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Week In Review

By Angela Peco
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker


President Trump Withdraws From Iran Nuclear Deal

Trump declared an end to participation in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in a speech filled with harsh rhetoric against Iran. While the United States will now reimpose sanctions on oil and impose new sanctions against the Central Bank of Iran, European companies will have 90-180 days to wind down operations in Iran, or they will run afoul of the American banking system.

The European Union foreign policy chief said that member states were fully committed to preserving the deal. Iran will remain as well, but President Rouhani warned that Iran's atomic energy agency is prepared to restart "industrial scale" uranium enrichment if a deal with European countries as well as Russia and China fails to secure its interests.


North Korea Releases Three American Prisoners; Nuclear Summit Meeting Set for June

North Korea freed three prisoners, all Americans of Korean descent, as the two countries finalize details for a June meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un in Singapore.



Confirmation Hearings Underway for Central Intelligence Agency Nominee Gina Haspel

Gina Haspel, nominee for Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director, vowed that she would not start another detention and interrogation program like the one developed under President Bush after 9/11. Haspel oversaw a secret detention facility in Thailand in 2012 where an al Qaeda suspect was waterboarded.

Haspel pushed back against suggestions that she declassify more information about her background, saying the director should be subject to agency guidelines on keeping its secrets. Haspel also defended the destruction of tapes documenting interrogations, citing concerns about the security risks the tapes posed if they were to become public.


Eric Schneiderman Resigns as New York Attorney General Amid Assault Claims

Four women accused New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman of physically assaulting them. The New Yorker reported that Schneiderman slapped, choked or spat on at least four women with whom he had been romantically involved.

Under New York's Constitution, Schneiderman's replacement will be selected by the State Assembly and Senate by joint ballot. Possible replacements include Letitia James, who is New York City's public advocate. New York's Solicitor General, Barbara D. Underwood, will lead the attorney general's office until a replacement is found. Schneiderman's successor will inherit the 100-plus legal or administrative actions that Schneiderman filed against the Trump administration, as well as a lawsuit against the Weinstein Company over potential civil rights violations.




Trump Administration Ends Protected Status for Hondurans

The Trump administration is ending temporary protected status for an estimated 86,000 registered Hondurans who have been allowed to live and work in the United States since 1999, after a hurricane ravaged the country. The Department of Homeland Security has determined that conditions have improved sufficiently in Honduras to warrant suspension of protected status for its citizens.

Hondurans represent the second largest group of foreigners to benefit from the humanitarian Temporary Protected Status program, launched in 1990 for people seeking refuge from unstable homelands due to natural disasters, war and other adversities. The administration's position is that the only criteria it should consider in continuing the program is whether the original reason for the country's designation persists. Honduras has the highest homicide rate in the world and the biggest gap between rich and poor, with 61% of its population living in poverty.


Patagonia Sues Trump in Bid to Protect National Monument

Patagonia is a privately-held "Activist Company" with a record of publicly advocating for environmental protection, fair trade and stricter labor standards. It has now launched a lawsuit in response to President Trump's plans to sharply reduce the size of two national monuments in Utah, including Bears Ears.

In its lawsuit Patagonia argues that the Antiquities Act of 1906 gave presidents the power to create national monuments, but it did not grant the power to revoke or modify them. Congress is the sole authority than can undertake such changes. Critics of Trump's proclamation point to internal documents at the Department of Interior, which showed that oil and gas interests were central to the decision to shrink Bears Ears. The area is now available for commercial use, including drilling and mining.


Environmental Protection Agency Staff Shield Pruitt from Public Scrutiny

More than 10,000 documents were made public as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit by the Sierra Club. Emails show that the Environmental Protection Agency's close control of information about Scott Pruitt's public events was driven by a desire to avoid tough questions from the public rather than by concerns about his security.


National Security Agency Triples Data Collection

In 2017 the National Security Agency (NSA) collected three times the phone and text message records it did the year before from American telecommunications providers. The NSA has expanded its collection of "call detail records" - telecom metadata showing who contacted whom and when, but not the contents of the call or text. The information comes from the annual set of surveillance-related statistics issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The 2015 USA Freedom Act overhauled how the NSA can gain access to domestic telecom data, ending a once-secret program that had systematically collected domestic phone logs in bulk. While the NSA has retained its function - the ability to analyze links between people in search of associates of terrorism suspects, the bulk records stay with the phone companies but can be turned over to government on an order of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.


Deals with AT&T and Healthcare Firm Novartis Paid Michael Cohen $1.2 Million in Exchange for White House Access

New details are unfolding about Michael Cohen's business dealings and financial entanglements in the run-up to the election, as the investigation into possible bank fraud and election-law violation progresses. Documents show that a shell company that Cohen used to pay adult film actress Stormy Daniels was also receiving payments from several corporations. Funds started flowing through Essential Consultants LLC shortly before Trump was elected president. They included payments from Columbus Nova, a New York investment firm, whose biggest client is a company owned by Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.

Among the transactions were also payments from Novartis, a multinational pharmaceutical giant that frequently seeks approvals from federal drug regulators. Closer to home, AT&T paid Cohen $600,000 to advise on its $85.4 billion merger with Time Warner, which is now pending before the Justice Department. In totality, the dealings show Cohen positioning himself as a strategic adviser and gatekeeper to the president.




Former Speaker Sheldon Silver Convicted in Corruption Retrial

Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has been found guilty on all seven counts of federal corruption. The charges related to $4 million obtained in illicit payments in return for using his office to take actions that benefited private individuals and entities.

His first conviction was overturned by the United States Supreme Court in 2016 in a ruling that narrowed the activity that could constitute corruption. Silver's retrial was based on this narrower definition, where the activity in question must involve concrete and formal government decisions or actions to constitute corruption, and not mere political courtesies, like setting up a meeting.



Agreements Show Ties Between University and Conservative Donors

Donor agreements released under a FOIA request show that George Mason University granted the Koch Foundation a say in the hiring and firing of professors. The Koch Foundation endows a fund to pay the salary of one or more professors at the university's Mercatus Center, a free-marker think tank. In return, the donors have the right to name two out of the five members that comprise a selection committee that chooses professors. The Koch Foundation had similar appointment rights to advisory boards that recommended firings. The university's president has ordered a review to "ensure that [donor agreements] do not grant donors undue influence in academic matters."

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/05/us/koch-donors-george-mason.html https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2018/04/30/us/ap-us-koch-college.html

Pakistan and United States Restrict Diplomats' Travel, Straining Relations

The State Department threatened and then imposed travel restrictions on Pakistan's diplomatic corps in Washington for what it considers harassment of American diplomats in Pakistan. The United States has complained that Pakistani police and security officials frequently harass American staff with time-consuming traffic stops and citations. In retaliation, Pakistan placed broader travel restrictions that apply to all American diplomats stationed anywhere in Pakistan.


Over 1,700 Evacuated After Hawaii Volcano Erupts

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano is spewing lava and steam into residential neighborhoods, prompting a local state of emergency and the mandatory evacuation of 1,700 local residents.


Afghan Airstrike Targeting Taliban Killed Mostly Children

United Nations officials have concluded that an Afghan government airstrike last month aimed at a Taliban planning session hit mostly children at a religious gathering. The airstrike raised "questions as to the government's respect of the rules of precaution and proportionality under international humanitarian law." Human Rights Watch has called the rise in civilian casualties from Afghan government air operations "deeply troubling."


Philippine Supreme Court Removes Chief Justice

The Philippine's Supreme Court voted to remove its top judge and first female chief justice, Maria Lourdes Sereno. By a vote of 8-6, the court granted the government's petition to cancel Sereno's appointment on the grounds of alleged violations in the appointment process. President Duterte has called Sereno an "enemy" for voting against several of his government proposals, including extending martial law on a restive land.


Scholars Have Data on Millions of Facebook Users

Facebook data sets compiled by academics continue to fuel concerns about data privacy. Experts point out that information collected by the academic community is sometimes left unsecured and can be easily copied or sold to marketers or political consulting firms that target users with advertising or political campaign messaging.

These risks came to light after a University of Cambridge professor had obtained data of up to 87 million Facebook users and later sold it to Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm with ties to the Trump campaign, to build profiles of American voters. In response to these concerns, Facebook recently narrowed the number of academics with which it would work, inviting only those with election-related projects to participate through an "independent election research commission."


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


Female Stars Walk Cannes Red Carpet in Protest for Equal Rights

Eighty-two women working in the film industry walked the Cannes Film Festival red carpet together to denounce gender inequality in their field. Participants commented on the shortage of films by women at the festival and the fact that selection committees were not gender-balanced. They also brought attention to problems in the film industry at large - not many women are making films because they are not being financed, green-lit, or distributed.


On the Heels of the #MuteRKelly Campaign, Spotify Removes Music from Playlists and Announces New "Hate Content Policy"

R. Kelly's management team released a statement denying the growing list of accusations against the R&B singer. Women continue to allege mental and physical abuse in what they call R. Kelly's abusive cult of women in Chicago and Atlanta. Following years of allegations, the Time's Up organization recently threw its support behind a grassroots #MuteRKelly campaign to have his concerts and recording contracts cancelled.

Music-streaming service Spotify removed R. Kelly's music from its algorithmic and curated playlists under its new "Hate Content and Hateful Conduct Policy". His music will still be available, but Spotify "will not actively promote it" in its editorial selections.



Chinese Channel Banned from Airing Eurovision Final after Censoring Performance with Gay Theme

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organizes Eurovision and licenses broadcasts, terminated its contract with Chinese channel Mango TV after Ireland's performance was cut and other sections were blurred. The performance features two male performers dancing and holding hands. The Chinese broadcaster also blurred images of a rainbow flag waived in the audience during Switzerland's performance. The EBU stated that the broadcaster's actions were not in line with its values of universality and inclusivity and its tradition of celebrating diversity through music.


Adidas is Standing by Collaborator Kanye West Following West's Controversial Comments on Slavery

Kanye West recently came under fire for comments he made during an interview on TMZ in which he said that he thought 400 years of slavery "sounds like a choice." Adidas' chief executive said he did not support West's comments and that Adidas's position on human rights was public, firm, and not in alignment with West's comments. The company also did not respond to calls to drop Kanye as a collaborator, despite pressure from a 30,000-signature online petition. Others are noting that Adidas knew exactly what it signed up for, and that controversy is part of Kanye's brand.



Art Dealer Pleads Guilty in Multimillion-Dollar Fraud Case

Ezra Chowaiki has pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, one of the three charges laid against the Manhattan art gallery owner in December 2017. Prosecutors say that he fraudulently transferred more than $16 million of artwork between 2015 and 2017, in some instances selling artwork without the owners' authorization, or taking money from clients purportedly to purchase artwork, but keeping the money instead. Sentencing is scheduled for September.


Contested Auction of Basquiat Painting to Proceed

Collector Hubert Neumann sued Sotheby's claiming that the auction giant had violated an agreement with him by not seeking his approval about the marketing of the painting, which had been part of his wife's estate. He also claimed that the $30 million estimate put on the painting was far too low. Justice Sherwood of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan ruled that Neumann has no authority over the work and that the sale of "Flesh and Spirit" can proceed as planned.


Nobel Literature Prize Will Not Be Awarded in 2018

Citing a "crisis of confidence," the Swedish Academy will postpone awarding the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature. At the center of the controversy is a member of the academy whose husband is accused of harassing and assaulting at least 18 women over three decades. The couple runs a cultural organization with financial ties to the academy, and some of the offenses took place at academy-owned properties. Complaints to the academy went ignored over the years.


Facing Accusations of Inappropriate Behavior, Author Junot Díaz Steps Down as Pulitzer Chairman

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Díaz was publicly confronted with misconduct allegations during a Q&A session at a writers' festival in Australia. Writer and professor Zinzi Clemmons claims that Díaz forcibly kissed her when she was a graduate student at Columbia University. Clemmons believes that Díaz tried to preempt accusations of inappropriate behavior through his recent essay in The New Yorker detailing his own sexual abuse as a child. Other women have since come forward to accuse him of misogyny and inappropriate behavior.

The Pulitzer Prize Board will be conducting an independent review of the claims. Díaz has since stepped down as chairman, but will remain a part of the body.



American Ballet Theater Announces Female Choreographer Initiative

American Ballet Theater (ABT) announced a multi-year initiative that will support the creation and staging of new works by female choreographers. The ABT Women's Movement will support three choreographers each season. The company's artistic director sees this initiative as a major step in both levelling the playing field and looking for that "next voice."


Bloomberg Philanthropies Expands Funding to Art Groups in Seven Cities

The funding is an expansion of the Arts Innovation and Management program launched by former New York city Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2011. It will invest $43 million in more than 200 small and midsize cultural organizations across theater, visual arts, music, film, literature, and dance. Selected organizations will be offered financial support - about 10% of their annual operating budgets, in addition to arts-management training.


Rockefeller Artworks Set World Record for Single-Owner Auction

Peggy and David Rockefeller's artworks and treasures broke a world record at a Christie's auction, topping $800 million, twice the amount brought in by the sale of Yves Saint Laurent's estate in 2009.


Manhattan's School of Visual Arts Terminates Instructors for Violating School's Sexual Misconduct Policy

Two teachers at the School of Visual Arts had their contracts terminated after students complained of improper conduct. Inspired by the #MeToo movement, students turned to social media to call attention to inappropriate male behavior and formally filed complaints with their Title IX office.


Japanese Photographer's Muse Puts Spotlight on Power Dynamics in the Industry

Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki is being accused of exploiting and bullying his muse, the model Kaori, for 16 years. Kaori alleges that during their working relationship, Araki never signed her to a professional contract; ignored her requests for privacy during photo shoots; neglected to inform her when pictures of her were published or displayed; and often did not pay her.

Araki is known for his sexually explicit images of women. His work is being shown at the Museum of Sex in Manhattan, where the co-curator of the exhibition will now incorporate Kaori's comments into programming materials to encourage a conversation about models' rights and "issues of consent and potential abuses of power that can be at the foundation of artistic practice and artistic production."



United States Supreme Court Rules that Federal Ban on Sports Betting is Unconstitutional

The United States Supreme Court voted to overturn the federal ban on single-game sports wagering. It found that the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sport Protection Act (PASPA) violated the Constitution's 10th Amendment by "commandeering" the states' regulatory power. Writing for the majority, Justice Alito noted that the PASPA provision "unequivocally dictates what a state legislature may and may not do."

New Jersey instigated the legal fight by repealing its gambling prohibitions with a 2012 law that explicitly authorized wagering. The law was struck down in federal court. A subsequent measure exempting race tracks and Atlantic City casinos from its gambling prohibition was also struck down in federal appeals court.

Following the ruling, the National Football League (NFL) called on Congress to "enact a core regulatory framework for legalized sports betting." In January 2018, the National Basketball Association (NBA) told New York lawmakers that it would not oppose state regulation of sports wagering that included the requisite safeguards.



NFL Players Association Files Grievance on Behalf of Free Agent Eric Reid

The National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) filed two claims against the NFL on behalf of Eric Reid, an unsigned free agent, who believes that teams are refusing to sign him because he protested during pregame national anthems. The move follows Eric Reid's own collusion grievance filed against the NFL last week.

The union believes that individual club anthem policies violate the collective bargaining agreement, which doesn't specifically grant teams the right to create their own policies. The filing also alleges that any team that asks prospective players pre-employment questions about that player's intent to demonstrate is engaging in bad faith negotiations.


Oregon State Silent as Convicted Sex Offender Luke Heimlich Returns to Baseball Team

Many are questioning why Oregon State University allowed top pitcher Luke Heimlich to return to the baseball team he left last year when his past criminal convictions surfaced. Heimlich withdrew from the team after it became public that he was convicted for sexually molesting his 6-year-old niece and was a registered sex offender.

Heimlich's return and Oregon State's silence on the matter have sparked a debate of whether athletes with violent histories should be allowed to play college sports. Presently, the NCAA does not have a national policy for how schools should treat athletes who have committed felonies as juveniles. Citing confidentiality laws, university officials have refused to say what they knew about Heimlich's background when they recruited him. Oregon State does not bar student-athletes with prior convictions from competition, and its athletic department does not ask athletes to disclose criminal convictions during the admissions process.



Lions Coach Matt Patricia Faces NFL Over 1996 Sex Assault Allegations

The NFL announced that it will review the sexual assault allegations made in the 1990s against Matt Patricia, the Detroit Lions' new head coach. Patricia and a friend were indicted by a grand jury on a charge of aggravated sexual assault. The case never went to trial after the complainant refused to testify. Lions executives denied having had knowledge of the allegations and are standing by Patricia.

In recent years, the NFL has applied its personal conduct policy to punish players for incidents that occur off the field. The policy applies to athletes, coaches, and employees whose conduct is deemed "detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in" the NFL. It is unclear what, if any, discipline Patricia could face given that the allegations are unproven and the charges were laid both before Patricia entered the NFL and before the conduct policy came into effect.


Lawsuit Accuses Taekwondo Olympian and Coach of Sexual Abuse

Olympian gold medalist Steven Lopez, and his brother and longtime coach Jean Lopez, are among the defendants named in a lawsuit filed in federal court. They have been accused of sexually assaulting female athletes, some of them minors, over a period of two decades. The lawsuit also accuses the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and the national sports organization USA. Taekwondo of ignoring reports of abuse. USA Taekwondo launched an investigation into the claims in 2015, but no charges were filed.


Nike Executive Vows Changes after Claims of Workplace Harassment, Bias

Nike's Chief Executive Officer Mark Parker informed employees at a company-wide meeting that departures related to workplace behavior will be completed in the coming days. A "workplace behavior" investigation was launched following allegations that female employees at the company were subjected to "widespread... harassment and discrimination." It has led to the departure or planned departure of 11 top-level executives.

Parker also announced that the company will make changes to its compensation and training programs, and is continuing to review its human resources processes.



Police Escort for Minor League Hockey Player after Racial Slurs, Threats

Ontario Hockey League (OHL) Commissioner David Branch determined that Givani Smith needed a police escort to his recent playoff game after receiving online death threats and racist taunts. Smith is one of only about a dozen black players among the 500 playing in the OHL. Reports of racial harassment began after Smith made an obscene gesture toward an opposing team's bench, but Smith had been subject to racist and derogatory comments in earlier games too. Black hockey players at all levels, including those in the National Hockey League, have experienced incidents of racial abuse for decades. Critics are calling for change in the hockey community, including longer player suspensions for racial abuse and lifetime bans for fans uttering threats.


Major League Baseball Places Blue Jays' Osuna on Administrative Leave Following Assault Charge

Blue Jays pitcher Roberto Osuna was placed on administrative leave after being charged with assault in Toronto. Although Toronto police have not confirmed that the assault charge was related to a domestic incident, the move seems to be in accordance with the 2015 Domestic Violence Policy that allows the league to discipline a player accused in a domestic violence incident, regardless of whether it results in a trial.



Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Rules that Foreign Broadcaster Infringed U.S. Copyright through Online Streaming

A party that owns rights in one country was found liable for failing to block users in another country, where someone else holds exclusive rights. The case underscores the importance of effective geoblocking by streaming services.

A Polish television broadcaster, owner, and creator of the content in question, entered into a license granting Spanski Enterprises the exclusive right to perform TV episodes in North and South America, including via the internet. The broadcaster used geoblocking technology to ensure that internet users in North and South America could not access the content through its video-on-demand website. However, some of the content was not effectively geoblocked and Spanski sued for copyright infringement, alleging violation of its exclusive public performance rights.

The broadcaster argued unsuccessfully that a) it would be the viewers that were liable for any infringement; and b) the Copyright Act does not apply extraterritorially to conduct that occurred in Poland.

The DC Circuit ruled that both the broadcaster and the viewer "publicly perform" the copyrighted work and can both be liable for copyright infringement. Secondly, the Act applied because the conduct relevant to the statute's focus occurred in the U.S. - the performances occurred on U.S. screens, even though the content was uploaded in Poland.


NBC Investigation Finds No Wrongdoing in How Management Handled Lauer Complaints

The internal investigation found no evidence that network leaders at NBC News or the "Today" show were aware of complaints about Matt Lauer's workplace conduct before his firing in November 2017. Some had criticized NBC for relying on its in-house counsel to oversee the investigation. The network reported that two outside law firms had been consulted on the methodology, findings, and recommendations. Among its findings were that network staff members were fearful of retaliation but that, ultimately, NBC news did not have a hostile work environment.


Qatar-Saudi Arabia Conflict Spills Over into the Sports Broadcasting Arena

Executives at Qatari network beIN Sports are at a loss as to how to stop a bootlegging operation that steals their feed and broadcasts to much of the Middle East. The network owns some of the most valuable sports rights, including the upcoming World Cup.

The roots of the issue lie in the bitter political dispute between Qatar and a coalition of Arab countries that accuse it of supporting terrorism. In 2017 Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates enacted an embargo, cut off diplomatic ties, and set up a blockade to close Qatar's access to many of the region's ports. Since the dispute, a pirated version of the Qatari sports channel has been streaming illegally in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia also banned the sale of beIN broadcast boxes and prohibited existing customers from paying their subscriptions to the channel. Subpoenas issued in the U.S. to website hosting companies also show a Saudi-based executive paying for hosting fees. FIFA and other governing bodies that have sold exclusive broadcast rights to beIN have supported the company's antipiracy efforts, but have generally not criticized Saudi Arabia publicly. BeIN is currently awaiting the outcome of complaints filed with the World Trade Organization and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.


Cambodians Fear End of Press Freedom after Newspaper's Sale

The English-language newspaper, The Phnom Penh Post, was recently sold to a Malaysian investor with ties to Cambodia's prime minister. Several senior editors resigned or were fired after new management intervened in editorial decisions. Recent shut downs of dissenting news outlets and arrests of dozens of government critics have also raised concerns about press freedom in the country.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 14, 2018 10:08 PM.

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