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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, and Media


Senators Ask for Antitrust Probe in Concert Ticketing

Two senators, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, have called for a probe into the surcharges that companies such as Ticketmaster and StubHub put on ticket orders. They have asked the Justice Department to investigate the competition in the ticketing business and to "extend a regulatory agreement with Live Nation Entertainment", the company that owns Ticketmaster. The Justice Department had approved the Ticketmaster and Live Nation merger on the basis that it sign an agreement that prohibited it from forcing venues to use its Ticketmaster service, but an investigation by the New York Times has revealed that it has violated that decree on numerous occasions.


Meek Mill's Criminal Case Ends With Misdemeanor Guilty Plea

Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor gun charge relating to a 2007 arrest, bringing an end to a saga that sent him to prison multiple times and resulted in over a decade of probation. His lawyer has confirmed that the plea will ensure he does not serve any additional time in prison and will no longer be on probation. Other charges relating to the 2007 arrest, drug possession and a charge relating to him pointing a gun at an officer, have been dropped.



Lord & Taylor Will Be Sold to Le Tote, Clothing Rental Start-Up

Lord & Taylor, founded in 1826, is set to be acquired by Le Tote, a 7-year-old clothing rental startup company. Le Tote will pay $100 million in cash for Lord & Taylor's brand and inventory while Lord & Taylor's parent company, Hudson's Bay, will continue to own the real estate and cover rent at those properties for 3 years. While 5 stores will close as part of the deal, there has been no announcement as to the locations of the closing stores. While Rent the Runway has become the best known clothing rental company, Le Tote has also earned a reputation for being a quality clothing and accessory rental company. Many see the technology and data of the startup complementing the shopping experience for Lord & Taylor customers.



Officials Ignored 'Clear Evidence' of Abuse by Ohio State Doctor

A review panel has announced that regulators found evidence of sexual abuse by an Ohio State University doctor and "inexplicably failed to punish him." The conclusion of the report was that "systemic failures" permitted the doctor, Richard Strauss, to continue the abuses despite allegations being brought to light in 1996, 2 years before his employment with the school ended. It is estimated that there may be more than 1,500 cases of abuse in the school's history, and while Strauss killed himself in 2005, the inquiry has continued into the extent of the conduct, as lawyers representing a group of former students numbering over 300 have sued the university.


Denver Broncos Ownership Dispute Clears Hurdle in Court

In the case brought by Bill Bowlen, a former minority owner of the Denver Broncos and his brother Pat, the longtime owner who died in June, it had become a public family squabble for ownership of the team. Last week, a Colorado state court judge dismissed the case. Bill Bowlen's lawsuit had sought for an overseer to come in because of conflicts of interest on the board. However, with dismissal of the lawsuit, there will not be an end to the fighting, as the National Football League (NFL) Commissioner Roger Goodell is set to appoint an arbitrator in an NFL-sanctioned mediation.


Tevin Biles-Thomas, Brother of Gymnast Simone Biles, Is Charged in a Triple Murder

The brother of gymnast Simone Biles, Tevin Biles-Thomas, has been arrested and charged with murdering 3 people who were shot and killed at a party in Cleveland, Ohio last New Year's Eve. He has been charged with "homicide, voluntary manslaughter, felonious assault, and perjury." He was an active duty member of the United States Army stationed at Fort Stewart in Georgia. Tevin and Simone did not grow up together in the same house.


Family of Minor League Baseball Pitcher Slain in Virginia

Matthew Thomas Bernard, brother-in-law of a minor league baseball pitcher Blake Bivens of the Montgomery Biscuits, has been arrested after killing the "athlete's wife, toddler son, and mother-in-law." Investigators have not determined a motive for the triple homicide, but the shooting led to a manhunt involving up to 100 officers, a tank, and an armored vehicle being deployed.


Arrest Warrant Issued for DeMarcus Cousins

In Mobile, Alabama, an arrest warrant has been issued for Los Angeles Lakers center DeMarcus Cousins for a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence. Additionally, a court has granted a protective order for Christy West, prohibiting Cousins from contacting her. West alleged in Mobile County Court that Cousins threatened to shoot her, and she alleged that he had previously choked her in the past. The charge Cousins faces is third-degree harassing communication based on the threat that Cousins made to West by telephone to shoot her "even if he didn't have to get his hands dirty doing it."


Nets' Wilson Chandler Suspended 25 Games for Violating National Basketball Association's Drug Policy

The veteran National Basketball Association (NBA) forward Wilson Chandler has been suspended for 25 games without pay as he has violated the NBA's antidrug policy by taking a growth hormone known as Ipamorelin. He released a statement after the news had broken: "During my injury rehab process, before I signed with the Nets, I was prescribed a treatment that included small doses of a substance recently added to the NBA's prohibited substances list. I did not realize this substance was banned, and neither did the doctor." Chandler has apologized and vowed to continue preparing for his debut with the Brooklyn Nets in the upcoming season.



YouTube Said to Be Fined Up to $200 Million for Children's Privacy Violations

Google is set to face a $150 million to $200 million fine from the Federal Trade Commission based on accusations that YouTube "illegally collected personal information about children." The fine would carry "significant repercussions for other popular platforms," such as TikTok, a social video-sharing app, and it comes at a moment when legislators in the European Union and Washington are increasingly cracking down on the use of data and information by the biggest companies in the tech world, such as Google and Facebook.


Apple Apologizes for Use of Contractors to Eavesdrop on Siri

Apple has apologized for its permitting outsiders to listen to clips of recorded conversations gathered through its digital assistant Siri. While Apple has worked to position "itself as a trusted steward of privacy," the apology highlights that even though it had previously pledged to not keep audio recorded through Siri without consumer permission, the company had not lived up to its "high ideals." Apple is not the only company that has been engaging in this practice: in recent months, "Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple have all acknowledged that people have been reviewing users' interactions with artificial intelligence assistants in order to improve the services."


Facebook Tightens Rules on Verifying Political Advertisers

Facebook has announced that it will be strengthening its verification process for groups and people that wish to place political advertisements on the site in preparation for the 2020 U.S. presidential election. While Facebook introduced new rules last year that require political advertisers to disclose the name of the organizations responsible for the advertisements and to prove their identities, the new rules will require further demonstration that the advertisers are registered with the United States government by submitting an employer identification number, Federal Election Commission identification number or government website domain.


Lawrence O'Donnell Retracts Claim of Russians' Role in Trump Loans

MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell has retracted a story he reported this week claiming that President Trump "had made a financial arrangement with so-called Russian oligarchs." He noted that the story "didn't go through our rigorous verification and standards process" and that it was "wrong to discuss it on the air." The story came following news that Deutsche Bank admitted to having tax documents belonging to the Trump Organization.


The Baroness Fighting to Protect Children Online

Beeban Kidron, a member of the House of Lords, has become Silicon Valley's latest antagonist as she has been seeking to overhaul how tech companies treat children. She has noted that it is not a fair fight for children to be up against the "turbocharged influence tactics" of companies like YouTube and Instagram, which personalize videos and play one after another based on the likes and dislikes of the viewer. She is seeking to change the law and to remake how social media companies use data and influence children on social media to rein in the power and use of data by those companies.


How China Uses LinkedIn to Recruit Spies Abroad

LinkedIn, the social media platform that is used for its networking and professional opportunities, has become a medium for Chinese officials to recruit spies. Under the pretense that a Chinese official can grant one "great access to the Chinese system" for research or other opportunities, spies have contacted many in the West and sought to bring them to China for a meeting. One major reason that the platform has become the one of choice for the Chinese is that it is the only major American social media platform that the Chinese government does not block as LinkedIn has agreed to censor posts that may be harmful or offensive to the Chinese government.


General News

Huge Oil Spill in Indonesia as Fires Burn in Africa and the Amazon

Fisherman on the Indonesian island of Java have not been able to work for weeks after crude oil from an offshore well sent oil across 12 miles of shoreline. The government's response has been "slow, piecemeal, and opaque" since the leak first occurred in mid-July. In Brazil, the Amazon rainforest has continued to burn, and despite outrage around the world, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil has refused to accept aid from the Group of 7. Instead, Brazil has only accepted aid from Britain in its fight to quash the extensive forest fires in the Amazon, which numbered more than 26,000 during the month of August. Meanwhile, the Congo Basin forest, the second-largest tropical rainforest in the world, also is dealing with wildfires at its edges. While these fires are typical for this time of year, a forest manager has noted that there must be resources dedicated to ensuring that the fires are controlled as if the rainforest in the Congo Basin was to catch fire, "it will be worse than in South America."





Curbs on Methane, Potent Greenhouse Gas, to Be Relaxed in United States

The Trump administration has laid out a plan to "cut back on the regulation of methane emissions, a major contributor to climate change." The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a rule to "eliminate federal requirements that oil and gas companies install technology to detect and fix methane leaks from wells, pipelines, and storage facilities." The new rule also reopens the question as to whether the EPA has the legal authority to regulate methane, and the rule is only the latest instance of the administration's push to "dismantle climate-change and environmental rules."


The Mysterious Vaping Illness That Is 'Becoming an Epidemic'

Physicians across the country are treating patients, now numbering more than 200, with "mysterious and life-threatening vaping-related illnesses this summer." The outbreak of the illnesses is so severe that one doctor has said it is "becoming an epidemic" and that "something is very wrong." Patients are going to their physicians with severe shortness of breath and several days of vomiting, fever, and fatigue, which has left them confined to intensive care units. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have told consumers that they should refrain from buying bootleg products for their vaping devices, one obstacle physicians have been facing is getting patients to admit that they are indeed vaping and getting information about what substances they are inhaling.


Johnson & Johnson Ordered to Pay $572 Million in Landmark Opioid Trial

A judge in Oklahoma ruled that Johnson & Johnson must pay the state $572 million, as it "intentionally played down the dangers and oversold the benefits of opioids." The action sought a $17 billion judgment, but despite the difference between the amount sought and the judgment awarded, lawyers and plaintiffs are heartened around the country in the more than 2,000 pending lawsuits relating to the opioid epidemic and its effects. At the heart of the decision in Oklahoma was the company's breaching of the state's "public nuisance" law, which provides a hook for other plaintiffs on which to base their arguments.


Cherokee Nation Seeks to Send First Delegate to Congress

The Cherokee Nation has turned to treaties from the 18th and 19th centuries to push for Congress to receive a delegate from the Cherokee Nation, which now consists of nearly 400,000 enrolled members and makes it the largest of the nearly 600 federally recognized Native American tribes. Although the delegate would be a nonvoting member of Congress, it would provide visibility and representation for Native Americans in the debating and creation of federal legislation. The basis for sending a delegate to Congress goes back to the Treaty of Hopewell of 1785, but even more significantly the 1835 Treaty of New Echota, which was not only the legal grounds leading to the Trail of Tears, but also created the right to send a delegate to the House of Representatives.


Comey Is Criticized by Justice Department Watchdog for Violating FBI Rules

Former FBI director James Comey has set a "dangerous example" for officials with access to government secrets, according to a Justice Department inspector general report. The report noted that Comey improperly handed memos to his lawyers, which contained classified information, and although he could have been charged, prosecutors declined to charge him with illegally disclosing the material.


Russia Bars Two Senators From Entering Country Ahead of Congressional Trip

Senators Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, and Christopher Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, have been barred from visiting Russia. Both lawmakers issued statements expressing frustration and disappointment with the denial of their visas as they claim that the country further isolates itself and continues "to play diplomatic games with this sincere effort" to improve relations between the United States and Russia. Johnson and Murphy have been vocal critics of Russia's annexation of Crimea and want to impose sanctions on Russia for its interference in the 2016 presidential election, as well as its construction of an offshore pipeline that strengthened its hold on the natural gas market in Eastern Europe.


Former Star Google and Uber Engineer Charged With Theft of Trade Secrets

Anthony Levandowski, a pioneer of self-driving vehicle technology and a confidant of Google co-founder Larry Page, is facing charges of 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets from Google. He has posted $2 million bail and wears an ankle monitor after prosecutors alleged him to be a flight risk, but the charges are the latest maneuver in a battle between Google and Uber in the fight over the autonomous vehicle market. The case illustrates the "no-holds-barred culture, where gaining an edge in new technologies versus competitors can be paramount." It is alleged that before Levandowski left Google in 2016, he downloaded more than 14,000 files containing "critical information about Google's autonomous-vehicle research" and then joined Uber later that year when Uber bought his self-driving trucking company Otto.


The Trump Secrets Hiding Inside Deutsche Bank

Deutsche Bank disclosed that it possesses tax returns relating to President Trump's family or business which has set off a frenzy of speculation about what those tax returns may reveal. The bank, for almost 2 decades, was essentially on the only "mainstream financial institution" that lent to President Trump given his "long record of defaulting on loans" and therefore is expected to have "reams of his personal and corporate information." The disclosure by the bank came in the context of litigation involving 2 House committees enforcing subpoenas and President Trump suing to block the bank from complying with those subpoenas.


Trump Tells Aides 'Take the Land' as Impatience Grows on Border Wall

President Trump is seeking to accelerate the fight for getting his signature border wall built and has repeatedly said during meetings for aides to "take the land" and "get it done." He has reportedly "floated the idea of offering pardons to aides willing to break the law, a suggestion he has made previously when exploring ways to fulfill his campaign promises." Thus far, despite his promises to complete 500 miles of wall during his first term, the Army Corps of Engineers has constructed approximately 60 miles "of vehicle barriers or replacement fencing where existing impediments have been damaged," according to a document published by Customs and Border Protection.


Citizenship Change Will Affect a Handful, but the Backlash is Fierce

The announcement of the homeland security policy to restrict automatic citizenship for "some children born abroad to active service members" has "incited a fierce backlash against President Trump, who has hailed himself as an advocate of veterans." Immigration lawyers and military groups have opined that the new policy will make obtaining citizenship for those families "an onerous, expensive application process," but it is expected that fewer than 100 families at the moment are to be impacted by the new policy. One immigration lawyer noted, in light of the policy affecting approximately 25 people every year for the past 4 years, "I cannot for the life of me figure out why the administration thinks that is a good policy," particularly as the hashtag #TrumpHatesMilitaryFamilies has been trending on Twitter.


International Students Face Hurdles Under Trump Administration Policy

Unexpected denials and extensive delays have become increasingly common for international students and scholars that seek visas to study in the United States. College officials see a threat to the "diversity and enrichment of their campuses" as students as stories emerge, such as that of 2 Ethiopian students who were denied visas because they had not established "strong enough ties to their home country and might not return." Another was that of a Palestinian student who had been set to start his freshman year at Harvard, but was refused entry by Customs and Border Protection when an agent objected to the social media activity of the student's friends.


Opinion Pieces: Trump is Not Making the Country Safer and is Profiting From the Presidency

In an opinion piece by the Editorial Board of the New York Times, it objects to President Trump's "obsession with what he has termed an immigrant 'invasion'" as it is "undermining the functioning of his administration and the safety of the nation." In effectuating his policies, the editorial notes, the administration has diverted resources from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and put it toward detention and removal operations. Additionally, the acting Secretary of Homeland Security has noted that there has been a rise in domestic terrorist acts "fueled by this toxic ideology." Meanwhile, at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, President Trump noted that his resort at Doral near Miami would make a prime location for a future Group of 7 meeting, as he touted its "magnificent buildings" and "incredible restaurants." These comments raise, according to the editorial, ethical and legal questions as to whether a president may "use a summit meeting to plug his resort and then host an official event at it, all to his personal profit."



Epstein Accusers Testify Weeks After His Suicide

In a New York courtroom, a 2.5-hour hearing was held before U.S. District Judge Richard Berman, during which the judge permitted a group of women to testify as to the actions of financier Jeffrey Epstein over the course of decades. In total, 16 women testified that they had been lured into a scheme by an inner circle surrounding Epstein that forced the girls to perform sex acts and recruit others. Some women called for investigators to continue their work and uncover the depth and extent of the trafficking, and one noted: "The fact that I will never have a chance to face my predator in court eats away at my soul."



Approximately 160,000 People in New York to See Their Marijuana Convictions Disappear

On Wednesday, New York began the process of expunging criminal records pertaining to marijuana-related crimes. Approximately 160,000 people with marijuana convictions will have their convictions cleared, according to the State Division of Criminal Justice Services. Of those, it is expected that over 20,000 people will no longer have a criminal record. This cleanup comes as part of a new state law that passed in June and is meant to protect "communities of color" which "have been disproportionately impacted by laws governing marijuana and have suffered the lifelong consequences of an unfair marijuana conviction."


Missouri's Eight-Week Abortion Ban is Blocked by Federal Judge

Senior Judge Howard Sachs of the Federal District Court in Kansas City, Missouri has issued a ruling that has blocked the state from enforcing its ban on abortions after the eighth week of pregnancy. The legislation was one part of a broader nationwide campaign by Republican legislatures to restrict abortion and encourage a challenge to rise to the United States Supreme Court to erode or eliminate the Roe v. Wade ruling. Judge Sachs noted that, "while federal courts should generally be very cautious before delaying the effect of state laws, the sense of caution may be mitigated when the legislation seems designed, as here, as a protest against Supreme Court decisions."


Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash Pledge $90 Million to Fight Driver Legislation in California

A bill is now in California's legislature that would force ride-hailing companies, such as Uber and Lyft, to treat drivers who use their apps as employees rather than independent contractors. Uber and Lyft have contended that the effect of such a law would be a threat to their businesses and announced that they would put forward $60 million to have a ballot initiative that exempted them from the proposed law. DoorDash also has announced that it would add $30 million to the war chest. As the drivers for all three companies work as independent contractors, they have "no legally protected minimum wage, guaranteed sick days, or traditional health benefits," and many drivers have also complained that the companies have cut earnings without explanation or removed drivers from the apps with no recourse.


Gregory Craig, Washington Lawyer on Trial, Says That He Never Lied to Investigators

One of Washington's most powerful Democratic lawyers, Gregory Craig, found himself on the witness stand testifying in his own defense in a federal felony trial. He has passionately denied "that he had deceived federal investigators" when asked "whether he had aided a public relations campaign by Ukraine's president to repair his battered image in the United States." Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych had sought for a report published by law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom to improve his public image, and Craig, then a lawyer at Skadden, is facing accusations that he lied about his role in the campaign so as to "safeguard his reputation and career prospects."


Barr Plans to Throw $30,000 Holiday Party at the Trump Hotel

Attorney General William Barr has booked a ballroom at President Trump's Washington hotel for the annual holiday party. Ethics experts have criticized the move after it was reported that Barr had booked the Presidential Ballroom for a 200-person holiday party at an expense exceeding $30,000. The news came from a Justice Department official, speaking anonymously to discuss a non-government function, and is being made public at a time when the Justice Department has been defending President Trump against accusations that he is profiting from his time as president.


UK's Johnson Moves to Suspend Parliament Ahead of Brexit

Queen Elizabeth II has approved British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's move to suspend Parliament, outraging his critics and giving his political opponents even less time to block a no-deal Brexit before the October 31st deadline for withdrawal. While he has insisted that the maneuver is one that will allow him to be more effective in achieving his agenda, he also has noted that it was not designed to curb debate, as there will be "ample time" to discuss Brexit and other issues. The speaker of the lower House of Commons, which is not an inherently political position as is the Speakership of the American House of Representatives, noted that: "Shutting down Parliament would be an offense against the democratic process and the rights of parliamentarians as the people's elected representatives."


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