In her CNN interview, Cooper read back that quote to Goodman, telling her that health officials wouldn’t really know if a business becomes an epicenter until weeks after it has already happened.

Cooper Becomes Increasingly Fed Up With Goodman

As the interview stretched on, Cooper became increasingly more exasperated with his guest. At one point, while speaking about Dr. Anthony Fauci, she snapped at him for trying to interrupt. Notably, though, Cooper said, “I’m not interrupting you. I’m listening to you.”

“Okay, thank you. Maybe it’s breathing. I’m sorry. I’m being silly here,” Goodman replied, then unaware that her interview would soon go viral and that she would be called much more than silly. 

Later in the interview, Goodman compared the state’s response to the coronavirus to atomic bomb testing during the cold war era. 

“We’re not getting the truth,” she said, “and I know over the years, going back to the 1950s with the atomic bomb, ‘Don’t worry about more testing in Nevada. You’ll all be fine. Take a shower.’” 

“You’re the one saying you’ll all be fine,” Cooper said before being interrupted. 

“No, no, no,” Goodman said. “You’re putting words in my mouth. I said open up Las Vegas.” 

In another spar between the two, Cooper showed Goodman the layout of a restaurant in China, but Goodman then hit back by saying, “This isn’t China. This is Las Vegas, Nevada.”

“Wow, okay, that’s really ignorant,” Cooper said. “That’s an ignorant, ignorant statement. That’s a restaurant, and yes it’s in China, but they are human beings too.” 

At one point, a little over halfway into the interview, Cooper takes off his glasses and wipes his face as Goodman is talking. About a minute later, he tells her, “I mean, you’re offering nothing other than being a cheerleader, which I guess is part what of your job is and I respect that, and you seem like a very nice person, but I don’t understand. Do you not have any sense of responsibility?” 

Vegas Mayor Overwhelmingly Blasted for Interview Comments

After that interview, an overwhelming amount of ridicule was directed at Goodman, with many saying she was unfit for office.

“Anderson Cooper may have just ended her career,” professional poker player Daniel Negreanu said. “I couldn’t imagine a public official coming off worse in an interview. There should be a mercy rule.”

Later Wednesday evening, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak responded to Goodman’s comments in a different interview with Cooper, saying that he won’t let people in Nevada be used as a placebo group.

“We are clearly not ready to open,” he also said. “Sadly, since you did that interview, we now have 187 deaths in the state of Nevada.” 

In that interview, Sisolak also noted the number of people infected in the state has climbed to 4,100.

Las Vegas City Councilman Brian Knudsen said that reopening is “reckless and completely contrary to the overwhelming consensus of medical experts.” 

The Culinary Workers Union—which is the largest union in the state—called her comments “outrageous” and said that 11 of its members have died from COVID-19.

Late night host Jimmy Kimmel, who grew up in Vegas, called for Goodman to resign. Kimm took to Twitter to call her an embarrassment to his hometown. 

Notably, even though Goodman said she wants to greenlight casino openings “immediately,” she is unable to do so because Sisolak has put the state on mandatory lockdown and closed all businesses.

Regarding the Las Vegas Strip, even without that lockdown, she doesn’t have any power at all over it.  It’s actually located in an unincorporated part of the county outside of her jurisdiction. 

Still, there are many casinos within city limits, and she will likely try to open them as soon as she has the authority to do so.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (The New York Times) (NBC News)

U.S.

At Least 130,000 Covid-19 Deaths Were Avoidable, Columbia Study Finds

Published

on

  • A report from the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University estimates that between 130,000 and 210,000 coronavirus deaths were avoidable in the United States.
  • While the U.S. accounts for just 4% of the global population, the country makes up 20% of the world’s coronavirus cases and fatalities. The country’s proportional death rate is twice as high as Canada’s and 50 times higher than Japan’s.
  • The report largely blamed the Trump administration for ignoring warning signs and scientists, arguing that he has been downplaying the issue, peddling misinformation, and turning the pandemic into a political game.
  • It also criticized the Trump administration and other federal leaders for not responding quickly enough in terms of testing and social distancing measures, which could have saved lives if implemented sooner.

Preventable Deaths in the U.S. 

The National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University released a report on Wednesday estimating that at somewhere between 130,000 and 210,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States were avoidable. 

At the time the report was made, the county had lost 217,000 thousand lives to the virus. As of Thursday morning, the U.S. death toll stands at 222,000. While the U.S. accounts for just 4% of the global population, the country makes up 20% of the world’s coronavirus cases and fatalities. 

According to the report, the U.S. has the ninth highest proportional death rate in the world behind Peru, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Chile, Spain, and Mexico. The country’s proportional death rate is twice as high as Canada’s and 50 times higher than Japan’s.

The report estimated how many deaths may have been preventable by seeing what the U.S. death toll may have been if it had mirrored the strategies of more proactive and high-income countries.

For example, it says that if the U.S. had followed policies similar to those in Canada, the country may have seen just 85,192 fatalities, making more than 132,500 American deaths “avoidable.” If the States had mirrored Germany the death toll may have been 38,457, leaving 179,260 avoidable losses. If the U.S. modeled after South Korea’s robust intervention, Americans may have seen around 2,799 deaths, leaving nearly 215,000 deaths avoidable.

The researchers do acknowledge that other various factors could contribute to a country having a higher mortality rate, including demographics, distribution of population, health risk factors like obesity, and health care access in general. Still they do not believe this would explain the magnitude of the COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. According to the report, even if the U.S. had implemented an “averaged” response, the virus may have only claimed between 38,000 to 85,000 lives, meaning that at least 130,000 COVID-19 deaths might have been avoidable.

Failures of the Trump Administration

Many, including the researchers behind this report, largely blamed state and federal governments as well as President Donald Trump’s Administration for the catastrophic death toll in the nation. Criticism has come from leaders all over, including former president Barack Obama. During a speech on Thursday, Obama said that he handed Trump’s White House a “pandemic playbook” that got thrown out the window.

“Other countries are still struggling with the pandemic but they’re not doing as bad as we are because they’ve got a government that’s actually been paying attention,” Obama added. “And that means lives lost. And that means an economy that doesn’t work. And just yesterday, when asked if he’d do anything differently, Trump said, ‘Not much.’ Really? Not much? Nothing you can think of that could have helped some people keep their loved ones alive?” 

Because the U.S. has been repeatedly condemned for its reckless mishandling of the virus, the idea that thousands of deaths could have been prevented is not surprising. Still, seeing the staggering numbers and lives that did not need to be taken is a sobering reminder of the tragedy the country is currently facing. The report said this tragedy falls on Trump’s hands and specifically criticized the president for ignoring science and instead spreading misinformation and turning the pandemic into a political game. 

“Many nations facing the pandemic crisis have put politics aside and orchestrated a response led by public health experts and global coordination,” the report stated. 

“Unfortunately, the Trump Administration has shown hostility to much of the critical guidance and recommendations put forth by its own health agencies, with the President at times misleading the public on the scope of the threat, attempting to ‘downplay’ the extent of the crisis, and advocating for unproven therapeutical or unsafe treatments.”

A Delayed Response From the U.S.

Among the many oversights, the report claimed the administration was responsible for was a lack of testing. From the start of the pandemic, the U.S. was far behind on testing efforts, which are essential in fighting a pandemic. Both the U.S. and South Korea had their first confirmed cases on the same day. South Korea began rapid widespread testing and had conducted 250,000 by March 16. At this time in the United States, Trump was still peddling the idea that the virus was like a flu and might fade away. 

The report also noted that a lack of mask mandates and delayed responses in other areas like social distancing likely contributed to the spread of the coronavirus. If major cities in the country had introduced social distancing measures just one or two weeks earlier, it is estimated that 62% of cases and 55% of deaths could have been avoided. 

Deaths and case counts are not the only things that could have been avoided. The report noted that in New York State alone 325,000 children have been pushed to poverty because of the pandemic and 4,200 children have lost a parent to COVID-19. If policies had been implemented earlier, there could be at least 1.5 million less people grieving across the country right now. 

“The U.S. should have – and could have – done better to protect the nation, and particularly its most vulnerable populations, from a threat that was identified and recognized early in 2020,” the report said in its conclusion.

“The weight of this enormous failure ultimately falls to the leadership at the White House – and among a number of state governments – which consistently undercut the efforts of top officials at the CDC and HHS…a pandemic is not a time for a decentralized and combative national response.”

See what others are saying: (Forbes) (Axios) (CNN)

Continue Reading

U.S.

Purdue Pharma Agrees To Plead Guilty To 3 Opioid-Related Charges in $8B Settlement, But Don’t Expect Them To Pay the Full Amount

Published

on

  • As part of a more than $8 billion settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, Purdue Pharma will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and two counts of violating anti-kickback, or bribery, laws.
  • Because Purdue filed for bankruptcy last year, that full figure likely won’t be collected by the government.
  • Under the settlement, which will need approval in bankruptcy court, Purdue would become a public benefit corporation that is controlled by the government, with revenue from opioid sales being used to fund treatment options and programs.
  • A number of state attorneys generals and Democratic lawmakers have said the settlement does not hold Purdue or its owners fully accountable and could derail thousands of other cases against the company.
  • They have also argued that the government should “avoid having special ties to an opioid company… that caused a national crisis.”

Purdue to Plead Guilty to 3 Criminal Charges

The Justice Department announced Wednesday that Purdue Pharma has agreed to plead guilty to three criminal charges related to fueling the country’s opioid epidemic. 

Notably, those guilty pleas come as part of a massive settlement worth more than $8 billion, though Purdue will likely only pay a fraction of that amount to the government.

Purdue is the manufacturer of oxycontin, which is a powerful and addictive painkiller that’s believed to have driven the opioid crisis. Since 2000, opioid addiction and overdoses have been linked to more than 470,000 deaths. 

As part of the settlement, Purdue will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. There, it will admit that it lied to the Drug Enforcement Administration by claiming that it had maintained an effective program to avoid opioid misuse. It will also admit to reporting misleading information to the DEA in order to increase its manufacturing quotas.

While Purdue originally told the DEA that it had “robust controls” to avoid opioid misuse, according to the Justice Department, it had “disregard[ed] red flags their own systems were sending up.”

Along with that guilty plea, Purdue will also plead guilty to two anti-kickback, or bribery, related charges. In one charge, it will admit to violating federal law by paying doctors to write more opioid prescriptions. In the other, it will admit to using electronic health records software to increase opioid prescriptions.

According to a copy of the plea deal obtained by the Associated Press, Purdue “knowingly and intentionally conspired and agreed with others to aid and abet” the distribution of opioids from doctors “without a legitimate medical purpose and outside the usual course of professional practice.”

The $8 billion in settlements will be split several different ways.

In one deal, the Sackler family — which owns Purdue — will pay $225 million to resolve civil fines. 

As part of the main deal, another $225 million will go directly to the federal government in a larger $2 billion criminal forfeiture; however, the government is actually expected to forego the rest of that figure.

In addition to that, $2.8 billion will go to resolving Purdue’s civil liability. Another $3.54 billion will go to criminal fines, but because Purdue filed bankruptcy last year, these figures also likely won’t be fully collected — largely because the government will now have to compete with other claims against Purdue in bankruptcy court.”

Purdue Will Become a “Public Benefit Company”

Since Purdue is in the middle of bankruptcy proceedings, a bankruptcy court will also need to approve the settlement.

“The agreed resolution, if approved by the courts, will require that the company be dissolved and no longer exist in its present form,” Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said. 

However, that doesn’t mean that Purdue’s fully gone or that it will even stop making oxycontin. In fact, as part of this settlement, the Sacklers would relinquish ownership of Purdue, and it would then transform into what’s known as a public benefit company.

Essentially, that means it would be run by the government. Under that setup, money from limited oxycontin sales, as well as from sales of several overdose-reversing medications, would be pumped back into treatment initiatives and other drug programs aimed at combating the opioid crisis.

For its part, the Justice Department has endorsed this model. 

Should Purdue Be Punished More?

There has been strong opposition to this deal, mainly from state attorneys general and Democratic members of Congress who say it doesn’t go far enough.

Those critics argue that the settlements don’t hold Purdue or the Sackler family fully accountable, especially the Sacklers since — unlike Purdue — they didn’t have to admit any wrongdoing.

“[W]hile our country continues to recover from the pain and destruction left by the Sacklers’ greed,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said, “this family has attempted to evade responsibility and lowball the millions of victims of the opioid crisis. Today’s deal doesn’t account for the hundreds of thousands of deaths or millions of addictions caused by Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family.”

“If the only practical consequence of your Department’s investigation is that a handful of billionaires are made slightly less rich, we fear that the American people will lose faith in the ability of the Department to provide accountability and equal justice under the law,” A coalition of 38 Democratic members of Congress said in a statement to Attorney General Bill Barr last week.

While this settlement doesn’t include any convictions against the Sacklers specifically, as the Justice Department noted, it also doesn’t release them from criminal liability and a separate criminal investigation is ongoing. 

Still, last week, 25 state attorneys general asked Barr not to make a deal that includes converting Purdue into a public benefit company, urging the Justice Department to “avoid having special ties to an opioid company, conflicts of interest, or mixed motives in an industry that caused a national crisis.” 

Part of their concern is that the government would essentially run this new company while also holding the original one accountable. Those attorneys general instead argued that Purdue should be run privately but with government oversight. 

See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (The New York Times) (Fox Business)

Continue Reading

U.S.

Parents of 545 Children Separated at U.S. Border Still Can’t Be Found

Published

on

  • A Tuesday filing update from the ACLU and Department of Justice revealed that a Steering Committee in charge of reuniting families that were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border has not been able to find parents of 545 separated children. 
  • Efforts to reach these parents via telephone have been unsuccessful and those involved are not hopeful that will change. Two-thirds of these parents are believed to be in their respective countries of origin.
  • So far, parents for 485 kids have been reached.
  • Finding these parents is an already complicated process made even more strenuous by the coronavirus pandemic. On-the-ground searches were suspended because of COVID-19 but have now picked up in limited capacity.

Parents of 545 Children Remain Unfound

A Tuesday court filing from the U.S. Department of Justice and American Civil Liberties Union revealed that the parents of 545 children who had been separated at the U.S.-Mexico border have not been found or contacted.

Two thirds of those parents are expected to be in their respective country of origin. While there have been efforts to reach these families via phone, they have not been successful. Other efforts to reach these parents are in the works. 

Thousands of families were separated in 2018 under President Donald Trump’s zero tolerance policy, but a federal judge ordered that those families should be reunited. Soon after, many were, but in reality many more families had actually been separated. It was later revealed that the Trump Administration had been separating families back in 2017 under a pilot program. A court order reuniting those families was not issued until last year. 

A Steering Committee, of which the ACLU and other organizations are members, is now searching for these parents. According to the filing, the government provided a list of 1,556 children. The current focus on reaching children whose membership in this case is not contested and who have available contact information for a sponsor or parent. The Steering Committee has attempted to reach the families of all 1,030 children who fit that bill, and have successfully reached the parents, or their attorneys, for 485 kids. 

“There is so much more work to be done to find these families, Lee Gelernt, the deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, told NBC News, which broke the story.

“People ask when we will find all of these families, and sadly, I can’t give an answer. I just don’t know,” he continued. “But we will not stop looking until we have found every one of the families, no matter how long it takes. The tragic reality is that hundreds of parents were deported to Central America without their children, who remain here with foster families or distant relatives.”

Efforts to Find Parents

Because so much time has passed between family separation practices and today, initiatives to find those parents are difficult. They are also further complicated by the fact that during the pilot program, U.S. officials did not collect thorough information from these parents, and many were deported before courts ordered they be reunited with their kids. 

Nan Schivone, the legal director for Justice in Motion, which carries out on-the-ground searches for parents, told The Washington Post that attorneys “take the minimal, often inaccurate or out-of-date information provided by the government and do in-person investigations to find these parents.” 

Schivone said it is an “an arduous and time-consuming process on a good day.” Sometimes, these lawyers might find themselves in remote villages where outsiders are suspect and language barriers can slow down communication.

The pandemic halted these efforts as lockdowns and curfews made it impossible for Justice in Motion to look for parents abroad. Though, Tuesday’s filing revealed that “limited physical on-the-ground searches for separated parents has now resumed where possible to do so.” 

See what others are saying: (NPR) (NBC News) (Washington Post)

Continue Reading