Tag Archives: denies

Microsoft Denies Cutting Secret Deal With Duracell Over Xbox Controllers

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Last week, a report surfaced claiming that Microsoft and Duracell have a secret agreement between them in which Microsoft agrees to keep AA batteries as the default power standard for its Xbox controllers. Microsoft denied the rumors, which began when Duracell UK’s marketing manager, Luke Anderson, referred to a deal between the two companies:

There’s always been this partnership with Duracell and Xbox… It’s a constant agreement that Duracell and Microsoft have in place… [The deal is] for OEM to supply the battery product for the Xbox consoles and also the controllers’ battery.

This has been broadly read across the internet to mean that Microsoft and Duracell have some kind of agreement in which Microsoft agrees to keep traditional AA batteries as the default solution for its controllers so that Duracell will… cut it a good deal on a couple of AA batteries + some console parts?

This objectively makes no sense, and Microsoft is far from the only company to ship Duracell batteries in its hardware. Since Microsoft doesn’t manufacture batteries, it needs to partner with a company if it wants to ship hardware with prepacked AAs. The company doesn’t send purchasing agents to Wal-Mart to grab whatever AA’s are the cheapest; it has a pre-existing agreement with Duracell to provide those products.

The Xbox Elite Wireless Controller and Controller Series 2 have built-in batteries.

When contacted, a Microsoft spokesperson released the following statement:

We intentionally offer consumers choice in their battery solutions for our standard Xbox Wireless Controllers. This includes the use of AA batteries from any brand, the Xbox Rechargeable Battery, charging solutions from our partners, or a USB-C cable, which can power the controller when plugged in to the console or PC.

Companies competing in the same market often use design choices to differentiate themselves. Microsoft emphasizes the flexibility of offering AA support. Sony’s DualShock 4 copy notes that you can charge its internal battery while playing. We’ve seen this kind of behavior in the PC market as well. When Nvidia emphasized 3-D gaming, AMD focused on its own Eyefinity displays. A few years later, when AMD was talking up DirectX 12, Nvidia was putting a much heavier emphasis on VR. In this case, Microsoft and Sony maintain a slight feature difference in what they offer and how they offer it.

As far as Microsoft’s controller is concerned, I can testify that the battery life from regular AAs isn’t great, and it gets a lot worse if you have rumble enabled in a rumble-heavy title. If you don’t play much, regular AAs are fine, but if you intend to game on a regular basis you’ll want to invest in some rechargeable batteries for the Xbox controller. They’ll pay for themselves in fairly short order.

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CD Projekt Red Denies Any Plan to Offer Refunds for Cyberpunk 2077

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Earlier this week, CD Projekt Red released a lengthy statement in which it acknowledged many console players were upset with the game and appeared to offer refunds to any console gamer who was unhappy with the title.

Today, the company took it all back and blamed gamers for “misconceptions.” The SVP of business development, Michal Nowakowski, stated that the only refund CDPR was referring to were the various refund policies offered by Microsoft and Sony. He’s quite clear about it. Also, it’s all your fault for thinking CDPR actually was going to refund their game in the first place.

Anyone who has purchased any title on the PlayStation network or the Microsoft storefront can ask for a refund, and if it’s made within certain boundaries, usually related to time, usage and so on, can ask for that refund. Our procedure here with Microsoft and Sony is not different than with any other title released on any of those storefronts. I want to state that clearly, as there seem to be certain misconceptions.

One small point I’d like to draw your attention to: Nowakowski didn’t actually describe the Sony’s refund policy. Not really. Anyone can request a refund, but they almost certainly won’t get it. Sony will only give you your money back if you request a refund within 14 days and haven’t downloaded the game. Microsoft is supposedly more forgiving on this issue, but the company’s documentation only says that “we consider a variety of factors like time since date of purchase, time since release, and use of the product.”

Regardless, the PS4 outsold the Xbox by at least 2:1 last generation, meaning the overwhelming majority of console players are playing the game on the PS4. The comment above is not an accurate description of Sony’s return policies. It’s a description that would fit the PC world perfectly, however, and one wonders if there aren’t certain misconceptions about the difference between PCs and consoles floating in the halls of CD Projekt Red.

‘Certain Misconceptions’

Let’s examine CDPR’s original statement on this topic:

We would appreciate it if you would give us a chance, but if you are not pleased with the game on your console and don’t want to wait for updates, you can opt to refund your copy. For copies purchased digitally, please use the refund system of PSN or Xbox respectively. For boxed versions, please first try to get a refund at the store where you bought the game. Should this not be possible, please contact us at helpmerefund@cdprojektred.com and we will do our best to help you.

There are multiple explicit reasons to think CDPR was referring to a specific rebate program, not the platform-wide options offered by Microsoft and Sony. First, there’s absolutely no mention of either. CDPR might have written, “Customers who purchased digital copies of the game may request a refund, if they meet the criteria set out by Sony and Microsoft.” It did not. Furthermore, the company made this statement in a post laying out what CDPR was going to do to fix these problems. CD Projekt Red is the active entity in its own press release.

Second, there’s an explicit reference to boxed software being returnable. If there’s a store in the United States that allows people to return open software for a full refund, I don’t know about it. Most retailers explicitly only allow a refund on software if the product is sealed in its original shrinkwrap. This is generally known. CDPR’s statement that customers should try to return the game to the store they purchased it from further implies that some kind of special program is being put in place.

When they say “Please first try to get a refund from the store where you bought the game,” it implies that if this fails, there’s some other refund program available to deal with it. Why say “first” if there is no second option? To be clear, CDPR’s comments to investors specifically concern digital purchases, but if the company has no plan to deal with those refunds, it probably isn’t planning to deal with the bigger headache of validating personal purchases from diverse stories for refunds, either.

Third, the use of the phrase “you can opt to refund your copy.” This phrasing indicates that you,  the purchaser, will decide whether or not you receive a refund, not Sony or Microsoft. Sony and Microsoft do not reward refunds as broadly as Steam does. In the absence of a specific program to handle this mess, CDPR is effectively lying by omission to its own player base. Sony will only give refunds if you’ve never even downloaded the game. Given this, it might have been helpful to tell the PS4 playerbase not to even download the title if there’s any chance they want a refund for it.

Finally, the company literally chose to call its helpful email address “help me refund” (spaces put back to make it easier to read). Consider the absurdity of offering any kind of refund help to customers on the one hand, while telling investors that the problem is entirely in the hands of Sony and Microsoft on the other.

CD Projekt Red is throwing every single console customer under the bus after deliberately hiding the performance and quality of its product. According to CDPR, anyone who perceived that the company might actually be taking some kind of hand to clean up its own mess is afflicted with “misconceptions.”

Well, they’re right. And I, for one, would like to apologize.

I was quite wrong. I thought CDPR was acting with the slightest shred of responsibility towards its own debacle. I thought the company was going to work with the fraction of unhappy customers that actually bothered to apply for a rebate, and then claim it had “solved” the problem it created by making people whole. It did not occur to me that a company might assure its fans they could apply for refunds without a single mention that they would have nothing to do with the process and that most people wouldn’t meet the criteria to get one.

I apologize to all ExtremeTech readers for my assumption that anyone in the upper echelons of CD Projekt Red had ethics. I apologize for assuming they were taking a minimal level of responsibility. I apologize for thinking they would treat customers with respect, or for believing the company was motivated by anything more than a “F*** you, I got mine” attitude. When people show you who they are, believe them. CDPR showed what kind of company it was when they hid information on just how bad the PS4 and Xbox One were in the first place.

Thank you, CDPR, for correcting my misconceptions.

I won’t make the same mistakes again. You have my word.

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‘Entourage’ Actor Kevin Connolly Denies Costume Designer’s Sexual Assault Allegations

‘Entourage’ Actor Kevin Connolly Denies Sexual Assault Allegations | Entertainment Tonight

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Hong Kong court denies bail to 1st person charged under new national security law

A Hong Kong court denied bail on Monday to the first person charged with inciting separatism and terrorism under the city’s new national security law after he carried a sign saying “Liberate Hong Kong” and drove his motorbike into police.

Tong Ying-kit, 23, was arrested after a video posted online showed him knocking over several officers at a demonstration on July 1, less than 24 hours after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on its freest city.

The city’s government has said the protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” connotes separatism or subversion under the new law, stoking concern over freedom of expression in the former British colony.

Tong, who was unable to appear in court on Friday as he was being treated in hospital for injuries sustained in the incident, appeared in court in a wheelchair.

In rejecting bail, Chief Magistrate So Wai-tak referred to Article 42 of the new law, which states that bail will not be granted if the judge has sufficient grounds to believe the defendant will continue to endanger national security.

WATCH l Protests erupt in 1st hours after new law goes into effect:

Hong Kong police made their first arrests under a new security law Wednesday. In a statement on Facebook, police said they arrested 300 people. 3:58

The case was adjourned until Oct. 6 and Tong was remanded in custody.

Critics say the law — which punishes crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison — is aimed at crushing dissent and a long-running campaign for greater democracy.

Activist pleads not guilty in 2019 incident

Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have repeatedly said it is aimed at a few “troublemakers” and will not affect the rights and freedoms that underpin the city’s role as a financial hub.

Also on Monday, prominent democracy activist Joshua Wong pleaded not guilty to inciting others to participate in an unlawful assembly during anti-government protests last year.

Fellow activist Agnes Chow pleaded guilty to a similar charge. Their case has been adjourned to Aug. 5.

Hong Kong-based journalist Mary Hui says pro-democracy demonstrators are considering a plan to target China by inflicting economic pain. She says many younger protesters are no longer interested in working within the “one country, two systems” framework. 8:31

Wong and Chow, who were both granted bail last year, led a pro-democracy group called Demosisto that they dissolved hours after Beijing passed the national security law.

The United States, Britain and others have denounced the new legislation, which critics say is the biggest step China has taken to tighten its grip over the city, despite a “one country, two systems” formula meant to preserve its freedoms.

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CBC | World News

Joe Biden denies sexual assault allegation of ex-Senate employee in 1990s

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Friday denied allegations from a former Senate staffer that he sexually assaulted her in the early 1990s, declaring flatly “this never happened.”

Biden’s first public remarks on the accusation from a former employee, Tara Reade, come at a critical moment for the presumptive Democratic nominee as he tries to relieve mounting pressure after weeks of leaving denials to his campaign.

“I’m saying unequivocally, it never, never happened,” the former vice-president and senator said in an interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

Biden said he will ask the National Archives to determine whether there is any record of a complaint being filed, as Reade has claimed. He said it was the only possible place a complaint would be, and that his Senate papers held under seal at the University of Delaware do not contain personnel records.

“The former staffer has said she filed a complaint back in 1993,” Biden said. “But she does not have a record of this alleged complaint.”

Reade did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. The National Archives deflected inquiries to Capitol Hill: “Any records of Senate personnel complaints from 1993 would have remained under the control of the Senate.”

Senate officials did not immediately respond to a request for information.

Biden, in his TV interview, said “there are so many inconsistencies” in Reade’s various accounts. But he also said he does not “question her motive.” He said that over his five decades in public life, none of his employees was asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement.

Watch | Biden responds to the allegation on Morning Joe:

Appearing on MSNBC, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden clearly denied the allegation that he sexually assaulted a former Senate staffer in the 1990s. 0:15

Reade publicly accused Biden of inappropriate touching last year, but did not allege sexual assault. In recent weeks, she’s given a handful of interviews, saying Biden’s actions went further than she initially disclosed.

Accuser has given multiple interviews

In an interview with The Associated Press, she detailed a 1993 encounter that she says occurred when she was asked by a supervisor to bring Biden his gym bag as he was on his way down to the Senate gymnasium. Reade says Biden pushed her against a wall in the basement of a Capitol Hill office building, groped her and penetrated her with his fingers.

Republicans are seizing on Reade’s allegation to cast Democrats as only defending women who allege wrongdoing against conservatives. They’re digging in despite the possibility of renewed attention on the multiple sexual assault allegations lodged against President Donald Trump.

Trump has stepped delicately around the Biden controversy.

“He’s going to have to make his own decision,” Trump said in a podcast interview Friday with Dan Bongino. “I’m not going to be telling him what to do.”

The president said it would be a “great thing” if Biden had records that could “dispose” of Reade’s allegation.

Former Democratic National Committee chair Donna Brazile said before Biden’s interview that his silence was “damaging,” but afterward said he handled the matter well.

“He responded, he denied it, and there’s nothing more to be added to it,” Brazile said, before alluding to Reade’s repeated public statements. “If you add to the story the way Tara Reade has, it only brings more confusion.”

Karen Finney, who worked for Hillary Clinton in 2016, described Biden as “very clear and consistent” and “sincere,” but said, “I wish they had done this a little bit sooner.”

The November contest between Biden and Trump will be the first presidential race of the #MeToo era, during which numerous women have come forward with allegations of sexual harassment and assault. Trump has been accused of assault and unwanted touching by numerous women, allegations he denies.

Biden, then a senator, is shown speaking with Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on April 9, 1993. Reade, a former staff member for Biden, alleges he assaulted her in the spring of that year in a Capitol Hill office building. (Chris Helgren/Reuters)

Women are a core constituency for Democrats, and Biden has a mixed history. He wrote the Violence Against Women Act as a senator, but came under heavy criticism for his handling of Anita Hill’s Senate testimony in the 1990s. Just before he launched his 2020 campaign, several women accused him of unwanted touching, behaviour for which he apologized.

Biden has pledged to pick a woman as a running mate, and the allegation has left those thought to be in contention in a tough spot.

“Women deserve to be heard,” said Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia Democratic governor candidate, “but I also believe that those allegations have to be investigated by credible sources.”

Some Democratic donors say the matter hasn’t come up in recent strategy calls. Others worry it could be used against Biden, much as Republicans harped in 2016 on Clinton’s private email server and the activities of the Clinton Foundation.

“We know they’re going to try elements of the same playbook,” said Finney, talking specifically about calls for Biden to release his Senate papers.

Other Democratic operatives expressed concern the allegation complicates a central Biden campaign rationale: that he provides a moral counter to Trump.

“I think we have to apply a consistent standard for how we treat allegations of sexual assault, and also be clear-eyed about how Donald Trump will use these allegations in the general election campaign,” said Claire Sandberg, who worked as Bernie Sanders’s organizing director.

Republicans accuse Democrats of hypocrisy

Trump joined fellow Republicans in arguing that Democrats aren’t being consistent, pointing again Friday to the aggressive questioning of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh when he faced an allegation of sexual assault.

Biden said Friday that women “should start off with the presumption they are telling the truth. Then you have to look at the circumstances and the facts. And the facts of this case do not exist.”

Trump’s reelection campaign quickly released a digital ad featuring prominent Democrats, including Biden and Clinton saying, “Believe women” and similar sentiments.

Biden is seen with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last year at the funeral of former congressman Elijah Cummings in Baltimore. Pelosi and other prominent Democratic women on Thursday said they believed Biden. (Steve Ruark/The Associated Press)

“Ladies and gentleman, we just can’t have it both ways,” Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said at the White House. “We cannot decide which women were included in ‘believe all women.'”

Asked whether the controversy will refocus attention on Trump’s history, Conway said, “If you do that, then you’re going to hear a lot from Tara Reade and other people.”

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Russia’s coronavirus count under scrutiny as Putin government denies hiding cases

As country after country in Europe reported dramatic growth in COVID-19 cases and moved to systematically shut down communities and economies, Russia had been a striking outlier — until now.

As late as Sunday, professional soccer games were still being played in front of thousands of people. Orthodox parishioners were lining up to kiss church icons without wiping them down. And on Russian state television, pundits were full of their usual effusive praise for how the administration of President Vladimir Putin has been handling the outbreak.

“In Russia, things are not like they are in Europe,” said Dmitry Kiselyov, whose pro-Kremlin monologues on his show Vesti Nedeli (News of the Week) have landed him on the sanctions list for both Canada and the European Union. 

“Things are going along in their normal way,” he said as he pushed the Kremlin narrative that the virus has been inflicted on Russia by foreigners but the country is successfully fighting back.

“It’s big, scrupulous work,” he said, “but the results are clear.”

Dr. Anastasia Vasileyeva, head of a trade union for Russian medical practioners, says no one really knows how many cases of coronavirus there are in the country. (Corinne Seminoff/CBC)

Within 48 hours, however, Russians suddenly seem less confident.  

Effective Wednesday, all of the country’s vast borders will be closed to foreigners, bringing the country into line with places such as the European Union. Moscow has banned all outdoor events and limited indoor gatherings to fewer than 50 people and older Russians have been told to remain inside.    

Schools are now shut, attractions such as Lenin’s tomb and the Bolshoi Theatre are closed and the government has announced a sizable bailout package for businesses at risk.   

Authorities say even with their early successes at holding off the virus outside Russian territory, cases are rising and more needs to be done. 

Officially, Russia has just 114 confirmed coronavirus cases and no confirmed deaths.  

It’s a remarkably small number for a country of 149 million people that shares land borders with 14 other countries, including a 4,200-kilometre boundary with China, where the coronavirus outbreak started.  

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government at the Kremlin in Moscow on Wednesday. (Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin/Reuters)

By comparison, tiny Iceland has twice the official number of cases as Russia.   

Japan, with roughly the same population as Russia, has almost 10 times as many.

Even the president of Belarus, often seen as Russia’s closest neighbour, has questioned the low numbers, suggesting that Russia is “ablaze” with coronavirus.

Senior Russian officials, including Putin, the country’s prime minister and the mayor of Moscow, all insist the Russian figures are accurate.

The official TASS news agency quoted Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova as suggesting the situation was a result of “restrictive and prohibitive measures” adopted by Russia, including an early closure of the border with China and other restrictions on people entering Russia from Asia.

But several doctors and health-care workers contacted by CBC News believe the real caseload is far higher and that Russia could be hiding hundreds of coronavirus deaths by labelling them as something else.  

An employee wearing a protective mask cleans and disinfects a subway train as part of measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in Moscow on Monday. (Tatyana Makeyeva/Reuters)

“I think they don’t want to tell the truth,” said Dr. Anastasia Vasiliyeva, an ophthalmologist who heads the Doctor’s Alliance, a recently formed countrywide union for medical practitioners. 

“I think we have thousands of coronavirus [cases] in Russia but no one really knows how much.”

The Russian business publication RBC reported this week that Russia’s official statistics agency, Rosstat, confirmed incidents of “community acquired pneumonia” increased by 37 per cent in Russia from January 2019 to January 2020.

That translates into an increase of close to 2,000 cases.   

Some patients who contract coronavirus can develop severe pneumonia and other respiratory problems.

“That’s why they call coronavirus, ‘pneumonia,’ ” Vasiliyeva told CBC News. 

One family doctor who’s been in practice for more than a decade in Moscow told CBC News their clinic has seen a number of patients recently who likely had coronavirus, but doctors did not report them to federal health authorities because they were concerned about the conditions inside the quarantine sites where they would be sent. 

Major tourist attractions in Moscow, such as Lenin’s tomb, are closed. (Corinne Seminoff/CBC)

“I have dealt with patients with mild symptoms that I am convinced have coronavirus but I have not reported them to the hotline as I refuse to see them be put in isolation in God knows what kind of conditions along with other patients,” said the doctor.   

CBC News has agreed not to identify this person as doing so could result in severe recriminations by Russian authorities.

The doctor also said many coronavirus cases go unreported because physicians don’t want to see their offices shut down and quarantined by Russian authorities. 

“That would mean no salary and no revenues for them and their families. This is Russia and this is the reality.”

Russian health authorities report more than 100,000 people have been tested for the coronavirus, mostly through Russian-developed test kits.

“Its high accuracy was confirmed in China,” Kiselyov, the Kremlin TV pundit, said on his talk show of the tests.

No workers at Moscow’s coronavirus ‘hotline’ call centre were wearing masks when CBC News visited and many were sitting within two metres of each other. (Chris Brown/CBC)

But Vasiliyeva, with the medical union, said doctors from across the country are calling her and saying both the testing and the results are unreliable.

“They don’t really know if the tests work,” she told CBC News, noting that some doctors have told her they have waited days to get test results returned but never received them.

“They send them and they don’t get the information back.”

Vasiliyeva said until recently the Moscow area had three infectious disease hospitals to treat patients, but at the time of the coronavirus outbreak in January, there was just one in operation.

Health authorities are rushing to build a second facility for infectious diseases in the city’s southwest but its opening date is unclear.

Vasileyva said she is not affiliated with any political organization and claims to “like” Putin. However, she rents office space from his nemesis, anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny, who she acknowledges has been supportive of the doctors union.

While Navalny has not said much about the coronavirus situation in Russia, other prominent Russians have been vocal.

An aerial view Monday shows a construction site where a new hospital is being built for treating patients infected with coronavirus outside Moscow. (Denis Voronin/Agency of city news ‘Moskva’/Reuters)

The Moscow Times reports Oleg Deripaska, one of Russia’s richest men, suggested that Russians are ignoring prudent public health advice.

In a post on his social media page, he wrote that if Russia doesn’t move quickly to prevent the virus’s spread, the consequences could be “more serious than the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.”

Other commentators have drawn parallels between the former Soviet Union’s initial efforts to downplay and minimize the impact of the 1986 Chornobyl disaster with the Putin administration’s handling of coronavirus now.

Putin himself, the central figure in Russian political life for more than two decades, has been absent from much of the discussion around the coronavirus, although on Tuesday he attempted to dispel what he called “dangerous rumours.”

“The situation, as a whole, is under control,” said Putin.

“We managed to contain the massive — and I want to emphasize the massive — penetration and spread of the disease in Russia.”

While Russia has taken decisive steps in the past 48 hours — such as closing its borders to international travellers — restaurants, bars and shopping malls all remain open, though perhaps not for long. The heavily used Moscow Metro transit system, which moves more than 9.4 million passengers a day, continues to function, though it is notably less busy.

And while there has been some public messaging about the need for “social distancing,” it has been far less noticeable than in Europe or Canada.

Indeed, CBC News visited Moscow’s recently opened coronavirus call centre where several hundred workers sat in close proximity to each other answering phones and talking to supervisors.

One worker said most people calling were not anxious or panicky and instead wanted answers to basic questions such as what are the symptoms of the virus.

But Vasileyva said the call centre is indicative of many of the problems with Russia’s response to the crisis, as she believes it’s only a matter of time before the coronavirus strikes the centre itself.

“If one person comes in there with the virus, everybody will have the coronavirus.”

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Alberta judge denies evidence was buried in autopsy scandal

A sitting Alberta provincial court judge is rejecting allegations that the province’s Justice Ministry buried key evidence in criminal cases that involved possible wrongful convictions.

In an unusual step for an active judge, Gregory Lepp is weighing in on a growing public controversy over disputed autopsies in Alberta, stating that a lawyer was well aware that a medical examiner’s opinions had been rendered “useless” in a past review of criminal cases.

Lepp, formerly the head of Alberta’s prosecution service, wrote a series of letters to The Fifth Estate in January and February disagreeing with a high-profile defence attorney who had accused the provincial Justice Ministry of burying evidence that might have exonerated his former client.

Lepp denies that he or his former staff did not fulfil their “disclosure obligations” to those charged with crimes and their lawyers.

Dispute concerns autopsies from 2010, 2011

At issue are some autopsies conducted in 2010 and 2011 by Dr. Evan Matshes, a forensic pathologist whose findings were instrumental in second-degree murder charges laid against three people in Western Canada.

The Fifth Estate reported last month that the Alberta Justice Ministry obtained expert opinions seven years ago that questioned some of the medical findings that supported those murder charges. Two defence lawyers and their clients said they were not given what could have been crucial evidence, despite a requirement that prosecutors share it with them.

Adriano Iovinelli defended Butch Chiniquay in court in 2012. He said he was not aware of an expert review panel’s findings that called into question key facts in the case. (Dave Rae/CBC)

In a letter to The Fifth Estate from his legal counsel, Lepp said defence lawyer Adriano Iovinelli — who represented one of those charged — was clearly aware from media releases and news coverage that Matshes was “unreliable” in criminal cases reviewed by an external committee. 

Lepp wrote that Iovinelli was aware that Alberta Justice ordered an expert panel review that “showed that Dr. Matshes was unreliable in any criminal case” under review and that his opinions back then were “useless to the prosecution.”

Edmonton trial lawyer Tom Engel, a board member of the Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association, said that if Matshes’s work was rendered “useless” in the five criminal cases studied by the panel, that finding alone raises concerns about all of Matshes’s work.

Lawyers’ Association calls for public inquiry

After completing more than 250 autopsies in Alberta, Matshes left the province in 2012 to work in the United States. He now lives in San Diego and provides expert testimony in criminal and civil cases across the country.

Butch Chiniquay, 34, was in prison when the autopsy in his case was reviewed. (Dave Rae/CBC)

The Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association has joined calls for a public inquiry into the autopsy scandal. 

“It’s obvious that they need to conduct a review of all these prosecutions,” Engel said. “It will be a very large task.”

Engel said it’s important that the official running such an investigation be allowed to subpoena and cross-examine witnesses under oath.

As a result of The Fifth Estate investigation, British Columbia and Alberta have hired external counsel to review the conduct of their prosecution services, but those probes will be held behind closed doors.

Matshes continues to stand by his work and says he is the victim of a political vendetta. He disputes the findings of the expert review panel.

Lepp’s letters to The Fifth Estate — sent through his lawyer — state that it is “absolutely false” that his prosecution service buried the findings of an independent external review report that found Matshes made unreasonable findings in 13 of 14 cases, including the five that resulted in criminal charges.

Lawyer, judge disagree on key point

Lepp was responding to comments made by the Calgary defence lawyer, Iovinelli, who told The Fifth Estate he never saw a key document — later obtained by journalists — that might have helped free his client from prison.

At the centre of the dispute between Lepp and Iovinelli is why his former client, Butch Chiniquay, sat in jail for several years without being aware of new information that might have exonerated him. 

The peer review form related to the Chiniquay case says: ‘The conclusion of homicide is not adequately supported.’ (CBC)

The case goes back to 2011, when Chiniquay was charged with second-degree murder in the death of his girlfriend, Charmaine Wesley, a woman from Stoney Nakoda First Nation. 

Chiniquay told The Fifth Estate that to avoid risking a possible life sentence, he took a plea deal in 2012 for manslaughter. He insists he did not kill his girlfriend.

“I just want to tell everybody, like, I’m innocent,” Chiniquay said. “Nobody’s gonna understand me, what I’ve been through. This is painful.”

What Chiniquay didn’t know at the time was that while he was serving his prison term of five years, Alberta Justice obtained a review of Wesley’s autopsy. That review stated: “The conclusion of homicide is not adequately supported” and raised an earlier car accident as a potential cause of her fatal injuries.

Tom Engel is a board member of the Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association. (CBC)

“Why am I seeing this for the first time?” Iovinelli said when The Fifth Estate showed him the document. “You’re not going to get [Chiniquay’s] period of incarceration back.”

Defence was aware of review, says former head of prosecution service

In January, Lepp sent The Fifth Estate a letter that pointed the finger back at Iovinelli. He referred to the Alberta Justice public media release and related newspaper coverage about the expert review. That media release said that Dr. Matshes made unreasonable findings in 13 of 14 cases reviewed but did not provide names or specific results.

Lepp wrote that Iovinelli had been quoted in a newspaper article at the time, agreeing that the negative review of some of Matshes’s autopsies would benefit an accused and not the prosecution. 

Lepp cited that newspaper clipping as a factor in stating the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service met its disclosure obligations in the Chiniquay case.

Lepp said it was obvious from Iovinelli’s comments that “he was clearly aware, back in 2012, of the existence of the report and that the report essentially rendered whatever opinion Dr. Matshes provided in any criminal case [that was reviewed], including Mr. Chiniquay’s, useless to the prosecution.”

‘It was made available’

Lepp later added, “with respect to your inquiry regarding Butch Chiniquay, it is clear from publicly available records that Mr. lovinelli was aware that the external review committee report showed that Dr. Matshes was unreliable in any criminal case [reviewed].”

Lepp also said that in 2012, he assigned a senior prosecutor to “ensure that appropriate disclosure” was made to all defence counsel. That prosecutor, Lepp said, told Iovinelli directly further disclosure was available.

“It was made available, and receipt of it was declined,” Lepp said.

The Alberta Crown Prosecution Service (ACPS) “could only assume that Mr. lovinelli’s declining of further disclosure regarding Dr. Matshes was based on informed instructions from his client, Mr. Chiniquay. The ACPS fully met its disclosure obligations in this case.”

Lepp said Alberta Justice confirmed in a letter to lovinelli that he “did not require further disclosure relating to Dr. Matshes.”

‘How can they not act upon it’?

Iovinelli bristled at any suggestion that he was at fault for not looking at the document. He said that while he may have been aware of the review of Matshes’s work, no one told him about a crucial document called a peer review form that, had he known about it, might have set his former client free.

“They had it,” he said, referring to the Crown. “How can they not act upon it?”

Iovinelli said at no time did Lepp’s Crown prosecution service ever tell him of the potentially significant content of that document.

“Well, no one told me what that disclosure was, to start off with,” Iovinelli said.

He said he does not remember turning down an offer to see a document.

Lepp responded that there was no obligation on the part of the prosecution service to say precisely what was in that document.

“The Crown is never required to summarize or highlight portions of relevant disclosure,” he wrote.

‘They can’t just let that ride’

Engel, of the Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association, said Alberta Justice had an obligation to act on that information whether or not Chiniquay’s former lawyer passed up an opportunity to see it. 

“If they [Alberta Justice] think that there could be a miscarriage of justice, and they have a lawyer who they claim is just not doing anything, they can’t just let that ride,” Engel said.

“They have to do something…. They could initiate an appeal to the Court of Appeal…. But sitting back and relying on defence counsel doing nothing, that’s not acceptable.”

Tammy Bouvette, 36, says she never received a crucial piece of evidence that could have helped her defence in her criminal case. (Doug Husby/CBC)

Iovinelli also noted that he was not Chiniquay’s lawyer at the time that Alberta Justice obtained the peer review form that stated there was not adequate evidence of homicide.

Legal experts consulted by CBC said if Chiniquay did not have a lawyer acting for him, then prosecutors had an obligation to reach out to Chiniquay directly.

Lepp did not respond to questions from The Fifth Estate on this point, stating he would not be providing further comment given the recent announcement of a planned review by outside counsel.

Legal experts consulted by The Fifth Estate also said that while it was “unusual” for a provincial court judge to engage in this kind of discussion about criminal cases, it is not improper and can be seen as helping the public understand what happened.

They pointed out that Lepp was describing events that occurred when he was a prosecutor and not a member of the judiciary.

At the same time, those experts say judges have to consider the weight of their words in the context of the office they now hold — and ensure that they not appear to take sides on issues they might also be adjudicating in their courtrooms.

Convictions may ‘need to be expunged,’ lawyer says

Asad Kiyani, a law professor at the University of Calgary, said defence counsel should ask prosecutors for any additional disclosure as it arises but said the Crown is required on its own to also provide any information to the defence that is relevant to the case.

“The obligation is not just to disclose, but to ensure that people who are wrongfully convicted are not in jail,” Kiyani said. “And if they have spent time in jail, then we need to think about whether those convictions need to be expunged.”

The Fifth Estate identified another second-degree murder case where a defence lawyer and former client say the Crown prosecutor in the case did not provide them the key peer review form that disputed some of Matshes’s opinions.

Tammy Bouvette took a plea deal in 2013 for criminal negligence causing death in the drowning of a toddler she was babysitting in Cranbrook, B.C.

She said she took the deal to avoid the risk of a longer sentence and insists what happened was a tragic accident. Today, she is homeless outside Vancouver and says she still lives with the stigma of being accused of deliberately killing a child after what Matshes told prosecutors.

Shelby Herchak says she first saw the second autopsy opinion when shown it by The Fifth Estate. (Doug Husby/CBC)

Alberta Justice says it did, in fact, provide the B.C. Crown’s office with the peer review form that disputed comments made by Matshes after his autopsy.

Bouvette’s lawyer, Jesse Gelber, said he specifically asked for additional disclosure from the B.C. Crown but says he was never given that information, nor was he told about the existence of the peer review form affecting his case.

Disputes over disclosure also occurred in other cases

The Fifth Estate also identified two additional criminal cases in Alberta that were reviewed by the expert panel, and where some of those involved say they did not receive those findings.

Lepp wrote that in the case of Shelby Herchak, charged with second-degree murder in the 2010 death of her son, the Crown provided full disclosure to her defence lawyer.

When contacted recently, Herchak told The Fifth Estate she never saw a document that disputed parts of Matshes’s autopsy findings and might have changed the outcome of her case. She told The Fifth Estate she accidentally dropped her baby but took a plea deal of manslaughter to avoid a possible life sentence.

Herchak’s lawyer, Kim Ross, did not respond to repeated emails attempting to verify Lepp’s comments.

Dr. Evan Matshes studied at the University of Calgary. (University of Calgary)

Matshes took Alberta Justice to court in 2013 over how the government conducted the expert review panel that produced the key documents disputing some of his forensic pathology findings. The ministry agreed to “quash” the expert review panel results, as Matshes had successfully argued he had not been given enough time to respond.

At that time, Alberta Justice stated that “the administration of justice” demanded a second panel be convened to again review the 14 Matshes cases. Neither Lepp nor Eric Tolppanen, the current head of the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service, responded to queries about why the second review never happened.

Tolppanen said the quashing rendered the panel’s findings “inconsequential.”

Matshes also sued the Alberta government for defamation in 2014 after the review of his autopsies was announced. His $ 30-million lawsuit has not been settled. 

Judge welcomes external review

Lepp said he welcomes the newly announced external probe into the prosecution service and is “anxious to provide full co-operation.”

“It is important that the truth be revealed publicly,” he said.

In recent years, Chiniquay served out his sentence and moved back to his family home.

“I’ve been honest since Day 1. I was looking for this right from the beginning and didn’t know where to start,” Chiniquay said about the new findings.

“Maybe one of these days, things change, possibly longer. Miracles happen.”

Chiniquay is living back home with his family and pets. (Dave Rae/CBC)

Iovinelli said he wants the dispute with Lepp and Alberta Justice to be over and to see his former client get justice.

“I’ve been practising 25 years, I hope to practise many more years, and I’m not going to get in a war of words with the judge,” Iovinelli said.

The entire dispute comes down to one question, he said: “Why didn’t the Crown’s office act on this?” 

“And all we’re waiting for is an answer,” he said.

WATCH | The full The Fifth Estate documentary series, The Autopsy:

An autopsy tells the story of the dead but can also determine the future of the living. 30:22
In part two The Fifth Estate tells the inside story of how senior Alberta government officials ultimately abandoned their probe into miscarriages of justice. 28:30

Send tips on this story to Harvey.Cashore@cbc.ca or Rachel.Ward@cbc.ca or call 416-526-4704 and 403-521-6045. 

Follow @harveycashore and @wardrachel on Twitter.

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Russia denies trying to interfere in 2020 U.S. election to benefit Trump

The Kremlin on Friday denied it was interfering in the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign to boost Republican President Donald Trump’s re-election chances following reports that American intelligence officials warned Congress about the election threat last week.

U.S. intelligence officials told members of the House of Representatives intelligence committee in a classified briefing last week that Russia was again interfering in American politics ahead of November’s election, a person familiar with the discussion told Reuters.

U.S. officials have long warned that Russia and other countries would seek to interfere in the Nov. 3 presidential election, following Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign that ended with Trump’s surprise victory over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

The U.S. intelligence community concluded that the Kremlin used fake news reports, cyberattacks and other methods in its 2016 operation in an effort to boost Trump, an allegation that Russia denies. Trump has also repeatedly questioned the finding.

On Friday, the Kremlin said the latest allegations were false.

“These are more paranoid announcements which, to our regret, will multiply as we get closer to the election,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “They have nothing to do with the truth.”

Russia’s alleged interference sparked a two-year-long U.S. investigation headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Mueller found no conclusive evidence of co-ordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, though his report also detailed a generalized acceptance of entreaties to the campaign, including a 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russian individuals. Mueller also pointed at 10 instances in which Trump may have attempted to obstruct his investigation, as Democrats alleged, but left any finding of obstruction to Congress.

Trump, seeking a second term in office, accused Democrats in Congress of “launching a misinformation campaign.”

Last July, he called on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate one of his potential Democratic rivals, former vice-president Joe Biden, sparking his impeachment in the Democratic-controlled House.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, seen in December, denounced the allegations described in U.S. media reports as ‘paranoid announcements.’ (Alexei Nikolsky/Sputnik/Reuters)

Trump, who was later acquitted by the Republican-led U.S. Senate, has also publicly called on China to probe Biden.

A month before the momentous call with Zelensky, Trump indicated in an ABC News interview that if a foreign country had dirt on his eventual Democratic opponent in the upcoming election, “I think I’d want to hear it.”

Intelligence post change announced

Last week’s classified congressional briefing sparked a sharp response by Trump, who rebuked acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire for allowing his staff to brief the lawmakers, including Democratic panel chair Adam Schiff, who led the impeachment inquiry, the New York Times reported, quoting five people familiar with the matter.

Trump then dismissed Maguire, abruptly announcing this week that Richard Grenell, a Trump loyalist, would be the acting intelligence chief, even as he continues serving as U.S. ambassador to Germany. His appointment drew sharp rebukes from Democrats and other critics who said Grenell lacked intelligence experience.

“American voters should decide American elections, not Vladimir Putin,” U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote in a post on Twitter late on Thursday, referring to Russia’s president. She called on lawmakers to condemn Trump’s “reported efforts to dismiss threats to the integrity of our democracy & to politicize our intel community.”

“If reports are true and the president is interfering with that, he is again jeopardizing our efforts to stop foreign meddling. Exactly as we warned he would do,” Schiff said Thursday night.

Trump’s last full-time director of national intelligence, former Republican Senator Dan Coats, resigned last year after his differences with the president over Russia’s role in the 2016 election became public.

Trump famously mentioned Coats in public when he answered a question about Kremlin election inference while standing next to Putin in his July 2018 summit with the Russian leader in Helsinki.

“My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others and said they think it’s Russia,” said Trump. “I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia.

“I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be [Russia].”

Trump has repeatedly called the U.S. Russia probe and the impeachment inquiry a “witch hunt.”

Meanwhile, Grenell said Thursday on Twitter he will only be in the role in an acting capacity, with Trump to eventually put forth a different person for consideration, as a permanent DNI needs to be confirmed through hearings in the Senate. In the past, Democrats have accused Trump of subverting the standard process by filling his administration with people serving in an acting capacity.

Trump said on Twitter there are four candidates under consideration, with the nominee to be announced “within the next few weeks.”

His fellow Republicans at last week’s briefing questioned the information, according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.

Republican members of the panel did not respond to a request for comment.

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Ex-Nissan chair Carlos Ghosn, wanted by Interpol, denies family helped him flee to Lebanon

Interpol issued a wanted notice Thursday for former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn, who jumped bail in Japan and fled to Lebanon rather than face trial on financial misconduct charges, in a dramatic escape that has confounded and embarrassed authorities.

Lebanese Justice Minister Albert Serhan told The Associated Press in an interview that the Red Notice for the ex-automotive titan was received earlier in the day by the prosecution. Red Notices are requests to law enforcement agencies worldwide that they locate and provisionally arrest a wanted fugitive.

Serhan said the Lebanese prosecution “will carry out its duties,” suggesting for the first time that Ghosn may be brought in for questioning, but also said Lebanon and Japan don’t have an extradition treaty, ruling out the possibility that Beirut would hand Ghosn over to Japan.

The Interpol notice is the latest twist in Ghosn’s daring escape, which spanned three continents and involved private planes, multiple passports and international intrigue. Turkey made several arrests Thursday as part of an investigation into how he passed through the country.

Ghosn skipped bail and fled before his trial on financial misconduct charges. He issued a statement Thursday that said his family didn’t play a role in his escape.

“There has been speculation in the media that my wife Carole and other members of my family played a role in my departure from Japan. All such speculation is inaccurate and false,” the statement read.

“I alone arranged for my departure. My family had no role whatsoever.”

Ghosn, who is Lebanese and also holds French and Brazilian passports, was set to go on trial in Japan in April. He arrived in Lebanon on Monday via Turkey and hasn’t been seen in public since.

In a statement released Tuesday, Ghosn said he left for Lebanon because he thought the Japanese judicial system was unjust, and he wanted to avoid “political persecution.” He said he would talk to reporters next week.

A Japanese court had granted him bail — despite prosecutors fighting against it — with conditions he be monitored and could not meet with his wife, who is currently in Lebanon, according to media reports. The court previously allowed them to speak by video calls.

Ghosn’s $ 14-million US bail, which he posted on two separate instances to get out of detention, is being revoked.

A hero in Lebanon

Ghosn, who grew up in Beirut and frequently visited, is a national hero to many in this Mediterranean country. He has close ties to senior politicians and business stakes in a number of companies. People take special pride in the auto industry executive, who is credited with leading a spectacular turnaround at Nissan beginning in the late 1990s and rescuing the automaker from near-bankruptcy.

Even as he fell from grace internationally, politicians across the board mobilized in his defence after his arrest in Japan in November 2018, with some suggesting his detention may be part of a political or business-motivated conspiracy. Lebanon’s foreign minister repeatedly called for his release.

Serhan said prosecutors will summon Ghosn and listen to him, and “at a later stage if there are any measures to be taken, then the precautionary measures will be taken.”

“We are a country of law and respect the law and … I can confirm that the Lebanese state will implement the law,” the justice minister said.

At the same time, Serhan said that Lebanon has not received an official extradition request from Japan, and he noted that the two countries do not have an extradition treaty.

“Mr. Ghosn arrived to Lebanon as any ordinary citizen.… Lebanese authorities have no security or judiciary charges against him. He entered the border like any other Lebanese using a legal passport,” he added.

Turkey detains 7 as part of investigation

Earlier Thursday, Turkish police detained seven people — including four pilots — in an investigation into how Ghosn transited through Istanbul en route to Lebanon after fleeing Japan, a police spokesperson told Reuters.

The spokesperson said the other detainees were two airport ground workers and one cargo worker and all seven were expected to give statements before a court on Thursday.

Media reports said Turkey’s Interior Ministry had begun an investigation into Ghosn’s transit.

It is unclear how Ghosn avoided the tight surveillance he was under in Japan and showed up in Lebanon. Ghosn’s lawyers in Japan said they had no knowledge of the escape, and they had all his passports. Ghosn has French, Lebanese and Brazilian citizenship.

However, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported Thursday that authorities allowed Ghosn to carry a spare French passport in a locked case while out on bail, shedding some light on how he managed his escape to Lebanon.

A plane carrying Ghosn arrived at 5:30 am local time Monday at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, Turkish news website Hurriyet reported, adding that prosecutors ordered the arrests after widening their investigation.

Flight tracking data from that time suggests that Ghosn used two different planes to fly into Istanbul and then on to Lebanon.

Hurriyet, citing an interior ministry official, said Turkish border police were not notified about Ghosn’s arrival, and neither his entry nor exit were registered.

The businessman was smuggled out of Tokyo by a private security company days ago, the culmination of a plan that was crafted over three months, Reuters has reported.

The Lebanese minister for presidential affairs, Selim Jreissati, told the An-Nahar newspaper that Ghosn entered legally at the airport with a French passport and Lebanese ID.

Japanese prosecutors raid Tokyo home

Japanese prosecutors on Thursday raided Ghosn’s Tokyo home, but prosecutors and police did not immediately comment as government offices in Japan are closed this week for the New Year’s holidays.

Japanese media showed investigators entering the home, which was Ghosn’s third residence in Tokyo since he was first arrested a year ago. Authorities have now searched each one.

Japanese prosecutors carry bags as they leave Ghosn’s Tokyo residence as part of a probe into his escape. (Jiji Press/AFP via Getty Images)

Ghosn, who was charged in Japan with underreporting his future compensation and breach of trust, has repeatedly asserted his innocence, saying authorities trumped up charges to prevent a possible fuller merger between Nissan Motor Co. and alliance partner Renault SA.

In Beirut’s affluent residential neighbourhood of Ashrafieh, several security guards stood outside Ghosn’s rose-coloured mansion Thursday along with about two dozen journalists. Since news of his arrival, journalists, including many from the Japanese media, have flocked outside the building, trying to capture any proof of his presence.

At one point, a Lebanese lawyer who said he worked for Nissan appeared, claiming the building belonged to the auto company, not to Ghosn.

One of Ghosn’s neighbours, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they are “split as to whether they are with or against his return.”

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China denies forced labour accusations after plea found in Christmas card

China denied accusations of forced labour at a Shanghai prison on Monday, a day after media reports that a young girl had found a message in a Christmas card saying it had been packed by inmates.

The Sunday Times newspaper said the message in the charity card sold by British supermarket giant Tesco read: “We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qingpu Prison China. Forced to work against our will.”

The message urged whoever received it to contact Peter Humphrey, a British former journalist and corporate fraud investigator who was imprisoned in the same jail in 2014-2015.

Tesco suspended the Chinese supplier of the Christmas cards on Sunday and said it had launched an investigation.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told a news briefing that “I can responsibly say, according to the relevant organs, Qingpu prison does not have this issue of foreign prisoners being forced to work.”

Watch: Prisoner put plea for help in Christmas card

Florence Widdicombe, 6, describes what she found in a package of Christmas cards from Tesco. 1:52

He dismissed the whole story as “a farce created by Mr. Humphrey.” Humphrey did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the ministry’s statement.

Humphrey spent 23 months in prison on charges of illegally obtaining private records of Chinese citizens and selling the information to clients including drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline.

The Sunday Times said the message had been found by six-year-old Florence Widdicombe, who showed it to her father. He then contacted Humphrey via LinkedIn.

Writing in the Sunday Times, Humphrey said he did not know the identities or the nationalities of the prisoners, but he “had no doubt they are Qingpu prisoners who knew me before my release in June 2015.”

Humphrey said during his trial he had not thought his activities in China were illegal.

Watch: Ex-prisoner recalls receiving holiday card plea

Peter Humphrey, who spent time in a Chinese prison, recalls receiving a Christmas card from fellow detainees pleading for help. 1:17

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