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Week in Review (12/23)

By Eric Lanter

Poor Vetting Sinks Trump's Nominees for Federal Judge

A nominee for federal judge, Matthew Petersen, appeared before a Senate panel for what was expected to be a routine confirmation hearing. Unfortunately, he was unable to answer basic questions about practicing law in federal court. Following the viral video of the hearing, he withdrew his nomination and joined two other nominees for Federal District Court to do so in recent weeks, as they generated controversy with a lack of experience for one and a defense of the Ku Klux Klan for the other. Thus far, even though President Trump nominated approximately three dozen judges for district courts, only six were appointed, as he often nominates unqualified candidates.


Poland Overhauls Courts, and Critics See Retreat from Democracy

Poland's government implemented legislation to overhaul the country's judicial system, placing it under the control of the right-wing governing party Law and Justice. This move is part of a broader trend in Poland of moving away from democratic values and toward right-wing populism. Given the exit of Britain from the European Union, a separatist movement building in Spain, and disagreement over how or whether to integrate immigrants, Poland's move toward right-wing populism only adds to Europe's tally of problems.


Is There Champagne in the Sorbet? Prove It

The European Union Court of Justice ruled that retailers may sell a Champagne sorbet only if they can prove that the Champagne is a distinct part of the sorbet's flavor. In particular, the German retailer Aldi put Champagne-flavored sorbet in its stores, causing the Comite Interprofessional du Vin de Champagne to file suit against it. The European Union Court of Justice determined that Aldi did not take "undue advantage" of the reputation of Champagne, but that it must show a German appeals court that Champagne was "a core aroma or flavor in the product."


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


Anita Hill to Lead Hollywood Commission on Sexual Harassment

Anita Hill was named to lead the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, which is tasked with dealing with sexual abuse and harassment in the media and entertainment industries. It will "address the complex and interrelated causes of the problems of parity and power" in the industries, and Hill's experience testifying as a victim of sexual harassment in 1991 has made her role in the Commission part of her journey to justice.


Three More Women Accuse Dustin Hoffman of Sexual Misconduct

Dustin Hoffman is facing detailed allegations of sexual misconduct from three women. One reported to Variety magazine that she was a 16-year-old when she met Hoffman, who appeared naked in front of her, then put on a robe, sat near her, and massaged her feet. In response to one of the accusers, Hoffman released a statement apologizing for doing anything that "could have put her in an uncomfortable situation," but his attorney labeled the accusations as "defamatory falsehoods."


New York Police Investigate Rape Claims Against Russell Simmons

A pioneer in hip-hop, Russell Simmons, is facing an investigation by the New York Police Department as a result of an alleged history of violent sexual misconduct, including rape. The New York Times reported that there were three alleged rapes between 1988 and 1995, but Simmons denied all allegations of non-consensual sex and stated that he will cooperate with the police investigation, while expecting a "swift resolution" to it.


Morgan Spurlock Steps Down After Admitting Sexual Misconduct

Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock stepped down from his production company and announced that he had committed sexual misconduct in the past. He acknowledged that he cheated on his wives and girlfriends, as well as settled a harassment allegation. He disclosed that he experienced an encounter where he began having sex with a woman who pushed him off of her, saying that she did not want to have sex and began crying. His disclosure of this instance is novel in the wave of sexual harassment revelations, as Spurlock's announcement preceded any allegations of wrongdoing. It is not yet clear whether he plans a return to his production company at a later date.



Ice Cream Salesman Turned Art Dealer Swindled Clients Out of Millions

New York art dealer Ezra Chowaiki was accused of wire fraud and transport of stolen goods after it came to light that he sold stakes in works of art that he did not own, including selling shares in works exceeding 100% of the works' values. He had "no formal education or expertise in art", but became involved in the art world and eventually came to receive millions of dollars from his clients, which he did not return. Chowaiki's lawyers insist that he "has an impeccable reputation in the art world and looks forward to restoring it."


Artist Who Filmed Beijing Crackdown is Reportedly Freed on Bail

Chinese artist Hua Yong, whom police detained after he posted videos detailing authorities' forcing thousands of people to leave Beijing, has been freed on bail. Patrick Poon of Amnesty International said that the videos "became important evidence about the human rights violations during the evictions" in the neighborhoods near Beijing. Yong had been incarcerated before over free speech issues, including a performance in Tienanmen Square. Following his most recent arrest, he insists that he will remain in China and exercise his freedom of speech and the press, as it is guaranteed in China's constitution.


Royal Court Theater Reverses Decision to Cancel "Rita, Sue and Bob Too"

Following accusations of censorship, the Royal Court Theater reversed a decision to cancel a production of the play "Rita, Sue and Bob Too". The play deals with "themes of poverty and life in Margaret Thatcher's Britain" and faced cancellation after allegations of sexual harassment emerged regarding its co-director, Max Stafford-Clark. The organization released a statement regarding the reinstatement of the play, crediting "helpful public debate" for the reversal of decision.


Chuck Close Apologizes After Accusations of Sexual Harassment

Acclaimed artist Chuck Close is facing allegations from several women of sexual harassment after those women came to his studio to pose for him. Two women told the New York Times that he asked them to pose nude, which made them "feel exploited and uncomfortable," as he approached them and made lewd comments to them. He acknowledged that he made crude remarks, but only did so in the interest of evaluating the models, and he apologized if he made them feel uncomfortable. Close, a quadriplegic, also said that he "found that utter frankness is the only way to have a personal life", given his physical limitations.


After 12 Years, Trove of Stolen Hans Hofmann Works Recovered

Several stolen paintings by Abstract Expressionist master Hans Hofmann were just recovered by Art Recovery International. The five paintings that were stolen over a decade ago are estimated to be worth a total of over $500,000 and it is supposed that the thefts were an inside job by a caretaker, John Rett, who used the storage facility at which the paintings were kept as a personal shopping center and sold them through various venues during the ensuing years.



FIFA in Hot Water Over Foam

Beginning in the 2014 World Cup, FIFA began using a white foam to mark the 10 yards between the ball and the closest defenders for a free kick play, which follows a foul. The foam's inventor, Heine Allemagne, alleges that FIFA stole his invention. A court in Rio de Janeiro
acknowledged his patent for the spray, and ordered FIFA to stop using it or risk a fine of $15,000 per game. The New York Times viewed documents that showed that FIFA attempted to pay Allemagne $500,000 for the patent, but did not consummate the deal. FIFA refused to comment on the case, given the fact that it is continuing.


FIFA Suspends Brazilian Soccer Chief

FIFA provisionally suspended Brazil's top soccer official, Marco Polo Del Nero. The barring occurred two years after American authorities announced corruption charges against him and approximately 40 other individuals involved in global soccer. Prosecutors allege that he accepted $6.55 million in bribes during 2010-2016, in exchange for his vote to award business executives lucrative "media and marketing contracts." He is one of six defendants from Brazil, the most defendants from any one country, and prosecutors allege that he was coordinating the corruption scheme. Brazil only extradites its citizens for drug crimes, so it is unlikely that he will appear in an American court on charges, but he has limited his international travel, as authorities remain on alert.


Canadian Gymnastics Coach Charged with Sexual Offenses

Gymnastics Canada's women's national team director, Dave Brubaker, is now the subject of multiple sex-related charges, including sexual interference, sexual exploitation, and sexual assault. Gymnastics Canada placed Brubaker on administrative leave as a result of the allegations.


McKayla Maroney Says USA Gymnastics Forced Confidentiality in Settlement

Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney revealed that USA Gymnastics, the governing body for the sport in the U.S., required silence in a nondisclosure agreement regarding settling claims of sexual assault by its team doctor, Lawrence Nassar. The agreement required Maroney to pay $100,000 if she spoke "of her abuse or the settlement" of her claim. Her attorney called the confidentiality agreement "an immoral and illegal attempt to silence a victim of child sexual abuse," but USA Gymnastics did not comment on the substance of the agreement, instead referring to it as "confidential and privileged under California law."


Jerry Richardson, Owner of Carolina Panthers, Selling Team Over Misconduct Allegations

In the wake of an article in Sports Illustrated alleging that Carolina Panthers' owner Jerry Richardson was sexually harassing employees and making racially charged statements for years, Richardson announced that he is selling the team. He has also turned over control of the team to Tina Becker, a longtime franchise employee. The National Football League (NFL) announced that it is going to conduct an inquiry into the allegations, but Richardson has said that he will not entertain bids for the team until the end of the season.


At ESPN, John Skipper Resigns as President, Citing Substance Addiction

62 year old John Skipper, ESPN's president, announced that he is stepping down, citing a "substance addiction" lasting "many years." ESPN, which is owned by Walt Disney Company, will have George Bodenheimer as acting chairman for 90 days, and will likely then name a permanent president. ESPN has faced rounds of layoffs and subscriber losses, which has drawn scrutiny and caused many to wonder whether Skipper was capable of rescuing the company. Regardless, the next president of ESPN faces a declining audience and contracts binding the network to spend $24 billion in the next four years for rights to sports programming.


NFL Network Executive Resigns After Reports of Sexually Explicit Tweets

A top executive at the NFL Network, David Eaton, resigned after facing allegations of a hostile work environment by female employees. He was the vice president and executive editor of NFL Media, and was supervising the news operations at the television channel and website for the network. His resignation came after screenshots of conversations emerged between Eaton and adult film actresses, prostitutes, and paid escorts.


Venus Williams Cleared in Fatal Crash

The Palm Beach Gardens police announced that Venus Williams and another driver involved in a motor vehicle accident that fatally injured one man will not face charges in relation to the accident. The investigating police officer found that Williams legally entered the intersection from a road near her gated neighborhood with the benefit of a green light.


Major League Baseball and the Chicago Cubs Move to Dismiss Fan's Foul Ball Blindness Action

Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Chicago Cubs moved to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a plaintiff claiming that they were negligent for failing to install sufficient netting behind home plate to prevent an injury leaving him blind in one eye. After several reconstructive surgeries to repair the facial bones, the vision in the other eye is at risk. The MLB argued that there was no obligation for it or the team to provide netting that prevents any such injury, particularly in light of the Baseball Act, which requires willful and wanton conduct or defective netting. Relatedly, reports have shown that as many as 1,700 fans are injured at MLB ballparks every year.


NCAA Places Sanctions on Northern Colorado Basketball

The NCAA placed the University of Northern Colorado men's basketball program on probation for three years. The probation comes after it was revealed that ex-coach B.J. Hill and eight members of his staff completed coursework for prospects over a four-year period, paying for classes that were needed for academic eligibility, and arranging practice sessions with an ineligible athlete. The team also faces a financial penalty, restrictions on scholarships and recruiting, as well as a one-year postseason ban.



Tavis Smiley Responds to PBS Suspension of Talk Show After Sexual Misconduct Allegations

PBS has indefinitely stopped distributing Tavis Smiley's talk show, after "credible allegations" of sexual misconduct surfaced against him. The network farmed out the investigation to a law firm and has not disclosed the nature of the allegations, but Variety magazine has reported that the allegations involve sexual relationships with Smiley's co-workers. Smiley, in a statement to the New York Times, said that the investigation is unfair and is not providing him due process to defend himself.


Two Women Who Settled with O'Reilly For Sexual Harassment Sue for Defamation

Two women who previously accused Bill O'Reilly of sexual harassment have joined a defamation lawsuit against O'Reilly and Fox News, asserting that O'Reilly's statements and the organization depicted them as lying "political operatives and extortionists." The two women, a former host on Fox Business Network and a former producer on Fox News, settled claims of sexual harassment against O'Reilly. The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, and their lawyer said that the women "are tired of being smeared with lies by a bully who thinks that his victims are afraid to answer to them."


Glenn Thrush, Suspended New York Times Reporter, to Resume Work

The New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush, one of the most prominent political reporters, will return to work in January 2018 after allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior emerged in November. After an investigation, a lawyer for The New York Times concluded that while Thrush acted "in ways that we do not condone," the newspaper "decided that he does not deserve to be fired."


Facebook Job Ads Raise Concerns About Age Discrimination

Companies like Verizon, Target, Goldman Sachs, and Amazon have placed recruitment ads with Facebook limited to particular age groups, according to ProPublica and the New York Times. Facebook permits advertisers to select which age group to target, and there is record that Verizon targeted recruitment ads for those who have visited or live in Washington, DC and are between the ages of 25-36 years old. A Washington employment lawyer who represents victims of discrimination concluded that the practice is "blatantly unlawful" as it aids or abets age discrimination by prohibiting those 40 or older from even seeing the job opportunity.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 30, 2017 9:58 AM.

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