A French court has sentenced the head of a company that sold tens of thousands of defective breast implants to four years in prison on charges of aggravated fraud. Poly Implant Prothese was once among the world's leaders in supplying implants. But its product was found to have a high rupture rate.
From Paris, NPR's Eleanor Beardsely reports:
"The Marseilles court convicted Jean-Claude Mas, the founder of the company, and three colleagues.
"PIP's sale of faulty implants caused a global health scare in 2011, with an estimated 300,000 women in 65 countries affected. PIP used sub-standard silicone gel, causing many implants to rupture.
"With more than 5,000 women registered as plaintiffs in the case, the trial was considered one of the biggest in French legal history.
"The health scare came to public attention in 2011, when the French government recommended that women have PIP implants removed due to an abnormally high rupture rate."
PIP eventually went bankrupt and has been dissolved, making it a challenge for thousands of women affected by the faulty implants to receive compensation. Today's ruling said that a German product certification company, TUeV, was also a victim of the fraud. An earlier ruling by a different French court had ordered the firm to pay damages in the case.
As the AP reports, "TUeV, a leader in the industry which was charged with checking the quality of the implants, has deep pockets."
Lawyers for Mas, 74, say he plans to appeal. He has admitted to using silicone that wasn't cleared for medical use. But he denies engaging in fraud at the company he founded in 1991.
"According to government estimates, more than 42,000 women in Britain received the implants, more than 30,000 in France, 25,000 in Brazil, 16,000 in Venezuela and 15,000 in Colombia," the AP says.
Public interest in the case has been intense, forcing the two-month trial in Marseilles to be held in a large exhibition center instead of a courtroom, according to Reuters.
Standing in a steady drizzle at dawn, Lerato Maphanga took a black marker to a whitewashed wall that's serving as a condolences board outside Nelson Mandela's old home in Soweto, South Africa.
"Thank you, Tata [father], rest in peace," she wrote Tuesday. Then she signed it, "Born Free," a reference to the black South Africans born after apartheid ended in the 1994 election that made Mandela the country's first black president.
South Africans piled flowers on top of flowers at Mandela's modest, red-brick home in Soweto, the huge black township where Mandela lived before he was sent to prison for 27 years. His many admirers also packed buses and trains as they headed to the country's biggest soccer stadium to honor him at a memorial service. And once there, they sang and shouted and ululated, with some making themselves hoarse before the event began.
The country paused to bid farewell Tuesday, but there was nothing somber about it. South Africans have had plenty of time to mourn Mandela, who stepped down as president in 1999. He last appeared in public three years ago and was on his deathbed for months before finally succumbing Thursday at age 95.
"I don't think we should mourn, we should celebrate," said Maphanga, 19, a first year accounting student at the University of Johannesburg.
She was accompanied by her mother, Flora Maphanga, who was pregnant with her daughter when she went to vote in that historic 1994 election. Flora Maphanga says she has told her daughter many stories about the apartheid era, such as the 1976 student riots in Soweto that delayed her final high school exams for months.
"I also tell her she has it so good now," said the elder Maphanga, who works in the police department. "You can go to good schools and choose any career you like. I didn't have those options."
The daughter replies: "I believe her because I study history."
Apartheid is now a history lesson for South African college students. However, the traditions on display for Mandela's memorial haven't changed at all over the years.
On a standing-room only bus headed to the service at FNB Stadium, Matthew Mkhud led the passengers in a spirited series of tribute songs, such as "Mandela Is Calling."
"I was supposed to be at work today, but my colleague said we had to go to be part of history," said Mkhud, who works in information technology. "We can work tomorrow."
After leading several foot-stomping songs while simultaneously filming the scene on his iPad, Mkhud needed a break."Sorry comrades, I'm out of breath," he said.
Soon the singing resumed, lasting all the way to FNB Stadium, the 95,000-seat soccer arena that has played a prominent role in South Africa's recent history.Mandela packed the place in 1990 when he held his first rally just two days after he was released from prison.
The circular stadium, which is covered with earthen-colored panels to resemble an African gourd often used for cooking, also hosted soccer's 2010 World Cup. Mandela made his final public appearance at that event.
And Tuesday, Mandela was the reason that dozens of world leaders, including President Obama and three former U.S. presidents gathered in a steady rain on an unseasonably chilly summer day.
The South African government and media had predicted the stadium would be overflowing and barred private cars from the venue, requiring the crowd to arrive by train or bus.
The warning may have discouraged some, along with the rain that was forecast to last throughout the day. In addition, Tuesday was not declared a holiday, and many opted to go to work, as evidenced by the usual morning traffic jam from Soweto into nearby Johannesburg.
The stadium was a little more than half full when the service began at 11 a.m.local time.
That didn't dampen the enthusiasm of Eugene Kobuwe, 34, who had driven 150 miles from the small town of Zeerust to attend with a friend.
"I came to honor a man who took the country in the right direction at a time when things could have gone badly wrong," Kobuwe said. "I'm not sad. I'm not going to cry. I just wanted to pay respect to a man who did a remarkable job."
He then recalled his favorite Mandela story. It took place in 1990, shortly after Mandela had been released and when Kobuwe was just 10 years old.
Political unrest had sent black families fleeing to Zeerust. Mandela showed up in an effort to calm the tensions and reassure the displaced families.
"I really didn't know anything about him, but I could just feel the vibe from all the adults," Kobuwe said. "You just knew this was an important man. That's when I began reading everything about him."
Chris Capozziello was born first. And five minutes later Nick arrived.
"Things seemed fine, but they were not fine," says Chris.
His twin brother Nick had cerebral palsy.
The rest of the story unfolds slowly over time. Chris develops normally. Nick suffers from painful cramps that distort his body and lives at home with his parents, rarely leaving his room. Chris becomes a photojournalist, traveling the country on assignment. They are now 33 years old.
Thirteen years ago Chris started documenting his brother's life. He never intended to share the photos, but says they were a way of helping him to understand his brother's condition, as well as dealing with the overwhelming guilt of being the "normal" twin.
In graduate school, Chris started showing the pictures to friends, who encouraged him to share them with a wider audience. The result is the new book The Distance Between Us, which was recently released in the U.S.
The black-and-white images are an unflinching look at hardship, pain and guilt. They show Nick during his cramps, which can last for minutes — or hours. They show him undergoing brain surgery, with mixed results. They also show him getting out of the house and enjoying life as best he can. It's a story of brothers are bound together both by need and by love.
Last year, Chris took Nick on a road trip through the American West. The last section of the book showcases both Chris's color images, as well as some of Nick's snapshots.
"The pictures aren't worth money [but] they are priceless," says Nick.
Chris recently moved to a house three miles from his parent's home in Connecticut so he can be near Nick as much as possible. He is continuing to document their life together.