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Week In Review

By Chantelle A. Gyamfi
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

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


Spotify Settles Copyright Suits Brought by Songwriters

In 2017, streaming giant Spotify was sued for copyright infringement. The suits were brought against Spotify separately by Bob Gaudio, a songwriter and founding member of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and Nashville-based publisher Bluewater Music Services Corporation. The suits claimed that Spotify had failed to obtain licenses to stream works from the plaintiffs' catalogs; Gaudio's suit alleged that the streaming service wrongfully used 106 of his songs. The case was settled recently for an undisclosed amount. The settlement came just as the House Judiciary Committee was preparing to hold a hearing on oversight of the U.S. Copyright Office and updates came as to the development of the formation of the Mechanical Licensing Collective before a July 8th deadline. Among the big topics is the true amount of money in unmatched royalties held by on-demand digital services, like Spotify and Apple Music.


Federal Prosecutors File New Charges Against R. Kelly

R. Kelly, already under indictment in Chicago on state charges of aggravated sexual assault and abuse, was arrested by federal agents on charges related to child pornography and other federal crimes. Kelly was taken into custody over a 13-count indictment that includes enticement of a minor and obstruction of justice, in addition to the child pornography charges, said Joseph D. Fitzpatrick, an assistant United States attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn also unveiled a separate indictment charging
Kelly with one count of racketeering and four counts of violating the Mann Act, which prohibits transporting people across state lines for the purpose of prostitution.


R. Kelly Gave "Hush Money" to Teen in Sex Tape

A new indictment accuses R. Kelly of bribing the family of the girl at the center of a 2000 case so she would not testify. Kelly was under investigation in late 2000 for making a videotape that purported to show him having sex with and urinating on a teenage girl. To prevent her from testifying, Kelly and his associates allegedly gave the girl and her family gifts and money over more than a dozen years. The gifts ranged from payments of thousands of dollars, a car given to the girl, and ,a trip abroad to make them unavailable to law enforcement but were attached to instructions that they lie to investigators to protect him. Kelly was indicted by a federal grand jury in Chicago on 13 counts, among them conspiracy to obstruct justice and producing child pornography, including four videos that included the girl whose family he is accused of paying. A grand jury in Brooklyn also indicted Kelly on five counts, including racketeering and violations of the Mann Act. Kelly's lawyer, Steven Greenberg, characterized the federal charges as "decades old" and "piling on".


Judge May Dismiss Spacey's Sex Case

Judge Thomas S. Barrett of Nantucket District Court said that a sexual assault case against actor Kevin Spacey could be dismissed after the young man who accused Spacey of fondling him invoked the Fifth Amendment during a hearing over his missing phone. The man was asked to testify regarding text messages he sent and received on the night in July 2016 that he encountered Spacey at a Nantucket restaurant. Spacey's lawyer, Alan Jackson, contends that the young man had deleted text messages that could back up Spacey's assertion that whatever happened that night was consensual flirtation. After Jackson told the man that he could be charged with a felony for deleting evidence, the man invoked his constitutional right to protect himself from self-incrimination. Judge Barrett then said that the case "may well be dismissed" if the accuser continues to refuse to testify.


No Prison for Friars Club Boss

Michael Gyure, a former executive director of the Friars Club, was sentenced to one year of supervised release after pleading guilty to having filed false tax returns in January. His guilty plea covered tax returns for four years ending in 2015. He was charged with failing to include hundreds of thousands of dollars in supplemental income, including personal expenses covered by the club.



Court Says Heirs of Holocaust Victim Can Keep Nazi-Looted Works

A New York appellate court has unanimously upheld a ruling that returned two prized Egon Schiele drawings to the heirs of Fritz Grünbaum, a Viennese cabaret singer, whose large art collection was confiscated before he was murdered in a Nazi concentration camp in 1941. The two works had been bought by a London art dealer, Richard Nagy, six years ago, but were returned to the heirs last year after a ruling by New York state court judge Charles J. Ramos. In upholding the ruling, Appellate Division judges for Manhattan and the Bronx wrote that their decision relied principally on the finding that the heirs had a better claim to the works because the evidence indicated that Grünbaum had clearly owned them before the war and had never voluntarily transferred title.


Art Dealer Charged with Theft of Artifacts

Subhash Kapoor, a former Manhattan art dealer, was charged last week with running a multinational ring that trafficked in thousands of stolen objects, valued at more than $145 million, for over 30 years. Kapoor is currently jailed in India, where he has been awaiting trial on similar charges for nearly eight years. Authorities say Kapoor is one of the world's largest smugglers of antiquities. So far, around 2,600 antiquities, valued at more than $107 million, have been seized from storage locations Kapoor controlled in Manhattan and Queens during a decade-long investigation. The smuggling ring harvested objects from Afghanistan, Cambodia, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Thailand, and it created false paper trails that gave the items a patina of legitimacy, then sold them globally for large profits to collectors, art dealers, and museums.


Guggenheim Museum Added to World Heritage List

The Soloman R. Guggenheim Museum is now among eight buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright that have been added to Unesco's World Heritage List, the first recognition by the United Nations cultural organization of American modern architecture. The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, an organization that works to preserve the nearly 400 remaining buildings Wright designed, embarked on the nomination process more than 15 years ago, after a suggestion from the International Council on Monuments and Sites, which advises Unesco. The designation of the Wright properties follows the United States' withdrawal from Unesco at the end of 2018. The move means that the United States can no longer be represented on the World Heritage Committee, which determines which sites are added to, or removed from, the World Heritage List.


Sadie Roberts-Joseph, Founder of African American Museum, Found Dead in Trunk

Activist and museum founder Sadie Roberts-Joseph was found dead in the trunk of a car. Roberts-Joseph was the founder and curator of the Baton Rouge African American Museum. The museum features African art, exhibits on growing cotton and black inventors, as well as a 1953 bus from the period of civil rights boycotts in Baton Rouge. It also has prominent exhibits on President Barack Obama, whose presidency Roberts-Joseph cited as an inspiration to children.



Hello Kitty's Parent Company Fined $6.9 Million by E.U.

The European Commission has fined Sanrio, the Japanese company that licenses Hello Kitty and a range of other characters, 6.2 million euros, or around $6.9 million, for illegally restricting where manufacturers can sell the licensed toys, bags, and other products. The fine was announced after a two-year investigation by European antitrust regulators. The Commission said that Sanrio barred businesses that had purchased the right to make Hello Kitty merchandise from selling the items outside their home countries. Sanrio also restricted the languages used on the products. Sanrio's restrictions were in force for about 11 years through December. The company did not contest the penalty.



World Cup Title Worth Six Figures and Counting for the Women - Still Thousands Less Than the Men

A United States women's player will receive a guaranteed payday of about $250,000 for qualifying for the World Cup, making the final roster and then winning the tournament, based on enhanced bonuses included in the team's collective bargaining agreement with U.S. Soccer and a payout schedule for the finishers published by FIFA earlier this year. However, those FIFA bonus figures continue to pale in comparison to the far larger payouts for teams who compete in the men's World Cup - for example, France's men split $38 million for winning the men's tournament in Russia last summer. Those payments, and comparisons to FIFA-fueled payouts to the United States men's team after its participation in recent World Cups, are part of a broader and perpetually contentious debate about pay equality for women's soccer.


Women's Soccer Team Wins World Cup, Aiding Their Fight for Equal Rights + Pay

The U.S. women's soccer team clinched their second consecutive World Cup trophy by defeating the Netherlands 2-0 in the tournament's final match. The victory, which gave the United States a record four titles over all, was secured with goals from Rose Lavelle and best player honoree Megan Rapinoe. Almost immediately after the final whistle, Nike, one of the team's sponsors, released a stirring advertisement portraying the players not merely as soccer champions, but as champions of equal rights. This win was crucial for the champs, as the team's players filed a lawsuit in federal court in March against the United States Soccer Federation, accusing it of engaging in illegal workplace discrimination -- in areas such as pay, medical treatment, and workplace conditions -- on the basis of their gender. The heart of their argument for better compensation was their stellar performance over the years - therefore winning in France would help them make their case.


The U.S. Women Won, the Men Lost, and the Equal Pay Fight Tied Them Together Again

On the day the American team won the Women's World Cup, the U.S. men lost in a regional final, and how to compensate the players has caused tension and division. The results further highlighted a contentious battle about pay equality featuring the men's teams and women's teams, the different media and financial ecosystems in which they compete, and the often unequal rewards for success for male and female athletes. All of it was brought to the fore again by the women's team's latest world championship, and by the chants of "Equal Pay!" that serenaded the players after they won.


Agent Bets on Female Athletes Increase After World Cup Win

Sports and talent agency Wasserman, which represents more than half the members of the United States women's national team, including Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, is creating the Collective, a unit whose goal is to connect major companies, consumers, and fans of every gender with some of the country's best-known female athletes. Wasserman is hoping that the Collective can help remedy the inequities between women's and men's pay and other gender inequalities.


Chess Player Caught Cheating with Phone During Tournament

The International Chess Federation has suspended Igors Rausis, a Latvian-Czech player who won the grandmaster title in 1992 and has over the years represented Latvia, Bangladesh, and the Czech Republic. Officials say he was "caught red-handed using his phone during a game" in France last week.



Judges Rule That Trump Can't Block Critics from His Twitter Account

A three-judge panel on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit unanimously held that because Trump uses Twitter to conduct government business, he cannot exclude some Americans from reading his posts -- and engaging in conversations in the replies to them -- because he does not like their views. The court further held that Trump has been violating the Constitution by blocking people from following his Twitter account because they criticized or mocked him. The ruling was one of the highest-profile court decisions yet in a growing constellation of cases addressing what the First Amendment means in a time when political expression increasingly takes place online.


AOC Also Sued for Blocking Twitter Critics

A federal appeals panel unanimously held that Trump has been violating the Constitution by blocking people from following him on Twitter because they criticized or mocked him. That ruling is now the basis of two lawsuits filed against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, accusing her of blocking people because of their opposing political stances. The Twitter account in question is not her official congressional account - AOC has 4.7 million followers on her personal Twitter account, @AOC, and her official congressional account, @RepAOC, has 172,000 followers - but she frequently uses her personal account to discuss policy and advocate her proposals, such as the Green New Deal and her belief that the camps holding children and other undocumented immigrants seeking asylum at the Texas border are "concentration camps".


Expansion of Secrecy Law for Intelligence Operatives Alarms Free Press Advocates

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is pushing for Congress to significantly expand the scope of a 1982 law, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, that makes it a crime to disclose the identities of undercover intelligence agents who have served abroad in the past five years, raising alarms among advocates of press freedoms. Under the CIA's plan, the law would instead apply perpetually to people whose relationships with the intelligence community are classified -- even if they live and operate exclusively on domestic soil. The CIA wants the law to protect the identities of more covert officers and informants, citing its defunct torture program and groups like WikiLeaks.


Federal Trade Commission Approves Facebook Fines of $5 Billion

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has approved a fine of roughly $5 billion against Facebook for mishandling users' personal information, in what may be a landmark settlement that signals a newly aggressive stance by regulators toward the country's most powerful technology companies. While the settlement still needs final approval in the coming weeks from the Justice Department, if approved, it would be the biggest fine by far levied by the federal government against a technology company.


Newsrooms Are Facing a Changing Climate Too

As temperatures continue to rise, many news organizations are devoting more resources to climate change as they cover the topic with more urgency. In Florida, for example, six newsrooms (The Miami Herald, The Palm Beach Post, The South Florida Sun Sentinel, The Tampa Bay Times, The Orlando Sentinel, and WLRN Public Media) have taken the unusual step of pooling their resources and sharing their reporting on the issue. They plan to examine how climate change will affect the state's enormous agriculture sector as well as "the future of coastal towns and cities -- which ones survive, which ones go under". Several other news outlets, including The Guardian and The New York Times, have established initiatives to bring more attention to the climate crisis.


New Scandals Rock Government's Foreign Broadcasting Service

The United States Agency for Global Media, the government's foreign broadcast service, is being rocked by two new scandals that have raised further questions about its journalistic and financial management. In one, Tomás Regalado Jr., a reporter for TV Martí, which broadcasts into Cuba, and a cameraman for the network, Rodolfo Hernandez, were suspended amid allegations that they faked a mortar attack on Regalado during a broadcast from Managua, Nicaragua, last year. That incident surfaced only days after Haroon Ullah, the former chief strategy officer at the global media agency, which operates Martí and foreign-language networks around the world, pleaded guilty on June 27th in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, to stealing government property. Although the two incidents are unrelated, the scandals have brought intensified scrutiny and criticism to the agency, which was created to be an objective, trusted source of information in nations where freedom of the press is under attack.


What Speech Goes Too Far on Twitter??

After a year of debate and criticism, an effort to add to a policy on banned speech led to a narrower restriction that applies only when religious groups are targeted. Last August, Twitter's top executives gathered at the company's headquarters to discuss how to make the site safer for its users. Two attendees proposed banning all speech that could be considered "dehumanizing". The company has now narrowed its policymaking to focus only on banning speech that is insulting and unacceptable if directed at religious groups.


Ex-Vanity Fair Writer Says Editor Stopped Her from Exposing Epstein in 2003

Journalist Vicky Ward appeared on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" just days after Jeffrey Epstein was arrested and charged with sex trafficking by federal prosecutors and she revealed that she had wrote about Epstein in a March 2003 Vanity Fair issue, but the article was "toned down". As part of her reporting for the article, Ward said she had collected separate on-the-record accusations against Epstein from three women, two of whom said they were victims. Those accusations did not make it into the published version. The Vanity Fair profile was published five years before Epstein pleaded guilty in Florida to charges of soliciting a minor for prostitution. He ended up serving 13 months of an 18-month sentence. The plea deal in that case is now under Justice Department scrutiny.


Press Group Urges Saudis to Release Jailed Journalists

Press advocate group Reporters Without Borders is urging Saudi Arabia to free 30 journalists currently detained in the country and to relax its heavy suppression of the news media and of dissenting voices.


Journalists in Australia Feel "Under Attack" After Journalist's Travel Records Are Leaked

Journalists in Australia are concerned about their privacy rights after the Australian federal police obtained the personal travel records of a journalist from Qantas Airways. A document obtained by The Sydney Morning Herald showed that the police approached the airline in March seeking travel records for a journalist who wrote a 2017 article alleging that the Australian military had committed possible war crimes against Afghan citizens. A Qantas officer then searched for details of two flights in 2016 at the request of the police, and "captured and printed" details of the trips. This has drawn sharp criticism from media groups and raised questions about press freedoms in the country.



House Votes to Extend 9/11 Fund

The House approved a bill ensuring that a victims compensation fund for the September 11th attacks never runs out of money. The bill, which would authorize $10.2 billion for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, will replenish a depleted federal fund to compensate emergency workers and others who became ill as a result of their work in the ruins of the World Trade Center, extending it for the lifetime of those who were at Ground Zero. The bipartisan 402-12 vote sends the bill to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to call a vote before Congress goes on its August recess.


Federal Election Commission to Allow Security Company to Help 2020 Candidates Defend Campaigns

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has decided that a Silicon Valley security company could immediately start helping 2020 presidential candidates defend their campaigns from the kinds of malicious email attacks that Russian hackers exploited in the 2016 election. The FEC made its advisory opinion one month after lawyers for the commission advised it to block a request by the company, Area 1 Security, which had sought to provide services to 2020 presidential candidates at a discount.


Iran Announces Plan to Breach Nuclear Deal Limits

Iran announced that it would breach the limits on uranium enrichment set four years ago in an accord with the United States and other international powers that was designed to keep Tehran from producing a nuclear weapon. The move inches Iran closer to where it was before the accord, on the path to being able to produce an atomic bomb. This comes just a year after the Trump administration withdrew the United States from the accord and just a few weeks after Trump implemented sanctions intended to cut off Iran's oil sales anywhere in the world.


Judge Blocks Trump's Drug Prices Disclosure Mandate

Judge Amit P. Mehta, of the United States District Court in the District of Columbia, ruled that the Department of Health and Human Services exceeded its regulatory authority by seeking to require all drug makers to include in their television commercials the list price of any drug that costs more than $35 a month. Drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson began disclosing its list price in TV ads, but three other drug manufacturers sued the government to avoid such disclosures. The rule was to take effect this week. In response, Trump said he would be issuing an executive order on drug pricing, but the breadth of the order remained unclear. His administration has proposed other moves, including allowing older adults to more directly benefit from drug rebates in Medicare, and tying the cost of some drugs to their prices in other countries. Republicans and Democrats in Congress have also put forward a range of legislation that would address the issue, from limiting out-of-pocket costs for people covered by Medicare to allowing the federal government to directly negotiate the price of drugs.


U.K. Ambassador to U.S. Calls Trump Administration 'Inept' and 'Clumsy' in Leaked Docs

In a series of leaked documents, Kim Darroch, Britain's ambassador to the United States, described Trump as "radiating insecurity" and his administration as diplomatically "clumsy and inept". The documents were intended as an update on the new Trump administration for a narrow audience of top British officials.


Leaked British Cables Critical of Trump Lead to Diplomatic Uproar

Following the leak of several confidential documents, Trump said that the White House would no longer deal with Kim Darroch, the British ambassador to the United States, after the cables described the Trump administration as "clumsy and inept". Trump also harshly criticized Prime Minister Theresa May's handling of Britain's negotiations to leave the European Union. Trump tweeted his criticisms, which were a rude farewell to May and a British leadership that is likely to be replaced in the coming weeks by harder-line, pro-Brexit forces more to his liking. In his rebuke of the ambassador, Trump came close to declaring Darroch persona non grata -- an extraordinary breach between the United States and one of its closest allies.


Disdain for Trump Runs Among Ambassadors

Following the leak of the cables that Sir Kim Darroch, the British ambassador who resigned last week, wrote to London describing the dysfunction and chaos of the Trump administration, several other ambassadors were asked about the cables and their response is uniform: We wrote the same stuff. Gérard Araud, who retired this spring as the French ambassador, said of his own missives from Washington that everyone feels the same way, "but fortunately I knew that nothing would remain secret, so I sent them (documents) in a most confidential manner." It would have been stranger, his diplomatic colleagues said, if Darroch had been writing cables describing the Trump White House as a smooth-running machine.


Judge Rejects Request to Change Lawyers on Census Case

United States District Judge Jesse M. Furman has denied the Justice Department's request to switch its legal team in a case challenging the Trump administration's effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Last week, the Justice Department said it was replacing the legal team defending the citizenship question - but it offered no explanation for the change, which came in the middle of a prolonged clash. As a new team of lawyers began to notify the court of its appearance in the case, Judge Furman barred the old lawyers from leaving until they met a legal requirement to satisfactorily explain their departure and show that it would not impede the case.


Trump Says He Will Get Citizenship Data Anyway

After a court held that Trump could not include a citizenship question on the upcoming 2020 census, Trump instructed the government to compile citizenship data from existing federal records instead. "We are not backing down on our effort to determine the citizenship status of the United States population," Trump said. Rather than carry on the fight over the census, he said that he was issuing an executive order instructing federal departments and agencies to provide the Census Bureau with citizenship data from their "vast" databases immediately.



Immigration and Customs Enforcement Using Facial Recognition to Locate Undocumented Immigrants

In at least three states that offer driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have requested to comb through state repositories of license photos, searching the photos for matches. Privacy experts, like Harrison Rudolph, an associate at the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy and Technology, have said that this practice should be shut down. Experts have also complained of the potential for "widespread abuse". Alvaro Bedoya, the center's director, said: "States asked undocumented people to come out of the shadows to get licenses. Then ICE turns around and uses that to find them."



Debate Ensues Over Racial Bias as Facial Recognition Spreads

Back in 2016, lawmakers in Detroit created "Project Green Light" - deploying surveillance cameras across the city that stream 24-hour videos from cameras stationed at gas stations, restaurants, mini-marts, apartment buildings, churches, and schools into the Police Department's downtown headquarters. The surveillance program, which was created to deter crime, is being scrutinized as studies of the facial recognition software that the program requires have shown that the software can return more false matches for African-Americans than for white people - a sign of what experts call "algorithmic bias". Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reported in January that facial recognition software marketed by Amazon misidentified darker-skinned women as men 31% of the time. Others have shown that algorithms used in facial recognition return false matches at a higher rate for African-Americans than white people unless explicitly recalibrated for a black population -- in which case their failure rate at finding positive matches for white people climbs. That study, posted in May by computer scientists at the Florida Institute of Technology and the University of Notre Dame, suggests that a single algorithm cannot be applied to both groups with equal accuracy.


Trump Dismisses Reports of Poor Care of Detained Migrant Children

The Trump administration dismissed reports of migrant children crying and having diseases in the federal detention facilities in which they are being held as "unsubstantiated". Accounts of disease, hunger, and overcrowding have multiplied in recent days, but Kevin K. McAleenan, the acting secretary of homeland security, and Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the acting director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, maintained that the facilities were safe.


New Human Rights Panel Raises Fears of a Narrowing U.S. Advocacy

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that he was installing a human rights advisory panel in the State Department, and named a conservative law professor as its chairwoman, to review and tighten the agency's definition of human rights and ensure that it is grounded in the "nation's founding principles" and a 1948 United Nations declaration. Although the State Department already houses an internal bureau that oversees human rights issues, the new panel will examine "the role of human rights in American foreign policy", will not be managed by the bureau, and was created without substantial input from its experts and officials. The panel raises concerns among human rights advocates and Democratic lawmakers that Pompeo is moving to curtail State Department advocacy for some rights, particularly ones related to women's health and reproduction and gay and transgender issues.


Justice Department Seeks to Halt Democrats' Suit Over Trump's Profits in Office

The Justice Department asked a federal appeals court to issue an emergency order halting a lawsuit by congressional Democrats, which alleges that Trump has illegally profited from his family business while in office. the department's lawyers asserted that Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia had committed a series of "clear and indisputable" legal errors in allowing the lawsuit to proceed, including holding that Congress had legal standing to sue. If the appeals court refuses to intervene, they argued, the case will proceed into the evidence-gathering phase, in which Trump will be forced to reveal details of his financial affairs.


Appeals Court Blocks 'Emoluments' Suit Against Trump

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (based in Virginia) has issued a set of decisions instructing a lower court judge to dismiss the lawsuit filed against Trump in June 2017 by the Democratic attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia, holding that the attorneys general lacked standing to bring the suit. The court said that the District of Columbia and Maryland's interest "in enforcing the Emoluments Clauses is so attenuated and abstract that their prosecution of this case readily provokes the question of whether this action against the President is an appropriate use of the courts, which were created to resolve real cases and controversies."


Justice Department Urges Mueller Deputies Not to Testify

The Justice Department is seeking to discourage Robert S. Mueller III's deputies from testifying before Congress, potentially jeopardizing an agreement for two of the former prosecutors to answer lawmakers' questions in private. The department told the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees that it was opposed to the testimony and had communicated its view to the two former members of Mueller's team, Aaron Zebley and James L. Quarles III. It is unclear what effect the Justice Department's intervention will have on the men's eventual appearances, but it raises the prospect that a deal lawmakers thought they had struck last month for testimony from Mueller, the former special counsel, and the two prosecutors, could still unravel.


Abortion Rates Show Steady Decline - But Not Among Poor Women

The overall abortion rate in the United States has declined by nearly 40% since the mid-1990s. However, the U.S. still has a higher rate of unplanned pregnancy than many other developed countries, and a growing share of women who respond by having an abortion are impoverished. There are a number of possible reasons for why this is happening. One is purely demographic: The population of women living below the federal poverty level -- around $25,750 for a family of four in 2019 -- has grown faster than it has among women living above it. Another is that women with higher incomes may have better access to highly effective contraception than before. Another possible reason is that there are more financial resources for low-income women to pay for abortion, particularly since Medicaid expanded in several states under the Affordable Care Act, increasing coverage for poor women, and in turn, coverage of abortion in states that allow their Medicaid programs to pay for it.


Epstein Indicted on Sex Charges as Trove of Nude Photos Is Discovered

Jeffrey Epstein, a well-known financier, was arrested and charged with sex trafficking after a trove of lewd photographs of girls was discovered in a safe inside of his Manhattan mansion. Back in 2008, Epstein avoided the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence, largely because of a secret agreement his lawyers struck with federal prosecutors in Miami, which shielded him from federal prosecution. The Manhattan charges deal an implicit rebuke to that plea agreement, which was overseen by Alexander Acosta, then the United States attorney in Miami and now Trump's labor secretary and has renewed accusations about whether the case was improperly handled in the first place.


Acosta Pressed to Quit Amidst Backlash Over Epstein Plea Deal

Labor Secretary R. Alexander Acosta faced calls to resign over his role in brokering a lenient plea deal over sex crimes for the New York financier Jeffrey Epstein during his time as a federal prosecutor in Miami more than a decade ago. Acosta said that the plea agreement, in which Epstein served 13 months in jail after being accused of sexually abusing dozens of young women and girls, was the toughest deal available in a complex and difficult case, and the prosecution would have stood a far better chance of succeeding in the state courts. He also wrote on Twitter that he is "pleased that NY prosecutors are moving forward with a case based on new evidence."


Acosta Defends Epstein Plea Deal

Labor Secretary R. Alexander Acosta held a news conference to defend his actions as a United States attorney in Jeffrey Epstein's plea deal a decade ago in a sex crimes case. While condemning Epstein's "horrific" crimes, Acosta offered no apologies; instead, he offered a clinical explanation of the 2008 plea deal, arguing that he overrode state authorities to ensure that Epstein would face jail time and that holding out for a stiffer sentence by going to trial would have been "a roll of the dice."


Acosta Resigns After Renewed Outrage Over Epstein Plea Deal

Trump announced Labor Secretary R. Alexander Acosta's resignation following continuing questions about his handling of a sex crimes case involving the financier Jeffrey Epstein when Acosta was a federal prosecutor in Florida. Acosta's decision came only two days after he held a news conference to defend his handling of the 2008 sex crimes prosecution of Epstein. Trump named Acosta's deputy, Patrick Pizzella, to serve as acting secretary of labor when Acosta's resignation becomes effective on July 19th.


Manhattan District Attorney's Office Sought Reduced Sex-Offender Status for Epstein

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. claims that he was unaware of an assistant's attempt to reduce Epstein's sex offender status. During a hearing in 2011, a seasoned sex-crimes prosecutor from Vance's office argued forcefully in court that Epstein, who had been convicted in Florida of soliciting an underage prostitute, should not be registered as a top-level sex offender in New York. Instead, the prosecutor, Jennifer Gaffney, asked a judge to reduce Epstein's sex-offender status to the lowest possible classification, which would have limited the personal information available to the public, and would have kept him from being listed on a registry of sex offenders for life.


Prosecutors Say Epstein Tried to Bribe Possible Witnesses

The United States attorney's office in Manhattan alleges that Jeffrey Epstein wired $350,000 to two people close to him to try to buy the silence of possible witnesses against him after a newspaper exposé last November drew new attention to his predatory behavior toward young women. Prosecutors are now asking that Epstein be denied bail while he awaits trial, saying the payments were evidence that he might try to influence witnesses if he were not detained.


Governor Cuomo Signs a Bill to Allow Release of Trump's State Tax Returns

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an amendment to a tax law that will allow three congressional committees to access the president's state tax returns. The new law requires state tax officials to release the president's state returns for any "specified and legitimate legislative purpose" on the request of the chair of one of either the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee or the Joint Committee on Taxation. It is effective immediately, however, and the Trump administration is predicted to challenge it.


Judge Receives Threats After Saying Teenager in Rape Case Was From 'Good Family'

New Jersey Judge James G. Troiano has faced death threats in recent days as fierce public backlash mounts against his comments and decision to be lenient with a 16-year old accused of rape. The decision concerned a 2017 case in which prosecutors said a visibly intoxicated 16-year-old girl was sexually assaulted by the drunken 16-year-old boy who recorded the act, and sent the video to his friends, along with a text that said: "When your first time is rape." Judge Troiano refused to prosecute the boy as an adult, despite prosecutors' requests, because he said that the boy "had good grades and potential to attend a good college" and came from a "good family". While family court proceedings are normally sealed, the transcript (and therefore some of the judge's comments) were revealed when an appeals court decision was made public. The judge's decision is emblematic, critics have said, of judicial inequity that time and again treats juveniles from privileged backgrounds, particularly white defendants, with leniency, while coming down hard on poor, minority offenders for similar crimes.


Alaska's University System Pleads for a Lifeline After Budget Cuts

After last month's budget cut saw Alaska lawmakers agreeing to cut $5 million in support for the state's universities, Governor Mike J. Dunleavy shocked the state by using a veto to cut $130 million more from the system. The governor's slashing of state funding left university leaders blindsided and in turmoil. The university's supporters have embarked on a desperate scramble to persuade lawmakers to override the governor's line-item veto, which would reduce the operating funds the university system gets from the state by 41%. University officials have announced restrictions on hiring, travel, and procurement, and have sent furlough notices to all employees, in case the legislature fails to override the governor's budget cuts.


Principal Who Tried to Stay 'Politically Neutral' About Holocaust Is Removed

Principal William Latson of Spanish River Community High School in Boca Raton, Florida, has been removed from his position at the Boca Raton school to a district office job because of the outcry over his email to an unidentified parent who inquired last year whether the school's students study the Holocaust. The emails came to light last week in a story published by The Palm Beach Post. Latson faces backlash over his refusal to state that the Holocaust was a factual historical event, saying that he had to stay "politically neutral" about the World War II-era genocide of six million Jews. In an email exchange with the parent in April 2018, Latson wrote that: "Not everyone believes the Holocaust happened". He also said that although the school offered an assembly and courses on the Holocaust, they were optional and could not be "forced upon" all students. Lawmakers had called for Latson to be fired.



Trump Administration Will Allow Some Companies to Sell to Huawei

The Trump administration is following through with plans to allow American companies to continue doing business with Huawei, the Chinese telecom equipment giant, just weeks after placing the company on a Commerce Department blacklist. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that the administration will issue licenses for American companies that want to do business with Huawei "where there is no threat to national security." This comes after Trump's surprise announcement last month, after a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, that the United States would relax restrictions on Huawei as part of an effort to restart stalled trade talks with China.


24 Governors Call for Halt to Emissions Rollback

24 governors, including three Republicans, urged Trump to abandon his plan to weaken pollution standards for automobiles nationwide. The two dozen governors include the leaders of four states -- North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Montana -- that voted for Trump in 2016, helping propel him into the White House. The Trump administration's rule changes, which are expected to land later this year, would weaken Obama-era rules that would have doubled the fuel economy requirement for new passenger vehicles by 2025 as part of President Obama's signature effort to fight global warming.


Taliban and Afghan Representatives Agree to Peace Road Map but Negotiations Will Not Proceed Until U.S. Plans for Troop Withdrawal

After two days of unprecedented discussions in Doha, Qatar, Taliban and Afghan representatives agreed to a basic road map for negotiating the country's political future, a major step that could help propel peace efforts to end the 18-year-old war. However, the Taliban have said that direct negotiations with other Afghans would start only after the United States announces a timeline for the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan. Sher Mohammad Abas Stanekzai, the most senior member of the Taliban delegation and its chief negotiator said, "when we finalize our negotiations with the Americans and get a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops, then we will enter direct negotiations with the Afghan side for the internal matters of our country".


"The Terminator" of Congo Is Convicted of War Crimes by the International Criminal Court

Congolese warlord, Bosco Ntaganda - known as "the Terminator" - was convicted by a three-judge panel on 13 counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity, committed in the 2002-2003 ethnic conflict between Lendu and Hema in Congo's Ituri region. The charges include murder, rape, sexual slavery, intentionally directing attacks against civilians, ordering the displacement of the civilian population, and conscripting children into an armed group. Although he has not yet been sentenced, and has 30 days to appeal, he could face life in prison, which analysts say sends a strong warning to other abusive commanders.


Europe Puts Its Foot Down on Tech Taxes

Several countries are moving to impose new taxes on technology companies, like Facebook and Google, that have large presences in their citizens' daily lives but pay those countries little tax on the profits they earn there. France moved to become the first country to impose a so-called digital tax of 3% on the revenue companies earn from providing digital services to French users. It would apply to large companies, numbering more than two dozen, with robust annual sales in France, including United States-based Facebook, Google, and Amazon. British leaders also detailed plans to impose a similar tax, of 2%, on tech giants, and the European Union has also been mulling a digital tax.


Hong Kong Leader Says That Extradition Bill is 'Dead'

Hong Kong's chief executive, Carrie Lam, during a news conference in Hong Kong said that an unpopular bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China "is dead". Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in recent weeks to oppose the bill, which would have allowed extraditions to mainland China. The bill, which was suspended by Lam, drew concerns that the government would revive it later. However, Lam told reporters "There is no such plan...the bill is dead."


China Annoyed as Taiwan Set to Receive $2 Billion in U.S. Arms

The United States has tentatively approved the sale of $2 billion in military hardware to Taiwan, demonstrating support for its unofficial ally in a move likely to exacerbate deteriorating ties between Washington and Beijing. The tentative approvals come as relations between the United States and China are already being tested by a trade war and the decoupling of technology supply chains. The armaments would provide Taiwan with greater deterrence capabilities against the growing military threat from China


U.S. Missiles Found in Libyan Rebel Camp Were First Sold to France

A cache of powerful American missiles ended up in the hands of rebel fighters - loyal to General Khalifa Hifter seeking to overthrow the United Nations-backed government in Tripoli - after being sold to France. The four Javelin anti-tank missiles, which cost more than $170,000 each and are usually sold only to close American allies, were recovered last month by Libyan government forces during a raid on a rebel camp in Gheryan, a town in the mountains south of Tripoli. Following the discovery, the State Department investigated the origins of the missiles, using their serial numbers and other information, and concluded that they had originally been sold to France, which has been a strong supporter of General Hifter. A French military adviser denied on Tuesday that the weapons were transferred to General Hifter, which would violate the sales agreement with the United States as well as a United Nations arms embargo.


U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Hezbollah Officials

The Trump administration imposed sanctions on three senior Hezbollah officials - Wafiq Safa, Muhammad Hasan Ra'd, and Amin Sherri - after accusing them of having a "malign agenda" to support the Iranian government. The United States considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization, even though members of the group have embedded into legitimate parts of the Lebanese government. Sigal Mandelker, the Treasury Department's secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement that "Hezbollah uses its operatives in Lebanon's Parliament to manipulate institutions in support of the terrorist group's financial and security interests, and to bolster Iran's malign activities."


German Chancellor Seen Shaking Again, Renewing Concerns for Her Health

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany was seen trembling for the third time in less than a month, despite insistence that she was "well" and capable of fulfilling her job. Her aides attributed the initial shaking to dehydration, a problem that has plagued the chancellor in the past. Merkel said that the most recent incidence of shaking was part of the psychological trauma she suffered after experiencing uncontrolled trembling under similar circumstances on June 18th, the second incidence.


Australia Could Almost Eradicate H.I.V. Transmissions

Nearly four decades into the H.I.V. crisis, Australian researchers say that the country is on a path toward making transmissions of the virus vanishingly rare. In the past five years, the number of new infections with the virus has dropped by almost a quarter in Australia, with higher declines among gay and bisexual men, according to a report released last week by the Kirby Institute, an infectious disease research center in the state of New South Wales. The most recent advance in Australia's battle against the virus, which is seen as a model around the world, is the rapid adoption of a drug regimen known as PrEP. Under the regimen, patients typically take a daily pill, which -- even without the use of condoms -- is close to 100% effective at preventing contraction of H.I.V., experts say. "Provided we don't take our foot off the pedal, we stand a chance of eliminating H.I.V. by 2030" in Australia, said Andrew Grulich, an author of the Kirby Institute report and a professor of epidemiology at the University of New South Wales.


22 Countries Issue Plea to Beijing Regarding Xinjiang Repression

A group of 22 countries has issued a statement urging China to stop the mass detention of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in its western Xinjiang region. In a letter to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, the states told China to uphold its own laws and international obligations, and stop arbitrary incarceration of Uighurs and other Muslim and minority communities, and permit freedom of religion.


China Gets Praise from Russia and Saudi Arabia

After 22 countries joined together and urged China to stop the mass detention of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in its western Xinjiang region, ambassadors of 37 states from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America jointly signed a letter to the president of the United Nations Human Rights Council praising China's "contribution to the international human rights cause." The states, including prominent members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, said China had faced terrorism, separatism and religious extremism in Xinjiang, the vast northwest region that is mainly Muslim. But through counterterrorism measures and vocational training, these states said, China had restored peace and security there.


Turkey Defies U.S. by Getting Shipment of Russian Missile System

Turkey began receiving the first shipment of a sophisticated Russian surface-to-air missile system against objections from the U.S. - a step certain to test the country's uneasy place in the NATO alliance. The system, called the S-400, includes advanced radar to detect aircraft and other targets and it puts Russian technology inside the territory of a key NATO ally -- one from which strikes into Syria have been staged. The Russian engineers who will be required to set up the system, American officials fear, will have an opportunity to learn much about the American-made fighter jets that are also part of Turkey's arsenal. In response, the Trump administration has already moved to block the delivery of the F-35 stealth fighter jet, one of the United States' most advanced aircraft, to Turkey, and has suspended the training of its pilots, who were learning how to fly it.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 16, 2019 9:24 AM.

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