Opioids At Work: Hidden Scourge Sapping The Economy

Opioids At Work: Hidden Scourge Sapping The Economy

Authored by James Varney via RealClear Wire,

Strung out on drugs half her life, Brandi Edwards, 29, said the longest she held a job before getting sober four years ago was “about two and a half months.”

“I worked at an AT&T call center, a day-care center for a month, fast food places, but I had to take drugs to get out of bed in the morning and when I did show up, I wasn’t productive,” the West Virginia mother of three told RealClearInvestigations. “The first paycheck came along and I was out of there.

Fentanyl. Image 4 of 17. United States Drug Enforcement Administration

In jail for the ninth time on drug-related charges, and separated from her children, Edwards had an awakening in “looking hard at what I’d lost.” Now clean for four years after rehab, she is married and back in her children’s lives with a home in Princeton, W. Va., and a steady job.

But such success stories are too infrequent to offset the massive cost of the opioid epidemic to the American workforce. Only a couple of people in her former addict circle have returned to productive life, she says, while most are dead or incarcerated.

That toll on labor, haunting America’s working present and future probably for years — if not decades — to come, is largely invisible and underreported because it is difficult to measure, according to physicians, counselors, economists, workers and public officials. But its staying power is suggested by other lasting national challenges, including the porous southern border — a major conduit for smuggled, Chinese-made fentanyl — and economic and social traumas set in motion by the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to untold years of productivity lost from fatal overdoses, the nation’s labor participation rate has shrunk steadily since 2000. Precise correlation is elusive, but any graph of that decline would stand in sharp contrast to the rise of opioid addiction in the U.S. And while it is difficult to calculate just how much drug use has caused absenteeism, tardiness and stretches of disability, the connection is strong, as Brandi Edwards’ experience suggests.

“We’ve been writing about this for years but it doesn’t seem to get a lot of traction,” said Dr. Gary Franklin, a research professor at the University of Washington who served as the medical director of the state’s Department of Labor and Industries. “People have not realized how much opioids contribute to disability and lost productivity, and I don’t know if anyone has been able to put a number on that.” 

Headline figures on lives lost in the opioid epidemic have been fairly clear for years. In 2021, more than 107,000 people died from drug overdoses, a nearly 15% increase from the year before and more than double the grim tally recorded in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control. All told, overdose deaths are seven times higher than they were in 1999.

Synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, which law enforcement has tracked from labs in China along trafficking routes through Mexico on the southern border, are now driving the overdose epidemic. The CDC attributed 69,000 overdose deaths to synthetic opioids in 2020, 82% of the nation’s total that year. Heroin overdoses, meanwhile, went up 7% in 2020 to 13,000, according to CDC figures.

That means synthetic opioids and heroin dwarf cocaine and methamphetamines, although totals for both of those have been rising for a decade and often cause overdose deaths in combination with opioids. The National Institutes of Health shows fewer than 5,000 people killed by cocaine alone and fewer than 10,000 by what it dubs “psychostimulants,” which includes methamphetamines, in 2020. 

Less precisely, economists since at least 2017 have pegged at over $1 trillion the epidemic’s annual dollar cost in terms of deaths, law enforcement and “lost productivity.” 

But the amount attributable to deaths – $550 billion of the $1 trillion – is largely conjecture because it is derived from actuarial estimates for lost years; for example, the decades cut from what would have been a normal working life for someone who fatally overdoses at age 45.

Then there is the less lethal side of the equation — one that workers and employers grapple with daily. Roughly 8% of workplace fatalities in 2020 – 388 of 4,786 – were attributed to “unintentional overdose from nonmedical use of drugs,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, the agency said it is unclear “how many of these deaths involved opioids specifically.” 

A post on a neighborhood social media platform asking about opioids’ dire impact in the workforce unleashes a barrage of firsthand horror stories. Homeowners speak of an inability to hire handymen, painters, landscape workers and the like.

If I’m lucky enough to have an employee that can pass a [urine analysis] the chances of them doing so after the first check is slim,” wrote a tree surgeon in suburban New Orleans. “Tree men get a terrible rap. People think we are all crazy, wild, no fear having, hard working dopeheads.”

But he acknowledged some truth to the stories of workplace abuse of prescription opioids, mentioning laborers’ common habit of relying on increasingly higher-milligram dosages of pain pills like Percocet.

Workers “didn’t wake up one day and say, ‘Hmmm, great day to go down a road that will cost me it all,’ ” he wrote. “Then it’s inevitable. We get hurt. Usually pretty badly. So we start out getting a few .5 [mg] maybe 7.5. Later, as our careers go so does the pain, so do the amounts needed to consume to keep it at bay.”

A National Safety Council study reported that more than 75% of U.S. employers have been affected by employees’ prescription drug use, according to congressional testimony, and the National Institutes of Health estimates some 3 million Americans, including workers, are addicted to opioids. 

Edwards managed to break her addiction and return to the workforce with the help of Jobs & Hope, a statewide West Virginia placement initiative launched in 2019 that claims more than 1,500 success stories. But with a budget of $3.1 million it cannot handle all of the 200-250 addicts referred to it each month, said Deb Harris, the group’s lead transition agent. 

Businesses have been largely receptive to such programs, but the state is still trying to regain its footing from the “flood of pills” that hit it early in the 21st century, according to Dr. Matthew Christiansen, director of West Virginia’s Office of Drug Control in the Department of Health and Human Services.

“We don’t keep a running tally at the state level, but the numbers have probably stayed pretty consistent or maybe gotten a little bit worse because of an increase in overdose deaths due to fentanyl,” Christiansen said.

The Centers for Disease Control does keep a tally, although it hasn’t publicly updated the grim numbers on its “opioid dashboard” since 2017. The figures from that year show that the biggest economic hit has come in the Appalachian states around the Ohio Valley and in New England, two regions where opioids and synthetics have torn a hole through the workforce.

For example, West Virginia, long considered ground zero in the opioid epidemic, had the biggest annual per capita loss due to opioids at $7,247, according to the CDC figures that include overdose deaths. That tops Ohio, where the per capita cost in 2017 was $6,226, and New Hampshire at $5,953. Ohio saw the highest overall economic cost, at $72.58 billion, followed by Massachusetts at $36.91 billion, according to the CDC. 

Fixing opioid disorder costs is complicated by the fact much of it is now driven by black-market synthetic drugs like fentanyl and thus can no longer be tracked through prescriptions. Nor is substance abuse a topic that workers – or many employers – are comfortable quantifying. All those involved in coping with the epidemic, however, peg the cost as staggering.

“It’s difficult to measure these things but it’s likely a substantial part of the labor decline,” said Michael Betz, an economist at The Ohio State University who researches opioid disorder issues. “You’re piecing together different pieces of evidence, but when you look at the decline in labor participation rates and opioid disorder figures, they match up pretty similarly.”

Franklin’s team did calculate the odds opioids influenced the disability bills Washington state taxpayers foot each year for roughly 100,000 workers, a relatively uncomplicated tally since Washington is one of four states with a centralized government system and not a private workers’ compensation insurance market.

We found that two prescriptions of opioids for more than 7 days in the first six weeks after an injury doubled the risk of a worker being on disability one year later,” he said.

Answers to broader questions on opioids’ baleful economic impact, however, are scarce.

“Productivity losses due to anything is an extremely complex analysis and is not routinely tracked,” Franklin said.

To date, the nation’s prime age labor workforce has not recovered to where it was at the beginning of 2020 and is now the lowest it has been in 45 years. The hit has been especially pronounced among older adults, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Between 2015 and 2019, adults 50 years old or older “were an estimated 22 percent less likely to be in the labor force (either employed or actively seeking work),” a GAO report found. In addition, people in that age group “were an estimated 40 percent less likely to be employed; and employed older workers who misused opioids were twice as likely to have experienced periods of unemployment.” 

Once again, however, pinpointing the precise connection between opioids and lost productivity remained elusive, as “the data did not allow GAO to determine causality.”

Middle-aged white men have long comprised the single biggest group of annual overdose deaths, but between 2015 and 2020 the rate among black men skyrocketed to 54.1 per 100,000, topping white men’s 44.2 per 100,000, according to the Pew Research Center

“Local economic conditions play some part in all this but they aren’t the key role; the main driver is the increase in supply,” Betz said.

That leads some experts on the topic to conclude that opioids’ catastrophic hit to the United States’ workforce has been misconstrued. For a time, as deaths rose early on, particularly among middle-aged white men, and labor participation rates began their decline, the phrase “deaths of despair” took hold among some researchers.

Under this theory, the opioid epidemic fed on declining economic prospects, particularly for middle-aged white men facing unemployment or shrinking incomes.

But the “deaths of despair” theory reverses cause and effect, according to some physicians and people dealing with the fallout from opioids, including their more deadly synthetic cousin fentanyl.

“We’ve debunked that,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, a faculty member at Brandeis University whose practice has specialized in opioid addiction. “Rather than economic conditions leading to overdose deaths it’s really the other way around – it’s not the economy driving them to death, it’s the opioid crisis affecting the economy.”

Tyler Durden
Fri, 09/30/2022 – 19:00

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“Full-Fledged Ice Age”: Semiconductor Companies Slash Output On Supply Glut

“Full-Fledged Ice Age”: Semiconductor Companies Slash Output On Supply Glut

Samsung Electronics, the world’s largest memory chipmaker, provided more insight into the worsening slowdown for semiconductors and the bust in global PC markets. 

Korea Economic Daily reported Samsung “lowered its semiconductor sales forecast for the second half of the year by more than 30%.” The newspaper attributed slumping semiconductors demand “as the economy froze due to central bank rate hikes caused by global inflation.” 

The paper warned: “As the semiconductor industry has entered a full-fledged ice age, there are many forecasts in the industry that the recession will continue until the first half of next year when semiconductor inventories are eliminated.” 

Earlier this week, Samsung’s Device Solutions division said they “lowered our sales guidance for the second half of this year (the company’s internal forecast) by 32% from our April forecast.”

None of this should be a surprise as we recently outlined PC Demand Suffers’ Steepest Decline In Years’ As Chip Shortage Turns To Glut

“Both DRAM and NAND flash suppliers and customers are holding too many semiconductor inventories,” an official told Korea Economic Daily. 

Another top semiconductor company, Japan’s Kioxia Holdings Corp, announced it would slash wafer production starts by 30% next month, according to Bloomberg.

“The deep cuts stem from weakening demand for computers and smartphones, and the wider semiconductor industry is likely to follow the trend.

“Hard times are ahead for the industry, except for a few,” said Kazunori Ito, an analyst with Morningstar. 

These souring developments in the global semiconductor market come as the largest US manufacturer of memory chips, Micron, reported revenue that missed (despite a slight beat on EPS and margins), but it was the forecast that again was a total disaster

Micron offered one of the most significant recession warnings so far from a large corporation: “results were impacted by rapidly weakening consumer demand and significant customer inventory adjustments across all end markets.” It added that due to the sharp decline in near-term demand, it expects “supply growth to be above demand growth in calendar 2022.”

“Yes, we have a challenging market environment, but we’re responding rapidly with actions … fiscal 2023 is, of course, an unprecedented environment, but the long-term drivers are intact,” Micron CEO Sanjay Mehrotra said in an interview. 

But it’s just not memory chips. We pointed prices of graphics processing units (GPUs) have plunged to their lowest levels ever in China, and chip deflation was already washing ashore in the US. 

The iShares Semiconductor ETF (SOXX) has fallen 40% since peaking in late 2021, and the weekly 200-day moving average is being tested. 

Earlier this week, Bloomberg reported Apple ditched plans to increase iPhone production due to a lack of demand. Weeks ago, FedEx warned that the global economy is “going into a worldwide recession.”

If both the semi-industry and top shippers are warning about economic turmoil ahead, then it’s probably time to start preparing for a possible recession in 2023. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve continues to hike into a slowdown aggressively — this is a recipe for an epic policy error. 

On the bright side, now, or at least in the months ahead, it might make sense to build a computer as it seems components, such as memory chips, GPUs, and CPUs, could be heavily discounted. 

Tyler Durden
Fri, 09/30/2022 – 18:40

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Stagflation Is “Just The Beginning” For America’s Economic Crisis: Peter Navarro

Stagflation Is “Just The Beginning” For America’s Economic Crisis: Peter Navarro

Authored by Tom Ozimek and Joshua Philipp via The Epoch Times,

Economist Peter Navarro, erstwhile adviser to former President Donald Trump, told Epoch TV’s “Crossroads” program in a recent interview that the current stagflationary downturn stalking the U.S. economy is “just the beginning” of America’s economic woes, and that Trump is the one who’s best poised to pull the country out of a dire slump.

Navarro said in the interview that he believes the United States has fallen prey to the destructive force of stagflation—a toxic combination of high inflation and sluggish growth.

“That’s what we’ve got now because of the fecklessness of Joe Biden, the Congress, the Federal Reserve, and this administration,” he said.

There’s been fierce debate about what led to prices accelerating at their fastest pace in decades, eroding purchasing power, and squeezing American households.

Some, including many members of the Biden administration, have mostly blamed supply-side constraints and external shocks like the war in Ukraine. Others, including many Republicans, have pointed the finger at unprecedented levels of fiscal and monetary spending.

The inflationary wave that has swelled into a persistent cost-of-living crisis for many Americans was driven mostly by a stimulus-fueled demand surge, although supply-side bottlenecks made the problem worse, a team of economists concluded in a recent study.

Soaring inflation, which Fed officials have admitted is far more persistent than they initially believed, has come alongside deteriorating economic conditions. The U.S. economy contracted for two consecutive quarters this year, according to updated figures released by the government on Sept. 29, which meets the rule-of-thumb definition for a recession.

‘This Is Just the Beginning’

Navarro argued in the interview that the United States is already experiencing stagflation—and that it’s going to get worse.

“This is just beginning. This economic crisis is just beginning, and it’s going to be as bad or worse and as long as it was during the 1970s,” Navarro said.

The dreaded toxic brew of high unemployment and high inflation plagued the U.S. economy for over a decade in the 1970s. America’s unemployment rate doubled to 9 percent between 1973 and 1975, while inflation peaked at around 14 percent in annual terms.

Inflation didn’t fall substantially until the early 1980s, and only after the Federal Reserve jacked up interest rates to around 19 percent, leading to two back-to-back recessions in 1980 and 1981–82.

In the interview, Navarro offered a lookback on the Trump administration’s economic policies and credited them with low unemployment and low inflation.

“What we did was structural in nature, designed to increase the real wages of American workers, the productivity of American workers, the prosperity of the middle class,” Navarro said.

“And we did that beautifully through structural elements, not just the traditional Republican tax cuts and lower regulatory burdens, but by securing the southern border, which prevents a flood of uneducated, low-income workers coming in,” he said.

Navarro added that Trump’s policies on re-shoring manufacturing and bringing supply chains back to the United States helped boost wages for blue-collar Americans.

The economist further argued that bringing back Trump-era policies is key to pulling the country out of stagflation.

“I think the only one who fully understands how to get out of that is Donald Trump,” Navarro said. “I don’t see anybody else in the Republican Party who has that kind of sophistication.”

His take on the trajectory of the U.S. economy dovetails with remarks made by other economists, who see darkening clouds on the horizon.

‘Stagflationary Debt Crisis’

Economist Nouriel Roubini, for example, who’s been dubbed “Dr. Doom” for his pessimistic, yet accurate, prediction of a financial market meltdown in 2007–08, told Bloomberg in a recent interview that he expects “a real hard landing” for the U.S. economy.

Roubini also said he continues to believe that it’s “delusional” for analysts to expect a short and shallow recession, arguing instead that it will be long and severe.

In an op-ed for Project Syndicate, he also warned of a looming “stagflationary debt crisis” with “some of the worst elements of both the 1970s and the 2008 crash” as public debt levels have become unsustainable and most of the fiscal ammunition already used.

“Things will get much worse before they get better,” he predicted in the op-ed, adding that he believes the economic downturn will come alongside financial market turmoil.

Billionaire investor Stanley Druckenmiller said at a recent investor summit in New York City that he’s worried that the economic downturn affecting United States could be worse than an “average garden variety” recession.

At the same time, investor pessimism has hit levels not seen since the financial crisis of 2008–09.

Tyler Durden
Fri, 09/30/2022 – 18:20

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Apple VP Of Procurement Fired After Joke About Fondling Breasts Goes Viral On TikTok

Apple VP Of Procurement Fired After Joke About Fondling Breasts Goes Viral On TikTok

Apple’s Vice President of Procurement, Tony Blevins, is out at the company after making a “crude comment about his profession” in a TikTok video that was published on September 5.

Blevins joked that he fondles “big-breasted women” for a living in the video, Bloomberg reported this week. He had been approached by TikTok and Instagram creator Daniel Mac to participate in a series where owners of expensive cars are asked about what they do for a living. 

He was stopped when parking his Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, a car worth “hundreds of thousands of dollars”, the report says.

When asked about what he does for a living, he responded: “I have rich cars, play golf and fondle big-breasted women, but I take weekends and major holidays off.” He also joked that he had a “hell of a dental plan”.

As Bloomberg noted, the line is an homage to the 1981 movie Arthur, where the main character describes his career by saying: “I race cars, play tennis and fondle women, but I have weekends off and I am my own boss.”

The video was taken at a car show in Pebble Beach and it garnered more than 40,000 likes on Instagram and 1.3 million views on TikTok. 

Blevins’ actual job is striking deals between suppliers and partners for Apple. Recently, he helped navigate deals for the company with Globalstar, Qualcomm and Intel, the report notes. He is in charge of “driving down the costs” of the critical supplies Apple uses for its products. 

The company conducted an internal investigation into his remarks and removed his team – including about 6 people who reported directly to him and several hundred others under them – from his command. 

He had been at Apple for 22 years prior to being let go. He was part of a group of about 100 VPs at the company, and just one of about 30 executives, that report directly to either CEO Tim Cook or COO Jeff Williams. Williams ultimately made the call to let Blevins go, the report says, and he will oversee Blevins’ team for the time being.

In a statement, Blevins said: “I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by my mistaken attempt at humor.”

Tyler Durden
Fri, 09/30/2022 – 18:02

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Laura Loomer Must Pay CAIR and CAIR Florida Nearly $125K in Attorney Fees

From Illoominate Media, Inc. v. CAIR Florida, Inc., decided today by Judges Charles Wilson, Britt Grant, and R. Lanier Anderson III:

This suit over attorney’s fees and costs stems from allegations that the CAIR Foundation and CAIR Florida, Inc. (CAIR) had a hand in convincing Twitter to ban Loomer’s account. CAIR removed the first amended complaint to federal court on August 22, 2019. Counsel for Loomer and her corporation (Illoominate) moved for a remand to state court the next day. In its response two weeks later alleging fraudulent joinder of CAIR Florida, Inc., CAIR filed a sworn statement from Nathan Bernard. He explained that he pranked Illoominate by fabricating evidence to convince “Loomer that CAIR Foundation was the reason Twitter banned her account.” In the interim, CAIR had filed a motion to dismiss in late August.

On October 2, 2019, CAIR sent Illoominate an “offer of judgment” proposing to settle the entire case for a nominal $1, including costs and attorney’s fees. Illoominate had 30 days to respond. On October 22, the district court dismissed CAIR Florida from the suit and scheduled a hearing on CAIR’s motion to dismiss for November 18. Nevertheless, Illoominate chose litigation over settlement. On October 31—shortly before the offer of judgment deadline—Illoominate filed a response to CAIR’s motion to dismiss, where it voluntarily dismissed all its claims except Count II (for tortious interference with an advantageous business relationship). Once the deadline passed, the district judge dismissed the remaining claim at the November hearing, and this Court affirmed the dismissal in December 2020. On April 12, 2021, CAIR filed a motion seeking reimbursement from Illoominate pursuant to a Florida law requiring select parties who decline an offer of judgment to pay their opponent’s reasonable costs and attorney’s fees. Fla. Stat. § 768.79(1).

The lower court referred the matter to a magistrate judge, and both parties had the opportunity to brief the issue in full. The magistrate judge issued an order granting CAIR’s motion for costs and attorney’s fees, but reducing their magnitude to comport with federal and state laws limiting recovery. Illoominate appealed to the 11th Circuit again, though we dismissed for lack of a final dispositive order to review.

This (third) appeal flows from a motion Illoominate filed in the district court in opposition to the magistrate judge’s order. The district judge allowed CAIR to submit a written response to Illoominate’s objections. In disposition, the district court adopted the magistrate judge’s order in full, awarding CAIR recompense for fees and expenses incurred while litigating all aspects of the case from October 2, 2019 (when the offer of judgment was made) through the end of the first appeal. Illoominate now asks that we review and reconsider.

First, Illoominate claims that Florida’s cost-shifting law is inapplicable because its suit was for both money damages and injunctive relief. Fla. Stat. § 768.79(1); see also Diamond Aircraft Indus., Inc. v. Horowitch (Fla. 2013) (“Courts have also held that when a plaintiff seeks both monetary and nonmonetary relief, and a party makes a general offer of settlement, section 768.79 is not applicable.”). In Illoominate’s view, all they “had a chance to do was plead, and they clearly pled non-monetary relief.”

Not quite. The prayer for relief in Illoominate’s complaint seeks “damages in an amount to be proved at trial” and (without elaboration) “preliminary and permanent injunctions to prevent defendants from continuing their unlawful conduct.” Yet as the magistrate judge correctly pointed out, in the eight-and-a-half-month period between the filing of the amended complaint and the district court’s decision to dismiss, Illoominate “never filed a motion for a preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order” in state or federal court.

Nor could it have. Three of the four counts directed at CAIR conclude that Illoominate has been injured in an “amount to be proved at trial,” completely synonymous with the prayer for relief’s phrasing of the damages claim. The fourth count, a restraint of trade claim, does not specify the relief sought. But the harm is phrased entirely in the past tense: Illoominate and Loomer “have been injured in their business or property by reason of defendants’ unlawful act.” There is no ongoing harm to be enjoined. The request for injunctive relief only makes sense in the context of Count I, which is directed solely against never-served defendant Twitter. Illoominate seeks “recission or reformation of those provisions of the Twitter Terms of Service which, as a matter of equity, might otherwise prevent or limit this Court’s ability to provide just and complete remedies for defendants’ unlawful conduct.” Without Twitter, the suit reads as a claim for money damages from CAIR.

The Florida Supreme Court has approved of applying section 768.79 to cases that involve a notional nonmonetary claim, but that actually involved disputes solely over monetary damages. Diamond Aircraft. Florida state courts interpret Diamond Aircraft by looking beyond the procedural posture of a complaint to assess the “true relief” a party seeks, and apply section 768.79 if it is damages.

Viewed through this prism, the lower courts appropriately applied the statute here. Illoominate made only a glancing gesture toward injunctive relief directed at another defendant, and then totally failed to pursue it when that defendant was not served. Instead, as the magistrate judge correctly pointed out, the language of their complaint against CAIR sounds entirely in damages…. Illoominate … cannot dodge responsibility for its own choice to continue litigation by pointing to a single throwaway line in its complaint. To hold otherwise would defeat the entire purpose of the Florida statute—any party could upend the law by inserting a single sentence into its pleadings….

If section 768.79 applies, “the sole basis on which a court can disallow an entitlement to an award of fees is if it determines that the offer was not made in good faith.” Unsurprisingly, Illoominate argues that CAIR’s offer of judgment was not made in good faith. That contention is wrong, for two reasons.

First, Illoominate waived this argument through inaction. In this fact-bound inquiry, we review the lower court’s finding of good faith for clear error. The district court, in turn, also reviews the magistrate judge’s order for clear error or to assess if it is contrary to law. But the magistrate judge was clear: “there is no dispute as to whether Defendants’ offer was made in good faith.” Illoominate did not raise the good-faith issue until its objections to the magistrate judge’s order—which was too late to afford it meaningful relief, given the district court’s mandate to review record-based factual arguments for clear error. This is reason enough for us to affirm the judgment under clear error review, too.

If Illoominate’s bad-faith argument is not waived, the only question of law presented by it is whether a nominal offer of judgment—here, $1—can be made in good-faith. Yes it can. “Although nominal offers are suspect where they are not based on any assessment of liability and damages, they can be valid if the offerors have a reasonable basis at the time of the offer to conclude that their exposure was nominal.” Offerors need not have the kind of evidence necessary to support a judgment when they propose settlement, only “some reasonable foundation on which to base an offer.”

Here, CAIR had introduced sworn statements showing that its purported involvement in Illoominate’s claims derived from a hoax. Those statements should have given Illoominate pause about pressing its claims. And apparently they did: during the 30-day window to accept the offer of judgment, Illoominate voluntarily dismissed three of its claims (and the district judge dismissed CAIR Florida, Inc. from the case). That left only one of Illoominate’s five counts operative, and that claim too was dismissed within three weeks after the settlement window closed. Given this context, CAIR had a wholly sufficient basis to conclude a nominal settlement was appropriate. So even if the argument had been properly presented, the district court did not err in concluding that CAIR’s offer was made in good faith….

[W]e affirm the holding of the district court that Illoominate must pay the full amount of costs and fees ordered by the magistrate judge: $124,423.37….

Congratulations to Yasir Billoo (Golden & Grimes, LLP), Darren Joel Spielman (The Concept Law Group, PA), and Gadeir I. Abbas, Lena F. Masri, Justin Sadowsky & C. Danette Zaghari-Mask (CAIR), who represented defendants.

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Missouri Libertarian Party Declines To Endorse Marijuana Legalization Initiative

A marijuana leaf and the state of Missouri.

In November, Missouri will vote on Amendment 3, which, if passed, will legalize the recreational possession of marijuana in the state. Currently, 19 states and Washington, D.C. allow recreational pot, with the possibility of more on the ballot this year. But ironically, the Missouri initiative is getting pushback even from otherwise-sympathetic sources.

Amendment 3 is sponsored by Legal Missouri 2022, a marijuana advocacy group. According to the group’s website, the proposed initiative would “legalize adult-use marijuana,” “boost state tax revenues,” and reduce the “illicit market” for weed. As written, the proposal would remove state laws against “purchasing, possessing, consuming, using, delivering, manufacturing, and selling” marijuana for adults 21 and older. It would also allow anyone convicted of nonviolent marijuana-related offenses to petition for expungement and, if necessary, release from incarceration, parole, or probation. Sales would be taxed at 6 percent, and Missourians would be limited to 3 ounces for personal use.

Earlier this week, despite supporting legalization, the Libertarian Party of Missouri voted overwhelmingly against endorsing the measure. Chairman Bill Slantz told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “We just don’t believe that any government at any level should have any legislation against drugs.”

Slantz singled out the complexity of the initiative’s language, saying “The fewer the words, the better off we are.” Specifically, he cited the 3-ounce cap as undermining the goal of legalization: “If you have 3.2 ounces or 3.1 ounces…has the scale been…checked to make sure it’s accurate?”

Notably, Slantz indicated that while the party made no endorsement, he would be voting for the measure personally. Jonathan Dine, the party’s candidate for Senate, indicated his support as well.

Earlier this month, the Democratic Party of Missouri also declined to endorse the proposal, citing the complicated expungement provisions and the manner in which it would allocate licenses for marijuana businesses. The party worried that Amendment 3 “may negatively impact minorities, people of color, and low-income earning Missourians.” Like the state Libertarian Party, the Democrats support legalization in general, and some party leaders indicated they would be voting for it.

Dan Viets, a Missouri attorney and chair of Legal Missouri 2022’s advisory board, tells Reason that both parties are “making a big mistake” by not endorsing Amendment 3. He cited its support by the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri and “at least four NAACP chapters” as evidence of its appeal to those who favor both legalization and anti-racism.

As for the 3-ounce limit, Viets says that there is an irony in the Libertarian Party’s opposition to it: “Most legal states do not allow as much as 3 ounces.” Indeed, of the 19 states, plus D.C., that allow recreational use, only six—Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island—allow at least 3 ounces of recreational pot.

Viets admits that the limit was a compromise: “The reason for limits in general is that we hope to actually pass this law… Certainly, there are compromises in Amendment 3, and they’re there so it will pass.”

Despite the major parties’ neutrality, and opposition from Republican Gov. Mike Parson, the measure looks likely to pass: A recent poll showed 62 percent of Missourians support legalization, including “double digits [support] among all demographic groups.”

As more and more states soften their marijuana laws to varying degrees, Amendment 3 provides an interesting consideration: Is an imperfect bill that still gets nonviolent drug offenders out of jail and prevents convicting new ones better than no bill at all?

For his part, Viets says, “You can’t expect to get everything you want all at once, and if you don’t take the progress that you can achieve, you never make any progress.”

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An Iowa Jury Awards $12 Million in Damages to a Man Who Was Wrongly Imprisoned for Sexual Abuse

A former guidance counselor was wrongly convicted of sexual abuse thanks to an incompetent public defender.

An Iowa jury yesterday awarded $12 million to a former elementary school guidance counselor who served six years of a 25-year prison sentence after a student accused him of molestation. Donald Lyle Clark’s 2010 conviction was overturned in 2016 after he persuaded a judge that his lawyer, who died in 2013, had blatantly failed to do his job properly and that new evidence cast doubt on his accuser’s truthfulness.

The case vividly illustrates the perils of relying on the diligence of overtaxed public defenders, especially in rebutting sexual abuse allegations supported by nothing more than an alleged victim’s claims. It also suggests that the emotions triggered by such charges can make it difficult for a defendant to get a fair trial even with competent representation.

A 2011 appeals court summary of the case against Clark suggests how shaky it was. During the 2003–04 school year, Clark’s accuser, then a fifth-grader who “had been diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder and was having some motivation problems,” met with Clark once a week for about 20 minutes. The boy, identified as “C.B.” in court documents, “became angry and withdrawn after his fifth-grade year” and “began drinking and using drugs in seventh grade.” As a teenager, he “engaged in self-harming behavior and attempted suicide.” When he was 16, his parents “sent him to a school for troubled youth.”

During his stay at the school, C.B. “revealed during a group session that he had been sexually abused” but did not identify an attacker. In a June 2009 email to his parents that became a point of contention in Clark’s appeals, he likewise did not say who had molested him, although he said it was not a priest at church, as his parents had suspected. C.B. said he had been “seeing and hearing things,” which he thought could be symptoms of “schizophrenia” but his parents had attributed to “spirits.” He also mentioned that he was a habitual liar.

The boy later told social workers that Clark had “touch[ed] his genitals over and underneath his clothing” in “two distinct incidents.” There were no witnesses and no physical evidence, so the trial came down to the boy’s word against Clark’s. Yet Clark’s public defender, John Robertson, chose not to present any character witnesses. Nor did he ever visit Clark’s office, where he could have taken photographs showing that anything happening inside would have been visible to passers-by in a heavily trafficked hallway through a window in the door. Robertson also did not inform Clark about depositions of witnesses who could have testified about the layout of the school, the location of the office, and the line of sight from the corridor.

After the jury convicted Clark of second-degree sexual assault, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison. The sentence required him to serve 17½ years before he would be eligible for parole. Clark also was ordered to pay $11,000 in court fees and $67,000 in restitution to C.B.

Clark’s initial appeal focused on the June 2009 email, which the prosecution did not share with the defense until five days before the trial, and then only in a redacted version. Clark did not have access to the full text until three days before the trial, and the judge rejected his request for additional depositions in light of the information disclosed in the email. The judge also refused to postpone the trial. Because of an intervening weekend, a dissenting appeals court judge noted in 2011, the trial began “about six business hours after the State finally provided the first written disclosure that the alleged victim believed he was suffering from schizophrenia.”

The appeals court nevertheless upheld Clark’s conviction, and the Iowa Supreme Court concurred in 2012. Clark then filed a petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that his trial had been compromised by ineffective counsel and that new information showed his accuser was untrustworthy. The latter claim was based on a deposition that C.B. gave as part of a civil case against Clark, during which he admitted that he had lied on the stand during Clark’s trial about certain aspects of the case.

In 2016, Johnson County District Judge Sean McPartland agreed that Clark was entitled to a new trial. The Johnson County Attorney’s Office instead decided to drop the charges.

McPartland heard testimony from several witnesses, including Steven Exley-Schuman, an investigator in the Iowa City Public Defender’s Office. Exley-Schuman said Robertson, who handled 450 to 500 cases a year, “preferred to represent clients at trials in a ‘seat of the pants’ manner, rather than relying on an organizational scheme.” He testified that visiting the crime scene, which Robertson failed to do, was “very important” in preparing a case. Exley-Schuman, who said he had been surprised by Clark’s conviction, recalled that Robertson had confessed to him that “he had been ineffective in his representation” of Clark, which Exley-Schuman “testified is not a typical admission made by attorneys at the Public Defender’s Office.”

McPartland agreed with Exley-Schuman that Robertson’s failure to visit and photograph Clark’s office or contest the prosecution’s misleading description of the setting was inconsistent with his responsibilities as a defense attorney. “In failing to visit the scene of the alleged crime and to take photographs of the crime scene, and in failing to object to the entry of the State’s photos of the crime scene,” the judge said, Robertson “fell well below an objective standard of reasonableness.” He thereby “failed to perform an essential duty owed to his client.”

McPartland also concluded that “Robertson’s failure to timely inform Mr. Clark about the scheduled discovery depositions, or to obtain and document Mr. Clark’s consent to waiver of his presence at the discovery depositions, fell below an objective standard of reasonableness.” Likewise his failure to “investigate, discover and introduce character evidence in favor of Mr. Clark at the time of the criminal trial.”

Regarding the new evidence of C.B.’s dishonesty, the state admitted it was “undisputed” that C.B. “failed to some extent to uphold his oath at trial.” In his civil deposition, McPartland noted, C.B. “testified that he lied under oath at the criminal trial; that he also had lied under oath in a prior deposition in the criminal proceedings; and that he knew he was lying under oath when he did so.” Those lies concerned “the very subject which was the basis for the charges—the nature and frequency of sexual contacts initiated by Mr. Clark.”

McPartland unsurprisingly thought “the fact that C.B. did not provide completely truthful testimony regarding the alleged incidents of abuse at trial is material to the question of Mr. Clark’s guilt.” Since “this was primarily a ‘he said, he said’ case,” he noted, “the jury’s credibility assessments made with regard to C.B.’s testimony were critical to the outcome.”

After McPartland’s ruling, the Johnson County Attorney’s Office moved to dismiss the charges against Clark “in the interests of justice.” Assistant Johnson County Attorney Anne Lahey nevertheless implied that prosecutors were motivated by concern for C.B. “We usually have a lot of victim input into decisions about cases,” she told the Des Moines Register, “especially since obviously they’re the ones that suffered, and he chose not to go through it again.”

The reversal of Clark’s conviction and dismissal of the charges made him a free man, relieved him of the obligation to register as a sex offender, and eliminated the state’s demand for $67,000 in restitution, although he had already paid $2,000 of that bill, along with $11,000 in court fees. But Clark’s exoneration did not restore the six years he lost or compensate him for the ignominy and suffering caused by the state’s prosecution and Robertson’s egregious failures as a defense attorney.

In 2017, Clark sued the state for violating his right to effective legal counsel, saying Robertson’s “negligent representation” resulted in the conviction of a defendant who was “actually innocent.” Yesterday’s judgment, which included $8 million for “past emotional distress” and $4 million for “future damages,” validated that complaint.

“We’re grateful that this jury was moved to do justice for and honor a member of their community,” said Mel C. Orchard III, one of Clark’s attorneys. “This verdict for a good man reinforced my belief that the jury system is the most important part of our democracy.”

The jury system, of course, also delivered Clark’s conviction, based on the word of a deeply troubled and manifestly unreliable teenager. Even taking into account the substandard defense, it is hard to understand how 12 people could have agreed that the prosecution had proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Their verdict suggests that the lurid and shocking nature of the charges overwhelmed the skepticism they were obligated to apply.

A 1997 study published in the journal Law and Human Behavior examined the attitudes of 849 prospective jurors in 25 Canadian criminal cases involving allegations of sexual abuse. “Knowing only the nature of charges against the accused,” the researchers reported, “approximately 36 percent of jurors stated they could not be impartial. Some jurors explained they had been victims of abuse, others expressed fears for children, while others simply stated they could not set aside a presumption of guilt.”

Those findings were based on prospective jurors who candidly admitted their “generic prejudice.” Given the social pressures of this situation, it seems likely that others were not inclined to recognize or publicly announce that they could not set aside their strong feelings about the alleged crime to fairly determine whether it had actually happened. When enough jurors succumb to those emotions, the presumption of innocence becomes a presumption of guilt that is hard to overcome even with the best lawyer.

The post An Iowa Jury Awards $12 Million in Damages to a Man Who Was Wrongly Imprisoned for Sexual Abuse appeared first on Reason.com.

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Memory Holed, Part II: The “Rigged” Election

Memory Holed, Part II: The “Rigged” Election

Authored by Matt Taibbi and Matt Orfalea via TK News,

Matt Orfalea’s follow-up video his “The Russians Hacked the Election” piece rescues for posterity another key piece of history likely to be suppressed: the fact that both Democrats and Republicans raised doubts about the legitimacy of the election process. This took place not only after 2016, but both before and after the 2020 vote.

These campaigns were two sides of the same coin. Trump raised doubts about the reliability of mail-in votes, and admonished supporters ahead of time that a Trump loss should be understood as a fix. Meanwhile, Democrats and media figures — as well as a seemingly endless succession of named and unnamed intelligence sources — argued Russians were bent on corrupting the vote. Hillary Clinton went so far as to say Joe Biden shouldn’t concede “under any circumstances.”

It was not just a Republican-versus-Democrat issue. Both before and during the 2020 Democratic primaries, voters were also told repeatedly that Vladimir Putin preferred Bernie Sanders and was planning to interfere on his behalf. Even GQ did a story: “Why Does Putin Love Bernie?”

Sanders undermined his own campaign by giving these accusations weight, while Trump was criticized for pushing back against them. This video offers a crucial takeaway for anyone looking back to decipher what happened in 2020: both parties, and crucially our own intelligence authorities, worked hard to undermine election results in advance. And, they’re still doing it.

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Tyler Durden
Fri, 09/30/2022 – 17:40

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US Hits Chinese Firms With New Sanctions Over Iranian Oil

US Hits Chinese Firms With New Sanctions Over Iranian Oil

The US has slapped new sanctions on Chinese firms related to Iran’s petrochemical and petroleum trade, after years of reports of Chinese tankers engaged in sanctions-busting activity, and at a moment that a finalized restored JCPOA nuclear deal has all but collapsed.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced punitive measures Thursday against two China-based companies, Zhonggu Storage and Transportation Co Ltd and WS Shipping Co Ltd, which stand accused of sanctions evasion.

Via Tasnim

The former has been identified as overseeing a commercial crude oil storage facility for Iranian products, and the latter operated a vessel which was caught ‘illegally’ transporting Iranian oil and fuel products.

These companies were said to be involved in the “sale of hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of Iranian petrochemicals and petroleum products to end users in South and East Asia.”

And further according to the US Treasury readout, the actions target “Iranian brokers and several front companies in the UAE, Hong Kong, and India that have facilitated financial transfers and shipping of Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products.”

“These entities have played a critical role in concealing the origin of the Iranian shipments and enabling two sanctioned Iranian brokers, Triliance Petrochemical Co. Ltd. (Triliance) and Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industry Commercial Co. (PGPICC), to transfer funds and ship Iranian petroleum and petrochemicals to buyers in Asia.”

While Iran has been subjected to crippling oil-export sanctions for the last several years, it hasn’t stopped China, whose imports of Iranian oil have only increased by the month.

Much of the buying comes from independent Chinese refiners (otherwise known as “teapots”), who, traders said have embraced Iran’s cheaper crude as Brent prices soared globally amid the ongoing war in Ukraine and energy sanctions against Russia.

The official position of China’s foreign ministry has long been that normal business dealings between China and Iran should be respected. “China urges the US to lift the illegitimate unilateral sanctions as soon as possible,” the ministry has long repeated in various statements.

Tyler Durden
Fri, 09/30/2022 – 17:20

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Watch: Yet Another Democrat Witness Claims Biological Men Can Have Pregnancies

Watch: Yet Another Democrat Witness Claims Biological Men Can Have Pregnancies

Authored by Steve Watson via Summit News,

For the umpteenth time, a witness called to testify by Democrats during hearings on abortion laws claimed that biological men are capable of getting pregnant and giving birth.

They’re the party of science!

During a House Oversight Committee hearing Thursday, Planned Parenthood’s Medical Director for Primary and Trans Care (yep that’s a thing) made the claim.

GOP rep Andrew Clyde asked Dr. Bhavik Kumar “So can biological men become pregnant and give birth?” to which Kumar replied “Men can have pregnancies, especially trans men.”

Clyde followed up, “So, are you saying that a biological female who identifies as a man and therefore becomes pregnant is, quote, a man? Is that what you’re saying?”

Kumar responded, “These questions about who can become pregnant are really missing the point, and I’m here to talk about what’s happening in Texas.”

“This is me asking a question and you answering,” Clyde interjected, adding “I’m asking the question, sir, not you.”

“Right, and I’m answering the question,” Kumar replied, further stating “Somebody with a uterus may have the capability of becoming pregnant whether they’re a woman or a man, that doesn’t make a difference.”

“Ok, we’re done,” an exasperated Clyde responded adding “This isn’t complicated. Let me tell you: if a person has a uterus and is born female, they are a woman. That is not a man, and the vast majority of the world considers that to be a woman, because there are biological differences between men and women.”

“I Can’t believe it’s necessary to say this, but men cannot get pregnant and cannot give birth regardless of how they identify themselves,” Clyde asserted, adding “Why in the world would Democrats bring in a person whose title is director of trans care for an abortion hearing when only biological women can become pregnant?”

Clyde then re-read Kumar’s opening statement, in which the Planned Parenthood Director described abortion restrictions as “inherently racist, inherently classist and fundamentally part of the white supremacy agenda.”

Clyde then noted that the organization Kumar works for was founded by Margaret Sanger.

“Margaret Sanger’s entire focus was to decimate communities of color through abortion to eliminate their future generations,” Clyde urged.

“How many abortions have you performed in your lifetime?” the rep then asked Kumar, to which the doctor replied “Likely thousands.”

Clyde shot back, “So as doctor yourself, do you believe you have terminated enough babies to justify Margaret Sanger’s beliefs and your continuance of her legacy? This is unconscionable, this is inexcusable, I’m thankful this is now criminal and I look forward to the day when life is again respected across our entire nation.”


Elsewhere during the hearing, Kumar suggested that natural disasters warrant unimpeded abortions:

Kumar did admit, however, that Abortion bans “do not outlaw care for ectopic pregnancies”.

Kumar made the comments while being questioned by Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who scoffed at Republicans who don’t believe men can get pregnant.

“The same folks who … told us that COVID’s just a flu, that climate change isn’t real, that January 6 was nothing but a tourist visit … are now trying to tell us that transgender people are not real,” AOC proclaimed.

“And I would say that their claim is probably just as legitimate as all their others, which is to say not very much at all,” she further stated.

Democrats keep presenting a rogues gallery of agitated and clearly mentally unstable people as ‘witnesses’ during these hearings, all of whom have claimed that men can give birth, a notion that almost one quarter of Democratic voters believe to be true, according to recent research.

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Tyler Durden
Fri, 09/30/2022 – 17:00

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