NY finds $1B in hidden transfers by family behind OxyContin
NEW YORK (AP) — The family that owns OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma used Swiss and other hidden accounts to transfer $1 billion to themselves, New York’s attorney general contends in court papers filed Friday.
New York — asking a judge to enforce subpoenas of companies, banks and advisers to Purdue and its owners, the Sackler family — said it has uncovered the previously unknown wire transfers among family members, entities they control and several financial institutions.
The transfers bolster allegations by New York and other states that the Sacklers worked to shield their wealth in recent years because of mounting worries about legal threats.
Scores of those transactions sent millions of dollars to Mortimer D.A. Sackler, a former member of Purdue’s board and a son of one of its founders, according to the filings.
They point to $20 million shifted from a Purdue parent company to Sackler, who then redirected substantial amounts to shell companies that own family homes in Manhattan and the Hamptons. Another $64 million in transfers to Sackler came from a previously unknown family trust, using a Swiss account, prosecutors said in their filing.
States split by party on accepting Purdue Pharma settlement
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The opioid crisis has hit virtually every pocket of the U.S., from rural towns in deeply conservative states to big cities in liberal-leaning ones. But a curious divide has opened up.
The nation’s Republican state attorneys general have, for the most part, lined up in support of a tentative multibillion-dollar settlement with OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, while their Democratic counterparts have mostly come out against it, decrying it as woefully inadequate.
Exactly why this is so is unclear, and some of those involved suggested it can’t necessarily be explained by the fact that the Republican Party is considered more friendly to big business.
Some of the attention has focused on the role played by Luther Strange, a Republican former Alabama attorney general who has been working for members of the Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharma.
People familiar with the negotiations say he was at a meeting of the Republican Attorneys General Association over the summer, sounding out members about a settlement months before a tentative deal was struck this week.
‘I was stupid’: Huffman gets 14 days in college scam
BOSTON (AP) — “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman was sentenced Friday to 14 days in prison for paying $15,000 to rig her daughter’s SAT scores, tearfully apologizing to the teenager for not trusting her to get into college on her own.
“I was frightened, I was stupid, and I was so wrong,” Huffman, 56, said as she became the first parent sentenced in a college admissions scandal that ensnared dozens of wealthy and well-connected mothers and fathers.
The scandal exposed the lengths to which parents will go to get their children into the “right” schools and reinforced suspicions that the college admissions process is slanted toward the rich.
In sentencing Huffman, U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani noted the outrage the case has generated, adding that it “isn’t because people discovered that it isn’t a true meritocracy out there.” The outrage, she said, was because Huffman took steps “to get one more advantage” in a system “already so distorted by money and privilege.”
Prosecutors had sought a month in prison for Huffman, while her lawyers said she should get probation.
Taliban visits Moscow days after Trump says talks ‘dead’
MOSCOW (AP) — A negotiating team from the Taliban arrived Friday in Russia, a representative told The Associated Press, just days after U.S. President Donald Trump declared dead a deal with the insurgent group in Afghanistan.
Russian state news agency Tass cited the Taliban’s Qatar-based spokesman Suhail Shaheen as saying the delegation had held consultations with Zamir Kabulov, President Vladimir Putin’s envoy for Afghanistan. The visit was confirmed to the AP by a Taliban official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.
The Interfax news agency cited an unidentified Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying the meeting in Russia underlined the necessity of renewing talks between the U.S. and the Taliban, and that the Taliban confirmed their readiness to continuing dialogue with Washington.
It was the Taliban’s first international visit following the collapse of talks with Washington. The team was being led by Mullah Sher Mohammad Stanikzai.
“This is a notable development, as it suggests the Taliban wants to underscore its continued interest in dialogue, even after President Trump pulled the plug on the US-Taliban talks,” said Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the Washington-based Wilson Center. “And how striking that the insurgents have chosen to telegraph a message of conciliation by engaging with Moscow, a key U.S. rival that has made great efforts to deepen ties with the Taliban in recent months.”
House committee subpoenas acting intelligence director
WASHINGTON (AP) — The chairman of the House intelligence committee has issued a subpoena to the acting Director of National Intelligence, saying Joseph Maguire is withholding a whistleblower complaint from Congress.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said in a statement Friday evening that the committee will require that Maguire testify Thursday unless he complies with the subpoena. The chairman did not detail the subject of the whistleblower complaint, but said he was aware the intelligence community’s inspector general had determined it to be credible and a matter of “urgent concern.”
Schiff said Maguire is required to share the complaint with Congress but won’t do so, and “this raises serious concerns about whether White House, Department of Justice or other executive branch officials are trying to prevent a legitimate whistleblower complaint from reaching its intended recipient, the Congress, in order to cover up serious misconduct.”
He added that he was concerned that administration officials “are engaged in an unlawful effort to protect the president.”
A senior intelligence official said the intelligence director’s office had received the subpoena and was reviewing it, and said Maguire is committed to upholding whistleblower protections. The official was not authorized to speak publicly and declined to be named.
Coming for your AR-15? O’Rourke scrambles Dems’ gun message
WASHINGTON (AP) — Beto O’Rourke’s “hell yes” moment at the Democrats’ presidential debate is scrambling his party’s message on guns.
The Democrats have long contended their support of gun control laws does not mean they want to take away law-abiding citizens’ firearms. But on Friday, they struggled to square that message with their presidential contender’s full-throated call on national TV for confiscating assault rifles.
“Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47, and we’re not going to allow it to be used against your fellow Americans anymore,” the former Texas congressman declared during Thursday night’s debate.
O’Rourke’s hometown of El Paso was the site of a mass shooting last month that killed 22 people, and he has put the issue of gun violence at the center of his campaign effort. On Friday, his campaign hawked T-shirts emblazoned with his debate vow.
However, some fellow Democrats chastised him and fretted that his remarks may have made things harder for gun control supporters as they negotiate with President Donald Trump on legislation to respond to this summer’s mass shootings.
Yes, stocks are up again. No, recession worries aren’t gone
NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. economy is sending some worrying signals about a possible recession, yet the stock market has gone on a what-me-worry ride toward record heights.
Put simply, while the stock market watches the economy, the two don’t always move in lockstep. If investors see that companies are still bringing in profits, and stocks don’t appear too expensive, they’ll risk an investment even if the economy hasn’t gotten an all-clear on the recession watch.
This week, the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed back to within 1% of their record highs set in July. A big reason is the recent easing of tensions in the U.S.-China trade war ahead of talks scheduled for next month, potentially diminishing the threat to the profits of U.S. companies. In addition, the Federal Reserve is expected to again cut interest rates. Lower rates make bonds less attractive investments and can, in turn, make investors more willing to sink their money into stocks.
Encouraging data on shopping trends and the job market also buoyed investors’ mood.
Zimbabwe’s Grace Mugabe regains prominence for husband
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — The controversy swirling around the burial of Zimbabwe’s founding leader, Robert Mugabe, centers on his widow, Grace, who has remained dramatically cloaked behind a heavy black veil as she succeeded in getting the country’s president to scrap his plans for the ex-leader to be buried in a simple plot alongside other national heroes and instead build a grand new mausoleum for her husband.
Known as a strong-willed woman with political ambitions, Grace Mugabe has made the most of her role as the grieving widow — and some in Zimbabwe think she is using the issue to reassert herself as a force to be reckoned with in the country.
When the 54-year-old Grace objected to the funeral plans for Mugabe, who died last week at 95, President Emmerson Mnangagwa came to her palatial 25-bedroom residence in Harare’s posh Borrowdale suburb to consult her about how the interment should proceed. He departed saying he would respect her wishes and scrapped his funeral plans.
She and other family members said they had enlisted the support of Zimbabwe’s traditional chiefs to determine how Mugabe would be buried. In a series of announcements throughout the week they divulged details of where, when and how Mugabe would be buried. The saga culminated Friday with the announcement that the funeral had been postponed for 30 days, until the elaborate new edifice could be built at the Heroes’ Acre national monument.
“We are building a mausoleum for our founding father at the top of the hill at Heroes Acre,” Mnangagwa said on state television of the plan to construct the imposing monument to Mugabe, a guerrilla leader who fought to end white-minority rule when the country was known as Rhodesia. “It won’t be finished, so we will only bury him after we have completed construction.”
Ohio gamer sentenced to 15 months prison in ‘swatting’ case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An Ohio gamer upset about a $1.50 bet while playing Call of Duty: WWII online was sentenced Friday to 15 months in prison for recruiting a prankster to make a bogus emergency call that resulted in the fatal shooting of a Kansas man by police.
Casey Viner, 19, of North College Hill, Ohio, also is restricted from gaming activity for two years while he is on supervised release after serving his prison term, U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren said in announcing the sentence.
Viner repeatedly gulped and appeared crestfallen as the judge announced his sentencing decision. He glanced into the courtroom gallery where his parents were seated. His tearful mother got up and left the courtroom. His father, an Ohio law enforcement officer, put his head into his hands.
Viner pleaded guilty in April to felony charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice in the hope that he would not be sentenced to prison. Viner admitted trying to hide his involvement in the 2017 incident when he realized the antic had gotten someone killed.
In a brief courtroom statement, Viner told the judge he is “awfully sorry” for what happened: “I never intended for anything to happen. I think of it every day.”
Lawmakers ask 4 big tech companies for documents in probe
WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawmakers investigating the market dominance of Big Tech on Friday asked Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple for a broad range of documents, marking a step forward in Congress’ bipartisan probe of the companies.
Letters went out to the four companies from the leaders of the House Judiciary Committee and its subcommittee on antitrust, which has been conducting a sweeping investigation of the companies and their impact on competition and consumers. The lawmakers are seeking a detailed and broad range of documents related to the companies’ sprawling operations, including top executives’ internal communications.
The move comes as scrutiny of the big tech companies deepens and widens across the federal government and U.S. states and abroad. The Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission are conducting competition investigations of the companies, and state attorneys general from both major political parties have opened antitrust investigations of Google and Facebook. The probe of Google has drawn participation by 50 states and territories.
“We have to act if we see that they’re breaking the law,” Rohit Chopra, one of the FTC commissioners, said Friday in an interview on CNBC. Chopra, a Democrat, wouldn’t confirm specifically names of companies that could be under investigation, but he said the agency is consulting closely with the Justice Department and the state attorneys general as their work proceeds.
Also Friday, the European Union’s powerful competition chief indicated that she’s looking at expanding regulations on personal data, dropping an initial hint about how she plans to use new powers against tech companies. Margrethe Vestager said that while Europeans have control over their own data through the EU’s world-leading data privacy rules, they don’t address problems stemming from the way companies use other people’s data “to draw conclusions about me or to undermine democracy.”
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