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Week In Review

By, Angela Peco
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

Below are sections divided into Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media, and General News:


Katy Perry Loses Copyright Battle over "Dark Horse"

Katy Perry and her collaborators owe $2.78 million following a ruling that her song "Dark Horse" copied elements of "Joyful Noise," a Christian rap song. In determining the damages, the jury decided that the riff in question was responsible for 22.5% of the success of her song.


Hollywood's Two Biggest Public Relations Firms Announce Merger

PMK-BNC and Rogers & Cowan will merge to create a new agency of over 500 clients. The companies represent high-profile actors, music starts and an array of corporate clients. The move is seen as an effort to stave off competition from boutique publicity agencies in Hollywood.


Woodstock 50 Anniversary Festival Cancelled

Organizers called off the tribute festival just two weeks before the event. The article traces what went wrong, including rejections of two proposed festival sites in upstate New York and lost funding.


A$AP Rocky Claims Self-Defense in Assault Trial; Returns to U.S. to Await Verdict

A$AP Rocky has returned to the U.S. while he waits for the verdict in his assault case, which is expected August 14. President Trump, who had demanded the rapper's release, sent a special envoy for hostage affairs to Sweden to observe the trial of someone the administration considered an "unjustly detained American."



Fan Bingbing, China's Top Actress, Is Considering a Comeback Following Tax Scandal

The actress was out of public view last year and it is now being reported that she under a type of house arrest while tax authorities investigated her. Authorities also revealed she had been fined nearly $70 million in unpaid taxes and penalties. She is signaling her return on social media with reference to projects that had been put on hold since the scandal.



The Case for Keeping San Francisco's Disputed George Washington Murals

The San Francisco Board of Education voted unanimously to cover a series of murals from the 1930s depicting the life of George Washington and including images of slavery and Native American deaths. The article takes the position that destroying a work of art is never a solution to any offense it may give. It then explores less-permanent alternatives to overpainting that might be more conducive to debate.


New York's Arts Organizations Have a Diversity Problem

A study commissioned by Mayor de Blasio's administration shows that two-thirds of the people who run the city's cultural institutions are white. The study looked at institutions that receive city funding, including museums and theaters, and found that the disparity was striking when it came to race, with people of color significantly underrepresented in upper-level leadership positions and boards. The city then asked organizations to submit plans to boost diversity and inclusion among staff, though it is unclear how it plans to "enforce" these plans - whether by offering additional financial support or tying future funding for museums and arts groups to the diversity of their employees and board members.


Photographer's Misconduct Raises Questions About Instagram Becoming a Venue for Predatory Behavior

The platform has come under renewed scrutiny after photographer Marcus Hyde was accused of engaging in appropriate behavior after soliciting nude photographs from models on Instagram in exchange for shooting them. Instagram has since disabled his account "for violating [its] sexual solicitation policies." While the platform has "democratized the process of discovery," it also provides a venue for anyone to pose as an agent or a modeling industry figure.


Picasso Show Captivates Beijing

Picasso has historically been accepted in China but the latest Picasso exhibition in Beijing is still bringing up questions of censorship in the art world there.



Proposed Legislation Would Increase Congressional Oversight of Olympic Sports

The Empowering Olympic and Amateur Athletes Act of 2019 is the result of an 18-month Senate investigation that found that the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics "knowingly concealed" Larry Nasser's sexual abuse of gymnasts. The law would require the USOPC to "submit yearly reports with audits of its finances to Congressional oversight bodies." With respect to the governing body's board, the bill increases athlete representation from one-fifth to one-third of the members and it subjects the board to "total dissolution by Congress if it acts negligently."


Ashley Wagner Renews Accusations of Sexual Assault in Figure Skating

Olympian and three-time U.S. skating champion Ashley Wagner wrote in USA Today that she was sexually assaulted by an older male skater at a training camp in 2008, when she was 17. She describes a figure skating culture that "features social circles mixing older and younger skaters, ultimately putting minors at risk."


U.S. Soccer Responds to Calls for Equal Pay

In an open letter, U.S. Soccer's president outlined the federation's position in the debate about equal pay weeks before the governing body is scheduled to enter mediation with the women's players' association. In his analysis of 10 years of financial data, the president said that players on the women's team had earned more than their male counterparts, also highlighting the federation's investment in women's soccer.


Former Michigan State President to Receive $2.4 Million in Retirement Deal

Lou Anna Simon was charged with two felonies and was accused of lying about her knowledge of Larry Nasser's sexual abuse. She stepped down as president but remained a university employee, announcing her retirement effective late August 31.


Fans Ejected from Camden Yards Over Pro-Trump Banner

Four fans were escorted out of Camden Yards earlier in the week after they unveiled a banner in support of President Trump's re-election. The ballpark has a policy that "no banners can be hung anywhere in the stadium so as not to obstruct other fans' views of the game." Earlier in the week, President Trump had made disparaging comments about Representative Elijah Cummings and the city of Baltimore.


Swiss Court Bans Caster Semenya from 800-meter Race at World Championships

The Olympic gold medalist will not compete in September's world track and field championship in Qatar. Semenya had appealed the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport to a Swiss federal court which has temporarily barred her from international races between 400 meters and a mile. The Swiss Supreme Court ruled that she must adhere to the governing body's requirement that she take testosterone-suppressing drugs. Switzerland's Federal Supreme Court had previously suspended that rule, allowing her to compete without using medication.


FIFA Considering Leaving its Swiss Headquarters

Senior FIFA executives are considering leaving Zurich for two primary reasons: difficulty in hiring staff from outside Europe and the city's reputation for corporate secrecy at a time when FIFA could benefit from a boost in public trust. One of the options is to open subsidiary offices or relocate to Paris, where the organization was first established.


Brazilian Police Recommend No Charges for Neymar After Inquiry into Rape Accusations

The police investigator noted the lack of sufficient evidence to substantiate the accusation made by a Brazilian model that she was attacked by Neymar in a Paris hotel room. The final decision rests with state prosecutors.



Broadcast Networks Sue Free Streaming Service, Locast

The networks say Locast, a streaming service that transmits their broadcasts for free, is violating their copyrights and should be shut down. Locast argues it is allowed under copyright law to stream the networks without paying them because it is a non-profit that provides a public service.


General News

29 People Dead After Mass Shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio

The deadliest of the two shootings, in El Paso, is being investigated as an act of domestic terrorism and prosecutors there are considering federal gun charges that carry the death penalty. The suspect had allegedly written an anti-immigrant manifesto before attacking a Walmart and killing 20 people. Nine people were killed in Dayton in the early morning hours of Sunday. Officers on routine patrol responded and killed the gunman, who was wearing body armor and carrying a high-capacity magazine.



Dan Coats Steps Down as Director of National Intelligence

His resignation is effective on August 15th. Reports say that Coats clashed with President Trump on Russia and North Korea. With Jim Mattis's earlier departure, the president is increasingly surrounded by loyalists.


President Withdraws Pick for Top Intelligence Post; Ratcliffe Faced Questions Over His Qualifications

Congressman John Ratcliffe of Texas, a staunch defender of the president, will not be nominated to replace Dan Coats. Democratic lawmakers and former officials were concerned that John Ratcliffe's appointment would have politicized an otherwise nonpartisan job. They also voiced concerns about Ratcliffe's qualifications and whether he had overstated parts of his professional experience, specifically his role in terrorism cases as a federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of Texas.




Kelly Craft Confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

A former ambassador to Canada, Craft takes what is considered to be the second-most important foreign policy position, after secretary of state.


Lawmakers Criticize Trump Administration for Delaying F-16 Sales to Taiwan

Members of Congress are questioning whether the administration is delaying approval of an $8 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan to placate China or use the sale as a bargaining chip now that trade negotiations are underway.


Pentagon Delays Award of $10 Billion Cloud Computing Contract

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper will review the bid process for the military's cloud computing contract that was expected to go to Amazon. President Trump had criticized the process and suggested potential bias toward Amazon. Experts on federal contracting say that it is rare for a president to intervene in a contract competition, and it is unclear whether IBM and Oracle are now back in the bidding.


U.S. Terminates Cold War Missile Treaty

The U.S. withdrew from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces agreement and is planning on testing a new class of missiles later in the summer. American withdrawal comes after Russia was deemed to be non-compliant with the treaty.


Trump Instructs Pentagon Officials to Strip Medals From Prosecutors in War Crimes Trial

President Trump has directed the Navy to strip the four prosecutors in the case against Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher of their Navy Achievement Medals. In a court-martial earlier this month, Gallagher was charged but acquitted of first-degree murder in the death of a captured Islamic State fighter in Iraq.


National Security Agency Did Not Fully Complete its 2018 Data Purge

In May 2018, the National Security Agency (NSA) began purging hundreds of millions of phone records it had inappropriately collected from telecom companies. According to some recent inspector general reports, however, some of the data seems to have survived the purge. The NSA's ability to collect phone records is based on the USA Freedom Act of 2015, which curtailed some of its previous powers to obtain records of Americans' domestic phone calls and texts to search for terrorist cells. Critics of the program point to this instance of overcollection and failure to discard the data as a reason to let the surveillance program end when the authorizing sections of the Act expire on December 15th.


Attorney General Barr Moves to Block Asylum Claims Based on Persecution of Family Members

Migrants are eligible for asylum if they can prove persecution on the basis of a few enumerated grounds, including "membership in a particular social group or political opinion." Attorney General Barr's position is that a migrant's family does not qualify as a particular social group, announcing his decision that people can no longer request protection because their relatives have been persecuted.


900 Children Separated from Families Following Administration's Announcement to End the Practice

According to Justice Department data, family separations have occurred with even greater frequency in recent months. The reason that was often cited for removing children from an accompanying adult was the child's welfare, or that there were doubts that the adult was actually the parent. The American Civil Liberties Union is asking a federal judge in San Diego to clarify the standards governing these separations to ensure that children are removed only when there is evidence that the parent poses a genuine danger or is unfit to provide care.


Few Migrants Have Legal Representation at Their Hearings

The Trump administration instituted a rule requiring that asylum-seekers be sent back to Mexico for the duration of their court proceedings in the U.S. and be admitted back in to the U.S. to attend their hearings. Immigration court data shows that of the 1,555 cases decided under the so-called "Remain in Mexico" program, only 1.2% of petitioners had legal representation.


New Proposal Will Impact School Meal Eligibility of Nearly 500,000 Children

The Agriculture Department's proposed rule is intended to tighten access to food stamps. An estimated 3 million people would no longer qualify for food stamps. Children from those households would automatically lose eligibility for free meals at school but could qualify for reduced-price meals.



Federal Reserve Cuts Interest Rates by a Quarter of a Percentage Point

For the first time in more than a decade, central bankers voted to lower the interest rate as a precautionary effort to protect the U.S. from slowing global growth.


Is Scabby, the Rat Balloon, "Unlawful Coercion" of Free Speech?

The National Labor Relations Board argues that the labor movement's deployment of the inflatable rat is unlawful and crosses the line from legitimate communication to unlawful coercion. In another filing, it is described as a form of illegal picketing. The board's position appears to "set up a larger fight over union actions and free speech." In earlier challenges, courts have consistently found that the rat "did not constitute picketing, a regulated and restricted action, and was instead a protected form of free speech." The board will likely continue to argue that inflatable vermin are similar to picketing in that they intimidate non-union employees from reporting to work, or potential clients from frequenting a business.


LGBTQ Rights Cases Stall Under Betsy DeVos's Leadership in Education

The Center for American Progress's report found that the Trump administration was less likely to investigate student claims of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and more likely to dismiss them. The number of cases in which the school was required to take action to remedy the discrimination were 9 times lower than in the Obama years. The results are likely attributable to the Department of Education adopting the administration's position that gender identity is not covered under federal civil rights law. Department officials disagree with the characterization of the data, noting that the previous administration's numbers appear better because it resolved fewer cases.


Justice Department Declined to Prosecute Comey Over Trump Memos

Prosecutors determined that Comey's handling of the memos in which he writes about his interactions with newly-elected President Trump did not warrant charges. The FBI had upgraded the memos to confidential and there were questions about whether Comey had mishandled them by keeping them at his home and sharing one with a friend.


State Department Officials Force Out Top Policy Adviser to Secretary Pompeo

Kiron Skinner, the State Department's director of policy planning and one of the highest-ranking African American women in the department, was reportedly fired this week, but it is not clear why she was removed from her post. Some colleagues say that she clashed with department staff and diplomats.


Representative Will Hurd, the Only African American Republican in the House, Retiring from Congress

The Texas representative announced that he will not seek re-election next year. He is the only Republican to represent a district along the southwestern border.


U.S. Congressman Wants Social Media Companies to Clamp Down on Fake Accounts

Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois is in the early stages of preparing legislation that would force companies like Facebook to monitor and prevent fraud on their sites. Kinzinger was himself a victim of a scam where people impersonate U.S. service members to lure women into false relationships and cheat them out of their savings.


Federal Prosecutors Launch Lobbying Inquiry into Trump Contacts in the Gulf

Prosecutors in the public integrity unit are looking into what influence Trump's contacts exerted on the administration's position on energy policy, and whether they had any involvement with a proposal to give Saudi Arabia access to nuclear power technology.


Democratic National Convention Lawsuit Alleging Trump-Russia Conspiracy is Dismissed

Judge Koeltl of the Southern District of New York dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Democratic National Convention (DNC) accusing Donald Trump's campaign, WikiLeaks, and Russia of illegally conspiring to damage a Democratic candidate's campaign. The judge acknowledged that Russia was the primary wrongdoer but was immune from liability as a foreign sovereign. While Trump campaign officials were eager to benefit for the publication of damaging materials, both their actions and those of WikiLeaks were protected by the First Amendment. Distinguishing between stealing documents and disclosing documents that someone else had stolen, Judge Koeltl stressed that WikiLeaks could not be held liable for releasing the documents as long as it did not participate in obtaining them.


New Puerto Rico Governor Sworn In

Pedro Pierluisi was sworn in as Ricardo Rossell├│'s replacement after the former governor stepped down following weeks of protests over government mismanagement. Pierluisi will serve until the Senate's hearing on his nomination. If the Senate does not vote in his favor, he will step down and the justice secretary, who is next in line under the constitution, will receive the nomination.


Manhattan D.A. Subpoenas Trump Organization Over Stormy Daniels Payments

State prosecutors subpoenaed the Trump Organization, asking the family business to provide documents related to money that was paid to Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence during the 2016 presidential campaign. They want to examine whether senior executives at the company filed false business records related to the $130,000 payment.


New York City Declares Melinda Katz as the Winner of the Queens District Attorney Primary

The city's Board of Elections certified Katz as the winner of the Democratic primary for Queen's D.A. following a two-week manual recount. Her opponent, Tiffany Cabán, has refused to concede and filed a lawsuit arguing that nearly 100 ballots were improperly invalidated.


New York Law Bars School Districts from Allowing Teachers to Carry Guns in the Classroom

Governor Cuomo signed a bill that prevents local school districts from allowing teachers and administrators to carry guns on school grounds, an idea proposed primarily by the National Rifle Association as a means to prevent mass shootings. On the federal front, Congress has yet to pass legislation on this issue, but federal education officials did explore whether federal funding earmarked for academic programs could be used to buy guns for educators. Florida is one of 8 states to explicitly allow school employees to carry firearms on school grounds.


Police Administrative Judge Recommends That Officer in Eric Garner's Death Should Be Fired

Five years after Eric Garner's death in police custody, the judge in the disciplinary proceedings against Officer Daniel Pantaleo recommended that he be fired. The police commissioner has the final say on whether the officer is dismissed. James O'Neill could uphold, modify or reverse the findings. His decision is expected later this month. The Justice Department previously announced that it would not seek a federal indictment against Officer Pantaleo on civil rights charges.


New York Police Department Using Facial Recognition Technology

The New York Times reports that internal records show that the department has been loading thousands of arrest photos of children and teenagers into a facial recognition database, and using facial recognition technology to compare crime scene images with these photos. The department defended the practice, saying that it was an evolution of the longstanding police technique of using arrest photos to identify suspects.


Abuse Victim Rented 3 Billboards to Advocate Change to New York State Law

In the age of social media and grass-roots involvement, states are grappling with how to disentangle lobbying, activism, and normal speech. In a recent case from upstate New York, a survivor of sexual abuse spent $14,000 to rent 3 billboards that called for stronger protections against sex offenders. The state's ethics commission took the position that her activity met the definition of lobbying, especially since she surpassed the $5,000 annual threshold and identified a specific bill rather than mentioning sexual abuse more broadly.


Arizona Files Lawsuit Against the Sackler Family in the Supreme Court

The state's filings allege that members of the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma were parties to massive cash transfers (of nearly $4 billion) "at a time when Purdue faced enormous exposure for its role in fueling the opioid crisis." Arizona alleges that these transfers threaten the company's ability to satisfy any future judgments against it and were intended to frustrate efforts by victims of the crisis to obtain compensation.



California's New Election Law Requires Tax Returns Before Candidates Can Be Placed on the Ballot

Under the new law, candidates will not be eligible for California's primary ballot unless they submit copies of their tax returns from the last 5 years at least 3 months ahead of the primary. In describing the rationale for the law, Governor Newsom stated that this disclosure "will shed light on conflicts of interest, self-dealing, or influence from domestic and foreign business interests." To the extent that it applies to presidential candidates, critics say that the law is unconstitutional - states cannot add additional requirements for someone to serve as president.


School Districts Becoming Vulnerable to Ransomware Attacks

Tech experts say that school districts are the next area of concern for government infrastructure. They are especially vulnerable to cyberattacks, given the amount of personal and financial student data they handle and the fact that not many have dedicated tech staff and resources to ward off these attacks. As an example, a malware attack was reported by a Syracuse school district and Louisiana recently declared a state of emergency after a virus disabled computers at 3 of its school districts.


Capital One Data Breach Compromises Information of Over 100 Million People

A Seattle-based software engineer hacked into a Capital One server and obtained 140,000 Social Security numbers and 80,000 bank account numbers. Another one million Canadian social insurance numbers were compromised in the breach. While Amazon Web Services hosted the server, the hacker actually exploited a "misconfiguration" of a firewall on a web application that Capital One itself had built to access the information.



Jeffrey Epstein's "Scientific" Plans

The New York Times published a report on Jeffrey Epstein this week based on public records and interviews with his acquaintances. The article describes how Epstein tried to cultivate relationships with prominent scientists "to pursue his interests in eugenics and other fringe fields like cryonics", and had a desire "to seed the human race with his DNA."


U.S. Is Able to Confirm Death of Osama bin Laden's Son

It is being reported that the United States had a role in the operation that killed Hamza bin Laden. Though few details are being released, he was killed before the State Department announced a $1 million reward for information on his whereabouts. Intelligence agencies had not confirmed his death at the time. Bin Laden's son was considered an eventual heir to the leadership of Al Qaeda.


Newly Released Tapes Record Racist Conversation Between Reagan and Nixon

The recording was made in 1971 when a then-Governor Reagan phoned President Nixon to express his frustration over a United Nations vote to expel Taiwan and seat representatives from communist China. In the exchange, Reagan is heard referring to the Tanzanian delegation, who supported the outcome of the vote, as "monkeys from those African countries," a comment that is met with laughter by Nixon.


Hong Kong Charges Dozens of Protesters with Rioting; China Reacts by Blaming the U.S.

Clashes between riot officers and demonstrators escalated in Hong Kong this week as protesters tried to approach the Chinese government's representative office there. Since the full withdrawal of the highly contested extradition bill, demonstrators have demanded an expansion of direct elections and an investigation into police use of force. Dozens of people were charged with rioting, which carries a prison term of up to 10 years. In recent days, as the crisis has deepened, Chinese officials have dialed up anti-American comments both in Washington and on state news media.




China Sentences Internet Activist to 12 Years in Prison

Huang Qi was convicted of disclosing state secrets and illegally providing them to foreign entities. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison following a secret trial in January. Known as a "cyber-dissident," Huang launched a website in 1999 that documented and tracked state corruption and public protests.


China Announces That It Has Released Muslims from Camps

Without disclosing how many individuals had been held, a government official announced that most people sent to mass detention centers in China's Xinjiang region have "returned to society". The United Nations has said that at least one million ethnic Uighurs and members of other Muslim minority groups had been detained in these centers, which China calls "vocational training camps."


Saudi Arabia Extends New Rights to Women

Saudi women will now have the right to travel without a male relative's permission and to obtain family documents from the government. The new regulations erode the so-called guardianship system that subjects women's rights to the whims of their male guardians.


Teenage Climate Activist Will Travel to U.S. Aboard a High-Tech Racing Yacht

Swedish teenager and climate change activist Greta Thunberg will leave Britain next month and sail across the Atlantic to attend the annual United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change talks. She has chosen an alternate means of traveling to the U.S. because of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with air travel.


Air Mass Responsible for Europe's Sweltering Heat Moves to Greenland

The hot air from Northern Africa has moved north over Greenland and caused the surface of the ice sheet there to melt. The World Weather Attribution group reiterated that climate change had made the heat wave at least 10 times more likely.


Ethiopia Planted Over 350 Million Trees in a Day

Government officials announced that over 353 million trees were planted in just 12 hours as part of a nationwide reforestation campaign.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 5, 2019 1:03 PM.

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