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April 1, 2019

Week In Review

By Chantelle A. Gyamfi
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

The following articles are divided into Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media, and General News:


Charges Dropped Against Jussie Smollet - Chicago's Mayor Is Not Pleased

Just a month after being indicted on 16 counts, prosecutors in Chicago have dropped all charges against Jussie Smollett, the "Empire" actor who was accused of staging a hate crime attack against himself. In January, Smollett told police that two men had jumped him and berated him with homophobic and racial slurs, yelling "This is MAGA country," a reference to Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan. The assailants also allegedly tied a rope around his neck and poured a chemical substance on him. While Mayor Rahm Emanuel furiously referred to the case as a "whitewashing of justice", Joe Magats, the prosecutor who made the decision to drop the charges, stated that dropping the charges "didn't exonerate him."


Music Publishers Sue Peloton for Unlicensed Use of Music

Publishers who represent artists like Drake, Lady Gaga, and Justin Timberlake, among others, are suing home fitness company, Peloton, for allegedly using music from their artists in the company's video-streaming platform without permission. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York and seeks more than $150 million in damages.


"Project Runway All Stars" Became an Ad for Nothing

On many episodes of "Project Runway All Stars" Season 7, host and judge Alyssa Milano has announced that the week's winning design will be sold on JCPenney.com the following day. However, JC Penney's website states that the collaboration has been discontinued, because legally, the company couldn't produce the designs. JC Penney announced in an email statement that "Season 7 of 'Project Runway All Stars' was taped well before our collaboration with the show ended, and we were unaware that the season would begin airing in January 2019...because of this unfortunate turn of events, J.C. Penney no longer had the agreement in place to produce or sell the winning looks." JC Penney's "ghost sponsorship" comes as a result of the Weinstein Company scandal. After the sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein were reported, Weinstein was fired by his board and the company went bankrupt. Lantern Capital Partners bought the Weinstein Company assets last year, and flipped the rights to "Project Runway" to NBCUniversal, leaving it unclear whether or not the latest "All-Stars" season would ever air, since it was taped during the summer of 2017. Despite the drama, Lifetime decided to air it anyway, as is, starting in January - 18 months after filming -- which is why Milano has been telling viewers most weeks about an outfit that they won't be able to buy.


Judge Dismissed Most of James Levine's Claims Against the Metropolitan Opera

Justice Andrea Masley of the New York State Supreme Court issued a ruling that dismissed all but one of the defamation claims that conductor James Levine made in a lawsuit he filed against the Metropolitan Opera (the Met) last year after it had fired him amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

The ruling came just over a year after the Met fired Levine, who had been its music director for four decades and recently assumed an emeritus position -- making him the biggest classical music star to lose his job during the national reckoning over sexual misconduct. Levine, who has denied any wrongdoing, sued the Met for breach of contract and defamation; the Met countersued him, accusing Levine of decades of misconduct and saying that he had violated his duties to the company and harmed the institution. Part of Levine's suit is proceeding; there is a conference scheduled for next month.



Trump Proposes Elimination of National Endowment for the Arts - AGAIN!

Last week, the Trump administration released its proposed budget for fiscal year 2020, in which it proposed shutting down the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities by providing only $29 million in funding, stating that the administration "does not consider NEA activities to be core Federal responsibilities."


Getty Accused of Slapping Copyrights on Public Domain Pics

Texas digital marketing company CixxFive Concepts LLC has filed a complaint against Getty Images, Inc. (Getty), accusing Getty of duping customers into buying copyrights to use images in the public domain that they can actually use freely. CixxFive allegedly brought the suit against Getty after it had paid Getty licensing fees last year to use images that were in the public domain - and for which copyright licenses were not necessary. CixxFive also alleges that Getty creates a "hostile environment" for those who want to use the images and that Getty "stakes a false claim of ownership" over public domain images.

CixxFive Concepts LLC v. Getty Images Inc. et al., case number 2:19-cv-00386, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. https://www.law360.com/ip/articles/1139909

Zillow's Copyright Infringement Case Remanded

VHT, Inc. (VHT), a real estate photography studio, sued Zillow Group, Inc., and Zillow, Inc. (Zillow), an online real estate marketplace, in a copyright infringement suit alleging that Zillow copied and unlawfully used thousands of photographic images owned by VHT on Zillow's Digs home-design website and on properties not actively listed for sale on Zillow's central listing website. A panel recently affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's judgment after a jury trial and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings as to whether the VHT photos remaining at issue were a compilation, and held that substantial evidence did not show that was actually aware of its infringing activity, nor was it reckless or willfully blind to its infringement.

VHT, Inc. v. Zillow Group, Inc., No. 17-35587 (9th Cir. 2019) https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/ca9/17-35587/17-35587-2019-03-15.html


Hudson Yards' "Vessel" Owns the Copyright to All of Your Visiting Photos

Hudson Yards just opened to the public in New York City and its centerpiece is a permanent art installation and giant public structure called "Vessel". Vessel is a 16-story landmark with 154 flights of stairs that visitors can climb; but by reserving a ticket to Vessel, you hand over your rights to any photos or videos shot within.


Art Powerhouses Continue to Shun Sackler Family, Including the Guggenheim Museum

Although the Sackler family has generously supported museums (and other medical and educational institutions) worldwide for decades, several of the Sackler family's charities of choice are reconsidering whether they want to accept any money from the family at all, and others have already rejected any future gifts, concluding that some family members' ties to the opioid crisis outweighed the benefits of their six- and sometimes seven-figure checks.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum was one who has announced that it does not plan to accept future gifts from the family of Mortimer D. Sackler, a philanthropist and former board member, whose family's pharmaceutical interests have been linked to the opioid crisis. The museum's statement said that members of the family had donated $9 million to the Guggenheim between 1995 and 2015, including $7 million to establish and support the Sackler Center for Arts Education. The spokeswoman said that the center's name was contractual and there were no plans to change it. Members of the Sackler family own Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, and the company currently faces hundreds of lawsuits over its links to the opioid crisis, and smaller lawsuits have been filed against individual members of the Sackler family.



MoMa PS 1 Settles Gender, Pregnancy, and Caregiver Discrimination Dispute with Curator

Nikki Columbus, who is an art editor and curator, has settled the claim she brought against the Museum of Modern Art, saying that it had rescinded a job offer upon learning she had recently given birth. While the financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed, Columbus has said that she made it a point that her agreement not bar her from discussing other details of the case, stating that being able to talk about the importance of the suit was "central" to her.


Picasso Stolen in 1999 is Recovered in Amsterdam

Arthur Brand, an art crimes investigator in the Netherlands, claims to have recovered Pablo Picasso's 1938 painting "Portrait of Dora Maar", which was stolen from its owner in the south of France in 1999. Brand, who had been trying to track down the Picasso painting since 2015, said that he was contacted earlier this month by "two persons with good contacts in the underworld", who said that the painting was in the Netherlands. The two contacts, whom Brand declined to name, dropped the painting off at his house in Amsterdam in two plastic garbage bags, where the trio drank a toast to the painting and, after that, Brand hung the Picasso on his wall. The next day, a Picasso specialist from the Pace Gallery in New York flew to the Netherlands to check the painting, and verified its authenticity. The painting has since been turned over to an unnamed insurance company.



Michael Avenatti Accused in Nike Extortion Attempt

Michael Avenatti, the lawyer who represented porn star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuits against Trump, has been accused of trying to extort millions of dollars from Nike in exchange for evidence he said he had of misconduct by company employees in the recruitment of college basketball players. Prosecutors said that Avenatti and a client, a basketball coach for a traveling youth team, had told Nike that he and the basketball coach, said to be Gary Franklin Sr. of the club team California Supreme in Los Angeles, had evidence that Nike employees had funneled money to recruits in violation of N.C.A.A. rules. Prosecutors further said that Avenatti and the coach had threatened to release the evidence in an attempt to damage Nike's reputation and market capitalization unless the company paid them at least $22.5 million.


Connor McGregor Facing Sexual Assault Accusations

Conor McGregor, an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) star, is under investigation in Ireland after a woman accused him of sexual assault in December. Following the usual protocol in criminal investigations in Ireland and much of Europe, where a formal charge does not necessarily follow an arrest, McGregor was arrested in January, questioned by law enforcement authorities, and released pending further investigation. McGregor and the UFC have not commented on the allegations, but a publicist for McGregor did state that McGregor's recent retirement has nothing to do with the investigation.


Major League Baseball Suspends Baer Until July

Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that San Francisco Giants president and CEO Larry Baer will remain suspended until July. Baer has been on leave since March 4th, after footage showing him forcefully pulling something out of his screaming wife's hands at a public park surfaced. Baer's leave of absence will now be converted to an unpaid suspension.


Kraft Seeks Jury Trial in Solicitation Case and Asks Judge to Suppress Video Evidence

New England Patriots' owner, Robert K. Kraft, has waived his arraignment for charges of soliciting prostitution and requested a jury trial. Prosecutors have offered to drop the two misdemeanor charges against Kraft, but the proposed deal required him to admit that he would have been found guilty at trial on the charges - Kraft refused the deal, insisting that he has done nothing illegal and that he wants to clear his name to protect his reputation.

Kraft has also asked the judge overseeing his case to suppress video evidence that the police have said shows him receiving sex from a masseuse at a spa in Jupiter, Florida. Kraft is asking that the evidence be kept private only until his case was finished. Kraft's lawyers said that the video recordings "are the fruits of an unlawful sneak-and-peek search warrant that the Town of Jupiter Police Department used to spy on Mr. Kraft and others, while they were in the private rooms of a licensed spa (the "Spa"), receiving treatment from licensed masseuses." His lawyers further described the video surveillance as a "governmental overreach" and maintained that the search warrant was filed under false pretenses because the human trafficking that the police contend was taking place in the spa has not been proved.




Facebook Says It Will Ban White Nationalist Content

Facebook announced that it would ban white nationalist content from its platforms, a significant policy change that responds to vigorous demands from civil rights groups who said that the tech giant was failing to confront the powerful reach of white extremism on social media. The company previously saw white nationalism as a concept akin to ethnic pride and something different from and less dangerous than white supremacy. As part of its policy change, Facebook said that it would divert users who searched for white supremacist content to "Life After Hate", a nonprofit that helps people leave hate groups, and would improve its ability to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to combat white nationalism.




Department of Housing and Urban Development Says Facebook Engages in Housing Discrimination With Its Ad Practices

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has sued Facebook, claiming that it engages in housing discrimination by allowing advertisers to restrict who can see ads on the platform based on characteristics like race, religion, and national origin. In addition, HUD claims that Facebook uses its data-mining practices to determine which of its users can view housing-related ads. It claims that on both counts, Facebook is in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act.


Chinese Professor Suspended After Criticizing China's President Xi

Professor Xu Zhangrun, of Tsinghua University in Beijing, shot to prominence last year when he published a series of essays that denounced President Xi Jinping's authoritarian tendencies as driving China back to closed, repressive politics that could prove disastrous for the country. He has now been suspended and placed under investigation.


Australian Journalists Charged With Violating Gag-Order

Dozens of Australian news outlets and journalists have been ordered to appear in court to answer allegations that they violated a gag order barring coverage of the trial of Cardinal George Pell, a former Vatican official who was convicted in December of molesting children. Chief Judge Peter Kidd, who presided over Cardinal Pell's trial, had imposed a suppression order on journalists who were covering it, on the grounds that news reports could prejudice a jury. The order was lifted in February and Australian news outlets were free to report that the Cardinal had been found guilty months earlier. He was sentenced this month to six years in prison. The summons sheet does not specify how the accused journalists and news organizations are alleged to have violated the order.


Leaders of Vatican Women's Magazine Quit

In a letter of resignation to Pope Francis, Lucetta Scaraffia, the founder and editor of Women Church World, a magazine that drew international attention for exposing the abuse of nuns, wrote that the editorial board members, all women, felt in the last few months that a hierarchy dominated by men was marginalizing them and did not value their work. The women cited a "climate of distrust and progressive delegitimization" of their work inside the Vatican's Communications Office as their reason for quitting.



New Law Bolsters Copyrights in Europe

The European Parliament has adopted a copyright law that requires technology platforms like Google to sign licensing agreements with musicians, authors, and news publishers in order to post their works online. The measure, approved by a vote of 348 to 274, gives each country in the European Union two years to turn the Directive into law.


Supreme Court Refuses to Block Ban on Bump Stocks

The Supreme Court has declined to stop the Trump administration from enforcing its ban on bump stock devices, which allow semi-automatic weapons to fire like machine guns. The ban, which followed the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas in which a gunman attached bump stocks to assault-style rifles he used to shoot concertgoers from his hotel room, went into effect last week. It requires owners either to destroy their bump stocks or surrender them.



Supreme Court Stays Execution to Allow Buddhist Advisor's Accompaniment

Patrick Murphy, an inmate who was part of a murderous band of prison escapees dubbed the "Texas 7", was granted a stay of his death sentence as the Supreme Court ordered the state of Texas to allow a Buddhist spiritual adviser to accompany him to the execution chamber. As the ruling came after the expiration of the death warrant, the case will be returned to the district court level, and the execution rescheduled.


Trump Signs Proclamation Formally Recognizing Israel's Authority Over Golan Heights

Trump has signed a proclamation recognizing Israel's authority over the long-disputed Golan Heights --two weeks before Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu faces indictment in Israel on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. In addition to his decision on the Golan Heights, Trump pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal, which Netanyahu had long reviled, and moved the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.


Interior Nominee Intervened to Block Report on Endangered Species

After years of efforts, scientists at the Fish and Wildlife Service have wrapped up a comprehensive analysis of the threat that three widely used pesticides present to hundreds of endangered species. Their analysis found that two of the pesticides, malathion and chlorpyrifos, were so toxic that they "jeopardize the continued existence" of more than 1,200 endangered birds, fish, and other animals and plants, a conclusion that could lead to tighter restrictions on use of the chemicals. Scientists had planned to make the findings public back in November 2017, but political appointees of the Interior Department, which oversees the Fish and Wildlife Service, blocked the release and set in motion a new process intended to apply a much narrower standard to determine the risks from the pesticides. Leading the intervention was David Bernhardt, then the Deputy Secretary of the Interior and a former lobbyist and oil-industry lawyer. Bernhardt is now President Trump's nominee to become Interior Secretary.


U.S. Expands Anti-Abortion Policies

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the Trump administration will withhold funding from foreign nongovernmental organizations that give money to foreign groups that perform abortions. Pompeo also said that the government was "fully enforcing" a law that prohibits groups from using United States aid to lobby on abortion issues. This comes after American officials had allegedly become aware that a group under the Organization of American States had engaged in abortion rights advocacy. The State Department will now stipulate in assistance agreements that the diplomatic body must promise that no American funds will be used to lobby for or against abortion and the U.S. will reduce funding to the organization as punishment.


Trump Administration Detains Palestinian After Sentence Ends

Adham Hassoun, a Palestinian computer programmer who lived in Florida, served 15 years in prison for sending support to Islamist militants abroad in connection with the September 11th attacks. Once his sentence was completed, he then waited in immigration detention for more than a year and a half while the government searched for a place to deport him (Hassoun is difficult to deport because he is stateless - he was born in Lebanon, which has declined to take him, and the Palestinian Authorities said that he may go to the West Bank, but Israel and Jordan have not consented to passage to go there). Finally, a judge ordered him temporarily released in the United States, but the Trump administration, citing a little-used immigration regulation issued after September 11th, notified Hassoun last month that he was being declared a security risk and would be kept locked up indefinitely. Hassoun is now suing the government.


12 Plead Not Guilty in U.S. College Admissions Scandal

Twelve people, including several ex-coaches, plead not guilty in the college admissions scandal that has seen upwards of 50 people charged with participating in the scheme headed by California college admissions counseling service operator Rick Singer. Among those charged include actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, both of whom allegedly paid bribes and falsified documents/photos to get their children into top colleges.



U.S. Trying to Force Grindr Sale

Seeking to expand its efforts to block Chinese acquisitions in the U.S., the Trump administration is attempting to force the Chinese firm that owns Grindr, the gay dating app, to relinquish control over concerns that Beijing could use personal information to blackmail or influence American officials or contractors if China threatened to disclose their sexual orientation, or track their movements or dating habits.


Boeing Jet Flight Simulation Reveals That Pilots Had Only 40 Seconds to Avert Crash

During flight simulations recreating the problems with the Lion Air plane, pilots discovered that they had fewer than 40 seconds to override an automated system on Boeing's new jets and avert disaster. The automated system, known as MCAS, is the focus of investigation as authorities try to figure out what went wrong in the Lion Air crash in October and the Ethiopian Airlines crash of the same Boeing model this month.


Checkpoints in New Mexico and West Texas Closed Amidst Continued Rise in Immigration

Border Patrol is shutting down several of its checkpoints across New Mexico and parts of West Texas as officials scramble to respond to a surge in families requesting asylum along the Southwest border. A Border Patrol spokesman said that the closings are a "temporary measure... intended to help provide 'appropriate care' for migrants apprehended at the border", as the number of migrants entering the country, which in February reached an 11-year high, continues to climb. The closed checkpoints span across Border Patrol's El Paso sector, which includes 121,000 square miles in New Mexico and 4,500 square miles in Texas.


Calls for Disclosure of Safety Risks of Breast Implants

Several women with illnesses linked to breast implants met with plastic surgeons, regulators and implant makers at the Food and Drug Administration's general and plastic surgery panel and demanded more information about the risks of breast implants and called for a ban on one that is associated with an unusual type of cancer. While the panel took no formal votes, its members are to consider further steps for the agency to take in exploring the growing scientific evidence about both breast implant-associated lymphoma and a constellation of debilitating symptoms generally referred to as breast implant illness.


House Fails to Override Trump's Veto

In a 248-to-181 vote, the House has failed to overturn Trump's first veto, leaving the declaration of a national emergency at the southwestern border intact despite bipartisan passage of a resolution attempting to nullify the president's circumvention of Congress to fund his border wall.



Democrats Intensify Demand for Big Institutional Changes

Liberal groups are encouraging Democrats running for president and the Senate to commit to enlarging the Supreme Court and scuttling the Senate's famous procedural weapon - the filibuster. The intensifying push for changes could add an explosive element to the 2020 campaign, as candidates are forced to take a stand on structural changes in how government works.


National Security Agency Contractor Arrested in Biggest Breach of U.S. Secrets Pleads Guilty

Harold T. Martin III, who worked in the National Security Agency's Tailored Access Operations hacking unit, plead guilty to taking classified documents home in what may be the biggest breach of classified information in history. Investigators have never found proof that Martin had shared the stolen secrets with anyone else, though there is evidence he may have considered doing so. Martin plead guilty to one count of willful retention of defense information and he is due to be sentenced in July.


Federal Judge Finds Trump's Order to Open Arctic Waters to Oil Drilling Was Unlawful

Judge Sharon L. Gleason of the United States District Court for the District of Alaska concluded Trump's order to lift an Obama-era ban on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean and parts of the North Atlantic coast was unlawful. Judge Gleason declared that President Obama's 2015 and 2016 withdrawal from drilling of about 120 million acres of Arctic Ocean and about 3.8 million acres in the Atlantic "will remain in full force and effect unless and until revoked by Congress." The decision will force the Interior Department to immediately withdraw the waters of the Arctic Ocean from its forthcoming plan detailing where the federal government intends to lease federal waters to oil companies for offshore drilling.


Trump Turns U.S. Policy in Central America on Its Head

Trump, angered by the growing numbers of families arriving at the southern border asking for asylum, plans to cut off aid to three Central American countries for failing to stop the flow of migrants toward the United States. The Trump administration notified Congress that it intends to reprogram $450 million in aid to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador and has already sent instructions to embassies in the region. Trump told reporters that: "No money goes there anymore...we're giving them tremendous aid. We stopped payment." Advocates argue that stopping aid will only aggravate the root causes (i.e. gang violence and poverty) that drive migrants to leave the three countries in the first place.


Trump Tweets About "Total Exoneration" From Mueller Probe

After special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, Trump tweeted that he was "totally exonerated" of any collusion with Russia. However, Mueller's exact words in the report, as quoted by the attorney general, say otherwise: "While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him." In other words, there is no clear answer to the collusion question.


Mueller's Inquiry Erases Line Drawn After Watergate

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's inquiry into Trump made clear that the latter had successfully thrown out the unwritten rules that had bound other chief executives in the 45 years since President Richard M. Nixon resigned. Mueller's decision to not take a position on whether Trump's many interventions in the law enforcement system constituted obstruction of justice means that future occupants of the White House will feel entitled to take similar actions. Trump's critics say that this represents "a dangerous degradation of the rule of law", giving a president monarchy-type power.


Disney Bans Smoking and Larger Strollers at Theme Parks

Starting in May, Disney parks in Florida and California will become smoke-free, requiring guests who wish to smoke to do so only in designated areas. The new policy, which does not apply to Disney parks in France, China, and Japan, comes ahead of the public opening of Star Wars attractions that are expected to draw throngs of tourists and has been greeted with widespread praise.



McDonald's Will No Longer Fight Minimum Wage Increases

McDonald's has announced that it will no longer lobby against minimum-wage increases at the federal, state or local levels. The announcement was included in a letter that McDonald's vice-president, Genna Gent, wrote to officials at the National Restaurant Association. Gent said that the company would "not use our resources, including lobbyists or staff, to oppose minimum wage increases" at any level, and that it would not "participate in association advocacy efforts designed expressly to defeat wage increases."


New York Sues Sackler Family Members and Drug Distributors

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced New York's suit against Perdue Pharma (the maker of the opioid painkiller OxyContin) and the Sackler Family (the family that owns the company). The suit seeks to recover the state's costs for unnecessary prescriptions and related health care expenses, as well as issue financial penalties. It alleges that the Sacklers began shifting hundreds of millions of dollars from the business to themselves through offshore entities, in efforts to shield the assets from litigation.


Judge Blocks Health Care Law 'End Run'

Judge John D. Bates of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia struck down a Trump administration rule that allows small businesses to band together and set up health insurance plans that skirt requirements of the Affordable Care Act, calling the rule "an end-run around the A.C.A."

The case is New York v. United States Department of Labor




New York to Ban Plastic Bags

New York State lawmakers have agreed to impose a statewide ban on most types of single-use plastic bags from retail sales. The ban, which would begin next March, will forbid stores from providing customers with single-use plastic bags, which have been blamed for everything from causing wildlife deaths to thwarting recycling efforts. The ban is to include food takeout bags used by restaurants, bags used to wrap deli or meat counter products, bags for bulk items, newspaper bags, garment bags, and bags sold in bulk, such as trash or recycling bags. The plan will also include a carve-out allowing counties to opt in to a 5-cent fee on paper bags, revenue that would go to the state's Environmental Protection Fund as well as a separate fund to buy reusable bags for consumers.


New York "Congestion Tax" Close to Being Approved

New York is about to become the first city in the United States to introduce congestion pricing, which would put new electronic tolls in place for drivers entering the busiest stretches of Manhattan. The proceeds from the tax are expected to go to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to raise billions of dollars in bonds to modernize the subway system.


Parliament Rebukes May's Brexit Deal

Parliament passed an amendment giving itself the power to vote on alternatives to the government's Brexit plan right as Prime Minister Theresa May prepared for a last-ditch effort to persuade lawmakers to support her withdrawal plan. Parliament's commandeering of May's plan, which has already been rejected twice by huge margins, is being described as "the government playing Russian roulette with the lives and livelihoods of the vast majority of people...."


May Offers to Step Down

Prime Minister Theresa May offered to step down and allow another prime minister who has the confidence of her party and lawmakers to negotiate the final details of her plan for Britain to leave the European Union (EU). If May's plan is approved, the battle over the details of Brexit will be fought first in a leadership struggle in the Conservative Party and then by all the other parties and factions that have scrapped with one another throughout the last two years. May did not specify when she would step down, but the EU has approved an extension in the Brexit process to May 22nd, if her plan gained approval, and that date could become the start of the leadership contest, which has been unofficially underway for some time already.


India Shoots Down One of Its Own Satellites in Quest to Establish Its Military Space Power

India shot down one of its own satellites in low-Earth orbit with a ground-to-space missile in the country's first test of such weaponry. The test, conducted from an island off India's east coast, was aimed at protecting the country's assets in space against foreign attacks. India will be the fourth country to have used such an anti-satellite weapon after the United States, Russia, and China.


April 8, 2019

Week In Review

By Lisa Ornest
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

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


My Sweet Lord

The copyright wars spawned by "Blurred Lines" have the strongest effect on the lowest link in the chain, the songwriters, whose livelihood can be severely curtailed, and who have to worry about the law when they should be thinking about creativity. Most cases get settled, often by shared credit. Insurance companies offer policies (of course). Just make sure you never spurn Allen Klein.


He Really Wants to Direct

The production company StormChaser Partners that Steven Mnuchin sold to his fiance before they were married (a sale about which he did not actually inform the Government Ethics Office, although he claims he did) is miraculously his property again now that his fiance is his wife. So Mnuchin's 2018 financial disclosure can't be certified. He promised to recuse himself if any issues arose, like say, intellectual property issues with China. This is the guy in charge of our money.


"'Only Outlaws are Outlawed'"

So said Waylon Jennings to Billy Ray Cyrus when Billy Ray got thrown off the country charts. Now Billy Ray is lending a helping hand to the Atlanta hip-hop artist, Lil Nas X, whose song, "Old Town Road, " independently released, made the Billboard Hot 100, R&B/Hip-Hop songs, and Hot Country Songs, until Billboard threw it off "Country." So Lil Nas X released a new version of the song, this time with Billy Ray on featured vocals. Is it country now? Or is it just whiter?



Nipsey Hussle Mourned

On March 31, 2019, 33 year-old rapper Nipsey Hu$$le (Ermias Joseph Asghedom), was shot and killed in in front of his own clothing store in L.A., in what was a possible personal dispute. Hussle started out his life as a member of the "Rollin' 60s Crips gang, but he "redirected his energy" and became a rap artist. Hussle had a huge success with his debut studio album "Victory Lap," which was nominated for Best Rap Album at the 2019 Grammys. Rival Los Angeles gangs came together to hold an enormous "peace rally" on Thursday and Friday to honor him.



Not in My Next Door!

A political art group in Germany built a replica section of the Holocaust Memorial to scale next door to a "far-right" politician who has been publicly disdainful of the actual Memorial. The politician now calls the group a "terrorist association" and is trying get the artist, Philipp Ruch, arrested for, basically, criminal conspiracy. It's the same law they use for possible al Quaeda connections and Holocaust deniers. Could this be a far-right conspiracy to crack down on opponents? Ruch apparently gets sued quite a bit over his art, but he has never lost.


"Toxic Philanthropy"

This is not a new thing. Who do you think endowed the Met and Carnegie Hall? It wasn't Bambi. It was the robber barons of the Gilded Age -- oil, timber, steel, and railroads. They were ruthless. They desecrated the environment and exploited workers. They broke unions. We're just so used to living with the benefits of their money that we've forgotten where it came from and how much we need it. (Kind of like vaccines.) They probably would have manufactured excessively addictive narcotics (and the cures to the addiction) if narcotics weren't already easily available over the counter. Warren B. Kanders, a vice chair of the Whitney, owns Safariland, "a defense manufacturing company that sells tear gas canisters and other products that have been used by U.S. Border Patrol agents against asylum seekers along the U.S.-Mexico border." More than 120 academics, artists, etc., have signed a letter demanding that the Whitney remove him.


Takings of 2013 Heist Recovered

Stunning items from the Castellani jewelry collection stolen from the National Etruscan Museum in Rome were recently recovered. Seems like a kind of failure in intelligence. Large heists, even when they're initially successful, almost never stay that way. In this case, apparently it didn't occur to the thieves that someone might quickly call the police instead of waiting until the next day. Paging John Robie. Of course, I'm glad the items were recovered, but whatever happened to craft? The article gives a brief play-by-play.



They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

The 23rd death of a horse at Santa Anita since Boxing Day 2018. It's a combination of the build of a horse that is bred for speed rather than durability, the pressure from the tracks to run or lose your stalls, the make-up of the track (dirt, turf, synthetic), the whips, the weather, and, needless to say, the drugs, which create the illusion of well being.





All the Little Birdies on Jay-Bird Street

Trump's use of Twitter is not private; it's official. So said the Second Circuit this week. Therefore, he can't "block" people who disagree with him. I assume someone is keeping track of his tweets and will publish them one day. Hopefully, someone else has the decency to be deeply embarrassed. BTW, in Virginia, the Fourth Circuit is also on board, regarding other civil servants and Facebook.



Lawsuit re Censorship of Memoirs of Ex-National Security Officials (and Others)

The government requires pre-approval of all books and articles written by former security employees prior to publication. Agreeing to the review is part of the security clearance process. Apparently this creates an opportunity for censorship of critical writings by lesser staff and green lights for favorable works by senior officials. Surprise. Even personnel with no access to classified information are subject to the review. In addition, the review process is neither expeditious nor consistent, with the result of delays, and of requiring certain writers to redact information already publicly available in the Congressional Record, while permitting others to include it. The precedent is a 1980 case, Snepp v. U.S., in which the Supreme Court dismissed the complaint of a former officer who published without submitting for review. The order was unsigned and the First Amendment issues were not addressed. Oh dear.

The complaint is available here: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/02/us/politics/prepublication-censorship-system.html

One for Science!

Scholarly and scientific journals are not Wikipedia. They are peer-reviewed. This means that you can't just go in and talk trash. You have to know what you're talking about. You have to be up to date in your field. It's a means to maintain scholarly and scientific integrity. It is also very competitive. This particular company, OMICS, published journals that claimed to be peer-reviewed, but weren't, and that were claimed to be listed in the important and reputable databases, and also weren't. Not only that, OMICS charged fees to authors, some of which were not fully disclosed until it was too late. The Federal Trade Commission ordered the company and its founder and related companies to hand over $50.1 million for this "predatory" practice. Not sure who gets that money.


Is It Me or Is It Memorex?

Amazon has been selling its facial recognition software to law enforcement. However, 25 prominent and prestigious researchers have signed a letter asking Amazon to stop, because tests have shown that the software is biased against women and people of color. However, this is not a plea to think twice about surveillance culture, rather, just to improve it before the police get their hands on it.


Consolation Prize

...And a bribe. Jamal Khashoggi's children have been given tens of thousands of dollars and millions in real estate by the Saudi government (a) as a bribe to keep them from criticizing the government and (b) as "blood money" to convince them not to seek the death penalty for the 11 officials being scapegoated for the death of their journalist father. Interesting system. The family is not entirely in agreement about how to behave.


Australia to Police Violent Content

Social media companies will have to remove "'abhorrent violent material'" "'expeditiously,'" or face fines of up to 10% of their annual profits, in addition to potential prison sentences for employees. The definition of what this material is seems to be actual illegal stuff, like killing. Yet there's a problem because of the way content mushrooms online, so removing one instance may not solve the problem, requiring more drastic measures, which could start to pose more of a free speech issue. Bonnie and Clyde seem like nothing much now. What if they had posted everything?


Singapore to Fight False News

The law would require websites to run corrections and would cut off profits of sites that spread "misinformation."


Lessons for Agents Provocateurs

Apparently the Chinese Communist Party "seeds" and "stirs" division among dissidents so that the dissidents spend all their energy fighting among themselves and don't have any strength, or more importantly, trust, to challenge the real enemies of the status quo. Smear campaigns against dissidents, which publish ridiculous types of stories (like the National Enquirer's weird sex acts and kidnapped babies held in pizzerias), can never be traced to anyone in particular, or if they are traced to a person, that person claims, creditably, to have had nothing to do with it. Sound familiar? With the internet, there's no way to escape it.


Video Games Mistaken for Actual Footage

In an episode of "Arrested Development," Henry Winkler looks at a photo, purportedly of caves where the Bluth family is hiding WMD's in Iraq, and Fonzi says: "Balls." He didn't mean it as an expletive. The photo was a close-up of someone's reproductive anatomy. Now life is imitating art, and India pretended to find and kill terrorists in Pakistan, but it turned out to be images from a video game, and other images of victims of a heat wave. Facebook has been coaching Indian PM Modi in how to improve his online image, but apparently in this situation they went too far.


General News

Ahab Finds an Easier Way

Dead whales are washing up all over the place with pounds of plastic in their bellies. This one was in Italy, with 48 pounds of plastic, also with a decomposed fetus inside. The previous one was in the Philippines, with 88 pounds of plastic inside. We need to solve this now.


No Room at the Inn

Following in the footsteps of Sudan and Burundi, the U.S. has revoked the visa of Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) apparently because she is investigating war crimes against civilians in Afghanistan. This was after Pompeo threatened economic sanctions if "'the I.C.C. does not change its course.'" This is totalitarian, isolationist, dictator type of stuff. Very frightening. Allegedly, Bensouda will still be able to have access to the United Nations, she may not be able to if she can't get past customs.


Censorship at Guantanamo Trials

None of the "evidence" gleaned as the result of torture, in regard to 9/11, is admissible at the war court. Now, defense counsel are trying to achieve sentence reductions for Guantanamo prisoners because of the torture they suffered. Originally, any mention of torture by prisoners was censored. Security would push a button, and the testimony would be "muted". It's different now. Now we can hear the details. For example, according to former CIA prisoner Majid Khan, he was "beaten, hung naked from a wooden beam for three days with no food, kept for months in darkness, and submerged, shackled and hooded, into a tub of ice and water."


Show Me Your 1040

On Wednesday, April 4, 2019, the House Ways and Means Committee "formally requested" six years worth of the President's personal and business tax returns from the IRS. They did this pursuant to Section 6103 of the tax code, which allows Congress's tax-writing committees to view tax information on any filer. One of the reasons to use this provision is to understand how provisions of the tax code affect individual tax payers. Trump's personal lawyer, William S. Consovoy, responded forcefully, in four single-spaced pages, arguing, essentially, that there is no "legitimate committee purpose" pursuant to Section 6103 for invading the privacy of a citizen, and that the IRS should wait for an opinion from the Justice Department before it complies. However, there is precedent. It was this tax code provision through which Congress determined that Richard Nixon "significantly underpaid." In addition, since Gerald Ford, all presidents have voluntarily released their tax returns. Except this one.


Justice Department to Investigate Alleged Discrimination

DOJ Pride, a Justice Department group that advocates for the LGBTQ employees of the Department of Justice (DOJ), says that more than half of the group's members feel that the DOJ discriminates against them. For example, the FBI wants its recruits to be "masculine," and trans-gender people find it hard to get work as prison guards. This atmosphere may be the result of the influence of Jeff Sessions, who was not sensitive to these issues, and who administered his office accordingly, including arguing against extending civil rights protections to transgender people.


Justice Department Defends Barr's "scrubbing" of Mueller Report

"However, some of the Mueller investigators said that the attorney general failed to adequately represent their findings." Some people have wondered why, if it exonerates the President, it can't be released just as it is.


Coal Tattoo

The unopposed nomination of David Malpass to the World Bank was affirmed.


Trump Nominates Herman Cain

Four of the seven seats on the Federal Reserve (Fed) are Trump appointees. Two seats are vacant. Cain, along with Moore, is yet another ethically disadvantaged being, both financially and sexually.


I'd Do Anything for You, Dear

Former co-chairman of Willkie Farr & Gallagher, Gordon Caplan, Esq., was charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud after he allegedly paid $75,000 to make sure his daughter got a good score on a college-admissions exam. That's a felony.


Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin are not having any fun either. Apparently there is a court prohibition against the children discussing the situation with each other.


In addition, Harvard's fencing coach sold his house, for a "vastly inflated" price (about $400,000 extra) to the father of a current student, just prior to that student's admission. Then the father sold the house at a loss. Harvard responds that it has a very rigorous admissions policy.


Commission to Investigate Prosecutors

Back home in New York, Governor Cuomo has approved legislation to create an independent commission to investigate local prosecutors for allegations of misconduct. We'll see how that works. Probably no one would care about the ethics of District Attorneys, except that the million dollar settlements are such a drain on the coffers. Prosecutors are resisting.


Too Many Babies

There is more than just pregnancy discrimination at Jones Day. According to a claim, there is general infantile behavior of high school bullies. The men are paid better and promoted even when "'their legal skills are notably deficient.'" The women are harassed and humiliated, subjected to comments about their attire and appearance.


Concentration Camps for Babies

Thousands of separated families and 47,000 children. No one thought about what was actually going to result. The Administration was in such a hurry to implement orders without a single drop of empathy or compassion or intelligence. These children, instead of having childhood fun and being with their families, are in prisons being given drugs and undergoing mental and emotional torture and sexual abuse. Why? It didn't actually deter anyone from attempting to cross the border.


Suit Against Disney

A California law firm filed a case against Disney, stating that female employees are paid less than men for same work. Disney denies the claim.


Sweet Home Alabama

Rape, torture, murder, arson, and the state's depraved indifference, with 15 suicides in 15 months. This is not just prisoner on prisoner. Alabama takes away people's ability to take care of themselves, but it does not take care of them.


Bright Lightfoot, Big City

Chicago is the largest American city ever to elect a black woman as mayor. Lightfoot is also the first openly gay mayor for the city. She replaces Rahm Emanuel.


SUNY Renames Dorms

SUNY New Paltz is changing the names of its dorms from those of the slave-holding French Huguenots to those of native tribes. The native names are actually already used in the area, as in Lake Minnewaska and Lake Mohonk.


NRA Opposes Violence Against Women Act

The NRA opposes reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Its objection is that the legislation closes the "boyfriend loophole" by barring anyone CONVICTED of abusing, assaulting, or stalking a partner, or those subject to a restraining order, from buying or owning guns. The NRA worries that this rule will prevent someone who posts an insult on Facebook from buying a gun. It skips over the word CONVICTED.


There's Hope

Even after a methodical takeover of the political process, by concerted steps like marginalizing adversaries, purging the judiciary, "cowing" the press, and strengthening his constitutional powers, the party of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lost in a recent municipal election. It's not final, the president himself is not out, and there could still be electoral hanky-panky, and outright cheating, but it's a step. Erdogan could not avoid the concession without appearing overtly corrupt. So remember, voting still matters.


The Ingenious Sacklers

Lawsuits have been filed against the Sacklers in Massachusetts and New York regarding what the family members did while running a major pharmaceutical company.


April 11, 2019

Horses, Tractors, Bull Ridin' and Banjos Aren't Country Enough for Billboard

By Joshua Lahijani

When Lil Nas X, an unknown artist at the time, released his single "Old Town Road" on December 3, 2019, he couldn't have known how successful it would become. As of April 10, 2019, it has charted no. 1 on the Billboard Top 100, thanks in part to viral success on TikTok. It was ranked no. 19 on Billboard Hot Country Songs (https://www.billboard.com/charts/country-songs/2019-03-16), that is, until Billboard decided to remove it. Why? Despite the banjos (sampled from Nine Inch Nails' 34 Ghosts IV, https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/8502868/lil-nas-x-signs-columbia-records) and story of an outlaw cowboy, the song was deemed not to be country enough. In a statement to Rolling Stone Magazine:

[U]pon further review, it was determined that 'Old Town Road' by Lil Nas X does not currently merit inclusion on Billboard's country charts. When determining genres, a few factors are examined, but first and foremost is musical composition. While 'Old Town Road' incorporates references to country and cowboy imagery, it does not embrace enough elements of today's country music to chart in its current version. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/lil-nas-x-old-town-road-810844/

Other artists, such as Florida Georgia Line, charted no.1 on Billboard Hot Country songs for weeks with its hit song "Cruise" in 2013 (https://www.billboard.com/charts/country-songs/2013-04-20). To the chagrin of country purists, Cruise is heavily influenced by hip-hop (https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/steve-earle-country-music-nashville-chris-stapleton-kendrick-lamar-oasis-a7791486.html). Perhaps this criticism fueled Florida Georgia Line to pursue its successful remix featuring hip-hop star Nelly (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmZ9xRO7M9M). Yet, as a sign of consistency, as the remix charted fourth on the Billboard's The Hot 100 (https://www.billboard.com/charts/hot-100/2013-07-06), Billboard did not permit crossover to the Hot Country Songs (https://www.billboard.com/charts/country-songs/2013-07-06), that held the original at no. 1 in the same period.

Similar to Cruise's embrace of hip-hop, Old Town Road's criticism further embraced country with a remix featuring country star Billy Ray Cyrus (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUcisIlT7sM). Yet, despite the country credentials (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/05/business/media/lil-nas-x-billy-ray-cyrus-billboard.html), the song remains off the Hot Country Song chart (https://www.billboard.com/charts/country-songs).

According to Billboard, its methodology is developed from "key fan interactions with music, including album sales and downloads, track downloads, radio airplay and touring as well as streaming and social interactions." (https://www.billboard.com/p/faq) Billboard charts are copyrighted works used to generate income from licensing (http://billboardlicensing.licensestream.com/LicenseStream/home/licensestream.aspx) and must meet the "thin copyright" standards set forth in Feist (https://www.law.cornell.edu/copyright/cases/499_US_340.htm). That is, in addition to independent creation, it must have a modicum of creativity as to selection and arrangement. This may show Billboard's underlying motives behind its selection. While other popular country charts, such as iTunes, have included Old Town Road, Billboard's exclusion of those "not country enough" could strengthen its underlying copyright moving forward, and thereby could be considered the country chart less influenced by hip-hop, rap, and other genres. Others, like Rolling Stone, have claimed less righteous motives for its inclusion, including racial discrimination (https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/lil-nas-x-old-town-road-810844/).

Today, Lil Nas X is signed to Columbia Records.

April 17, 2019

Week In Review

By Leslie Berman
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

The following stories are divided into the categories Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media, and General News:


Hollywood Upended as Unions Tell Writers to Fire Agents

The Writer's Guild of America told its 13,000 members to fire their agents after talks between the Hollywood writers and their agents, through the Association of Talent Agents, the group representing the major talent agencies, broke down hours before a midnight deadline. The Writer's Guild accused the agents of enriching themselves at their clients' expense and demanded a new code of conduct.


Chicago Sues Jussie Smollett, Seeking Costs of Police Investigation Into Attack Claim

The city of Chicago has sued the actor Jussie Smollett, seeking more than $130,000 to cover the cost of a police investigation into his claim that he had been the victim of a hate crime attack. The lawsuit accused Smollett of orchestrating a fake assault and repeatedly lying to the Chicago Police Department as they investigated the case. City lawyers repeated many of the claims that had been made by prosecutors before criminal charges against the actor were abruptly dropped last month. The actor has insisted that he told the truth when he reported being attacked. Smollett's lawyer, Mark J. Geragos, previously had rejected the city's request to pay for the cost of the investigation and brushed aside the threat of a lawsuit.


Allison Mack of "Smallville" Pleads Guilty in Case of Nxivm 'Sex Cult' Where Women Were Branded

Actress Allison Mack, a star of the TV series "Smallville", pleading guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy charges, told a judge that she first joined the cultlike group known as Nxivm to "find purpose". As she was unsatisfied with her acting career, despite her role on the successful television series, she joined the Albany-based cult led by Keith Raniere because it offered self-help workshops and classes that promised participants greater self-fulfillment. Mack became so involved in Nxivm that she began recruiting other women into a secret sect in which women were branded with Raniere's initials and forced to have sex with him. When Mack was arrested last year, she was also charged with sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and forced labor.


Felicity Huffman and 13 Others to Plead Guilty in College Admissions Scandal

Felicity Huffman announced that she will plead guilty to a federal crime in the investigation of college admissions fraud revealed last month in Boston. Huffman said that she wanted to apologize to her family, friends, and colleagues, and especially "to the students who work hard every day to get into college, and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices to support their children and do so honestly." Prosecutors said 13 parents and one coach would plead guilty in the case.


Lori Loughlin and 15 Others Face New Charges in College Admissions Scandal

Federal prosecutors brought new money laundering charges against 16 parents enmeshed in the college admissions scandal. The Hollywood actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, the designer Mossimo Giannulli, were among those indicted on a count of conspiracy to commit fraud and another of money laundering conspiracy, raising the legal stakes for parents who have not said whether they would plead guilty in the case.


In Venezuela, Comedy Is Protest. Until the Government Finds Out

American comics often complain about the chilling effect of political correctness and social media mobs. In Venezuela, where Nacho Redondo developed a following for his brash, dark humor, the price for a joke that offends can be much higher than online outrage or a boycott. After politicians harshly criticized him on state-run television, Redondo received death threats online, and the government sued him. He fled the country to Mexico City, and hasn't returned. He said that he didn't want to leave his aging mother and other family members, but felt he had no choice. In Venezuela, he said: "You get jailed [] because of tweets."


Russia Frees Director After Nearly 20 Months of House Arrest

Renowned Russian film and stage director Kirill Serebrennikov was released by a court in Moscow after nearly 20 months of house arrest, where he has been imprisoned after Russian investigators accused him of conspiring with three of his colleagues to embezzle around $2 million of government funds allocated to a theater festival. Serebrennikov and his three co-defendants have pleaded not guilty. Speaking outside the court, which released him on bail, Serebrennikov said, "This is not over yet." If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison.



These High School Murals Depict an Ugly History. Should They Go?

In the debate over 13 depression-era frescoes that make up "The Life of Washington" at George Washington High School in Los Angeles, art historians and school alumni see an immersive history lesson; others, which include many African-Americans and Native Americans, see a hostile environment. For example, in one mural, George Washington points westward over the dead body of a Native American. Another depicts Washington's slaves, hunched over, working in the fields of Mount Vernon. The murals extend from the school's entryway through its lobby. This Spring, the School Board will decide the frescoes' future.


Abuse Allegations Rock Vienna Ballet School

The Vienna State Opera's ballet academy acknowledged that students had been subjected to a variety of types of abuse, and that the school's practices had to change. Former students and staff said that dancers as young as 11 were kicked "like a football", scratched, and handled roughly in classes. Others said that they were regularly pressured to lose weight. Another said that he had been sexually abused. Students said that Bella Ratchinskaia, a teacher who had previously worked at La Scala in Milan, went beyond the limits of normal practice during ballet classes, roughly forcing their limbs into position or scratching them as she adjusted their bodies, sometimes drawing blood. Ratchinskaia was dismissed in February. Another teacher was accused of sexual assault and is suspended pending an investigation by Austrian prosecutors.


Hungarian Opera Asks White Cast of 'Porgy and Bess' to Say They Are African-American

Hungarian State Opera's cast of singers reviving a production of George Gershwin's opera "Porgy and Bess" received letters from the Opera's general director, Szilveszter Okovacs, asking them to sign a declaration stating that "African-American origins and spirit form an inseparable part" of their identity. At least half the all-white group signed, according to the website Index, which administrators claim to have seen a copy of the letter. The opera's creator, George Gershwin, famously turned down companies planning to perform the opera in blackface, and his estate stipulates that the work should be performed by an all-black cast. Okovacs defended the Opera company's decision to perform with white singers against the Gershwin estate's wishes.


Geoffrey Rush Wins Defamation Case Against Australian Newspaper Publisher

The Australian actor Geoffrey Rush won his defamation case against the parent company of The Daily Telegraph, the Sydney tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch's Nationwide News. In 2017, the newspaper had published articles accusing Rush of sexual harassment. Justice Michael Wigney of the Federal Court of Australia said that The Daily Telegraph had not proved that the articles were substantially true, as required by Australian defamation law, and awarded $850,000 Australian dollars in initial damages to Rush, with damages for the actor's economic losses to be determined later.



Michigan State Discouraged Reporting of Rape Allegation Against Athletes, Woman Says

After months of erratic behavior, Bailey Kowalski told her parents that she had been raped by three Michigan State basketball players six months earlier. The incident left her depressed and considering harming herself. She dropped out of college for a while and received counseling. She gave up sports journalism for good. Last year, Kowalski, who is speaking publicly about her case for the first time, sued Michigan State in federal court for violating her rights under Title IX, the federal law mandating gender equity in higher education. The lawsuit asserts that Michigan State mishandles sexual misconduct complaints against athletes. One woman claimed that two football players raped her in 2009, but she was not advised of her Title IX rights, and another woman said that three basketball players raped her in 2010, after which the accusations were not reported outside the athletic department.


Kyle Korver, a White Utah Jazz Player, Speaks Out on Race and White Privilege

Veteran National Basketball Association (NBA) player Kyle Korver is embarrassed by some of his past thoughts about race and uncomfortable about the contradictions of being a white player in a largely black sport. In an essay titled "Privileged", published in The Players' Tribune, Korver strongly urged action to address racism around the NBA and in the United States.


Olympic Cyclist Kelly Catlin Seemed Destined for Glory. Then She Killed Herself

Before Olympic cyclist Kelly Catlin killed herself, she told her brother that she thought she was going insane, and worried that she was a danger to others because she was filled with rage. She had previously experienced a serious concussion. Catlin confided in her family, a coach, and a friend that she could not focus on her schoolwork at Stanford, where she was a first-year graduate student in computational mathematics. She felt that her mind was "slipping", and described her thoughts as "never-ending spinning, spinning, spinning" as if they were "never at rest, never at peace." However, Catlin did not go for help, as she told her sister, Christine, because seeking therapy meant that she was weak and that she would rather suffer.


Abnormal Levels of a Protein Linked to C.T.E. Found in National Football League Players' Brains, Study Shows

Experimental PET brain scans of more than two dozen former National Football League (NFL) players found that the men had abnormal levels of the protein linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (C.T.E.), the degenerative brain disease associated with repeated hits to the head. The results of the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, although preliminary, are a first step toward developing a clinical test to determine the presence of C.T.E. in living players, as well as early signs and potential risk.


Trump Ends Deal Between Major League Baseball and Cuban Baseball Federation

President Trump reversed an agreement negotiated by the Obama administration between Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Cuban Baseball Federation that had eased the path for players to compete in the United States without defecting from their country. A letter to MLB's outside counsel, Nikole Thomas, the acting assistant director for licensing at the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), outlined the U.S. government's opposition to the agreement, which stipulated that the Cuban Baseball Federation would receive 25% of a player's signing bonus for a minor league player and between 15% and 25% for a major league player. The letter said that the OFAC had "determined that MLB's payments to the Cuban Baseball Federation are not authorized" because "a payment to the Cuban Baseball Federation is a payment to the Cuban government."



Julian Assange Arrested in London as U.S. Unseals Hacking Conspiracy Indictment

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested in London to face a charge in the United States of conspiring to hack into a Pentagon computer network in 2010, bringing to an abrupt end a seven-year saga in which he had holed up in Ecuador's embassy in Britain to avoid capture.
The Ecuadorean government suspended the citizenship it had granted Assange and evicted him, clearing the way for his arrest. Assange's Ecuadorian hosts listed grievances against Assange, including recent WikiLeaks releases they said interfered with other states' internal affairs and personal discourtesies, and Assange's failure to clean the bathroom and look after his cat.


Devin Nunes Sues McClatchy Newspaper Chain, Alleging 'Character Assassination'

Representative Devin Nunes, a Republican from California, said he was suing the McClatchy Company, a newspaper chain, over what he called
"character assassination". The defamation lawsuit seeks $150 million and the deletion of an article in The Fresno Bee, a McClatchy newspaper, about Alpha Omega Winery, a company that Nunes partly owns. The article, published last May, described a lawsuit by a server who was aboard a San Francisco Bay cruise in 2015 that was attended by some of the winery's top investors and that she said had included drugs and prostitution. The lawsuit filed by Nunes, a loyal ally of President Trump and a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, says that he was not involved in the incident on the yacht and that he considers the article part of a politically motivated scheme to "destroy his reputation" and derail the committee's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Nunes also filed a lawsuit against Twitter for defamation a month earlier.


Trump Announces 5G Plan as White House Weighs Banning Huawei

President Trump announced a new wireless spectrum auction intended to speed the rollout of the next generation of wireless networks, which is technology the administration views as critical to winning an economic war with China. However, the president has been silent on whether the United States would issue an order banning Chinese firms like Huawei from building those networks. Rolling out such networks in cities and rural areas requires essentially rebuilding the nation's cell networks and switching systems. Over time, the evolution to the new architecture promises to transform how billions of "internet of things" devices -- such as autonomous cars and industrial sensors -- operate, allowing faster, seamless connectivity.


British Tabloid's 'Page 3 Girl' Is Topless No Longer

British tabloid newspaper, The Daily Star, is the final holdout in the Page 3 Girl market. Now its editor has decided to try a nipple-free Page 3, although women still figure prominently in that location. The trial cover-up began this month. The newspaper's editor, Jonathan Clark, said that "The Daily Star is always looking to try new things and improve." Topless women have appeared on Page 3 of British tabloids since the 1970s, and are especially associated with Rupert Murdoch's tabloid newspaper The Sun.


General News

Darkness Visible, Finally: Astronomers Capture First Ever Image of a Black Hole

Astronomers announced that at last they had captured an image of the unobservable: a black hole, a cosmic abyss so deep and dense that not even light can escape it. For years, and for all the mounting scientific evidence, black holes have remained marooned in the imaginations of artists and the algorithms of splashy computer models of the kind used in Christopher Nolan's outer-space epic "Interstellar". Now they are more real than ever. "We have seen what we thought was unseeable," said Shep Doeleman, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and director of the effort to capture the image, during a Wednesday news conference in Washington, D.C.


Senate Confirms Bernhardt as Interior Secretary Amid Calls for Investigations Into His Conduct

The Senate voted to confirm David Bernhardt, a former lobbyist for the oil and agribusiness industries, as secretary of the interior. The confirmation of Bernhardt to his new post coincided with calls from more than a dozen Democrats and government watchdogs for formal investigations into his past conduct.


White House Moves to Gain More Control Over Federal Regulations

The White House moved to exert greater control over the federal regulatory process by imposing additional scrutiny over independent government agencies when they establish new policies, guidelines or rules that affect large swaths of the economy. Additional oversight would apply to agencies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, and the Federal Reserve (Fed). The White House review would not apply to the Fed's authority to set monetary policy but would affect its regulatory arm, including rules on the banking system. Heightened scrutiny of federal rule making has been a longtime cause of Republicans, who view it as a way to limit government. The Trump administration has also been wary in some cases of independent agencies, which are often managed by both Republicans and Democrats.


The U.S. Immigration System May Have Reached a Breaking Point

These days, the lone border crosser wading the river between Mexico and the United States has been joined by thousands of people a day who simply walk up to the border and surrender. Most of them are from Central America, seeking to escape from gang violence, sexual abuse, death threats, and persistent poverty. The smugglers have told them they will be quickly released, as long as they bring a child, and that they will be allowed to remain in the United States for years while they pursue their asylum cases. The immigration system has been overwhelmed since 2014, when families first began showing up in large numbers. Since then, the system has been unable to detain, care for, and quickly decide the fate of tens of thousands of people who claim to be fleeing for their lives.


U.S. Wants to Allow More Foreign Workers While Also Restricting Immigration

The federal government wants to issue more visas for foreign workers to take temporary jobs in housekeeping, landscaping, and other fields, even as President Trump seeks to seal off the border with Mexico, from where most of those workers come. The Departments of Homeland Security and Labor say that they plan to issue up to 30,000 additional H-2B visas through September 30th, the end of the federal fiscal year. Congress has generally capped the number of visas at 66,000, divided evenly between summer and winter seasons. Only workers who had previously secured the visas would be eligible for the proposed additional ones. The visas provide legal status for immigrants in temporary nonfarm jobs with landscaping companies, restaurants, hotels, and amusement parks, among other industries.


Trump Says the U.S. Is 'Full.' Much of the Nation Has the Opposite Problem

President Trump's statement that the U.S. is "full" suggests that the nation can't accommodate higher immigration levels because it is already bursting at the seams. Yet that runs counter to the consensus among demographers and economists. They see ample evidence of a country that is not remotely "full" and where an aging population and declining birthrates among the native-born population are creating underpopulated cities and towns, vacant housing, and troubled public finances.


Hague Court Abandons Afghanistan War Crimes Inquiry

The International Criminal Court abandoned a possible Afghanistan war-crimes investigation, because the United States and others in the conflict would not cooperate. The decision came weeks after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that Washington would deny visas to the court's staff and judges involved in prosecuting or ruling on war crimes involving Americans. The court's chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, had long sought permission to open a formal inquiry into civilian killings, torture and other abuses in the Afghanistan war, including possible crimes by American forces. The U.S. visa of the chief prosecutor has been revoked.


At Trump's Florida Resort Empire, a Quiet Effort to Eliminate an Undocumented Work Force

Many of President Trump's resort workers have one thing in common; they are foreign born. Most are young people hired as guest workers on special visas, living over the winter high season in a gated community with a sand volleyball pit and a movie theater. In the mornings, they dress in trim uniforms and are chauffeured by van over a bridge to the luxury compound six miles away in Palm Beach. Alongside the foreign guest workers and the sizable American staff is another category of employees, mostly those who work on the pair of lush golf courses near Mar-a-Lago. Not offered apartments, they have been picked up by Trump contractors from groups of undocumented laborers at the side of the road; hired through staffing companies that assume responsibility for checking their immigration status; or brought onto the payroll with little apparent scrutiny of their Social Security cards and green cards, some of which are fake. That second pool of immigrant labor is an embarrassing reality for a president who has railed against undocumented immigrants, one his company is scrambling to erase.


Trump Purge Set to Force Out More Top Homeland Security Officials

A wave of departures of top officials originally appointed by President Trump underscores his growing frustration with his administration's handling of immigration and other security issues. The White House announced the departure of Randolph D. Alles, director of the Secret Service, who had fallen out of favor with the president even before a security breach at his Mar-a-Lago club that the agency effectively blamed on Trump's employees. President Trump moved to clear out the senior ranks of the Department of Homeland Security after forcing the resignation of its secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, as he accelerated a purge of the nation's immigration and security leadership. Government officials said at least two to four more high-ranking figures affiliated with Nielsen were expected to leave soon, too, hollowing out the top echelon of the department managing border security, presidential safety, counter-terrorism, natural disasters, customs, and other matters.


Justice Dept. Declines to Defend Law Against Female Circumcision, Citing Flaws

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has stopped defending a federal prohibition on female genital mutilation because of flaws in the law, two weeks after it also began fighting the Affordable Care Act in court rather than defend it. The DOJ "reluctantly determined" that it could not appeal a federal judge's decision to throw out a female circumcision case because the solicitor general, Noel J. Francisco, wrote in a letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, that the statute outlawing the practice needed to be rewritten. Both decisions to cease advocating for laws on the books is highly unusual - a principal function of the DOJ, and only about once a decade since World War II has it declined to support a law enacted by Congress, according to Walter E. Dellinger III, who served as the solicitor general during the Clinton administration.


Rule Keeping Asylum Seekers in Mexico Can Temporarily Proceed, Court Says

A three-judge panel Of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said that the Trump administration could temporarily continue to force migrants seeking asylum in the United States to wait in Mexico while their cases are decided, by issuing a stay of Judge Richard Seeborg's injunction against President Trump's "migration protection protocols", which were announced last December. Judge Seeborg's ruling states that the president does not have the power to enforce the protocols, which violate immigration laws.


To Get Trump's Tax Returns, N.Y. Democrats Try a New Strategy

Democratic lawmakers in Albany are trying obtain President Trump's state tax returns, not the federal returns now being sought by congressional efforts. As President Trump's home state is New York, his state returns should contain much of the same information as a federal tax return. The lawmakers are introducing a bill that would allow the commissioner of the New York Department of Taxation and Finance to release any state tax return requested by leaders of three Congressional committees for any "specific and legitimate legislative purpose".


How Sandy Hook Families Hope to Pierce the Gun Industry's Legal Shield

Families of the victims of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School hope to replicate the results that the tobacco lawsuits achieved: They want to use litigation as a means to pry open the confidential records of the gun industry, employing the discovery process to unearth internal communications and examine the practices behind marketing and selling powerful firearms like the one used in the attack.


A 'Glitch' Left Young People Off the Jury Rolls. Does That Violate the Constitution?

In East Baton Rouge Parish, home to one of the South's largest public Universities, Louisiana State, young Louisianans are rarely if ever summoned for jury duty, due to a computer glitch that prevented the parish's jury data base from updating properly. Since 2011, more than 150,000 people - including thousands born after June 2, 1993 - may have been inadvertently left off the jury rolls, potentially starving young defendants of jurors who were roughly their age. Computer-reliant jury coordinators across the country have for years confronted database problems that kept otherwise-eligible potential jurors from being called to the nation's courthouses. Although they are typically unintentional, such systematic exclusions raise constitutional concerns and threaten the integrity of the jury system.


Ohio's Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban Is Latest Front in Fight Over Roe v. Wade

Ohio Governor Mike De Wine has signed into law a ban on abortion at the first signs of a fetal heartbeat - as early as six weeks from conception, and before many women realize they are pregnant - in the latest attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalizes abortion before a fetus is viable outside the womb, usually about 24 weeks into a pregnancy. The measure is to take effect in July, but may be held up by opponents of the law. The American Civil Liberties Union has already said that it plans to sue.


Judge Who Asked Woman in Sexual Assault Case if She Closed Her Legs Faces Suspension

A New Jersey state committee has recommended that a state court judge who asked a woman if she had closed her legs to try to prevent an alleged sexual assault should be suspended without pay for three months. The recommendation was based on the committee's finding that John F. Russo Jr., a superior court judge in Ocean County, violated the code of judicial conduct on four occasions, including during the exchange with the woman, who was not identified. New Jersey Supreme Court has ordered that a hearing be held in July about the recommendation from the state's Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct.


Texas Tech Medical School, Under Pressure From Education Department, Will Stop Using Race in Admissions

Texas Tech University Health Science Center signed an agreement to stop considering race or ethnicity in deciding whether to admit applicants to medical school, as part of an agreement with the Education Department's civil rights office. The president of Texas Tech signed the agreement in February, 14 years after the Education Department began investigating a complaint filed by an anti-affirmative action group. The agreement is the first of its kind for the Education Department under Secretary Betsy DeVos, and comes as the Trump administration continues its hard turn against the use of race in admissions. Roger Clegg, general counsel for the Center for Equal Opportunity, which filed the original complaint, said that the agreement could pave the way for similar actions at other schools.


Is the U.S. a Democracy? A Social Studies Battle Turns on the Nation's Values

For decades, the values of equality, liberty, and diversity have been the heart of Michigan's learning standards in social studies, a doorstop of a document that guides what teachers of history, civics, economics, and geography cover in their lesson plans. Now a proposed revision of state standards drops the word "democratic" from "core democratic values" and reduces the use of the word "democracy" in describing the United States.


Changes to Flight Software on 737 Max Escaped Federal Aviation Administration Scrutiny

Boeing decided to make two significant changes to an automated system now suspected of playing a role in two deadly crashes of the plane. Despite the added risks, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) did not conduct another safety review of the anti-stall system, since the changes didn't affect what it considered a critical phase of flight, namely high-speed maneuvers. The omission involving Boeing's 737 Max exposes a glaring regulatory gap, with the FAA's bureaucratic process proving insufficient for the increasing complexity of airplane design.


Michael Avenatti Faces New Criminal Charges in Escalated Federal Case

The criminal case against Michael Avenatti, the lawyer known for representing Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against President Trump, has escalated as federal prosecutors in California announced that Avenatti had been indicted on three dozen counts, including tax fraud and bankruptcy fraud, in addition to last month's charges of wire fraud, bank fraud, and extortion. He is accused of stealing millions of dollars from five clients and of lying repeatedly about his business and income to clients and an I.R.S. collection agent, creditors, a bankruptcy court, and a bankruptcy trustee. If convicted of all the crimes of which he has been accused in California alone, prosecutors said, he would face a maximum of 333 years in prison, and an additional two-year mandatory sentence on an identity theft charge.


Alaska Relies on Ice. What Happens When It Can't Be Trusted?

Alaskans who depend on hard-frozen winters for essential transportation, subsistence hunting, industry, and recreation call the Spring season "break-up", signifying the annual end of safe travel on ice. However in this era of climate change, break-up has been coming too soon. The ice has become unpredictable, creating new, sometimes deadly hazards and a host of practical problems that disrupt the rhythms of everyday life. The ice roads that carry freight in winter and spring have been going soft prematurely. Hunters cannot ride safely to their spring camps. Sled-dog races have been canceled. People traveling on frozen rivers by A.T.V. or snowmobile are falling through; some have died. Rescuers trying to reach them have been stymied by thin ice.


New Zealand Passes Law Banning Most Semiautomatic Weapons, Weeks After Massacre

Less than a month after 50 Muslim worshipers in the city of Christchurch were fatally shot in terrorist attacks on two mosques, New Zealand passed a law banning most semiautomatic weapons. The measure was supported by all but one of the New Zealand Parliament's 120 lawmakers. Passage of the bill means temporary restrictions imposed by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern six days after the massacre will now be permanent. The swift action by lawmakers stands in stark contrast to similar efforts in the United States, where nationwide gun control proposals have stalled despite a series of mass shootings in recent years.


The Fall of Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the 'Spider' at the Heart of Sudan's Web

Last week, the military of Sudan ousted the country's iron-fisted ruler, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, ending his 30-year tenure. al-Bashir has been seen as a heartless warmonger, a coddler of terrorists like Osama bin Laden and as the accused architect of a genocidal purge in Darfur that killed hundreds of thousands of people. Since 2009, the International Criminal Court has sought to arrest him on war crimes charges that include murder, rape, and extermination. Sudanese military spokesmen announced that al-Bashir was in custody, and that they had dissolved the government and suspended the Constitution. Representatives of the principal protest group, the Sudanese Professionals Association, which had been expecting a statement from the military and were preparing to negotiate a transition to civilian rule, greeted the announcement with disappointment.


First Amendment Protects Sports Commentators

By Barry Skidelsky, EASL Section Chair

In the wake of this year's exciting NCAA March Madness, a federal court in Kentucky last month dismissed a NCAA basketball referee's lawsuit against a sports radio network and its on-air talent. The complaint alleged multiple causes of action: Intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy, tortious interference with a business relationship, negligence, harassment, engaging in harassing communications, and civil conspiracy.

The broadcast, internet, and social media content that gave rise to these claims, involved intense criticism about the plaintiff's performance in refereeing a 2017 college basketball game between the University of Kentucky and the University of North Carolina (UNC). UNC won. So did the defendants, who won a dismissal with prejudice on First Amendment grounds relating to freedom of speech and matters of public concern.

The judge expressly indicated that he gave no consideration to whether the plaintiff has a claim for defamation against the defendants, as that cause of action was not pleaded in the complaint. The judge also made clear that his opinion did not hold that all speech on matters of public concern is protected from tort liability, as each case is unique and requires a review of the content, form, and context of the speech in the circumstances at issue.

For more info, including details of a nearly unbelievable chain of consequences that (believe me) you cannot possibly imagine, read the opinion in Higgins v. Kentucky Sports Radio here: Higgins v. KSR.pdf

Barry Skidelsky, a former radio broadcaster, is an attorney and consultant in private practice with particular interests and expertise in entertainment, media, telecommunications and technology, who works with clients and other attorneys on a diverse range of matters. Barry can be contacted at 212-832-4800 or bskidelsky@mindspring.com.

Writers Guild of America Agrees to Pay Lawyers Representing Writers Who Fired Their Agents

By Marc Jacobson

In a very unusual move, in support of its writer members, during this period when the Writers Guild of America (WGA) has asked its members to fire their agents, the WGA last night agreed to pay to managers and lawyers of writers, the fees that are due to such managers and lawyers for negotiating the agreements for the writers. http://bit.ly/2Di32u7

As part of their negotiating strategy with the Association of Talent Agents (ATA) over the issue of agencies accepting packaging fees from production companies and production of content by the agencies, the WGA asked its writer members to fire their agents. The agents are accused of not operating as fiduciaries for their writers who are WGA members, because the agencies receive packaging fees from the production companies or the agencies, through affiliated companies or directly, and invest in the productions for which their writer clients provide scripts or teleplays. The WGA determined that this is an unacceptable conflict of interest. While the WGA Basic Agreement, and other collective bargaining agreements remain in effect, the WGA wants the agencies to maintain a strict fiduciary relationship to the writers. (Query: why would the WGA support the payment of fees to a manager or lawyer, when the client actually seeks to reject the obligation to pay the representatives? Further query: What about management companies that finance production of shows written by their clients?)

The need to make sure the writers pay their representatives arises because of the operation of the Talent Agencies Act (TAA) in California, and the myriad decisions under it which enforce the provision that anyone who procures or assists in the procurement of employment in California for writers and others, must be licensed as a agent under the TAA. While the members of the ATA are so licensed, if those agents are discharged, the negotiation of these agreements will fall to managers and lawyers, or other agencies which do not accept packaging fees, or do not invest in productions in which their clients are participants. Until that occurs, however, managers and lawyers who negotiate for writers are at risk for not keeping their compensation.

There are many cases issued by the Labor Commissioner finding that managers were acting as an agent without a license. Most recently, in a 2013 case brought by an on-air sportscaster against his lawyer for assisting in the procurement of employment, by following his client's instructions in negotiating the renewal employment agreement, the Labor Commissioner found that the lawyer was acting as an agent without a license and would therefore be obligated to disgorge any fees paid and not receive compensation. Solis v. Blancarte, http://bit.ly/2KPFS4m.

The New York statute governing licensing of talent agencies is very similar. NY General Business Law §171.8-a defines who must be represented by a Theatrical Employment Agency, which includes writers. NY Arts & Cultural Affairs law §37.01.3 exempts managers from the licensing requirement in certain instances. The General Business Law requires that in New York City, enforcement of that statute falls to the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA). At a panel presentation for the Association of the Bar of the City of New York (City Bar) in 2014, at which I was present, I posed the Solis v Blancarte fact pattern to the representative there from the DCA, and asked whether an investigation would ensue, if those facts were reported to her. She confirmed that an investigation would be launched, but of course could not opine whether the result would be the same.

As a result, the Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law (EASL) Section of the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) prepared draft legislation and a supporting memorandum (NYSBA - EASL Atty Exemption memo -SHR Revision - 111915[1][1][1].pdf), which would amend the relevant New York Statutes to exempt attorneys from the requirement to register as a talent agent. The proposed legislation was unanimously approved by the Executive Committee of the NYSBA, and plans are to see that the legislation is introduced this session. The legislation was endorsed by the Entertainment Law Committee of the City Bar, and tracked similar legislation proposed by the Beverly Hills Bar Association to the California Legislature.

We will keep you updated on this issue.

April 19, 2019

Association of Talent Agencies Threatens Writers Guild of America With an Action Based on the WGA's Undertaking to Pay Lawyers and Managers Who Negotiate Agreements

By Marc Jacobson

We recently posted a blog regarding the Writers Guild of America's (WGA) undertaking to pay managers or agents who negotiate agreements on behalf of writers, during the period in which writers have discharged their agents, as suggested by the WGA, as a result of the conflict of interests that agencies seem to have. See, http://bit.ly/2UFIAOi posted April 17, 2019.

Now, trade publications are noting that the Association of Talent Agencies (ATA), in a letter to its members, is suggesting that the WGA is offering to "pay third parties to violate a law that has protected writers for 80 years..." (Emphasis in original) http://bit.ly/2IucyhS

As mentioned in the original post, it seems that the issue about whether a lawyer is entitled to earn a fee only arises when the writer objects to the payment. If the writer doesn't object, and pays the lawyer, neither the lawyer nor the writer faces any exposure. Only the Labor Commissioner in California can address this issue, and that will only arise when the writer is disgruntled. Similarly, the Department of Consumer Affairs in New York City will have the same kind of authority. Again, why would the WGA agree to pay the manager or lawyer, on behalf of its member who is disgruntled with the representation?

This letter writing campaign has not yet resulted in litigation, possibly for that reason. The WGA did file suit against the ATA and its members, with regard to this conflict of interest, and that case is pending. Yet this issue, although of great interest to lawyers who represent writers, has not yet resulted in litigation.

I think, and it seems that many of our colleagues agree, that the better result is an amendment of the statute in both New York and California. However, as set out in the ATA letter, the ATA is taking the position, as presented by Marvin Putnam of Latham & Watkins, that "there are multiple decisions from the California Labor Commissioner holding that no one other than a licensed talent agent -not a manager, not an attorney--can procure employment on behalf of an artist."

For me, this highlights the need for legislation.

April 22, 2019

Week In Review

By Eric Lanter
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

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


Hollywood Writers File Suit, Escalating Their Fight With Talent Agents

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) has sued the four major talent agencies in Hollywood after negotiations between the WGA and the agencies fell apart last week. The WGA accuses the agencies of putting their interests ahead of the writers' and states that the agencies are violating their fiduciary obligations in doing so. One target of the lawsuit is so-called "packaging fees", which is a sum of money that studios pay to the agencies when they package their clients, such as a writer, director, and actor, into one package for a deal. The WGA has argued that despite the rise of streaming and more series being written and produced than ever before, the writers' pay has decreased in recent years.


National Rifle Association Sues Contractor Behind NRATV

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has sued one of its largest contractors, Ackerman McQueens, an Oklahoma ad firm that operates NRATV, alleging that the agency has hidden details about how it spends the approximately $40 million it receives from the NRA every year. It is unclear whether NRATV will remain active as an organization given the fact it is "the group's incendiary online media arm", and it was previously reported that two NRA board members expressed concern about NRATV straying far beyond the issue of gun rights into areas including "race wars" and "calling for a march on the" FBI.


R. Kelly's Protegee May Testify Against Him

The musician Sparkle was once a protegee of the singer R. Kelly but also had testified against him in 2008 when he was arrested for child pornography charges. In that case, she testified that the man in an obscene video was Kelly and that a girl with whom he was interacting was Sparkle's 14-year-old niece. Now, with Kelly's arrest in February on charges involving four additional alleged victims, Sparkle may be called to testify against Kelly regarding a new piece of tape that may involve Sparkle's niece and Kelly.


Kim Foxx Worried That Her Office Was Too Hard on Jussie Smollett, Messages Show

Chicago's top prosecutor, Kim Foxx, the day after a grand jury indicted actor Jussie Smollett on 16 felony counts for his faking of a hate crime, wrote in a text message to a colleague that she was recused from the matter but concerned about the 16 felony counts being evidence of overcharging cases. The text messages have been released this week to show that despite her recusal, Foxx may have been closely engaged with the working of the case. While Smollett has maintained his innocence, the case has led to widespread debate about what the consequences of his actions should be.


Insurer Settles Suit with Another Cosby Accuser

American International Group (AIG) has settled a sexual-battery lawsuit brought by Chloe Goins against Bill Cosby, which was rooted in his alleged assault of her in 2008. Through his publicist, the incarcerated entertainer released a statement that the settlement was "unauthorized" and that "AIG continues to act egregiously by settling these heinous claims without my knowledge and/or consent." AIG also settled claims of defamation that seven women brought against Cosby in a Massachusetts federal court after he accused them of falsely accusing him of sexual assault.


As Hollywood Embraces Diversity, Jobs for Female Directors Remain Sparse

With female filmmakers and their supporters having called for more opportunities in Hollywood, "studios as a whole continue to rely overwhelmingly on men to lead productions." While studios provide a number of reasons for the disconnect and vow to do more, one smaller studios, STXfilms Motion Picture Group, reported that it would have a third of its films released by the end of the year with female directors.


Radiohead Calls for Safety Measures as Inquest Into Stage Death Concludes

On Thursday, a Toronto jury concluded that the death of a technician on Radiohead's tour in 2012 was accidental. The jury proposed 28 recommendations to prevent similar incidents, and the band released a statement expressing disappointment with the conclusion as "the stage collapse was shown to be preventable" but called for adoption of the jury's recommendations to ensure that similar accidents do not happen.


India Halts Downloads of TikTok Video App

The Chinese video app TikTok, which has become viral through one of its "lip-synced dance clips", has been removed from the Google and Apple app stores in India. The country's Supreme Court declined to reverse a lower court's order halting downloads of the app on the basis that it "spreads pornography and threatens the well-being of children." The app, which has over 500 million users worldwide has become popular as it is "easy to record, share, and watch short videos", but has faced scrutiny as it allows users to post objectionable content.



Fire Mauls Beloved Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris

In Paris on Monday, a fire broke out in the Notre-Dame cathedral, further disheartening "a city already back on its heels after weeks of violent protests." While by 11 p.m. Paris time hundreds of firefighters had been able to declare that the structure was "saved and preserved as a whole," the spire and two-thirds of the roof had already been destroyed. By the following day, French billionaires had committed hundreds of millions of euros to rebuilding the cathedral, which dates from the 12th and 13th centuries and brings in around 13 million visitors each year. By the end of the week, the funds raised was likely to breach the one billion euro mark. During the chaos, a chaplain and firefighters, who had prepared for this very event, rescued a significant number of statues and pieces of art out of the burning cathedral.




A Vulgar Term Goes Unmentioned During Its Day in Court

The Supreme Court heard arguments in a case involving a line of clothing being denied federal trademark protection that brought the government to call the name of the clothing line "a word equivalent of the past participle form of the paradigmatic profane word in our culture." The owner of the clothing line, Erik Brunetti, has said that FUCT stands for "Friends U Can't Trust," but the Justices did not appear persuaded that it had such an innocent explanation. Regardless, it is unclear whether the Court will uphold the Patent and Trademark Office's denial on the basis that it is "immoral, deceptive, or scandalous."


Peter Max's Studio is Sued by a Longtime Seller of His Art

Park West Gallery, a Michigan gallery that has had a longstanding relationship with pop artist Peter Max, has sued Max alleging breach of contract and misconduct in the sale of "several thousand works of art by Max for several million dollars." At the heart of the action, according to Max's attorney, is a set of artwork that he had "specifically reserved for himself and his children", which Park West Gallery has alleged was part of a contract to buy his works.


City Ballet Ordered to Reinstate Male Dancers Fired Over Inappropriate Texts

An arbitrator has ruled that the New York City Ballet overstepped "when it fired two principal male dancers accused of sharing sexually explicit photos of female dancers." Many dancers were shocked with the news as the case "upended City Ballet, one of the world's premier dance companies," and it illustrated the delicate balance that safe workplaces must achieve between maintaining that safety and recognizing the rights of workers. While one of the fired dancers declined to return to the company, the second will return "after receiving mandatory counseling."


Natural History Museum Will Not Host Gala for Brazil's President

On Monday, the American Museum of Natural History announced that it would not host an event that would have honored Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in part of because of his environmental policies. The museum was the subject of scrutiny in the media as its prominence as an institution would have "served as a platform to recognize someone who has proposed environmental deregulation and opening more of the Amazon rainforest to mining and agribusiness."


Aung San Suu Kyi Has a New Target: Political Satire

In Myanmar, there is a tradition of a "satirical slam poetry known as thangyat" that is typically delivered in public, and poets came together in the country's largest city recently to deliver subtle digs to the military and political life in the country, all while "chanting over a drumbeat." While the practice was banned for decades, it was permitted again in 2016. However, with the arrest of four members of a performance that was streamed on Facebook, Myanmar's government is beginning to send signals that it will no longer permit political satire so freely. In arresting the performers, the government used a telecommunications law that has also been used to justify arresting journalists and government critics and carries a "maximum prison term of three years."



Judge Stops Prosecutors From Releasing Kraft Surveillance Video for Now

A Florida judge has ruled that police surveillance videos of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and 24 other men charged with soliciting prostitutes shall not be released yet. Kraft and many of the men have not accepted a plea deal and argued that "the video and other pieces of evidence were improperly obtained." The men who have accepted deals agreed to fines, community service, and a presumption of guilt in exchange for no jail time and dropped charges. Kraft has pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution, and by the end of the month, it is expected that the judge will determine whether the video of Kraft and others may be released.


Leaders in Horse Racing Industry Move to Limit Medication Use

On Thursday, the three tracks that host the Triple Crown races formed a coalition "to seek a ban on race-day medication for all of their 2-year-old races beginning next year." The move came as a result of pressure from animal-rights groups and brings the United States closer to standards existing in Europe, Australia, and Hong Kong. One medication that is regularly used on race days, Lasix, is a diuretic that can bring a horse to lose 30 pounds and increases the chance of "catastrophic injury to a horse's thin legs."


NCAA Proposal to Curtail Graduate Transfers is Voted Down

The NCAA Division I Council has voted down a proposed rule that was aimed at "restricting the movement of graduate transfer athletes by levying penalties on the colleges that accepted them." The proposal would have applied to football and basketball programs and would have "docked teams a scholarship for an additional year if a graduate transfer did not earn his or her secondary degree within one year." While in men's basketball the proportion has been small, about 3%, of players, graduate transfers like Texas Tech's Matt Mooney and Tariq Owens reached the basketball championship game this month.


Sylvia Hatchell is Out at the University of North Carolina After Inquiry Supports Team's Complaints

The longtime women's basketball coach at the University of North Carolina (UNC) has stepped down after it was revealed in a probe that she made "racially insensitive" comments and "pressured injured players to compete." While she did not address the accusations against her, such as that she told players that a bad loss could lead to "nooses", she noted that she had been contemplating retirement since she received a diagnosis of leukemia several years ago.


Breanna Stewart Shows the Toll of Pro Women's Basketball's Never-Ending Grind

Known as the WNBA's most valuable player, it was a blow when Breanna Stewart was carried off the floor when playing a Euroleague championship game in Hungary. She had ruptured her Achilles' tendon, and many say that the risk for doing so was increased because of the intense schedule that women's basketball athletes face: because WNBA players earn somewhere between $41,265 and $120,000 each year, with the base salary not exceeding $53,537, over 100 players go to Europe and Asia to play during the WNBA off season. With no break and endless seasons, the players experience "a physical, psychological, and emotional toll" with which the men's basketball athletes, with their multi-million dollar contracts, do not have to deal.



After Social Media Bans, Militant Groups Found Ways to Remain

The Islamist group Hezbollah has been known for posting threatening videos on sites such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, but they have changed their message recently from threatening to surveilling. Rather than show "gun-toting militants practicing an ambush to kidnap Israeli soldiers", their videos now show "close-up footage of Israeli soldiers on patrol". While the United States classifies the group as a terrorist entity, Hezbollah has discovered a way to emit its messages on social media platforms in a way that does "not set off the alarm bells".


General News

The Mueller Report Released to the Public

On Thursday, the Mueller report was released to Congress and the public with significant redactions but fairly clear conclusions: President Trump may have committed obstruction of justice, and there was insufficient evidence (perhaps due to the obstruction of justice) to conclude whether a conspiracy between members of the Trump campaign and the Russian government occurred. While some had hoped that the Mueller report would bring the warring divisions in politics to come together, the fight rages on as Republicans and the Trump administration attempt to deflect the report's conclusions and Democrats grapple with the possibility of beginning impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives.


White House and Justice Department Officials Discussed Mueller Report Before Release

Prior to the release of the Mueller report, it has come to light that Justice Department officials had "numerous conversations with White House lawyers about the conclusions" contained in the report. The talks "aided the president's legal team" as it was preparing a rebuttal to the report and allowed the team an advantage in determining how to deal with spinning the report's findings in the media.


Supreme Court Will Soon Consider Census Citizenship Question

Next week, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case that will determine whether the Trump administration may add a question about citizenship to the 2020 "short form" questionnaire for the census. With the result of the census controlling "how congressional seats are allocated and where hundreds of billions of dollars of federal money are spent", the stakes are high for oral argument, as nobody is seriously disputing that the question "will cause fewer people to participate" and therefore "will undermine the basic constitutional goal of counting everyone."


Federal Communications Commission Chair Plans to Block China Mobile From US Market

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Ajit Pai, has said that he would oppose China Mobile's application to provide cellular service to Americans based on national security and law enforcement concerns. The full commission is set to vote on the application in May, but Pai's statement is a strong indicator of how the FCC will vote, as three of the five commission seats are filled by Republicans, including Pai. If the application is not approved, it will heighten the tension between the United States and China in the technology and telecommunications industry.


U.S. Scholar Who Advises Trump Says China Blocked His Visa Application

Michael Pillsbury, director for Chinese strategy at the Hudson Institute and an advisor to President Trump on China, said that he was denied a visa to attend a conference in Beijing as "apparent retaliation for American restrictions on visas for visiting Chinese scholars." He raised the issue of the visa denial with a Chinese government official, who pointed him to a recent New York Times article detailing the FBI's denial of "long-term visas of some Chinese scholars."


In Attacking Ilhan Omar, Trump Revives Familiar Refrain Against Muslims

During the 2016 campaign, President Trump had developed a habit of stigmatizing Muslims in his speeches including calling for a moratorium on Muslims traveling to the United States and saying to Anderson Cooper: "I think Islam hates us." With his recent attacks on Representative Ilhan Omar, it appears that he is seeking to rally his base around the same theme as he did during the 2016 campaign. A 2016 campaign aide, Sam Nunberg, recently noted that his attacks on Omar give "the president a chance to expand his support closer to 50 percent."


Trump Administration Announces New Restrictions on Dealing With Cuba

Last Wednesday, the Trump administration announced that it was imposing new restrictions on dealing with Cuba, including limiting non-family travel and how much money Cuban-Americans may send to family members in Cuba. Additionally, the regulations would allow for exiles "to sue for property seized by the Castro government". The move comes after weeks of lobbying by Canadian and European officials who predicted a "torrent of proceedings against companies".


Justice Department Investigated WikiLeaks After Secretly Indicting Assange

The Department of Justice continued its investigation into WikiLeaks last year even after it secured a secret indictment of Julian Assange, the founder of the site. The Justice Department had been communicating with two individuals even after indicting Assange on accusations of computer hacking in an effort to build its case against WikiLeaks for "disseminating state secrets," which is a charge that "spoke directly to the group's main enterprise but would also thrust the Justice Department into a thorny fight over First Amendment rights."


In New Effort to Deter Migrants, Barr Withholds Bail to Asylum Seekers

Attorney General William Barr issued an order that may keep thousands of migrants seeking asylum jailed indefinitely "while they wait for a resolution of their asylum requests." It is the latest move, and a significant one at that, by the Trump administration to discourage migrants from seeking asylum in the United States. The order directs judges to deny "some migrants a chance to post bail", and it will not be in effect until 90 days after it is issued. While immigration lawyers have argued that it will "undermine the basic rights of people seeking safety", the order is virtually guaranteed to be challenged in a federal court.


Monica Crowley, a Fox News Fixture, Is Said to Get a Top Treasury Job

Longtime Fox News commentator Monica Crowley appears likely to receive a job offer from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to be his top communications official, succeeding Tony Sayegh, who has been planning to leave the Treasury. The hiring of Crowley would be just the most recent demonstration of the close relationship between "Fox News" and the Trump administration, but Crowley will have to overcome the same hurdle that stopped her from joining the National Security Council and becoming the White House press secretary: there are allegations that she plagiarized passages in her 2012 book, What the (Bleep) Just Happened?, from Wikipedia and news articles.


When the Glaciers Disappear, Those Species Will Go Extinct

Throughout North America, the glacier-fed ecosystems, which are delicately balanced, are undergoing a massive change, as glaciers are receding at a record pace. Given how the glacial meltwater is so closely linked to the diets and lifestyles of the wildlife in the area, it is expected that entire communities of organisms, from the micro level to insects to fish, may be eliminated, as they have difficulty accessing fresh water or cannot cope with rising temperatures.


How Banning Abortion in the Early Weeks of Pregnancy Became Mainstream

Ohio Right to Life is the state's largest and oldest anti-abortion group, and recently, it has taken a turn in how it handles legislative proposals: While preciously it had declined to pursue a bill that would ban abortion in the early weeks of pregnancy because such a bill would inevitably be challenged in court and likely found to be unconstitutional, with the shift in the Supreme Court's makeup, the organization has now supported this type of legislation. Last week, the bill was signed into law, and while the court challenge is inevitable, the organization's board has more faith that it will be found to be constitutional once it goes on appeal, potentially to the Supreme Court.


France and Belgium Refuse Support for New Trade Talks With the U.S.

On Monday, France and Belgium announced that they would not support renewed trade negotiations between the European Union and the United States, further illustrating "divisions over President Trump's trade and climate policies." While their announcement is not enough to stop negotiations, it is unheard-of, as trade "measures like this normally pass unanimously."


How China is Using Artificial Intelligence to Profile a Minority

While it has long been known that the Chinese government has cracked down on ethnic Muslims called Uighurs in the western region of China, the extent of the surveillance is becoming clearer: Authorities are "using a vast, secret system of advanced facial recognition technology to track and control" them. Experts say that it is "the first known example of a government intentionally using artificial intelligence for racial profiling" and may be "ushering in a new era of automated racism."


Peace Conference Derailed as Taliban Object to Afghan Delegation

Although a peace conference in Qatar was meant to bring together Taliban officials and Afghan government officials to negotiate a peace, the conference has now been postponed indefinitely, as the Taliban "objected to the large number of Afghan officials included in the country's delegation." While it was rumored that the sides had come close to a deal, the postponement is a major setback to American efforts to end the war in Afghanistan.


April 29, 2019

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:


Hollywood Writers Say Wall Street Is at the Core of Their Dispute with Agents

The labor union representing Hollywood writers and the Association of Talent Agents have been in a standoff ever since the decade-old contract that governed their working relationship expired. Hollywood writers argue that an obscure set of financial arrangements has created conflicts of interest for their agents and squeezed their earnings. They also say it is Wall Street investments that helped set the scene for this dispute. When talent agencies, backed by Wall Street funding, started investing into movie productions, it put the agencies in a position where they were both negotiating on behalf of writers and also hiring them, a dynamic that has had financial consequences for the writers.


Harvey Weinstein's Pretrial Hearing Closed to the Public

Media lawyers had argued there was no need to override the constitutional presumption of press and public access to court proceedings, but a Manhattan judge closed the pretrial hearing earlier last week over concerns of jury impartiality and the defendant's right to a fair trial. The hearing was held to determine who among the many women who accuse Weinstein of sexual harassment will be allowed to testify at his June trial.


Robert Durst Alleges That HBO's "The Jinx" Manipulated His Confession

Estate heir Robert Durst is heading to trial for the alleged murder of Susan Berman in 2000. Ahead of the trial, attorneys for Durst are accusing the filmmakers of manipulating Durst's confession in HBO's 2015 documentary series "The Jinx". Portions of the documentary transcript were filed showing that his remarks "What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course" were not consecutive and were edited together from separate sound bites.


Tara Reid Drops $100 Million Lawsuit Against "Sharknado" Producers

The actress sued Asylum Entertainment and SYFY Media Productions last December, claiming that they illegally profited off her image. It is now being reported that she filed court documents to dismiss the case in its entirety. Reid had accused the producers of misappropriating her likeness and image for a commercial purpose without her consent after her face appeared on Sharknado slot machines. Her contract reportedly barred them from including her on any items related to tobacco, alcohol, gambling or sexual material.


Director John Singleton's Family Fights for Control of his Affairs After Stroke

John Singleton remains hospitalized after suffering a stroke earlier this month. The director's mother is seeking to be appointed his temporary conservator and claims that Singleton was engaged in several business deals and would face financial loss if a conservator is not appointed. Her court filings included a declaration form attesting to his impaired state but did not specify whether he was in a coma, a condition that his children continue to dispute.


Bill Cosby Asks to be Released on Bail as His Appeal is Being Delayed

Bill Cosby has filed a bail application, arguing that bail is justified given his advanced age and the strong likelihood that his conviction will not stand on appeal. He also accused the judge of purposely denying his right to appeal by delaying his opinion that would explain his decision to convict Cosby of sexual assault. Cosby has been behind bars for seven months, serving three to 10 years.



Displaced Artists Open a New Front at the Brooklyn Army Terminal

ArtBuilt Brooklyn is the largest non-profit project to offer artists space in the city. The venue is intended to provide physical stability to artists working in New York by offering below-market, long-term rents. The project has a 10-year lease with the Brooklyn Army Terminal and the studios were constructed using a combination of private investment and support from the city.


Construction on the Long-Delayed Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Moves Ahead

According to an interview with the director of the Guggenheim Foundation and Museum, construction of the Frank Gehry designed museum is on track and the museum could open in the next few years. Although first announced in 2006, the project was repeatedly delayed and has attracted criticism from both human rights activists and artists protesting the working conditions of thousands of foreign migrant laborers involved in the development.


Notre Dame Investigators Identify Possible Causes of Fire

More than a week after the fire that devastated the Notre Dame cathedral, investigators are converging around two theories of what may have caused the fire: negligence by workers carrying out renovations, or a short-circuit near its spire, possibly caused by electrified bells.


France Starts Task Force on Nazi-Looted Art

After years of criticism that its restitution efforts were not proactive enough, the task force has been given a broader mandate to search for and return artwork that was looted or sold under duress during the Nazi occupation of France. French authorities estimate that Nazis looted or forced the sale of about 100,000 objects in France. Only this task force has the power to investigate restitution claims, which it can then refer to a compensation commission that examines claims from victims of France's wartime anti-Semitic laws.



National Basketball League and Sacramento Kings Launch Joint Investigation into Allegations of Sexual Assault Against Luke Walton

Kelli Tennant, a former college volleyball player and sports broadcaster, has filed a lawsuit accusing Luke Walton of sexually assaulting her in a hotel room in 2014. The allegations emerged shortly after Walton was named head coach of the Sacramento Kings after three serving three years as head coach of the Lakers. Both the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the Kings are investigating the allegations.



Kansas City Chiefs Suspend Tyreek Hill After Audio Alleging Child Abuse Surfaces

The criminal case against Kansas City Chief's wide receiver Tyreek Hill and his fiancée has been reopened after audio surfaced of the two of them discussing their son's broken arm. In the clip, Hill is accused of punching the three-year-old in the chest and hitting him with a belt when he cries. The Chiefs announced that Hill has been indefinitely barred from team activities. In the context of the National Football League's draft and Hill's troubling past, the team says that it has not changed the way it vets potential players.


Former Arizona Athlete Awarded $999K Settlement

Baillie Gibson, a former discus thrower and shot-putter for the University of Arizona, has been awarded a $999,000 settlement by the state of Arizona. Her former coach, Craig Carter, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and assault with a dangerous weapon and was sentenced to five years in prison for assaulting Gibson in 2015. The settlement ends a civil lawsuit that Gibson filed that same year, alleging that coaches and top athletic officials at the university failed to protect her against acts of rape, assault, inappropriate sexual conduct, and abuse.


Virginia Men's Basketball Will Not Visit the White House

The team announced it would decline an invitation to celebrate its championship at the White House. The move was significant when considered in the context of Trump's response to the 2017 white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, the team's hometown.


University of Texas Tennis Coach Admits That He Took a $100K Bribe

Michael Center is the third coach to plead guilty in the nationwide college admissions scandal after admitting that he took a $100,000 bribe from parents whose children should not have been tennis recruits. Former coaches at Yale and Stanford have already pleaded guilty, and Laura Janke, former assistant women's soccer coach at the University of Southern California, is now cooperating with prosecutors.


College Basketball Trial Reveals Cash-Filled Shoe Box and Other Ploys

According to testimony in a federal bribery trial this week, would-be agents and shoe company consultants went to great lengths to help land top college basketball recruits. The objective was not only to steer players from grass roots programs to a college sponsored by Nike or Adidas, but also to direct them to a place where the agents could continue relationships that would extend to the NBA. In addition, the agents cultivated relationships with college coaches, offering them cash in exchange for directing their players to retain the services of certain financial advisors.


WNBA Games to Air on CBS Sports Network as Part of New Deal

CBS Sports Network will air 40 regular season games when the WNBA season kicks off next month. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. WNBA's existing television deal with ESPN is about $25 million annually and includes 16 regular season games and up to 19 playoff games. In comparison, the NBA earns over $2.6 billion annually. It will be a year of change for the WNBA in a period marked by leadership turnover and looming collective bargaining negotiations as players opted to terminate the CBA after the 2019 season.


A Second Judge Rules to Keep Robert Kraft Videos Private

In a decision that favors the defendant's right to a fair trial over the public's right to know, Judge Hanser temporarily sealed a video that allegedly shows Patriots owner Robert Kraft engaging in illegal sexual activity in a Florida massage parlor. Kraft is charged with two counts of soliciting another to commit prostitution and the surveillance video will not be released until trial juries have been sworn in or the case is concluded by some other means (i.e. a plea agreement or if the state drops the charges).


Tennis Commentator and Coach Justin Gimelstob Given Three Years Probation

Justin Gimelstob pleaded no contest to a felony battery charge that arose from a physical altercation between Gimelstob and a former friend. The charge was reduced to a misdemeanor and he was sentenced to three years' probation and 60 days of community labor. Gimelstob remains on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) board of directors and is on a leave of absence from the Tennis Channel.


Canadian Women's Hockey League to Cease Operations in May 2019

Citing financial reasons, the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL) announced that it will discontinue operations on May 1st. As a non-profit organization, it is legally bound to liquidate all assets and this week the CWHL launched an auction website to try to cover its debts by selling off valuable items. Players are using the CWHL's collapse to launch discussions on the game's future and to question whether the investor-backed, U.S.-based National Women's Hockey League (NWHL) is itself a sustainable business model. The NWHL already announced it is expanding to Toronto and Montreal next season.


Relevent Sports Sues U.S. Soccer, Escalating Fight Over Sanctioning

Soccer promotion company Relevent Sports filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, claiming that the governing body "has exhibited a pattern and practice of violating its own policies and procedures, dissuading the staging of international competitions in the U.S." Relevent, owned by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, hosts international friendlies in the U.S. It alleges that its two recent proposals to host international matches were rejected without good reason.


Old and Faulty Oxygen Equipment Poses Safety Concerns on Everest Trail

Nepal's government announced a ban on oxygen cylinders used on Everest expeditions if they are older than 10 years. Several expeditions have reported equipment failures, accusing the largely unregulated climbing industry of using old and malfunctioning equipment to drive up profit.



Man Charged with Making Threatening Calls to Boston Globe Employees to Plead Guilty

Robert Chain was arrested in 2018 after repeatedly threatening to shoot employees of the Boston newspaper in the head. The calls started after the Boston Globe announced that it would publish a coordinated editorial response to political attacks on the news media, and Chain would use the phrase "enemy of the people" during his calls. A California resident, he was charged with seven counts of making threatening communications in interstate commerce, and faces a maximum five-year prison sentence.


Facebook Expects to be Fined up to $5 Billion by Federal Trade Commission for Privacy Violations

In its quarterly financial results, Facebook estimated a one-time fine of $3 billion to $5 billion, citing an ongoing inquiry by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The expected penalty is the result of Facebook violating a 2011 privacy consent decree. The FTC's biggest fine to date was $22 million against Google in 2012 for misrepresenting how to it used online tracking tools.


Global Regulators are Circling Facebook

With a potential settlement between Facebook and the FTC on the horizon, regulators across the globe are scrutinizing Facebook's practices, including its content moderation policies, and considering new restrictions on social media. Canadian regulators, for instance, plan to take Facebook to federal court for violating national and local laws in allowing third parties access to private user information.


Big Tech Faces Specter of Limiting Speech Online

Facebook's public messaging about regulating harmful internet content seems to have been targeting overseas regulators. The company's top lobbyists tell conservative groups that it is not Zuckerberg's intention to encourage new limits on speech in the U.S.


Six Employees of Turkish Newspaper Return to Jail in Terrorism Case

Employees of Turkey's oldest independent newspaper were taken into custody to serve the rest of their sentences after an appeals court upheld their convictions. Following a trial, which many considered to be politically motivated, they were found guilty of serving the interests and aims of three terrorist organizations by changing the newspapers' editorial line.


New Irish Republican Army Apologizes for Killing of Journalist

Journalist Lyra McKee was killed by a bullet fired at police during a riot in Northern Ireland. The paramilitary group that calls itself the New IRA admitted responsibility and apologized for the shooting. McKee grew up in Belfast, was a prominent supporter of gay rights, and an accomplished author and journalist, whose work often probed the legacy of violence in the region.


Sri Lanka Blocks Social Media, Fearing More Violence

Sri Lanka took the extraordinary step of blocking several social media networks, including Facebook and WhatsApp, out of fear that misinformation about the attacks and hate speech could spread, inciting even more violence. Other countries have previously blocked social media during waves of violence linked to the platforms, but Sri Lanka's move came before any violence was linked to social media activity.


Myanmar's Highest Court Upholds Convictions of Two Reuters Journalists

The court upheld the journalists' convictions for violating a state secrets law after the reporters uncovered the massacre of 10 Rohingya Muslim villagers. The reporters argued that the evidence in the case was planted by police when they were handed documents just moments before their arrests. They were sentenced to seven years in prison and have been in custody since 2017.



Supreme Court Ruling Deals Blow to Class Arbitration

In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that companies can use arbitration provisions to bar both class actions in court and class-wide arbitration proceedings.



Supreme Court to Consider Whether Civil Rights Act Protects LGBTQ Workers

The Supreme Court announced it would rule on whether the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against gay and transgender employees. The Trump administration disagrees with an earlier decision of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, arguing instead that the legislation cannot fairly be read to apply to discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status.


The Supreme Court Appears Likely to Support Census Citizenship Question

The Court's conservative majority seems poised to uphold the Trump administration's directive to ask about citizenship on the 2020 census. Commerce Secretary Ross has defended the directive by arguing that the Justice Department needs the data to improve enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. Lower courts blocked the plan because the question would violate the provision in the Constitution that calls for a count of the population, regardless of citizenship status. The data could negatively affect congressional representation in states with large numbers of immigrants who may then be less likely to participate in the census.


Chief of Staff Reportedly Warned Secretary Nielsen to Avoid Discussing 2020 Election Security with Trump

Mick Mulvaney reportedly warned Secretary Nielsen that President Trump still equates discussion of Russian election interference with questions about the legitimacy of his win. It is being reported that Nielsen became increasingly concerned with Russia's continued attempts to disrupt elections, but gave up on her effort to organize a meeting of cabinet secretaries to discuss next year's elections.


Environmental Protection Agency Proposes Weaker Standards on Chemicals Contaminating Groundwater

Yielding to pressure from the Defense Department, the Environmental Protection Agency amended a proposed standard for cleaning up groundwater pollution caused by certain toxic chemicals that are commonly used at military bases. The so-called cleanup standard originally set a threshold for when immediate removal action was required. The revised guidelines now recommend longer-term remedial actions in instances where the government has confirmed that drinking water supplies have been contaminated.



Federal Judge Blocks Trump Rule on Abortion Referrals

A federal judge in the Eastern District of Washington State issued a national injunction last week temporarily blocking a Trump administration rule that would bar organizations that provide abortion referrals from receiving funding under the federal family planning program called Title X. Judge Bastion found that the harmful consequences of the rule would "uniquely impact rural and uninsured patients."


Trump Businesses Sue House Democrats Over Accounting Records

Donald Trump's businesses have sued the chairman of the House Oversight Committee to prevent a subpoena of Trump's financial records. The lawsuit argues that the chairman had no legitimate legislative reason to subpoena an accounting company tied to the president. Lawyers are also seeking a court order blocking the accounting firm from handing over information.


Herman Cain Withdraws from Consideration for Federal Reserve Board

Questions of harassment and sexism have plagued both of Trump's expected nominees to the Federal Reserve Board. Cain's impending nomination caused concern that his background check would resurrect past sexual harassment and misconduct allegations that first surfaced during his 2012 presidential campaign. Another potential candidate, Stephen Moore, also faces objections because of a series of magazine columns in which he laments women's involvement in athletics (and other spheres of life).


National Rifle Association President Steps Down Amid Infighting and an Inquiry into Its Tax-Exempt Status

Hours after the gun rights group's president stepped down, New York's attorney general opened an investigation into the NRA's tax-exempt status. The organization is chartered as a tax-exempt group in New York State and the inquiry is expected to look at whether its financial and accounting practices have violated non-profit laws.


Kansas Supreme Court Upholds Abortion Rights

The court blocked a 2015 law banning second-trimester abortion, ruling that the state's constitution protects the right of personal autonomy that "allows a woman to make her own decisions regarding her body, health, family formation and family life - decisions that include whether to continue a pregnancy." State law cannot override that right by challenging a woman's exercise of self-determination.


Judge is Charged with Helping an Immigrant Escape From Immigrant and Customs Enforcement at Massachusetts Courthouse

A state judge and court officer are facing charges for allegedly helping an undocumented immigrant escape an Immigrant and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer by exiting the courthouse through the basement. It is another example of the clash between federal authorities and state governments that resist a hard-line approach to immigration enforcement. The State Attorney General characterized this as a politically motivated attack, saying that federal prosecutors should not interfere with the operation of state courts. The local American Civil Liberties Union also commented on the impropriety of having judges assist ICE in apprehending someone who is coming to court to be heard.


In Their Legal Fight Over Religious Freedoms, Native Americans Find an Ally in the Trump Administration

The Ramapough Lenape Nation owes more than $4 million in fines to the Township of Mahwah, New Jersey. The tribe accuses Mahwah of using zoning rules to violate its religious freedoms by issuing citations for its use of a plot zoned for residential purposes. The Justice Department has filed a letter in support of the tribe, saying that the town's behavior has significantly chilled the tribe's use of the land for religious purposes, in violation of federal protections.


One Person Dead in Synagogue Shooting Near San Diego

A gunman opened fire inside a California synagogue on the last day of Passover, killing one person and wounding three others with an A.R. 15-style gun. The man was taken into custody and is believed to have written a manifesto filled with racist slurs and white nationalist conspiracy theories. Local officials called the shooting a hate crime.


Are Trump's Acts Impeachable? Lessons from the Nixon and Clinton Administrations

Adam Liptak of the New York Times looks at the two most recent impeachment proceedings and discusses whether President Trump's conduct could justify his removal from office.


Rudy Giuliani: It Is Acceptable to Use Hacked Information from a Foreign Adversary

President Trump's personal lawyer insists that there is nothing wrong with taking information from the Russians and using it against a political opponent. The comments came in part as a rebuttal to questioning about the 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in which Trump campaign aides met with Russians offering damaging information on Hillary Clinton.


Juul's Lobbying Runs Counter to its Pledge to Curb Youth Vaping

Juul's lobbyists regularly fight proposals to ban products that are popular with teenagers. They also push legislation that denies local governments the right to adopt strict vaping laws. These efforts to defeat tobacco control proposals stand in stark contrast to the company's carefully crafted image as a public health advocate.


New York City's Board of Elections Makes Voter Enrollment Data Public

For the first time in history, the Board of Elections has posted voter enrollment data for free on its website. The data contains the names, addresses, and party affiliations for all of the city's 4.6 million registered voters. While this information is considered a public record, the Board usually produces a voter enrollment book, which it was not able to do this time around, opting instead to post the information online.


Houston Cancer Center Dismisses Three Scientists Over Fears of Chinese Espionage

Following an investigation into possible foreign attempts to take advantage of American-funded research, two scientists resigned and another was fired from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. The researchers failed to disclose international collaborators and at least one confidential grant application was sent to a scientist in China in violation of federal policy.


Tropical Deforestation Still Severe in 2018

According to an analysis of satellite images released by Global Forest Watch, about 30 million acres of tropical forest were lost in 2018. Although not a record year, the losses were significant, and the overall trend is still upwards. Forest health is linked to climate in two ways - trees remove about a quarter of the carbon dioxide emitted by human activities, and dead trees add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, releasing them when the trees are burned or decompose.


U.S. Ends Sanctions Waivers for Importing Iranian Oil

The Trump administration will not reissue the waivers that exempt Japan, South Korea, Turkey, China, and India from U.S. sanctions when importing Iranian oil. The White House signaled that it wound end the 180-day waivers that were meant to give eight countries time to find other suppliers while preventing a shock to global oil markets from the sudden removal of Iranian crude. Three of the eight - Italy, Greece, and Taiwan have stopped importing oil from Iran.


Following Summit, Putin Supports North Korea on Nuclear Disarmament

Following his summit with the North Korean leader, Putin reiterated Russia's backing of a gradual process of trading nuclear disarmament for sanctions relief. This position is in contrast to the American proposal of lifting economic sanctions in return for a quick and complete elimination of North Korea's nuclear weapons program.


Sri Lanka Suicide Bombers Include Sons of Spice Tycoon

At least 250 people died in the coordinated attacks in Sri Lanka, believed to have been the work of a local cell loyal to ISIS. Two sons of one of Sri Lanka's wealthiest spice barons were among the eight suicide bombers and their father is now in custody.



Chinese Surveillance Technology is Being Used Globally

Ecuador is one example of how surveillance technology built for China's political system is being applied in other states, giving rise to concerns of a tech-driven authoritarian future.


World Health Organization Says Limited or No Screen Time for Children Under 5

The World Health Organization issued a new set of guidelines stating that infants under one year old should not be exposed to electronic screens. Those between the ages of two and four should not have more than one hour of sedentary screen time each day.


About April 2019

This page contains all entries posted to The Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Blog in April 2019. They are listed from oldest to newest.

March 2019 is the previous archive.

May 2019 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.