Florida Jury Awards $23.6B Verdict in Big Tobacco Lawsuit

Posted by on Jul 19, 2014 in Words | 0 comments

This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com. You can check it out here.

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company must pay $23.6 billion to the widow of a man who died of lung cancer in one of the largest wrongful death verdicts for a single plaintiff in Florida state history, according to attorneys. A state jury awarded the punitive damages Friday to the estate of Michael Johnson Sr., who died in 1996 from lung cancer after years of chain smoking, attorney Christopher Chestnut told NBC News. Johnson’s estate previously won a $17 million verdict as compensation for his family’s loss.

“This jury sent a message and gave 23.6 billion reasons why you can’t lie to consumers,” said Chestnut, who along with attorney Willie Gary represent 400 cases in Florida against Big Tobacco companies. R.J. Reynolds is the maker of Pall Mall and Camel cigarettes.

The Johnson case stems from a class-action lawsuit involving Miami Beach pediatrician Howard Engle, who sued the tobacco companies for misleading the public and government as to the dangers of smoking. He was awarded $145 billion in a landmark verdict in July 2000 — the largest punitive damage ever awarded in U.S. history at the time. It was overturned in 2003 after an appeals court ruled that it shouldn’t have gone forward as a class-action suit. J. Jeffery Raborn, vice president and assistant general counsel for R.J. Reynolds, said the latest verdict of $23.6 billion was “far beyond the realm of reasonableness and fairness.” Raborn said the company plans to file post-trial motions to appeal the decision and verdict.

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Starbucks in Seoul: How the Seattle Chain Flooded South Korea

Posted by on Jun 27, 2014 in Words | 0 comments

This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com. You can check it out here.

Travelers to Seoul can sample a wide range of delicacies – bibimbap, kimchi, bulgogi – and wash it down with something to drink. And chances are the drink they will turn to is a Starbucks Frappuccino.

Seoul, South Korea beats out major cities worldwide, including New York City and London, for the distinction of having the most Starbucks locations in a single city, according to a report by Quartz. Seoul’s prominence in the coffee shop industry is no surprise to anyone familiar with Korean culture.

Well, except for Starbucks maybe. When the caffeinated giant opened its Seoul location in 1999, by the prestigious Ewha Womans University, the company was caught off-guard by the strong response, according to Starbucks spokeswoman Jaime Riley.

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Wonka Would Approve: In Japan, KitKat Bars as Train Tickets

Posted by on Jun 23, 2014 in Words | 0 comments

This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com. You can check it out here.

In Japan, KitKat bars just got a whole lot sweeter.

The popular chocolate bars can now be used as train tickets for those traveling on the Sanriku Railway network starting this month, according to a press release from Nestlé S.A. The promotion will last through the end of May 2015.

This new chapter in the partnership between Nestlé Japan and the rail company commemorates the resuming of rail service in Iwate Prefecture, the northern region of Japan devastated by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that led to the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

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Quick-Thinking Woman Who Saved Missing Florida Girl Has No Regrets

Posted by on Jun 21, 2014 in Words | 0 comments

This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com. You can check it out here

The Louisiana truck stop cashier who tipped police off to the whereabouts of a wanted sex offender traveling with a missing 16-year-old girl is still getting used to being called a hero.

Following her quick thinking, which led to the arrest of suspect Steven Myers and the recovery of Ashley Lyon, Tiger Truck Stop cashier Fawn Lasseigne Domingue said that people continue to congratulate her for her help in the incident. But it’s her boyfriend and 5-year-old son’s kind words — and the gratitude of Lyon’s family — that she thinks of first.

“My little boy’s first reaction, he said, ‘Mama, you’re a hero. You saved that girl’s life,’” Domingue, 28, told NBC News on Saturday. The boy also said he wants to meet Lyon.

“It makes me feel good that he is proud of what his mama did,” she added, choked up.

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Florida Cities Aim to Ban Sales of Dogs and Cats

Posted by on Jun 17, 2014 in Words | 0 comments

This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com. You can check it out here

“How much is that doggy in the window?” That’s a question residents of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida may not be asking if a regulation aimed at shutting down puppy and kitten mills goes into effect following a city council vote in July.

The South Florida suburb isn’t the first municipality in the state to ban the retail sale of dogs and cats. Over the past three years, 20 cities in Florida have adopted similar bans, according to Melanie Kahn, senior director the Humane Society of the United States’ Puppy Mills Campaign. More than 10 of these ordinances were enacted this year, and between six and eight more Florida cities are considering their own bans.

Roughly 30 other municipalities nationwide, including Los Angeles and Chicago, have enacted restrictions on the sale of dogs and cats. But Florida is spearheading the charge.

“Florida in particular has become the epicenter of all this activity,” Kahn said. “To the point where it’s a little overwhelming for us because it’s all over the state.”

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Check out my best political reporting.

Posted by on Jun 12, 2014 in Words | 0 comments

This past semester I had the good fortune of being a part of Peter Beinart’s class in political reporting at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Throughout the semester, I reported and opined on Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and the role she plays in the House of Representatives, among other issues. To check out the fruits of my scholarly labor, please visit my political blog here.

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