Nation briefs for September 12

Tentative opioids settlement falls short of nationwide deal

HARTFORD, Conn. — A tentative settlement announced Wednesday over the role Purdue Pharma played in the nation’s opioid addiction crisis falls short of the far-reaching national settlement the OxyContin maker had been seeking for months, with litigation sure to continue against the company and the family that owns it.

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The agreement with about half the states and attorneys representing roughly 2,000 local governments would have Purdue file for a structured bankruptcy and pay as much as $12 billion over time, with about $3 billion coming from the Sackler family. That number involves future profits and the value of drugs currently in development.

In addition, the family would have to give up its ownership of the company and contribute another $1.5 billion by selling another of its pharmaceutical companies, Mundipharma.

Several attorneys general said the agreement was a better way to ensure compensation from Purdue and the Sacklers than taking their chances if Purdue files for bankruptcy on its own.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said the deal “was the quickest and surest way to get immediate relief for Arizona and for the communities that have been harmed by the opioid crisis and the actions of the Sackler family.”

Democratic debate: Top 2020 contenders finally on same stage

HOUSTON — Despite the miles traveled, the tens of millions of dollars raised and the ceaseless churn of policy papers, the Democratic primary has been remarkably static for months with Joe Biden leading in polls and Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders vying to be the progressive alternative. That stability is under threat on Thursday.

All of the top presidential candidates will share a debate stage, a setting that could make it harder to avoid skirmishes among the early front-runners. The other seven candidates, meanwhile, are under growing pressure to prove they’re still in the race to take on President Donald Trump next November.

The debate in Houston comes at a pivotal point as many voters move past their summer vacations and start to pay closer attention to the campaign. With the audience getting bigger, the ranks of candidates shrinking and first votes approaching in five months, the stakes are rising.

“For a complete junkie or someone in the business, you already have an impression of everyone,” said Howard Dean, who ran for president in 2004 and later chaired the Democratic National Committee. “But now you are going to see increasing scrutiny with other people coming in to take a closer look.”

The debate will air on a broadcast network with a post-Labor Day uptick in interest in the race, almost certainly giving the candidates their largest single audience yet. It’s also the first debate of the 2020 cycle that’s confined to one night after several candidates dropped out and others failed to meet new qualification standards.

Tornado hits South Dakota hospital: ‘All are safe and sound’

When the warning sounded shortly before midnight that a tornado could be approaching, the clock turned into a stopwatch for staff members working the night shift at a behavioral health center at a Sioux Falls hospital.

“We had 10 minutes to wake up 102 residents, get them to the center of the building,” said David Flicek, the president and CEO of Avera McKennan Hospital and University Health Center in South Dakota’s largest city. “And all are safe and sound.”

Although a significant tornado had not struck Sioux Falls for 25 years, the Avera Health System hospitals have kept up regular preparedness training. This work paid off when one of three EF-2 tornadoes pummeled the hospital campus.

The twister with wind speeds of up to 130 mph also roared over the system’s heart hospital after a man was brought in having a heart attack. Doctors and nurses continued operating on the man — and saved his life — as the storm blew on, according to the CEO of Avera Heart Hospital, Nick Gibbs.

“We talk at our hospital about doing drills. I’ve got to tell you our staff was courageous,” said Flicek.

T. Boone Pickens, oilman and renewables advocate, dies at 91

OKLAHOMA CITY — T. Boone Pickens, a brash and quotable oil tycoon who grew even wealthier through corporate takeover attempts, died Wednesday. He was 91.

Pickens was surrounded by friends and family when he died of natural causes under hospice care at his Dallas home, spokesman Jay Rosser said. Pickens suffered a series of strokes in 2017 and was hospitalized that July after what he called a “Texas-sized fall.”

An only child who grew up in a small railroad town in Oklahoma, Pickens followed his father into the oil and gas business. After just three years, he formed his own company and built a reputation as a maverick, unafraid to compete against oil-industry giants.

In the 1980s, Pickens switched from drilling for oil to plumbing for riches on Wall Street. He led bids to take over big oil companies including Gulf, Phillips and Unocal, castigating their executives as looking out only for themselves while ignoring the shareholders.

Even when Pickens and other so-called corporate raiders failed to gain control of their targets, they scored huge payoffs by selling their shares back to the company and dropping their hostile takeover bids.

Report: Justify failed drug test before Triple Crown run

NEW YORK — The New York Times says Justify won the 2018 Triple Crown after a failed postrace drug test at a California track that could have kept the horse out of the Kentucky Derby.

The newspaper reported Wednesday that Bob Baffert-trained Justify tested positive for the drug scopolamine after winning the Santa Anita Derby, one of the final prep races for the Kentucky Derby. Justify went on to win the Derby and took the Preakness and Belmont stakes to complete the Triple Crown.

The Times said instead of a speedy disqualification, the California Horse Racing Board took more than a month to confirm the results. The newspaper also reported that instead of filing a public complaint, the board made decisions behind closed doors as it moved to drop the case and lighten the penalty for horses found to have scopolamine in their systems.

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The newspaper said test results, emails and internal memorandums show how California regulators waited nearly three weeks, until the Kentucky Derby was only nine days away, to notify Baffert of the positive test. Then, two months after the Belmont victory, the board disposed of the inquiry altogether during a closed-door executive session.

The Times said Baffert didn’t respond to multiple attempts seeking comment.

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