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Week In Review

By Lisa Ornest
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

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


No Touching!

We're not talking about rape, or even sexual blackmail here, but men (as well as grandmothers, cousins, and aunties), have to learn to keep their hands to themselves, and I guess this is a part of the lesson. Fourteen women over 20 years are accusing Cuba Gooding of "forcible touching" and "third-degree sexual abuse." Maximum of a year potential sentence.


Bite Me

Apple launched its new streaming TV service, Apple TV Plus, with a premier at Lincoln Center of its morning show hosted by Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon. Oprah is coming to the new channel, as are Steven Spielberg and M. Night Shyamalan, among others. The service will cost $5 a month or is free with a new Apple device. Apple will air all new original programming, so there is no back-up "library" of shows like at those other places. Apple admits it knows nothing about television, but promises oral sex in "Dickinson" (Emily), and a lot of swearing from Rachel and Jill. I'm curious to see what the product placements will be.


Orchestra Cancels Tour

The Eastman School of Music Philharmonia had to cancel its planned tour of China because China would not issue visas to three South Korean members of the orchestra. Originally the tour was going to go anyway, but there was "outcry" from students and alums, who accused the school of "bowing" to China (the student body is apparently one quarter international), and the school cancelled the tour altogether. Some believe that China's position has to do with punishing the U.S. for selling missiles to South Korea. China denies it and claims that more than four million South Koreans visited China last year.


Netflix Must Self-Censor Overseas

Netflix has 1.5 million subscribers in Turkey, which is probably a nice bit of change. Previously, all streaming services in that country were allowed to operate outside of the government's censorship rules, which are of course so broad that they can be made to include anything the government desires. However, there has been a big crackdown on "dissent," and now the content on Netflix and other streaming services will have to comply if they want the markets. For example, no cigarette smoking and no same-sex kissing (or anything else) are allowed. In India there are also problems, with certain members of the populace insisting that streaming content be regulated in the same way as movie theaters. Some of the extremists claim that this is to protect children. In these countries, the interests of religious extremists frequently prevail politically. In Saudi Arabia, Netflix was made to censor criticism of the crown prince. Oh, but nothing like that could ever happen here . . .


Let Me Entertain You

The BBC paid Samira Ahmed, who had a much larger audience and did exactly the same type of show, well, really perhaps something a bit more difficult, one-sixth of what the man in the analogous job was paid. BBC claimed that the man's show is a household word and is entertainment, while her show is not and is a news show. Yet even in other BBC work, Ahmed was paid between a third to a half less than men doing the same work on the same projects. The BBC gave her some back pay. She is now suing for more, and is not the only one.



Cultural Affairs Commissioner Steps Down

The Commissioner of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Tom Finkelpearl, who has served in the post since 2014, has resigned. This article suggests that it had something to do with which artist was going to be chosen to create a work to replace the monument of J. Marion Sims, a 19th century "doctor" who performed medical experiments on black women slaves without anesthesia, but that's just speculation. Under Finkelpearl's leadership, the Department launched "Create NYC," which allowed city residents to attend museums for less, although some artists claimed that the plan was really about helping developers. Prior to this position, Finkelpearl was the director of the Queens Museum, where he oversaw a large budget and encouraged diversity.


A Girl's Best Friend

This is about a 34.65 carat diamond, about the size of a Cerignola olive, cut from the Golconda mines in India, nicknamed "Princie." It first appeared in the 1700s and was bought by an Italian Senator, Signor Angiolillo, in 1960, from Van Cleef & Arpels. Then it starts getting into family law, which is always tedious. The Senator gave it to his wife, but what happened to it when she died? Maybe the step-brother, Signor Milella, knows something. The Italian police found a bunch of loot at his house; but not Princie. Apparently Milella sold it to a Swiss gem dealer named David Gol for nearly $20 million. Then Gol worked with Christie's to auction it off. Gol's lawyer says that there is no evidence Angiolillo ever owned the diamond. A member of the Qatari royal family, a sheikh, bought it for $39.3 million. The case is in New York Supreme, where it will be adjudicated pursuant to New York law, not Swiss, which would apparently be more helpful to Gol. Christie's said it only took in $1 million on the sale, and that the issue is primarily an inheritance dispute between family members. Nothing to look at here.


Fanny Hill

The author of the anonymous New York Times op-ed printed on September 5, 2018 will be turning her or his essay into a full length book with lots of juicy details. The New York Times claims to have vetted the deep throat before it ran the op-ed, so I guess this is legitimate and not just an agent provocateur misdirection. In fact, the writer sounds like a good Republican who is simply appalled by the behavior in the Oval Office.


No Bail-Out for Barneys

Barneys filed for bankruptcy in August. There was hope for another buyer, someone who would keep the family together, but Authentic Brands is buying the name (which is its raison d'etre, buying distressed intellectual property, licensing it, and taking royalties), which will be licensed to Saks, and B. Riley, a liquidation firm, will sell what's left of the merchandise in private sales to the store's former "most loyal" shoppers, and 660 Madison will be turned into a "pop-up" emporium. The first bankruptcy was in 1996. Some people think the store never recovered after that.



Full Employment for Divorce Lawyers

Harry Macklowe, worth about $2.5 billion, is 82, and his ex-wife, Linda, is a year younger. They managed to keep it together for 50 years, and their divorce was only finalized in 2018. Macklowe then married his 60-ish girlfriend, Patricia Landeau, and had their photographs plastered on the side of his building on Billionaire's Row, where, by the way, it is apparently a buyer's market, although Sting just bought a $65.7 million penthouse there. Anyway, now the former couple are fighting over the art, including a $50 million Warhol "Marilyn." Linda Macklowe got the apartment in the Plaza Hotel and $39 million of the art, but the Warhol, and the rest, will have to be separated and sold. Like Barneys. Let's not forget that in 1985, Macklowe tore down SROs on 44th Street in the middle of the night, without turning off the electricity, gas or water, or building scaffolding (although apparently the buildings were empty), to beat a demolition moratorium that was about to take effect. He paid $2 million to settle that suit and had to wait 4 years before he could build again, but it doesn't seem like much of a sacrifice now. Vendettas are expensive to maintain. When money is no object, the wars can go on forever.



Friday Night Lights Out

These stories are in the news every month now, about the cumulative dangers of playing football, especially for young kids, and specifically the danger of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease linked to repeated head trauma. It is often found posthumously in football players, and in fact can only be diagnosed posthumously. This particular subject played in high school and college, and then became an ob/gyn. When he was 35 he began losing his temper, memory (like in the middle of surgeries), and judgment. The diagnosis was neurodegenerative dementia. Now he's crusading to ban football for anyone younger than twelve.


Bears in the Woods

This has been going on for a while. Last month, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) gave the Russians 3 weeks to explain the discrepancies between the data received from a whistle blower regarding athlete drug tests and the data received from Russian officials. Where were the failed tests? The Russians claimed that its dog (or maybe bear) ate it (more or less). As a result, the Russians were banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics. Now, Microsoft claims that the Russian state-run hacking group, "Fancy Bear," has attacked the computer networks of 16 national and international sports and antidoping organizations. Fancy Bear is one of 2 groups responsible for the 2016 U.S. election interference. Apparently exposés and indictments just make Fancy Bear more determined. The fact is that the Russians cheated, and now they are causing discord in an attempt what, to cover their tracks? To frighten everyone into letting them play anyway? To show they don't care? Russia has always produced great artists and athletes. It doesn't need to juice.



Want Beer!

Alma mater branded beer. It's really just the equivalent of Girl Scout cookies, right? Especially since education funding does not seem to be much of a priority in certain parts of these United States. To be fair, they're also doing it with hamburger buns, coffee, and wine. Maybe at Oxford and Cambridge it'll be tea. I guess one problem is that it's not exactly a great role model for preventing students from selling out to Nike. Some people call it simply good old Cajun ingenuity. Ragin' Cajun, they say, is a great beer that tastes like Southwest Louisiana.



You Can't Scare Me

NBC digital journalists think a union will protect them when/if they need to criticize management. Among other things, they also want equal pay for women and minorities, and a better idea of the long-term plans for the digital division. Mostly, they want the freedom to discuss publicly things in the company that are in the headlines elsewhere. This all came to a head with the publication of Ronan Farrow's Catch and Kill and his interview about it on Rachel Maddow, where he explained that NBC "interfered" with his Harvey Weinstein investigation (by telling him to stop reporting it after 7 months), and "mishandled" the allegations against Matt Lauer. Nevertheless, it seems like NBC may try to fire those currently seeking the union and hire a bunch of other people. It's a rough climate for principles these days. Usually it's just the technical staff that is unionized. The writers circulated an anonymous spreadsheet disclosing salaries and job scheduling and security. It showed deep disparities with regard to women and people of color.


All Chiefs

Here's the backstory: Terry G. Bollea (aka Hulk Hogan) sued Gawker Media in an invasion of privacy lawsuit "secretly" funded by the billionaire Peter Theil. Gawker became subject to a $140 million judgment and had to file for bankruptcy. Deadspin was part of Gawker. Great Hill Partners bought Deadspin and a few other properties in the fire sale. Great Hill put the properties together under the name G/O Media and installed a Mr. Spanfeller, formerly a Forbes exec, as CEO. Then, in August, Deadspin posted a story critical of G/O and Spanfeller. Three weeks after that, Deadspin's editor, Megal Greenwell, resigned. Then, on Monday, 10/28, the G/O editorial director sent a memo saying, "stick to sports," more or less. For example, he wasn't perturbed about the reporting of the vocal disapprobation of President Trump at the World Series. Nevertheless, the staff felt that their autonomy and the quality of their product was at issue, and on Tuesday they published exclusively non-sports related material. The interim editor was then fired, and the rest of the staff eventually voluntarily followed. Spanfeller claims that it was not the intent to "quash" the "distinctive Deadspin voice." Lawyer much? Senator B. Sanders tweeted his support of the writers, while others decried the influx of private equity into media companies. Yet wasn't it always like that?


Anything Goes

The U.S. president's campaign circulated an ad on Facebook (FB) that made false claims about Joe Biden. When Biden asked for it to be removed, FB refused. So to see how far things would go, Elizabeth Warren's campaign ran an ad stating that Zuckerberg supported Trump for president (which he apparently doesn't). Claiming freedom of expression, Zuckerberg has decided that FB is not going to censor, and the ads will run whether they are lying or not, even paid political ads that include claims that have been debunked. See the problem? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did. She grilled him on it. Even 250 of FB's (admittedly 35,000 plus) employees have signed an open letter and posted it on FB's internal communication network asking Zuckerberg to change his mind. He's impervious. I guess he's decided that money is speech. However, contrary to the current law of this land, money is not speech. As a matter of fact, federal law prohibits networks from censoring political ads of candidates running for office. So I guess you have to take them as they are or not at all. I wasn't aware that FB has had relatively few employee "uprisings," compared to Google and Amazon, but the letter says: "This is still our company."


On the Other Hand

Twitter has decided to ban all political ads. That will include, for example, ads about climate change. But advertising is insidious. Are you sure you really know it when you see it? Anyway, Google is in between, with a review policy.



Tik-Tok began as an American company with a "short-form" video app for making videos and memes using an "endless scroll of clips." Then it was acquired by a Chinese company called ByteDance, which owns Muisical.ly, a similar type of app. ByteDance said that it would not merge the two, but it did, and together the companies have become a "global cultural phenomenon," with over 750 million downloads in the past year, more than FB, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat. However, the acquisition is being reviewed by the federal Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS). There have already been problems about Tik-Tok and the security of personal information about children. Now there's a claim that the app is sending data to China (although the app itself is not available in China). Certain Chinese tech firms are have been blocked from purchasing certain American products, and Singapore was prevented from purchasing Qualcomm. In addition, both apps apparently censor political material.


Propaganda Are Us

This was also in the news last month. Russia apparently has a huge disinformation industry, which it treats like any other industry, testing samples before rolling out the big production. The product consists of FB campaigns. FB says that it has recently removed 3 Russian-backed "influence networks" that were aimed at Mozambique, Cameroon, Sudan, and Libya. These campaigns were apparently financed by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian oligarch indicted by the U.S. and accused of interfering in the 2016 elections, and his agency, Russia's Internet Research Agency. Some of the sites criticize French and American policies in Africa; some promote Russian policies. Some pages "masquerade" as news but just repost articles from Sputnik (!!) "News" Service. Apparently this latest effort is much bigger than anything that happened in 2016. How can this be stopped? Who can be relied upon to police this? In Tampa (I heard on FB), the local political board just cut library funding for New York Times digital subscriptions because, it claims, the newspaper is "fake news." Finally, one can't be certain that the claim to have nipped things in the bud is even itself accurate.


Imposter Local Sites that Promote Ideological Agendas Becoming More Common

The Russian Internet Research Agency (as discussed above) has apparently opened Twitter accounts that direct readers where it wants them to go. However, it's not just a foreign bogey that is doing this; the Kochs and their ilk fund this type of activity, too. It is cheaper and more effective than pouring money into candidates. (Read Dark Money.)


General News

A Day in Hollywood . . .

It was John A. Eisenberg (JAE), a lawyer for the National Security Council, who ordered that "The Transcript" of "The Call" be placed in the Council's "Intelligence Collaboration Environment," or NICE, system, that is, the really "secure" server, which made it extremely difficult to edit the document and fill in the blanks, like about the Bidens and Burisma. That was what Lieutenant Colonel Alexander S. Vindman, a 20-year purple heart Iraq war veteran and "top" Ukraine expert, was supposed to do. However, upon reading "The Transcript" of "The Call," Lieutenant Colonel Vindman became concerned about a number of things, like the effect on national security of executive self-dealing. So then the National Security Council, in the person of JAE, confiscated the transcript away from the Lieutenant Colonel and stopped inviting him to meetings. The Lieutenant Colonel contends that he is not the actual whistle blower, but that he can corroborate and "flesh out" the whistle blower's report.

The entire statement is included.

Extra bonus: Fox News and its ilk are accusing the Lieutenant Colonel of espionage.







Impeachment Round Up

Why "bitterly" divided? It went along party lines, with a few moving from the Democrat side, specifically, Jeff Van Drew of N.J. and Collin Peterson of Minnesota. The Republicans stayed loyal.


Separation of Powers

This administration argues that the House can never take the Executive to court. However, there are prior rulings during Bush II and Obama that show that Congress can file lawsuits and that presidential aides must show up. This would include Donald F. McGahn II and Charles Kupperman, the latter of whom is suing Trump as well as Congress, and John Bolton, who will probably also file the same type of case.



All White Boys

The Democratic candidates were originally extremely racially diverse. Now it's 4 white people, although at least one is a woman.


I'm Sorry, Dave

I heard this story right from the beginning, that one of the companies manufactured a new super energy efficient engine, but it didn't quite fit in the 737s. So both hardware and software modifications had to be made, to make the engines fit. One part of the software modifications was a new automatic stability system to keep the nose of the plane from popping up, about which the company neglected to inform the pilots. Ultimately, this little communications glitch didn't really matter, because there was no manual override, so even if they had known, there was nothing the pilots could have done. The automated system overcorrected, and you know what happened next. Twice.


Google to Buy Fitbit

And they won't tell anyone anything they find out about you and your body, will they? You know, when we watched Star Trek it was never with the idea that our communicators would have a direct link to multi-national corporations and law enforcement. They say "you will always be in control of your data," they will never sell your info, yeah yeah, blah blah. Until it becomes convenient for them to do so. I guess it's the same for Apple Watch, and without Google, Fitbit won't be able to compete. However, some say that Google is just not that good at consumer products and should stop trying.


It Could Happen to You

383,000 gallons into rural wetlands. This happened just "hours" after an environmental assessment hearing regarding another pipeline to be built by the same company. This Keystone pipeline has a "history" of oil spills, nearly a dozen in its first year 2010, 16,800 galls in 2016, and 276,864 in 2017, both in South Dakota. Now they want to build a second one in Montana.


A Vote for Smog

Apparently these same companies (GM, Fiat, Chrysler, and Toyota) tried this same tactic in 2004 and lost. Of course the Supreme Court is very different now, but it will be interesting to see how far the state's rights arguments go in this regard. The list also includes Mazda, Nissan, Kia, and Subaru. Subaru? For shame. The Obama rules call for fuel efficiency of 46.7 mpg. Trump wants 37.




Paging Loretta Lynn

We're also rolling back on heavy metal pollution controls, like from arsenic, lead, and mercury into water supplies, and the ash of coal-fired power plants! All this to pretend to bring back the coal industry, which is just not going to happen.


Kurds Away

Apparently the Kurds were instrumental in helping to find Abu Bakr-al-Baghdadi, risking their lives; and then the American president betrayed them by withdrawing support and also by pretending they had nothing to do with it.

Further, Trump claims to have heard the crying and screaming of al-Baghdadi in the final minutes before his death, but he's the only one. Neither the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, nor the regional commander who oversaw the operation says they have any idea of what the president is talking about. Four other Defense Department officials spoke anonymously to say they had seen no "after-action" or situation reports to corroborate the president's claims. The surveillance drone everyone watched had no live audio. Even Peter Wehner, a former adviser to George W. called the President a "serial liar." He says, "without truth, a free society cannot operate."




No Vaccines for You

This Administration is shutting down a scientific program called "Predict," which funds scientists to study animal viruses that might potentially infect humans, like Asian bird flu, in order to possibly head off epidemics before they start. The scientists do laboratory as well as field work, collecting samples from wild rodents, catching bats, and collecting gorilla feces. The program was supported by Bush II and Obama. It discovered a new strain of Ebola. It also worked on things like transporting samples without refrigeration and using DNA testing to scan for whole viral families. It's cheaper to fight things in the beginning than after they've already taken hold. It's science.


Intergenerational Mobility

It turns out that the children of economically challenged immigrants have greater "intergenerational mobility" than the children of similarly situated native-born families, no matter their race. In fact, maybe Norwegians do less well than immigrants from Latin America. On the other hand, there may be a skew in the data because sometimes certain immigrants have artificially low incomes. For example, a doctor in Latin America may have to drive a cab here, but the family is better educated in general. Furthermore, the legacy of slavery may prevent
native-born African Americans from having higher mobility. The point is, stop scapegoating immigrants.


No Hiding in the Sunshine State

One of the rumors is that Trump wants to change his domicile because Florida allows bankrupts to keep their homestead up to any amount of money, but maybe that's a little cynical. Maybe it is just because of the income tax, and because New York in general is not a fax. However, New York conducts an average of 3,024 nonresidency audits a year, and if one has big business contacts, well, one might still have to file IT-203.


Google Worried about Protecting its Data

Ha! 48 States have signed on to the antitrust suit in Texas. Google is petitioning for protection of its "sensitive business documents." It's a normal strategic move for any company involved in litigation, but oh! the irony. The Texas Attorney General complains that he was caught "off-guard" by the petition, but that sounds a little disingenuous.


Don't You Dare Blame Both Sides

The Charlottesville rally, which ended in homicide, was organized, ostensibly, to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from a public park. No problem. The groups who organized the rally discussed things like which weapons to bring, including not carrying long flag poles because they are not effective to bludgeon people with. Another question was whether it was legal to run over protesters blocking roadways? No, Mr. Fields, it isn't. Homicide is not protected by the First Amendment, and planning a homicide isn't either. The case is called Sines v. Kessler. The plaintiffs are a "cross-section" of Virginia residents who claim that the Charlottesville conspiracy denied them their civil rights. The defendants are 14 individuals and 10 organizations, including white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and Ku Klux Klan members (paging Blazing Saddles). The defendants are not always cooperating with their lawyers. The plaintiffs' attorneys are attempting to resurrect a thing called the Ku Klux Klan Act, which makes it illegal to re-enslave African Americans. The Act was an attempt to give private protections, not just the protections against government action in the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments.


Right Back at You

Unbelievably, a North Carolina State court rejected the state's congressional district map, saying that it represented "unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering in favor of the Republicans." The judges were serious, saying that they were willing to postpone primary elections if necessary to further litigate. The Republican map "all but guaranteed" the party's control of 10 of the state's 13 house districts, even though, apparently, voters' political preferences are evenly split. That situation had been going on for nearly a decade. This was the case the Supremes refused to adjudicate.


Abortion Still Legal for the Moment

Justice Myron H. Thompson, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, ruled that the attempted abortion ban (even in cases of rape or incest and giving 99-year prison sentences to doctors who perform abortions, among other things) violates "Supreme Court precedent," and "defies" the Constitution. He joins judges in 6 other states who have blocked the laws and in 2 other states who temporarily blocked the laws. However, this was what all those "legislatures" wanted, a chance to go to the Supremes. Republican lawmakers from Alabama call the ruling "judicial activism." The governor claims "every life is precious," but Alabama has the highest rate of prison suicide in the country.


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