By Tiombe Tallie Carter
Eleven House Republicans Sign Letter Supporting Arts Endowment
With Republicans controlling Congress, the possibility of President Trump's proposed elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is real. Yet the list of Republicans who have joined the rallying cry to save the NEA has increased in number. Eleven House Republicans have now signed a letter requesting an increase in NEA funding, which is a welcome sign of support. The letter sent to Representative Ken Calvert, Republican of California and Chairman of the House Subcommittee that funds the cultural endowments, calls for increasing the approximately $148 million endowment to $155 million.
Trump's Trademark Continues Its March Across the Globe, Raising Eyebrows
Prior to Donald Trump being elected President, his trademark registration applications were stalled in countries like Peru and China. Since his election, those applications moved forward successfully and seemingly expeditiously. There is no global registry of trademarks, so only estimates can be made. "A review of 10 trademark databases shows that Mr. Trump's enterprise has 157 trademark applications pending in 36 countries." Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group, discovered a 2015 deposition stating that Mr. Trump personally owned his trademarks. Chief Legal Officer for the Trump Organization, Alan Garten, estimated that overseas sales made up as much as $140 million of $400 million in annual revenue generated by the sale of Trump-branded products and services. In May 2016, Mr. Trump reported to the Office of Government Ethics that "in the previous 17 months, he earned between $14 million and $65 million in royalties and licensing fees, up to two-thirds of it from overseas."
Soon after inauguration, China granted preliminary approval of 38 Trump trademarks. A liberal nonprofit, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, filed a lawsuit against the President over the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution. Norman Eisen, co-founder of the nonprofit, asks: "How can we be confident that he is making decisions in the interest of the United States when he has these enormous potential inducements?" The emoluments clause specifically "prohibits federal officials from accepting any present, emolument, office, or title of any kind from any king, prince, or foreign state." U.S. Constitution Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8.
Whether new foreign trademark registrations or other transactions between Mr. Trump's businesses and foreign governments violate the emoluments clause is a complex question with serious ramifications. Firstly, in its 230-year existence, the clause has never been interpreted by a court. Secondly, President Trump is the only president to put the clause to this extensive a test. Ever since President Jimmy Carter put his personal assets in a blind trust so as to avoid emolument "entanglements," each president has followed in his footsteps, until now. Unlike President Carter, President Trump put his businesses in a trust managed by his eldest sons, one of which will keep his father abreast of his vast enterprise. Finally, Ivanka Trump, President Trump's daughter, is considered a federal official, now that she has become an "unpaid assistant to the president." Her company has 37 trademark applications pending in 10 countries.
Proponents of the lawsuit argue that "the emoluments clause prohibits Mr. Trump from accepting any economic benefit from a foreign power... because foreign governments could seek the president's favor through actions like trademark registration or pressure him by withholding approvals." The Justice Department makes two arguments: 1) that the Constitutional framers "would have had to confront the potential effect of the emoluments ban on the early presidents like George Washington, who supplemented his salary by "exporting flour and cornmeal" (considered an arm's length transaction), and 2) that under the separation of powers doctrine, it is Congress who has the power over such matters, not the courts, and thereby the lawsuit will be dismissed for lack of standing. President Trump pledged to donate profits from foreign government guests at Trump establishments to the federal Treasury, and his sons assert that they have turned down new foreign deals valued in the billions of dollars.
The value of a U.S. trademark registration, according to a federal appeals court, is significant and financially beneficial. In some foreign countries, a trademark approval is an economic asset because it can be used defensively to stake future ground. The countries in and expediency with which President Trump's trademark applications have received approval since his election raises eyebrows. He seems to be making a push in Central and South America; one approval request in Peru took only days, whereas prior to his election, his requests sat for six months. The Peruvian government insists that "Peru's president, who met President Trump in the Oval Office in late February, has no influence over their decisions."
Family Past Heightens Enigma of Judge's Death
The death of Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the first black woman to serve on the Court of Appeals, continues to be a mystery. In one of Judge Abdus-Salaam's recent important decisions, she overturned a 25-year-old rule that the "nonbiological parent in a same-sex couple had no standing to seek custody or visitation rights after a breakup" by granting the nonbiological parent standing if he or she showed "clear and convincing evidence that all parties agreed to conceive a child and to raise the child together" in the Matter of Brooke S.B. v. Elizabeth A.C.C.
Judge Abdus-Salaam was found in the Hudson River. With no apparent signs of trauma, the cause of death is still undetermined, but is being investigated as a suicide. Unfortunately, such tragedy plagued her family previously, with the suicide of her mother in 2012, and brother in 2014. Before Judge Abdus-Salaam joined the highest court, she served on the First Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court and prior to that served as a justice for 15 years on the State Supreme Court. Although she recently told her physician that she was stressed with work demands and not having enough family quality time, many of her friends and colleagues find it hard to believe that she killed herself, since she is a cancer survivor.
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What in the Name of Pop Is Going on With Eurovision?
Eurovision, an American Idol-like song contest based in Europe, continues to be riddled with controversy. After Ukraine, this year's host country, barred Russian contestant Yulia Samoylova from entering the country because she performed in Crimea (Crimea was annexed by Russia in 2014), Russia refused broadcast the show or to send a replacement contestant. Furthermore, Channel One, the Russian broadcaster of Eurovision, refuses to let her perform by satellite. In response, Eurovision announced that Russia is not allowed to participate in this year's event, the first time a host country has directly prevented another country from competing.
Wounded by "Fearless Girl," Creator of "Charging Bull" Wants Her to Move
Arturo Di Modica, the sculptor who created "Charging Bull," the 3.5-ton sculpture of a bull situated near Wall Street, has asked for the removal of the sculpture facing it: "Fearless Girl," a statue of a girl posed with her fists on her hips commissioned by State Street Global Advisors. Mr. Di Modica created "Charging Bull" after the stock market crash of the 1980s. To him, it is a symbol of "freedom in the world, peace, strength, power, and love." He has copyrighted and trademarked the statue. Through his lawyer, Norman Siegel, he has demanded that "Fearless Girl" be moved to another site, because it subverts "Charging Bull's" meaning, and State Street Global Advisors commissioned the statue as a "site-specific work that was conceived with 'Charging Bull' in mind," thereby infringing on Di Modica's copyright. They also asserted that the City of New York had violated his legal rights issuing the permit for "Fearless Girl." The initial permit was only for one week; however, due to the overwhelmingly positive public response, Mayor de Blasio announced that the permit would be extended until next year's International Women's Day. State Street Global Advisors are reviewing Di Modica's demands, hoping that the matter can be resolved amicably.
Trinity Church Is Sued for Moving Tree Sculpture
The sculptor of the bronze re-creation of a sycamore tree mounted at Trinity Church in lower Manhattan sued the church for removing his sculpture. Steve Tobin, through his lawyer, Steven Honigman, claims that the church violated the Visual Artists Rights Act, which "prohibits the removal of sculptures created to be installed permanently at a particular site." Tobin installed the work in the church's courtyard in 2005 after a real sycamore tree was destroyed by debris from 9/11. The church moved the sculpture to another site in Connecticut in 2015. It is alleged that the statue was damaged in transport. The church has not offered any comment on the litigation but asserts that the public will enjoy the statue at its new home.
How Much is Too Much Enthusiasm?
A $25,000 preservation prize from the National Trust for Historic Preservation has been called into question. The prize was awarded to the Preservation Society of Newport County in 2011 to repair the Breakers, a 70-room Vanderbilt cottage. Another preservation group, called the Friends of Newport Preservation, charge that the awarded group used unethical means to secure the necessary votes to win the prize by strong-arming its staff to vote multiple times and pushing tourists to vote. The National Trusts says that multiple votes are allowed; however, it prevents the use of automated bots. The issue of the votes seems to be related to a larger conflict between the two Newport preservation groups; particularly the development of a new visitor center planned for the grounds of the Vanderbilt cottage. Third place winner, Over-the-Rhine Foundation of Cincinnati, and second place winner, the Ritz Theater in Wellington, Texas, are not complaining, and are happy to have received much-needed funds.
Commissioner Says That Charlotte is Eligible to Host 2019 NBA All-Star Game
Now that North Carolina repealed its "bathroom bill," the National Basketball Association (NBA) reinstated the state's eligibility to host games. Charlotte was slated to hold the All-Star Game this year; however, the NBA moved the game to New Orleans in response to North Carolina passing House Bill 2. The law "removed anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people... and required transgender people to use public bathroom facilities that aligned with their sex at birth." The new bill doesn't fully reinstate the anti-discrimination protections for the LGBT community, but it's an incremental change. According to Adam Silver, NBA Commissioner, the NBA is part of the movement pushing for complete change. Before Charlotte is granted the 2019 All-Star Game, it must provide assurances that anti-discrimination policies will be enforced for the All-Star weekend. The NCAA is also "reluctantly" reinstating eligibility to North Carolina to host championship events.
Commissioner Starts to Press Cleveland Indians About Logo
Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner Rob Manfred, by beginning talks with the Cleveland Indians owners, appears to have come to a clear position on the team's logo, Chief Wahoo. In his spokesperson's statement, Manfred communicated "his desire to transition away from the Chief Wahoo logo" and identified a specific process to remove it. Although many American baseball fans would like the logo removed, not everyone agrees. Some Indian fans see Chief Wahoo as just a caricature. However, the American Indian Movement of Ohio disagrees. An indigenous Canadian also tried to prevent the logo's use in court during the Indians-Blue Jays playoff series held last fall in Toronto. MLB joined in defending the injunction; however, that case signaled the need for greater dialogue on the issue. Commissioner Manfred and the Indians CEO, Paul Dolan, continue their discussions.
Aaron Hernandez is Found Not Guilty of 2012 Double Murder
Aaron Hernandez, an ex-National Football League (NFL) New England Patriots tight end, was found not guilty in his double-homicide trial. The jury had been in deliberations since April 7th. He was also acquitted of trying to intimidate a witness. Hernandez continues to serve a life-without-parole sentence for the killing of Odin Lloyd in 2015.
Oakley Arraigned on Misdemeanor Charges
Retired Knicks player Charles Oakley was arraigned in criminal court in Manhattan on charges stemming from when he was ejected from Madison Square Garden and arrested. The misdemeanor assault charges were for striking a security guard and minor injuries received by two other people. At the arraignment, Oakley was released without bail.
William T. Walters, Famed Sports Bettor, Is Guilty in Insider Trading Case
William T. Walters, an infamous professional sports gambler, was convicted in one of the largest insider trading trials of recent history of 10 charges of securities fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy. After four unsuccessful attempts, the U.S. Attorney's office was successful in proving that Mr. Walters used nonpublic information from Thomas C. Davis, a board member of Dean Foods of Dallas, thereby profiting over $40 million in a six-year period. The trial lasted 14 days, yet the federal jury took only half a day to deliberate. Before trial, the investigation, led by Preet Bharara, former U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, focused on high-profile figures, such as Carl C. Icahn, a billionaire investor, and professional golfer, Phil Mickelson. Mickelson, who profited approximately $1 million from trading Dean Foods stocks, was never called to testify, but he forfeited those profits in a separate but related Securities and Exchange Commission case. Icahn, who is also an unpaid advisor to President Trump, was reported to be friends with Walters, and whose stock advice Walters would follow. Icahn was not charged with wrongdoing. The prosecutors argued that Davis of Dean Foods "provided Mr. Walters with secret Dean Foods information about future earnings statements, the planned purchase of another company, and a pending initial public offering." Walter's defense attorneys countered that he was a skilled trader who did not need insider information. That defense did not hold sway over the jury, who considered Davis' credibility, along with corresponding phone and trading records, and testimony of a "Bat Phone" and coded language. Walters faces a prison sentence of up to 20 years. According to his attorney, Barry H. Berke, he will appeal the verdict.
Tomi Lahren Sues Glenn Beck, Saying She Was Fired for Her Stance on Abortion
Tomi Lahren, a television host on the conservative website, TV station, and subscription service called The Blaze, claims that she was fired due to her opinion on abortion. She is suing Glenn Beck, who is her employer and founder of the right-wing media company. The lawsuit, filed in Dallas County Civil Court, alleges that she was fired directly following her March 17th comments on The View, an ABC syndicated daytime talk show, saying: "I'm for limited government... so stay out of my guns, and you can stay out of my body as well." The Sunday after the Friday airing of The View's segment, Lahren was informed that her nightly show, Tomi, was suspended. Although The Blaze stated that Lahren was still employed because it continued to pay her, Brian Lauten, the Dallas lawyer representing her, alleges in the lawsuit that she was wrongfully terminated. Lahren was told by the company's human resources director after the suspension that she was not terminated, yet her company email was turned off and a yellow caution tape was stretched over her office. In addition, Lahren was urged to "go dark" on social media. In a statement, The Blaze said that Lahren did not lose her job, and that it continues to comply with the employment agreement that expires in September. Lauten responded that Lahren was told in March that she no longer had a job, and "as long as she is under that agreement, she cannot do anything."
U.S. Blinks in Clash with Twitter; Drops Order to Unmask Anti-Trump Account
Twitter account @ALT_USCIS regularly posts tweets critical of White House policy. Whoever is behind the account claims to be a current employee of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Last month, Customs and Border Protection issued a summons ordering Twitter to divulge the identity of the account holder. Twitter responded with its own lawsuit on April 5th, claiming that the summons was unlawful and infringing on First Amendment rights. On April 6th, the federal agency withdrew its demand, thus staving off a showdown between a presidential administration that has effectively blocked other federal agencies from using social media, and a technology company championing free speech. Once the government withdrew its summons, Twitter also withdrew its lawsuit. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was ready to represent the anonymous @ALT_USCIS account holder. ACLU attorney Esha Bhandari stated that: "The anonymity that the First Amendment guarantees is often most essential when people criticize the government, and this free speech right is as important today as ever." The federal summons only seemed to exacerbate the problem, as the number of @ALT_USCIS followers grew from 32,000 to 155,000. Nevertheless, the entire ordeal was full of anxiety for the Twitter account holder, who on April 7th tweeted that it was going to take a break.
Rolling Stone Settles Libel Suit Over 2014 Campus Rape Article
Rolling Stone and its writer, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, settled the lawsuit brought in 2014 by Nicole P. Ermamo, a University of Virginia administrator, over the 2014 story, "A Rape on Campus". "Jackie," the victim in the story, alleged that she was gang raped at a fraternity party at the University. The article, timely to the national conversation about college rape, was quickly questioned for lack of journalistic standards. A police investigation found no evidence of the rape. Rolling Stone retracted the article in 2015. Administrator Ermamo, who was portrayed in the story as the "chief villain," sued for defamation. She was awarded $3 million in damages by a federal jury last fall. On April 11th, the lawsuit was dropped in Federal District Court in Virginia, with the terms of the settlement confidential.
Suit Asks Yahoo to Refill Fund for China Dissidents
Yahoo was accused of failing to properly oversee its $17 million humanitarian fund. A lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court in Washington by the law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, on behalf of eight Chinese dissidents. The suit alleges that Yahoo leadership turned a blind eye on the spending antics of the fund's manager, Harry Wu, a veteran Chinese dissident. The fund was established in 2007 in response to Yahoo's participation in divulging the identity of its subscribers in China whose emails criticized the Chinese government. Yahoo's cooperation with China led to the jailing of two activists, who received stiff 10-year sentences.
Jeffrey Yang, then Yahoo's CEO, gave $3.2 million to relatives of the jailed activists to settle litigation. The company went a step further, and established a fund to assist Chinese activists and their families. Wu was selected to manage the fund due to his work as a rights advocate and having spent 19 years in Chinese labor camps. It was reported that Wu, who is known for having a strong personality, spent money on his Laogai Research Foundation, real estate, a personal raise, and a "no-show" job for his wife, plus on legal fees defending his personal suits on sexual harassment and the misuse of federal grants. With only $700,000 reported as distributed to Chinese dissidents, there is only $3 million left from the $17.3 million fund. The lawsuit "would compel Yahoo to replenish the fund and ensure that it is properly administered."
Fox Asks Law Firm to Investigate Bill O'Reilly Harassment Claim
21st Century Fox engaged Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison (Paul Weiss) to investigate a sexual harassment claim against Bill O'Reilly. O'Reilly, the embattled Fox News host, who is facing allegations of settling complaints of sexual harassment from five women, received an accusation of harassment from Wendy Walsh through 21st Century Fox's anonymous hotline. Walsh, a former guest on O'Reilly's show, alleges that in 2013, after having dinner with O'Reilly, she declined an invitation to his hotel suite. A verbal offer to Walsh to become a network contributor was then never solidified. Lisa Bloom, attorney for Walsh, said that: "They decided to call the hotline because the company had said that nobody had done so." According to a company statement, Paul Weiss conducts all 21st Century Fox's internal investigations for sexual harassment. It is the same firm that conducted the investigation into Roger Ailes, former Fox News chairman, who was dismissed after six women reported sexual misconduct by him. Bloom stated that Walsh "is not seeking money, just accountability."
The Murdochs Assess the O'Reilly Damage
Many are calling for Bill O'Reilly's vacation to Italy and the Vatican to be a permanent one due to the allegations of his sexually harassing several women. The Murdoch family, owners of 21st Century Fox, are weighing the boycott of advertisers, low morale internally, protesters, and a public official's call for a human rights investigation against the consequences of terminating O'Reilly's recently renewed $18 million annual contract. The Murdochs faced a similar situation last summer, when the network's founding chairman, Roger Ailes, was ousted for inappropriate behavior with at least six women. Rupert Murdoch, 86, and his sons Lachlan and James, 46 and 44, are reportedly at odds on how to proceed.
O'Reilly's Behavior Said to Have Helped Drive Megyn Kelly Out of Fox
It has been stated that Bill O'Reilly's abrasive comments on his prime-time Fox News Network show regarding Megyn Kelly's book --citing sexual harassment from Fox's ousted chairman, Roger Ailes -- helped solidify her resolve to leave 21st Century Fox. According to an email sent by Ms. Kelly to Fox executives, she complained that O'Reilly's comments had a chilling effect on women in the workplace -- a complaint that was ignored, as O'Reilly proceeded to have a second tirade on his show, ranting that: "If you don't like what's going on in the workplace, go to human resources or leave." His comments shortly came after he had settled two of his own sexual harassment claims. Ms. Kelly's complaints are another example of O'Reilly's behavior. The New York Times recently reported that O'Reilly settled with at least five women to the tune of $13 million for sexual harassment allegations. Advertisers have been pulling support of O'Reilly's show, and many are calling for his removal.
Melania Trump and the Daily Mail Settle Her Libel Suits
Melania Trump's two lawsuits against the Daily Mail, a British newspaper, were settled for an undisclosed amount and an apology. The Daily Mail published an article on August 20, 2016, asserting that when Trump worked as a professional model back in the 1990s, she provided services other than modeling. The new lawsuit, commenced in New York this February, asserted that "the article had harmed her opportunities to launch a broad-based commercial brand in multiple product categories", and sought at least $150 million in compensatory and punitive damages. As part of the settlement, the Daily Mail will publish a retraction and apology in its American and British online versions, plus pay damages and litigation costs.
Criticize the President? Uganda Says That's Insane
In Uganda, if you criticize President Yoweri Museveni, you could be committed to a mental institution. Utilizing the Mental Treatment Act of 1938, Uganda's prosecutor is seeking to quash the dissent of a research fellow at Makerere University named Stella Nyanzi. Nyanzi has been charged with cyberharassment and offensive communication for posting vitriolic comments regarding President Museveni and his wife on Facebook. She was arrested on Friday, held for 18 hours, and beaten, according to her lawyer, Nicholas Opiyo. The state attorney, Jonathan Muwaganya, has applied to have Nyanzi committed to a mental hospital because "she has a direct impact on the moral decadence" of Uganda, claiming that she has had a history of psychiatric problems. Her social media posts allegedly "disturbed the peace, quiet, or the right of his privacy of his excellency of the president with no legitimate communication." Nyanzi challenges Ugandans to remember their rich history of resisting British colonialism with the tool of necessary political vulgarity. Amnesty International stated that the case against Nyanzi is politically motivated and should be dismissed.