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Boy Scouts of America Files Bankruptcy to Deal With Abuse Lawsuits

The Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy in a U.S. federal court Tuesday in a move it says will allow it to compensate men who were abused as boys while taking part in its programs.The group has faced a surge in lawsuits in recent years as multiple states enacted changes to laws allowing those victimized as kids to bring legal action later in life.Several thousand men accuse scoutmasters and other leaders of molestation, with many of their cases dating back to the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.Paul Mones, a lawyer representing many people suing the group, said in a series of Tuesday tweets that the Boy Scouts deliberately concealed sexual abuse for decades and “made their decision to protect their reputation over the safety of innocent children.”It is not clear how large an eventual settlement could be if the Boy Scouts and victims are able to reach an agreement.”The BSA cares deeply about all victims of abuse and sincerely apologizes to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting,” President and Chief Executive Officer Roger Mosby said in a statement.  “We are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to harm innocent children.”The group says the bankruptcy filing involves only its national organization and not the individual chapters spread throughout the country that will continue carrying their meetings and activities.

EU Approves Trade Deal With Vietnam

The European Union has approved a trade agreement with Vietnam, disproving skeptics who thought the EU’s divorce with Britain and Vietnam human rights concerns would delay the vote.Members of the EU Parliament last week voted 401 to 192 in favor of ratifying the agreement, which would roll back almost all import tariffs between the bloc and Vietnam. The EU is looking for new economic tailwinds amid concerns with other partners: the British exit from the union threatens commerce, while U.S. President Donald Trump has turned his attention from the China trade war to issue more tariffs against the European Union this month. The vote was also welcomed as good news by Vietnam, which worries its economy will be hurt by the U.S.-China trade war and the spread of the new coronavirus.“History shows that isolation does not change a country,”  said Bernd Lange, chair of the EU Parliament trade committee and vice chair of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats. “That is why Parliament voted in favor of this trade agreement with Vietnam. With it, we strengthen the role of the EU in Vietnam and the region, ensuring that our voice has more weight than before.”The EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement would be Europe’s second in Southeast Asia, after one with Singapore. Its decreased tariffs are expected to increase Vietnamese exports of seafood, textiles, and wood products to the EU, and EU exports of beverages, machinery, and drugs to Vietnam.A cobblestone street is seen in Brussels, the seat of the European Union, which Vietnam is awaiting to finalize a trade agreement. (VOA/Ha Nguyen)This is Europe’s “most ambitious trade agreement with a developing country,” said the German Business Association of Vietnam in an email.The agreement is considered ambitious because it is meant to hold parties to a higher environmental and social standard than merely decreasing tariffs for companies. Vietnam’s one-party state promised to certify that timber isn’t illegally logged before it’s exported, for instance. It also promised to allow labor unions independent of the government.However Emmanuel Maurel, a member of the European Parliament from France, doesn’t believe Vietnam will keep its promise. He also criticized the trade agreement as benefiting not the average citizen but a small fraction of companies that will find it easier to offshore jobs.“There are losers on the Vietnamese side and there are losers on the European side,” he said.Vietnam has not ratified the agreement. Its parliament meets two times a year, so its next chance to vote on the agreement will be in May.Negotiations dragged on for the agreement, which many had expected would have been finalized years ago. Delays included the 2017 inauguration of Trump, who withdrew from the Trans Pacific Partnership, another trade agreement that included Vietnam. Because Vietnam wanted to implement the TPP and the EU agreement at the same time, it postponed the latter deal until more recently.However now Vietnam has welcomed the European Union’s favorable vote this month and looks set to emulate it.“This is a meaningful result for Vietnam and the EU, two comprehensive strategic partners,” Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh, said.

Federal Judges to Hold Emergency Meeting on Trump Admin Interference in Politically Sensitive Cases

A national association of federal judges will hold an emergency meeting Wednesday after Justice Department officials intervened in the case involving a close confident of U.S. President Donald Trump.The head of the independent Federal Judges Association, District Judge Cynthia Rufe, tells VOA the judges are “concerned about the attacks on individual judges” and it will be the main issue to be discussed.Rufe declined to give any more details, but said the jurists “could not wait” until their spring meeting.The Justice Department stunned the political and legal community last week when it overruled its own prosecutors and recommended a lighter prison sentence for Roger Stone — a longtime friend and confident of Trump who was convicted on lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstruction of justice stemming from the Russian election meddling probe.Prosecutors in the case had recommended seven to nine years prison time for Stone — a recommendation based on sentencing guidelines for such crimes.But the Justice Department recommended a lighter sentence after Trump complained in a tweet that the seven to nine years would be “horrible” and “unfair.”Three prosecutors in the Stone case withdrew and a fourth quit the agency altogether.Stone is to be sentenced Thursday and it is up to Judge Amy Berman Jackson to decide how long he is to be locked up.This courtroom sketch shows former campaign adviser for President Donald Trump, Roger Stone talking from the witness stand as Judge Amy Berman Jackson listens during a court hearing at the U.S. District Courthouse in Washington, Feb. 21, 2019.Jackson has scheduled a Tuesday conference call with attorneys in the Roger Stone case, two days before the former Trump associate is set to be sentenced.Former President Barack Obama appointed Judge Jackson and Trump has been notoriously critical of many decisions and policies made by his predecessor. Trump complained last week about Jackson’s decision to jail former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in solitary confinement and not to try to prosecute former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.Judge Rufe says the Federal Judges’ Association has no interest in getting involved in the Stone case, but does support Jackson.”We are supportive of any federal judge who does what is required,” she said.The Roger Stone case has raised questions in Congress about political interference in what is historically suppose to be an independent judiciary.Trump congratulated Attorney General William Barr last week for “taking charge” of the Stone case. But both deny that Trump asked Barr to intervene.Barr is scheduled to appear before Congress next month.More than 2,000 former Justice Department officials have called on Barr to resign, saying his handling of the Stone case “openly and repeatedly flouted” the independence of the judicial branch.Barr told ABC News last week that Trump’s tweets “make it impossible for him to do his job,” saying he will not be “bullied or influenced by anybody, whether it’s Congress, a newspaper editorial board, or the president.”   

Outspoken US Labor Leader Owen Bieber Dies at 90

Former U.S. labor leader Owen Bieber, one of the country’s most outspoken anti-apartheid activists who also backed Poland’s Solidarity labor movement, has died at 90.A longtime union member, Bieber took over as the head of the United Auto Workers Union in 1983, securing good wages, job security and other benefits for blue-collar auto workers at a time of recession and rising global competition.He rallied the UAW behind the Solidarity movement in Poland and was a fierce critic of apartheid in South Africa. He traveled to the country, speaking out against racism and imprisonment of labor activists, smuggling photographs of tortured prisoners out of the country back to the U.S.Bieber was arrested demonstrating outside the South African Embassy in Washington. He hosted Nelson Mandela in Detroit, Michigan, after the South African political leader’s release from prison in 1990.
 

UK PM’s Adviser Quits After Backlash Over Contraception, IQ Comments

An adviser to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson who had discussed the benefits of forced contraception quit Monday, saying “media hysteria” about his old online posts meant he had become a distraction for the government.Earlier, Johnson’s spokesman repeatedly refused to comment when asked about Andrew Sabisky, whose appointment drew widespread criticism after the Mail on Sunday newspaper reported statements made in his name online in 2014 and 2016.In addition to posts on contraception, Sabisky also said data showed the U.S. black population had lower IQ than white people, and, in a 2016 interview with digital publication Schools Week, discussed the benefits of genetic selection.Media reported Sabisky was hired following an unusual appeal earlier this year from Johnson’s senior adviser Dominic Cummings for “weirdos and misfits with odd skills” to help bring new ideas to Britain’s government.His resignation is a blow to that effort, which had attracted criticism from those who said Cummings was sidestepping normal government recruitment processes.”The media hysteria about my old stuff online is mad but I wanted to help (the government) not be a distraction,” Sabisky said on Twitter.”Accordingly I’ve decided to resign as a contractor … I signed up to do real work, not be in the middle of a giant character assassination: if I can’t do the work properly there’s no point.”Sabisky, who has referred to himself as a “super forecaster,” said he hoped Johnson’s office hired more people with “good geopolitical forecasting track records” and that the “media learn to stop selective quoting.”Both the opposition Labour Party and at least two of Johnson’s own Conservatives had called for him to be fired.”Andrew Sabisky’s presence in No.10 is a poor reflection on the government and there is no way to defend it. He needs to go. ‘Weirdos’ and ‘misfits’ are all very well, but please can they not gratuitously cause offense,” Conservative lawmaker William Wragg wrote on Twitter before Sabisky resigned.Online postsAn account in Sabisky’s name made the comments about black IQ in a reply to a 2014 blog post written by an American professor discussing education disabilities in the United States.In 2016, replying to a blog post written by Cummings, an account in Sabisky’s name said:”One way to get around the problems of unplanned pregnancies creating a permanent underclass would be to legally enforce universal uptake of long-term contraception at the onset of puberty. Vaccination laws give it a precedent, I would argue.”Johnson’s spokesman earlier repeatedly refused to comment on whether Johnson shared Sabisky’s views, saying only that the prime minister’s own views were well known. He would not confirm the nature of Sabisky’s role.
 

UK Grapples With Severe Floods; Storm Death Toll Rises to 3

Britain issued severe flood warnings Monday, advising of life-threatening danger after Storm Dennis dumped weeks’ worth of rain in some places. A woman was found dead after being swept away by the floodwaters, the storm’s third confirmed victim.To the east, Dennis’ gale-force winds also left nine people injured in Germany as their vehicles crashed into broken trees littering roads and train tracks. Flooding and power outages were reported elsewhere in northern Europe.By Monday evening, Britain’s Environment Agency issued seven severe flood warnings in the central English counties of Herefordshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire. Another 200 lower-level flood warnings were also in place, meaning that flooding was expected.Some 480 flood warnings and alerts were issued across England on Monday, the highest number on record, the agency said.A man uses a plank of wood to paddle a kayak on floodwater after the River Wye burst its banks in Ross-on-Wye, western England, Feb. 17, 2020, in the aftermath of Storm Dennis.The storm’s confirmed death toll rose to three as West Mercia Police said a body had been found in the search for a 55-year-old woman who had been missing near Tenbury in Worcestershire since Sunday.A man pulled from the water in the same incident was airlifted to a hospital, where he remains in stable condition, police said.’I’ve never seen anything like it’The weather system brought winds of more than 145 kph (90 mph) and up to 150 millimeters (6 inches) of rain to Britain over the weekend. And the tumult is not over.”We expect disruptive weather into the middle of this week bringing a significant flood risk for the West Midlands, and there are flood warnings in place across much of England,” said Toby Willison, Executive Director of Operations at Britain’s Environment Agency.Forecasters said river levels in parts of northern England had yet to reach their peak. In the northern England city of York, authorities were piling up more than 4,000 sandbags as the River Ouse continued to rise. It’s expected to peak Tuesday.Other residents in Wales and western England were cleaning up Monday after the storm flooded roads, railways, homes and businesses and disrupted travel across Britain. Some told stories of fleeing for their lives.People bail water out of flooded homes after the River Wye burst its banks in Ross-on-Wye, western England, Feb. 17, 2020, in the aftermath of Storm Dennis.Jeanette Cox, 68 and her daughter Rachel woke up to the sound of water in their home in the Welsh village of Nantgarw, near Cardiff, about at 4 a.m. Sunday. Cox said the only object that survived downstairs was her wedding day photograph that she had kept on a windowsill. Her husband Bill died from cancer in 2009.”It was pitch black,” she said. “All you could hear was the water running. I’ve never seen anything like it. I was very frightened.”Climate changeBritain’s environment secretary said climate change was making extreme weather events more common. But Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government denied it was unprepared for such storms.”We’ll never be able to protect every single household, just because of the nature of climate change and the fact that these weather events are becoming more extreme, but we’ve done everything that we can do with a significant sum of money,” Environment Secretary George Eustice said.The fish market is flooded during a storm surge in Hamburg, Germany, Feb. 17, 2020.In Germany, at least nine people were injured in weather-related car accidents as high winds brought trees down onto roads and train tracks.A commuter train with 67 passengers also crashed into a fallen tree in the western German city of Dortmund, but no one was injured. And in the German city of Hamburg, the city’s famous fish market was flooded for the second time this month.Further north, strong winds and heavy rains caused flooding, road closures and electricity outages across the Nordic and Baltic regions and forced the cancellation of several ferries between Denmark and Norway.In Denmark, the southwestern city of Kolding was flooded as gale force winds and heavy rains battered the area. In nearby Horsens, police protectively evacuated residents near Bygholm Lake out of fear that a levee would collapse.In southwestern Norway, more than half a dozen roads and several mountain passes were closed amid heavy snow and high winds.
 

Hamlin Wins 3rd Daytona 500; Newman Hospitalized

Denny Hamlin won his second straight Daytona 500 and third overall, beating Ryan Blaney in an overtime photo finish marred by a terrifying crash that sent Ryan Newman to the hospital on Monday.Newman had surged into the lead on the final lap when Blaney’s bumper caught the back of his Ford and sent Newman hard right into the wall. His car flipped, rolled, was hit on the driver’s side by another car, and finally skidded across the finish line engulfed in flames.It took several minutes for his car to be rolled back onto its wheels. He was placed in a waiting ambulance and taken directly to a hospital.Denny Hamlin, right, celebrates as he and crew members hoist the championship trophy after winning the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Feb. 17, 2020, in Daytona Beach, Fla.Hamlin is the first driver since Sterling Marlin in 1995 to win consecutive Daytona 500s, but his celebration in victory lane was subdued.“I think we take for granted sometimes how safe the cars are and number one, we are praying for Ryan,” Hamlin said.Runner-up Blaney said the way the final lap shook out, with Newman surging ahead of Hamlin, that Blaney locked in behind Newman in a move of brand alliance for Ford.“We pushed Newman there to the lead and then we got a push from the 11 … I was committed to just pushing him to the win and having a Ford win it and got the bumpers hooked up wrong,” he said. “It looked bad.”NASCAR gave no immediate announcement on Newman’s status and officials moved bystanders away from the crash scene.Hamlin had eight Ford drivers lined up behind him as the leader on the second overtime shootout without a single fellow Toyota driver in the vicinity to help him. It allowed Newman to get past him for the lead, but the bumping in the pack led to Newman’s hard turn right into the wall, followed by multiple rolls and a long skid across the finish line.Hamlin’s win last year was a 1-2-3 sweep for Joe Gibbs Racing and kicked off a yearlong company celebration in which Gibbs drivers won a record 19 races and the Cup championship.Now his third Daytona 500 win puts him alongside six Hall of Fame drivers as winners of three or more Daytona 500s. He tied Dale Jarrett — who gave JGR its first Daytona 500 win in 1993 —Jeff Gordon and Bobby Allison. Hamlin trails Cale Yarborough’s four wins and the record seven by Richard Petty.This victory came after just the second rain postponement in 62 years, a visit from President Donald Trump, a pair of red flag stoppages and two overtimes. The 0.014 margin of victory was the second closest in race history, and Hamlin’s win over Martin Truex Jr. in 2016 was the closest finish in race history.That margin of victory was 0.01 seconds. The win in “The Great American Race” is the third for Toyota, all won by Hamlin. Gibbs has four Daytona 500 victories as an owner.

US Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Over Transgender Pronoun Dispute

A judge dismissed a professor’s lawsuit against a small, public university in Ohio that rebuked him for not addressing a transgender student using the student’s preferred gender terms.
    
Nicholas Meriwether’s federal lawsuit alleged that Shawnee State University officials violated his rights by compelling him to speak in a way that contradicts his Christian beliefs.
    
Schools officials contended that such language was part of his job responsibilities, not speech protected by the First Amendment, and that the case should be dismissed. U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott dismissed it last week, agreeing that the manner in which Meriwether addressed the student wasn’t protected under the First Amendment.
    
A message seeking comment was left Monday for Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented Meriwether.
    
He had received a written warning for violating the school’s nondiscrimination policy and unsuccessfully challenged his reprimand in a grievance process. Meriwether said he treated the student like “other biologically male students.”