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Week in Review (week ending in 2/4)

By Eric Lanter
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

When a T-Shirt Gets You in Trouble at the Voting Booth

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case this month involving a law in Minnesota that prohibits voters from wearing any T-shirts, hats, or buttons that may have a political message. The law's proponents suggest that it is designed to create a "contemplative" atmosphere for voting, free of pressure to support one issue over another. Critics of the law claim that it is a violation of the First Amendment's free speech protection and amounts to nothing more than blatant censorship.


New Scrutiny Coming for Refugees from "High-Risk" Nations

The Trump administration announced that it is resuming the admittance of refugees from 11 "high-risk" nations but with additional screening measures, after having conducted a 90-day review of procedures. While officials did not name which nations will be labeled "high-risk," the list is "widely reported to be Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen." Those countries account for "more than 40 percent of all refugee admissions in recent years," and the additional screening measures are expected to make it harder for Muslims to qualify for approval for entry into the United States. Critics of the policy allege that the new screening measures, including more "in-depth" interviews and "deep-dive" background checks, will not serve as an effective barrier to those who want to commit acts of terrorism within the United States but instead delay or bar those who have no such intentions.


Federal Government Does Not Like Cuomo's 'I Heart NY' Signs

Governor Andrew Cuomo's project of installing blue "I ♥ NY" signs beside the state's highways has drawn federal scrutiny as a violation of highway rules and a distraction to drivers. While they had an initial cost of $8 million, the Federal Highway Administration gave the state until September 30, 2018 to bring the signs into compliance by changing the font and removing unapproved images for highway signs or face a $14 million cut in federal funding for roads and highways in the following fiscal year.


Justice Department Office to Make Legal Aid More Accessible is Quietly Closed

During the Obama administration, the Justice Department, led by then-Attorney General Eric Holder, created a division called the Office for Access to Justice, which sought to direct resources to indigent litigants in "civil, criminal, and tribal courts." That program, which did not draw much publicity or scrutiny, has come to an end under the Trump administration with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. While civil rights groups objected to the closure of the office, which was effectuated by depriving it of funding, the Justice Department did not respond to The New York Times' "repeated requests for comment."


Activists Try to Recall Judge for Stanford Sex Attack Case

Judge Aaron Persky in California received intense scrutiny approximately two years ago when he sentenced Brock Turner, a Stanford University swimmer accused of sexual assault, to only six months in jail. That scrutiny recently further intensified as activists and victims' rights advocates are leading an effort to petition removal of the judge for a June ballot. While some have supported the effort, others are concerned that it could influence judges who might otherwise show leniency in sentencing and ultimately lead to a higher imprisonment rate.


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


In Canada, a #MeToo Movement Emerges

Canada's House of Commons is debating a bill regarding sexual harassment, serving as a reflection of the #MeToo movement emanating from the United States. The reflection is not mirror-like, however, as Canadian politicians from all political parties are "strongly calling for changes and supporting victims who are increasingly coming forward." Its institutions have seen several leaders and ministers resign in recent weeks amidst allegations of sexual harassment, and many in Canada see the moment as "a perfect storm for reform."


Canceled Lorde Concert Prompts First Use of Israel's Anti-Boycott Law

Two New Zealand activists were named as defendants in an Israeli lawsuit seeking damages for their role in the singer Lorde's decision to cancel a Tel Aviv concert. The lawsuit seeks to be the first to apply a new Israeli law against "calling for boycotts of Israel or the territory it controls." The lawsuit seeks damages of approximately $13,200 on behalf of three Israeli teenagers who bought tickets for the concert prior to its cancellation. If the lawsuit succeeds, analysts see it having broader implications for the "growing movement in the United States, Europe and elsewhere to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel, primarily in protest against its settlement and security practices in the West Bank."



Should Chuck Close's Works Carry an Asterisk?

Amidst allegations that the acclaimed artist Chuck Close engaged in sexual harassment with several women he was photographing, a debate rages as to how to treat Close's works, which until the allegations surfaced, were revered. The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts announced that it will continue showing its display of Close's work, but also add a nearby gallery that examines gender power imbalances. Other institutions, like Seattle University, have removed Close's works or moved them to less prominent areas, largely as a result of pressure from others in the arts community.


Metropolitan Opera Fires Stage Director, Citing 'Inappropriate Behavior'

John Copley, the veteran British stage director, was fired from his role as director of the Metropolitan ("Met") Opera. His termination comes as the Met Opera received a complaint about what the company called "inappropriate behavior in the rehearsal room." Several British critics and singers who have worked with Copley expressed outrage at the firing and called it an "overreaction."



Justice Department Escalates Inquiry on Global Sports Corruption

The United States Department of Justice has escalated its inquiry into international sports corruption by issuing grand jury subpoenas to explore possible racketeering, money laundering, and fraud within FIFA, the International Olympic Committee, and the United States Olympic Committee. One target of the investigation is Helios Partners, a firm that has been involved in lobbying global sports officials and helped Russia secure the 2014 Winter Olympics and 2018 World Cup.


FIFA Issues Integrity Warning for 2026 World Cup Vote

FIFA issued a warning letter, signed by its secretary general, Fatma Samoura, warning its 211 member federations not to accept any inducements from World Cup bid committees ahead of this summer's vote to pick the site for the 2026 World Cup. Investigations, including a prominent one by the United States Department of Justice, have revealed widespread corruption and bribing in the World Cup bidding competitions in recent decades. While there have been institutional changes within FIFA, such as opening voting to its membership rather than the 24-member executive board, there is still fear that the bribery and corruption will instead target a vast swath of member federations rather than members of the board.


North Korea Cancels Pre-Olympic Event, Blaming South Korean Media

Ahead of the Olympics' opening in South Korea, North Korea cancelled a joint cultural event that was planned as a show of unity between the two Koreas. North Korea's reason for cancellation: "insulting" South Korean news media coverage of North Korea's participation in the Winter Olympics. Nonetheless, North Korea proceeded with sending its delegation of 22 athletes, to the Games as well as a group of performers and dancers.


Russia is Banned from Paralympics for Doping but 28 Athletes Win Appeals of Doping Bans

The International Paralympic Committee announced that it is banning Russia from the 2018 Paralympic Games for "an insufficient recovery from the Russian doping scandal." However, the International Olympic Committee has had 28 bans handed to Russian athletes overturned by the sport's top court just days before the start of the Winter Games in South Korea. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that there was insufficient proof that the athletes breached antidoping regulations at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. These developments tarnish the reputation of the International Olympic Committee, which has struggled with determining how to deal with Russia's state-sponsored doping program and its implications for Russian athletes, clean and dirty.


Cleveland Indians Will Abandon Chief Logo Next Year, Following University of Illinois

The Cleveland Indians announced that the team will no longer use the "cartoonish Chief Wahoo logo" on its uniforms, following a trend in recent years of sports teams (professional and collegiate) ending the use of Native American imagery. Several teams remove the imagery for fear that it perpetuates racist or offensive stereotypes surrounding Native Americans, but these decisions often prompt outrage from fans that see the mascots or logos as being an honoring of indigenous people. For those at the University of Illinois, Chief Illiniwek was retired years ago, but it does not stop its fans from appearing at games dressed as Chief Illiniwek and parading the Native American imagery, raising a question as to whether removing the imagery is effective in protecting Native Americans from stereotyping.


A Soccer Tournament Breaks Through the Boycott of Qatar

When the United Arab Emirates ('U.A.E.") and Saudi Arabia led a boycott of Qatar, accusing it of "cozying up to Iran" and "harboring fugitive dissidents," there were questions raised as to how Qatar would manage to host soccer, the region's most popular sport. A regional championship tournament had to be moved from Qatar to Kuwait, as Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and Bahrain refused to go to Qatar. However, the Asian Football Confederation announced that when Qatari clubs play in the Confederation's Champions League, the games will not be moved out of Qatar, and teams from Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. will have no choice but to travel and play within Qatar.


Texas Police Will Investigate Sexual Assault Allegations at Karolyi Ranch

Allegations have emerged that the Karolyi Ranch, a former national gymnastics training center near Houston, Texas, was a site of Dr. Lawrence Nassar's sexual assault of scores of women, which has prompted Governor Greg Abbott to recommend the Texas Rangers to investigate the accusations. U.S.A. Gymnastics only cut ties with the ranch in January after it came to be widely known that Dr. Nassar sexually assaulted victims at the ranch. There is still an outstanding question of who knew about the sexual assault and may have facilitated its perpetuation over the course of many years.


Football's True Believers Circle the Wagons and Insist the Sport is Just Fine

At the annual conference of USA Football, former National Football League ("NFL") coaches and players spoke to a receptive audience with a "stern warning: Football is under attack and your job is to change the narrative." With the ongoing revelations that the sport causes the fatal brain disease CTE, there has been a decline in viewership over the past two seasons that have caused concern about the viability of the sport. The president of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, David Baker, announced to the crowd: "If we lose football, we lose a lot in America. I don't know if America can survive."


NFL Players' Union Says That It Will 'Prepare for War' Over New Contract

The NFL Players Association announced that it is preparing for war in its contract negotiations with the NFL over the collective bargaining agreement, set to expire after the 2020 season. The players are set to focus on the "commissioner's right to suspend players, rookie contracts, and health care coverage."



New York Attorney General to Investigate Firm that Sells Fake Followers

Eric Schneiderman, the New York Attorney General, and his staff are investigating firms that sell fake followers on Twitter, as federal and state authorities begin to crack down on fraudulent social media engagement. Already, more than one million followers have disappeared from accounts of prominent Twitter users. Companies like Devumi promise to deliver customers active, English-speaking followers to those who pay for followers, but The New York Times found that "virtually all of the followers" are fake. Twitter explicitly prohibits buying followers.


Tronc Names New Editors at The New York Daily News and Los Angeles Times

Newspaper company Tronc is combating rising tensions at the Los Angeles Times and the New York Daily News and has named new editors for both papers, in an effort to quell the turmoil in both newsrooms, with the Los Angeles' newsroom having recently attempting to unionize and put out aggressive coverage of the sexual harassment in the entertainment industry.


Federal 5G Network Proposal is Panned by Federal Communications Commission and Industry

While the Trump administration has expressed an interest in having the government control the next-generation mobile broadband network, known as 5G, because of security concerns emanating from China, federal regulators and telecommunications companies have pushed back against this idea. The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission ("FCC"), Ajit Pai, has come out against the idea, saying it may hurt the private sector and overall economy. The White House has since said that the idea is in a preliminary stage and could take months before reaching the president's desk for consideration.


Vice Media's Digital Chief Loses Job After Sexual Harassment Investigation

Mike Germany, the chief digital officer for Vice Media, announced that he will not return to the company after sexual harassment allegations surfaced, prompting an internal investigation. He was placed on leave in December 2017 for telling an employee that he hired her to have sex with her and putting another employee onto his lap. He declined to comment on the allegations.


Kenya's Government Goes After Journalists Then Defies Court Order

The Kenyan government defied a court order to "put four private television stations back on the air," raising questions about the government's dedication to the rule of law. The government disconnected four stations when they began showing an opposition rally in Nairobi, and the Milimani High Court ruled that the Kenyan government must immediately restore the stations. The director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission called the moment an "absolutely unprecedented" one in the history of Kenya, but President Uhuru Kenyatta appears to be behind the effort as he won two elections recently, one being tossed out for fraud.


BBC Managers Face Barrage of Criticism in Gender Pay Dispute

A former BBC editor "blasted managers for operating a 'caste' system," and lawmakers in Britain's Parliament "described the organization as being in crisis." The source of the tension is BBC's pay structure, which has prompted grievances and resignations over its pay disparities, paying male journalists more than women. Many lawmakers have questioned the BBC's commitment to equal pay, despite the director general noting that the network wanted to be "an exemplar on gender pay, and equal pay."


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 10, 2018 5:17 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Defamation, Right of Publicity and Sovereign Immunity.

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