- In a series of viral incidents over the weekend, Americans seemed to be taking firm stands on each side of the face mask requirement debate.
- Video from a Staten Island grocery store shows customers yelling at a woman for not wearing a mask, demanding that she leave.
- A performance artist in Los Angeles held photoshoots outside grocery stores while wearing a bikini made of surgical masks, notably while not covering her mouth with one.
- The debate became political when President Trump, who opted not to wear a mask at Memorial day ceremonies, retweeted a post mocking Joe Biden for his choice to wear a mask.
Staten Island Grocery Store
Along with Memorial Day weekend’s slew of crowded beaches and pools came a series of viral incidents addressing one of the pandemic’s greatest debates: the importance of wearing a mask in public.
One viral video from Staten Island, New York showed grocery store customers yelling at a woman who went to the store without a mask.
“Get the fuck out of here,” a herd of voices can be heard saying in the clip.
People in the state are currently required to wear a face-covering when in public spaces where social distancing is not possible because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The video went viral after it was posted to Faceboook and Twitter this weekend, where it has raked in over 675,000 views and 7 million views respectively.
Though the clip was first posted Saturday, the incident actually happened at a Staten Island ShopRite two weeks ago. ShopRite told CBS News that store management reported the event to authorities. A spokesperson for the store also advised that customers who see people without a face covering should notify customer service instead of taking matters into their own hands.
“Preventing the spread of COVID-19 is a shared responsibility,” ShopRite’s statement to CBS continued. “At ShopRite, we continue to adhere to our sanitation and social distancing protocols to ensure our stores remain a safe place for associates and customers to work and shop. We are all in this together and we ask for everyone to be patient and understanding during this difficult time.”
Wearing a mask is something that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been very insistent about. He regularly tweets about the importance of protecting oneself and others during the pandemic.
According to Cuomo, in his state, even though they are among the most exposed, frontline workers have a lower infection rate, likely because they are wearing personal protective equipment.
This viral video from ShopRite prompted a wide range of reactions reactions, many of which found humor in the loud New Yorker spirit captured in the clip.
“Never been prouder of growing up in Staten Island,” said actress and activist Alyssa Milano.
Actor Jeffrey Wright noted that even though Staten Island is the most conservative borough in New York City, they are likely more willing to follow mask regulations because of the high death rate in their area.
Mask Bikini Photo Shoot
The west coast had a mask controversy of its own when a performance artist named DaVida Sal in Los Angeles posted photos of herself wearing a tiny bikini made of surgical masks. In the photos, Sal is standing outside of grocery stores. She also has masks covering her ankles and eyes, but notably not her mouth.
In a Facebook post she titled this photo series “The New Abnormal.”
“Abnormal Becoming the New Normal. She blindly obeyed,” she wrote. “If the MASKS work, WHY the 6 feet? If the 6 feet works, WHY the Masks? If BOTH work, WHY the LOCKDOWN?”
These photos prompted quick backlash online, where model and TV personality Chrissy Teigen said they made her want to fly straight to Mars.
Others said they thought these photos showed a complete lack of empathy.
“Her stunt is an insult to the doctors, nurses, patients & families of those who have succumbed to the Coronavirus,” one person wrote.
Trump Vs. Biden
The mask debate took a turned political when President Donald Trump retweeted criticism of candidate Joe Biden’s decision to wear a mask in public.
Fox News analyst Brit Hume shared a photo of Biden wearing a mask on Memorial Day. He said this photo “might help explain why Trump doesn’t like to wear a mask in public.”
The picture was taken while Biden, along with his wife Jill, went to lay a wreath at Delaware Memorial Bridge Veterans Memorial Park. During Trump’s Memorial Day ceremonies, he opted to not cover his face.
After retweeting the remarks about Biden’s mask, Trump sent out a tweet criticizing the former Vice President’s response to the swine flu.
Many believed that Trump is trying to structure a narrative that he is strong for not wearing a mask while Biden, his presumptive Democratic opponent in November, is weak for doing so. However, a handful of Republican politicians have slammed the idea that wearing a mask should be a matter of the left versus the right.
“I would really love to see in North Dakota that we could just skip this thing that other parts of the nation are going through, where they’re creating a divide — either it’s ideological or political or something — around mask versus no mask,” North Dakota’s Republican Governor Doug Burgum during a press briefing.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, who is also a Repulican, has expressed the same sentiment.”
“This is not about politics,” he said in a statement.
See what others are saying: (CBS News) (Washington Post) (Toronto Sun)
Purdue Pharma Agrees To Plead Guilty To 3 Opioid-Related Charges in $8B Settlement, But Don’t Expect Them To Pay the Full Amount
- 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)
Parents of 545 Children Separated at U.S. Border Still Can’t Be Found
- 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)
Scott Peterson’s Murder Convictions To Be Re-examined
- Scott Peterson was convicted in 2004 of murdering his wife, Laci, and their unborn child.
- He was sentenced to death for the crimes, but the California Supreme Court overturned the death sentence in August of this year after finding that the trial court improperly dismissed potential jurors. The court did, however, uphold the convictions.
- Now, the CA Supreme Court has ordered the San Mateo County Superior Court to review the convictions and determine whether Peterson should be given a new trial on the grounds that one juror “committed prejudicial misconduct by not disclosing her prior involvement with other legal proceedings.”
- That juror had not disclosed the fact that she was granted a restraining order in 2000 against her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend for harassing her when she was pregnant.
Peterson’s Death Sentence Was Previously Overturned
The California Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered a review of Scott Peterson’s 2004 convictions for murdering his wife, Laci, and their unborn son.
Peterson was sentenced to death by lethal injection for those crimes in 2005, but in August of this year, the California Supreme Court overturned his death sentence.
“We reject Peterson’s claim that he received an unfair trial as to guilt and thus affirm his convictions for murder,“ the court said at the time. “But before the trial began, the trial court made a series of clear and significant errors in jury selection.”
As far as what errors the court is talking about, it said the trial judge wrongly discharged prospective jurors who expressed opposition to capital punishment but said they would be willing to impose it.
Court to Decide on Potential New Trial
Now, weeks later, the California Supreme Court has ordered that the case return to the San Mateo County Superior Court to determine whether Peterson should be given a new trial on the ground that a juror “committed prejudicial misconduct by not disclosing her prior involvement with other legal proceedings, including but not limited to being the victim of a crime.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, that juror had not shared the fact that she was granted a restraining order in 2000 against her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend for harassing her when she was pregnant.
Peterson’s lawyers even say that when all potential jurors were asked whether they had ever been a victim of a crime or involved in a lawsuit, the juror said no to both questions.
They also say she was one of the two holdouts for convicting Peterson of first-degree murder for killing his unborn child, with the jury ultimately convicting Peterson of the first-degree murder of Laci and the second-degree murder of the unborn child.
For now, it’s up to the San Mateo Court to decide what happens next, but the California Supreme Court did say that prosecutors could again seek the death penalty for Peterson at a new hearing.