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Week in Review

By Eric Lanter
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

William Barber: Trump's Terrible Choice for Judge

As an op-ed contributor, William Barber argues that Thomas Alvin Farr, one of President Trump's nominees for the judiciary, is unqualified to be a judge in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. He is allegedly a "product of the modern white supremacist machine" that has "incited hostility toward African-Americans" in North Carolina. One campaign with which he was involved distributed over 100,000 postcards to North Carolinians suggesting that blacks were "ineligible" to vote and "could be prosecuted for fraud if they tried to cast ballots." Barber calls on senators from both parties to condemn Farr and not approve his nomination.


President Trump, the Insurgent, Breaks with 70 Years of American Foreign Policy

After a year in office, President Trump "has transformed the world's view of the United States from a reliable anchor of the liberal, rules-based international order into something more inward-looking and unpredictable." He has cozied up to the strongmen leaders in the world, including President Xi Jinping of China and President Vladimir Putin of Russia. He has confronted Kim Jong-un of North Korea, deriding him with personal insults, and denounced the nuclear deal with Iran, which many supposed was a deal likely to secure peace in the Middle East. His advisers insist that his approach is one that is fresh and is constantly being informed by the "realities of the world," but close allies like Germany, France, and Britain are left to wonder their positions of priority in the Trump era. President Trump, thus far, has not allayed those fears, instead deeming the postwar international order as "not working at all."


President Trump Says Russia Inquiry Makes U.S. 'Look Very Bad'

In an interview with The New York Times, President Trump said that the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III makes the U.S. look "very bad," given that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign (or administration) and the Russian government. He also insisted that he is entitled to direct the trajectory and scope of investigations at the Justice Department. He attempted to bolster his reputation by claiming that he knows more about "the big bills" in Congress "than any president that has ever been in office."


Alabama Certifies Doug Jones Win, Brushing Aside Challenge from Roy Moore

Officials in Alabama pushed aside Roy Moore's challenge of the U.S. Senate special election and certified its results, confirming that Doug Jones is the winner. That move was the last in seating Jones in the Senate, but the confirmation runs in contravention to Moore's claims that Jones' victory was secured with voter fraud. There is no evidence of fraud or improprieties with the Alabama election, but Moore still refuses to concede the race.


Martin Shkreli's Ex-Lawyer is Convicted of Fraud

Attorney Evan Greebel, who previously represented Martin Shkreli, a former drug company executive, was convicted of helping Shkreli to defraud a pharmaceutical company. A Brooklyn jury found him guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and securities fraud, after finding that Greebel was involved in paying investors of Shkreli's hedge funds with fraudulent funds obtained through "settlement and sham consulting agreements" procured with Shkreli's pharmaceutical company Retrophin.


Australian Fake News Site Gains Popularity

Two men, known as Clancy Overell and Errol Parker, started a fake web-newspaper called the Betoota Advocate in Australia, which has become known for its satirical and provocative fake headlines. The two men started the website together, and within three months, had a readership sufficient to make the site's revenues their primary source of income. Since then, the site has consistently grown, even leading to the two men (actually named Archer Hamilton and Charles Single) to host fake press conferences with real journalists. The site has duped several real news organizations and mocked celebrities and institutions alike.


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


Songwriters, Streaming Companies Strike Landmark Deal on Music Licensing

Songwriters and music streaming companies are working together on federal legislation that would streamline the licensing and royalty process for copyright owners. The goal is to ease the burden of acquiring licenses and also to eliminate liability within the industry. The end result will likely be that streaming companies will more easily be able to license songs, and songwriters and publishers will see an increase in revenue from digital downloads and streaming.



Second Circuit Strikes Down Department Of Justice Ban on 'Fractional' Licensing

"The Second Circuit on Tuesday shot down a U.S. Department of Justice rule barring music licensing groups BMI and ASCAP from so-called fractional licensing, saying the agency must formally modify long-standing antitrust settlements if it wants to ban the practice."


BMI Wins Legal Battle with the Justice Department Over Music Licensing

BMI, a music rights organization, won in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals after a long fight against the Department of Justice (DOJ) as to the issue of licensing music. The DOJ instituted a 100% licensing rule, which requires that all owners of a song consent to its licensing, which BMI and ASCAP said would affect the Nashville songwriting model characterized by a "handful of owners" working together with organizations. The Court's ruling eliminates the requirement, but there is the potential that the DOJ appeals the decision to the United States Supreme Court.


Apple Hit with Class Action Lawsuit Over Unpaid Independent Artist Royalties

Independent songwriter Bryan Eich filed a suit against Apple Music asking for $30,000 for each song the company allegedly infringed, after Apple failed to license mechanical rights for the compositions played. Several streaming services have been the subject of lawsuits similar to this one, where it is alleged that the service did not obtain all of the mechanical licenses necessary to stream a musical work. In this case, even though Eich is not a well-known artist, it is irrelevant as the statutory damages for infringement are calculated on a per work basis. There is the potential for a class action in this suit for songwriters who have submitted material "through aggregators," which could include thousands of members in the class.



Jury Win for NYC Graffiti Artists 'Erroneous,' Court Told

"A real estate developer urged a New York federal court on Monday to reject a jury's finding that he violated an obscure federal statute when he demolished the famous New York City graffiti space known as 5Pointz, saying the court wrongly instructed the jury that whitewashing was a form of mutilation."


Clock is Ticking on $10 Million Reward in Gardner Art Heist

In 1990, thieves stole 13 works valued at $500 million dollars from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, including works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Degas. The museum offered a $10 million award for information leading to the recovery of the works, which was set to expire on December 31, 2017 at midnight. After January 1, 2018, the reward was to be halved to $5 million. The museum, which is based in the Boston area, had determined that the criminals behind stealing the work may react to $10 million rather than $5 million as an award, but there were no significant leads as the year came to a close.



Vitaly Mutko Steps Down as Head of World Cup Organizing Committee

A top Russian official for organizing the 2018 World Cup stepped down and announced that he will be succeeded by Alexei Sorokin. His announcement comes as Russia is preparing to host the World Cup in the summer of 2018, and wants to deflect international criticism about its hosting the event. Mutko served as Russia's sports minister during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and has denied all doping allegations. While the International Olympic Committee did not accuse him of being involved in doping, his organization and Russian athletics in general demonstrated a "failure to respect" the antidoping rules.


Manuel Burga, Soccer Official From Peru, Acquitted in FIFA Trial

The former top soccer official in Peru, Manuel Burga, was acquitted in the Eastern District of New York after a trial involving three global soccer leaders accused of corruption involving bribes and kickbacks. He had been charged with racketeering conspiracy and soliciting $4.4 million in bribes, but prosecutors acknowledged that he did not collect the money, unlike others whom juries have convicted in relation to bribery and corruption.



U.S. Copyright Office Requires Reregistration of DMCA Agents

"Retailers that allow website users to generate and post content on their websites are required to reregister their Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) agents with the US Copyright Office by the end of the year in order to continue receiving protection under the DMCA's safe harbor provision."


Unions Are Gaining a Foothold at Digital Media Companies

Vox Media announced that it will form a union, joining several other digital publishers that have organized unions in recent months. Many publishers have opted to affiliate with the Writers Guild of America East, citing the likelihood of increasing wages and benefits after joining. Employees have increasingly unionized as a result of the industry having upstart sites with poor treatment of employees. Sites like BuzzFeed have avoided unionization, despite having a "liberal editorial voice."


Myanmar Court Extends Detention of Reuters Journalists

A Myanmar court has extended the detention of two Reuters journalists for two weeks, even in light of the international condemnation surrounding their detention. The journalists were covering the Rakhine State, where Rohingya Muslims have been fleeing into neighboring Bangladesh. This is not the first detention in recent weeks: two other foreign journalists, an interpreter, and driver received two months in prison for filming with a drone without permission. It is expected that those four will be released in January.


Tibetan Filmmaker Flees to U.S. After Escape from China

Dhondup Wangchen, a prominent Tibetan filmmaker, has fled to the U.S., according to his supporters. He reunited with his wife and children, who received political asylum in 2012. Wangchen gained notoriety after documenting Tibetans living under Chinese rule and police surveillance, which was released in his documentary, "Leaving Fear Behind". He was arrested and sentenced to six years in prison for "inciting subversion." Wangchen's experience is increasingly common under President Xi Jinping's rule, as activists are persecuted for revealing the Chinese government's crackdowns on human rights and "civil society."


Facebook Removes Chechen Strongman's Accounts, Raising Policy Questions

Facebook removed the Facebook and Instagram accounts of Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman leader of the Chechen Republic, which is an autonomous region under the control of Russia. He has reportedly been involved in "acts of torture, kidnapping and murder, among other human rights abuses," and his name was added to the U.S. list of sanctioned individuals and companies. Facebook does not have a comprehensive set of rules for removing accounts of posts, relying on a set of "community standards," an algorithm, and users' reports of offensive content. The Russian government and Kadyrov are seeking answers from Facebook as to the rationale for the removal, but Kadyrov has already taken to focusing his social media use on a Russian social media platform known as VKontakte.


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