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Week in Review

By Angela Peco
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

Below is general news from the week, followed by EASL-related news:

President Trump Ordered Mueller's Firing Last June

Following reports that special counsel Mueller was examining a possible obstruction case, President Trump argued that Mueller had conflicts of interest that disqualified him from overseeing the investigation and ordered his firing last June.

The news came to light as investigators interviewed current and former White House officials into whether the president obstructed justice.

It was reported that the president ultimately backed down, after White House counsel Donald F. McGahn refused to ask the Justice Department to dismiss the special counsel and threatened to resign.


Lawsuit on Emoluments Gains Traction in Court

A lawsuit filed in Maryland by the District of Columbia and the State of Maryland appeared to inch forward last week. The lawsuit claims that President Trump is violating the Constitution by failing to divorce himself from his businesses. The complaint says in part that the Trump International Hotel in Washington diverts customers from businesses that D.C. or Maryland license, tax or own, thereby depriving them of revenue.

Judge Messitte seemed more sympathetic to claims that the president had created an unfair playing field for facilities that compete against Trump-owned properties, stating that there was some evidence that the president is unduly attracting business. He also expressed skepticism about the Justice Department's arguments that he should dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that Trump's continued ownership of his businesses was a political issue, not a legal one.

Judge Daniels of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan threw out a similar lawsuit last month, although the Maryland court is not bound by that ruling.


Casino Mogul Wynn Accused of Sexual Misconduct

The Wall Street Journal reported allegations that billionaire casino magnate and prominent political donor Steve Wynn engaged in a decades-long pattern of sexual misconduct with employees of his casino. Some employees described being pressured into performing sex acts with him.

Wynn Resorts stock plunged more than 10% following the report. In light of the allegations, a planned casino near Boston has come under renewed scrutiny, with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission noting that ensuring the suitability and integrity of its gaming licensees is an active and ongoing process.

Wynn also resigned as finance chairman of the Republication Nation Committee, a position he held since 2016.



Trump Immigration Plan Demands Tough Concessions from Democrats

President Trump proposed legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants, including the 690,000 individuals signed up for protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and another 1.1 million undocumented workers. In exchange, the plan calls for an end to family-based migration policies, a $25 billion trust fund to pay for a border wall, and a crackdown on other illegal immigrants.

Democrats already rejected the proposal, while senators work on a narrower bipartisan plan focused on legal status for DACA recipients. The DACA program is set to expire on March 5th, when recipients will no longer be able to work legally and face the threat of deportation. The proposed plan would put DACA recipients on a 10-to-12-year path to citizenship plan.


Manhattan D.A. No Longer Accepts Donations From Lawyers With Pending Cases

Cyrus R. Vance Jr. faced significant criticism over his decision not to prosecute high-profile individuals whose lawyers had made large contributions to his campaign. Vance will no longer be accepting contributions from lawyers with celebrity clients under investigation by his office. The ban is meant to counter the public impression that donations could sway a D.A.'s decisions.

Donations to candidates running for district attorney from defense lawyers are legal in New York. Individual contribution limits are based on the number of voters in a county and are capped at $50,000 in Manhattan.

A think-tank at Columbia Law School recently issued a report aimed at limiting the influence of donations on the criminal justice system. It recommends that D.A.s never accept donations from people under investigation or indictment; and that prosecutors enforce a strict separation between their campaign and office staffs.


Difficult for Chinese Women to Organize #MeToo Movement

Government censors have been deleting online petitions demanding investigations into sexual harassment and blocked certain phrases that render it difficult for women to organize social media campaigns.

Campaigns have primarily targeted universities for failing to investigate harassment complaints, but have also sparked a larger debate about the government's role in preventing a resurgence of sexism and workplace discrimination.


Legal Scholar Geoffrey C. Hazard Jr. Dies at 88

Geoffrey C. Hazard Jr., a leading scholar and teacher of civil procedure and legal ethics, died on January 10, 2018. He co-authored leading treatises and casebooks on civil procedure and professional ethics, and was a faculty member at Yale Law School for 23 years.


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


Russell Simmons Sued Over Rape Accusation

Jennifer Jarosik, a Los Angeles a documentary filmmaker, accused music mogul Russell Simmons of sexual battery and rape in a civil lawsuit filed in federal court. Jarosik had expressed interest in interviewing Simmons for a documentary that Simmons had allegedly agreed to help produce and finance. Jarosik claims that she was raped in 2016 during a visit to Simmons's home in L.A.

The lawsuit asks for $5 million in damages from the Def Jam Recordings co-founder, who has also been accused of sexual misconduct, assault or rape by at least 10 other women. Simmons denied any wrongdoing.


Connecticut Theater Cancels Woody Allen Musical

Goodspeed Musicals, the theater that gave "Annie" its start, cancelled a planned production of Allen's 1994 film "Bullets Over Broadway". The theater's executive director pointed to the current dialogue on sexual harassment and ongoing media reports as the reasons behind the decision. Allen's daughter, Dylan Farrow, has repeatedly claimed that Allen molested her as a child, and Allen has always denied the accusation.


Long Wharf Theater's Artistic Director Fired Over Misconduct Allegations

Four women accuse Gordon Edelstein of groping or other forms of unwanted touching. Several former employees also allege that Edelstein used sexually explicit language toward and about women in the workplace. The board acknowledges having knowing about three of the complaints, and will launch an independent review of the theater's procedures for reporting misconduct.


Grandma the Clown Resigns from Big Apple Circus

Barry Lubin resigned from the world-renowned circus after it was revealed that in 2004 he pressured Zoey Dunne, then a 16-year-old aerialist, to pose for pornographic pictures. He claimed that the photos were part of a modeling job for a tattoo company, and warned Dunne not to tell the circus, as their activities would be considered outside work.

Dunne went to the police in 2011/12, but was told that the statute of limitations for pursuing child pornography charges had expired. Lubin was no longer employed at Big Apple when she contacted the circus that same year, and she was surprised to learn of his return in 2017. He has acknowledged the reports and apologized.


Casey Affleck to Skip Oscars

Ending months of speculation and breaking from tradition, last year's best actor winner will not attend the Oscars and present the award for best actress. Many wondered whether Affleck would be a disruptive presence at the ceremony during a season marked by revelations of widespread sexual harassment and defined by the #MeToo movement.

Two women sued Affleck for sexual harassment during the production of the 2010 film "I'm Still Here," which Affleck directed. The actor denied any wrongdoing and settled with both.


Latinos Seek Their Hollywood Moment

Latinos make up 18% of the US population and 23% of frequent moviegoers. Yet only 3% of speaking characters in films during the last decade were Latino, according to a study at the University of Southern California.

The glaring absence of Latino nominees in the four acting categories for this year's Oscars underscores the group's under-representation in film, though Latino directors have recently received recognition for films like "Gravity", "Birdman" and "The Revenant".

Some activists point to the diversity of Hispanics themselves as one of the reasons they find it difficult to rally uniform support for Latino-focused projects. Activists hope that diversity efforts at talent agencies will also help change Hollywood practices from the bottom up. As for the academy, which is currently 72% male and 87% white, it has pledged to double female and minority membership by 2020.


Contentious Bollywood Film Hits Theaters in India

The movie "Padmaavat" hit theaters following days of protests in India. Rajput activists claimed that the movie is historically inaccurate and disrespectful to the Rajputs, traditionally a caste of warriors. The story is based on an epic about a legendary Hindu queen said to have committed suicide rather than submit to a Muslim ruler.

Critics cite questionable clothing choices and inappropriate scenes among their complaints. Hindu extremists had previously attacked the crew while the film was in production and offered a bounty to behead the lead actress and director. India's Supreme Court overturned all bans and ordered the film's release; however, many cinema owners are refusing to show it, citing safety concerns. The movie has not garnered positive reviews.



Russia Pulls Stalin Comedy from Theaters

Russia's Culture Ministry withdrew the film's distribution license, banning it on grounds of "extremism" based on its unfavorable portrayal of national heroes responsible for defeating Fascist forces. Russia's Culture minister had previously denied claims of an impending ban as his ministry continues to bankroll patriotic films that portray Russia's past in a positive light.



National Gallery of Art Cancels Chuck Close Exhibition Over Accusations of Sexual Misconduct

Following an earlier cancellation of a photographs exhibit by Columbia professor Thomas Roma, the gallery cancelled the Chuck Close exhibition after a New York Times report that Close had asked women who visited his studio to undress and made unwelcome explicit comments.
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is not reconsidering its decision to hang a Close painting on view in its galleries, and the National Portrait Gallery has not received any inquiries about Close's portrait of Bill Clinton, which remains on loan there.


New York City Names Four Artists to Tackle Social Issues

The city named four new public artists in residence who will receive $40,000 to develop projects with city agencies in 2018. The artists will spend the first three months of their residency researching and interacting with their communities so as to better tailor their projects.


Jeff Koons Concept is Criticized in France

Prominent figures have called on the City of Paris to abandon plans to install a sculpture by American contemporary artist Jeff Koons donated in honor of Paris terror victims. Koons's donation consisted of the concept for the commemorative sculpture only; the funds for its production were raised separately.

The "Bouquet of Tulips" is intended to evoke the hand of the Statue of Liberty holding a bouquet of multi-color flowers. The chosen location across the river from the Eiffel Tower is also criticized for providing "such strong visibility and recognition [that it] would amount to advertising or product placement."


Museum Curators Object to Rebekah Mercer as Trustee

Tenured curators at the American Museum of Natural History expressed profound concern about Mercer's alliances with and donations to organizations that they say "challenge and politicize climate change science". In their letter, they note that Mercer, a leading Trump donor, supports groups that "directly contradict the museum's mission and impede our ongoing efforts to educate the public about the science of past and future climate change."


Prisons' Banned Books Under Review

Prompted by state ACLU affiliates, North Carolina and New Jersey will remove "The New Jim Crow" for their list of prohibited books. The best-selling book by civil rights lawyer Michelle Alexander discusses race-related issues and mass incarceration.


Harvard Theater Troupe Will Cast Women

Harvard's Hasty Pudding theater troupe says it has committed to casting women in its annual production next year. The Hasty Pudding Theatricals calls itself the world's third-oldest theater organization, and boasts Franklin D. Roosevelt and Jack Lemon as alumni.

The troupe is known for comedic revues that feature men in drag playing female characters, keeping its cast all-male since it began staging productions in 1844. Women have only been able to work behind the scenes.

The decision comes amid years of debate over the fate of Harvard's single-gender organizations and exclusive social clubs. Last year, the university considered banning exclusive clubs but decided to continue a policy of sanctions instead, according to which students who participate in single-gender clubs cannot hold on-campus leadership positions.


Chinese Police Seize Book Publisher on Train

Hong Kong-based book publisher and Swiss national Gui Minhai was snatched from a Beijing-bound train under the eyes of two Swedish diplomats as he traveled to a medical appointment. It is alleged that plainclothes police officers boarded the train and led him away. This is the second time Gui has disappeared. In 2015, he was accused by Chinese state news media outlets of publishing books that slurred Communist Party leaders, and was later jailed for two years for a drunk driving offense.

Supporters call the detention a campaign by the Chinese government to shut down publishers of books critical of the party elite. This incident is expected to rekindle strains between China and European nations, as well as magnify worries that China has grown dismissive of legal guarantees that protect Hong Kong from mainland interference.


Dutch Museum Cancels Sottsass Retrospective After Museum and Estate Clash

The Stedelijk Museum cancelled the show after a clash with the architect and designer's estate over the show's content and the "museum's role in presenting art".

Sottsass's widow and heir withdrew her art and threatened to speak publicly against the show. She was joined by the estate manager, who also withdrew his own collection of Sottsass works, citing the curator's "refus[al] to detail her curatorial outline of the exhibition and her choice of works until a late date."



Disgraced Gymnastics Team Doctor Larry Nassar Sentenced to Up to 175 Years

Dr. Lawrence Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for multiple sex crimes, following a seven-day hearing, where more than 150 women, with the encouragement of a judge, described the abuse they had endured.

"I just signed your death warrant," Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said as she imposed the sentence.

Last November, Nassar pleaded guilty to sexually abusing seven girls and had already been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for child pornography convictions.


Entire USA Gymnastics Board Steps Down

Moments after Dr. Nassar's sentencing hearing came to a close, the U.S. Olympic Committee called on the entire USA Gymnastics board to resign, threatening to decertify the sport's national governing body if members refused.

The organization has since released a statement that it will comply with all USOC requirements, including seating an interim board by the end of February.

USA Gymnastics also came under fire after McKayla Maroney said she was forced to agree to a nondisparagement clause and confidentiality provision as part of an earlier settlement. The organization later said that it would not penalize the gymnast for breaking the confidentiality agreement to speak out against Dr. Nassar.


Michigan State President and Athletic Director Resign

President Lou Anna Simon resigned under pressure over the way she handled the scandal involving Dr. Nassar, who had spent years on the faculty and was the team physician for two female varsity squads.

A lawyer for Michigan State said an inquiry had found no evidence that high-ranking university administrators knew about Dr. Nassar's conduct before a newspaper report in 2016. The Detroit News reported that Dr. Simon knew of a Title IX investigation against an unnamed sports medicine doctor in 2014. Public records show that he continued to treat patients at Michigan State for 16 months after university police began a criminal investigation.

Athletic Director Mark Hollis announced his resignation two days later and pledged to cooperate with any investigations.



State Authorities and NCAA Launch Investigations

In the latest fallout from the widespread sexual abuse scandal involving MSU athletic physician Larry Nassar, Michigan State is facing several investigations, including ones from the state's attorney general and the NCAA.

A recent ESPN investigation argues that Michigan State's troubles go beyond Nassar and extend to a pattern in which sexual assault complaints involving prominent athletes were handled by the athletic department and not through regular university channels.

The investigations have also sparked debate about the proper role of the NCAA, especially in light of arguments that it overstepped its authority in managing the Sandusky scandal at Penn State. Donald M. Remy, the NCAA's chief legal officer, acknowledged that he was aware of the context in which people would view this latest action. In a letter to Michigan State, the NCAA cited as grounds for the inquiry the principle that member schools are obliged to safeguard their athletes' well-being.




Bill Reintroduced in New York State to Ban Tackle Football for Children

Sponsored by state assemblyman Michael Benedetto, the bill would prevent organized youth football leagues and schools from offering tackle football to children under 12.

In recent years, youth sports organizations introduced safety initiatives to raise awareness of the dangers associated with head hits, especially as research increasingly shows a correlation between brain disease and the age at which children begin playing and sustaining hits to the head.


Guilty Verdict in Killing of Former Jet

Ronald Gasser, who fatally shot former Jets running back Joe McKnight in a December 2016 road-rage confrontation in New Orleans, was found guilty of manslaughter. The offense carries a sentence of up to 40 years and sentencing is set for March 15th.

McKnight played three seasons for the Jets, one with the Kansas City Chiefs, and spent a season in the Canadian Football League.


"Passionate Kissing" Defense Clears Sprinter Accused of Doping

Olympic sprinter Gil Roberts had his 'passionate kissing' defense upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Roberts was suspended last May for testing positive to probenecid, a masking agent prohibited by sports regulators for its ability to disguise other drugs.

Ruling against the World Anti-Doping Agency's appeal, CAS arbitrators deemed it more likely than not that the presence of probenecid in the athlete's system resulted from kissing his girlfriend, who had been taking an antibiotic with traces of the prohibited probenecid to fight a sinus infection and had kept her sickness hidden at the time.

Testifying at the hearing was Dr. Pascal Kintz, whose expert testimony figured into the first precedent-setting kissing case. Tennis player Richard Gasquet escaped a lengthy doping ban in 2009 when the International Tennis Federation ruled that he inadvertently took cocaine by kissing a woman.

Athletes are strictly liable for any substance in their systems, even if a substance is ingested unintentionally, but will avoid a ban where they can show that they took reasonable precaution.


Ex-Athlete Accused of Killing Chiropractor

Former all-state athlete Owen Morris is accused of first degree murder in the killing of Clive Bridgham, a sports medicine specialist and chiropractor who worked at the Rio and Salt Lake City Olympics. Bridgham had voluntarily surrendered his license to practice in November 2017. Police confirmed that Morris was the patient who made the complaint about the chiropractor's professional conduct.



Montana Governor Signs Order to Force Net Neutrality

Gov. Bullock signed an executive order that prohibits any internet service provider that does business with the state from blocking or charging more for faster delivery of websites to any customer in Montana. The requirements apply to new and renewed contracts signed after July 1, 2018. Similarly, bills in New York and Rhode Island reflect state attempts to regulate the practices of internet service providers through their procurement power.


More Light on Allegations Against Radio Personality Garrison Keillor

In a letter addressing concerns and questions from listeners, Minnesota Public Radio disclosed that it had received substantial and detailed allegations of inappropriate behavior by Keillor prior to opening an investigation and ultimately severing ties with him late last year.

Keillor continues to dispute the network's position that he was informed of the claims and able to respond to them with counsel present.


Sudan Frees Journalists

Sudan released two Sudanese journalists working for Reuters and Agence France-Presse. They were among the last of 15 detained last week for covering protests about rising prices in Khartoum. Authorities provided no explanation or information on what charges they may have faced. Press restrictions in Sudan have intensified over the last few years, according to the press-advocacy group Reporters Without Borders.


BBC, Criticized Over Pay Gap, Cuts Salaries of Some Male Journalists

Britain's publicly funded broadcaster reduced salaries of several prominent male journalists following the departure of its China editor, Carrie Gracie, in protest of pay inequity at the organization. She returned to the BBC newsroom in London, where, she said, she would be "paid equally".

BBC published salaries last summer, revealing a startling gap in pay between its most senior male and female journalists. A report commissioned by the BBC found the gender pay gap was 9.35, half that of the national average.


British Competition Regulator Rules Against 21 Century Fox's Sky Bid

In provisional findings, the regulator said that 21 Century Fox's bid to take control of the 61% of Sky it does not already own would give Murdoch "too much control over news providers in the UK across all media platforms and therefore too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda".

The competition authority then set out possible remedies addressing their media plurality concerns: (1) halt the deal entirely; (2) require Sky News to be spun off or sold; or (3) insulate Sky News from the rest of the Murdoch media empire. The decision could also affect Disney's planned $52.4 billion acquisition of 21 Century Fox, including Murdoch's 39% stake in Sky. Britain's culture minister is expected to rule by May 1st.


Britain's Presidents Club Charity to Shut Down

The Presidents Club Charitable Trust will hand out its remaining funds and shut down, following an undercover investigation that reveals that female staff at an all-male charity dinner for prominent men in business and media had been groped, harassed and propositioned. The women were encouraged to drink and required to sign nondisclosure agreements. Two beneficiaries of the fundraiser, including a children's hospital, will be returning the money.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 29, 2018 9:57 AM.

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