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Florida jury awards $17 million to abused migrant female farm workers

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A federal jury awarded almost $17.5 million to five former female employees of a South Florida farm who said they were either raped and sexually harassed at a vegetable packing plant, their lawyer and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said on Thursday.

Three men, including two sons of the owner of Moreno Farms, near Fort Myers in southwest Florida, were accused of sexual harassment in 2011 and 2012 against the women in coolers and an office trailer at the packing house, including rape, groping, kissing and threats they would be fired if they refused to have sex with supervisors, according to the legal complaint brought against Moreno Farms.

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However, the women are unlikely to receive a penny as the packing house closed after the case was brought and the men were never arrested, said a lawyer for the women, Victoria Mesa-Estrada.

“It’s more of a symbolic victory,” Mesa-Estrada said. “The women knew that when the case was brought. But for them it was a question of justice.”

Four of the women attended the two-day trial in Miami. “They were in tears when the verdict was read,” said Mesa-Estrada.

Reuters does not identify rape victims.

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The accused men did not appear in court nor was the company represented by an attorney during the trial. Reuters was unable to reach any of the accused men or Moreno Farms or their lawyers.

The women, three from Mexico, and two from Central America, were fired for resisting the three men, identified as Oscar and Omar Moreno, and packing line supervisor Javier Garcia, according to the complaint.

Three of the women were raped and two escaped attempted rape, according to the legal complaint. One woman was raped three times and one was raped by both brothers at the same time.

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The women will be granted special U visas for victims of crime who assist law enforcement in prosecuting cases, said Mesa-Estrada.

The women originally went to the police in Hendry County a few weeks after the abuse but prosecutors decided there was insufficient evidence to build a case against the men, said Mesa-Estrada.

“There was no real effort to investigate,” she said.

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Science now supports the deadly serious warnings the Victorians gave about sleep

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“Sleeplessness is one of the torments of our age and generation.” You might presume that this is a quote from a contemporary commentator, and no wonder: the World Health Organisation has diagnosed a global epidemic of sleeplessness, and it is difficult to escape accounts, both popular and scientific, of the dangers to health of our 24/7 lifestyle in the modern digital age. But it was actually the neurologist Sir William Broadbent who wrote these words, in 1900.

So our concerns are evidently far from new. The Victorian era experienced not only the extraordinary upheavals of the industrial revolution, but also the arrival of gas and then electric lighting, turning night into day. The creation of an international telegraph network similarly revolutionised systems of communication, establishing global connectivity and, for groups such as businessmen, financiers and politicians, a flow of telegrams at all hours.

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The new Rambo movie is essentially a MAGA fever dream of bigotry

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"Rambo: Last Blood," the latest in the long-running franchise about a traumatized war veteran (Sylvester Stallone) turned on-demand badass, is less an escapist action movie and more a dramatized manifestation of the most notorious sentences from Donald Trump's presidential campaign announcement speech: "They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." Even for a series that has always been shaped by a right wing worldview, the only reason for this latest sequel to exist — besides generating profits from die-hard Stallone fans — is to validate MAGA-world bigotries about Mexicans.This article first appeared in Salon.

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University of Texas Rio Grande Valley to provide free tuition for students with household incomes under $75,000

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The tuition assistance program is expected to cover tuition and fees for about half of UTRGV students in the 2020-2021 academic year.

Beginning in the next academic year, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley will provide free tuition and cover mandatory fees for qualifying students with household incomes under $75,000, the university announced Monday.

The UTRGV Tuition Advantage program is expected to alleviate tuition costs for more than half of the university's 21,459 undergraduate students, UTRGV President Guy Bailey said in the release. Funding will be available to incoming, returning and transfer in-state undergraduate students.

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