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Week in Review

By Eric Lanter

For Puerto Ricans Off the Island, a Struggle to Contact After Hurricane Maria

With approximately five million Puerto Ricans living on the mainland and their families in Puerto Rico, the magnitude of Hurricane Maria brought tremendous concern. After the hurricane passed, however, the concern increased, as the assurances of safety and health were not forthcoming from the island: approximately 95% of communications equipment was not operational. By the end of the week, some services, such as limited texting, were somewhat available. The American Red Cross, as well as other organizations, opened services to allow family members to post notices about whom they are searching, and for Puerto Rican families to post that they are okay.


Skadden Faces Questions on Work with Paul Manafort

Approximately five years ago, Paul Manafort contacted the prestigious law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom to draft a report for Manafort's client Viktor Yanukovych, who was the pro-Russian president of Ukraine at the time and used the report to jail a political rival, Yulia Tymoshenko. The Department of Justice recently asked the firm for information and documents in relation to that work, and it is unknown whether the request concerns Robert Mueller's inquiry regarding Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election. However, even if the request is unrelated to Mueller's inquiry, it illustrates the risks that high-profile firms face in entering the lucrative business of advising foreign governments.


State Department to Tighten Visa Entry Rules for U.S.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sent a cable to American embassies around the world informing them of a policy change: those visitors who require visas must stick to their plans reported to the Embassy when acquiring the visas for the first three months after entry into the U.S. If they do anything that is not in their stated plans, such as go to school, get a job, or get married to an American citizen, there will be a presumption that they deliberately lied in obtaining the visa, which would make it extraordinarily difficult to renew it, obtain a new one, or change the status from visitor. This rule will not apply to citizens of 38 countries, including most of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.


Judge Rules That Videographers Cannot Cite Religious Beliefs to Refuse Same-Sex Clients

A Minnesota couple who posted on their media production business' website that they would not make films celebrating same-sex marriages filed suit against the Minnesota State Department of Human Rights and the state's attorney general, arguing that they had a free speech right to refuse business. The United States District Court heard the case, and this week, Judge John Tunheim held that the couple cannot keep the statement, as it is the equivalent of posting a sign stating, "White Applicants Only." This holding comes as the Supreme Court is set to hear a case soon about a baker in Colorado who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding on the basis of his Christian faith and free expression.


Syrian Activist and Daughter Found Stabbed in Turkey

Orouba Barakat, a Syrian activist, and her daughter, Halla Barakat, were found stabbed in their Istanbul apartment this week. The elder Barakat was a prominent activist against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime and his father's regime as well, but after the civil war broke out in Syria, she moved to Istanbul with her daughter and continued her activism. She was part of an opposing party in Syria, which has prompted many to speculate whether Assad's government was behind the assassination. The party released a statement indicating it believed the "hand of terrorism and tyranny is the prime suspect in this heinous crime of assassination."


Japan's Dennis Rodman: 32-Time Visitor to North Korea and Former Wrestler

A Japanese former professional wrestler and member of Parliament, Antonio Inoki, has visited North Korea 32 times since 1995 and become a liaison between North Korea's government and the rest of the world, which has particularly drawn interest as tensions have flared among North Korea, Japan, and the U.S. Following a recent visit to North Korea, he opined that its government simply wants to have a dialogue with the U.S. and deescalate the situation. Neither the Japanese government nor the American government has pursued a serious dialogue with North Korea.


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


Saudi Textbook Withdrawn Because of Picture of Yoda with King

Saudi Arabian high school students were issued a textbook that depicted King Faisal at the United Nations with Yoda, a Star Wars character, seated next to him. The unlikely meeting never occurred; in fact, an artist named Abdullah Al Shehri created the work. However, he does not know how the art made its way into the book. The Saudi education minister apologized for the mistake and formed a legal committee to "determine the source of the error and to take the proper measures." It is unclear as to what extent the committee will investigate the intellectual property issues of using Yoda's image and publishing it in a textbook, or whether Lucasfilm intends to pursue this infringement. Regardless, the ministry is issuing corrected copies of the textbook.


KB Home to Cut CEO's Bonus After Sexist, Homophobic Outburst Against Kathy Griffin

Following a verbal tirade by Jeffrey Mezger, the chief executive of homebuilding company KB Home, the company announced that he will only receive a portion of his annual bonus. The specific amount of the bonus, and the portion that he will receive are unknown, but last year he earned $9 million total from his role as chief executive. The confrontation was recorded at Kathy Griffin's home when she and her boyfriend, Randy Bick, were targeted after calling the police to complain about noise from Mezger's backyard.


Expecting Hero's Welcome, Lebanese Director Charged with Treason

Lebanese film director Ziad Doueiri returned this month to Beirut to celebrate the debut of his new movie "The Insult." When he arrived at the airport, he faced an unexpected surprise: arrest and appearance before a military court the next day facing accusations of treason. He shot his previous movie in Israel, which is an enemy state for Lebanon. He was released after a few hours of questioning, but it is unclear what will happen in the future, given the fact that he had visited Lebanon more than a dozen times since the offending film was released.



If You Shame Them, Will They Pay?

There have been numerous instances of Forever 21, the fashion retailer, releasing articles of clothing that are eerily similar to ones that independent artists or smaller brands created. One example was when two women joined together with one's husband to create a shirt with the word "woman" written in several languages, and released it on social media for friends and family to buy. The proceeds were meant to go to Planned Parenthood. However, they soon found that Forever 21 was also selling a shirt with "woman" spelled in different languages. One expert has said that brands like H&M, Zara, and Forever 21 interpret trends and change designs just enough to avoid liability, but sending a cease-and-desist letter to those companies may net a settlement. Others have taken to shaming the brands on social media and raising awareness that taking designs from lesser known artists or companies prevents those startups from gaining traction in the marketplace.


Ambitious Art Show Faces Debt

Germany has hosted an exhibition of contemporary art every five years called Documenta, which is in its fourteenth edition, and this edition is creating controversy after centering on the financial state of Greece and Germany. The exhibition was set up in both Kassel, Germany and Athens, Greece, and its cost appears to have put the organization into financial distress. There is a dispute as to whether the artistic director, Adam Szymczyk, is to blame for the financial shortfall, or whether the economic plan in place before his appointment is the cause. Regardless, analysts point out that the exhibition's success or failure has a direct impact on the well being of Kassel, Germany, and for that reason, it is likely there will be further investigation.


Painting Emerges as Cautionary Tale

Leon Hanssen, a Piet Mondrian biographer, visited the Bozar Center for the Arts in Brussels, Belgium when he saw a painting that appeared to be an untitled 1923 Mondrian that the Nazis displayed in 1937 as an example of "degenerate art." It was believed to have been destroyed in the Berlin air raids at the end of World War II, and Hanssen asked to have a closer inspection of the painting. The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam was set to receive the work next, and Hanssen approached it to get more information about the owner of the painting, who had lent it to three art institutions. Hanssen's research revealed that the painting had been rejected multiple times, with its authenticity in question, but nonetheless, the institutions had accepted it from the owner for exhibition. One industry expert says that this is an example of where institutions are not equipped with the experts to ensure that works are properly vetted before being brought in for display.


Upheaval at Bach Festival

The Bach Festival is centered in Eugene, Oregon and brings world-class artists together from around the globe. However, the festival fired its artistic director, Matthew Halls, which raised questions about the stability of the institution. His style of smaller, historically-informed performances as opposed to the big-symphony performances of his predecessor may be one reason for his firing. However, some wonder whether it has anything to do with his faking a Southern accent with an African-American colleague and making racially insensitive jokes. Given the fact that he was fired a few months into his new four-year contract, and the festival has only cited "personnel issues" for the firing, those in the industry are inclined to conclude that his firing was not solely because of the change in performance style.


Holocaust Museum, Seeking Lessons on Syria, Gets Backlash Instead

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum commissioned a study about whether alternative strategies could have lessened the bloodshed in Syria, which is now in its sixth year. The study concluded that no American action was guaranteed to significantly reduce the violence in Syria, which has set off a strong reaction. Many have attacked the institution for the study, which some interpret as exonerating President Barack Obama for any fault for the killings that occurred under his watch. The museum has since pulled the report, and some board members admitted that they did not expect such a furor to result.


As 'Diller Island' Sinks, Whitney Plans Artwork on Hudson

Last week, Barry Diller announced that after numerous setbacks, there would in fact not be a floating park in the Hudson River. The Whitney Museum of American Art, which is in the Meatpacking District, has plans for a permanent art installation on land and water by the artist David Hammons. The installation is expected to feature a ghostlike image of the pier building on the site, and Whitney Museum officials are quick to point out that they followed the obstacles that the Diller Island installation faced. The project is to be presented to the local community board on October 4, 2017 for review.



Aaron Hernandez Had Severe CTE at Time of Death, But Legal Hurdles Impede Suit Against NFL

Researchers determined that the late New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez had a severe form of the degenerative brain disease CTE that is tied to repeated head hits. There are questions now as to whether his behavior, and the killing of a friend and himself, were tied to the brain disease. His relatives sued the National Football League (NFL) and the Patriots organization for failing to protect him, despite knowing that the game was dangerous and could lead to brain damage. The family will face difficulty having its case heard, given the NFL's past success in arguing that matters between it and players should exclusively be resolved in arbitration, not in the courts. Further, the NFL is expected to argue that its players know the risks of injury when they agree to play, and that Hernandez's actions were not directly linked to any brain disease.


The Home Run Explosion is Not Beyond Suspicion

Earlier this week, a record-setting 5,694th home run was hit in Toronto, raising the question of what has changed in the sport to cause more home runs this year. While in 2014, only 11 players hit 30 or more home runs, this season will bring 32 players to clear the 30-home run mark. Coaches and players have insisted that the increase results from is the launch angles and revelations as to the physics of hitting the baseball. Michael Powell of the New York Times remembers back to 1998, when Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire were setting home run records and the same reasons were given, only to later be revealed as being steroid-induced. While Powell does not conclude that there are inevitably steroids involved in the records being broken this year, he does note that there are steroids on the market now that are virtually undetectable given the current testing that players undergo.


Stronger Calls for Netting in Baseball After Latest Bloody Incident

Last week at Yankee Stadium, a young girl was struck by a 105-mile-per-hour line drive, which left her seriously injured. Incidents like this have caused many baseball teams to put protective netting to prevent line drives from hitting fans and causing injuries. The Yankees' chief operating officer, Lonn Trost, rather than announce the installation of netting as many other teams have done, announced that the Yankees would investigate the installation of netting and cautioned that it would not be a three-day job to install netting in the stadium. While Major Leage Baseball (MLB) does not require netting to be installed throughout the stadium, some teams, like the New York Mets, have installed netting all the way through to the outfield to protect fans. The Yankees have suggested in the past that doing so would interfere with the views that its fans pay good money to enjoy.


U.S. Women's Soccer Faces Old Foe: Artificial Turf

The U.S. women's national soccer team has a continuing dispute with its federation: artificial turf. The players are scheduled to have four of their final nine matches on artificial turf, which is known to be less desirable than natural turf. The topic was raised in their negotiation of the new collective bargaining agreement, which provides that matches were preferred to be played on natural turf. While the collective bargaining agreement was centered on a dispute over equal pay with the men's team, the deal also reflected that the women wanted to be more involved with the team's day-to-day issues, such as turf selection. The players are accusing the federation of ignoring preferences like turf and other scheduling concerns.


Officer Defends Takedown of Tennis Star

New York police officer James Frascatore charged across East 42nd Street and tackled a man that he thought to be a suspect in a credit card fraud ring who might have been armed. In fact, it was James Blake, the retired professional tennis player. The Civilian Complaint Review Board investigates accusations of misconduct for the NYPD's police officers, and a Police Department judge will decide the case as to whether the police officer used excessive force. The attorney for the officer indicated that it is only going to a trial because Blake was a celebrity and that the officer was acting on the information that he had in his possession at the time.


Judge Rules Against NFL in Ezekiel Elliott Case

A federal judge in Texas denied the NFL's request to suspend Ezekiel Elliott's six-game suspension. The NFL had also filed with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans with the same request. The judge criticized the NFL for not waiting for a decision, and the NFL filed a request for an emergency stay with the appeals court on Friday, which contain essentially the same arguments as the case filed in the Texas District Court.


Lawyers Say Players in Concussion Settlement May Have Been Swindled

In the context of settling the federal litigation in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania regarding ex-NFL players being exposed to concussions during their time playing for the NFL, lawyers claim that many players signed dubious contracts with lenders and lawyers that placed them in impossible positions for repayment. Some players signed agreements where they received $10,000 from the lender, but were required to pay back $17,310 from the settlement payout in one year; another one stated that after receiving $312,000 from a lender, he would have to pay back $568,000 upon receiving the settlement. This is not the first instance of companies targeting retired players: New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau sued a New Jersey company after it lured retired players into costly advances on settlement payouts with deceptive terms in the contracts. The attorneys for the players have asked the judge to pursue criminal claims against lawyers and advisers who filed false claims, because their actions are endangering the administration of the settlement.


Princess Quietly Helps FIFA Investigation

The Jordanian princess Haya bint al-Hussein is married to the billionaire ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, and has been working with British private investigators for over a year to collect evidence of corruption in the global soccer arena. She has brought investigators to meet with current and former FIFA officials, as well as those in the underworld of soccer politics at a time where there is intense scrutiny of the sport. There were indictments and arrests of top officials in 2015 in the United States, which sent shock waves throughout FIFA. It is known that Princess Haya previously shared information with American investigators, and she may be providing information to investigators about FIFA's controversial decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.


Tackle Football Before Age 12 Tied to Brain Problems Later

A new study revealed that athletes who begin to play tackle football before the age of 12 have developed behavioral and cognitive problems later in life. The findings come from a study at Boston University at a time when parents are considering when is appropriate for children to play football, if at all. The study was conducted through telephone interviews and online surveys and found a twofold increase in behavioral problems and a threefold risk of "clinically elevated depression scores." One author of the study cites the ages of 10 to 12 as being an "incredible time of growth" in the brain, which would be impeded through repeated hits to the head.


NCAA Finds Rutgers Failed to Monitor Football Program

The NCAA punished Rutgers for what it called "a failure to monitor its football program" during a five-year period, as the university ignored rules related to recruiting and drug testing. The sanctions include two years of probation and recruiting restrictions, which will only compound the problems the school has faced, as its athletics have been known for losses and red ink in the past couple of years. The NCAA also found that 14 players were allowed to compete after violating the drug testing policies of the school, which should have been penalized.



Facebook Vows More Human Oversight of Advertisements

Facebook's advertisements came under scrutiny this week. The chief operating officer, Sheryl Sanderg, announced that Facebook will have "more human review and oversight" to its automated systems to prevent ads to be directed at users who used racist comments or hate speech in their profiles. This comes after a report revealed that Facebook's "online ad tools had allowed advertisers to target self-described 'Jew haters' or people who had used terms like 'how to burn Jews.'" Second, Facebook announced that it is disclosing information and documents to congressional committees investigating the Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. This turnover of documents is in relation to hundreds of accounts that are thought to be linked to the Russian government and were designed to promote the candidacy of Donald Trump over that of Hillary Clinton, to influence the outcome of the election.


Leading the Legal War Against Fox: Wigdor

Douglas Wigdor, a conservative Republican, filed 11 suits against Fox News for defamation, sexual harassment, and racial discrimination just this year alone. Altogether, the lawsuits he filed for his clients seek damages in excess of $100 million, which is the most sustained attack on Fox mounted by a single private lawyer. While other suits, like those in relation to Bill O'Reilly and the late Roger Ailes, were brought by larger firms, Wigdor has had a monopoly on the other suits against the news organization. He earned a reputation for being an aggressive employment lawyer when he filed gender discrimination suits against Deutsche Bank and Citigroup, as well as an age and racial bias suit against the New York Times. His critics contend that those suits have left him ill-prepared for taking on Fox, with its vast resources, despite the fact that Wigdor's clients have strong cases against the organization.


Fox News Guest Sues, Claiming Organization Banned Her After Accusing Charles Payne of Rape

In Douglas Wigdor's latest filing against Fox News, he is representing commentator Scottie Nell Hughes, who claimed that she was raped by longtime anchor Charles Payne and then faced retaliation from the network when she came forward with her allegation. Payne is the host of "Making Money" on Fox Business and returned to the air in July after being suspended pending an investigation into his conduct. Hughes alleges that he pressured his way into her hotel room in 2013 and coerced her into having sexual intercourse with him despite her saying "no" and "stop." She did not immediately report it as she was "shocked and ashamed" but has alleged gender motivated violence, gender discrimination, retaliation, and defamation against Payne, Fox News, and 21st Century Fox in her lawsuit filed in the Southern District of New York.


Fox Presses for Arbitration or Dismissal in Suit Over Seth Rich Article

In the context of the lawsuit against Fox News for defamation and racial discrimination for its publication of an article about the death of a young Democratic aide named Seth Rich, Fox filed a motion to move the case from federal court to arbitration, given the plaintiff Rod Wheeler's agreement with the network. The plaintiff was a private detective who Rich's family hired after his death, and a Fox News story fabricated quotes from the detective, causing the organization to retract the piece. Wheeler's attorney, Douglas Wigdor, sought to keep the case in federal court and viewed the motion as nothing more than an effort to keep "people in the dark on what now is a matter of serious public concern."


Preorders Sag for Bill O'Reilly's Latest Book

Bill O'Reilly published a book in the fall of each of the last six years that soars to the top of the nonfiction best-seller list. This year's version, "Killing England: The Brutal Struggle for American Independence," may be the first year where it does not become a best-seller, given its low preorders. Due to the accusations from five women of sexual harassment or verbal abuse, as well as his ouster from Fox, where he had an audience of four million viewers every night, some analysts wonder whether he can regain the energy that he once enjoyed with each book he published. Nonetheless, his book will be displayed prominently in Barnes and Noble and on Amazon's website.


Wenner Media Puts Rolling Stone Magazine Up For Sale

Jann Wenner, the founder of Rolling Stone Magazine in 1967 and the controlling stakeholder in the company, put his shares up for sale. This announcement comes three years after the magazine botched a story about an unproven gang rape on the campus of University of Virginia that bruised the magazine's journalistic integrity. The potential sale of the magazine, which was a counterculture icon, illustrates the difficulty of print advertising and media in the current market. Both Wenner and his son Gus Wenner have said that they intend to stay on at the magazine, if the new owner allows it.


Rolling Stone Magazine Facing Revived Suit Regarding Campus Rape

A matter of days after announcing that Rolling Stone's owner was selling his controlling share in the magazine, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the lower court erred in dismissing the defamation lawsuit in relation to the magazine's publication of an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia. The lower court judge ruled that three men who were part of a fraternity had not shown that the article was "of and concerning" them apart from their fraternity and dismissed the action. The Court of Appeals sent the action back down to district court for further proceedings. This comes after Rolling Stone settled with the fraternity for $1.65 million and with the associate dean at the university for $3 million in damages.


Dr. Seuss Parody Wins in Lawsuit

Matthew Lombardo's theatrical parody titled, "Who's Holiday!" is a dark sequel to the Dr. Seuss classic, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" A judge recently ruled that the parody does not violate the copyright of the original story. Dr. Seuss Enterprises brought suit against the company after sending cease-and-desist letters and forcing the cancellation of the production. Lombardo filed a suit in the Southern District of New York and argued that the parody was protected under the First Amendment, and the Seuss estate countersued that the play was derivative and "a blatant infringement" of the copyright. Judge Alvin Hellerstein found that there was no possibility that consumers would see the play in lieu of reading the book or watching an authorized derivative work, noting that the themes for the play were "teenage pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, murder and prison culture."


After Star Turn, Spicer Says He Regrets Berating Reporters over Inauguration Crowd

Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer made a surprise appearance at the Emmy Awards and announced that he regrets criticizing accurate news reports that the inauguration crowd size was bigger for President Donald Trump's inauguration than President Barack Obama's. After his resignation from the White House this summer, his appearance was intended to attract a television audience that he seeks for speaking engagements and other television appearances.


Tumult After AIDS Fundraiser Supports Harvey Weinstein Production

In May 2015, film producer Harvey Weinstein arranged for an auction of goods and services for a fundraiser for amfAR, a charity that seeks a cure for AIDS. The auction included tickets to awards events and parties, but they came with a condition: that $600,000 of the money raised would go to the American Repertory Theater, a nonprofit playhouse that was doing a trial run of "Finding Neverland," which Weinstein produced. amfAR's board of directors is questioning whether the arrangement was disclosed prior to the deal being finalized, and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is investigating the corporate governance of the charity as a whole. Weinstein said in an interview that he thought "we were doing something fantastic for both sides. We get money, they get money, and it's all our money." A prominent law firm, Gibson, Dunn & Cutcher reviewed the transaction and found it to be legitimate and lawful for amfAR's board of directors, but another reviewing lawyer found that the arrangement may put the financial integrity of the charity at risk, as the show's 24 investors would be reimbursed if they brought in third-party charitable contributions to the private benefit of Weinstein and other commercial investors.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 24, 2017 9:53 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Week In Review.

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