KnowThis: Jeff Bezos Donates Billions, Mexico City Protests & More
“Earth is the one thing we all have in common — let’s protect it, together.”—Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announcing his new Bezos Earth Fund. More below.
1. Boy Scouts file for bankruptcy, promise to address child abuse
The Boy Scouts of America has filed for bankruptcy, promising to use the process to compensate survivors who were sexually abused during their time as Scouts. The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) faces hundreds of lawsuits and more coming, as many U.S. states have recently changed their statute of limitation laws. The AP reports that more than 12,000 boys have been molested by 7,800 abusers since the 1920s, according to Boy Scout files revealed in court papers. The organization has already paid $150 million in settlements and legal costs between 2017 and 2019, according to USA Today. Filing for bankruptcy could help limit financial damage to the BSA amidst a rush of new accusations, and it also means all civil litigation against the organization is suspended. “The BSA intends to use the Chapter 11 process to create a Victims Compensation Trust that would provide equitable compensation to victims” and also allows the organization to stay afloat for years to come, according to a company statement. Some attorneys are calling this a cop-out, since survivors could be left with less money than they’re seeking, and they won’t be able to share their stories in court (per a complicated bankruptcy law).
Other attorneys, however, like Paul Mones, who represents many clients filing lawsuits against the organization, see this as a potentially positive outcome. He tweeted that the BSA “has only itself to blame” and that “Its bankruptcy opens a new chapter for the empowerment [of] sexual abuse victims, They will no longer sit silently by and let powerful institutions rob them of their souls and dignity.” The BSA says it “encourage[s] victims to come forward to file a claim as the bankruptcy process moves forward.”
Know This: BSA National Chair Jim Turley also wrote an open letter to victims. “Any incident of child abuse is one too many… On behalf of myself and the entire Scouting community: I am sorry. I am devastated that there were times in the past when we failed the very children we were supposed to protect,” wrote Turley. The organization has partnered with 1in6, a national resource for male sexual abuse survivors, to expand its services and provide anonymous support from trained advocates.
2. Bezos donates billions to fight climate crisis
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has announced he plans to donate $10 billion to fight the climate crisis. The money — which amounts to less than 8% of the billionaire’s fortune — will go toward creating the Bezos Earth Fund, which will fund scientists, activists, and NGOs addressing the climate crisis. Read the announcement on his Instagram here. The pledge (made by Bezos and not Amazon) was met with both applause and criticism — with many people calling out Amazon’s inconsistent policies and practices with regard to environmental impact. A group of workers that formed the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice responded to Bezos’ pledge, saying, “We applaud Jeff Bezos’ philanthropy, but one hand cannot give what the other is taking away. The people of Earth need to know: When is Amazon going to stop helping oil & gas companies ravage Earth with still more oil and gas wells?” The group has criticized Amazon for providing cloud computing technology to oil and gas companies, supporting policymakers who vote against climate legislation, and continuing the use of diesel vans with harmful emissions, amongst other things. Others on the internet have accused Amazon of being wasteful with packaging (the boxes are not NOT excessive).
Know This: Amazon employees point out that it seems their criticism has made an impact. Last year, nearly 2,000 employees joined a global climate walkout and nearly 9,000 employees wrote an open letter asking Bezos and Amazon’s board to adopt a climate plan shareholder resolution. Now, it appears the CEO is listening.
3. 7-year-old girl’s murder sparks outrage in Mexico City
People are calling for justice after a 7-year-old girl was kidnapped from school and murdered outside Mexico City. Fátima Cecilia Aldrighett Antón’s body was found in a bag over the weekend, sparking hundreds of thousands of calls of #JusticiaParaFatima (“Justice for Fátima”) on social media. Her family is blaming the government for making them wait hours to file a missing person’s report after the girl was taken.“Justice has to be done, for my daughter and for all women,” said the girl’s mother, Maria Magdalena Antón. Fátima was found days after a 25-year-old woman from Mexico City, Ingrid Escamilla, was also found brutally murdered. Both incidents have sparked outrage and public protests in the region. Escamilla was allegedly murdered by her boyfriend, and Fátima was reportedly caught on video walking away from school with a woman who authorities are working to identify. Prosecutors are offering a $107,000 reward for information about Fátima’s death.
Know This: Mexico has some of the highest rates of violence and one of the highest rates of femicide (gender-based killing) in Latin America, and many experts say those numbers are underreported.
4. Thousands of judges call for Attorney General Barr to step down
A group that includes more than 1,100 federal judges has reportedly called an emergency meeting to discuss the recent controversy surrounding U.S. Attorney General William Barr. To recap: Last week, Barr overruled prosecutors’ recommendation of a 7- to 9-year prison sentence for President Trump’s longtime adviser Roger Stone, who is accused of lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstruction. Many accused Barr of being influenced by the president, who has sought leniency for Stone. All four prosecutors withdrew from the case — and one resigned — after Barr stepped in and recommended a lighter sentence. Over the weekend, nearly 2,500 former DOJ employees signed a statement calling for Barr’s resignation. This is in addition to presidential candidates like Sen. Elizabeth Warren and sitting members of Congress like Rep. Adam Schiff who have already called for his resignation. “Such behavior is a grave threat to the fair administration of justice. In this nation, we are all equal before the law. A person should not be given special treatment in a criminal prosecution because they are a close political ally of the President,” the DOJ alumni statement says. Now, a volunteer organization of jurists known as the Federal Judges Association called for an emergency conference call, set for midday tomorrow. Philadelphia U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe, who leads the independent association, told USA Today that the group “could not wait” until its spring conference to discuss the crisis at the DOJ.
Know This: Meanwhile, President Trump spent part of his day pardoning prominent public figures convicted of fraud, corruption, and/or lying. Among the pardoned: financier Michael R. Milken, former NYC police commissioner Bernard B. Kerik, and former San Francisco 49ers owner Edward J. Debartolo Jr. He also commuted the sentence of former governor of Illinois Rod R. Blagojevich.
5. Pilot makes first ground-up flight by jetpack
An Iron Man-meets-Jetsons reality could be closer than we think. A pilot wearing a jet-powered wingsuit took flight from the ground up on Friday for the first time. Jetman pilots have previously taken off from elevated platforms, but pilot Vince Reffet was the first to launch from a standing start, which he did on a runway in the United Arab Emirates, thanks to technology by the team at Jetman Dubai. During his 3-minute flight that reached nearly 6,000 feet in altitude, Reffet demonstrated the ability to hover, stop, turn, and maneuver his jetpack. “This is the first time that a Jetman pilot has combined hovering safely at a low altitude and flying aerobatics at a high altitude in the same flight,” said Jetman Dubai.Watch video of the flight here.
Know This: The ultimate goal of Jetman Dubai is to reach 100% autonomous human flight with its jet-powered wingsuits. The next step is “to land back on the ground after a flight at altitude, without needing to open a parachute,” said Jetman pilot Vince Reffet.
A quick note on a story we brought you last week about a new proposal that would have repealed a 30-year pit bull ban in Denver: Mayor Michael Hancock announced that he will veto the measure recently passed by city council. The drama isn’t over, though, because the Denver city council will hold another vote to try and override his veto. Read the latest here.
That’s all for today. See you tomorrow!
-Sari Soffer, Supervising Producer, NowThis