Conspiracy theorist ordered to pay parents of Sandy Hook massacre victim more than $4m

Conspiracy theorist ordered to pay parents of Sandy Hook massacre victim more than $4m
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Conspiracy theorist ordered to pay parents of Sandy Hook massacre victim more than $4m
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Mark Bankston, lawyer for Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, questions Alex Jones during trial at the Travis County Courthouse in Austin on Aug. 3, 2022. (Austin American-Statesman via AP)
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Updated 05 August 2022

Conspiracy theorist ordered to pay parents of Sandy Hook massacre victim more than $4m

Conspiracy theorist ordered to pay parents of Sandy Hook massacre victim more than $4m
  • Alex Jones had claimed in his fake news website InfoWars that the massacre was a hoax
  • 26 people, including 20 children, were killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting on Dec. 14, 2012 

AUSTIN, Texas: A Texas jury on Thursday ordered conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pay more than $4 million — significantly less than the $150 million being sought — in compensatory damages to the parents of a 6-year-old boy killed in the Sandy Hook massacre, marking the first time the Infowars host has been held financially liable for repeatedly claiming the deadliest school shooting in US history was a hoax.
The Austin jury must still decide how much the Infowars host should pay in punitive damages to Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, whose son Jesse Lewis was among the 20 children and six educators who were killed in the 2012 attack in Newtown, Connecticut.
The parents had sought at least $150 million in compensation for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Jones’ attorney asked the jury to limit damages to $8 — one dollar for each of the compensation charges they are considering — and Jones himself said any award over $2 million “would sink us.”
It likely won’t be the last judgment against Jones — who was not in the courtroom — over his claims that the attack was staged in the interests of increasing gun controls. A Connecticut judge has ruled against him in a similar lawsuit brought by other victims’ families and an FBI agent who worked on the case. He also faces another trial in Austin.
Jones’ lead attorney, Andino Reynal, winked at his co-counsel before leaving the courtroom. He declined to comment on the verdict.
Outside the courthouse, the plaintiffs’ attorney Mark Bankston insisted that the $4.11 million amount wasn’t a disappointment, noting it was only part of the damages Jones will have to pay.
The jury returns Friday to hear more evidence about Jones and his company’s finances.
In a video posted on his website Thursday night, Jones called the reduced award “a major victory.”
“I admitted I was wrong. I admitted it was a mistake. I admitted that I followed disinformation but not on purpose. I apologized to the families. And the jury understood that. What I did to those families was wrong. But I didn’t do it on purpose,” he said.
The award was “more money than my company and I personally have, but we are going to work on trying to make restitution on that,” Jones said.
Bankston suggested any victory declarations might be premature.
“We aren’t done folks,” Bankston said. “We knew coming into this case it was necessary to shoot for the moon to get the jury to understand we were serious and passionate. After tomorrow, he’s going to owe a lot more.”
The total amount awarded in this case could set a marker for the other lawsuits against Jones and underlines the financial threat he’s facing. It also raises new questions about the ability of Infowars — which has been banned from YouTube, Spotify and Twitter for hate speech — to continue operating, although the company’s finances remain unclear.
Jones, who has portrayed the lawsuit as an attack on his First Amendment rights, conceded during the trial that the attack was “100 percent real” and that he was wrong to have lied about it. But Heslin and Lewis told jurors that an apology wouldn’t suffice and called on them to make Jones pay for the years of suffering he has put them and other Sandy Hook families through.
The parents testified Tuesday about how they’ve endured a decade of trauma, inflicted first by the murder of their son and what followed: gun shots fired at a home, online and phone threats, and harassment on the street by strangers. They said the threats and harassment were all fueled by Jones and his conspiracy theory spread to his followers via his website Infowars.
A forensic psychiatrist testified that the parents suffer from “complex post-traumatic stress disorder” inflicted by ongoing trauma, similar to what might be experienced by a soldier at war or a child abuse victim.
At one point in her testimony, Lewis looked directly at Jones, who was sitting barely 10 feet away.
“It seems so incredible to me that we have to do this — that we have to implore you, to punish you — to get you to stop lying,” Lewis told Jones.
Barry Covert, a Buffalo, New York, First Amendment lawyer who is not involved in the Jones case, said the $4 million in compensatory damages was lower than he would have expected given the evidence and testimony.
“But I don’t think Jones can take this as a victory,” he added. “The fact is, $4 million is significant even if we might have thought it would be a little higher.”
Jurors often decline to award any punitive damages after deciding on a compensation figure. But when they choose to, the punitive amount is often higher, Covert said. He said he expects the parents’ attorneys to argue that jurors should send the message that no one should profit off defamation.
“They will want jurors to send the message that you can’t make a quarter of a billion in profit off harming someone and say you’ll just take the damages loss in court,” Covert said.
Jones was the only witness to testify in his defense, and he only attended the trial sporadically while still appearing on his show. And he came under withering attack from the plaintiffs attorneys under cross-examination, as they reviewed Jones’ own video claims about Sandy Hook over the years, and accused him of lying and trying to hide evidence, including text messages and emails about the attack. It also included internal emails sent by an Infowars employee that said “this Sandy Hook stuff is killing us.”
At one point, Jones was told that his attorneys had mistakenly sent Bankston the last two years’ worth of texts from Jones’ cellphone. Bankston said in court Thursday that the US House Jan. 6 committee investigating the 2021 attack on the US Capitol has requested the records and that he intends to comply.
And shortly after Jones declared “I don’t use email,” Jones was shown one that came from his address, and another one from an Infowars business officer telling Jones that the company had earned $800,000 gross in selling its products in a single day, which would amount to nearly $300 million in a year.
Jones’ media company Free Speech Systems, which is Infowars’ parent company, filed for bankruptcy during the two-week trial.
 


South Korea, US conduct missile drill in response to North Korea missile test

South Korea, US conduct missile drill in response to North Korea missile test
Updated 05 October 2022

South Korea, US conduct missile drill in response to North Korea missile test

South Korea, US conduct missile drill in response to North Korea missile test

SEOUL South Korea and the US military fired a volley of missiles into the sea in response to North Korea’s launch of a ballistic missile over Japan, Seoul said on Wednesday, as Pyongyang’s longest-range test yet drew international condemnation.
Nuclear-armed North Korea test-fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) farther than ever before on Tuesday, sending it soaring over Japan for the first time in five years and prompting a warning for residents there to take cover.
South Korean and American troops staged a missile drill of their own in response, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Wednesday.
Each side fired a pair of US-made ATACMS short-range ballistic missiles, according to a statement.
The military separately confirmed that a South Korean Hyunmoo-2 missile failed shortly after launch and crashed, but caused no casualties.
US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned North Korea’s test in the “strongest terms,” the European Union called it a “reckless and deliberately provocative action,” and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the launch and said it was a violation of Security Council resolutions. The United States asked the UN Security Council to meet on North Korea on Wednesday but diplomats said China and Russia are opposed to a public discussion by the 15-member body.


Indonesia pins hopes on UAE trade pact to open new export markets

Indonesia pins hopes on UAE trade pact to open new export markets
Updated 05 October 2022

Indonesia pins hopes on UAE trade pact to open new export markets

Indonesia pins hopes on UAE trade pact to open new export markets
  • Indonesia-UAE bilateral trade volume reached around $4 billion in 2021
  • Trade pact erases about 99 percent of existing tariffs, Indonesian ministry says

JAKARTA: Indonesia is hopeful that a wide-ranging economic pact with the UAE will open more markets in the Gulf region to the country’s exports, the Trade Ministry said on Tuesday, as officials aim to ratify the agreement by November.

Indonesia and the UAE signed the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement in July, after talks aimed at eliminating tariffs and boosting investment between the two countries were launched in September 2021. The pact is Jakarta’s first with a Gulf country and Abu Dhabi’s first with a Southeast Asian nation.

Bilateral trade volume reached around $4 billion last year, according to Indonesian Trade Ministry data, showcasing an increase of nearly 38 percent from 2020, when it was worth $2.9 billion.

The agreement is still pending ratification by the Indonesian House of Representatives, which held a meeting this week with Trade Minister Zulkifli Hasan to discuss the process in detail.

“IUAE-CEPA will benefit Indonesia because UAE will be Indonesia’s hub to tap new, very big markets,” Hasan said, as quoted by the ministry in a statement on Tuesday.

Through the agreement, he continued, the country’s goods, from jewelry and agricultural commodities to products from small and medium-sized enterprises, can enter Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and Eastern Europe.

Hasan said the pact is expected to boost Indonesian exports to the UAE by an annual average of 7.7 percent.

The pact erases about 99 percent of existing tariffs, the Trade Ministry said, and includes commitments to increase Indonesia’s services exports to the UAE by 6 percent and mutually recognize each country’s halal certification.

“We hope that Indonesia will ratify IUAE-CEPA before the upcoming meeting between the presidents of Indonesia and the UAE in Solo that is being planned for Nov. 17, 2022,” Hasan said.

The trade pact appears to be part of the Indonesian government’s strategy to attract more investment from the UAE, Yanuar Rizky, economist and chairman of Jakarta-based research company Bejana Investidata Globalindo, told Arab News.

“From what I’ve read, Indonesia is hoping that with the tariff cut and its becoming a trading hub, UAE investment will increase in Indonesia,” Rizky said.

“This is something that the Jokowi administration has continued to pursue,” he added, referring to Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s popular nickname.

Rizky said the effort is in line with ongoing attempts to attract foreign investors to fund the development of a $32 billion new capital city in Borneo, a project that saw Japan’s SoftBank withdraw its backing earlier this year.

UAE Ambassador to Indonesia Abdulla Salem Obaid Al-Dhaheri said in March that his country would invest in Indonesia’s new capital through an existing $10 billion funding commitment to the Indonesia Investment Authority.
 


Three physicists share Nobel Prize for work on quantum science

Three physicists share Nobel Prize for work on quantum science
Updated 05 October 2022

Three physicists share Nobel Prize for work on quantum science

Three physicists share Nobel Prize for work on quantum science

STOCKHOLM: Three scientists jointly won this year’s Nobel Prize in physics on Tuesday for their work on quantum information science that has significant applications, for example in the field of encryption.

Frenchman Alain Aspect, American John F. Clauser and Austrian Anton Zeilinger were cited by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for discovering the way that unseen particles, such as photons or tiny bits of matter, can be linked, or “entangled,” with each other even when they are separated by large distances.

“Being a little bit entangled is sort of like being a little bit pregnant. The effect grows on you,” Clauser said in a Tuesday morning phone interview with The Associated Press.

It all goes back to a feature of the universe that even baffled Albert Einstein and connects matter and light in a tangled, chaotic way.

Clauser, 79, was awarded his prize for a 1972 experiment that helped settle a famous debate about quantum mechanics between Einstein and famed physicist Niels Bohr. Einstein described “a spooky action at a distance” that he thought would eventually be disproved.

“I was betting on Einstein,” Clauser said. “But unfortunately I was wrong and Einstein was wrong and Bohr was right.”

Clauser said his work on quantum mechanics shows that you can’t confine information to a closed volume, “like a little box that sits on your desk” — though even he can’t say why.

“Most people would assume that nature is made out of stuff distributed throughout space and time,” Clauser said. “And that appears not to be the case.”

Quantum entanglement “has to do with taking these two photons and then measuring one over here and knowing immediately something about the other one over here,” said David Haviland, chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics.


US ex-Marine gets 4-1/2 years in Russian penal colony for attacking police officer

US ex-Marine gets 4-1/2 years in Russian penal colony for attacking police officer
Updated 04 October 2022

US ex-Marine gets 4-1/2 years in Russian penal colony for attacking police officer

US ex-Marine gets 4-1/2 years in Russian penal colony for attacking police officer
  • Police hauled Robert Gilman off a train in Voronezh in January, while he was traveling from the southern city of Sochi to Moscow, after complaints from fellow passengers about his behavior
  • Russia has sentenced several US citizens to lengthy prison terms in recent years, though Gilman’s case has attracted less attention than most

LONDON: Former US marine Robert Gilman was sentenced to 4-1/2 years in a Russian penal colony on Tuesday for attacking a police officer while drunk, Russian news agencies reported.
Police hauled Gilman off a train in Voronezh in January, while he was traveling from the southern city of Sochi to Moscow, after complaints from fellow passengers about his behavior, the agencies reported, citing the prosecution.
While in custody, Gilman was accused of kicking out at a police officer, leaving him with bruises.
Gilman, whose lawyers told the TASS news agency he had come to Russia to study and obtain citizenship, told the court in Voronezh that he did not remember the incident but had “apologized to Russia” and to the police officer.
After being found guilty, Gilman said the four-and-a-half year sentence requested by the prosecution was too strict.
Gilman’s lawyer Valeriy Ivannikov told reporters he intended to appeal and would ask the United States to seek a prisoner exchange.
US State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said Washington was aware of the decision but said he could not give further details citing privacy considerations.
“We continue to insist that the Russian Federation allow consistent, timely consular access to all (detained) US citizens, and we urge the Russian government to ensure fair treatment to all US citizens detained in Russia,” Patel said, declining to say whether consular access had been granted in Gilman’s case.
Russia has sentenced several US citizens to lengthy prison terms in recent years, though Gilman’s case has attracted less attention than most.
WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner was sentenced in August to nine years in prison after being found in possession of cannabis oil vape cartridges.
Paul Whelan, another ex-marine who also holds Canadian, Irish and British citizenship, is serving 16 years in prison on espionage charges, which he denies.
But in April, former marine Trevor Reed, who was serving nine years after being found guilty of violence against a police officer, was freed in a prisoner exchange.
Russian officials have said they are in talks with Washington about possible new prisoner exchanges. Media reports say they could involve convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout, serving a 25-year sentence in the United States, being released back to Russia.


UK interior minister vows to stop migrant ‘small boats’

UK interior minister vows to stop migrant ‘small boats’
Updated 04 October 2022

UK interior minister vows to stop migrant ‘small boats’

UK interior minister vows to stop migrant ‘small boats’
  • Irregular migration is a thorny political issue for the UK government
  • Deportation flights have been stymied by a series of legal challenges in the UK courts and at the European Court of Human Rights

BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom: Britain’s new interior minister on Tuesday vowed to prevent migrants from claiming asylum if they arrive through an “illegal” route, and stop small boat crossings across the Channel from France.
Suella Braverman said the situation, in which criminal gangs were exploiting vulnerable migrants, had “gone on for far too long.”
Irregular migration is a thorny political issue for the UK government, which promised to tighten borders after the country left the European Union.
But a partnership deal with Rwanda signed earlier this year under the premiership of Boris Johnson to send some migrants to the African country for resettlement has so far failed.
Deportation flights have been stymied by a series of legal challenges in the UK courts and at the European Court of Human Rights.
Braverman said Britain needed to “find a way to make the Rwanda scheme work” and denounced the intervention of the ECHR, describing it as a “closed process with an unnamed judge and without any representation by the UK.”
“I will commit to look to bring forward legislation that the only route to the United Kingdom is through a safe and legal route,” she told the ruling Conservative party’s annual conference.
“If you deliberately enter the United Kingdom from a safe country you should be swiftly removed to your home country or relocated to Rwanda. That is where your asylum claim will be considered,” she said.
Reacting to Braverman’s speech, the PCS trade union which represents civil servants responsible for implementing the policy, said she did not “appear to understand the UK’s international obligations under the Geneva Convention.”
“Time and again we have called upon the government to use the expertise of our members in the Home Office to develop a solution to this crisis through safe passage,” PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said.
“Instead, it chooses to continually demonize refugees to deflect from its hopeless inability to address the cost of living crisis facing the people of this country.”
Official government figures last month showed more migrants had crossed the Channel to the UK from northern France so far this year than in the whole of 2021, when 28,526 made the journey.
More than 33,500 people have now arrived in Britain.
Braverman’s speech played into Prime Minister Liz Truss’s right-wing agenda, urging police to stop “virtue signalling” on issues such as race and gender.
She promised to empower officers to stop “the mob” of direct-action protesters who use “guerilla tactics” to bring “chaos and misery” to the public.
“Whether you’re Just Stop Oil, Insulate Britain or Extinction Rebellion, you cross a line when you break the law and that’s why we’ll keep putting you behind bars,” she added.
On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Police said it had arrested 54 Just Stop Oil protesters on suspicion of “wilful obstruction of the highway” after a demonstration blocked traffic in central London.