March 19, 2019

Week In Review

By Leslie Berman
Edited by Elissa Hecker

The following are grouped into Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media, and General News categories


Actresses, Business Leaders, and Other Wealthy Parents Charged in U.S. College Entry Fraud

Prosecutors charged 50 people in a college admissions scheme to buy spots in competitive American universities. Among them were the actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. Funds were channeled through the Key Worldwide Foundation, which, among other scams, recruited university coaches to grant spots on their teams to non-athletes who had paid fees to the foundation, which allegedly raised money to provide funds and programs to disadvantaged youth. However, it actually used those funds to operate "a massive SAT-fixing and college admissions-rigging scheme." In addition to the parents caught in the pay-for-admission scheme, the Justice Department indicted admissions advisers, coaches, and school officials, accusing them of offering wealthy families back doors into the colleges of their choice.

Apple Defends App Store Policies After Spotify's Antitrust Complaint

Apple responded to antitrust claims made by Spotify, the music streaming service, saying its policies are fair. Spotify filed a complaint with European regulators, accusing Apple of using its App Store to undercut companies that compete with its own services, like Apple Music. In a statement published on its website, Apple said that Spotify was not treated any differently from the millions of other developers that use the App Store.

Jussie Smollett Pleads Not Guilty to 16 Felony Charges in Chicago

The "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of felony disorderly conduct stemming from his report of a hate crime attack that the police say was staged. The plea came six weeks after Smollett filed a police report claiming that he was jumped while walking in downtown Chicago just after midnight. Smollett, who is black and openly gay, said two masked men shouted racist and homophobic slurs before physically assaulting him, pouring a chemical on him and placing a rope around his neck. He also said the assailants told him he was in "MAGA country," a reference to President Trump's "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan.

James Gunn Is Hired Back to Helm 'Guardians of the Galaxy 3'

Disney is taking back James Gunn, the creative force behind its "Guardians of the Galaxy" movie franchise, reversing its contentious decision in July to fire the filmmaker for offensive jokes he wrote on Twitter between 2009 and 2012. The tweets contained jokes about pedophilia, AIDS, rape and the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Far-right provocateurs attacked Gunn as author of the comments after he criticized President Trump online.

TV Writers of Color and Others Face Widespread Bias, Survey Finds

A new survey, "Behind the Scenes: The State of Inclusion and Equity in TV Writers Rooms," of nearly 300 women, people of color, members of the L.G.B.T.Q. community, and people with disabilities writing for television enumerates the types and frequency of bias reported by those writers. As they described it, the writers faced discrimination and harassment from other writing staff members, were not promoted while white male colleagues receive were elevated relatively quickly, and had their pitches ignored or rejected, only to see the same ideas warmly embraced when white male writers pitched them.


The Chicago Symphony Goes on Strike Over Pension Plan

The musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra - who are among the best-paid in their field - went on strike to preserve their defined-benefit pension plan, walking a picket line outside the Orchestra hall. In recent years, the income produced from ticket sales has covered a smaller portion of performance costs, and orchestras have tried trimming expenses, which has pitted management against the various musicians' unions. The Chicago Symphony is not the only orchestra that has resorted to striking for benefits. Last fall, the Lyric Opera of Chicago's orchestra agreed to a contract guaranteeing fewer weeks of work after a short strike.

Can Art Help Save the Planet?

A growing number of museum exhibitions this year, including the works of old masters and exhibits built with high-tech innovations, have been designed to respond to environmental challenges. Among the shows are "Hudson Rising" at the New-York Historical Society. Another exhibit, "Nature's Nation: American Art and Environment," which includes paintings, artifacts, sculpture, prints, photographs and decorative art, was curated for the Princeton University Art Museum.

Poland Threatens Prison for Man Refusing to Return Nazi-Looted Art

The Polish government is threatening to jail Alexander Khochinsky, a New York art dealer of Russian descent, if he does not return "Girl With a Dove," by the French master Antoine Pesne. The 18th Century rococo oil painting was one of hundreds of thousands of artworks in Poland that went missing during Nazi confiscations and looting during the second World War. The Pesne painting, worth about $22,000, was stolen from a Polish museum in 1943, and since Polish authorities learned of its whereabouts nine years ago, they have battled over its return. Now the Polish government is threatening to jail Khochinsky for 10 years if he does not turn it over.

Germany Sets Guidelines for Repatriating Colonial-Era Artifacts

Cultural authorities in Germany have agreed on guidelines for the return of artifacts taken from its former colonies. Germany's state cultural ministries, its foreign office, and associations representing cities and municipalities, all agreed to work with museums to make sure that wrongfully obtained artifacts are returned to their rightful owners. Germany's public museums are mostly funded by and answerable to German states rather than the federal government. This agreement puts museums -- and claimants seeking the return of objects from collections -- on the same footing across the country.


The NCAA Lost in Court, but Athletes Didn't Win, Either

United States District Court Judge Claudia Wilken's 104-page decision "criticizes, berates, even mocks the N.C.A.A." for its refusal to allow colleges to compensate players beyond a scholarship and related costs in the name of amateurism. "Defendants nowhere define the nature of the amateurism they claim consumers insist upon," Willen said, pointing to numerous exceptions when players could be paid, beyond scholarships, in untold millions of dollars invested in training facilities, gifts for participating in bowl games, in funds made available to purchase loss-of-value insurance, and more.

The Coaches Connected to the College Admissions Fraud Case

Coaches charged in the federal college admissions fraud scandal were some of the most prominent in their fields, but were willing to exploit their access to the admissions process. They led soccer and sailing teams, water polo champions and volleyball stars, and at least two won NCAA championships. One Georgetown coach gave Michelle Obama and her daughters tennis lessons. They included several associated with the private University of Southern California (U.S.C.), among them Donna Heinel, a senior athletic department administrator, who for 10 years had overseen the admissions of athletes into U.S.C. After her indictment, she was fired.

Lower-Profile Sports Are at Center of Admissions Cheating Scandal

In college athletics, volleyball, water polo, sailing, tennis, and soccer are relatively small-time affairs. Coaches in the "Olympic sports" are generally allowed to reserve several slots each year for students who might not otherwise gain admission. These slots are often in addition to those reserved for the truly elite athletes, who receive athletic scholarships or their equivalent at the most selective universities.

Bribes and Big-Time Sports: U.S.C. Finds Itself, Once Again, Facing Scandal

More than half of the three dozen parents indicted in the admissions fraud scandal are accused of bribing their way into U.S.C. in Los Angeles. Four of their athletics officials are charged with taking bribes, which is more than those named at any other school.

The 145-Pound Long Snapper and Other Tales of College Admissions Puffery

Santa Anita Bans Drugs and Whips After Spate of Horse Deaths

Santa Anita Park in Southern California is banning the use of drugs and whips on racing days, after the death of the 22nd horse since December 26, 2018, an unusually high number that has puzzled investigators. It would be the first racetrack in the nation to carry out such restrictions, which are hoped to help restore public confidence in a sport that has wrestled with drug and safety issues for decades. The new rules have "convulsed a multibillion-dollar industry from Kentucky to New York that has resisted meaningful oversight for decades." The stakes are high in California, where the animal rights movement is particularly strong, and it takes only 600,000 signatures on a petition to prompt a ballot initiative on whether horse racing should even exist there. Los Angeles County's district attorney is looking into deaths at the behest of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.


The Man Deciding Facebook's Fate

The Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) critics say the agency cannot protect Americans from the prying eyes of Big Tech, and that the agency's rules restrict penalties against Facebook and Google to "rounding errors" for the companies. Joseph J. Simons, the FTC chairman, is among those critics. Simons, a Republican lawyer who has jumped between the public and private sectors for more than 30 years, is a rare voice for strengthening the government's hand.

Google Approved $45 Million Exit Package for Executive Accused of Misconduct

Shareholders of Alphabet, the parent company of Google, have sued the company, accusing the Board of Directors of shirking their
responsibilities by agreeing to pay executives accused of misconduct instead of firing them for cause. Among the facts discovered was that Amit Singhai, a former top Google executive, was paid as much as $45 million when he resigned from the company in 2016 after being accused of groping a subordinate. The lawsuit is part of the fallout over how Google has handled sexual harassment cases. In one case, Google handed a $90 million exit package to Andy Rubin, who used to head its Android division, after he was accused of sexual misconduct.

Jeanine Pirro's Show Is Bumped by Fox

Fox News removed Jeanine Pirro's program, "Justice With Judge Jeanine," from its usual 9 p.m. time slot, one week after the network took the rare step of publicly rebuking the host for an on-air monologue that questioned a Muslim lawmaker's loyalty to the United States. President Trump, a fan of the show and the host, is not thrilled about it.

Fox News, After Rebuking Jeanine Pirro, Faces Another Uproar Over Tucker Carlson

Fox News publicly criticized one of its star personalities, Jeanine Pirro, after she questioned whether a Muslim lawmaker's religious beliefs undermined her loyalty to the United States. The network has not yet commented on remarks by another prime-time star, Tucker Carlson, whose offensive comments made on "Bubba The Love Sponge" shock-jock radio program more than a dozen years ago were exhumed by left-wing advocacy group Media Matters for America.

Neil deGrasse Tyson Will Return to TV After Misconduct Investigation

The astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson will return to television as host of both "Cosmos" and "Startalk" after broadcasters Fox and National Geographic announced that they had completed their investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against him. The statement did not say what investigators concluded about the complaints. Tyson was accused in December of behaving inappropriately with two women, in an article published by the website Patheos.

New Zealand Massacre Highlights Global Reach of White Extremism

The massacre of Muslim worshipers in New Zealand highlights the contagious ways in which extreme right ideology and violence have spread in the 21st century -- even to a country that had not experienced a mass shooting for more than two decades, and which is rarely associated with the extreme right. A manifesto linked to the accused killer, released through his social media account on the morning of the massacre, suggests its author considered himself a disciple and comrade of white supremacist killers. The suspect, identified in court papers as Brenton Harrison Tarrant of Australia, also hailed President Trump, mocking his leadership skills but calling him "a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose."

Slovak Businessman Charged With Ordering Murder of Journalist Jan Kuciak

A few months before their murders in February 2018, Slovakian journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiance Martina Kusnirova received a disturbing phone call from one of Slovakia's most prominent businessmen, Marian Kocner. Kocner had been the subject of a series of articles outlining a pattern of corrupt dealings made possible by his connections with the police and prosecutors, and rumored connections to organized crime. Kocner was furious: "You can be sure that I will start paying special attention to you personally, Mr. Kuciak," Kocner told the investigative reporter. Kuciak reported the threat to the police but, after more than a month, he wrote on Facebook that officers had yet to pick up the case. When they did, they dismissed it without even interviewing Kocner, according to the authorities.

Why China Silenced a Clickbait Queen in Its Battle for Information Control


Trump Can Be Sued for Defamation by Summer Zervos, 'Apprentice' Contestant, Court Rules

A New York appeals court rejected President Trump's argument that the Constitution makes him immune from state lawsuits, clearing the way for a defamation suit from a former contestant on "The Apprentice" who has said Mr. Trump groped her. The 3-to-2 ruling upholds a lower-court decision from a year ago that similarly concluded the president could be sued in state court while in office for actions unrelated to his official duties.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Is Target of Anti-Semitic Graffiti in New York

A poster hanging on the walls of New York City subway stations advertises a new book celebrating the life and work of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, calling the Supreme Court justice a "trail blazer" and a "history maker." Last week, the advertisement at one Brooklyn subway stop included another message: an anti-Semitic slur and a swastika scrawled over her face. The vandalism, which was swiftly condemned by city officials, came amid a rise in hate crimes in New York City, driven in large part by anti-Semitic attacks and incidents. There were 86 hate crimes reported in the city this year as of March 10, an increase of 62 percent over the same time period last year, the police said. About 60 percent of those were anti-Semitic crimes, with 52 such incidents reported so far this year, compared with 32 by the same time in 2018.

The Latest: Senate Votes to Block Trump Border Declaration

A dozen defecting Republicans joined Senate Democrats to block the national emergency that President Donald Trump declared so he could build his border wall with Mexico. The rejection capped a week of confrontation with the White House as both parties in Congress strain to exert their power in new ways. Moments after Thursday's vote, the president tweeted a single word of warning: "VETO!"

Trump Issues First Veto After Rebuke of Border Order

President Donald Trump issued the first veto of his presidency in a demonstration that he is not through fighting for his signature campaign promise, which stands largely unfulfilled 18 months before voters decide whether to grant him another term. Trump rejected an effort by Congress to block the emergency declaration he'd used to circumvent lawmakers as he tried to shake loose funds for his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The months long confrontation now moves to the courts, but not before marking a new era of divided government in Washington and Republicans' increasing independence from the White House. It is unlikely that Congress will have the two-thirds majority required to override Trump's veto, though House Democrats will try nonetheless on March 26.

The Battle for the One, True 'Fire Cider'

Fire cider is an herbal concoction that is tangy and hot, brewed from apple cider vinegar, onions, garlic and horseradish, and sometimes with citrus and hot peppers thrown in. Proponents believe that it has beneficial properties. Dana St. Pierre claims to have invented the brew by modifying his German grandmother's home remedy. He trademarked the brand name to his company Shire City Herbals. This tonic is now the subject of a lawsuit filed in Massachusetts to determine who has the right to sell fire cider - and call it "fire cider."

She Extols Trump, Guns and the Chinese Communist Party Line

The Republican National Committee promised an "evening reception with Donald J. Trump" last March at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida for a contribution of $2,700 toward the president's re-election. Two seats for dinner would cost $25,000. There was also a third option: for $50,000, dinner for two and a photo with Trump. Cindy Yang, a Chinese immigrant who had set up a string of day spas in Florida and was active in groups backed by the Chinese government and Communist Party, was determined to get the photo. Despite the hurdle limiting campaign contributions to $5,400 per person, Yang needed others to chip in to meet the donation level for dinner with the President. At least nine people in Yang's orbit, some of them with modest incomes, made donations at exactly $5,400. She ended up at the dinner.

In Most Diverse House, Aides of Color Join the Ranks of 'Firsts'

For the first time, over a dozen top aides -- from the speaker's national security adviser to the majority whip's chief of staff -- are racial minorities.

A day after House Democrats retook the majority, Speaker Nancy Pelosi implored her colleagues to adopt the National Football League's practice of interviewing a minority candidate for senior positions. Her letter acknowledged a long-held truism on Capitol Hill - while Congress has long been remarkably racially homogeneous, perhaps nowhere has that been more apparent than among the ranks of Capitol Hill staff, regardless of party. Despite an increasingly diverse House of Representatives, the staff employed by those members are not only less ethnically diverse than the country, but less diverse than the members who employed them.

The Victims of the Ethiopia Plane Crash

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, a Boeing 737 Max 8 plane, which crashed shortly after takeoff killing all 157 passengers and airline personnel on board, was packed with passengers from across the world, including professors from Kenya, aid workers from Ethiopia, an ambassador from Nigeria and a fisheries consultant from Britain

U.S. Under Pressure to Cease Flights of Troubled Boeing Jet

With more countries grounding Boeing jets and with lawmakers, aviation workers and consumers calling on the United States to do the same, the head of the aerospace giant made a personal appeal to President Trump to express his confidence in the plane's safety. The brief call came shortly after Trump raised concerns that the increasing use of technology in airplanes was compromising passenger safety. "Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly," he wrote on Twitter. "Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT."

New Evidence in Ethiopian 737 Crash Points to Connection to Earlier Disaster

Investigators at the crash site of the doomed Ethiopian Airlines flight have found new evidence that points to another connection to the earlier disaster involving the same Boeing jet. The evidence suggests that the plane's stabilizers were tilted upward and at that angle, the stabilizers would have forced down the nose of the jet, a similarity with the Lion Air crash in October. This evidence ultimately contributed to the American regulators' decision to ground the 737 Max this week, according to the two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The Federal Aviation Administration said it had found physical evidence from the Ethiopian crash that, along with satellite tracking data, suggested similarities between the two crashes.

Russian Oligarch Sues the U.S. Over Sanctions

Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with close ties to the Kremlin, sued the United States government, demanding that it lift sanctions leveled by the Treasury Department, that he claimed have cost him billions of dollars, made him "radioactive" in international business circles, and exposed him to criminal investigation and asset confiscation in Russia. Deripaska argues that these sanctions should be struck down because they deprived him of due process and relied on unproven smears that fell outside the sanctions program.

Pictures From Youth Climate Strikes Around the World

Students protested at the United States Capitol on Friday.

From Sydney to Seoul, Cape Town to New York, children skipped school en masse Friday to demand action on climate change, in a stark display of the alarm of a generation. It was also a glimpse of the anger directed at older people who have not, in the protesters' views, taken global warming seriously enough.

'God Is Testing Us': Tears and Outrage at a New Zealand Hospital

More than a day after the attacks that killed 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch, many people still did not know the fate of loved ones they believed were at prayer when the gunman arrived and started firing. They had come to the hospital cafeteria, renamed a "relatives room" to try to find answers.

Johnson & Johnson Hit With $29 Million Verdict in Case Over Talc and Asbestos

Johnson & Johnson's shares dipped after a jury in California ordered the company to pay more than $29 million to a woman who claimed that asbestos in its talc-based powder products had caused her cancer. The jury found that Johnson & Johnson knew about the potential risks that its baby powder was contaminated, but failed to warn the woman, who had received a diagnosis of mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of internal organs that is associated with asbestos, in August 2017. Her lawyer, Joseph D. Satterley, said she had used Johnson & Johnson talc products for more than 30 years.

Home in Ashes, They're Forced to Fight for Share of Pacific Gas & Electric Money

Employees, suppliers and bondholders all have claims against the California utility in bankruptcy court, along with those counting on payouts over blazes started by the company's equipment, including a couple who negotiated a seven-figure settlement with Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), whose line was involved. However, PG&E never sent the money, and because the company filed for bankruptcy protection in January 2019, the couple will have to wait even longer. They cannot expect payments until PG&E emerges from bankruptcy, something that may not happen for at least two years, according to legal experts. While they wait, the bankruptcy may at times put the couple and other wildfire victims in conflict with PG&E and other parties with claims against the company.

Morris Dees, a Co-Founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Is Ousted

The Southern Poverty Law Center (S.P.L.C.) fired its co-founder and chief trial lawyer, Morris Dees, after nearly a half-century, during which he helped build the organization into a fearsome powerhouse that focused on hate crimes and with an endowment that approached half a billion dollars. The group's president, Richard Cohen, did not give a specific reason for the Dees dismissal, but said in a statement that as a civil-rights group, the S.P.L.C. was "committed to ensuring that the conduct of our staff reflects the mission of the organization and the values we hope to instill in the world." Cohen's statement suggested that Dees' firing was linked to workplace conduct. He said that the S.P.L.C., which is based in Montgomery, Ala., had requested "a comprehensive assessment of our internal climate and workplace practices" in a bid to ensure that the organization was a place where "all voices are heard and all staff members are respected."

Pentagon Pushes for Weaker Standards on Chemicals Contaminating Drinking Water

The Pentagon is pushing the Trump administration to adopt a weaker standard for groundwater pollution caused by chemicals that have commonly been used at military bases and that contaminate drinking water consumed by millions of Americans, to avoid billions of dollars of cleanup costs. The Pentagon's position pits it against the Environmental Protection Agency, which is seeking White House signoff for standards that would most likely require expensive cleanup programs at scores of military bases, as well as at NASA launch sites, airports and some manufacturing facilities. Despite its deregulatory record under President Trump, the Environmental Protection Agency has been seeking to stick with a tougher standard for the presence of the chemicals in question in the face of the pressure from the military to adopt a far looser framework.

Sandy Hook Massacre: Remington and Other Gun Companies Lose Major Ruling Over Liability

The Connecticut Supreme Court cleared the way for a lawsuit against the companies that manufactured and sold the semiautomatic rifle used by the gunman in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The lawsuit mounted a direct challenge to the immunity that Congress granted gun companies to shield them from litigation when their weapons are used in a crime. The ruling allows the case, brought by victims' families, to maneuver around the federal shield, creating a potential opening to bring claims to trial and hold the companies, including Remington, which made the rifle, liable for the attack. In the lawsuit, the families seized upon the marketing for the AR-15-style Bushmaster used in the 2012 attack, which invoked the violence of combat and used slogans like "Consider your man card reissued."

Pelosi Waves Off Impeachment, Says It Would Divide Country

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says impeaching President Donald Trump is not on the cards unless something more concretely egregious comes to light, because the President is "just not worth it." "Unless there's something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don't think we should go down that path, because it divides the country," she said.

Defying Congress, Trump Plans to Renew Fight for Border Wall Funding

President Trump plans fresh efforts to pressure Congress to pay for a wall along the southwestern border, most likely setting up another showdown with Democrats who have vowed to block his signature project. Trump failed to extract even a single extra dollar for his wall during a winter battle that shut down parts of the federal government for a record 35 days. Now he will request $8.6 billion in the annual budget proposal, and will also ask Congress for another $3.6 billion to replenish military construction funds he has diverted to begin work on the wall by declaring a national emergency, for a total of $12.2 billion.

DeVos Moves to Ease Church-State Rules in Education

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that she will no longer enforce a provision in federal law that bars religious organizations from providing federally funded educational services to private schools. The move follows the 2017 Supreme Court decision, Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia Inc. v. Comer, in which the high court found that Missouri had unconstitutionally engaged in religious discrimination when it denied a church-run preschool publicly funded tire scraps for its playground. Now DeVos, with assistance from the Justice Department, has determined that a provision in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is unconstitutional, as it requires education contractors hired by schools be independent of any religious organization.

Incendiary National Rifle Association Videos Find New Critics: National Rifle Association Leaders

Last September, the National Rifle Association's (NRA) famously combative spokeswoman, Dana Loesch, provoked widespread outrage when she took to the gun group's streaming service to mock ethnic diversity on the popular children's program "Thomas & Friends," portraying the show's talking trains in Ku Klux Klan hoods. Now, growing unease over the site's inflammatory rhetoric, and whether it has strayed too far from the NRA's core gun-rights mission, has put its future in doubt. The site, NRATV, is a central part of the NRA's messaging apparatus. Since its creation in 2016, it has adopted an increasingly apocalyptic, hard-right tone, warning of race wars, describing Barack Obama as a "fresh-faced flower-child president," calling for a march on the Federal Bureau of Investigation and comparing journalists to rodents. In recent weeks, in a rare airing of internal debate at the NRA, two prominent board members expressed concerns about NRATV to The New York Times. Their statements were released through the NRA itself, amid what was described as an internal review of NRATV and its future.

Congressional Leaders Invite NATO Chief to Speak, in Jab at Trump

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, invited the director of NATO to address a joint session of Congress, in an unsubtle jab at President Trump's foreign policy that is meant to underscore broad Congressional support for the alliance. The president's antagonistic stance on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization -- publicly railing against its members while privately discussing withdrawing from the military alliance entirely - has set off a bipartisan concern on Capitol Hill, where support for the alliance has remained largely unwavering.

Co-Founder of Cultlike Group Where Women Were Branded Pleads Guilty

Nancy Salzman was known to her followers as "Prefect." She was a co-founder of Nxivm, a cultlike group near Albany in which women were branded with the leader's initials and forced to have sex with him, according to federal prosecutors. Salzman pleaded guilty to charges in a federal racketeering indictment filed last year against six people in the group, including the former leader, Keith Raniere. Raniere was additionally charged on Wednesday with having a sexual relationship with two underage girls, one of them who was 15 years old when the abuse began. Salzman, a former psychiatric nurse, helped Raniere found the group in the 1990s. In addition to being accused of being part of a criminal enterprise, she was specifically charged with identity theft and altering records to influence the outcome of a lawsuit against the organization.

Rap Sheets Haunt Former Inmates. California May Change That

People with felony records are often barred from obtaining professional licenses, which makes many fields of employment closed to former felons, including barbering, selling insurance, and other fields requiring state licenses in order to be employed. A bill now making its way through the California State Legislature could spare millions of people in the state who have misdemeanor or lower-level felony records those problems: their criminal records would automatically be sealed from public view once they completed prison or jail sentences. The legislation would not apply to people convicted of committing the most serious crimes, like murder or rape.

Britain's Parliament Votes to Delay Brexit, but Not to Control It

British lawmakers voted to postpone the country's departure from the European Union but narrowly failed - by two votes - to wrest control of the Brexit process from Theresa May's battered government with just 15 days to go before Britain's scheduled departure from the bloc. They later voted by 412 to 202 for a motion that means that Britain will almost certainly not leave the European Union as scheduled on March 29, as May has repeatedly promised it would. What remains unclear now is how long the delay will be.

Volkswagen C.E.O., After Echoing Nazi Slogan, Apologizes

Volkswagen's chief executive has apologized for using a phrase that echoed a Nazi-era slogan, "Arbeit macht frei," or "Work sets you free," that was emblazoned on the gates of Auschwitz, saying the connection did not occur to him at the time. The German carmaker's chief repeatedly said, "Ebit macht frei" - referring to profits within the company's divisions - when speaking to hundreds of managers at an internal company event after Volkswagen's annual earnings news conference, German news media reported. Ebit is an acronym for "earnings before interest and taxes."

March 14, 2019

Dr. Seuss Enterprises v. ComixMix

By Barry Werbin

There was a significant S.D. Cal. March 12th decision in the long running Dr. Seuss Enterprises v. ComixMix case, which granted ComixMix summary judgment on the copyright infringement claim, finding that the defendant's mashup of content from various Seuss works (including Oh, the Places You'll Go! ("Go!")) and Star Trek episodes, entitled Oh, the Places You'll Boldly Go! ("Boldly"), was entitled to a fair use defense, despite it not being a parody. The court found that Go! was highly transformative and that Seuss Enterprises failed to establish a non-hypothetical likelihood of market harm.

On transformative use, the court found that "the copied elements are always interspersed with original writing and illustrations that transform Go!'s pages into repurposed, Star-Trek-centric ones.... Defendants did not copy verbatim text from Go! in writing Boldly, nor did they replicate entire illustrations from Go! Although Defendants certainly borrowed from Go!--at times liberally--the elements borrowed were always adapted or transformed."

The court also found that Boldly had a different "intrinsic purpose and function" than that of Go!, " i.e., "providing an illustrated book, with the same uplifting message that would appeal to graduating high school and college seniors.... While Boldly may be an illustrated book with an uplifting message (something over which Plaintiff cannot exercise a monopoly), it is one tailored to fans of Star Trek's Original Series."

On the third fair use factor, the court held that "portions of the old work are incorporated into the new work but emerge imbued with a different character" and that "Defendants took no more from the Copyrighted Works than was necessary for Defendants' purposes, i.e., a 'mash-up' of Go! and Star Trek."

Finally, on the fourth market harm factor, the court found that Seuss Enterprises "failed to sustain its burden to demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that Boldly is likely substantially to harm the market for Go! or licensed derivatives of Go!.... [The] potential harm to [Plaintiff]'s market remains hypothetical."


March 11, 2019

Week In Review

By Chantelle A. Gyamfi
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

Below are stories presented in the categories of Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media, and General News:


Rappers Are Offering the Supreme Court "A Primer on Rap Music and Hip-Hop"

A group of hip-hop stars, including Meek Mill, Chance the Rapper, Fat Joe, and Killer Mike, have urged the Supreme Court to hear a fellow rapper's First Amendment challenge in an appeal to his 2014 conviction for threatening police officers in a song. The artist, Jamal Knox, who raps under the name "Mayhem Mal" and as part of a group called the "Ghetto SuperStar Committee", was arrested in 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on gun and drug charges. After his arrest, Knox and a friend recorded a song whose title, which included a vulgar word directed at the police, was partly a homage to an N.W.A. classic with a similar name. The song named the officers who arrested Knox and included lyrics like "let's kill these cops 'cause they don't do us no good", and featured sounds of sirens and gunfire. After the friend posted the song on YouTube and Facebook, Knox was arrested and charged with issuing terroristic threats and intimidating witnesses. In their brief, the rappers wrote "this is a work of is not intended to be taken literally...the song's lyrics were never meant to be read as bare text on a page, rather, the lyrics were meant to be heard, with music, melody, rhythm and emotion."

After "Leaving Neverland", Stations Drop Michael Jackson

Dozens of radio stations have stopped playing Michael Jackson's music after the documentary "Leaving Neverland" premiered. It details Jackson's alleged abuse of two men who say that he abused them as children. A Canadian media company, Cogeco, told The Canadian Press that it had banned Jackson's music on its 23 stations in Quebec, citing the public response to "Leaving Neverland" as the reason for the ban. Leon Wratt, the content director of MediaWorks, one of the New Zealand radio companies that has also banned Jackson's music, said that the "audiences had indicated that they no longer wanted to hear Jackson's music" and that "Jackson's music would still be available on streaming services and in record stores for anyone who wanted to hear it [because] the difference with that if we play it you don't have a choice." Neither company has responded to questions about how long the ban would last or whether they planned to pull the songs of other musicians accused of wrongdoing, such as R. Kelly, who like Jackson, has been accused of decades of serial misconduct.

R. Kelly Lashes Out in First Interview After Sex Abuse Arrest

In his first interview following his arrest last month on sexual abuse charges, R. Kelly vehemently denied having sex with underage girls and portrayed himself as a victim of a social media-fueled smear campaign. His arrest came after the Lifetime documentary "Surviving R. Kelly" aired and revived prosecutors' interest in his behavior. R. Kelly screamed, cursed, and pleaded his innocence to the camera in the sit-down with Gayle King, a host of "CBS This Morning". R. Kelly, referring to the documentary, said that "nobody said nothing good. They was describing Lucifer. I'm not Lucifer. I'm a man. I make mistakes, but I'm not a devil. And by no means am I a monster." R. Kelly further stated that he had "been assassinated....been buried alive, but I'm alive."

R. Kelly Thrown Back in Jail Over Back Child Support

Only a week after he was bailed out of jail for sex abuse charges, R. Kelly was taken back into custody on Wednesday for failing to pay his ex-wife more than $160,000 in child support. Shortly after his now infamous interview with Gayle King on CBS addressing the sex abuse claims against him, he was back in court, having been ordered last month to pay his ex-wife Andrea Kelly $161,663 in child support. In the "Surviving R. Kelly" documentary that aired in January, it emerged that since the couple divorced in 2009, R. Kelly had stopped paying child support on "several occasions". Darryll Johnson, a spokesman for R. Kelly, said the singer arrived in court hoping to work out a deal in which he would pay his former wife as much as $60,000, but the court decided that he would have to pay the full ordered amount before he could be released.

WarnerMedia to Investigate Claims Against Top Executive

WarnerMedia announced that it would conduct an "appropriate investigation" into allegations that Kevin Tsujihara, the chief executive of Warner Bros., pushed for a woman with whom he had a sexual relationship to be considered for roles in Warner films and television shows. The allegations surfaced in an article in The Hollywood Reporter, which outlined a sexual relationship between Tsujihara and Charlotte Kirk, an aspiring British actress. Tsujihara's lawyer said that his client "did not have a direct role in the actress being cast in any movie" and Kirk "emphatically denied any inappropriate behavior by Mr. Tsujihara."

Jussie Smollet Indicted on 16 Counts of Disorderly Conduct

"Empire" star Jussie Smollet has been indicted by a grand jury in Chicago on 16 counts of disorderly conduct following his alleged false report to the police that he had been attacked by two men who made racial and homophobic slurs. Smollet reported the alleged attack to police in January, stating that he had been assaulted by two men who put a rope around his neck, poured a chemical substance on him, and said it was "MAGA country," a reference to Trump's campaign slogan "Make America Great Again." After conducting an investigation, authorities revealed that they believed the assault was staged because Smollet was upset with his salary and just wanted publicity. The indictments alleged that Smollett falsely reported batteries, aggravated batteries, and hate crimes. Mark Geragos, a lawyer for Smollett, said in a statement that the indictment was "prosecutorial overkill" and "redundant and vindictive."

Endeavor Returns Money to Saudi Arabia

Set in motion by the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Ariel Emanuel, the chief executive of the talent agency Endeavor, has returned a $400 million investment, effectively severing Endeavor's relationship with Saudi leaders in one of the rare instances of a major entertainment company halting business with the wealthy kingdom to protest its agents' assassination of a journalist.


"To Kill a Mockingbird" Play Publisher Demands $500,000 From Harper Lee Estate

Producer Scott Rudin, seeking to protect the financial future of a new stage adaptation of the novel now running on Broadway, forced at least eight theaters around the country to cancel productions of a 1970 stage version. Now the publisher of the earlier script, Christopher Sergel III, president of Dramatic Publishing Company and the grandson of the author of the first adaptation, says he will seek compensation and legal vindication. Sergel has accused the estate of the "To Kill a Mockingbird" author, Harper Lee, of acting in concert with Rudin and causing financial losses to Dramatic Publishing Company by making "false statements" to local theaters. Sergel said he would ask an arbitration tribunal to protect the ability of local theaters to stage his grandfather's adaptation and to award damages of at least $500,000.

New York to Add Four Statues of Women to Help Fix Gender Gap in Public Art

Last week, the city announced that four female historical figures would be honored with statues in New York. The announcement followed a monthslong process seeking to fix what New York's first lady, Chirlane McCray, called a "glaring" gender imbalance in the city's streets and parks. The four women -- Billie Holiday, Helen Rodríguez Trías, Elizabeth Jennings Graham, and Katherine Walker -- will have statues placed in the boroughs they once called home. Once the statues are installed, all five boroughs will have at least one public statue of a woman. To date, only five female historical figures are depicted in statues in New York City in outdoor public spaces, and all of them are located in Manhattan. Each new statue is expected to cost between $300,000 and $1 million, and the city has said that it is trying to commission female artists to do the work.

Ted Baker Founder Resigns Amid Harassment Claims

Ray Kelvin, the founder and chief executive of British fashion chain Ted Baker resigned after claims of harassment from current and former employees. Kelvin had taken a voluntary leave of absence in December after an online petition began to surface. Although he denies the allegations, he has agreed to resign immediately as chief executive and director of the company. The company said that Kelvin would not be receiving any salary or benefit payments related to his resignation.

Yemen Seeks Help to Stop Looting of Artifacts

Four years into a civil war in which members of a Northern Yemeni faction known as Houthis have fought Saudi-backed Yemeni forces to a stalemate, the extent of the human suffering has drawn global attention. Less noticed have been the cultural institutions and archaeological relics lost or ravaged during the conflict, including thousands of antiquities taken from Yemen's museums. In an effort to recover some of the items, Yemeni officials visited Washington and New York to ask the Trump administration and the United Nations to help them, requesting that the United States issue an emergency order that would bar the import of Yemeni artifacts that did not carry special documentation. State Department officials said that the agency is studying the request.

Tip Leads to Recovery of Stolen Head of 800-Year-Old Crusader Mummy

A tip led the Dublin police to a mummified head believed to belong to an 800-year-old Crusader knight, a week after it was stolen from a medieval church crypt. The body, known as the Crusader, was decapitated and the head was stolen during a break-in over the weekend of February 23rd. The head has been given to the National Museum of Ireland to conserve and if possible restore, with the goal of returning the head to the Crusader's coffin, even though it cannot be reattached.

The Collapse of an Italy Bridge Has Become the Subject of a Criminal Inquiry

Following the collapse of the Morandi Bridge in Genoa, Italy last year, nine employees of the Bennetons' company, Autostrade, along with several officials from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport and other agencies, are the subject of a criminal inquiry as to who is at fault for the bridge's collapse. The Benettons, the Italian family famous for wool sweaters and a global clothing empire, controlled Autostrade per l'Italia, or Highways for Italy, which managed the bridge and more than half of Italy's toll roads, are said to have made "abnormal" profits, and "acquired so much power that the state became a largely passive regulator" of inspections of the bridge.

Hitler Paintings?

German authorities are starting to investigate forgery and fraud, as the niche market for art by Hitler has grown. Hitler did most of his painting before World War I, after he was rejected from art school and before he volunteered for the German Army. Once in power, he ordered the works to be collected, and he may have destroyed some of the more embarrassingly bad ones. The growth of the market for his works has led to an increase in the value of the paintings, drawings, and watercolors supposedly created by the future dictator over a century ago. However, many, if not most, of these works are likely not by Hitler. Bart Droog, a Dutch journalist who specializes in such forgeries, said that the business of faking Hitler's paintings dates back nearly to the first time he picked up a brush, and by the time he came into power in 1933, many fakes existed already, and both demand and supply grew over the years.


U.S. Women's Soccer Team Sues Over "Institutionalized Gender Discrimination"

Twenty-eight members of the world champion U.S. Soccer Team have filed a gender discrimination suit against U.S. Soccer in federal court alleging discrimination that "affects not only their paychecks but also where they play and how often, how they train, the medical treatment and coaching they receive, and even how they travel to matches." To experts in gender discrimination and Title IX cases, the argument they are making is familiar.

Judge Opens the Door to More Compensation for College Athletes

California Federal District Court Judge Claudia Wilken ruled that N.C.A.A.'s amateurism rules barring payment beyond scholarships and certain related costs of education violate antitrust law. Judge Wilken said that schools can compensate athletes for education-related expenses, such as postgraduate scholarships, tutoring, study abroad, computers, and musical instruments. Yet she also supported the N.C.A.A.'s claim that students should not become professionals while playing for school teams. Ultimately, Judge Wilken acknowledged that "the extraordinary revenues that defendants derive from these sports" demonstrate that capping players' compensation at scholarships and related costs "is not commensurate with the value that they create."

Defendants in College Basketball Corruption Case Get Lenient Sentences

Three men in a college basketball fraud case were sentenced to between six and nine months in prison after being convicted of defrauding universities. The three men, amateur basketball league director Merl Code, former Adidas executive James Gatto, and business manager Christian Dawkins, participated in a scheme in which the families of highly rated men's basketball recruits were offered money in exchange for pledges to play for teams at University of Louisville, North Carolina State University, and the University of Kansas, all of which are sponsored by Adidas. The judge said that the sentences, while lenient, were important to deter the funneling of money to the families of college basketball prospects -- an N.C.A.A. violation that a jury found last year also constituted a felony.

Kraft Hires Top Lawyers to Defend Him Against Solicitation Charges

A week after prosecutors in Florida charged Robert K. Kraft, Trump's billionaire friend and the owner of the New England Patriots, with soliciting prostitution, Kraft has retained William A. Burck (who was a lawyer in the George W. Bush White House and had a role in the screening of documents related to Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh's recent Supreme Court nomination) and Jack Goldberger (the Florida lawyer who defended Jeffrey E. Epstein, a wealthy New York financier accused of trafficking underage girls for sex) to lead his defense. Kraft and at least two dozen other individuals have been accused of soliciting prostitution at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa, a massage parlor and salon in a Jupiter, Florida. They are charged with first-degree misdemeanors.

Kraft's Solicitation Hearing is Delayed Until End of March

Kraft's arraignment on charges of soliciting prostitution has been moved to March 28th, a day after the National Football League's annual meeting.

Louisiana State University Suspends Head Coach

Louisiana State University's (LSU's) head men's basketball coach, Will Wade, has been suspended after an FBI wire-tap captured his telephone conversations with a person convicted last year of funneling money to the families of basketball recruits. LSU Chancellor, F. King Alexander, and athletic director, Joe Alleva, announced Wade's indefinite suspension, stating that "the suspension will continue until LSU can ensure that Wade's recruiting tactics have been in full compliance with NCAA and university policies." When asked, Wade declined comment other than to express confidence in his players' ability to remain focused on basketball.

Giants Executive to Take Leave of Absence After Public Altercation with His Wife

Larry Baer, chief executive of the San Francisco Giants, announced that he would be taking a leave of absence after being captured on video last week in physical altercation with his wife in a public plaza that ended with her on the ground. In the video, Baer is seen trying to yank something out of his wife's hands and during the struggle, she falls off her chair and onto the ground, screaming. As of now, the length of the leave and his future with the organization remains unclear.

Athletes in Senegal Like to Exercise on The Beaches and Streets, but With Every Breath, They Inhale Increasingly Dangerous Air

In Dakar, Senegal's capital, thousands of runners, wrestlers, soccer players, and fitness fanatics exercise outdoors, but when rush-hour traffic really backs up and exhaust fumes pour across their workout area, sometimes the athletes vomit. Dakar's air exceeds the limits set by the World Health Organization of the amount of small particles that when inhaled can damage health by five times.


Zuckerberg Plans to Shift Focus to Users' Privacy on Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive, said that he plans to build systems and products that change the essential nature of social media. Zuckerberg, who runs Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger expressed his intentions to change the "public broadcasting" nature of social media; instead of encouraging public posts, he said he would focus on private and encrypted communications, in which users message smaller groups of people they know. He said that, in effect, Facebook would change from being a digital town square to creating a type of "digital living room," where people could expect their discussions to be intimate, ephemeral, and secure from outsiders. Zuckerberg's decision follows years of scandals for the social network, which has damaged the company's reputation, created mistrust with users, and led to intensified scrutiny of Facebook's privacy practices.

U.S. Tracked Activists and Journalists as Migrant Caravans Headed to the Border

To determine who was behind the caravans that were bringing large numbers of migrants from Central America to the southwest border, the Trump administration created a list of activists and journalists whom they subjected to additional scrutiny when they entered the United States. Many of the people on the list had traveled with the migrant caravans as they arrived in Mexican border cities from Central America to seek asylum. Others had provided legal assistance or aid to migrants, but had not traveled with the caravans at all. Esha Bhandari, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said that targeting reporters or advocates for secondary screening and extended detention on the basis of their work was a violation of their rights. Bhandari said that the A.C.L.U. was monitoring developments in the cases and exploring all legal options.

Fox News Banned from Hosting 2020 Debates

The Democratic National Convention (DNC) has banned Fox News from hosting or televising a candidate debate for the party's 2020 primary election, citing the network's "inappropriate relationship" with Trump. Tom Perez, DNC chairman, said that Fox News "is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates." Trump responded to the news in a tweet, saying, "Democrats just blocked @foxnews from holding a debate. Good, then I think I'll do the same thing with the Fake News Networks and the Radical Left Democrats in the General Election debates!"

Stormy Daniels's "Hush Money" Lawsuit Dismissed

Judge S. James Otero, of the United States District Court in Los Angeles, dismissed Stormy Daniels's lawsuit against Trump and his former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen. Daniels is a porn star who was paid $130,000 in hush money through Michael D. Cohen, Trump's personal lawyer at the time, to keep quiet about an alleged affair with Trump before the 2016 election. The suit was brought in an attempt to release her from the nondisclosure agreement she had signed as part of the arrangement. However, Judge Otero called the legal argument moot, given that Daniels had not been held to the terms of the agreement, since she and her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, have spoken freely about the arrangement since the filing last March. The lawsuit led to escalating national attention that culminated in Cohen's pleading guilty to related campaign-finance crimes last summer.

Bill Shine Abruptly Resigns as White House Communications Chief

Bill Shine, the former Fox News executive who joined the White House staff last summer to manage President Trump's communications operation, has resigned. Sources said he had developed little chemistry with Trump, and critics increasingly focused on Shine's ties to Fox, where he was forced out for his handling of sexual harassment claims. Shine, who held the title of deputy White House chief of staff, was the sixth person to accept the job to manage communications for the Trump White House. The White House has not announced any successor.

Chelsea Manning Sent to Jail for Refusing to Testify About Wikileaks

U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton ordered Former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to jail for civil contempt of court after a hearing in which Manning admitted that she had "no intentions to testify" before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks. Manning has said that she objects to the secrecy of the grand jury process and had already revealed everything she knew at her court-martial. She also said that prosecutors have granted her immunity for her testimony, which eliminates her ability to invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The judge said that Manning will remain jailed until she testifies or until the grand jury concludes its work.

U.S. Journalist Arrested in Venezuela

Cody Weddle, a freelance journalist with legal residence in Venezuela was arrested, along with his assistant, by the country's military counterintelligence service. Weddle said that around 6:40 a.m., four people from the military counterintelligence service arrived at his apartment with a search order, began to put all of his electronics in a briefcase, and later, more people arrived in civilian clothes to sweep the apartment -- possibly looking for "spying equipment.". Weddle further stated that he was taken to the agency's headquarters, where he was "masked and hooded for hours". Once the mask was taken off, Weddle was then asked questions about his work as a journalist, among other things. After, he was escorted to the airport where he was to be deported, despite having a visa that allows him to live and work in Venezuela.

Egyptian Photojournalist is Freed After Spending Over Five Years in Prison

Photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid, known as Shawkan, has been freed after spending five and a half years in prison for taking pictures during a "crackdown" in 2013. Abou Zeid was one of many journalists who was jailed under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has slowly suffocated free speech since he came to power in 2013. Mr. el-Sisi has muzzled critical news outlets and has expelled or refused entry to foreign reporters. Despite being arrested in 2013, Abou Zeid was convicted in September 2018 and sentenced to five years in prison, which he had already served, and handed a fine. An additional six-month term was added to his sentence because he could not afford to pay the fine.


National Security Agency Shuts Down Program That Collects Phone and Text Records

The National Security Agency (N.S.A.) has shut down a controversial program that collects domestic phone and text records. The program, started by former President George W. Bush's administration, was started as part of the pursuit for Al Qaeda conspirators in the weeks after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, but the Trump administration "hasn't actually been using it for the past six months."

Trump Losing Grip Over Senate

Trump's emergency declaration marks the first time that a president has invoked powers under the National Emergencies Act after Congress has denied funds. His action has been met with disdain from Democrats and Republicans alike. Democrats have introduced a resolution that will overturn Trump's national emergency declaration, and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, along with three other Republicans -- Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Thom Tillis of North Carolina -- have announced their support of the measure, giving Democrats the 51 votes they need to secure passage and to force Trump to issue the first veto of his presidency.

Democrats' Inquiry into Trump Provides Possible Path to Impeachment

In the two months since they took control of the House, Democrats have begun scrutinizing key members of Trump's cabinet, his businesses, his campaign, and his ties to foreign powers, including Russia, which tried to disrupt the 2016 presidential election. They have also laid the groundwork to try to obtain Trump's tax returns. However, it's Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the Judiciary Committee chairman, who has launched an inquiry that takes aim at his presidency and could conceivably form the basis of a future impeachment proceeding.

America's Trade Deficit in Goods Hits Record $891 Billion

Trump's goal of narrowing the U.S.'s trade deficit in goods with the rest of the world has been setback as the deficit widened to $891.3 billion. The trade deficit is the difference between how much a country sells to its trading partners and how much it buys. It generally includes both goods and services, although Trump has focused almost exclusively on the deficit in goods. The widening gap was exacerbated by Trump's $1.5 trillion tax cut, which has been largely financed by government borrowing, and the trade war he escalated last year. Federal Reserve officials and some economists warn that federal borrowing is growing too quickly and will ultimately swamp the American economy, with the United States paying huge sums of interest on the debt, diverting funds from social safety net programs like Medicare and Social Security.

Senate Confirms Trump Nominee Who Resisted Affordable Care Act

Chad A. Readler of Ohio has been confirmed as Trump's 33rd federal appeals court judge despite bipartisan criticism that as a Justice Department official in the Trump administration he had shirked his official responsibility to defend the Affordable Care Act when it was challenged in court. Democrats said that Readler was "obligated to defend as a top lawyer in the Justice Department's civil division because it was existing law". Instead, he filed a brief in support of a lawsuit by Republican attorneys general aimed at gutting the Affordable Care Act, and argued that it, and its protections against denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, was unconstitutional. Mr. Readler's nomination was approved on a 52-to-47 vote with all Democrats and one Republican, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, voting no.

Justice Department to Step Up Enforcement of Foreign Influence Laws

A senior Justice Department official announced that the Justice Department will escalate its crackdown on illegal foreign influence operations in the United States. The move shows that the Justice Department has prioritized investigating potential violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which requires lobbyists and others to disclose any work they do to further the interests of foreign governments.

Trump Administration's Aggressive Policies Have Not Discouraged New Migration to U.S.

Kevin K. McAleenan, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, stated that "the system is well beyond capacity, and remains at the breaking point", when announcing the "record breaking" data that unauthorized entries are nearly double what they were a year ago. Trump has used the escalating numbers to justify his plan to build an expanded wall along the 1,900-mile border with Mexico, but experts say that a wall would do little to slow migration.

House Votes to Condemn All Hate

The resolution condemning "hateful expressions of intolerance" started as a resolution condemning anti-Semitism; by the end of the discussion, it cited "African-Americans, Native Americans, and other people of color, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, immigrants and others" victimized by bigotry. The resolution, called a "kitchen-sink resolution" by one Democratic aide, passed the House by a 407-to-23 vote. The resolution states that "whether from the political right, center or left, bigotry, discrimination, oppression, racism and imputations of dual loyalty threaten American democracy and have no place in American political discourse." It also evokes white supremacist attacks in Charlottesville, Virginia, Charleston, South Carolina, and Pittsburgh, as well as numerous attacks on Muslims and mosques. The resolution was passed days after freshman Democrat, Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, said that pro-Israel activists were pushing "for allegiance to a foreign country" -- a remark that critics in both parties said played into the anti-Semitic trope of "dual loyalty".

Ocean Heatwaves Threaten Marine Life

In a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, researchers found that marine heatwaves were destroying the framework of many ocean ecosystems. Marine heat waves occur when sea temperatures are much warmer than normal for at least five consecutive days. An earlier study, conducted by some of the same researchers, found that on average, from 1925 to 2016, marine heat waves became 34% more frequent, 17% longer, and there were 54% more days per year with marine heat waves globally.

H.I.V. is "Cured" in a Second Patient

Almost 12 years to the day after the first patient was known to be cured, a second patient also appears to have been cured of H.I.V. While most experts are calling it a "cure", with the caveat that it is hard to know how to define the word when there are only two known instances, scientists are describing it as a "long-term remission". Both patients were "cured" as a result of bone-marrow transplants, which were given to them to treat cancer in the patients, not H.I.V. The patients received transplants from a donor with a mutation in a protein called CCR5, which rests on the surface of certain immune cells. H.I.V. uses the protein to enter those cells but cannot latch on to the mutated version.

Trump Says Scotland Golf Course Helps "Cement US Relations with Britain"

Just days after a Scottish court ordered the Trump Organization to pay the Scottish government's legal costs after a failed lawsuit, Trump has implied that a golf course owned by the Trump Organization in Scotland helps "cement the United States' relationship with Britain". In a tweet, Trump claimed that he was: "Very proud of perhaps the greatest golf course anywhere in the world. Also, [the golf course] furthers U.K. relationship!" The tweet has baffled some legal and ethics experts, including Thomas Lundmark, a professor of law at the University of Hull, in northern England, who said that he doesn't "know what he's [Trump] talking about." Lundmark further questioned, "Does it further a relationship for him? For the United States? For us? How?" The ruling and case at large has also raised some constitutional concerns. The U.S. Constitution prohibits the president from accepting payments from foreign and domestic governments. Trump owns golf courses, hotels, and other properties that are frequented by foreign and domestic government officials. There are also claims that Trump's promotion of his properties while president amount to a violation of the emoluments clauses in the Constitution. Walter M. Shaub Jr., who resigned his post as the United States government's top ethics watchdog in July 2017, said in a tweet that Trump's comment was the president's "most explicit commingling of personal interests and public office to date."

Even After Taking Office, Trump Continued to Write Checks to Michael D. Cohen, His Former Personal Lawyer and "Fixer"

At the heart of last week's congressional testimony by Michael D. Cohen, Trump's former lawyer, was the accusation that the sitting president of the United States financed an illegal cover-up from inside the White House. Cohen testified that, in part, Trump reimbursed him $130,000 for the payments to stop Stormy Daniels from telling her story before the 2016 presidential election. Cohen also allegedly received $50,000 for his efforts to manipulate online polls to inflate Trump's reputation as a businessman.

Stone's Book Contains Revisions That May Violate Gag Order

Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the United States District Court in Washington issued an order rebuking Roger Stone for failing to inform her sooner about a new introduction to his book that may violate a gag order because it includes criticism of the current special counsel investigation. Stone's defense team has argued that the new introduction had not violated the gag order because it was dated January 2019 and was written and printed by the publisher before the gag order was put in place on February 21st. Judge Jackson responded, "It does not matter when the defendant may have first formulated the opinions expressed, or when he first put them into words: He may no longer share his views on these particular subjects with the world".

Trump Organization Facing Scrutiny From New York Insurance Regulators

New York State regulators have issued a subpoena to the Trump Organization's longtime insurance broker, the first step in an investigation of insurance policies and claims against Donald Trump's family business. The company, Aon, was served as part of an inquiry by the New York State Department of Financial Services. The subpoena comes just days after Michael D. Cohen, Trump's former "fixer" and lawyer, testified that the Trump Organization inflated the value of its assets to insurance companies. The subpoena demands materials regarding Aon's business with Trump and the Trump Organization dating back to 2009 and it seeks copies of all communications between Aon and Trump and the Trump Organization, as well as all internal Aon documents relating to Trump and the company.

Cohen Presents Documents to Prove Help with False Testimony

Michael D. Cohen, Trump's former personal lawyer and fixer, brought multiple drafts along with emails with Trump's lawyers, hoping to back up the claims that he made during his congressional testimony that he said illustrated changes made at the request of Trump's lawyers to a knowingly false written statement that he delivered to Congress in 2017. Cohen testified that there were "changes made, additions" to the original written statement, including about the length of negotiations over a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign. Cohen further testified that although Trump did not explicitly direct him to lie, he "made clear to me" through his actions that "he wanted me to lie."

Manafort Sentenced to Less Than Four Years in One Case Against Him, Stunning Many

Paul Manafort, the political consultant and Trump presidential campaign chairman, was sentenced to almost four years in prison in the financial fraud case against him. Of the half-dozen former Trump associates prosecuted by Robert Mueller, Manafort received the harshest punishment yet in the case that came to a conclusion last Thursday -- the first of two for which he is being sentenced this month.

When U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III sentenced Manafort to 47 months in jail, he expected some pushback; he probably didn't anticipate this sentence being the one that made the country gasp. Legal experts around the country cited Judge Ellis's ruling as highlighting the "leniency that wealthy white-collar criminals often receive because they have the money to defend themselves or because judges find it easier to empathize with them." Scott Hechinger, a public defender in Brooklyn made a similar point on twitter; "for context on Manafort's 47 months in prison, my client yesterday was offered 36-72 months in prison for stealing $100 worth of quarters from a residential laundry room." Duncan Levin, a former federal prosecutor who specialized in financial crimes, said that "this sentence is leaving me and a lot of people who do this every day scratching our heads."

American Hostage Freed After 18-Months Captivity in Yemen

Danny Lavone Burch, an engineer at a Yemeni oil company, was abducted by gunmen and held captive for 18 months before being rescued in an armed raid last week led by the United Arab Emirates. Burch, who was born in Texas and worked for a Yemeni state oil company, had been living in Yemen since the 1990s; he had converted to Islam and married a Yemeni woman. He was kidnapped outside a restaurant in September 2017 as he drove his children to a swimming pool. Burch was retrieved from a cellar where he was being held in a "lawless part of Yemen".

Iranian Lawyer Who Defended Women Convicted of "Security Crimes"

Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent Iranian lawyer, was arrested in June 2018, while she was defending women who were arrested when they removed their hijabs (Islamic head scarves) in public protests. Sotoudeh also publicly criticized the judicial authorities' decision to limit legal representation for defendants in political cases to a list of 20 state-approved lawyers - a list on which she was absent. Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran, said that at least seven charges have been lodged against Sotoudeh, including collusion against national security, anti-state propaganda, membership in illicit groups, appearing before the judiciary without the required head covering, disturbing the peace, publishing falsehoods to disturb public opinion, and "encouraging corruption and prostitution."

Oil Spill Threatens a Coral Atoll in the South Pacific

A grounded cargo ship - a Hong Kong-flagged ship named the Solomon Trader - has been leaking fuel for weeks after it ran aground near a World Heritage site in the South Pacific. The ship was carrying more than 770 tons of heavy fuel oil when it ran aground last month on Rennell Island, one of the Solomon Islands, which is the largest raised coral atoll in the world. Researchers fear that there is "likely to be substantial long-term impacts on the health of the coral reef ecosystems and the communities that depend on them."

March 4, 2019

Week In Review

By Lisa Ornest
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

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


Sanctions Against a Chinese Video-Sharing Company

Pursuant to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), the Chinese video-sharing app TikTok (formerly, has agreed to pay $5.7 million to settle allegations that it illegally collected personal information, such as names, email addresses, names, and schools, from children under the age of 13. No parental permission was required. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the TikTok fine is a record for a child privacy case.

The Rudin/Sorkin Compromise

To recap, the rights of Scott Rudin and Harper Lee's estate, in the new "To Kill a Mockingbird" adaption by Aaron Sorkin, have superseded the rights of the old ones, which were based on a dramatic version by Chrisopher Sergel. Rudin et al. have been exercising their rights aggressively, and productions "across America," based on the old script, have received cease and desist letters. These potential "infringers" are high school and middle school or other local productions. The original article discussed the closing of a British touring production, but now the focus is on the United States. For example, a production in Buffalo, with advance sales of 3,000 seats, a cast of 19 actors, including six children, had been rehearsing, and the set had been built.

After some backlash, like #BoycottRudinPlays, Rudin et al. have decided to offer a compromise to the local theater and school groups that were forced to cancel their productions. These productions can now go ahead, using the Sorkin script. No charge. Some theaters are grateful, while some lament that it's a whole new script to learn, and they don't have enough time.

R Kelly Out on Bail

R Kelly was having trouble making the bond, but a woman "friend" from Chicago paid the $100,000, the 10% bail fee, to get him released, and he drove away in a Mercedes. Maybe he should get some advice from Robert Kraft. They have the same initials.

Them Bones

This is a lawsuit about creative accounting practices in the entertainment industry, or at least in one particular production, whereby the studio "breaks even" and there is no back end left for anyone else. The Fox executives apparently also lied under oath. The private arbitrator ordered $50 million in damages and $128 million in punitive damages, the latter of which Fox is contesting.

I'm Bad

Michael Jackson's sales increased wildly after his death. Now Wade Robeson and James Safechuck are featured in a two-part, four-hour documentary about their childhood time spent at Neverland, and the alleged sexual molestation they suffered from Jackson during those visits. Oprah supports them. The Jackson family have filed a lawsuit against HBO. Robeson and Safechuck have a lawsuit against the estate, but they may have statute of limitation problems. In addition, they previously testified that there was no sexual abuse.

I Heard it At the Washington Post

In December 2018, Amber Heard, a former spouse of Johnny Depp, wrote a Washington Post op-ed about being the victim of domestic abuse. She did not name names, but Depp is now suing her for defamation, claiming that the piece insinuated that he was the perpetrator and that this insinuation has negatively influenced his career. Heard's lawyer claims that it's a frivolous lawsuit. The problem is, whether he did or not, the parties signed an NDA.

Peter Martins Not Entirely Replaced by a Woman

Wendy Whelan and Jonathan Stafford, both long-time former principal dancers, will replace Peter Martins, who was accused of sexual and physical misconduct. However, while Stafford will be the artistic director of both NYC Ballet and the School of American Ballet, Whelan will only be the associate artistic director of NYC Ballet. So while it was great that they appointed a woman, and she is the first woman in such a powerful artistic role at NYC Ballet, they just couldn't go all the way, and Whelan does not have power equal to her male counterpart.

Stars Surprised That Oscars Were Not Radical

Many people are upset because the mainstream, feel-good, studio-backed, box office success "Green Book" received the Best Picture over other more serious and profound films, like "Black Panthers" and "BlacKkKlansman". So what's new? It's not the first time, and it won't be the last.


Martha and Mary

Art dealer Mary Boone began her career in 1970, becoming a champion of artists like Basquiat and Julian Schnabel. More recently, she received a two and a half year jail sentence for filing false tax returns. She paid no taxes at all in 2009 and 2010, and about $300 in taxes in 2011, when the total should have been more like $1.2 million. She did it by doing things like counting personal expenses as tax deductible business expenses. Assistant United States Attorney Geoffrey Berman called the tax returns "more a work of impressionism than realism." Boone made restitution of about $6 million, and there were at least 100 letters from artists in her support, so there were no further penalties. Boone is calling herself the "Martha Stewart of the art world," but it's not clear if she will get Stewart's old digs at Danbury.

Masterpiece or Mistake?

He's called "The Island Eater," and he's a cute little intricately carved wooden statue of a Hawaiian war god. In 2018, he was auctioned by Christie's, which claimed that he was seriously old. He was bought by the tech billionaire Mark Benioff, now the owner of Time Magazine, for $7.5 million. Benioff donated the statue to the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum of Honolulu, in a tax deductible act of repatriation. Now, however, apparently, even Christie's is saying the statute is worth only about $5,000, maybe. Others say that there is a very similar one, made of the same wood, in the British Museum, which was acquired in 1822. Still others say that it's the kind of thing one can find at a tiki bar. Apparently the provenance is not airtight. This is a problem for Benioff's tax deductions as well as for the high-ticket paying museum-goers. Carbon dating can tell the age of the wood, but not when it was carved. Paging Lovejoy.


Robert Kraft Charged with Solicitation

Robert K. Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, has been charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution. He was one of 25 men caught in a sting operation at a spa called "Orchids of Asia", run out of a strip mall in Jupiter, Florida. Originally the charges were classed as a second-degree misdemeanor, but they were escalated to first degree. Kraft could get up to one year in jail, a $5,000 fine, 100 hours of community service, and some sort of slap on the wrist from the National Football League. He was not physically arrested, booked, or photographed, and basically just received a summons in the mail. Just like a traffic ticket.

Kraft pleaded not guilty to solicitation, a similar charge to nearly 300 men in multiple jurisdictions.

Strip mall massage parlors and indentured servitude. Apparently the "epicenter" of it all is Flushing, Queens. The women arrive at the airports, learn the trade, and are sent out nationally, like to Jupiter, Florida. Their passports are confiscated. They keep only a tiny portion of the fee for the "massage", and have to make the rest in tips. They are charged for "room and board", usually sleeping on their massage chairs.

Guys and Their Jerseys

The clothing company Coogi is suing the Nets, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Nike over their Notorious B.I.G. (Chris Wallace) -inspired jerseys. The jerseys are manufactured by Nike and have a multicolored striped pattern down the sides. The Nets call the pattern "Brooklyn Camo". Coogi claims that the pattern is similar to patterns it has been using for years, and for which it claims to have over 300 design copyrights. Coogi is also associated with Wallace, who has been photographed wearing the brand. He also mentions Coogi in two of his songs (talk about product placement). Coogi claims that one of the defendants purchased ads on Google so that searches for Coogi items will direct users to the Nets merchandise. The NBA denies any merit to the claims. It's the usual back and forth. On Friday, the first 10,000 fans in attendance for the Nets against the Charlotte Hornets will receive a Notorious B.I.G. bobblehead.

Advances in Gaming Accessibility

There are, perhaps, 30 million disabled videogame players in the U.S. In 2010, Congress passed the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, which requires companies to make laptops, tablets, smartphones, gaming consoles, and other tech useable by people with disabilities. Since then, many companies have been increasing the accessibility of their tech toys. However, there were still problems. If a disabled person could play a game, he or she did, if not, he or she would try another game. (One can see the economic ramifications.) One fix was "switches", devices that allowed play with different parts of the body; but the switches are expensive and clunky. So now, Microsoft, through a company called AbleGamers (and others), has developed the "Xbox Adaptive Controller", which works on all X-Box titles and Windows 10. It allows the user to plug in foot pedals, for example, or a paraplegic to "sip" or "puff" with the mouth in order to control onscreen movement. Other companies will be keeping up.

Thirteen Year-Old Female Soccer Player Turns Pro

At the age of eleven, Olivia Moultrie accepted a scholarship to play soccer at the University of North Carolina. Now, two years later, at the ripe old age of 13, Moultrie is turning pro. She got herself an agent and a "multiyear" endorsement with Nike, which, as the agent points out, will be much more remunerative than the scholarship. Of course, her young age may prevent her from getting into a league. The N.W.S.L., for example, requires players to be at least 18.


No Comment

YouTube has decided to ban comments on videos that "prominently feature" children under 13, and also on those between 13 and 18 if the content seems like it might attract predators. It claims that this will deter pedophiles. My guess is users are going to be furious. Advertisers already are. Why did anyone ever think that the internet would be different from the world at large?

General News

War Memorial Cross Subject of Controversy

Supreme Court Justice Kagan says that the memorial cross has been there for a long time and was erected at a time when crosses were a common way to memorialize the fallen, and that it's not that big a deal. Justice Breyer agrees that it is historical, although obviously we could not erect it now. Justice Ginsberg says that she doesn't really think it can survive constitutional scrutiny, as crosses show devotion to the Christian faith.

Faulty Memory Shouldn't Deter Death Penalty

A prisoner has had several strokes and can't remember his crimes, and Justice Kagan argues that the state seeks punishment for the crime, not the memory of the crime. "Moral values," she says, "do not exempt the simply forgetful from punishment." Justice Kagan thinks thinks it's possible for a criminal to understand, even if he has forgotten.

Trump-Kim Summit Failed

Surprise, surprise.

House Gun Bill Passes

The bill passed by the House of Representatives requires background checks for all gun purchasers, including guns shows and over the internet. Republicans wanted to add a provision requiring that Immigration and Customs Enforcement be alerted if an undocumented immigrant tried to obtain a firearm. The Senate will not introduce anything similar.

The Accountant is Going to Get It

Trump's "Money Man", Allen Weisselberg, is a humble, modest, and unassuming accountant (in contrast to the bombastic attorney Cohen), who began his career doing the books for Trump Sr., slaving away in a "dingy building" in Gravesend (hah!), Brooklyn. Now, Weisselberg is apparently privy to the goings-on of the entire enterprise. As such, Weisselberg may have known something about Trump's payments to Stormy Daniels. In addition, Weisselberg is becoming popular with the various executive and legislative bodies seeking to investigate the Trump circus. Trump asserts that Weisselberg is a "wonderful guy," who will remain loyal, not like that rat Cohen, and maybe he will, but who knows?

Trump Strong-Armed Kushner's Security Clearance

John Kelly was so concerned about Kushner that he CYA'd with an internal memo stating he had been ordered to give the security clearance. White House Counsel Donald F. McGahn II was also against it. These statements contradict Trump himself, who stated to the New York Times in January that he had no role in Kushner receiving the clearance. Sarah Huckabee Sanders was her usual forthcoming self: "We don't comment on security clearances." A spokesperson for Kushner's lawyer stated that it was a regular process with "no pressure from anyone," and that the fact that it was a regular process was conveyed to the media. Kelly was apparently asked to corroborate, and he wouldn't.

Fox in the Hen House

Trump has now appointed a man with no interest in preserving the environment to be the head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Andrew R. Wheeler, a coal lobbyist, will take the place of Scott Pruitt, who had a number of ethics issues. The vote was basically partisan, with Susan Collins the only Republican in dissent.

Mexico Trying to Appease Trump, Maybe

Mexican authorities are now blocking groups of migrants at the border and intercepting unaccompanied minors.

Revenge Porn Law Passed

This is a bill that was introduced five years ago and finally passed in New York State. The penalty is up to one year in jail or three years probation, as well as a $1,000 fine. The statute also creates a private right of action for damages and injunctive relief (judges can now order that the websites be taken down), but apparently only when the victim is a family member. New York is one of 41 states that have outlawed revenge porn. Before that, there was nothing that could be done. Now at least there's something.

North Carolina Voter Fraud

It's so crazy that this kind of thing still goes on. It's so backwards.

It's in His Kiss

A Trump employee brought a lawsuit against him in Tampa, Florida, but it doesn't sound like Florida may be the best state to litigate these types of issues.

Subpoenas to Trump's Inaugural Committee

The subpoenas are based on allegations of illegal contributions by foreigners; violation of non-profit law; self-dealing; alter ego; and general, but unconstitutional corruption. Pass the popcorn.

Saudia Arabia to Try Women's Rights Activists

Seventeen activists, both men and women, have been arrested, interrogated, and tortured (beatings, electric shock, waterboarding, solitary confinement, threats), one so severely that she tried to kill herself. Their activism was about things like women driving or opening a shelter for abused women. They have been informally accused of treason. Officially, they have not been charged with anything. The trials come on the heels of Jared Kushner's meeting with Prince Mohammed.

Gender Inequality in the Legal Profession

This article was from September 2018, but I didn't see it then (even though it was covered in a September WIR). Apparently, in Florida, about 90% of this woman P.I. attorney's opponents are men, and each one of them files a pre-trial "'no-crying motion'" as a matter of course. The judges deny them, but that doesn't change how sexist the motions are. The article goes on to discuss how women must practice differently from men, from issues of personal grooming to styles of communication. Even in New York, according to NYSBA, as late as 2017, female attorneys accounted for only 25% of attorneys appearing in commercial and criminal cases. The more complex the litigation, the less likely that the lead attorney will be a woman, and the situation is much worse for women of color. It isn't just that there are more men in the courtroom; there are more men in positions of power. For example, 66 of Trump's 73 U.S. attorney nominates were men. Seventeen percent of elected prosecutors are women; 1% are women of color.

Center For Art Law Case Law Updates

The following case selection first appeared in this week's Center for Art Law newsletter:

Bah v. Simpson, II et al., No. 2:17-cv-05550 (C.D. Cal. filed July 27, 2017). Art collector Abdoulaye Bah is suing the Houston-based Simpson Gallery, its two namesakes, and Public Storage. The complaint alleges that part of Bah's collection was stored in a unit at Public Storage in Houston.

Lehmann Maupin v. Yoo, No. 1:18-cv-11126 (S.D.N.Y. filed Nov. 29, 2018). Last month, Bona Yoo was sued by her former employer, Lehmann Maupin Gallery, for stealing trade secrets when she took a job with the competing gallery Lévy Gorvy. Now, Bona Yoo has filed a response, where she claims her former employers filed suit out of spite (

Kush et al v. Grande et al., No. 2:2019cv00186 (D. Nev. filed Jan. 31, 2019). Artist Vladimir Kush is suing singer Arianna Grande for copyright infringement for scenes in her music video "God is a Woman". ( The case centers around the representation of a woman dancing in the wick of a candle. Kush claims that Grande, her record label, and others involved in the music video copied his expression of that concept.

The Art and Antique Dealers League of Am., Inc. et al v. Basil Seggos, No. 1:2018cv02504 (S.D.N.Y. filed Feb. 1, 2019). The Art and Antiques Dealers League of America brought an action ( against the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Patrick Hoelck v. Billionaire Boulevard, Inc. et al., No. 2:2019cv00939 (C.D. Cal. filed Feb. 7, 2019). Photographer Patrick Hoelck is suing a number of companies alleging that they reproduced T-shirts that contained images substantially similar to his portrait of rapper Ice Cube. Complaint available upon request.

Vismanos et al., v. Philippe Hoerle-Guggenheim, No. 2:2019cv01115 (C.D. Cal. filed Feb. 13, 2019). Art dealer Philippe Hoerle-Guggenheim is being sued for fraud after accepting payment for paintings that were never received ( The plaintiffs, collectors Liza Vismanos and Randy Rosen, purchased three paintings, including a Renoir, and claim that Hoerle-Guggenheim has repaid a portion of the funds but has been evasive about the artwork and further payments.

State St. Glob. Advisors Tr. Co. v. Visbal, No. 650981 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. filed Feb. 14, 2019). The investment firm State Street Global made headlines two years ago when it commissioned artist Kristen Visbal to create the 'Fearless Girl' statue located in Bowling Green ( After discovering that Visbal created replicas for display, State Street Global filed a trademark infringement action against the artist (

U.S. v. Boone, 18-cr-634 (S.D.N.Y Feb. 14, 2019). New York-based art dealer Mary Boone has been sentenced to 30 months in jail for tax evasion ( Supporters of Boone suggested house arrest. However, the court determined, in line with the government's sentencing memorandum (, that Boone should serve time for her actions. Both of Boone's galleries will be closing, with their final exhibitions ending on April 27th (

The Center for Art Law strives to create a coherent community for all those interested in law and the arts. Positioned as a centralized resource for art and cultural heritage law, it serves as a portal to connect artists and students, academics and legal practitioners, collectors and dealers, government officials and others in the field. In addition to the weekly newsletter (, the Center for Art Law subscribers receive updates about art and law-related topics through its popular art law blog ( calendar of events ( The Center for Art Law welcomes inquiries and announcements from firms, universities and student organizations about recent publications, pending cases, upcoming events, current research and job and externship opportunities. To contact the Center for Art Law, visit our website at: or write to

February 25, 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:


R. Kelly is Charged with 10 Counts of Sexual Abuse in Chicago

Singer R. Kelly has been charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse involving four victims, three of whom were underage. The events related to the charges spanned from 1998 to 2010. Aggravated criminal sexual abuse is a Class 2 felony with a sentencing range of three to seven years for each count and is probationable. Kelly is being held on a $1 million bond and has surrendered his passport.

The charges come after months of renewed scrutiny following the release of the "Surviving R. Kelly" documentary, the "Mute R. Kelly" campaign, two recent accusations of sexual misconduct and a video showing Kelly allegedly engaging in sexual acts with a 14-year-old girl. The singer, 52, was tried on 14 counts of child pornography and acquitted in 2008.

Jussie Smollett Arrested on Suspicion of Filing False Police Report, Will be Removed From Final Episodes of "Empire" Season

The "Empire" Actor was charged with felony disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false report claiming that he was attacked by two men in Chicago last month. Smollett is accused of concocting and carrying out a false attack with racist and anti-gay details, perhaps capitalizing on concerns about hate crimes under President Trump. Police call it a publicity stunt because he was dissatisfied with his salary.
Although Smollett returned to the "Empire" set this week, producers later announced that he will not be appearing in the final two episodes of the season. Those familiar with Smollett's activism and outspoken support for social movements are baffled by his choices.

Time's Up, a Year Later

Now in its second year, the Hollywood-led initiative has had both prominent successes and disappointments. The organization's legal defense fund for lower-wage workers has secured $25 million in donations, $6 million of which has gone toward legal cases and investigations. Two talent agencies that answered the call and committed to reach gender parity in pay and leadership by 2020 say they are on track to reaching their goals. Despite its progress, there have been grumblings that the group is disorganized and some of its members self-serving.


The Public Theater Sues New York City's Public Hotel for Trademark Violation

The Public Theater filed a lawsuit against Ian Schrager and his company, claiming that the latter violated its trademark by using the name "Public" and a strikingly similar logo to advertise theater and musical performances. The Public Theater is known for its wide red building, while the hotel features a red-curtained performance space. The theater argues that the hotel's use of "Public" in marketing entertainment events is likely to confuse customers and cause some to assume that its performances are associated with the theater.

Art Galleries Are Being Sued Over Websites That are Inaccessible to the Blind

Dozens of Manhattan art galleries are being sued in methodical fashion, alphabetically, for operating websites that are unusable to the visually impaired. There are two schools of thought on the value of this strategy: some believe that a large number of lawsuits, filed in quick succession and then settled confidentially, may do more harm than good. They extract money from defendants and give a bad impression of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Others believe that the effort will get companies to change their practices.

Peter Martins' Influence Continues to be Felt at City Ballet

A year after his departure from New York City Ballet, Peter Martins continues to make his presence felt at the company by defying management's instructions, ordering last-minute cast changes and showing up backstage after a show. Martins left the company amid allegations of sexual harassment and physical and verbal abuse.

Star Flutist Settles Pay Equity Suit Against Boston Symphony

Elizabeth Rowe filed a gender pay discrimination suit against the ensemble in 2018, claiming that her compensation was about 75% that of her closest comparable colleague. She filed under a then-new Massachusetts law that required equal pay for comparable work. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

Burberry Apologizes for Featuring a Noose in Fashion Week Design

Burberry has apologized for featuring a noose hoodie in one of its London Fashion Week designs. The piece sparked backlash after one of the show's models criticized the look on Instagram for evoking not only racist imagery tied to lynching, but also suicide. The fashion house removed the item from its collection and blamed its use on the show's nautical inspiration.

Fashion Brands are Using Prison Labor to Provide Inmates with Jobs and Training

Production of goods, clothing, and textiles behind bars has a long-established history, with most manufacturing programs being run by government bodies or correctional boards. More recently, small brands have started selling clothing made by inmates. Peru has become a case study on the ethics of prison labor and the question of aid versus exploitation. Over 5,000 women are incarcerated in Peru and over 50% of them are employed in producing fashion goods. While these brands claim that they can create a profitable and sustainable business model while providing prisoners with job opportunities and skills training, many still think that prison work connotes cheap labor and criticism of the model persists.

Dissident Artist Ai Weiwei Accuses Producers of Censorship After Being Cut from "Berlin, I Love" Film

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei contends that the segment he shot for an anthology film set in Berlin was cut by the producers out of fear of upsetting Chinese officials. Ai Weiwei directed the segment remotely, while under house arrest in China. The piece portrays the separation of a family and features his young son, who resides in Germany. While one of the producers conceded that investors, distributors and other partners had raised concerns about Ai Weiwei's political sensitivity in China, other producers cited created differences and blamed him for trying to politicize his exclusion.

Egyptian Authorities Foil Mummy-Smuggling Attempt by a Belgium-Bound Passenger

The archaeological unit of Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities announced that it had worked with security and customs agents to foil a smuggling attempt of mummies' remains. The remains were found hidden inside a speaker packed in the suitcase of a passenger travelling to Belgium. The parts, which are now at the Egyptian museum for restoration, included two feet, two legs, one arm, and part of a torso.


Patriots Owner, Robert Kraft, Charged in Prostitution Sting

Robert Kraft has been charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution following a human trafficking and prostitution investigation in Florida. The charges stem from two separate visits to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida. If Kraft is found to have committed a crime, all eyes will be on Commissioner Roger Goodell. The National Football League's constitution gives him broad powers to discipline owners and his exercise of that power will show the extent to which the league is ready to treat players and owners equally for conduct detrimental to the league or professional football.

College Basketball, Amateurism and the Role of Apparel Companies Laid Bare After Zion Williamson's Injury

Zion Williamson, college basketball's biggest star, will be sidelined for a number of weeks following a mild knee sprain after his shoe ripped apart on the court. The shoe "explosion" threatened to become a public relations nightmare for Nike and laid bare some of the persisting issues in college basketball: collegiate coaches and administrators reap the financial benefits of multi-million dollar contracts with apparel companies, while the NCAA defends limits on compensation to college athletes and players risk injury as the National Basketball Association (NBA) prohibits even prodigious talent from entering the league right after high school.

In Williamson's case, there is a reported $8 million loss of value insurance policy in place that protects a student-athlete's future contract value from decreasing below a certain amount due to a serious injury suffered during the coverage period.

Ole Miss Basketball Players Kneel During National Anthem

Eight players from the Ole Miss men's basketball team knelt during the national anthem in response to a pro-Confederacy march on campus. The school's athletic director, the team's coach, and the players reiterated that their stance had nothing to do with anything beyond the confederate groups' presence on campus.

Accusations of Body Shaming at a High School Cheerleading Banquet

To parents' surprise, cheerleading coaches at a Wisconsin high school handed out several unconventional awards, including the Big Boobie, the String Bean, and the Big Booty. While coaches described the mock awards as good-natured teasing, the ceremony drew the scrutiny of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is now asking the school district to discipline the coaches and institute mandatory anti-harassment training for all its employees.

USA Gymnastics Hires Li Li Leung as New CEO

Li Li Leung was named president and chief executive of USA Gymnastics earlier this week. Leung has worked for the NBA since 2015, including as its vice president for global partnerships. Herself a former gymnast, she said her priorities were for the federation to reach a fair and equitable resolution of lawsuits filed by victims of sexual abuse and to create an athlete-driven federation where safety is paramount. The US Olympic Committee removed USA Gymnastics as the national governing body for the sport, and the federation filed for bankruptcy last year.

Chelsea Banned From Signing Players After Breaking FIFA Transfer Rules

The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has banned Chelsea for a period of two transfer windows for violating rules related to the international transfer and registration of players under age 18. Chelsea can appeal the ban to the FIFA Appeal Committee and if the ban is upheld, it can then appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.


Justice Clarence Thomas Calls for the Supreme Court to Reconsider Landmark Libel Ruling in New York Times v. Sullivan

Justice Thomas called on the Court to reconsider the 1964 decision that made it difficult for public officials to prevail in libel suits by requiring proof of actual malice in any defamation or libel claim against the press. To prove malice under the Sullivan decision, a libel plaintiff must show that the writer knew that the disputed statement was false or had acted with "reckless disregard". Justice Thomas' statement comes in the wake of calls from President Trump to change libel laws to make it easier for public figures to sue for libel.

Major Companies Suspend Advertising on YouTube Over News of a Pedophile Network on the Site

Companies including Nestlé, McDonalds, and Disney have suspended advertising on the YouTube platform over child exploitation concerns. The companies' ads appeared on children's videos where pedophiles had infiltrated the comments section, leaving both inappropriate comments and timestamps for parts of videos where children appear in compromising positions. In response, YouTube removed or disabled comments on millions of videos featuring minors, but questions remain over its ability to moderate/monitor content and enforce its own policies.

Google Ends Forced Arbitration for all Employee Disputes

Google will no longer force employees to settle disputes in private arbitration, expanding on last year's announcement that it would abandon forced arbitration in cases of sexual harassment or assault. The new policy will take effect on March 21st for current and future employees, but will not apply to former employees with unresolved disputes.

Consumer Groups Accuse Facebook of Duping Children

Children's advocacy groups called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate claims that Facebook violated consumer protection and child privacy laws by duping children into making in-app purchases, often without recourse for the parents. The FTC previously reached multi-million-dollar settlements with Apple and Google over similar accusations.

Alabama Newspaper Urges the Klan to "Night Ride Again"

In a shocking editorial, the publisher of the Democrat-Reporter stated that the Ku Klux Klan "would be welcome to raid the gated communities" of Washington, D.C., referring to the residences of Democrats and socialist-communists plotting to raise taxes in Alabama. State lawmakers have called on Goodloe Sutton to resign.

President Trump Singles Out the New York Times as a "True Enemy of the People"

In a series of tweets this week, President Trump railed against the press, claiming that certain stories have no basis in fact and writers do not ask for verification. He singled out the New York Times' reporting as false.

Egyptian Officials Detained a New York Times Reporter Before Forcing Him Back to London

As President el-Sisi's regime continues its crackdown against the news media, David D. Kirkpatrick, former Cairo bureau chief for the New York Times and the author of a recent book on Egypt, was detained on arrival at Cairo airport and then forced onto a flight back to England without explanation. Kirkpatrick's recent book covers the Arab Spring uprising of 2011 as well as the subsequent military takeover that installed el-Sisi as president in 2013.

Billionaire Wins Defamation Case Against Australian Media Group

Businessman Chau Chau Wing was awarded US$200,000 in damages after winning a defamation case against Fairfax Media. Chau claimed that a Sydney newspaper had wrongly linked him to an international bribery scandal involving Chinese political donors buying support at the United Nations.

New Legislation Bans Russian Soldiers from Using Smartphones

Russian lawmakers approved a bill to ban its troops from using smartphones or recording devices, or posting anything online about their military service. In recent years, soldiers' social media posts have contradicted and undermined official government positions that Russia played a limited military role in both Ukraine and Syria. Troops who violate the ban would face disciplinary measures or be fired from service.

The move was not without context - social media activity related to a recent NATO exercise allowed researchers to collect sensitive information and track troop movements. In 2018, fitness app Strava unwittingly revealed the locations and habits of U.S. military bases and personnel by sharing maps of users' activity.


House Expected to Block President Trump's Emergency Declaration

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi scheduled a House vote on Tuesday on legislation that would end President Trump's emergency declaration. It would require Congressional Republicans to defend the power granted to Congress to control federal spending. If passed, it might force President Trump to issue the first veto of his presidency in order to divert $3.6 billion from military construction projects to build the border wall.

Trump Administration Blocks Funds for Clinics Over Abortion Referrals

The Trump administration announced that it will bar organizations that provide abortion referrals from receiving federal family planning money. The rule had been expected for months and is expected to strip millions of dollars of funding from Planned Parenthood, directing women toward religiously-based, anti-abortion groups.

President Trump Agrees to Leave 400 Troops in Syria

In a shift from his original position to withdraw all 2,000 American troops from Syria, President Trump has agreed to leave 400 troops in the country to support a multinational force operating south of the Turkish border and an outpost in the southeast. The move comes as European allies refused to send troops following Trump's abrupt announcement of an immediate pullout last year.

House Opens Inquiry into Proposed U.S. Nuclear Venture in Saudi Arabia

The White House is reportedly considering a plan to build nuclear power plants throughout Saudi Arabia. Documents obtained by the House Oversight Committee show the company backing the nuclear plan worked closely with Trump allies to discuss the export plan that would have allowed the company to built nuclear power sites abroad.

President Trump Nominates Ambassador to Canada, Kelly Knight Craft, for United Nations Post

If the Senate approves the nomination, Kelly Knight Craft will succeed Nikki Haley as ambassador to the United Nations. Reports indicate that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged the president to nominate Craft, who along with her husband, was a major contributor to Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Inaugural Committee.

New Election Ordered in North Carolina Race After the Original Vote is Nullified Over Fraud Allegations

The state's Board of Elections held a four-day hearing to investigate allegations of improper collection and completion of absentee ballots by an operative working for the Republican candidate's campaign. It has now unanimously ordered a new election in the Ninth Congressional District. It is the single undecided House contest from last year's midterms.

Supreme Court Curbs Civil Asset Forfeiture in Timbs v Indiana

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court struck a blow to aggressive civil forfeiture tactics by ruling that the federal prohibition against excessive fines applies on a state level. Justice Ginsburg, writing for the Court, explained that the Eighth Amendment's Excessive Fines Clause is an incorporated protection applicable to the states under the Due Process Clause. She later added that protection against excessive fines is a shield to protect other constitutional liberties. The decision will not stop civil forfeitures, which do not require a criminal conviction, but it will give people a chance to argue that the property seized was disproportionate to the crime.

Massage Parlor Sting Unveils Human Trafficking in Florida

Florida law enforcement agencies announced that arrest warrants were issued for 171 people following a crackdown on massage parlors in South Florida that police say were used for human trafficking and prostitution. Health inspectors reported that women were living in deplorable conditions at the day spas where they worked. The men who ran these parlors allegedly lured young women with the promise of legitimate work, then pressured them into prostitution.

President Trump's Two-Year War on the Investigations that Encircle Him

According to a recent New York Times report, President Trump's actions in response to a number of open investigations have exposed him to accusations of obstruction of justice. It has been reported that Trump asked then-Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker whether Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, could be put in charge of the investigation into Trump's role in making hush payments to women during the 2016 campaign. Berman is a Trump ally who had already recused himself from the investigation.

Michael Cohen is Providing Prosecutors With New Information on the Trump Family Business

President Trump's former lawyer is offering federal prosecutors information about the Trump Organization, including information about insurance claims, donations to the Inaugural Committee, and possibly other irregularities.

Roger Stone Placed Under Gag Order Over Instagram Post on Judge

A federal judge has barred Roger Stone from talking about his case or anyone involved in it. The order includes communication over social media. The ruling came after Stone posted a picture of Judge Amy Berman Jackson on Instagram with a crosshairs next to her head, criticizing her as an Obama appointee and claiming the legal process is rigged.

Pope Francis Opens Summit on Child Protection

Under great pressure from victims, Pope Francis opened a four-day meeting at the Vatican in which bishops and other participants will discuss the Catholic Church's sexual abuse crisis. Pope Francis offered a roadmap for discussion that disappointed many victims who demand a zero tolerance policy and automatic dismissal of priests and bishops who engage in misconduct or protect those who do.

Saudi Arabia Names Princess Reema as Ambassador to the U.S.

Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan is the first woman in Saudi Arabia to be appointed to such a post. She will replace King Salman's son as ambassador to the United States.

China Collected DNA of Minority Uighurs Under the Guise of Free Medical Check-ups

The Chinese government reportedly had nearly 36 million people submit to a program that collected DNA, recorded participants' voices, and took
fingerprints under the guise of providing free physicals to the Uighur community. To bolster their DNA capabilities and create a nationwide database of samples, Chinese officials used equipment from a Massachusetts company and relied on genetic material provided by a Yale geneticist.

Whether unwittingly or not, the global scientific community risks legitimizing this type of genetic surveillance by cooperating with the Chinese government. Chinese officials have also contributed the data of Uighurs to an online search platform, possibly violating scientific norms of informed consent if the Uighurs did not volunteer their samples.

Tensions Escalate as Venezuela Threatens to Close Borders with its Neighbors

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has ordered that the country's border with Brazil be closed as part of an escalating fight over foreign humanitarian aid. Maduro insists that there is no crisis and has called the aid-delivery plans a publicity stunt orchestrated by the U.S. Shipping containers are also blocking much needed supplies from arriving from Colombia.

February 19, 2019

"Another One": Celebrity ICO Endorsement Failures

By Joshua Lahijani

In the past decade, with the rise of social media, celebrity social media endorsements and promotions have become a significant source of supplemental or primary income. Celebrities that engage in this business on social media are commonly referred to as influencers. Compensation per post may range from hundreds of dollars and, for some celebrities, up to $1 million.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issues a set of guidelines for "the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising" that significantly clarifies the rules for influencers ( For the purpose of the FTC guidelines, an endorsement is any advertising message that consumers are likely to believe reflect the opinion of the influencer. In doing so, the influencer must adhere to three basic principles: (1) The advertisement must be truthful and not misleading; (2) advertisers must have evidence to substantiate their claims; (3) and the advertisements cannot be unfair. In addition, if an influencer believes that "a gift or incentive would affect the weight or credibility [followers would] give to [a] recommendation," then they must clearly and conspicuously disclose the compensatory relationship. Here is where two celebrities, DJ Khaled and Floyd Mayweather Jr. have violated their duties, but not directly under FTC guidelines, rather, under § 17(b) of the Securities Act (anti-touting).

On November 1, 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a public statement ( and investor alert ( "[u]rging [c]aution [a]round [c]elebrity [b]acked ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings)."

In the statement, the SEC stated: "Any celebrity or other individual who promotes a virtual token or coin that is a security must disclose the nature, scope, and amount of compensation received in exchange for the promotion. A failure to disclose this information is a violation of the anti-touting [and potentially anti-fraud] provisions of the federal securities laws."

While not directly mirroring the FTC guidelines, they share the fundamental philosophy of disclosure. The federal securities laws go a bit further than the FTC, as they require disclosure of the amount of compensation.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. (AKA: Floyd "Money" Mayweather)

To call Floyd Mayweather Jr. "a well-known professional boxer" is an understatement, as he is one of, if not the, greatest boxers of all time. To have an endorsement by Mayweather has significant reach and influence. At the time of the violations, he had about 21 million Instagram followers, 7.8 million Twitter followers, and 13.4 million Facebook followers.

In 2018, a Miami-based company, Centra Tech, Inc. approached Mayweather with an endorsement deal. In exchange for $300,000, Mayweather would promote on social media the ICO based on the Ethereum Blockchain. An agreement was made and between September 2017 through January 2018, Mayweather made multiple posts and videos on social media promoting the ICO. These promotions occurred after the SEC warned that tokens sold in ICOs may be securities and are subject to federal securities laws. In addition, Mayweather promoted two other ICOs in August and July of 2017. However, Mayweather failed to disclose the nature, scope, and amount of compensation received in exchange for the promotion.

The SEC and Mayweather settled his violations of §17(b) of the Securities Act (without admitting or denying the findings) and agreed to the following sanctions:

1. Cease and desist of violating §17(b) of the Securities Act
2. Disgorgement: $300,000
3. Prejudgment Interest: $14,775.67
4. Civil Money Penalty: $300,000

In addition, Mayweather undertook to forgo any endorsement or promotional agreement with a securities participant for three years.

Khaled Khaled (AKA: "DJ Khaled") (

Who doesn't know the signature "DJ KHALED! ANOTHER ONE!" on great hits such as "We Takin' Over", "Wild Thoughts", "I'm So Hood", and "All I Do is Win". Unfortunately, for Khaled, he lost against the SEC. Similar and related circumstances to Mayweather above, Khaled was approached by Centra Tech, accepted $50,000 and promoted its ICO in September 2017. At the time, Khaled held 12.4 million Instagram followers and 3.9 million Twitter followers. Khaled failed to disclose the nature, scope, and amount of compensation received in exchange for the promotion.

The SEC and Mayweather settled his violations of §17(b) of the Securities Act (without admitting or denying the findings) and agreed to the following sanctions:

5. Cease and desist of violating §17(b) of the Securities Act
6. Disgorgement: $50,000
7. Prejudgment Interest: $2,725.72
8. Civil Money Penalty: $100,000

In addition, Khaled undertook to forgo any endorsement or promotional agreement with a securities participant for two years.

February 18, 2019

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:


21 Savage to Be Released From Immigration and Customs Enforcement Custody

British-born rapper 21 Savage's attorney announced that the artist is being released on bond after more than a week in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He was arrested on February 3rd "during an operation by federal and local law enforcement authorities in Atlanta" after having been illegally in the country for over 10 years. ICE announced that he had a prior conviction of felony drug charges in Georgia from 2014, but his attorney said that the conviction was vacated and the charges were dismissed in 2018.

Ryan Adams Dangled Success, and Women Say They Paid a Price

A "prolific singer-songwriter", Ryan Adams, has been accused by seven women of using manipulative behavior to help advance careers in exchange for sex. His tactics included turning "domineering and vengeful, jerking away his offers of support when spurned, and subjecting women to emotional and verbal abuse, and harassment in texts and on social media" when the women did not comply with his demands. One such artist was Mandy Moore, who is also his ex-wife. Adams is also reportedly under investigation by the FBI for having communications of a sexual nature with an underage girl.

Woody Allen Sues Amazon Over Canceled $68 Million Deal

Woody Allen has filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York against Amazon, alleging damages of $68 million as a result of Amazon's streaming service backing out of a "four-movie deal because of a renewed focus on allegations of sexual abuse on Allen's part." The reference was to the public accusation that he molested Dylan Farrow, his daughter, in 1992, and Allen has vociferously denied the allegation. Allen and Amazon have done business going back to 2016, as Amazon has distributed multiple Allen films.

Authorities Said to Have R. Kelly Sex Video

Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti said that he has provided authorities with a videotape that shows musician R. Kelly "having sex with a girl who may have been underage." In 2008, R. Kelly was acquitted of child pornography charges related to a videotape allegedly showing Kelly having sex with an underage girl. While Kelly has had a long history of allegations, he has not been convicted of any crimes in relation to these allegations. However, there has been a growing wave of dissent that has led to the #MuteRKelly campaign.

Burning Man Seeks to Change Its 'Convenience Culture'

The chief executive of the music festival Burning Man has disinvited a camp for wealthy attendees, as the festival is trying to return to its "egalitarian roots." The festival is made up of camps, and the disinvited camp had been cited for "not complying with the organization's requirement to not foul the environment," and 12 other camps have received warnings. Approximately 70,000 participants go to the festival every August, and the organization has sought to ensure that ticket prices are affordable for everyone so that the audience is as diverse as possible.

Michael Jackson Estate Cancels Chicago Musical Run

With a new documentary set to detail "abuse allegations" against Michael Jackson, Jackson's estate has announced that it is canceling a "planned Chicago tryout of a new jukebox musical about him." The estate had been working with a producing partner, Columbia Live Stage, to bring the show to Broadway in the summer of 2020, and producers have said that a labor dispute resulting from "scheduling difficulties," not the release of the documentary, is the reason for the change of plans.

Carlton Dance Not Eligible for Copyright, Government Says

The United States Copyright Office has said that Alfonso Ribeiro, the actor in "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" who was known for doing "the Carlton Dance", does not have a protected right in the dance. Ribeiro has sued several video game makers alleging that they stole the dance from him in allowing characters in games, such as Fortnite Battle Royale, to perform the dance. One analyst from George Washington University Law School said that it was not surprising, as it is equivalent to attempting to copyright a word or short phrase, which no matter how often it is repeated, it cannot be protected so easily. While courts are not bound to the Copyright Office's decision, it is likely that a judge will take its position into consideration.

A Rap Challenger to the Thai Military Junta

Nutthapong Srimuong, a Thai rapper known as Liberate P, collaborated with a group of musicians and released a song in October, "What My Country's Got", a video of which has collected over 50 million views in the country containing 70 million people. He notes that while Thais have been taught to disconnect politics from their lives, he wants his music to show people that "they have rights to elections and democracy." The country's government, which has been known to place its own citizens in "attitude adjustment" camps, released a song in response to Liberate P's called "Thailand 4.0", containing a lyric stating: "There are lots of talented Thais if we work together."

Saudi Arabia Hosts Music Festival Near Ancient Tombs

Next to ancient tombs in the Saudi Arabian desert sits a new "Italian-designed concert hall" with "walls of mirror reflecting the golden sandstone hills and cliffs." While the Saudi government has fought against accusations that its Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, officials have been trying to promote events that increase tourism to the country. At the heart of the strategy has been to promote entertainment and loosen restrictions on "expressions of popular culture".


Gucci Creative Head Breaks Silence Over 'Blackface' Sweater

The creative director of Gucci, Alessandro Michele, who had designed an $890 sweater that resembled blackface for the fashion house, has said that he never intended for the piece to be racist. He said he lamented "his own pain and 'that of the people who saw in one of my creative projects an intolerable insult.'" Michele said that the inspiration for the sweater was the late Leigh Bowery, a performance artist who often had "flamboyant face makeup and costumes", but that he takes "full accountability" for the sweater.

London's Tate Modern Wins Privacy Fight

A judge has ruled that people living near the Tate Modern art gallery cannot force the museum to erect a wall blocking the view of visitors to see into their homes. The homeowners' attorney had argued that a platform at the museum constituted a "relentless" invasion of privacy, as some visitors were seen using binoculars and zoom lenses to look into their homes. Judge Anthony Mann dismissed the action, noting that the homeowners chose "to live in apartments with floor-to-ceiling windows."

Art Dealer Sentenced to Prison for Tax Fraud

A veteran New York gallerist once titled the "Queen of the Art Scene", Mary Boone, has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison for tax fraud costing the government $3 million in revenue. She begged Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the Southern District of New York for leniency and "a second chance," but the judge noted that the crimes had a "long and studied nature" requiring a prison term as "all must pay their taxes." For years, Boone had falsely claimed personal expenses as business deductions, including a remodel of her apartment and expensive luxury purchases.

Trump Tweeted a Photo of Iranian Protest Without Asking Journalist Who Took It

Iranian photojournalist Yalda Moayeri is now tangling with President Donald Trump after he used a photograph that she took without permission and for his own political motivations. The photograph showed a demonstrator with her left fist raised and surrounded by smoke during a protest in 2017, and Trump tweeted the image with a hashtag #40YearsofFailure regarding the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Trump administration officials have not immediately responded to emailed requests for comment.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to Sell 1960 Rothko

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has announced that it plans to sell Mark Rothko's "Untitled" work from 1960 to "address art historical gaps", such as works by women and people of color. The painting is expected to net anywhere from $35 million to $50 million at Sotheby's when it is sold in New York in May.

City Opera Faces Biggest Challenge Since Bankruptcy

There is "substantial doubt about New York City Opera, Inc.'s ability to continue," according to its own financial report. Its departing chairman said that he was leaving the board for personal reasons, but there is a list of troubles for the company just three years after it emerged from bankruptcy. The company had to cancel a production, "The Crucible", in an effort to halve the operating budget. It has nearly exhausted the $5 million in bequests it received after emerging from bankruptcy, and its modest endowment is shrinking. The new interim board chairman, Kenneth Rosen, remains confident that City Opera will add more board members and woo more donors.


Corey Maggette Accused of Rape by Fairfax Accuser

The woman who has accused Virginia's lieutenant governor Justin Fairfax of raping her has said that the former National Basketball Association player Corey Maggette raped her at Duke University 20 years ago. The revelation comes through a childhood friend of the accuser, and it is claimed that the university officials did not investigate the matter. Through a spokesperson, Maggette has denied the accusations and claimed that he has "never sexually assaulted anyone."

Colin Kaepernick and National Football League Settle Collusion Case

The National Football League (NFL) and quarterback Colin Kaepernick have settled a case two and a half years after its initiation. The lawsuit came after Kaepernick began kneeling during "The Star-Spangled Banner" prior to games in an effort to bring attention to police shootings of black men, which was soon followed by his inability to land a job within the NLF. Kaepernick and a former teammate, Eric Reid, brought the suit alleging that the NFL had colluded to keep them from getting jobs. The settlement of the matter came with a confidentiality agreement that ensures "there will be no further comment."

Soccer Player Who Faced Extradition From Thailand to Bahrain Is Back in Australia

Hakeem al-Araibi, a soccer player that had played for the Bahrain national soccer team but fled in 2011 during the Arab Spring, has arrived back in Australia, where he has refugee status. He had previously been jailed in Thailand and was facing extradition to his native Bahrain, where he would face imprisonment and torture. Thai prosecutors dropped the extradition case after having arrested him since November while he was on his honeymoon with his wife.


The Washington Post Finds Itself in Middle of Jeff Bezos Story

Following revelations regarding Jeff Bezos, the owner of The Washington Post (the Post), being subjected to an extortion attempt by The National Enquirer, the Post finds itself in the odd position of covering its owner's love life. Predictably, the editorial page has sided with its owner, but one analyst noted that the rules of journalism must be followed regardless of Bezos' interest. Even with the Post adding to its team in Silicon Valley and having one journalist focused on Amazon, the Post's Marty Baron noted that there have never been reports of Bezos explicitly or implicitly "exerting influence" on the paper.

Sandy Hook Families Gain in Defamation Suits Against Alex Jones

Families of the Sandy Hook school shooting victims have been given the green light to proceed with obtaining the owner of radio show and website Infowars Alex Jones' business records and compelling him to testify in their lawsuits. At the heart of the lawsuits is Jones' peddling of bogus claims about the shooting including that the "families were actors in a plot to confiscate firearms from Americans," which has led to "death threats, stalking, and online abuse" targeting the families. Jones' lawyer, Marc Randazza, said of the judge's decision: "If you're keeping score here, this is just the coin toss."

BuzzFeed News Employees Plan to Form a Union

On Tuesday, the employees at BuzzFeed News announced that they were planning to form a union, which comes just one month after BuzzFeed laid off over 220 employees. The organizing committee for the union released a statement: "Our staff has been organizing for several months, and we have legitimate grievances about unfair pay disparities, mismanaged pivots and layoffs, weak benefits, skyrocketing health insurance costs, diversity and more." There have been rumors of unionization since 2015, but the impetus for organizing now appears to be that BuzzFeed's revenue grew by more than 15% in 2018 but still resulted in the significant layoffs that hit bureaus in New York, Washington, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Vogue Brazil Fashion Director Resigns Over Photos Evoking Slavery Era

Vogue magazine's Brazil edition published photographs from a fashion director's 50th birthday party that critics saw "as an allusion to race relations during the colonial era." The executive, Donata Meirelles, sat for one photograph in an "ornate chair flanked by two black women wearing elaborate white dresses." Meirelles stepped down on Wednesday and noted that she hopes these actions will lead to more discussion about race in a society that was the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery, which occurred in 1888.

Dan Mallory's New Novel Raises Question of Plagiarism

A recent exposé in The New Yorker detailed Dan Mallory, the author of The Woman in the Window, having a history of lying about fatal illnesses and family history tragedies, but now there is a question of whether his book may be a work of plagiarism. The book is "strikingly similar" to Saving April by Sarah Denzil, which was published in March 2016. Mallory sold his novel to William Morrow for publication just months after the publishing of Denzil's book, and the books have the same "middle-aged female narrators who are afraid to leave their homes" with the same "back story". However, analysts note that plagiarism is difficult to prove in fiction and it rarely leads to copyright lawsuits, as so many writers draw inspiration from each other.

Former New York Times Editor Abramson's Book Facing Allegations of Plagiarism

The former New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson has released her book, Merchants of Truth, to disappointing sales and accusations of plagiarism. Vice News correspondent Michael Moynihan accused her of lifting passages without proper credit, and Abramson has promised to amend the text in future editions, but noted that she would not have fired a subordinate for making the same mistake when she was executive editor.

Cliff Sims, White House Tell-All Author, Sues Trump

The former White House communications aide Cliff Sims has sued the president in his official capacity alleging that President Trump used the campaign organization as a "cutout" to seek retribution against former employees "and keep them from invoking their First Amendment rights". The campaign organization filed an arbitration claim against Sims last week, accusing him of violating a nondisclosure agreement by publishing his tell-all book Team of Vipers in January. Sims has noted that he did not recall signing a nondisclosure agreement, and there is a significant question as to whether the agreements, which dozens of people signed, are enforceable.

Administration Readies Order to Keep China Out of Wireless Networks

The Trump administration is working on an executive order that would "ban telecommunications companies in the United States from using Chinese equipment" when building the next-generation networks. The language of the order does not refer to China specifically, but rather "adversarial powers," however, the intent is clearly aimed at firms like Huawei, which could have been hired to construct 5G wireless networks in the United States. The order comes in the middle of trade tensions between China and the United States, but American officials are quick to point out that the two issues are separate.

Facebook Fine Could Total Billions if Federal Trade Commission Talks Lead to a Deal

Facebook and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have discussed a settlement over privacy violations that would amount to a multi-billion dollar fine. The violations relate to Facebook entering into a 2011 privacy consent decree with the FTC, wherein Facebook promised to take measures to protect users' privacy. The FTC's investigation began after the revelation in March 2018 that information from 87 million Facebook users had been harvested without authorization or permission by British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. The FTC can seek up to $41,000 for each violation, but the highest fine by the FTC so far has been $22.5 million to Google for violation of an agreement to protect consumer data.

United States Joins Marrakesh Treaty Promoting Availability of Media for Those with Visual or Print Impairments

The United States has joined the Marrakesh Treaty as its 50th member. The Treaty promotes the availability of texts adapted "for use by persons with visual or print impairments." The United States has the largest number of English-language texts in accessible formats, and the Treaty is designed to ease the sharing of accessible texts throughout the world.

India Proposes Chinese-Style Internet Censorship

The Indian government has proposed giving itself power to "suppress internet content", which would bring the internet in that country to be more like China's, as it would permit officials to demand removal of specific content and require internet providers to screen "unlawful information or content". Civil liberties groups have objected, alleging that the policy "would violate constitutional protections for free speech and privacy", and there is a question of whether the proposal by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is designed to be used to silence his political opponents with an election looming.

Germany Restricts Facebook's Data Gathering

Germany's government agency has said that users can refuse to allow Facebook to combine their data from other sites with that belonging to Facebook. Regulators said that Facebook's terms of service "had unfairly forced people to make an all-or-nothing choice -- between submitting to unlimited data collection by the company or not using Facebook at all." The effect of the policy is to permit Facebook to collect data about users extending far beyond their use of Facebook. Regulators went a step further, however, ruling that Facebook could not combine information between its services, such as Instagram and WhatsApp, without permission from the user.

Facebook Group of French Journalists Harassed Women for Years

There have been rumors for years that a private Facebook group included French male journalists and had orchestrated waves of "online insult, mockery, and harassment aimed at women in the business." It has now been confirmed that such a group exists and is called the Ligue du LOL, and some of the men behind the group have apologized, while others have been suspended from their jobs. Some of their activities included making a pornographic photo montage of a woman writer public on Twitter and prank calling a woman pretending to give her a high level job offer. A female French journalist noted that the revelation is "similar to #MeToo, in the sense that victims speaking out are finally being heard."

Philippine Journalist Critical of Rodrigo Duterte Released After Arrest

Philippine journalist Maria Ressa has been critical of President Rodrigo Duterte, and this week brought her into the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation for a digital libel case involving her website Rappler. Duterte's government has not been shy about criticizing the country's media, but Ressa's arrest is "the most dramatic sign yet" of the crackdown on the media. Her attorneys secured her release by posting bail for her on Thursday morning.

Below is General News:

Trump Signs Budget Bills and Declares National Emergency to Build Wall

President Trump, an in extraordinary move, first signed the bills sent to him from Congress, which provided minimal funding for the building of a fence along the southern border with Mexico and then declared a national emergency to build the remainder of the fencing or wall. Analysts have raised questions as to the legality of the declaration of the national emergency, and on the day that Trump declared the emergency, the first court action was initiated challenging his declaration. The tool has been used historically to support sending aid to regions that required immediate relief, and Congress has the power within the law to challenge the President's declaration.

Justice Ginsburg Returns to Work

On Friday, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg returned to work at a private conference at which the justices would consider which cases to add to their docket for the term. It was her first appearance at work since she underwent cancer surgery in December, and it is expected that the 85-year-old will be on the bench on Tuesday when the Court returns from the four-week midwinter break.

House Democrats Begin Push to Secure Trump's Tax Returns

The Democrats in the House of Representatives have begun their quest to obtain President Trump's tax returns in what will certainly result in a showdown with President Trump. The Ways and Means oversight subcommittee has couched the decision to withhold his tax returns as "flouting modern political norms but also potentially hiding violations of federal tax laws and compromising the interests of the United States." There is little precedent for the Ways and Means Committee using the federal tax code to obtain one person's tax information, but if the Treasury Department releases the tax information to the committee, the information could be reviewed privately before going to a vote as to whether to make the information or findings public.

Manafort Lied After Plea Deal, Judge Says, As Mueller Seeks Up to 25 Years in Prison

Federal prosecutors are seeking Paul Manafort to serve up to 25 years in prison and pay $25 million in fines for a fraud scheme and for his lying after taking the plea deal. He utilized a fraud scheme to hide millions of dollars made from political consulting in Ukraine, and Judge Amy Berman Jackson noted that at times "he affirmatively advanced a detailed alternative story that was inconsistent with the facts." Manafort lied to prosecutors about his relationship with a Russian associate with ties to Russian intelligence, which "gives rise to legitimate questions about where his loyalties lie."

Matthew Whitaker Says He Has Not Interfered in Mueller Investigation

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker testified to Congress that he had "not interfered in any way with the special counsel's investigation" into Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election. While he refused to discuss specific details such as his conversations with President Trump or why he said that Robert Mueller's investigation "would soon wrap up", he otherwise gave fairly unremarkable testimony regarding his brief period of time at the head of the Department of Justice.

Brock Long, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator, Resigns After Two Turbulent Years

The administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brock Long, has announced his resignation. His time as administrator was heavily scrutinized, and he came under fire in September when it was revealed that he had used government vehicles to travel between his home and work. Peter Gaynor, the deputy administrator, is set to serve as acting administrator until a replacement has been named.

El Chapo Found Guilty on All Counts; Faces Life in Prison

The Mexican crime lord Joanquin Guzman Loera, known as El Chapo, was convicted on Tuesday after a three-month drug trial in New York that revealed the inner-workings of his cartel. The jury convicted him of all 10 counts of the indictment, and Guzman sat listening to a translator with a stunned look during the reading of the jury's charge sheet. Prosecutors presented the testimony of 56 witnesses, 14 of whom had worked with Guzman, and he now faces life in prison likely at a Colorado "supermax" prison known for never having had an escaped inmate.

Supreme Court Allows Execution of Muslim Death Row Inmate Who Sought Imam

The Supreme Court permitted the execution of an inmate who had requested and been denied having his imam be present. The majority offered little reason for its decision, but Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the four dissenters, said that the majority was "profoundly wrong" in its decision. Alabama's policy permits a Christian prisoner to have a minister of his or her faith into the execution chamber for last rites, but if the inmate is Muslim or Jewish, that prisoner cannot die with a minister of his or her own faith. Kagan noted that the treatment goes against the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, as it violates the denominational neutrality that is required.

Court to Hear Case on Census Citizenship Question

On Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to take the case regarding the Trump administration's attempt to add a question to the 2020 census questionnaire regarding each person's citizenship status. Thus far, the Supreme Court's term has been "a fairly sleepy term", but the census question is expected to be a point of controversy, as the question has not been in the census question since 1950. As the deadline for printing the forms is in June, the Supreme Court has placed the case on an "unusually fast track."

Justices Block Louisiana Abortion Law

The Supreme Court, by a 5-to-4 vote, has blocked a Louisiana law that "could have left the state with only one doctor in a single clinic authorized to provide abortions." Chief Justice John Roberts joined the four-member liberal wing of the Court to form a majority, and the brief order gave no reasons for the decision, because it was only regarding a temporary stay, not the merits of the matter. It is expected that the Court will hear the challenge to the law on its merits in the next term, starting in October.

Canadian Diplomats Sue Their Government Over Mysterious Cuban Disease

A group of Canadian diplomats who were stationed in Cuba sued the Canadian government for failing to protect them from conditions that led to a mysterious illness that some call Havana Syndrome. The illness affected dozens of American and Canadian diplomats in Cuba, with symptoms ranging from memory loss to nosebleeds to sleep disturbance, after hearing a "strange high-pitched sound". The source of the sound and the symptoms remains unclear, but some speculated that it is a deliberate attack from an adversary using "some kind of microwave weapon."

European Union Rebuffs Theresa May's New Brexit Demand but Promises More Talks

The Prime Minister of Great Britain, Theresa May, has had "robust but constructive" talks with the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, during a visit to Brussels. The talks were inconclusive on the details of the looming Brexit deal, but the dialog was necessary as the British Parliament overwhelmingly rejected the terms from the European Commission. One of the biggest points remaining is the "backstop", an arrangement that will guarantee no hard border between Britain and Ireland, as it would "keep Britain in the European Union's customs union indefinitely" and prevent it from entering into trade deals with other countries. European leaders have said that the 585-page withdrawal agreement, which includes the backstop, cannot be eliminated or "made time-limited."

United Nations Warns That Grain to Feed Millions in Yemen Could Rot

The United Nations has warned that grain sufficient to feed 3.7 million Yemenis is likely to rot in warehouses while nearly 10 million Yemenis are facing famine. With two out of three Yemenis not knowing where their next meals will come from, the grain came from the World Food Program as relief, but has been stranded because of its proximity to the ongoing war. Aid workers remain hopeful that a deal can be struck to allow for distribution of the grain.

Apple and Google Urged to Dump Saudi App That Lets Men Track Women

Public pressure has grown for Apple and Google to remove from their platforms an app that allows for men to track women and give approval according to their guardianship arrangements. In Saudi Arabia, guardianship laws give women a legal status comparable to minors where a male "guardian" must give permission for the woman to get a passport, receive medical procedures, or get married. The app allows for a man to remotely fulfill his role as guardian, but there has been growing opposition, as the app is accused of "facilitating gender discrimination".

Spy Betrayed U.S. to Work for Iran, Charges Say

A former Air Force sergeant, Monica Elfriede Witt, defected to Iran and provided names of double agents operating within the United States military intelligence system to the Iranian government. She was indicted on charges of providing American secrets to Tehran in documents made public this week, over five years after her defection. While intelligence officials took defensive measures once they learned of the defection, one analyst still saw the potential for damage to be a seven or eight out of 10, as she had access to intelligence sources and names of agents who were deeply embedded in counterintelligence missions.

NASA's Opportunity Rover Dies on Mars

For more than 14 years, NASA's rover named Opportunity had been on the red plains of Mars sending photographs and revealing much of the history of Mars. The rover was expected to last a mere three months, but it traveled over 20 miles on the surface of the planet and brought to scientists images that appear to showed preserved ripples of flowing water from billions of years ago. NASA has another rover, landed in 2012, called Curiosity that remains exploring the red planet, and NASA plans to send another rover in 2020.

Senate Confirms William Barr as Attorney General

The Senate has confirmed the nomination of William Barr to the post of Attorney General for the second time in his career. He comes into the Justice Department at time of turmoil, given the tenure of Jeff Sessions being characterized by a rocky relationship with President Trump and his replacement, Matthew Whitaker, having little relevant experience to manage the job. Barr will face the challenge of balancing the wishes of President Trump against maintaining the integrity of the department and ensuring the completion of Robert Mueller's investigation.

Senate Passes Land Conservation Bill

On Tuesday, the Senate, in a 92-to-8 vote, passed a public lands conservation bill that would designate more than a million acres of wilderness for environmental protection. The bill is a "rare victory for environmentalists" and a show of bipartisanship that comes at a time when the Trump administration has aggressively sought to strip protections of public lands so that they can be mined and drilled. At the heart of the bill is the permanent re-authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which takes fees and royalties from oil and gas companies drilling in federal waters and puts those funds toward "onshore conservation programs."

With Procedural Maneuver, House GOP Elevates Anti-Semitism as Political Issue

In a unanimous vote in the House of Representatives, a resolution condemned anti-Semitism in all its forms two days after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi denounced Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota for her remarks that "American support for Israel is fueled by money from donors and pressure from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee." Pelosi noted that Omar has apologized for her remarks and that she continues to wait for Republicans to apologize for their 'Jew-S-A' chants that have pervaded Trump rallies.

House Panel Backs Bill Expanding Gun-Sale Background Checks One Year After Parkland Shooting

With one year elapsed since the Parkland shooting, the House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of sending a bill to the House floor that would be "the most significant gun-control legislation" in over a decade. The legislation would place restrictions on high-capacity magazines and "allow temporary removal of guns from people deemed an imminent risk to themselves or others." Republicans denounced the bill, but Representative Ted Deutch noted that if the legislation saved one life, then "it will be something we can be proud of."

Leader at Interior Department Pushes Policy Favoring His Former Client

David Bernhardt, set to take control of the Interior Department, has a history as a lobbyist and lawyer of stripping away rules such as those in the Endangered Species Act so that farmers have more freedom to work their land. President Trump has a history of nominating individuals that were once paid lobbyists: Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist now heads the Environmental Protection Agency and William Wehrum, the top clean-air regulator, is a lawyer whose previous clients included coal-burning power plants and oil companies. If confirmed as the Secretary of the Interior, Bernhardt would succeed Ryan Zinke, who left the post in January while being investigated for ethics violations.

Secrets of 1946 Mass Lynching May be Revealed After Court Ruling

The Moore's Ford lynchings are considered to be the "last mass lynching in American history," when two black couples were pulled from a car, tied up, and shot and killed at close-range. President Harry Truman ordered an investigation into the matter, but no one was ever charged, and the case is unsolved. The United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has ruled that the transcripts from the grand jury proceedings should be released because they are of "exceptional historical significance."

Videoconferencing in Immigration Court: High-Tech Solution or Rights Violation?

Federal authorities in New York have adopted a procedure that allows immigrants to be kept in detention centers even for their legal proceedings as they appear before judges by video conference. A newly filed lawsuit alleges that the policy "infringes upon immigrants' constitutional rights in a deliberate attempt to speed up and increase deportations." The lawsuit alleges that immigrants are not being permitted to "fully communicate with their lawyers" and cites several instances of where videoconferencing had a harmful effect on immigrants and the integrity of the hearings.

Sexual Assault Claims Roiled Governor Phil Murphy's Administration, but Questions Remain

Five months ago, a woman accused an official in Philip Murphy's campaign for New Jersey governor, Albert Alvarez, of having sexually assaulted her. Despite her demands that he be suspended, he stayed in the job for months before resigning his position, which has raised questions of why it took so long for action to be taken and why Alvarez was hired to work for the state. Even though he had already been accused of sexual assault, he was brought on as the chief of staff at the Schools Development Authority, and questions have been raised about the hiring practices of Murphy's transition team. These issues continue to be investigated in the state's senate.

How Seven Women Put Sexual Harassment on New York's Agenda

Last Wednesday, state lawmakers in Albany held the first public hearing on the issue of sexual harassment since 1992. The Sexual Harassment Working Group, made up of seven former legislative employees, lobbied for the hearing based on their experiencing or reporting sexual harassment during their time in Albany. While some have congratulated the women for getting a public hearing on the issue, one wondered why it required so much lobbying to get a public hearing in the first place.

New York City Public Schools Should Be Evaluated Based on Diversity, Panel Says

Mayor Bill de Blasio commissioned a high-level panel to review the city's schools, and the panel has announced that there should be diversity targets for all 1,800 schools to ensure that schools reflect the "racial and economic makeup of the surrounding areas." Until this point, although Mayor de Blasio has said that he is troubled by the racial makeup of the schools, he has not tackled the issue directly during his five years in office. Ultimately, for the last decade, the desirability of a school was based on its students' test scores and other academic markers, but the panel's findings make it likely that the metrics will soon change.

Amazon Retreats From New York Headquarters Deal

On Thursday, Amazon announced that, after securing nearly $3 billion in incentives from New York City and State, given the public backlash, it will not be building an "expansive corporate campus" in New York City. The retreat hit Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio the hardest, as they were vocal proponents for the deal, and the falling through only reinforces the fear that New York City has not presented itself as "an inviting location for the technology industry." At the heart of the opposition to the deal was the billions of dollars in government incentives, particularly amidst the report that New York City needs to raise additional revenue in the coming years to maintain its budget.

February 12, 2019

Sports Wagering in New York: What Can New York Learn from the 2018 New Jersey Experience?

Bennett Liebman
Government Lawyer in Residence, Government Law Center, Albany Law School

When New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposed budget for the New York State 2019-2020 fiscal year was announced last month, it was accompanied by the news that the state's four upstate private casinos would be authorized to take sports wagers. Sports wagering would be authorized once the state's Gaming Commission finalizes its rules governing the subject.

The Gaming Commission took the first steps to promulgating these rules at its January 28, 2019 meeting, where it gave first passage to the sports wagering rules. These rules are now subject to the public comment and publication procedures established under the State Administrative Procedures Act. Final passage of such rules would be expected to come in mid-spring, and sports wagering would need to be approved at each facility.

Who Gets Sports Betting in New York?

Sports wagering was authorized for the commercial casinos under the Upstate NY Gaming Economic Development Act, which passed in 2013 as the accompanying legislation to the state's Constitutional amendment authorizing casino gambling. The 2013 legislation authorized sports wagering at casinos if federal legislation banning sports gambling was either amended or found to be unconstitutional. In May of 2018, the United States Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which had banned sports gambling in most of the United States, outside of Nevada. Based on this decision, the states of Rhode Island, Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, and West Virginia all began sports gambling in 2018. New York State did not need new authorizing legislation, since the 2013 legislation already legalized sports wagering.

The four private casinos in upstate New York that could be licensed to conduct sports wagering are del Lago in Seneca County, Rivers in Schenectady County, Resorts World Catskills in Sullivan County, and Tioga Downs in Tioga county. Besides the four privately owned casinos, there is the potential -- depending on the wording of the individual compacts -- for the New York tribes with casinos; the Seneca, Oneida, and St. Regis Mohawks, to operate sports wagering facilities at their casinos. Currently, there are seven tribal casinos in New York State, with the Oneidas and the Senecas running three apiece.

The New Jersey 2018 Experience

The experience in New Jersey should be instructive as to how the casinos in New York might fare. It is a neighboring state in the Mid East Coast region, which made the full dive into sports gambling in 2018. New York sports gamblers could reasonably travel and bet at the New Jersey facilities at the Meadowlands Racetrack and at Monmouth Park. New Jersey began sports wagering in June of 2018 and has sports wagering onsite at two racetracks and at seven of the nine Atlantic City casinos. Five of the casino licensees and the two racetrack licensees offer sports wagering to New Jersey residents through the Internet.

The 2018 calendar year numbers for New Jersey show sports wagering gross revenues of $94 million for a period of 6 ½ months. (This revenue is somewhat overstated, since New Jersey currently considers gross sports wagering revenues as including the gross dollar amount of wagers subtracted by payouts to bettors. Thus, wagers placed in 2018 on future sports events, such as those placed on the 2019 Super Bowl, would be considered 2018 gross revenue. The actual revenue on completed sports events in New Jersey in 2018 was $72 million.)

The tax revenue return to New Jersey from sports wagering in calendar year 2018 was $10.4 million. Using the December 2018 monthly numbers (which are more reflective of a more mature market and assuming based on Nevada sports wagering numbers that December wagering constitutes about 11% of annual sports wagering handle), the anticipated annual New Jersey tax revenue would be $21.8 million. The tax revenue numbers ought to be considered a disappointment. New Jersey officials have been using the number of $100 million as the estimated tax revenue from sports wagering for more than a decade, well before any thought had been given to the potential of Internet sports wagering. A $20 million number is hardly what was anticipated. While there clearly is room to grow, it is a long way from $100 million.

Sports wagering constituted 3.2% of the general casino wagering market in New Jersey for 2018. In Nevada, where sports wagering revenues increased by more than 20% in 2018, it only constitutes 2.5% of casino revenue.

62.5% of New Jersey's sports wagering handle in 2018 was placed through the Internet. In order to place a legal Internet wager, the bettor needs to be physically situated in New Jersey. In December of 2018, the percentage of Internet bets reached 75.5%. The Internet sites in New Jersey did not begin operation until August, with all sites in operation by the commencement of the National Football League season in the first week of September. It is certainly likely that in the future, the Internet handle will continue to be at least 3/4 of the total sports wagering handle. Starting in December of 2018, Pennsylvania began its sport wagering operation. Thus, bettors in the Philadelphia area no longer needed to travel to the to the Atlantic City casinos to place legal sports wagers.

Of the on-site gambling, much of it was conducted at the Meadowlands Racetrack, the site closest to New York City. In December of 2018, 58% of the on-site sports wagering wins were at the Meadowlands. 16.7% was at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, New Jersey, leaving 25.3% to be shared by the seven Atlantic City casinos that conduct on-site sports gambling. Using the December 2018 sports wagering statistics as the basis for an annual projection for sports wagering revenue, on-site sports wagering annual revenue in New Jersey would be $14 million for the Atlantic City casinos, $9.3 million for Monmouth Park, and $32 million for the Meadowlands.

Lessons for New York

The obvious lesson for New York is to not anticipate much revenue for the casinos from sports gambling. The New Jersey onsite numbers are not particularly encouraging, and the New Jersey sites are generally in more populated areas than the four upstate casinos. Tioga Downs is in a rural area on the Pennsylvania border. Pennsylvania now has Internet wagering on sports. There is little reason to expect much sports gambling revenue there. The same should hold true for del Lago, which is located between Syracuse and Rochester. It is not a big population center, and if the Senecas and the Oneidas Nation offer sports wagering, del Lago could find itself in a difficult commercial environment.

Rivers Casino would not have much nearby competition, but it is not in a more desirable location than Monmouth Park in New Jersey, or Charles Town in West Virginia, both of which are doing modest in-person sports wagering business. Monmouth Park, as stated previously, could be presumed to have in-person sports gambling revenue of less than $10 million. Assuming that Rivers did bring in that much revenue, it would increase its current total gaming revenue by about 6% or 7%. It would be helpful, but not a game changer.

Resorts Worlds Catskills would be the closest sports wagering facility in New York to the New York City market, and it would have good access to the northern suburbs of New York City. However, it would compete with the Meadowlands for in-person gambling, and the Catskill region has proven a disappointing area, thus far both for video lottery gambling and for casino gaming. It could potentially perform better than Rivers, but it is unlikely to do much better than that.

The Seneca Nation has the best opportunity for in-person sports wagering. It has the greatest exposure to a population center, with a facility in downtown Buffalo. Its Niagara Falls facility is on the Ontario border and ought to be able to attract Ontario sports bettors as well. Currently, Ontario sports bettors only can legally wager on sports through the Pro-Line lottery offered through the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, which offers only parlay wagers and less than desirable odds. The Niagara Falls casino could attract Ontario sport bettors.

The Mohawk Akwesasne Mohawk Casino, operated by the St. Regis Mohawks, is near the Canadian border in northern Franklin County. While it is close to a potential sports betting market in Canada served by the sub-optimal Pro-Line game, it is basically not near any area that can be considered a center of population. Unless people will drive about an hour and a half from Ottawa, there ought to be limited St. Regis Mohawk revenue from sports betting.

The three Oneida Nation gambling properties are between Utica and Syracuse. Again, this is hardly the most desirable environment for sports gambling. The most interesting issue is whether the Oneida Nation will take wagers on games played by Syracuse University. New York law bans the private commercial casinos from taking bets on New York university and college sports teams, but the tribes would not be bound by this rule. If the Oneidas take wagers on Syracuse games, they could potentially have a market for sports betting in New York.

Tax Revenue in New York

If one optimistically assumes that the four commercial casinos in New York would bring in at most $25 million in sports gambling revenue, the tax revenues to the state-- with a tax rate of 10% on sports wagering revenues -- would be $2.5 million. It is hardly a large amount of revenue and is actually half the amount that the state receives from daily fantasy sports.

What if New York Went Full New Jersey?

What would happen in New York State following the lead of New Jersey - besides allowing sports wagering at its four commercial casinos -- passed legislation allowing these casinos to use the Internet to take wagers from everyone residing in New York? One could assume that the state would claim that the situs of the wager would be a server located on the casino property and thus would be open to everyone geographically located inside the state.

New Jersey has 45% of New York's population and would (using December 2018 figures) likely have $187 million in annual sports wagering revenue. That number in New York State would equate to $416 million in sports wagering revenue. New York's current 10% tax rate would yield $41.6 million in tax revenue. Under the bills that have been introduced on sports wagering in the state in 2018 and 2019, the tax rate would be set at the lower rate of 8.5%. At an 8.5% tax rate, the yield to the state would be $35 million.

The initial $35 to $41 million dollar amount does provide some tax revenue. It is more than the $5 million that New York State receives from daily fantasy sports and the $15 million it receives annually from pari-mutuel taxes. Yet it is a drop in the budget -- not only compared to the overall state budget - but to the $2.4 billion the state receives from the traditional lottery and from the $950 million from video lottery terminals. To put this in perspective, it is considerably less than what the state receives from video lottery proceeds at the racinos at Saratoga Harness ($62 million in FY 2018) and at Finger Lakes ($48.7 million in FY 2018). A game changer, this isn't.

What ought to be most troublesome for New York is the potential claims from the Indian tribes. The most recent state budget indicates that the tribes, from their exclusivity fees -- the tribes pay fees to New York based on the state agreeing to keep areas near the tribe's casinos free from casino gambling -- are scheduled to pay about $212 million annually to the State. If there is Internet betting authorized in New York State, the tribes are certain to argue that a bettor placing a sports wager from inside their exclusivity zone to a commercial casino is violating their exclusivity rights. In the case of the Seneca Nation, the exclusivity rights include much of western New York, from the suburbs, to the east of Rochester, to the state's southern and western borders with Pennsylvania. The Oneidas have exclusivity in 10 counties in central New York. If New York authorizes Internet sports wagering, the tribes will certainly put that $212 million into question. The state might not be willing to take any action that would threaten the exclusivity payments. If New York sports wagering, even assuming significant growth in the wagering market, could produce a maximum of $100 million in government revenue, it will not come close to making up for a loss of the exclusivity payments. The state will need some arrangement with the gaming tribes before it can reasonably decide to make any significant expansion into the field of Internet sports wagering.

Current New York Loss of Sports Gambling Revenue to New Jersey

This issue should be a non-starter. New York is not losing significant revenue to New Jersey due to sports betting. It would be likely that the one site that New York bettors would be wagering at in New Jersey would be the Meadowlands. If New Yorkers constituted 1/3 of the in-person sports bettors in the Meadowlands in December of 2018, that would account for $1.2 million in gross revenue. Assuming again that December accounts for about 11% of overall sports gambling, that would equate to about $10.9 million of gross sports wagering revenue annually from New Yorkers. Under New York's current 10% tax rate for sports wagering, that would be a loss of $1.09 million annually. Under the bills that have been introduced on sports wagering in the state setting the tax rate at 8.5%, that would make the lost tax revenue $926,000. That is not a large amount of money that New York has arguably lost to New Jersey on account of sports wagering. It really should not merit any discussion. The share of toll revenue paid to the Port Authority from New Yorkers using the Lincoln Tunnel or the George Washington Bridge (with a $12.50 toll for EZ pass users in peak times) to get to the Meadowlands might by itself make up for this minimal loss of revenue.


In short, there ought to be one simple lesson to New York from the New Jersey experience: Don't get your hopes up too high. There will be no financial windfall for either the casinos or the state from in-person sports betting conducted at the four upstate casinos. Expansion of sports wagering to the Internet would be needed to make sports wagering a significant success. Even with Internet sports wagering, tax revenues to New York would not increase markedly, and the expansion to Internet sports wagering could lead to significant issues -- and potential revenue losses -- in dealings with the tribes that have gambling facilities in New York.

The one thing not to worry about is New Yorkers driving to New Jersey to bet on sports. This is probably not costing New York State anything.

PACER Fees - Class Action Update

By Barry Skidelsky, Esq.
Chair, NYSBA Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Section or 212-832-4800

You might be interested to know (if you don't already) that in National Veterans Legal Services Program v. United States, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is currently considering whether the federal government violates the E-Government Act of 2002, when it charges fees to access federal court documents that exceed the marginal cost of providing those documents.

The costs for providing digital copies of those court documents are arguably close to, if not at, zero. Query the possible utility of that nominal cost argument to other matters, such as those involving digital copies of media and entertainment files. In any event, various party and amici briefs were recently filed in this appeal, including an amicus brief from several judges who are expressly neither for nor against the plaintiffs. Oral argument has yet to be scheduled.

The Public Access to Court Electronics Records (PACER) system is a decentralized system of electronic judicial-records databases. Under federal law, the government is permitted to charge people fees to access records on PACER. Today, those fees are set at 10 cents per page (with a maximum fee of $3.00 per record) and $2.40 per audio file.

In April 2016, three nonprofit organizations - National Veterans Legal Services Program, National Consumer Law Center, and Alliance for Justice - filed a class action complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, alleging that today's PACER fees violate federal law because the fees charged exceed the government's costs of providing federal court documents on PACER.

In March 2018, the district court agreed (, ruling that PACER fees violate the E-Government Act of 2002. The government appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Amici briefs filed in support of the plaintiffs generally agree that the government's practice of charging fees that exceed the costs of providing access to these court documents is at odds with the text and history of the E-Government Act, as well as contrary to Congress' intent in passing that federal law. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1913 the government is allowed to charge fees "only to the extent necessary" "to reimburse expenses incurred in providing [PACER records-access] services."

Plaintiffs and their supporters elaborate not only that PACER fees today are higher than the marginal cost of disseminating the information, but also that some of these fees are used to fund projects or services other than providing document access on PACER, and federal law prohibits imposition of PACER fees to fund them.

They further argue that excessively high PACER fees impose a serious financial barrier to members of the public who wish to access court records, and these fees thereby create a system in which rich and poor do not have equal access to important government documents. Recognizing both the inequity of such a system and the importance of public access to court documents, they note that Congress wrote the relevant statutory language to include the phrase limiting fees "to the extent necessary" thus intending to make this information freely available to the greatest extent possible.

Makes sense to me.