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Dean Obeidallah Wins $4.1M In Defamation Suit Against Neo-Nazi Website

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NPR’s Michel Martin speaks with comedian Dean Obeidallah, who this week was awarded $4.1 million in damages for defamation from the neo-Nazi website, The Daily Stormer.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Continuing the conversation about new technologies, this week, lawmakers debated how to deal with information generated by artificial intelligence, which they fear could be used to smear candidates and interfere with elections. A comedian and commentator named Dean Obeidallah decided to tackle this conduct the old-fashioned way. He sued his defamers, and he won. This week, a judge ruled that the publisher of the neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer must pay Obeidallah $4.1 million for falsely portraying him as a terrorist. Here to tell us more is Dean Obeidallah. He’s with us from our bureau in New York. Welcome. Thanks so much for joining us.

DEAN OBEIDALLAH: Thank you.

MARTIN: So let me just remind everybody again exactly what happened. What was your specific complaint against The Daily Stormer and its publisher, Andrew Anglin?

OBEIDALLAH: Well, what they did to me and what they wrote about me requires going backwards slightly a little bit. I wrote an article on May 31, 2017, for The Daily Beast, where I’ve been writing weekly for a few years. And in that article, I used the term white supremacist terrorism. And I said, why will Donald Trump not use the term white supremacist terrorism? Because this is three months before Charlottesville. There was already a spike in white supremacist violence going on.

And that so upset Andrew Anglin at The Daily Stormer, the publisher and founder. He wrote an article the next day smearing me. He fabricated tweets that made it look like I was tweeting that I was the mastermind of the bombing, I was cheering for it and I did it the name of Allah and my faith as a Muslim. And they looked exactly real, with retweets and likes and then directed his readership at The Daily Stormer to confront me was the exact term.

MARTIN: And what happened? Did people think this was you?

OBEIDALLAH: Well, yes.

MARTIN: And did people confront you?

OBEIDALLAH: The Daily Stormer readers clearly thought it was me from the comments that were directed at me that very clearly said that I hope – Dean better hope he dies of natural causes before we get him, things like we should hang him from an elm tree. And in their comments, they clearly saw – thought I was a terrorist. And just so it’s clear for people, The Daily Stormer is not your average white supremacist neo-Nazi publication, if there is such one. It is one where readers go to, they exchange information. They animate each other into action.

And readers of The Daily Stormer have committed acts of violence. James Jackson, who I wrote about that May 2017 article, came to New York in March from Maryland to start a race war and killed an elderly African American man and thankfully was arrested before he could kill others. And others have read this publication. So when they say confront you there, it’s not a normal publication saying, go challenge his opinions. It is direct action, encouraging people to literally confront me and to commit acts of violence.

MARTIN: OK. But I’m just curious about why, if you feel that these people are promoting and fomenting violence, why isn’t this a criminal matter as opposed to a civil matter? I mean, a civil matter is between two private parties, and the only consequence could be money, right? That’s the only way it can be a remedy. But if you feel that this group is actually encouraging violence, why isn’t this a criminal complaint?

OBEIDALLAH: It would be a harder case to prove from a criminal point of view because the direct – just as a lawyer, I can say, I mean, speech is protected and has more protections in the criminal setting. So to be charged criminally with inciting violence, you must directly say, go get this person at this place.

MARTIN: Go get him.

OBEIDALLAH: And we’re going to get him. And we’re going to kill him. Instead, it was slightly more ambiguous. But clearly, from a civil point of view, these tweets and this language was not protected by the First Amendment.

MARTIN: Before we let you go, how do you feel? I mean, I know this has not been a – this has not been a pleasant couple of years…

OBEIDALLAH: No.

MARTIN: …Dealing with this and being – first of all, just being falsely defamed for having associated with something, you know, so heinous and then being maligned in this way. I mean, was at least that moment in court when the judge ruled in your favor, like, how did that feel?

OBEIDALLAH: No, that felt great. Did it make up? I can’t go back to my life pre-June 1, 2017, where I’m getting smeared. And as a Muslim, being attacked with the worst anti-Muslim trope you can say is that I’m a Muslim and I’m a terrorist. So it was very painful. It was painful to have friends and family express concerns. It was painful to contact security at Daily Beast and my radio channel to say, hey, we might be visited by white supremacists coming to kill me. And they might kill innocent people I work with. That was all horrible.

But through this all, I’ve never once questioned doing this. This is the right thing to do. It’s the thing we have to do. And I’m happy we got the judgment. And we’re going to continue. And I hope it inspires others and gives them a roadmap to say, don’t be silent. There are lawyers who will represent you – I’m not kidding – free of charge for this kind of work to make it clear that we’re not going to cower from these people. We’re going to sue them. We’re going to win. We’re going to get their money.

MARTIN: That’s Dean Obeidallah. He’s the host of “The Dean Obeidallah Show” on Sirius XM. He’s a columnist for The Daily Beast. And he’s a comedian and a former lawyer. Dean, thanks so much for talking to us.

OBEIDALLAH: Thanks for having me on, Michel. I appreciate it.

Copyright © 2019 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Opioid Maker Insys Admits To Bribing Doctors, Agrees To Pay $225 Million Settlement

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Insys, the maker of fentanyl-based Subsys, agreed to a $225 million settlement with the federal government to resolve criminal and civil investigations of the company’s role in the opioid crisis. Reuters hide caption

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Reuters

Insys, the maker of fentanyl-based Subsys, agreed to a $225 million settlement with the federal government to resolve criminal and civil investigations of the company’s role in the opioid crisis.

Reuters

Insys Therapeutics, an opioid manufacturer, has agreed to pay $225 million to settle the federal government’s criminal and civil investigations into the company’s marketing practices. As part of the settlement, Insys Therapeutics admitted to bribing doctors to prescribe their opioid painkiller.

Last month, a federal jury in Boston found five top Insys Therapeutics executives guilty of racketeering conspiracy for these same practices. Now, the federal government is holding the company accountable.

In the agreement, the drug maker admitted to orchestrating a nationwide scheme in which they set up a sham “speaker program.” Participating doctors were not paid to give speeches, but to write prescriptions of Insys Therapeutics’ fentanyl-based medication, Subsys. Often the painkiller was prescribed to patients who did not need it.

Over the next five years, the company has agreed to close federal monitoring and the federal government reserves the right to charge the company in the future if there’s a violation.

“For years, Insys engaged in prolonged, illegal conduct that prioritized its profits over the health of the thousands of patients who relied on it,” said United States Attorney Andrew Lelling in a statement. “Today, the company is being held responsible.”

This settlement, as well as the criminal prosecution of Insys executives, is part of the federal government’s efforts to punish pharmaceutical companies for their role in fueling the opioid epidemic.

“Today’s settlement sends a strong message to pharmaceutical manufacturers that the kinds of illegal conduct that we have alleged in this case will not be tolerated,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt in a statement. “I want to assure the families and communities ravaged by this epidemic that the Department of Justice will continue to act forcefully to hold opioid manufacturers accountable for their actions.”

The founder of Insys Therapeutics, John Kapoor, is among the highest ranking pharmaceutical executives to be convicted amidst the opioid epidemic. Sentencing of the former billionaire is scheduled for September.

A spokesperson for Insys Therapeutics did not respond to a request for comment regarding the settlement. However, in August 2018 the company announced the settlement-in-principle and a spokesperson said in a statement, “Insys Therapeutics in no way defends the past misconduct of former employees.”

The company has faced significant financial troubles that they attribute to legal costs. Earlier this year, an Insys spokesperson said the company may not survive.

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As Opioids Fuel Growing Female Prison Population, Ohio Tries Alternative Treatment

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Ohio’s growing female prison population can be tied to drugs and addiction. Officials want to stop the cycle. One program helps women get at the root of their problems to help them change.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Ohio has one of the largest female prison populations in the country. There are about nine times more women behind bars in the state today as there were just a few decades ago. And experts agree addiction has been fueling this rapid growth. Paige Pfleger from member station WOSU reports on one program inside a state prison that’s trying to help women overcome addiction and change their lives.

JAMIE MONGHAN: These are our rooms. We don’t really spend a lot of time in there. Only time we really is in there is during count time. Other than that, we’re out here program…

PAIGE PFLEGER, BYLINE: Wearing a blue uniform and matching blue eyeshadow, Jamie Monghan gives a tour of her prison unit. It looks like a brightly decorated elementary school. The walls are covered in multicolored handprints and encouraging sayings, like family is a verb and one day at a time.

MONGHAN: We able to come out our rooms and, if we having a bad day, look around and be able to see some of the things that might encourage us.

PFLEGER: Monghan is serving a seven-year sentence for robbery at the Ohio Reformatory for Women. She lives inside the Tapestry Treatment Community. It’s the only addiction recovery unit for incarcerated women in the state. It uses a tiered approach and group therapy to help women identify the root causes that lead to addiction. For Monghan, that was being molested and pressured into an abortion at a young age.

MONGHAN: It’s been a really huge eye-opener for me. A lot of things that I’ve been through in my life that I try to shut out and I didn’t even think affected me, I’m starting to realize that it really did.

PFLEGER: Tapestry opened in 1990 as the opioid epidemic raged through Ohio, incarcerating women at the highest rates in the state’s history.

MONGHAN: This is a safe haven.

PFLEGER: The unit has more than 100 beds reserved for women brought in on drug charges or struggling with addiction. In Ohio, that’s a lot of the female prison population. In fact, 35% of all charges against women in the last decade were drug related. And that doesn’t include theft and burglary, which are often tied to addiction, too, says retired Franklin County drug court judge, Scott VanDerKarr.

SCOTT VANDERKARR: They’re either stealing to feed their habit or, you know, getting involved in other criminal activity due to their opiate addiction or to their substance use disorder. We need to get people with substance use disorder into treatment and not in our prisons, and that’s what’s been happening.

PFLEGER: That’s where programs like Tapestry come in. As the population of women exploded, it became readily apparent that addiction and recovery services needed to grow, too. Ronette Burkes heads all of Ohio’s women’s prisons.

RONETTE BURKES: Our responsibility is not to punish people. The punishment is their sentence to prison. Our responsibility is to help enhance and change their lives.

PFLEGER: From 7:30 until 5:00 every day, inmates in the Tapestry Program have nonstop group therapy. They talk about relapse prevention, health, domestic violence. Inmate Jamie Monghan says the work doesn’t stop there.

MONGHAN: This is like a community, so we are held at a higher standard. This is our house.

PFLEGER: She says her fellow inmates, her sisters, hold each other accountable around the clock. It’s helped her learn to set boundaries and to advocate for herself.

MONGHAN: I’ve been working my butt off. And every opportunity that I have in here is to actually be able to be a better person, I’m taking it because I’m worth it. You know, I know that now. And I know that something has to change in my life in order for me to be able to move forward.

PFLEGER: The recidivism rate for women in Ohio is about 17% according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. For women released from Tapestry, the rate is about a third of that. For NPR News, I’m Paige Pfleger in Marysville, Ohio.

Copyright © 2019 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Trump Pardons His Friend Conrad Black, Who Wrote Glowing Trump Biography Last Year

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Former media baron Conrad Black was pardoned by President Trump on Wednesday. Black, center is seen here following a 2011 hearing in Chicago. Scott Olson/Getty Images hide caption

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Former media baron Conrad Black was pardoned by President Trump on Wednesday. Black, center is seen here following a 2011 hearing in Chicago.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

President Trump has granted a pardon to former media mogul and society figure Conrad Black, who was convicted of fraud in 2007.

Black is also a friend of the president’s, and frequently praises him in his newspaper columns. Last year, Black published a biography of Trump, titled Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other.

“Donald Trump’s nature has always been to believe that almost anything can be achieved—that almost any obstacle and challenge can be overcome—through very hard work and cunning,” Black writes in the first chapter.

Black grew a newspaper empire from one newspaper in Quebec to what was at one point the third-largest newspaper company in the world, with the Chicago Sun-Times and the London Daily Telegraph among its holdings.

In 2007, Black was convicted of obstruction of justice and fraud, for illegally pocketing money that should have gone to stockholders. He spent more than three years in prison. During his 2007 trial, Trump had been expected to testify as a witness in Black’s defense, before Black’s lawyers decided to not have him testify.

An appeals court later overturned two of the convictions but left two in place, according to the Associated Press. He was deported to Canada upon release in 2012, and barred from returning to the U.S. for 30 years.

Black describes his “ordeal with the U.S. justice system” as “never anything but a confluence of unlucky events, the belligerence of several corporate governance charlatans, and grandstanding local and American judges,” followed with intensity because he was a media owner.

In a press release, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders describes Black as an “entrepreneur and scholar” who “has made tremendous contributions to business, as well as to political and historical thought.”

She also lists some other famous men who vouched for him: Henry Kissinger, Elton John, Rush Limbaugh, and the late William F. Buckley, Jr. She notes that Black is the author of biographies on presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Richard Nixon, though she does not mention the Trump biography.

A 2007 New York Times article about Black’s sentencing characterized him this way: “Mr. Black, often described as a millionaire who lived like a billionaire, built a single newspaper in Sherbrooke, Quebec, which he bought in 1976, into what was at one time the third-largest newspaper company in the world. Its flagship properties were The Daily Telegraph and The Chicago Sun-Times.”

In 2015, Trump tweeted out a link to one of Black’s columns, titled “Trump Is The Good Guy.” “[W]hat an honor to read your piece,” Trump wrote. “As one of the truly great intellects & my friend, I won’t forget!”

At least one observer speculated more than a year ago that Black’s consistent praise of Trump might have been the work of someone angling for a pardon. Black had not applied for a pardon from Trump and did not wish to discuss the matter, the magazine Maclean’s reported.

In an essay Wednesday night in National Post, a Canadian newspaper he founded, Black described getting a phone call from the White House he initially thought was a prank. But it was Trump on the line, apparently telling Black that the full pardon would “expunge the bad wrap” he got. Trump gave him permission to say the motivation for the pardon was an unjust verdict.

“We’ve known each other a long time,” Black recalled Trump telling him, “but that wasn’t any part of the reason. Nor has any of the supportive things you’ve said and written about me.”

A day earlier, Black had a piece in the conservative National Review. Its headline: “Smooth Sailing Ahead for Trump.”

Trump has previously pardoned political figures on the right. In 2017, he granted a pardon to Joe Arpaio, former Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. Last year he pardoned conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza.

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Pompeo Says U.S. Prepared To Offer Guaidó ‘Full Range Of Options’ To Oust Maduro

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, pictured in March, said he plans to tell his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, that Moscow must stop meddling in the Venezuelan crisis. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images hide caption

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, pictured in March, said he plans to tell his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, that Moscow must stop meddling in the Venezuelan crisis.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that the Trump administration is preparing to pull the trigger on a broad range of options to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, and demanded that interfering countries end their involvement in the beleaguered nation’s affairs.

In a string of television appearances, Pompeo suggested the fall of Maduro’s government is imminent and that the support for opposition leader Juan Guaidó remains strong despite his failed attempt last week to lead a large-scale defection against the socialist leader.

“We have a full range of options that we’re preparing for,” Pompeo said on ABC’s This Week, adding that potential paths forward include “diplomatic options, political options, options with our allies and then ultimately a set of options that would involve use of U.S. military.”

“We’re preparing those for [Guaidó] so that when the situation arises, we’re not flatfooted,” Pompeo said.

When asked if President Trump believes he can intervene without congressional authorization, Pompeo responded by saying he was “very confident any action we took in Venezuela would be lawful.”

The Secretary of State denied suggestions that the president is out of step with his own advisers on the role Russia is playing in the crisis.

After a Friday phone call with Vladimir Putin, Trump said the Russian president “is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela other than he’d like to see something positive for Venezuela.”

Trump’s remarks contradicted previous statements by Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, who on Twitter an hour earlier had accused Russia and Cuba of maneuvering to keep Maduro “clinging to power” by providing the regime with supplemental foreign military forces.

But on Fox News Sunday, Pompeo said Trump has been “very clear” about wanting the Russians to stop meddling in Venezuela. He referenced a tweet from several weeks back in which Trump said the Russians have to get out. “That remains our view,” he said. “We want the Venezuelan people not to have interference from any country, whether it’s China or Russia.”

The U.S. and more than 50 other countries recognize Guaidó as the legitimate interim leader. Earlier this week, Guaidó unsuccessfully called on the country’s military to revolt against Maduro, however, anti-Maduro protests have continued.

Pompeo comments come as he gears up for a face-to-face meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday as part of a multi-day trip to Europe.

After a meeting Sunday with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza in Moscow, Lavrov condemned the U.S. for allegedly violating international law in what he said was a campaign to to overthrow Maduro, Reuters reported.

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Federal Agents Raid Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh’s Home, Office And Nonprofit

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Federal agents raided Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh’s offices Thursday following investigations into her “self-dealings.” She sold thousands of her children’s books to groups under her influence.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Federal agents from the FBI and the IRS raided Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh’s home, office and a nonprofit she is affiliated with. Mayor Pugh is under investigation for hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments she received for her self-published children’s books – called “Healthy Holly” – from private companies under her influence; those books are about nutrition and exercise. Several weeks ago, the mayor announced her leave from office after being hospitalized for pneumonia. She is still on leave, but the entire city council, many city leaders and the Maryland governor are all calling for her resignation.

Emily Sullivan is a city hall reporter from member station WYPR in Baltimore. She joins us for the latest. And Emily, at this point, we haven’t gotten confirmation that the federal raids are indeed connected to the investigation into her dealings with the children’s book.

EMILY SULLIVAN, BYLINE: So we have gotten confirmation from Pugh’s lawyer that records taken from his office are Mayor Pugh’s. That lawyer said that they were served a subpoena as part of a federal investigation. And the IRS confirmed that they, along with the FBI, carried out the early morning activities at Pugh’s house, at offices at city hall and at a nonprofit that Pugh used to lead. How we got here in the first place is, of course, the “Healthy Holly” book scandal. Pugh had struck up a deal with the University of Maryland Medical System to the tune of half a million dollars. Now this afternoon, the UMMS was served with a federal subpoena of its own for documents into an investigation into her business dealings.

CORNISH: Baltimore already had a former mayor who was ousted after fraudulently using gift cards. The police department has seen its own share of scandals. How are people in Baltimore reacting to this latest development?

SULLIVAN: So I spoke with one community leader and social worker, policy analyst Melissa Schober. She said it was distressing that the money funneled to Pugh could have been spent in other ways to help Baltimore. Here’s what she told me.

MELISSA SCHOBER: These are our folks whose mission and interest, ostensibly, is to improve the health and well-being of the roughly 600,000 people who live here. And when they fail to do that and when they act in their own self-interest, they harm the reputation of the city, and they harm people’s lives for years to come.

SULLIVAN: Walking around Baltimore, we also spoke to Justin Kaye (ph), who echoed the sentiments of Schober.

JUSTIN KAYE: By me being a Baltimore City resident, homeowner and taxpayer, I’m not happy with things in general. So I don’t blame her, and I don’t think it’s one person’s job; I think it’s a whole system of things that need to change. So I gave her the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think much is going to change with who the next person is, if the whole system doesn’t change.

SULLIVAN: People are frustrated with everything that’s gone into investigating Pugh. They think the time, money and energy that has gone into this could have served the city in much better ways.

CORNISH: Given all this public pressure, is there any indication that the mayor will resign?

SULLIVAN: So like you said earlier, a huge majority of Maryland elected officials have called on her to resign. Governor Hogan did so this morning, and the entire city council did a few weeks back. Now, Pugh broke her silence after the council’s demand. She said that she’s only out on medical leave, and that she fully intends to come back on the job. She hasn’t commented on today’s activities, and her fill-in, acting Mayor Jack Young, says she hasn’t shared any details about her plans to come back with him. At this point, the length of her leave of absence remains unknown.

CORNISH: That’s Emily Sullivan, city hall reporter for station WYPR in Baltimore. Thanks so much.

SULLIVAN: Thanks, Audie.

(SOUNDBITE OF ABFAHRT HINWIL’S “PLANQUADRAT”)

Copyright © 2019 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Officials In Sanctuary Cities Condemn Trump’s Proposal To Move Immigrant Detainees

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The president says he is considering sending detained immigrants in the country illegally to sanctuary cities. San Francisco is among the cities that have passed sanctuary city ordinances.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Officials in sanctuary cities are largely condemning President Trump’s proposal to move immigrant detainees from the border to those cities. There are almost 200 sanctuary municipalities, states and counties across the U.S. San Francisco is one of them. City leaders there say that although they would welcome migrants, they don’t think transporting them to the city is the best option. Sonja Hutson from member station KQED reports.

SONJA HUTSON, BYLINE: San Francisco’s had a sanctuary policy since 1989. It limits the ability of law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. San Francisco Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer says it’s an ordinance the city is proud of.

SANDRA LEE FEWER: In San Francisco, we don’t know who’s documented and who isn’t. Actually, we just live amongst each other, and we live peacefully.

HUTSON: While Fewer and other officials are denouncing the proposal, they’re also saying they would welcome the migrants if it goes through.

FEWER: We will treat them as human beings. We respect them as people. And we want their families to have a livelihood here, too.

HUTSON: Critics of sanctuary policies say they endanger residents. They point to the fatal 2015 shooting of a woman in San Francisco by an undocumented immigrant. That instance garnered national attention as an example of violence enabled by sanctuary policies. The immigrant, however, was acquitted of murder and manslaughter.

But supporters of the policy, like San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, say they keep the city safe and help improve the well-being of immigrants.

RAFAEL MANDELMAN: It’s about immigrant communities being able to go to the police, be able to go to our public health resources. Our city will not be stronger if our immigrant communities feel that they can’t go to the police or can’t go see a doctor.

HUTSON: In addition to several major cities, including San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles, the entire state of California has a sanctuary policy. Kevin de Leon authored the sanctuary state law when he represented parts of Los Angeles in the state Senate. He says another concern is the cost of transporting these migrants.

KEVIN DE LEON: Wasting taxpayer dollars to put folks on a plane specifically to sanctuary cities is a non-starter.

HUTSON: San Francisco is more than 500 miles from the California-Mexico border. De Leon says the proposal has little to do with what’s best for immigration and more to do with agitating President Trump’s base in the run-up to the 2020 election.

DE LEON: It’s clearly not done to benefit the immigrants themselves, but rather to do everything within his power to embarrass elected official leaders throughout the state who have defended immigrants.

HUTSON: This isn’t the first time the Trump administration has singled out sanctuary cities. In 2017, it threatened to withhold law enforcement grants from nearly 30 jurisdictions. In the end, many courts determined the federal government could not withhold those grants.

But not everyone in California or San Francisco agrees with the elected leaders who put forth these policies. Harmeet Dhillon is the Republican National Committeewoman for California and a lawyer in San Francisco. She supports President Trump’s proposal to move immigrants to sanctuary cities. And she says the Democratic response to that suggestion has been hypocritical.

HARMEET DHILLON: Talk about political ploys and political pawns. Democrats have been using illegal aliens as political pawns and selling points and talking points for their pandering to the Hispanic vote for decades.

HUTSON: And Dhillon says city officials shouldn’t be welcoming large amounts of undocumented immigrants into places like San Francisco.

DHILLON: Actually, when you can’t take care of the health and welfare needs and educational needs of your own citizens, then you are a bad leader trying to dilute those resources amongst people who have not necessarily paid their dues to be here in this country.

HUTSON: Dhillon says sanctuary cities should focus on helping current residents, including large homeless populations in San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles. For NPR News, I’m Sonja Hutson in San Francisco.

(SOUNDBITE OF EMPRESS OF SONG, “TRISTEZA (DELOREAN REMIX)”)

Copyright © 2019 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Boeing To Slow Production Of 737 Max Jets As It Works On Flight Control Software Fix

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A Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplane sits on the assembly line on March 27, in Renton, Wash. Boeing is slowing production of its grounded Max airliner while it works on fixing flight-control software in the wake of fatal crashes. Ted S. Warren/AP hide caption

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Ted S. Warren/AP

A Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplane sits on the assembly line on March 27, in Renton, Wash. Boeing is slowing production of its grounded Max airliner while it works on fixing flight-control software in the wake of fatal crashes.

Ted S. Warren/AP

Boeing says it is reducing production of its 737 Max planes, and the temporary slowdown will begin in mid-April.

CEO Dennis Muilenburg says the company will build 42 of the planes per month, down from the current 52, while keeping the same number of workers. Boeing still has an enormous backlog of orders — about 4,600 — for the Max planes. That will take years to fill.

Muilenburg says he now knows that two deadly crashes within five months of each other, involving Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines, had a common link of a malfunctioning flight-control software called MCAS.

He says he has asked Boeing’s board of directors to create a committee to review company policies for airplane development and recommend improvements.

Ethiopian Airlines released a preliminary report Thursday on the crash of its plane on March 10. Investigators say the pilots used procedures provided by Boeing but couldn’t stop the plane’s repeated nose dives. All 157 people on board died in the crash just after takeoff from Addis Ababa.

A Lion Air 737 Max jet crashed in a similar way on Oct. 9, with pilots frantically trying to stop the nose from dropping. The plane went down off the coast of Java, killing 189 people.

The 737 Max planes have been grounded worldwide for nearly a month as Boeing works on a software fix.

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Boeing 737 Max Software Fix And Report On Fatal Crash Expected This Week

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This Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8, seen last Saturday, is one of those grounded following the crash that killed 157 people. Mulugeta Ayene/AP hide caption

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Mulugeta Ayene/AP

This Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8, seen last Saturday, is one of those grounded following the crash that killed 157 people.

Mulugeta Ayene/AP

Boeing says it has a software fix ready for its 737 MAX airplanes that will be unveiled to airline officials, pilots and aviation authorities from around the world Wednesday, as the aircraft manufacturer works to rebuild trust among its customers and the flying public following two fatal crashes of the planes in recent months.

Meanwhile, those crashes and the relationship between Boeing and the federal agency charged with regulating it will be discussed at a U.S. Senate aviation subcommittee hearing on Wednesday. Scheduled to testify are the heads of the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, along with the Transportation Department’s inspector general, who is investigating the how the FAA went about certifying the 737 MAX as airworthy, and whether regulators relied too heavily on Boeing’s own safety assessments in their review.

Those developments come as transportation authorities in Ethiopia prepare to release preliminary findings on the cause of the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane earlier this month that killed all 157 people on board.

A spokesman for Ethiopia’s transport ministry told the Associated Press “a date has not been set but (the preliminary report) will be released later this week.” The spokesman says the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, France’s aviation investigative authority BEA, and Ethiopia’s Transport Ministry have been conducting the investigation jointly.

The investigators have said there were striking similarities between the March 10 crash outside of Ethiopia’s capital city Addis Ababa and the crash of a Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX 8 into the Java Sea in Indonesia last October. Both planes crashed shortly after takeoff and both followed similar, erratic flight tracks in the air that indicate the pilots may have been struggling to try keep the planes from going into nosedives.

In the Lion Air jet crash October 29, which killed all 189 people on board, Indonesian investigators say an automated flight control system, acting on erroneous data from a faulty sensor, repeatedly forced the nose of the plane down. That system, called MCAS, for Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, is designed to prevent the airplane from stalling. But the Lion Air pilots apparently did not know how to counteract the system or disengage it, and were in a futile struggle to regain control of the plane.

After the Lion Air crash, many pilots complained that had not been made aware of the MCAS system, as it did not exist on previous versions of the 737, nor had they been trained on what to do when the system engages and forces the nose of the plane downward unexpectedly.

It still is not clear if something similar happened on the Ethiopian Airlines jet but the company’s CEO says pilots had been trained on how to handle the new system after the Lion Air crash.

Boeing officials say the company has completed developing software upgrades for MCAS aimed at preventing such occurrences in the future. The system will no longer act repeatedly in forcing the nose of the plane and will act just once if detecting the plane entering an aerodynamic stall. And the MCAS system will rely on data from the two angle of attack sensors on the plane, instead of just one.

In addition, a warning light that alerts the pilot when the angle of attack sensors disagree will become standard instead of being a more expensive option for airlines to purchase, and it will be added to the entire fleet of 737 MAX aircraft for free.

A Boeing official says the software upgrades have undergone extensive lab and simulator testing, with pilots in a simulator facing a series of errors and failures, including sensor errors and other erroneous inputs.

The Boeing official says the FAA participated in the evaluation, even demonstrating the software upgrades during a test flight on March 12.

It is unlikely that the FAA will act quickly in certifying the software upgrades and other fixes, especially considering the scrutiny of the certification process coming from Congress and others. And regulators in Canada, Europe, China and other countries say they will no longer rely on FAA data and will conduct their own tests of the MCAS software updates before allowing Boeing’s 737 MAX planes in the air again. As a result, some experts say it could be months before the airplanes are allowed back into service.

Provided By NPR

The Midwest Battles Historic Floods In The Aftermath Of ‘Bomb Cyclone’

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Tom Wilke, his son Chad, and Nick Kenny launch a boat into the swollen waters of the Elkhorn River to check on Witke’s flooded property, in Norfolk, Neb., on Friday, March 15. Nati Harnik/AP hide caption

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Nati Harnik/AP

Tom Wilke, his son Chad, and Nick Kenny launch a boat into the swollen waters of the Elkhorn River to check on Witke’s flooded property, in Norfolk, Neb., on Friday, March 15.

Nati Harnik/AP

It’s the worst flooding parts of the Midwest have seen in decades, where several states are battling the aftermath of a powerful “bomb cyclone” which swept through the region last week, bringing blizzard conditions, hurricane-like winds, snow and heavy rain.

The powerful storm pushed some waterways, including the Missouri River, to record levels in South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota.

Marc Chenard, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told NPR many areas will remain water-logged for days.

“All the rivers respond differently, have different time scales that they flood and then recede. A lot of the rivers are going to remain in flood into the weekend, and some into next week,” Chenard said. “Eventually as we head into next week, we should see more and more of the rivers start to recede below flood stage.”

Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska have all declared states of emergencies.

As rivers spill over their banks and through local communities, the rising waters are setting records.

In Nebraska, Gov. Pete Ricketts said nearly every part of the state is experiencing historic flooding.

Nebraska has deployed helicopters to assist in rescuing those trapped by the high waters, and boats for travel across washed out roads. CNN reported that some people who were rescued suffered from hypothermia, and had to be transported to the hospital.

The Omaha-Valley Weather Service office said a levee was breached in Nebraska’s Dodge County. “This is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation,” the weather service warned. “Do not attempt to travel unless you are fleeing an area subject to flooding or under an evacuation order.”

With flood waters rising, officials were monitoring for damage at the Cooper Nuclear Station, south of Omaha, which serves about half a million customers. Mark Becker, spokesperson for the Nebraska Public Power District told NPR the plant will continue operating for the foreseeable future. “If we get to the next threshold, the plant would go to a shutdown,” Becker said.

“A week ago, my backyard had a foot of snow in it. It’s warmed up. The ground is frozen still. The snow is melting, and we’ve had some torrential rains, and that’s created torrential flooding,” Becker told NPR.

In Wisconsin, Governor Tony Evers said flooding was impacting “homes, businesses, and cities and towns” across the state.

Lori Getter of the Wisconsin Emergency Management spoke with NPR. “We’re trying to get a handle on the situation with the flooding across the state, but two days ago, and even yesterday, we were evacuating people because of the rising waters,” Getter said.

A bomb cyclone occurs when there is a rapid drop in atmospheric pressure. The massive storm moved into Canada on Friday.

Provided By NPR

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