News briefs for May 14

Company: Ex-Trump lawyer raiding nonprofit for personal use

Former Trump attorney and self-proclaimed “Kraken releaser” Sidney Powell has told prospective donors that her group, Defending the Republic, is a legal defense fund to protect the integrity of U.S. elections.

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But the company suing Powell over her baseless claims of a rigged presidential election says the true beneficiary of her social welfare organization is Powell herself.

Dominion Voting Systems claims Powell has raided Defending the Republic’s coffers to pay for personal legal expenses, citing her own remarks from a radio interview. The Denver-based voting technology vendor sued Powell and others who spread false claims that the company helped steal the 2020 election from Donald Trump.

“Now, Powell seeks to abuse the corporate forms she created for her law firm and fundraising website to hide funds that she raised through her defamatory campaign, shielding those funds from the very company that was harmed by the defamatory campaign,” Dominion lawyers wrote in a May 5 court filing.

The dispute shines a light on how Trump allies continue to support, spread and allegedly profit from lies about fraud in the 2020 election. Although the election is settled, and all major court challenges have been dismissed, Powell’s legal defense fund continues to raise money, with help from conspiracy-minded supporters like QAnon adherents.

Virus, Mideast turmoil stifle Eid al-Fitr celebrations

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Muslims celebrated Eid al-Fitr in a subdued mood for a second year Thursday as the COVID-19 pandemic again forced mosque closings and family separations on the holiday marking the end of Ramadan.

In the embattled Gaza Strip, the call to prayer echoed over pulverized buildings and heaps of rubble as Israeli warplanes continued to pound the territory in the worst outbreak of violence since the 2014 war.

Hamas, the Islamic militant group ruling Gaza, urged the faithful to mark communal prayers inside their homes or the nearest mosques and avoid being out in the open.

Worshippers wearing masks joined communal prayers in the streets of Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta. The world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation allowed mosque prayers in low-risk areas, but mosques in areas where there was more risk of the virus spreading closed their doors, including Jakarta’s Istiqlal Grand Mosque, the largest in Southeast Asia.

Indonesians and Malaysians were banned for a second year from traveling to visit relatives in the traditional Eid homecoming.

In Bangladesh, however, tens of thousands of people were leaving the capital, Dhaka, to join their families back in their villages for Eid celebrations despite a nationwide lockdown and road checkpoints. Experts fear a surge in cases in a country grappling with a shortage of vaccines and fear of Indian variants of the coronavirus spreading.

West Virginia trial puts spotlight on sprawling opioid cases

A corner of West Virginia wrenched by opioid addiction is getting the chance to argue in a courtroom that some of the corporate giants it blames for a public health crisis that left hundreds of people dead deserve to be held accountable.

The city of Huntington and surrounding Cabell County sued the nation’s three largest opioid distributors No matter the outcome of the federal court trial that opened this month, the verdict is expected to resonate well beyond the industrial region.

The trial in West Virginia, as well as legal proceedings underway in California, could set the stage for resolutions to similar lawsuits brought by thousands of local governments across the United States. Opioid overdoses have been linked to the deaths of nearly 500,000 Americans since 2000 and reached a record of nearly 50,000 in 2019.

Yet the sprawling nature of litigation over the addiction epidemic around the country means it could take years to wrap up, years to get money to communities to expand treatment and to make up for some of the economic losses caused by the crisis.

The trajectory of the lawsuits is unlikely to mirror the one of the lawsuits that states brought against the tobacco industry during the 1990s. The landmark litigation over what cigarette companies knew about the health risks of smoking resulted in a few sweeping settlements that distributed money to nearly every state, while the opioid cases involve a variety of plaintiffs suing companies up and down the pharmaceutical chain in state and federal courts.

Instead, the lawsuits arising from the use of powerful prescription painkillers could evolve more like the litigation over the cancer risk linked to asbestos, which also involved many corporate players and ended up stretching on for decades.

Philly health official forced to resign over MOVE cremations

PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia’s top health official was compelled to resign Thursday after the city’s mayor learned partial human remains from the 1985 bombing of the headquarters of a Black organization had been cremated and disposed of without notifying family members.

Mayor Jim Kenney said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley made the decision regarding remains of the MOVE bombing victims several years ago.

The announcement of Farley’s ouster came by design on the 36th anniversary of the MOVE bombing, after Kenney consulted victims’ family members. Among the 11 slain when police bombed the organization’s headquarters, causing a fire that spread to more than 60 row homes, were five children.

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A lawyer who accompanied MOVE members to a meeting with Kenney, Michael Coard, described their reaction as “outraged, enraged, incensed, but mostly confused.”

In a statement released by the mayor’s office, Farley said that in early 2017 he was told by the city’s medical examiner, Dr. Sam Gulino, that a box had been found containing materials related to MOVE bombing victims’ autopsies.

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