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Week in Review

By Eric Lanter
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

General News:

Senate Democrats Win Vote on Net Neutrality, a Centerpiece of 2018 Strategy

Setting the stage for the 2018 midterm elections, Senate Democrats have voted in favor of net neutrality, overturning a decision in December of the Federal Communications Commission to dismantle rules that "prevented providers like Verizon and Comcast from blocking or speeding up streams and downloads of web content in exchange for extra fees." It is virtually assured that the measure will not pass the House, but the symbolic value of the vote may carry the weight that Democrats crave when it comes to the midterm elections in six months.


Gina Haspel Confirmed as New CIA Director

Six Democratic senators joined Republicans to confirm Gina Haspel as the new director of the CIA. Haspel came under fire for her involvement in the harsh interrogation practices post-9/11, including her supervision of a black site in Thailand where detainees were waterboarded. She vowed not to restart a program that used so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" (others have labeled it "government-sanctioned torture"), giving her sufficient Democratic votes for confirmation but making her 54-45 vote split the closest margin of any CIA nominee in history.


White House Eliminates Cybersecurity Coordinator Role

The Trump administration eliminated the cybersecurity coordinator role from the National Security Council after the new national security adviser, John Bolton, deemed the position no longer necessary. The role previously was viewed by many as being "central to developing policy to defend against increasingly sophisticated digital attacks and the use of offensive cyber weapons," and its elimination received criticism from those in the intelligence community. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, released a statement expressing his befuddlement at how eliminating the role would do anything to protect the country from cyber threats.


North Korea Threatens to Call Off Summit Meeting with Trump

President Trump has touted his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as being a landmark moment of his presidency. The North Koreans, however, have threatened to call off the summit meeting if the United States insists on "unilateral nuclear abandonment," which many in the United States have expected to be one of the main accomplishments of the talks between the two nations. Adding to the tension, South Korean and American air forces drilled in recent weeks, which North Korea interpreted as a "deliberate military provocation." Whether the North Koreans are being hyperbolic and melodramatic only as posturing remains to be seen.


Pompeo Lifts Hiring Freeze in Effort to Return 'Swagger' to State Department

With Mike Pompeo at the helm of the State Department, a change of policy has come: the hiring freeze has ended. Those in the diplomatic community sighed with relief as Pompeo announced to his staff that the department would pursue filling vacant positions that lingered under former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Pompeo's announcement does not come as a surprise to those in Congress, as Congress passed funding legislation in March that prescribed the State Department to maintain staffing levels and explain earlier cutbacks.


Michael Cohen Circus Has a Ringmaster: Porn Actress's Lawyer

Michael Avenatti, the attorney representing pornographic film star Stephanie Clifford, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels, has shown his ability for orchestrating drama inside and outside the courtroom, even in relation to President Trump's attorney Michael Cohen. Two examples: Avenatti had Clifford appear in court in a bright pink blazer to unnerve Cohen and released a report showing that Cohen had taken over $1 million from a firm linked to a Russian oligarch and other companies, including AT&T. Some attorneys have called into question whether his representation of Clifford is purely legal and not somewhat political, given these theatrics. Nonetheless, Trump has disclosed that he in fact reimbursed Cohen for the payment made to Clifford, raising questions about whether a violation of financial disclosure laws may have occurred in the lead-up to the 2016 election.



Candidates Line Up to Fill Attorney General Role

New York State lawmakers have started their second round of interviews for replacing New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, following his resignation from the office over allegations of pervasive and violent sexual abuse. The favorite to replace him is the acting attorney general, Barbara Underwood, who if appointed would serve the remainder of Schneiderman's term. However, Underwood has announced she would not seek re-election in November if she was appointed.


Stir Caused by Trump's 'Animals' Remark

President Trump came under fire for calling illegal immigrants "animals". When discussing the issue after the firestorm began, he told reporters that he was referring to members of the MS-13 gang and would continue to use the term to describe them. He has used the term in relation to violent street gangs before at rallies, speeches, and events, but it would be a new use of the term to apply it to illegal immigrants rather than violent gang members.




In the Arctic, the Old Ice is Disappearing

Scientists have predicted that by midcentury, there would be no ice in the Arctic Ocean in summer. Last winter marked a record low for ice older than five years in a region that typically has ice frozen year-round.


China and U.S. Talk Trade Deal

With President Trump preparing to potentially meet with North Korea's leader in the next month comes discussions between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping regarding a trade deal between them. Chinese company ZTE, a telecommunications company, has been the subject of scrutiny because of illegal exports to North Korea and Iran, but Trump took to Twitter to express his support for getting a deal done that would help ZTE "because many jobs in China are at stake."


10 Killed in Texas High School Shooting

At 17 years old, Dimitrios Pagourtzis forced his way into Santa Fe High School in Texas with his father's guns on Friday morning and killed 10 people, wounding 10 more. He surrendered to police custody and confessed to committing the crime, according to police. In interviews with students, one student's interview became a sensation in social media as she was not surprised but felt that "eventually it was going to happen here, too."


Trump Administration to Tie Health Facilities' Funding to Abortion Restrictions

The Trump administration announced that clinics that provide abortions or refer patients to facilities that provide abortions will lose their federal funding. The rule is designed to principally target Planned Parenthood, much to the pleasure of the social conservatives that seek to curb abortions in the United States by withholding funding. President Reagan implemented a similar program in the 1980s, which prompted lawsuits to be brought challenging it, and President Clinton rescinded the policy before the policies could take root and be fully implemented.


House Farm Bill Collapses with Republican Disarray

Republicans' intraparty rift was put on full display last week when they voted on a measure that would impose work requirements on food aid recipients, as the result was a failure: 213 to 198, as the measure failed to pass. The more conservative faction of Republicans, the Freedom Caucus, voted against the measure as a rebuke to House Speaker Paul Ryan. Ryan, in his last year of being a member of Congress, has not achieved a substantial legislative victory since the end of 2017.


Refugee Agencies Fall Into Limbo

Throughout the country, refugee agencies have stockpiled materials and goods to supply to asylees and others who take refuge in the United States. The problem: the Trump administration has cut staff that conducts clearance interviews and raised the standards for admitting refugees into the country. If the current trend continues, this year will be the lowest figure since 1980, when Congress passed the Refugee Act.


MTA Says Sex Toy Ads are OK

The MTA has agreed to allow a sex toy company to advertise in the subways after it witnessed an outcry and accusations that it enforced a "gendered double standard" in what advertisements it approved. The advertisements approved include "colorful, stylized paintings" of sex toys, which some took to be too obscene for public display. This is not the first controversy that the MTA has had with advertisements: THINX, a company that makes underwear for use during menstruation, ultimately got approval but after a lengthy review and evaluation process for its ads featuring "dripping egg yolks and split fruit."


Chance of North American Free Trade Agreement Deal in 2018 Diminishes

Negotiations remain ongoing among Canada, Mexico, and the United States for revising the North American Free Trade Agreement, which is a sprawling 24-year-old trade agreement that the Trump administration has been focused on revising to favor Americans. Although House Speaker Paul Ryan sought to have the negotiations finished by May 17th, the White House gave no indication that the deal was anywhere close to being finished, and the American negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, indicated that the countries were "nowhere near close to a deal."


Trump Says He Will Nominate Acting Secretary to Lead VA

President Trump announced that the acting secretary of veterans affairs, Robert Wilkie, will be his nominee to take over the agency. Wilkie would be taking over an agency that has had turmoil at the top for several months. The former secretary, David Shulkin, was fired by a tweet in March and Trump's chosen successor, Dr. Ronny Jackson, withdrew his name from consideration when reports emerged that he had been distributing pills and potentially drinking on the job.


Trump Jr. and Aides Met with Gulf Emissary Offering Help to Win Election

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe is expanding. One area of focus is a meeting in Trump Tower three months before the 2016 election, where Donald Trump Jr. met with an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation as well as an Saudi emissary and Republican donor. The meeting may indicate that countries other than Russia were involved in manipulating social media and attempting to influence the election results in 2016. Investigators have interviewed witnesses in Washington, New York, Atlanta, and Tel Aviv to determine the nature and extent of the involvement in influencing the election. These interviews and further investigation comes as Trump and his attorneys have called for an end to Mueller's probe.


Black Culture is Central Part of Royal Wedding

The wedding of Meghan and Harry has been in the headlines for weeks, but the wedding itself is now being recognized for something more than the expansion of the royal family of England. African-American culture was on display at the wedding: The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, a bishop of the American Episcopal Church, gave a stirring speech to the attendees, and a gospel performance of "Stand by Me" echoed throughout the church. Then, a black Briton, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, performed a cello solo in a chapel where few individuals of African heritage had set foot let alone performed on such a grand stage.


Soros Foundation to Quit Hungary

The Open Society Foundations is a philanthropic organization headed by billionaire George Soros, and it announced this week that it is moving its headquarters from Budapest, Hungary to Berlin, Germany, given the political climate of Hungary. Soros, a native Hungarian, has been the target of venomous attacks by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban for Soros' sympathy for refugees and asylum-seekers. Some analysts suppose that Orban's attacks are thinly-veiled anti-Semitic jabs rather than legitimate disputes of policy. The Open Society Foundations, citing the "increasingly repressive" environment in Hungary, has vowed to continue its work in Hungary and other countries despite the attacks.


Researchers Uncover Two Hidden Pages in Anne Frank's Diary

Two pages of Anne Frank's diary have been revealed for the first time. Digital technology allowed researchers to view the text through overlaid brown paper that Frank put on the two pages, and the hidden pages revealed her writings regarding more sexual matters that perhaps she did not wish for her family or others to read when confined to close quarters hiding from the Nazis.


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


Cosby's Sentencing Set for September

Judge Steven T. O'Neill ordered that Bill Cosby's sentencing take place on September 24th and 25th of this year in Norristown, Pennsylvania for his conviction of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a Temple University employee, in 2004. Until then, he has a GPS monitor and may only travel to surrounding counties "for medical reasons or to see his lawyers."


Cannes, Where Weinstein Reigned, Reckons with #MeToo Movement

In Cannes, France, women in the entertainment industry have been making their voices heard this year. Eight-two women took over the red carpet for a rally to show that even though women make up a majority of people in the world, the industry treats them like a marginalized population. For years, the area was a playground for producer Harvey Weinstein, who remains fighting dozens of episodes of sexual misconduct and has continued to deny any allegations of nonconsensual sex.



In New York High Schools, the Sound of Music Is Muted

Between 2002 and 2013, New York City shuttered 69 high schools, many of which were large schools that had specialized programs for arts or music. In their stead, the city opened smaller schools that academically are superior but lack the arts and music classes that provided a more robust education for the larger student bodies of years past. Given that studies have shown that those involved in the arts are more likely to achieve higher test scores and far more likely to graduate and attend college, the new schools chancellor, Richard Carranza, has said that he "plans to focus on the arts."


Pablo Picasso Painting Damaged Before Sale

The auction house Christie's announced that a 1943 Pablo Picasso painting, "Le Marin," valued at $70 million, was damaged and is being withdrawn from sale to be repaired. The owner of the painting, Steve Wynn, resigned as chairman of Wynn Resorts amidst sexual misconduct allegations surfacing in February of this year.


More Fabric, More Money? British Retailer Accused of 'Fat Tax'

In the fashion industry, clothes size is a touchy subject, and now Britain's biggest retailers are facing accusations of putting a "fat tax" on women. One store, New Look, has said that if more fabric is used for a piece of clothing, then that justifies a higher price. Women have spoken out: one says that she should be the subject of discrimination in prices because of her slightly bigger than average size. Social media has also picked up the issue and debated whether petite people should be charged less for having a smaller size.


Fashion's Woman Problem

With graduation season comes a class of graduates from schools like the Fashion Institute of Technology, Pratt, and Parsons School of Design. Even though the vast majority of graduates are women, the small share of men will rise through the industry faster than their female counterparts. This is true even in women's wear, and the phenomenon is one featured in a new study that will be released called "The Glass Runway."


Rethinking 'Blue Chip' Amidst Black Artist Soaring at Auction

Chicago-based painter Kerry James Marshall sold a work titled "Past Times" for $21.1 million, four times the previous auction high for Marshall. An art adviser in New York has hypothesized that African-American art is seeing a re-evaluation and prices are adjusting based on this re-evaluation. Marshall is certainly not the only one seeing higher prices come his way as auction houses like Sotheby's are seeing higher prices.


Met Opera Accuses James Levine of Decades of Sexual Misconduct

When the Metropolitan Opera fired James Levine, a conductor, he sued the company for breach of contract and defamation. The Met has counter-sued this week alleging that Levine harmed the company with the accusations of sexual harassment and abuse that he allegedly committed. It has been alleged that he was involved in multiple instances of sexual misconduct from the 1970s through at least 1999, and nine men have come forward with accusations of Levine's harassment or abuse. Levine, through his lawyers, has denied any wrongdoing.


Berlin Museum Returns Artifacts to Indigenous People of Alaska

The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation has returned objects to indigenous communities in Alaska, after it was found that the artifacts were taken in the 1880s from a burial site. The Foundation agreed that because they were taken without permission, the museum should not display them any longer, and the return comes at a time when European museums are attempting to put more work into thoughtful acquisitions of works and returning those that were acquired in unlawful or unethical manners.



Supreme Court Ruling Favors Sports Betting

The Supreme Court ruled that a 26-year-old federal law that prohibited sports betting in the United States was unlawful. The ruling is expected to boost the value of the sports industry and television coverage of sporting events. Historically, fans have increasingly watched games when betting is permitted, and Nielsen Sports estimates that sports bettors comprise 47% of all minutes viewed of the National Football League's television audience. No one yet knows the size the industry may reach, but by comparison, Britain's 65 million people wagered $20 billion in the fiscal year ending in March 2017.



Michigan State's $500 Million for Nassar Victims Dwarfs Other Settlements

Michigan State University settled a $500 million settlement with 332 women and girls who suffered abuse from Dr. Lawrence Nassar. For 20 years, he preyed on his "patients" under the guise of medical care at the university. While Michigan State may have supposed that the $500 million settlement would end its problems, there are ongoing investigations by the Michigan Attorney General and the federal Department of Education that could result in criminal charges for the administrators, or other federal penalties. Further, the public is not likely to sympathize with the university, as the $500 million may end up being charged to taxpayers or to students.



Witness in Rio Olympics Bribery Case Has His Day in Court

A member of Brazil's Olympic Committee, Eric Maleson, came to meet with a man who claimed that money changed hands to secure Brazil's hosting of the 2016 Summer Olympics. There are concerns that a scheme of kickbacks and corruption led to the hosting of both the Rio and the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Maleson testified this week in a Brazilian court about his experience during a trial of Carlos Arthur Nuzman, the former head of Brazil's national Olympic committee, and president of the 2016 Olympic organizing committee. Other officials are expected to testify, including from the International Olympic Committee.



CBS Escalates Its Fight With Redstones

CBS sued its parent company, Redstones' National Amusements, in Delaware to prevent Shari Redstone from merging CBS with Viacom, its "corporate sibling." Although discussions have gone on for years that the merger may occur, there has been a consistent impasse when it comes to who would lead the merged company: Leslie Moonves, chief executive of CBS, and Bob Bakish, CEO of Viacom, both vie for the coveted position. The lawsuit was filed, according to CBS, so that Redstone would not be able to block a meeting of the special committee, which would have resulted in a neutralization of her special voting powers. On Wednesday, Chancellor Andre Bouchard granted CBS a temporary restraining order prohibiting National Amusements Inc. from taking any action to thwart the scheduled board meeting.




Silicon Valley Faces Regulatory Fight on Its Home Turf

The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 is a ballot initiative that would provide "consumers with increased privacy rights, including the ability to demand that companies do not sell their personal data." Consumers would have the right to ask a company to disclose the data collected about them, demand that companies do not sell data or share with third parties, and to sue companies that violate the law. While Google, Facebook, and other large companies have come out against the initiative, it has significant backing from former members of the industry and financiers.


Fox Settles Discrimination Lawsuits for Roughly $10 Million

Fox News settled a group of racial and gender discrimination lawsuits involving 18 current and former employees for approximately $10 million. The settlements come after allegations of hostile racial discrimination taking place after reports to network executives. Those individuals who filed the lawsuits have agreed to drop their claims and to not seek future employment with Fox or other 21st Century Fox companies. This result is the latest indication that Fox News and 21st Century Fox are attempting to move past the negative attention drawn to them by scandals, including sexual harassment and discrimination.


Judge Rejects Lawsuit Against Fox by Ex-Host

United States District Judge George Daniels dismissed a lawsuit that former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros brought against the network, citing her allegations as being "vague, speculative and conclusory" and thus not serving as a sufficient basis for her complaints of sexual harassment. The network offered to settle the matter for more than $1 million so long as she remained silent, but her lawsuit sought unspecified damages. The channel claimed that the lawsuit was ultimately a "paranoid fantasy or a deliberate hoax." Although she filed claims for a wiretap and malware, she was not able to articulate how those claims were fleshed out in terms of factual allegations, prompting Judge Daniels to dismiss the complaint.


Suzanne Scott Named First Female Chief Executive of Fox News

The Murdoch family has named a longtime Fox News employee, Suzanne Scott, as the new chief executive of Fox News this week. She is one that has been seen as part of the old guard of Fox News as she rose up the ranks from the inception of Fox News in 1996 to the present through programming, production, and creative positions. In her position, she will report to Rupert Murdoch and his son, Lachlan Murdoch, the latter of whom called her "instrumental in the success of Fox News."


Facebook Says That It Deleted 865 Million Posts, Mostly Spam

Facebook announced in an 86-page report that it deleted 865.8 million posts in the first quarter of 2018. Those posts consisted of spam, "nudity, graphic violence, hate speech, and terrorism." Facebook also announced that it removed 583 million fake accounts during the first quarter of 2018. Given the divisive messages and false news that have pervaded the social media platform, these moves are seen as a step toward more transparency.


Trump Meets Uzbek President, Does not Mention Human Rights

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev visited the White House this week as part of an effort to bring the two countries together at a time when Uzbekistan has moved away from authoritarianism and more toward democracy. Senior Trump administration officials expected President Trump to raise the issues of human rights and freedom of the press when they met, but their public remarks this week did not reflect any discussion. If the topics were not raised, it would fit President Trump's pattern of being silent on human rights concerns with foreign leaders who have a history of those issues in their countries.


Germany Acts to Tame Facebook, Learning from History of Hate

In Berlin, hundreds of men and women sit at computers and comb through Facebook to delete posts that may contain hate speech or other material that violates the law or the company's community standards. The center is known as a deletion center and contains over 1,200 content moderators. Germany's background makes this deletion more complicated, as it was the home of the Nazi ideology and battles with that reputation, only publishing Hitler's "Mein Kampf" with annotations, banning swastikas, and pushing inciting hatred with up to five years in jail. Nonetheless, the deletion also comes at a time when Europe is grappling more seriously and openly with regulating big technology companies like Facebook and Google, particularly as compared to the United States.


Hong Kong Journalist Roughed Up by Police in Beijing

The cameraman for a Hong Kong news station was detained by police in Beijing after he tried to cover a human rights lawyer's disciplinary hearing. He was wrestled to the ground, handcuffed, and forced into a police car with his forehead bleeding. While detained, he said that he signed a "note of remorse" as a result of his fear that his identification had been confiscated and because the officers had been so aggressive toward him.


The Los Angeles Times Suspends Beijing Chief Amid Sexual Misconduct Probe

The Los Angeles Times suspended the head of its Beijing bureau after he was accused of sexual misconduct for a second time. Jonathan Kaiman, a former Wall Street Journal editor, was accused of "problematic behavior" after he spent time with a woman and "escalated things in a way that crossed the line." While on an electric scooter, he lifted her dress and sexually touched her without consent, only stopping when she pushed him away and told him to stop. He denied the allegations and claimed to be "a proponent of women's rights and believe that every woman has a right to be heard and to tell her truth."


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 21, 2018 9:49 AM.

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