Tag Archive for: lawsuit


Teacher shot by 6-year-old “will never forget the look on his face”.

Banks connected with Epstein face sex trafficking suits.

China’s Xi visits Putin in Moscow



Teacher shot by 6-year-old “will never forget the look on his face”

On Jan. 6 this year, a 6-year-old boy shot his 1st grade teacher, 25-year-old Abigail Zwerner, in the hand and chest with his mother’s 9mm pistol. On that day, three staff members brought concerns to administrators about the boy’s behavior and fears that he had a gun. An administrator told one of those staff members they should just “ride it out” because the school day was nearly over. The shooting took place about an hour later, around 1pm.

Zwerner, who has since been in recovery, sat down for an interview with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie. During the interview, Zwerner and her attorney, Diane Toscano, said school administrators should have done more to prevent the shooting. She described how her fear had grown throughout the day  

Zwerner still has a long road to physical recovery, but in some ways, she believes she’ll never be the same. “I just will never forget the look on his face that he gave me while he pointed the gun directly at me,” Zwerner said. “It’s changed me. It’s changed my life.”

When Guthrie asked how she could make sense of something like that, Zwerner answered “You can’t.”

Toscano intends to sue the school district and administrators for failing to take action to prevent the shooting. The child is too young to be charged, but local prosecutors haven’t ruled out criminal charges against others. This may include charges against the boy’s parents if it’s found they failed to secure the gun properly.  The parents say the boy has an “acute disability” for which he was receiving treatment. The boy remains in treatment at a hospital.

Click here for the full story and the 12-minute video of the interview (opens in new tab).

Banks connected with Epstein face suits for sex trafficking

Victims of sex trafficking by financier Jeffrey Epstein have the go-ahead to sue banks connected with his activities. Two women from the US Virgin Islands have brought against JP Morgan Chase and Deutsche Bank. The suit alleges that the banks “knowingly benefited from participating in a sex trafficking venture”. 

Epstein was a client of JPMorgan from 2000 to 2013, and of Deutsche Bank from 2013 to 2018. Both banks had asked for the women’s suits to be dismissed. JP Morgan has sued one of its own former senior executives, Jess Staley, who oversaw Epstein’s business at the bank. The bank accuses Staley of withholding potentially damaging information about his client.

Epstein is believed to have trafficked hundreds of young women and girls for sex over two decades. During that time, he hobnobbed with prominent figures including Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. His partner-in-crime Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted last year on sex trafficking charges. 

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



China’s Xi visits Putin in Moscow

Chinese President Xi Jinping is in Moscow for two days of meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, Xi’s ties with Putin have only deepened. They share a distrust of the West and many of their economic and geo-political interests overlap. Both are strongmen who exercise near-total control over industry in their countries, and each have extensive records of human rights violations that long predate the war. 

Xi has attempted to position himself as a possible peacemaker in the Ukraine conflict by finding possible points of common ground. However, both Ukraine’s leadership and its allies are skeptical and have rejected Xi’s 12-point peace plan, which rejects Western sanctions and does not require Putin to withdraw his troops from Ukraine. 

Putin and Xi appeared especially chummy during this visit. Xi even invited Putin to Beijing for a return visit. This is just days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin over a scheme to illegally deport Ukrainian children to Russia. The warrant severely restricts Putin’s travel as any nation that is a signatory to the ICC would be obliged to arrest him. Neither Russia nor China is a signatory of the ICC (nor is the US).

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).


Please share any thoughts, comments or questions in the Comments section below!

Texas judge hears case that could ban abortion pills nationwide.

Ohio sues Norfolk Southern over toxic derailment.

Russian warplane forces down US surveillance drone over Black Sea.



Texas judge hears case that could ban abortion pills nationwide

A federal judge in Amarillo, TX, heard arguments today in a case brought by anti-abortion groups seeking to ban the sale of the abortion medication mifepristone nationwide. Attorneys for the Texas-based organization Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine contends that the FDA used improperly approved the drug in 2000. The group argues that the FDA and did not adequately assess its use by girls under age 18 to terminate a pregnancy.

Mifepristone is part of a two-drug regimen used to abort a pregnancy, usually before 10 weeks gestation. More than half of all abortions in the US are managed with medication. Mifepristone also has several other approved uses that have nothing to do with abortion. These include treating uterine fibroids and managing symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome.

Department of Justice attorneys defending the FDA said that mifepristone has a proven track record of being safe and effective. The DOJ also argued that the challenge comes much too late as the drug was approved 23 years ago.  The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also filed an amicus brief in support of the FDA, saying mifepristone “has been thoroughly studied and is conclusively safe”.

Women’s health advocates say taking mifepristone off the market would force more women to undergo unnecessary surgical procedures. It would further overwhelm abortion clinics that are already struggling to meet the needs of women who often have to travel several states away.

Trump-appointed judge tried to keep hearing quiet

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, who presided over the case, asked the attorneys involved early last week not to publicize when and where the hearing would be held. Kacsmaryk hoped to minimize press coverage and protests at the courthouse in this momentous case that could impact over 60 million women of child-bearing age in the US. The judge’s attempt to keep proceedings quiet backfired with women’s rights groups descending on Amarillo. One dressed as a kangaroo with a gavel, implying the hearing was a “kangaroo court”.

Kacsmaryk is a former Christian activist appointed to the federal bench by former Pres. Donald Trump. His court has become a venue of choice for lawsuits from numerous conservative groups. The Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine incorporated in Amarillo just three months before filing suit, which many consider a case of “court shopping”.

Kacsmaryk did not issue a ruling today after four hours of arguments. The groups bringing the suit also asked Kacsmaryk for a preliminary order halting sales of the drug while their lawsuit proceeds. Kacsmaryk ended by saying he would “issue an order and opinion as soon as possible,” possibly suggesting he’s already made up his mind about the preliminary order. In anticipation of mifepristone becoming unavailable, healthcare providers are busy lining up viable alternatives.

The next stop for the losers in Kacsmaryk’s court would be the conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. It’s possible the case could wind up before the Supreme Court. Even if the FDA ultimately prevails, an order from Kacsmaryk halting sales of mifepristone could complicate the lives of millions of women for months (not to mention people who use mifepristone to manage other medical conditions). 

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).


Ohio sues Norfolk Southern over toxic derailment

The state of Ohio has filed a civil suit against the rail company Norfolk Southern over the derailment in East Palestine last month that was responsible for releasing more than a million gallons of toxic chemicals. The state is hoping to recoup the cost of the state’s costs from the disaster. The suit wants to hold the rail company financially responsible for damage to the state’s natural resources, the cost of state emergency response and economic harm to residents.

The suit refers to the East Palestine disaster as just one of a “long string” of derailments and hazardous material incidents for which Norfolk Southern is responsible. Norfolk Southern has been responsible for at least 20 derailments since 2015 involving the release of toxic chemicals, according to the filing. The state accuses Norfolk Southern of “recklessly endangering” residents and the environment, alleging multiple violations of state and federal laws regarding hazardous waste, water pollution, air pollution and common law negligence.

Communities in western Pennsylvania were also affected by the disaster which took place less than a mile the other side of their border with Ohio. Last month, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro issued a criminal referral to his state attorney general regarding the disaster. The attorney general’s office is still investigating whether there was any criminal conduct on the part of Norfolk Southern, but no charges have been filed.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



Russian warplane forces down US surveillance drone over Black Sea

Yesterday, an American MQ-9 Reaper drone crashed into the Black Sea near the Crimean Peninsula, a Ukrainian territory Russia has occupied since 2014. US officials say that the crash was the result of an encounter with two Russian fighter jets. The drone became “unflyable” when one of the jets clipped its propeller. Prior to this, the jets had been dumping fuel over the drone to try to force it down. The Kremlin denies this version of events.

The US says the drone was in international airspace when the Russian jets attacked it, but Russia insists the the drone violated their (or Ukraine’s) air space. Russia claims that the presence of the drone is further evidence of direct involvement in the Ukraine war by the US military.

Both Russia and the US have announced that they’ll attempt to recover the drone. There’s a worrisome possibility of confrontation as the two sides try to get to the drone first. Joint Chiefs chair Gen. Mark Milley says he’s not sure if the drone is recoverable, claiming it sank under 4000-5000 feet of water. Milley also stressed the US has taken “mitigating measures” that would thwart Russia’s attempts to recover useful intelligence from the drone should they recover it. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed he has communicated with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu regarding the incident.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



Please share any thoughts, comments or questions in the Comments section below!



Texas: Man sues three women for helping his ex-wife get an abortion.

Biden rushes to calm depositors after two banks collapse in two days.



Texas: Man sues three women for helping his ex-wife get an abortion

Marcus Silva of Galveston, TX, is suing three friends of his ex-wife, Brittni Silva, seeking $1 million in damages from each friend for helping Brittni to obtain abortion pills. Silva is suing them for wrongful death and conspiracy. He also intends to sue the manufacturer of the abortion pill his ex wife used when he learns what brand it was.

Attached to the lawsuit is a series of text messages between Brittni and two of the women. Brittni had filed for divorce in May 2022, the month before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Then in July 2022, Brittni discovered that she was pregnant. The text messages reveal efforts by two of Brittni’s friends to help her obtain abortion medication.

First, they sent her information about Aid Access, an organization based in Austria which sends abortion medications in the mail. After deciding that the legalities around receiving abortion medication in the mail were “murky”. Eventually, they found out they could obtain the medication in Houston, and a third woman delivered the medication to them.

Brittni then self-managed the abortion at home, concealing both the pregnancy and the termination from her estranged husband.

“Either way, he will use it against me”.

Brittni Silva (left) with two of the defendants dressed as characters from “The Handmaid’s Tale”.

The texts also reveal why Brittni, who already had two daughters with Marcus, chose to terminate the pregnancy secretly. She feared Marcus would use the pregnancy to trap her in a marriage she was apparently desperate to leave.

Brittni confided to her friends that she was in a toxic relationship. She says “I know either way he will use it against me. If I told him before, which I’m not, he would use it as a way to try to stay with me. And after the fact, I know he will try to act like he has some right to the decision.”

In one of the texts, a friend warns Brittni, “Delete all conversations from today. You don’t want him looking through it”. The lawsuit cites this as proof the defendants sought to “destroy evidence of their crimes“.

The Silvas’ divorce was finalized in February. According to the suit, Marcus “recently learned of the defendants’ involvement in the murder of his child, and he brings suit against them for wrongful death and conspiracy”.

Marcus also alleges that 3 months after the abortion, the defendants “celebrated the murder” by dressing up as characters from the TV show “The Handmaid’s Tale” for Halloween. The show is based on the dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood and depicts a world where women are the property of men and birth control is outlawed.


“State-sanctioned harassment”

Opponents of the Heartbeat Act and Texas’ other restrictive abortion laws have warned that the laws could enable rapists and abusers to further isolate their victims by harassing those who would help them.

Silva’s lawsuit included pictures of his ex-wife’s cellphone. The snooper’s thumb is visible at left.

Silva’s filing included pictures taken by someone of Brittni’s cellphone showing texts between her and her friends. The filing doesn’t say who took these photos or when. 

Former Texas lawmaker Wendy Davis issued a statement from Planned Parenthood Texas, saying the lawsuit “We are outraged, but we are not surprised“. The lawsuit a “direct result of the dangerous policies championed by Governor Greg Abbott and his supporters. It is state-sanctioned harassment and we will not stand for it,” Davis said.

Jonathan Mitchell, a former Texas solicitor general, is representing Marcus Silva in the suit. Mitchell was also the architect of Texas’ Heartbeat Act, which allows anyone to sue a person who helps a woman obtain an abortion after 6 weeks’ pregnancy. The suit was filed in state court in Galveston County, where Silva lives.

Joanna Grossman of the SMU Dedman School of Law in Dallas called the lawsuit “absurd and inflammatory”. No matter the outcome of the suit, Grossman says, the plaintiff and his attorneys will have succeeded in further isolating vulnerable women and girls who need help.

“Who is going to want to help a friend find an abortion if there is some chance that their text messages are going to end up in the news?” Grossman said.  “And maybe they’re going to get sued, and maybe they’re going to get arrested, and it’s going to get dropped eventually. But in the meantime, they will have been terrified”.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).


Biden rushes to calm depositors after two banks collapse

Over the course of two days, Silicon Valley Bank in California and Signature Bank in New York collapsed. Silicon Valley Bank, which largely served tech start-ups and venture capital-backed firms, suffered a massive bank run starting on Wednesday when they announced a bid to raise $1.75 billion to strengthen their liquidity. This became necessary because the bank had been forced to sell off billions of dollars in investments at a loss due to recent Federal Reserve rate hikes.

While the bank’s investment portfolio was being stretched thin, its customer base was in the “bust” end of a boom-bust cycle. Tech start-ups that had received huge investment during the pandemic are now stagnating and are depending more and more on savings to meet payroll and other demands. When the bank announced its asset sell-off and recapitalization plans this week, it spooked investors and then depositors. On Thursday alone, depositors withdrew over $40 billion from SVB. Then California shut it down.

Signature Bank collapsed the day after when their depositors got spooked by the SVB failure. Signature bank has ties to the volatile crypto currency sector which is also facing a post-pandemic decline.

Depositors spent an anxious weekend wondering whether they’d be able to access their funds. Many had deposits in the bank that were greater than the $250,000 limit covered by FDIC. Today, President Biden assured depositors of both SVB and Signature that they would be made whole using funds from an insurance plan both banks were paying into. This, Biden stressed, was “not a bailout”. In the strictest sense, it is a bailout of depositors, but not of the banks’ management or investors, as happened in 2008. 

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).

Why do these bank failures keep happening and how could it be prevented?


Please share any thoughts, comments or questions in the Comments section below!

Supreme Court hears challenge to Biden student debt relief plan.

Judge allows Sandy Hook families to probe Alex Jones’ finances.

Anger in Israel after settlers get slap on wrist for deadly rampage.


Supreme Court hears challenge to Biden student loan relief plan

The Supreme Court heard arguments today in legal challenges from several conservatives states who want to block Biden’s student debt relief program. The plan would eliminate up to $20,000 in student debt for low-income borrowers and up to $10,000 for individual borrowers earning less than $125,000 per year. The Congressional Budget Office says the plan would cost about $430 billion over 30 years.

The problem of “standing”

Attorneys Generals in six states are suing to block the program, but legal experts say their standing to bring the challenges is questionable. A person or entity demonstrates standing in a case by demonstrating they will be harmed if an action is carried out, financially or otherwise. Since the loans are federal loans, forgiveness wouldn’t cost individual states anything.

Instead, the attorneys general are arguing that private loan servicing companies based in their states would lose money (and therefore the state would lose tax money) because they would receive less in interest, servicing fees and penalty fees from borrowers. None of the loan servicing entities themselves have sued.

Two borrowers who do not qualify for forgiveness under the plan’s framework are also suing. Their standing is also shaky as they would gain nothing if they win.

Executive overreach?

Even though the standing of the parties bringing the suit is uncertain, the Justices could choose to strike down the plan on the merits of the law. The Department of Education is arguing that the 2003 HEROES Act gives the department the authority to erase or decrease student debt.

Legal experts say that this justification is broad but not necessarily applicable. The HEROES Act allows the department to modify the parameters of student loan repayments. However, critics of the plan say the Act doesn’t give the department the authority to do away with debt altogether.

During arguments today, the conservative Justices seemed most interested in tackling the problem from that perspective. Several of them seemed to doubt that the HEROES Act gave the administration the authority to do away with $430 billion in debt.

Student debt relief advocates have long said that the strongest justification for relief comes from the 1965 Higher Education Act. They argue that this law gives the Department of Education unambiguous and unlimited authority over matters of federal student loans. Both the Biden administration and previous administrations have used the 1965 law to forgive debt for certain borrowers.

A ruling in the case is due by the end of June this year.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).


Judge allows Sandy Hook families to probe Alex Jones’ finances

Last year, two groups of family members of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting won settlements totalling $1.5 billion against conservative conspiracy pundit Alex Jones. Jones repeatedly made false statements about the shooting being a hoax. As a result, the surviving family members suffered years of threats and harassment from people who bought into Jones’ narrative.

Now, a judge has ruled that the families can retain a forensic financial investigator to dig into Jones’ finances so they can collect their settlement. Jones has declared bankruptcy in an attempt to avoid paying. However, Jones’ filings in a Texas bankruptcy court show that Jones spends nearly $100,000 a month

The ruling will allow the families to track down money Jones has hidden in trusts and various shell companies. Jones may also face a third Sandy Hook-related defamation trial this year.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



Anger in Israel after settlers get slap on wrist for deadly rampage

Tensions have flared between West Bank Palestinians and Jewish Israelis living in illegal settlements following an Israeli military raid in Nablus last week which killed 11 Palestinians. On Sunday, a suspected Palestinian gunman killed two Jewish settlers in a village near Nablus. Shortly thereafter, about 400 settlers, many of them armed and under the protection of the Israeli military, carried out violent raids on several villages in the area. At least one Palestinian was killed, a medic whose brother said he’d recently returned from volunteering in quake-hit regions of Turkey. 

During the rampage, which went on for several hours, at least 30 Palestinian homes and over 100 cars were set ablaze. At least 390 Palestinians suffered injuries, many from inhaling smoke and tear gas. Despite the massive riot and the presence of security personnel, only eight settlers were arrested. Six of those were released almost immediately without charge and two were placed under house arrest.

As shocking as this is, it’s typical according to the Israeli rights group Yesh Din. Only 3% investigations into attacks against Palestinians by settlers result in a conviction, the group says. About 93% of investigations end without an indictment.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently retook power in Israel with the help of a far-right nationalist coalition. Some members of this coalition praised the rioters. They also forced Netanyahu to renege on a promise to halt new settlements in the West Bank. Netanyahu agreed to the pause at a peace summit with Palestinian and US leaders this weekend in Jordan.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).


Please share any thoughts, comments or questions in the Comments section below!

Breaking: All five former Memphis PD officers involved in Tyre Nichols’ death have been charged with second degree murder. Click here for the full story.

Virginia school admins were warned about boy, 6, who shot teacher – did nothing.

China: Coffins sell out as pandemic reaches rural areas for first time.



Virginia school admins were warned about boy, 6, who shot teacher – did nothing 

Virginia first grade teacher Abigail Zwerner, 25, who was shot by her student, a six-year-old boy, earlier this month plans to sue the Newport News school district, her attorney said yesterday. Diane Toscano, Zwerner’s attorney, told reporters yesterday, “On that day, over the course of a few hours, three different times – three times – school administration was warned by concerned teachers and employees that the boy had a gun on him at the school and was threatening people. But the administration could not be bothered”.

Warnings from 4 different employees

At around 11.15am, Zwerner herself had warned school administrators that the boy had threatened to beat up another child.

Then, Toscano said, at around 12:30pm, a second teacher reported to an administrator that she had searched the boy’s bookbag and found no gun. However, the teacher warned that administrator that she believed the boy had put the gun in his pocket before he went outside for recess. Searching a student’s person would have required the blessing of the administrator. But, Toscano said. “The administrator downplayed the report from the teacher and the possibility of a gun, saying, and I quote, ‘Well, he has little pockets.'”  

At 1pm, another student told a third teacher that the boy had shown him the gun and threatened to shoot him.

Following this incident, a fourth employee sought permission to search the boy from the administrators. That employee “was told to wait the situation out because the school day was almost over”, Toscano said. An hour later, the boy shot Zwerner in the chest. Zwerner spent two weeks in the hospital and is now recovering at home.

The district superintendent George Parker III confirmed that administrators had been warned at least once that the boy might have had a weapon. That tip was not passed on to the police when it was received, hours before the shooting. The schoolboard has now voted to dismiss Parker

An “acute disability”

Last week, an attorney for the boy’s family released a statement revealing that the boy had an “acute disability”. The boy’s care plan “included his mother or father attending school with him and accompanying him to class every day”. The week of the shooting was the first when a parent was not with him. “We will regret our absence on this day for the rest of our lives,” the statement read.

The gun the boy used had been legally purchased by his mother. The family claims the gun was “secured” and they have no idea how he got hold of it.

Messages shared with The Washington Post indicate that the boy’s behavioral problems stretch far back in time before the day of the shooting. Zwerner had reportedly been seeking help dealing with his disturbing behavior throughout the school year. 

As on the day of the shooting, administrators were dismissive. One teacher reported that the boy had written her a note saying that he hated her and wanted to light her on fire and watch her die. The teacher brought this up with administrators and was told to drop it.

On another occasion, the boy had thrown furniture and objects around a classroom. He also barricaded the door, and the teacher had to seek help from another teacher, who forced the door open from the outside. 

The Newport News school district has had three school shootings since 2021.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



China: Coffins sell out as pandemic reaches rural areas for first time

For over 2 years, China’s harsh Zero COVID policy managed to keep the spread of the virus in check. However, weeks-long lockdowns of major cities also wrought economic havoc. After mounting protests, the central government abruptly rescinded the policy. Unfortunately, the government had not used those two years to prepare for what would eventually happen when things opened back up again. Only a few new ICU units were built and the government failed to obtain enough tests and COVID treatment drugs to meet the need. Additionally, while most of China’s population is vaccinated, the elderly are the least vaccinated. 

In mid-December, anecdotal reports on Chinese social media suggested that thousands were dying. Crematoria were also overwhelmed with at least 10-day waiting lists. Still, the government’s official confirmed deaths were absurdly low, in the single digits each week. After much ridicule, the government revised its numbers upward to 60,000 deaths in December. The most recent numbers show that at least 13,000 died in less than a week. However many believe this number is still a gross underestimate.

Year of the Rabbit

The Chinese are now celebrating the Lunar New Year. At this time of year, millions of people crisscross the country to visit relatives. Most are traveling from cities where they live and work to rural areas where they’re from. China’s rural population in the west and south of the country are poorer and have little access to services like healthcare. Now that the virus has arrived in these areas for the first time, it is spreading like wildfire and with deadly effect. Unlike the rest of the world, most people in these areas have no immunity to COVID either from vaccination or previous exposure.

The Year of the Rabbit is thought to bring good luck. That hope is not materializing so far. However, people in the funerary industry have been rushed off their feet, building coffins and supplying religious tokens for the dead. This is especially true in rural areas, where one customer joked that funerary workers are making “a small fortune”.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



Please share any thoughts, comments or questions in the Comments section below!


Weather disasters cost US $165 billion in 2022.

Exxon accurately predicted costs of climate change in 1970s.

Cubans, Haitians continue dangerous sea journeys to FL despite policy changes.



Weather disasters cost US $165 billion in 2022

A new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has totaled the damage from 18 extreme weather events in 2022 to $165 billion. Each of these 18 events caused $1 billion or more in damage, while the damage from Hurricane Ian alone was $113 billion. This is not a complete total of the cost of weather disasters in the US last year, which is likely to be much higher.

Five of the last six years saw weather damage totals over $100 billion, and the overall trend is going up rather than down. In that same six year period, at least 5,000 people have died in 122 separate billion-dollar weather events.

Severe weather events are becoming more intense and more frequent, but this is only part of the equation. The damage total and death toll are also climbing because people continue to move into disaster-prone areas, vulnerable to wildfires, hurricanes and floods.

Some of these vulnerable areas are beauty spots that attract the wealthy, such as Sanibel Island which was devastated by Hurricane Ian, or the wilderness retreats around Lake Tahoe, which have had to be repeatedly evacuated due to wildfires. Other vulnerable spots are home to a disproportionately high percentage of low-income people who can’t afford to live elsewhere or don’t have the resources to move.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).

Related: Cities waiting on updated weather data before spending billions on climate resiliency projects


Exxon accurately predicted costs of climate change in 1970s, continued to deny its impact

Researchers combing through more than 100 internally-produced reports from oil giant Exxon have found that the company’s own scientists accurately predicted the costs of human-induced climate change, starting as early as 1977. Despite having this information, Exxon and other oil producers continued to actively lobby against any government climate action or fossil fuel curbs. 

In a paper published in the journal Science, the authors reveal that Exxon projected an average warming of around 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade. “That allows us for the first time to put a number on what Exxon knew, namely that fossil fuel burning was going to hit the planet by 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade,” Geoffrey Supran, one of the paper’s authors said.

Supran co-authored a separate 2017 study of 190 of Exxon’s private and public communications. The study found that while the most of Exxon’s internal documents acknowledged the reality of human-caused global warming, most of its public statements sought to cast doubt.

An Exxon spokesman has rejected these findings as “inaccurate and preposterous”. But Supran says these studies present a “tight and unimpeachable” case against Exxon. That case will soon feature in court cases as local and state governments across the US sue Exxon and other fossil fuel companies for deceiving the public about their role in accelerating climate change.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



Cubans, Haitians continue dangerous sea journey to Florida despite recent policy changes

Since Christmas, thousands of Haitians and Cubans have attempted to reach the Florida Keys by boat. The US Coast Guard has managed to turn many back at sea, while others have managed to reach shore. The trip across the Florida Straits is dangerous under the best of conditions, and even more so as many attempt the voyage in unseaworthy vessels. 

Last week, Biden announced an expansion of Title 42, applying it specifically to Haitians and Cubans. This means that Haitians and Cubans who arrive at the US-Mexico border can be immediately returned to Mexico.

As a carrot to this stick, Biden also announced a humanitarian parole program that would admit up to 30,000 people a month from Venezuela, Cuba and Haiti, provided they applied for it and were accepted outside the US. However, the requirements for these visas raise the bar too high for those most in need of asylum- the poor and politically-persecuted.

Nevertheless, the administration hopes the new program will deter people from attempting to arrive by sea. That doesn’t appear to be the case. Just yesterday, the US Coast Guard caught and returned 177 Cubans it encountered at sea, and about two dozen Haitians swam ashore near Miami.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



Please share any thoughts, comments or questions in the Comments section below!


Trump sued for wrongful death of Capitol police officer after Jan. 6.

3.3 million American adults displaced by natural disasters last year.

Oil giant Shell to pay $2 billion in windfall tax in EU, UK.



Trump sued for wrongful death of Capitol police officer after Jan. 6

Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick.

On the second anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, the partner of Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick is suing former President Trump over Sicknick’s death. Sicknick was one of the many officers at the Capitol that day who fought to hold off an assault by Trump’s supporters. In the melee, a rioter sprayed Sicknick in the face with bear spray, temporarily incapacitating him. Later in the day, Sicknick suffered a series of strokes and was taken to a hospital. He died the next day. Sicknick was the first, but not the last, Capitol police officer to die in the aftermath of the standoff.

The suit by Sandra Garza, Sicknick’s longtime partner, alleges that Trump “intentionally riled up the crowd” that attacked Sicknick with a “campaign of lies and incendiary rhetoric”. In addition to Trump, Garza’s suit names Julian Khater and George Tanios, the two rioters who attacked Sicknick. Garza is demanding at least $10 million in damages from each of the three defendants.

The suit alludes to evidence and testimony from the House Jan. 6 hearings and the hundreds of federal prosecutions of rioters. “Many participants in the attack have since revealed that they were acting on what they believed to be Defendant Trump’s direct orders in service of their country,” the lawsuit says. 

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).


3.3 million American adults displaced by natural disasters last year

A new survey by the US Census Bureau found that natural disasters forced 1.3% of American adults (3.3 million) from their homes in the last years. More than half of those displaced were due to hurricanes. Others had to leave their homes due to wildfires, tornados, floods or other disasters. Of those displaced, about 1 in 6 (about 550,000 people) never returned to their homes.

Some states saw more displacement than others. About a million Floridians had to leave their homes last year due to hurricanes, as did over 400,000 in Louisiana. Indiana, Maine, North Dakota, Ohio and Oklahoma suffered the fewest displacements. 

However, another recently released study found that 90% of US counties had suffered a weather disaster between 2011 and 2021. These counties are home to  93% of the population, or about 300 million people. Some of these counties suffered as many as 12 federally declared disasters over those 11 years. This study found that California, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Iowa and Tennessee had suffered the most disasters during that decade, at least 20 each.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



Oil giant Shell to pay $2 billion in windfall tax in EU, UK for last quarter of 2022

British multinational oil company Shell has announced it expects to pay about $2 billion in windfall taxes in the UK and EU, only for the company’s profits in the last 3 months of 2022. The EU and UK have both imposed hefty windfall taxes on oil companies which have earned record profits in the last year due to the war in Ukraine. Worldwide, Shell expects to pay between $4.3 billion and $4.7billion in taxes on its fourth quarter profits alone.

The Biden administration has threatened oil giants operating in the US with such a tax to discourage them from price-gouging, but so far no such legislation has materialized.

In May, the British government imposed a 25% windfall tax on oil companies, then increased it to 35% in November. Shell’s chief executive Ben van Beurden said himself in October that it was both necessary and “inevitable” that nations would have to impose windfall taxes on energy companies to protect those most vulnerable to skyrocketing fuel costs. Speaking at an energy conference in London, Van Beurden said, “One way or another there needs to be government intervention. Protecting the poorest, that probably may then mean that governments need to tax people in this room to pay for it”.

Van Beurden stepped down as head of Shell Oil only this week.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



Please share any thoughts, comments or questions in the Comments section below!



Striking Alabama coal miners come together to face tough holidays. Buffalo, NY, sues gun makers after race massacre. Afghan women protest Taliban barring them from universities.




Striking Alabama coal miners share true meaning of Christmas- solidarity

Hundreds of coal miners in Brookwood, Alabama, have now been on strike for nearly 20 months. Despite the hardships they’ve faced, workers are committed to holding their employer, Warrior Met Coal, to a promise they made seven years ago. In 2015, Warrior Met Coal bought out the defunct Walter Energy. Warrior Met convinced employees to accept pay and benefit cuts to help the company get back on its feet. In exchange for this sacrifice, Warrior Met promised a better contract by 2020.

Coal producers are being hit hard by new climate legislation and efforts to retire coal as an energy source. However, Warrior Met produces coal for steel-making, so environmental legislation hasn’t impacted their business. Five years after workers agreed to the massive cuts, Warrior Met was making billions in profit. But Warrior Met reneged on their promise of a more generous contract. Months of negotiations with between management and the workers’ union, United Mine Workers of America, went nowhere, so the workers called a strike in April 2021. Over 1000 workers have been picketing from morning till night ever since.

Christmas solidarity

During the strike, UMWA has kept their members afloat financially with monthly strike insurance checks. These checks don’t nearly match the workers’ salary. Some workers have taken other jobs, and other unions have sent cash donations in solidarity. But, Haeden Wright, the wife of a striking coalminer and auxiliary president of the UMWA locals 2245 and 2368, says the holidays are particularly hard.

“We couldn’t have ever imagined that we would now be on strike for the second Christmas, or the second time during the holidays,” said Wright. “It is hard when you have to learn to tell your kids now that we can’t afford things, you have to go without that. You don’t have satellite TV any more, you don’t go on vacation, you don’t really go anywhere to eat”.

Wright helps organize a year-round food pantry for strikers and holiday events to boost morale. However, Wright admits there are some needs that go unmet. “For a lot of us it meant that when heaters went out, when air conditioning went out, we can’t afford to replace those.” Wright helped set up a gift registry where other unions and members of the public could contribute. Thanks to an encouraging show of support, the registry requests were all fulfilled by early November.

“Your union is your family, it’s your community,” Wright said. “If you ask for help, people are going to help. You’re there for each other”.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).


Buffalo, NY, sues gun manufacturers after race massacre

The city of Buffalo, NY, is suing several major gun manufacturers, including Smith & Wesson, Beretta, Bushmaster, Colt and Glock. The suit alleges that the firms have created an epidemic of gun violence through their irresponsible advertising and marketing practices. In May this year, a gunman killed 10 people at a Topps Supermarket in Buffalo. All of the victims were Black and the gunman has admitted that the rampage was motivated by race.

Gun manufacturers have broad immunity from lawsuits related to gun deaths, granted to them by US lawmakers. Buffalo’s suit accuses the gun manufacturers of appealing to people with criminal intent with marketing campaigns that emphasize the high capacity of a weapon and the ease of concealing it. The suit also claims the industry has created a dangerous nuisance by deliberately supplying more guns than needed in the legitimate market and by failing to take steps to stop illegal sales.

Buffalo is believed to be the first city to sue gun manufacturers. However, it is only the most recent of a number of efforts by victims and even governments to try to hold gun makers accountable for their role in glorifying violence.

Sandy Hook

A similar suit that yielded some success was brought by the families of nine Sandy Hook victims, who are about to mark their 10th Christmas without their children. The families sued Remington, makers of the Bushmaster XM15-E2S, an AR-15 style rifle used by Adam Lanza in the massacre. The suit alleged Remington’s marketing for the rifle targeted insecure young men like Lanza, using slogans like, “Consider Your Man Card Reissued“. The families settled with Remington for $73 million, which was paid by the manufacturer’s insurance company.


Following this settlement, Mexico also attempted to sue major manufacturers in US federal courts in April this year. Mexico cited US gun manufacturers’ marketing of guns designed to appeal to the tastes of cartel members. The suit cited several makes of gun with special embellishments like gold plating and even engravings of “Narco Saints”. Ultimately, Boston federal judge F. Dennis Saylor in Boston dismissed Mexico’s suit, albeit with some apparent regret. Saylor observed that federal law “unequivocally” shields gun manufacturers from civil and criminal accountability when their products are used to kill. “While the court has considerable sympathy for the people of Mexico, and none whatsoever for those who traffic guns to Mexican criminal organizations, it is duty-bound to follow the law,” Saylor wrote.


In September, families of children who survived the May school shooting in Uvalde, TX, sued Daniel Defense, makers of the AR-15 style weapon used by the killer. More recently, a mother whose child died in the shooting also sued. Both suits point to Daniel Defense’s marketing towards young people. For example, just days before the shooting, Daniel Defense tweeted a photo of a toddler with an assault rifle.

In a separate action, advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, accusing Daniel Defense of targeting at-risk young men. According to the complaint, Daniel Defense’s marketing frequently uses “references and images associated
with killing and hunting people”.



Afghan women protest Taliban barring them from universities

On Tuesday, Afghanistan’s Taliban leadership announced an edict banning women from universities. Since the Taliban took over the country last year, they’ve steadily chiseled away at the rights of women and girls. Immediately upon taking power, the Taliban banned women from working in certain sectors. Then girls’ access to middle- and high-school level education was severely curtailed. However, until this week, women already in university were allowed to continue, and girls in some areas could receive an informal high school education in private “tuition” centers. 

Educators and students report that the day after the edict was issued, armed Taliban enforcers entered universities and tuition centers and ordered girls to go home at gunpoint. As of now, Afghan girls cannot receive any education beyond the 6th grade. Yesterday, women took to the streets to express their anger at the decision in Kabul. Police quickly disbanded the protests.

The development is especially frustrating after the Taliban allowed girls to take the college entrance exam three months ago. Thousands of young women studied for the exams in secret for months. Moreover, college students across the country were set to start taking final exams this week. Now many women fear their years of study will be wasted after being denied paths to qualifications and greater economic security. With recent bans on women entering public parks and gyms, it appears that the trend is toward confining women largely to their homes.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



Please share any thoughts, comments or questions in the Comments section below!

Survivors and family members of victims of the May school shooting in Uvalde, TX, are suing state and local authorities for $27 billion.



Uvalde families sue state, local officials for $27 billion. Major blow to Trump as court dismisses arbiter in Mar-a-Lago docs case. Putin demands West recognize Ukraine annexations before talks.





Uvalde shooting survivors, families file $27 billion suit against state, local officials

A group of parents of victims and school staff members who were present during the school shooting in Uvalde, TX, have filed a $27 billion lawsuit against state and local agencies and officials. The defendants named in the suit include the city, the municipal police department, the school district, the school district’s police department, the Texas Department of Public Safety and individuals currently or formerly affiliated with those bodies and agencies.

The suit is seeking damages from all these agencies to be paid to parents who lost children or whose children were wounded or are experiencing PTSD from the massacre, as well as to the families of the two teachers killed and other school staff endangered that day.

Failures and cover-ups

Since the shooting in May this year, further details have continually emerged to illuminate the magnitude of the failures that likely caused  greater loss of life. That’s despite attempts by agencies at every level to block the flow of information about what happened that day. Here are just a few of the things we’ve learned.

We know now that at least 376 law enforcement officers responded to the scene that day. That includes 91 state troopers, 25 officers from Uvalde city police, 5 from Uvalde school district police and 16 local sheriff’s deputies. The rest were police and sheriff’s deputies from other surrounding cities and counties. Some came from as far away as San Antonio, 80 miles away. Despite all that muscle and firepower, it took 77 minutes before the shooter was confronted. And it wasn’t even one of these hundreds of state, city, or county officers that confronted and killed the shooter. Instead it was a US Border Patrol tactical team.

In a separate suit, the city of Uvalde is suing District Attorney Christina Mitchell for withholding investigative materials related to the shooting. The city wants the judge to compel Mitchell’s office to hand over relevant records from all law enforcement agencies.


Video, audio reveal desperate 911 calls from inside the classroom and confusion among law enforcement (opens in new tab).

Medical examiner investigating whether more victims could have been saved if they’d received help sooner (opens in new tab).


Major blow to Trump as court dismisses arbiter in Mar-a-Lago documents case 

Since the Aug. 8 FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home yielded over 100 classified documents and over 11,000 other government documents, Trump’s legal strategy has been to delay, delay, delay. When District Judge Aileen Cannon (whom Trump appointed) granted his request for a special master in the case, it looked like Trump might succeed in stalling the DOJ investigation for months or years.

The special master was initially tasked with reviewing both the 100 classified documents and over 11,000 other government documents. During this review, the DOJ would not be able to use either set of documents in their investigation into Trump’s theft of the documents or his efforts to obstruct the government’s efforts to reclaim them. The 11th Circuit then eliminated the classified documents from the review, leaving only the 11,000 classified documents. Still, this would have required special master Raymond Dearie to spend months reviewing the documents before the DOJ could file charges.

Now, the 11th Circuit Appeals Court in Atlanta has undone Cannon’s ruling appointing a special master altogether. This means there no further impediment to the DOJ’s investigation. Trump may appeal this decision to the Supreme Court as well. However, the Supreme Court has previously upheld other decisions by the 11th Circuit siding with the DOJ in this case.

Last month, after Trump announced he was officially running for President again in 2024, Attorney General Merrick Garland assigned Jack Smith as a special counsel to oversee the DOJ’s criminal cases that involve Trump. 

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).


In other news…

Biden signs bill blocking railroad strike; bill giving workers 7 paid sick days failed in Senate. (Opens in new tab).

Supreme Court to hear Biden administration’s bid to resume student loan relief program in February. Applications, approvals remain on hold. (Opens in new tab).



Putin demands West recognize Ukraine annexations before talks

While Russian forces are largely in retreat across Ukraine, there has been little sign that either the Ukraine or the Kremlin is open to negotiating peace terms. Demands from both sides remain little changed since March. Ukraine still insists that it must retake Crimea. After 8 years in Russian hands and with a population that has a greater allegiance to Russia, this hope by Ukraine still feels more like a pipe dream. If Ukraine is unwilling to negotiate on this point, there may be no end in sight.

The Russian side is proving to be equally inflexible regarding its demands for a negotiated peace. President Biden recently made remarks indicating he would welcome a negotiation with Russia to end hostilities if they showed any interesting. The Kremlin responded today that they were open to negotiations but only if the West unconditionally gave into certain demands beforehand.

In addition to their previous demands that NATO withdraw from Eastern Europe and cede control of Crimea, Russia is now demanding that the West recognize their annexation of the Ukrainian regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. Russia conducted referendum votes in each of the territories, which the West largely dismissed as a sham. It’s unlikely either Ukraine or the West would ever agree to this condition, especially since Russia’s military is currently in retreat from Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. Donetsk and Luhansk are largely Russian aligned and have been for years.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).




Please share any thoughts, comments or questions in the Comments section below!



House votes to block rail strike, give workers 7 extra paid sick days. Survivor of Virginia Walmart shooting sues company for $50 million. Oath Keepers guilty of sedition. US OKs Chevron to pump Venezuelan oil.





House votes to block railroad strike, give workers 7 extra paid sick days

After urging from President Biden, the House of Representatives voted today to impose a previously negotiated contract on railroad workers’ unions to head off a possible strike on Dec. 9. Such a strike would cost the economy about $2 billion per day and halt the transport of food and vital materials like gas and fertilizer. 

In a separate vote, the House also approved a bill giving railroad workers an extra 7 paid sick days a year. The current contract proposal only calls for one. While the vote to impose the contract received significant bipartisan support, only three Republicans voted in favor of the extra sick leave.

The Senate will now have to vote on both bills. The vote to block the strike is likely to pass as is, but the fate of the bill adding sick leave is less certain.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).


Survivor of Virginia Walmart shooting sues company for $50 million

Donya Prioleau, an employee at the Walmart in Chesapeake, VA, where a deadly mass shooting took place last week, is suing Walmart for $50 million. Prioleau was present in the breakroom when the nighttime shift leader Andre Bing opened fire, killing several employees. According to the suit, Prioleau narrowly escaped being killed herself.

The filing indicates that Prioleau believes Walmart bears some responsibility for the shooting. The suit alleges that the company continued to employ Bing despite being aware of numerous troubling complaints from Prioleau and other employees against him. Other employees have spoken publicly about Bing’s bizarre, inappropriate and threatening behavior prior to the shooting. For example, Bing had a reputation for writing people up just because he could and making inappropriate or “creepy” comments. Generally, they’ve said Bing was a manager “to watch out for”.

The lawsuit also notes that Bing “had a personal vendetta against several Walmart employees and kept a ‘kill list’ of potential targets prior to the shooting”.

“Prior to the shooting,” the suit states, “Mr. Bing repeatedly asked coworkers if they had received their active shooter training. When coworkers responded that they had, Mr. Bing just smiled and walked away without saying anything”.

Bing also “made comments to other Walmart employees and managers suggesting that he would be violent if fired or disciplined”. Apparently, Bing “was disciplined leading up to the shooting, making his violent outburst predictable”.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).


Jury finds Oath Keepers’ leaders guilty of sedition over Jan. 6 

Yesterday, a federal jury found two leading figures of the Oath Keepers militia guilty of sedition for their roles in the Jan. 6 uprising.  Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and the leader of the group’s Florida chapter Kelly Meggs were each found guilty of sedition. Three other members on trial were found not guilty of sedition. All five of the members on trial were found guilty of obstructing an official proceeding and various other charges. 

Attorneys for Rhodes argued during the trial that Rhodes could not be guilty of sedition as the Justice Department hadn’t proven that Rhodes intended to lead the mob into the Capitol building. Rhodes himself apparently never entered the building that day, and claimed only to have learned his members had stormed the building after the fact.

But recordings of Rhodes speaking and texts sent both before and after Jan. 6 convinced the jury of Rhodes’ seditious intent and of his role in inciting the violence. In one clip, Rhodes said his members should be prepared for a violent civil war. In another statement from Jan. 10, Rhodes said his only regret about Jan. 6 was that his group hadn’t brought rifles they had waiting in a hotel in Virginia.

Rhodes’ attorneys say they intend to appeal the verdict.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



US, Venezuela move toward normalized relations with oil deal

Venezuela’s government and opposition parties have come together to strike a deal to ease some US sanctions. Under the agreement, the US would allow Chevron to resume pumping oil in Venezuela for the first time in years. Supposedly, Chevron will not be paying any oil royalties to the government of Nicolas Maduro, whom the US still officially regards as hostile. However, it seems unlikely Maduro is getting nothing in return.

During the Trump administration and even now, the US government has perpetuated a diplomatic fiction that Maduro is not the democratically elected leader of Venezuela. Instead, the US and its allies has welcomed opposition leader Juan Guaido to international functions, declaring him the true leader of Venezuela. Neither Guaido nor his party even attempted to participate in the last round of elections in Venezuela. Instead, they denounced the elections as “rigged” with no evidence.

The agreement will unlock billions of dollars belonging to Venezuela in overseas banks to fund humanitarian needs in the country. The timeline of the agreement isn’t certain, nor is it clear exactly what concessions were made by Maduro’s government. The US has long been pushing for regime change in Venezuela. Unfortunately for the US, the Venezuelans have voted for Maduro, twice. Despite the economic hardships and failings of Maduro’s government, the indigenous majority of Venezuela still prefer him to his largely white, elite opponents.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



Please share any thoughts, comments or questions in the Comments section below!



Amazon warehouse workers strike on Black Friday. Trump rape accuser files upgraded lawsuit under new law. Australia: Much-maligned bird may be key to controlling even more hated invasive toad.


Amazon warehouse workers in US, 40 other countries strike on Black Friday

Workers at Amazon fulfilment facilities in the US, UK and 40 other countries planned walkouts, strikes protests and other actions today on Black Friday. Social media groups helping to organize the strikes have dubbed it #MakeAmazonPay day. Activists are also staging protests outside the New York home of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Bezos is no longer Amazon’s CEO but retains significant financial interest in the company. 

The strikers are demanding that the company address unsafe working conditions at many of its warehouses and fulfilment centers across the globe. Workers are also concerned about Amazon’s use of computers to monitor and enforce brutal productivity quotas. These automated enforcement mechanisms dock workers’ pay or even fire them for failing to meet the quotas, regardless of workers’ ages or mobility problems.

The pressure to fulfill these quotas contributes to an unsafe working environment in the warehouses. In 2021, Amazon warehouse workers made up only 1/3 of all US warehouse workers but accounted for nearly half of all recorded injuries recorded in US warehouses, according to the Strategic Organizing Center (SOC). 

Today’s demonstrators are also demanding that Amazon negotiate with unionized workers. An Amazon warehouse in Staten Island became the first in the US to join a union, but the company has yet to acknowledge the union or meet them at the negotiating table. Other Amazon warehouses have tried and failed to unionize, but more votes are coming next year.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).


Trump rape accuser files upgraded lawsuit under new law

Columnist E. Jean Carroll has filed a new lawsuit accusing Donald Trump of sexual battery after New York passed a law allowing victims to sue their perpetrators for crimes decades in the past. Carroll has accused Trump of raping her in the changing room of a Manhattan department store in the mid-90s.

When the accusation first came to light during Trump’s presidency, Trump called her a liar and said she’s “not my type”. Carroll then filed a defamation suit against Trump. Then-Attorney General Bill Barr sought to make the federal government the defendant in the case, claiming that Trump’s denial was an official act in his capacity as a federal employee. This would have killed the lawsuit, as the federal government cannot be sued for defamation. A judge recently rejected this ploy and allowed Carroll’s initial suit to go ahead with Trump as the defendant.

As part of the initial lawsuit, Carroll has been trying to obtain a DNA sample from Trump to compare with evidence from her assault.

New York’s new Adult Survivors law allows victims of sexual abuse to file civil lawsuits against perpetrators and those who facilitated the abuse. Facilitators can include institutions like churches, banks and other organizations. For example, victims of deceased billionaire child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein filed a suit today against banking institutions. The victims say JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank and others ignored Epstein’s “red flags” to continue benefitting from his sex-trafficking operations.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



Australia: Much-maligned bird may be key to controlling even more hated invasive toad

Foreigners love to marvel from afar at Australia’s weird and wonderful wildlife. But for many Aussies, these animals are little more than an everyday nuisance. From unwanted scraps with marauding kangaroos to close encounters with enormous spiders at inopportune moments, these critters are a, sometimes unwelcome, fact of life.

A white ibis with a cane toad in its beak.

One such example is the majestic-looking white ibis. Aussies have bestowed the inglorious title of “bin chicken” upon the stork-like bird, thanks to its habit of rooting through urban and rural garbage bins in search of food. However, scientists have just uncovered the bin chicken’s saving grace- its valiant efforts to bring down the numbers of the invasive cane toad.

Cane toads were introduced to Australia in the 1930s and have become a very difficult to control pest. The toad emits a powerful and deadly toxin when stressed. As a result, Australia’s typical predators like crocodiles and dingoes have learned to avoid it. Decades of unchecked breeding have brought the Australian cane toad population to around 2 billion. The toad’s habit of eating small native animals means it’s had a devastating effect on native wildlife.

But the ibis has found an ingenious way to ingest the cane toad while avoiding the effects of its toxins. Scientists have recently observed ibises “playing” with the toads, picking them up, tossing them in the air and even playing “catch” with them. The ibis then either scrubs the toad on the grass or rinses it off in a pond, cleaning off the toxic secretions. The bird then swallows the toad whole.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).


Please share any thoughts, comments or questions in the Comments section below!



Lawsuits expose how and why the leadership of the Mormon Church allowed a child to be sexually abused for 7 years. And that is far from the only case. 




Lawsuits expose Mormon Church cover-up of child sex abuse

In a lengthy exposé, the Associated Press uncovered how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) systematically protects child sex abusers in its membership and protects itself from liability.

The article focuses on the case of a little girl called MJ from Bisbee, AZ. When MJ was just 5, her father Paul Douglas Adams, admitted to Bishop John Herrod in a counseling session to abusing MJ, filming the abuse, and sharing the videos online. Neither Herrod nor any member of the church reported the abuse. Instead, Adams, with either the consent or the resignation of his wife Leizza, continued abusing MJ and at least two of her five younger siblings for 7 years after he admitted the abuse to his bishop. All the while, Adams continued posting videos of the acts online.

It was only in 2016, when authorities in New Zealand arrested a man on child pornography charges and found a 9-minute video of Adams and MJ that any investigation took place. The Department of Homeland Security managed to identify Adams using face-recognition. They then promptly arrested Adams, a Border Patrol agent. Adams committed suicide before going to trial. Leizza pleaded no contest to two counts of child abuse and received a 2-year sentence.

How and why did the church allow this to happen?

MJ, now 16, lives with an adoptive family. Attorneys working on the behalf of MJ and two of her younger siblings are suing the Mormon Church for their callous mishandling of the case.

The details of MJ’s story are horrific, and unfortunately, it is not an isolated case. Lawyers in Idaho and West Virginia have filed suits alleging that it was churchwide practice not to report cases of child sex abuse, even when they became known to clergy.

When Bishop John Herrod heard Adam’s chilling admission, he called the church’s “help line”. The help line gives bishops a 24/7 hotline to lawyers representing the Mormon Church. The lawyers instructed Herrod not to contact police or child welfare. Herrod was told that if he contacted authorities, he or the church might be sued for violating Arizona’s client-penitent privilege law (which isn’t true).

Instead, they kept the matter within the church. Herrod later told Bishop Robert Mauzy who took over his post about the ongoing abuse in the Adams household. Mauzy also kept quiet. Visiting teachers from the church also reported seeing suspicious items and hearing disturbing statements in the Adams home. The bishops also told those teachers to keep quiet.

Conspiracy of silence

William Maledon, the attorney representing the bishops and the church in the Adams children lawsuit, dismissively referred to the suit as “a money grab. “These bishops did nothing wrong,” Maledon says. “They didn’t violate the law, and therefore they can’t be held liable”.

Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre disagrees. The revelations that the church and its leadership conspired to cover up years of abuse in the Adams household moved McIntyre to open a criminal probe of the church. “Who’s really responsible for Herrod not disclosing?” McIntyre says. “Is it Herrod,” who claims to have followed the church’s legal advice, “Or is it the people who gave him that advice?”.

While church policy handbooks claim a zero-tolerance policy on abuse, in practice, the reality is very different. Workers on the help line that Bishop Herrod consulted have strict instructions not to tell the bishop to report abuse. Instead, they tell the bishop to urge the perpetrator himself or others who know of the abuse to contact authorities. Accounts differ on what advice the bishops in Bisbee gave to Paul or Leizza Adams, or to other members of the church who knew something was very wrong in the Adams household.

Who is the “help line” mean to help?

The Mormon Church created this so-called help line in the mid-90s. At the time, there were many child sex abuse suits resulting in huge settlements. Since the Mormon Church is largely self-insured, its finances are very vulnerable to such suits. So they created the help line as an extra defense against liability. Help line workers destroy all records of calls to the help line at the end of every day. And the church regards communications between the help line’s lawyers and bishops as privileged.

In a deposition, a help line lawyer said he’s always ready to deal with sex abuse complaints, “wherever I am. The call comes to my cell phone”. He then admitted that he did not refer calls to a social worker and wouldn’t know how to do so.

The help line is not even administered by the church’s Family Services department. Instead, it is part of the Risk Management department. Risk Management Director Paul Rytting alluded to another reason that clergy don’t report child sex abuse cases to police. Rytting says that if members believed their files could be seen by police or a court, “their willingness to confess and repent and for their souls to be saved would be seriously compromised”. In other words, in the eyes of the church, the penitence and spiritual well-being of the perpetrator takes precedence over the physical and emotional well-being of victims.

Life after abuse

After Paul and Leizza Adams’ arrest, three of their children went to live with Leizza’s family. The other three, including MJ, were adopted separately by three local families. It was only at Leizza’s sentencing hearing that the new parents of MJ and her little sister learned the extent of abuse they suffered.

But even before that time, it was obvious they’d been through something horrific. MJ’s sister, just 2 when she was adopted, was terrified of men, and wouldn’t tolerate anything wrapped round her wrist. Since then, her new parents say she’s come a long way, but still has a ways to go.

MJ wants to take an active role in advocating for herself and her younger siblings. Her adoptive mother says, “She had every excuse to fail and to just fold into herself and run away. But instead, she came back stronger than anyone I’ve ever known”.

The children’s adoptive parents say the lawsuit isn’t about a payday. They just want the church to commit to protecting children in their flock by referring abuse cases to authorities. The adoptive father of MJ’s little sister says, “We just don’t understand why they’re paying all these lawyers to fight this. Just change the policy”.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).

Click here to see a short AP video about the case (opens in new tab).


Please share any thoughts, comments or questions in the Comments section below!