West Virginia seeks justice for the opioid crisis as trial begins | First Thing

By Molly Blackall

Good morning.

The trial of three major US drug distributors over their alleged role in the opioid crisis in West Virginia is due to begin on Monday. The firms are accused of illegally pumping hundreds of millions of prescription opioid pills into the state, and with it, driving the highest overdose rate in the US.

The city of Huntington and surrounding Cabell county are suing McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health, three of the largest corporations in the US. The trial is part of a series of federal cases over the pharmaceutical industry’s efforts to sell narcotic painkillers, which culminated in the worst drug epidemic in US history.

  • Cabell county has a population of 90,000 but was flooded with nearly 100m pills over the course of a decade. Some quick maths puts that at more than 1,100 pills per resident.

  • The opioid epidemic has cost 500,000 lives since 1999 across the US, and devastated the lives of millions of others.

The lawsuit accuses the firms of working with “pill mill” doctors and pharmacists who were willing to give opioids to anyone who paid – a breach of laws that require distributors to stop and report any suspicious sales.

Three people died when a boat capsized off the coast of San Diego

Debris is littered along the shoreline off Cabrillo Monument on 2 May 2021 in San Diego, California.
Debris is littered along the shoreline off Cabrillo Monument on Sunday in San Diego, California. Photograph: Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

Three people have drowned and dozens more were injured off the coast of San Diego, after a wooden boat capsized. Police said “every indication” suggested the vessel was being used for people-smuggling.

Seven people were pulled from the rough waves, including the three who drowned, according to San Diego lifeguard services lieutenant Rick Romero. One individual was rescued from a cliff, while 22 others managed to reach shore. In total, 27 people were taken to hospital.

What are the prospects for Afghanistan when the US military leaves?

A handover ceremony at Camp Anthonic, from the US army to Afghan defense forces in Helmand province, Afghanistan, on 2 May.
A handover ceremony at Camp Anthonic, from the US army to Afghan defense forces in Helmand province, Afghanistan, on Sunday. Photograph: Ministry Of Defense Press Office/Reuters

The US’s formal withdrawal from Afghanistan began on Sunday – but the US military doesn’t appear sure if the country’s forces can fight the Taliban alone. Top military officer Gen Mark Milley said American forces “frankly don’t know yet” how Afghanistan will get on without international support, and admitted there were “bad possible outcomes”.

The US and its allies will accelerate the withdrawal from Afghanistan in the coming weeks, with the aim of being fully departed by 11 September.

In other news …

In late January, Canada’s parliament unanimously passed a motion calling on the federal government to declare the Proud Boys a terrorist group.
In late January, Canada’s parliament unanimously passed a motion calling on the federal government to declare the Proud Boys a terrorist group. Photograph: Andrew Selsky/AP
  • The Proud Boys Canada disbanded shortly after being named a terrorist organisation by the Canadian government. The group denied it had done anything wrong, but Ottawa said it posed an active security threat and played a “pivotal role” in the US Capitol attack.

  • Caitlyn Jenner said she opposed transgender girls competing in girls sports at school. The former Olympic champion, who came out as trans in 2015 and is running for California governor, said it was a “question of fairness”. Dozens of states are making moves to ban trans women and girls from competing in women’s sports.

  • Joe Biden wears a mask outdoors out of “habitand an abundance of caution, even though federal guidelines say he doesn’t need to, a White House adviser said. Anita Dunn admitted: “We do take some extra precautions for him because he is the president of the United States.”

Stat of the day: just 20% of Americans had paid family leave through their jobs at the start of the pandemic

Joe Biden’s American families plan proposes a $225bn investment to provide 12 weeks of paid parental, family and sick leave to almost all American workers over the next decade.

It would be the first time a US president has introduced a comprehensive paid leave program at national level, and would bring the US into line with other countries – it is the only high-wealth country without guaranteed paid maternity leave and at the start of the pandemic, just 20% of American workers had paid family leave through their jobs.

Don’t miss this: will DC become a state?

Progressives across the country are calling on the government to add a 51st star to the American flag – Washington DC. Last month, the House passed a DC statehood bill with a record number of co-sponsors, and Biden himself has offered a full-throated endorsement of the proposal. If it was pushed through, DC would become the first new state to join the union since Hawaii in 1959.

Last Thing: chip your iguana, Florida tells its residents

A woman holds an Argentine black and white tegu, which can grow as large as a dog and has caused problems, especially in the south of the state.
A woman holds an Argentine black and white tegu, which can grow as large as a dog and has caused problems, especially in the south of the state. Photograph: Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images

Florida has introduced another bizarre date to its calendar: tag your reptile day. The event is part of a drive to encourage owners of iguanas or tegus to microchip their pets, as they would with cats and dogs. It comes in response to the extensive environmental damage caused by non-native species in the state. The microchipping days are “sure to raise eyebrows in the waiting rooms of veterinarians’ offices”, writes Richard Luscombe from Miami.

Sign up

Sign up for the US morning briefing

First Thing is delivered to thousands of inboxes every weekday. If you’re not already signed up, subscribe now.