Sunday, February 20, 2022

Last Call For Gavin Takes a Texas Page

California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom is backing state legislation that would allow citizens to enforce gun restrictions on assault weapons, the same way Texas is allowing private bounties on abortion providers in the state.

A new bill in California would allow private citizens go after gun makers in the same way Texas lets them target abortion providers, though gun advocates immediately promised a court challenge if it becomes law.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday backed legislation that would let private citizens enforce the state’s ban on assault weapons. It’s modeled after a Texas law that lets private citizens enforce that state’s ban on abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Newsom said he hopes the proposal forces the U.S. Supreme Court’s hand on the Texas abortion law. He said it will either expose their “hypocrisy” if they should block California’s proposal that affects the gun industry and not the Texas law on abortion, “or it’ll get them to reconsider the absurdity of their previous decision.”

“There is no principled way the U.S. Supreme Court cannot uphold this California law. None. Period full stop. It is quite literally modeled after the law they just upheld in Texas,” Newsom said.

The Firearms Policy Coalition, an advocacy group, pledged a court challenge should the California bill become law.

The proposed firearm restrictions are “really just modern-day Jim Crow laws designed to suppress the exercise of human rights the tyrants who run California don’t like,” the group said, promising to “litigate wherever needed to protect the rights and property of peaceable gun owners in California.”

The group and Assembly Minority Leader James Gallagher, a Republican, said Newsom is trying to distract from failing policies elsewhere that recently have prompted falling polling numbers.

“California already has the strictest gun laws in the nation, so it’s not clear what Governor Newsom is hoping to accomplish here besides a sad publicity stunt,” Gallagher said in a statement.

Texas and other conservative-led states have tried for years to ban abortions once a heartbeat is detected, at around six weeks of pregnancy, which is sometimes before the person knows they are pregnant. But the states’ attempts have been blocked by the courts.

But Texas’ new abortion law is unique in that it bars the government from enforcing the law. The idea is if the government can’t enforce the law, it can’t be sued to block it in court. That hasn’t stopped abortion providers from trying to block the law. But so far, the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority has allowed the abortion law to stay in place pending a legal challenge.

That decision incensed Newsom and his Democratic allies in the state Legislature. California has banned the manufacture and sale of assault weapons for decades. But last year, a federal judge overturned that ban. The law is still in place while the state appeals the decision.

But the decision inspired Newsom and Democrats in the state Legislature to copy Texas’ abortion law, but make it apply to gun makers instead of abortion providers.

“Our message to the United States Supreme Court is as follows: What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” said Democratic state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, the author of the proposal. “I look forward to rushing a new bill to the governor’s desk to take advantage of that United States Supreme Court guidance.”
Personally this is a great idea, and I'd like to see states like New York and Illinois follow up with similar proposals.  Democrats?

More of this, please.

Weekend At Jeffrey's, Paris Edition

Another major Jeffrey Epstein associate has been found dead in a jail cell, this time it's Epstein's former modeling business partner Jean-Luc Brunel, who provided the European connection for the Miami Beach sex predator's "supply" of young girls.

Jeffrey Epstein’s former business partner and alleged accomplice in trafficking and sexually abusing girls, Jean-Luc Brunel, was found dead Saturday in his French jail cell, according to French authorities.

The death of Brunel, once a fixture in Miami Beach’s modeling industry, resembles Epstein’s death by hanging in a New York prison cell in August 2019 that was ruled a suicide. The two men once collaborated in forming a local modeling agency, MC2, that some models said was a pretext for luring girls and young women into Epstein’s orbit.

Brunel, 76, had been arrested in December 2020 and was under investigation on rape and sex trafficking charges.

And just like Epstein, Brunel had also attempted suicide earlier, the Herald and the French daily newspaper 20 Minutes have learned.

Jailed since his 2020 arrest, Jean-Luc Brunel had tried to kill himself several times, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity. One of Brunel’s, lawyers, Mathias Chichportich, confirmed to the Herald and 20 Minutes that his client committed “several suicide attempts“ over 14 months.

Yet, the modeling agent was not under active suicide watch, known in France as “emergency protection.” These types of cells, with rounded corners, paper clothes and tearable bed sheets, are very rare and only meant to be used for an “imminent risk” for up to 24 hrs, until an inmate can be transferred to a psychiatric facility.

Brunel was, however, held in the “vulnerable people area,” nicknamed “VIP quarters,” for people deemed at risk of facing violence, which is common for sexual assault charges or famous detainees. In these areas, guards generally check on inmates four to six times per night.

After a new appeal from his lawyers, Brunel was briefly released following a suicide attempt last Christmas.

“The custody judge ruled his detention was no longer justified given the status of the prosecution,” Chichportich said.

But the decision was overruled, and Brunel went back to jail a few days later.

Prosecutors in Paris confirmed Brunel was found hanging in his cell in La Santé, in south Paris, in the early hours of Saturday morning.

“I can confirm that Mr. Brunel was discovered at 1:30 a.m. last night dead in his cell. He was alone in the cell. According to the first findings, it is a suicide by hanging. An investigation in search of the causes of death is however opened,” said Antoine Pesme, a spokesperson for the Paris public prosecutor’s office.

British and French media reported that no cameras recorded the alleged suicide at the jail, one of the toughest facilities in France, which has both high security and VIP wings that have housed some of the country’s most infamous prisoners.

Brunel’s death also comes as a judge in New York is weighing the release and unsealing of documents that could shed more light on Epstein’s trafficking operation and who was involved. Several people, labeled as “John Does,” have been fighting for years to keep their names redacted from the documents.

Brunel was being held for investigation into allegations that he and others sexually abused and trafficked young women in France over several decades. He was considered a key part of the case, and had reportedly been cooperating with authorities. He had also been speaking to U.S. authorities.

“It almost seems like the entire ring of people who were doing this that their conscience is getting the better of them now that they are being held accountable for their actions,” said Spencer Kuvin, an attorney who has represented several of Epstein’s victims. “Of course, the alternative conspiracy theory is that it’s like someone is trying to clean up shop.”

Since Brunel’s arrest, many women came forward to French authorities to report abuse, including Thysia Huisman, a Dutch former model who said she was raped by Brunel as a teen.

“It makes me angry, because I’ve been fighting for years,” Huisman told the AP. “For me, the end of this was to be in court. And now that whole ending — which would help form closure — is taken away from me.”
I'm not the one who has to judge Brunel for his acts here, but the people who wanted closure are clearly upset with this. Brunel maybe wanted the pain to stop, but so did his many, many alleged victims.

Sunday Long Read: Mad Forest

Our Sunday Long Read this week is a scary one, as the thick forests of Romania's Carpathian mountains have been the moody, fog-shrouded backdrop for many a horror story over the centuries. But a new monster roams these lands, devouring all in its wake, and that beast is none other than the world's largest corporate consumer of old-growth forests and their increasingly valuable wood: IKEA. They are now the country's largest landowner, and the Romanian forests they prey upon are far from being models of "sustainable logging".

Logging season in Romania runs seven months, from mid-September through April, a frenzy of chain saws chewing through millions of spruce, pine, oak, maple, beech, fir. Some of the wood is cut legally; most of it is not, and violence between the logging industry and its opponents breaks out often. Early this season, two Bucharest-based documentary filmmakers, working on a project about the illicit wood trade, set out to find a large, treacherous-looking clear-cut in Suceava, a northern county where some of the country’s largest sawmills are based and where Ikea owns thousands of hectares.

The filmmakers—Mihai Dragolea, a director, and Radu Mocanu, a cameraman—were shadowing a local environmentalist, Tiberiu Bosutar. A former wood chipper turned activist, Bosutar was no stranger to illegal timber. Over the course of five years, he had built a reputation as something of a forest vigilante, accosting loggers engaged in questionable activity or following trucks stuffed with wood contraband, then streaming the encounters on Facebook Live. Just a few weeks before, he’d gone viral broadcasting an attempt to detain a truck carrying illegal logs; when his white SUV ran out of gas, he flagged down an ambulance and kept up the chase.

But the filmmakers’ trip wasn’t meant to be a stunt. The group took Bosutar’s personal vehicle, well-known in the area, and lingered for coffee at a nearby gas station to make their presence known and prove that they had not come to antagonize. Then, with Bosutar behind the wheel, the person who’d tipped them off about the cut riding shotgun, and the filmmakers in the back, they took to the highway, turned left up a dirt road, and began to climb.

It didn’t take long before they saw what they came for: stumps. “The forest was fucked up to the bone,” Dragolea told me. “It was really damaged.” No surprise, really, and on any other day, Bosutar might have taken to Facebook. Instead, he chose to call the forest ranger’s office. It was an ideal opportunity, he thought, to showcase the potential for communication between activists, law enforcement, and loggers, and fulfill a New Year’s resolution to try a less combative approach. “It was a good moment to show that we are open to dialogue.”

Not long after, they heard the whinge of engines; soon, two SUVs arrived. Out jumped not local police, but a horde: 15 men armed with bats and axes. The documentary crew broke for Bosutar’s car but couldn’t get the locks in time. The attackers pried the doors open, snapped the key, slashed the tires, and smashed the camera equipment. They beat Mocanu, trapped between the car and the mountainside, unconscious. They clubbed Dragolea in the face. The director dove down the nearby ravine, where he hid under the roots of a fallen tree and called the police, begging them to come with their sirens on. “I said, ‘They’re killing the journalists in the forest, and they are tracking me down,’” he recounted. “I knew cases where people had died in the forest, I saw axes around me. If someone didn’t call, we were going to die for sure.”

Meanwhile, with Bosutar still in the car, the attackers were attempting to push the vehicle off the mountainside, hoisting the chassis up on two wheels. When he agreed to get out, they bludgeoned him, stripped him naked, and posted photos of him online, blood streaming down his face, with the caption, in Romanian: “For the virgin forests, I take my shirt off.” They directed him to walk down the hill until he encountered a second group of attackers.

But the police got there first, along with ambulances, which took all three men, two of whom passed out in transit, to the hospital. Not long after, the incident made international news via an Associated Press wire. The beating was even picked up stateside by The Washington Post.

There wasn’t much more help on the way. A police spokesman told the AP that law enforcement would treat the attack with “the utmost attention”; less than a week later, only four of the 15 assailants had been charged, not with attempted murder but with the lighter charge of brawling. All were out of jail, pending trial. Fearing for his life and his family, Bosutar fled from Suceava to Bucharest. “This is not the first time I’ve had an attempt on my life,” he told me outside the hotel where he was hiding. “It’s been three or four times already that I’ve been attacked. Do I simply admit that this is a failed state, that I don’t have an ally within it?”

“I don’t know what I should do,” he added, and started to cry.
It's not that there aren't laws and regulations designed to protect these forests, it's that the corruption, bribery and violence is so prevalent that nobody cares. Ikea says that it is getting 98% of its wood through sustainable forestry, and wants to reach 100% by the end of the year, and yet with the company getting 10% of its wood from Romania and more than half total from former Soviet republics rife with corruption, that's a massive, bald-faced lie.

As wood gets more scarce, furniture becomes more and more expensive and valuable. Ikea isn't hurting their bottom line by looking the other way on logging.

Until the forests are gone completely.

Now that's a horror story worth writing about.
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