FILE PHOTO: Bayer’s Roundup weed killer atomizers are displayed for sale at a garden shop near Brussels, Belgium November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Yves Herman
April 24, 2019
By Brendan Pierson
(Reuters) – Bayer AG on Wednesday asked a California appellate court to throw out a $78 million judgment it was ordered to pay to a school groundskeeper who claimed the company’s weed killers gave him cancer.
In a filing in California’s Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, the company said that there was “no evidence” that glyphosate, a chemical found in the company’s Roundup and Ranger Pro products, could cause cancer.
“Bayer stands behind these products and will continue to vigorously defend them,” the company said in a news release.
The widely-used weed killers are made by Monsanto, which Bayer acquired last year for $63 billion.
The company said that if the court did not rule in its favor, it should at least order a new trial, arguing that a lower court judge had improperly prevented jurors from hearing evidence that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and foreign regulators had deemed glyphosate not likely carcinogenic to humans.
A lawyer for the groundskeeper, Dewayne Johnson, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Johnson sued Monsanto in 2016. In August 2018, following a trial in the Superior Court of California in San Francisco, a jury awarded him $39 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages, a total of $289 million.
The verdict, which marked the first such decision against Monsanto, wiped 10 percent off Bayer’s value, and shares have since dropped nearly 30 percent from their pre-verdict value.
Judge Suzanne Bolanos, who oversaw the trial, then issued a tentative opinion saying she planned to strike the entire punitive damages award because there was no evidence Monsanto acted with malice. Following a hearing last October, she instead cut the award to $39 million, for a total judgment of $78 million.
In another brief filed with the appeals court on Wednesday, Bayer said that decision came after newspaper articles and emails from five jurors in the case meant to “pressure” Bolanos to uphold the punitive damages award.
Bayer, which faces more than 11,000 U.S. lawsuits over glyphosate, says decades of scientific studies and real-world use have shown glyphosate to be safe for human use.
While the EPA and regulators from several other countries have said glyphosate was not likely to cause cancer, the cancer unit of the World Health Organization in 2015 classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)
FILE PHOTO: Russian pranksters Vladimir Kuznetsov (L) and Alexei Stolyarov, also known as Vovan and Lexus, attend the presentation of their new book in Moscow, Russia September 14, 2017. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin/File Photo
April 24, 2019
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian pranksters posing as Ukrainian president-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy tricked French President Emmanuel Macron into a hoax phone call after Sunday’s Ukrainian presidential vote.
In audio from a 15-minute phone call posted on YouTube on Wednesday, Russian pranksters Vovan and Lexus get through to Macron by pretending to be Zelenskiy, a comedian with no political experience who won the Ukrainian presidential vote in a landslide on Sunday. The exact timing of the call was unclear.
An official at the French presidency told Reuters that it would not comment on the video, saying it would neither confirm nor deny its authenticity.
Vovan and Lexus are known in Russia for targeting celebrities and politicians with prank phone calls and have in the past tricked British singer Elton John and former British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, among many others.
One of the pranksters, impersonating Zelenskiy, joked that his winning 73 percent of the vote in the Ukrainian election was reminiscent of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s own strong election results.
In the recording, a voice that sounds like Macron can be heard joking that Ukraine was not like Russia in at least one respect. “You haven’t yet put all opponents in jail.”
Zelenskiy met with Macron earlier this month in Paris ahead of the run-off against Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Jean-Baptiste Vey in Paris; Editing by Toby Chopra)
Afghan villagers who fled from the fighting sides arrive at the Behsud district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan April 24, 2019. REUTERS/Parwiz
April 24, 2019
KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan Taliban insurgents are battling fighters loyal to Islamic State over control of territory in eastern Afghanistan in some of the heaviest clashes over the past year between the rival militants, officials said on Wednesday.
The fighting erupted on Monday in two districts of the eastern Afghan border province of Nangarhar, when Islamic State fighters attacked villages under Taliban control.
“Islamic State fighters have captured six villages in Khogyani and Shirzad districts but the fighting has not stopped,” said Sohrab Qaderi, a member Nangarhar’s the provincial council.
About 500 families had fled from the fighting, he said.
Casualty figures were not available.
A spokesman for the Taliban, who control more territory than at any point since they were ousted from power nearly 18 years ago, was not available for comment.
Islamic State fighters first appeared in eastern Afghanistan in around 2014 and have battled the Taliban as well as government and foreign forces.
The Afghan affiliate of Islamic State, sometimes known as Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K), after an old name for the region that includes Afghanistan, has made some inroads into other areas, in the north in particular.
It has also established a reputation for unusual cruelty, even by the standards of the Afghan conflict, and has been behind some of the deadliest attacks in urban centers.
While Nangarhar, on the border with Pakistan, has been an Islamic State stronghold, some villages in Khogyani and Shirzad districts have been controlled by the Taliban.
Fleeing villagers said they had to run for their lives.
“I could only rescue my family. We had to leave everything,” said Shawkat, 36, a resident of Markikhel village in Shirzad district who sought safety in a neighboring village.
Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the provincial governor said, authorities would help the displaced villagers with food and medicine.
In August, more than 150 Islamic State fighters surrendered to the Afghan security forces after they were defeated by the Taliban in the northwestern province of Jawzjan.
The U.S. military estimates there are about 2,000 Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan.
Many are former Taliban. There is scant evidence of direct links with Islamic State in the Middle East, where the group has lost territory it once held in Syria and Iraq to Western-backed forces.
(Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi in Kabul and Ahmad Sultan in Nangarhar; Editing by Robert Birsel)
Italy’s Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi talks to journalists during the Foreign ministers of G7 nations meeting in Dinard, France, April 6, 2019. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
April 24, 2019
ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s government has written to the European Union asking it to ready a plan of action to deal with a possible flight of refugees from the armed conflict in Libya, Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero said on Wednesday.
Moavero was speaking at a joint news conference in Rome after talks with the U.N. envoy on Libya, Ghassan Salame.
(Reporting by Giselda Vagnoni; Editing by Mark Bendeich)
FILE PHOTO: Jermaine John Grant, a British citizen, sits inside the dock at the Law Courts in the Kenya’s coastal city of Mombasa, December 2, 2015. REUTERS/Joseph Okanga
April 24, 2019
By Joseph Akwiri
MOMBASA (Reuters) – A British man accused of helping to plan terrorist attacks in Kenya was found guilty on Wednesday of possession of bomb-making materials but acquitted of conspiracy to commit a felony.
Jermaine Grant, from east London, has been in custody since he was arrested in 2011.
At the time he was sharing an apartment with another Briton, Samantha Lewthwaite, dubbed the “White Widow”, who had been married to one of the four suicide bombers who attacked public transport in London on July 7, 2005, prosecutors have said.
Chief magistrate Evans Makori said chemicals and a computer memory drive containing bomb-making instructions were found in the house, but that the prosecution failed to prove the charge of “conspiracy to commit a felony to the required standard”.
Grant smiled as the ruling was read to court in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa where prosecutors said he had planned a bombing campaign against hotels popular with foreign tourists. He denies all the charges.
Grant’s sentencing has been set for May 9. His lawyer Chacha Mwita said he plans to appeal the conviction.
“There was no direct or indirect sufficient evidence to link him with conspiracy to mount the explosives,” Chacha told Reuters by telephone.
Having previously been released on bail, Grant’s two co-defendants, his Kenyan female companion Islam Warda, and Frank Nyengo, were both acquitted of all charges.
In the judgment, Grant was found in possession of explosive materials including hydrogen peroxide, four AA batteries and an eleven centimeter piece of electrical wire.
Prosecutors have accused Grant of having ties to the Islamist group al Shabaab, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia, a charge he denies.
In 2015 a court found Grant guilty of nine counts related to a fake Kenyan passport, including giving a false statement and making false documents, and sentenced him to a year in prison for each count.
Grant’s former flatmate Lewthwaite, whose husband Germaine Lindsay killed 26 people in a suicide bombing on the Piccadilly Line of London Underground in 2005, is still at large and wanted in Kenya on charges of possession of explosives and conspiracy.
(Additional reporting by Humphrey Malalo; Writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by Peter Graff)
FILE PHOTO: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a news conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed Ali Alhakim, in Baghdad, Iraq, March 10, 2019. REUTERS/Khalid Al-Mousily/File Photo
April 24, 2019
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Iran will continue to find buyers for its oil and use the Strait of Hormuz to transport it, the country’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Wednesday, warning that if the United States tries to stop Tehran then it should “be prepared for the consequences.”
“We believe that Iran will continue to sell its oil. We will continue to find buyers for our oil and we will continue to use the Strait of Hormuz as a safe transit passage for the sale of our oil,” Zarif also told event at the Asia Society in New York.
“If the United States takes the crazy measure of trying to prevent us from doing that then it should be prepared for the consequences,” he said.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols and Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)