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Lawyers Near Deal to Settle Weinstein Co. Civil Lawsuits

A tentative deal has been reached to settle multiple lawsuits brought against the television and film company co-founded by Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by scores of women.

Attorneys involved in the negotiations told a federal bankruptcy court judge during a hearing in Wilmington, Delaware, Thursday that a breakthrough in a still-unfinished mediation had put a settlement within reach.

The amount of the deal wasn’t revealed in court, but a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press it was worth $44 million. The person wasn’t authorized to reveal details of the discussions and spoke on condition of anonymity.

“We now have an economic agreement in principal that is supported by the plaintiffs, the (New York attorney general’s) office, the defendants and all of the insurers that, if approved, would provide significant compensation to victims, creditors and the estate and allow the parties to avoid years of costly, time consuming and uncertain litigation on all sides,” Adam Harris, a lawyer for studio co-founder Bob Weinstein, told the judge.

He cautioned that there was still “a lot of work here to do.” But, he added, “I personally am very optimistic.”

The size of the settlement was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

At least 15 lawsuits

More than 15 lawsuits have been filed accusing Harvey Weinstein or the company of misconduct. The settlement would cover many of them, including a class action by alleged victims that accuses the film company of operating like an organized crime group to conceal widespread sexual harassment and assaults.

It would also resolve a civil suit by the New York attorney general alleging that Harvey Weinstein’s media company, in enabling his mistreatment of women, violated labor laws.

The New York attorney general’s office declined to comment on the amount of the settlement.

Any settlement would need to be approved by the courts.

Criminal charges unaffected

Harvey Weinstein also faces criminal charges in New York of rape and performing a forcible sex act. His trial is scheduled to begin in September. The settlement wouldn’t resolve his criminal case.

Weinstein denies all allegations of nonconsensual sex.

An attorney who represents unsecured creditors in the bankruptcy of the Weinstein film studio, Robert Feinstein, told U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Mary Walrath that mediation talks that had broken down a few months ago had recently been restarted.

A global settlement of the class action lawsuit and all other legal action against the Weinstein Co. seemed to become possible only in the past few days, he said, though he cautioned that many details remained to be resolved.

Harris said the settlement was complex because of the number of claims, and insurance companies, involved.

“We’re dealing with potential claims here that go back more than 25 years,” he said, adding that the nature of the allegations had also made for “a highly charged environment, with very strong feelings on all sides.”

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Lawyers Near Deal to Settle Weinstein Co. Civil Lawsuits

A tentative deal has been reached to settle multiple lawsuits brought against the television and film company co-founded by Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by scores of women.

Attorneys involved in the negotiations told a federal bankruptcy court judge during a hearing in Wilmington, Delaware, Thursday that a breakthrough in a still-unfinished mediation had put a settlement within reach.

The amount of the deal wasn’t revealed in court, but a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press it was worth $44 million. The person wasn’t authorized to reveal details of the discussions and spoke on condition of anonymity.

“We now have an economic agreement in principal that is supported by the plaintiffs, the (New York attorney general’s) office, the defendants and all of the insurers that, if approved, would provide significant compensation to victims, creditors and the estate and allow the parties to avoid years of costly, time consuming and uncertain litigation on all sides,” Adam Harris, a lawyer for studio co-founder Bob Weinstein, told the judge.

He cautioned that there was still “a lot of work here to do.” But, he added, “I personally am very optimistic.”

The size of the settlement was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

At least 15 lawsuits

More than 15 lawsuits have been filed accusing Harvey Weinstein or the company of misconduct. The settlement would cover many of them, including a class action by alleged victims that accuses the film company of operating like an organized crime group to conceal widespread sexual harassment and assaults.

It would also resolve a civil suit by the New York attorney general alleging that Harvey Weinstein’s media company, in enabling his mistreatment of women, violated labor laws.

The New York attorney general’s office declined to comment on the amount of the settlement.

Any settlement would need to be approved by the courts.

Criminal charges unaffected

Harvey Weinstein also faces criminal charges in New York of rape and performing a forcible sex act. His trial is scheduled to begin in September. The settlement wouldn’t resolve his criminal case.

Weinstein denies all allegations of nonconsensual sex.

An attorney who represents unsecured creditors in the bankruptcy of the Weinstein film studio, Robert Feinstein, told U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Mary Walrath that mediation talks that had broken down a few months ago had recently been restarted.

A global settlement of the class action lawsuit and all other legal action against the Weinstein Co. seemed to become possible only in the past few days, he said, though he cautioned that many details remained to be resolved.

Harris said the settlement was complex because of the number of claims, and insurance companies, involved.

“We’re dealing with potential claims here that go back more than 25 years,” he said, adding that the nature of the allegations had also made for “a highly charged environment, with very strong feelings on all sides.”

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DHS Cites Insufficient Resources in Deaths of Migrant Children

The Trump administration has blamed the escalating humanitarian and security crisis at the southern U.S. border for the deaths of several migrant children. The head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security told a Senate panel Thursday that the number of arrivals has accelerated in recent months, making it hard to process families and unaccompanied children. VOA’S Zlatica Hoke reports the deaths of the children while in U.S. custody have caused a public outrage.

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DHS Cites Insufficient Resources in Deaths of Migrant Children

The Trump administration has blamed the escalating humanitarian and security crisis at the southern U.S. border for the deaths of several migrant children. The head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security told a Senate panel Thursday that the number of arrivals has accelerated in recent months, making it hard to process families and unaccompanied children. VOA’S Zlatica Hoke reports the deaths of the children while in U.S. custody have caused a public outrage.

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Trump Considering Troop Deployment to Deter Iran

The White House is considering a plan presented by the Pentagon Thursday to send thousands more troops to the Middle East to deter potential Iranian threats. Earlier this week, Trump administration officials told lawmakers the U.S. is not trying to provoke Tehran. Many are concerned that mixed messages from the administration may increase the risk of conflict and lessen the chance of persuading Iran to halt its nuclear weapons program. White House correspondent Patsy Widakuswara has this report.

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Who Is ‘American Taliban’ John Walker Lindh?

John Walker Lindh, who has been in a U.S. federal prison since he was captured by American troops in 2001 in Afghanistan, was released Thursday. Here is a look at the man called “The American Taliban.”

Early life

John Walker Lindh was born Feb. 9, 1981, in Washington to Marilyn Walker and Frank Lindh, and named after former Beatle John Lennon. When he was 10, Lindh, the middle of three children, moved with his family to Marin County, one of California’s wealthiest counties and just north of San Francisco. He attended an elite alternative high school where students were allowed to shape their own studies.

​Conversion to Islam

Lindh told FBI interrogators that he became interested in Islam at age 12 after watching the movie “Malcolm X,” which discussed Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and the hajj pilgrimage. At 16, he converted to Islam, using the names Suleyman al-Lindh and Suleyman al-Faris. In 1998, he asked his parents for money to travel to Yemen, which he considered the best country to learn the “pure” Arabic used in the Quran. He returned to California a year later but returned to Yemen in February 2000, a few days before his 19th birthday.

Move to extremism

Frank Lindh recalled an email exchange with his son in 2000 in which he told him about the bombing of the USS Cole. Lindh reportedly replied that the American naval destroyers being in the Yemen harbor had been an act of war, and that the bombing was justified. Lindh left Yemen to study at a madrassa (religious school) in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier province. He later moved to Afghanistan, where he spent time at an al-Qaida training camp. He told the FBI he spent seven weeks at the camp, which was about a two-hour bus ride from Kandahar, starting June 1, 2001. He said trainees spent three weeks getting familiar with weapons, one week studying maps and topography, one week on battlefield training, and one on explosives. Lindh said he met Osama bin Laden at the camp, who thanked him and others for fighting the jihad.

​Capture and imprisonment

Lindh was captured Nov. 25, 2001, by U.S.-led coalition forces. While being held at a makeshift prison in a 19th-century fortress at Qala-i-Jangi in northern Afghanistan, Lindh was questioned by CIA agent Mike Spann. Lindh did not tell Spann he was American, and also failed to warn him about a revolt being planned by the prisoners. Spann and hundreds of foreign fighters were killed in the uprising. Lindh spent weeks in U.S. military custody after being captured. He was interrogated aboard the USS Bataan, a Navy warship in the North Arabian Sea, before being flown to the United States in 2002 to face trial. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison and will have served 17 years of his sentence upon release.

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Can John Walker Lindh Be Deradicalized?

The former radical jihadi dubbed the “American Taliban” was released from prison Thursday after completing 17 years of a 20-year sentence for supporting the Taliban.

John Walker Lindh, 38, is the first American detainee in the U.S. war on terror. He was captured in late 2001, while fighting alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan, and later taken back to the U.S. He pleaded guilty to two terrorism related charges.

The Californian is among at least 427 individuals who have been charged with jihadi terrorism or related crimes since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to the think tank New America. Nearly a hundred have been freed, with up to 90 more approaching the end of their prison terms in the next five years, said Jesse Morton, a convicted ex-jihadi who runs Parallel Networks, a group that works with former extremists.

That has rekindled a debate over how to reintegrate former American jihadis into society. Unlike other Western nations, the U.S. has no rehabilitation programs for former jihadists, leaving them largely to their own devices.

Lindh’s case has drawn attention in part because of concern he continues to harbor radical Islamist views. At his sentencing in 2002, Lindh denounced terrorism and said the attacks of Sept. 11 were against the teachings of Islam. But U.S. counterterrorism officials have assessed in recent years that his views haven’t changed. A 2017 National Counterterrorism Center document obtained by Foreign Policy magazine stated that as of May 2016, Lindh “continued to advocate for global jihad and to write and translate violent extremist texts.”

Lindh will remain on probation for the next three years with strict conditions. Among other restrictions, he won’t be allowed to browse the internet, communicate with other extremists or leave the United States.

Morton said his organization reached out to Lindh to offer reintegration services but hasn’t received a response.

A convert to Islam, Morton co-founded Revolution Muslim, a group that propagandized and recruited on behalf of al-Qaida online and on the streets of New York from 2006-2011. He spent nearly four years in prison after pleading guilty to inciting attacks against the creators of “South Park” and agreeing to cooperate with the FBI.

VOA spoke with Morton about Lindh’s release. The interview was edited for length and clarity.

VOA: Before I ask you about Lindh’s release, can you talk a little bit about your own transition out of a group that was once described as a dangerous terrorism network?

Jesse Morton: When I was incarcerated … I was able to sort of extract myself from the jihadist milieu. And instead of dabbling more into Islamist works, I dabbled into post-Enlightenment works, became reacclimated with my American culture, American upbringing, saw the West and the Enlightenment as a value in overcoming sectarianism. And slowly in prison, I was able to reform myself by looking at the mistakes that I had made. By the time I was released in 2015, ISIS (Islamic State) was a problem. I realized I had created a big monster. I had contributed largely to spreading that ideology. And now I work to combat the ideas and the ideals that I was firmly committed to.

​VOA: There are allegations that Lindh espouses the same extremist views he did when he was first imprisoned. Does that make his release premature and perhaps cause for concern?

 

Morton: I think that we should be concerned, but I don’t think that we should be overly concerned, particularly not knowing the nuances and the individual characteristics of John Walker Lindh. And I don’t think we have to be worried about him returning to commit an act of violence. There are other things we need to worry about. For example, his stated intention that he wants to return to preaching, and a growing sort of far leftist, revolutionary, anti-American sentiment inside of a small segment of the American Muslim community that might allow him to have a platform. That would be dangerous.

VOA: Unlike some European countries, the U.S. doesn’t have a go-to deradicalization program for former jihadis inside prisons. What do we know about the prison environment in which Lindh has spent the past 17 years of his life?

Morton: He’s been there from the beginning … and so, he has watched transitions inside of the Bureau of Prisons as they’ve tried to figure out what to do with terrorism-related offenders. His was an interesting case, because he clung to Islamist views. We do have some leaked BOP memos about Lindh’s sustained radicalization. And interestingly enough, my co-defendant, Zachary Chesser, who is now doing 20 years, was housed with him. As was (radical Palestinian American preacher) Ahmad Musa Jibril, who was released in (2012), and ended up becoming a preacher in Michigan that radicalized hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals in the context of the Syrian civil war.

VOA: At Parallel Networks, you work with people like Lindh. How do you help a hard-core former jihadi transform into a law-abiding citizen?

Morton: Our priority is to keep the public safe. And the way that you keep the public safe is to make sure that (former jihadists) have access to the basic services that they need. The worst-case scenario is when a terrorism-related offender comes home and feels stigmatized, feels isolated, can’t get work, can’t get housing, and decides that radicalization is a better option. We just want to make sure that individuals disengage from the movement, whether it’s online or offline. Then we work on the ideology if they still want to. But it has to be a desire of the individual. You can’t tell someone that they need to change their beliefs. … You have to create a space that they can make those alterations. If you try to make a committed fanatic change their ideas, you’re only going to make their adherence even worse.

​VOA: What is the best hope for Lindh?

Morton: Lindh is free to believe whatever he wants to, but we need to develop mechanisms as a society that make sure there can be no consequence to his sustained beliefs. At times, that may require law enforcement monitoring if it is determined that he is a risk to mobilize to violence (or something of the sort). When you have a comprehensive approach to countering violent extremism, then you can address all components of this dynamic problem. Nevertheless, it is most likely that Lindh will simply move on with his life and disappear from the public eye. Let’s hope so. We’re certainly not prepared if that is not the case.

VOA: Since the attacks of 9/11, several hundred former jihadists have been prosecuted and imprisoned in this country, and a few dozen have been released in recent years. What do you know about what has happened with them?

 

Morton: Most of those that have been released so far have actually been deported. Most of the people that have been released have also been the lowest-risk levels. So, we haven’t seen those that have been arrested for attempts to carry out an actual attack. The committed jihadists are coming over the next … series of years — about 70 to 90 individuals will come home over the next four or five years. And some of them are likely pretty important and influential individuals that are very different than those that have been released so far. But most of them are just living life and trying to move on. … And we’ve witnessed a few individuals do some pretty amazing work upon their return.

 

VOA: Is the country prepared to help reintegrate those individuals who will be released in the coming years?

 

Morton: No. We have no funding for any such initiative, and there’s not much of a commitment on behalf of the government. And we can’t do much about it, unfortunately.

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3 Killed in Missouri as Tornado Strikes State Capital

A tornado caused heavy damage in Missouri’s capital city as severe weather swept across the state overnight, causing at least three deaths and injuring nearly two dozen people as homes and businesses were ripped apart.

The National Weather Service confirmed that the large and destructive tornado moved over Jefferson City shortly before midnight on Wednesday.

“Across the state, Missouri’s first responders once again responded quickly and with strong coordination as much of the state dealt with extremely dangerous conditions that left people injured, trapped in homes, and tragically led to the death of three people,” Gov. Mike Parson said. 

Missouri Public Safety said the three were killed in the Golden City area of Barton County, near Missouri’s southwest corner, as the severe weather moved in from Oklahoma, where rescuers struggled to pull people from high water. The tornado hit during a week that has seen several days of tornadoes and torrential rains in parts of the Southern Plains and Midwest.

No deaths were reported in the capital, but Jefferson City Police Lt. David Williams said about 20 people were rescued by emergency personnel. 

 

The weather service reported that a “confirmed large and destructive tornado” was observed over Jefferson City at 11:43 p.m. Wednesday, moving northeast at 40 mph (64 kph). The capital city has a population of about 40,000 and is located about 130 miles (209 kilometers) west of St. Louis.

“It’s a chaotic situation right now,” Williams said.

Williams spoke from the Cole County Sheriff’s office, where debris including insulation, roofing shingles and metal pieces lay on the ground outside the front doors. Authorities were discouraging people from beginning clean-up efforts until power is safely restored. Area hospitals set up command centers in case the need arises.

Missouri Public Safety tweeted that there was a possibility of more tornadoes and flash flooding.

Austin Thomson, 25, was in the laundry room of his complex of two-story apartment buildings to do his wash and noticed the wind started picking up. He saw sheets of rain coming down and a flagpole bend and then slam to the ground. The windows broke and he dove behind the washers and dryers.

After it calmed down, he walked outside to check the damage, and retrieved a stuffed animal for his daughter from his damaged apartment.

“There’s basically one building that’s basically one story now,” he said. 

 

The weather service said it had received 22 reports of tornadoes by late Wednesday; some could be duplicate reporting of the same twister.

One tornado skirted just a few miles north of Joplin, Missouri, on the eighth anniversary of a catastrophic tornado that killed 161 people in the city. The tornado caused some damage in the town of Carl Junction, about 4 miles (6.44 kilometers) north of the Joplin airport, where several injuries were reported.

The severe weather was expected to continue Thursday as the storms head east. Forecasters at the Storm Prediction Center say parts of the Ohio Valley and the Mid-Atlantic could see tornadoes, large hail and strong winds. Forecasters say the area most at risk for bad weather Thursday includes Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

Flooding and runaway barges

Storms and torrential rains have ravaged the Midwest, from Texas through Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Illinois. Authorities urged residents of several small towns in Oklahoma and Kansas to leave their homes as rivers and streams rose.

Two barges broke loose and floated swiftly down the swollen Arkansas River in eastern Oklahoma, spreading alarm downstream as they threatened to hit a dam. A posting on the official Facebook page of the river town of Webbers Falls, Oklahoma, said the runaway barges posed a dire threat to its 600 residents: “Evacuate Webbers Falls immediately. The barges are loose and has the potential to hit the lock and dam 16. If the dam breaks, it will be catastrophic!! Leave now!!”

Authorities located the barges Thursday morning, stuck on rocks in the swollen river. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol says the barges were still tied together, and crews were working to secure them.

Still, the Interstate 40 bridge and a state highway bridge remain closed over the Arkansas River at Webbers Falls as a precaution, according to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. Over Memorial Day weekend in 2002, a barge struck the Interstate 40 bridge pier at Webbers Falls, causing part of the bridge to collapse into the Arkansas River. Fourteen people died after their vehicles plunged into the water.

Weather-related deaths

Deaths from this week’s storms include a 74-year-old woman found early Wednesday morning in Iowa. Officials there say she was killed by a possible tornado that damaged a farmstead in Adair County. Missouri authorities said heavy rain was a contributing factor in the deaths of two people in a traffic accident Tuesday near Springfield.

A fourth weather-related death may have occurred in Oklahoma, where the Highway Patrol said a woman apparently drowned after driving around a barricade Tuesday near Perkins, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) northeast of Oklahoma City. The unidentified woman’s body was sent to the state medical examiner’s office to confirm the cause of death. Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Keli Cain said she isn’t yet listed as what would be the state’s first storm-related death.

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