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Week In Review

By Angela Peco
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker


President Trump Will Nominate William Barr as Attorney General

William Barr previously served as Attorney General under George H.W. Bush from 1991 to 1993. As head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, he advanced a strong view of executive power and urged top lawyers at departments across the Executive branch to be vigilant about Congressional encroachments on executive power.


Congress Avoids Shutdown, Postpones Battle Over Border Wall

The Senate passed a bill to fund the government for another two weeks and avoid a shutdown over Trump's border wall. The stop-gap measure gives Congress until just before Christmas to come to a decision about the president's push to allocate $5 billion for a border wall. Republicans have floated the possibility of spreading the $5 billion over two years. Democrats are opposed to any funding in excess of $1.6 billion for border security, and want no money allocated for the wall.


Chief of Staff John Kelly to Step Down by the End of 2018

President Trump confirmed that his chief of staff, John Kelly, will step down by the end of the year, and that a replacement will be named soon. Trump's first choice, Nick Ayers, turned down the job.


U.S. Senators Say That Saudi Prince is Complicit in Khashoggi's Murder

A bipartisan group of senior senators said that a classified briefing by the Central Intelligence Agency director only solidified their belief that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia ordered the killing of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi.


U.S. Gives Russia a Deadline on Nuclear Treaty; Putin Vows to "React Accordingly"

The Trump administration has given Russia 60 days to return to compliance with the treaty's terms before the U.S. begins the formal process to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo received unanimous support from NATO allies for his contention that Russia was in violation of the treaty, which prevents the development and deployment of ground-based intermediate-range missiles.



President Trump's Warning to China Roils the Stock Market Despite Earlier Trade Truce

As President Trump threatened China with further tariffs while referring to himself as a "Tariff Man," fears of a lasting trade war roiled the stock market. Investors are grappling with the potential for a protracted conflict even though the two countries agreed to a cease-fire in their escalating economic conflict last week.



Huawei Executive's Arrest Intensifies Fears of a Trade War with China

The chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies was arrested in Canada at Washington's request, reportedly for alleged violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran. The U.S. alleges that Meng Wanzhou helped Huawei get around U.S. sanctions on Iran by telling financial institutions that a Huawei subsidiary was a separate company. The arrest has put a new strain on the tense relationship between Washington and Beijing, which are trying to negotiate an end to their trade war.

In a recent move, one of Britain's largest telecom-infrastructure firms, BT, is removing Huawei equipment from key areas of its 4G network as concerns grow globally about the Chinese firm's presence in critical telecom infrastructures.



Department of Agriculture Rolls Back Obama-Era Rules for School Lunches

The Department of Agriculture will lower nutritional standards for grains, flavored milks, and sodium in school cafeterias that were part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The changes will go into effect in July and will apply to school meals that qualify for at least some federal reimbursement.


Trump Drilling Plan Threatens 9 Million Acres of Sage Grouse Habitat

The Trump administration detailed its plan to open nine million acres to drilling and mining by rolling back sage grouse protections. Oil companies have long considered the imperiled ground-nesting bird an obstacle to some of the richest deposits in the American West.


Mueller Team Recommends Little to No Prison Time for Michael Flynn

According to a sentencing recommendation memorandum, special counsel Mueller's investigators consider Michael Flynn to be a key cooperator, sitting for 19 interviews and handing over documents and communications. Prosecutors state that President Trump's first national security advisor helped substantially with the special counsel's investigation and should receive little to no prison time for lying to investigators.


Prosecutors Say Trump Directed Illegal Payments During Campaign

In a new memo arguing for a prison term for lawyer Michael Cohen, federal prosecutors in New York argue that President Trump directed illegal payments to ward off a potential sex scandal that threatened his chances of winning the 2016 election. Cohen will be sentenced for campaign finance violations, financial crimes, and lying to Congress about the extent of Trump's business dealings in Russia. In another filing, prosecutors for special counsel Mueller say that an unnamed Russian offered Michael Cohen government level synergy between Russia and Trump's campaign.


Cohen's Campaign Finance Charges Expose the President to Allegations of Defrauding Voters

The various investigations into President Trump and his team are painting a picture of a candidate who intentionally directed an illegal scheme to manipulate the 2016 election. With respect to payments made to two women alleging affairs with the president, federal prosecutors in New York made clear in a sentencing memo that Michael Cohen's efforts to suppress those stories were a perversion of a democratic election. They argue that Cohen deceived the voting public by hiding alleged facts that he believed would have had a substantial effect on the election. By extension, they effectively accuse the president, who ordered those hush payments, of defrauding voters. While the prevailing view at the Justice Department is that a sitting president cannot be indicted, prosecutors in New York have examined the statute of limitations on the campaign finance violations and believe that the president could be charged if he is not re-elected.


House Republican Committee Says It Was Hacked by a "Foreign Entity" in 2018

The campaign committee for House Republicans discovered in April that the email accounts of several of its senior officials had been hacked by a foreign entity, highlighting the continued vulnerability of the U.S. to interference in its elections. Party officials say that none of the stolen information has been made public and they have not received any threats regarding its exposure.


U.S. Prosecutors Bring Charges in Connection with Panama Papers Leak

Four men have been charged with tax fraud, money laundering, and other crimes as part of alleged schemes uncovered by the Panama Papers leak. According to the indictment that was unsealed in the Southern District of New York, the men, among them an American accountant, helped U.S. taxpayers evade taxes by using undisclosed foreign accounts and shell companies, and repatriating those funds to the U.S. while concealing them from the Internal Revenue Service.


Oil Drilling Threatens a Pristine Arctic Refuge

A review of internal government deliberations and federal documents shows that the Trump administration is clearing the way for oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, along the coast of the Beaufort Sea. The administration is on pace to finish an environmental impact assessment in half the usual time to lock in drilling opportunities before the 2020 presidential election.


Wisconsin State Assembly Moves to Limit the Power of Incoming Democrats

In a special legislative session, Wisconsin Republicans pushed through a set of bills aimed at curbing the powers of the incoming Democratic leaders. The legislative package places a new limit on early voting; allows lawmakers, not the governor, to control the majority of appointments on an economic development board; and prevents the governor from banning guns in the Wisconsin Capitol without permission from legislators. Governor Scott Walker has signaled support for the measures, but he has yet to sign them.


Charlottesville Demonstrator Found Guilty of First-Degree Murder

Following a nine-day trial, a jury found James Fields guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Heather Heyer, a counter-protester at the 2017 Charlottesville rally. Fields faces up to life in prison.


Satanic Temple Sculpture Added to Illinois Capitol Rotunda Displays

A "Snaketivity" sculpture donated by the Satanic Temple has been placed beside the traditional nativity scene and Hanukkah menorah in the Illinois State Capitol. The state says that the First Amendment protects Satanic speech and requires that the state allow temporary, public displays in the capitol as long as these displays are not paid for by taxpayer dollars. A spokesperson for the Satanic Temple said the group does not worship Satan or believe he exists, but sees the fallen angel as a metaphor for "rebellion in the face of religious tyranny."


France Scraps Fuel Tax Rise That Sparked Riots

French President Emmanuel Macron has scrapped a fuel tax increase after weeks of nationwide protests and violent riots in Paris. The price of diesel, the most-commonly used gas in French cars, has already risen by 23% in the last year. The government had initially agreed to suspend the tax rise for six months, but instead of appeasing the protesters, it spurred other groups to join. The tax rise was part of Macron's efforts to wean France off fossil fuels and is a blow to broader efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.


Hungarian Government Closes George Soros-Founded University

The Soros-founded Central European University is being forced from its campus in Budapest by the increasingly authoritarian government of Prime Minister Orban. Founded in Hungary after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the university will move its United States-accredited degree programs to Vienna next fall.


Greenhouse Gas Emissions Rising at an Alarming Rate

New research published by the Global Carbon Project predicts that carbon emissions worldwide will increase by 2.7% this year, and that the rapid increase will likely bring about the most severe consequences of global warming sooner than expected.


Qatar Quits the OPEC Oil Cartel

The future of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is in doubt after Qatar abruptly announced that it would sever ties with the oil cartel in January 2019. The country denied that the move was linked to the deteriorating political situation between Qatar and its neighbors, including Saudi Arabia, which have imposed a trade and travel embargo on the country since last year over allegations that it supports terrorism. Qatar leaving OPEC means that the oil cartel is now a two-member organization consisting of Russia and Saudi Arabia.



Judge Allows "Harry Potter" and "Evan Hansen" in San Francisco

A Delaware judge has refused a request by one of the nation's largest theater owners to block San Francisco productions of "Dear Evan Hansen" and "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child". The two prominent families at the center of this dispute operate competing theaters in San Francisco. Nederlander sought a preliminary injunction to block the Curran Theater from staging either show, as doing so would violate a non-compete agreement between the families.


Stage Adaptation of "To Kill a Mockingbird" Set to Open in New York City

The new stage adaptation of Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" features a script by Oscar and Emmy winner Aaron Sorkin. In early 2018, the estate of Harper Lee filed a lawsuit against the producers, arguing that the script deviates too much from the beloved novel. Although the suit was settled, the producer declined to release a script. This will be the first opportunity for audiences to assess how the legal dispute ultimately affected the play's development.


CBS Report Finds That Les Moonves Obstructed Investigation into Misconduct Claims

According to a draft report prepared by the company's board, former Chief Executive Moonves destroyed evidence and misled investigators in an attempt to preserve his reputation and save his $120 million severance. The lawyers who conducted the inquiry said they had found Moonves to be evasive and untruthful and to have minimized the extent of his sexual misconduct.


Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians Elects New Leadership

The leadership team of the New York local of the musician's union, the union's largest local in the nation, was voted out of office amid concerns over the underfunded musicians' pension plan. One of the new president's priorities is bringing more musicians into the fold and coming up with more flexible contract frameworks for musicians that do not fall into the traditional union mold.


Lego Foundation and Sesame Workshop Team Up to Help Refugee Children

The Lego Foundation will provide $100 million over five years to the makers of "Sesame Street" to deepen the work of organizations working with Syrian and Rohingya refugees in their host communities. The aim is to create play-based learning programs for children up to age 6, emphasizing social and emotional development to counter the effects of stress and suffering.


Weinstein Sent Email Plea About "One Hell of a Year"

Harvey Weinstein sent an email to several close friends in which he complained that he had "one hell of a year" and criticized police investigators involved in the sexual-assault case against him. His lawyer said the leaked email was not part of any legal strategy. Weinstein faces charges in Manhattan over allegations that he raped one woman and performed an unwanted sex act on another. He is free on $1 million bail and due back in court this December.


Netflix Pays $100 Million to Stream "Friends" for Another Year

Netflix will reportedly pay $100 million to continue licensing the program from its owner, WarnerMedia. The streaming service had previously paid $30 million a year to stream the show. Netflix has 57 million users in the U.S. and 130 million worldwide, making the acquisition of hit content a priority in order to preserve and expand its customer base.


Female Voices Take Center Stage at Grammys

Only one woman won a solo award during the televised broadcast last year, and nominees for album of the year only included one woman. The 2019 Grammys, however, are shaping up to be the year of the woman, with powerful female artists well-represented in the top categories.


Screening of "Surviving R. Kelly" Documentary Evacuated in NYC

A Manhattan theater was evacuated over a gun threat during a screening of the Lifetime documentary series "Surviving R. Kelly". Word of the threat spread as #MeToo founder Tarana Burke and four Kelly accusers were about to share their personal stories on stage. R. Kelly has faced mounting sexual abuse and misconduct allegations by numerous women in recent months. He denies the claims.


Egyptian Actress, Rania Youssef, on Trial for Wearing Revealing Dress

Rania Youssef is facing trial for public obscenity after she wearing a revealing outfit to a Cairo film festival. The suit was brought by three Egyptian lawyers known for using the courts to engage in vigilantism, arguing that her outfit constituted "incitement to debauchery". If convicted, she could face a possible five-year jail term.



National Rifle Association Will Remove Image of Chicago's Bean from Its Videos

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has agreed to erase an image of the Chicago sculpture known as the Bean from one of its videos, settling a lawsuit with its creator, Anish Kapoor. Kapoor filed suit in Federal District Court in Chicago alleging copyright infringement. The NRA initially argued that it was allowed to use an image of a public structure and the artist was trying to muzzle First Amendment-protected speech, but later said it chose to remove the image to avoid the cost and distraction of litigation.


Italian Court Rules Getty Museum Must Return a Prized Bronze

After a decade-long battle, Italy's highest court has ordered that the Getty Bronze should be returned to Italy in a ruling that could either lead to a trans-Atlantic transfer or a diplomatic standoff. The bronze was retrieved from Adriatic waters by Italian fishermen in 1964. The Getty has long argued that the statue was probably created outside Italy and was discovered in international waters after thousands of years, so it is not an Italian object subject to repatriation. The Getty Trust purchased it from an antiques dealer in Germany in 1977. Italy has argued that the statue was smuggled out of the country illegally, without a required export license, in violation of a 1939 law. Italian officials say they plan to ask the United States Justice Department to enforce the ruling by seizing the statue.



U.S.A. Gymnastics Files for Bankruptcy

U.S.A. Gymnastics filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in Indianapolis federal court, reportedly putting a stay on all pending lawsuits against the organization from victims of former national team doctor, Larry Nassar. The bankruptcy will put an automatic stop to depositions and discovery in lawsuits related to Nassar. It will also reportedly stop efforts to strip U.S.A. Gymnastics' status as the sport's official governing body.



Some National Football League Owners Want to Revisit How the League Conducts Investigations

There are growing concerns among owners about the National Football League's (NFL) investigation into Kareem Hunt, the running back released by the Kansas City Chiefs last week, over an assault on a young woman at a Cleveland hotel in February. Several weeks ago, NFL investigators questioned Hunt about another, unrelated assault, but did not bring up the Cleveland incident. Celebrity news site TMZ published a video of the assault after the NFL said it had been unable to obtain it, renewing intense public discussion about the league's commitment to investigating and policing players' off-field conduct.



Baseball Agents Alleged to Have Orchestrated Doping Cover-Up Expose a Gap in Baseball's Drug Testing Program

Two of the game's top agents are alleged to have helped players obtain and use performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) and hide the misconduct from Major League Baseball (MLB) and the players' union (MLBPA). The issue continues to be a source of deep frustration for MLB, which sees the union as unwilling to work with the commissioner's office on many fronts, including providing details of its investigation into the agents. The issue has also exposed a gap in baseball's drug testing program: MLB has no power to regulate agents or to punish any who may facilitate PED use by their clients.


National Hockey League Unanimously Approves Seattle as 32nd Franchise

Seattle becomes the National Hockey League's 32nd team after the league unanimously approved the expansion bid at its Board of Governors meeting. The ownership group will pay a $650-million expansion fee and the team will begin play in the '21-22 season. By comparison, the Vegas Golden Knights paid a $500-million fee two years ago.


Afghan Women's Soccer Team Accuses Officials of Sexual Abuse

The Afghan government is investigating allegations that players on the women's national soccer team were sexually and physically abused by male coaches and officials, including the head of the Afghan soccer federation, Keramuddin Keram. FIFA, the world body regulating international soccer, is conducting its own investigation. Danish sportswear company Hummel, the team's principal sponsor, has withdrawn its support.


Saudi Arabia Disqualified From Hosting Chess Match

The international chess governing body has stripped Saudi Arabia of hosting rights to a prominent tournament without offering any explanation. A nonprofit legal advocacy group that represents Israeli chess players, who were banned by the Saudis from attending the tournament in 2017, said that the decision came after the group had to pressure the association to act.


Australian Government Asks Thailand to Release Soccer Player and Political Refugee Al-Araibi

The football player and Australian-based refugee was detained in Thailand and held on an Interpol warrant issued at the request of Bahrain. Thai authorities have been asked to extradite Hakeem Al-Araibi to Bahrain, a country he fled in 2014 after having been targeted and tortured for being a dissident. He was granted refugee status in Australia in 2017.




Facebook Used People's Data to Favor Certain Partners and Punish Rivals

Internal Facebook emails and other company documents released by a British parliamentary committee show that Facebook gave certain companies like Airbnb and Netflix special access to its platforms, while cutting off others it perceived as threats. The documents show how Facebook executives treated data as the company's most valuable resource and wielded it to gain a strategic advanced.


"60 Minutes" Workplace Culture Permitted Misconduct

A leaked draft report of an outside investigation into CBS found that the network was justified in firing former executive producer Jeff Fager. Investigators wrote that the physical, administrative, and cultural separation between "60 Minutes" and the rest of CBS News permitted misconduct by some "60 Minutes" employees.


AOL Owner Agrees to $5 Million Settlement in Children's Privacy Case

Oath, the owner of AOL and Yahoo, agreed to pay about $5 million to settle charges that the media company's online advertising business violated a federal children's privacy law. The New York attorney general accused AOL of violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 when it helped place targeted display ads on hundreds of websites that it knew were directed to children under 13, by using personal data, like cookies and geolocation information. The law's purpose is protect young children from being tracked and targeted by advertisers online.


Philippine Journalist Turns Herself in to Face Charges

The Philippine government has accused journalist Maria Ressa of evading taxes, a move that her organization considers to be part of a broader attack on the news media, which President Duterte has often accused of being dishonest and manufacturing fake news. She faces a fine along with up to 10 years of imprisonment.


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