A committee guiding OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy has suggested other drugmakers, distributors and pharmacy chains use Purdue’s bankruptcy proceedings to settle more than 2,000 lawsuits seeking to hold the drug industry accountable for the national opioid crisis.
The committee of unsecured creditors said in a letter sent Sunday to the parties and obtained by The Associated Press that the country “is in the grips of a crisis that must be addressed, and that doing so may require creative approaches.”
It’s calling for all the companies to put money into a fund in exchange for having all their lawsuits resolved.
The committee includes victims of the opioid crisis plus a medical center, a health insurer, a prescription benefit management company, the manufacturer of an addiction treatment drug and a pension insurer. It says that the concept may not be feasible but invited further discussion. It does not give a size of contributions from the company.
The same committee has been aggressive in Purdue’s bankruptcy, saying it would support pausing litigation against members of the Sackler family who own Purdue in exchange for a $200 million fund from the company to help fight the opioid crisis.
Paul Hanly, a lead lawyer for local governments in the lawsuits, said in a text message Sunday evening that he’d heard about the mass settlement idea, calling it “most unlikely.”
The proposal comes as narrower talks have not resulted in a settlement. Opening statements are to be held Monday in the first federal trial over the crisis. The lawsuit deals with claims from the Ohio counties of Cuyahoga and Summit against a half-dozen companies. More than 2,000 other state and local governments plus Native American tribes, hospitals and other groups have made similar claims.
There have been talks aimed at settling all claims against the drugmakers Johnson & Johnson and Teva and the distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson ahead of the trial. One proposal called for resolving claims against them nationally in exchange for cash and addiction treatment drugs valued at a total of $48 billion over time.
The committee’s proposal went to those five companies plus nine others that face lawsuits.
Opioids, including both prescription painkillers and illegal drugs such as heroin and illicitly made fentanyl, have been linked to more than 400,000 deaths in the U.S. since 2000.
At least 12 white supremacists have been arrested on allegations of plotting, threatening or carrying out anti-Semitic attacks in the U.S. since the massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue nearly one year ago, a Jewish civil rights group reported Sunday.
The Anti-Defamation League also counted at least 50 incidents in which white supremacists are accused of targeting Jewish institutions’ property since a gunman killed 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue on Oct. 27, 2018. Those incidents include 12 cases of vandalism involving white supremacist symbols and 35 cases in which white supremacist propaganda was distributed.
The ADL said its nationwide count of anti-Semitic incidents remains near record levels. It has counted 780 anti-Semitic incidents in the first six months of 2019, compared to 785 incidents during the same period in 2018.
The ADL’s tally of 12 arrests for white supremacist plots, threats and attacks against Jewish institutions includes the April 2019 capture of John T. Earnest, who is charged with killing one person and wounding three others in a shooting at a synagogue in Poway, California. The group said many of the cases it counted, including the Poway shooting, were inspired by previous white supremist attacks. In online posts, Earnest said he was inspired by the deadly attacks in Pittsburgh and on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, where a gunman killed 51 people in March.
The ADL also counted three additional 2019 cases in which individuals were arrested for targeting Jews but weren’t deemed to be white supremacists. Two were motivated by Islamist extremist ideology, the organization said.
The ADL said its Center on Extremism provided “critical intelligence” to law enforcement in at least three of the 12 cases it counted.
Last December, authorities in Monroe, Washington, arrested a white supremacist after the ADL notified law enforcement about suspicions he threatened on Facebook to kill Jews in a synagogue. The ADL said it also helped authorities in Lehighton, Pennsylvania, identify a white supremacist accused of using aliases to post threatening messages, including a digital image of himself pointing an AR-15 rifle at a group of praying Jewish men.
In August, an FBI-led anti-terrorism task force arrested a Las Vegas man accused of plotting to firebomb a synagogue or other targets, including a bar catering to LGTBQ customers and the ADL’s Las Vegas office. The ADL said it warned law enforcement officials about the man’s online threats.
“We cannot and will not rest easy knowing the threat posed by white supremacists and other extremists against the Jewish community is clear and present,” the group’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, said in a statement.
The ADL said it counted at least 30 additional incidents in which people with an “unknown ideology” targeted Jewish institutions with acts of arson, vandalism or propaganda distribution that the group deemed to be anti-Semitic or “generally hateful,” but not explicitly white supremacist.
“These incidents include the shooting of an elderly man outside a synagogue in Miami, fires set at multiple Jewish institutions in New York and Massachusetts, Molotov cocktails thrown at synagogue windows in Chicago, damaged menorahs in Georgia and New Jersey, as well as a wide range of anti-Semitic graffiti,” an ADL report said.
Three U.S. soldiers were killed and three others injured in the state of Georgia Sunday in an accident involving the armored combat vehicle they were in, the military said in a statement.
The army provided no details on the nature of the accident, which is under investigation, except to say it occurred during an exercise at Fort Stewart, Georgia.
“Six soldiers were involved, with three pronounced deceased on site, and three more evacuated to Winn Army Community Hospital where they are being treated and evaluated for their injuries,” an army statement said.
Major General Tony Aguto, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, called it a “heartbreaking day.”
The soldiers, who were in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, were from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team.
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on Sunday defended his claim that President Donald Trump did not withhold nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine in order to get Kyiv to undertake investigations of Democratic rivals and the 2016 election.
Mulvaney told reporters last week there was such a” quid pro quo” by Trump, but hours later walked back the statement and continued to advance his revised version of White House policy discussions in an interview on the “Fox News Sunday” talk show.
“There were two reasons we held up the aid,” Mulvaney said. “The first one was the rampant corruption in Ukraine. It’s so bad in Ukraine that in 2014 Congress passed a law … requiring us to make sure that [the fight against] corruption was moving in the right direction. So corruption’s a big deal. Everybody knows it.”
He added, “The president was also concerned about whether other nations, specifically European nations, were helping with foreign aid to Ukraine.”
Mulvaney also mentioned during his White House news conference last Thursday that Trump wanted to know whether Ukraine had possession of a computer server used at the Democratic National Committee in 2016 as it supported former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her unsuccessful campaign against Trump for the White House. The whereabouts of the computer is part of a debunked theory that Ukraine had meddled in the 2016 election, and not Russia, as the U.S. intelligence community concluded.
But Mulvaney said Sunday his mention of Trump’s concerns about the computer “wasn’t connected to the aid,” although last week had said, “That’s why we held up the money.”
“We do that all the time with foreign policy,” Mulvaney had said at the White House.
On Sunday, he said, “I never said there’s a quid pro quo because there isn’t.”
Trump, while initially blocking the aid to Ukraine, eventually released the money to Kyiv.
“The aid flowed,” Mulvaney said Sunday. “Once we were able to satisfy ourselves that corruption, that they were doing better with it…” and other countries’ aid to Ukraine had increased, “the money flowed.” During the news conference last week, Mulvaney added a third condition, whether Ukraine was assisting a U.S. Justice Department probe of the origins of 2016 election investigations that eventually implicated Russia’s interference to help Trump win.
Trump’s interactions with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy are at the center of the impeachment inquiry Democrats in the House of Representatives have opened against Trump.
The inquiry was touched off when an intelligence community whistleblower expressed concern about Trump’s July 25 telephone call with Zelenskiy, with a White House-released transcript of the call showing Trump urging the Ukrainian leader to open a corruption investigation into one of his key 2020 election rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden, as well as a probe of his son Hunter Biden’s lucrative position on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
Both Bidens have denied any wrongdoing, although the younger Biden, 49, said last week he used “poor judgment” in agreeing to work for the Ukrainian company because of the political fallout for his father.
Trump has alleged that when Joe Biden was U.S. vice president, he threatened to withhold loan guarantees to Ukraine unless an earlier corruption probe into the gas company was stopped.
No evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens has surfaced. But reaching out to a foreign government to dig up dirt on a rival is considered to be interference in a presidential election.
Trump has described his call with Zelenskiy as “perfect” and accuses the Democratic-led House of a witch hunt.
A House vote for Trump’s impeachment in the coming weeks is a possibility, although his conviction after a trial in the Republican-majority Senate and removal from office remains unlikely.
Trump donor Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told impeachment investigators last week that Trump ordered him and other diplomats to work with the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to pressure Ukraine into investigations that could help Trump politically.
Those investigations would include the 2016 election and the Ukrainian gas company where Hunter Biden worked.
Sondland told the investigators he was disappointed that Trump directed diplomats to work with Giuliani on Ukraine matters.
“Our view was that the men and women of the State Department, not the president’s personal lawyer, should take responsibility for all aspects of U.S. foreign policy towards Ukraine,” Sondland said.
He said the diplomats who worked with Giuliani did not know “until much later” that Giuliani would push for a probe of Biden “or to involve Ukrainians, directly or indirectly, in the president’s 2020 re-election campaign.”
“Let me state clearly: Inviting a foreign government to undertake investigations for the purpose of influencing an upcoming U.S. election would be wrong,” Sondland said in his statement. “Withholding foreign aid in order to pressure a foreign government to take such steps would be wrong. I did not and would not ever participate in such undertakings.”
One of the first stops for a tourist in Los Angeles is the TCL Chinese Theatre next to the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Originally called Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, it opened in 1927 and is a remnant of Hollywood’s fascination with the Orient in the early days of the U.S. film industry.
“When film was first invented — and we’re talking about the late 1800s, early 1900s — it expanded the visual minds of its audiences,” said Chinese American filmmaker and author Arthur Dong. He added, “Audiences were given this exotic glimpse of a land unknown to them, and I think that it started there.”
Dong curated old photos of Chinese American actors for the newly restored Formosa Café, an iconic Hollywood nightclub and bar that opened in 1939. With red leather booth chairs and tables surrounded by old photos on the walls, the back room of the Formosa Café looks like a museum commemorating the work of Chinese Americans and their role in Hollywood.
“I was always curious about the Chinese or Asian actress I saw on screen, whether films from the early part of cinema history up to today,” Dong said, “especially the ’20s and ’30s and ’40s, where I saw Chinese characters on screen. But they were always playing servants, coolies, laundry man. And if they were women, they were prostitutes or servants.”
In his new book, “Hollywood Chinese: The Chinese in American Feature Films,” Dong looked at Hollywood’s portrayal of Chinese characters and the Chinese culture. Stereotypes of the Chinese in America were perpetuated by the otherness of U.S. Chinatowns in the late 1800s and early 1900s, where people had different customs.
During that time in history, political tensions between the West and China climaxed with the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, an uprising against the spread of Western influences in China.
WATCH: Hollywood Movies Reflecting Changes in How Asians are Portrayed
Hollywood Movies Reflecting Changes in How Asians are Portrayed video player.
“With all of this history came a perception of the Chinese as the ‘yellow peril,’ the sinister Chinese, the Chinese that you couldn’t trust. And that resulted in the character called Fu Manchu,” Dong explained.
Fu Manchu, a villain who wanted to destroy the Western world, ended up on the big screen and in a television series.
In 1926, Charlie Chan, a Chinese detective from Hawaii, appeared on the big screen. It was a role that created a different, yet still problematic Asian stereotype.
Asian actors in modern-day Hollywood
Over the decades, Asian and Chinese Americans did find work in Hollywood, and a few earned a star on the Hollywood Walk for Fame, such as Anna Mae Wong, Keye Luke, Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Lucy Liu.
However, some movie fans have recently been critical on social media about movies where white actors are cast in leading roles that they believe should have gone to Asian actors. The movies include “Aloha,” the 2015 film where Emma Stone played Allison Ng, a character of Asian descent, and the 2017 film “Ghost in the Shell,” where Scarlett Johansson played a leading role based on a Japanese anime character.
The 2018 movie “Crazy Rich Asians” hit the big screen with a majority Asian cast, an Asian American director and an Asian as one of the writers. The movie became a milestone for many Asian Americans.
“The sensation of “Crazy Rich Asians,” both in its critical and box office success, is a sign that things are changing,” Dong said. “What is different is that the Asian American community won’t sit back. Filmmakers are being nurtured. Attitudes are being nurtured and strengthened where we won’t take that yellow-face casting anymore, where we won’t take that kind of whitewashing attitude of making an Asian character white.”
People on social media are not only holding Hollywood accountable for its portrayal of Asians, technology is also opening doors for Asian Americans to tell stories on their own terms.
“We have so many more platforms. There’s the Netflix. There is the Amazon Primes and the Hulus. And we have streaming platforms. We have YouTube,” Yuen said.
With Asian Americans being the fastest-growing racial group in the U.S., a new generation of Asian American artists can use the different digital platforms to tell stories without being boxed in a stereotype.
The China factor
Hollywood is also changing its portrayal of Chinese and the Chinese culture because of the China factor.
As the biggest consumer market outside the U.S., Hollywood has been making movies that would not offend Chinese audiences. The industry has been careful not to portray the Chinese as villains.
Joint productions between Hollywood and Chinese production companies, such as the animated feature film “Abominable,” put Chinese characters and China in a favorable light.
“That’s where I would like to see the future of Chinese-U.S. collaborations, is that there is more space for both. So that both countries can feel like there’s something familiar to them. And I think that would open up more roles for Chinese Americans and Asian Americans, in general,” Yuen said.
Egypt will push Ethiopia this week to agree to an external mediator to help resolve a deepening dispute over a giant hydropower dam being built on Ethiopia’s Blue Nile, officials said on Sunday.
Egypt sees the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) as an existential risk, fearing it will threaten scarce water supplies in Egypt and power generation at its own dam in Aswan.
Cairo says it has exhausted efforts to reach an agreement on the conditions for operating GERD and filling the reservoir behind it, after years of three-party talks with Ethiopia and Sudan.
Ethiopia has denied that three-way talks are stalled, accusing Egypt of trying to sidestep the process.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi is expected to raise the demand for a mediator when he meets Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed during a Russian-African summit in Russia this week.
“We’re hoping this meeting might produce an agreement on the participation of a fourth party,” an Egyptian foreign ministry official told journalists at a briefing. “We’re hopeful to reach a formula in the next few weeks.”
Egyptian officials said they had suggested the World Bank as a fourth party mediator, but were also open to the role being filled by a country with technical experience on water sharing issues such as the United States, or the European Union.
Recent proposals put forward by Egypt for a flexible reservoir-filling process and a guaranteed annual flow of 40 billion cubic meters were rejected by Ethiopia.
The latest rounds of talks in Cairo and Khartoum over the past two months ended in acrimony. “The gap is getting wider,” the Egyptian foreign ministry official said.
Egypt draws almost all of its fresh water supplies from the Nile, and is faced with worsening water scarcity for its population of nearly 100 million. It says it is working to reduce the amount of water used in agriculture.
Hydrologists consider a country to be facing water scarcity if supplies drop below 1,000 cubic meters per person per year.
Egypt currently has around 570 cubic meters per person per year, a figure that is expected to drop to 500 cubic meters by 2025, without taking into account any reduction in supply caused by GERD, Egyptian officials said.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has made an unannounced trip to Afghanistan amid efforts to restart peace talks with the Taliban.
“The aim is to still get a peace agreement at some point, a political agreement, that is the best way forward,” Esper told reporters traveling with him Sunday.
Last month, President Donald Trump abruptly called off yearlong U.S.-Taliban talks just when the two adversaries had come close to signing a peace agreement that could have ended the 18-year-old Afghan war, America’s longest overseas military intervention.
Trump declared the peace process process “dead,” citing continued insurgent deadly attacks on Afghan civilians and American troops in Afghanistan.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a group of American lawmakers on a surprise visit to Jordan to discuss “the deepening crisis” in Syria amid a shaky U.S.-brokered cease-fire.
The visit came after bipartisan criticism in Washington has slammed President Donald Trump for his decision to withdraw the bulk of U.S. troops from northern Syria — clearing the way for Turkey’s wide-ranging offensive against the Kurdish groups, who had been key U.S. allies in the fight against the Islamic State group.
Turkey agreed on Thursday to suspend its offensive for five days, demanding the Kurdish forces withdraw from a designated strip of the border about 30 kilometers deep (19 miles).
Pelosi, along with the nine-member Congressional delegation, met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in the capital of Amman late Saturday for talks focusing on security and “regional stability,” according to a statement from her office.
Jordan is a key U.S. ally in the region and has been greatly affected by the eight-year-long civil war in neighboring Syria. Jordanian officials say the kingdom hosts some 1 million Syrians who have fled the fighting.
“With the deepening crisis in Syria after Turkey’s incursion, our delegation has engaged in vital discussions about the impact to regional stability, increased flow of refugees, and the dangerous opening that has been provided to ISIS, Iran and Russia,” said the statement, using the Islamic State group’s acronym.
Jordan’s state news agency Petra said Abdullah stressed the importance of safeguarding Syria’s territorial integrity and guarantees for the “safe and voluntary” return of refugees.
“The meeting also covered regional and international efforts to counter terrorism within a comprehensive approach,” the agency said.
The Congressional delegation included Democrats Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, who is leading the impeachment probe into President Trump; Eliot Engel, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and Bennie Thompson, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. There was one GOP member of the group, Rep. Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee.
The U.S. Embassy in Amman said the delegation left Jordan early Sunday but gave no further details on where it was heading.
Many Democrat and Republican lawmakers say that the U.S. pullout could make way for rivals like Iran and Russia, who back Syrian President Bashar Assad.