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Volkswagen Faces Criminal Investigation After $15.3B Settlement

The U.S. Justice Department is working closely with German investigators to gather evidence for potential criminal charges in the Volkswagen emissions-cheating scandal, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said yesterday, the Associated Press reports. Yates said investigators are looking at "multiple companies and multiple individuals" in the probe, but she did not identify any of them at a news conference to announce a settlement of up to $15.3 billion in the case involving VW diesel cars that cheated on emissions tests.

One company that could be involved is German auto parts supplier Bosch, which has extensive North American operations. Elizabeth Cabraser, the lead attorney for car owners that are suing VW, said civil claims can continue against Bosch, which made the "defeat devices" that turned pollution controls on during Environmental Protection Agency lab tests and turned them off on real roads. That allowed the cars to emit more pollution while being driven. A spokeswoman for Robert Bosch LLC said a probe in Germany was announced several months ago.

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St. Louis Jury Issues $17.6M Verdict Vs. Doctor, Hospital In Opioid Case

For seven days, the nation’s opioid-abuse epidemic was on trial in St. Louis. Opioids lost, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. A jury awarded a $17.6 million verdict, including $15 million in punitive damages, against a doctor and hospital. Brian Koon, a city parks employee, was prescribed more than 37,000 pain pills between 2008 and 2012 at levels far above those recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Send a message from coast to coast that this is not going to happen anymore,” pleaded attorney Tim Cronin, before the jury deliberated on punitive damages. The defendants were Dr. Henry Walden and St. Louis University. Koon, 45, a mechanical maintenance worker, saw Walden for back pain. He found himself on an ever increasing dose of opioids, highly addictive pain medications that some experts have blamed for the rise in heroin use across the nation. At one time, he was taking three different narcotics prescribed by Walden: Oxycontin, Vicodin and oxycodone. Walden's attorney told the jury that his client "is nothing like the pill-pushing doctors" who define the opioid epidemic.

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NRA Spends $2 Million On Trump Ad With Benghazi Theme

The National Rifle Association’s political arm is launching its first ad campaign of the 2016 presidential race, with a survivor of the terror attack in Benghazi urging viewers to vote for Donald Trump, reports USA Today. The ad, which the NRA Political Victory Fund is backing with more than $2 million, is the group’s first in the presidential race and one of the larger expenditures by an outside group on behalf of the presumptive Republican nominee. The 30-second spot, “Stop Clinton, Vote Trump,” features Mark Geist, a Marine Corps veteran and security contractor who fought the 2012 assault on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans died, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

“A lot of people say they’re not going to vote this November because their candidate didn’t win; Well, I know some people who won’t be voting this year either,” Geist says as he walks through a cemetery. “Hillary as President? No thanks. I served in Benghazi. My friends didn’t make it. They did their part. Do yours.” The NRA and affiliated groups spent $13.6 million in the 2012 presidential race, says the Center for Responsive Politics. They could spend more this year. “The stakes in this election for law-abiding gun owners have never been higher, and the NRA will use all available resources to ensure that voters understand the consequences of a Hillary Clinton presidency on their fundamental right of self-defense,” said Chris Cox of the NRA fund.

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Colorado Marijuana Arrest Rates Rise For Latinos, Blacks

Marijuana is legal in Colorado for people 21 or older. It's still illegal for kids to possess, so juveniles are dominating marijuana arrests in the state. Colorado Public Radio reports that arrest rates have risen dramatically for young blacks and Latinos. A Colorado Health Department survey found there wasn't a huge racial difference in who smokes pot. The marijuana arrest rate for white 10- to 17-year-olds fell by nearly 10 percent from 2012 to 2014, while arrest rates for Latino and black youths respectively rose more than 20 percent and more than 50 percent.

Brian Vicente, who led the marijuana legalization movement in Colorado, believes the discrepancy needs to stop. "That is, I think, a large part of the reason Colorado voters passed legalization," Vicente says. "They're tired of the sort of racist legacy of the drug war." Denver Police spokesman Sonny Jackson says it's not a matter of what police want to focus on, but what people are reporting to authorities. "Most of these cases are complaint-driven," Jackson says. "We get a complaint from someone, we're not sure where it's going to take us, but we have to act on it. And we're not sure, if I get a call to a residence or to a location, who I'm going to encounter until I get there." Jackson says that pot arrests for adults, of all racial groups, have been cut in half since legalization — and he emphasizes that marijuana is a low priority for the department.

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FL Corrections Officer Denies Food To Teen Inmates For Talking

It was lunchtime and the newly arrived teenage inmates had just filed into the mess hall at Florida's Sumter Correctional Institution, sat down with their lunch trays and begun eating. Some of them started talking, like the inmates who'd been there longer were doing at nearby tables, reports the Tampa Bay Times. Their supervising officer considered the newbies disruptive. He warned them. They continued. Within minutes, the officer ordered the nearly 15 inmates to stand up and dump their lunch trays in the trash. He then ordered them back into their dorm.

That's where state Rep. David Richardson found them. Richardson was on one of his routine visits to the state's largest male youthful offender programs. Richardson randomly selected six of the 14- to 17-year-olds to speak with him and, one by one, started asking questions when he was told about the food dump. Depriving inmates of food is against the law in Florida's prisons, but it rarely gets reported. Richardson complained and the state corrections department removed the officer from contact with the inmates who had been in prison less than three weeks. The inmates were supplied with another tray of food. "All officers on duty were counseled that withholding food can never be utilized as a form of discipline and that the department and facility will not condone it," said an agency spokeswoman.

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Corrections Corporation Says It Will Be "Just Fine" Under Trump Or Clinton

The chief executive of the nation's largest private prison company reassured investors this month that with either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in the White House, his firm will be “just fine,” The Intercept reports. Damon Hininger of Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) was speaking at the REITWeek investor forum. Private prisons have received a great deal of criticism this election cycle, with Democrat Bernie Sanders campaigning to end for-profit incarceration, followed by Clinton taking up a similar pledge. After the Clinton campaign received campaign donations from private prison lobbyists, activist groups confronted Clinton, leading her to announce that she would no longer accept the money and later saying, that “we should end private prisons and private detention centers.”

CCCA apparently is not concerned. Asked about prospects under Trump or Clinton, Hininger argued that his company has prospered through political turnover by taking advantage of the government’s quest for lower costs. “I would say that being around 30 years and being in operation in many, many states, and also doing work with the federal government going back to the 1980s, where you had Clinton White House, you had a Bush White House, you had Obama White House, we’ve done very, very well,” Hininger said. He added, “I think about the next president, whoever that is, if it’s Hillary Clinton or if it’s Donald Trump, there’s going to be so many things that he or she are going to have to deal with next year or next administration, both nationally and internationally, that I think having a view on our business, our industry is going to be really, really low on the priority list.”

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Authors Mac Donald, Sparrow Disagree Sharply On Policing and Crime

Since the shooting of Michael Brown in 2014, the nation has been debating whether it is crime or policing that is out of control. Two new books attempt to set things straight, but their arguments could not be more different, says New York University law Prof. Barry Friedman in the New York Times. In “The War on Cops,” Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute, delivers a broadside against those who view the cops, rather than black criminality and violence, as the problem. She urges a return to aggressive tactics like stop-and-frisk. In “Handcuffed,” Malcolm Sparrow of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, doesn’t see evidence that this sort of policing works. Instead, he provides a wonky account maintaining that we need more community policing.

Friedman says that, "the two books share one stunning feature: Both authors write with an air of absolute rectitude. While disagreeing about almost everything, each is certain he or she is right." Mac Donald is sure of two things. First, the “Ferguson effect”: In the face of negative scrutiny of their work, police officers are standing down, and as a result crime is going up. Second, that there is a “false narrative” of racial discrimination in policing. In truth, she says, blacks commit far more crime, and policing simply follows the crime. Sparrow takes a different tack, arguing that the relentless push to drive down crime rates, which already are at historically low levels, may be self-­defeating. He says: “Continuing to demand reductions at that point is like failing to set the torque control on a power screwdriver. First you drive the screw, which is useful work; but then you rip everything to shreds and even undo the value of your initial tightening.”

 

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