Airlines And Flight Attendants Want Stiffer Penalties For Unruly Passengers: “It’s Out Of Control”

JetBlue Airways flight bound for New York returned to the Dominican Republic in early February after a passenger allegedly refused to wear a facemask, threw an empty alcohol bottle and food, struck the arm of one flight attendant, and grabbed the arm of another.

The Federal Aviation Administration, which detailed the incident in a report, slapped the passenger with a $32,750 fine.

Reports of verbal abuse, a failure to comply with the federal mask mandate and assault by airline passengers are on the rise. Airline industry groups, flight attendants and lawmakers want the government to do more to stop it.

The Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday said it has received approximately 3,100 reports of unruly passenger behavior since the start of the year.

The agency said it has so far proposed fines totaling $563,800, though recent agency releases describe incidents that allegedly occurred in February, meaning there are likely more cases, and fines, yet to be disclosed.

The agency implemented a “zero tolerance” policy and threatened fines of up to $35,000 earlier this year, after a series of politically motivated incidents around the time of the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Passengers have 30 days to contest the fines.

Unruly passenger behavior or interfering with flight attendant duties is against federal law.

Flight attendant unions say their members have been insulted, shouted and demeaned by passengers, some of them intoxicated, and in some rare cases, violence.

A passenger allegedly punched a Southwest Airlines flight attendant last month. The flight attendant lost two teeth after she was struck, according to her labor union.

“It’s out of control,” said Paul Hartshorn, spokesman for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents American Airlines’ more than 20,000 cabin crew members. “It’s really coming to the point where we have to defend ourselves.”

Airline executives note that the cases are rare considering the number passengers they are carrying. Transportation Security Administration airport screenings recently topped 2 million a day, the highest since before the coronavirus was declared a pandemic in mid-March 2020.

But the issue adds to flight attendants’ stress after a year of job insecurity and health concerns from working in a pandemic, said Sara Nelson, a prominent labor leader and international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the largest flight attendant union with some 50,000 members across more than a dozen airlines.

“Even if it doesn’t rise to the level of a physical altercation, just the constant bickering and name-calling and disrespect, that wears away at people,” she said.

Most of the cases are related to passengers’ refusal to wear masks on board, which the Biden administration mandated earlier this year, though airlines have required it since early in the pandemic. The administration extended it through mid-September.

A passenger on a Jan. 7 Alaska Airlines flight from Washington, D.C., to Seattle allegedly pushed a flight attendant when cabin crew walked down the aisle to check whether travelers were wearing face masks, said the FAA, which fined the traveler $15,000.

There isn’t one single reason behind the incidents, according to Ryan Martin, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, who has studied anger for about two decades. He said a sense of entitlement is a common thread in displays of anger, however.

“What we know is that entitlement is correlated with anger, meaning the more entitled you are the angrier you get,” said Martin, the author of “Why We Get Mad: How to Use Your Anger for Positive Change.”

Another factor behind disruptive behavior could be readily available examples, such as videos online, of others acting out.

“We’ve seen lots and lots of example of people losing their cool and having what I would call tantrums in the last year, very publicly,” Martin said. “Some of that may have modeled a way of dealing with problems for people that isn’t really a healthy, reasonable way to deal with problems.”

Increased anxiety returning to travel might also have heightened tensions, he added, though he noted that one of the better indicators for whether someone will turn violent is that they believe in violence to solve problems in the first place.

Source: CNBC

R. Kelly Associate Michael Williams Admits To Setting Accuser’s SUV On Fire In An Attempt To Silence Her

An R. Kelly associate took a plea deal Monday for trying to silence a witness in the R&B singer’s racketeering case by setting her SUV on fire.

Michael Williams, 38, copped to one count of arson for destroying the vehicle, rented by the woman’s father, which was parked in front of the Kissimmee, Florida, home where she and her family were staying.

In exchange for his plea in Brooklyn federal court, prosecutors have agreed to drop the witness tampering charge against him. He faces a minimum of 60 months in prison and a maximum of 71 months under federal sentencing guidelines.

“The plea agreement is fair in that the witness tampering charge as it relates to R. Kelly will be dismissed at sentencing,” said defense lawyer Todd Spodek.

Two hours before the June 11 blaze, Williams, a longtime friend of the jailed “Ignition” crooner, used his cellphone to search for the Florida address.

After the car was set alight, there was an explosion. A witness stepped outside and saw “an individual fleeing from the scene whose arm appeared to be lit on fire,” the complaint alleges.

Fire investigators also found accelerant on the edge of the property, court papers charge.

Williams’ distinct GMC Yukon, which has damage to the front and side and no front license plate, was captured on toll plaza cameras traveling from his home state of Georgia to Florida before the arson, then returning, the complaint states.

Ten days later, Williams Googled “How do fertilizer bombs work?” The purpose of that search wasn’t immediately clear.

He also searched the phrases “witness intimidation” and “case law for tampering with a witness,” according to court papers.

Kelly is locked up awaiting trial in Brooklyn federal court on more than a dozen criminal counts of sex trafficking, racketeering, coercion and other raps related to the abuse of six women and girls.

The three-time Grammy Award winner faces a separate indictment in Chicago, where he is charged with producing child pornography and destroying evidence.

Source: Page Six

Panda Express Workers Forced To Strip In ‘Cult-Like’ Team-Building Seminar; 23-Year-Old Woman Sues For Sexual Battery, Hostile Work Environment, And Intentional Infliction Of Emotional Distress

A former employee of a Panda Express in Santa Clarita alleges she was required to strip down to her underwear and hug a partially clad co-worker during a “cult-like ritual” at a 2019 training seminar sponsored by the company as a prerequisite to promotion.

The 23-year-old woman is suing Panda Restaurant Group, headquartered in Rosemead, and Alive Seminars and Coaching Academy in Pico Rivera for sexual battery, a hostile work environment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

She is seeking unspecified damages in the lawsuit filed last month in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Although the woman is named in court documents, the Southern California News Group does not identify suspected victims of  sexual assault.

‘Horrific psychological abuse’

“We are looking forward to presenting this case to a jury so that a clear message can be sent to Panda Express — which owns and operates over 2,000 restaurants — that it must put to an end to its practice of requiring its employees to undergo horrific psychological abuse and harassment to be promoted,” Oscar Ramirez, the woman’s attorney, said in an email Monday.

Officials with Panda Restaurant Group said the company takes the woman’s allegations seriously and has conducted an investigation.

“Alive Seminars and Coaching Academy is a third-party organization in which Panda has no ownership interest and over which it exercises no control,” says a statement from the company. “While we always encourage personal growth and development, Panda Restaurant Group has not and does not mandate that any associate participate in Alive Seminars and Coaching Academy nor is it a requirement to earn promotions.

“We are committed to providing a safe environment for all associates and stand behind our core values to treat each person with respect,” the company said. “We do not condone the kind of behavior (the plaintiff) has alleged took place at Alive Seminars and Coaching Academy, and we would not intentionally allow it to occur within or on behalf of our organization.”

In an emailed statement, Alive Seminars said its training sessions are presented with respect and dignity.

The victim says she began working for Panda Express in 2016 and was told in July 2019 by then store manager Matthiu Simuda she needed to complete a self-improvement seminar conducted by Alive Seminars.

“Eager to improve her skills and advance within the company, plaintiff signed up and paid out of pocket to attend a four-day program,” the lawsuit says. “Panda Express pushed its employees in the Los Angeles region to complete Alive Seminars training. In many cases, it was a prerequisite to promotion.”

The seminar was held in a warehouse in East Los Angeles and attended by 20 to 50 Panda Express employees from throughout Southern California, Ramirez said. Those who attended the seminar were required to provide their employee identification numbers and received intake materials with the Panda logo.

“Alive Seminars served — in essence — as an extension of Panda Express’ own Human Resources department,” says the lawsuit.

Participants isolated, treated as ‘terrorists’

The complaint alleges the seminar was bizarre and quickly devolved into psychological abuse.

At the start, attendees were told to sit down and not talk, and were left in isolation for a full hour before a man stormed in, yelling in Spanish and berating them for sitting there and doing nothing, when that is exactly what they had been instructed to do, says the complaint.

The man, an Alive Seminars employee, loudly proclaimed that the attendees were “nothing” and “don’t matter,” and berated them individually, the suit says. “The overall effect was that of a particularly nasty drill sergeant.”

Seminar participants were prohibited from using their cellphones, there was no clock in the room and the doors and windows were all covered with black cloth.

“The atmosphere resembled less a self-improvement seminar than a site for off the-books interrogation of terrorist suspects,” the complaint alleges. “The sensory isolation and intimidation was reinforced by constant yelling and verbal abuse by seminar staff, creating an atmosphere of fear in the room. Nevertheless, most attendees, including plaintiff, felt that they had no choice but to remain because they were sent to the seminar by Panda Express and told that their opportunity for promotion would depend on completion of the seminar.”

Participants required to strip

When the seminar continued on July 13, 2019, the woman allegedly was forced to strip down to her underwear under the guise of trust building.

“Plaintiff — stripped almost naked in front of strangers and co-workers — was extremely uncomfortable but pressed on because she knew it was her only chance at a promotion,” says the lawsuit. “Meanwhile, Alive Seminars staff were openly ogling the women in their state of undress, smiling, and laughing.”

The exercise culminated when the victims and other participants had to stand up to yell about their inner struggles until everyone else in the group believed them.

“The last male participant had some difficulty ‘convincing’ the others and, as a result, broke down in tears,” the suit says. “Plaintiff was told to stand up and go to the middle of the room with the male participant, where they were forced to ‘hug it out,’ wearing nothing but their underwear. Plaintiff was humiliated but did as she was told.”

Seminar resembled cult ritual

As time went on, the seminar more and more resembled a cult ritual, the complaint alleges.

“Alive Seminars staff proceeded to dim the lights,” says the suit. “Plaintiff and the other attendees were instructed to stand up and close their eyes, pretending that a light from above would come down and take all the ‘negative energy’ out of them, then pretend that a hole opened up in the ground and swallowed the ‘negative energy.’ While this was happening, one of the Alive Seminars staff had a cell phone with the light on, recording plaintiff in her state of undress.”

Attendees, the lawsuit alleges, were confined in an atmosphere of fear and intimidation.

“If plaintiff wanted to use the restroom, someone from the Alive Seminars staff would stand outside the restroom door,” says the suit. “When another participant ran into the restroom to throw up, Alive Seminars staff ran after her. Another male participant was only given a small trash can to throw up in and was forced to do it in front of all the other attendees.”

During the July 13 session, the victim made an excuse of a family emergency and left the seminar.

The victim went to the seminar hopeful and optimistic about her future with Panda Express but left three days later “scarred and downtrodden.” Soon after, she quit her job because of emotional distress.

The suit alleges Panda Express “did not care about plaintiff’s experience at Alive Seminars or that she had been humiliated in front of her co-workers. Her chances of promotion were destroyed. plaintiff’s working conditions had become intolerable and Panda Express had no interest in addressing the situation.”

Source: OC Register

The Women Who Brought Down Burger Records – Culture Of Sexual Abuse In SoCal’s Indie Rock Scene That Has Remained Largely In The Shadows

Casey Redd was 14 when she began going to shows put on by popular indie-rock label Burger Records. The concerts, featuring contemporary garage and punk bands, were often all-ages, and a swell of excited teenage girls would be in attendance.

Three years later, when Redd was 17, she says Phil Salina, the then-29-year-old singer of the Portland-based goth-pop duo Love Cop, had sex with her in the back seat of her car. He told her to meet him at the far corner of the parking lot at the Burger Records store in Fullerton, she says, then instructed her to drive a few blocks away to a darkened neighborhood where she alleges the statutory rape took place. (The age of consent in California is 18.)

A few days later, they again had sex outside of a house show in Pomona, she says.

“I felt confused and violated,” she says, adding that it took time, reflection and therapy to come to terms with what happened to her in 2013. “For years, many years, I didn’t really talk to anyone about it — I felt really ashamed — I felt like it was my fault for engaging with him in the first place.”

She did tell one of her close friends about her sexual encounters with Salina. That friend, who regularly attended Burger Records shows with Redd, corroborated Redd’s story to The Times in a phone interview.

The Times, however, reviewed texts that Salina sent to Redd after she went public with her accusations. In them, Salina apologizes and expresses remorse, writing, “I won’t ever be allowed to play music again and that is fair.” He also wrote that he didn’t think of their relationship as abusive at the time but that he now understands that it was wrong.

Redd went public with her experience last summer, sharing her story on her personal Instagram page and soon after on a page she created called Lured_By_Burger Records, which posted accusations about men in the Burger scene from other female fans and artists. The page quickly accumulated thousands of followers, spurring online outrage, national media coverage and public apologies from many of the accused musicians.

Within a week, the label ceased operations completely, prompting a long-overdue reckoning about the prevalence of sexual abuse in Southern California’s underground/DIY music scene.

One of Burger’s owners, Sean Bohrman, declined to be interviewed for this story. The other, Lee Rickard, did not respond to a request for comment. But Bohrman acknowledged in an interview with Seattle radio station KEXP after Burger’s collapse that the label — which published recordings by nearly 1,200 bands during its 13 years in existence, in addition to hosting concerts and festivals and running a record shop in Fullerton — did not scrutinize the personal behavior of the musicians with whom it worked. And it’s not clear that management was paying attention to the exploitative sexual dynamics of the scene Burger fostered.

As the allegations emerged, the label issued a statement that read in part: “We extend our deepest apologies to anyone who has suffered irreparable harm from any experience that occurred in the Burger and indie/DIY music scene.”

But the problems did not involve Burger musicians alone. The Times interviewed nearly two dozen women who detailed varying degrees of sexual abuse and harassment by musicians in Southern California’s indie rock scene during the past 15 years.

A number of women spoke on the record; others chose to remain anonymous, either because they feared reprisal or had already experienced it after posting their experiences online.

Burger Records was founded in 2007 by Bohrman and Rickard, in part to release music from their own band at the time, Thee Makeout Party. Burger championed catchy, homemade power-pop, surf-rock and bubblegum punk. It opened a record shop in Fullerton in 2009 and Bohrman and Rickard lived there, washing their hair under a spigot in the alley and running the label out of the back. The shop soon became a popular gathering spot for music fans.

As Burger grew, the label hosted a slew of popular shows and festivals around Southern California including Burger-a-Go Go, which paid tribute to all-female-fronted bands, and the two-day Burgerama, which annually drew thousands of fans and featured eclectic lineups of dozens of underground garage bands and indie rock giants including Weezer, Ariel Pink, Fidlar, the Spits, Ty Segall, Roky Erickson and Gang of Four.

Burger’s reputation was burnished internationally in 2014 when fashion design house Yves Saint Laurent featured the label’s music in Paris runway shows.

An all-ages ethos was key to Burger’s identity. Young fans, including those in high school, often mingled with older fans and musicians. Many women interviewed by The Times described rampant drug and alcohol use, even at shows where alcohol was not for sale.

The label did not follow a traditional business model. It didn’t sign bands or negotiate contracts. It just reached out to bands it loved and released mostly limited-edition runs of cassette tapes, leaving it to other labels to court the musicians it championed. It also made money from the concerts and festivals that it convened.

At first, Redd felt at home among Burger fans and bands, and in the spaces they occupied. All-ages shows were held in warehouses, the record shop and a large venue called the Observatory in Santa Ana. The Fullerton store was painted a bright key-lime green and featured a highly cultivated sense of graphic design characterized by a zany, cut ‘n’ paste punk aesthetic in bold primary colors (Bohrman minored in graphic design and cranked out the labels’ merch). The store was filled with buttons (“I’m a Burger Girl,” was one), stickers and posters, many featuring vintage-inspired, punk-themed cartoons. There was a back room where musicians, staff and customers sometimes gathered. It felt, say many of the women who hung out there, like a high-school clubhouse.

“In their marketing, they described themselves as perma-teens,” recalls Redd of Burger Records.

Redd says she began to regularly receive messages from some of the men in bands whose accounts she had followed on social media.

When Love Cop’s Salina first reached out to Redd, she was 17. Salina was working as a mental-health counselor in Portland specializing in addiction. Redd’s family had a troubled history with drugs and addiction, and she came to trust Salina. She says they talked nearly every day.

“He knew the trauma that I carried and … my age and vulnerability. It was definitely a grooming relationship,” Redd says, recalling how lonely, depressed and anxious she was at that time. “We would talk about cats and music. He was one of the very few adults I felt seen by.”

Months later, Salina came to Orange County to play a Burger show and invited Redd. It was her first time driving on the freeway when she crossed county lines from her hometown of Corona to Fullerton where she says their first sexual encounter took place.

Afterward, Redd alleges, Salina messaged her often, asking for nudes and sexual photos. For the most part, she ignored him but sometimes she engaged with him, not fully understanding how inappropriate the situation was.

Redd stopped going to Burger shows when she was 18, but at that point she says she already knew several other underage teenage girls who had been abused by adult men in the scene.

Redd is now 24 years old. She is a longtime vegan and animal rights activist with a soft but firm voice and a thoughtful, straightforward way of speaking. She says that over the years, not a day went by that she didn’t think about the fact that she was not alone in her experience.

That fact became painfully clear during the summer on July 15 when Clementine Creevy, the frontwoman of Cherry Glazerr, which released its debut album through Burger, posted a statement on Instagram accusing Sean Redman, the bass player of another Burger-affiliated band called the Buttertones, of starting a sexual relationship with her when she was 14 and he was 20. That relationship, she wrote, was also emotionally abusive.

Similar stories from dozens of women soon began pouring into Redd’s direct message box, she says. Many of the accusations of rape, sexual assault, abuse, harassment and grooming were about Burger bands, and many were about the local underground music scene in general. Redd found herself spending up to 18 hours a day on the site, fielding comments, posts and allegations. She says the experience was emotionally and physically overwhelming.

As scrutiny of Burger intensified, other women spoke out and bands began to fall. Lydia Night, the singer of The Regrettes, accused SWMRS drummer Joey Armstrong (son of Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong) of sexual misconduct and coercion, beginning when she was 16 and Armstrong was 22. SWMRS released music through a variety of labels, including Burger. Armstrong posted an apology on Instagram, adding that he didn’t agree with some of the things Night said about him, but that, “it’s important that she be allowed to say them and that she be supported for speaking out.”

On July 21, Burger co-founder Lee Rickard stepped down from his role as label president and divested all interest in the label.

The label issued a statement that read in part that it was “deeply sorry for the role Burger has played in perpetuating a culture of toxic masculinity.”

Five days after Redd’s first Lured_By_Burger_Records post, Burger folded completely, taking with it the operation’s entire digital footprint. Bohrman capped his announcement of the company’s dissolution to a Pitchfork reporter with a Porky Pig GIF: “That’s all folks.”

Source: LA Times