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Week in Review

By Angela Peco
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker


Historic Trump-Kim Summit in Singapore Ends with Mounting Questions About What Has Been Achieved

President Trump hailed his meeting with Kim Jong-Un as a "big step back from nuclear catastrophe", but critics say he made too many concessions without receiving any specific commitment to denuclearization. Kim has reportedly agreed only to a "step-by-step" denuclearization. Trump also offered to suspend joint U.S.-South Korean military drills to appease Kim, a move that reportedly came as a shock to both the Pentagon and South Korean officials, who are now working in tandem to scale back on such drills.


Repeal of Net Neutrality Rules and How They Could Affect You

The end of net neutrality took effect this week. The rules enacted by the Obama administration in 2015 prohibited internet providers from charging more for certain content or giving preferential treatment to certain websites.

Among a wide range of arguments, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said that it repealed the rules because they restrained broadband providers from experimenting with new business models and investing in new technology. Those opposing the repeal argued that it would open the door for service providers to censor content online or charge additional fees for better service, something that could hurt small companies who cannot afford to "pay-to-play" to access internet "fast lanes." Twenty-nine state legislatures have so far introduced bills to ensure net neutrality, and some have used executive orders to enforce the previous rules.



Attorney General Sessions Removes Domestic and Gang Violence as Grounds of Asylum

Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions has ordered immigration judges to stop granting asylum to most victims of "private violence," like domestic abuse and gang violence. Sessions' decision overturns a precedent set during the Obama administration that allowed more women to claim credible fears of domestic abuse, a precedent that Sessions says created "powerful incentives" for people to "come here illegally and claim a fear of return."

The ruling drew immediate condemnation from immigrants' rights groups, who view it as a return to a time when domestic violence was considered a private matter, and not the responsibility of government to intervene. The National Association of Immigration Judges pointed to Sessions' authority to exercise veto power in these cases as a reason of why the immigration courts need true independence. Immigration courts are housed under the Justice Department, not the judicial branch of government.



Treasury Department Imposes New Sanctions on Russia in Response to Hacking

The sanctions target five Russian companies and three individuals, some of whom are accused of directly supporting Russia's intelligence agency in its efforts to carry out cyberattacks. The sanctions were in response to "malign and destabilizing" activities in Ukraine, intrusions into America's energy grid, and efforts to compromise global digital infrastructure. There have also been Russian efforts to track underwater communications cables that transmit much of the world's data.


China Matches U.S. Tariffs as Trade War Escalates

The United States moved ahead with tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese goods. China's response was swift and focused on $50 billion worth of American goods including beef, poultry, tobacco, and cars.


Supreme Court Upholds Purge of Ohio Voting Rolls

The Supreme Court sided with the Republican position in the partisan battle of how far states can go in imposing voting restrictions. Republicans argue that restrictions are needed to combat alleged widespread voter fraud.

Federal laws prohibit states from removing voters from state rolls due to failures to vote, but they do allow election officials who suspect that a voter has moved to send a confirmation notice. Ohio has been more aggressive than any other state in purging its voter rolls as it begins the process based on someone's failure to vote in a single federal election cycle. If a voter fails to respond to a notice and does not vote in the next four years, that voter's name is purged from the rolls.

Justice Alito recognized that federal law forbids the use of nonvoting as the sole criterion for removing a registrant, but distinguished Ohio's practice from that. Justice Breyer wrote that the goal of ensuring accuracy of voting rolls did not justify erecting obstacles to prevent eligible people from casting ballots.



Supreme Court Strikes Down Minnesota's Voter Clothing Law

The law prohibits voters from wearing clothing, hats, and buttons expressing political views at polling places on election days. The law bans even general political messages, like support for gun rights or labor unions, as well as materials "designed to influence or impact voting." The Court acknowledged the value of decorum and solemn deliberation as voters prepare to cast their ballots. Chief Justice Roberts even cited with approval more focused laws aimed at limiting classic electioneering. However, this law was too broad, violating the free speech clause of the First Amendment.


Judge in Emoluments Case Questions Defense of Trump's Hotel Profits

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland, argue that Trump's profits from his D.C. hotel violate anti-corruption clauses of the Constitution that restrict government-bestowed financial benefits. The issue of what constitutes an illegal emolument has never been litigated. The Justice Department contends that the framers meant only to bar federal officials from providing a service to a foreign government and receiving compensation in return. In this case, foreign diplomats allow Trump to profit financially, but there is "no allegation that in exchange, [Trump] took some official action."

Justice Messitte repeatedly challenged that interpretation, asking whether the framers meant merely to rule out outright bribery or to ward off situations that could give rise to corruption as well. He will decide by the end of July whether to allow the plaintiffs to proceed, at which point they could demand financial records from the hotel or other evidence from the president.


Lawyer for Ex-FBI Deputy Director McCabe Sues the Government for Allegedly Withholding Documents Related to McCabe's Firing

The lawsuit alleges that the Justice Department, the FBI, and its inspector general refused to turn over documents related to McCabe's disciplinary process. The plaintiff is demanding the information under the Freedom of Information Act, arguing that the documents could help build a larger case against the Justice Department for wrongful termination and due process violations. McCabe was dismissed in March only hours before his planned retirement over his "lack of candor" about his interactions with a Wall Street Journal reporter in 2016.


Aides Say That Scott Pruitt Enlisted Staff Members to Help with Personal Matters and Obtain Favors for His Family

Embattled Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt is in the news again, following reports that he used his office and connections in the energy industry to curry personal favors. Aides say that they were asked to approach donors for assistance in finding his wife a job and help his daughter obtain a summer internship at the White House. According to his former aides, there was an expectation that they would help boost his and his family's standing, while constantly fielding requests that had nothing to do with running the EPA.


Report Criticizes James Comey and Other FBI Employees But Finds no Political Bias in FBI Decision on Clinton

The Justice Department's inspector general issued a report that was unsparingly critical of former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey for breaking with longstanding policy and publicly discussing the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server. The inspector general did not, however, challenge the conclusion that Clinton should not be prosecuted. Investigators uncovered no proof that political opinions at the FBI influenced the outcome of the presidential campaign.


Michael Cohen Calls for an End to the "Media Circus" and Seeks Gag Order on Michael Avenatti, Stephanie Clifford's Lawyer

Cohen filed a motion in Federal District Court in Los Angeles requesting a restraining order against Avenatti, barring him from publicly discussing his breach-of-contract lawsuit he had filed against Cohen and Trump for breaking the nondisclosure deal with Clifford. Cohen claims that Avenatti's publicity tour and denigrating comments about him are contrary to the California Rules of Professional Conduct and likely to result in Cohen being deprived of his right to a fair trial.


Paul Manafort is Sent to Jail to Await Trial Following New Obstruction Charges

A federal judge revoked Manafort's bail and sent him to jail, citing new charges that he had tried to influence the testimony of two government witnesses after having been granted a temporary release. Manafort had posted a $10 million bond and was under house arrest while awaiting his September trial on charges that include money laundering and making false statements.


Steve King's Inflammatory Behavior and Racially Charged Language is Met with Silence from G.O.P.

The House Republican leadership kept silent this week after Rep. Steve King, Republican of Iowa, retweeted a British white supremacist and Nazi sympathizer. King appears unapologetic in subsequent interviews, saying that his intention was to highlight an article warning about the dangers of immigration in Europe. There has been no statement from other Republicans in the Iowa congressional delegation. King has a history of racist comments during his eight terms in Congress.


New York State Sues Trump Foundation after Two-Year Investigation

The New York State Attorney General's Office is accusing the Trump Foundation and the Trump family of sweeping violations of campaign finance laws, self-dealing, and illegal coordination with the presidential campaign. It seeks to dissolve the foundation and bar President Trump and his three children from serving on nonprofit organizations.


New York Limits Damages Measures by "Avoided Costs"

New York's Court of Appeals has curtailed "avoided costs" damage claims brought in New York in particular causes of action, including claims for common law misappropriation of trade secrets, unfair competition, and unjust enrichment claims. In its unfair competition analysis, the Court found that damages should be based on "the loss of plaintiff's commercial advantage, which may not correspond to what the defendant has wrongfully gained." However, the Court stopped short of saying that an avoided costs theory was never viable, especially in cases of unfair competition and misappropriation when there is a connection between the defendant's gain and the plaintiff's loss. How close a connection will be required remains to be seen.


Federal Study on Drinking Is Shut Down After the National Institutes of Health Concluded the Study Was Tainted by Ties to the Alcohol Industry

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) gave scientists $100 million to fund a global study on alcohol and cardiovascular health. The New York Times reported earlier this year that officials associated with the study had solicited that funding from alcohol manufacturers, a violation of federal policy. An advisory panel to the director of the NIH has now recommended that the trial be terminated altogether. Investigators found that there was frequent email correspondence among staff, outside scientists, and alcohol industry representatives, and that the interactions "appear to intentionally bias the framing of the scientific premise in a direction of showing a beneficial health effect of moderate alcohol consumption."



National Advisory Panel Report Says That Universities Fail to Stop Harassment

The report was issued by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, independent agencies that advise government and the public. It offered 15 recommendations, including that schools should overhaul their academic advising systems so that students and junior researchers are not dependent on a single senior researcher for advancement or grants. It also urged legislators to pass laws so that people can file harassment lawsuits directly against faculty and not just the university, so that employees who settle complaints cannot keep them confidential from prospective academic employers.


Group Suing Harvard Says Admission Officials Discriminated Against Asian-American Applicants by Rating Them Lower on Personality Traits

A lawsuit by Students for Fair Admissions alleges that Harvard ranked prospective Asian American students lower than other races on characteristics like personality, likability, and courage. The lawsuit accuses Harvard of "racial balancing" and keeping the Asian-American student rate low in favor of "less qualified" Latino, black, and white students. The group is led by conservative lawyer Edward Blum, who represented Abigail Fisher in her 2016 Supreme Court case alleging discrimination against white applicants at the University of Texas. Harvard warned that the analysis of over 160,000 records paints a dangerously inaccurate picture of its admissions process.


Apple Will Plug iPhone Port That Police Use to Crack Devices

Apple is closing the technological loophole that let authorities hack into iPhones. Whenever Apple refuses to help open locked iPhones, law enforcement usually turn to third parties for help. A software update will now disable the phone's charging and data port - the opening used to plug in headphones, power cables, and adapters, an hour after the phone is locked. Users can still charge the phone, but will need to enter their passwords to transfer data to or from the devices using the ports. This will hinder law enforcement who have used ports to connect phones to other devices running special software.


Leading Iranian Human Rights Lawyer Arrested in Iran

Nasrin Sotoudeh's activism has landed her in prison numerous times. Most recently, she defended women arrested for having taken off their compulsory head scarves during public protests. Last week she was taken from her home in Tehran and sent to the notorious Evin Prison. Iran hardliners have been empowered since the judiciary decided that only a pool of 20 pre-selected lawyers could represent accused in political cases. Sotoudeh was not among them.


Chinese Human Rights Lawyer Exiled in the United States Criticizes China's Coercion of Western Companies

Teng Biao, one of China's preeminent civil rights lawyers, is drawing attention to the behavior of Western companies trying to stay in China's good graces. He is outspoken about China's "influence operations", and how it coerces foreigners to bend to its point of view or to self-censor in return for favors or access to the Chinese consumer market. Companies like Marriott International and Gap Inc. recently apologized to the Chinese government for communications in which they identified Taiwan, among others, as separate territories, a violation of the Communist Party canon. Teng left China in 2012 after increasing harassment by Chinese authorities. In 2016, he clashed publicly with the American Bar Association (ABA) over its decision to rescind an offer to publish his book on the history of the lawyer-led rights movement in China. He accused the ABA of not wanting to jeopardize its operations in Beijing.


Below, for your convenience, are blurbs for Entertainment, Arts, Sports, and Media:


Blue Man Group Will Pay More Than $3 Million to End Royalty Dispute

In his suit in 2016, Ian Pai sued Blue Man Group for $150 million in both punitive and compensatory damages. Pai had worked with the avant-garde performance ensemble in its early days, serving as its music director and helping to compose some of its music. After the group's success, Pai claimed that the payments he was receiving for his contributions of "musical compositions and creative work" were not up to what he deserved. The suit has now been settled for $3 million. While the specific figure or other terms of the agreement were not disclosed, a reference to the payout was included in a separate lawsuit filed by Blue Man Group against its insurance company.


Fyre Festival Organizer is Facing New Charges for Running a Ticket-Selling Scam While Out on Bail

Billy McFarland, the promoter of the failed Fyre Festival in the Bahamas, has now been charged with wire fraud and money laundering for running a company that sold fake tickets to exclusive events, like the Met Gala and Coachella. He defrauded about 15 customers out of $100,000. McFarland was out on bail awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to defrauding investors and vendors of the Fyre festival.


Second Circuit Decision in Wilson v Dynatone Publishing Company

The Second Circuit ruled on a copyright suit brought by the writers of a 1970s song that was sampled in a Justin Timberlake hit. It found that the district court erred when it concluded the songwriters had given up their rights years ago and that the claims had been filed to late. The Court found that under section 304(a), the abandonment by the plaintiff of a claim of authorship in the initial term did not affect his claim of authorship for the renewal term. It also found that the defendant's registration of a renewal term copyright was not the repudiation required for the three year statute of limitations to accrue for a claim of authorship, reasoning that mere registration of a copyright did not put a reasonably diligent plaintiff on inquiry notice of the adverse claim of authorship.


Restraining Order Issued against Stan Lee's Supposed Guardian Who Has Been Accused of "Unduly Influencing" Him

A Los Angeles court issued a temporary restraining order against a man who claimed to be a caregiver for Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee. Police had charged the man with filing a false report in connection with Lee. The man had called 911, reporting unidentified people in the home, when police were actually conducting a welfare check on Lee and had refused him entry. According to his lawyers, Lee suffers from hearing, vision, and memory impairments, and was unable to "resist undue influence." At 95 and with an estate worth over $50 million, they say that he is vulnerable to financial predators.



Frieze Fair is Being Sued by Galleries for Failing to Manage Extreme Temperatures

Shane Campbell Gallery, one of the participants in Frieze New York, has sued the event organizer, asserting that the Frieze Fair was negligent in not preparing for the heat wave that caused extreme temperatures in the main tent structure of the art fair on Randalls Island in May. The gallery is seeking full reimbursement for all fees associated with participation. Frieze executives recently offered compensation to affected galleries equal to 10% of the cost of a booth, with a minimum of $1,000. The prices of booths vary, with emerging galleries paying around $8,000 for a spot.


New York Philharmonic is Revisiting its No-Pants Dress Code for Female Musicians

The New York Philharmonic is the only major American orchestra that does not allow its female players to wear pants for formal evening concerts; floor-length skirts or gowns are the only option. The orchestra's management is now discussing modernizing the dress code for women to allow for more options. The dress restrictions are both unfair and could hinder female musicians' abilities to play comfortably. Management is also re-examining its rule requiring men to wear white ties and tails, over worries that the old-fashioned formal wear can be off-putting to newcomers as it struggles to attract new audiences.


Italian Court Rules That Greek Statue in Los Angeles' Getty Villa Should Be Returned to Italy

The bronze "Statue of a Victorious Youth" has been part of an extended legal battle since the 1960s. The work was accidentally discovered in 1964 by an Italian fisherman in the Adriatic Sea. After the fisherman sold it, it was shipped out of the country and the Getty Trust purchased it in 1977 for $3.95 million from a German dealer. The legal conflict stems from a 1939 Italian law that says Italy owns any antiquity discovered on its territory and that any ancient work to be shipped out of the country requires a government export license. However, the Getty argues that the work's discovery in the sea puts it outside of Italy's jurisdiction. Italy's culture minister said the next step is to request that the U.S. government seize the statue, but there is still hope that the parties can come to an agreement on returning the item.


Rape Charges Filed Against Man at the Center of Scandal Tied to Nobel Literature Prize

A furor that has badly damaged the reputation of the Swedish Academy has culminated in charges of two counts of rape against Jean-Claude Arnault. Arnault was the head of a prominent cultural center that received financial support from the academy. A number of women accuse him of leveraging his position in the arts world to pressure women into sex, with some of the offenses allegedly taking place at academy-owned properties. After several high level resignations, the panel announced in May that it would not award a literature prize in 2018.


Canadian Court Orders Toronto Woman to Pay Musician Ex C$370,000 in Damages and Legal Fees for Sabotaging His Future at a Prestigious Music Program

Court records show that Eric Abramovitz's ex-girlfriend had intercepted his acceptance letter, impersonated him, and turned down the offer because she did not want him to leave Canada. He had been invited to study under Yehuda Gilad, a distinguished professor who only accepts one or two students a year. His students fill a large majority of North American orchestra positions. It was not until a second audition with the professor that the rejection came up and the story began to unravel. The award reflects the value of the lost scholarship and income, legal fees, and compensation for having a "dream snatched from him by a person he trusted."



St. Louis Rams Ordered to Pay Reggie Bush $12.5 Million for 2015 Injury

A jury has ordered the now-Los Angeles Rams to pay former National Football League (NFL) running back Reggie Bush around $12.5 million after finding the team 100% liable for an injury Bush suffered at the Rams' stadium in St. Louis in 2015. Bush ran out of bounds at the end of a play and slipped on a concrete surface between the outer perimeter of the field and the walls of the stadium seats. He suffered a torn meniscus that cost him his season.


The National Football League Players Association is Exploring Legal Action over New Anthem Policy

The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) has retained multiple law firms to research the options for fighting the NFL's new anthem policy. The policy mandates all players in the playing area to stand for the anthem. Players who protest the anthem are required to remain in the locker room. One potential challenge is a "non-injury grievance" under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, where the union could argue that the NFL failed to engage in good-faith bargaining before taking away a right the NFL had previously given to the players. The right to protest comes from a 2009 policy that required players to be on the sideline for the anthem, but made standing optional. The deadline for filing that grievance is in late July. Other legal challenges are possible, including an action premised on First Amendment rights to freedom of expression.


National Collegiate Athletic Association Settles First Concussion-Related Lawsuit to Reach Trial

Ploetz v. NCAA was the first of many concussion-related lawsuits by former college football players to reach trial. Greg Ploetz's wife sued the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for negligence and wrongful death, alleging that it did not do enough to protect Ploetz from the long-term effects of concussions while he played NCAA football. Lawyers argued that those effects ultimately contributed to his death. Ploetz was a former University of Texas defensive lineman who died in 2015 at the age of 66. After his death, researchers at Boston University concluded that he had a severe case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which could only be diagnosed posthumously. NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy said in a statement that "the NCAA does not admit liability as part of the settlement. [...] It is our hope that other plaintiffs' lawyers recognize this is one settlement in one case."



Italian Prosecutors Imply That Sexual Harassment Has Age Limit in a Case Against the Former Leader of the Italian Soccer Federation

Italian prosecutors have dropped a sexual harassment case against Carlo Tavecchio after concluding that the woman he allegedly groped was too old to be distressed by his advances. His accuser is 53-year-old Elisabetta Cortani, the president of the female division of the Lazio soccer club. Prosecutors wrote that harassment was "incompatible" with the accusation, because she was too old to have been intimidated by the accused, had reported it too late, and knew him too well. Italian law gives private citizens six months to report sexual harassment, and up to six years if they are harassed by a public official, which Cortani argues that her harasser was. She also had evidence of an encounter when Tavecchio unknowingly stopped a miniature camera she hung from her necklace while trying to grope, her but the device had continued to record his vulgar remarks.


Yankees Consider Buying Back the YES Network if Fox Sells Assets

The New York Yankees are considering buying back YES after ceding control of the regional sports network four years ago to Murdoch's 21st Century Fox Inc. That agreement included a clause that gives the team a buyback option in the event of sale. Comcast bid $65 billion for Fox's assets, including YES. Both Comcast and earlier bidder Disney have said that they would be willing to divest Fox's regional sports networks if it helps them win government approval for a Fox deal. YES is the most-watched regional sports network in the U.S. It was started in 2002 by the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.


U.S., Mexico, and Canada Win Joint Bid for 2026 World Cup, Beating Out Morocco in FIFA Vote

FIFA delegates in Moscow voted 134 to 65 to pick the North American bid over a rival pitch from Morocco. The U.S. previously hosted the tournament in 1994, while Mexico has held it twice, in 1970 and 1986. The bid proposed that the U.S. will host 60 matches, while Canada and Mexico will host 10 each.


Three Letters from President Trump Ease Fears about U.S. Playing World Cup Host

Officials who led the winning North American bid for the 2026 World Cup said that letters from President Trump reassured FIFA voters that the United States will allow entry to teams, officials, and fans from any country. Trump had provided U.S. Soccer officials with letters addressed to Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, soccer's global governing body. In effect, the letters assured officials voting on the event that the administration's hard-line stance on visas would not apply to the World Cup. A second Trump term would end in 2025, a fact the United Bid officials had pointed out to voters. However, U.S. soccer president Carlos Cordeiro maintains that the mere existence of the letters eased the minds of some. The White House began an interagency review to craft the letter, with Jared Kushner reportedly leveraging his relationship with the Saudi royal family to get it to publicly announce its support for the North American bid.


World Cup Underway in Russia as the Country Tries to Tame Xenophobic Behavior

Russia has launched an effort to curb xenophobia in anticipation of 500,000 soccer fans descending on the country for the World Cup. For instance, railroad employees working on special trains between host cities have had classes on smiling. In an effort to keep hooligans at bay, it has also instituted a system where ticket holders must get identification cards proving they have been vetted by security services. Fans implicated in things like racist chanting in the past have been denied them. However, some lawmakers continue to make eyebrow raising and downright offensive comments about foreigners, including warnings against sex with foreign men as a way to protect the family, saying that such liaisons often produce single-parent homes.


United States Olympic Committee Issues New Reporting Requirements for Governing Bodies Related to Sexual Abuse Cases

National governing bodies (NGBs) must now provide the United States Olympic Committee information for four new reporting requirements. Those include a list of all ongoing or unresolved investigations, grievances or complaints, as well as a list of suspended members, reason for suspension, and length (except those suspended by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency). The move is meant to bring more accountability and uniformity to how NGBs handle sexual abuse cases.


Court Orders Records Unsealed in Penn State Administrators' Case Surrounding Sandusky Scandal

A Pennsylvania appeals court ordered the release of documents sealed in the criminal case against former Penn State administrators over their handling of child sex abuse complaints against assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. The judges said that the basic information in many of the documents has previously been made public and should be released. The Associated Press had argued that the records were a matter of great public interest and the blanket sealing order was too broad and did not explain what documents had been denied and why.


New Jersey Legalizes Sports Betting in Time for World Cup

New Jersey governor Murphy signed the bill and gambling was set to start on Thursday to coincide with the start of the World Cup. The licensing process was being expedited to get betting operations up and running, including Monmouth Park, that helped lead the charge to make sports betting legal. The CEO of British bookmaker William Hill says the company is inundated by U.S. sports teams seeking sponsorship. Back in 2013, William Hill agreed to spend $1 million, an amount more than doubled by now, to build out a sports book at Monmouth Park Racetrack.



Boris Becker Claims Diplomatic Immunity in an Attempt to Thwart Ongoing Bankruptcy Proceedings

Lawyers for Becker told the High Court of Justice in London that British courts could not touch Becker because the Central African Republic named him as its attaché to the European Union for sports, culture, and humanitarian affairs. As a result, they argue that he cannot be made subject to any legal process without the express consent of that country; and legal claims can only be served on him through diplomatic channels. Becker won six Grand Slam singles titles. He was recently declared bankrupt over substantial long-standing debts.


Former French Open Finalist Sara Errani's Doping Suspension Increased to 10 Months

On appeal, the Court of Arbitration for Sport increased Errani's suspension to 10 months from the original two-month ban. The Italian tennis player tested positive for the banned substance letrozole in an out-of-competition drug test in February 2017. The court ruled that the letrozole came from medicine taken by Errani's mother "that found its way into the family meal prepared by the athlete`s mother and eaten by the entire family". However, the court said that Errani needed to be more careful and that her mother's fault "is imputed to her." The two-month suspension she has already served will count toward her new suspension.



The Battle for the Future of Media: Disney, Fox and Comcast

The $85.4 billion AT&T-Time Warner deal is likely the first in a series of mergers of news and entertainment companies built in the era of cable primacy as they try to compete against the likes of Netflix and Amazon. Mergers will allow companies to compete for costlier rights to professional sports that some say have the potential to keep viewers from cutting the cord. All eyes are currently on the pending clash between Comcast and Disney as each seeks to own the bulk of 21st Century Fox. Last December, Disney struck a $52.4 billion all-stock deal to buy much of Fox's assets, but Comcast recently announced its own $65 billion all-cash offer for Fox.


Justice Department's Actions Back Trump's Anti-Press Rhetoric

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recently briefed journalists about the government's policies on obtaining information from reporters. The Obama-era guidelines will remain in effect - reporters would be told in advance of any attempt to obtain their records and will be given a chance to negotiate the scope of the request or to challenge it in court. Twenty-four hours later, news surfaced that the Justice Department had seized years of phone and email records from a New York Times journalist, raising concerns that the Trump administration was adopting a highly aggressive approach. Prosecutors seized the records as part of an investigation into whether a former Senate Intelligence Committee aide had given classified materials to reporters. Jeff Sessions has also stated in the past that this administration would vastly expand leak-related prosecutions.


The New York Times is Reviewing Journalist's Work History and Potential Involvement in Leak Case

Washington-based reporter Ali Watkins's email and phone records were seized by prosecutors in a leak investigation case that implicated Senate Intelligence Committee aide James A. Wolfe, with whom Watkins had a personal relationship. Now the New York Times is reviewing Watkins's involvement in the case, including the nature of her relationship with Wolfe, and what she disclosed about it to her prior employers, Politico, BuzzFeed News and The Huffington Post, among others.


American Media Inc., Tabloid Giant and Trump Ally, Expands its Reach by Adding to its Celebrity-News Portfolio

American Media Inc., the country's largest tabloid publisher, acquired In Touch, Life & Style, and 11 other titles from Bauer Media, expanding a portfolio that already included The National Inquirer and Us Weekly. Its flagship, The National Enquirer, has devoted covers to Donald Trump, aggressively attacking his rivals, and making its first-ever presidential endorsement. The company has currently come under public and legal scrutiny after the Federal Election Commission started looking into whether it violated campaign finance laws when it bought the silence of a former Playboy Model who said she had an affair with Trump. Investigators with the Southern District of New York are also looking into that arrangement as part of their investigation into Michael Cohen.


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Cartoonist Has Been Fired as Paper Shifts Right

Rob Rogers had been with the paper since 1993 and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1999. Following the arrival of a new editorial team earlier this year, many of his cartoons were killed, and he was presented with a set of guidelines that included setting certain conditions on his work and an approval process for his cartoons. The editor says that he finds characterizations of him as "a right-wing yahoo" inaccurate, and that his goal is make sure the paper is "independent and thoughtful" in its approach, without any ideological intent.


Facebook Directs Congress Back to Terms of Service

Congress has released Facebook's follow-up responses to questions Mark Zuckerberg could not answer during his appearance before it in April. Much of the information, however, refers members of Congress back to the company's terms of service and community standards when addressing questions about its policies on user data, privacy, and security. Facebook also says that it is actively looking for other companies that might have improperly harvested people's personal data.


Ireland to Vote on Removing Blasphemy From the Constitution

Ireland's constitution can be amended only by a majority vote in a popular referendum. Irish citizens will vote in October on whether the blasphemy clause should be stripped from the constitution. There is also a corresponding law on the books, with a top fine of almost $30,000. As recently as last year, English actor Stephen Fry was reported to the Irish police for blasphemy after he made comments disparaging God in an interview on a religious affairs television program. Prosecutors declined to pursue the case, and government officials claim that they have written the law to be essentially unenforceable. Critics say that it still has a chilling effect, and news organizations are self-censoring to avoid the cost of a complaint.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 18, 2018 9:40 AM.

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