Nel's New Day

March 22, 2023

News outside DDT

After horrific problems with lead in their water, Flint (MI) has settled for $600 million, the largest civil settlement in the state’s history, with an additional $26.25 million from other sources. People who were minors when exposed to contaminated water in the city receive 80 percent of the money; claims for adults and property damage comprise another 18 percent. Another two percent goes to special education services in Genesee County, and business losses receive 1 percent of the money.

Nine years ago, state officials allowed the predominantly-Black city to transfer the drinking water source from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the Flint River. Lack of applying corrosion inhibitors to the water caused lead from aging pipes to leach into the water supply for about 100,000 residents including 6,000 to 12,000 children. The lead contamination was accompanied by a Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak killing at least 12 people. Nine officials, including then Gov. Rick Snyder (R) were criminally charged with 41 counts for their part in the crisis. Only one minor conviction came from the debacle, and all other charges were dropped or dismissed. Four government officials resigned, and one was fired.

In her formal approval of the case, the judge capped attorney’s fees at 25 percent after other expenses were subtracted. Flint residents still have several pending multimillion lawsuits, including those against the EPA and two private engineering corporations.  

In another water problem, the Supreme Court heard arguments from the Navajo Nation regarding their rights to water in the Colorado River. For over 20 years, the tribe has fought for access to the lower Colorado River flowing along the reservation’s northwestern border. Almost one-third of its 170,000 people living in the 27,000-square-mile area in Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico lack clean, reliable drinking water. The decades-long drought has resulted in acrimony among the seven states with 40 million people competing for Colorado River water.

The Navajos argue that the U.S. government blocks its interests in water disputes. The Navajo Treaty of 1868 promised them a permanent home. The government argues that Navajos should assess their water needs and build water supply infrastructure. Justices Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh appeared to agree with that position. Justices Neil Gorsuch and Elena Kagan indicated that water is part of providing a permanent home. 

Almost two weeks after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) fell after a dinner with fundraisers, three of his GOP colleagues—John Thune (SD), John Cornyn (TX), and John Barrasso—finally heard his voice on the phone. McConnell has been in a rehab center for a week to receive physical therapy. He didn’t say when he would return. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said he didn’t see any change in how the Senate operates with McConnell’s absences.

California may have a solution for obscenely expensive insulin: Gov. Gavin Newsom has a new contract with nonprofit drugmaker Civica Rx for products interchangeable with brand-name insulins. The cost will be no more than $30 for a vial and no more than $55 for a box of five pre-filled pen cartridges. With a vial now selling for $300, patients can save up to $4,000 per year. Republicans have been forced to permit the cost per vial at $35 for Medicare patients but not for anyone else. The governor’s office said the medications will be available nationwide.

Fox is facing another lawsuit connected to the Dominion Voting machines, this one from producer Abby Grossberg. She is suing Fox network for discrimination and a hostile workplace as well as alleging that she was “coerced, intimidated, and misinformed” when Fox prepared her for her deposition in the $1.6 billion case. In addition to the sexism she faced at work, she claims that Fox lawyers told her to make misleading statements and that they were representing Fox, not her.

Formerly producer for Maria Bartiromo, Grossberg said a senior male colleague called the opinion host “menopausal,” “hysterical,” and “a diva.” When Grossberg was asked in a deposition if it’s important to correct falsehoods on the show, she said, “No.” In her lawsuit, she said, “She had been conditioned and felt coerced to give this response.” The resulting negativity about her professionalism gave her anxiety and stress.

Moved to a job as booker for Tucker Carlson’s show, Grossberg complained about the “overtly misogynistic” environment on his production team where “the staff’s distaste and disdain for women infiltrated almost every workday decision.” A superior told her, “This is Tucker’s tone and just the pace of the show.”

Prepping her for her deposition, Fox lawyers told Grossberg to say “I do not recall” and “were displeased with her being too candid.” They worked with her to get her story “in line with [Fox’s] position.” By giving these “false/misleading and evasive answers,” Grossberg worried about committing perjury while “subtly shifting all responsibility for the alleged defamation against Dominion onto her shoulders … rather than the mostly male higher ups at Fox News.” Fox has now put Grossberg on leave.

Fox’s main argument in the Dominion case is that its hosts were just giving opinions, not false information, when they told viewers that the software gave President Joe Biden votes that were actually for candidate Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). The judge appeared skeptical.

Revelations about Tesla may give Elon Musk as many headaches as Twitter. The number of accidents for the “self-driving” car is mounting along with lawsuits, and the cars’ flaws come from Musk’s demands. To bring down the cost of the expensive technology, he took out the cars’ radar sensors and told engineers that the eight cameras on each car would be sufficient for safety. Sensors are designed to detect hazards at long ranges to keep cars from driving into other cars.

Engineers failed to convince Musk that Tesla cameras would suffer from perception errors with rain or bright sunlight. The company disabled radar on cars already on the road, leading to crashes, near misses, and other problems. Recently, Tesla recalled vehicles and suspended the rollout of technology to eligible vehicles because cars ignored the speed limit and stop signs. A car using new “Full Self-Driving” beta software couldn’t drive a route without error. Employees also said they were forced to work at such a fast pace to develop the technology that it went to the public before it was ready.

Without the radar, cars stopped for imaginary hazards, misinterpreted street signs, and failed to detect obstacles such as emergency vehicles. In February, a Tesla was involved in a fatal crash with a firetruck. Cars would also dangerously brake from high speeds. When Musk bought Twitter, he moved dozens of engineers, including those on Autopilot and Full Self-Driving, from Tesla to his new company, setting back the work at the car company. Tesla engineers are also burning out, quitting, and looking for other opportunities. The director of artificial intelligence, who wrote all the Tesla code, moved to OpenAI to work with ChatGPT.

The DOJ requested documents related to Full Self-Driving as part of its probe, and the Securities and Exchange Commission is examining Musk’s role in pushing Tesla’s self-driving claims as part of a larger investigation. A lawsuit filed in February alleges that Tesla made “false and misleading” statements and that Tesla “significantly overstated” the safety and performance of Autopilot and Full Self-Driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has two investigations into Autopilot, one of them an engineering analysis and the other “phantom braking.”

A far-right group from the Proud Boys went to Manhattan’s West Village neighborhood to protest a Drag Queen Story Hour hosted by New York City AG Letitia James; a member who said he “came to help” walked away bloodied. He said he didn’t go there to “get the s*** beat out of me.” A video of him leaving has been watched over two million times.

Another protester wearing a mask to hide his face knocked objects, including cameras, out of the hands of reporters. He was arrested for striking an activist’s face. The program’s supporters outnumbered the protesters. Almost 200 people attended the “four back-to-back Story Hours hosted by the Drag Kings, Queens, and Royalty of Drag Story Hour NYC,” according to a press release. Mayor Eric Adams said:

“We must use stories to educate. The goal is not only for our children to be academically smart, but also emotionally intelligent… Those who are attempting to use Drag Queen Story Hour to stir up controversy and vitriol directed at the LGBTQ community and specifically drag artists should be ashamed of themselves.”

At least 16 states have bills to restrict drag performances this year with the falsehood that drag sexualizes children. Violation of a new Tennessee law leads to prison sentences up to six years. Florida is sending undercover state agents to drag shows in search of “lewd” activity performed in front of children. Even without anything “lewd,” the drag show at the Plaza Live theater in Orlando has received a complaint. Florida wants to shut down the facility by removing its liquor license and claims, with no evidence, that it exposed children to sexual content. Originally, they said that the performance didn’t deviate from what can easily be seen on U.S. television. One woman responded to the complaints:

“I’m almost 60 and it was my first drag show. I had a blast. I thought it was hilarious. Every one of the accusations is false. They’re not exaggerated. They are completely false. It’s gross.”

Since threatening the drag show, Gov. Ron DeSantis has called Florida “the citadel of freedom.”

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