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Week In Review

By Angela Peco
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

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


R. Kelly is Charged with 10 Counts of Sexual Abuse in Chicago

Singer R. Kelly has been charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse involving four victims, three of whom were underage. The events related to the charges spanned from 1998 to 2010. Aggravated criminal sexual abuse is a Class 2 felony with a sentencing range of three to seven years for each count and is probationable. Kelly is being held on a $1 million bond and has surrendered his passport.

The charges come after months of renewed scrutiny following the release of the "Surviving R. Kelly" documentary, the "Mute R. Kelly" campaign, two recent accusations of sexual misconduct and a video showing Kelly allegedly engaging in sexual acts with a 14-year-old girl. The singer, 52, was tried on 14 counts of child pornography and acquitted in 2008.




Jussie Smollett Arrested on Suspicion of Filing False Police Report, Will be Removed From Final Episodes of "Empire" Season

The "Empire" Actor was charged with felony disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false report claiming that he was attacked by two men in Chicago last month. Smollett is accused of concocting and carrying out a false attack with racist and anti-gay details, perhaps capitalizing on concerns about hate crimes under President Trump. Police call it a publicity stunt because he was dissatisfied with his salary.
Although Smollett returned to the "Empire" set this week, producers later announced that he will not be appearing in the final two episodes of the season. Those familiar with Smollett's activism and outspoken support for social movements are baffled by his choices.





Time's Up, a Year Later

Now in its second year, the Hollywood-led initiative has had both prominent successes and disappointments. The organization's legal defense fund for lower-wage workers has secured $25 million in donations, $6 million of which has gone toward legal cases and investigations. Two talent agencies that answered the call and committed to reach gender parity in pay and leadership by 2020 say they are on track to reaching their goals. Despite its progress, there have been grumblings that the group is disorganized and some of its members self-serving.



The Public Theater Sues New York City's Public Hotel for Trademark Violation

The Public Theater filed a lawsuit against Ian Schrager and his company, claiming that the latter violated its trademark by using the name "Public" and a strikingly similar logo to advertise theater and musical performances. The Public Theater is known for its wide red building, while the hotel features a red-curtained performance space. The theater argues that the hotel's use of "Public" in marketing entertainment events is likely to confuse customers and cause some to assume that its performances are associated with the theater.


Art Galleries Are Being Sued Over Websites That are Inaccessible to the Blind

Dozens of Manhattan art galleries are being sued in methodical fashion, alphabetically, for operating websites that are unusable to the visually impaired. There are two schools of thought on the value of this strategy: some believe that a large number of lawsuits, filed in quick succession and then settled confidentially, may do more harm than good. They extract money from defendants and give a bad impression of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Others believe that the effort will get companies to change their practices.


Peter Martins' Influence Continues to be Felt at City Ballet

A year after his departure from New York City Ballet, Peter Martins continues to make his presence felt at the company by defying management's instructions, ordering last-minute cast changes and showing up backstage after a show. Martins left the company amid allegations of sexual harassment and physical and verbal abuse.


Star Flutist Settles Pay Equity Suit Against Boston Symphony

Elizabeth Rowe filed a gender pay discrimination suit against the ensemble in 2018, claiming that her compensation was about 75% that of her closest comparable colleague. She filed under a then-new Massachusetts law that required equal pay for comparable work. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.


Burberry Apologizes for Featuring a Noose in Fashion Week Design

Burberry has apologized for featuring a noose hoodie in one of its London Fashion Week designs. The piece sparked backlash after one of the show's models criticized the look on Instagram for evoking not only racist imagery tied to lynching, but also suicide. The fashion house removed the item from its collection and blamed its use on the show's nautical inspiration.


Fashion Brands are Using Prison Labor to Provide Inmates with Jobs and Training

Production of goods, clothing, and textiles behind bars has a long-established history, with most manufacturing programs being run by government bodies or correctional boards. More recently, small brands have started selling clothing made by inmates. Peru has become a case study on the ethics of prison labor and the question of aid versus exploitation. Over 5,000 women are incarcerated in Peru and over 50% of them are employed in producing fashion goods. While these brands claim that they can create a profitable and sustainable business model while providing prisoners with job opportunities and skills training, many still think that prison work connotes cheap labor and criticism of the model persists.


Dissident Artist Ai Weiwei Accuses Producers of Censorship After Being Cut from "Berlin, I Love" Film

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei contends that the segment he shot for an anthology film set in Berlin was cut by the producers out of fear of upsetting Chinese officials. Ai Weiwei directed the segment remotely, while under house arrest in China. The piece portrays the separation of a family and features his young son, who resides in Germany. While one of the producers conceded that investors, distributors and other partners had raised concerns about Ai Weiwei's political sensitivity in China, other producers cited created differences and blamed him for trying to politicize his exclusion.


Egyptian Authorities Foil Mummy-Smuggling Attempt by a Belgium-Bound Passenger

The archaeological unit of Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities announced that it had worked with security and customs agents to foil a smuggling attempt of mummies' remains. The remains were found hidden inside a speaker packed in the suitcase of a passenger travelling to Belgium. The parts, which are now at the Egyptian museum for restoration, included two feet, two legs, one arm, and part of a torso.



Patriots Owner, Robert Kraft, Charged in Prostitution Sting

Robert Kraft has been charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution following a human trafficking and prostitution investigation in Florida. The charges stem from two separate visits to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida. If Kraft is found to have committed a crime, all eyes will be on Commissioner Roger Goodell. The National Football League's constitution gives him broad powers to discipline owners and his exercise of that power will show the extent to which the league is ready to treat players and owners equally for conduct detrimental to the league or professional football.




College Basketball, Amateurism and the Role of Apparel Companies Laid Bare After Zion Williamson's Injury

Zion Williamson, college basketball's biggest star, will be sidelined for a number of weeks following a mild knee sprain after his shoe ripped apart on the court. The shoe "explosion" threatened to become a public relations nightmare for Nike and laid bare some of the persisting issues in college basketball: collegiate coaches and administrators reap the financial benefits of multi-million dollar contracts with apparel companies, while the NCAA defends limits on compensation to college athletes and players risk injury as the National Basketball Association (NBA) prohibits even prodigious talent from entering the league right after high school.

In Williamson's case, there is a reported $8 million loss of value insurance policy in place that protects a student-athlete's future contract value from decreasing below a certain amount due to a serious injury suffered during the coverage period.



Ole Miss Basketball Players Kneel During National Anthem

Eight players from the Ole Miss men's basketball team knelt during the national anthem in response to a pro-Confederacy march on campus. The school's athletic director, the team's coach, and the players reiterated that their stance had nothing to do with anything beyond the confederate groups' presence on campus.


Accusations of Body Shaming at a High School Cheerleading Banquet

To parents' surprise, cheerleading coaches at a Wisconsin high school handed out several unconventional awards, including the Big Boobie, the String Bean, and the Big Booty. While coaches described the mock awards as good-natured teasing, the ceremony drew the scrutiny of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is now asking the school district to discipline the coaches and institute mandatory anti-harassment training for all its employees.


USA Gymnastics Hires Li Li Leung as New CEO

Li Li Leung was named president and chief executive of USA Gymnastics earlier this week. Leung has worked for the NBA since 2015, including as its vice president for global partnerships. Herself a former gymnast, she said her priorities were for the federation to reach a fair and equitable resolution of lawsuits filed by victims of sexual abuse and to create an athlete-driven federation where safety is paramount. The US Olympic Committee removed USA Gymnastics as the national governing body for the sport, and the federation filed for bankruptcy last year.


Chelsea Banned From Signing Players After Breaking FIFA Transfer Rules

The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has banned Chelsea for a period of two transfer windows for violating rules related to the international transfer and registration of players under age 18. Chelsea can appeal the ban to the FIFA Appeal Committee and if the ban is upheld, it can then appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.



Justice Clarence Thomas Calls for the Supreme Court to Reconsider Landmark Libel Ruling in New York Times v. Sullivan

Justice Thomas called on the Court to reconsider the 1964 decision that made it difficult for public officials to prevail in libel suits by requiring proof of actual malice in any defamation or libel claim against the press. To prove malice under the Sullivan decision, a libel plaintiff must show that the writer knew that the disputed statement was false or had acted with "reckless disregard". Justice Thomas' statement comes in the wake of calls from President Trump to change libel laws to make it easier for public figures to sue for libel.


Major Companies Suspend Advertising on YouTube Over News of a Pedophile Network on the Site

Companies including Nestlé, McDonalds, and Disney have suspended advertising on the YouTube platform over child exploitation concerns. The companies' ads appeared on children's videos where pedophiles had infiltrated the comments section, leaving both inappropriate comments and timestamps for parts of videos where children appear in compromising positions. In response, YouTube removed or disabled comments on millions of videos featuring minors, but questions remain over its ability to moderate/monitor content and enforce its own policies.


Google Ends Forced Arbitration for all Employee Disputes

Google will no longer force employees to settle disputes in private arbitration, expanding on last year's announcement that it would abandon forced arbitration in cases of sexual harassment or assault. The new policy will take effect on March 21st for current and future employees, but will not apply to former employees with unresolved disputes.


Consumer Groups Accuse Facebook of Duping Children

Children's advocacy groups called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate claims that Facebook violated consumer protection and child privacy laws by duping children into making in-app purchases, often without recourse for the parents. The FTC previously reached multi-million-dollar settlements with Apple and Google over similar accusations.


Alabama Newspaper Urges the Klan to "Night Ride Again"

In a shocking editorial, the publisher of the Democrat-Reporter stated that the Ku Klux Klan "would be welcome to raid the gated communities" of Washington, D.C., referring to the residences of Democrats and socialist-communists plotting to raise taxes in Alabama. State lawmakers have called on Goodloe Sutton to resign.


President Trump Singles Out the New York Times as a "True Enemy of the People"

In a series of tweets this week, President Trump railed against the press, claiming that certain stories have no basis in fact and writers do not ask for verification. He singled out the New York Times' reporting as false.


Egyptian Officials Detained a New York Times Reporter Before Forcing Him Back to London

As President el-Sisi's regime continues its crackdown against the news media, David D. Kirkpatrick, former Cairo bureau chief for the New York Times and the author of a recent book on Egypt, was detained on arrival at Cairo airport and then forced onto a flight back to England without explanation. Kirkpatrick's recent book covers the Arab Spring uprising of 2011 as well as the subsequent military takeover that installed el-Sisi as president in 2013.


Billionaire Wins Defamation Case Against Australian Media Group

Businessman Chau Chau Wing was awarded US$200,000 in damages after winning a defamation case against Fairfax Media. Chau claimed that a Sydney newspaper had wrongly linked him to an international bribery scandal involving Chinese political donors buying support at the United Nations.


New Legislation Bans Russian Soldiers from Using Smartphones

Russian lawmakers approved a bill to ban its troops from using smartphones or recording devices, or posting anything online about their military service. In recent years, soldiers' social media posts have contradicted and undermined official government positions that Russia played a limited military role in both Ukraine and Syria. Troops who violate the ban would face disciplinary measures or be fired from service.

The move was not without context - social media activity related to a recent NATO exercise allowed researchers to collect sensitive information and track troop movements. In 2018, fitness app Strava unwittingly revealed the locations and habits of U.S. military bases and personnel by sharing maps of users' activity.




House Expected to Block President Trump's Emergency Declaration

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi scheduled a House vote on Tuesday on legislation that would end President Trump's emergency declaration. It would require Congressional Republicans to defend the power granted to Congress to control federal spending. If passed, it might force President Trump to issue the first veto of his presidency in order to divert $3.6 billion from military construction projects to build the border wall.


Trump Administration Blocks Funds for Clinics Over Abortion Referrals

The Trump administration announced that it will bar organizations that provide abortion referrals from receiving federal family planning money. The rule had been expected for months and is expected to strip millions of dollars of funding from Planned Parenthood, directing women toward religiously-based, anti-abortion groups.


President Trump Agrees to Leave 400 Troops in Syria

In a shift from his original position to withdraw all 2,000 American troops from Syria, President Trump has agreed to leave 400 troops in the country to support a multinational force operating south of the Turkish border and an outpost in the southeast. The move comes as European allies refused to send troops following Trump's abrupt announcement of an immediate pullout last year.


House Opens Inquiry into Proposed U.S. Nuclear Venture in Saudi Arabia

The White House is reportedly considering a plan to build nuclear power plants throughout Saudi Arabia. Documents obtained by the House Oversight Committee show the company backing the nuclear plan worked closely with Trump allies to discuss the export plan that would have allowed the company to built nuclear power sites abroad.


President Trump Nominates Ambassador to Canada, Kelly Knight Craft, for United Nations Post

If the Senate approves the nomination, Kelly Knight Craft will succeed Nikki Haley as ambassador to the United Nations. Reports indicate that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged the president to nominate Craft, who along with her husband, was a major contributor to Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Inaugural Committee.


New Election Ordered in North Carolina Race After the Original Vote is Nullified Over Fraud Allegations

The state's Board of Elections held a four-day hearing to investigate allegations of improper collection and completion of absentee ballots by an operative working for the Republican candidate's campaign. It has now unanimously ordered a new election in the Ninth Congressional District. It is the single undecided House contest from last year's midterms.


Supreme Court Curbs Civil Asset Forfeiture in Timbs v Indiana

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court struck a blow to aggressive civil forfeiture tactics by ruling that the federal prohibition against excessive fines applies on a state level. Justice Ginsburg, writing for the Court, explained that the Eighth Amendment's Excessive Fines Clause is an incorporated protection applicable to the states under the Due Process Clause. She later added that protection against excessive fines is a shield to protect other constitutional liberties. The decision will not stop civil forfeitures, which do not require a criminal conviction, but it will give people a chance to argue that the property seized was disproportionate to the crime.


Massage Parlor Sting Unveils Human Trafficking in Florida

Florida law enforcement agencies announced that arrest warrants were issued for 171 people following a crackdown on massage parlors in South Florida that police say were used for human trafficking and prostitution. Health inspectors reported that women were living in deplorable conditions at the day spas where they worked. The men who ran these parlors allegedly lured young women with the promise of legitimate work, then pressured them into prostitution.


President Trump's Two-Year War on the Investigations that Encircle Him

According to a recent New York Times report, President Trump's actions in response to a number of open investigations have exposed him to accusations of obstruction of justice. It has been reported that Trump asked then-Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker whether Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, could be put in charge of the investigation into Trump's role in making hush payments to women during the 2016 campaign. Berman is a Trump ally who had already recused himself from the investigation.


Michael Cohen is Providing Prosecutors With New Information on the Trump Family Business

President Trump's former lawyer is offering federal prosecutors information about the Trump Organization, including information about insurance claims, donations to the Inaugural Committee, and possibly other irregularities.


Roger Stone Placed Under Gag Order Over Instagram Post on Judge

A federal judge has barred Roger Stone from talking about his case or anyone involved in it. The order includes communication over social media. The ruling came after Stone posted a picture of Judge Amy Berman Jackson on Instagram with a crosshairs next to her head, criticizing her as an Obama appointee and claiming the legal process is rigged.


Pope Francis Opens Summit on Child Protection

Under great pressure from victims, Pope Francis opened a four-day meeting at the Vatican in which bishops and other participants will discuss the Catholic Church's sexual abuse crisis. Pope Francis offered a roadmap for discussion that disappointed many victims who demand a zero tolerance policy and automatic dismissal of priests and bishops who engage in misconduct or protect those who do.


Saudi Arabia Names Princess Reema as Ambassador to the U.S.

Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan is the first woman in Saudi Arabia to be appointed to such a post. She will replace King Salman's son as ambassador to the United States.


China Collected DNA of Minority Uighurs Under the Guise of Free Medical Check-ups

The Chinese government reportedly had nearly 36 million people submit to a program that collected DNA, recorded participants' voices, and took
fingerprints under the guise of providing free physicals to the Uighur community. To bolster their DNA capabilities and create a nationwide database of samples, Chinese officials used equipment from a Massachusetts company and relied on genetic material provided by a Yale geneticist.

Whether unwittingly or not, the global scientific community risks legitimizing this type of genetic surveillance by cooperating with the Chinese government. Chinese officials have also contributed the data of Uighurs to an online search platform, possibly violating scientific norms of informed consent if the Uighurs did not volunteer their samples.


Tensions Escalate as Venezuela Threatens to Close Borders with its Neighbors

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has ordered that the country's border with Brazil be closed as part of an escalating fight over foreign humanitarian aid. Maduro insists that there is no crisis and has called the aid-delivery plans a publicity stunt orchestrated by the U.S. Shipping containers are also blocking much needed supplies from arriving from Colombia.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 25, 2019 12:31 PM.

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