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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.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 8, 2019 6:00 PM.

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