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Israel Allows Visit After Rep. Rashida Tlaib Agrees To Restrictions

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U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., speaks to constituents in Wixom, Mich., on Thursday. Paul Sancya/AP hide caption

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U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., speaks to constituents in Wixom, Mich., on Thursday.

Paul Sancya/AP

Updated at 6:45 a.m. ET

Israel’s interior ministry announced Friday that it would allow Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., to enter the country as a private citizen to visit her aging grandmother, reversing an earlier decision to bar her amid pressure from President Trump.

The about-face regarding Tlaib, whose parents are Palestinian immigrants to the U.S. and who has close relatives in the West Bank, came hours after Israel banned her and fellow Muslim Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., apparently in response to pressure from Trump, who tweeted that the two hated “Israel & all Jewish people” and that Israel “would show great weakness” by letting them visit.

On Friday, however, Israel’s interior ministry said Minister Aryeh Deri had decided to allow Tlaib to conduct a “humanitarian visit” to her 90-year-old grandmother. According to the statement, Tlaib sent a letter to Deri accepting conditions and limits on her visit and promising not to advance boycotts against Israel while she is there.

There was no word on whether Israel had changed its position on Omar, a Somali-born American. She had been scheduled to arrive on Saturday in Israel, where she and Tlaib planned to tour the West Bank and visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Tlaib and Omar were to have traveled under the auspices of the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy, or MIFTAH, a Ramallah-based nongovernmental organization promoting an independent Palestinian state.

Earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a lengthy statement that the trip sought to “harm Israel and increase incitement against it.” Israel initially barred the congresswomen’s visit on the basis of a law that allows authorities to ban advocates of a Palestinian-led movement to boycott Israel.

The move elicited a strong backlash from individuals in both parties. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the move “deeply disappointing.” Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted that while he disagreed “100% with Rep. Tlaib & Omar on #Israel” denying them entry to Israel “is a mistake.”

Even AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobby group, tweeted that “every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand.”

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If Our Economy Is So Great, Why Did The Fed Vote To Juice It?

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WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 31: Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell speaks during a news conference after the attending the Board's two-day meeting on July 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. Powell announced that the Fed agreed to cut interest rates by a quarter of a point, which is the first rate cut since 2008. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 31: Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell speaks during a news conference after the attending the Board's two-day meeting on July 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. Powell announced that the Fed agreed to cut interest rates by a quarter of a point, which is the first rate cut since 2008. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt of Planet Money’s newsletter. You can sign up here.

Last week, policymakers at the Federal Reserve voted to bring interest rates down. Down! That’s despite a decade of economic growth, record low unemployment, solid corporate profits, and a good stock market. And it’s despite the fact the federal government has already been juicing the economy with big spending and tax cuts. In the old days, the Fed would be worried this would all make the price of everything explode (inflation), and they would be voting to *increase* rates to slow things down. But, no. They’re putting their foot on the accelerator. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, at a press conference, explained, “weak global growth, trade policy uncertainty, and muted inflation have prompted [us] to adjust [our] assessment of the appropriate path of interest rates.”

The Fed’s decision has gotten a lot of attention (including this Indicator throwdown episode). But, we’ve been wondering, maybe the correct reaction should just be the shrug emoji ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Fed Up With Myths

Former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, shortly after leaving the helm of the Fed, wrote that he was pretty exasperated by the general public’s failure to grasp just how limited the Fed’s power is. Bernanke wrote: “If you asked the person in the street, ‘Why are interest rates so low?’, he or she would likely answer that the Fed is keeping them low. That’s true only in a very narrow sense.”

Translation: “We’re not superheroes here you know. We don’t have the power over the economy that you think we do.”

The main way the Fed influences interest rates is very narrow, usually through a policy lever known as the federal funds rate. It’s the rate banks charge each other to borrow money overnight. By making it cheaper for banks to borrow, it makes it cheaper for businesses and households to borrow. That is the traditional way the Fed has tried to boost the economy. It injects more money into the system.

The federal funds rate is an important interest rate, and it influences other interest rates — on mortgages, business loans, credit cards, etc — in the short term, but the Fed’s power over interest rates in general is very limited. The market ultimately determines real interest rates, not the Fed.

Interest-ing

To understand why interest rates are so low, it’s helpful to think like a central banker. When they make their decisions, they have a theoretical interest rate in mind. In typical central banker fashion, it has a bunch of confusing names that make your eyes glaze over: the equilibrium real interest rate, the Wicksellian interest rate, r-star, or the natural rate of interest. Central bankers like Jerome Powell have been increasingly calling it the “neutral rate,” so we’ll go with that.

The neutral rate is a theoretical resting place for interest rates. And the Fed doesn’t control it. Putting a number on it is a guess, or a moving target. It’s basically the interest rate in the economy’s sweet spot. It’s where the cost of borrowing money makes everything hum nicely. Basically everyone is employed if they want to be. All factories and machinery and technology are put to use. And the price of everything is pretty stable (not a lot of inflation). Not too hot. Not too cold. It’s the natural or neutral place to be.

This theoretical rate, like the real-world interest rates it represents, is ultimately set by the markets for money coming together. On one side, is all our savings. Our bank accounts, pension funds, and so on. That’s the supply of money for the stuff (capital) that grows our economy. On the other side, is that stuff, aka investment: factories, houses, laboratories, rocket ships, office chairs. That’s the demand for money. It’s a gazillion buyers and sellers all coming together to agree on the price of borrowing money.

The issue the Fed — and all of us, really — have been facing is that the neutral rate has been falling and falling and falling, since even before the financial crisis. That’s why the Fed is finding itself having to lower the interest rates under its influence now — even this far into an economic expansion. The fact that the neutral rate is so low is a reflection of a fundamental economic issue: there’s a big supply of savings floating out there, but there’s nowhere near the demand for investment. And that lack of investment is bad news for economic growth.

Where Is The Investment?

The Trump Administration sold the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as a solution to the problem of lackluster investment. In our first Planet Money newsletter, we interviewed Kevin Hassett, who was then one of Trump’s chief economic advisers. He argued that cutting the tax rate on corporations would result in an investment boom. But, as the Fed acknowledged in a statement justifying its actions last week, the growth of investment over the last year has been “soft.”

Investment is a big deal because it gives us more machines and tools and structures that make workers better at their jobs — it increases productivity — and that is key to better wages, economic growth, and ultimately an improving standard of living.

It’s possible investment doesn’t look great because the escalating trade war is scaring businesses away from investing. But this problem of lackluster investment and productivity growth has been with us for decades now — and the Fed has proven that no matter how cheap it makes it to borrow money, investment and productivity remain disappointing. The economy may look good on some levels, but it’s still missing key ingredients that would make it look way better.

The Fed can grease the wheels of the economy with cheaper credit, and it can help guide it in a better direction, but it can’t fix the engine. So when the Fed cut the federal funds rate by a tiny amount, that’s why our reaction was basically ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. It’s not going to fundamentally fix intractable problems like low investment and productivity growth.

The fall of the neutral rate is a big deal, especially because with rates so low, the Fed currently might not have enough room to cut for when the next recession hits. Why after a decade of economic growth, with deficit spending and corporate tax cuts, and with the Fed keeping its foot on the accelerator, are we not seeing more growth?

Next week in Planet Money‘s newsletter: we dive into a theory that tries to explain it. You can sign up here.

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Supreme Court Lets Trump Border Wall Move Forward, But Legal Fight Still Looms

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A Border Patrol officer guards the U.S.-Mexico border fence in Nogales, Ariz., in February. The Supreme Court on Friday said the Trump administration could continue with its plan to use military funds to build a wall along sections of the southern border. Ariana Drehsler/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Ariana Drehsler/AFP/Getty Images

A Border Patrol officer guards the U.S.-Mexico border fence in Nogales, Ariz., in February. The Supreme Court on Friday said the Trump administration could continue with its plan to use military funds to build a wall along sections of the southern border.

Ariana Drehsler/AFP/Getty Images

Updated at 8:02 p.m. ET

The Supreme Court has allowed the Trump administration to use military funds to build sections of the president’s desired border wall while litigation is ongoing.

A lower court had initially frozen the $2.5 billion in funds, and an appeals court had agreed. But the administration then asked the Supreme Court to review the freeze, and in a 5-4 decision the high court granted the stay late Friday evening.

That decision means the Pentagon funds can be tapped for now, so work can begin on four contracts that had already been awarded, which President Trump immediately tweeted was a major win for his signature campaign promise.

The justices split along ideological lines, with the four more liberal justices dissenting, though Justice Stephen Breyer said he would have allowed preparation for construction but no actual building of wall portions to begin.

The debate over the funding began earlier this year when Trump declared a national emergency along the country’s southern border after Congress refused to appropriate enough money for him to build the massive structure along the U.S.-Mexico border, which Trump frequently touted he would do during the 2016 campaign if elected — though back then he proclaimed that Mexico would pay for it.

Almost a month ago, a federal judge ruled against Trump and sided with liberal groups who had brought the suit against his plans — one from the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition, while another was brought forth by California in conjunction with 19 other states. In an earlier ruling over the issue, U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam said the Trump administration’s plans were “unlawful” and that such a re-appropriation of funds by the executive branch after a denial from the legislative branch “does not square with fundamental separation of powers principles dating back to the earliest days of our Republic.”

Following the Supreme Court’s stay on Friday, the ACLU said it will now try to expedite the hearing before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals over the legality of Trump’s actions.

“This is not over. We will be asking the federal appeals court to expedite the ongoing appeals proceeding to halt the irreversible and imminent damage from Trump’s border wall,” Dror Ladin, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, said in a statement. “Border communities, the environment, and our Constitution’s separation of powers will be permanently harmed should Trump get away with pillaging military funds for a xenophobic border wall Congress denied.”

Department of Justice spokesperson Alexei Woltornist issued a statement saying, “We are pleased that the Supreme Court recognized that the lower courts should not have halted construction of walls on the southern border. We will continue to vigorously defend the Administration’s efforts to protect our Nation.”

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Future Of Key Farming Research Uncertain As 2/3 Of USDA Staff Say They Won’t Move

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Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, shown here on Capitol Hill in April, announced last month that most staff from two USDA research agencies were being relocated to the Kansas City region. J. Scott Applewhite/AP hide caption

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J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, shown here on Capitol Hill in April, announced last month that most staff from two USDA research agencies were being relocated to the Kansas City region.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Two vital research agencies at the U.S. Department of Agriculture are hemorrhaging staff as less than two-thirds of the researchers asked to relocate from Washington, D.C. to the Kansas City area have agreed to do so.

When U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the planned new location of the research agencies last month, he said it “will be placing important USDA resources closer to many stakeholders” and “increasing the probability of attracting highly-qualified staff with training and interests in agriculture.”

But groups such as the Union of Concerned Scientists call it a “blatant attack on science” that will “especially hurt farmers, ranchers and eaters at a particularly vulnerable time.”

The American Federation of Government Employees, the union representing the USDA’s Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, said the relocation “has resulted in catastrophic attrition at USDA’s top research agencies.”

“Evidence suggests that the relocation of these agencies is an attempt to hollow out and dismantle USDA science that helps farmers and protects our food supply,” the union added.

The USDA gave employees until just before midnight on Monday to notify their employers whether they planned to accept the relocation.

On Tuesday, a USDA spokesperson told NPR that at ERS, 72 employees accepted relocation and 99 declined or did not respond. At NIFA, the spokesperson says 73 accepted and 151 declined or did not respond. That means the total number that accepted is about 36 percent of those reported.

The USDA spokesperson said that these numbers may fluctuate until Sept. 30, the date employees are expected to report to the area, and employees can change their statuses until then.

They added that the USDA is working “to ensure separating employees have the resources they need as well as efforts to implement an aggressive hiring strategy to maintain the continuity of ERS and NIFA’s work.”

Last month, the USDA said that of the 644 jobs in the two agencies, 544 would be relocated and 100 would remain in the D.C. area. The numbers reported on Tuesday by the USDA do not appear to account for some 150 positions that the USDA initially announced would be relocated.

The department did not immediately respond to explain the difference, though the employees’ union has reported high rates of “retirements, employees securing new jobs, and employees choosing to be terminated.” A statement last month from three Democratic senators said that ERS had a vacancy rate of 20% and NIFA had a vacancy rate of 26.4%.

NIFA provides grants for research on agriculture-related science, and the ERS conducts research and analysis on topics such as outlooks on major crops and livestock, how much food is going to cost, and whether U.S. households will be food secure.

It’s not yet clear whether the research agencies will be located in Kansas or Missouri, according to The Kansas City Star.

Lawmakers from both states, including Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, have supported the move. “My first thought was Kansas City would be the perfect place,” the Republican said, as NPR’s Frank Morris reported.

An ex-employee of ERS recently told Morris that “efforts by the secretary … have just destroyed morale.” He said the way the agency is run has become increasingly partisan, and he resigned after the surprise announcement about relocations.

“I think it’s had its intended effect. People have left, morale is low. The agency will take a long time to recover from the damage that’s been inflicted,” the former employee told Morris.

Some of ERS’ recent studies, as Morris noted, may be politically uncomfortable for the Trump administration:

Perdue said last month that the move would save the USDA some $300 million. That number has been met with skepticism by some analysts. The Agricultural & Applied Economics Association estimated the relocation would actually cost taxpayers between $83 million and $182 million, partially due to the lost value of the research from staffers who decide not to move.

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Reports: Jeffrey Epstein Arrested On Sex Trafficking Charges

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Jeffrey Epstein, pictured here in an undated photo, was arrested Saturday and charged with sex trafficking, according to media reports. Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty Images hide caption

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Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty Images

Jeffrey Epstein, pictured here in an undated photo, was arrested Saturday and charged with sex trafficking, according to media reports.

Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty Images

The multimillionaire financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was arrested Saturday in the New York area and charged with sex trafficking relating to incidents from the early 2000s, according to multiple media reports citing anonymous law enforcement sources.

NPR has not independently confirmed the reports.

Epstein, 66, is expected to appear in federal court in New York Monday.

Under a controversial plea deal reached in 2007 with Alex Acosta, who was the U.S. attorney in Miami at the time, Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to Florida state charges of soliciting prostitution and avoided more serious federal charges relating to allegations of molesting dozens of young girls.

Acosta is now secretary of labor in the Trump administration. A federal judge ruled earlier this year that the plea deal was illegally concealed from Epstein’s alleged victims.

The Miami Herald published an investigation last year of the reported collaboration between federal prosecutors and Epstein’s lawyers.

Epstein “essentially came up with this sex operation where he would recruit girls — underage girls in Palm Beach, have them come to his home for a massage,” Miami Herald reporter Julie Brown told NPR in February. “Ostensibly that’s what they were being asked to do, but he molested them. And authorities suspect that he molested hundreds of girls over a five- or six-year period in Palm Beach alone and possibly operated an international sex-trafficking organization around the world.”

But under the agreement over a decade ago, Epstein avoided serious time behind bars. He served 13 months in county jail and registered as a sex offender. He was granted work release and spent most days at his office in Palm Beach.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra in the Southern District of Florida is now deciding whether that nonprosecution agreement should still stand.

The new charges are in a sealed indictment, according to CBS Miami. They “involve alleged sex trafficking crimes committed between 2002 and 2005, according to law enforcement sources. The indictment alleged that the crimes occurred in both New York and Palm Beach, Florida.”

The station says Epstein is charged with one count of sex trafficking and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and will appear for a bond hearing Monday.

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Illinois Governor Signs Law Legalizing Recreational Use Of Marijuana

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Customers buy products at the Harvest Medical Marijuana Dispensary in San Francisco in 2016. Illinois has joined California and nine other states in legalizing the recreational use of the drug. Haven Daley/AP hide caption

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Haven Daley/AP

Customers buy products at the Harvest Medical Marijuana Dispensary in San Francisco in 2016. Illinois has joined California and nine other states in legalizing the recreational use of the drug.

Haven Daley/AP

Illinois has become the 11th state in the country to legalize the recreational use and purchase of marijuana.

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who was elected last year, signed the bill into law on Tuesday, fulfilling a key campaign promise. The state joins 10 others and the District of Columbia in allowing recreational use. The legislation takes effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

The new law allows Illinois residents age 21 and older to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis flower, 5 grams of concentrate and 500 milligrams of THC in products such as edibles.

It also will expunge the records of 800,000 people with criminal records as a result of purchasing or possessing 30 grams or less of marijuana. It earmarks a quarter of the tax revenue from the sale of cannabis to redevelop impoverished communities in the state and gives vendor preference to minority owners.

“Legalizing adult-use cannabis brings an important and overdue change to our state, and it’s the right thing to do,” Pritzker said in a statement. “This legislation will clear the cannabis-related records of nonviolent offenders through an efficient combination of automatic expungement, gubernatorial pardon and individual court action.”

Although 10 other states have approved the recreational use of marijuana — Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington – several others have decriminalized and/or approved cannabis for medical use.

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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.

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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.

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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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Scott Olson/Getty Images

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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