January 20, 2020

Week In Review

By La-Vaughnda A. Taylor
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

Below are last week's topics of interest broken down into Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media, and General News


New Arena for #MeToo Cases: Defamation Suits

There are new cases stemming from the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault cases. Those accusers whose allegations are too old to litigate are now finding alternative ways to get into court. Ashley Judd, one of the first accusers, has now sued the producer for defamation after reading about a claim that Miramax had made, describing her as a "nightmare to work with." Jury selection in Weinstein's case started last week and is one of the few sexual assault cases with recent enough allegations to bring criminal charges. The plaintiffs are generally using defamation law not just to dissuade damaging speech about them but also to enlist the courts to endorse their version of the disputed events. Key verdicts are expected this year in the defamation cases involving President Trump, Roy Moore, and Johnny Depp. Depp is using the defamation suits to fend off allegations from women. These cases raise issues around limits of freedom of speech, social media, and statutes of limitation.


Weinstein Jury Chosen, and Prosecutors Say Defense Weeded out White Women

Bias, big data, and social media "likes" influenced the jury selection in Harvey Weinstein's trial. Weinstein's lawyer asked the court to consider "if a person could have sex for reasons other than love" and the judge warned that "this is not a referendum on the #MeToo movement". Damon Charonis asked the 18 potential jurors a series of delicate questions during the final stage of the disgraced film producer's jury selection. He raised the motivation for women having sex with Weinstein in what seemed to be a preview of their legal strategy. The Assistant District Attorney accused the defense of "systematically eliminating every young white female" from the jury, but was overruled.


Citing 'Carnival-Like' Trial, Weinstein's Team Renews Request for a New Venue

Weinstein's legal team is renewing its demand that his trial be moved out of New York City, citing "flash mob" protests in the streets and a crush of reporters and photographers, turning the case into a "media circus." The defense lost an earlier change of venue request. Some potential jurors have been posting on social media about their involvement in the case, which is a violation of court rules. More than 600 potential jurors have been summoned for the high-profile case. Weinstein's lawyers have also raised the issue of social media in court papers.


Hashtag Prods Talent Agencies into Raising Pay

Using the hashtag #PayUpHollywood, assistants working in the entertainment industry have been agitating in recent months for higher wages and more considerate treatment from their sometimes mercurial bosses. Assistants scored a small victory when Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the Big Four talent agencies in L.A., announced that it was raising pay for its hourly workers, a group that includes assistants, mailroom clerks, receptionists, and agent trainees. Assistants will earn $18, up from $15. CAA is the latest Hollywood company to respond to the effort by assistants, who have argued that low pay often means that only people from privileged backgrounds can afford to take entry-level jobs, which has limited diversity in the industry.


Grammys Chief Benched Days Before Show

Recording Academy President and CEO Deborah Dugan was placed on leave just days before the Grammy Awards ceremony. Dugan was less than six months into her tenure, but was placed on administrative leave following a "formal allegation of misconduct by a senior female member of the Recording Academy." The statement also cited other "concerns raised" to its Board of Trustees, but did not provide details. Dugan's suspension arrives nearly a year after another bumpy period for the Grammys, including Ariana Grande pulling out from performing and several rappers turning down offers to perform, drawing attention to the Grammys' troubled relationship with hip-hop artists. Last year's ceremony highlighted the Grammys' similarly long-standing struggle with gender inequality. Dugan hired entertainment lawyer Bryan J. Freedman to represent her.


Apple's "The Banker" Release Reset After Abuse Claim

Apple resets "The Banker" for theatres after reviewing abuse allegations that prompted Apple TV+ to delay the theatrical release of the film starring Anthony Mackie and Samuel L. Jackson. The release has been rescheduled for theatres this March. The studio said in a statement that "after reviewing the information available, including documentation of the filmmakers' research, [they've] decided to make this important and enlightening film available to viewers." The allegations involved the main character of the film's son, which ultimately delayed the theatrical release. Apple has further said that the son, Bernard Garrett Jr., will not profit from the release of the film in any form and his credit as a co-producer has been removed.


Oprah, Apple and the Decision to Exit a #MeToo Documentary

Oprah Winfrey is disassociating herself with a new documentary about Russell Simmons and the #MeToo movement. In December, Winfrey announced she would serve as executive producer on a still-untitled film that centers on some of the 20 women who have publicly accused Simmons of sexual harassment and assault. The movie was to stream on Apple TV+ following its January 25th premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Oprah said in a statement that she "unequivocally believe[s] and support[s] the women," but "there is more work to be done on the film to illuminate the full scope of what the victims endured and it has become clear that the filmmakers and I are not aligned in that creative vision." The film will still debut at Sundance. Winfrey will continue her work with Time's Up to support those who have been sexually harassed.



Two States, Eight Textbooks, Two American Stories

Political divides are shaping what students learn about the nation's history. History textbooks are changed to meet the standards of different states. Even though textbooks have the same publishers and credit the same authors, they are customized for students in different states and their contents sometimes diverge in ways that reflect the nation's deepest partisan divides. Textbook publishers are caught in the middle of the divide over important and fundamental questions (re: capitalism, immigration, slavery, etc.) and the materials that are shaded by politics and helping to shape a generation of future voters. The differences between state editions can be traced back to several sources: state social studies standards, state laws, and feedback from panels of appointees that review drafts.


After Outcry, an Apology for Blurred Protest Photo

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) apologizes for blurring Anti-Trump signs in protest photo from the 2017 Women's March. "We made a mistake," said the federal agency in a press release. NARA has promised to remove the photo from the agency's "Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote" exhibit where the photo was displayed at the entrance and replace it with the unaltered version. NARA has started a thorough review of its exhibit policies and procedures to prevent future similar issues. Prior to the apology, NARA said in a statement that "as a non-partisan, non-political federal agency, we blurred references to the President's name on some posters, so as not to engage in current political controversy and to be 'family-friendly.'"


Art Forces a Small Southern City to Rethink Its Image

Seventeen outsized portraits of local citizen of Newnan, GA were meant to be inclusive, upend stubborn preconceptions, and unravel the cocoons people had created within the community. They did, but reactions to the images also exposed how immigration and demographic change have recast the racial dynamics that once defined America, adding new layers of anxiety on the old tension that persist across the country and in small towns like Newnan. White people still make up more than half the population, but the newcomers are largely from other backgrounds. The sheer size of the town's growth has led some to bristle. The art installation, called "Seeing Newnan", was created by photographer Mary Beth Meehan after she heard about the town's race and class tensions and the "old Newnan" versus the "new Newnan". She knew that some of the portraits would be controversial, including the Shah sisters', which instigated a few residents to question whether they sisters were even American.


Afghan Artists Risk Everything to Reject Silence

Female artists reflect the everyday realities for women in Afghanistan who face sexual harassment and aggression everywhere, including at home, at work, and on the street. The female artists believe that they live in a culture of violation. Making art there is a hazardous pursuit. Contemporary art is not well regarded in Afghanistan, as it is seen as undermining religion, morality, and dignity of Afghan tradition. It is widely believed that anything that undermines such dignity is unacceptable and must be eradicated. During the decade or so that American-led coalition forces were in Afghanistan, the country experienced a "mini golden age." Western cultural centers, exhibitions and workshops proliferated, along with a new Center for Contemporary Art Afghanistan opening and admitting students of both sexes and later becoming a women-only institution. Despite perils, Afghan artists have consistently portrayed their country and its many facets. Although the warring factions in Afghanistan may be "busy destroying, but we are very peacefully writing this history."


Brazil's Culture Chief is Fired for Parroting Nazi Views

Brazilian culture secretary Roberto Alvim was fired from the government after he appeared to quote Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels in a video setting out his agenda for a conservative "rebirth" of the arts. Alvim, a theatre director, was appointed to lead Brazil's culture ministry in June and made the video to introduce a new art fund worth around $4.7 million. The video was even set to a piece of string music by Richard Wagner, a German composer who was a favorite of Adolf Hitler and known for his anti-Semitic views. Alvim said it was just a "rhetorical coincidence." Alvim has since issued a statement apologizing to the Jewish community. The controversy comes amid a deepening culture war in Brazil.


In Paris, Even the Ballet Dancers Are on Strike Over Pensions

National strikes in France over pension policy requirements led to more localized strikes starting in December. Currently, Paris Opera Ballet performers now retire at 42 with a full pension, but the French government wanted to tighten requirement rules. The ballet employees stood with transportation and health care workers and others to oppose a universal pension plan based on points instead of the current patchwork of 42 different retirement systems in France, tailored to individual professions. Officials have recently announced that the government would withdraw, at least temporarily, a plan that would have raised the full-benefit retirement age from 62 to 64 for all professions. Even a mandatory wait until age 62 would leave 20 years between a dancer's end of career and the ability to collect a full pension, although temporary unemployment and welfare are available.



League Puts 'A Big Bet on Women'

The Womens National Basketball Association (WNBA) and its players' union have agreed in principle on a new collective bargaining agreement that would nearly double the maximum salary and provide paid maternity leave. This signals a radical shift in how female athletes are to be compensated. Implications of the agreement stretch far beyond basketball at a time when women around the world are demanding increased pay and benefits. The proposed contract still needs to be approved by the WNBA's board of governors and union membership, but it would enable top players to earn more than $500,000, about triple last season's ceiling.


Cora Is Out as Manager of Red Sox Amid Scandal

Alex Cora is out as manager of the Rex Sox after playing a central figure in the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal. It first became clear that Cora's job was in danger when Major League Baseball (MLB) announced its punishment for the Houston Astros. MLB fined the team $5 million, stripped it of its first- and second-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021, and suspended general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch for one year for their roles in the scandal during its championship run in 2017. Cora was the bench coach of the Astros in 2017.


Wildfires Hamper Australian Open Qualifiers

Smoke and smog from the massive wildfires in Australia have raised alarms about player safety at the Australian Open tennis tournament slated to kick off this week. The Environment Protection Authority in Victoria has forecast the air quality in Melbourne to be "very poor and hazardous." The breathing conditions prompted Australian Open officials to suspend practice sessions, but qualifying matches went on as scheduled. One player was even forced to forfeit her match because of the conditions.



Antitrust Bill May Help Newspapers

The tough economics facing small newspapers has generated rare bipartisan agreement in Washington. There have been more and more calls for a new federal data privacy law and anger towards big technology companies. Lawmakers from both parties blame companies like Facebook and Google, which dominate the online ad industry, for the decimation of local news. There is a new proposal that would give news organizations an exemption from antitrust laws, allowing them to band together to negotiate with Google and Facebook over how their articles and photos are used online and what payments the newspapers get form the tech companies. This is an issue that is personal for the politicians.


U.S. and Iran Feud on Chinese Social Site

In recent days, tensions between the U.S. and Iran have been playing out on Weibo, a Twitter-like social media platform available to Chinese citizens. The U.S. embassy has been releasing posts claiming that General Soleimani was responsible for "exporting" terrorism and sectarian violence, "killing thousands." In parallel moves, the Iranian embassy released Weibo posts quoting Iranian officials on the tensions. The Iranian embassy has also been taking screenshots of tweets from its Foreign Minister and reposting them on Weibo with Chinese translations. Major Western online platforms, such as Google, Facebook ,and Twitter are blocked from the Chinese internet, however some users are able to get around this with the use of virtual private networks (VPNs). Content on Weibo is heavily censored and information deemed critical of the ruling Communist regime is removed, but it appears as though China's censors are letting Iran and the U.S. go at each other in full view of the Chinese internet, which is not mirrored on some U.S. social media sites, like Instagram.


General News

Trump's Trial Opens as New Evidence Emerges

The U.S. Congress opened the impeachment trial of President Trump on Thursday with House Democrats reading the formal charges before the swearing-in of all 100 senators as jurors for only the third impeachment trial in U.S. history. Seven legislators prosecuting the charges, led by Reps. Adam Schiff and Jerrold Nadler, make the walk across the Capital for the second day, starting the ceremonial protocol that shifts the proceedings out of Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Democratic-run House to the Republican-majority Senate. The events will be a test of not only Trump's presidency but also of the nation's three branches of power and its system of checks and balances. The president is still calling the impeachment a "hoax," even as new information emerges about his actions towards Ukraine that led to the charges against him. There are new allegations from an indicted associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.


Key Figure in Effort to Pressure Ukraine Says Trump Knew 'Everything'

As details continue to come to light about the Ukraine scandal, the walls between Trump and the scandal appear to be crumbling. Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani says that "President Trump knew exactly what was going on...I wouldn't do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president." Parnas is currently facing campaign finance charges.


In a Reversal, Trump Urges Swift Dismissal of Impeachment Charges

President Trump says the Senate should simply dismiss the impeachment case against him. He believes that the Senate giving credence to a trial will only give the partisan Democrat Witch Hunt credibility. The idea of dismissing the charges against Trump are unusual and unlikely. Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned that senators will "pay a price" if they block new witness testimony with a trial that Americans perceive as a "cover-up" for Trump's actions. Voters are divided over impeachment.


Freeze in Military Aid to Kyiv Was Illegal, a Watchdog Says

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has ruled that the White House broke the law by withholding aid to Ukraine that had been approved by the U.S. Congress. This ruling comes as President Trump faces an impeachment trial in the Senate related to the withheld aid. The freeze was said to be illegal because "faithful executing of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) "withheld funds for a policy reason, which is not permitted under the Impoundment Control Act (ICA)." The ICA also says that the White House must first alert Congress before it delays or blocks funds, which the Trump administration did not do. No penalties come with a violation of the ICA. Multiple presidents have been found by the GAO to have violated U.S. laws.


Robert's Role is Ceremonial and Perilous

The Chief Justice's responsibilities at the impeachment trial are fluid and ill-defined and will probably turn out to be largely ceremonial, but can ultimately be perilous for his reputation and that of the Court. The signs of partisanship could damage the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is also crowded with divisive issues involving President Trump. The Constitution offers no procedural guidelines to instruct Roberts how to preside over an impeachment trial. The Chief Justice will probably follow the example set by his predecessor, Justice Rehnquist, who presided over President Clinton's impeachment trial, and do as little as possible.


President Giving His Defense Team a Celebrity Cast

President Trump has asked former independent counsel Ken Starr and celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz to join his defense team for the Senate impeachment trial that gets underway in earnest this week. Starr's investigation into President Bill Clinton led to the latter's impeachment for perjury and obstruction of justice in 1998. Dershowitz, a Harvard Law School professor emeritus who became famous as a defense counsel for high-profile defendants like O.J. Simpson and Mike Tyson, will have a more limited role, presenting oral arguments at the Senate trial "to address the constitutional arguments against impeachment and removal." In choosing these prominent lawyers, the president has assembled what he regards as an all-star television legal team, enlisting some of his favorite defenders from Fox News. However, each of them brings his own baggage as well.


Trump Administration to Curb Lawsuits by Franchise Workers

The Trump administration has loosened the federal government's "joint employer" rule for businesses that contract out work. This loosening makes it harder for victims of wage theft at staffing agencies and subcontractors to sue companies where the violations take place. Therefore, it is harder for workers to sue large companies for wrongdoings. The new rule takes effect in March and replaces the more labor-friendly Obama-era approach that the Trump administration withdrew in 2017.


Esper Didn't See Evidence of Plot to Hit Embassies

President Trump has said that the airstrike that killed a senior Iranian general earlier this month was because of an Iranian plot to attack four embassies. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has told the media that he "didn't see" evidence of an Iranian attack, but that it was probable since embassies are the most prominent display of American presence in a country. Trump's assertion is at odds with intelligence assessments from senior administration officials. White House national security advisor Robert O'Brien has defended the strike. Top Democrats have pushed back on Esper's claim that the Gang of Eight congressional leaders were given information on the threat to attack the embassy in Baghdad.


Court to Decide Whether Employers Must Offer Birth Control

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether employers should be allowed to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage to their workers because of moral or religious objections. At issue are Trump administration regulations allowing employers to claim such exemptions to the contraceptive insurance coverage mandate in the Affordable Care Act ,which requires most employer-provided plans to include birth control coverage without a copay. Churches and other religious organizations can already opt out, but the administration has sought to expand that exemption to include a wider array of businesses and organizations. Pennsylvania and New Jersey have already challenged the Trump administration regulation and won a nationwide injunction temporarily blocking the rules. It's not the first time the Supreme Court has considered the issue, the first time was in the 2014 Burwell v Hobby Lobby Stores case.


Justices Take Case on 'Faithless Electors' in the Electoral College

The Supreme Court will decide ahead of the 2020 election whether presidential electors are bound to support the popular vote winner in their states or can opt for someone else. Advocates for the Court's intervention say that the issue needs urgent resolution in an era of intense political polarization and prospect of a razor-thin margin in a presidential election, although so-called faithless electors have been a footnote so far in American history. About 30 states require presidential electors to vote for the popular vote winner and electors almost always do so anyway. The case arises out of the 2016 presidential election. The Justices will hear arguments in April and should issue a decision by late June.


Justices Wary in Weighing 'Bridgegate' As a Crime

Most of the Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court expressed skepticism about the federal government's case in the infamous "Bridgegate" scandal. There are dense legal issues that surround the convictions of two former Gov. Christie allies. A number of Justices seem to find merit in the defendants' arguments that they did not defraud the government when they closed off two local access lanes to the George Washington Bridge. Even Justice Breyer doubted that the statues involved in the case were properly applied. Both liberal and conservative Justices seemed to struggle with the arguments made by the Justice Department. Some attorneys say the legal theory applied to the case "turns the integrity of every official action at every level of government into a potential federal fraud investigation."


Senate Passes New Deal on Trade with Neighbors

A new trade deal with Canada and Mexico was approved in the U.S. Senate on January 16th, marking a significant accomplishment for President Trump on his long-discussed desire to update the Clinton-era North American Free Trade Agreement. In an 89-10 Senate vote, prior to the chamber proceeding with the impeachment trial, the overwhelming support of the plan represented a rare show of bipartisanship on a policy proposal. The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) creates the first U.S. free trade agreement with a digital trade chapter, which will help the $1.3 trillion U.S. digital economy grow and import efforts to stop importers of counterfeit goods. It provides for copyright and patent protections to uphold trade secrets and to secure data rights. Trump has been a staunch critic of NAFTA.


U.S.-China Deal Nets Concessions for Tech Firms

The U.S. and China have reached a trade deal that eases tensions between the world's two largest economies, offers massive export opportunities for U.S. farms and factories, and promises to do more to protect American trade secrets. This new agreement would end China's long-standing practice of pressuring foreign companies to transfer technology to Chinese companies as a condition for obtaining market access. China has also agreed to combat patent theft and counterfeit products. This is intended to ease some of the U.S. economic sanctions on China in return for Beijing stepping up its purchases of American farm products and other goods. The agreement also makes it easier to bring criminal cases in China against those accused to stealing trade secrets.


Four in G.O.P. Defect on Legislation Limiting Trump's War Powers

At least four Senate Republications will break with the administration to support a resolution that would limit President Trump's ability to take military action against Iran, which would likely give Democrats enough votes to pass the measure soon. The bipartisan resolution directs Trump to end the use of military force against Iran unless such action is authorized by Congress. It does not prevent the U.S. from defending itself against an imminent attack. The Democratic-controlled House is expected to pass the legislation, which Trump could veto. Sens. Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Todd Young and Susan Collins have each said they would support the updated version of the legislation, giving it majority support if every Democrat votes for it. Other Senate Republications have said they are still considering the measure.


House Urges Intelligence Officials to Testify Publicly

Officials appear reluctant to attend an annual hearing after last year's testimony revealed splits with the White House on key issues and angered President Trump. Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, issued invitations to intelligence agency leaders to testify publicly in an effort to head off an attempt to move their yearly hearings on global threats behind closed doors. The intelligence community has made plain that its leaders prefer the testimony to be classified and take place behind closed doors. Congressional Democrats have said that the intelligence officials must testify at least partly in public. Both sides are still discussing the timing and format of the hearings. The annual hearing is one of only a few opportunities to hear from intelligence officials.


House Opens Investigation into U.S. Policy on Asylum

House Democrats have launched a probe into the Trump administration's controversial policy of requiring tens of thousands of asylum seekers to wait in northern Mexico for their U.S. immigration court hearings. They have demanded troves of documents and data related to the implementation of the so-called "Remain in Mexico" program, which has been used to return more than 57,000 Latin American migrants to Mexican border cities. The committee has said that a "comprehensive review" of the policy is warranted because they believe that it is a dangerously flawed policy that threatens the health and safety of legitimate asylum seekers and should be abandoned.


Tech Giants 'Bullied' Us, Rivals Testify

The House antitrust subcommittee's sweeping investigation of possible anti-competitive conduct in the digital marketplace has zeroed in on the practices of tech companies like Amazon. Apple, Amazon, and Google wield their market dominance to bully smaller tech players with relative impunity, executives from smaller competitors testified on Friday at a congressional hearing. In a rare public rebuke of tech's most powerful companies, the executives detailed allegations of intellectual property theft, attempts to block them from platforms, and efforts to seemingly drive them out of business. Speaking out so publicly and forcefully against these giants could risk reprisals from the firms that control much of the global digital marketplace. Google, Apple, and Amazon largely deny the charges against them.


U.S. Request for Access to Gunman's Phone Data Puts Apple in Bind

Apple has rejected a Justice Department request to unlock two phones used by the Saudi gunman who killed three sailors at a naval base in Pensacola, Florida. The FBI wants Apple to unlock the Phones that belonged to the shooter, but Apple is resisting, leading to another standoff between the government and Apple over privacy.


U.S. Department of Agriculture Tries to Relax Rules on School Food

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) tries to relax nutrition guidelines for school meals in a proposed rule by the Agriculture Department. The new rule would give schools more latitude to decide how much fruit to offer during breakfast and what types of vegetables to include in meals, weakening Obama's school lunch rules. The current meal regulations were established under the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which were spearheaded by Michelle Obama. The law set new standards for school meals for students in grades K-12 to ensure children that were receiving more vegetables, fruits, whole-grain rich foods, and fat-free milk. The USDA argues that the Obama-era rules are leading to high costs and rampant food waste.


Trump Tried to Scrap Anti-Bribery Law, New Book Says

President Trump tried squashing a decades-old law that bans companies operating in the U.S. from paying off foreigners and called it "so unfair" to business operations overseas, according to a new book by Washington Post reporters. Supposedly, Trump told then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at a 2017 White House briefing that he need to get rid of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The president was unsuccessful and the anti-bribery law remains heavily enforced.


Judge Halts Trump Policy Allowing States and Cities to Reject Refugees

A federal judge has ruled that state and local officials cannot block refugees from being resettled in their jurisdictions, finding that the Trump administration's new refugee policy is likely to be "unlawful" and "does not appear to serve the overall public interest." U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte of Maryland temporarily halted Trump's executive order requiring governors and local officials nationwide to agree in writing to welcome refugees before resettlements take place in their jurisdictions. Giving the states and local governments the power to consent flies in the face of clear Congressional intent.


14 States Sue to Block Plan to Cut Food Stamps

Fourteen states, Washington D.C., and New York City sued to block a Trump administration rule on Thursday that would push 700,000 people off food stamps in the latest standoff between Trump and the blue states. The states allege that the new guidelines will harm their residents' health, raise homelessness and healthcare costs, and contradict what the architects of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program intended. The suit is filed against the Department of Agriculture and Secretary Sonny Perdue and claims that the government failed to give the public enough time to comment on a final version of the plan, violating the federal rulemaking process.


Just Another Hurdle: In Symbolic Victory, Virginia Is 38th State to Pass the Equal Rights Amendment

In a symbolic victory for those generations that have been pushing for a constitutional guarantee of legal rights regardless of sex, Virginia has become the 38th state to approve the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Virginia's decision does not seal the amendment's addition to the U.S. constitution. A deadline for ¾ of the 50 states to approve the ERA expired in 1982, so the future of the measure is uncertain and the issue will likely be tied up in the courts and political sphere for years.


President Attaches Strict Restrictions to Puerto Rico's Long-Delayed Disaster Aid

The Trump administration is finally releasing its hold on billions of dollars of aid to Puerto Rico after a months-long delay. It is still unclear when those funds will reach the island. More than $8 billion is allocated through a Department of Housing and Urban Development disaster recovery fund that was supposed to be released months ago. So far $1.5 billion in HUD aid has been made available. The delay has riled politicians. The administration has repeatedly cited concerns of alleged mismanagement and corruption as justification for its hesitation to hand over the disaster funds.


Cancer Death Fell Sharply, Trump Took Credit

In a recent tweet, President Trump insinuated that his administration played a role in the U.S. cancer death rate hitting a record low in 2017. The American Cancer Society refutes that assertion. The rate of people dying from cancer in the U.S. has declined for the 26th year in a row. CEO of the American Cancer Society told CNN that the 2017 findings are not connected to the actions of the Trump administration. He went on to say that the mortality trends reflect prevention, early detection, and treatment advances that occurred in prior years.


Citing 'Bad Faith,' Flynn Asks to Take Back His Guilty Plea

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn wants to withdraw his two-year-old guilty plea, saying that federal prosecutors reneged on a promise to not ask for jail time at his upcoming sentencing. Flynn was only national security advisor for less than a month and the only Trump administration official to face criminal charges in connection with special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian election meddling. The defense asked to delay Flynn's sentencing by 30 days and the government says it has no objection. The U.S. Attorney's Office, which took over the case, recommended earlier this month that Flynn receive "0 to 6 months of incarceration" because he had been less than cooperative in the investigation of his former partner.


Epstein Abused Girls on Island Until 2018, Suit Says

Prosecutors in the U.S. Virgin Islands have unveiled a new lawsuit against the estate of Jeffrey Epstein, alleging that he ran a conspiracy and transported young women and girls to his private Caribbean islands and subjected them to sexual abuse over two decades. Authorities claim the sexual predation occurred as recently as 2018 and involved children as young as 11 years old. The suit goes on to allege that it was all covered up by Epstein's associates through a complex web of corporations. The lawsuit, filed by Attorney General Denise George, seeks to confiscate all property used in the alleged criminal conspiracy and Epstein's victims would be the beneficiaries.


Inquiry in Leak May Put Focus Back on Comey

The Department of Justice is reportedly shifting its focus to former FBI director James Comey, another of President Trump's political foes, after reportedly coming up empty-handed in its investigation into Hillary Clinton. Federal prosecutors have opened an investigation into whether Comey leaked classified information to reporters. It's unclear whether any witnesses have yet been called or a grand jury has been convened. Federal prosecutors have previously investigated whether the former FBI head directed personal lawyer and friend Daniel C. Richman to turn over the contents of a memo detailing Comey's interactions with Trump to the New York Times.


Complaint of Sex Assault Starts Public Feud at Veterans Affairs

Top Veterans Affairs (VA) officials are criticizing a key congressional staffer for reporting an "unsubstantiated" sexual assault incident at a VA medical center, saying that the accusation could discourage public trust in the institution. Congressional leaders say VA leadership are the ones undermining faith in the institution by attacking a victim instead of working to make their facilities accountable and safe for female veterans. This comes amid increasing tensions between the House Veterans' Affairs Committee and department officials who have sparred publicly over a host of issues in the last few months.


'Help Us': Illegal Phones Expose Prisons' Squalor

Officials decry contraband, but inmates use mobile devices to show conditions. Inmates are using contraband phones to let outsiders know of the horrible conditions inside the prisons, from mold and rats to dilapidation and chaos. Inmates have used illegal cellphones to capture and transmit images that have come to define the crisis, many of which were texted to the New York Times. Officials say the pervasiveness of cellphones has threatened prison security. State corrections commissioners have said that "there is a lot of misinformation fanning the flames of fear in the community at large, especially on social media...and the phones have been instrumental in escalating the violence." State officials in Mississippi have resorted to a range of measures, including seeking court orders to get service providers to shut down specific devices. They have also used technology to interrupt cellular signals and regularly conduct shakedowns.


FBI Detains Members of Neo-Nazi Group Ahead of Rally

The FBI has arrested three alleged members of The Base, which authorities describe as a "racially motivated violent extremist group", on charges that range from illegal transport of a machine gun to harboring aliens. The three suspected members, a former Canadian military reservist and two Americans, had discussed going to a controversial pro-gun rally in Virginia. Canadian national Patrik Jordan Mathews entered the U.S. illegally last summer. The arrests come days before a pro-gun demonstration that is slated to take place in Richmond, VA, just after Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency and banned firearms on the Capitol grounds in Richmond in anticipation of the gun rights demonstration. The firearms ban was challenged in court, but a judge in Richmond upheld the order. Two of the three men have previous military experience.


Google Tops Market Cap of $1 Trillion

Alphabet, Google's parent company, just topped $1 trillion in market value, joining other tech giants. Alphabet's stock price closed at an all-time high of $1,450.16 on Thursday. The tech giant is the fourth U.S. company to hit the milestone after Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon. Facebook could join the club next, as its market value sits at roughly $630 billion. Alphabet's resurgence marks a turnaround for the company. The stock was among the worst-performing among its larger tech peers in 2019. Investors have grown more optimistic lately.


Putin Pushes Changes Likely to Extend His Rule

President Vladimir Putin has fast-tracked work on constitutional changes that could keep him in power well past the end of his term in 2024 while lawmakers quickly sealed his choice for new prime minister. Putin casts his proposals as a way to strengthen Parliament and to bolster democracy, while Kremlin critics described the proposed changes as an attempt by Putin to secure his rule for life. The Russian leader proposed sweeping amendments and then hours later Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev resigned, along with all of his ministers. The Kremlin-controlled lower house, the State Duma, quickly approved his successor in a unanimous vote. The constitutional reform indicated that Putin was working to carve out a new governing position for himself after his current term ends. Putin has been in power for more than 20 years, longer than any other Russian or Soviet leader since Stalin. Putin suggested amending the Constitution to allow lawmakers to name prime ministers and Cabinet members. The president currently has that authority.


A Crackdown, and Apology from Tehran

A top Iranian military commander made a rare public appeal for forgiveness on Sunday as security forces fired on protesters and outrage over the mistaken downing of a jetliner reignited opposition on the streets and stirred dissent within the government's conservative base. The military acknowledged that it had launched the missiles that brought down a Ukraine International Airlines jet near the Iranian capital, killing all 176 people on board. The disaster unfolded amid escalating tension with the U.S. over the killing of a revered Iranian commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani. For the first few days after the crash, Iran denied growing international accusations. Its ultimate admission of guilt limited the blowback from abroad, but stirred up the volatile situation at home with anti-government protests. As unrest spread beyond Tehran, security forces began crackdowns.


January 13, 2020

Week In Review

By Eric Lanter
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media, and General News


ABKCO Music & Records, Inc. Files SDNY Action Against Coda Publishing, Inc.

This week, ABKCO Music & Records, Inc. filed a suit in the Southern District of New York alleging that Coda Publishing and others infringed copyright in various musical compositions, master recordings, and films by using the works in documentaries featuring The Rolling Stones, Elton John, U2, ABBA, Nirvana, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers in what amounted, according to the Complaint, to "nothing more than a delivery system for intentionally infringed materials."


Weinstein Trial Begins with Judge Not Recusing and New Charges of Rape Are Filed

Harvey Weinstein's last ditch effort to delay his trial in New York has failed: Justice James Burke will not recuse himself on the basis of bias as evidenced by his warning Weinstein that he may face prison for the remainder of his life for violating an order to refrain from phone use in the courtroom. Meanwhile, with the trial getting underway, in Los Angeles, prosecutors have unveiled their case against Weinstein in relation to an alleged rape and threat of murder in 2013.




Sonos Sues Google as Alphabet Legal Officer Steps Down

Sonos has sued Google in two federal courts "seeking financial damages and a ban on the sale of Google's speakers, smartphones, and laptops in the United States" based on Google's alleged infringing on five of Sonos' patents, "including technology that lets wireless speakers connect and synchronize with each other. The alleged incident that caused the infringement occurred in 2013 when Sonos had worked with Google to design Google's music service. During that collaboration, Sonos sent Google effectively its blueprints for its speakers, and while that seemed innocent enough, Sonos' executives now say they were naive in expecting that Google, a technology company, would not take those blueprints and make speakers itself.



Bill Cosby Files New Appeal Citing #MeToo Bias

Bill Cosby's attorneys have now asked Pennsylvania's highest court to hear an appeal of the actor's 2018 sexual assault conviction on the basis that the trial judge erred "on a number of issues, including allowing testimony from five other accusers." A spokesman for Cosby stated that a review of his case was necessary given "the vital important questions about the impact of #MeToo hysteria" on his case.


Hollywood Assistants Are Fed Up and Not Afraid to Say So

Over 100 assistants in Hollywood gathered on a recent Sunday to have a "town-hall-style discussion" about their work horror stories and the low wages that they had received working in the industry. They said that the industry increasingly "works against people who do not have outside financial backing, meaning that low-level jobs tend to go to people who can afford to take them." Many in the group have started the hashtag #PayUpHollywood in an attempt to bring attention to the poor pay that the assistants receive, which is in stark contrast to the executives in the industry.


Oprah Pulls Out of Documentary on Music Mogul Russell Simmons

On Friday, Oprah Winfrey announced that she was cutting ties with a documentary "centered on women who have accused the music mogul Russell Simmons of sexual misconduct." The film was set to have premiered at Sundance Film Festival this month and focuses on an executive, Drew Dixon, who accused Simmons of rape, which Simmons has denied. Winfrey's departure also brings the departure of the distributor of the documentary, Apple TV Plus, which had agreed to put the documentary on its streaming platform.


Former Nets Arena Now Home to NBC Drama

The Meadowlands Arena closed in early 2015, but it has since been used by NBCUniversal as a soundstage. The company has invested over $750,000 and has been home to several shows such as the upcoming show, "Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector," and it has been a revitalization of the arena that was vacated when the National Basketball Association team, the Nets, moved to Brooklyn.


Golden Globe Winners Take the Stage

The Golden Globe awards were last week, and Sam Mendes' "1917," a World War I epic, took the honor for best drama with Mendes receiving best director. In his speech, he noted that the film should be viewed on a big screen in a movie theater in a swipe at Netflix, which had 34 nominations, including six for "Marriage Story" and five for Martin Scorsese's "The Irishman."


Peak TV Hits 532 Scripted Shows

The estimated number of scripted television shows in the United States has hit a high: 532 shows. These include comedies, dramas, and limited series "that were broadcast or streamed, according to the research department of the cable network FX, which tabulates and releases the figure every year. The 2019 total is over 50% higher than the number of shows that existed in 2013 (349 shows), and it's a 153% jump over the 210 shows that were on in 2009.



Musicians' Pension Plan Seeks to Cut Benefits

The American Federation of Musicians and Employers' Pension Funds, the largest pension plan in the United States for musicians, is pursuing a cut to retirement benefits "that have already been earned by thousands of musicians, in an effort to keep the plan from running out of money." The fund has calculated that it faces a shortfall in the billions of dollars in the long term, and its trustees have announced that they will cut benefits that have already been earned by the participants in the plan, stoking those participants' outrage.


Romance Writers Cancels Awards Program Amid Upheaval

The Romance Writers of America is in disarray: its president and executive director have resigned in the wake of a racism dispute relating to a new book in the industry. Writers and agents within the industry had called for the resignations based on the handling of the dispute, and since then, the Romance Writers of America announced that the awards program would be cancelled, given the situation and controversy.



He Left a Museum for Promotion After Women Complained

Joshua Helmer, a former manager at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, had a reputation at the museum for approaching his subordinates in ways that made them uncomfortable, and those employees shared their concerns with managers at the museum as early as the beginning of 2016. He resigned in early 2018, and the employees learned that he had taken the job of director at the Erie Art Museum in Erie, Pennsylvania, where he soon behaved the same way: he texted a college student working at the museum and asked her to come to his house for coffee. She sent a screen shot to the New York Times showing that after she rejected his offer, he told her that "You're the most useless intern we have."


Britain Moves to Regulate Its Art Trade

Britain's "art market participants" are now subject to regulations when they are in transactions "worth more than 10,000 euros." Those regulations include registering with the government's tax agency and identifying the "ultimate beneficial owner" before entering into the transaction. Parliament ratified the legislation in December, and it is expected that European Union countries will enact counterpart laws in the near future.


A Victim's Account Fuels a Reckoning Over Abuse of Children in France

The French writer Gabriel Matzneff has always been open about his engaging in sex with "girls and boys in their early teens or even younger", even writing numerous books about his pursuits and boasting about them on television. Rather than face consequences for his actions, however, he won awards for his writing. Now, France is grappling with its history of being lax "toward sex with minors" as shown through its laws, which do not have statutory rape laws for those who are underage; rather, it is illegal for an adult to have sex with a minor under 15 but "not automatically considered rape."



Judge Signals Approval of the University of Southern California's $215 Million Settlement With Ex-Gynecologist's Patients

A judge in Los Angeles has approved settlement of a class-action lawsuit against the University of Southern California in the amount of $215 million. The settlement will see over 18,000 women receiving between $2,500 and $250,000 for the sexual misconduct involving hundreds of patients during Dr. George Tyndall's tenure as campus gynecologist.


Olympic Protest Rules: No Kneeling, but Tweets Are Fine

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has published its guidelines for what statements competitors may make at the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. It has clarified that competitors are not permitted to kneel, use "politically motivated hand gestures," disrupt medals ceremonies, or use "political messages on signs or armbands." These are the first unambiguous guidelines that have come from the IOC.


Top Jobs in National Football League and Elsewhere Go To White Men

In a league where approximately "three-quarters of the players are black," it is striking that the coaches are overwhelmingly white: when five National Football League (NFL) teams replaced their head coaches, only one, Ron Rivera, was not white. While many owners, such as John Mara, the co-owner of the New York Giants, have said things like a particular white coach "just has a certain presence about him," which some have viewed as encapsulating "the flawed processes and thinking that many of the country's elite institutions, the NFL included, follow when evaluating candidates for top positions."



Google Files Supreme Court Brief in Action Against Oracle

Last week, Google filed its brief with the United States Supreme Court in Google's action against Oracle regarding copyright infringement. The questions that the action raises are "whether copyright protection extends to a software interface" and "whether, as the jury found, petitioner's use of a software interface in the context of creating a new computer program constitutes fair use."


YouTube's Children Privacy Policies Change After Settlement with Regulators

YouTube has announced its new children privacy practices after its parent company Google's settlement with federal investigators. In the agreement with the Federal Trade Commission and New York State's Attorney General, YouTube agreed and has now begun to introduce its changes, which include limiting the collection of personal information about who watches children's videos, not advertising to those viewers based on browsing or online activity, and requiring producers of those videos to clarify whether their videos are made for children.


Facebook Executive Warns Not To Tilt Scales Against Trump as It Vows to Ban "Deepfakes"

With the 2020 presidential election approaching, Facebook has announced that it will ban "deepfakes," or videos that appear to be real but are in fact manufactured with the intent of making the viewer believe that a person has said something he/she/they never did. However, Facebook, in congruence with its hands-off approach to speech issues, announced that it will not ban political ads that contain blatant lies, despite an outcry from activists who have called for some filter to be put into place, given the ease with which disinformation may spread on Facebook.




Major TikTok Security Flaws Found

The smartphone app TikTok has become a favor by teenagers throughout the world with hundreds of millions of users, but Check Point, a cybersecurity company, has announced that it has "serious vulnerabilities that would have allowed hackers to manipulate user data and reveal personal information." The flaw allows for users to receive messages carrying "malicious links" that, when clicked, would allow an attacker to take control of accounts "including uploading videos or gaining access to private videos."


CNN Agrees to Pay $76 Million to Settle Allegations of Labor Law Violations

The National Labor Relations Board announced Friday that CNN has agreed to pay $76 million in back pay "to settle allegations that it violated federal labor law when it replaced hundreds of unionized broadcast technicians more than 15 years ago." The dispute began in 2003 when CNN terminated a contract with a company, Team Video Services, and hired employees to perform the same work "without recognizing or bargaining with the two unions that had represented the Team Video Services employees."


BBC Underpaid Female TV Host, Tribunal Rules

BBC television host Samira Ahmed had received approximately $565 for each episode of "Newswatch" that she hosted; that is compared to the host of another program called "Points of View" hosted by Jeremy Vine, who received approximately $3,850 per episode. A tribunal has ruled that the difference in pay "was striking" and that she would receive back pay in an amount to be decided. She wrote that she was "glad it's been resolved" and that she is "looking forward to continuing to do [her] job" as "[n]o woman wants to have to take action against their own employer."


General News

Tensions Rise and Fall Between the U.S. and Iran

The United States and Iran had a tumultuous week: it began when the United States killed Major General Qassim Suleimani in a drone strike. With the funeral shortly thereafter, Iran's government announced that it would seek revenge against the United States, which has initially taken the form of 16 ballistic missiles launched against at least one base in Iraq containing American soldiers. While Iran's government initially announced that it had resulted in casualties, that has not been corroborated. Since then, it was revealed that one missile struck a Ukrainian passenger plane leaving Tehran's airport, killing all aboard including scores of Canadians. Iranians have taken to the streets protesting their government following the missile strike, and the tensions with the United States have calmed at least temporarily.









Ruth Bader Ginsburg Says She No Longer Has Pancreatic Cancer

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has announced that she is cancer-free and has "resumed an active schedule." She disclosed this development during a "wide-ranging interview" on CNN, and it comes after doctors discovered a tumor in July during a routine test.


Senate Prepares for Trial as Bolton Says He Is Willing to Testify

The United States Senate is preparing for the impeachment trial of President Trump. While the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had delayed in sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate in the hope that she may obtain concessions from Senate Republicans in the conducting of the trial, she announced that she would send the articles without any concessions having been obtained from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Thus, the trial will begin with a question as to which witnesses may be called in addition to those heard during the hearings in the House of Representatives, even as John Bolton, the former advisor to President Trump, announced that he would be willing to testify.




Pelosi Announces Vote to Limit Trump's War-Making Power Against Iran, and House Passes It

The House of Representatives, "sharply divided," voted on Thursday to "force President Trump to come to Congress for authorization before taking further military action against Iran. The vote comes as a response to President Trump's "ratcheting up of hostilities with Tehran without the explicit approval of the legislative branch." Democrats have vowed to check the President's power following the strike ordered against Major General Qassim Suleimani, Iran's top security commander, which was a "major provocation taken without informing Congress that has had a cascade of consequences."



Russian Hackers and Trolls Grow Stealthier in 2020

As the 2020 presidential election nears, the National Security Agency and its British counterpart have issued a warning that Russian hackers are "growing stealthier" and are planning to make an impact on the result of the election or international events. For example, Russian hackers have been found "boring into the network of an elite Iranian hacking unit and attacking governments and private companies in the Middle East and Britain--hoping Tehran would be blamed for the havoc." Voting officials are now being expected to learn about "bots, ransomware, and other vectors of digital mischief" in preparation for the election.


Trump's Move Against Landmark Environmental Law Caps a Relentless Agenda

The Trump administration announced that it would "roll back clean air and water protections by proposing stark changes to the nation's oldest and most established environmental law that could exempt major infrastructure projects from environmental review." The National Environmental Policy Act is set to be revised to strip away regulations "to the consternation of conservationists" and comes "in the middle of a foreign-policy crisis and on the cusp of an impeachment trial in the Senate."


Defamation Suit Against Trump Survives Motion to Dismiss Stage

Justice Doris Ling-Cohan ruled that the writer E. Jean Carroll's lawsuit against President Trump has survived a motion to dismiss, as Trump had failed to provide any evidence "to support his position beyond his lawyer's statement that 'the President of the United States has resided in the White House for the past three years.'" Additionally, Justice Ling-Cohan ruled that discovery may proceed, denying Trump's request that it be stayed.


Court Rulings Buoy Construction of Border Wall

The Trump administration saw a victory in two federal courts when they ruled that the administration may use $3.6 billion in military construction funds for "construction of the border wall" near the United States' border with Mexico and that a restraining order was being lifted "on a private group allied with President Trump that wants to build its own barriers on private land." The rulings make it more likely that the administration will be able to deliver on its promise to "build 450 miles of border wall by 2021."


Trump Administration Says Obamacare Lawsuit Can Wait Until After Election

When the Trump administration began, one of the clearest objections was the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as Obamacare. When Republican-leaning states tried to throw out Obamacare in a lawsuit, "the administration agreed that a key part of the law was unconstitutional," but defenders of the law have now asked the Supreme Court to resolve the case quickly even though administration lawyers "say they are in no particular hurry", as it would have "major political implications because the results sought by the Republican states and the Trump administration would cause substantial disruptions", including leaving millions more Americans without health insurance.


Inside the Billion-Dollar Battle Over .Org

Ethos Capital, a private equity firm, announced two months ago that it was planning to buy the rights to the .org "cyber neighborhood." The deal "met with a fierce backlash", as critics saw that the "less commercial corner of the internet should not be controlled by a private-driven private equity firm, as a matter of both principle and practice." Now, online petitions and letters of concern have come in "from hundreds of organizations" and "thousands of individuals" calling for the .org domain to remain independent.


American Consumers, Not China, Are Paying for Trump's Tariffs

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York's economist Mary Amiti has written in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper that "US tariffs continue to be almost entirely borne by US firms and consumers" rather than China or its consumers. This writing comes after President Trump has announced his trade war with China and imposed tariffs on trade with China and undermines the President's claim that the United States would be "taxing the hell out of China."


FBI Apologizes to Court for Botching Surveillance

The FBI told the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court that it was "increasing training and oversight for officials who work on national security wiretap applications in response to problems uncovered by a scathing inspector general report last month about botched surveillance targeting a former Trump campaign advisor." The FBI also announced that it would overhaul its requests, which consist of collecting logs of communications, business records, and wiretaps.


FBI Asks Apple to Help Unlock Two iPhones

The battle between Apple and the FBI continues: on Tuesday, the FBI announced that it asked Apple for the data on two iPhones owned by the "gunman in the shooting last month at a naval base in Pensacola, Florida, possibly setting up another showdown over law enforcement's access to smartphones." The FBI has received a search warrant for the data and is asking Apple to assist in executing the search warrant, which would require unlocking and unencrypting the data in the iPhones.


Puerto Ricans Ask After Earthquake: Are We Safe?

An earthquake and several dozen aftershocks have rocked Puerto Rico and left two-thirds "of the island's 3.2 million people" without power. The Trump administration approved the territory's "request for a federal disaster declaration, which will release some funding for things like debris removal and financial assistance for people who lost their homes," but many people remain fearful that "what remained of their homes might be unsafe."


Democrats in Virginia Race to Make New Laws

In the next 60 days, Democrats in Virginia hope to ban assault-style rifles, "get rid of statues honoring Confederate leaders in dozens of Virginia cities," and "give undocumented people licenses to drive." Legislators across the country are returning to their state capitals this month, but in Virginia, Democrats now hold both legislative chambers and intend to pass a wave of legislation and "shift the state's course as quickly as possible."


Texas Governor Shuts State to Refugees, Using New Power Granted by Trump

Governor Greg Abbott of Texas has informed the United States Department of State that the State of Texas will not accept any refugees in 2020. He has completed Texas' change into a state that "has traditionally been one of the most welcoming into the first to reject refugees," and it comes after the Trump administration, through an executive order, began permitting states to turn away refugees. In Governor Abbott's case, he "cited the surge in migrants crossing the southwestern border last year" as the reason for refusing refugees.


White Prosecutor Asks to Recuse Himself From Curtis Flowers Case

Doug Evans, a district attorney in Mississippi, has prosecuted the case against Curtis Flowers, a black man who has faced trial six times for a 1996 quadruple murder. Each trial resulted in a mistrial or conviction reversed on appeal, and he is facing trial for a seventh time, but Evans has announced that he will recuse himself from the case and hand the prosecution of the case to Mississippi's attorney general because Evans has concluded that his "continued involvement will prevent the families from obtaining justice and from the defendant being held responsible for his actions."


Solidarity March Against Anti-Semitism Brings Thousands to Rally After Attacks

Tens of thousands of marchers came into Lower Manhattan last week in a "show of solidarity for New York's Jewish community in the wake of a spate of anti-Semitic attacks in the region in the last month." The violence in the past month have "shaken the Jewish community" as it fits into a broader rise of hate crimes in the United States, and the gathering on Sunday brought numerous politicians, including Senator Chuck Schumer, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.


Charged With Prostitution, She Went to a Special Court

Women charged with prostitution have filled Judge Toko Serita's courtroom in Queens County Criminal Court nearly every Friday morning, and it is due to New York State having created 12 Human Trafficking Intervention Courts, which criminal justice professionals have "hailed it as an innovation." They have received criticism for not living up to expectations, but the courts send people "into counseling sessions to help them leave the multibillion-dollar sex trade while dismissing their charges and sealing their records."


Boeing Employees Mocked FAA and Designers of 737 Max

In over 100 pages of documents given to congressional investigators, it was revealed that Boeing employees "mocked federal rules, talked about deceiving regulators, and joked about potential flaws in the 737 Max as it was being developed." The communications are the "latest embarrassing episode for Boeing in a crisis that has cost the company billions of dollars and wreaked havoc on the aviation industry across the globe" which began after two 737 Max planes crashed due to a software flaw.


Army Denies Pardoned Soldier's Request to Restore Him to Special Forces

A potential clash looms between senior Army leaders and President Trump as the Army has rejected a request from a pardoned Army major charged with murder to be restored to the Green Berets. The soldier, Mathew Golsteyn, plans, according to his attorney Phillip Stackhouse, to appeal directly to the White House for intervention as President Trump had granted him clemency and thus saved Golsteyn having to go to trial for charges of murder for his involvement in the murder of an Afghan man.


Jeffrey Epstein Gave $850,000 to MIT, and Administrators Knew

The law firm Goodwin Procter has released a 61-page report detailing the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's interactions with Jeffrey Epstein, which included gifts totaling $850,000, about which top administrators knew and which merited the university's president a "thank-you note." Investigators, however, "absolved MIT's leadership of breaking any rules."


Millions of Australians Are Choking on Smoke From Wildfires That Have Devastated Wildlife Populations

With 2019 coming in at the second hottest year on record, Australia faced wildfires that have ravaged New South Wales and the surrounding area. The fires have led to several dozen human deaths, and it is expected that there have been millions upon millions of wildlife lost in Australia as a result. It is expected that the fires may flare up again in the near future potentially destroying even more homes and lives.







UK Lawmakers Give Brexit Bill the Green Light

British lawmakers in the House of Commons have voted in favor of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's legislation to take the country out of the European Union at the end of January. The bill now goes to the House of Lords, which is the country's "unelected second chamber," but the vote in the House of Commons lacked the "suspense that surrounded many previous votes."


Prince Harry and Meghan to 'Step Back' From Royal Duties

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have announced this week that they are "stepping back from their royal duties and spending extensive time in North America." Many minority residents of Britain applauded the decision, as they viewed the leaving as an escape from the abuse that the British press has brought on them, but it is unclear what the royal family will do in this situation. There are rumors that Prince Charles may deprive Prince Harry and Meghan of family money, but it is expected that this week will bring a meeting of the royal family where some of these issues may be resolved.




Taiwan Re-elects President in Rebuke to Beijing

In a blow to the rise of China's authoritarianism, Taiwan has re-elected President Tsai Ing-wen, who has "vowed to preserve the island's sovereignty in the face of Beijing's intensifying efforts to bring it under its control." The vote also comes after months of protests in Hong Kong "against Beijing's encroachment on the semiautonomous Chinese territory's freedoms." The Communist Party in China has found it to be a priority to "influence attitudes toward the mainland in other regions the party deems critical to its interests," but this result thwarts that effort.



In Poland, a Stubborn Defender of Judicial Independence

Polish judge Igor Tuleya has "faced threats, fake anthrax attacks, and denunciations in the right-wing news media as he fights the government's campaign to control the courts," and he has been labeled "an enemy of the state." Polish judges are finding themselves to be vilified in a climate where the government has undertaken a "campaign to tighten control over the judiciary," which has led over 20 judges to report "political harassment, while hundreds of judges and lawyers currently face threats of disciplinary proceedings widely regarded as politically motivated."


December 16, 2019

Week In Review

By Angela Peco
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into: Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media, and General News

Register Karyn A. Temple Announces Departure from the Copyright Office

Register of Copyrights Karyn Temple announced that she will be leaving the Copyright Office on January 3, 2020, to accept a new position with the Motion Picture Association. Temple has worked at the Copyright Office since 2011, first in the Office of Policy and International Affairs where she advised Congress on important copyright law and policy issues and was involved in several treaty negotiations, including the successful Marrakesh treaty that Congress implemented last year. She served as Acting Register of Copyrights from October 2016 until March 2019, when she was appointed Register. During her tenure, she spearheaded modernization efforts, oversaw improvements such as new public outreach mechanisms, the elimination of the registration backlog, and reduced registration processing times. Temple noted, "I have been continuously inspired by the excellent staff of the Copyright Office. They have served the American people well and are dedicated to the administration of the Copyright Act. It has been an honor for me to work at the Copyright Office, and, while I am looking forward to the next chapter, I will greatly miss all of the talented staff of the Copyright Office. I am truly grateful for the support and friendship of the entire Copyright Office staff during my tenure here."



Weinstein Reaches Tentative $25 Million Settlement with His Accusers

The deal would not require Weinstein to admit wrongdoing or pay anything to his accusers personally. With preliminary approval from the major parties involved, it would still require court approval and final signoff by more than 30 actresses and former employees who accuse Weinstein of offenses ranging from sexual harassment to rape. The agreement would be part of a larger, $47 million settlement intended to close out his film studio's obligations.


Weinstein's Bail Doubled Over Handling of Ankle Monitor ]

Prosecutors asked for Weinstein's bail to be increased from $1 million to $5 million after Weinstein left the house without part of his ankle monitor on multiple occasions and allowed its battery to expire several times.


Bill Cosby Loses Appeal of Sexual Assault Conviction

A Pennsylvania appellate court has unanimously rejected Bill Cosby's appeal of his 2018 sexual assault conviction, upholding the verdict. Cosby argued that he had been denied a fair trial after testimony regarding prior alleged crimes was introduced, saying the acts recounted by the women were too disparate to represent a pattern. The three-judge panel found instead that the women's accounts established a "distinct, signature pattern," in which Cosby acted as a mentor to gain their trust and then used drugs to sexually assault them. Cosby is currently serving a three-to-10-year prison sentence.


Cuba Gooding Jr. Faces More Accusations of Unwanted Touching

Prosecutors indicated in a court filing that there are 19 additional women accusing the actor of unwanted sexual touching. They ask for these women to be able to testify, testimony which will help show a "pattern of behavior". The decision is expected in January. Gooding Jr. faces charged of groping three women in 2018 and 2019.


Television Show "Survivor" Failed Its #MeToo Test

The article examines just how evasively and ineptly the show handled sexual misconduct allegations on its set, by downplaying female contestants' complaints and letting a male contestant off with a warning. The more recent episode ended with an announcement that the same male contestant, Dan Spilo, was ejected from the show. Newspapers have since reported that he was accused of inappropriate touching of a crew member.


Hollywood Award Season Low on Female Nominees

Despite both critical and commercial success, many projects with female talent at the helm were largely sidelined when the Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe nominations were announced this season. Most notable was the lack of women in the best director category, and how most Oscar contenders this year are male-driven stories.


Billboard Album Chart Will Now Count YouTube Streams

Starting January 3, 2020, music video streams will be counted toward Billboard's weekly album charts, including the Billboard 200. YouTube, Apple Music, and Tidal streams will all be considered. 1,250 clicks from a paying subscriber from any of those platforms, or 3,750 clicks from a non-paying user, will be the equivalent of one album sale.



Beetlejuice Being Forced Out of Theater

Though unusual to "evict" a well-performing show, the Shubert Organization has ordered "Beetlejuice" to vacate the Winter Garden Theater by next June in order to make way for "The Music Man," starring Hugh Jackman. The Shubert Organization is relying on a "stop clause" that allows it to oust a show whose grosses fall below a certain amount, even though recently the show was doing significantly better.


U.S. Sanctions Art Collector with Ties to Hezbollah

Treasury officials say the diamond dealer and art collector, Nazem Said Ahmad, used his art gallery in Beirut to hide assets and launder money used to finance Hezbollah. The U.S. says that Ahmad provided funds personally to the secretary-general of the Hezbollah, who the U.S. says helped instigate anti-government protests in Lebanon.


Charges Against Dealer Yves Bouvier Dropped

The charges stemmed from Bouvier's business with Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev, who claimed that Bouvier had overcharged him by about $1 billion. Monaco authorities dropped the charged of fraud and money laundering after finding that the investigation had been conducted in a biased way. Bouvier, for his part, wants Rybolovlev investigated for corruption in his dealings with Monaco law enforcement.


Indonesian Cave Paintings May Be World's Oldest Figurative Artwork

Discovered by archaeologist Hamrullah, the artwork was found in the limestone cave system of an Indonesian island and depicts eight figures approaching wild pigs. It dates back around 44,000 years and is considered the "oldest pictorial record of storytelling and the earliest figurative artwork in the world".



World Anti-Doping Association Bans Russia From Global Competition for Four Years Over Doping Violations

The country was handed a four-year ban from international competition for tampering with a Moscow laboratory database and hiding hundreds of potential doping cases. While the country's flag, name and anthem will not appear at the Tokyo Olympics, its athletes will still be able to compete if they can show they are not implicated in positive doping tests.

The men's soccer team, expected to participate in World Cup competition, will keep its name in qualifying matches but will then play under a neutral name if it qualifies for the 2022 Cup. In terms of UEFA play, because the World Anti-Doping Association does not recognize UEFA as a major sporting organization, Russia remains eligible to compete under its flag and host the European competition.

Critics point out that the ban still allows Russia to compete in all of the biggest events, albeit without its flag and anthem, and that a similar ban in Pyeongchang did not dissuade Russia from cheating.



USA Gymnastics Hearing on Coach Maggie Haney Rescheduled to January

Witnesses were scheduled to appear via video conference before a three-member panel hearing allegations of verbal and emotional abuse against New Jersey-based coach Maggie Haney, who has trained multiple Olympic and world champion gymnasts. The governing body is also investigating whether the coach threatened to retaliate against athletes if they came forward with allegations.



Major League Baseball and Union Agree to New Policy on Opioids, Marijuana Use

Major League Baseball (MLB) and the player's union announced a new drug policy that would add opioid testing for major leaguers and would not punish marijuana use in the major or minor leagues. On the opioid front, the new rules call for treatment rather than suspension. Marijuana use would be permitted for pain relief.


National Hockey League Commissioner: The League "Will Not Tolerate" Abusive Behavior

Speaking after the Board of Governors meeting this week, National Hockey League (NHL) Commissioner Gary Bettman relayed the NHL's four-point plan of action, which includes establishing an anonymous hotline for players and team personnel to report inappropriate conduct, as well as mandatory annual training on inclusion and harassment. Thought the NHL has signaled that engaging in this conduct or failure to report such conduct will be basis for discipline, the range of punishment is not yet clear.


Former National Football League Players Face Health Care Fraud Charges

Ten former Former National Football League (NFL) players are accused of defrauding one of the NFL's benefit plans for retired players by making $3.4 million in fake claims. Most claims involved medical equipment that was either never prescribed or never ordered. Once they were reimbursed, the players would send kickbacks to whoever was orchestrating the scheme.


West Point Removes Racist Motto From its Football Team Flag

The military academy used a flag bearing the letters "G.F.B.D." on the upper lip of a skull with cross-bones. The slogan stands for "God Forgives, Brothers Don't" and was originally used to emphasize teamwork, but school officials recently learned that the motto was associated with white supremacy.


400 Nike Employees March to Protest Support for Alberto Salazar

The demonstration on Nike's Oregon campus was fueled by the company recently rededicating a building to track coach Alberto Salazar, who has been accused by several athletes of bullying and body-shaming them. Salazar was also banned for four years for anti-doping violations by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.


France to Investigate Qatar's Successful Bid for 2022 World Cup

Several high-profile names are part of a French investigation into how Qatar won the right to host the World Cup. They include the Qatari prime minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Michel Platini, the former head of European soccer, and a soccer star in his own right. Over half of FIFA's executive committee members who voted on the 2022 bid have been accused of or prosecuted for corruption.



Melania Trump Stays Silent Following the President's Comments Toward Greta Thunberg

Many find it puzzling and ironic that Melania Trump, whose focus while in the White House has been an anti-cyberbullying campaign, has stayed quiet following the president's online attacks of environmentalist teenager Greta Thunberg.


Atlanta Newspaper Threatens Legal Action Against Warner Brothers Over "Richard Jewell"

The movie tells the story of a security guard, Richard Jewell, who discovered the bomb at the 1996 Summer Olympics and was then wrongly suspected of planting it. The newspaper takes issue with the movie's depiction of its reporting on the bombing, including the inclusion of a fabricated detail about a reporter offering sex to a federal agent in exchange for a story.



Fox Nation Host Britt McHenry Sues the Network, Alleging Sexual Harassment

McHenry is accusing her former co-host Tyrus of sexual harassment, adding that Fox News did not respond appropriately to her claims, in effect retaliating against her while giving him his own show.


YouTube Adopts New Policy to Curb Harassment on its Platform

The policy applies to video content and comments, in an attempt to restrict hate speech, extremist content and child exploitation. Enforcement will consist of hiring "raters" to screen flagged videos for prohibited content.


Bipartisan Bill Targets Online Spread of Child Sex Abuse Materials

The law would require companies to retain information about exploitative photos and videos found on their platforms for 180 days (doubling the current time requirement), and report on those images to a federal clearinghouse. Legislators are responding to an explosion in online child sexual abuse material and want to give investigators more time to gather evidence through these changes.


Attorney General Barr and Facebook Escalate Disagreement Over Encryption

In a letter addressed to Attorney General Barr ahead of a Senate hearing about encryption, Facebook executives reiterated their opposition to
a so-called "backdoor" into their messaging services for law enforcement. Facebook maintains that creating this access would make users vulnerable to hacking and real-life harm at the hands of criminals and repressive regimes.


China Displaces Turkey for Imprisoning the Most Journalists in 2019

The latest survey of the Committee to Protect Journalists found that of the 250 journalists imprisoned around the world, China had imprisoned 48. Saudi Arabia and Egypt were also among the worst offenders. Turkey's numbers fell after the country effectively shut down all independent reporting.


China Takes Issue with Criticism Over Xinjiang Camps

Chinese officials have launched an aggressive media campaign to counter a narrative that the government is detaining large numbers of the country's Muslim minority group in indoctrination camps. The chairman of Xinjiang government spoke out publicly against U.S. congressional efforts to place sanctions on Chinese officials, saying these are vocational training centers that people attend voluntarily.


India Charts its Own Path on Data Privacy

India will introduce legislation that restricts how companies can collect and use information from the country's residents, but it is also expected to allow the government to exempt itself from the rules. The bill creates rules that resemble the European model. Global internet companies would have to seek explicit permission from individuals for most uses of personal data and allow users to ask for their data to be erased. The government would be able to exempt any public entity from data protection rules for reasons related to national security of public order.


A Look at Disinformation Campaigns Ahead of UK Election

The article describes how Britain's political parties and candidates themselves are resorting to the spread of misleading information leading up to the election, including doctored videos and manipulated accounts.


Ethiopia's Leaders Critical Towards Social Media in His Nobel Speech

Abiy Ahmed warned in his speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize that social media is being deployed to sow hate and division, and that this has the impact of undermining the country's political transition. Ahmed was being recognized for his effort in establishing diplomatic and trade relations with Eritrea after brokering an end to the two countries' long-running border dispute. He has also been known to shut down or use social media to his advantage.


General News

House Judiciary Committee Approves Impeachment Articles

The House Judiciary Committee voted to advance two articles of impeachment accusing President Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of justice. The House vote is expected on Wednesday.

The charges stem from President Trump allegedly pressuring Ukraine to investigate Vice President Biden and his son's ties to the Ukraine and using security aid as leverage. The panel also stated that President Trump's efforts to stonewall the investigation undermined the separation of powers and limited his accountability.




Justice Department Releases Legal Opinions on Executive Privilege

The Office of Legal Counsel's legal opinions support the position that executive privilege bars "Congress from interviewing witnesses and collecting documents from the executive branch". The Justice Department relied on the opinions in Federal District Court when arguing why White House Don McGahn need not comply with a congressional subpoena issued in the House impeachment investigation.



Supreme Court to Rule on Release of Trump's Financial Records

The Court's ruling, expected in June, will give a definitive answer on whether the president must comply with three sets of subpoenas demanding that he release eight years of business and personal tax records. The subpoenas are connected to an investigation into candidate Trump's role, and the role of the Trump Organization, in making "hush-money payments" in the run-up to the 2016 election.


Trump Administration Moves to Expand Migrant Family Detention

The Administration intends to expand the system of facilities where families are detained. Last month, the Justice Department appealed a decision that upheld the 20-day time limit on family detentions. President Trump is reportedly still committed to ending the practice he calls "catch and release" and last year announced a plan to quintuple the number of family detention beds across the U.S.


Justice Department's Inspector General Report Accuses the FBI of Gross Incompetence but Debunks Anti-Trump Plot

The report concluded that the FBI had sufficient reason to start an investigation into links between President Trump and Russia in July 2016, but that the standard for this was extremely low. The inspector general also found that in conducting the investigation, the FBI handled many aspects of it very poorly, including a wiretap application. Ultimately, the report dismissed the theory that the investigation was politically motivated.



Trump and Barr Escalate Attacks on the FBI Over Report on Russia Inquiry

Both the president and Attorney General Barr leveled harsh criticism against the work of the FBI, calling the FBI's actions a "clear abuse" of the wiretap application process that amounted to "spying". Barr has tapped the U.S. attorney in Connecticut to lead another investigation into the Russian inquiry, which will likely extend this debate as to the credibility and merits of the Mueller investigation.


House Democrats and White House Reach Agreement on NAFTA Successor

The revised US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) includes new enforcement provisions that include monitoring of labor practices in Mexico and penalties for non-compliance. All three countries' legislatures need to vote on the agreement.


Inspector General Concludes That Interior Department Official Broke Ethics Rules

The finding was based on information that the official met with his former employer, a conservative research organization, to discuss weakening endangered species protections, for which the organization was lobbying. Following a separate investigation, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt was cleared of charges that he tried to influence or delay a scientific paper on the impact of pesticides on endangered species.


Senate Health Committee Votes in Favor of Food and Drug Administration Trump Nominee

The Senate's Health Committee voted 18-5 to advance the president's nominee to lead the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Stephen Hahn. Pending a full Senate vote, one of the issues he'll be expected to manage is vaping regulation. Democratic Senators expressed concern that Hahn lacks commitment on the issue after he did not directly answer questions about the flavor ban (of which President Trump had originally been in favor) during his confirmation hearing.


Amazon Accuses Trump of Improper Pressure on Pentagon Contract

Amazon has filed a complaint in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims arguing that it lost a $10 billion cloud computing contract with the Pentagon as a result of President Trump exerting "improper pressure" on the procurement process through personal attacks on Jeff Bezos.


Former Senior Manager at Boeing Testifies Before Congress; Federal Aviation Agency Defends Its Certification of the 737 Max

Ed Pierson, a former senior manager at a production facility, initially raised concerns about potential safety hazards with the 737 Max due to production problems. He also testified before Congress, saying that he believes production problems may have contributed to the deadly 737 crashes.

The head of the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) conceded that the agency made mistakes in handling the two crashes. The FAA's actions were especially problematic in light of an analysis it released following the Indonesian crash. That analysis determined that the model was likely to crash again if regulators did not act. Five months later, a second plane crash occurred under similar circumstances. It wasn't until a week after the second, Lion Air crash, that the agency directed pilots to use an emergency procedure to deal with the faulty software activation that was a factor in the crash.



U.S. Troops Could Soon Be Able to Sue the Military Over Medical Malpractice

The measure is included in a must-pass spending bill and would loosen the Feres Doctrine. The doctrine is invoked to deny active-duty members of the military a right to sue the government for injuries sustained on active duty (i.e., injuries "incident to service") and has survived five Supreme Court challenges. The provision added to the National Defense Authorization Act would allow troops to sue the military over medical malpractice, but the claims will be addressed through the Defense Department's adjudication agency and not the federal courts.


Internal Government Documents Reveal the Truth on War in Afghanistan

Documents obtained by The Washington Post reveal that U.S. officials provided misleading information to the public on the American war effort in Afghanistan. As U.S. focus shifted to Iraq following a quick but short-lived victory over the Taliban, American officials reassured the public that progress was being made, even in the face of a faltering strategy. Interviews with military and government officials show that metrics were being manipulated to show success when many knew the counterinsurgency strategy had little hope of succeeding.


Saudi Suspect in Pensacola Attack Probed for Terrorism Link

The FBI is conducting a terrorism investigation into the shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola, where a Saudi aviation student killed three U.S. Navy airmen. The Pentagon is suspending operational training for the 850 Saudi nationals in the U.S. but insists that it has no knowledge of a broader terrorism plot.


NATO Conference is Cancelled After U.S. Ambassador Bars a Trump Critic

A conference celebrating the 70th anniversary of NATO was cancelled after the U.S. Ambassador to Denmark, who would be hosting the event, barred a NATO expert from delivering the keynote speech because he had been critical of President Trump.


White House Blocks U.N. Meeting to Discuss North Korean Human Rights Abuses

The U.S. has killed off plans to convene a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to salvage any diplomatic progress it has made with North Korea. The meeting was intended to focus on North Korea's human rights record. Under U.N. rules, nine of the 15 Security Council members are required to schedule a meeting. After eight members agreed to sign a letter requesting the meeting, the U.S. held back its support.


Report Outlines Why Diversity and Inclusion Efforts Are Failing African-American Professionals

A study by the Center for Talent Innovation examines why the number of Black Americans in executive positions remains low despite efforts at increasing workplace diversity. The study argues that measures that achieved some success in addressing gender discrimination may not work on racial discrimination because challenges faced by black co-workers are not well understood. The report calls for an intervention to address issues like the sharp decline in diversity when reviewing middle management versus executive positions, as well as the issue of hierarchies among black employees.


Racism in the Banking Industry

The New York Times examines a series of recorded interactions with bank employees at JPMorgan branches in Phoenix. The report demonstrates just how widespread racism continues to be in that industry, targeting both clients and employees. Following the report, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said that the company needs to revisit its policies, procedures, and management practices, and do more to counter racism.



Executive Order Establishing Wider Definition of Judaism Sparks Concern Over Free Speech on College Campuses

President Trump signed an executive order that extends civil rights protections to Jewish persons, signaling that on a case by case basis, Judaism could be defined as a race or national origin, not just a religion, under the Civil Rights Act. The government could also withhold federal funding from universities that fail to combat anti-Semitism on campuses. Critics of the order say it will stifle debate on college campuses.


New York State Deepens Its Investigation into the National Rifle Association

A new subpoena has been issued eight months into the investigation, requesting records and information on campaign finance, payments to board members, and tax compliance. One of the subjects of the investigation is the National Rifle Association (NRA) Foundation, an affiliated charity suspected of being a back door for tax-deductible donations to the NRA itself.


New York's Climate Change Fraud Case Against Exxon is Dismissed

A New York state judge found that the Attorney General's office "failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence" that Exxon Mobil violated the Martin Act. New York State had argued that the company engaged in fraud through its statements and was keeping two sets of books: one that accounted for the potential future costs of climate change regulation - released to the public, and another internal document disregarding those costs.


Officials Treating Jersey City Shooting as Domestic Terrorism

The attack that killed four people at a kosher market in New Jersey is being considered an act of domestic terrorism. Officials say the two gunmen were fueled by anti-Semitism and anti-law enforcement beliefs, giving the incident an element of hate crime bias.


Kentucky Abortion Ultrasound Law Takes Effect

The Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to the law on First Amendment grounds. The law requires doctors who perform abortions to both display and explain to women images on their fetal ultrasounds. Another requirement is to make the fetal heartbeat audible when possible.


Kentucky Restores Voting Rights to Felons

Kentucky's Democratic governor signed an executive order restoring the vote to over 140,000 nonviolent felons with completed sentences. The move leaves Iowa as the only state that deprives all former felons of the right to vote.


University of California Sued Over Use of SAT and ACT in Admissions

The lawsuit argues that the standardized tests are unconstitutional because they are biased against poor and mainly black and Hispanic students and provide little meaningful information about a student's ability to succeed. The plaintiffs are a coalition of students, advocacy groups, and a California school district. They say the use of these test scores in admissions discriminates against applicants on the basis of race, wealth, and disability, denying them equal protection under the California Constitution.


University of Phoenix to Pay $191 Settlement to Settle Case Alleging Deceptive Ads

The settlement settles allegations of deceptive advertisement brought by the Federal Trade Commission, specifically that the school falsely claimed it had close ties to major U.S. companies that would create job opportunities for its students. The school also cancelled $141 million in student debt as part of the settlement.


The Vast, Invisible Climate Menace - Methane

The New York Times reports on the vast amounts of methane escaping from oil and gas sites in the U.S. Loosely regulated and very difficult to detect, methane is a major contributor to global warming. Next year, the Trump Administration is expected to move forward with a plan that would eliminate requirements that oil companies install technology to detect and fix methane leaks from their facilities.


Michael Cohen Asks for Leniency from Prison

In a letter to a federal judge this week, Cohen described himself as a broken man and asked to be permitted to serve the rest of his three-year sentence in house confinement.


Garcia Luna, Mexico's Top Crime Fighter, Charged with Bribery

Luna, a cabinet-level security official and a leading figure in Mexico's war against drug traffickers, is accused of accepting millions in bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel. Luna was arrested in Dallas a few hours after the indictment was unsealed in New York. While in office, Luna adopted a counternarcotics strategy that deployed the military to confront criminal groups and kill or capture their leaders.


Hong Kong Protest, Largest in Weeks, Stretches Several Miles

Thousands of people filled Hong Kong's streets in a march on Human Rights Day. Tensions have eased somewhat in recent weeks following the results of local elections in which pro-democracy advocates claimed victory.


Nobelist Aung San Suu Kyi Defends Myanmar Against Genocide Accusations

The Nobel Peace laureate told a panel of 17 judges at the Hague that her country's security forces were responding to violence when they took action against the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar. Defending the country against accusations of genocide, she conceded that disproportionate force may have been used or that the army did not distinguish clearly between rebels and civilians.


December 10, 2019

Week In Review

By Lisa Ornest
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into: Entertainment, Sports, Media, and General News


Sexual Predation of Kids

Kids are going online and playing games, and then all of a sudden sexually explicit images pop up, and the discussion is also filled with graphic language and images. The perps begin by being friendly and eventually use blackmail to extort kids into providing pictures of themselves or worse. This is tedious and annoying and full of misery, as well as unspeakably dangerous. Therefore, parents have to learn, they have to be taught, how to talk to their children about this. Simply banning the games isn't going to be enough. It's got to be just like the old days, when your parents taught you never ever to get into a car with a stranger. Except exponentially more, of course. Parents can't just wait for the platforms or anyone else to do it. The second article gives some good advice, but these days, everyone is just so incompetent.



Coward Cowell

If Howard Stern calls your show the "'ultimate example of a boys' club,'" well, he should know, don't you think? Apparently, Gabrielle Union complained about Cowell smoking indoors and Jay Leno's racist Korean jokes, and she was chastised for her "too black" hair, among other things. This is at NBC, which allegedly tried to shut down Ronan Farrow's investigation of Harvey Weinstein. Oh for crying out loud. Wake up and smell the baba booey, you morons.


Rotten Apple

Apple is not having fun getting into the streaming business. Apparently no one likes the pretend talk show with Rachel and Jill (despite all the swearing), and the first Apple-produced movie has been pulled from release on the basis of an accusation by the daughter of one of the real-life protagonists. The movie is about two black entrepreneurs, Bernard Garrett, Sr. and Joseph Morris, who eventually succeed against the racist mid-century business practices of this country. Now, however, Cynthia Garrett, the daughter of Bernard Garrett, Sr., has accused her half-brother, Bernard Garrett, Jr., who was acting as a producer of the film, of sexual abuse when she was a child, and Cynthia's mother was left out completely. Once the accusation is made, that's it. You can't unring the bell.


Hymen Says

New York legislators want to ban "virginity" testing, but others say how can you ban something that doesn't really exist? The rapper says he was never in the room and he was sorry for airing details of his daughters personal life. I should hope so. Pretty damn icky. How about banning any attempt at virginity testing? How about stop being so ridiculously literal?


Farewell Big Bird and Oscar

Caroll Spinney was a "full body" puppeteer who played both the "perennial 6-year-old canary" and the "consummate kvetch" hoarder (who lived in a garbage can and had a pet orange worm called Slimey), right from the beginning (1969). Carroll Spinney was born December 26, 1933, in Waltham Mass. He was shy, but his mother encouraged his artistry, and by the age of 12 he had 70 puppets, many made by his mother. After high school he attended the Art Institute of Boston, but dropped out to join the Air Force. Spinney had his first professional puppet show in 1955 while stationed in Las Vegas. He met Jim Henson in Salt Lake City in 1969, and you know how that turned out. By 2015, Spinney had to stop inhabiting the puppets, and his apprentice, Matt Vogel, took over, but the puppets still spoke Spinney's recorded dialogue. In October 2018, after 49 years, he retired from the show altogether. Spinney won numerous industry awards, and he published a memoir in 2003 (The Wisdom of Big Bird [and the Dark Genius of Oscar the Grouch]: Lessons from a Life in Feathers). There is also a 2014 documentary. Spinney is survived by his second wife, three children and several grandchildren. He was 85.



Pay it Forward

Women starting out in sports in the 1970s had no facilities, like a nearby toilet stall. Now, many of the wealthy ones are donating funds to their alma maters to give the young women athletes better sports facilities, uniforms, and bathrooms with stalls and mirrors. Women's athletics are traditionally underfunded, but that seems to be changing now.


More World Anti-Doping Agency Stuff

The problem is that innocent athletes will suffer from a ban, but there doesn't seem to be a way to allow the innocent ones to keep playing. The Russians cheated, and then tried to cover up their cheating, and have just generally been ridiculous about the whole thing. Their behavior has called into question the integrity of the entire system and demonstrated a deep lack of respect for the hard work of the all the great athletes who don't juice.



The Italian sports newspaper Corriere dello Sport showed photos of two black players, Chris Smalling and Romelu Lukaku, and used the words "Black Friday" as a headline to refer to an upcoming match. If meant as a play on words regarding holiday shopping, it was not felicitous. The fact is that there is racism in the soccer world, both from the fans and from within the teams, and it should not be encouraged. Then, in response to the criticism, the paper said it was being lynched. Sigh. In response to that, some teams have banned the paper from their facilities.


Bread and Circuses

The Crown Prince is trying to make everyone forget about Kashoggi by allowing WWE to put on performances, even with women, granted with the women wearing loose tee shirts over long sleeves and leggings. WWE says breaking into the market was a "business" decision.



Bloomberg Banned

When he decided to seek the Democratic nomination, ex-Mayor Bloomberg issued an edict (or something) that his news service would report on but not investigate any of the Democratic contenders, which is really kind of gracious if a little hard on the reporters who are chomping on the bit. The president is using that as an excuse to ban Bloomberg News from attending his rallies and other news events. Of course he has no power over their investigative reporting. Bloomberg News is now in good company, with the Washington Post, Politico, and BuzzFeed already having lost their press credentials, and CNN was forbidden to be played from the televisions in the White House offices.


Sex Trafficking Troll?

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects tech companies from liability for the gaucheries of their users. A Houston P.I lawyer is trying to challenge this law, by arguing, in a series of lawsuits around the country, that Facebook (and MailChimp and Salesforce), is facilitating the sex trafficking of minors. A Texas judge keeps denying Facebook's motions to dismiss. Facebook is appealing. The ultimate issue may hinge on whether and how much the companies know about what is happening. Courts have already ruled that Air BnB can be held liable for users who violate home rental bans in Santa Monica, and Amazon may be liable for selling a defective dog leash. So how far can this go? What if a young woman meets a pimp in the lobby of the Plaza?


Google Founders Stepping Aside

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who founded Google 20 years ago, are stepping down from the founding company, Alphabet, and Sundar Pichai will become the chief of both Goggle and Alphabet. Page and Brin will remain directors of Alphabet, and they are still the majority shareholders of both companies. Page is worth about $58.9 million, and Brin is worth about $56.8 billion. They seem to be leaving at a time when antitrust issues, skepticism about Google's intimacy with the government (particularly Homeland Security), and other questionable third parties, and employee walkouts may make corporate life more interesting, but they are really not that far away.


I Know You Are

Last year, Vernon Unsworth, a British cave explorer, was publicly less than sanguine about Elon Musk's attempts to help rescue a group of trapped children in Thailand using a submarine. Unsworth said that Musk could "stick his submarine where it hurts." Musk's feelings were hurt, and he retort-tweeted that Unsworth was a "pedo guy." Unsworth sued. Musk now claims that's just a phrase they used to say, generically, in South Africa, where he grew up, and is used in the English-speaking world, and wasn't meant literally. Musk claims he only meant that Unsworth was a creep. Then he spent $50,000 on an investigator to "look into" Unsworth, and the investigator claimed to have found that Unsworth had a 12-year-old bride. Then it turned out that the investigator had stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars from a business he co-founded and spent 18 months in prison. The judge has already ruled that Unsworth is a private figure. Musk he apologized on the stand, and the jury let him get away with this one.



Imprisoned Writer in China

China has detained and is torturing Yang Hengjun, an Australian writer and citizen, under the pretense that he is a spy. He is in isolation, being interrogated daily, and constantly shackled at his hands and wrists. He is getting medication for things like high blood pressure, although his lawyers say he was healthy when he left New York. Beijing says that Australia is just being hysterical. Yang Hengjun worked for the Chinese Foreign Ministry before becoming a novelist and blogger. Prior to his detention, he was a visiting scholar at Columbia University. He is charged with espionage, and apparently the conviction rate in those circumstances is very high. He is not the first detained writer who has "disappeared into detention in China."



We Have No Secrets

Julian Assange was spied on when he was in the Ecuadorean embassy. He is now suing a Spanish security company, UC Global, for eavesdropping by, for example, putting microphones in the bathrooms where he went to have private conversations. However, the real issue is, who hired UC Global? Was it the CIA? Or was it just Sheldon Adelson? Either way, Assange believes that if he can prevail in his case against the company, it will demonstrate that he can't get a fair trial in the U.S. and that will convince Britain, where he is currently a guest of the government, not to extradite. A former Justice Department attache says that may not be enough. What is necessary is to show lack of compliance with Britain's Human Rights Act, which protects the right to privacy, but also balances it with other considerations, like national security and crime fighting. Of course the head of UC Global, David Morales, has himself been indicted in regard to privacy violations, bribery, and money laundering. It was he who entered into the contract with Adelson's company, Las Vegas Sands.


General News

"Did an angel/ Whisper in your ear/ And hold you close/ And take away your fear/
In those long, last moments?" -Lucinda Williams

So much money, and children are dying horrifically, frightened and alone, on concrete floors. Why are children, never mind sick children, even being put in cells? There is a four-hour gap in the video that was produced, about the length of time it one boy to die, spitting blood and spasming.


Thrift, Thrift, Horatio

It was McKinsey Consulting's idea to save money on the whole illegal immigration thing by cutting down on food and medical supplies for detainees and shipping them to rural county jails, where conditions are "abysmal." Its ultimate fee was about $20 million for that. The cuts went too far for some career employees, and a number of proposals were never carried out. Incidentally, McKinsey also consulted for the opioid industry to help it improve sales.


Freedom's Price

The House voted, pretty much along party lines (except for Republican Brian Fitzpatrick (PA)), to reinstate federal oversight of state election law. The vote was in opposition to Shelby County v. Holder, in which the Supremes ruled that oversight was no longer necessary in nine states in the South. Republicans claim that it would "trample on" states' ability to enforce their own election rules (especially when those rules disenfranchise non-Republican voters). Most likely it will probably die on Mitch McConnell's desk, like the 400 other pieces of legislation the House has passed and the Senate ignored.


Something of a Reprieve

This is complicated. There have been no executions in this country for the past 16 years. Last month, Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, of the Federal District Court in D.C., preliminarily enjoined four executions on the basis that the protocol the government planned to use did not comply with the Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994, which requires executions to be carried out "'in the manner prescribed by the laws of the state in which the sentence is imposed.'" On December 2nd, a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit refused to stay the preliminary injunction (PI). Later that day, the Justice Department went to the Supremes, who, in a "brief, unsigned" order on December 6th, also refused to lift the PI (although Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh were not happy about it). The legal issue seems to be whether the word "manner," above, refers to the method of execution or the protocols involved in the method. The Justice Department wants to use the single drug pentobarbitol. However, Judge Chutkan says that the use of a single drug is not authorized by the 1994 Federal Death Penalty Act, which in this case requires the three-drug "cocktail." However, there have apparently been Eighth Amendment challenges to the use of the "cocktail," the efficacy and swift dispatch of which Justice Sotomayor has compared to "being burned at the stake." So if I understand this correctly, it sounds like Judge Chutkan ruled that the federal government is not allowed simply to substitute its own method; it must use the method prescribed by the state; unfortunately, the method in this state is currently being litigated; so until we decide whether it's legal or not, and if not, find something else, we can't execute anyone.


Up the Sandbox

A copper smelter near Butte processed ore and released lethal chemicals like arsenic (which doesn't biodegrade), into the environment for almost 100 years. In 1983, the smelter was shut down, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designated the surrounding 300 square miles a Superfund site and required the owner, Atlantic Richfield Company, to clean it up. The company says that it has spent more than $450 million to do so. The nearby landowners want more, and the Supremes have to decide if EPA approval must be required for any additional remediation efforts. The landowners simply want to present their own plan. The Court seems to think that the agency should remain in charge and that anything else would create chaos. The landowners say that is just code for too expensive. The government says that allowing the landowners a say would "jeopardize" plants in other Superfund sites. The landowners also say they shouldn't have to get federal approval to clean up their own property or build a sandbox. Roberts says there may be no way around that. Kagan sort of agrees that EPA really can't spend time monitoring sandbox construction. Gorsuch calls superfunds a taking.



The administration is rescinding orders permitting transgender students to use the bathroom of their choices or to participate in the sports corresponding to their gender identities. It is reversing protections in prisons, homeless shelters, and for the employees of federal contractors. Transgender people cannot now be officers in the army. The administration claims that it is only "correcting" Obama administration policies that "exceeded presidential authority." It is also simply helping people not to have to "violate their conscience." Incidentally, hate crimes against transgender people are increasing.


Lebanon Aid Defrosted

The National Security Council froze this aid a month ago, but is now releasing it, both with no reason. This particular holdup might have deleterious effects on Lebanon's self-defense against Iran and Russia. Some, like Ted Cruz, have sought to hold back aid until assurances that the aid is not helping Hezbollah.


Heavy Metal

This is about China and the fact that it is cheaper for China to buy pork, soybeans, and other agricultural projects from Brazil and Argentina than from the U.S., which puts a damper on the effects of the president's trade war with China. These countries are already in economic crisis, and their leaders sound panicky. This will hurt them much more, probably, than it will hurt China. Just to be clear, it's not about "our farmers." The tariffs have not yet actually been put in place.


Step Away from the Brie

Yes, let's double the price of French wines and cheeses. That'll teach those pretentious liberals.


DeVos is Overworked

DeVos seems to want to privatize the federal student loan program. She calls the program a "monopoly," and claims that the Education office is "'battered by 'the ever-changing political whims of Washington.'" BTW, she has been in this job for two years of a single administration.


Uncommon Core

Forty states agreed to this bipartisan plan, the Common Core State Standards Initiative. It hasn't worked as well as hoped. It was a response to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, which traded education for non-standardized test-taking. Common Core wanted to make the tests standardized. Yet then states started opting out of the tests. Further, it sounds like there was a lot of stupid stuff in how math was being taught. Parents hated it. So maybe national education standards are not a good idea. Maybe poverty alleviation is a better idea. And whose idea was it to stop teaching cursive? Give students three corners of a problem. They ought to be able to figure out the fourth for themselves.



Hemp Happy

New regulations have been released by the Agriculture Department, and banks will no longer be required to prove, through mountains of paperwork, that any hemp business which they are thinking of financing is something more than a money laundering scheme. The National Hemp Association is glad that hemp businesses will be able to have checking accounts and credit card processing. However, regular cannabis businesses may still have a hurdle, and even with hemp, it may take the banks a while to digest all the complicated licensing requirements before they are willing to lend.


Brouillette Confirmed by Senate

The Senate has confirmed former lobbyist for the Ford Motor Company and Rick Perry's number two as the new secretary of energy. Some Democrats also voted to affirm. Guess what? Brouillette favors aggressive expansion of oil and gas drilling and doesn't believe that climate change is a serious threat. China's emissions are much worse than ours, he seems to think is an appropriate response. Further, he was a big contributor to Perry's campaign and stonewalled about Perry's dealings with Ukraine.


The Fullness of the Whale

A dead sperm whale washed up on a Scottish beach had more than 220 pounds of non-biodegradable human garbage in its stomach. So many wild sea creatures are swimming around like that, including the dolphins. Possibly the ones that wash up are only a small percentage of the ones who starve to death with a full stomach.


Emissions News

Emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels hit a record high this year, although worldwide, industrial emissions rose at a slightly slower pace than 2017 and 2018. Even though coal emissions declined, it's not enough. Every year, there are exponentially more cars, air conditioners, jets, and Starbucks cups. A slow rise is not enough. There has to be a reversal.


The Abortion Fight Goes On

Let's fact it, many were lulled into complacency. In fact, complacency seems to be the default position for people who are mostly about live and let live. Is it about class? A great deal. For the most part, Democrats are complacent while Republicans are working to punish everyone in sight.


Free Drugs?

A new program will give 200,000 Uninsured American Free HIV-Prevention Drugs. Why, however, is the government paying $200 a month per bottle to dispense these drugs? Further, even though people can get the drug, they can't get the necessary medical exam and lab tests.


The Week in Impeachment

The Report is Out

The 52-page report lays out the legal and historical underpinnings of the impeachment case. It reminds us that the framers intentionally put impeachment into the Constitution for moments such as when there is corruption, abuse of power, and self-dealing. Republicans are crying that they don't have enough time to read the documents and that the inquiry is nothing more than sour grapes. They also claim that Democrats are letting power go to their heads and not taking practical issues into consideration. The report rebuts all that.


December 20th

The White House refuses to cooperate with the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives could conceivably vote on December 20th. Any Presidential defense in the Senate would not be heard before early January. House Republicans want to retaliate by investigating Adam Schiff. I haven't read it, but my understanding is that in THE IMPEACHERS: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation, by Brenda Wineapple, the author explains that Johnson had a "hair-trigger sensitivity to slights," which made him "self-pitying and prone to a corrosive paranoia." Eventually, he "goaded" legislators with his "accelerating attempts to rule by decree, daring them to 'go ahead' and impeach him,'" which the House eventually did. My guess is that Trump is sticking blindly to the script, not intentionally, but just because. What about the Senate?




On December 3rd, The House Intelligence committee report, issued a few days earlier, found that Trump abused his office by offering government benefits to a foreign power in exchange for a personal favor.



First Trump claims that Ukraine could not have felt pressured because it did not know that the money wasn't coming when he asked for his favor. Apparently, however, the Ukrainians did know. This was corroborated by someone in the Ukraine government as well as by Laura K. Cooper, the American Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia.


Queen of Denial

Then they tried this, to say that it wasn't Russia, it was Ukraine, that interfered with the 2016 election. At least no one let Louisiana's John Kennedy get very far, the first time, but now some other senators seem to be hopping on the bandwagon. Do these people not know the difference between theory and empiricism?


Rudy's Workin' the Phones

Probably as the result of subpoenas to AT&T and Verizon, investigators have found that Rudy Giuliani began early and often to try and remove Marie Yovanovitch and get Ukraine to smear Trump's political opposition, apparently mostly by phone. The calls started on March 26th and went through to August 8th. He spoke to Pompeo, John Bolton, Devin Nunes, and Sean Hannity, among others, including someone with the "mysterious number" "-1." Adam Schiff thinks that the negative one may belong to Trump himself, because Roger Stone also received calls from the negative one. All of this is evidence of Giuliani's "shadow foreign policy." He also talked quite a bit to a number belonging to the White House's Office of Management and Budget, which had its finger on the money. Giuliani said that he never discussed military assistance.


Rosemary Woods Can't Help You Now

A three-judge panel at the Second Circuit ruled that in response to subpoenas from the co-equal legislative branch, Deutsche Bank must turn over detailed documents about the president's finances. Over the years Deutsche Bank lent Trump over $2 billion, so these records contain even more information than the tax returns. Deutsche Bank is the only one who would continue to lend to him after all his bankruptcies and loan defaults. Certain types of utterly irrelevant info may be excluded, in regard to which the lower court has discretion, but Deutsche Bank will of course comply with any court order. The president's attorneys have seven days to appeal.


More of Trump's Lawyers

Michael Cohen apparently told Robert Mueller that there were more details about Trump's putting a tower in Moscow than actually appeared in his 2017 letter to Congress. Apparently Trump's other lawyer, Jay Sekulow, of the American Center for Law and Justice, the Christian Broadcasting Network, and Fox News, counseled that the details of the deal didn't need to be disclosed because it never went forward. Cohen also told Mueller that Sekulow told Trump to say that the talks had gone on for less time than they actually had. These memos were released by the Justice Department in response to a lawsuit by BuzzFeed and CNN. They don't change anything, but certain details are made more clear.


No Churro for You!

It is finally coming out that Police Deputy Inspector Constantin Tsachas told his officers to lay off Asians and Russians and to focus more on ticketing and arresting blacks and Hispanics. Between 2017 and 2019, black and Hispanic people, who account for slightly more than half the population, received almost 73% of the tickets, and accounted for 90% of those who are arrested. Now all Tsachas needs is some facial recognition software.


Weird Albany Stuff

The business of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics is supposed to be confidential. The Commission was discussing whether to investigate one of the governor's former aides. However, the vote of one of the members, Julie Garcia, may have been leaked to "Andrew from Albany." If so, that's a misdemeanor. Then, the state inspector general investigated and found no evidence of a leak, even though no one interviewed the governor, the commissioners, or Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie, who is the person whose lawyer, Howard Vargas, told Garcia that her vote may have been leaked. Apparently Vargas heard from Cuomo himself that she had voted against him. Maybe Vargas made it up. Why would Cuomo tell Vargas? It's all very strange and a bit childish.


Delaware Judges

In Delaware, judges affiliated with one political party can make up no more than a "'bare majority'" on the state's highest courts, and the remaining seats are reserved for judges affiliated with the other party. A former Democrat who changed his affiliation to Independent is suing, saying that this provision not only prevented him from being chosen but made it pointless for him to even try for another post because the available positions were "reserved" for Republicans. The article says that he was turned down for reasons unrelated to party affiliation, but who knows. The governor says the system works, that Delaware has courts of "exemplary reputation," and that's why everyone incorporates there. Nevertheless, the Third Circuit sided with the former Democrat. It's going to the Supremes, but only on a standing issue. Gorsuch says, "'There is no such thing" as a Republican or Democratic judge. "'We just have judges in this country.'"


Hunter Down

Forty-three year-old Republican Duncan D. Hunter (Jr.) of California, a "hardliner" and ardent Trump supporter, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to conspiracy to steal campaign funds, although he had been insisting for a year the charges were unfounded. He was accused of converting more than $250,000 in campaign funds to pay for personal expenses, and with filing false finance records with the Federal Election Commission. Initially he pleaded not guilty and blamed the Democrats. Then he blamed his wife. She returned the favor by pleading guilty to one charge and admitting that she and hubby conspired to violate campaign finance law. It's not clear whether she knew that he used the money for extra-marital affairs. There were dozens of counts, but he pled guilty to the most important one, using campaign funds for personal expenses.


Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Chinese scientists are collecting DNA samples of the Uighurs and other groups picked out for ethnic scapegoating, who upon internment are required to give blood for "Mandatory Health Checkups." China is trying to figure out a way to create the image of a person's face from DNA sample (phenotyping). We're doing it here too. Of course, it's not, and probably never can be, completely accurate, but hey, win a few, lose a few. In fact, a Chinese researcher, Tang Kun, works at the Partner Institute for Computational Biology, which was founded, "in part," by the Max Planck Society, a "top" research group in Germany. The Society has also directly funded Dr. Tang. In return, he was supposed to work with the police. This is true of other researchers as well. Their funding is tied to cooperation with law enforcement. Tang Kun said that he is unaware of the origin of the DNA samples he was given to study and was sure they were consensual.


Another Brave Whistleblower

Asiye Abdulaheb is a Uigher woman living in the Netherlands. She has made it her business to publicize China's concentration camp program against at least onernment in Xinjiang, and she is worried that China will retaliate, even though she has been a Dutch citizen since 2009. Approximately 425 pages have been leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and other groups with which it is affiliated. The Chinese are trying to indoctrinate the Uighers into giving up their language and beliefs in these camps. However, the Chinese say that the camps are job training centers where future employees learn Mandarin and other practical skills. Abdulaheb has suffered from her social media and hotmail accounts being hacked. She's also getting threats of physical violence on Facebook.


Protests in Iran

About two weeks ago in Iran, gas prices increased by 50%, which brought demonstrations. Security responded by firing on the unarmed protesters, about 40 to 100 young men who were hiding in a marsh. All together, from 180 to 450 people were killed, with at least 2,000 wounded and 7,000 detained, who are perhaps not all being held in the same place. The Center for Human Rights in Iran, based in New York, called this use of force unprecedented. Some blame U.S. sanctions for having a harmful effect on the budget. Moussavi blames Khamenei. He says the killings are similar to what happened in 1978, which was the end of the Shah. Apparently they just went to neighborhoods and started shooting, even after the actual demonstrations were over.


December 9, 2019

Sean Hall v. Taylor Swift 9th Circuit Reversal and Remand

By Shanti Sadtler Conway

The Ninth Circuit recently amended its order in the Sean Hall v. Taylor Swift case, which had accused Swift's song "Shake It Off" of infringing a six-word phrase and four-part lyrical sequence from Hall's "Playas Gon' Play" song. The district court had dismissed the Complaint based on a lack of originality. On October 28, 2019, the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded. The Ninth Circuit's decision included certain paragraphs, which were controversial, as some thought this would make it harder for the defendants to win 12(b)(6) motions. The court has now amended the order to delete those paragraphs. The original October 28th order, and the amended December 5th order are attached.

Taylor Swift - December 5.pdf

Taylor Swift - October 28.pdf

December 4, 2019

Lobbying on Sports Wagering in New York State in 2019

By Bennett Liebman

2019 was a remarkable year for sports wagering in New York State - not so much for what was actually accomplished - but for the amount of lobbying work done on behalf of sports wagering interests. Rarely, if ever have more organizations been involved in lobbying the legislature on gambling issues. The presumed gold rush for sports gambling has seen New York State casinos, mobile wagering firms, sports leagues, sports franchises, OTB's, racinos, out-of-state casinos, and Indian nations all actively involved in the sports wagering lobbying field. Furthermore, rarely have there been more coalitions developed with numerous lobbying firms working on behalf of an assortment of entities. (As an example, the Parkside Group lobbied for seven separate organizations involved with sports wagering.) It is possible that more money will be spent on sports wagering lobbying in New York in 2019 than will actually be won on sports wagering in 2019 at the four private casinos currently operating in New York.

This blog will detail the lists of lobbyists and who they worked for on the sports gambling front. There may be other entities, such as unions, other sports franchises, and game/lottery suppliers that were also involved in sports wagering issues, but this information is not easily obtainable from public filings.

Current Status of the Law

The sports wagering laws were unchanged in New York in 2019. In July, the four private upstate casinos began offering sports gambling at their facilities. The Oneida Nation is also offering sports gambling. The actual on-site wagering has been modest. Legislation expanding sports gambling to authorize mobile wagering and mobile wagering at affiliate locations (OTB's, racinos, and certain sports arenas) was passed by the Senate but failed to pass the Assembly. Governor Cuomo has suggested that a constitutional amendment might be necessary in order to enact mobile wagering.

Everybody wants a slice piece of the pie, and breaking down the contestants into categories yields the following results.

The Four Upstate Casinos

As a basic rule, the four upstate casinos want to make sure that sports wagering is conducted through them. They would support mobile wagering because it would greatly enhance their business and would likely be opposed to a constitutional amendment that would threaten their overall control over sports wagering.

1. Rivers Casino Schenectady - owned by Rush Street - Rush Street has its own mobile wagering operation in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania Self-lobbies

Dickinson and Avella
Donnelly Law
Shenker Russo
State and Broadway

2. Resorts World Catskills - Empire Resorts self-lobbies

Albany Strategic Advisors
Focus Media
Gibson Dunn
In addition, with Genting recently taking over full ownership of Empire Resorts, it is worth reviewing Genting's list of lobbyists.

3. del Lago -Self-lobbies.

Brown and Weinraub
Ostroff Associates
Parkside Group

4. Tioga Downs - Tioga is operated by real estate titan Jeff Gural, who also owns the racino at Vernon Downs and Meadowlands Race Track, in northern New Jersey which operates sports gambling. Sports wagering in downstate New York might affect sports wagering at the Meadowlands. Self-lobbies

99 Solutions
Vidal Group

The Main Mobile Sports Wagering Firms

The sports wagering firms want mobile sports wagering.

1. FanDuel Self-lobbies.

Cordo and Company
Hinman Straub
MLV Strategies
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe
Parkside Group
Patrick Jenkins
Riddett Associates

2. DraftKings -Self lobbies.

Cordo and Company
MLV Strategies
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe
Parkside Group
Patrick Jenkins
Riddett Associates

Out-of-State Casino Firms

1. Caesars Entertainment -Caesars includes Caesars' Bally's, Harrah's and Horseshoe properties.

Bolton St. Johns

2. Las Vegas Sands - It is widely assumed that the Sands ownership would like to establish a casino in New York City.

Brown and Weinraub
Parkside Group

The Downstate Racinos

Both Yonkers Raceway (now owned by MGM) and Resorts World New York want not just to have sports gambling but to convert into full scale casinos.

1. Yonkers Raceway - MGM -Empire City. Self-lobbies

Capitol Communications
Empire Strategic Planning
Malkin and Ross
Statewide Public Affairs
Vidal Group

2. Genting -Resorts World.Self-lobbies

Cordo and Company
Metropolitan Public Strategies
Patrick Jenkins
SKD Knickerbocker
Vidal Group

The Upstate Racinos

The upstate racinos do not wish to be left out of the rush to sports gambling. Delaware North has interests at both Finger Lakes and Buffalo Raceway. Batavia Downs is owned by Western OTB and will be listed here rather than under the OTB's. Vernon Downs is listed under the Tioga Downs casinos.

1. Saratoga Harness - Self-lobbies.

Featherstonhaugh, Wiley & Clyne
Patricia Lynch Associates

2. Batavia Downs

Mercury Public Affairs
Strategic Development Specialists
Upstate Strategic Advisors
Wladis Law Firm

3. New York Gaming Association - omnibus organization of the racinos plus Rivers Casino

Mike Kane

The OTB's

The OTB's similarly do not wish to be left out of the rush to sports gambling.

1. Nassau OTB

Dickinson and Avella
Mark Lieberman
Park Strategies

2. Suffolk OTB

MKBS Management
Long Island Government Relations & Communications

3. Catskill OTB

Brown and Weinraub

4. Capital OTB

Jackson Lewis
Park Strategies

Professional Sports Leagues

They would like to see added revenue through an integrity fee, an ability to force sports wagering firms to use their own league data and the right to limit certain wagers that might impinge on the integrity of their contests.

1. Major League Baseball. Self-lobbies

Cordo and Company
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe
Parkside Group
Patrick Jenkins
Riddett Associates
Stanley K. Schlein

2. National Basketball Association. Self-lobbies

Cordo and Company
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe
Parkside Group
Patrick Jenkins
Riddett Associates
Stanley K. Schlein

3. PGA Tour

Cordo and Company
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe
Parkside Group
Patrick Jenkins
Riddett Associates
Stanley K. Schlein

Sports Franchises

While they all have individual issues, they would want to see sports wagering at their facilities.

1. Madison Square Garden - Rangers and Knicks

Albany Strategic Advisors
Cozen O'Connor
Jenner & Block

2. Buffalo Bills and Sabres - Pegula Interests

Ostroff Associates

3. New York Yankees.Self-lobbies

Dickinson and Avella
Pitta Bishop & Del Giorno

4. New York Nets - now under new ownership - Self- lobbies.

Davidoff Hutcher & Citron
Red Land Strategy
Resi Cooper

The Indian Nations

The tribes with casinos have significant interests at stake. They may wish to protect their gambling market exclusivity, or they may wish to trade their exclusivity for an opportunity to conduct mobile sports wagering and/or to reduce their exclusivity fees to the state.

1. Seneca Nation

Masiello Martucci Calabrese
Hinman Straub

2. Oneida Indian Nation

Mirram Group
Roffe Group

3. Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe

Bolton St. Johns


1. New York Racing Association - needs to be a part of the sports wagering market. Self-lobbies

Bolton St. Johns
Roffe Group

2. Sportradar US - firm dealing with integrity issues in sports wagering

Bolton St. Johns

Week In Review

By Chantelle A. Gyamfi
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into: Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media, and General News:


How Taylor Swift Dragged Private Equity into Her Fight Over Music Rights

In an open letter posted to social media, the pop megastar had implored her fans to intervene in a music industry dispute. The new owners of her former record company, she said, were trying to prevent her from playing her old hits at the American Music Awards. Swift asked her followers to tell Scooter Braun, the top music manager who now controlled her music catalog, how they felt. She added that she was "especially asking for help" from the Carlyle Group, which had backed Braun's deal for the label, Big Machine. The callout prompted the Carlyle Group, an investor in her catalog, to step in and encourage talks between Swift and Braun.


Now R. Kelly's "Girlfriend" Says He Abused Her Too

Over the past year, as the singer R. Kelly was accused of emotionally abusing women and having sex with underage girls, his two live-in girlfriends came out repeatedly to support him, speaking in his defense on national television and appearing in court, seated on the benches behind him. Now, one of those women is saying that she was a victim, too. In a series of posts on the subscription website Patreon, Joycelyn Savage described treatment at Kelly's hands that was strikingly similar to other accusations against him: He controlled when she ate, bathed, and used the bathroom. He decided with whom she could speak. Once, when she didn't address him as "Daddy" or "Master," she said, he choked her until she blacked out. The website Patreon has since deleted the posts published under Joycelyn Savage's name, saying that it could not verify that they were written by her.



Jay-Z Sues "Little Homie" Over Book

Two years ago, a children's alphabet book titled A B to Jay-Z was released by a small Australian online retailer. The book sold out within days, but it also drew criticism on social media as a particularly cringe-worthy example of cultural appropriation. The book, the creation of a company calling itself the Little Homie, featured likenesses of hip-hop artists in the hope of inspiring, as the retailer put it, "the next generation of hood rats." It also borrowed from famous lyrics, including one of Jay-Z's: "If you're having alphabet problems I feel bad for you son, I got 99 problems but my ABCs ain't one." The Little Homie says that it is celebrating hip-hop. Jay-Z, who has spoken out about black identity and equality, claims that it is engaging in theft.


Hip-Hop Legend Avoids Prison in Case Out of the Past

Nearly two decades ago, hip-hop legend Eric Barrier of Eric B. and Rakim was facing criminal charges arising from a traffic stop that had escalated. Eric B. had entered into a guilty plea in 2002 following a 2001 incident that began with his failing to pull his Range Rover over as directed by the police, court records show. It ended with a patrol car crashing into his vehicle to bring it to a halt. After pleading guilty to eluding arrest and aggravated assault, court records show that Barrier was to be sentenced that March. Prosecutors had agreed to recommend a 364-day jail term and probation. However, he did not appear for sentencing, purportedly because his then-attorney never advised him to do so, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He did not learn of the arrest warrant until 2019, when he was informed by law enforcement authorities in Vermont after coming back into the United States from Canada. When Barrier went to court to address the matter in October, sheriff's officers took him to the county jail, where he remained until he was freed on bail on November 12th. Barrier's current lawyer, Patrick Toscano, argued that his client should be spared jail or prison time while prosecutors argued for Barrier to serve the jail term he agreed to in 2002. The judge, James J. Guida, settled on a year's probation, with the option of a 90-day sentence if Barrier made any missteps.


StubHub Sold to Viagogo for Over $4 Billion

StubHub, founded in 2000 by Eric Baker and Jeff Fluhr, virtually created the market for the secure and trusted online sale of secondhand tickets. After a rift between the founders, Baker left StubHub and in 2006 created a rival company, Viagogo, which has become a strong presence in Europe. In 2007, eBay bought StubHub for $310 million, and Fluhr left the company. Now Baker is bringing the two together - the companies have announced that Viagogo, the smaller of the two, would acquire StubHub for $4.05 billion in a deal that would create a behemoth in the growing market for ticket resales.



Suicides by Two K-Pop Stars Prompt Soul-Searching in South Korea

The suicides by two of K-pop's most beloved stars - Sulli and Goo Hara - have left fans in South Korea soul-searching over what has gone wrong in K-pop, their country's most successful cultural export. Goo's death comes only six weeks after Sulli's death, both ladies having battled with depression, sexual harassment, and cyber bullying. Over 200,000 people have joined an online petition to the office of President Moon Jae-in asking for harsher punishment for sexual harassment since Goo's death was reported.



Two K-Pop Stars Sentenced to Prison for Rape

Two K-pop stars were sentenced to prison on Friday for raping women who were too drunk to consent to sex, and one of the men was also convicted of making videos of the assaults and sharing them with friends online. The Seoul Central District Court sentenced the singer-songwriter Jung Joon-young, who recorded and shared the videos, to six years in prison. His friend Choi Jong-hoon, a former boy band member, was sentenced to five years.



"Fearless Girl" Statue Controversy

The "Fearless Girl" statue that faces the New York Stock Exchange is at the center of a suit between the financial services firm that purchased the original, State Street Global Advisor, and a personal injury firm, Maurice Blackburn, that commissioned a copy of the "Fearless Girl" and installed it in Federation Square, a city landmark. State Street's lawyers, who are seeking unspecified damages, argued in court that the replicas were a trademark violation and diluted the company's message promoting female empowerment.


Silent Sam Statue Given to Confederate Group

Ever since protesters toppled a Confederate statue known as Silent Sam at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill last year, UNC has hidden the monument from view, stashing it in storage and refusing to disclose its location. After 15 months of hand-wringing over what to do with the statue, the university found a resolution: as part of a settlement with the North Carolina division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans -- a Confederate group that had sued over the statue's fate -- UNC handed Silent Sam over to the group and said it would fund a $2.5 million trust for its "care and preservation." Under the agreement, the group will have to keep the statue outside of any of the 14 counties with a UNC school.



The Nutcracker Gets Its First Black Marie

The ballet space is experiencing a much-needed cultural shift. First, Misty Copeland became the first female African-American principal at American Ballet Theater. Now, following in Misty's footsteps, Charlotte Nebres, a student at the School of American Ballet, is breaking a barrier herself: She is the first black Marie, the young heroine of "George Balanchine's The Nutcracker," at New York City Ballet. It's a milestone for the production, which dates to 1954. City Ballet, which takes most of its members from the School of American Ballet (SAB), its affiliate, is showing signs of change overall. Over the past seven years, 62 SAB students have become City Ballet apprentices; of those, 21 identify as nonwhite or mixed; and of those, 12 refer to themselves as black; four of those are women. That carries weight: Since the 1970s, City Ballet has largely had only one black female dancer at any given time.


Greg Young Publishing v. Zazzle - Case Update

A recent 9th Circuit decision in the Greg Young Publishing v. Zazzle talks about willfulness for copyright infringement, and finds that failure to change a company's policies can support a willfulness determination.

Read the decision here: https://cases.justia.com/federal/appellate-courts/ca9/18-55522/18-55522-2019-11-20.pdf?ts=1574283682

Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton to Buy Tiffany & Company

Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH), the world's largest luxury goods company, has agreed to buy Tiffany & Company in a $16.2 billion deal, the largest ever in the luxury sector. The acquisition will add another prominent American name to the LVMH stable of brands, which includes Dior, Givenchy, Fendi, and Dom Pérignon. The deal would help propel the French luxury company into a leadership position not only in traditional soft luxury goods like clothing and handbags, but also in what is known as the hard luxury sector, which includes watches and jewelry. The agreement with Tiffany's, known for its signature blue boxes and a prominent role in the Audrey Hepburn film "Breakfast at Tiffany's," is the second major investment in an American brand for LVMH this year since it created a new luxury house, Fenty, with Rihanna, the musician-actor-style setter.


Royal Jewels Stolen from German Museum

Thieves broke into a museum in the eastern German city of Dresden and made off with three collections of jewelry from the royal house of Saxony, made of gold and precious stones, that authorities said were of immeasurable historical and cultural value. The break-in took place in the Jewel Room, one of 10 rooms in the Royal Palace known as the Grünes Gewölbe, or Green Vault. The rooms hold a collection of 3,000 individual objects, gathered by August the Strong, an 18th-century ruler of the German state of Saxony, as well as of Poland and Lithuania. Marion Ackermann, general director of the consortium of museums known as the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, of which the Green Vault was a part, called the brutal robbery "shocking".




German Museum Reopens After Heist

The Royal Palace museum in Dresden, Germany, has partially reopened to the public just two days after a brutal heist. All rooms except for the Green Vault have reopened, as the police continued to hunt for evidence to help track down the thieves. The police have appealed to the public for tips.


France Lags on Return of Looted African Treasures

A year ago this week, President Emmanuel Macron of France said that his country would give back 26 looted treasures to the African state of Benin. It was a bold statement by the leader of a former colonial power. In the report, two academics, Bénédicte Savoy and Felwine Sarr, recommended that objects removed in colonial times without the consent of their country of origin be permanently returned, if the country asks for them. However, 12 months later, there has been little progress made.



World Anti-Doping Agency Committee Recommends That Russia Face New Olympic Ban

A panel at the World Anti-Doping Agency has recommended that Russia face a four-year ban from global sports and new restrictions on its athletes and teams at next year's Tokyo Olympics. The proposed punishment comes after Russia received serious penalties and widespread scorn, for flagrantly circumventing rules designed to ensure fairness in sports. If the recommendation is approved by the organization's board next month, Russian athletes and teams would be barred from next year's Tokyo Olympics and from major events like soccer's World Cup and the world championships for archery, wrestling and other sports.


Inside Russia's Failed Doping Cover-Up

In the years since a whistle-blower implicated Russia in one of the most sophisticated doping schemes in sports history, the country has made repeated efforts to discredit him. Last year, Russian officials took that campaign one step further: They planted fabricated messages that they later claimed were written by the whistle-blower in a database that they had agreed to turn over to investigators from WADA. The effort appeared to have several goals, according to a report compiled by WADA's intelligence and investigations unit and obtained by The New York Times: to frame the whistle-blower as the ringleader in a scheme to extort athletes and coaches by threatening to manipulate doping samples; to provide cover for the manipulations of test results within the data set; and to help Russia avoid serious penalties from global antidoping regulators. The problem for Russia is that the investigators quickly uncovered the fabrications and the altered test results, and now Russian sports is facing its biggest crisis to date.


University Scrambling to Figure Out How to Distribute $137,000 Donated to Player

At Stephen F. Austin University in Texas, administrators plan to seek answers to a question they never thought they would have to deal with: How do you legally distribute an unexpected philanthropic windfall to the family of a student athlete? This, apparently, is what happens when a previously unknown basketball player hits a last-second shot to beat Duke during Thanksgiving week, and word quickly gets out that there is a GoFundMe campaign for the player's family, whose home and church were badly damaged when Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas earlier this year. The player, Nathan Bain, became an instant superstar when he scored on a layup an instant before the buzzer sounded, and that's when the donations began to roll in. Kara Carpenter, Stephen F. Austin's assistant athletic director for compliance, said the school had started a GoFundMe account in September to help Bain raise money for his parents' home in a way that would not violate NCAA rules. It had raised about $2,000 before the game, but after his layup and an emotional postgame television interview, donations skyrocketed. As of Friday afternoon, the total had climbed to more than $137,000 with more than 3,500 people contributing. NCAA Bylaw (g) allows schools to raise funds for athletes (and their families) who have been hit by extraordinary circumstances (e.g. natural disasters) as long as the schools track expenses and make sure that excess funds go to charity. The funds will be distributed to the Bains once they provide receipts for goods and services that comply with the NCAA bylaws.



National Football League Bars a Cardinal for Betting on Games

The National Football League (NFL) suspended Josh Shaw, an injured defensive back on the Arizona Cardinals, through at least the end of next season for betting on football games this year, the first such penalty in more than two decades. The league said that its investigators found no indication that Shaw used inside information or compromised any game, and his coaches and teammates were unaware that he was placing bets on NFL games. Still, the league took a hard line with Shaw, who cannot apply for reinstatement until after February 15, 2021.



Coach of the Flames Resigns Amidst Racial Slur Allegations

Bill Peters, coach of the Calgary Flames, a National Hockey League (NHL) team based in Alberta, resigned just days after he was accused of using a racial slur against a player a decade ago. The general manager of the Flames, Brad Treliving, received and accepted a resignation letter from Peters and said in a statement: "Effective immediately, Bill Peters is no longer a member of the Calgary Flames organization." The player, Akim Aliu, who was born in Nigeria, said on Twitter that when he was playing for a minor league team a decade ago, Peters, who is white, "dropped the N bomb several times toward me in the dressing room in my rookie year because he didn't like my choice of music." Aliu said that he "rebelled" against the coach for using the slur, and that Peters retaliated by advising executives to demote Aliu to a lower-level league. The NHL said in a statement that Peters's alleged behavior was "repugnant and unacceptable," and Treliving said the team had opened an investigation into Aliu's allegations.



For Deaf Fans, Bucks News Is Now Loud and Clear

Mike Budenholzer, the coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, has the Bucks trying something new after its home games this season: broadcasting Budenholzer's remarks to the world in English and in American Sign Language. Brice Christianson, a sign language interpreter, joined the Milwaukee Bucks' postgame news conferences. The Bucks, and especially Antetokounmpo, are leading the Eastern Conference and are as good as ever, but now even more of their fans are able to engage with the team and enjoy Budenholzer's recaps of the Greek Freak's nightly feats of awesome. Those who advocate greater access for people who are deaf or hard of hearing say that by live streaming Budenholzer's bilingual news conferences on social media, the Bucks and Fox Sports Wisconsin are shining a spotlight on an underserved community while highlighting the importance of meeting their needs.


"Master of Sports Statistics" Dies at 99

Seymour Siwoff, who brought statistical analysis to the sports world, chronicling feats from the epic to the arcane through seven decades as the head of the Elias Sports Bureau, died last week at his home in Manhattan at the age of 99. Siwoff had since 1952 been the president and chief executive of Elias, the official record-keeper for America's major professional sports leagues. When Siwoff took control of Elias, it was tallying basic baseball records for newspapers and wire services but under his leadership, Elias eventually became the record-keeper for Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, the Women's National Basketball Association, and Major League Soccer. It also provides national and local sports broadcasting outlets and sports websites with data and content drawing on its archives.



Black Entrepreneur Accuses Comcast of Racial Bias

Byron Allen, founder of Entertainment Studios, has fashioned himself a civil rights crusader, battling what he says is the racism in corporate America with lawsuits and incendiary rhetoric. In his $20 billion lawsuit against Comcast, the nation's largest cable company, Allen has risked alienating would-be allies like Al Sharpton and the NAACP, while drawing the Trump administration as one of his opponents. He filed the lawsuit in 2015, contending that Comcast, after discussing a deal to carry six of his company's channels, had turned it down in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the nation's oldest federal civil rights law. The Act gives "all persons" the same right "enjoyed by white citizens" to "make and enforce contracts" and "to sue." The case was thrown out three times before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled last year that the district court had "improperly dismissed" it. Comcast appealed. When the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, some black leaders were irked at the prospect that Allen's lawsuit could undo longstanding civil rights protections.


Twitter Permanently Suspends Accounts of Ilhan Omar's Potential Challenger

Twitter suspended the accounts of Danielle Stella, a Republican candidate hoping to challenge Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota next year, after she suggested that the congresswoman should be tried for treason and hanged. Stella's campaign account said: "If it is proven @IlhanMN passed sensitive info to Iran, she should be tried for #treason and hanged," according to screenshots of the tweet. She later added a photo of a stick figure hanging from the gallows. The tweet referred to unsupported stories that Omar was recruited as a "Qatari asset" who gave information to Qatar that was given to Iran, something that Omar denied to The Jerusalem Post. The office for the congresswoman called the stories "outlandishly absurd." The personal and campaign Twitter accounts for Stella have been permanently suspended for "repeated violations" of the platform's rules, Twitter said in a statement.


Internet Companies Prepare to Fight the 'Deepfake' Future

Researchers are creating tools to find A.I.-generated fake videos before they become impossible to detect. Google hired dozens of actors to sit at a table, stand in a hallway and walk down a street while talking into a video camera. Then the company's researchers, using a new kind of artificial intelligence software, swapped the faces of the actors. People who had been walking were suddenly at a table. The actors who had been in a hallway looked like they were on a street. Men's faces were put on women's bodies. Women's faces were put on men's bodies. In time, the researchers had created hundreds of "deepfake" videos. By creating these digitally manipulated videos, Google's scientists believe they are learning how to spot "deepfakes", which researchers and lawmakers worry could become a new, insidious method for spreading disinformation in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election.


Google Fires Workers Active in Labor Organizing

Google fired four employees who had been active in labor organizing at the company, according to a memo that was seen by The New York Times. The memo, sent by Google's security and investigations team, told employees that the company had dismissed the employees "for clear and repeated violations of our data security policies." The dismissals are expected to exacerbate rocky relations between Google's management and a vocal contingent of workers who have protested the company's handling of sexual harassment, its treatment of contract employees, and its work with the Defense Department, federal border agencies, and the Chinese government.


U.S. Closes Wireless Collusion Investigation

The Justice Department announced that it had ended an investigation into possible coordination among AT&T, Verizon, and a standards-setting organization to make it more difficult for people to switch wireless carriers, saying that the groups had agreed to change their practices, reducing competition concerns. In its investigation, which began two years ago, the Justice Department looked into whether the two companies and a trade association, known as G.S.M.A., that sets mobile technical standards, had worked together to hinder a technology called eSIM. The technology lets people remotely switch wireless providers without having to insert a new SIM card into a device. The Justice Department dropped its investigation after the parties agreed to change how they determine standards for eSIM, said the head of antitrust, Makan Delrahim, in a letter to the trade group. The change will allow consumers to use the technology to switch carriers.


When Is a Star Not Always a Star? When It's an Online Review

While online reviews have become powerful sales tools, the ecosystem is relatively crude. Reviews can be easy to manipulate, and the operators of sites with the most reviews are not always motivated to crack down on fake ones planted to promote products. That leaves many consumers wondering what to believe.


Jeffrey Epstein, Blackmail, and a Lucrative "Hot List"?

Soon after Jeffrey Epstein died in August, a mysterious man met with two prominent lawyers. Going by a pseudonym, Patrick Kessler, he told the lawyers that he had something incendiary: a vast archive of Epstein's data, stored on encrypted servers overseas. He said he had years of the financier's communications and financial records -- as well as thousands of hours of footage from hidden cameras in the bedrooms of Epstein's properties. The videos, Kessler said, captured some of the world's richest, most powerful men in compromising sexual situations -- even in the act of rape. Kessler said he wanted to expose these men.

If he was telling the truth, his trove could answer one of the Epstein saga's most baffling questions: How did a college dropout and high school math teacher amass a purported nine-figure fortune? One persistent but unproven theory was that he ran a sprawling blackmail operation. That would explain why moguls, scientists, political leaders, and a royal stayed loyal to him, in some cases even after he first went to jail. Kessler's tale was enough to hook the two lawyers, the famed litigator David Boies and his friend John Stanley Pottinger. If Kessler was authentic, his videos would arm them with immense leverage over some very important people.

Boies and Pottinger discussed a plan to use the supposed footage in litigation or to try to reach deals with men who appeared in it, with money flowing into a charitable foundation. In the end, there would be no damning videos and no funds pouring into a new foundation. Boies and Pottinger would go from toasting Kessler as their "whistle-blower" and "informant" to torching him as a "fraudster" and a "spy." Kessler was a liar, and he wouldn't expose any sexual abuse. But he would reveal something else: The extraordinary, at times deceitful measures elite lawyers deployed in an effort to get evidence that could be used to win lucrative settlements -- and keep misconduct hidden, allowing perpetrators to abuse again.


Apple Redraws Map After Pressure from Russia

Since it grabbed Crimea from Ukraine five years ago, Russia has made no headway in getting the United States or the European Union to recognize the annexed Black Sea peninsula as Russian. Yet Russia's Parliament is now rejoicing at getting at least Apple to fall partly into line. When viewed from inside Russia, Apple apps show Crimea as part of the Russian Federation and separated from Ukraine by an international border. This means that Apple has joined Google, Yandex, and some other technology companies in redrawing Ukraine's borders to satisfy Moscow's territorial claims, at least for customers viewing their maps on devices inside Russia. Viewed on devices outside Russia though, Crimea remains part of Ukraine.


Security Forces Raid Egyptian News Site

Egyptian security forces raided the office of independent news website, Mada Masr, and briefly detained three of its staff members, including its top editor. The raid came after security officers had arrested another Mada Masr journalist, editor Shady Zalat, at his apartment in a separate incident, confiscating his and his wife's laptops and some documents, as well as Zalat's phone. Mada Masr is one of Egypt's last independent news outlets publishing critical stories after years of tightening controls on media and arrests of journalists and bloggers. Its website, which carries stories in Arabic and English, is blocked in Egypt. Last week Mada Masr published an article in which it reported that Mahmoud al-Sisi, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's eldest son and a senior intelligence official, was being reassigned to a long-term diplomatic posting in Russia. It is unclear if that article's publication is what prompted the raid.



Saudi Arabia's 'Crackdown' on Dissent

Saudi Arabia's long-running drive to muzzle dissent has escalated again in recent weeks with the arrests of several journalists, writers, and academics who had not vocally criticized the government in years. Since Prince Mohammed bin Salman became Saudi Arabia's de facto leader in 2017, the government has arrested dozens of activists, bloggers, and others perceived as political opponents, showing almost zero tolerance for dissent even in the face of international condemnations of the crackdown.


Iran's 'Crackdown' on Protests and Media

Authorities in Iran strengthened their reprisals over the recent protests that engulfed the country, arresting "six main elements" accused of rioting in Tehran and penalizing Iranian journalists overseas who publicized the mayhem. Although internet service that had been suspended in Iran after the protests erupted has been partly restored, it may be curtailed indefinitely, government officials warned. Mobile phone access to the internet remains blocked. The intensified response to the protests, reported in official Iranian media, came as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the United States government had received nearly 20,000 messages, videos, photographs, and notes from Iranians after his call last week for evidence that the protests had been violently suppressed during the internet blackout.


TikTok Blocks Teen Who Posted About China's Detention Camps

A 17-year-old from New Jersey said TikTok had suspended her account after she posted a clip talking about China's detention of Muslims. The girl starts her video off by saying: "Hi, guys. I'm going to teach you guys how to get long lashes." After a few seconds though, she asks viewers to put down their curlers and says: "Use your phone that you're using right now to search up what's happening in China, how they're getting concentration camps, throwing innocent Muslims in there." The 40-second clip has amassed more than 498,000 likes on the social platform and it has put a serious topic -- the mass detentions of minority Muslims in northwest China -- in front of an audience that might not have known about it before.


Businessman Charged in Malta Murder Case

More than two years after a car bomb killed Malta's best-known investigative journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, prosecutors charged a wealthy Maltese businessman, Yorgen Fenech, with complicity in her murder and other crimes. Fenech's arraignment, capped a tumultuous week in which a long-stalled investigation into the murder of Galizia, suddenly picked up pace, ensnaring senior members of the government and Malta's business elite.




Supreme Court Temporarily Blocks Disclosure of Trump's Financial Records

The Supreme Court temporarily blocked an appeals court ruling that required Trump's accounting firm to turn over financial records to a House committee. The Court's brief order gave no reasons, and there were no noted dissents. The justices are likely to consider the case alongside a similar one concerning a subpoena from Manhattan prosecutors to Trump's accounting firm, Mazars USA, seeking eight years of business and personal tax returns. That case is further along at the Supreme Court, as Trump has already filed a petition seeking review, and the prosecutors have filed a brief urging the court to deny review. In both cases, Trump sued to stop Mazars from complying with subpoenas for his financial records and federal appeals courts ruled against him in each case.


Justices Request Second Look at Campaign Finances + Libel Claims

The Supreme Court returned a challenge to Alaska's limits on campaign contributions to a lower court, suggesting that the limits were too low. The Court also turned away appeals from defendants in a libel suit over climate change and from Adnan Syed, whose murder conviction was examined by the podcast "Serial." Finally, the justices refused to reconsider a ruling on how much authority Congress may delegate to the executive branch.


Justice Ginsburg Discharged from Hospital After Being Treated for Fever + Chills

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was released from the hospital after treatment for chills and a fever. Justice Ginsburg's symptoms abated after treatment with intravenous antibiotics and fluids. The justice had been admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore after an initial evaluation at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington. Justice Ginsburg has had a series of health scares, including surgery for lung cancer and radiation treatment for pancreatic cancer in the last year alone. Over the years, she has also had surgery for early-stage pancreatic cancer in 2009 and treatment for colon cancer in 1999. Despite all of this, she has repeatedly vowed to stay on the Court as long as her health holds and she remains mentally sharp.


Court Says McGahn Must Testify

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that former White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, must testify before House impeachment investigators about Trump's efforts to obstruct the Mueller inquiry. Judge Jackson's ruling held that senior presidential aides must comply with congressional subpoenas and calling the administration's arguments to the contrary "fiction." "Presidents are not kings," wrote Judge Jackson, adding that current and former White House officials owe their allegiance to the Constitution. "They do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control."



Lawyer Says McGahn Ruling Will Not Lead John Bolton to Testify Soon

John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser to Trump who resisted efforts to pressure Ukraine for help against domestic political rivals, dashed any expectation that he would testify soon in the House impeachment investigation in response to a court ruling involving onetime colleague Donald F. McGahn II. Charles J. Cooper, a lawyer who represents Bolton, said that the court decision ordering McGahn to appear before Congress under subpoena did not apply to Bolton because of the nature of his job. Cooper said Bolton would therefore wait for another judge to rule in a separate case that could take weeks more to litigate.


Trump Keeps Losing in Court. But His Legal Strategy Is Winning Anyway.

Critics of Trump cheered when a federal judge ruled that former White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, must testify to Congress -- and scathingly labeled "fiction" the administration's arguments that top White House aides are immune from congressional subpoenas. While the outcome was the latest in a string of lower-court losses for Trump as he defends his stonewalling of lawmakers' oversight and the impeachment investigation, Trump is winning despite losing. The proceedings before Judge Jackson consumed nearly a third of the year as she took briefs, conducted oral arguments, then composed a 120-page opinion; and her ruling was merely the end of the first step. The Justice Department immediately filed an appeal and sought a stay -- virtually ensuring that the fight over McGahn will remain bogged down for the foreseeable future. Even if McGahn someday is forced to show up, a new cycle of litigation will inevitably start over whether specific information he might testify about is subject to executive privilege. Meanwhile, time is on Trump's side, as the realistic window for Congress to consider impeaching him is closing, with the 2020 election less than a year away. If the overriding goal is to keep information from coming out while his term and potential re-election hang in the balance, the Trump legal strategy is succeeding despite all the adverse rulings.


Two Aides Resigned Amid Ukraine Aid Freeze

Mark Sandy, an official at the Office of Management and Budget, testified that two of his colleagues quit after expressing concerns about Trump's decision to withhold military assistance to the Ukraine. He did not identify either official, and it was unclear how senior they were or how directly their resignations were tied to their concerns over the withholding of the aid. But Sandy's account of their departures -- after weeks of unanswered questions inside the budget office about why Trump had directed the funding frozen -- underscores the depth of the pushback inside a key White House agency about a decision many officials believed was legally questionable and potentially dangerous.


Trump Knew of Whistle-Blower Complaint When He Released Aid to Ukraine

According to two people familiar with the matter, Trump had already been briefed on the whistle-blower's complaint about his dealings with Ukraine when he unfroze military aid for the country in September. Lawyers from the White House counsel's office told Trump in late August about the complaint, explaining that they were trying to determine whether they were legally required to give it to Congress, the people said. The revelation could shed light on Trump's thinking at two critical points under scrutiny by impeachment investigators: his decision in early September to release $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine and his denial to a key ambassador around the same time that there was a "quid pro quo" with Kyiv. Trump used the phrase before it had entered the public lexicon in the Ukraine affair.


House Committee Sues Barr and Ross Over 2020 Census Documents

The House Oversight and Reform Committee sued William P. Barr, the attorney general, and Wilbur L. Ross Jr., the commerce secretary, for refusing to produce subpoenaed documents regarding the Trump administration's failed attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, is an escalation of a months-long dispute over the panel's efforts to investigate the Trump administration's effort to alter the decennial survey to ask 2020 respondents whether they are citizens. The government abandoned that effort after the Supreme Court in June blocked the question from being added, rejecting the administration's stated reason for the effort as "contrived."


Disclosures Reveal Politics Behind Census Question

Five months after the Supreme Court blocked a proposed census citizenship question, a steady trickle of new disclosures in the case this past month has sharpened questions about whether Republican Party politics drove the effort to add the question to the head count -- and whether the Trump administration tried to conceal that in court. The disclosures, in a House of Representatives inquiry and a New York lawsuit, bolster existing evidence that a Republican political strategist, Thomas B. Hofeller, played at least an indirect role in crafting a legal rationale for adding the question to the census. They also indicate that a senior Census Bureau official and friend of Hofeller, Christa Jones, helped draft an explanation of that rationale, apparently for publication had the question been approved. The latest disclosures tend to support their claim that the administration's stated reason for adding the question -- to help enforce the Voting Rights Act -- was a pretext for a scheme to boost Republican political power when population totals from the next census are used to draw new political districts in 2021.


Naval Secretary Told to Resign

Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer was asked to resign by Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, an abrupt move aimed at ending an extraordinary dispute between Trump and his own senior military leadership over the fate of a SEAL commando in a war crimes case. In a statement, Esper said he had lost trust in the Navy secretary, Richard V. Spencer, because his private statements about the case differed from what he advocated in public. Esper added that he was "deeply troubled by this conduct."


Trump Says He Acted to Protect "Warriors"

Under fire over his insistence that a Navy SEAL convicted of misconduct not be punished, Trump sought to defend actions that have roiled the Pentagon, angered senior military leadership and led to the firing of the Navy secretary. Trump said that his refusal to allow the Navy to oust Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher from the SEALs showed he was sticking up for "warriors," and not traitors.


Navy Drops Effort to Expel from SEALs Officers Linked to Gallagher

The Navy is dropping its efforts to expel three officers from the elite SEAL commando force over their involvement in the war crimes case surrounding Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher. The new acting secretary of the Navy, Thomas B. Modly, said in a statement that he had ordered a halt to a review process for the three officers -- Lt. Cmdr. Robert Breisch, Lt. Jacob Portier, and Lt. Thomas MacNeil. The three will be allowed to keep the Trident pins that signify membership in the SEALs.


Giuliani Represented Venezuelan Investor in Discussion with Justice Department

Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, represented a wealthy Venezuelan businessman, Alejandro Betancourt López, in a discussion with the Justice Department about heading off charges against him in a money laundering and bribery case. Giuliani was part of a team of lawyers brought in to represent López in discussions with Justice Department officials, according to people familiar with the representation. The representation, which was first reported by The Washington Post, is another example of Giuliani pursuing business around the world with clients who have interests before the United States government, even as he continues to represent Trump. It also highlights the ways in which Giuliani mixed his private business with the Ukrainian pressure campaign that is at the heart of the congressional impeachment inquiry into Trump, and a separate investigation by prosecutors in Manhattan into whether Giuliani violated lobbying laws.


Giuliani Pursued Private Business in Ukraine While Pushing for Inquiries for Trump

According to documents obtained by The New York Times, Giuliani waged a public campaign this year to unearth damaging information in Ukraine about Trump's political rivals, he privately pursued hundreds of thousands of dollars in business from Ukrainian government officials. Giuliani has repeatedly said he has no business in Ukraine, and none of the deals were finalized. However, the documents indicate that while he was pushing Trump's agenda with Ukrainian officials eager for support from the United States, Giuliani also explored financial agreements with members of the same government.


Sondland Accused of Sexual Misconduct

Gordon Sondland, United States ambassador to the European Union, has been accused by three women of making unwanted sexual advances toward them years before his recent turn as a star witness at the impeachment proceedings against Trump. The women shared their accounts with ProPublica and Portland Monthly, which published them online in a joint investigative project between the nonprofit news organization and the Oregon magazine. The publication of the allegations came exactly one week after Sondland appeared before Congress and gave what was widely viewed as damaging testimony about Trump's dealings with Ukraine and a "quid pro quo."


Trump Restarts Taliban Talks After Visiting Afghanistan

After an unannounced trip to visit American troops in Afghanistan, Trump declared that he had reopened peace negotiations with the Taliban less than three months after scuttling talks in hopes of ending 18 years of war. During a meeting with Afghanistan's president, Ashraf Ghani, Trump said: "The Taliban wants to make a deal, and we're meeting with them," "We're going to stay until such time as we have a deal, or we have total victory, and they want to make a deal very badly."



Trump Jr. Sees Sales Bolstered by G.O.P. Allies

Donald Trump Jr. has authored his first book, Triggered, and G.O.P. allies have been ordering the book by the thousands, bolstering his sales. Some groups are harnessing the younger Trump's popularity to raise political donations while also driving his sales. The National Republican Congressional Committee bought $75,000 worth of books in November, a spokesman said, in a promotion that took in almost $200,000 in contributions. The National Republican Senatorial Committee ordered about 2,500 copies, which it said sold almost immediately. The Republican National Committee and Citizens United, a conservative activist group run by a former deputy campaign manager to Trump, are also offering the book to donors. State Republican parties are also pushing the book, framing Trump's tour as a campaign effort on his father's behalf.


Broken Promises and Debt Pile Up as Loan Forgiveness Program Goes Astray

When Congress created a student loan forgiveness program in 2007, lawmakers wanted to draw people to vital but relatively low-paid careers with a promise: After a decade, if borrowers faithfully paid their debts and pursued their work, they would have the remainder of their student loans written off. Since then, tens of thousands of graduates were led to believe by their student loan servicers that they would qualify for relief at the end of a decade, only to be shocked when their applications were rejected. The blame can be spread broadly -- to loan servicers who at best failed to inform borrowers of what was needed to qualify, to the single company in charge of the program that has been repeatedly cited for shoddy service, mismanagement, and poor record keeping, to lawmakers who wrote in a baffling list of requirements, and to the Education Department, which has failed to step in and correct the problem. Fewer than 1% of those who have applied for relief under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program have been deemed eligible. Lawsuits are proliferating, along with dashed hopes.


NATO Cuts U.S. Payment

NATO announced that it had agreed to reduce the United States' contribution to the alliance's relatively small central budget, a move aimed at ensuring a calm leaders' meeting in London. At a meeting with President Emmanuel Macron of France in Paris, the alliance's secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, said that its members had agreed to redistribute some costs. "The U.S. will pay less, Germany will pay more, so now the U.S. and Germany will pay the same," he said, with each contributing about 16% of NATO's central budget. Previously the United States paid about 22%.


United Nations Report Says Rise in Emissions is Still Alarming

The latest assessment issued by the United Nations said that greenhouse gas emissions are still rising dangerously. "The summary findings are bleak," said the annual assessment, which is produced by the United Nations Environment Program and is formally known as the Emissions Gap Report. Countries have failed to halt the rise of greenhouse gas emissions despite repeated warnings from scientists, with China and the United States, the two biggest polluters, further increasing their emissions last year.


Adults Across the U.S. Are Dying Young

A new analysis of more than a half-century of federal mortality data, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, found that the increased death rates among people in midlife extended to all racial and ethnic groups, and to suburbs and cities. While suicides, drug overdoses and alcoholism were the leading causes, other medical conditions, including heart disease, strokes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also contributed, the authors reported.


U.S. Resumes Fight in Syria

U.S. troops have resumed large-scale counterterrorism missions against the Islamic State in northern Syria, two months after Trump's abrupt order to withdraw American troops opened the way for a bloody Turkish cross-border offensive. American soldiers and hundreds of Syrian Kurdish fighters -- the same local allies the Trump administration abandoned to fend for themselves against the Turkish advance last month -- reunited to conduct what the Pentagon said was a large-scale mission to kill and capture ISIS fighters in Deir al-Zour province, about 120 miles south of the Turkish border.


Pompeo Warns China to Honor 'Human Rights Standards' in Hong Kong

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stopped just short of endorsing legislation that would punish violent crackdowns against pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, a plan that could imperil trade with both the Hong Kong government and China. In wide-ranging remarks at the State Department, Pompeo took care to note that the decision on the bill would be made by Trump "before too long," and noted that the Trump administration "has been pretty clear about our expectations about how Beijing will treat people throughout their country." "We have human rights standards that we apply all across the world, and Hong Kong is no different," Pompeo told reporters.


Trump Signs Bills in Support of Hong Kong Protesters

Trump signed two bills aimed at supporting human rights and pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. Trump signed the bills, which were approved by nearly unanimous consent in the House and Senate, even as he expressed some concerns about complicating the effort to work out a trade deal with China's President Xi Jinping. Congress approved the bills following months of unrest in the semi-autonomous Chinese city. Before the signing announcement, Trump would only commit to giving the measures a "hard look."



Beijing Blusters Over U.S. Reprimand

China vented after Trump signed new human rights legislation covering the protest-wracked city of Hong Kong. It denounced the new law as illegal interference in its own affairs and vowed retaliation. However, Beijing's main agency on trade remained quiet on the legislation, even as other officials railed against it, suggesting that the government remained open to a trade deal and would let the volatile issue of Hong Kong simmer, at least for now.


Hong Kong Election Results Give Democracy Backers Big Win

Pro-democracy candidates buoyed by months of street protests in Hong Kong won a stunning victory in local elections, as record numbers voted in a vivid expression of the city's aspirations and its anger with the Chinese government. With three million voters casting ballots, pro-democracy candidates captured 389 of 452 elected seats, up from only 124 and far more than they have ever won. The government's allies held just 58 seats, a remarkable collapse from 300, was a pointed rebuke of Beijing and its allies in Hong Kong, and the turnout -- seven in 10 eligible voters -- suggested that the public continues to back the democracy movement, even as the protests grow increasingly violent. Young Hong Kongers, a major force behind the demonstrations of the past six months, played a leading role in the voting surge.


Secret Orders for China's Camps

As the government accelerated mass detentions of Muslim minorities in northwest China, a senior official issued a secret directive giving detailed orders for how the rapidly expanding indoctrination camps holding them should be managed. The directive required, amongst other things, guards to impose pervasive, round-the-clock video surveillance to prevent escapes, inmates to be kept isolated from the outside world and held to a strict scoring system that could determine when they might be released, and the facilities to be shrouded in secrecy, with even employees banned from bringing in mobile phones. While the source of the documents is unknown -- they were provided by Uighur overseas networks -- their disclosure may amount to another sign of dissent in the party over the crackdown.


American Ambassador Says Afghans Coerced Retraction of Rape Allegations

John R. Bass, the United States ambassador to Afghanistan, says an Afghan spy agency used "Soviet-style tactics" to induce the retraction of over 100 rape allegations. This comes after the country's intelligence agency released a video in which a detained human rights activist retracted allegations that 165 boys had been raped by educators at three rural schools. The activist, Mohammad Musa, was quoted in a New York Times article that also quoted four boys and local school officials who said schoolboys had been raped by educators in Logar Province in central Afghanistan. The video showed Musa appearing to be speaking under duress during his fifth day in the custody of the National Directorate of Security, an agency with a reputation for treating detainees harshly.


November 25, 2019

Week In Review

By La-Vaughnda Taylor
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into: Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media, and General News:


Amid Tech Advances, U.S. Moves to End Rules on Movie Distribution

The U.S. Justice Department has moved to end the longstanding consent decrees, known as the so-called Paramount decrees, which lay out the rules for the distribution and exhibition of motion pictures. The decrees have governed Hollywood since the 1948 and broke up Hollywood's monopoly on production, distribution, and exhibition. Some smaller theater chains and mom-and-pop movie houses, already dealing with a changing film market, are worried that this move will make things even more difficult. The antitrust division will soon ask the court to toss the decrees, except for a two-year sunset period on bans of certain practices. Many hope that the termination of the decrees will clear the way for consumer-friendly innovation.


They're Young Diverse and Nominated

This year, the 62nd annual Grammy nominees contain new, diverse artists making names for themselves, breaking records, and shattering top charts; and many of them are women running the show. 2020 is already proving to be a big year for women in the music industry. Newcomers Lizzo and Billie Eilish are breaking records; Lizzo has eight nominations and Eilish is now the youngest person to ever be nominated in all four major categories, at just 17 years old. This year, female artists are expected to sweep the award show.


Diversity Gains Found in Directing for TV

The latest Directors Guild of America study has found that women and directors of color have made substantial gains; for the first time, half of all TV episodes were helmed by women or directors of color in the 2018-19 season. That is up from 21% five years ago. The percentage of episodes directed by women grew to 31%, more than doubling in the past five years, while the percentage helmed by directors of color increased more than 40% over the same time period. Both numbers are new highs.


Quantas Backs Crew Member Called Racist

Musician Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas took to Twitter to call a Qantas Airways' flight attendant racist and posted her name and photograph. The Australian airline has said that it will support its flight attendant if she chooses to sue the musician. Some Twitter uses took exception to Will.i.am naming the flight attendant publicly and accused him of intimidation. The musician said that he was just using the same tool that others would have used had they encountered a similar situation.


"Sesame Street" in Arabic Tackles Trauma Faced by Refugee Children

The global "Sesame Street" family is getting three new members who will lead a new Arabic-language, locally produced show set to tackle the trauma facing refugee children in the Middle East. The show is created by Sesame Workshop in conjunction with the International Rescue Committee. It aims to bring laughter and learning to children affected by displacement in Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon. Approximately 50% of all registered Syrian refugees are under the age of 18 and the crisis is robbing them of an education while leaving them to suffer from "toxic stress."


Polanski May Lose Support of French Film Industry

The director's latest film "J'accuse (An Officer and a Spy)" is topping the French box office, but the French directors' guild is looking to suspend Polanski's membership after his latest rape allegations. This could be a sign that the French film industry's support for Polanski is starting to wane. Screening of the film were cancelled in northern France and Paris after protests. At least 12 women, most of whom were children at the time, have now accused Polanski of sexual assault. Activist groups are calling for a boycott of the director's work, while the film is being praised by critics.



No More Excuses for Gauguin

Gaugin has a troubled history filled with sexual relations with young girls and racist rhetoric, leading museums and visitors reassessing the legacy of this artist and questioning whether it's time to stop looking at him altogether. In the international art museum world, Gauguin is a box-office hit, but in today's age of heightened public sensitivity to gender, race, and colonialism issues, museums are revisiting considering how to move forward. Everything is now viewed in a much more nuanced context. Some museum professionals are concerned that re-examining the lives of past artists from a 21st-century lens is risky and could lead to the boycott of great art.


Guggenheim Hires First Full-Time Black Curator

The Guggenheim Museum has hired Ashley James, its first full-time black curator. This move comes at a time when museums all over the country are trying to increase the diversity of their staffs, boards, and exhibition spaces. Most recently an assistant curator of contemporary art at the Brooklyn Museum, James is now the Guggenheim's associate curator of contemporary art. A spokesperson for the museum said that James complements the mission of the museum, which is to present the art of today. James was the driving force behind the Brooklyn Museum's acclaimed exhibit, "Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power."


President Trump Awarded Medals for Arts and Humanities

President Trump has awarded his first round of National Medal of Arts and National Medal of Humanities recipients. The eight recipients included 27-time Grammy Award-winning musician Alison Krauss, best-selling novelist James Patterson, and Academy Award-winning actor Jon Voight. Voight is an outspoken Trump supporter and Patterson is a member of Trump's Mar-a-Lago golf club. Both were both referred to by Trump as "his friends." The medals have typically been awarded on an annual basis, but this will be the first time Trump has awarded the medals since taking office in 2017.


Chinese-American Artist Falls Afoul of Censors

The city of Beijing has canceled a survey of the work of 71-year-old Chinese-American artist Hung Liu. The show was scheduled to open at the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art on December 6th and run through March 2020. As China has ramped up its censorship of the arts in recent months, the Beijing government has declined to approved the show. The decision comes as there have been increased tension between Hung's native and adopted countries of China and the U.S. All exhibitions mounted in Beijing must be formally approved by the city's Municipal Bureau of Culture, which reviews images of proposed works and issues documentation that can be submitted to Beijing Customs for an import permit. The Ullens Center's request was declined less than a month before the show's opening. Liu is known for her expressionistic painted portraits of working class Chinese citizens and has exhibited numerous times in Beijing and elsewhere in China.


An Exhibit Best Viewed from Across the Street

Médina, a poor and working class neighborhood near downtown Dakar, has welcomed street artists from all over the world to practice their craft in what the founder of the project calls the open sky museum. Dozens of wall paintings add to the flourishing international art scene in Dakar. Artists from Senegal, Burkina Faso, Algeria, Morocco, Congo, France, and Italy have come to
paint on these walls, and in turn have brought art lovers and tourists into a neighborhood in which they may not otherwise go. The project is meant to bring people together.



Coaching Legend Barred for Life After Sexual Misconduct Inquiry

George Morris, an equestrian legend now 81, is permanently barred from the sport after accusations of sexual misconduct with a minor. Morris is a 1960 U.S. Olympic silver medalist and considered to be one of the founding fathers of equestrian sport. The U.S. Center for SafeSport announced the lifetime ban after two people accused Morris of misconduct during his coaching career in the 1960s and 70s, saying that nobody is above accountability. The U.S. Equestrian Federation had previously barred Morris in August, but made his suspension permanent after an appeal.


Female Reporter Accuses Barkley of Violent Threat

Alexi McCammond, a political reporter for Axios, has accused NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley of threatening her with violence during an interview. McCammond revealed the threat on Twitter. Turner Sports public relations released a statement on behalf of Barkley, saying that, "[it was] inappropriate and unacceptable...it was an attempted joke that wasn't funny at all."


Seven Russians Suspended for Obstructing Investigation, Deepening Crisis

Dmitry Shlyakhtin, president of the Russian track and field federation, resigned two days after he was accused of obstructing an anti-doping investigation involving fake medical documents. He is one of seven people charged following an investigation into the medical files presented as an alibi by high jumper Danil Lysenko last year. Shlyakhtin took office in January 2016 pledging to overturn Russia's suspension from international track events due to widespread doping. Four years later, that suspension is still in place and Russia could be expelled altogether following the new charges against Shlyakhtin and senior officials.



Two Writers Who Lodged Complaints Leave CBS

Two writers for "Carol's Second Act" quit the CBS show after one filed a misconduct complaint against executive producer David Hunt. Hunt is the husband of the show's star and executive producer Patricia Heaton. This was the first big test of CBS's brand-new approach to sexual harassment complaints, established in the wake of an investigation into former CEO Les Moonves' alleged sexual misconduct. The company is still investigating the complaints.


Conservative Talk Host is Fired Mid-show

A conservative radio host in Colorado says that he was fired on-air after criticizing Trump. The radio station is disputing the claims. The incident underscores the growing isolation of conservatives whose viewpoints reflect anything but unwavering support of the president. The general manager of the station says that Craig Silverman was not fired, but taken off air, because of his decision to move forward with appearing on a competing station over management's objections. The station went on to say that "[their] hosts have the freedom to express their opinions on current events based on their own personal conviction." Silverman said his future with KNUS remains unclear. Silverman has hosted his weekly show since 2014.


Four Candidates Join Push for a Review of NBC's Workplace

Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Cory Booker, Democratic presidential candidates, penned a letter calling out NBC News and MSNBC for creating a culture that "enabled abusers and silenced survivors." The special letter was addressed to Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez prior to the debate that aired on November 20th on NBC, the fifth debate's co-host. These concerns follow a slew of sexual abuse allegations recently perpetuated by reporter Ronan Farrow's Catch and Kill, which investigates and sheds light on how the company handled allegations and sexual harassment claims within the network. It also details the efforts taken by management to stifle the reporting of Harvey Weinstein's case. The letter demands that parent company Comcast conduct a sexual misconduct probe.


White Nationalists' Website Influenced Miller, Emails Show

Stephen Miller's affinity for white nationalism has been revealed in leaked emails. Miller, the White House aide who is the driving force behind President Trump's immigration policies, cites anti-immigration and white nationalist websites as his resources. In the run-up to the 2016 election, the White House senior policy adviser promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories, and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's rampage, according to leaked emails Miller sent to conservative website Breitbart News. The source material that Miller laid out in his emails included white nationalist websites, a "white-genocide"-themed novel, xenophobic conspiracy theories, and eugenics-era immigration laws lauded by Hitler in Mein Kampf.


Media Workers Call Out Pay Gaps in Crowdsourced Records

As income inequality has become a focus of the current presidential candidates, workers in journalism, advertising, and book publishing have crowdsourced salary information, showing sharp disparities between genders, races, and experience. People are contributing to the lists during a wave of unionization in digital media. The crowdsourced spreadsheet was inspired by a 2017 spreadsheet in which media workers published allegations of sexual misconduct against men in the industry. Crowdsourced data allows for vast amounts of information to be collected, but it is a challenge to fact-check.


Google Limits 'Microtargeting' Of Audiences for Political Ads

Google is joining Twitter in revising its political ad rules ahead of election season. Twitter banned political advertising altogether, while Google is mainly limiting the ability to target political demographics and promises to take action against "demonstrably false claims." The tech company is changing the limitation of targeting terms that can be used for political advertising buys that appear in search, on display ads, and on YouTube. Starting in December, if an ad is political in nature, it will only be able to be targeted to age, general, and postal code. The move is seen as a step in the right direction. It is already against Google's policies for advertisers to make false claims, but Goggle has made an effort to put more of a finer point on those rules.


To Counter Testimony, the President Calls "Fox and Friends"

"Fox & Friends" is the morning show that President Trump counts on for the benefit of the doubt. Last week, Trump called in a 53-minute telephone interview in which he discussed the impeachment investigation, Ukraine, how the Democrats were out to sabotage his campaign, and his love and appreciation for the show and its hosts. However, the hosts pushed back on some of Trump's unfounded claims, which led to incoherent ramblings from the president.


Big Ratings as Hearings Beat "NCIS"

America's impeachment drama is drawing "Monday Night Football"- level viewership and its ratings have topped popular procedurals like "NCIS." The average live TV viewership for impeachment has been roughly 12 million people, and this has led to superlative number for cable news. In today's viewing climate, politics is driving television and has upended networks' daytime schedules. The viewership of the big cable news networks on impeachment days has been nearly double the average from a year ago. Partisan talk shows are doing particularly well. One group, however, appears to have suffered from the fatigue brought on by the all-day political coverage - the cadre of Democrats running for president. The debate followed roughly 11 hours of live testimony and featured 10 candidates, a test for even the most dedicated TV political junkie.


Twitter Scolds British Party After Account Is Rebranded

Twitter has issued a warning to a UK political party, after a rebrand of the party's press account as a fact-checking service attempted to mislead the public. The party has been accused of misleading people by changing its official press Twitter profile into a type of fact-checker during a televised leadership debate. It changed the account to "factcheckUK" with a new logo that showed no indication of its political associations and began posting supposedly "fact-checked" tweets, which only targeted Labour. Fact-checking services have become vital for verification in the age of misinformation during elections. Twitter says that "corrective action" would be taken in the event that something like this occurs again.


Egypt Arrests Editor of News Outlet Known for Investigative Work

Plain-clothed police arrested Mada Masr editor Shady Zalat from his home in Cairo. Mada Masr is a prominent investigative media outlet and one of the few independent news websites in Egypt. This is the latest arrest amid a wider crackdown on dissent in the country. The news outlet has been unable to confirm where Zalat is being held, and demanded his release. Last week, the outlet published an article that gave details about the country's security agencies at a time when press freedoms in Egypt are shrinking. Egypt has arrested at least 4,000 people since September amid a sweeping crackdown following rare anti-government protests. Egypt jails more journalists than any other country after China and Turkey, according to watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists.


General News

Aide Disclosed Bolton Meeting About Ukraine

Former National Security Advisor John Bolton met privately with President Trump in August to try and persuade him to release $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine, a senior National Security Council aide told House impeachment investigators. It was a one-on-one meeting in which Bolton and other advisors tried to convince the president that it was in the U.S.'s best interest to unfreeze the funds to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia. However, the president was not ready to approve the release. The aide also described conversations had with Sondland about Ukraine matters. Morrison's testimony tied Trump more closely to the central charge from Democrats pursuing impeachment: that there was a quid pro quo. His testimony also contradicted much of what Sondland told congressional investigators.


Two Top Officials Testify That Call Was Inappropriate; One "Couldn't Believe" It

Two White House national security officials testified before the House's impeachment inquiry on Tuesday that President Trump's request to Ukraine's president to investigate Democratic rivals was inappropriate. Two more witnesses were more careful with their course, but also said under oath that the president's requests were not in line with American national security goals. These testimonies go to the heart of the Democrats' growing case they see as the centerpiece of an abuse of power by Trump of using his office to try to obtain a political advantage from a foreign power. House Republicans moved aggressively to try to undercut the lead witness.


Open Phones Made U.S. An Open Book to Russia

Many in the government are surprised and have expressed concern over the operational security of Trump's first informal "cybersecurity advisor" Rudy Giuliani and other member of the "irregular channel" who seem to have little concern about revealing their conversations to Moscow. Many of Giuliani's conversations happen over an unclassified cellphone and unclassified media. The behavior is highly problematic and indicative of someone who doesn't really understand how national security processes are run.


House Striving to See If Trump Lied to Mueller

The House of Representatives is investigating whether President Trump lied to special counsel Robert Mueller in written answers he provided in the Russia investigation. There is a new focus on this matter following public revelations at Roger Stone's trial this month. Congress is now trying to obtain the redacted materials. There is a court case that revolves around what federal investigative information the House should be able to access during impeachment proceedings and what federal courts may do in a dispute between the House and the executive branch.


Trump Can Temporarily Withhold Tax Records

Earlier this year, the California Legislature passed a law, aimed at the president, to try and force Trump's hand in releasing his tax returns. Lawmakers approved a bill to require presidential candidates to disclose five years of tax returns in order to appear on the state's primary ballot. It was the first law of its kind in the nation, but it didn't last even six months. This month, California's highest court decided that the legislature went too far and determined that the state's own Constitution barred such a condition. The decision by the seven-member court of majority Democrat-appointed justices was unanimous.


Intense Lobbying by FedEx Slashed Its Tax Bill to $0

The company lobbied hard for the Trump administration's tax cut, which lowered the company's tax bill from $1.5 billion in 2017 to $0 the next year. FedEx's founder and CEO repeatedly took to the airwaves to champion the power of tax cuts, and months later, President Trump signed into law the $1.5 trillion tax cut that became his signature legislative achievement. The company reaped big savings, bringing its effective tax rate from 34% to less than zero. Nearly two years after the tax law passed, the windfall to corporations like FedEx is becoming clear. The companies that received the biggest tax cuts increased their capital investments by less, on average, than companies that smaller cuts.


Man Flees ICE, and His Judge Faces a Trial and Time in Jail

A Mexican man has fled south of the border to avoid being tried on manslaughter charges after being released by police in Portland, Oregon, despite federal immigration officers asking that he be held. ICE claims that the Washington County Sheriff's Department ignored its request to hold Alejandro Maldonado-Hernandez until its officers could take him into federal custody. ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations believe that "the decision to continue to cite misguided sanctuary laws that allow dangerous criminals back on the streets...is irresponsible and jeopardizes public safety." Maldonado-Hernandez was street racing at the time of the death. He was released by the Washington County jail on August 8th and ICE has since issued a wanted flyer for Maldonado-Hernandez, believing that he is in Mexico.


Court Awards $2 Million to Planned Parenthood

A federal jury in San Francisco awarded Planned Parenthood $2.2 million in damages after ruling that an anti-abortion activist had broken federal and state laws while secretly recording workers at the organization. The man accused recorded the video in 2015 in an effort to show that the organization was illegally selling fetal tissue, a conservative hot topic. Planned Parenthood has denied the claims and the video led to numerous congressional and state investigations.


Another Contender Backed by Trump Loses in a Red State

Voters recently reelected Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards in Louisiana, a red state in which President Trump campaigned twice in the final 11 days and urged voters on Twitter to vote for Republican Eddie Rispone. In a rally in Louisiana, Trump told voters, "you really need to send a message to the corrupt Democrats in Washington." Despite the Republican pedigree, Democrats were the winners for governor in Louisiana and Kentucky, both of which had giant Trump victory margins in 2016. Both races had strong local dynamics, so it would be a mistake to overstate the Trump effect. It would also be a mistake to understate, or discount, the meaning of the Democratic wins in red state elections the President and both GOP candidates for governor tried to nationalize.


Democratic Prosecutors Call for Abortion Rights

To win financial backing from Democratic Attorneys General Association, candidates will be required to publicly state their support of abortion rights. The association of Democratic state attorneys general will become the first national party committee to impose an explicit abortion litmus test on candidates after it announced that it will refuse to endorse anyone who does not support reproductive rights and expanding access to abortion services. The group recruits candidates and helps their campaigns with financial support, data analysis, messaging, and policy positions. The decision comes as a series of state legislatures have approved restrictive laws designed to provoke a renewed legal battle over abortion rights set to topple Roe v. Wade.


Ex-Prisoner of Iran Sues After U.S. Breaks Promise"

Marine Vet Amir Hekmati, 36, was imprisoned and abused by Iranian authorities on accusations he was a spy. He has recently filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government, alleging that it failed to compensate him after agreeing he was eligible to receive millions of dollars. Hekmati alleges that the fund for victims of terrorism told him he was eligible to receive $20 million stemming from his time in an Iranian prison for more than four years from 2011 to 2016. He was released in January 2016 as part of a prisoner exchange with the U.S. tied to the Iranian nuclear deal. In December, he was notified of an initial payment worth $890,100, but the money never came. A spokesman for the Department of Justice declined comment. The U.S. government's fund for state-sponsored terrorism victims has paid out billions of dollars to victims. In October 2017, a federal judge in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. said Iran had to pay Hekmati $63.5 million for his suffering in Iranian custody.


Guards Napped by Epstein Cell, Indictment Says

The two jail guards responsible for monitoring Jeffrey Epstein the night he killed himself have not squashed conspiracy theories about Epstein's death, even with ample evidence backing a medical examiner's determination that Epstein hung himself and video surveillance confirmation. Social media has been abuzz with memes fueled by Epstein's past associations with current and past presidents. Some people aren't believing that he's actually dead. The two corrections officers at the Metropolitan Correctional Center charged in connection with Epstein's August death are accused of the relatively mundane crime of falsifying prison logs. They were supposed to check on the prisoner every half-hour but prosecutors said they shirked that duty and were instead sleeping or surfing the internet while Epstein committed suicide overnight unobserved. The guards have pleaded not guilty and are out on bail.


At Syracuse, a Racist Manifesto From a Massacre

A spate of racist graffiti, racial slurs, and white supremacist threats on Syracuse University's campus has some students fearing the displays could turn violent. A white supremacist manifesto was posted on a campus forum and reportedly "air-dropped" to cellphones of some students at the school library. This led to a tightening of school security across the university as authorities raced to end the threats. This incident is the latest in a series of almost daily racist episodes that have sparked days of protests at 22,000-student university. Governor Andrew Cuomo has called on Syracuse leaders to allow an outside monitor to oversee the situation.


A $7 Million Payout For 23 Years in Prison

Derrick Hamilton, a 54-year old African American wrongfully imprisoned for 23 years, has been freed. He received a $7 million payout for his false imprisonment and has accused the police of fabricating evidence. His conviction was thrown out after a witness claimed she was pressured into making false statements. While in solitary confinement, Hamilton became a jailhouse lawyer, helping his fellow inmates appeal their convictions and has since become an activist for others wrongly convicted since being released.


Indiana University Admits Professor's Views Are Wrong and That It Can't Fire Him

While condemning "in the strongest terms," Indiana University's provost says that the university cannot fire professor Eric Rasmusen over his "racist, sexist, and homophobic views." The university does not agree or condone his views but that is not a reason to violate the Constitution by firing him.


Former C.I.A. Officer Gets 19 Years in Espionage Case

A former CIA case agent was sentenced to 19 years in prison for an espionage conspiracy with China. Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 55, was sentenced in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, after filing a plea of guilty earlier this year. The case illustrates how aggressively China works to get its hands on U.S. secrets.


Top Navy Leaders Standing Ground Over Seal's Case

The secretary of the Navy and the admiral who leads the SEALs have threatened to resign or be fired if plans to expel a commando from the elite unit in a war crimes case are halted by President Trump. The threats by the Navy bass are a rare instance of pushback against Trump from members of the Defense Department. Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher was accused of shooting civilians, murdering a captive Islamic State fighter, and threatening to kill SEALs who reported him. His court-martial ended in acquittal, but the Navy ultimately demoted the chief who convicted of one charge. Trump reversed the demotion, angering officials, but they continued with their plans to expel Gallagher from the unit.


Leaving 'Shrill' Behind as More Women Become Voices of Authority

It has been said through the years that women's voices are shrill and not authoritative enough. This issue was raised around the 5th democratic presidential debate, where there were four female moderators and four female candidates on the debate stage. The moderator lineup is the second all-female panel for a major debate, where the visual optics of that lineup are important. Stereotypes still continue about what authority looks like, what power looks like, what credibility looks like, and sound is important too. "Sounding presidential" plays into how voters and viewers hear the substance of what the candidates are saying. A 2012 study found that both men and women prefer male and female leaders who have lower-pitched voices.


Forth Spy Unearthed in U.S. Atomic Bomb Project

The U.S. detonated the world's first atomic bomb on July 16, 1945. Four years later, the Soviet Union detonated a nearly identical device in Central Asia, stunning the U.S. military and scientific communities, which did not believe the Soviets had the scientific and technical know-how to do so. By the 1950s it had become clear that the Soviets were aided by spies, two of whom were quickly identified. The third was disclosed in 1995, but never convicted of espionage. Two historians have now identified the fourth Soviet atomic spy as Oscar Seborer.


Leaked Intelligence Documents Show Tehran's Infiltration of Iraq

Hundreds of pages of purported Iranian intelligence documents have come to light that detail Iran's massive influence in neighboring Iraq. The unprecedented leak of 700 pages appears to show Tehran's efforts to embed itself in Iraq and co-opt the country's leaders and infiltrate every aspect of Iraq's political, economic, and religious life. News outlet "The Intercept" received the documents anonymously. The articles come amid growing anti-Iran sentiment expressed by Iraqi anti-government protesters who have been revolting in the streets since October 1.


As Protests Spread, Iran Blocks Nearly All Internet

The Iranian government has imposed an almost-total internet blackout across the country as deadly protests erupted in various cities. The protests were triggered by a government announcement that fuel prices would rise by at least 50% and possibly as much as 300%. At least 106 protesters in 21 cities have been killed, but the real death toll may be much higher. Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei essentially approved the strategy used by regime security forces to put down the protests. Iran's economy has shrunk considerably due to U.S. sanctions, imposed in response to the country's pursuit of nuclear weapons. The financial strain, coupled with continued Iranian funding for Hezbollah, Hamas, and its military's operations in Syria, has led to popular resentment against the regime. The protests in Iran follow the massive demonstrations in Lebanon and Iraq.


Afghan-Taliban Swap of Prisoners Releases Two Western Hostages

A prisoner swap could spur resumption of negotiations to end the 18-year Afghan war. Two Western hostages, one American and one Australian were freed by the Taliban in exchange for three Taliban members after more than three years in captivity in a prisoner exchange that could resume negotiations to end the 18-year war.


After Nine Years, Sweden Closes Its Rape Investigation of WikiLeaks Founder

A Swedish prosecutor has dropped a rape investigation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, ending the near decade-old case that had sent the anti-secrecy campaigner into hiding in London's Ecuadorian embassy to avoid extradition. The decision can be appealed. Assange is now in jail fighting extradition to the U.S. on computer hacking and espionage charges. While Assange was in the embassy, the statute of limitations ran out on investigating all but one of several Swedish sex crime complaints.


November 18, 2019

SCOTUS Accepts Cert. in Long-Running Oracle v. Google Battle Over JAVA APIs

By Barry Werbin

On Friday, November 15th, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the long-running Oracle v. Google case, which addresses whether software application program interfaces (APIs) are subject to copyright protection and if Google was otherwise entitled to a fair use defense for copying portions of Oracle's JAVA declaring code and the structure/sequence/organization (SSO) of Oracle's Java APIs. The JAVA language allows developers to write one set of code that works across different operating systems, and the APIs are the bridge to connect JAVA applications to different systems. Using JAVA, developers only have to "write once."

The case started back in 2012, in the Northern District of California, when Oracle sued Google for copyright (and patent) infringement over Google's copying of SSO attributes from 37 JAVA API packages and literal copying of 11,500 lines of declaring code for its open source Android system. ("Declaring code" is a code statement that establishes an identifier and associates attributes with it, without necessarily reserving its storage (for data) or providing the implementation methods. Google did not copy any JAVA implementation code and wrote its own.) Google argued that the declaring code and API SSO were not protectable, and that even if they were, it was entitled to a fair use defense.

In 2012, the District Court exonerated Google entirely, finding that the JAVA SSO attributes were not protectable as a functional system. The District Court also held that the declaring code wasn't protectable under the merger doctrine, and because that code consisted of merely short names or phrases. (F.Supp.2d 974 (N.D. Cal. 2012).)

In 2014, the Federal Circuit (which had sole jurisdiction because of the additional patent claims), reversed, holding that the declaring code and SSO of the API packages are entitled to copyright protection, and that Google infringed those copyrights. Google's fair use defense was remanded for further consideration. (750 F.3d 1339 (Fed. Cir. 2014)(applying 9th Cir. law).)

In May 2016, on remand, a jury found Google's re-implementation of the 37 Java APIs to be fair use under Section 107 of the Copyright Act. However, that too was short lived, as the Federal Circuit again reversed, holding that fair use did not apply because Google's use was not transformative as a matter of law, Google copied more than was necessary under Section 107, and the use was commercial (even though Android is free to license). (886 F. 3d 1179 (Fed. Cir. 2018).)

Google filed a petition for certiorari in January 2019. Numerous amici, including a group of 78 computer scientists, scholars (including David Nimmer), and other tech organizations like Mozilla, EFF, and Etsy, filed support for Google's petition, arguing in favor of APIs remaining an open standard for new code development. Other amici filed support for Oracle. Microsoft is supporting Google on fair use, although it previously supported Oracle on copyrightability.

Whether SCOTUS would accept the case was uncertain, particularly after the U.S .Solicitor General (at the request of SCOTUS) submitted a brief in September 2019, siding with Oracle and urging the Court not to grant certiorari.

The Court's decision in this case will have huge ramifications in the software and tech industries, and could likely be the most significant decision impacting computer programs since they first obtained express statutory protection under the Copyright Act in 1980.

Order attached granting cert., also granting the motion of 78 computer scientists to file an amicus brief:


1220000-1220465-20190124110509177_google cert petition.pdf

Oracle - Google Cert Order.pdf

Private Equity Ventures Used to Boost Athlete Image and Likeness Revenues

By Michael A. Scott, Esq.

The National Football League Players' Association (NFLPA), Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) and RedBird Capital Partners (RedBird) have teamed up on a unique venture, titled OneTeam Partners LLC (OneTeam), to help boost image and likeness revenues for athletes through private equity. The NFLPA and MLBPA are no stranger to deriving revenues from image and likeness, however, the OneTeam partnership looks to pool revenues and "invest in projects that expand opportunities" for licensing. The deal is the first of its kind, with RedBird purchasing a 40% stake in OneTeam, while the NFLPA and MLBPA take ownership of the remaining 60%. It should be noted that the players will still collect their licensing fees, as determined by their respective collective bargaining agreements, but any amount left for the leagues will not be reinvested. OneTeam is in talks with other unions and professional sports leagues, with the hopes of expanding in the near future.