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Feds say Chicago man charged with entering US Capitol during attack posted photo outside Nancy Pelosi’s office

CHICAGO — A Chicago man was arrested Wednesday on federal charges alleging he participated in last week’s mob attack on the U.S. Capitol, posting a photo of the plaque outside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s ransacked office.

Kevin Lyons, 40, of the Gladstone Park neighborhood on the Northwest Side, was charged in a criminal complaint in Washington with misdemeanor counts of knowingly entering a restricted building without lawful authority and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. Authorities said he also took phone videos while in the building.

He was arrested at his home in the 5500 block of North Mason Avenue and appeared via a telephone link from jail before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel Fuentes, who ordered him released on a $10,000 recognizance bond.

As part of the conditions of release, Fuentes ordered Lyons to have no contact with anyone involved in the Jan. 6 riot or anyone planning “any act that would impede or disturb the normal course of business” of Congress or any other federal agency.

Lyons spoke quickly when asked if he understood each condition, at one point laughing as he said, “I understand and agree, your honor.”

His court-appointed attorney, Lawrence Wolf Levin, did not address the charges during the hearing.

Before the incident at the Capitol, Lyons had posted a message on his Instagram account stating “STOP THE STEAL” — a reference to President Donald Trump’s false claims the election was stolen. He also posted a map showing he was headed from Chicago to Washington with a caption that read, “I refuse to tell my children that I sat back and did nothing.”

It appears from that account that Lyons works as an HVAC technician.

According to the 12-page criminal complaint, Lyons was interviewed by the FBI in Chicago two days after the riot. At first, he was “evasive” about whether he’d been at the Capitol, saying he’d had a “dream” where people were being herded by a mob and there was “a lot of banging on doors” and “paper being thrown about.”

Agents then confronted him with a photo he’d posted to Instagram and then deleted showing the name plate outside Pelosi’s office with the caption, “WHOS HOUSE?!?!? OUR HOUSE!!”

“Wow you are pretty good, that was up for only an hour,” Lyons said to investigators, according to the complaint.

Lyons then admitted he had indeed entered the Capitol but claimed he’d been swept up by the mob and that there was “very little that he could do to escape the crowd because he weighed 140 pounds,” according to the complaint.

Lyons told agents he walked into the building through a set of rear doors and wandered to the Rotunda to get his bearings. He went up to the second floor but didn’t go to the House chambers because he didn’t know where it was located, according to the document.

He said when he entered the “big boss” office — a reference to Pelosi — he saw a broken mirror and up to 30 people inside. A Capitol police officer then entered with his gun drawn and ordered them out, according to the complaint. Lyons said he put his hands over his head and walked out of the building and to his car, and then returned to Chicago.

At the request of the agents, Lyons uploaded the videos he’d taken of the incident to YouTube and later sent a link to investigators.

“Hello Nice FBI Lady,” Lyons emailed a special agent on Jan. 9., according to the complaint. “Here are the links to the videos. Looks like Podium Guy is in one of them, less the podium. Let me know if you need anything else.”

“Podium Guy” was an apparent reference to Adam Johnson, 36, who was charged with participating in the riot after he was allegedly caught on camera carrying the House speaker’s lectern.

Neighbors on Wednesday said Lyons had lived in an upstairs apartment in the quiet block and worked for a local heating and cooling company. His company repair van was still parked out front Wednesday afternoon.

Lyons’ Instagram profile, meanwhile, contained numerous posts decrying Chicago violence and the recent civil unrest over police shootings of Black people.

Most of the other Instagram posts that remained accessible Wednesday had to do with Lyons’ work in HVAC: his tools, scenes from his jobs around the city and inside jokes aimed at fellow HVAC workers.

In others, he showed off his guns, including one photo of a firearm resting between his legs as he sat in the driver’s seat of a car. “All I want in life is to bring people comfort,” he wrote. “Please don’t make me bring the pain.”

In October, he posted a photo of what purported to be an arrest report. Lyons wrote in the caption: “Schaumburg PD didn’t appreciate me taking the fight to Antifa today,” he wrote.

Another post showed Lyons carrying what appeared to be a black pistol and wearing a gas mask and flak jacket with the words “HVAC TECH” on the vest. “Just donning my P.P.E. to run service calls in Chicago,” he wrote in the caption.

Court records show Lyons’ only Cook County conviction was a misdemeanor battery dating to 1998. Details on that incident were not immediately available. He also was charged in 2014 with obstructing an officer after allegedly “taunting” police who were arresting someone else after a traffic stop. That case was dismissed shortly after it was filed.

Lyons is the second person from the Chicago area to be charged with directly participating in the events last Wednesday, when supporters of the Republican president stormed the U.S. Capitol to stop Congress from ratifying the electoral vote for President-elect Joe Biden, leading to the deaths of a police officer and four others.

Last week, Bradley Rukstales, of Inverness, then-CEO of a Schaumburg tech firm, was charged in U.S. District Court in Washington with being part of the same mob.

———

(Chicago Tribune’s Paige Fry contributed to this report.)


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Feds say Chicago man charged with entering US Capitol during attack posted photo outside Nancy Pelosi’s office

CHICAGO — A Chicago man was arrested Wednesday on federal charges alleging he participated in last week’s mob attack on the U.S. Capitol, posting a photo of the plaque outside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s ransacked office.

Kevin Lyons, 40, of the Gladstone Park neighborhood on the Northwest Side, was charged in a criminal complaint in Washington with misdemeanor counts of knowingly entering a restricted building without lawful authority and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. Authorities said he also took phone videos while in the building.

He was arrested at his home in the 5500 block of North Mason Avenue and appeared via a telephone link from jail before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel Fuentes, who ordered him released on a $10,000 recognizance bond.

As part of the conditions of release, Fuentes ordered Lyons to have no contact with anyone involved in the Jan. 6 riot or anyone planning “any act that would impede or disturb the normal course of business” of Congress or any other federal agency.

Lyons spoke quickly when asked if he understood each condition, at one point laughing as he said, “I understand and agree, your honor.”

His court-appointed attorney, Lawrence Wolf Levin, did not address the charges during the hearing.

Before the incident at the Capitol, Lyons had posted a message on his Instagram account stating “STOP THE STEAL” — a reference to President Donald Trump’s false claims the election was stolen. He also posted a map showing he was headed from Chicago to Washington with a caption that read, “I refuse to tell my children that I sat back and did nothing.”

It appears from that account that Lyons works as an HVAC technician.

According to the 12-page criminal complaint, Lyons was interviewed by the FBI in Chicago two days after the riot. At first, he was “evasive” about whether he’d been at the Capitol, saying he’d had a “dream” where people were being herded by a mob and there was “a lot of banging on doors” and “paper being thrown about.”

Agents then confronted him with a photo he’d posted to Instagram and then deleted showing the name plate outside Pelosi’s office with the caption, “WHOS HOUSE?!?!? OUR HOUSE!!”

“Wow you are pretty good, that was up for only an hour,” Lyons said to investigators, according to the complaint.

Lyons then admitted he had indeed entered the Capitol but claimed he’d been swept up by the mob and that there was “very little that he could do to escape the crowd because he weighed 140 pounds,” according to the complaint.

Lyons told agents he walked into the building through a set of rear doors and wandered to the Rotunda to get his bearings. He went up to the second floor but didn’t go to the House chambers because he didn’t know where it was located, according to the document.

He said when he entered the “big boss” office — a reference to Pelosi — he saw a broken mirror and up to 30 people inside. A Capitol police officer then entered with his gun drawn and ordered them out, according to the complaint. Lyons said he put his hands over his head and walked out of the building and to his car, and then returned to Chicago.

At the request of the agents, Lyons uploaded the videos he’d taken of the incident to YouTube and later sent a link to investigators.

“Hello Nice FBI Lady,” Lyons emailed a special agent on Jan. 9., according to the complaint. “Here are the links to the videos. Looks like Podium Guy is in one of them, less the podium. Let me know if you need anything else.”

“Podium Guy” was an apparent reference to Adam Johnson, 36, who was charged with participating in the riot after he was allegedly caught on camera carrying the House speaker’s lectern.

Neighbors on Wednesday said Lyons had lived in an upstairs apartment in the quiet block and worked for a local heating and cooling company. His company repair van was still parked out front Wednesday afternoon.

Lyons’ Instagram profile, meanwhile, contained numerous posts decrying Chicago violence and the recent civil unrest over police shootings of Black people.

Most of the other Instagram posts that remained accessible Wednesday had to do with Lyons’ work in HVAC: his tools, scenes from his jobs around the city and inside jokes aimed at fellow HVAC workers.

In others, he showed off his guns, including one photo of a firearm resting between his legs as he sat in the driver’s seat of a car. “All I want in life is to bring people comfort,” he wrote. “Please don’t make me bring the pain.”

In October, he posted a photo of what purported to be an arrest report. Lyons wrote in the caption: “Schaumburg PD didn’t appreciate me taking the fight to Antifa today,” he wrote.

Another post showed Lyons carrying what appeared to be a black pistol and wearing a gas mask and flak jacket with the words “HVAC TECH” on the vest. “Just donning my P.P.E. to run service calls in Chicago,” he wrote in the caption.

Court records show Lyons’ only Cook County conviction was a misdemeanor battery dating to 1998. Details on that incident were not immediately available. He also was charged in 2014 with obstructing an officer after allegedly “taunting” police who were arresting someone else after a traffic stop. That case was dismissed shortly after it was filed.

Lyons is the second person from the Chicago area to be charged with directly participating in the events last Wednesday, when supporters of the Republican president stormed the U.S. Capitol to stop Congress from ratifying the electoral vote for President-elect Joe Biden, leading to the deaths of a police officer and four others.

Last week, Bradley Rukstales, of Inverness, then-CEO of a Schaumburg tech firm, was charged in U.S. District Court in Washington with being part of the same mob.

———

(Chicago Tribune’s Paige Fry contributed to this report.)


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Feds sue Walmart over role in opioid crisis

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is suing Walmart, alleging the company unlawfully dispensed controlled substances through its pharmacies, helping to fuel the opioid crisis in America.

The civil complaint being filed Tuesday points to the role Walmart’s pharmacies may have played in the crisis by filling opioid prescriptions and by unlawfully distributing controlled substances to the pharmacies during the height of the opioid crisis. Walmart operates more than 5,000 pharmacies in its stores around the country.

The Justice Department alleges Walmart violated federal law by selling thousands of prescriptions for controlled substances that its pharmacists “knew were invalid,” said Jeffrey Clark, the acting assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s civil division.

Federal law required Walmart to spot suspicious orders for controlled substances and report those to the Drug Enforcement Administration, but prosecutors charge the company didn’t do that. Walmart couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

“Walmart knew that its distribution centers were using an inadequate system for detecting and reporting suspicious orders,” said Jason Dunn, the U.S. attorney in Colorado. “As a result of this inadequate system, for years Walmart reported virtually no suspicious orders at all. In other words, Walmart’s pharmacies ordered opioids in a way that went essentially unmonitored and unregulated.”

Clark said Walmart “violated important provisions of the Controlled Substances Act that were meant to prevent such controlled substances, including prescription opioids, from being diverted for misuse and abuse.”

AP reported the news of the lawsuit ahead of the Justice Department’s public announcement, citing a person who could not discuss the matter publicly before the announced move. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

The Justice Department’s lawsuit comes nearly two months after Walmart filed its own preemptive suit against the Justice Department, Attorney General William Barr and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

In its lawsuit, Walmart said the Justice Department’s investigation — launched in 2016 — had identified hundreds of doctors who wrote problematic prescriptions that Walmart’s pharmacists should not have filled. But the lawsuit charged that nearly 70% of the doctors still have active registrations with the DEA.

Walmart’s lawsuit alleged the government was blaming it for the lack of regulatory and enforcement policies to stem the crisis. The company is asking a federal judge to declare the suit has no basis to seek civil damages; the suit remains ongoing.

The initial investigation was the subject of a ProPublica story published in March. ProPublica reported that Joe Brown, then U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas office, spent years pursuing a criminal case against Walmart for its opioid prescription practices, only to have it stymied after the retail giant’s lawyers appealed to senior officials in the Justice Department.

Two months later, Brown resigned. He didn’t give a reason for his departure except to say he would be “pursuing opportunities in the private and public sectors” and that “some of those will become apparent in the coming days.” Brown went into private practice in the Dallas area.


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More immigrant women say they were abused by Ice gynecologist

More women have joined an official legal petition alleging that they were medically abused by a gynecologist while in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) custody in a move that significantly expands a case that has shocked America.

The legal petition outlining these alleged abuses were filed in the Middle District of Georgia federal court late Monday night. More than 40 women have submitted written testimony attesting to claims of abuse, one attorney on their case said.

These women, who have been detained by Ice at Irwin county detention center in Georgia, have alleged that they underwent invasive and unnecessary medical procedures. The women’s attorneys have also alleged that these women endured retribution for speaking out, including deportation in some cases. The petition largely echoed past legal filings and accounts by accusers.

“Petitioners were victims of non-consensual, medically unindicated and/or invasive gynecological procedures, including unnecessary surgical procedures under general anesthesia, performed by and/or at the direction of [gynaecologist Dr Mahendra Amin],” the petition said. “In many instances, the medically unindicated gynecological procedures Respondent Amin performed on Petitioners amounted to sexual assault.”

Officials were aware of this alleged misconduct since 2018, the petition further alleged, “but have nonetheless continued a policy or custom of sending women to be mistreated and abused by Respondent Amin … The experiences Petitioners had at the hands of Respondent Amin form part of a disturbing pattern of inhumane medical abuse and mistreatment at ICDC.”

“This is an effort to protect women who have suffered horrendous medical atrocities while detained in US custody, and every effort has been made by both Ice and the contractors at this facility to cover up these medical abuses,” said Elora Mukherjee, director of Columbia Law School’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, a leading attorney on the case.

She added: “For more than two years, both the government, and the private contractors who run this facility, have turned a blind eye to the enormous suffering and intentional harm–and intentional medical abuse – that has taken place here.”

“It’s unlike anything I ever expected to see in America,” Mukherjee said.

The women’s allegations emerged after a shocking whistleblower report. This report, which was submitted on behalf of a former nurse at the facility, Dawn Wooten, alleged that an alarmingly high number of hysterectomies were performed on Spanish-speaking women. Wooten and other nurses feared that these women did not understand the procedures they underwent.

Wooten alleged that the doctor performing these procedures, who was subsequently named as gynecologist Dr Mahendra Amin, had become notorious for performing these operations – so much so that she called him the “uterus collector” in her whistleblower account.

“Everybody he sees has a hysterectomy – just about everybody,” Wooten stated in her complaint. “I’ve had several inmates tell me that they’ve been to see the doctor, and they’ve had hysterectomies, and they don’t know why they went or why they’re going.”

Wooten also said that the medical center where these procedures were performed had unsanitary conditions, as well as poor safety measures against Covid-19.

Amin has denied the allegations and told the Intercept that he had only conducted “one or two hysterectomies in the past two [or] three years”. He did not specify whether these procedures were performed on women in Irwin.

The physician’s lawyer, Scott Grubman, said in a previous statement: “We look forward to all of the facts coming out, and are confident that once they do, Dr Amin will be cleared of any wrongdoing.” Ice contended that its records indicate just two referrals for hysterectomies at Irwin.

The accusations have spurred comparisons with the US’s disturbing history of eugenics. From 1907 to 1937, two-thirds of US states passed laws that permitted involuntary sterilization – resulting in the sterilization of more than 60,000 people.

An increase in federal funding for reproductive health procedures in the 1960s and 1970s, in conjunction with racism and anti-immigrant sentiment, resulted in “tens of thousands” of women of color undergoing sterilizations.

Though forced sterilization was made illegal, it has continued. From 1997 to 2013, approximately 1,400 inmates were sterilized in California prisons.


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Author: Victoria Bekiempis

Google slapped with third antitrust suit in 2 months

Dozens of states filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google on Thursday, alleging the search giant has an illegal monopoly over the online search market that hurts consumers and advertisers. The move marks the third lawsuit against the search giant in less than two months.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Washington by attorneys general of 35 states as well as the District of Columbia and the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico.

“Consumers are denied the benefits of competition, including the possibility of higher quality services and better privacy protections. Advertisers are harmed through lower quality and higher prices that are, in turn, passed along to consumers,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said in announcing the action.

In a blog post, Google’s director of economic policy, Adam Cohen, said that Google’s search is designed to bring the most useful information to consumers. “Our rigorous testing tells us that you far prefer these types of rich results,” he wrote.

“But this lawsuit seeks to redesign search in ways that would deprive Americans of helpful information and hurt businesses’ ability to connect directly with customers. We look forward to making that case in court, while remaining focused on delivering a high-quality search experience for our users,” Cohen wrote.

The case is the third antitrust salvo to slam Google in the past two months, as the U.S. Department of Justice and attorneys general from across the U.S. weigh in with their different variations on how they believe the company is abusing its immense power to do bad things that harm other businesses, innovation and even consumers who find its services to be indispensable.

“There’s not been a cluster of cases of this significance since the 1970s,” said William Kovacic, a law professor at George Washington University and a former chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, pointing to the recent spate of antitrust actions by the states, the Justice Department and the FTC. “This is a big deal.”

The DOJ brought an antitrust suit against AT&T in 1974 that led to its breakup.

Suit seeks to join federal efforts

The DOJ sued Google less than two months ago, alleging that the company maintains its search dominance through illegal means. Thursday’s lawsuit echoes the allegations brought by the federal government but goes beyond them by seeking to stop Google from becoming dominant in the latest generation of technology, such as voice assistant devices and internet-connected cars. It also claims that the company discriminates against specialized search providers that provide travel, home repair and entertainment services, and denies access to its search-advertising management tool, SA360, to competitors such as Bing.

The lawsuit was joined by the attorneys general of Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.


Key issues as big tech CEOs face Congress

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The attorneys general have worked with the Justice Department as they developed their complaint and are asking that their case be combined with the department’s lawsuit, allowing those more forward-looking claims to move ahead, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said.

“This will be a unified effort,” he said.

Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, welcomed that latest suit.

“Google has built a monopoly in online advertising that is unfair, excludes competitors and drives up prices. And with its control of its search engine, Google has been able to unfairly filter out listings for competitors while promoting its own businesses,” said Alex Harman, a competition policy advocate for the group.

On Wednesday, 10 states led by Republican attorneys general filed a lawsuit against Google accusing it of “anti-competitive conduct” in the online advertising industry, including a deal to manipulate sales with rival Facebook. It targeted the heart of Google’s business — the digital ads that generate nearly all of its revenue, as well as all the money that its corporate parent, Alphabet Inc., depends upon to help finance a range of far-flung technology projects.

Dozens of states file anti-trust lawsuit against Google

DENVER (AP) — Dozens of states filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Google on Thursday, alleging that the search giant has an illegal monopoly over the online search market that hurts consumers and advertisers.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. by attorneys general of 35 states as well as the District of Columbia and the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico.

“Consumers are denied the benefits of competition, including the possibility of higher quality services and better privacy protections. Advertisers are harmed through lower quality and higher prices that are, in turn, passed along to consumers,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said in announcing the action.

The lawsuit was joined by the attorneys general of Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Google did not respond to a request for comment.

The case is the third antitrust salvo to slam Google during the past two months as the U.S. Department of Justice and attorneys general from across the U.S. weigh in with their different variations on how they believe the company is abusing its immense power to do bad things that harm other businesses, innovation and even consumers who find its services to be indispensable.

In many ways, the flurry of U.S. antitrust suits represent an attempt to catch up with European regulators who have spent the past several years trying to crack down on Google, mostly with huge fines, to little noticeable effect so far.

The latest lawsuit echoes the allegations brought by the federal government but goes beyond them by seeking to stop Google from becoming dominant in the latest generation of technology, such as voice assistant devices and internet-connected cars, as well as claiming that the company discriminates against specialized search providers that provide travel, home repair and entertainment services and denies access to its search-advertising management tool, SA360, to competitors like Bing.

The attorneys general have worked with the Justice Department as they developed their case and are asking that their case be combined with the department’s lawsuit, allowing those more forward-looking claims to move ahead, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said.

“This will be a unified effort,” he said.

Public Citizen, a non-profit consumer advocacy organization, welcomed that latest suit.

“Google has built a monopoly in online advertising that is unfair, excludes competitors and drives up prices. And with its control of its search engine, Google has been able to unfairly filter out listings for competitors while promoting its own businesses,” said Alex Harman, a competition policy advocate for the group.

On Wednesday, 10 states led by Republican attorneys general filed a lawsuit against Google accusing it of “anti-competitive conduct” in the online advertising industry, including a deal to manipulate sales with rival Facebook. It targeted the heart of Google’s business — the digital ads that generate nearly all of its revenue, as well as all the money that its corporate parent, Alphabet Inc., depends upon to help finance a range of far-flung technology projects.

___

This story has been updated to reflect the lawsuit is an effort of 35 states as well as the District of Columbia and the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico, not 38 states.


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Dozens of states file anti-trust lawsuit against Google

DENVER (AP) — Dozens of states filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Google on Thursday, alleging that the search giant has an illegal monopoly over the online search market that hurts consumers and advertisers.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. by attorneys general of 35 states as well as the District of Columbia and the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico.

“Consumers are denied the benefits of competition, including the possibility of higher quality services and better privacy protections. Advertisers are harmed through lower quality and higher prices that are, in turn, passed along to consumers,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said in announcing the action.

The lawsuit was joined by the attorneys general of Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Google did not respond to a request for comment.

The case is the third antitrust salvo to slam Google during the past two months as the U.S. Department of Justice and attorneys general from across the U.S. weigh in with their different variations on how they believe the company is abusing its immense power to do bad things that harm other businesses, innovation and even consumers who find its services to be indispensable.

In many ways, the flurry of U.S. antitrust suits represent an attempt to catch up with European regulators who have spent the past several years trying to crack down on Google, mostly with huge fines, to little noticeable effect so far.

The latest lawsuit echoes the allegations brought by the federal government but goes beyond them by seeking to stop Google from becoming dominant in the latest generation of technology, such as voice assistant devices and internet-connected cars, as well as claiming that the company discriminates against specialized search providers that provide travel, home repair and entertainment services and denies access to its search-advertising management tool, SA360, to competitors like Bing.

The attorneys general have worked with the Justice Department as they developed their case and are asking that their case be combined with the department’s lawsuit, allowing those more forward-looking claims to move ahead, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said.

“This will be a unified effort,” he said.

Public Citizen, a non-profit consumer advocacy organization, welcomed that latest suit.

“Google has built a monopoly in online advertising that is unfair, excludes competitors and drives up prices. And with its control of its search engine, Google has been able to unfairly filter out listings for competitors while promoting its own businesses,” said Alex Harman, a competition policy advocate for the group.

On Wednesday, 10 states led by Republican attorneys general filed a lawsuit against Google accusing it of “anti-competitive conduct” in the online advertising industry, including a deal to manipulate sales with rival Facebook. It targeted the heart of Google’s business — the digital ads that generate nearly all of its revenue, as well as all the money that its corporate parent, Alphabet Inc., depends upon to help finance a range of far-flung technology projects.

___

This story has been updated to reflect the lawsuit is an effort of 35 states as well as the District of Columbia and the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico, not 38 states.


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Court upholds dismissal of Chemours lawsuit against DuPont

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Delaware’s Supreme Court has upheld a judge’s dismissal of a lawsuit alleging that the DuPont Co. massively downplayed the cost of environmental liabilities imposed on spinoff company Chemours.

The court issued a one-page ruling dated Tuesday affirming the March decision of a Chancery Court judge who said he had no jurisdiction to hear the case because the dispute was subject to mandatory arbitration.

Chemours sued DuPont last year, alleging that DuPont deliberately lowballed the cost of environmental liabilities Chemours would face in reimbursing DuPont for pollution related to human-made chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

The chemicals have been used in firefighting foam, nonstick cookware, water-repellent clothing and many other household and personal items. They sometimes are referred to as “forever chemicals” because of their longevity in the environment.

The PFAS family of chemicals, which have been associated with increased risk of cancer and other health problems, includes perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, which was used in the production of Teflon.

Vice Chancellor Sam Glasscock III ruled that he had no jurisdiction to hear the case because the separation agreement between the companies clearly states that all disputes arising from the spinoff are subject to binding arbitration.

“We have consistently maintained Chemours’ allegations are without merit and should be handled through the private arbitration process required by the separation agreement and are gratified that the court agreed,” DuPont spokesman Daniel Turner said in an email.

A spokeswoman for Chemours did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Chemours argued on appeal that the arbitration clause was unenforceable because the designated management team of Chemours did not give its consent, as required by the Federal Arbitration Act, but instead was forced in the separation agreement to follow the dictates of DuPont as the parent company.

According to court papers filed by Chemours, DuPont appointed three of its own employees as the Chemours board of directors, which noted that DuPont had concluded the spinoff was in DuPont’s best interests, then approved the separation agreement.

The DuPont-installed directors resigned shortly afterward and one of them, DuPont lawyer Nigel Pond, was redesignated vice president of Chemours. Ponds signed the separation agreement in that capacity, then immediately resigned from Chemours, according to the court filing.

“Is there any doubt that Chemours was under the domination of DuPont?” Chemours attorney William Savitt asked at a hearing earlier this month.

DuPont argued that the separation agreement was a valid contract under Delaware law and the arbitration delegation clause was not subject to challenge as being “procedurally unconscionable.”

DuPont attorney Robert Saunders also noted that, under Delaware law, the directors and officers of a wholly-owned subsidiary owe their duties to the parent company and its stockholders.

“As a result, the enforceability of agreements entered into a between a parent and a wholly-owned subsidiary, including agreements to arbitrate, are not called into question merely because the parent dictates their terms,” he said.

Saunders also said Chemours’ challenge to the separation agreement was moot because in 2017, two years after the separation, a fully independent Chemours agreed to amendments to the separation agreement under which all of its terms, including the mandatory arbitration provision, remained “in full force and effect.”

When it spun off its former performance chemicals unit in 2015, DuPont was facing multidistrict litigation involving 3,500 personal injury claims related to PFOA. DuPont pegged the maximum liability for those cases at $128 million. Dupont settled 19 months later for $671 million, agreeing to pay half the settlement amount, and up to $125 million more toward costs of other PFOA-related litigation. Chemours paid the other half.

Chemours claimed that DuPont had “a keen incentive” to downplay environmental liabilities while extracting a multibillion-dollar dividend from Chemours that would help fund a stock buyback. Chemours sought a declaratory judgment from the court limiting DuPont’s indemnification rights to the maximum liabilities it certified, or for an order directing the return of the $3.9 billion dividend.

Meanwhile, Chemours, DuPont and other chemical companies have been the subject of new lawsuits over water contamination related to PFAS chemicals.

A Chemours attorney told Glasscock last year that Chemours faced more than $200 million in costs to address environmental issues at a North Carolina manufacturing facility, 100 times more than DuPont’s estimated $2 million maximum liability.

Chemours also has said that potential environmental liabilities in New Jersey far exceed the $337 million cited by DuPont at the time of the spinoff.


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Court upholds dismissal of Chemours lawsuit against DuPont

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Delaware’s Supreme Court has upheld a judge’s dismissal of a lawsuit alleging that the DuPont Co. massively downplayed the cost of environmental liabilities imposed on spinoff company Chemours.

The court issued a one-page ruling dated Tuesday affirming the March decision of a Chancery Court judge who said he had no jurisdiction to hear the case because the dispute was subject to mandatory arbitration.

Chemours sued DuPont last year, alleging that DuPont deliberately lowballed the cost of environmental liabilities Chemours would face in reimbursing DuPont for pollution related to human-made chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

The chemicals have been used in firefighting foam, nonstick cookware, water-repellent clothing and many other household and personal items. They sometimes are referred to as “forever chemicals” because of their longevity in the environment.

The PFAS family of chemicals, which have been associated with increased risk of cancer and other health problems, includes perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, which was used in the production of Teflon.

Vice Chancellor Sam Glasscock III ruled that he had no jurisdiction to hear the case because the separation agreement between the companies clearly states that all disputes arising from the spinoff are subject to binding arbitration.

“We have consistently maintained Chemours’ allegations are without merit and should be handled through the private arbitration process required by the separation agreement and are gratified that the court agreed,” DuPont spokesman Daniel Turner said in an email.

A spokeswoman for Chemours did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Chemours argued on appeal that the arbitration clause was unenforceable because the designated management team of Chemours did not give its consent, as required by the Federal Arbitration Act, but instead was forced in the separation agreement to follow the dictates of DuPont as the parent company.

According to court papers filed by Chemours, DuPont appointed three of its own employees as the Chemours board of directors, which noted that DuPont had concluded the spinoff was in DuPont’s best interests, then approved the separation agreement.

The DuPont-installed directors resigned shortly afterward and one of them, DuPont lawyer Nigel Pond, was redesignated vice president of Chemours. Ponds signed the separation agreement in that capacity, then immediately resigned from Chemours, according to the court filing.

“Is there any doubt that Chemours was under the domination of DuPont?” Chemours attorney William Savitt asked at a hearing earlier this month.

DuPont argued that the separation agreement was a valid contract under Delaware law and the arbitration delegation clause was not subject to challenge as being “procedurally unconscionable.”

DuPont attorney Robert Saunders also noted that, under Delaware law, the directors and officers of a wholly-owned subsidiary owe their duties to the parent company and its stockholders.

“As a result, the enforceability of agreements entered into a between a parent and a wholly-owned subsidiary, including agreements to arbitrate, are not called into question merely because the parent dictates their terms,” he said.

Saunders also said Chemours’ challenge to the separation agreement was moot because in 2017, two years after the separation, a fully independent Chemours agreed to amendments to the separation agreement under which all of its terms, including the mandatory arbitration provision, remained “in full force and effect.”

When it spun off its former performance chemicals unit in 2015, DuPont was facing multidistrict litigation involving 3,500 personal injury claims related to PFOA. DuPont pegged the maximum liability for those cases at $128 million. Dupont settled 19 months later for $671 million, agreeing to pay half the settlement amount, and up to $125 million more toward costs of other PFOA-related litigation. Chemours paid the other half.

Chemours claimed that DuPont had “a keen incentive” to downplay environmental liabilities while extracting a multibillion-dollar dividend from Chemours that would help fund a stock buyback. Chemours sought a declaratory judgment from the court limiting DuPont’s indemnification rights to the maximum liabilities it certified, or for an order directing the return of the $3.9 billion dividend.

Meanwhile, Chemours, DuPont and other chemical companies have been the subject of new lawsuits over water contamination related to PFAS chemicals.

A Chemours attorney told Glasscock last year that Chemours faced more than $200 million in costs to address environmental issues at a North Carolina manufacturing facility, 100 times more than DuPont’s estimated $2 million maximum liability.

Chemours also has said that potential environmental liabilities in New Jersey far exceed the $337 million cited by DuPont at the time of the spinoff.


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40 Women Sue Pornhub Parent MindGeek for $80M Over ‘Sex Trafficking’ Videos

Forty women identified only as “Jane Doe” have sued MindGeek, alleging the Montreal-based internet porn company knowingly profited from the sex-trafficking operation GirlsDoPorn. The suit, which was filed Tuesday afternoon in Los Angeles Superior Court, seeks punitive and compensatory damages of more than $80 million.

“Plaintiffs have suffered damages including, but not limited to, severe emotional distress, significant trauma, attempted suicide, and social and familial ostracization,” the complaint alleges. “Further, MindGeek has received ill-gotten gains by selling, marketing and exploiting videos featuring the Plaintiffs’ likenesses.” (MindGeek did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)

The case builds off of a class-action lawsuit that went to trial last year, which The Daily Beast covered extensively, on behalf of 22 Janes Does against GirlsDoPorn. In that case, the plaintiffs alleged the website had coerced, defrauded and intimidated them into filming adult videos. The production company had advertised well-paid shoots on Craigslist and similar websites to recruit young girls into adult videos, under the auspices of anonymity. GirlsDoPorn claimed the videos would remain private—never to be seen in North America or on the internet. But in truth, the company published the videos on their subscription sites and on many of the free porn distribution websites owned by MindGeek.

In a 200-page decision, a California judge sided with the Does, awarding damages of nearly $13 million. Around the same time, a federal attorney in Southern California charged the three primary operators of GirlsDoPorn, as well as three lower-level employees, with federal sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. Two of the men involved were arrested that day—one pleaded guilty, the other is awaiting trial—but the company’s founder, New Zealand native Michael Pratt, fled the country. He remains at large and on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.

The latest case argues that MindGeek knew that GirlsDoPorn was “using fraud, coercion, and intimidation” in their business practices “as early as 2009, and definitely by fall 2016.” MindGeek contracted with GirlsDoPorn in 2011 and continued its partnership until the Department of Justice shut the production company down in October of 2019.

“If MindGeek did not know GirlsDoPorn was a sex trafficking venture before October 2019, it should have known for a great number of reasons,” the complaint states, “the most notable of which is that GirlsDoPorn’s victims sent MindGeek complaints detailing the fraud and coercion they were subjected to by GirlsDoPorn.”

The lawsuit further claims that MindGeek continues to profit from GirlsDoPorn, even after the business went under.

The lawsuit further claims that MindGeek continues to profit from GirlsDoPorn, even after the business went under. “As of Dec. 12 2020, MindGeek still hosts victims’ videos on its websites, including Plaintiffs,” the complaint states. It goes on to argue that MindGeek has placed hyperlinked advertisements around the URLs for the victims’ videos that redirect to assorted pay sites—some of them link to Brazzers, a MindGeek property. Others link to third-party sites, like JerkMate.com.

“MindGeek knew it was partnering with and profiting from a sex trafficking venture for years. MindGeek also knew of the significant harassment and trauma GirlsDoPorn’s victims were enduring by its continued publication of the victims’ videos,” the complaint reads. “MindGeek simply did not care and continued to partner with GirlsDoPorn until it was no longer profitable because of the indictments and arrests. MindGeek’s actions were malicious, oppressive, and taken in reckless disregard of the Plaintiffs’ rights.”

Representatives for MindGeek did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The filing comes just one day after one of MindGeek’s most popular subsidiaries, Pornhub, began a massive overhaul of its content moderation policies. Between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday, the website removed approximately 10.6 million videos—the majority of their content—under a new rule that prohibits uploads from unverified users. The remaining 2.9 million videos on the website supposedly come from verified users in Pornhub’s content partnerships or model program.


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Author: Tarpley Hitt