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B. Tilson

Two city men face charges after allegedly overdosing on heroin in the presence of a minor.

Brian Scott Tilson, 58, and Scott Anthony Tilson, 37, were arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Andrew L. Blattenberger Wednesday on felony charges of conspiracy and endangering the welfare of children, as well as misdemeanor charges of corruption of minors, purchase of a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance.

Police officers responded Tuesday to a Beale Avenue residence for a report of three unconscious individuals.

A neighboring resident called 911 after an 8-year-old juvenile came to the house and asked for help.

All three unconscious individuals — two men and a woman — were administered Narcan by Altoona Fire Department personnel.

S. Tilson

One of the defendants told police that they had both used heroin, and they retrieved a bag of suspected heroin from a bedroom trash can.

The juvenile told police she had gotten into the car with Brian and the female. They went for a drive to a friend’s house to obtain pain medicine.

She stated that upon returning to their residence, the defendants went into Scott’s bedroom.

The juvenile said she went downstairs to get them water and saw the other female at the sink also getting water. According to the child, the female suddenly became unconscious and could not be woken up.

She said she ran upstairs for help but found the defendants unconscious.

The child stated she tried to use a cellphone to call 911, but the phone was dead so she ran to a neighbor’s home.

Police learned that the child had been with the defendants at their friend’s place before for pain medicine.

The three adults were transported to UPMC Altoona.

Blair County Children, Youth & Families also responded to the scene.

Both defendants were unable to post bail, which was set at $50,000 for Brian and $100,000 for Scott and were remanded to Blair County Prison.

Both men are scheduled to appear before Magisterial District Judge Benjamin F. Jones for preliminary hearings Aug. 10.

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The Other Americans: Guatemala’s Attacks on Press Have Reached New Heights




In the late afternoon of July 29, Guatemalan National Police raided the home and office of the founder of one of Guatemala’s daily newspapers under orders from the country’s public prosecutor’s office. In the raids, El Periódico’s founder, internationally renowned journalist José Rubén Zamora, was arrested. 

At least eight members of the staff of El Periódico were also detained for more than sixteen hours by police and investigators from the Public Prosecutor’s office as they searched the facilities just outside of Guatemala City. Staff were denied the ability to use the bathroom, eat, sleep, or take medication during their detention. 

The paper did not publish its Saturday edition the following day. But Zamora’s arrest, along with the search of El Periódico’s offices, had already generated concern among press and human rights organizations.

“This is a strong blow,” Claudia Samoyoa, founder of the Guatemalan human rights organization UDEFEGUA, tells The Progressive. “This [case is meant] to tell all independent journalists and independent media that they cannot really speak.” 

The United States Department of State also decried Zamora’s detention. 

“Safeguarding Press Freedom is essential to Democracy,” tweeted Brian A. Nichols, the assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs within the U.S. State Department. “The United States urges full respect of due process under [Guatemalan] law and protection of personal safety for El Periódico, José Ruben Zamora, and FECI prosecutor Samari Gómez.”

“All of these attacks on journalists have to do with coverage of corrupt actions of mayors and congressional representatives and companies.”

The same day, Samari Gómez Díaz, an assistant prosecutor with Guatemala’s Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (FECI), was also arrested and incarcerated on an accusation of the leaking of documents related to the case against Zamora. Her case currently awaits trial.

FECI head Rafael Curruchiche said in a statement that the arrest and search were not related to El Periódico’s reporting. Rather, according to Curruchiche, Zamora was arrested for influence peddling, money laundering, and blackmail, charges that a judge later accepted. Curruchiche himself was sanctioned after being included on the Engel List in July 2022 by the U.S. Department of State for his part in corruption and anti-democratic actions. 

Despite the assertion that the raid was unrelated to any news reporting, the newspaper’s bank accounts were embargoed by FECI on August 1, leaving the paper without the means to pay staff. 

“What we have here is the [public prosecutor] saying one thing, but doing another,” Marielos Chang, an independent political analyst, tells The Progressive. “These damages that they are carrying out against Zamora end up limiting the freedom of expression that the newspaper has.”

“This is worrying,” she adds, “because we have already seen this in other cases in the region.”

The attacks on the press come as Guatemala’s legislature has consolidated into an anti-democratic and pro-impunity majority alliance, popularly known as the “corruption pact.” It is made up of a majority of congressional representatives who have been accused of corruption or of undermining anti-corruption efforts—an especially worrying trend as Guatemala approaches the 2023 election cycle. 

“[Zamora] is not the first and I do not think he will be the last journalist who will be persecuted,” Chang says. “It is to limit the political participation of the opposition.” 

The Guatemalan media rallied to Zamora’s defense, holding protests on July 30 and August 1 outside of the Tribunal Tower, the central court building. During both protests, the Guatemalan National Civilian Police remained vigilant, taking photos of those protesting and contributing to the sense of unease. 

The details of the case are being withheld by the Public Prosecutor’s office. But what is currently known is that they stem from a denouncement by the Foundation Against Terrorism, a far-right organization with ties to the country’s military that the U.S. State Department has sanctioned for its anti-democratic activities. 

The information related to the case that is available has been provided by government-sponsored misinformation social media accounts, known as “net-centers.” Guatemala’s Attorney General María Consuelo Porras has declined to comment on how these net-centers have gained access to this information.  

El Periódico has regularly reported on and denounced the rampant corruption in Guatemala. Zamora’s arrest is just the latest in a series of attacks against the paper that date back decades, which have included cyber-attacks, abductions, and death threats.

After El Periódico published a report on former dictator Efrain Ríos Montt’s ties to mafia groups in 2003, Zamora and his family were held hostage in their home by a group of masked people, who beat him and his children. He was later abducted in 2008, beaten, and left half naked over twenty-five miles outside of Guatemala City. In 2016, he briefly went into exile. 

Over the past two years, attacks on the press have steadily increased in a country where the harassment, incarceration, and exile of journalists is already systemic. In 2022, prior to Zamora’s July arrest, El Periódico’s Juan Luis Font was forced to flee the country due to the outlet’s reporting. UDEFEGUA estimates that there are currently at least five Guatemalan journalists in exile.

This intensifying political pressure has placed independent and community journalists particularly at risk. 

“There are various journalists who have been criminalized,” Samoyoa says. “All of these attacks on journalists have to do with coverage of corrupt actions of mayors and congressional representatives and companies.”

Sonny Figueroa and Marvin del Cid, both of whom work for the independent news site VoxPopuli, have faced attacks, harassment, and criminalization for their investigative work. Figueroa was arbitrarily detained by police in September 2020 and later released. Other journalists have shared their experiences of repression and intimidation through the country’s  net-centers. 

Indigenous journalists have been particularly singled out and targeted. Anastasia Mejía was arrested and later freed for her coverage of a protest that led to the burning of the municipal building of Joyabaj, Quiche, in 2020; Francisco Chox was attacked in 2020 for his coverage of protests in Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan, Sololá; and Carlos Choc has faced criminal prosecution and regular harassment for his work covering the impacts of the Fenix mining project in El Estor, Izabal.

“Choc reported on the death of one of the protesters who was demonstrating against the mine in the region,” Chang says. “He currently has an arrest warrant against him.”

These are only a few of the attacks on journalists in the last few years. Repression tactics have also expanded online. 

The independent investigative media outlet No-Ficción saw its followers erased on Twitter overnight in a July 2022 cyber attack. The incident followed the outlet’s publication of a report on Alejandro Sinibaldi, the former Minister of Communication, Infrastructure, and Housing, that detailed kickbacks he had received while commissioning infrastructure projects in the country. 

“In the last three years of this government [their goal] has been to ensure impunity, over building roads, schools, and hospitals,” Chang says. “And to do that, they are attacking those who have carried out investigations into corruption that make us realize that things are not being done well.”

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Palm oil tycoon surrenders to Indonesian police over huge corruption case — BenarNews




An Indonesian businessman suspected of converting forests into palm oil plantations as part of a mega corruption case was arrested upon arrival from overseas as he turned himself in on Monday after being on the run for eight years, the attorney general’s office said.  

Corruption involving the Duta Palma Group, a palm oil company belonging to Surya Darmadi, the suspect, allegedly cost the state 78 trillion rupiah (U.S. $5.2 billion) in potential losses, making it the largest corruption case in the country’s history, authorities said.  

Investigators interrogated Surya and took him into custody immediately after he arrived in Jakarta on a China Airlines flight from Taiwan, Attorney General Sanitiar Burhanuddin said. 

“Two weeks ago [Surya] wrote to us that he was turning himself in,” Burhanuddin told reporters. 

“Our team picked up the suspect, questioned him and will detain him for 20 days.” 

On Aug. 1, Burhanuddin announced that Surya, one of Indonesia’s richest men, was a suspect in a corruption case surrounding the conversion of 37,000 hectares of forests in Riau, a province on Sumatra island, into palm oil plantations. 

The regent of Indragiri Hulu at the time, Raja Thamsir Rachman, issued a permit to five companies belonging to Surya, but they did not obtain land-use rights before converting the forests into plantations, according to Burhanuddin. 

Thamsir, whose second term as regent ran from 2005 to 2008, is serving an eight-year sentence in a separate corruption case. 

The attorney general’s office had sent Surya three summons, but he failed to show up for questioning. 

Surya’s attorney, Juniver Girsang, said his client had been undergoing treatment abroad and his decision to come back to Indonesia was proof that he was not running away. 

“Reports that he had run away are not true. Our client is very cooperative and will follow all processes,” Juniver told reporters. 

In 2014, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) named Surya a suspect for allegedly paying 3 billion rupiah ($200,000) in kickbacks to then-Riau Gov. Annas Maamun to pave the way for changes to local forestry regulations in favor of his company. 

But Surya managed to evade questioning by staying overseas, authorities alleged. 

The KPK said it was coordinating with the attorney general’s office to question the suspect. 

“KPK has met with the attorney general’s office to discuss the handling of the case in question,” said Ali Fikri, the commission’s spokesman. 

The estimated 78 trillion rupiah loss to the state included potential gains, from which local communities could have benefited had the company complied with rules that required it to allocate 20 percent of areas it controlled to farmers, said Ketut Sumedana, spokesman for the attorney general. 

Ketut said investigators had confiscated eight plantations managed by a subsidiary of Duta Palma and froze their bank accounts. 

The attorney general’s office also confiscated 15 properties linked to the company and its executives in South Jakarta, he said. 

In a 2009 report, the Rainforest Action Network said the Indonesian military had a 30 percent ownership stake in Duta Palma. Officials with the company could not be reached immediately for comment. 

Boyamin Saiman, an activist at the Indonesian Anti-Corruption Society (MAKI), praised the attorney general’s office for its “progressiveness” by taking into account the loss of potential benefits to the local population. 

“The attorney general’s office didn’t just come up with a number. There is a value in forest use. This is a new method in calculating state losses,” Boyamin told BenarNews. 

He contrasted that with the loss of 3 billion rupiah estimated by the anti-corruption commission as a result of Surya’s alleged actions. 

Meanwhile, Wawan Suyatmiko, deputy secretary general of Transparency International Indonesia, questioned the KPK’s competence. 

“In 2019 they issued a travel ban for him, but [Surya] managed to escape and refused to return. Now the attorney general’s office had summoned him and he was willing to return. This says a lot about the KPK’s performance,” he told BenarNews.

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