« 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 | Main | Week In Review »

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.


Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 22, 2019 6:16 PM.

The previous post in this blog was 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.

The next post in this blog is Week In Review.

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