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Week in Review

By Tiombe Tallie Carter

President Renews Attack on National Football League, and Then Criticizes a Host on ESPN

Players kneeling in protest during the national anthem led President Trump to threaten to eliminate a federal tax law that allows the National Football League (NFL) to avoid paying taxes as a nonprofit organization. The tax law applies only to the NFL central office, since the teams are for-profit and already pay taxes. President Trump also called for firing ESPN SportsCenter host Jemele Hill on Twitter for her criticisms of him. Tax breaks for sports franchises have been controversial, as many businesses have benefited from tax subsidies, including the financing of stadiums with tax-exempt municipal bonds. The White House later backed away from President Trump's comments, stating that he was only making a point, as the federal tax law does not actually apply in this instance.


NBC Nuclear Arsenal Story Prompts a Threat by Trump

On Wednesday, NBC reported on-air and online that President Trump stated during a July meeting that he wanted to increase the national nuclear arsenal by 10 percent. Afterwards, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called the president a "moron." In retaliation, on Twitter, President Trump threatened NBC's federal license to broadcast television. Many immediately reacted, concerned "that he was undermining the First Amendment." Senator Edward J. Markey from Massachusetts wrote to Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai to protect the First Amendment. The NBC report did not identify the three officials in the meeting. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued a written statement calling the report "absolutely false." President Trump's attacks on the NBC suggested an unfamiliarity with how broadcast licensing works. Television networks like NBC, ABC, and CBS do not license spectrum; individual television stations do.


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


The Fall of Harvey Weinstein

Film producer Harvey Weinstein of Miramax and the Weinstein Company was accused by actresses and models of sexual assault stemming back to the 1980s. Big-name actresses, such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Rosanna Arquette, Dawn Dunning, Judith Godreche, and Katherine Kendall reported to the New York Times and the New Yorker Magazine that Weinstein had a history of sexual harassment, including sexual assault entailing forced oral and vaginal sex. The fallout from the exposés has been deep and swift. The Weinstein Company terminated him almost immediately, even though he made a failed last-ditch attempt to dissuade its board from voting to fire him. He is currently under criminal investigation in several jurisdictions, spanning from New York to London. The London Metropolitan Police Service confirmed that it is investigating allegations against the disgraced filmmaker that date back to the 1980s. New York police are investigating claims by actress Lucia Evans for a 2004 sexual assault on her in his then Miramax office. Following due diligence, the New York police are researching other complaints as well. There is one as recent as 2015, when Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez claimed that he groped her in his Tribeca office. According to Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., the sex crime prosecutors determined that that case was not provable. It is unclear to what degree the Weinstein Company was aware of the sexual allegations. His brother and co-founder Bob Weinstein, along with the company president David Glasser, held a video conference call with employees. They stated that they were shocked and unaware of the allegations and any settlement payments. Hervey Weinstein, during his final hours of employment, emailed the board, and stated that they were aware of the settlement payments to several women. One board member, Lance Maerov, admitted his knowledge of the payoffs, but thought they were for consensual affairs. Several members left the board since the allegations were made public, but said that they would cooperate with the criminal investigation.

As a result of these allegations, the Hatchett Book Group announced that it is shuttering Weinstein Books, a Weinstein Company publishing imprint. Weinstein was also condemned for his actions by former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Companies continue to distance themselves from his spotlight. The Walt Disney Company, which once owned Miramax Studios and employed Weinstein before he left to found the Weinstein Company with his brother Bob Weinstein, stated that it was unaware of the complaints and that the Weinstein brothers operated autonomously. His wife, Georgina Chapman, stated publicly her intention to divorce him, and educational institutions and entertainment organizations are denouncing him as well. The University of Southern California has gone as far as to reject Weinstein's $5 million pledge to its School of Cinematic Arts. Finally, the Motion Picture Academy expelled him over the weekend.







Rose McGowan Calls Ben Affleck a Liar

Actress Rose McGowan said that she told Ben Affleck that Harvey Weinstein had behaved inappropriately with her. Affleck's response, "GODDAMNIT! I TOLD HIM TO STOP DOING THAT," suggested that he had apparently chastised Weinstein about his behavior in the past. However, when questioned, Affleck gave no indication of being aware of the incidents. McGowan took to Twitter: "You lie." Affleck did not respond.


Nelly Arrested on Rape Accusation

Cornell Haynes Jr., better known as "Nelly," was arrested on October 7th for sexual assault. A young woman accused the St. Louis-born rapper of rape while on his tour bus after a performance at the White River Amphitheater in Seattle. He was released from custody the same day and has not been charged. The investigation is ongoing. The woman now wants to recant her story.




Couple Drops Lawsuit over Disputed Antiquity

Lynda and William Beierwaltes, a Colorado couple with a penchant for antiquities, decided to drop their federal lawsuit to stop the repatriation of a 2,300-year-old sculpture to Lebanon. The Beierwaltes purchased the marble sculpture of a bull's head for more than $1 million in 1996. The Republic of Lebanon reported the artifact as being looted during its civil war. It was discovered by a curator when it was on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art from Michael H. Steinhardt, a New York collector, who had purchased the work from the Beierwalteses in 2015. He has since asked the couple to take back the work and return his money. The Beierwalteses sued the Manhattan district attorney and the Lebanese government, claiming that they had a clear title. However, they recently released a statement of "incontrovertible evidence that the bull's head had in fact been stolen from Lebanon." There are no criminal charges against the Beierwalteses. However, investigations continue, as there is a second antiquity, "an archaic marble torso of a calf bearer," that was also stolen from Lebanon. Interestingly, the second work was also sold by the same gentleman who sold the Beierwalteses the first piece, and the Beierwalteses later sold it also to Steinhardt.


Publishing's Unfair Gray Market

When an Amazon customer hits the main buy button, he or she expects to get a brand-new book. Previously reserved for Amazon's inventory, that spot has now changed. Amazon now allows third-party sellers to be featured above the primary book purchase button for new books. Therefore, a customer now may not receive a "new" book, as third-party sellers often purchase books in bulk that were review copies sent freely to media outlets or overstocks returned from brick and mortar bookstores. The problem, other than being unethical, is that the author often receives nothing for these types of sales. The Independent Book Publishers Association is investigating this gray market on Amazon. Publishers receive some revenue from overstocks sales. However, authors receive little, if any, income. Amazon clarified its definition of "new," stating that remainders and overstocks do not qualify. The Authors Guild asked publishers to keep better records, but the cost to police this gray market is prohibitive. Amazon, through a spokesperson, said: "We move quickly to address any violations." Perhaps it would be easier if it simply returned to disallowing third-party sellers access to the main buy button.


U.S. Will Withdraw from Cultural Agency, Citing "Anti-Israel" Bias

The Trump administration has announced that it is withdrawing from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It cited UNESCO's "anti-Israel" bias as its reason to withdraw, as UNESCO continues to recognize Palestine as a full member since 2011. In addition, the U.S. is $550 million in arrears to the organization. The withdrawal becomes effective at the end of 2018, at which point the U.S. will become a nonmember observer allowed to continue to provide expertise and perspective. American cultural organizations criticize the decision. Metropolitan Museum of Art chief executive Daniel H. Weiss said that "UNESCO may be imperfect," but it has been an important leader in preserving vital cultural heritage worldwide. UNESCO criticized Israel in 2015 for "aggressions and illegal measures against freedoms of worship" in Jerusalem. This summer, it declared the West Bank's ancient Hebron as an endangered Palestinian Heritage site.


The Guggenheim Censors Itself

"Art and China after 1989", a new show at the Guggenheim Museum, is causing quite a stir. Animal rights activists protested several works that entailed pigs mating, pit bulls on treadmills, and insects trapped with reptiles. A New York Times preview of the show stated that "some creatures will be devoured; others may die of fatigue." The museum received threats of violence. Richard Armstrong, the museum's director, removed the animal works in response to the protest, reasoning that he had to consider the safety of the museum's staff, visitors, and participating artists.



NFL Unity on Anthem Is Vanishing

Two weeks ago, the NFL was locked in unity, literally, many arm in arm or kneeling in protest mostly against President Trump's calls for firing players who do not stand for the national anthem. That united front is crumbling as the President re-frames the focus of the protest away from police brutality and social injustice to a statement on the flag and supporting the military. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones threatened to bench any player who does not stand for the anthem. Miami Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross, who has been empathetic with his players, is now telling them that by not standing they are hurting their cause. For the owners, it comes down to money, according to Frank Zaccanelli, a former part owner of the Dallas Mavericks. "If any business took a 10-12% business hit, red lights would be going off." The players union is standing with the players, by issuing a statement defending its members' right to free expression. Current players voiced their opinions, ranging from continuing to kneel to staying in the locker room until after the anthem. Some former players are not aware of the issues. Hall of Famer Mike Ditka did not quite get all the fuss, stating, "All of a sudden, it's become a big deal now, about oppression." The NFL's rule that "players must be on the sideline for the anthem and should stand while it is being played" has not been enforced. That may change after the owners meet to discuss what actions to take.


NFL Players Who Protest Have an Ally in Labor Law

While players, owners, cheerleaders, and fans from the national and international shores continue to kneel, lock arms, and wait in locker rooms during the national anthem, the question remains: "How far can workers go in banding together to address problems related to their employment?" Federal labor law protects any "concerted activities" that "employees engage in to support one another in the workplace." Such activity has been broadly defined by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and courts, where rulings have allowed a myriad of activities bearing on one's work life. "To be protected under federal labor law, an employee's action must be conducted in concert with co-workers, it must address an issue of relevance to their job, and it must be carried out using appropriate means." Referring to a 1978 Supreme Court case, where it was determined that "workers have a right to engage in political advocacy as long as the political theme relates to their job," many experts believe that the recent protests, at least some of them, meet the federal law's conditions. With the Trump administration's assault on workers' rights--as noted in its directed reversal of the government's position in a recent Supreme Court worker rights case, National Labor Relations Board v. Murphy Oil USA, No. 16-307, (Arg. 10.02.2017), and a Republican majority on the NLRB board, a narrowing of the interpretation of what constitutes "protected concerted activity" is expected.


NFL Player Calls for Unity on a Strategy for Protests

Russell Okung, lineman with the Los Angeles Chargers, urged all 1,700 NFL players to take a unified stand against NFL owners' pressure to stand during the national anthem. The anthem demonstrations were intended to draw attention to racial inequality and police shootings of African-Americans. President Trump blurred that initial message by tweeting that "players who kneel or sit during the national anthem are disrespecting the flag and the military" and chastising the team owners for not disciplining the players for protesting. In an interview, Okung said that "he wrote the letter as a way to move players' focus away from the president's agenda and back toward their own goals of addressing inequity." He posted his letter on The Players' Tribune in an attempt to reach all players across the players' association who may want to do more as a group, but did not have a vehicle to do so, as "the system is designed to keep us divided and stifle our attempts to collaborate." Team owners are meeting next week to discuss the anthem demonstrations. Some owners have threatened to bench players who do not stand. Okung invited players to contact him on Twitter to facilitate a conversation on "important decisions" made without players' input.


NCAA Declines to Punish North Carolina for Academic Fraud

The fact that the University of North Carolina is guilty of running an academic fraud scheme is undisputed. However, the NCAA will not issue penalties because technically no rules were broken, according to its recent ruling. It is uncanny that, for almost two decades, North Carolina had offered approximately 200 "paper" classes that were "laxly administered and graded" and geared towards student athletes, particularly in the football and basketball programs. The classes were predominantly offered through the African and Afro-American Studies Department, administered by a staff member, barely required attendance, and at best required one paper. The university was put on probation temporarily, and its accreditation was in jeopardy. The NCAA's Committee on Infractions determined that because non-athlete students had access to the "shadow curriculum," it "could not conclude that the University of North Carolina violated NCAA academic rules." The fact that the University of North Carolina is satisfied with this standard of academic curriculum quality actually protected it from punishment. The panel concluded that it could not establish that the courses were "solely created, offered and maintained as an orchestrated effort to benefit student-athletes." If the NCAA's membership, which consists of more than 1,000 colleges and universities, wants its athletes to be adequately educated, regardless of the educational standard at an individual school, then it will have to establish rules to that effect.


In Scandal's Aftermath, NCAA Plans a Commission to Reform Men's Basketball

On Wednesday, the NCAA announced that it was forming a college basketball commission to make substantial changes to the way it operates. This decision is in response to the federal charges against 10 men for a scheme among the sneaker giant Adidas, assistant coaches, agents, and money managers to funnel money to players and coaches. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will chair the commission, and it will include members such as Ohio State's athletic director, Gene Smith; president of the Association of American Universities, Mary Sue Coleman; and Jeremy Foley, Florida's former athletic director. The commission will examine the NCAA's fundamental regulatory arrangements, the rules regarding interrelated institutions such as apparel companies, nonscholastic basketball programs, and agents, and the NCAA's relationship with the National Basketball Association.


Elliott's Suspension Is Reinstated by Court

The NFL will be able to impose a suspension on Ezekiel Elliott, the Dallas Cowboys running back accused of domestic violence, according to a recent ruling by a federal district court. Elliott was initially suspended for six games. The NFL Players Association defended Elliott in district court, and that court issued an injunction blocking the suspension. The NFL appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, where it found on Thursday that the lawsuit "was 'premature' because the NFL and the players' union had not exhausted all available procedures in the league's collective bargaining agreement."


PSG Chairman Faces Claims of Bribing FIFA

Nasser al-Khelaifi, chairman of Paris St. Germain soccer team and chief executive of beIN Media Group, was accused by the Swiss attorney general of bribing Jerome Valcke, former FIFA general secretary for World Cup soccer broadcasting contracts. Valcke is currently serving a 10-year ban from soccer. In a written statement, the Swiss authorities said that it suspected Valcke of accepting "undue advantages" from al-Khelaifi regarding the award of media rights for certain countries at FIFA World Cups 2026 and 2030. beIN, the Doha-based television network that has been on a spending spree for media rights, refutes all accusations. The Swiss investigation stems from a U.S. indictment made in May 2015, charging a two-decade-long corruption scheme with the largest power brokers in the world of soccer. With 25 soccer-related investigations still open, al-Khelaifi is one of the first Qatari to be formally charged.


Aaron Hernandez's Family Drops CTE Suit against NFL, for Now

Aaron Hernandez, former New England Patriots tight end, committed suicide while in jail this past April. At the time, he was serving a life sentence for the murder of his friend Odin Lloyd. That conviction was vacated because his appeals had not been exhausted before his death. In September, his family sued the NFL for not adequately protecting him from concussions. It was determined from Hernandez's autopsy that he had an "advanced form of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease linked to repeated head hits." The family dropped the suit against the NFL so that it can refile in state court, where more claims can be filed, than in federal court. There will still be significant hurdles when the family refiles in Suffolk County Supreme Court: there is a high bar to overcome for athletes who played football in childhood and college, in addition to overcoming the argument that the proper forum is by the collective bargaining agreement with an arbitrator, and not in court with a judge.


Game Forfeited over Racist Posts

South Dakota high school Sturgis Brown canceled its annual homecoming celebrations due to photos shown on social media of students destroying a car with "Go back to the Rez" painted on the side. Sturgis Brown was due to play Pine Ridge School from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation at the homecoming festivities. The school board voted unanimously to cancel all homecoming activities, which included the football game, dance, and parade, to avoid any potential danger to the students.


Hall of Famer Says Warn Parents of Risks

NFL Hall of Famer Harry Carson testified at a Congressional hearing that parents should be warned when signing up their children to play football, as the sport can cause long-term neurological damage. Carson is a former linebacker who was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome in 1990. The 13-year veteran of the New York Giants will not allow his 8-year old grandson to play the sport that yielded him nine Pro Bowl wins and a Super Bowl ring. He now spends his time devoted to raising awareness of the risks associated with playing the sport.



ESPN Host Barred for Urging Boycott to Rebuke Jerry Jones

ESPN enforces its social media guidelines with the suspension of Jemele Hill, its SportsCenter host, for a second Twitter outburst. In response to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones's statement that he would bench all players who "disrespect the flag," Hill tweeted, "If you feel strongly about JJ's statement, boycott his advertisers." She called President Trump a white supremacist last month. Although she later clarified that she was not calling for a boycott of the NFL, ESPN implemented a two-week suspension. Jones's threat that the Cowboys will not play if they disrespect the flag was met with opposition from the NFL Players Association, which "issued a statement that defended its members' right to free expression."


Google Inquiry Connects Election Ads to Russians

Google's internal investigation revealed how Russia used social networks and technology services to influence the 2016 presidential election. The social media giant discovered thousands of dollars' worth of ads purchased by Russian agents. The ads spanned the political spectrum, from Donald Trump building a golf course in Scotland, to asking whether President Obama needed to resign. Microsoft is also investigating whether Russia infiltrated its Bing search engine. Facebook already discovered that Russia had placed over 3,000 ads during the election campaign. Representatives from Google have been called in to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearings on November 1st.


Lawmakers Will Release Facebook Ads from Russia

The thousands of Facebook ads used by Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election will be released to the public according to the House Intelligence Committee. Hearings will be held on November 1st to investigate the role of social media in Russia's election tampering. Facebook's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, has been meeting with federal officials in a public relations effort to diffuse the political pressure surrounding the media giant. She has agreed to provide additional fake news and inflammatory content from the social media platform. According to Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the ads will have to be scrubbed of personally identifiable information before being released to the public.


Russians Spun Americans' Rage on Facebook into a Weapon

The New York Times investigated hundreds of posts written by Americans that were re-posted on Russian social media pages. The posts took "descriptions and videos of police beatings from genuine YouTube and Facebook accounts," and re-posted them on Russian pages entitled "Being Patriotic," "Blacktivist," and others resembling American angst. They used the social media platform's system for engagement to feed outrage. Jonathan Albright from Columbia University's Tow Center for Digital Journalism calls it "cultural hacking." The Being Patriotic page added the statement: "the national can't trust the federal government. What a disgrace!" to a statement copied from the American site InfoWars that said, "the federal government had taken property from private land owners at pennies on the dollar." According to Graphika, a commercial analytics company, the Russians used platforms from white nationalists to Bernie Sanders supporters to manipulate them. Unlike "astroturfing," a public relations strategy that constructs fake grassroots support behind an idea, the Russians threw seeds and fertilizer onto social media to cultivate a political movement.


Turkish Court Convicts American Reporter in Absentia

Journalist Ayla Albayrak, a dual citizen of Turkey and Finland, was convicted of terrorism by Turkey and sentenced to two years and one month in prison. Ranked by the Committee to Protect Journalists as the highest jailer of journalists, Turkey has implemented a crackdown on media news members. Albayrak was charged with violating Turkey's Article 7/2 Antiterror Law for her 2015 Wall Street Journal article entitled, "Urban Welfare Escalates in Turkey's Kurdish-Majority Southeast," which described clashes between Turkish security forces and Kurdish separatists. Wall Street Journal executives Gerard Baker and William Lewis condemn the ruling. The newspaper will appeal.


Blind Man's Lawsuits Seek Access to College Websites

Emanuel Delacruz, who is blind, filed several lawsuits against area colleges, charging them with violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. The lawsuits were filed in federal court in Manhattan against Fordham University, Manhattan College, Long Island University, Iona College, and Hofstra University, because their websites are inaccessible to Delacruz. Attorneys are arguing that the federal law requiring public spaces to be accessible to those with disabilities also applies to websites. Over 750 lawsuits have been filed since 2015, mostly against retailers and restaurants. Colleges and universities have only recently faced lawsuits. In 2015, MIT and Harvard were sued by advocates for the deaf, and the Department of Justice's civil rights division found that the University of California, Berkeley, violated the disability law. Failing to caption online lectures and not providing accommodations for video lectures and podcasts are argued to be noncompliance. The 1990's Americans With Disabilities Act does not include the internet, so it is unclear whether the lawsuits will prevail. The Justice Department has issued guidelines, but considering that "web regulations" have been placed on the federal government's "inactive" agenda items, it is unlikely that formal regulations will be adopted.

There is no nationwide consensus of enforcement. A Californian judge earlier this year dismissed a suit by a blind man against Domino's Pizza, "because the chain offered an option to order by telephone." A Florida judge ruled that Winn-Dixie "had to offer the same accommodations on its website as it did in stores." Then in July, a Brooklyn judge ruled that "Blick Art Material's website had to be readily available to a blind man." Tom Stebbins, executive director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, said the rulings result in a legal gray area for "either significant civil rights advances or exploitation by lawyers looking to make a quick buck through settlements." There have been cases where identical lawsuits have been filed against several businesses or colleges. Sometimes, the unintended consequences can be dire. The Berkeley suit resulted in the university taking down over 20,000 video and audio files.


Amazon Suspends Executive Accused of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment allegations continue to fly in the entertainment and media industries. Roy Price, head of Amazon Studios, was suspended resulting from accusations that he made unwanted sexual advances towards Isa Dick Hackett. Hackett, executive producer of "The Man in the High Castle," said in a Hollywood Reporter article that Price propositioned her in July 2015 after a dinner at San Diego Comic-Con. Reportedly, he made use of vulgar genitalia terms. Her claims were first made public in an article in The Information, a tech news website. Hackett told the Hollywood Reporter that she had found inspiration to go public after the recent articles in the New York Times and the New Yorker Magazine regarding the allegations against Harvey Weinstein. "I feel inspired by the other women who have been far braver than I am, who have come forward," she said.


Investor Presses for Change in 21st Century Fox Board

CtW Investment Group, an organization that "advises several union pension funds invested in Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox," called for an overhaul of the 21st Century Fox board and a comprehensive review of its workplace culture. In a letter from CtW's executive director, Dieter Waizenegger, to Viet D. Dinh, chairman of 21st Century's nominating and corporate governance committee, the organization accuses the directors of failing to ensure that the proper corporate controls were in place when it was aware of the settlements, and "refused to investigate and mitigate the risk . . . and facilitated a tone at the top that permits unethical behavior by high performers." 21st Century Fox stated that it will "respond accordingly," as it takes CtW's communications seriously. Although 21st Century Fox is currently under investigation by the U.S. attorney's office, CtW said it does not need to wait for the results of that investigation. It has called for the resignation of Roderick Eddington, the company's lead director who is also chairman of the audit committee, for failing in his "risk oversight responsibilities." In addition, CtW called for adding directors with human resources experience, increasing the number of women directors, and creating a new committee of independent directors to focus on "organizational culture, workplace safety and health, work force diversity and pay equality, and employment engagement and development." This urging for corporate governance reform should be of no surprise to 21st Century Fox, as shareholders called for similar changes six years ago after its phone-hacking scandal. 21st Century Fox's dual-class share structure continues to present a problem to implement reform. The Murdoch family controls 40 percent of the class of stock with voting rights, compared to other owners with a second class of stock with no voting rights. Even if more independent directors are added to the board, it is unlikely that they will have voting privileges. There is a proposal to the shareholders that would eliminate the dual-class share structure. The 21st Century Fox board is opposed to changing the share structure.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 16, 2017 1:16 PM.

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