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Week in Review

By Eric Lanter
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

Trump Nominates New Chair for National Endowment for the Humanities

President Donald Trump has nominated Jon Parrish Peede to be the chairman of the National Endowment of the Humanities. Peede has worked in "various capacities at the National Endowment for the Arts," which is a sister agency. One supporter of Peede's has argued that he will keep his door "open to conversation and debate."


Trump's Tariffs and Trade War Escalation Nearly Derails Korean Security Talks as Gary Cohn Leaves White House

President Trump announced the imminent implementation of tariffs on aluminum and steel imports, with the exception of those coming from Canada and Mexico. While the threat of a trade war looms, some analysts supposed that the tariffs would endanger the talks between the U.S. and the Korean peninsula, but those talks have survived and now, Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un are scheduled to meet in the next two months to discuss denuclearization and the lifting of sanctions. Regardless of the effects of the tariffs on the world economy, there has already been one casualty: Gary Cohn, an economic advisor to Trump and a former Goldman Sachs executive. Cohn, along with many of Trump's Republican allies, are concerned that a trade war may begin and that protectionist policies will not advance U.S. interests nearly as much as Trump has claimed.


Florida Has a New Gun Law

Florida's legislature passed, and Governor Rick Scott signed, a law that regulates guns in Florida, following the shooting in Parkland. The bill raises the minimum age for buying guns from 18 to 21, and creates a wait of three days or until a background check is completed for a prospective gun buyer. The law also bans bump stocks, the type of device that can be attached to a rifle to make it a fully automatic weapon. In an effort to stop any further school shootings, some employees in schools could be trained and armed, on a volunteer basis, as well as fund more school security and expand mental health services and regulations. The law does not suspend the sale of assault rifles or AR-15s (the gun used in the Parkland shooting), ban high-capacity magazines, or strengthen background checks.


Court Weighs Sanctions in Infringement Case

U.S. District Judge Denise Cote labeled copyright attorney Richard Liebowitz as a copyright "troll" and sanctioned him $10,000 for failing to give a defendant notice of a hearing. She noted in her Memorandum Opinion and Order that he has filed more than 500 cases in the Southern District of New York in the past two years, and his tactics in this matter caused "undue stress to a small business owner."


Trademark War for Joe's Pizza

Famous Joe's Pizza has been called a New York institution. Famous Joe's Pizza of the Village, located in Brooklyn, has been called "good at 2 a.m. when 'you're drunk.'" Nonetheless, when the Brooklyn location opened, Famous Joe's Pizza took notice of the similarity between the two locations and asked the Brooklyn location to change its sign, as it looked nearly exactly alike. When the Brooklyn sign changed just slightly, with a straightening of the slanted "Joe's" being the biggest change, a lawsuit was filed in federal court. While the Brooklyn store's lawyer indicated that his client is not "looking for trouble," he insists that the store will not go down to the New York institution's "zealous pizza lawyers."


Melania Trump Entered the U.S. on EB-1 Visa

Reports have emerged that the First Lady, Melania Trump, entered the U.S. with an EB-1 visa, a visa typically reserved for nuclear scientists, Nobel laureates, and doctors. However, it is not uncommon for models to get the visa as well, and several immigration lawyers have opined to the New York Times that Trump very likely could have been qualified to get the visa, given her work in the modeling industry. Thus far, at a time when immigration policies are receiving intense scrutiny, the EB-1 visa program has escaped the criticism that the visa lottery and family-based migration has received.


State Department Holds Funds Aimed to Fight Russian Meddling

Following the revelations that Russia was meddling in the 2016 presidential election, the State Department was allotted $120 million to counter any foreign efforts to meddle in elections or to "sow distrust in democracy." However, Rex Tillerson has not spent any of it. This has left the Global Engagement Center, consisting of 23 analysts, without the ability to hire Russian-speaking individuals or computer experts to track Russian efforts. The failure to spend the money is part of a pattern of the Trump administration of having a tepid response to the Russian meddling in the 2016 election.


United Nations Chief Picks Bloomberg for Climate Job

Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, was appointed as the special envoy for climate action for the United Nations ("UN") secretary general. After leaving his mayoral post, he became a "prominent advocate in the fight against climate change. Secretary General Antonio Guterres is planning a summit next year for climate change, and wants Bloomberg to lead the preparation for the summit by encouraging governments and businesses to reduce their emissions and meet the targets of the Paris climate accord.


UN Panel Links Russia to Potential War Crime in Syria

A group of UN investigators has found that Russian forces were responsible for an airstrike in Syria that killed at least 84 people and injured over 150 people in a town west of Aleppo. While the panel has not concluded that the bombing was targeting civilians, the Russian forces used blast bombs "in a densely populated area," which may rise to the level of a war crime. The panel, formally called the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, has released 15 reports on the conflict in Syria and noted disregard for the rules of war.


Tillerson Pledges New Aid to Africa

Weeks after President Trump denounced African countries, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has embarked on a tour of the continent. He promised $533 million in aid to improve access to electricity and medication for people with HIV/AIDS. As chief executive of Exxon Mobil, he oversaw a significant amount of business on the continent, but received criticism for the work that the company did in Nigeria, where it may have struck illegal license renewal deals that remain under investigation.


Adviser to Emirates Cooperating with Special Counsel

George Nader, an adviser to the United Arab Emirates who has ties to President Trump and his aides, began cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller. Nader testified before a grand jury on topicss likely regarding the influence of foreign money on President Trump's campaign and political activities. Some sources have indicated that Nader may have been involved in funneling money toward Trump's campaign through other foreign entities, and that he may have organized a meeting between Trump's transition team and a representative of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Seychelles to set up a back channel of communications.


U.S. Justice Department Sues California Over 'Sanctuary' Policies

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the U.S. Justice Department sued the State of California for "not doing enough to find and punish unauthorized immigrants," in what is set to be a battle between states' rights and the federal government's authority. In 2012, a similar case arose between the Obama administration and the State of Arizona for its policy of finding and punishing unauthorized immigrants too harshly. In that case, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority that: "The state may not pursue policies that undermine federal law." Analysts expect that the latest action against California is likely to end up in the Supreme Court.


Trump's Lawyer Obtained a Restraining Order to Silence Porn Actress

Adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, whose stage-name is Stormy Daniels, filed a lawsuit against President Trump and his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. Trump's legal team sought to prevent her from filing in court and compel her to go to arbitration, and it is expected that the defense will file a motion to compel arbitration in this matter. If the matter were to proceed, it may lead to Trump and Cohen having to be deposed and questioned about the alleged affair that Trump had with Clifford in 2006, as well as the money that Cohen paid her to keep quiet in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election. Significantly, there is a question as to whether Cohen issued the payment from a Trump campaign-related account, which carries consequences with campaign finance disclosures.


U.S. Lifts Ban on Some Elephant and Lion Trophies

The federal government, through its Fish and Wildlife Service, overturned an Obama-era ban on elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia. Rather than ban those trophies, the agency announced that it will review each trophy on a case-by-case basis, but that the same standards of conservation and sustainability will remain. Those standards require someone bringing the trophy to demonstrate that the hunting "enhances survival of a particular species in the wild" by "reinvesting the money into conservation, for example, and by supporting local communities." While hunting organizations argue that big-game hunters spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, a portion of which goes to funding conservation, animal rights activists insist that the hunting of endangered wildlife should not be subject to a case-by-case basis, but an outright ban.


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


Olivia de Havilland Sues FX

The California Court of Appeals is set to hear arguments over whether Dame Olivia de Havilland may proceed with her lawsuit alleging that FX used her name and likeness to endorse a product. Last year, the network and Ryan Murphy Productions released a docudrama called "Feud: Bette and Joan" that portrays the "rivalry between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford." Catherine Zeta-Jones plays de Havilland in the film, and it is alleged that the work portrays her as being a vulgar hypocrite, when in fact she has had a reputation in Hollywood of honesty and integrity for decades before most of the current stars were born. While she is aware that courts have supported First Amendment protections for movies and shows about figures in the public interest, she remains "undaunted", and wants to show that FX crossed a line with its portrayal of her.


Cosby Retrial Proceeds After Motions to Dismiss and #MeToo Movement Grows

Bill Cosby will have to continue with a retrial of the case involving 19 women who accuse him of sexual assault. While his lawyers have argued that the #MeToo movement has created an atmosphere where it is difficult for Cosby to have a fair trial, the case is set to move forward. The judge in the previous trial, Judge Steven T. O'Neill, only allowed two of the 13 women to testify for reasons that still remain unclear. Given the revelations in Hollywood and several other industries as to sexual assault and harassment, some analysts speculate that a jury may have a different view on the allegations surrounding Cosby. Prosecutors are also changing their strategy, relying on the "doctrine of chances", which argues that "the more times an event takes place, the less plausible it becomes that it happened by mistake." If the prosecution is permitted to put its witnesses on the stand, it would seek to establish that there has been a clear pattern of predatory conduct by Cosby, mirroring that of Harvey Weinstein and other prominent Hollywood men recently flagged for their misconduct.


Taylor Swift Wins 'Shake It Off' Lyrics Suit

A California federal judge has granted a win to Taylor Swift in a copyright lawsuit brought in relation to her 2014 song "Shake It Off." Two songwriters brought the suit against Swift alleging that Swift stole the song from them. Judge Michael Fitzgerald dismissed the suit with prejudice this week after giving the plaintiffs a month to file an amended complaint, which came and went without the plaintiffs having done so.


Question Arises as to Internet Providers' Liability for Subscriber Copyright Infringement

A recent case, UMG v. Grande, has raised the question of how far liability extends for copyright infringement. When internet service providers allow users to download the program BitTorrent, which is nearly impossible to stop, those users can then download content that may infringe on copyrights. The practical implication from the case, if the plaintiff were to prevail, is that copyright owners will be able to sue many defendants beyond the direct infringer, including internet service providers. Currently, there is a Copyright Alert System, which has a six-strikes system that allows for copyright infringement six times in a peer-to-peer system like BitTorrent. While no case has yet resolved whether internet service providers may have liability for their users' actions, UMG is hoping to impose some liability, given its numerous notices to Grande that the latter's users were infringing.


Organizer of Fyre Festival Pleads Guilty to Fraud

When concertgoers showed up to the Fyre Festival, they found soggy tents and cheese sandwiches. What they expected was a top level festival with top performers like Blink 182. William McFarland was one of the main organizers, and he has pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud related to the festival, as he cost investors $26 million in losses after lying to investors about his personal finances and those of Fyre Media.


Planned Sale of Weinstein Company Collapses Again

The group of potential investors that were planning to acquire the Weinstein Company backed down this week after learning of "disappointing information." Maria Contreras-Sweet, who ran the Small Business Administration under President Obama, announced that the group was prepared to purchase the Weinstein Company and avoid bankruptcy for the company, but the group learned that the company had significantly more debt than was previously disclosed. The current board has vowed that it would continue to find ways to avoid bankruptcy.


Judge Rules That Shkreli's Wu-Tang Album Can Be Seized

In the Eastern District of New York, Judge Kiyo Matsumoto has ruled that Martin Shkreli, convicted of fraud and set to serve a sentence of seven years, can have his prized Wu-Tang Clan album seized if he cannot pay the $7.36 million that he owes the government as reparations for his fraud. He paid approximately $1 million for the Wu-Tang Clan album, and because he commingled his assets with the proceeds derived from the fraud, until he pays the full reparations, Judge Matsumoto has decided that all property is subject to seizure and sale at auction.



Court Rebuffs Ninth Circuit's Copyright 'Server Test'

A New York district court strayed from the Ninth Circuit test, and found that embedded tweets, which had unauthorized uploads of a copyrighted photograph, "violated the plaintiff's exclusive display right, despite the fact that the image at issue was hosted on a server owned and operated by an unrelated third party." The decision may lead to an appeal to the Second Circuit, but if it holds, may increase the due diligence that publishers perform before displaying videos or photos.


Boston Symphony Finds Accusations Credible

Four women have come forward with accusations that the frequent guest conductor of the Boston Symphony, Charles Dutoit, was the perpetrator of sexual misconduct against them. Boston opened an independent investigation into Dutoit, and determined that the accusations were credible. Dutoit, who is 81 years old, has denied any wrongdoing and instead issued a statement that he found "informal physical contact is commonplace in the arts world as a mutual gesture of friendship."


Whose Mondrians Are They?

A dispute has erupted as to who the owner is of four paintings by Piet Mondrian, even after the paintings have sat in the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum since at least 1950. The heirs of Mondrian have argued that the artist lent the paintings to the museum almost 90 years ago and left them there when he fled Europe amidst World War II, but the city of Krefeld, where the museum is situated, has argued that the paintings were a gift from Mondrian (absent any evidence to support that claim).


France Moves Toward Plan to Return African Artifacts

Emmanuel Macron, the French President, has announced that two experts will oversee returning African artifacts currently housed in French museums. This announcement is part of his pledge in 2017 to free African heritage from European museums. Benin's president has long pushed for this announcement, as France invaded it in 1892 and began a period of colonial rule. Until now, the French government has opposed restitution, as it found the artifacts to be "property of the public."


Rome's Subway Project Keeps Digging Up Archaeological Marvels

In Rome, diggers have uncovered a house with a courtyard, fountain, and 14 rooms near a military barracks that was excavated two years ago. The discoveries were found as part of Rome's construction of a third subway line going through the center of the city. The subway lines travel approximately 100 feet below the ground, and archaeologists have found extraordinary things, including wood beams and artifacts that ordinarily deteriorate before archaeologists can capture and preserve them.


Frida Kahlo is a Barbie Doll Now

Mexican artist Frida Kahlo has been associated with many products before, but coinciding with International Women's Day, she is now a Barbie doll that is part of the "Inspiring Women" line of dolls. One of her family members took issue with the doll as it does not show a unibrow, which Kahlo was known to sport and was a reflection of "her striking and beautiful refusal to give in to certain sexist societal pressures." Mattel said in a statement that it properly "secured permission" from "the Frida Kahlo Corporation, the owner of all rights related to Frida Kahlo, to make this doll."



Family Court Involved in Determining Whether Children Should Play Football

While the precise number of cases is not known due to records being sealed in family court, there has been a spike of proceedings in family courts where judges have had to settle disputes between divorcing couples as to whether their children can play football, given the health risks that it presents. With the risk of concussions leading to the fatal brain disease CTE, parents have increasingly been concerned about allowing children to play, but parts of the country, such as the Midwest and the South, have not had a drop off in children playing football like in the Northeast. This has led to some divorced couples seeking to modify their custody agreements to settle disputes as to whether football should be allowed for the children, and has even led to some parents filing emergency requests to courts to allow children to play in upcoming games.


Roger Goodell Forces Jerry Jones to Pay Millions

The Commissioner of the National Football League ("NFL"), Roger Goodell, has won another victory over the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones, in what has been a string of disputes. Jones is required to pay the NFL approximately $2 million, which represents the legal fees that the NFL accrued in litigating the issue of whether Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott's suspension would hold. The dispute went to federal court as Elliott was subject to a six-game ban for domestic-assault allegations, which Jones fought against, as Elliott was one of the top players in the NFL. Goodell's latest victory was 20 years in the making, as a provision was added to the NFL's constitution that allowed the commissioner "to demand reimbursement of legal fees from owners who cause" legal disputes.


Sebastian Coe Misled Parliamentary Investigators in Track and Field Probe as Russia Faces Expulsion for Doping

The IAAF, the world's track and field governing body, has warned Russia's athletes that it will face permanent expulsion from the sport if they do not "begin complying with a series of two-year-old antidoping requirements." Sebastian Coe, the president of the IAAF, announced that the organization will meet in July of this year to discuss additional punishment for the Russians. Coe is facing a controversy himself, however, as a group of British lawmakers have released a report alleging that he may have covered up an extortion scheme that involved blackmailing Russian athletes who had failed drug tests. At the very least, the report concludes, he failed to fully inform himself of the scheme, which he should have known, given that he was vice president of IAAF when it began.


In Fight for Equality, U.S. Women's Soccer Leads the Way

With the U.S. women's soccer team having shown that it is capable of making progress toward pay equality has come an expansion of the players' role beyond being soccer athletes. They are now advising others on how to achieve progress in their fields: WNBA players, Canada's soccer team, and the U.S. women's hockey team have contacted the U.S. women's soccer team for advice. In the two years since it began fighting for equal pay, the women's soccer team has inspired others around the world, such as Spain, Ireland, Brazil, Nigeria, Norway, and Australia's women soccer teams to take steps toward equal pay.


Winter Paralympics Open in Cheery Mood

In the opening ceremony of the Paralympics in Pyeongchang, a record 567 athletes paraded into the Olympic Stadium to begin the 10-day Games. Unlike with the Winter Olympics, athletes from the two Koreas did not enter the stadium unified.



Washington Becomes First State to Revive Net Neutrality Rules

The State of Washington has positioned itself to strike up a conflict with the Trump administration after it enacted its own net-neutrality rules. With the Federal Communications Commission having voted in late 2017 to repeal the Obama-era regulations that are designed to keep the internet a "level playing field," Washington has passed a law that bans "internet providers from blocking content or interfering with online traffic." The governor of Washington, Jay Inslee, said that he welcomes a legal challenge to the law, as the state has a right to protect its citizens.


Fourth Circuit Will Not Rehear Intellectual Property Verdict Against Cox

The Fourth Circuit will not reconsider its February decision to dismiss a $25 million music piracy verdict that was entered against Cox Communications. BMG Rights Management requested an en banc rehearing, but the appeals court has declined to rehear the case and did not disclose its reasons for doing so. The original dismissal of the case was based on improper jury instructions.


Judge Floats Idea to Settle Trump Twitter Blocking Case

A New York federal judge is presiding over a case where seven Twitter users joined a lawsuit against President Trump after he blocked them on Twitter. The lawyers for the users have argued that Trump's Twitter feed is "an official government account and that blocking users from following it was a violation of their First Amendment rights." The Department of Justice has argued that Twitter is not a public forum and that the users have not been "meaningfully excluded from it." In the most recent hearing, Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald was questioning not the First Amendment or jurisdictional issues but how Twitter works and what it is. She is expected to rule on the issue, but she urged parties to consider having Trump mute users he did not wish to hear.


App Released for Fake Videos

An anonymous developer has created a program called FakeApp which can take a famous face and superimpose it on another person to create a realistic video. The issues are abound with the technology: one familiar with the software can take one's appearance and use it in any way imaginable, including pornographic depictions. The sinister uses for the technology are of prime concern, even as presently it is more often used to make one a guest on a late night show or the host of an awards show.


Why Companies and Countries are Battling for Ascendancy in 5G

Fifth-generation wireless technology, also known as 5G, will bring "ultrafast wireless speeds" to users, allowing them to download movies in seconds. As 5G is expected to be the goal for the industry, the U.S. government intervened in Broadcom's $117 billion bid for Qualcomm, because it would "leave an opening for China to expand its influence on the 5G standard-setting process." Broadcom is based in Singapore and is set to take over Qualcomm, one of the leaders in the industry of cellular technology.


Ad Agencies' Reckoning on Sexual Harassment Comes on Instagram

An Instagram account, @DietMadisonAve, is suspected to be operated by 17 people and has the goal of revealing sexual harassment and discrimination in the advertising industry. When it was brought down in recent weeks, some feared that it was disabled by Instagram or hacked by those seeking to silence the victims. Others have attacked it for leading to trial-by-strangers on social media, where those accused do not have an opportunity to defend themselves before being publicized.


Sri Lanka Blocks Facebook After Mob Violence

In Sri Lanka, amidst mob violence against its Muslim minority, the government has banned Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram in an effort to stop coordinating further attacks. The government spokesman announced that the platforms were "spreading hate speeches and amplifying them," which has become a pattern in countries where social media has posed a threat to oppressive governments. In Myanmar, the government has blamed Facebook for spreading information about the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, but in the Philippines, Facebook has been used to spread pro-government propaganda.


Ex-Model, Mob Suspect and Murder Could Bring Down Slovakia's Government

Jan Kuciak, an investigative reporter, began digging into connections between government officials and organized crime in Slovakia, and he and his fiancee were killed just days later. The killings created a swell of public anger about corruption, with tens of thousands of people gathering in Bratislava to show solidarity. Prime Minister Robert Fico may be a victim of the public outcry, but he is known to blame the press and journalists before Trump ever used the phrase "fake news." Some analysts have speculated whether this will lead to a revolution similar to the 1989 Velvet Revolution that overturned the Communist government in Slovakia.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 11, 2018 1:18 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Street Artists Awarded $6.75 Million in Damages Against Developer Who Whitewashed Artworks Covering His Buildings.

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