Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Meet Dylann Roof’s Defender | The Marshall Project

David Bruck - an exemplary lawyer. -gwc

Meet Dylann Roof’s Defender | The Marshall Project

Representing an avowed racist, a champion of racial justice.

Officials in Washington and South Carolina are still figuring out who will try Dylann Roof first for the Charleston church shooting on June 17. Local prosecutors quickly brought capital murder charges against the self-proclaimed white supremacist, and the Justice Department announced last week that it would bring a broad capital case against Roof centered around the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the federal hate crime law.

The South Carolina case likely will go to trial first — the feds typically defer to local prosecutors except when terror-related charges are involved (and, pointedly, none were brought against Roof). But with this case, the federal trial judge and the first-chair federal defense attorney have already been determined. David Bruck, a 66-year-old, Canadian-born capital expert, who graduated from the University of South Carolina law school, will return to the Palmetto State to tackle yet another challenging assignment representing a high-profile defendant.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Green group sues ConocoPhillips, CNOOC over China oil spill - report | Reuters

Green group sues ConocoPhillips, CNOOC over China oil spill - report | Reuters

A maritime court in the coastal city of Qingdao has said it will hear a landmark case brought by a nonprofit organisation against U.S. oil giant ConocoPhillips and China's CNOOC Ltd, the official China Daily reported.

The China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation will not claim compensation, but is calling for the two firms to accept responsibility for damage caused by the 2011 oil spill in northeast China, the paper reported.

The case will be the first public interest litigation brought by a nonprofit organisation over marine environmental pollution, it said.

ConocoPhillips and CNOOC have been embroiled in a series of legal claims following oil spills in 2011 in Bohai Bay that polluted over 6,200 square km of water.

In December last year, a group of 21 Chinese firms launched a claim against the two firms for more than 141 million yuan ($22.7 million) in compensation for losses connected to the impact of the spill on their sea cucumber farms.

China's State Oceanic Administration in April 2012 ordered the two companies to pay 1.683 billion yuan in compensation for damage to the region's marine ecology, as well as to fund environmental protection efforts in the Bohai Sea.

The oil firms also reached an agreement with the Ministry of Agriculture in January 2012 to pay 1 billion yuan to settle compensation claims stemming from oil spills in north China's Bohai Bay.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Judge Barbier establishes Common benefit fee committee and guidelines in BP Spill

Judge Barbier Establishes Common Benefit Fee Committee and Issues Guidelines in BP Spill Economic and Medical Compensation Case

(Appointment of Common Benefit Fee and Cost Committee and
Guidelines for Common Benefit Attorneys’ Fees and Costs Reimbursement)
[“Initial Fee Order”]
Even though a formal petition for an award of common benefit attorneys’ fees and reimbursement of costs (“Aggregate Fee and Cost Petition”) likely will not be filed in this litigation until 2016 or later, it is important at this time to begin the process of creating a structure, establishing guidelines, and setting a timetable for the eventual presentation to the Court of an Aggregate Fee and Cost Petition and a subsequent recommendation regarding allocation of the Aggregate Common Benefit Fee and Costs Award among eligible Fee Applicants “Allocation Recommendation”).
BP has agreed to pay up to $600 million in common benefit attorneys’ fees, costs, and expenses, as awarded by the Court.1 Under the Fee Agreement, “[a]ny common benefit Class Counsel fees and costs awarded by the Court will not be deducted from Class Members’ recoveries, but will be paid by BP in addition to other class benefits.” In re OIL SPILL by the OIL RIG “DEEPWATER HORIZON” in the Gulf of Mexico, on April 20, 2010, 295 F.R.D. 112, 126 (E.D. La. 2013), appeal dism’d in part, No. 13-30221 (5th Cir. Feb. 11, 2014). 

Treasurer Kennedy on the BP settlement | WBRZ News 2 Louisiana : Baton Rouge, LA |

Louisiana Treasurer Kennedy on the BP settlement | WBRZ News 2 Louisiana : Baton Rouge, LA |

BATON ROUGE- Just a few weeks ago, state officials announced Louisiana would be getting $6.8 billion from the lawsuit with BP over the 2010 oil spill. This morning, Treasurer John Kennedy stopped by 2une In to break down what this money means for the state.
Five billion dollars of the settlement is for natural resource damage, $1 billion is for state economic damages and $787 million is for Clean Water Act penalties.
The money will be paid out over fifteen years, with the first check coming sometime in January.
Kennedy says he's happy the state settled, but there are a few things we need to look out for.
"We have to keep people from stealing the money," said Kennedy. "You're going to have all kinds of consultants coming out of the woodwork that want to study the problem, write papers and hold conferences, but we have to tell them ‘no.'"
Kennedy also stressed the importance of a plan to make sure the state gets all of the money it's owed. Since the settlement is being paid out over time, there's no guarantee that the company will be able to pay the entire amount when the time comes.
The final thing Kennedy expressed was just how important this money is to Louisiana and the gulf coast.
"The state makes its living off the wetlands," said Kennedy. Let's spend this money to restore our wetlands and to rehabilitate the gulf, let's not waste it."

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Memphis seeks removal of heroic statue of slave trader, Confederate General Forest

In 1905 - one of the darkest post Civil War periods for African Americans - the white citizens of Memphis created a park, re-interred the remains, and commissioned a heroic statute of the slave trader and Confederate general Nathan Forrest.  In 2013 Tennessee created a law prohibiting changes in historical monuments.  Now the City Council of Memphis has asked the Historical Commission for permission to remove Forest's remains and the statue.  Seems only fair.  But isn't the statue important historical evidence of the deeply racist history of Tennessee?
The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis marks the spot where Rev. Martin Luther King was murdered.  But that is a Black initiative.  What Tennessee needs - and America needs - is for white people to acknowledge the African American experience and practice humility.  - gwc
A Confederate General’s Final Stand Divides Memphis - The New York Times
by Emily Yellin
MEMPHIS — What people see when they look up at the towering statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest in a park near downtown Memphis usually depends on their deepest beliefs, their memories, their loyalties and maybe even their DNA.
Many see a Memphis slave trader, the original grand wizard of theKu Klux Klan and a war criminal who led a gruesome Confederate massacre of surrendered black and white Union troops at nearby Fort Pillow in 1864.
Others see a gallant but misunderstood Civil War general, a military genius and a hero who made a speech calling for racial reconciliation in 1875. And some passers-by have little or no idea who the guy on the horse is, and do not much care.

But this month, the Memphis City Council voted unanimously to begin an intricate process of removing the brass statue from the park — along with the remains of Forrest and his wife, encased since 1905 in its marble base. This effort joins a national wave of casting off Confederate icons since the massacre last month at a church in Charleston, S.C.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The F.D.A.’s Medical Device Problem - The New York Times

The F.D.A.’s Medical Device Problem - The New York Times

THE Food and Drug Administration has been regulating the approval of medical devices since 1976, but its regulatory oversight has not kept pace with the increasing complexity of this technology. Many high-risk medical devices today are approved on the basis of just one clinical trial (as opposed to new medications, which usually require two trials). And only a small minority of clinical studies of medical devices are randomized, controlled and blinded — the gold standard for reliable evidence (and the benchmark to which studies of drugs are held).
As a result, there have been many warnings about, and recalls and withdrawals of, medical devices that were found to be dangerous only after they were on the market. (In 2009, for example, the Sprint Fidelis defibrillator, which by that time had been implanted in hundreds of thousands of heart patients, was recalled because it frequently malfunctioned, harming many patients and leading to numerous deaths.) And because the F.D.A.’s oversight of medical devices once they are on the market is also weak, it is very likely that many malfunctions and other problems remain undetected.
Incredibly, legislation that the House of Representatives passed last week would severely weaken, not strengthen, the F.D.A.’s already ineffective regulatory scheme for medical devices. The device industry may stand to benefit from this legislation, but the health of the public does not.
The legislation, disingenuously titled the 21st Century Cures Act, would make it possible for companies that produce high-risk medical devices to submit evidence of safety and efficacy based on sources other than clinical trials, including case histories (i.e., the experiences of individual patients). In other words, anecdotal evidence, rather than the scientific studies, could be used to approve devices.

Audio NEJM Interview: Dr. Rita Redberg on the approval process for medical devices in the United States and in Europe.

Dr. Rita Redberg is a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and the editor of the Archives of Internal Medicine. Stephen Morrissey, the interviewer, is the Managing Editor of the Journal. S. Basu and J.C. Hassenplug. Patient Access to Medical Devices - A Comparison of U.S. and European Review Processes. N Engl J Med 2012;367:485-8.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Paul Lioy, Scientist Who Analyzed 9/11 Dust and Its Health Effects, Dies at 68 - The New York Times

A hero of public health has died. - gwc

Paul Lioy, Scientist Who Analyzed 9/11 Dust and Its Health Effects, Dies at 68 - The New York Times

by Margalit Fox

Paul J. Lioy, an environmental scientist widely known for his analysis of the dust spawned by the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and for his studies of its health effects over time, died on Wednesday after collapsing at Newark Liberty International Airport. He was 68.
The cause had not been determined, his wife, Jean Lioy, said.
Dr. Lioy (pronounced LEE-oy) was an internationally renowned authority on exposure science, a field concerned chiefly with pollutants and toxins that straddles environmental science and occupational health. He was the author of “Dust: The Inside Story of Its Role in the September 11th Aftermath,” a book for a general readership published in 2010.
At his death he was a professor of environmental and occupational health of the Rutgers University School of Public Health, in Piscataway, N.J., as well as the department’s deputy director for government relations.
From his home in Cranford, N.J., Dr. Lioy could see the plumes of dust that rose from the ruins of the trade center towers on Sept. 11, 2001. A million tons of dust would rain down on Lower Manhattan.
Dr. Paul Lioy.CreditNick Romanenko/Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Once his initial horror at the spectacle subsided, the scientist in him began to wonder just what was in that dust.
“It was unprecedented in terms of the complex characteristics of the materials released,” Dr. Lioy toldThe Asbury Park Press in 2011.
He was one of the first scientists to gather samples from the scene, arriving to find a fluffy gray dust so profuse, The New York Times reported, that he and his colleagues simply scooped it from the windshields of nearby cars and secured it in Teflon bags.
“It had a weird texture and color to it,” Dr. Lioy told The Times in 2005.
The samples were dispatched for laboratory analysis. The results indicated the presence of elements that included chromium, aluminum, barium, titanium, mercury and lead; jet-fuel components; cellulose from paper and cotton; particles of wood, plastic, glass, asbestos and concrete; and organic matter that Professor Lioy, with circumspection and great tenderness, described as containing “everything we hold dear.”
The findings allayed a potential health concern — asbestos-related illnesses — while illuminating an actual one: the persistent cough and other respiratory symptoms developed by some police officers, firefighters, construction workers and residents.
“In the first 48 hours, the government was concerned about asbestos being the primary threat,” Dr. Lioy explained a decade after the attacks in an interview on the Rutgers website. “But it was not. Asbestos exposure is a long-term problem. Once the ‘World Trade Center cough’ started appearing, we realized it wasn’t caused by asbestos.”
Dr. Lioy's book about Sept. 11 residue.
Three things, he continued, caused the cough.
“First, cement dust was very alkaline — the pH was above 10,” he said. “That irritated the linings of the lungs. Second, glass fibers got stuck in people’s upper airways, like wooden logs in a narrow stream. That trapped the cement particles and enhanced the irritation. And there were very coarse particles that comprised the vast quantity of the dust mass.”
Paul James Lioy was born on May 27, 1947, in Passaic, N.J. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Montclair State College, as it was then known, followed by a master’s degree in the field from Auburn University in Alabama and master’s and doctoral degrees in environmental science from Rutgers.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

FDA strengthens warning that NSAIDs increase heart attack and stroke risk - Harvard Health Blog - Harvard Health Publications

It remains the case that Naproxen (Aleve) is probably safer than the other NSAIDS. That evidence, of course, was the basis for the plaintiffs verdicts against Merck in the Vioxx cases. - gwc

FDA strengthens warning that NSAIDs increase heart attack and stroke risk - Harvard Health Blog - Harvard Health Publications

Gregory Curfman, MDEditor in Chief, Harvard Health Publications
Back in 2005, the FDA warned that taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen increased the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Last week it took the unusual step of further strengthening this warning. This was done on the advice of an expert panel that reviewed new information about NSAIDs and their risks. Because NSAIDs are widely used, it’s important to be aware of downsides of taking an NSAID and to take steps to limit the risk.
Many people take NSAIDs to relieve mild to moderate pain. These medications may be particularly effective in conditions in which pain results primarily from inflammation, such as arthritis or athletic injury. Examples of commonly used over-the-counter NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Aleve); celecoxib (Celebrex), diclofenac (Cataflam, Voltaren) are prescription NSAIDs. Aspirin is also an NSAID, but it does not pose a risk of heart attack or stroke and is not covered by this new warning.
For more than 15 years, experts have known that NSAIDs increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. They may also elevate blood pressure and cause heart failure. The risk of heart attack and stroke achieved special notoriety with rofecoxib (Vioxx), a type of NSAID called a COX-2 inhibitor. It caused as many as 140,000 heart attacks in the U.S. during the five years it was on the market (Vioxx was removed from the market in 2004). The regrettable experience with Vioxx raised awareness about the cardiovascular risk of NSAIDs, and led to further studies showing that the risk is not limited to Vioxx but is associated with all NSAIDs.
The new warnings from the FDA point out:
  • Heart attack and stroke risk increase even with short-term use, and the risk may begin within a few weeks of starting to take an NSAID.
  • The risk increases with higher doses of NSAIDs taken for longer periods of time.
  • The risk is greatest for people who already have heart disease, though even people without heart disease may be at risk.
  • Previous studies have suggested that naproxen may be safer than other types of NSDAIDs, but the new evidence reviewed by the expert panel isn’t solid enough to determine that for certain.

Wicker: BP Settlement Adds Certainty to Oil Spill Recovery |

Wicker: BP Settlement Adds Certainty to Oil Spill Recovery |

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Five years later the legal claims against BP have made history, too, with the nation’s largest-ever environmental settlement.

The news is a major milestone for Mississippi. For the past five years, Gulf Coast states and the Department of Justice have sought compensation for the spill’s extensive environmental and economic damage. Earlier this month, they reached an agreement with BP over the remaining penalties that the oil company owes. The agreement includes the final figure for BP’s Clean Water Act fines – a critical piece of the RESTORE Act.
Reaping the Benefits of RESTORE
Giving states the authority and flexibility to prioritize their most urgent recovery projects after the oil spill is something I championed as a coauthor of the RESTORE Act. The law, passed by Congress in 2012, directs 80 percent of Clean Water Act fines to affected Gulf Coast states. Typically, the U.S. Treasury would reserve these fines for the cleanup of future oil spills. RESTORE ensures that the funds will go where they are needed most.
RESTORE also recognizes that recovery efforts should be comprehensive, allowing Gulf states to pursue both economic and environmental initiatives. It established the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council to facilitate partnerships between states and the federal government, promoting the strategic collaboration we need to make the Coast whole again.
The recent court agreement puts Clean Water Act fines at $5.5 billion, giving states more certainty about available resources and the viability of their long-term restoration plans. Mississippi is set to receive $582 million, in addition to the $106 million in early RESTORE payments. These funds can be directed to environmental, economic, and research projects. RESTORE funds will also be used for Research Centers of Excellence in each Gulf state.
Closing a Difficult Chapter
Overall, Mississippi is expected to receive an additional $1.5 billion over the next 17 years, putting its total compensation at nearly $2.2 billion. Among these payments is $750 million in economic damages, which the state legislature will determine how to allocate.
As Mississippians well know, the consequences of the spill were felt far and wide, not only jeopardizing the health of marine ecosystems but also residents’ livelihoods. Misperceptions of tainted seafood and polluted beaches severely damaged tourism and small businesses. Although the full extent of the harm may not be known for years, the settlement helps close a difficult chapter and promises to strengthen our recovery efforts in substantial ways.
Restoring a U.S. Treasure
It is important to build on the progress we have made. Mississippi’s early restoration projects have focused on replenishing oyster harvests and reef habitats as well as advancing infrastructure improvements for recreational use. Funding through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation has addressed critical conservation needs and invasive species management. Meanwhile, tourism, the seafood industry, and energy exploration are showing signs of rebound, helping restore a way of life for our coastal communities.
Continued cooperation, transparency, and accountability will be necessary as Mississippi puts its portion of the BP settlement money to good use. We have an opportunity to make the Coast better than ever. Vibrant fisheries, energy resources, and recreational fun make the Gulf one of America’s greatest treasures. Its success is a win for the entire nation.