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Week in Review

By Eric Lanter
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

Students Lead Rallies Against Gun Violence Around World

From Parkland, Florida, to Washington, to Los Angeles, students gathered on March 24th to protest gun violence just five weeks after the tragic school shooting. The students argue that more attention must be directed to the ease with which one can obtain and use a high powered gun to commit atrocities, and they have shown that they will lead the effort to hold politicians accountable for allowing the gun lobby to have such a strong pull on Congress. For many involved in the March for Our Lives, it was their first taste of protest or collective action, and with 800 "sibling" marches across the country and around the world, many found "eloquent calls for gun control and pledged to exercise their newfound political power in the midterm elections this fall."


Skepticism by the Court For a Law That Requires A Discussion of Abortion

California's law requiring "crisis pregnancy centers" to provide visitors with information about abortion is facing scrutiny in the United States Supreme Court. The centers encourage women to avoid abortion or to place the baby for adoption, and the law requires that notices are posted advising women that abortions, contraception, and prenatal care are available. At oral argument, the Justices seemed concerned that the law posed a "serious First Amendment problem." There is a second part of the law with which they took issue as well: the law requires unlicensed centers to disclose in large font that they are not licensed by the State.


Bolton Appointed to Trump's Cabinet, Joining Other Television Talents in Administration

President Trump has appointed John Bolton, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, to the position of National Security Advisor. Bolton replaces H.R. McMaster. Known for his hawkish views, it is expected that he will take more aggressive positions against Iran, North Korea, and China, and potentially Russia. Allies of the U.S., however, are not optimistic about Bolton's appointment, as they fear he may "goad Mr. Trump into seeking military solutions to diplomatic problems."



Trump Signs Spending Bill, Reversing Veto Threat and Avoiding Government Shutdown

After Congress passed a $1.3 trillion spending bill to avert a government shutdown at midnight on Friday, President Trump announced that he was considering a veto of the bill, as it did not fully fund the border wall and did not deal with the Dreamers (immigrants who came to the country as children illegally). However, after backlash grew, Trump announced that he would sign the spending bill and reluctantly did so shortly thereafter. This reversal came just hours after two of his advisers assured reporters that Trump would sign the spending bill without hesitation once it was on his desk.


Trump Hits China With Stiff Trade Measures

The Trump administration accused China of "stealing valuable technological know-how from American companies" and proposed tariffs on $60 billion in Chinese goods. China responded with its own penalties "aimed at American products," which raised questions of whether the two powers can resolve their differences and avert a trade war. Those questions rattled markets in the world as well, as it has illustrated the Trump administration's rejection of free trade, which may carry consequences throughout the tech industry, and also the American and Chinese economies more generally.



Transgender Workers Gain New Protection Under Court Ruling

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati held that job discrimination on the basis of transgender status "was inherently sex discrimination, and that the employer in this case could not claim an exemption from the law because of his religious beliefs." The case was brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of a funeral director who transitioned from male to female, but was then fired by his employer, a Michigan funeral home. Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year circulated a memorandum that claimed Title VII did not apply to sexual discrimination on the basis of transgender status, but only to discrimination between men and women. The Court's decision indicated that as a person may transition, a dress code cannot be enforced so as to terminate that person's employment for that reason, even despite the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which the employer attempted to claim applied in this matter.


Justice Department Revives Push to Mandate a Way to Unlock Phones

The FBI and Justice Department officials met with security researchers to work toward getting a "legal mandate that tech companies build tools into smartphones" that would allow access to encrypted data, for the purpose of advancing criminal investigations. The Justice Department has found that there are existing mechanisms that allow access to encrypted data without exposing the devices to hacking. Whereas under the Obama administration, this effort was not openly discussed, that has changed under the Trump administration, with both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and the FBI director Christopher Wray discussing the issue of individuals "going dark," or encrypting data before investigators are able to get wiretaps or search warrants.


President's Call to Putin Dodges Talk of Foul Play as Trump's Lead Lawyer Resigns

On Tuesday, President Trump called Russian President Vladimir Putin and congratulated him for his re-election, even as it was reported that an advisor noted that he should not congratulate Putin on the victory, given the improprieties of the voting process. Trump told reporters that the two were likely to meet "in the not-too-distant future," but this talk came five days after the administration "imposed sanctions on Russia for its interference in the election and for other 'malicious cyberattacks.'" In the past week, the administration has shown its reluctance to criticize President Putin as well as its half-hearted attempts at dissuading Russia from further meddling.



Fed Up, Teachers in Oklahoma May Walk Next

After last month's walkout of teachers in West Virginia that resulted in a pay raise, teachers in Oklahoma started to band together to protest not having had a raise in 10 years. They vowed to stage their own walkout on April 2nd if the state legislature does not increase pay and education budgets. Some teachers have taken second jobs as "luggage handlers, Uber drivers or in lawn maintenance," because their wages have not been sufficient to pay their bills. In 1990, teachers in Oklahoma last went on strike and earned a raise and limitations on class sizes, and teachers now are hoping to recreate that success, especially following the West Virginia teachers' victory.


A Subspecies of Rhino Has Lost Its Last Male

In Kenya, the last northern white rhinoceros has died. It was 45 years old, and its death was expected, as it was elderly. There now are two female white rhinoceros remaining, which are both in conservation, and scientists are hoping to reproduce the species that once numbered in the thousands. Poaching caused the extinction of the species, and scientists are hoping that frozen cell cultures from northern white rhinos may be able to create stem cells and lead to creation of an embryo.


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


"The Apprentice" Contestant Can Sue President

New York Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Schecter ruled that a former contestant on "The Apprentice", Summer Zervos, may sue President Trump for defamation based on statements he made about her in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election. She previously said that Trump made unwanted sexual advances, and the lawsuit proceeding may require Trump to be deposed and to speak to the accusations of sexual harassment prior to his taking office. Judge Schecter, in her opinion, wrote that "[n]o one is above the law," and that it "is settled that the president of the United States has no immunity and is 'subject to the laws' for purely private acts."


Ex-Model Sues To Void Muzzle By Trump Ally

Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model, has alleged that she had an affair with President Trump and has sued to be released from a 2016 legal agreement that prohibited her from speaking about the affair. She joins Stormy Daniels, also known as Stephanie Clifford, in suing the president for this reason. McDougal is suing The National Enquirer, which paid her $150,000 for her silence, as it is suspected that its owner coordinated with Trump to silence the women by buying their stories and then burying them. Both women have described the affairs as being consensual, but Trump denied them, and sought to arbitrate the claims rather than litigate them in court.


Cuomo Orders Review of Decision Not to Prosecute Weinstein in 2015

Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the state Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, to investigate why Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance did not file charges for sexual harassment against Harvey Weinstein. Vance has drawn scrutiny for not filing charges after having accepted campaign donations from Weinstein's lawyers. Cuomo's action may be partly owing to the pressure from the entertainment industry, with the Time's Up and MeToo movements gaining traction throughout the industry.


Cosby Wants to Replace Judge

Bill Cosby's attorneys have filed a motion stating that Judge Steven O'Neill has shown a "clear appearance of partiality" and should be replaced by a randomly selected judge. The basis for the motion is that Judge O'Neill's wife is an advocate for victims of sexual assault and leads the University of Pennsylvania's Sexual Trauma Treatment Outreach and Prevention program. She has also given money to V-Day UPenn, a campus organization that is planning to rally outside the courthouse when Cosby's trial proceeds. Cosby's attorneys explain in the motion that these actions have created a situation where the judge's wife "donated marital assets to the very organization that will be protesting against Mr. Cosby at his upcoming retrial."


The Actor Incorporates

When Congress and President Trump enacted the new tax law at the end of 2017, it was rumored that they had not thought through all of its implications. Now, as a result of the tax law, New York actors have been approaching accountants that are trained in setting up S-corporations to take advantage of tax deductions. An individual actor is no longer able to claim expenses, such as buying scripts or taking classes as being deductible, but when a corporation is formed, an actor is free to claim those deductions. While the incorporation process may cost as much as $20,000, for performers making over $200,000 a year, there are significant savings to be had under the new law.



Despite Trump Threat, National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities Spared in Spending Bill

In the spending bill that President Trump signed on Friday, endowments for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities received an increase of approximately $3 million to their funding, putting both at around $153 million. Trump had called for an end to the Endowments in 2017, and arts groups around the country began an effort to lobby to preserve the funding that has existed since 1965.



Curveball in New Tax Law: Trades are Trickier

The tax law that Congress and President Trump passed has also had a significant effect on trades within the Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Basketball Association (NBA). There is a new requirement that subjects manufacturers and farmers to pay additional capital gains taxes "if they trade an asset for something more valuable," which the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates will bring in revenue of $31 billion in the next 10 years. Baseball teams, however, will now have to pay capital gains taxes when they trade or exchange highly paid players as well. One analyst expects the MLB and NBA to lobby Congress to make a change to the law to exempt sports teams, as it will have an adverse impact on revenue streams.



Security Officer to Exit Facebook as Outcry Grows

The chief information security officer of Facebook, Alex Stamos, is set to depart after tension has broken out in the senior leadership of the company following reports about how the social media platform has been misused to influence election results. Stamos advocated more disclosure surrounding the Russian activity in the months leading up to the 2016 election and to prepare for the 2018 midterm elections. The exit comes as Facebook is dealing with one of its biggest crises to date: the disclosure that 50 million of its user profiles were harvested by Cambridge Analytica, a "voter-profiling company." To date, Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg's reaction to the news has struck analysts as tone deaf, but lawmakers in England and the U.S. are prepared to bring Zuckerberg or other Facebook executives in to testify publicly. Additionally, Cambridge Analytica's chief executive has stepped aside as British authorities raided its London office.




Video Giant Leaves Facts To the Crowd

YouTube, owned by Google, has been increasingly concerned about the ability for videos to spread conspiracy theories and misinform viewers on its website. Its chief executive, Susan Wojcicki, has indicated that YouTube will enlist Wikipedia's help in sorting out those "conspiracy theories and misinformation" on YouTube, as it will experiment with "information cues" that will appear as captions and articles when certain subjects are raised in videos. Those in the industry have had negative reactions about YouTube's approach, and Wikipedia's parent Wikimedia Foundation apparently had not been contacted by YouTube prior to the announcement at South by Southwest in Austin.


Analyst at Fox Quits, Calling Network a 'Propaganda Machine'

Longtime Fox News analyst Ralph Peters has attacked the network and said that he cannot "in good conscience" remain with the organization, as it is "now wittingly harming our system of government for profit." As a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army, Peters said that the network had devolved from an outlet for conservative viewpoints to "a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration." The network responded by saying that it was "extremely proud of our top-rated prime-time hosts and all of our opinion programming."


O'Reilly and Fox Seek to Dismiss Defamation Suit as Fourth Woman Files Defamation Suit Against O'Reilly

A former Fox News anchor, Laurie Dhue, has sued Bill O'Reilly, the former Fox News host. She is one of several women who reached a settlement after accusing O'Reilly of sexual harassment, but she has filed the lawsuit based on O'Reilly having depicted her "as a liar, tarnished her reputation and damaged her career prospects." Even with the network having paid Dhue in exchange for her dropping a claim for sexual harassment, O'Reilly accused her of having fabricated allegations for either financial or political gain. Dhue's suit is not unique, however; three women also filed defamation suits against O'Reilly after he disparaged them. O'Reilly and Fox News attorneys have filed a motion to dismiss the defamation lawsuit on the basis that O'Reilly was not referring to the women with his comments, and also stating that they had violated their contracts by not bringing their claims to arbitration prior to court.



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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 25, 2018 3:13 PM.

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