Alex Jones’ personal assets to be sold to pay $1.5B Sandy Hook debt. Company bankruptcy is dismissed

Right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones listens to his lawyer outside the federal courthouse after a bankruptcy hearing Friday, June 14, 2024, in Houston. (AP)
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Updated 15 June 2024
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Alex Jones’ personal assets to be sold to pay $1.5B Sandy Hook debt. Company bankruptcy is dismissed

HOUSTON: A federal judge on Friday ordered the liquidation of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones′ personal assets but dismissed his company’s separate bankruptcy case, leaving the immediate future of his Infowars media platform uncertain as he owes $1.5 billion for his false claims that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax.
Judge Christopher Lopez approved converting Jones’ proposed personal bankruptcy reorganization to a liquidation. But Lopez threw out the case of his company, Austin, Texas-based Free Speech Systems, after failed attempts by Jones to reach an agreement with Sandy Hook families on his proposals to reorganize and keep operating the company while paying them millions of dollars.
It wasn’t immediately clear what will happen in the coming weeks to Free Speech Systems, Infowars’ parent company, which Jones built into a multimillion-dollar moneymaker over the past 25 years by selling dietary supplements and other products. But both Jones and lawyers for the Sandy Hook families said they expect Infowars to cease operating at some point because of the huge debt.
A trustee appointed Friday in Jones’ personal bankruptcy case to oversee the liquidation now has control over his assets, including Infowars, according to lawyers for Sandy Hook families.
Dismissal of Free Speech Systems’ case means the families can now move immediately to collect on the $1.5 billion in state courts in Texas and Connecticut where they won defamation lawsuits against Jones and the company. It’s possible Infowars will continue operating during the collection efforts, which could include selling off the company’s assets.
Jones, who smiled as the judge dismissed the company’s case, called in to Infowars after the court hearing and predicted more battles in the state courts. “The bizarre political attempts to hijack the operation have failed,” he said, and added that he would find another way to broadcast his shows if he loses Infowars.
Outside the courthouse, he railed about the families not accepting his reorganization proposals and alleged that they were being used by political groups in a conspiracy to silence him. He said he would try to maximize revenues at Infowars to make money for creditors and then wind down the business in a way that takes care of its 44 employees.
“This is about taking me off the air,” Jones said. “Understand that what you’ve seen in the corporate media about me, or what I said about Sandy Hook or any of this, has no bearing on reality.”
Chris Mattei, a lawyer for the Sandy Hook families, called Infowars “soon-to-be defunct” as his clients move to collect on the debt in state courts. He said the families will also pursue Jones’ future earnings.
“Today is a good day,” Mattei said in a text message after the hearing. “Alex Jones has lost ownership of Infowars, the corrupt business he has used for years to attack the Connecticut families and so many others. ... Alex Jones is neither a martyr nor a victim. He is the perpetrator of the worst defamation in American history.”
Lopez had been asked to either convert Free Speech Systems’ bankruptcy reorganization to a liquidation or dismiss the case. He said his sole focus was what would be best for the company and its creditors. He also said Free Speech Systems’ case appeared to be one of the longest running of its kind in the country, and it was approaching a deadline to resolve it.
“I was never asked today to make a decision to shut down a show or not. That was never going to happen today one way or another,” Lopez said. “This case is one of the more difficult cases I’ve had. When you look at it, I think creditors are better served in pursuing their state court rights.”
Many of Jones’ personal assets will be sold off, but his primary home in the Austin area and some other belongings are exempt from bankruptcy liquidation. He already has moved to sell his Texas ranch worth about $2.8 million, a gun collection and other assets to pay debts.
In the lead-up to Friday’s hearing, Jones had been telling his web viewers and radio listeners that Free Speech Systems was on the verge of being shut down because of the bankruptcy. He urged them to download videos from his online archive to preserve them and pointed them to a new website of his father’s company if they want to continue buying the dietary supplements he sells on his show.
Jones has about $9 million in personal assets, according to the most recent financial filings in court. Free Speech Systems has about $6 million in cash on hand and about $1.2 million worth of inventory, according to J. Patrick Magill, the chief restructuring officer appointed by the court to run the company during the bankruptcy.
During Friday’s hearing, lawyers for the Sandy Hook families repeated claims that Jones illegally diverted millions of dollars both before and during the bankruptcies, and questioned his sending his audience to his father’s website. The families have a pending lawsuit in Texas accusing Jones of illegally diverting money, which he denies, and said they will continue efforts to claw it back.
Jones and Free Speech Systems filed for bankruptcy protection in 2022, when relatives of many victims of the 2012 school shooting that killed 20 first graders and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut, won lawsuit judgments of more than $1.4 billion in Connecticut and $49 million in Texas.
The relatives said they were traumatized by Jones’ comments and his followers’ actions. They have testified about being harassed and threatened by Jones’ believers, some of whom confronted the grieving families in person saying the shooting never happened and their children never existed. One parent said someone threatened to dig up his dead son’s grave.
Jones is appealing the judgments in the state courts.
The families in the Connecticut lawsuit, including relatives of eight dead children and adults, had asked that Free Speech Systems’ bankruptcy case also be converted to a liquidation. But the parents in the Texas suit — whose child, 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, died — wanted the company’s case dismissed, saying it would speed up collection of Jones’ debt to them.
Lawyers for the company filed documents indicating it supported liquidation, but attorneys for Jones’ personal bankruptcy case wanted the judge to dismiss the company’s case.


Say cheese: Japanese scientists make robot face ‘smile’ with living skin

Updated 18 July 2024
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Say cheese: Japanese scientists make robot face ‘smile’ with living skin

TOKYO: Japanese scientists have devised a way to attach living skin tissue to robotic faces and make them “smile,” in a breakthrough that holds out promise of applications in cosmetics and medicine.
Researchers at the University of Tokyo grew human skin cells in the shape of a face and pulled it into a wide grin, using embedded ligament-like attachments.
The result, though eerie, is an important step toward building more life-like robots, said lead researcher Shoji Takeuchi.
“By attaching these actuators and anchors, it became possible to manipulate living skin for the first time,” he added.

Minghao Nie, a researcher of University of Tokyo shows a face mold covered in human skin tissue at his lab in Tokyo on July 12, 2024. (REUTERS)

The smiling robot, featured in a study published online last month by Cell Reports Physical Science, is the fruit of a decade of research by Takeuchi and his lab on how best to combine biological and artificial machines.
Living tissue has numerous advantages over metals and plastics, Takeuchi said, ranging from the energy efficiency of brains and muscles to skin’s ability to repair itself.
Looking ahead, the researchers aim to add more elements to the lab-grown skin, including a circulatory system and nerves. That could lead to safer testing platforms for cosmetics and drugs absorbed through the skin.
It could also produce more realistic and functional coverings for robots. Still, there remains the challenge of ridding people of the strange or unnerving feelings evoked by machines that fall just short of being entirely convincing.
“There’s still a bit of that creepiness to it,” Takeuchi acknowledged about the robot. “I think that making robots out of the same materials as humans and having them show the same expressions might be one key to overcoming the uncanny valley.”


Paris mayor dips into the Seine River to showcase its improved cleanliness before Olympic events

Updated 17 July 2024
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Paris mayor dips into the Seine River to showcase its improved cleanliness before Olympic events

  • Dip at Seine part of a broader effort to showcase the river’s improved cleanliness ahead of the Summer Games
  • Daily water quality tests in early June indicated unsafe levels of E. coli bacteria, followed by recent improvements

PARIS: After months of anticipation, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo took a dip in the Seine River on Wednesday, fulfilling a promise she made months ago to show the river is clean enough to host open-swimming competitions during the 2024 Olympics — and the opening ceremony on the river nine days away.
Clad in a wetsuit, Hidalgo plunged into the river near the imposing-looking City Hall, her office, and the Notre Dame Cathedral. Paris 2024 chief Tony Estanguet and the top government official for the Paris region, Marc Guillaume, joined her.
“The water is very, very good. A little cool, but not so bad,’’ Hidalgo said upon emerging.
It’s part of a broader effort to showcase the river’s improved cleanliness ahead of the Summer Games which will kick off July 26 with a lavish open-air ceremony that includes an athletes’ parade on boats on the Seine. Daily water quality tests in early June indicated unsafe levels of E. coli bacteria, followed by recent improvements.
Since 2015, organizers have invested heavily — $1.5 billion — to prepare the Seine for the Olympics and to ensure Parisians have a cleaner river in the years after the Games. The plan included constructing a giant underground water storage basin in central Paris, renovating sewer infrastructure, and upgrading wastewater treatment plants.
Despite being a recurring promise among politicians, swimming in the Seine has been banned for over a century. Jacques Chirac, the former French president, made a similar pledge in 1988 when he was Paris mayor, but it was never realized.
Hidalgo will follow in the footsteps of French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castara, who swam in the Seine on Saturday wearing a full-body suit.
Originally planned for June, Hidalgo’s swim was postponed due to snap parliamentary elections in France. On the initial date, the hashtag ”jechiedanslaSeine” (“I’m pooping in the Seine”) trended on social media as some threatened to protest the Olympics by defecating upstream.
Concerns over the Seine’s flow and pollution levels have persisted, prompting daily water quality tests by the monitoring group Eau de Paris. Results in early June indicated unsafe levels of E. coli bacteria, followed by recent improvements.
The Seine will host several open water swimming events during the Games, including marathon swimming at the Olympic Games and the swimming legs of the Olympic and Paralympic triathlons.


Trump website features image of his bloody face to raise funds

Updated 15 July 2024
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Trump website features image of his bloody face to raise funds

WASHINGTON: Former US President Donald Trump’s website featured an image of him with a bloodied face on Monday morning to urge supporters to donate to his campaign and come together in the spirit of unity and peace following this weekend’s shooting.
The website redirected prospective donors to a page on fundraising platform WinRed that shows a black and white image taken by an Associated Press photographer that Trump has described as “iconic.”
It shows the Republican candidate’s face streaked with blood and his fist raised in defiance after a bullet pierced his upper right ear at a rally in Pennsylvania. The image was captioned with the words “FEAR NOT” written in upper case letters.
A message below the image read: “Unity. Peace. Make America Great Again.” The page also carried Trump’s signature and gave visitors to the website options to contribute at different levels.
In an interview published late on Sunday by the New York Post, Trump spoke about the images taken of him immediately after he was shot, including the photo featured on his campaign website.
“A lot of people say it’s the most iconic photo they’ve ever seen,” Trump was quoted as saying in the New York Post. “They’re right and I didn’t die. Usually you have to die to have an iconic picture.”
Trump, who is running against Democratic US President Joe Biden in November’s election, was shot by a 20-year-old man with a semiautomatic rifle on Saturday at the rally in Butler, Pennsylvania, authorities said.
One Trump supporter who attended the rally was killed, two others were wounded and the suspect was shot dead by security agents. The FBI said it was investigating the shooting as an assassination attempt.
Leaders of both the Republican and Democratic parties, including Trump and Biden, appealed to the bitterly divided country to unite and maintain calm after the shooting.
A GoFundMe campaign backed by Trump for the victims of the shooting at the former president’s rally had raised over $3.5 million by the end of Sunday.


Wedding party resumes for son of Asia’s richest man

Updated 13 July 2024
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Wedding party resumes for son of Asia’s richest man

  • It follows a formal ceremony and party the previous evening attended by the likes of socialite Kim Kardashian, Tony Blair and John Cena

MUMBAI: Lavish wedding celebrations for the son of Asia’s richest man resumed Saturday with a star-studded guestlist including Hollywood celebrities, global business leaders and two former British prime ministers.
Billionaire tycoon Mukesh Ambani’s youngest son Anant and fiancee Radhika Merchant, both 29, are tying the knot over the weekend in the financial capital Mumbai following months of pre-marriage parties that have set a new benchmark in matrimonial extravagance.
Saturday will see a blessing ceremony during which the world’s rich and famous will greet and pay their respects to the couple at the wedding venue, a 16,000-capacity convention center owned by the Ambani family’s conglomerate.
It follows a formal ceremony and party the previous evening attended by the likes of socialite Kim Kardashian, actor John Cena and former British leaders Tony Blair and Boris Johnson.
Kardashian shared videos on Instagram showing the professional influencer and her sister Khloe preparing for Friday night’s festivities adorned in traditional Indian dresses and ornate jewelry.
Footage shared by the hosts showed hundreds of revellers dancing enthusiastically inside the venue wearing traditional Indian dress.
FIFA boss Gianni Infantino, Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan and Samsung chairman Jay Y. Lee were among the hundreds of other famous figures from the business, sporting and entertainment worlds to make an appearance.
“Great wedding!” China’s ambassador to India Xu Feihong wrote on social media platform X along with footage of the couple from inside the venue.
“Best wishes to the new couple and double happiness!“
This weekend’s celebrations end Sunday with a reception party and cap months of extravagant pre-wedding parties.
Earlier events this year included a party at the Ambanis’ ancestral home where a purpose-built Hindu temple was unveiled, and private performances by R&B star Rihanna and Canada’s Justin Bieber.
Guests at that gala included Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and former US president Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka, along with a who’s who of India’s sporting and entertainment worlds.
In June, the couple embarked on a four-day Mediterranean cruise along with 1,200 guests, with singer Katy Perry performing at a masquerade ball at a French chateau in Cannes.
The Backstreet Boys, US rapper Pitbull and Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli also provided entertainment.
Anant’s father Mukesh is chairman of Reliance Industries, a family-founded conglomerate that has grown into India’s biggest company by market cap.
The patriarch is the world’s 11th richest person with a fortune of more than $123 billion, according to Forbes, and is no stranger to making a statement when it comes to family marriages.
He held the most expensive wedding in India to date for his daughter in 2018, which reportedly cost $100 million and saw US singer Beyonce perform.
The family’s lucrative interests include retail partnerships with Armani and other luxury brands, more than 40 percent of India’s mobile phone market and an Indian Premier League cricket team.
His 27-floor family home Antilia is one of Mumbai’s most prominent landmarks, reportedly costing more than $1 billion to build and with a permanent staff of 600 servants.
Merchant is the daughter of well-known pharmaceutical moguls.


Alec Baldwin weeps in court as judge announces involuntary manslaughter case is dismissed midtrial

Updated 13 July 2024
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Alec Baldwin weeps in court as judge announces involuntary manslaughter case is dismissed midtrial

SANTA FE, N.M.: A New Mexico judge on Friday brought a sudden and stunning end to the involuntary manslaughter case against Alec Baldwin, dismissing it in the middle of the actor’s trial and saying it cannot be filed again.
Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer dismissed the case based on the misconduct of police and prosecutors over the withholding of evidence from the defense in the 2021 shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the film “Rust.”
Baldwin cried, hugged his two attorneys, gestured to the front of the court, then turned to hug his crying wife Hilaria, the mother of seven of his eight children, holding the embrace for 12 seconds. He climbed into an SUV outside the Santa Fe courthouse without speaking to the media.
“The late discovery of this evidence during trial has impeded the effective use of evidence in such a way that it has impacted the fundamental fairness of the proceedings,” Marlowe Sommer said. “If this conduct does not rise to the level of bad faith it certainly comes so near to bad faith to show signs of scorching.”
The evidence that sank the case, revealed during the trial’s second day of testimony Thursday, was the existence of ammunition that was brought into the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office in March by a man who said it could be related to Hutchins’ killing. Prosecutors said they deemed the ammo unrelated and unimportant, while Baldwin’s lawyers alleged they “buried” it. The defense filed one of many motions they had made to dismiss the case over evidence issues. All the others were rejected. But this one took.
The judge’s decision ends the criminal culpability of the 66-year-old Baldwin after a nearly three-year saga that began when a revolver he was pointing at Hutchins during a rehearsal went off, killing her and wounding director Joel Souza.
“Our goal from the beginning was to seek justice for Halyna Hutchins, and we fought to get this case tried on its merits,” District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said in a statement. “We are disappointed that the case did not get to the jury.”
The career of the “Hunt for Red October” and “30 Rock” star and frequent “Saturday Night Live” host — who has been a household name for more than three decades — had been put into doubt, and he could have gotten 18 months in prison if convicted.
Baldwin and other producers still face civil lawsuits from Hutchins’ parents and sister.
Prosecutors did get one conviction for Hutchins’ death. Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the film’s armorer, was sentenced to 18 months in prison on an involuntary manslaughter conviction, which she is now appealing.
Her attorney Jason Bowles said Friday that he would be filing a motion to dismiss his client’s case as well.
“The judge upheld the integrity of the system in dismissing the case,” he told The Associated Press in an email.
Marlowe Sommer put a pause on the trial earlier Friday and sent the jury home for the weekend so she could spend the day hearing testimony and arguments on the motion to dismiss.
Troy Teske, a retired police officer and a close friend of Gutierrez-Reed’s father Thell Reed who is a gun coach and armorer on movies, was the person who brought the ammunition into the sheriff’s office in March on the same day the guilty verdict in her case was read.
Teske and the ammo he said might be relevant had been known to authorities since a few weeks after the shooting, and special prosecutor Kari Morrissey had met with him last year, but they determined it was not relevant.
The evidence was collected but crucially was not put into the same file as the rest of the “Rust” case, and was not presented to Baldwin’s defense team when they examined the ballistics evidence in April. They defense would argue that they should have had a chance to weigh in on the evidence’s importance, and that the prosecution “buried” it.
The issue came up during the defense questioning Thursday of sheriff’s crime scene technician Marissa Poppell, who acknowledged receiving the ammo, a moment that the judge watched on a police supervisor’s body camera on Friday.
Special prosecutor Kari Morrissey argued that the emergence of the ammunition was part of an attempt by Reed to shift blame away from his daughter.
“This is a wild goose chase that has no evidentiary value whatsoever,” Morrissey told the judge during the hearing. “This is just a man trying to protect his daughter.”
The case’s other special prosecutor, Erlinda Ocampo Johnson, resigned from the case earlier Friday. Baldwin attorney Alex Spiro asked whether she had resigned based on the evidence issues being discussed. Morrissey said she believed it was over the holding of the public hearing itself.
Speaking outside the courthouse doors, Morrissey said she respects the judge’s decision but that there was no reason to believe the undisclosed evidence in question was related to the set of “Rust.”
The trial had barely begun when it was brought to a close. Prosecutors had only started to make their case, and none of the eyewitnesses from the set had testified yet.
Baldwin’s younger brother Stephen Baldwin and older sister Elizabeth Keuchler, both actors themselves, sat behind him in the gallery next to his wife each day of the trial, which was streamed live by AP and Court TV. Reporters from both coasts filled the small courtroom, and had stations outside for arrivals and departures of trial players.
The judge dealt a serious blow to the prosecution’s case when on the eve of the trial on Monday when she ruled that Baldwin’s role as a producer on the film was not relevant and had to be left out.
Still, prosecutors forged ahead, painting Baldwin in their openings as a reckless performer who “played make-believe” while flouting basic gun safety rules.
Baldwin’s attorney Spiro argued that he did only what actors always do on the “Rust” set, and that the necessary safety steps must be taken before a gun reaches a performer’s hand.