Tag Archives: illegal

Andrew Cuomo Announces Investigation Following ‘Illegal & Reckless’ Chainsmokers ‘Drive-In’ Concert

Andrew Cuomo Announces Investigation Following ‘Illegal & Reckless’ Chainsmokers ‘Drive-In’ Concert | Entertainment Tonight

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Black box transcript confirms illegal interference with jet downed in Iran, says Ukraine

The transcript from the black boxes from a Ukrainian jet accidentally shot down by Iran on Jan. 8 confirm the fact of illegal interference with the plane, Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister wrote on Twitter on Friday.

Yevhenii Yenin said Kyiv was expecting an Iranian delegation to visit Ukraine next week for talks.

The Canadian Transportation Safety Board said on Thursday an international team examining the black boxes from the jet had completed a preliminary analysis of the data in France.

“Grateful to all partners who helped bring this moment closer. Black boxes from #PS752 were read out and deciphered successfully. The transcript confirmed the fact of illegal interference with the plane,” Yenin wrote on Twitter.


Iranian forces say they downed the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 jet after mistaking it for a missile at a time of high tensions with the United States. All 176 passengers on board died, including 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said this month that it was too soon to blame human error for the shooting down of the airliner and that many questions remained unanswered.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in February that Kyiv was not satisfied with the amount of compensation Iran had offered.

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Travel restrictions during outbreak needless and illegal, global law experts say

Global health law experts say dozens of countries — including the United States and Australia — are breaking international law by imposing travel restrictions during the novel coronavirus outbreak.

In a commentary published in The Lancet medical journal, 16 health law scholars argue that the restrictions on travellers who’ve been in China, the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak, are driven by “fear, misinformation, racism and xenophobia,” rather than science.

And they say those are a violation of the International Health Regulations, legally binding rules meant to ensure that countries don’t take needless measures to control the spread of an infectious disease that end up harming people or discouraging countries from reporting new public health risks.

The World Health Organization has advised against travel restrictions during the COVID-19 outbreak on the grounds that they do more harm than good.

Yet Steven Hoffman, senior author of The Lancet commentary and a professor at York University’s faculty of health, says 72 countries have imposed restrictions anyway.

And two-thirds of those countries have not reported their actions to the WHO, which in itself is another violation of international law.

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‘Whiter skin in 14 days’: Tracking the illegal sale of skin-whitening creams in Canada

Some skin-lightening products sold in Canada contain alarming levels of harmful ingredients, including mercury, hydroquinone and steroids, a CBC Marketplace investigation has found.

Mercury and hydroquinone, in particular, are possible carcinogens and can cause severe skin issues with prolonged use.

Health Canada says the sale of these “unauthorized” products is illegal, as they may pose serious health risks.

Marketplace bought the majority of these creams in beauty supply stores across the country — at locations in Toronto, Halifax, Montreal and Vancouver. Some of the sales clerks issued warnings during the shopping trips.

  • Watch the full Marketplace investigation, Shady business: The illegal sale of skin-whitening creams, at 8 p.m. Friday (8:30 p.m. NT) on CBC TV and Gem.

“You can use it all over, but you have to use at your discretion, because it can damage your face and … we [are not] responsible for it,” said one salesperson.

“[Customers] love it but it can be very damaging. Very, very damaging,” said another.

And other stores made promises of “whitened” skin within two weeks. Or, as one saleswoman said, “in seconds, become white.”

WATCH | Marketplace goes undercover to buy skin-lightening products:

Marketplace goes undercover to reveal whether unauthorized skin-lightening products are for sale in Canada. 0:36

Testing the products

After purchasing more than 100 products used for skin lightening or whitening, Marketplace commissioned a laboratory in the U.K. to test more than a dozen of the most popular ones, looking for some common ingredients, including: 

Toronto dermatologist Dr. Lisa Kellett has seen the damage skin-lightening creams can cause firsthand, treating patients who come into her office with skin issues after using these over-the-counter products.

“The worst I’ve seen would be infection causing scarring. I’ve seen ochronosis, which is pigment change,” she said, referring to the blue, grey or black discolouration that can occur after long-term use of hydroquinone.  


Many of the products Marketplace tested contained high levels of hydroquinone, which according to Dr. Lisa Kellett, can cause ochronosis, a blue or grey discolouration of the skin. The companies say those samples must have been counterfeit. (Indian Journal of Dermatology)

“I’ve seen reactions to the product, which looks like a bad form of eczema. I’ve seen blisters … and some people react so severely that they get inflamed lymph nodes as well, and they require admission to hospital.”

Marketplace‘s testing found most of the products violated Health Canada guidelines, some of which contained dangerous ingredients not listed on the label.

They include Maxi Light, which was found to contain hydroquinone over Health Canada’s two per cent limit and a steroid called clobetasol propionate, not listed on the ingredients label. 

Clobetasol propionate is a very strong topical steroid used to treat allergic reactions, eczema and psoriasis. It should only be used with a prescription and under a doctor’s direction, as misuse or overuse can cause side effects that include burning, scaling or thinning of the skin.

Maxi Light did not respond to Marketplace‘s repeated requests for comment.

Miss White, a product that claims “Whiter Skin in 14 Days,” was found to contain double the amount of hydroquinone allowed — and it’s not listed on the label.

The Mitchell Group, the company that distributes Miss White in North America, says it doesn’t ship any products containing hydroquinone to Canada and that the Miss White products Marketplace tested were counterfeit.

The company also says its products are intended to treat skin discoloration in many different forms, including dark spots, uneven skin tone and hyperpigmentation. And while the product advertises “Whiter Skin in 14 days,” the Mitchell Group says they promote a “black is beautiful” message.

The company’s lawyer, Arnold Zweig, also contacted Marketplace, and in a statement, he wrote that his client condemns any form of discrimination and does not condone the use of their products in order for their customers to appear “whiter.” 

Another cream with a labelling issues was Caro White, considered one of the most popular skin-lightening products worldwide. On the label, it was listed as containing two per cent hydroquinone, but lab tests revealed it had over four per cent, more than double what Health Canada allows. 

Dream Cosmetics, the Ivory Coast-based company that makes Caro White, said in a statement that it follows regulations and the creams that were tested must have been counterfeit.

16,000 times the level of mercury allowed

Testing results for Goree Beauty Cream, a product Marketplace purchased online, showed an extremely high level of mercury. One sample had more than 16,000 times the amount allowed by Health Canada. It also contained the steroid clobetasol propionate.

“This is very dangerous. Mercury has some carcinogenic effects,” said Kellet. “And as well, the steroid; it’s too strong for use. It should not be available over the counter.”

According to Health Canada’s regulations, mercury over 1 part per million (PPM) is not allowed in over-the-counter health and cosmetic products. 

In a statement, Goree told Marketplace that it does not add mercury as an ingredient, it does not distribute its products outside of Pakistan, and that the creams tested could be knock-offs. 

When Marketplace contacted all the companies that distribute these products, many said their products were not meant to be sold in Canada, and they couldn’t explain how they ended up on store shelves here. Some added that their products are not meant to promote a desire for whiter skin; rather, their products are intended to even skin tone.

Many of these skin-lightening products are made in different parts of the world, including Africa, Asia and the United States. A lot of them are sold Canadian beauty supply stores, including those that cater to African, Asian and Caribbean communities.


Kellett says daily use of skin-lightening products that contain hydroquinone can have serious long-term effects on your health. (CBC)

Skin-lightening products with hydroquinone can be prescribed by dermatologists to lighten dark spots on the skin, such as age spots, liver spots or freckles. Such use typically consists of spot treatments for a limited period of time under the guidance of a health-care professional.

But with these beauty products readily available on some store shelves, consumers are able to use them all over their faces and bodies daily — and that can cause serious, long-term effects, Kellett said.

She would like to see such over-the-counter products pulled nationwide.

Kellett herself doesn’t prescribe hydroquinone on a regular basis. Instead, she uses a combination of what she says are more effective skin-lightening agents that do not cause ochronosis. On the rare occasion when she will prescribe hydroquinone to treat a patient’s skin condition, she gives very detailed directions on how to use it.

“The problem is that people are using it incorrectly — they’re using it for the wrong purpose,” said Kellett. “This whole milieu of having these products available needs to be stopped. These products should not be sold.”

Selling whiteness 

For many consumers, the desire for lighter, whiter skin can trump the dangers. Skin lighteners are a growing global business expected to reach more than $ 31 billion US by 2024

What’s behind the trend? Shadeism, a discrimination or prejudice based on skin tone that equates people with lighter skin as more worthy and more attractive than people with darker skin.

There are hundreds of beauty products that reinforce this negative message.

WATCH | Why this woman says she stopped lightening her skin:

Sabrina Manku began using skin-lightening products when she was just 10, but says she now embraces her skin tone. 4:12

Sabrina Manku, of Brampton, Ont., started lightening her skin at age 10. 

“I would look at myself, because I used to have fairly dark skin, and I was like, ‘OK, like, maybe if I start using this — which I did — I’d become lighter.'”

Manku used a variety of products and says she became about three to four shades lighter within a few years. She was praised by friends and family for her “brighter” look.

When she started entering beauty pageants as a teenager, Manku believed her lighter skin helped her succeed.

Looking over some of her pageant photos, Manku recently realized that all the contestants were the same shade — something she hadn’t noticed before.


Sabrina Manku, top left, began competing in beauty pageants as a teenager. (Sabrina Manku)

Like many consumers Marketplace interviewed, Manku said she bought into the idea of skin lightening because it was practised by others in her family, and that she was also influenced by marketing.

Her favourite cream to use was Fair & Lovely, an extremely popular product in South Asia. The package includes a “fairness meter” that allowed Manku to check if she was achieving her desired shade.

“I would literally test my skin; it’s like, OK, now … I got this tone by putting this on,” Manku said. “They’re setting beauty standards that everyone has to follow, and they’re using actresses for it. They’re using really good-looking actresses, really light skin actresses.”

Calling out the marketing of fairness: Dove vs. Fair & Lovely

Fair & Lovely is owned by Unilever, a multinational company that owns around 400 brands, including Dove. 

In recent years, Dove has built its brand around the concept of “real beauty.”

One of its latest North American campaigns is about “shattering beauty stereotypes,” and it features women of different races, languages, shapes, sizes and abilities. The commercial ends with a statistic that 70 per cent of women still don’t feel represented in media and advertising — and that’s why Dove is assembling the world’s largest stock photo library powered by women around the world. 

WATCH | Shoppers react to Unilever’s Fair & Lovely ads: ‘I call bullshit’:

Unilever owns both Dove and Fair & Lovely, and some experts say the marketing is at odds with Dove’s ‘real beauty’ campaign, which promotes loving the skin you’re in. 2:13

Dove’s marketing campaigns are in sharp contrast to those of Fair & Lovely.

In a recent commercial posted online, they use an actress to promote Fair & Lovely. She seemingly goes through a dramatic skin-lightening transformation, talking about the latest innovation to get “best fairness” with laser light and advanced multivitamins, which will brighten “dark skin cells.”

In an email to Marketplace, Unilever said it stands behind the marketing of their skin-lightening cream, noting that “even-toned and lighter skin is a common desire among many people across Asia, Africa and Latin America. The origin of Fair & Lovely is designed to meet this need in a safe way.”  

Unilever also added that it has established strict marketing principles that will not make any association between skin tone and a person’s self-worth and achievement.

According to the lab tests commissioned by Marketplace, Fair & Lovely did not contain any potentially harmful ingredients and Unilever said it does not sell the product in Canada.

History of racist advertising

That’s not good enough for Amina Mire, an assistant professor of sociology and anthropology at Carleton University. She said even if some of these products are considered safe, they still carry harmful messages that lighter skin is better than darker skin. 

“What if they can come up with skin lightening that’s like completely safe? Is that what we want? Just like a homogenized world where everybody looks white?”


Amina Mire, the author of a book about the skin-lightening industry, says shadeism is a real problem. (CBC)

Mire has written a book about skin lightening, a practice she traces back to the early 19th century and ads for soap that featured images portraying black people as dirtier than white people.  

“Discourse around cleanliness, order, discipline — they were all part of whiteness,” she said. “It plays especially into the ways in which colour grades and different shades were awarded with different privileges, or lack of it.”


Nineteenth-century ads, like this one from Pears Soap, reflected racist sentiments that black people were dirtier than white people. (HistoryToday.com)

U.K authorities raid stores selling skin-lightening creams

Skin lightening is such a pervasive problem that some countries are cracking down on the industry. South Africa, the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia and Europe have banned all over-the-counter products containing any amount of hydroquinone.

Regulators in the U.K., for example, conduct frequent raids of retail stores, confiscating goods that have been deemed illegal. Shop owners have been prosecuted and fined; at least one man has served jail time.

Health Canada, which capped the limit of hydroquinone on store shelves at two per cent last year, said it has been actively inspecting retailers and seizing unauthorized products. One of the most recent seizures involved a beauty shop in the Toronto area this past December.

Health Canada and retailers take action

After Marketplace shared their findings with Health Canada, the regulator issued a new advisory, warning Canadians that the sale of unauthorized skin-whitening products is illegal and using them can pose serious health risks.  

“Health Canada has seized several products from retailers and is concerned that similar unauthorized products continue to be sold to Canadians despite their risks. The department strongly encourages Canadians to not use these products and to report to Health Canada if they see the products for sale, so that the department can take appropriate action.”

All authorized products for lightening, whitening or bleaching skin must have an eight-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN) or Natural Product Number (NPN). Health Canada’s Drug Product Database and Licensed Natural Health Product Database also list which products have been authorized for sale. 

Marketplace contacted the retailers to inform them about the harmful and unauthorized products they had for sale. A number of them, including BSW Beauty Supply, Beauty Collection Inc., and Cloré Beauty Supply, agreed to remove almost all of their stock. 


Cloré Beauty Supply, which has eight stores in Ontario, says it will no longer sell skin-lightening or whitening products after Marketplace’s investigation. (Asha Tomlinson/CBC)

Cloré vice-president Clara Kim said she had no idea the products they were selling could be dangerous or counterfeit. The company owns eight stores across Ontario.

“Now that I do know, I do feel totally responsible for it,” said Kim. “Since this incident, we’re taking this as a lesson to re-evaluate our purchasing decisions and input ways for us to verify if the product is safe for retail and consumers.” 

In the wake of Marketplace‘s investigation, Cloré will no longer sell any lightening, whitening or bleaching products, Kim said, because “we now know we can’t trust the label.” 

The company has also put up notices to let customers know that they’ve removed the products due to safety concerns. If customers want to return a recalled product, they’ll get a full refund.   

As for Sabrina Manku, she has stopped using skin lighteners. She says she’s embracing the skin she’s in — and wants others to do the same. 

“I feel like I should have been accepting of who I was from the very start,” she said. “Every colour is beautiful, every shade is beautiful. … Just step away from all these products, especially the ones that you know nothing about.”

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U.S. no longer considers Israeli West Bank settlements illegal

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Monday that the United States is softening its position on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, the latest in a series of Trump administration moves that weaken Palestinian claims to statehood.

Pompeo rejected a 1978 State Department legal opinion that held that civilian settlements in the occupied territories are “inconsistent with international law.” The move immediately put the U.S. at odds with other nations working to end the conflict.

The Trump administration views the opinion, the basis for long-standing U.S. opposition to expanding the settlements, as a distraction and believes any legal questions about the issue should be addressed by Israeli courts, Pompeo said.

“Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law has not advanced the cause of peace,” Pompeo said. “The hard truth is that there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict, and arguments about who is right and who is wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace.”

U.S. moves that have weakened Palestinian efforts to achieve statehood have included President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the movement of the U.S. Embassy to that city and the closure of the Palestinian diplomatic office in Washington.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesperson, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, condemned Pompeo’s announcement and said settlements are illegal under international law. “The U.S. administration has lost its credibility to play any future role in the peace process,” he said.

WATCH: Pompeo announces U.S. policy shift on Israeli West Bank settlements

The United States on Monday effectively backed Israel’s right to build Jewish settlements on the occupied West Bank by abandoning its four-decade position that they were “inconsistent with international law.” 0:39

Even though the decision is largely symbolic, it could give a boost to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is fighting for his political survival after he was unable to form a coalition government following recent elections.

In addition, it could spell further trouble for the administration’s oft-promised peace plan, which is unlikely to gather much international support by endorsing a position contrary to the global consensus.

Adam Austen, press secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, told CBC News that Canada does not recognize permanent Israeli control over territories in the West Bank.

“Canada is committed to the goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, including the creation of a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel,” Austen said. 

“We agree with the UN Security Council that these settlements are a serious obstacle to achieving just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”

The EU was also swift to denounce the move, saying that it continued to believe Israeli settlement activity in occupied Palestinian territory was illegal under international law and eroded prospects for lasting peace.

“The EU calls on Israel to end all settlement activity, in line with its obligations as an occupying power,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement.

The Netanyahu government was dealt a blow on settlements just last week when the European Court of Justice ruled products made in Israeli settlements must be labelled as such.

The Hansell Memorandum

The 1978 legal opinion on settlements is known as the Hansell Memorandum. It had been the basis for more than 40 years of carefully worded U.S. opposition to settlement construction that had varied in its tone and strength depending on the president’s position.

The international community overwhelmingly considers the settlements illegal. This is based in part on the Fourth Geneva Convention, which bars an occupying power from transferring parts of its own civilian population to occupied territory.

In the final days of the Obama administration, the U.S. allowed the UN Security Council to pass a resolution declaring the settlements a “flagrant violation” of international law.

Pompeo said that the U.S. would not take a position on the legality of specific settlements, that the new policy would not extend beyond the West Bank and that it would not create a precedent for other territorial disputes, he said.

He also said the decision did not mean the administration was prejudging the status of the West Bank in any eventual Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.


A view shows Palestinian houses in the village of Ein Yabrud with the Jewish settlement of Ofra seen in the background, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. (Raneen Sawafta/Reuters)

The shift is a victory for Netanyahu, a longtime booster of the settlements, and had been strongly supported by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and major Trump donor Sheldon Adelson. Friedman was a major fundraiser for the settlements before becoming ambassador.

It may be taken by Netanyahu and the settlement movement as a green light for additional construction on, or even annexation of, lands claimed by the Palestinians for a future state.

The anti-settlement monitoring group Peace Now, along with reporting by The Associated Press, has found a sharp increase in settlement planning and construction since Trump took office.

For Netanyahu, the welcome boost comes at a time when he has been weakened domestically by mounting legal woes and two inconclusive elections this year.

Unable to secure a parliamentary majority, Netanyahu is now anxiously waiting to see if his chief rival, Benny Gantz, can put together a coalition. If Gantz fails, the country could be forced into a third election with Netanyahu facing the distraction of a trial.

Policy reflects ‘historical truth’: Netanyahu

Netanyahu’s office released a statement saying the policy shift “rights a historical wrong” concerning settlements.

“This policy reflects an historical truth — that the Jewish people are not foreign colonialists in Judea and Samaria,” it said, using the Israeli terms for the West Bank.

Gantz, meanwhile, applauded Pompeo’s “important statement, once again demonstrating its firm stance with Israel and its commitment to the security and future of the entire Middle East.”

Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and quickly began settling the newly conquered territory.

Today, some 700,000 Israeli settlers live in the two areas, which are both claimed by the Palestinians for their state.


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears before supporters during a Likud conference in Tel Aviv on Sunday. The U.S.’s move is a victory for Netanyahu, who is a longtime supporter of the settlements. (Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images)

After the war, it immediately annexed east Jerusalem, home to the holy city’s most important religious sites, in a move that is not internationally recognized.

But Israel has never annexed the West Bank, even as it has dotted the territory with scores of settlements and tiny settlement outposts.

While claiming the fate of the settlements is a subject for negotiations, it has steadily expanded them. Some major settlements have over 30,000 residents, resembling small cities and serving as suburbs of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Palestinians and most of the world say the settlements undermine hopes for a two-state solution by gobbling up land sought by the Palestinians.

Israel’s settlement activities have also drawn attention to its treatment of Palestinians.

While Jewish settlers can freely enter Israel and vote in Israeli elections, West Bank Palestinians are subject to Israeli military law, require permits to enter Israel and do not have the right to vote in Israeli elections.

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Illegal loggers kill Amazon indigenous warrior who guarded forest

Illegal loggers in the Amazon ambushed an indigenous group that was formed to protect the forest and shot dead a young warrior and wounded another, leaders of the Guajajara tribe in northern Brazil said on Saturday.

The clash comes amid an increase in invasions of reservations by illegal loggers and miners since right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro took office this year and vowed to open up protected indigenous lands to economic development.

“The Bolsonaro government has indigenous blood on its hands,” Brazil’s pan-indigenous organization APIB, which represents many of the country’s 900,000 native people, said in a statement on Saturday.

“The increase in violence in indigenous territories is a direct result of his hateful speeches and steps taken against our people,” APIB said.

APIB leader Sonia Guajajara said the government was dismantling environmental and indigenous agencies, and leaving tribes to defend themselves from invasion of their lands.

“It’s time to say enough of this institutionalized genocide,” she said in a post on Twitter.


Indigenous leader Paulo Paulino Guajajara drinks water from a tree branch at a makeshift camp on Araribóia Indigenous land near the city of Amarante, in Maranhão state, Brazil, on Sept. 10, 2019. (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

Brazil’s federal police said they had sent a team to investigate the circumstances of Paulino Guajajara’s death. APIB said his body was still lying in the forest where he was killed.

The Guajajaras, one of Brazil’s largest indigenous groups with some 20,000 people, set up the Guardians of the Forest in 2012 to patrol a vast reservation. The area is so large that a small and endangered tribe, the Awá Guajá, lives deep in the forest without any contact with the outside world.

Paulino Guajajara, who was in his twenties and leaves behind one son, told Reuters in an interview on the reservation in September that protecting the forest from intruders had become a dangerous task, but his people could not give in to fear.

“I’m scared at times, but we have to lift up our heads and act. We are here fighting,” he said, as he and other warriors prepared to move through the forest toward a logging camp.

“We are protecting our land and the life on it, the animals, the birds, even the Awá who are here too,” Paulino Guajajara said at the time. “There is so much destruction of Nature happening, good trees with wood as hard as steel being cut down and taken away.”

“We have to preserve this life for our children’s future,” he said.

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FAA: Weaponized Drones Are Illegal

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The cost of consumer drones has come down considerably in the past few years, and some owners have fancied the idea of outfitting their unmanned vehicles with weapons. Some recent videos have surfaced showing people doing just that. Well, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is here to remind everyone that, no, you can’t equip a drone with weapons. It’s highly illegal, and the FAA is authorized to slap people with hefty fines. 

For several years, the proliferation of drone aircraft proceeded with very little regulation. The federal government slammed on the brakes when businesses started using drones at a time when there were no rules in place to ensure unmanned vehicles didn’t interfere with air traffic. Now, drones over a certain size and those used in business require a license. There are also restrictions about where you can fly drones, and of course, you’re not allowed to turn drones into flying weapons. 

Just recently, a company called ThrowFlame made headlines with its $ 1,500 “TF-19 Wasp” flamethrower attachment for drones. It works with most unmanned aircraft with a payload capacity of five pounds or more. Most of that weight is fuel — one gallon gets you 100 seconds of burning time. The TF-19 Wasp can bathe targets up to 25 feet away in fire. ThrowFlame insists this isn’t a weapon. 

The FAA has issued an official warning to the Ohio-based company. According to the FAA, any civilian operating a droneSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce with “guns, bombs, fireworks, flamethrowers, and other dangerous items” is subject to a fine of up to $ 25,000. ThrowFlame insists that flamethrowers are regulated as tools in the US, so they can’t be weapons. That’s reminiscent of the claims Elon Musk made in 2018 when The Boring Company sold 20,000 flamethrowers for $ 500 each. Of course, the company later changed the name to “Not a Flamethrower” just to be safe. 

This is certainly more of a gray area than some past drone experiments. In 2015, the FAA investigated an online video that showed a drone firing a handgun. Following the investigation, the agency issued a warning but decided against fines. 

ThrowFlame, which also sells handheld flamethrowers, seems defiant in the face of potential fines. The TF-19 Wasp remains for sale on the company’s site, and there are plenty of videos demonstrating its use. The FAA might call that “evidence.” This disagreement could be headed for court.

Now read:

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New York accuses opioid maker Purdue of illegal fund transfers to Sackler family

Purdue Pharma LP fraudulently transferred funds to members of the wealthy Sackler family who control the OxyContin maker despite knowing it faced major liabilities that had made it already insolvent, New York’s attorney general alleged.

Letitia James made the claims Thursday in a revised lawsuit already pending against Purdue over its role in the opioid epidemic that added members of the Sackler family and other drug manufacturers and distributors as defendants.

The lawsuit alleged Purdue and other manufacturers engaged in deceptive marketing that downplayed the dangers of the addictive painkillers and accused distributors of failing to detect the diversion of the drugs for illicit purposes.

“As the Sackler family and the other defendants grew richer, New Yorkers’ health grew poorer and our state was left to foot the bill,” James said in a statement.

The revised lawsuit also added as defendants units of opioid manufacturers Johnson & Johnson, Endo International Plc, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd and distributors McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health Inc and AmerisourceBergen Corp.

In a statement, the Sackler family called the lawsuit “a misguided attempt to place blame where it does not belong for a complex public health crisis.”

Representatives for the other defendants did not respond to requests for comment.

The case is among roughly 2,000 lawsuits filed by state and local governments seeking to hold Purdue and other pharmaceutical companies responsible for the U.S. opioid crisis.

Opioids were involved in a record 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017 in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The complaint came after Purdue and the Sacklers on Tuesday reached a $ 270-million US settlement with Oklahoma resolving similar allegations. Purdue had been exploring filing for bankruptcy prior the accord’s announcement.

In her lawsuit, James accused Purdue of seeking to “intimidate” states pursuing lawsuits against it by threatening bankruptcy, which would hinder their cases and limit their ability to recover damages.

Yet James said Purdue, which is fighting lawsuits by 34 other states and hundreds of localities, has continued in the face of its liabilities to pay millions of dollars to the Sacklers.

The lawsuit argued Purdue was either insolvent or near insolvency when it transferred those funds, making the transfers illegal under New York law.

The payments meant Purdue, which had average annual sales of $ 3 billion, no longer had assets that could satisfy the state’s claims, the lawsuit said. 

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Costco fined $7.2M for accepting illegal kickbacks

The Ontario government has fined Costco more than $ 7 million after an investigation into allegations the bulk food giant asked for illegal kickbacks from a generic drug manufacturer.

The Fifth Estate first reported in March of last year, that the province's Forensic Investigations Team had launched the investigation.

The Ontario's Ministry of Health issued a statement Friday announcing the fine.

"Following an inspection, the Ministry determined that [Costco pharmacies] had received $ 7,250,748.00 for advertising services which the Ministry concluded violated the prohibition on rebates," the statement said.

"The Ministry takes non-compliance with the prohibition on rebates seriously and will continue to assess compliance with the prohibition by manufacturers, wholesalers and pharmacies."

It's illegal in Ontario for a pharmacy to accept rebates, or kickbacks, from a generic drug manufacturer in exchange for promising to stock its brand of drugs. Studies show rebates drive up the price of generic drugs for consumers.

Secretly recorded audio tapes obtained by The Fifth Estate showed a senior pharmacy executive from Costco asking for kickbacks.

"As a minimum, I'd like to see somewhere around 3.6 million of support. That's a minimum," the executive can be heard saying.

A salesperson from generic drug manufacturer Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals first brought forward the allegations against Costco in 2015.

"I feel vindicated, I'm happy but it's not enough," said Tony Gagliese.

Tony Gagliese was a salesman with Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals. He blew the whistle on Costco by filing a complaint with the Ontario College of Pharmacists. (CBC)

According to the ministry, the fine levied is equal to the amount Costco received in kickbacks. Gagliese says the province should have come down harder on Costco.

"If you want to send deterrent, you have to send a strong message. This isn't a strong message. They are just paying back the money they took."

In 2018, two pharmacy directors with Costco pleaded guilty to professional misconduct in front of the Ontario College of Pharmacists.

The college accused Joseph Hanna and Lawrence Varga of asking for the illegal payments. They later conceded that the requests could "reasonably be regarded… as unprofessional," according to the decision from the college's disciplinary committee.

Each pharmacist was fined $ 20,000 and ordered to pay $ 30,000 in costs.

In a statement on Friday, Costco says it co-operated with the investigation and has agreed to pay the fine.

The company says it "honestly believed at the time that the advertising programs referred to were not contrary to Ontario law," and that it's "pleased that the rebate order issued by the Ministry provides further guidance on the issue of rebates."

The company pointed out that the decision of the college said at the time Costco was "operating in an area of legal uncertainty."

Costco added, it "would never knowingly or intentionally act in a manner which was inconsistent with the laws of Ontario." 

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'Greed is a powerful weapon': Are illegal kickbacks in Ontario driving up the cost of your generic drugs?

A hidden camera investigation and confidential documents obtained by CBC's The Fifth Estate raise questions about whether Canada's largest pharmaceutical distributor is profiting from illegal kickbacks on sales of generic drugs in Ontario.

Studies have shown this practice drives up the cost of generic drugs for all Canadians.

McKesson Canada, which distributes pharmaceutical drugs to more than 8,000 pharmacies in this country and recently purchased more than 400 Rexall pharmacies, denies the allegation.

The Canadian company is a subsidiary of the San Francisco-based McKesson Corporation, which is No. 6 on the Fortune 500 and the largest pharmaceutical distributor in North America, delivering one-third of all medications used every day, according to its website.

AFifth Estate hidden camera investigation captured conversations with three independent pharmacists at two pharmacies who suggest McKesson is breaking the law in Ontario, where kickbacks on generic drugs are illegal.

"[McKesson] gives the numbers to [our buying group], they consolidate the numbers and give me 50 per cent back," one Ontario-based pharmacist told a generic drug salesperson working undercover for The Fifth Estate.

The conversation raises the question of whether this pharmacist is getting a 50 per cent kickback from McKesson Canada.

In other words, for every $ 10 in drugs this pharmacist sells, he would be able to put $ 5 in his pocket. In exchange, the pharmacist or his buying group would agree to stock the generic drugs McKesson distributes, giving the company sales ahead of a competitor.

McKesson Canada is a subsidiary of the U.S. McKesson Corporation, which is No. 6 on the Fortune 500 and the largest pharmaceutical distributor in North America. (John Badcock/CBC)

It's a practice that studies have shown dramatically inflates the prices of generic drugs for Canadians, who pay some of the highest generic drug prices in the world.

"Greed is a powerful weapon," said Paul Bailey, president of the Police Pensioners Association of Ontario, a group with many members who live on tight budgets with small police pensions.

He reviewed hidden camera footage captured by The Fifth Estate that also showed several pharmacists in Ontario asking for kickbacks.

"Once again, the taxpayer takes it on the chin," he said.

Banned in 2013

The practice of paying or receiving rebates or kickbacks in exchange for stocking a particular brand of generic drug was regulated in Ontario starting in 2006 as part of efforts to reduce the price of generic drugs.

A full ban on rebates — direct or indirect — in the province came into effect in 2013. Quebec is the only other province or territory in the country that has restrictions on rebates.

Generic prices have come down since 2006, but Canadians are still paying the second-highest amount among OECD countries for their generic drugs, according to a recent government report.

Along with conducting the hidden camera investigation, The Fifth Estate obtained an internal McKesson presentation given to its employees, as well as a confidential document filed in a hearing at the Ontario College of Pharmacists.

Both documents raise the same question: Is McKesson Canada profiting from illegal kickbacks in Ontario?  

Are they giving kickbacks to independent pharmacists in Ontario in order to secure sales or collecting kickbacks from generic drugs manufacturers in exchange for stocking a particular brand in their own Ontario stores?

"People don't know they're getting ripped off and the reason they're paying the high drug costs," said Bailey.

McKesson Canada denies allegations

The Police Pensioners Association of Ontario first became interested in rebates in 2009 when several generic drug makers, wholesalers and a pharmacy were caught in a rebate scheme.

Bailey, a former police detective, called for a criminal investigation at the time. He's now more convinced than ever that drastic action is required.

Paul Bailey, a former police detective and current president of the Police Pensioners Association of Ontario, says a public inquiry is needed into pharmaceutical rebates. (John Badcock/CBC)

"The only way we're ever going to get to the bottom of this is to have a public inquiry."

The Fifth Estaterequested an interview with McKesson Canada president Paula Keays, but she would only provide a written statement.

Keays acknowledged the company makes payments to the pharmacies it supplies with generic drugs, but denied they are illegal kickbacks or rebates.

McKesson Canada president Paula Keays acknowledged in a written statement that the company makes payments to the pharmacies it supplies with generic drugs, but denied they are illegal kickbacks or rebates. (McKesson Canada)

"McKesson Canada does not pay rebates in Ontario and any assertion to the contrary is blatantly false," she said in the statement.

The payments its company makes, she said, are "fully in line with all current provincial regulations and [are] one of the ways independent pharmacies operate and improve services for patients, like installing blood pressure monitoring stations, introducing new technologies and automating services to allow for patient counselling. These are standard business agreements and are entirely appropriate."

Going undercover

A Fifth Estate investigation in March 2018 revealed that Costco was demanding millions of dollars in illegal rebates from a generic drug manufacturer.

After that story aired, The Fifth Estate received an email from someone with many years of experience in pharmaceutical sales suggesting the problem goes far beyond Costco:

"It's not just Costco…. Every single pharmacy across the country takes kickbacks in a monetary form still to this day. I am a former rep and can definitely say that this happens. It is still happening and will continue to happen."

In order to test whether pharmacists in Ontario would ask for illegal kickbacks or disclose if they are receiving kickbacks, the insider agreed to help The Fifth Estate and go undercover as a salesperson. Because he still works in the industry, The Fifth Estate agreed to protect his identity.

CBC's graphics department created a fake drug company website for The Fifth Estate's hidden camera investigation. (David Abrahams/CBC)

"The problem is, everyone's driving these rebates up. It's a competition," he told The Fifth Estate in an interview.

"Basically it's a race to the bottom, if you will. You know, I'll offer more points than the next guy that just came in before me. And that's driving the cost of the pills up. It's just not fair."

The Fifth Estate created a fake generic drug company called Dari Pharmaceuticals and made business cards, a product list and a website.

Over three days, The Fifth Estate visited 17 independent pharmacies in Kitchener, Cambridge and Hamilton and spoke to nine pharmacy owners who were interested in buying generic drugs. All but one asked if the fake company paid illegal rebates.

'Incentives to move their stuff'

Several pharmacists also openly discussed their current arrangement, claiming they received illegal kickbacks from large companies.

"Let's say if you buy 1,000, for example, there is a rebate of 50 per cent," one pharmacist told The Fifth Estate's undercover salesperson, referring to his current arrangement with McKesson Canada.

"[Other companies] go higher [than 50 per cent] to give incentives to move their stuff," said another pharmacist. "Some days they go to 60 [per cent], some days they go to 70 [per cent]."

Some pharmacists wanted to know how The Fifth Estate's fake company would deliver its kickbacks while others talked about technical wording that could be used to hide a kickback and get around the law in Ontario.

"So basically [a middle company] cuts us a cheque every month and it's … not technically a rebate, it's more … for professional services and what have you, right," another pharmacist said. "That's how most people are wording it nowadays."   

Business cards and a product list were created for the fake generic drug company called Dari Pharmaceuticals. (CBC)

An internal McKesson Canada document obtained by The Fifth Estate suggests the company also uses a variety of terms to describe payments it makes to pharmacists.

The PowerPoint presentation from 2017 instructs employees to remove the word "rebate" from their "vocabularies," while other terms like "professional allowances" should be "used with caution."

The presentation does say rebates are illegal in Ontario but goes on to say the pharmacy brands McKesson owns, like Guardian or IDA, make payments to pharmacies under a variety of circumstances.

"All four main McKesson banners make payments to its pharmacies, but for different things, under different names and under different circumstances. Sometimes we use the same words to mean different things."

CBC asked McKesson about the presentation and the company denied the document suggests it's paying kickbacks or rebates that are illegal in Ontario.

"As could be expected, our various retail banners compensated their respective members for different things, under various names, prior to their acquisitions by McKesson Canada," the company said in a statement.

"Accordingly, a main driver of the project reflected in the presentation was to ensure McKesson Canada's rigorous corporate practices are mirrored across all McKesson Canada banner operations. The references to Ontario throughout the document reinforce the fact that rebates are illegal, and McKesson Canada does not pay them."

A senior pharmacy insider interviewed by The Fifth Estate doesn't buy it.

"You have to have so many terms because you want to complicate it," the former executive said. The Fifth Estate agreed to protect his identity because he still works in the industry.

"You don't want people to follow the money. No matter what you call it," he said, "money that is going from the manufacturer to the pharmacy at the end of the day is a rebate."

Rebates disguised as advertising?

When Costco was caught demanding kickbacks, a document filed at a hearing of the Ontario College of Pharmacists alleged that other pharmacy chains were also potentially breaking the law.

The Fifth Estate filed a motion to see exhibits filed at the hearing and after many months received most of the documents.

A letter from Costco's lawyer to the investigator for the college said: "It should be noted that advertising in the form challenged by the complainant are common for pharmacies in the industry generally."

The lawyer goes on to allege that four other large pharmacy chains that operate in Ontario pay potentially illegal rebates disguised as advertising fees, including Guardian and Rexall.

Guardian is one of McKesson's independent retail pharmacy banners and Rexall is fully owned and operated by McKesson.

CBC was unable to confirm the allegations, so approached McKesson for an explanation. Again, McKesson Canada said it's not doing anything to break the law in Ontario.

"To be abundantly clear: McKesson Canada does not pay prohibited rebates in the province of Ontario," the company added in its statement. "Any reporting otherwise would be false and inaccurate."

Millions could be saved

Canadians have for decades paid some of the highest prices for generic drugs in the world. In the mid-2000s, the Competition Bureau of Canada was one of the first to take a detailed look at why.

"Lots of people had theories but we wanted to clarify how the generic market was working and functioning and how it was broken," said lead investigator Mark Ronayne.

Two reports, one in 2007 and another in 2008, determined the practice of paying kickbacks was widespread in Canada and was costing Canadians hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

"The rebates paid to the pharmacies have accounted for a large portion of payers' generic drug costs, 40 per cent or more of generic drug expenditures," the reports concluded.  

Mark Ronayne was the lead investigator on two reports for the Competition Bureau of Canada in the mid-2000s that looked at competition practices in the Canadian generic drug sector and made recommendations for changes. (John Badcock/CBC)

"Canadian taxpayers, consumers and businesses could save up to $ 800 million a year if changes are made to the way private plans and provinces pay for generic drugs. The potential savings could climb to over $ 1 billion per year in coming years, as several blockbuster brand name drugs lose patent protection."

Ronayne believes "powerful interests" blocked change in Canada, which is why the practice of paying kickbacks continues to this day.

"If there's money to be made by providing a lower price somehow to pharmacies to somehow get your product on the shelf, then companies will look for some way to do that," said Ronayne.  

"Maybe not necessarily consistent with legislation or could be consistent with legislation but they're going to try to do it. And they've been doing that for a long time and if they are continuing to do that, I wouldn't be terribly surprised."

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