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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:


Conan O'Brien Settles Lawsuit Alleging Joke Theft

Conan O'Brien announced that he has settled a lawsuit against a freelance comedy writer "who had accused the late-night host of stealing jokes." With a trial looming on May 28th, the parties settled for terms that have not been disclosed, and O'Brien wrote that he "decided to forgo a potentially farcical and expensive jury trial in federal court over five jokes that don't even make sense anymore." The writer, Robert Alex Kaseberg, filed the lawsuit in 2015 based on the taking of jokes that he posted on his blog and Twitter account.


Felicity Huffman's Guilty Plea Could Bring Four Months in Jail

Actress Felicity Huffman has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. She acknowledged that she paid $15,000 to arrange for a proctor to correct her daughter's SAT as she left the testing facility. It is unclear what penalty she will face come September when she is sentenced, as the conspiracy charge carries a maximum of 20 years in prison. Prosecutors have previously said that they would recommend four months for Huffman as well as a fine of $20,000 and a year of supervised release.


Judge in Bill Cosby Case Disputes Grounds for Appeal

The judge in Pennsylvania who presided over Bill Cosby's sexual assault case has rejected Cosby's attorney's arguments that Cosby did not receive a fair trial. Judge Steven T. O'Neill's decisions at trial, 11 of which Cosby's legal team have challenged on the basis that they factored into the jury's finding, will be reviewed by the higher court. One of the key factors to be reviewed was the judge permitting testimony from five additional women who testified that Cosby intoxicated and sexually assaulted them.


Russians Meddle With Vote in Children's Singing Contest

In Russia, "The Voice Kids" is a popular talent show for children to take the national stage and show their singing abilities. On Thursday, the channel that hosted the show announced that it would be canceling the result of the show's last season because of a "massive automated SMS spamming" that led 10-year-old Mikella Abramova to win. The full investigation has yet to conclude, but a preliminary investigation has shown that over 8,000 text messages from 300 phone numbers went into the automated system as votes for Abramova.



The Landmarks Commission May Give Landmark Status to Six Buildings Based on Historical Significance in the LGBTQ Community

New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission (Commission) is weighing landmark status for six sites throughout the city, including a storefront where the city's first gay theater sat, as well as the former home of writer and civil rights activist James Baldwin. The Commission's mission has grown from not just preserving buildings for their aesthetics but also to save and recognize them based on what occurred inside. The Commission is set to decide whether to begin the formal process for the sites, which would include public hearings and votes on official designation.


The Metropolitan Museum of Art Will Turn Down Sackler Money Amid Fury Over the Opioid Crisis

Following the steps of museums, such as the Tate Modern in London and the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) has announced that it will "stop accepting gifts from members of the Sackler family linked to the maker of OxyContin." Thus comes to an end the tie "between one of the world's most prestigious museums and one of its most prolific philanthropic dynasties." The Met currently does not have plans to remove the Sackler name from the galleries, as protesters have demanded, but the announcement may spur other institutions to stop accepting gifts from the Sackler family as well.


Proposed Fur Ban Pits Animal Rights Advocates Against Black Ministers

Although the Speaker of the New York City Council, Corey Johnson, has called for banning the sale of fur within the city as the "moral thing to do," there is a challenge to the proposal coming from black pastors and Hasidic leaders. They argue that the prohibition would "fly in the face of centuries of religious and cultural tradition." Joining their calls are the predictable "fur shop owners and garment manufacturers," but on the other side of the argument are the vocal animal rights advocates. With both sides having celebrity power and sway in the community, it is unclear whether the ban will come to pass. Regardless, it will have an impact on the fashion industry.


Caught in the Middle of #MeToo: Unions That Represent Accusers and Accused

Amar Ramasar, who was fired from the New York City Ballet for "sharing vulgar texts and sexually explicit photos of a dancer, has returned to work to the dismay of some women in the company. However, the same union represents them and has "a duty to protect the rights of members accused of misconduct", which has led some to argue that unions do more "to protect the jobs of the accused than the women who were their targets." When some women have tried, in the collective bargaining process, to advance their interests, they have been called traitors and accused of "betraying the union or solidarity."


Czech Culture Minister Resigns After Firing Museum Directors

Antonin Stanek, the Czech Republic's culture minister, has resigned after growing dissent toward his firing of the leaders of two museums. As a result of "lost confidence," he terminated the directors of the National Gallery in Prague and the Olomouc Museum of Art and accused the directors of financial mismanagement. The firings have caused international outcry as well with the heads of the Met and the British Museum denouncing the firings.



Robert Kraft Wins Critical Ruling: Video Evidence Is Thrown Out

The owner of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft, has achieved a victory in his Florida case involving two charges of solicitation of prostitution: the judge "threw out key evidence obtained in surveillance videos and a traffic stop." He has refused to accept a plea deal and has maintained that he did not commit an illegal act, even refusing to pay a fine and perform community service. The video, which police have said showed Kraft receiving sex acts, would have prejudice his trial, according to Kraft's lawyers, and the judge found the video evidence to be "seriously flawed" and thus not admissible.


Maximum Security's Owners Take Their Derby Fight to Court

Gary and Mary West, the owners of Maximum Security, have filed a lawsuit in federal court following the colt's disqualification in the Kentucky Derby. They allege that the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and its stewards erred when they deemed the horse's apparent jumping of a puddle to be grounds for disqualification. As damages, the plaintiffs allege that they suffered an "emotional setback" and were deprived of the inevitable value increase that winning the Kentucky Derby would have brought to Maximum Security (which they have estimated the value jumping to approximately $20 million).


Jim Jordan Claims Vindication, but Inquiry Shows Rampant Abuse at Ohio State University with Team Doctor Sexually Abusing 177 Students

Investigators have found that coaches such as Jim Jordan, now a Republican congressman, knew of team doctor Richard Strauss' sexual abuse of nearly 200 students over the course of decades. Ohio State University's president called the findings "shocking and painful to comprehend," but Representative Jordan saw it as a clearing of his name. Jordan had previously come under fire for being a coach at the University during the years when the doctor was abusing students, and there were significant questions as to whether Jordan knew or should have known about the abuse. Wrestlers who worked with Jordan in the late 1980s and early 1990s continue to assert that Jordan knew of Strauss' predatory behavior.



Tiger Woods' Success Promised to Diversity Golf, But It Didn't

When Tiger Woods first won the Augusta National in 1997, it was predicted that he would bring more diversity to the sport of golf. Now, with a total of 250 active players on the PGA Tour, three are of African-American descent. While there has been a slight uptick in the diversity of NCAA golf players, it has not translated to professional golfers, and Woods recently opined that there are many other activities that can grab children's attention and take them away from golf.


Horse Deaths at Santa Anita and Pimlico: Same Day, Same Track Owner

At two tracks owned by the Stronarch Group, there have been horse deaths in recent days. One occurred just 100 yards after the finish, and the second was a euthanization that occurred after a shoulder injury. The chief operating officer of the Stronarch Group has vowed that the comapny is looking to improve the sport in any way possible, but the deaths come at a time when Californians are gathering signatures to place an initiative on the ballot that would ban horse racing. One statistic that supports the ban is that, in 2018, nearly 10 horses a week died on average at American racetracks.


Manchester City Facing One-Season Ban from Champions League

The Champions League has been investigating whether Manchester City, the winner of this year's Premier League title, has violated financial monitoring rules, and it was announced that the club may face a one year ban for its lack of cooperation with investigators. The club released a statement claiming to have "comprehensive proof" that it did not violate the rules, but the Champions League organization has continued its investigation into whether Manchester City disguised "the source of revenue from sponsorship deals tied to the club's owners in Abu Dhabi" as there are cash limits for contributions and a concern that sponsorship deals may have been inflated beyond the fair market rate.



Supreme Court Allows Antitrust Lawsuit Against Apple to Proceed

The Supreme Court allowed an antitrust class action against Apple to proceed. The Court, through its majority opinion authored by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, found that "consumers should be allowed to try to prove that the technology giant had used monopoly power to raise the prices of iPhone apps. While the action still faces obstacles for proceeding, it may affect Apple's App Store as well as rivals' stores as the action claims that Apple's taking of a 30 percent commission plus barring developers from selling their apps on other platforms constitutes a violation of antitrust laws.


Trump Pardons Ex-Media Mogul Conrad Black

President Trump signed a pardon of the former media mogul Conrad Black, who in 2007 was convicted of fraud and obstruction of justice. Black spent three and a half years in prison for the crimes after having previously been the head of an international newspaper empire. The charges came after he was involved in a scheme to "siphon off millions of dollars from the sale of newspapers owned by Hollinger Inc., where he was chief executive and chairman." He paid $4.1 million in restitution, and following his pardon, he expressed hope to rebuild his fortune.


Trump's Latest Move Takes Straight Shot at Huawei's Business

The Commerce Department has announced restrictions on Huawei's access to American technology in what amounts to the most direct shot that the Trump administration has taken against the Chinese telecommunications company. If Huawei is cut off from its suppliers, a partner at a prominent law firm and an assistant secretary of commerce under President Barack Obama has warned, it would be "the trade equivalent of a nuclear bomb." It is not yet known how the new regulations will affect Huawei's business, but the company will be forced to get the Commerce Department's special permission to "buy American components and technology."


Trump Wants Tales of Social Media Censorship

The Trump administration unveiled a website on Wednesday that asks people to share their contact information and stories about being censored on social media. The move is seen as an escalation of the "conflict with the tech industry" but also an opportunity to further the president's "data-gathering operation that could help him mobilize potential supporters during his re-election campaign." When users submit their stories, they are prompted to provide their first and last name, age, ZIP code, phone number, and citizenship status.


Accused of 'Terrorism' for Putting Legal Materials Online

The State of Georgia sued Carl Malamud for posting the Official Code of Georgia Annotated online, claiming that it was part of a "strategy of terrorism." Malamud, believing in open access to government records, has asked the Supreme Court to review the case after a federal appeals court ruled against Georgia. The case presents a far-reaching impact, as approximately 20 "other states have claimed that parts of similar annotated codes are copyrighted," and Malamud's group, Public.Resource.Org, has argued that citizens must have access to "the raw materials of our democracy."


San Francisco Police Raid on Journalist Alarms Free Press Advocates

When Bryan Carmody revealed a police report "about the mysterious death" of San Francisco's public defender, he did not expect that a dozen police officers would break down his door with guns drawn and handcuff him for six hours as they searched his home and seized "laptops, phones, and hard drives." The raid has caused free press advocates to question how police obtained the search warrant, which was purportedly to recover "stolen or embezzled" property, and why two FBI agents were present for the raid on Carmody's home. Carmody has indicated that he will pursue an action against the city's police department and has requested that all of his equipment be returned to him. Meanwhile, the city of San Francisco has taken a stand against the abuse of technology when it comes to facial recognition software by voting to block its use by "police and other agencies."




Sweden Reopens Rape Case Against Julian Assange

The Swedish government has announced that it is reopening its investigation into a rape allegation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is currently serving a prison term in Britain. As the United States has been seeking to extradite Assange, a process that is expected to be "prolonged and complex," British officials will have to determine whether to extradite Assange to Sweden or the U.S.; however, even Sweden could not send Assange to the U.S. without Britain's consent.


Your 5G Phone Will Not Hurt You, but RT America Wants You to Think Otherwise

With many analysts calling 5G, or fifth generation, a technology that will bring a huge competitive edge for nations that use it, the Russian network RT America has been airing segments that link the signals from 5G devices to "brain cancer, infertility, autism, heart tumors and Alzheimer's disease." There is no scientific support for any of these claims, and the message is coming from an organization that U.S. intelligence agencies have identified "as a principal meddler in the 2016 presidential election."


General News

Trade Dispute Between U.S. and China Deepens

The trade dispute between the United States and China continues to intensity despite roiling the markets. Last week Beijing said that it would increase tariffs on approximately $60 billion of American goods, and the Trump administration has detailed its plan to tax "nearly every sneaker, computer, dress, and handbag that China exports to the United States." President Trump and China's President Xi Jinping are set to meet in Japan in June, but the stakes for the negotiations appear to only be rising as their meeting date approaches. In a sign that the Trump administration has recognized the harm to the economy and therefore the chances for re-election in 2020, President Trump lifted metal tariffs and delayed the imposition of levies on automotive companies.





Viktor Orban, Hungary's Far-Right Leader, Gets Warm Welcome From Trump

One of Europe's leading nationalists, Viktor Orban, the authoritarian prime minister of Hungary, received a warm welcome at the White House from President Trump. While Orban typically receives a "chilly reception" from European leaders, Trump's embrace was an affirmation of Orban's "alternative to liberal democracy." Trump has received other world leaders who have been known as strongmen, including "autocrats from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Philippines," Kazakhstan, and North Korea. Orban has been known to be playing a "double game" when it comes to supporting Israel and even Hungary's own Jewish population. In November, he announced that the country would donate $3.4 million to fight anti-Semitism in Europe, but the following day he refused to criticize a magazine that depicted the leader of Hungary's largest Jewish organization "showered with bank notes."



Tempers Fraying, Justices Continue Debate on Executions and Split Over Power of Precedent

The Supreme Court overturned a 40-year-old precedent and ruled "that states may not be sued in the courts of other states." While the effects of the ruling are not likely to be consequential, "as most states already grant sovereign immunity to other states," the decision had the conservative justices in the majority and prompted Justice Stephen Breyer to write: "Today's decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the court will overrule next." Additionally on Monday, the Justices "continued a heated debate on how to handle last-minute requests in death penalty cases." Several of the Justices released opinions about recent death penalty cases, particularly relating to the permission of spiritual advisers in the death chamber, and many have disagreed about how to deal with "inexcusably late stay applications."



Trump's Immigration Crackdown Has Blunted Police Efforts to Be Tough on Crime

While President Trump has touted his immigration reform efforts as being effective at rooting out crime, law enforcement officials have said that "by worsening major delays in a visa program that is intended to help the police pursue violent criminals," his program "has undercut his own tough-on-crime agenda." The U visa program, which was created in 2000, allows undocumented immigrants temporary residency and a path to citizenship "if they cooperate with law enforcement officials after being a victim or a witness to violent crimes." As a result of the backlog in the immigration system, however, "immigrants could be deported as they wait for their visas," and fewer immigrants are applying for the visas.


Justice Department Seeks to Appeal Emoluments Case Against Trump

The Department of Justice has moved to challenge a district court judge's ruling that permitted congressional Democrats "to proceed with a lawsuit claiming that President Trump had violated the Constitution by profiting from his businesses while in office." As the case involves legal questions of "extraordinary significance", according to Judge Emmet Sullivan, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will review the case before it proceeds into the discovery phase.


House Panel Investigates Obstruction Claims Against Trump Lawyers

The Intelligence Committee in the House of Representatives is investigating whether President Trump's lawyers and family "helped obstruct the panel's inquiry into Russian election interference by shaping false testimony." One of the origins of the inquiry is Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal lawyer and fixer, who testified before Congress and may have given false testimony to Congress at the direction of Trump's attorneys. In recent weeks, the Intelligence Committee has sent document requests to four lawyers tied to President Trump, Donald Trump Jr., the Trump Organization, and Ivanka Trump. While the attorneys thus far have "balked at the committee's requests, the chairman, Adam Schiff, is "prepared to issue a subpoena to compel cooperation if necessary." Regardless, those in the Trump inner circle have continued to argue that Congress cannot "pursue an unauthorized 'do-over'" of Robert Mueller's investigation or any other Department of Justice investigation.



Judge Signals Skepticism About Trump's Bid to Block Subpoena for Financial Records

In a hearing in the district court of the District of Columbia, Judge Amit Mehta expressed sharp skepticism about President Trump's personal lawyer attempting "to block a congressional subpoena seeking years of financial records from Mr. Trump's accounting firm" and suggested that a decision could be handed down as early as next week. The case is just one of the many venues where Trump has vowed to "systematically stonewall" all of the subpoenas and document requests that congressional Democrats have pursued. According to Trump's attorney in the hearing, the Constitution does not allow Congress to "investigate potential presidential corruption, because determining whether someone broke the law is a function reserved for the executive branch," a logic that Judge Mehta pointed out would lead "many famous historical congressional oversight investigations" to be illegitimate.


Barr Assigns U.S. Attorney in Connecticut to Review Origins of Russia Inquiry

Attorney General William Barr has assigned John Durham, the United States attorney in Connecticut, to investigate the origins of the Russia investigation. President Trump had called for the investigation despite law enforcement officials arguing that scrutiny of the Trump campaign "was lawful" and justified. Meanwhile, the Department of Justice continues its separate investigation into whether investigators improperly used "wiretap applications and informants" and "whether any political bias against Mr. Trump influenced investigative decisions." According to a source familiar with the investigation, Durham will only be reviewing the origins of the investigation and has not opened any criminal inquiry.



Justice Department Stops the Food and Drug Administration From Regulating Death-Penalty Drugs

Opening the door for states to import death-penalty drugs, regardless of approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Department of Justice has declared that the FDA does not have "legal authority to regulate drugs that are used to carry out lethal injections." The basis for the decision, coming from Steven Engel, the head of the department's Office of Legal Counsel, is that death-penalty drugs are not a "drug" or "device" as defined in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938. Previously, based on prior court decisions, the FDA had impounded shipments of the drugs that Arizona and Texas had sought to import.


Senate's Churn of Confirmations Brings Complaints of a 'Legislative Graveyard'

The United States Senate has confirmed its 40th Circuit Court judge and has nearly passed the milestone of appointing a quarter of the Circuit Court system with conservative leaning judges under President Trump. Critics of the Republican majority Senate, such as Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, have characterized the Senate's focus on nominations as a derailing of "the Senate's legislative agenda" and a diminishment of "the legacy of the upper chamber" of Congress. Given that the House of Republicans is held by Democrats, it is unclear whether the two chambers could achieve compromise and effectively legislate, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has vowed that so long as he is the majority leader, he gets "to set the agenda."


House Equality Act Extends Civil Rights Protections to Gay and Transgender People

The House of Representatives has passed legislation that "would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity." The bill was passed after the Trump administration has taken steps to undo the policies of the preceding administration toward gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, such as "barring transgender recruits from serving in the military or formally rejecting complaints filed by transgender students who are barred from restrooms that match their gender identity." It is virtually guaranteed that the Senate and the White House will reject the bill.


Left and Right Agree That on Criminal Justice They Were Both Wrong

There is a new bipartisan consensus on criminal justice: "the old consensus was wrong." Prominent Democrats and Republicans alike have begun to have a reckoning with the old system, as it led to people of color being "many times more likely than white people to be incarcerated." Many on both sides have now sought to reduce or abolish mandatory minimum sentences, eliminate cash bail, and impose alternatives to prison for nonviolent crimes.


Alabama Governor Signs Abortion Ban Bill as Missouri's Lawmakers Pass Bill Criminalizing Abortion at About 8 Weeks

The Republican-controlled legislature in Alabama passed a bill prohibiting abortions at every stage of pregnancy, leaving the only exception as when a woman's health is at "serious" risk and rejecting the customary exceptions of rape and incest. The Governor of Alabama, Kay Ivey, has signed the bill into law. If the inevitable challenge in court fails and the law stands, doctors "could be charged with a felony and face up to 99 years in prison for performing the procedure." Meanwhile, in Missouri, lawmakers passed after heated debate a bill prohibiting abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. It is expected that there will be imminent legal challenges to these new laws.




Former CIA Officer Sentenced to 20 Years After Spying for China

Kevin Patrick Mallory, a former CIA officer, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison "for passing secrets to China in return for $25,000." He had faced life in prison, but Judge T. S. Ellis III determined that it was too harsh, despite the fact that he had "endangered the lives of specific human assets who put their own safety at risk for our national defense." The jury convicted him after a nearly two-week trial in Alexandria, Virginia. At the time when he was recruited, he was in debt and behind in paying his mortgage, and shortly after being recruited he traveled to China and received a phone that allowed him to securely communicate with his Chinese counterparts. Prosecutors found classified documents on his phone and confirmed that he had transmitted multiple documents to the Chinese.


SAT's New 'Adversity Score' Will Take Students' Hardships Into Account

The College Board has announced that it will not only assess students' math and verbal skills, but also their "educational and socioeconomic backgrounds" at a time when the fairness of testing has come under scrutiny. The company, which administers the SAT tests nationwide, will have a new rating called an adversity score, which rates the students on 15 factors, such as the quality of their high schools and the crime rates and poverty levels of their neighborhoods. It will not affect the test scores, but be reported to college admissions officials as part of the data set for the taker.


Eric Garner Death Was 'Not a Big Deal' to Police Commander

Upon learning of the death of Eric Garner during an arrest in July 2014, a police lieutenant replied that it was "Not a big deal", as the police were "effecting a lawful arrest." There were gasps when the texts were read allowed during a "police disciplinary hearing for Officer Daniel Pantaleo", who is accused of recklessly using a chokehold that led to Mr. Garner's death after he was detained on the suspicion that he was selling untaxed cigarettes.


The National Rifle Association is Becoming a Sputtering Cash Machine

The New York Times obtained tax records of the National Rifle Association (NRA), which show that the longtime chief executive, Wayne LePierre, has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on luxury men's wear while the "largely ceremonial president, Oliver L. North, had a contract worth millions of dollars a year." The organization has increasingly relied on "cash infusions" totaling over $206 million since 2010. The New York State Attorney General Letitia James is in the process of investigating the NRA's tax-exempt status in New York State and has ordered the organization to maintain all relevant records.


Their Islands Are Being Eroded, and So Are Their Human Rights

Last week the United Nations received "a landmark claim" that argues that, "Australia, by failing to take adequate steps to reduce carbon emissions, has violated" the "fundamental human rights" of natives, "including the right to maintain their culture." The argument is the first attempt to put the weight of the United Nations behind "such a climate claim," even as other litigants have sued governments arguing that there was a "fundamental duty to ensure a livable environment." One key difference between the two approaches is that on islands like Masig Island, where natives live north of mainland Australia, there is erosion that is forcing them to relocate the graves of their ancestors, some of which go back six generations. The action calls for Australia "to help fund sea walls and other infrastructure that might save" the islands.


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