• 22.12.2012 Berryville Bust Part Of $33M Cigarettes Sting

    A Federal Grand Jury sitting in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Harrisonburg has indicted dozens of individuals for conspiring to traffic in contraband cigarettes, money laundering and a variety of related charges.The defendants were charged by the grand jury in four separate indictments returned under seal on February 17, 2011, August 3, 2011 and October 6, 2011. Those indictments were unsealed earlier this week following the arrest and initial court appearances by the defendants.The charges are the result of a three-year investigation by the United...

  • 20.11.2012 Covenant Kicks The Habit

    Amy Olson-Yarbrough was tired of being a prisoner to tobacco."I decided I didn't want cigarettes to control my life any more," Olson-Yarbrough said. "When you're a smoker you have to figure out where you're going to be able to smoke cigarettes next, how long until my next cigarette, how am I going to hide it from my kids . . ."So, on Nov. 23, 2010, Olson-Yarbrough - a pack-a-day smoker who had been at it for close to two decades - quit smoking cigarettes.Now, Olson-Yarbrough can't stand anything about it."The smell of buy cigarettes really nauseates me," she said. "I'll never go back to...

  • 18.10.2012 No-smoking Policy For New Hires

    Should smokers who want to work for the county be forced to sign a pledge they will quit smoking cigarettes — and then be required to follow through before starting work?Should they pay more for their health-care coverage if they don’t keep the pledge, or decline to sign it?Is it discrimination for government not to consider smokers to fill open positions?The Muscatine County Board of Supervisors decided to have the county’s Health and Safety Committee study the issue, which was brought up by Sheriff Dave White at the Board’s regular meeting Monday.White told the Board he’s heard...

  • 10.09.2012 Court Upholds Big Award In Smoker's Case

    A state appeals court upheld $13.8 million in punitive damages against Philip Morris on Wednesday for the addiction and death of a 45-year cigarette smoker, saying the company's decades of concealment and lies about the dangers of its products were "extremely reprehensible."In a 2-1 ruling, the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles affirmed a verdict by a Los Angeles County jury in the case of Betty Bullock of Newport Beach (Orange County). Bullock had started smoking cigarettes Marlboros in 1956, at age 17, and quit in 2001 after she was diagnosed with lung cancer, two years...

  • 09.09.2012 California Court Approves 16:1 Punitive Damage Award

    Corporate America has pushed hard for years to hold the line on punitive damages, with some successThe Supreme Court has ruled that excessively high punitive damage awards, designed to punish defendants for particularly egregious behavior, can violate the Due Process clause. And the California Supreme Court had held that punitive damages typically should not be more than nine to ten times the size of damages awarded to compensate injured parties.But in a smoking cigarettes case against Philip Morris, a California appellate court yesterday signed off on punitive damages that were 16 times...

Farmers Suffer Huge Loss

Hurricane Irene caused hundreds of millions of dollars in crop damage, leaving farms in Eastern North Carolina devastated and putting a big dent in the state's projected agricultural output for the year, N.C. Agriculture Secretary Steve Troxler said Monday.

Some farms likely suffered a near-total loss this year after tender crops, stressed by weeks of drought, were battered by hurricane-force winds and flooded by storm surge.

Heavy damage was reported as far inland as Harnett and Johnston counties.

The arrival of the Category 1 storm was especially ill-timed, as farmers were preparing to harvest tobacco, corn, cotton and other crops.

The storm-battered region east of Interstate 95 is the state's breadbasket and home to the bulk of North Carolina's $70 billion-a-year agriculture industry. Most of the state's corn, tobacco, soy, hog and turkey operations are found in the flat, sandy strip that follows the coastline and extends inland more than 100 miles.

"There will be total losses in some areas," Troxler said at a news conference Monday morning.

Troxler toured the area and spoke with affected farmers Sunday, but he said the full extent of the damage and financial loss from high winds and flooding won't be known for at least several weeks. But damage to the $750-million-a-year cigarettes crop alone will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, he noted.

Most damage will be simple crop destruction, but power outages will also cause cheap cigarettes leaf damage in curing barns and poultry deaths at farms that experience failure of emergency backup generators.

Randy Edwards, who grows tobacco on 500 acres in Wendell, is hoping he can save half his crop. He has been going on two hours sleep a night as he and his workers try to keep five emergency diesel generators running to keep air flowing through the curing barns.

Farmers are typically federally insured for up to 65 percent of their losses. But the insurance doesn't cover tobacco that's been harvested and is being cured.

In Selma, where Ray Boswell grows 200 acres of tobacco, the plants were knocked flat like bowling pins.

Some still have leaves, but they are shredded and beat up. Raising the plant into a vertical position is time consuming and not possible with that much acreage, he said.

"We don't know if the tobacco companies will buy this tobacco because it's blistered," he said.

A federal declaration of disaster areas would allow farmers to take advantage of low-interest loans to tide them over until next season.

Closer to the coast, farmers will easily sustain losses of 80 percent to 90 percent of their crops, predicted Loren Fisher, a professor of crop science at N.C. State University.

"It's bad," Boswell said. "In Eastern North Carolina, there's not going to be much tobacco left."