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Week In Review

By Chantelle A. Gyamfi
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

Below are stories presented in the categories of Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media, and General News:


Rappers Are Offering the Supreme Court "A Primer on Rap Music and Hip-Hop"

A group of hip-hop stars, including Meek Mill, Chance the Rapper, Fat Joe, and Killer Mike, have urged the Supreme Court to hear a fellow rapper's First Amendment challenge in an appeal to his 2014 conviction for threatening police officers in a song. The artist, Jamal Knox, who raps under the name "Mayhem Mal" and as part of a group called the "Ghetto SuperStar Committee", was arrested in 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on gun and drug charges. After his arrest, Knox and a friend recorded a song whose title, which included a vulgar word directed at the police, was partly a homage to an N.W.A. classic with a similar name. The song named the officers who arrested Knox and included lyrics like "let's kill these cops 'cause they don't do us no good", and featured sounds of sirens and gunfire. After the friend posted the song on YouTube and Facebook, Knox was arrested and charged with issuing terroristic threats and intimidating witnesses. In their brief, the rappers wrote "this is a work of poetry...it is not intended to be taken literally...the song's lyrics were never meant to be read as bare text on a page, rather, the lyrics were meant to be heard, with music, melody, rhythm and emotion."


After "Leaving Neverland", Stations Drop Michael Jackson

Dozens of radio stations have stopped playing Michael Jackson's music after the documentary "Leaving Neverland" premiered. It details Jackson's alleged abuse of two men who say that he abused them as children. A Canadian media company, Cogeco, told The Canadian Press that it had banned Jackson's music on its 23 stations in Quebec, citing the public response to "Leaving Neverland" as the reason for the ban. Leon Wratt, the content director of MediaWorks, one of the New Zealand radio companies that has also banned Jackson's music, said that the "audiences had indicated that they no longer wanted to hear Jackson's music" and that "Jackson's music would still be available on streaming services and in record stores for anyone who wanted to hear it [because] the difference with radio....is that if we play it you don't have a choice." Neither company has responded to questions about how long the ban would last or whether they planned to pull the songs of other musicians accused of wrongdoing, such as R. Kelly, who like Jackson, has been accused of decades of serial misconduct.


R. Kelly Lashes Out in First Interview After Sex Abuse Arrest

In his first interview following his arrest last month on sexual abuse charges, R. Kelly vehemently denied having sex with underage girls and portrayed himself as a victim of a social media-fueled smear campaign. His arrest came after the Lifetime documentary "Surviving R. Kelly" aired and revived prosecutors' interest in his behavior. R. Kelly screamed, cursed, and pleaded his innocence to the camera in the sit-down with Gayle King, a host of "CBS This Morning". R. Kelly, referring to the documentary, said that "nobody said nothing good. They was describing Lucifer. I'm not Lucifer. I'm a man. I make mistakes, but I'm not a devil. And by no means am I a monster." R. Kelly further stated that he had "been assassinated....been buried alive, but I'm alive."


R. Kelly Thrown Back in Jail Over Back Child Support

Only a week after he was bailed out of jail for sex abuse charges, R. Kelly was taken back into custody on Wednesday for failing to pay his ex-wife more than $160,000 in child support. Shortly after his now infamous interview with Gayle King on CBS addressing the sex abuse claims against him, he was back in court, having been ordered last month to pay his ex-wife Andrea Kelly $161,663 in child support. In the "Surviving R. Kelly" documentary that aired in January, it emerged that since the couple divorced in 2009, R. Kelly had stopped paying child support on "several occasions". Darryll Johnson, a spokesman for R. Kelly, said the singer arrived in court hoping to work out a deal in which he would pay his former wife as much as $60,000, but the court decided that he would have to pay the full ordered amount before he could be released.


WarnerMedia to Investigate Claims Against Top Executive

WarnerMedia announced that it would conduct an "appropriate investigation" into allegations that Kevin Tsujihara, the chief executive of Warner Bros., pushed for a woman with whom he had a sexual relationship to be considered for roles in Warner films and television shows. The allegations surfaced in an article in The Hollywood Reporter, which outlined a sexual relationship between Tsujihara and Charlotte Kirk, an aspiring British actress. Tsujihara's lawyer said that his client "did not have a direct role in the actress being cast in any movie" and Kirk "emphatically denied any inappropriate behavior by Mr. Tsujihara."


Jussie Smollet Indicted on 16 Counts of Disorderly Conduct

"Empire" star Jussie Smollet has been indicted by a grand jury in Chicago on 16 counts of disorderly conduct following his alleged false report to the police that he had been attacked by two men who made racial and homophobic slurs. Smollet reported the alleged attack to police in January, stating that he had been assaulted by two men who put a rope around his neck, poured a chemical substance on him, and said it was "MAGA country," a reference to Trump's campaign slogan "Make America Great Again." After conducting an investigation, authorities revealed that they believed the assault was staged because Smollet was upset with his salary and just wanted publicity. The indictments alleged that Smollett falsely reported batteries, aggravated batteries, and hate crimes. Mark Geragos, a lawyer for Smollett, said in a statement that the indictment was "prosecutorial overkill" and "redundant and vindictive."




Endeavor Returns Money to Saudi Arabia

Set in motion by the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Ariel Emanuel, the chief executive of the talent agency Endeavor, has returned a $400 million investment, effectively severing Endeavor's relationship with Saudi leaders in one of the rare instances of a major entertainment company halting business with the wealthy kingdom to protest its agents' assassination of a journalist.



"To Kill a Mockingbird" Play Publisher Demands $500,000 From Harper Lee Estate

Producer Scott Rudin, seeking to protect the financial future of a new stage adaptation of the novel now running on Broadway, forced at least eight theaters around the country to cancel productions of a 1970 stage version. Now the publisher of the earlier script, Christopher Sergel III, president of Dramatic Publishing Company and the grandson of the author of the first adaptation, says he will seek compensation and legal vindication. Sergel has accused the estate of the "To Kill a Mockingbird" author, Harper Lee, of acting in concert with Rudin and causing financial losses to Dramatic Publishing Company by making "false statements" to local theaters. Sergel said he would ask an arbitration tribunal to protect the ability of local theaters to stage his grandfather's adaptation and to award damages of at least $500,000.


New York to Add Four Statues of Women to Help Fix Gender Gap in Public Art

Last week, the city announced that four female historical figures would be honored with statues in New York. The announcement followed a monthslong process seeking to fix what New York's first lady, Chirlane McCray, called a "glaring" gender imbalance in the city's streets and parks. The four women -- Billie Holiday, Helen Rodríguez Trías, Elizabeth Jennings Graham, and Katherine Walker -- will have statues placed in the boroughs they once called home. Once the statues are installed, all five boroughs will have at least one public statue of a woman. To date, only five female historical figures are depicted in statues in New York City in outdoor public spaces, and all of them are located in Manhattan. Each new statue is expected to cost between $300,000 and $1 million, and the city has said that it is trying to commission female artists to do the work.


Ted Baker Founder Resigns Amid Harassment Claims

Ray Kelvin, the founder and chief executive of British fashion chain Ted Baker resigned after claims of harassment from current and former employees. Kelvin had taken a voluntary leave of absence in December after an online petition began to surface. Although he denies the allegations, he has agreed to resign immediately as chief executive and director of the company. The company said that Kelvin would not be receiving any salary or benefit payments related to his resignation.


Yemen Seeks Help to Stop Looting of Artifacts

Four years into a civil war in which members of a Northern Yemeni faction known as Houthis have fought Saudi-backed Yemeni forces to a stalemate, the extent of the human suffering has drawn global attention. Less noticed have been the cultural institutions and archaeological relics lost or ravaged during the conflict, including thousands of antiquities taken from Yemen's museums. In an effort to recover some of the items, Yemeni officials visited Washington and New York to ask the Trump administration and the United Nations to help them, requesting that the United States issue an emergency order that would bar the import of Yemeni artifacts that did not carry special documentation. State Department officials said that the agency is studying the request.


Tip Leads to Recovery of Stolen Head of 800-Year-Old Crusader Mummy

A tip led the Dublin police to a mummified head believed to belong to an 800-year-old Crusader knight, a week after it was stolen from a medieval church crypt. The body, known as the Crusader, was decapitated and the head was stolen during a break-in over the weekend of February 23rd. The head has been given to the National Museum of Ireland to conserve and if possible restore, with the goal of returning the head to the Crusader's coffin, even though it cannot be reattached.


The Collapse of an Italy Bridge Has Become the Subject of a Criminal Inquiry

Following the collapse of the Morandi Bridge in Genoa, Italy last year, nine employees of the Bennetons' company, Autostrade, along with several officials from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport and other agencies, are the subject of a criminal inquiry as to who is at fault for the bridge's collapse. The Benettons, the Italian family famous for wool sweaters and a global clothing empire, controlled Autostrade per l'Italia, or Highways for Italy, which managed the bridge and more than half of Italy's toll roads, are said to have made "abnormal" profits, and "acquired so much power that the state became a largely passive regulator" of inspections of the bridge.


Hitler Paintings?

German authorities are starting to investigate forgery and fraud, as the niche market for art by Hitler has grown. Hitler did most of his painting before World War I, after he was rejected from art school and before he volunteered for the German Army. Once in power, he ordered the works to be collected, and he may have destroyed some of the more embarrassingly bad ones. The growth of the market for his works has led to an increase in the value of the paintings, drawings, and watercolors supposedly created by the future dictator over a century ago. However, many, if not most, of these works are likely not by Hitler. Bart Droog, a Dutch journalist who specializes in such forgeries, said that the business of faking Hitler's paintings dates back nearly to the first time he picked up a brush, and by the time he came into power in 1933, many fakes existed already, and both demand and supply grew over the years.



U.S. Women's Soccer Team Sues Over "Institutionalized Gender Discrimination"

Twenty-eight members of the world champion U.S. Soccer Team have filed a gender discrimination suit against U.S. Soccer in federal court alleging discrimination that "affects not only their paychecks but also where they play and how often, how they train, the medical treatment and coaching they receive, and even how they travel to matches." To experts in gender discrimination and Title IX cases, the argument they are making is familiar.


Judge Opens the Door to More Compensation for College Athletes

California Federal District Court Judge Claudia Wilken ruled that N.C.A.A.'s amateurism rules barring payment beyond scholarships and certain related costs of education violate antitrust law. Judge Wilken said that schools can compensate athletes for education-related expenses, such as postgraduate scholarships, tutoring, study abroad, computers, and musical instruments. Yet she also supported the N.C.A.A.'s claim that students should not become professionals while playing for school teams. Ultimately, Judge Wilken acknowledged that "the extraordinary revenues that defendants derive from these sports" demonstrate that capping players' compensation at scholarships and related costs "is not commensurate with the value that they create."


Defendants in College Basketball Corruption Case Get Lenient Sentences

Three men in a college basketball fraud case were sentenced to between six and nine months in prison after being convicted of defrauding universities. The three men, amateur basketball league director Merl Code, former Adidas executive James Gatto, and business manager Christian Dawkins, participated in a scheme in which the families of highly rated men's basketball recruits were offered money in exchange for pledges to play for teams at University of Louisville, North Carolina State University, and the University of Kansas, all of which are sponsored by Adidas. The judge said that the sentences, while lenient, were important to deter the funneling of money to the families of college basketball prospects -- an N.C.A.A. violation that a jury found last year also constituted a felony.


Kraft Hires Top Lawyers to Defend Him Against Solicitation Charges

A week after prosecutors in Florida charged Robert K. Kraft, Trump's billionaire friend and the owner of the New England Patriots, with soliciting prostitution, Kraft has retained William A. Burck (who was a lawyer in the George W. Bush White House and had a role in the screening of documents related to Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh's recent Supreme Court nomination) and Jack Goldberger (the Florida lawyer who defended Jeffrey E. Epstein, a wealthy New York financier accused of trafficking underage girls for sex) to lead his defense. Kraft and at least two dozen other individuals have been accused of soliciting prostitution at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa, a massage parlor and salon in a Jupiter, Florida. They are charged with first-degree misdemeanors.


Kraft's Solicitation Hearing is Delayed Until End of March

Kraft's arraignment on charges of soliciting prostitution has been moved to March 28th, a day after the National Football League's annual meeting.


Louisiana State University Suspends Head Coach

Louisiana State University's (LSU's) head men's basketball coach, Will Wade, has been suspended after an FBI wire-tap captured his telephone conversations with a person convicted last year of funneling money to the families of basketball recruits. LSU Chancellor, F. King Alexander, and athletic director, Joe Alleva, announced Wade's indefinite suspension, stating that "the suspension will continue until LSU can ensure that Wade's recruiting tactics have been in full compliance with NCAA and university policies." When asked, Wade declined comment other than to express confidence in his players' ability to remain focused on basketball.


Giants Executive to Take Leave of Absence After Public Altercation with His Wife

Larry Baer, chief executive of the San Francisco Giants, announced that he would be taking a leave of absence after being captured on video last week in physical altercation with his wife in a public plaza that ended with her on the ground. In the video, Baer is seen trying to yank something out of his wife's hands and during the struggle, she falls off her chair and onto the ground, screaming. As of now, the length of the leave and his future with the organization remains unclear.


Athletes in Senegal Like to Exercise on The Beaches and Streets, but With Every Breath, They Inhale Increasingly Dangerous Air

In Dakar, Senegal's capital, thousands of runners, wrestlers, soccer players, and fitness fanatics exercise outdoors, but when rush-hour traffic really backs up and exhaust fumes pour across their workout area, sometimes the athletes vomit. Dakar's air exceeds the limits set by the World Health Organization of the amount of small particles that when inhaled can damage health by five times.



Zuckerberg Plans to Shift Focus to Users' Privacy on Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive, said that he plans to build systems and products that change the essential nature of social media. Zuckerberg, who runs Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger expressed his intentions to change the "public broadcasting" nature of social media; instead of encouraging public posts, he said he would focus on private and encrypted communications, in which users message smaller groups of people they know. He said that, in effect, Facebook would change from being a digital town square to creating a type of "digital living room," where people could expect their discussions to be intimate, ephemeral, and secure from outsiders. Zuckerberg's decision follows years of scandals for the social network, which has damaged the company's reputation, created mistrust with users, and led to intensified scrutiny of Facebook's privacy practices.


U.S. Tracked Activists and Journalists as Migrant Caravans Headed to the Border

To determine who was behind the caravans that were bringing large numbers of migrants from Central America to the southwest border, the Trump administration created a list of activists and journalists whom they subjected to additional scrutiny when they entered the United States. Many of the people on the list had traveled with the migrant caravans as they arrived in Mexican border cities from Central America to seek asylum. Others had provided legal assistance or aid to migrants, but had not traveled with the caravans at all. Esha Bhandari, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said that targeting reporters or advocates for secondary screening and extended detention on the basis of their work was a violation of their rights. Bhandari said that the A.C.L.U. was monitoring developments in the cases and exploring all legal options.


Fox News Banned from Hosting 2020 Debates

The Democratic National Convention (DNC) has banned Fox News from hosting or televising a candidate debate for the party's 2020 primary election, citing the network's "inappropriate relationship" with Trump. Tom Perez, DNC chairman, said that Fox News "is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates." Trump responded to the news in a tweet, saying, "Democrats just blocked @foxnews from holding a debate. Good, then I think I'll do the same thing with the Fake News Networks and the Radical Left Democrats in the General Election debates!"


Stormy Daniels's "Hush Money" Lawsuit Dismissed

Judge S. James Otero, of the United States District Court in Los Angeles, dismissed Stormy Daniels's lawsuit against Trump and his former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen. Daniels is a porn star who was paid $130,000 in hush money through Michael D. Cohen, Trump's personal lawyer at the time, to keep quiet about an alleged affair with Trump before the 2016 election. The suit was brought in an attempt to release her from the nondisclosure agreement she had signed as part of the arrangement. However, Judge Otero called the legal argument moot, given that Daniels had not been held to the terms of the agreement, since she and her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, have spoken freely about the arrangement since the filing last March. The lawsuit led to escalating national attention that culminated in Cohen's pleading guilty to related campaign-finance crimes last summer.


Bill Shine Abruptly Resigns as White House Communications Chief

Bill Shine, the former Fox News executive who joined the White House staff last summer to manage President Trump's communications operation, has resigned. Sources said he had developed little chemistry with Trump, and critics increasingly focused on Shine's ties to Fox, where he was forced out for his handling of sexual harassment claims. Shine, who held the title of deputy White House chief of staff, was the sixth person to accept the job to manage communications for the Trump White House. The White House has not announced any successor.


Chelsea Manning Sent to Jail for Refusing to Testify About Wikileaks

U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton ordered Former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to jail for civil contempt of court after a hearing in which Manning admitted that she had "no intentions to testify" before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks. Manning has said that she objects to the secrecy of the grand jury process and had already revealed everything she knew at her court-martial. She also said that prosecutors have granted her immunity for her testimony, which eliminates her ability to invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The judge said that Manning will remain jailed until she testifies or until the grand jury concludes its work.


U.S. Journalist Arrested in Venezuela

Cody Weddle, a freelance journalist with legal residence in Venezuela was arrested, along with his assistant, by the country's military counterintelligence service. Weddle said that around 6:40 a.m., four people from the military counterintelligence service arrived at his apartment with a search order, began to put all of his electronics in a briefcase, and later, more people arrived in civilian clothes to sweep the apartment -- possibly looking for "spying equipment.". Weddle further stated that he was taken to the agency's headquarters, where he was "masked and hooded for hours". Once the mask was taken off, Weddle was then asked questions about his work as a journalist, among other things. After, he was escorted to the airport where he was to be deported, despite having a visa that allows him to live and work in Venezuela.


Egyptian Photojournalist is Freed After Spending Over Five Years in Prison

Photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid, known as Shawkan, has been freed after spending five and a half years in prison for taking pictures during a "crackdown" in 2013. Abou Zeid was one of many journalists who was jailed under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has slowly suffocated free speech since he came to power in 2013. Mr. el-Sisi has muzzled critical news outlets and has expelled or refused entry to foreign reporters. Despite being arrested in 2013, Abou Zeid was convicted in September 2018 and sentenced to five years in prison, which he had already served, and handed a fine. An additional six-month term was added to his sentence because he could not afford to pay the fine.



National Security Agency Shuts Down Program That Collects Phone and Text Records

The National Security Agency (N.S.A.) has shut down a controversial program that collects domestic phone and text records. The program, started by former President George W. Bush's administration, was started as part of the pursuit for Al Qaeda conspirators in the weeks after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, but the Trump administration "hasn't actually been using it for the past six months."


Trump Losing Grip Over Senate

Trump's emergency declaration marks the first time that a president has invoked powers under the National Emergencies Act after Congress has denied funds. His action has been met with disdain from Democrats and Republicans alike. Democrats have introduced a resolution that will overturn Trump's national emergency declaration, and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, along with three other Republicans -- Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Thom Tillis of North Carolina -- have announced their support of the measure, giving Democrats the 51 votes they need to secure passage and to force Trump to issue the first veto of his presidency.


Democrats' Inquiry into Trump Provides Possible Path to Impeachment

In the two months since they took control of the House, Democrats have begun scrutinizing key members of Trump's cabinet, his businesses, his campaign, and his ties to foreign powers, including Russia, which tried to disrupt the 2016 presidential election. They have also laid the groundwork to try to obtain Trump's tax returns. However, it's Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the Judiciary Committee chairman, who has launched an inquiry that takes aim at his presidency and could conceivably form the basis of a future impeachment proceeding.


America's Trade Deficit in Goods Hits Record $891 Billion

Trump's goal of narrowing the U.S.'s trade deficit in goods with the rest of the world has been setback as the deficit widened to $891.3 billion. The trade deficit is the difference between how much a country sells to its trading partners and how much it buys. It generally includes both goods and services, although Trump has focused almost exclusively on the deficit in goods. The widening gap was exacerbated by Trump's $1.5 trillion tax cut, which has been largely financed by government borrowing, and the trade war he escalated last year. Federal Reserve officials and some economists warn that federal borrowing is growing too quickly and will ultimately swamp the American economy, with the United States paying huge sums of interest on the debt, diverting funds from social safety net programs like Medicare and Social Security.


Senate Confirms Trump Nominee Who Resisted Affordable Care Act

Chad A. Readler of Ohio has been confirmed as Trump's 33rd federal appeals court judge despite bipartisan criticism that as a Justice Department official in the Trump administration he had shirked his official responsibility to defend the Affordable Care Act when it was challenged in court. Democrats said that Readler was "obligated to defend as a top lawyer in the Justice Department's civil division because it was existing law". Instead, he filed a brief in support of a lawsuit by Republican attorneys general aimed at gutting the Affordable Care Act, and argued that it, and its protections against denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, was unconstitutional. Mr. Readler's nomination was approved on a 52-to-47 vote with all Democrats and one Republican, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, voting no.


Justice Department to Step Up Enforcement of Foreign Influence Laws

A senior Justice Department official announced that the Justice Department will escalate its crackdown on illegal foreign influence operations in the United States. The move shows that the Justice Department has prioritized investigating potential violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which requires lobbyists and others to disclose any work they do to further the interests of foreign governments.


Trump Administration's Aggressive Policies Have Not Discouraged New Migration to U.S.

Kevin K. McAleenan, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, stated that "the system is well beyond capacity, and remains at the breaking point", when announcing the "record breaking" data that unauthorized entries are nearly double what they were a year ago. Trump has used the escalating numbers to justify his plan to build an expanded wall along the 1,900-mile border with Mexico, but experts say that a wall would do little to slow migration.


House Votes to Condemn All Hate

The resolution condemning "hateful expressions of intolerance" started as a resolution condemning anti-Semitism; by the end of the discussion, it cited "African-Americans, Native Americans, and other people of color, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, immigrants and others" victimized by bigotry. The resolution, called a "kitchen-sink resolution" by one Democratic aide, passed the House by a 407-to-23 vote. The resolution states that "whether from the political right, center or left, bigotry, discrimination, oppression, racism and imputations of dual loyalty threaten American democracy and have no place in American political discourse." It also evokes white supremacist attacks in Charlottesville, Virginia, Charleston, South Carolina, and Pittsburgh, as well as numerous attacks on Muslims and mosques. The resolution was passed days after freshman Democrat, Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, said that pro-Israel activists were pushing "for allegiance to a foreign country" -- a remark that critics in both parties said played into the anti-Semitic trope of "dual loyalty".


Ocean Heatwaves Threaten Marine Life

In a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, researchers found that marine heatwaves were destroying the framework of many ocean ecosystems. Marine heat waves occur when sea temperatures are much warmer than normal for at least five consecutive days. An earlier study, conducted by some of the same researchers, found that on average, from 1925 to 2016, marine heat waves became 34% more frequent, 17% longer, and there were 54% more days per year with marine heat waves globally.


H.I.V. is "Cured" in a Second Patient

Almost 12 years to the day after the first patient was known to be cured, a second patient also appears to have been cured of H.I.V. While most experts are calling it a "cure", with the caveat that it is hard to know how to define the word when there are only two known instances, scientists are describing it as a "long-term remission". Both patients were "cured" as a result of bone-marrow transplants, which were given to them to treat cancer in the patients, not H.I.V. The patients received transplants from a donor with a mutation in a protein called CCR5, which rests on the surface of certain immune cells. H.I.V. uses the protein to enter those cells but cannot latch on to the mutated version.


Trump Says Scotland Golf Course Helps "Cement US Relations with Britain"

Just days after a Scottish court ordered the Trump Organization to pay the Scottish government's legal costs after a failed lawsuit, Trump has implied that a golf course owned by the Trump Organization in Scotland helps "cement the United States' relationship with Britain". In a tweet, Trump claimed that he was: "Very proud of perhaps the greatest golf course anywhere in the world. Also, [the golf course] furthers U.K. relationship!" The tweet has baffled some legal and ethics experts, including Thomas Lundmark, a professor of law at the University of Hull, in northern England, who said that he doesn't "know what he's [Trump] talking about." Lundmark further questioned, "Does it further a relationship for him? For the United States? For us? How?" The ruling and case at large has also raised some constitutional concerns. The U.S. Constitution prohibits the president from accepting payments from foreign and domestic governments. Trump owns golf courses, hotels, and other properties that are frequented by foreign and domestic government officials. There are also claims that Trump's promotion of his properties while president amount to a violation of the emoluments clauses in the Constitution. Walter M. Shaub Jr., who resigned his post as the United States government's top ethics watchdog in July 2017, said in a tweet that Trump's comment was the president's "most explicit commingling of personal interests and public office to date."


Even After Taking Office, Trump Continued to Write Checks to Michael D. Cohen, His Former Personal Lawyer and "Fixer"

At the heart of last week's congressional testimony by Michael D. Cohen, Trump's former lawyer, was the accusation that the sitting president of the United States financed an illegal cover-up from inside the White House. Cohen testified that, in part, Trump reimbursed him $130,000 for the payments to stop Stormy Daniels from telling her story before the 2016 presidential election. Cohen also allegedly received $50,000 for his efforts to manipulate online polls to inflate Trump's reputation as a businessman.


Stone's Book Contains Revisions That May Violate Gag Order

Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the United States District Court in Washington issued an order rebuking Roger Stone for failing to inform her sooner about a new introduction to his book that may violate a gag order because it includes criticism of the current special counsel investigation. Stone's defense team has argued that the new introduction had not violated the gag order because it was dated January 2019 and was written and printed by the publisher before the gag order was put in place on February 21st. Judge Jackson responded, "It does not matter when the defendant may have first formulated the opinions expressed, or when he first put them into words: He may no longer share his views on these particular subjects with the world".


Trump Organization Facing Scrutiny From New York Insurance Regulators

New York State regulators have issued a subpoena to the Trump Organization's longtime insurance broker, the first step in an investigation of insurance policies and claims against Donald Trump's family business. The company, Aon, was served as part of an inquiry by the New York State Department of Financial Services. The subpoena comes just days after Michael D. Cohen, Trump's former "fixer" and lawyer, testified that the Trump Organization inflated the value of its assets to insurance companies. The subpoena demands materials regarding Aon's business with Trump and the Trump Organization dating back to 2009 and it seeks copies of all communications between Aon and Trump and the Trump Organization, as well as all internal Aon documents relating to Trump and the company.


Cohen Presents Documents to Prove Help with False Testimony

Michael D. Cohen, Trump's former personal lawyer and fixer, brought multiple drafts along with emails with Trump's lawyers, hoping to back up the claims that he made during his congressional testimony that he said illustrated changes made at the request of Trump's lawyers to a knowingly false written statement that he delivered to Congress in 2017. Cohen testified that there were "changes made, additions" to the original written statement, including about the length of negotiations over a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign. Cohen further testified that although Trump did not explicitly direct him to lie, he "made clear to me" through his actions that "he wanted me to lie."


Manafort Sentenced to Less Than Four Years in One Case Against Him, Stunning Many

Paul Manafort, the political consultant and Trump presidential campaign chairman, was sentenced to almost four years in prison in the financial fraud case against him. Of the half-dozen former Trump associates prosecuted by Robert Mueller, Manafort received the harshest punishment yet in the case that came to a conclusion last Thursday -- the first of two for which he is being sentenced this month.

When U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III sentenced Manafort to 47 months in jail, he expected some pushback; he probably didn't anticipate this sentence being the one that made the country gasp. Legal experts around the country cited Judge Ellis's ruling as highlighting the "leniency that wealthy white-collar criminals often receive because they have the money to defend themselves or because judges find it easier to empathize with them." Scott Hechinger, a public defender in Brooklyn made a similar point on twitter; "for context on Manafort's 47 months in prison, my client yesterday was offered 36-72 months in prison for stealing $100 worth of quarters from a residential laundry room." Duncan Levin, a former federal prosecutor who specialized in financial crimes, said that "this sentence is leaving me and a lot of people who do this every day scratching our heads."



American Hostage Freed After 18-Months Captivity in Yemen

Danny Lavone Burch, an engineer at a Yemeni oil company, was abducted by gunmen and held captive for 18 months before being rescued in an armed raid last week led by the United Arab Emirates. Burch, who was born in Texas and worked for a Yemeni state oil company, had been living in Yemen since the 1990s; he had converted to Islam and married a Yemeni woman. He was kidnapped outside a restaurant in September 2017 as he drove his children to a swimming pool. Burch was retrieved from a cellar where he was being held in a "lawless part of Yemen".


Iranian Lawyer Who Defended Women Convicted of "Security Crimes"

Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent Iranian lawyer, was arrested in June 2018, while she was defending women who were arrested when they removed their hijabs (Islamic head scarves) in public protests. Sotoudeh also publicly criticized the judicial authorities' decision to limit legal representation for defendants in political cases to a list of 20 state-approved lawyers - a list on which she was absent. Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran, said that at least seven charges have been lodged against Sotoudeh, including collusion against national security, anti-state propaganda, membership in illicit groups, appearing before the judiciary without the required head covering, disturbing the peace, publishing falsehoods to disturb public opinion, and "encouraging corruption and prostitution."


Oil Spill Threatens a Coral Atoll in the South Pacific

A grounded cargo ship - a Hong Kong-flagged ship named the Solomon Trader - has been leaking fuel for weeks after it ran aground near a World Heritage site in the South Pacific. The ship was carrying more than 770 tons of heavy fuel oil when it ran aground last month on Rennell Island, one of the Solomon Islands, which is the largest raised coral atoll in the world. Researchers fear that there is "likely to be substantial long-term impacts on the health of the coral reef ecosystems and the communities that depend on them."


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 11, 2019 11:21 AM.

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