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Week in Review

By Ben Natter

Senate Votes to Ban Imports of Syrian Art and Antiquities

The Senate unanimously voted earlier this week to ban the import of ancient art and antiquities from Syria. The ban, once enacted, should serve to discourage looting of artifacts from Syria and close existing loopholes in U.S. law that were allowing the antiquities to enter the country. While the law bans trade of stolen antiquities, it does not ban the trade in ancient art or artifacts, including from Syria, that were obtained before 1970, when an international law was passed to prevent the trade of such goods.

The United States previously received criticism for its lack of action to counter the trade of stolen Syrian art and antiquities within its borders.


Federal Prosecutors and Defense Attorneys Argue over FIFA Trial Date

Eight federal prosecutors and 15 defense attorneys appeared before Raymond J. Dearie of the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of New York earlier this week to discuss potential trial start dates for the accused fraudulent activities of FIFA officials.

The defense argued that an early 2017 start date would not be reasonable, given the government's excessive evidence that currently amounts to over 1 terabyte of data (700-900 million pages of documents). Prosecutors stated that more new evidence would be added, and Judge Dearie acknowledged that he did not think it would be fair to schedule a trial date in early 2017 if the prosecution continued to collect data that the defense would need to be familiar with prior to trial. Judge Dearie expressed that he would need to consider if it was at all reasonable to schedule a tentative start date, given the large and still growing amount of data to be turned over to the defense.

Another hearing is scheduled for August.


WADA Drug Guidelines May Overturn Suspension

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) sent a notice to national anti-doping bodies earlier this week that acknowledges that it is unsure of the excretion period for meldonium. This notice is expected to have a major impact on many of the 172 athletes who have tested positive for the performance-boosting drug since the ban it became a prohibited substance on January 1st. Russian officials had insisted that their athletes took the drug prior to January 1st, but still tested positive in March. Notably, Maria Sharapova was suspended for a positive test for meldonium earlier this year.

WADA seemed to acknowledge the possibility of the positive tests in instances where the drug was taken prior to becoming a banned substance: "There is currently a lack of clear scientific information on excretion times."


"We Shall Overcome" Copyright Challenged

The same law firm the challenged the "Happy Birthday" song copyright filed a complaint in the Southern District of New York challenging the copyright to "We Shall Overcome", which is currently owned by The Richmond Organization, Inc. and Ludlow Music, Inc. The plaintiffs argue that the work, which was popularized during the civil rights movement, should be in the public domain.


A copy of the complaint is available at: http://arstechnica.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/We.shall_.overcome.complaint.pdf

Cosby's Wife to Testify Again in Defamation Suit

Camille O. Cosby will have to again testify in the defamation lawsuit filed against her husband. Mrs. Cosby had previously testified, and Mr. Cosby's attorneys had tried to prevent her from again testifying due to offensive questions previously asked by the plaintiffs' attorney. Although the Magistrate Judge denied Cosby's request, he instructed counsel for the plaintiffs that he could not ask Mrs. Cosby questions about her opinions, and admonished the attorney for asking an offensive question.

Mrs. Cosby had attempted to prevent her being deposed for a number of reasons, including spousal disqualification.


What the Panama Papers Reveal About the Art Market

The leak of 11.5 million files from the Panama law firm of Mossack Fonseca shed some insight into shell companies and the art world. Owners of art collections are not always who they seem to be; in one instance, the files revealed, the owner of a collection auctioned for over 200 million dollars at Christie's was not actually the family who had owned it for years. Rather, it was owned by a British financier who acquired the collection months earlier and flipped it. Another instance displayed how the firm moved an art collection out of an ex-wife's reach during her divorce from a Russian billionaire.

A third set of files showed how off-shore entities can make ownership claims or claims of theft very difficult to prove if the owner's identity is masked. Currently Philippe Maestracci, a French resident, has been able to claim a Modigliani painting, "Seated Man With a Cane," which he says was taken from his grandfather by the Nazis. The gallery where the work is displayed states that it has no connection with the Panamanian entity that owns the work.


Activists Push to Continue a Libel Suit Against Them

Chemrisk, a scientific consulting firm, has long been aggressive in filing libel and defamation claims against its critics. After having a libel case that was filed in both New York and Massachusetts dismissed in New York, the company is seeking to drop the suit in Massachusetts. In a recent filing, the defendants asked the judge to order Chemrisk to pay their attorneys fees and to issue a public apology for initiating litigation.


Dershowitz and Two Other Lawyers Settle

Two attorneys acknowledged that they made "a mistake" when they accused famed attorney Alan Dershowitz of having sex with their client when she was a minor.

The attorneys, Cassell and Edwards, filed a federal lawsuit in Florida that involved one of Dershowitz's former clients, billionaire Jeffrey Epstein. The lawsuit challenged a 2008 agreement involving Epstein's sentencing. In a later motion, Cassell and Edwards asked a judge to allow the addition of two plaintiffs to the suit. One of the additional plaintiffs alleged that Epstein had forced her to have sexual relations with Dershowitz and a number of other prominent men. The motion was denied, but Dershowitz chose to pursue the defamation claim against the two attorneys. Dershowitz produced significant evidence to discredit the plaintiff and show that the Cassell and Edwards should have attempted to verify the plaintiff's claims prior to filing a motion.


Fan Video Highlights Purported NBA Discrimination

A group of Jeremy Lin fans who connected through an online Jeremy Lin fan forum put together a video showing over six minutes of flagrant fouls (a particularly hard foul that calls for an ejection) against Lin that went uncalled by NBA referees. The compilation video and a version of the video with Chinese subtitles went viral in both the U.S. and Asia, and initiated discussion over racism and unfair treatment of Lin by the NBA. Combined, the two videos have close to two million views.

A follow-up report by ESPN noted that Lin has drawn more fouls over the past three seasons than any other player, however he has not drawn one flagrant foul. The NBA issued a statement that supported its referees.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 17, 2016 2:09 PM.

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