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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


Rose McGowan Sues Weinstein and Lawyers Claiming Intimidation

Actress Rose McGowan filed suit against Harvey Weinstein and two lawyers, David Boies and Lisa Bloom, in Federal District Court in Los Angeles, accusing them of directing a campaign of covert and illegal measures meant to discredit her and prevent her from going public with her rape accusation against Weinstein. The lawsuit includes McGowan's account of attempts to interfere with her plan to publish a memoir, Brave, including sending an undercover agent to befriend her and then steal a copy of the manuscript. It also describes efforts to derail the reporting by The New York Times and The New Yorker that ultimately exposed decades of accusations against
Weinstein and helped ignite the #MeToo movement.



Lizzo Sues Over 'Truth Hurts' Songwriting Credits

Last week, two songwriting brothers, Justin and Jeremiah Raisen, accused Lizzo of denying them credit for her hit song, "Truth Hurts". The Raisen brothers said that they had contributed to an early songwriting session that yielded the track's signature line. A lawyer for Lizzo denied their claim at the time, and now the singer has sued the Raisens, as well as another writer, Yves Rothman, who made his own claim about "Truth Hurts." Lizzo's suit seeks a declaratory judgment that Rothman and the Raisens had no part in creating "Truth Hurts," and asks for other unspecified damages.


Lizzo Extends Writing Credits for 'Truth Hurts'

Lizzo is sharing writing credit on her hit song "Truth Hurts" with the creator behind the song's signature line, but not with two other writers who claim they also contributed to the track. "Truth Hurts" features the popular line, "I just took a DNA test, turns out I'm 100 percent that bitch," which originated from a 2017 tweet by singer Mina Lioness and was turned into a popular meme. The line was also used in Lizzo's song "Healthy," created in 2017 with songwriting brothers Justin and Jeremiah Raisen. The Raisens feel they deserve writing credit on "Truth Hurts" as a result, though Lizzo wrote they "had nothing to do with the line or how I chose to sing it.... The men who now claim a piece of 'Truth Hurts' did not help me write any part of the song. There was no one in the room when I wrote 'Truth Hurts' except me, Ricky Reed, and my tears." Lizzo further wrote that Lioness "is the person I am sharing my success with."


Prosecutors Bring New Charges in Admissions Scandal

As Felicity Huffman, the actress and parent who pleaded guilty in the sprawling college admissions scandal, neared the end of a two-week prison camp sentence, prosecutors pressed new charges against other parents, including the actress Lori Loughlin, who have fought the cases against them. Marking an aggressive new posture in the case, prosecutors filed bribery charges against Loughlin and 10 other parents who had pleaded not guilty to earlier fraud and money laundering counts. The prosecutors also brought new fraud charges against several parents, and an array of new charges against coaches and others charged in the scheme. Lawyers involved in the case said prosecutors were motivated in part by frustration with the lenient sentences already given out to those who plead guilty.


Netflix Brings Silver Screen to Broadway

With the 2020 Academy Awards campaign underway, Netflix has gone to unusual lengths to please the auteurs and their fans, engineering splashy theatrical plans for a pair of Oscar contenders, Martin Scorsese's "The Irishman" and Noah Baumbach's "Marriage Story". At the same time, the company is trying to acquire a historic repertory theater in Los Angeles. Starting on November 1st, Scorsese's $159 million crime epic, which received strong reviews after its premiere at the New York Film Festival last month, will be shown at the Belasco Theater, a 1,015-seat Broadway theater on West 44th Street. The release will have the trappings of a bona fide Broadway production: eight shows a week, dark on Mondays -- and the film's title in lights outside the theater. The ticket price is un-Broadway-like at $15.


Celeb Exhibit Puts a Spotlight on Domestic Abuse in Maine

Patrisha McLean has accused her singer-songwriter ex-husband, Don McLean, most famous for the 1971 folk-rock ballad "American Pie", of domestic abuse. She is now organizing Maine women to tell their own stories as well. The public meltdown of the McLeans' marriage began in January 2016, when Ms. McLean made a 911 call to the police, and Mr. McLean was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence. Don McLean denies assaulting his wife at any time in the marriage. However, the case has had a ripple effect in Maine, a state where domestic abuse accounts for around half of all murders and assaults.



The Army is Looking for Art Experts

Several of the war-ravaged nations where American soldiers have been enmeshed in conflict for nearly two decades are home to many of civilization's oldest and most prized antiquities and cultural treasures. However, troops often don't know whether they are taking their positions behind mounds of insignificant rubble or inside the precious remains of a 3,000-year-old temple complex. The Pentagon's solution to this problem is to take a page from one of World War II's most storied military units, the teams of art experts known as the Monuments Men, who recovered millions of European treasures looted by the Nazis. The Army is training a new group with a similar mandate to be composed of commissioned officers of the Army Reserves who are museum directors or curators, archivists, conservators, and archaeologists, in addition to new recruits with those qualifications. Corine Wegener and Col. Scott DeJesse will work with the new reserve unit and advise the Pentagon on preserving cultural treasures in war zones. The unit will be based at the Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command at Fort Bragg, NC.


New York's Race to Build Monuments Runs into Friction

Under Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, New York is aiming to build monuments at an unusually rapid rate to honor women, people of color, and others previously overlooked. The city's plan, however, is leading to fights over who should be honored and how. A vote this month over one of New York City's new, more inclusive monuments became so combative -- with audience members shouting "How dare you!" -- that the acclaimed artist who won the commission walked away from the job.


Museums to Take Steps to Acknowledge the Role of Slavery

Museums are working to incorporate the impact of slavery in exhibitions and permanent collections in a way not commonly done even a decade ago. They're grappling with how they can rework or revise their collections, even in small ways, to acknowledge the role of slavery in the art itself or people represented by the art. "People have been doing research about these issues of slavery for a long time, in deep, critical ways in art and art history," said La Tanya S. Autry, a Ph.D. candidate in art history at the University of Delaware and a fellow at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland. "The knowledge has been out there, but there's been more resistance to incorporating it into the museum field," she added. "It's interesting to see in the last several years, there's been more effort or more openness to actually start questioning things, such as wall labels and thinking about how we show objects." For Autry, the fact that museum administrators outside of African-American museums are talking about this, she said, is a sign of change and so are programs that teach and train future museum curators. "A lot of institutions are incorporating this other approach to history and trying to focus on things that have been obscured and excluded in the past -- and ways that people have challenged that."



Major League Baseball to Investigate Astros' Manager's Outburst

Major League Baseball (MLB) said that it would investigate an incident in which a Houston Astros executive - Brandon Taubman, the Astros' assistant general manager - was said to have shouted at three female reporters in an "offensive and frightening" manner as he praised the team's closer, Roberto Osuna, who was suspended for domestic violence last year. Following the Astros' win against the Yankees, Taubman reportedly turned to the female reporters and yelled repeatedly, "Thank God we got Osuna! I'm so glad we got Osuna!," punctuating the second sentence with an expletive, according to a Sports Illustrated column. The Astros have been criticized heavily for acquiring Osuna last season while he was serving a 75-game suspension for domestic violence.


Astros Fire Taubman After Outburst

The Houston Astros fired assistant general manager, Brandon Taubman, for inappropriate comments he directed at female reporters during a clubhouse celebration. This decision has put a renewed spotlight on domestic violence in baseball. The "outburst" occurred during the Astros' clubhouse celebration after winning the American League pennant against the Yankees. Sports Illustrated reported that Taubman repeatedly yelled toward a group of female reporters about closer Roberto Osuna, who was suspended for 75 games last year for violating MLB's domestic violence policy and then was traded from Toronto to Houston. Taubman's behavior was corroborated by reporters for The Houston Chronicle and Yahoo. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow has since apologized for the team's initial response, which accused the Sports Illustrated reporter of making up the story.


MLB to Investigate Umpire's Tweet About Trump Impeachment

MLB announced that it will look into a tweet posted by Rob Drake, an umpire, that mentioned the possible impeachment of President Trump, firearms, and the specter of an American civil war. Drake tweeted: "I will be buying an AR-15 tomorrow, because if you impeach MY PRESIDENT this way, YOU WILL HAVE ANOTHER CIVAL WAR!!! #MAGA2020." The tweet, which was first reported by ESPN, has since been deleted and the account was deactivated. Drake has since apologized for the tweet in a statement issued to ESPN, saying, "I want to personally apologize to everyone that my words made feel less safe."


Some Colleges Are Trying to Police Sports Betting

Purdue, St. Joseph's, and Villanova (among others) have introduced a school policy that prevents students, employees, and contractors from betting on the universities' games. The rapid spread of legalized sports betting, made possible by a Supreme Court ruling last year, is prompting colleges and universities to grapple quickly with whether they can, or should, control a lawful activity so explicitly linked to the performances of their students. Even as more states have allowed bets and as wagers have soared -- there were more than $730 million in sports bets in August, more than double the amount from a year earlier -- there is no consensus among universities about how they should respond.


Russia Doping Decision Faces Delay After the World Anti-Doping Agency Cancels Meeting

World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the global anti-doping regulator, and Russia's top anti-doping official, Yuri Ganus, contend that Russia manipulated a database of doping test results before turning it over to WADA as a condition for the lifting of an earlier doping ban. Ganus said that "thousands" of drug test results were changed before the data was submitted to WADA for review. WADA, which had compared the Russian results that were submitted to investigators with a separate data set supplied by a whistle-blower, had seemingly reached the same conclusion. The meeting scheduled between the WADA investigators and Russian officials was to have been one of the last opportunities for Russia to explain the discrepancies. If it could not, the investigators and a WADA compliance panel were expected to recommend to WADA's board next month that Russia face penalties that would be even harsher than the ones that barred Russian teams -- though not all Russian athletes -- from the 2018 Winter Olympics and the past two world track and field championships.


FIFA Avoids Discussing China's Record

FIFA, the international body governing global soccer, has come under heavy criticism in recent years for awarding two World Cups in a row to authoritarian countries, Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022. Stung by criticism and scandal related to those decisions, the organization responded by requiring human rights reviews to be part of the bidding process for its events. It conducted such reviews of Morocco and North America before awarding the 2026 World Cup last year to the United States, Canada, and Mexico, and faulted the United States and Canada then for a lack of specific commitments to human rights. FIFA, however, carefully avoided talking about China's record when asked about human rights after awarding an ambitious new world club championship tournament in 2021 to it.



Congress Thinks Social Media Users Should Be Able to Take Their Data With Them

Three senators active in tech issues - Republican Josh Hawley and Democrats Mark Warner and Richard Blumenthal - introduced a bill that would require social networks like Facebook to allow users to pack up their data and go elsewhere. The senators offered the bill at a time when there is growing concern that Facebook, along with Alphabet's Google, have become so powerful that smaller rivals are unable to lure away their users. The bill would require communications platforms with more than 100 million monthly active members - Facebook has more than two billion - to allow its users to easily move, or port, their data to another network, which means that a user who is unhappy with Facebook, for example, would be able to pull postings, comments and photos off Facebook and move them to another site.


Lawmakers Propose Requiring Cable Companies to Offer Local News

In an effort to combat the decline of local news/journalism, two New York legislators are proposing a first-in-the-nation bill to force cable companies to offer independent local news. The bill is proposing a requirement that any cable company operating in New York offer a local news channel with "news, weather and public affairs programming," the programming would have to be independently produced, and companies could not simply rebroadcast others' existing news shows. Policymakers elsewhere have considered other forms of intervention to save local news, but if passed, New York's bill would be perhaps the most aggressive attempt by government officials to sustain local news in the long term.


Facebook Finds New Disinformation Campaigns and Braces for 2020 Torrent

Facebook said that it had found and taken down four state-backed disinformation campaigns, the latest of dozens that it has identified and removed this year and a sign of how foreign interference online is increasing ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Three of the disinformation campaigns originated in Iran and one in Russia, Facebook said, with state-backed actors disguised as genuine users. The campaigns were aimed at people in North Africa, Latin America, and the United States. The posts crossed categories and ideological lines, seemingly with no specific intent other than to foment discord. Some of the posts touched on conflict in the Middle East, while others pointed to racial strife, and some invoked Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic congresswoman from New York. Others were focused more on the 2020 election. In that campaign, 50 accounts linked to Russia's Internet Research Agency -- a Kremlin-backed professional troll farm -- targeted candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, including Joseph R. Biden Jr., Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.


Facebook Calls Truce with Publishers as It Unveils Facebook News

Facebook and the publishing industry have long been frenemies: Occasionally they teamed up, but mostly they competed. Now the two sides have formed an uneasy truce, as Facebook recently unveiled Facebook News, its latest foray into digital publishing. The product is a new section of the social network's mobile app that is dedicated entirely to news content, which the company is betting will bring users back to the site regularly to consume news on sports, entertainment, politics, and tech. Campbell Brown, who reported on politics for NBC and CNN before joining Facebook, is leading the new Facebook News effort. Facebook News will offer stories from a mix of publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, as well as digital-only outlets, like BuzzFeed and Business Insider. Some stories will be chosen by a team of professional journalists, while others will be tailored to readers' interests over time using Facebook's machine-learning technology.


Harvard Newspaper Under Fire from Student Activists

The Harvard Crimson, a 146-year-old daily student newspaper at the Ivy League university, published an article on September 13th detailing a campus rally protesting United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency that has stepped up deportation raids under the Trump administration. With the headline "Harvard Affiliates Rally for Abolish ICE Movement," the article drew the ire of campus activists because of a sentence stating that the reporters had contacted the agency for comment: "ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday night." In response, student activists "Act on a Dream" started an online petition urging the newspaper to cease contacting the federal immigration agency for comment in coverage and to apologize for the "harm it has inflicted."


China Sharpens Hacking to Hound Its Minorities

China's state-sponsored hackers have drastically changed how they operate over the last three years, substituting selectivity for what had been a scattershot approach to their targets and showing a new determination by Beijing to push its surveillance state beyond its borders. China's hackers have built up a new arsenal of techniques, such as elaborate hacks of iPhone and Android software, pushing them beyond email attacks and the other, more basic tactics that they had previously employed. The primary targets for these more sophisticated attacks are China's ethnic minorities and their diaspora in other countries.


Russia Unleashes Sweeping Crackdown

Svetlana Prokopyeva, a freelance journalist in Pskov, Russia, is facing up to seven years in jail after being accused of "publicly inciting terrorism" with her commentary on a weekly radio program. After a teenager blew himself up inside a branch of Russia's secret police near the Arctic Circle late last year, Svetlana expressed that relentless repression by Russia's security forces is radicalizing Russian youth. The Kremlin's own Human Rights Council protested that Prokopyeva had been merely trying to explain the forces that push people toward extreme acts, not to encourage them. In the aftermath of the protests, which were broken up with often brutal force by the authorities, law enforcement agencies last week conducted nationwide raids on news outlets critical of the Kremlin and on the homes and offices of people affiliated with the opposition leader, Aleksei A. Navalny. However, as Prokopyeva noted, cracking down so hard has often fueled anger and further unrest.


Australian Media Protest a Rise in Secrecy Laws

Australian print, online, and on-air news outlets joined together in a concerted campaign to pressure the Australian government to soften its restrictive secrecy laws. Newspapers ran redacted articles on their front pages in a show of solidarity, and online and on the air, prominent journalists called for change. The campaign is intended to pressure the federal government to change laws that threaten jail time to certain whistle-blowers and journalists, and which allow the authorities to withhold information that is often unrelated to matters of national security. The laws fall under an umbrella of secrecy that consecutive Australian governments have created over nearly two decades. No other developed democracy has as strong a stranglehold on its secrets as Australia.



Impeachment Inquiry Faces Critical Test

House impeachment investigators are speeding toward new White House barriers meant to block crucial testimony and evidence from the people who are closest to Trump -- obstacles that could soon test the limits of Democrats' fact finding a month into their inquiry. What has been a rapidly moving investigation securing damning testimony from witnesses who have defied White House orders may soon become a more arduous effort. Investigators are now trying to secure cooperation from higher-ranking advisers who can offer more direct accounts of Trump's actions but are also more easily shielded from Congress.


Trump Linked Military Aid to Investigations

In closed-door testimony to impeachment investigators, William B. Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat in Ukraine, implicated Trump personally in an effort to withhold security aid until Ukraine's leader agreed to publicly announce investigations of his rivals. In his testimony to impeachment investigators delivered in defiance of State Department orders, Taylor sketched out in remarkable detail a quid pro quo pressure campaign on Ukraine that Trump and his allies have long denied. He said that Trump sought to condition the entire United States relationship with Ukraine -- including a $391 million aid package whose delay put Ukrainian lives in danger -- on a promise that the country would publicly investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his family.


Judge Rules That Democrats Can View Mueller's Grand Jury Evidence

Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the Federal District Court in Washington granted a request by the House Judiciary Committee, led by Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, to see secret grand jury evidence from the Mueller investigation. In a 75-page opinion, Judge Howell ruled that the House Judiciary Committee was entitled to view secret grand jury evidence gathered by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Typically, Congress has no right to view such evidence. However in 1974, the courts permitted lawmakers to see such materials as they weighed whether to impeach President Richard M. Nixon. The House is now immersed in the same process focused on Trump, Judge Howell ruled, and that easily outweighs any need to keep the information secret from lawmakers.


Republicans Grind Impeachment Inquiry to Halt as Evidence Mounts Against Trump

House Republicans staged a protest on Capitol Hill where the impeachment inquiry is proceeding, seeking to shift the focus away from damaging revelations about Trump. The protest halted the inquiry proceedings for hours, delaying a crucial deposition. About two dozen Republican members of the House pushed past Capitol Police officers chanting "Let us in! Let us in!" to enter the secure rooms of the House Intelligence Committee, where impeachment investigators have been conducting private interviews that have painted a damaging picture of Trump's behavior.


Trump Abandons Plan to Hold G7 Summit at Florida Resort Amidst Criticism from Republicans

When Trump announced his plans to use his own luxury golf club in Miami for the site of a gathering of world leaders at the Group of 7 (G7) summit in June, he was prepared for the inevitable attack from Democrats. Yet what Trump was not prepared for was the reaction of fellow Republicans, who said his choice of the club, the Trump National Doral, had crossed a line, and they couldn't defend it. Two days after the announcement, Trump announced his reversal on Twitter: "I thought I was doing something very good for our country by using Trump National Doral, in Miami, for hosting the G-7 leaders," Trump wrote on Twitter before again promoting the resort's amenities, "But, as usual, the Hostile Media & their Democrat Partners went CRAZY!" "Therefore, based on both Media & Democrat Crazed and Irrational Hostility, we will no longer consider Trump National Doral, Miami, as the Host Site for the G-7 in 2020."


Trumps Put Washington Hotel on the Market

The Trump International Hotel in Washington, five blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, has been put on the market, just three years after the Trump family spent $200 million to open it in the historic, federally owned Old Post Office building, and at a time when Trump is facing impeachment and a tough 2020 re-election campaign. The Trump Organization's announcement that it is listing the hotel with a real estate agent and wants to listen to offers came less than a week after Trump's two roles intersected in a politically and ethically awkward way: He disclosed his intention to host the 2020 G7 summit at the Trump National Doral resort near Miami, then had to abandon the plan after hearing from fellow Republicans that it was a bad idea. This announcement is far from unexpected, as Trump has been repeatedly accused of violating the Constitution's emoluments clause by accepting payments at his 263-room hotel in Washington from foreign governments.


Key Witness in Impeachment Inquiry Asks Federal Court to Decide if He Should Testify

A key witness in the impeachment investigation filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to rule on whether he can testify, a move that raises new doubts about whether President Trump's closest aides, like the former national security adviser, John R. Bolton, will be able to cooperate with the inquiry. House Democrats had subpoenaed the witness, Charles M. Kupperman, who served as Trump's deputy national security adviser, to testify last week. However, in an effort to stop Kupperman from doing so, the White House said that Trump had invoked "constitutional immunity," leaving Kupperman uncertain about what to do. The implications of the suit, filed in federal court in Washington, extend beyond Kupperman. His lawyer, Charles J. Cooper, also represents Bolton and is likely to address congressional requests for Bolton's testimony in a similar fashion. House Democrats have had discussions with Cooper in recent days about Bolton testifying, but have not subpoenaed him.


Mulvaney Struggles to Explain Comments on Ukraine

Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, tried to back off assertions he made to reporters last week that the Trump administration had held up an aid package to Ukraine because Trump wanted the country to investigate Democrats. Mulvaney acknowledged that he did not have a "perfect press conference," saying, "I recognize that I didn't speak clearly, maybe, on Thursday." Mulvaney's comments last week set off alarm at the White House and among its Republican allies in Congress, as a Democratic impeachment inquiry over Ukraine gathers steam.


Ukraine Knew of Aid Freeze Undermining Trump Defense

Top officials in Ukraine were told in early August about the delay of $391 million in security assistance, undercutting a chief argument Trump has used to deny any quid pro quo. This means that Ukraine was aware the White House was holding up the funds weeks earlier than acknowledged. It also means that the Ukrainian government was aware of the freeze during most of the period in August when Trump's personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and two American diplomats were pressing President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to make a public commitment to the investigations. The communications did not explicitly link the assistance freeze to the push by Trump and Giuliani for the investigations. However, in the communications, officials from the United States and Ukraine discuss the need to bring in the same senior aide to Zelensky who had been dealing with Giuliani about Trump's demands for the investigations, signaling a possible link between the matters.


Ukraine Army Really Felt the Blow of Aid Freeze

Ukraine, politically disorganized and militarily weak, has relied heavily on the United States in its struggle with Russian-backed separatists. Yet the White House abruptly suspended nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine in July and only restored it last month after a bipartisan uproar in Congress. In closed-door testimony, William B. Taylor Jr., said Trump halted the aid to Ukraine and refused to meet the country's leader until he agreed to investigate Biden and his son. Taylor called the decision "crazy" because it undermined a vital ally, strengthened Russia's hand and put Ukrainian lives in jeopardy -- all for the sake of a political campaign in the United States.


Justice Department Distances Itself from Giuliani

The Justice Department issued an unusual statement distancing itself from Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of Trump's personal lawyers, declaring that department officials would not have met with Giuliani to discuss one of his clients had they known that federal prosecutors in New York were investigating two of his associates. The meeting took place a few weeks ago, when Brian A. Benczkowski, the head of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, and lawyers from the division's Fraud Section met with Giuliani to discuss a bribery case in which he and other attorneys were representing the defendants. "When Mr. Benczkowski and fraud section lawyers met with Mr. Giuliani, they were not aware of any investigation of Mr. Giuliani's associates in the Southern District of New York and would not have met with him had they known," said Peter Carr, a department spokesman.


Giuliani Associate Links Trump to Campaign Finance Investigation

One of the two associates of Trump's personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, have plead not guilty to federal charges that they had made illegal campaign contributions to political candidates in the United States in exchange for potential influence. Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman have become unexpected figures in the events at the heart of the House Democrats' impeachment inquiry, having played a role in helping Giuliani's efforts on behalf of Trump to dig up information in Ukraine that could damage former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a prospective Democratic challenger. Giuliani has denied wrongdoing, but has acknowledged that he and the two men worked with officials in Ukraine to collect damaging information about the American ambassador to Ukraine and other targets of Trump and his allies, including Biden and his younger son, Hunter.


RBG Wins $1 Million Berggruen Prize

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been named the recipient of the 2019 Berggruen Prize, which is given annually to a thinker whose ideas "have profoundly shaped human self-understanding and advancement in a rapidly changing world." The previous winners of the prize, which was first awarded in 2016, have all been philosophers. Justice Ginsburg was chosen from a pool of more than 500 nominees. She was hailed by the prize committee as "a lifelong trailblazer for human rights and gender equality," and "a constant voice in favor of equality, the rights of workers and the separation of church and state."


Microsoft Wins Pentagon Contract Over Amazon

The Department of Defense on Friday awarded a $10 billion technology contract to Microsoft over Amazon in a contest that was closely watched after Trump ramped up his criticism of Amazon's founder, Jeff Bezos, and said he might intervene. The 10-year contract for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, known as JEDI, had set off a showdown among Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, and Google for the right to transform the military's cloud computing systems. The contract has an outsize importance because it is central to the Pentagon's efforts to modernize its technology. Much of the military operates on 1980s and 1990s computer systems, and the Defense Department has spent billions of dollars trying to make them talk to one another. The decision was a surprise, because Amazon had been considered the front-runner, in part because it had built cloud services for the Central Intelligence Agency.


Facebook to Offer Aid for Housing

After decades of extraordinary growth by tech companies, real estate prices in the California Bay Area (among others) have skyrocketed, fueling a shortage of affordable housing. Facebook has pledged to give $1 billion in a package of grants, loans, and land toward easing California's severe crunch by building an estimated 20,000 housing units for middle- and lower-income households. The move is the latest in a series of efforts by technology companies to put their vast financial resources toward addressing the dire housing affordability problems that have afflicted tech centers around the country. In June, Google pledged $1 billion for a similar effort in California, while Microsoft pledged $500 million toward affordable housing in Seattle in January.


Zuckerberg Admits That Facebook Has "Trust Issues"

Mark Zuckerberg testified at a House committee hearing about his company's cryptocurrency project, Libra. Zuckerberg hopes that one day, in the not too distant future, billions of people will use a cryptocurrency created by Facebook to send money to friends and family around the world. Zuckerberg also recognized that his company is a major impediment to that vision. He described Libra as a democratizing financial system that will mostly benefit the poor, as well as the estimated 14 million people in the United States who do not have access to bank accounts and who cannot afford banking fees. The Libra proposal, however, was given a "Congressional cold shoulder," as Zuckerberg endured over five hours of questioning about issues, like political ads, disinformation and child pornography, that underscored how little trust lawmakers have in Facebook. Still, Zuckerberg conceded that he and the company "certainly have work to do to build trust," and he offered concessions about how Libra could be tweaked to appease regulators.




U.S. Senators Call for Intelligence Probe into TikTok App

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Tom Cotton asked intelligence officials to investigate whether the popular Chinese-owned app, TikTok, poses national security risks. In a letter to Joseph Macguire, acting director of national intelligence, the senators raised concerns about the video-sharing platform's collection of user data and whether China censors content seen by U.S. users. The letter also suggested that TikTok could be targeted by foreign influence campaigns.


Emmett Till Memorial Gets New Bulletproof Sign

The family of Emmett Till visited the new historical marker at Graball Landing, just outside of Glendora, Miss., where it is believed that Emmett Till's body was found in 1955 after he had been kidnapped, tortured, beaten, and killed. For decades, the spot was unmarked, but in 2008, signs detailing Emmett's harrowing journey were installed around the region, and for the first time there was a memorial to the African-American teenager whose death galvanized the civil rights movement. The original sign at the Tallahatchie River location was stolen and thrown into the river. The next two replacements were soon marred with bullet holes. This sign, however, which is the fourth to replace others that were vandalized, is made of steel and weighs 500 pounds, making it bulletproof.


Critics Say That Trump is Squandering U.S. "Clout"

The Taliban have wanted the United States to pull troops out of Afghanistan, Turkey has wanted the Americans out of northern Syria, and North Korea has wanted the U.S. to at least stop military exercises with South Korea. Trump has finally done all of those, but without getting much in return. The Trump administration has consistently sought to scale back America's military presence around the world without waiting to negotiate concessions from foes like the Taliban or North Korea. For example, peace talks fell apart in Afghanistan, but the Trump administration is drawing down troops there anyway. Veteran diplomats, foreign policy experts, and key lawmakers fear that Trump is squandering American power and influence in the world with little to show for it. By pulling troops out unilaterally, they argue, Trump has emboldened America's enemies and distressed its allies. Friends like Israel, they note, worry about American staying power. Foes like North Korea and the Taliban learn that they can achieve their goals without having to pay a price.


Last Minute Settlement Reached in Opioid Trial

Judge Dan A. Polster of the Northern District of Ohio announced that a deal had been reached to avert the landmark first federal opioid trial that was set to begin this week. The $260 million deal, which is a combination of cash payouts and donations of addiction treatments, could become a model for settlement of thousands of similar cases brought in an attempt to hold the pharmaceutical industry accountable for an epidemic of addiction that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans. In the settlement, the drug distributors -- McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen, which distribute about 90% of all the medicines to pharmacies, hospitals, and clinics in the United States -- agreed to pay $215 million to the two Ohio counties that brought the lawsuit. Teva, the Israel-based manufacturer of generic drugs, agreed to pay $20 million in cash over three years and donate $25 million worth of addiction treatment drugs, such as a generic Suboxone, which blunts cravings for opioids. Even as the settlement was being announced, the drug distributors and other corporate defendants in the trial were pursuing a global deal, worth $48 billion in cash and donated addiction treatments, to resolve all opioid lawsuits against them.


Boeing Ousts Top Executive

Kevin McAllister, the head of Boeing's commercial airplanes division, has been fired in Boeing's most direct effort to hold someone in senior leadership accountable for the bungled handling of the 737 Max crisis, which continues to spiral out of control. McAllister had been at the center of the company's response to the crashes and its troubled efforts to return the 737 Max to service after regulators grounded it. The decision to remove McAllister was made while the Boeing board met in San Antonio. While the meeting was happening, Boeing's stock took a beating. Two analysts issued downgrades and shares plummeted to their lowest level in more than three months. The company's board stopped short of removing Boeing's chief executive, Dennis A. Muilenburg, though it stripped him of his title of chairman just over a week ago.



Number of Uninsured Children Rises to Over 400,000

Nationwide, more than one million children disappeared from the rolls of the two main state-federal health programs for lower-income children, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, between December 2017 and June 2019. Some state and federal officials have portrayed the drop -- 3% of enrolled children -- as a success story, arguing that more Americans are getting coverage from employers in an improving economy. Yet there is growing evidence that administrative changes aimed at fighting fraud and waste -- and rising fears of deportation in immigrant communities -- are pushing large numbers of children out of the programs, and that many of them are now going without coverage. An analysis of new census data by The New York Times shows that the number of children in the United States without any kind of insurance rose by more than 400,000 in a two-year period, between 2016 and 2018, after decades of progress toward universal coverage for children.


Trump Belittles Obama's Efforts for Black People

Trump, speaking to a handpicked audience of supporters at a historically black college, belittled the Obama administration's record on racial equity and claimed that his own administration had helped African-Americans beyond anything "in the history of our country." Trump continued by promoting the bipartisan criminal justice overhaul he signed last year and inviting to the stage several people who were released from prison as a result of the new law or his own commutation decisions. He also talked about Abraham Lincoln, saying, "Lincoln was a Republican, people forget that, we need to start bringing that up" because "the Democratic policies have let African-Americans down and taken them for granted." Further, he recalled the 2016 speech in which he urged black voters to support him because, "what the hell do you have to lose," repeating the line multiple times and saying that his administration had kept its promise to those voters.


Trump Is Still Trying to Block a Subpoena for His Tax Returns

The judges on a three-member panel in Manhattan peppered a lawyer for Trump with questions, expressing skepticism about the president's argument that he was immune from criminal investigation. A lower court judge earlier this month rejected Trump's claim, which has not previously been tested in the courts. The panel did not immediately indicate when it would issue a ruling, but Judge Robert A. Katzmann, the appeals court's chief judge, signaled that he and the other judges understood both the gravity of the matter and that they were unlikely to have the final word. "This case seems bound for the Supreme Court," Judge Katzmann said early in the arguments, adding later, as the hearing wrapped up, "We have the feeling that you may be seeing each other again in Washington."


The Food and Drug Administration Says That Women Should Be Warned of Breast Implant Hazards

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials are urging manufacturers to print a boxed warning on the packaging of breast implants, and to provide a checklist spelling out the risk of serious complications, including fatigue, joint pain, and the possibility of a rare type of cancer. While the measures are not mandatory, they reflect a growing acknowledgment at the FDA that implants may cause more harm in women than previously known. In recent years it has linked implants to a rare form of immune system cancer called anaplastic large cell lymphoma, and thousands of women with implants have reported developing debilitating illnesses, such as severe muscle and joint pain, weakness, cognitive difficulties, and fatigue -- a constellation of symptoms some experts call "breast implant illness." Further, in July, at the request of the FDA one manufacturer, Allergan, recalled textured breast implants linked to the cancer. Additionally, recent studies have reported higher rates of autoimmune disease among women with breast implants.


Trump Administration Moves to Lift Protections for Fish and Divert Water to Farms

The Trump administration moved to weaken protections for a threatened California fish, a change that would allow large amounts of water to be diverted from the San Francisco Bay Delta to irrigate arid farmland and could harm the region's fragile ecosystem. The plan, which administration officials expect to be finalized in January, is a major victory for a wealthy group of California farmers that had lobbied to weaken protections on the fish, the delta smelt. It also might intensify ethics questions about Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, who was the lobbyist for those farmers until just months before he joined the Trump administration.


Supreme Court Lets Climate Change Lawsuit Proceed

The Supreme Court rejected a request from more than two dozen multinational energy companies to block a state court lawsuit brought by the city of Baltimore seeking to hold the companies accountable for their role in changing the earth's climate. The companies sought to move the suit to federal court, and they had asked the justices to halt proceedings in state court while the question of which court should hear the case was resolved. The Supreme Court's brief order gave no reasons for its decisions. It did, however, note that Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. had disqualified himself from the case, presumably because of a financial conflict. The case, BP P.L.C. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, No. 19A368, is one of more than a dozen filed by state and local governments around the nation seeking compensation for what they claim are injuries caused by the energy companies' conduct.


As Student Voter Turnouts Increase, So Do Efforts to Suppress

Energized by issues like climate change and the Trump presidency, students have suddenly emerged as a potentially crucial voting bloc in the 2020 general election. Almost as suddenly, Republican politicians around the country are throwing up roadblocks between students and voting booths. In implementing what legislators call "anti-fraud measures," legislators have introduced increasingly restrictive rules and barriers. Overall though, evidence of widespread fraud is nonexistent, and the restrictions fit an increasingly unabashed pattern of Republican politicians' efforts to discourage voters likely to oppose them.


Justice Department to Open Criminal Inquiry Into its Own Russia Investigation

For more than two years, Trump has repeatedly attacked the Russia investigation, portraying it as a hoax and illegal even months after the special counsel closed it. Now, Trump's own Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into how it all began. The opening of a criminal investigation is likely to raise alarms that Trump is using the Justice Department to go after his perceived enemies. Trump fired James B. Comey, the FBI director under whose watch agents opened the Russia inquiry, and has long assailed other top former law enforcement and intelligence officials as partisans who sought to block his election.


More Parents Plead Guilty in College Admissions Scandal

Four parents, including the former head of one of the world's biggest asset managers and an heir to a fortune created by microwaveable snacks, pleaded guilty in the nation's largest college admissions prosecution. With trials drawing closer and prosecutors warning of new charges, the four were part of a new wave of parents pleading guilty to using lies and bribery to secure their children's admission to elite colleges. The new group of guilty pleas reflected what lawyers involved in the case said was an intense campaign by the United States attorney's office to press the remaining parents to reverse course. According to several of the lawyers involved in the case, prosecutors gave some parents deadlines to either agree to plead guilty, or risk facing a new charge that had the potential to bring longer sentences. These lawyers said they now expected prosecutors to bring that new charge -- known as federal programs bribery -- against most, if not all, of the parents who stick to their not-guilty pleas. The lawyers also said it was possible that additional parents would also be charged in the scandal.


General Motors Strike Ends

After almost six weeks, the longest nationwide strike against General Motors in half a century ended after a solid majority of the company's union members delivered their support for the four-year contract hammered out by their leaders. The United Auto Workers union emerged from negotiations with substantial wage increases and succeeded in ending a two-tier wage structure that had been a particular irritant in its ranks. It also won commitments to new General Motors investments in United States factories, while accepting the permanent shutdown of three plants already idled.


Federal Budget Deficit Swelled to Nearly $1 Trillion in 2019

The Treasury Department has announced that the United States federal budget deficit, which came in at $984 billion, will top $1 trillion in 2020. The budget deficit jumped 26% in the 2019 fiscal year, reaching its highest level in seven years as the government was forced to borrow more money to pay for Trump's tax and spending policies. Annual budget deficits have now increased for four consecutive years, the first such run since the early 1980s. That is a sharp rebuke to Trump, who promised as a presidential candidate to eliminate deficits within eight years by cutting spending and expanding the economy.


Secret Deal Helped Housing Industry Stop Tougher Rules on Climate Change

A secret agreement has allowed the nation's homebuilders to make it much easier to block changes to building codes that would require new houses to better address climate change. The written arrangement, in place for years and not previously disclosed, guarantees industry representatives four of the 11 voting seats on two powerful committees that approve building codes that are widely adopted nationwide. The pact has helped enable the trade group that controls the seats, the National Association of Home Builders, to prevent changes that would have made new houses in much of the country more energy-efficient or more resilient to floods, hurricanes and other disasters. While four seats is a minority on the two committees, which focus on residential building codes, the bloc of votes makes it tougher to pass revisions that the industry opposes.


Cummings Is Remembered as a "Master of the House"

Representative Elijah E. Cummings became the first African-American elected official to lie in state in the United States Capitol. Cummings, who died recently after a series of health challenges, was memorialized by congressional leaders in both parties as a man of faith and dignity, and a dedicated public servant, and also as a friend. Political luminaries and lawmakers -- including Cummings's fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus, many wearing African kente cloth scarves -- poured into the Capitol to witness his coffin draped with an American flag ascend its marble steps, carried by a military honor guard. The Reverend Al Sharpton expressed his mixed emotions, saying he felt "saddened, but at the same time uplifted, that Elijah Cummings got an honor that he deserved."


'Junk Bond King' in Line to Profit from Trump Tax Break for Poor Areas

Michael Milken, known as the "Junk Bond King", went to prison in the early 1990s for violating securities and tax laws. Back then, Milken embodied "Wall Street greed," as he played a central role in a vast insider-trading scheme. He has spent the past few decades trying to rebuild his reputation through the Milken Institute, a nonprofit devoted to initiatives "that advance prosperity." The Milken Institute is a leading proponent of a new federal tax break that was intended to coax wealthy investors to plow money into distressed communities known as "opportunity zones." The institute's leaders have helped push senior officials in the Trump administration to make the tax incentive more generous, even though it is under fire for being slanted toward the wealthy. Milken is in a position to personally gain from some of the changes that his institute has urged the Trump administration to enact, as the former "junk bond king" has investments in at least two major real estate projects inside federally designated opportunity zones in Nevada, near Milken's Lake Tahoe vacation home, according to public records.


The Sexist Joke That Cost $2 Billion

Kenneth Fisher, a billionaire money manager, has lost control of his media narrative, as he gets skewered over sexist and lewd remarks he made this month at a financial services industry conference in San Francisco. Fisher was slow to acknowledge that he had said anything wrong when he crudely compared the wooing of wealthy clients to trying to pick up a woman at a bar. The firestorm has renewed attention on some of his past inappropriate comments, as well as his criticism of President Abraham Lincoln for fighting the South over slavery. The damage has been quick and costly. In the past two weeks, public pensions and institutional investors like Fidelity have pulled nearly $2 billion from his privately held firm, Fisher Investments, which is based near Portland, Ore., and has 3,500 employees and other public pensions are putting
Fisher's firm on a watch list for potential action.


Four Inmates Shipped to Albany for Punishment Get $980,000 Settlement

Four inmates who were transferred off Rikers Island to an Albany jail for punishment have reached a $980,000 legal settlement with the city after their lawsuit described brutal beatings at the Albany jail. All four of the inmates were young and their suit alleged that city correction officials had sent them to the Albany County Correctional Facility knowing they would be beaten and thrown into solitary confinement for months. They claimed that the transfers were intended to circumvent the city's ban on using isolation as a punishment for youths. As part of the settlement, Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration reversed its earlier position and agreed to stop transferring young inmates from the city's jails to the Albany County jail.


Manhattan D.A. Facing Renewed Criticism Over Handling of Doctor's Case

Manhattan district attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. is under fire again after reaching a plea deal with a New York doctor who sexually abused over a dozen of his patients. Robert A. Hadden, a gynecologist in Manhattan, struck a deal with Vance's office back in 2016, which allowed him to avoid prison time. The office then went against the recommendation of a state panel and sought the lowest sex offender status for the doctor, which a judge granted. Now some of Hadden's accusers are renewing calls for an investigation into how the Manhattan district attorney's office handles sex crimes. They are citing the handling of the Jeffrey Epstein case as evidence of what they contend might be a systemic problem at the office.


N.Y. Climate Lawsuit Against Exxon Begins

After four years, oil-industry giant Exxon Mobil went to court in New York City to face charges that the company lied to shareholders and to the public about the costs and consequences of climate change. The case turns on the claim that Exxon kept a secret set of financial books that seriously underestimated the costs of potential climate change regulation while claiming publicly that it was taking such factors into account. It follows a sprawling investigation that included millions of pages of documents and allegations of a chief executive's secret email account.



Massachusetts Sues Exxon

A Massachusetts Attorney General, Maura Healey, filed suit against Exxon Mobil Corp. accusing the oil giant of misleading investors and consumers for decades about the role fossil fuels play in climate change. The lawsuit was filed just two hours after a judge rejected a last-minute bid by Exxon to force Healey to hold off from moving forward with her plans to sue it until after it is done defending itself in a trial that began over similar allegations brought by the state of New York. The lawsuit is the culmination of a three-year investigation. In court papers, Exxon called the decision by Healey to sue now "gamesmanship" to distract its lawyers amid the New York trial and part of a "partisan" campaign against it.


U.S. Sues California to Stop Climate Initiative

In a lawsuit filed in the Eastern District of California, the Justice Department is seeking to block part of the state's greenhouse gas reduction program and limit its ability to take international leadership in curbing planet warming emissions. The Justice Department said that a regional system created by California's air resources board, which caps planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions but lets corporations trade emissions credits within that cap, was unlawful because it included Quebec, Canada. The Justice Department cited the constitutional prohibition on states making their own treaties or agreements with foreign governments.


Pittsburgh Synagogue Ponders Most Fitting Memorial One Year After Massacre

Last month, James Young, an international expert in public memorials, came to speak to the local Jewish community. It had been nearly a year since 11 worshipers were shot to death by an anti-Semitic gunman at Shabbat service. Professor Young had some thoughts about the process of commemoration, mostly urging them not to feel rushed about it. He also had ideas about the nature of a memorial itself: how there needed to be a balance of the intimate and personal with the larger communal and civic context, mass killings now having entwined Pittsburgh with places like Charleston, Parkland, Columbine, and Las Vegas.


New Jersey Seminary Pledges $27 Million in Reparations for Slavery Ties

The Princeton Theological Seminary has pledged to spend $27 million on scholarships and other initiatives to address its historical ties to slavery, in what appears to be the biggest effort of its kind. The announcement came about a year after an internal report detailed the findings of a two-year investigation that showed slavery's deep roots in the school's past. The move put the seminary at the heart of a national discussion about what those who reaped the benefits of slavery -- and the United States as a whole -- owe to the descendants of slaves.


Residents Say Fort Worth Police Have More Violence to Address

Following the fatal shooting of Atatiana Jefferson, a 28-year-old black woman who was killed in her bedroom this month by a white police officer who was standing outside her window, Fort Worth residents are speaking out about a long-standing history of violence, discrimination, and mistreatment at the hands of the police. In the largely black and Hispanic neighborhood in southeast Fort Worth where Jefferson lived, and in others nearby, many residents recalled times when they had tried calling the police -- and ended up sorry that they did. Jefferson became the sixth person to be killed by the Fort Worth police since June. Four of the six were black.


Kurdish Commander Warns of Ethnic Cleansing in Syria After U.S. Troop Withdrawal

Mazlum Kobani, the Kurdish leader of the Syrian force that once helped America battle the Islamic State, and that has now been abandoned by the Trump administration, has warned that an "ethnic cleansing" may be looming if the U.S. completely withdraws its support from its allies against ISIS. "There will be ethnic cleansing of the Kurdish people from Syria, and the American administration will be responsible for it."


Johnson Loses Key Brexit Vote

Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered a damaging setback in his quest to remove Britain from the European Union, losing a critical vote in Parliament and putting his plans for Brexit on hold as Britain's three-year struggle to resolve the issue continued to defy any solution. Lawmakers granted preliminary approval to the withdrawal deal he struck with the European Union last week, a major step toward achieving the prime minister's goal of Brexit and one that broke a string of defeats for him. However, the lawmakers refused in a crucial follow-up vote to put legislation enacting Britain's departure on a fast track to passage, which could have enabled Johnson to meet his deadline of leaving the European Union by October 31st.


Putin and Turks' Leader Announce Plan for Syria, Bolstering Russian Influence

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia met in Russia after a U.S.-brokered cease-fire with Kurdish forces came to an end for more than six hours of talks on how they and other regional players will divide control of Syria, devastated by eight years of civil war. Under terms of the agreement, Syrian Kurdish forces have six days to retreat more than 20 miles from the border, abandoning land that they had controlled uncontested until earlier this month -- when their protector, the American military, suddenly began to withdraw from the region. The negotiations cemented Putin's strategic advantage: Russian and Turkish troops will take joint control over a vast swath of formerly Kurdish-held territory in northern Syria. The change strengthens the rapid expansion of Russian influence in Syria at the expense of the United States and its Kurdish former allies.


ISIS Rejoices as U.S. Pulls Out from Syria

U.S. armed forces and their Kurdish-led partners, the Syrian Democratic Forces, had been conducting as many as a dozen counterterrorism missions a day against Islamic State militants. They had also been quietly releasing some Islamic State prisoners and incorporating them into their ranks, in part as a way to keep them under watch. All of that, however, has stopped as the U.S. began to withdraw troops out of Syria. Trump announced earlier this month that he would pull American troops out of northern Syria and make way for a Turkish attack on the Kurds, Washington's onetime allies. Many have warned that he was removing the spearhead of the campaign to defeat the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.


Desperate Pleas to Rescue Syrian Kids in ISIS Camp

The fate of tens of thousands of women and children in Kurdish-run detainee camps in Syria has posed a challenge for governments around the world since the Islamic State lost its last territory there earlier this year. Yet the chaos and violence that have followed the American pullback have intensified questions about what duty nations have to citizens detained abroad, even those affiliated with a brutal terrorist group. Family members of the women and children at Al-Hol detention camp in Kurdish-controlled northern Syria worry that Syrian government forces could take over the camp and are pleading for their release.


Hungary's Orban Had Trump's Ear on Ukraine Before Meeting

Just 10 days before a key meeting on Ukraine, Trump met with one of the former Soviet republic's most virulent critics, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, and heard a sharp assessment that bolstered his hostility toward the country. The discussion at the White House between Trump and Orban was held over objections from Trump's national security advisers.


China Says That Pence Speech Was "Sheer Arrogance"

After a speech in which Mike Pence criticized American companies for making compromises with China that conflict with Western values, China responded to Pence with an epic counterblast, accusing him of using China as a prop to distract from the United States' failings. Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that Pence's speech "exuded sheer arrogance and hypocrisy, and was packed with political prejudice and lies," and that "China expresses its strong indignation and adamant disapproval."


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 30, 2019 10:49 AM.

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