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Week in Review

By Michael Smith

Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into Entertainment, Art, Sports, and Media. First, of general interest:

Polish Parliament Curtails Judicial Independence

On Saturday, Poland's Parliament finally approved a measure that, if signed by the President (who is expected to do so) would replace the current court with a new panel of judges, and create a "disciplinary chamber" to "watch the obedience of judges and representatives of legal professions," according to Marek Chmaj, a constitutional law expert at the University of Warsaw.


Kentucky Must Pay Fees for Refusing Same-Sex Marriage License

On Friday, a federal judge ordered the State of Kentucky to pay more than $224,000 in legal fees and costs occasioned by the refusal of Kim Davis, a county clerk, to issue a marriage license to same-sex couples, in violation of the Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples.


Ignorance is Bliss in Jury Room

The New York Times explores what it says is a trend toward ignorance and banality in the selection of jurors, at least in high-profile cases.


Department of Homeland Security Will Release up to 15,000 H-2B Summer Visas

The Department of Homeland Security announced that it will release up to 15,000 additional seasonal visas to businesses that prove they will suffer irreparable harm without foreign workers. The number of available visas was halved in December, when Congress chose not to renew a provision that exempted previously-admitted workers from counting against the quota.


Non-Disparagement Clauses Could Frustrate Harassment Claims

The increasingly common inclusion of non-disparagement clauses in employment contracts, especially at tech companies, may be having a chilling effect on the reporting of sexual harassment, which is also pervasive in tech companies.



Spotify Slammed over "Fake" Artists on Playlists

Music streaming service Spotify came under fire for allegedly stacking its playlists with songs by "fake" artists who it either controls or with whom it has sweetheart deals. Many of these songs are pseudonymous instrumental works ("mood music") that Spotify may have commissioned, and for which it likely pays lower royalties than it does to publicly-known musicians. Spotify denies owning the rights to these songs, and asserts that their placement on playlists is based solely on popularity.


Warner Takes (Better) Half of Songkick

Songkick, a British company that handles concert ticket sales and provides concert listings and recommendations, sold its name and concert-recommendation service to Warner Music Group for an undisclosed amount. Warner did not buy Songkick's ticket sales business, which has been embroiled in antitrust litigation with its biggest competitor, Ticketmaster.


Frog v. Mouse

Steve Whitmire, the performer who was the voice of Kermit the Frog between Jim Henson's death in 1990 and last October, when Disney (which bought the Muppets from the Jim Henson Company in 2004) fired him, spoke out about the termination. Whitmire called the decision a "betrayal", and claimed that he was terminated without warning for "minor reasons". Disney said that Whitmire was hostile to co-workers and difficult in contract negotiations. Members of the Henson family supported the dismissal.


DMX Pleads Not Guilty to Tax Fraud

Earl Simmons, a/k/a DMX, pleaded not guilty to 14 charges of federal tax fraud charges on Friday and was released on a $500,000 bond. Prosecutors allege that X din' give it to tha IRS.



House Committee Approves Funding for Arts, Humanities

The Appropriations Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill that would appropriate $145 million for each of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. President Trump's proposed budget would have eliminated both agencies.


Mayor's "Cultural Plan" Ties Funds to Diversity

New York Mayor Bill De Blasio announced a "cultural plan" for the city that would link funding to museums and art groups to the diversity of their employees and board members.


Antiquities Dealer Sues The Wall Street Journal over ISIS Article

Hicham Aboutaam, co-owner of Manhattan gallery Phoenix Ancient Art, sued The Wall Street Journal for defamation. Aboutaam claims that his "personal and professional reputation and business opportunities have been decimated" by an article stating that he was under investigation for possibly trafficking in artifacts looted by ISIS.


Judge Blocks Auction of Madonna Memorabilia

New York Supreme Court Justice Gerald Lebovits granted Madonna's request for a preliminary injunction halting the sale of 22 personal items by a former friend. Madonna contends that she still owns those items and that the auction site, GottaHaveRockandRoll.com, has no right to sell them.


Judge Green-Lights Prince Copyright Suit

Judge Sidney H. Stein of the Southern District denied artist Richard Prince's motion to dismiss a copyright case filed against him by the photographer whose work Prince used in an installation in which he printed Instagram posts on large canvases with his own comments. Prince, who made headlines recently when he returned in protest a $36,000 payment for a work featuring Ivanka Trump, responded with a very Trumpian tweet: "Phony fraud photographers keep mooching me. Why? I changed the game...."


Grave Robbing on the Rise in China

As global demand for Chinese antiquities rises, the Chinese countryside has seen an uptick in tomb-raiding. China's State Administration of Cultural heritage reported over 100 such cases in 2016, and many more are believed to have gone undetected. Up to eight out of every 10 tombs in China has been robbed, according to that agency.


Syrian Performers (Mostly) Make it to U.S. in Time for Performance

Eight of the nine Syrian cast and crew members of "While I Was Waiting" were permitted entry into the United States in time to open Wednesday at Lincoln Center. It was long feared that the show would have to be canceled due to President Trump's travel ban, and many of the cast and crew, coming from six different countries, faced difficulties.


Modigliani Exhibit Closes After Allegations of Fraud

An exhibit in Genoa featuring the work of Amedeo Modigliani closed early this week, after Italian prosecutors alleged that one third of the works were fakes. The investigation began when art collector Carlo Pepi, who saw images of the works online, said the exhibition's catalog was "full of fakes."


Dalí Still Keepin' it Surreal

The body of Spanish artist Salvador Dalí was exhumed earlier this week, after a woman claiming to be his daughter obtained a court order authorizing a paternity test. Pilar Abel, a fortune-teller, could claim part of an estate worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Which is all well and good, but the real story here is that Dalí's famous mustache remains intact!


Looted Painting held by Goering Returned

A Renaissance-era painting owned by a German banker was looted by the Nazis during World War II and added to Hermann Goering's enormous collection. The piece recently was found and returned to the banker's heirs.


Harvard's A.R.T. Institute Suspends Admissions for Three Years

Harvard's graduate program in theater, known as the A.R.T. Institute (named after the school's American Repertory Theater), halted admissions to "work on a strategic plan for the Institute." Earlier this year, the institute was named on a list of predatory schools whose students amass more debt than they can afford to repay, and its long-time director, Scott Zigler, left last month to become dean of UNCSA's drama school.


Macmillan Books' Newest Imprint: Celadon

Jamie Raab and Deb Futter, who left Hachette's Grand Central Publishing late last year, founded Celadon Books, a new publishing division of Macmillan. Celadon plans to publish 20-25 fiction and non-fiction titles per year.



Judge OK's Discovery into "Deceptive Practices" Targeting Former National Football League Players

The federal judge presiding over the National Football League concussion settlement authorized plaintiffs' lawyers to investigate reports that companies have been trying to take advantage of retired football players by offering to help fill out paperwork for a fee, or to obtain helpful diagnoses. The judge indicated that she might void agreements that were based on deceptive or misleading solicitations.


Former Ohio State University Linebacker Leads Suit for Unauthorized Use of Likeness

Chris Spielman, who played football for Ohio State University (OSU) from 1985-1987, filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of current and former OSU players, alleging that OSU conspired with IMG College (a sports marketing company that negotiates licenses on behalf of schools) and advertisers like Honda and Nike to use the likenesses of Buckeyes without permission or payment.


Brazil Won't Punish Lochte

The criminal case against American swimmer Ryan Lochte, who was charged with filing a false robbery report in Brazil during the Rio Olympics, was dismissed.


Texas Trying to Get Back up in Your Bathroom Stuff Again

The so-called "bathroom bill" that would require restrooms, showers, and changing facilities in public locations "must be designated for and used only by persons of the same sex as stated on the person's birth certificate", is back under consideration before the Texas Senate. The bill died last year under pressure from pro-business Republicans concerned about the loss of revenue from relocated sports events and economic boycotts similar to those estimated to have cost North Carolina hundreds of millions of dollars when it passed a similar law.


Boxing Federation in Financial Straits

Boxing's international federation, known as the AIBA, borrowed millions from Azerbaijani investors, and sold a major stake in its marketing subsidiary to a Chinese investor. Now, it may be on the hook for tens of millions of dollars. Accounting irregularities and reports of minimal cash flow have raised serious questions about AIBA's ability to repay the Azerbaijani loan, and the Chinese investor wants his money back.



Trans-Pacific Partnership (Minus US) May Still Impact IP, Digital

The 11 other countries involved in the negotiation of the (TPP), a multinational trade agreement intended to shore up economic power against China, met this week in Hakone, Japan to discuss reviving the deal. In its present form, the TPP contemplates the loosening of restrictions over the cross-border transfer of online data, including requirements regarding the locations of servers. It also seeks to level the playing field in service industries like software, legal, and IT.


British Broadcasting Corporation So White

The annual report of the British Broadcasting Corporation includes contains information regarding the amounts that it paid to its top stars (i.e., performers earning over £150,000 per year) last year. According to the New York Times, the data show a lack of gender parity and a dearth of minority stars.


China Comes Down Hard on Soft Cultural Icons of the West

A recurring meme in Chinese social media is the resemblance between Winnie-the-Pooh and Chinese President Xi Jinping. When such comparisons are on the rise, the Chinese government swings the ban-hammer. Days after reports that China is once again censoring posts about the plush bear, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture announced that Justin Bieber was banned from China for "bad behavior". Like the bear after which Pooh was named, Bieber comes from Canada. Coincidence?



China Blocks WhatsApp

Turning its attention briefly from its censorship of a childish cartoon character and Winnie-the-Pooh, China also partly blocked use of FaceBook's messaging app, WhatsApp, preventing users from sending videos and photos. Facebook and Instagram are already fully blocked in China.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 22, 2017 3:45 PM.

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