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August 2020 Archives

August 3, 2020

Week In Review

By La-Vaughnda A. Taylor
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

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


Olivia de Havilland 104, Who Starred in 'Gone With the Wind,' Dies

Olivia de Havilland, who is best known for her role in "Gone With the Wind,", died in Paris from natural causes at the age of 104. de Havilland was one of the last remaining actresses from Hollywood's Golden Age and a 2-time Academy Award winner. In her later years, she stayed mostly out of the limelight and preferred to live a quiet life in France. de Havilland is remembered for her strength in challenging the studios to liberate actors from contracts that exploited them. The actress has a famously tempestuous relationship with her sister, actress Joan Fontaine, and she mounted a lawsuit against the producers of the 2017 series "Feud" over her portrayal by Catherine Zeta-Jones. She argued that producers did not have her approval over her depiction and that the show damaged her "professional reputation for integrity, honesty, generosity, self-sacrifice and dignity." The case was rejected by California's high court in July 2018, but she vowed to take it to the Supreme Court. In 1943 when her contract with Warner Brothers ended, the studio tried to keep her on, claiming that she had six months left due to various suspensions. She fought the case in court and spent $13,000 of her own money. The suit was based on an old California law that put a 7-year limit on the period for which an employer can enforce a contract against an employee. The "anti-peonage law" forbade employers to reduce workers to serfdom. The victory, known as "the de Havilland decision," freed many actors from uncompromising contracts and allowed for negotiations with the studios for much more favorable terms. It also proved to be another nail in the coffin for the old studio system.


Venice Plans to Hold Its Film Festival

The Venice Film Festival is set to be one of the only large-scale events in the entertainment world to go ahead this year. This week, Luca Zaia, the governor of the Veneto region in Italy, announced plans for the festival to go ahead on its scheduled dates of September 2-12. The festival will have a reduced slate with 2 outdoor screening locations to ensure social distancing.



Humanities Grants Funded

The National Endowment for the Humanities announced $30 million in grants for 238 humanities projects across the country. The last round of funding for fiscal year 2020 "will support vital research, education, preservation and public programs in the humanities." The peer-reviewed grants were awarded in addition to $50 million in annual operational support provided to the national network of state and jurisdictional humanities councils.


U.S. Backs Down in Battle to Stop President's Former Fixer From Writing a Tell-All

The Trump administration has dropped its attempt to stop Michael Cohen, the president's former fixer and personal attorney, from writing a tell-all book. Last month, after tweeting that his book was nearly complete, Cohen was returned to prison. The American Civil Liberties Union joined a suit on his behalf and a judge in New York ordered his return to home confinement, saying that the government had retaliated against him by putting him back behind bars. Last week, U.S. attorneys told the same judge that the government had dropped its support for a gag order to stop Cohen from publishing a book. The government does not "intend to further litigate or appeal the court's rulings."


Black Plays Knocking on Stage Door

Interviews with artists and producers suggest that there are more than a dozen plays and musicals with Black writers circling Broadway--meaning, in most cases, that the shows have been written, have had promising productions elsewhere, and have support from commercial producers or nonprofit presenters. However, bringing these shows to Broadway would mean making room for producers and artists who often have less experience in commercial theatre than the powerful industry regulars who most often book theatres.


T. Rex Isn't Required to Wear a Mask, However

The American Museum of Natural History plans to open on September 9th at 25% capacity. Visitors will need to reserve time-entry tickets online in advance, and face masks will be required for everyone 2 and older. Staff members will also be subject to daily temperature checks. The museum will be open 5 days a week instead of its typical 7, from Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. While it previously had a pay what-you-wish admission policy for all visitors, it will implement a fixed admission fee for visitors from outside the tristate area--$23 for adults, $18 for students and seniors and $13 for children ages 3 to 12.


The Drama Will Be Enhanced by Testing

The Salzburg Festival is unfolding its abbreviated centennial season with an elaborate coronavirus protection plan, supported by political and financial resources. Bucking the coronavirus-trend, Salzburg is going ahead with performances featuring casts interacting closely and full orchestras in the pit. The 44-day anniversary program had been mostly postponed until next year. It was replaced with a reduced, 30-day schedule, through August 30th, with concerts, plays, and 2 (instead of 7) staged operas that were planned over the past few months, almost unheard-of short notice for opera on this level. The festival has put in place stricter measures than the Austrian government has mandated. The festival's theatres will each be capped at about half their capacities; audiences will sit in a staggered, chessboard-like formation and will be asked to wear masks as they enter and leave, but can remove them during performances. Intermissions will be eliminated, and attendees will provide their contact information with the purchase of each nontransferable ticket, so that they can be informed if it turns out they attended a performance with an infected person. Artists and staff have been divided into 3 groups, depending on their ability to socially distance. Singers, orchestra musicians, and others who need to interact with one another closely are in the "red" group and are tested weekly, regardless of whether they have symptoms.


Picasso Mural Taken Down in Norway

Activists protested the removal of art from government offices that faced demolition in Oslo. The removal of a pair of concrete murals by Pablo Picasso was completed last week from a government building in the Norwegian capital. Opinions were divided over whether to spare what some considered an architectural masterpiece, while others considered it as ugly. The so-called Y-block will be replaced by a modern and safer construction after the government headquarters were targeted in June 2011 by Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik. For some, the building dating to 1969 stands as a painful reminder of the terror attack, when it suffered some structural damage. To others, it's a post-modernist masterpiece by Norwegian architect Erling Viksjoe. Some also say that by razing the building, officials are symbolically finishing Breivik's job. The demolition had been at a standstill since 2014 due to a series of postponements, chiefly because of the protests.


Church Volunteer Confesses to Starting Fire at Nantes Cathedral

A church volunteer admitted to starting a fire that devasted the cathedral in the French city of Nantes. The Rwandan refugee, who worked as a warden at the cathedral, was rearrested on Saturday night. His lawyer told reporters his client felt "relief" after confessing. No motive for the fire, which destroyed the cathedral's 17th century organ as well as historic stained-glass windows, was given.



For National Basketball Association, a Safe, Strange Haven in a Hot Spot

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has transported 22 of its 30 teams to a complex at Disney World in Florida to play out the season in a worsening pandemic. NBA players have gathered for the most extraordinary experiment in league history to play out the rest of the season without fans on a confined campus and must abide by a thick book of rules that includes assigned seats on the bench and prohibitions on postgame showers until players return to a team hotel. The Womens National Basketball Association is engaged in a similar experiment in Bradenton, Florida.


National Football League's Message Against Sexism and Racism is Undercut in Owner's Suites

The National Football League (NFL) has taken strides to repair its image as being insensitive to issues facing women and people of color. However, the league continues to be confronted by an uncomfortable reality: its efforts can be undercut by reports of toxic behavior at the tops of its franchises. Woody Johnson, the owner of the New York Jets and U.S. ambassador to Britain, was accused of making comments to embassy colleagues were found to be racist or sexist, complaints that State Department investigators included in a report filed in February. The accusations against Johnson have surfaced as the NFL grapples with 2 other crises of racism and sexism that reached recent turning points, including Daniel Snyder and the Washington Football Team's name change and investigation of charges in the team's front office of widespread harassment of women. The reemergence of issues of discrimination involving 2 of the league's most prominent team owners comes as the nation confronts systemic racism in many of its institutions, including sports teams and leagues.


Including Transgender Athletes Breaks Law, Trump Administration Says

A high school sports policy in Connecticut that allows transgender students to participate in athletics based on their gender identity violates federal law and could cost the state federal education funding, the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights has found. The finding comes after the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian organization, filed complaints against the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and the Glastonbury school board on behalf of 3 high school student-athletes. The Conference and school officials have 20 days to resolve the violation.


Games Postponed After Two Cardinals Players Test Positive for Coronavirus

Major League Baseball's (MLB) season is just more than a week old, yet the schedule continues to change due to COVID-19 cases. As many as 20 members of the Miami Marlins, including 18 players, have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent days. Multiple Cardinals players and staffers tested positive as well, forcing the postponement of St. Louis' games in Milwaukee this past weekend. As of Saturday, 17 different MLB games had been postponed due to COVID-19 cases and three of the league's 15 games (20%) originally on the slate for this past weekend were not played as scheduled. MLB will try to make up all postponed games later in the season via doubleheaders and eliminating off-days. If that is not possible, then MLB is prepared to allow teams to finish the season with an unequal number of games played, and determine the postseason field with winning percentage. That would not be ideal, but there is precedent from the 1981 strike.


FIFA President Faces Criminal Inquiry

A federal prosecutor in Switzerland has said that he had opened a criminal investigation into Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, after concluding that there were "indications of criminal conduct" in meetings between Infantino and an official overseeing an investigation into soccer corruption. The investigation follows the resignation last week of Switzerland's attorney general, Michael Lauber, who stepped down after a federal court upheld allegations that he had lied about meeting with Infantino. Lauber had been overseeing an investigation of the 2015 corruption scandal that led to criminal indictments against some of the top leaders at FIFA.


Worse Than the Bastille: Litigation Looms in France

France made the decision to truncate its soccer season rather than try to resume it. The teams in first place of each division were declared champions, and the teams at the bottom were relegated. Most people were not happy and 2 teams, Amiens and Toulouse, which were relegated from the top division, have threatened legal action.


Media and Technology

U.S. 'Intelligence' Reports on Journalists Are Halted

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf has ordered an investigation into agency's intelligence unit that assembled reports on journalists covering the unrest in Portland. The reports focused on the reporters' use of leaked information about the agency's operations in Portland, where the federal deployment was denounced by local leaders and officers had clashed nightly with protesters. The Department of Homeland Security Intelligence and Analysis Directorate was ordered to halt the information collection, after Wolf was notified of the work, first disclosed by the Washington Post.


Facebook, Fighting False News in Ukraine, Faces Accusations of Biased Fact-Checking

Facebook hired a Ukrainian group battling Russian disinformation to flag misleading posts. However, critics say that the fact checkers' work veers into activism. Earlier this year, Facebook hired StopFake to help curb the flow of Russian propaganda and other false news across its platform in Ukraine. Like all of Facebook's outside fact checkers, StopFake signed a pledge to be nonpartisan and not to focus its checks "on any one side." In recent weeks, StopFake has been battling accusations of ties to the Ukrainian far right and of bias in its fact-checking. The episode has raised thorny questions for Facebook over who it allows to separate truth from lies--and who is considered a neutral fact checker in a country at war.


Teen Charged with Leading Twitter Breach

Many celebrity Twitter accounts posted the same strange message last week, including Former President Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Kanye West. They, and dozens of others, were being hacked, and Twitter appeared powerless to stop it. Initially, it was thought that the hack was the work of professionals, but it turned out the "mastermind" was 17 year old Graham Ivan Clark. The Florida teen and 2 others were arrested and charged with communications fraud and fraudulent use of personal information. The breach sparked a massive outcry from Capitol Hill, with lawmakers demanding that the social media giant quickly come clean about the circumstances around the breach. Several Senate panels, including Intelligence, Commerce, and Homeland Security, have been weighing if they should launch their own investigations into the incident.


Murdoch Son Quits Board of Papers

James Murdoch resigned from the board of directors of News Corp., the publishing arm of his family's media empire, in a very public sign of dissent that typically plays out behind closed doors. The rupture capped a period of intensifying criticism of the coverage and views offered by the news empire created by his father Rupert Murdoch. Such criticism has come from outside observers, current news staffers for the Wall St. Journal and Fox, and James himself. On Friday, James released a letter to the board signaling a broad philosophical clash between his father and older brother, although he did not divulge details.


Europe Tries New Strategy to Limit Tech

The region's lawmakers and regulators are taking direct aim at Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple in a series of proposed laws. EU leaders are pursuing a new law to make it illegal for Amazon and Apple to give their own products preferential treatment over those of rivals that are sold on their online stores. Officials are drawing up a law to force Facebook to make its services work more easily with rival social networks and to push Google to share some search data with smaller competitors. In Germany, authorities are debating a rule that would let regulators essentially halt certain business practices at the tech companies during an antitrust investigation.


General News

Justices Uphold Limits on Religious Services During Health Crisis

A sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court denied a rural Nevada church's request to strike down as unconstitutional a 50-person cap on worship services as part of the state's ongoing response to the coronavirus. In a 5-4 decision, the high Court refused to grant the request from the Christian church east of Reno to be subjected to the same COVID-19 restrictions in Nevada that allow casinos, restaurants, and other businesses to operate at 50% capacity with proper social distancing. Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley argued that the hard cap on religious gatherings was an unconstitutional violation of its parishioners' First Amendment right to express and exercise their beliefs. Chief Justice Roberts sided with the liberal majority in denying the request without explanation.


Justices Let Wall Construction Continue

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to let lower court rulings go into effect that would stop the Trump administration from spending any more Pentagon money on the border wall. The Court denied a request from the Sierra Club. Four of the Justices, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan would have granted the request. In May of 2019, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to put a hold on a ruling by a federal judge in California that blocked the use of $2.5 billion of Pentagon counter-drug program money to build more than 100 miles of boarder wall. The judge said that only Congress could approve such a transfer. The Supreme Court issued the stay after questioning whether the groups opposed to the wall had the proper legal status to challenge the transfer in court. A federal appeals court found that the groups did have standing in a ruling last month.


Court Voids Death Penalty for Bomber of Marathon

A federal appeals court overturned Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's death sentence in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, saying that the trial judge did not adequately screen jurors for potential biases. A 3-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ordered a new penalty phase trial on whether the 27-year-old Tsarvaev should be executed for the attack that killed 3 people and wounded more than 260 others. It is now up to the government to determine whether to put the victims and Boston through a second trial, or to allow closure to this terrible tragedy by permitting a sentence of life without parole.


Appellate Court Erases Dismissal of Flynn Case

The entire Federal Appeals Court in Washington said last week that it would take up a case involving Attorney General Barr's decision to drop the prosecution of Trump's former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, erasing a split decision by a 3-judge panel in June ordering an immediate end to the case. Oral arguments are set for August 11th before the full Court.


Astronauts Reach Space Station for Open-Ended Stay

After 2 months on the International Space Station, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley have completed the first crewed flight of the Crew Dragon capsule. The astronauts completed a fiery, high-speed journey back from the International Space Station splashing down in calm Gulf of Mexico waters off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, hundreds of miles from a churning Tropical Storm Isaias in the Atlantic in a triumphal denouement to a historic mission. It was the first time in the 59-year history of crewed American space travel that astronauts had used the Gulf as a landing site, adding to other firsts that marked a new chapter in NASA's human spaceflight program: the first launch of American astronauts to orbit from U.S. soil since the Space Shuttle was retired in 2011 and the first launch into orbit of humans on vehicles owned and operated by a private company, SpaceX.


Trump's Attacks on Mail Service Sow Voting Fears

President Trump escalated his ongoing attacks on the mail-in voting process, suggesting in a tweet that the November election should be delayed. The statement came 5 days before a primary election in Michigan which would be marked by a huge number of absentee ballots due to fears of spreading coronavirus at polling places. His suggestions have garnered a massive and immediate backlash from Republicans and Democrats. The President went on to say that 2020 will be the "most inaccurate and fraudulent Election in history." His rhetoric appears to be an attempt to sow doubt in the eventual outcome of the presidential vote. Trump has repeatedly attacked mail-in voting, implying that Democrats have created a system that exacerbates fraud without providing any evidence. The president does not have the power to delay any federal election. This power is reserved to the states or Congress, according to the National Constitution Center.



Diplomat is Said to Tie Tariffs to Elections

The Trump administration has been accused of attempting to pressure another foreign country into helping Trump's reelection prospects, according to a letter from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The letter cities Brazilian news articles that report U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Todd Chapman pressured members of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's administration to lower ethanol tariffs in order to support President Donald Trump's reelection efforts. Another Brazilian outlet published a similar story finding that he had made the request, and was rebuffed by government officials. Engel has called for Chapman to respond to the reports by August 4th. If the reports are accurate, Chapman's actions could be in violation of the Hatch Act, which prevents federal employees from engaging in certain political activities, such as partisan campaigning for candidates.


Senate Fails to Agree on Extension of $600 Weekly Aid

In late-night negotiations with congressional Democrats on Thursday, White House officials offered a short-term extension of the popular unemployment benefit paying out-of-work Americans $600 per week, a CARES Act provision that formally expired last Friday. However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer rejected the offer, arguing that Republicans don't understand that the situation requires a solution that is larger in scope. Pelosi noted that it had been 10 weeks since House Democrats passed a $3 trillion bill in May that would have extended the benefits for those without work at the current level of $600 per week, in addition to their weekly unemployment insurance checks. She condemned congressional Republicans and the White House for not coming to the negotiating table earlier.


Army Officer Who Clashed with Trump Vows to Speak Out on U.S. Security

The Army officer who was a key witness during the impeachment inquiry into Trump last year and later retired after what he called a campaign of bullying and intimidation by the president and his allies, sharply criticized the administration last week and said he would use his new civilian status to champion national security issues ahead of the elections in November. Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, a decorated Iraq war veteran who served on the staff of the White House's National Security Council, accused the administration in an op-ed in the Washington Post of using Soviet-style tactics to punish dissenters.


Parent of Slain Student Takes on Smith & Wesson

The father of a mass shooting victim and 2 gun safety groups petitioned the federal government to stop the firearms manufacturer Smith & Wesson from using what they described as "deceptive and unfair" marketing to promote assault-style rifles. As part of the complaint, it is alleged that Smith & Wesson mimicked first-person-shooter video games in its advertising materials to attract adolescents and young adults. They added that the marketing of the company's AR-15-style guns "attracts, encourages and facilitates mass shooter." Many feel that the Federal Trade Commission may not do much, but other potentially will, such as elected officials. The 34-page complaint accuses Smith & Wesson of cultivating a "halo" of credibility by running ads that appeared to feature active members of the military carrying firearms resembling M&P rifles. Most of the rifles are sold to civilians rather than to military or law enforcement.


Misogyny Fed Lawyer's Rage Against Judge

Law enforcement officials believe that Roy Den Hollander killed the 20-year-old son of a federal judge in New Jersey. De Hollander was a self-described "anti-feminist" lawyer known for his misogynistic tirades and the dozens of frivolous lawsuits he filed. A Manhattan judge dismissed one of them in May, and a few weeks later, New Jersey federal judge Esther Salas canceled a scheduled hearing in a different suit. Den Hollander's rage turned to violence last month when he showed up at Judge Salas's home, posing as a FedEx deliveryman and opened fire, killing her 20-year-old son and wounding her husband. The judge, who was in the basement at the time, was not injured. Days before, Den Hollander, 72, had traveled by train to San Bernardino County, California, where he shot and killed a rival men's rights lawyer at his home. Hours after the shooting in New Jersey, the police found Den Hollander's body off a road in upstate New York with a single gunshot to the head. In his nearby rental car, investigators found a list naming more than a dozen possible targets.


Blood Test is 'Big Step Forward' In Early Detection Alzheimer's

Finding an easy way to diagnose the brain-robbing disease could be a game changer in helping manage Alzheimer's. Last week, doctors announced an experimental blood test that is highly accurate and is eliciting a great deal of hope in the field.


Barr's U.S. Attorney Pick for Brooklyn is Facing Scrutiny From All Sides

Attorney General Barr's choice, Seth D. DuCharme, was not a purely political appointee. DuCharme is stepping into the position at a fraught time for any U.S. attorney whose office has the jurisdiction to investigate Trump's associates. With the election just over 3 months away, and as political polarization intensifies across the country, DuCharme is facing scrutiny from all sides. This was a promotion of one of Barr's closest advisers in Washington.


A Virginia Town Rethinks Its Confederate Pillars

For 150 years Lexington, a picturesque city nestled in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, has been known to the outside world as the final resting place of Robert E. Lee, the Confederacy's commanding general during the Civil War and Stonewall Jackson, whom Lee referred to as his "right arm." They form the basis of a daily existence here that has long been tethered to the iconography of the Civil War and its 2 most famous Confederate generals, whose legacy has seeped into the town's culture like the July humidity. However, Lexington is no longer a bastion of conservatism. It's a liberal college town of about 7,000 people that voted 60% for Hillary Clinton 4 years ago and in 2018 gave 70% of its vote to the Democratic Senate candidate, Tim Kaine. Black Lives Matter signs dot the windows of downtown stores, and residents haven't backed a Republican for president since Ronald Reagan. These dueling sensibilities place Lexington at particularly delicate intersection of the national debate over Confederate monuments and emblems.


Officer Won't Be Charged in 2014 Brown Killing

Prosecutors in St. Louis have said they will not bring charges against a former police officer who shot dead a black teenager in 2014. The killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson triggered weeks of protests.


Trump Lawyers Call Demand for Taxes 'Wildly Overbroad'

President Trump's lawyers filed fresh arguments last week to block a criminal subpoena for his tax records, saying that it was issued in bad faith, might be politically motivated, and calling it a harassment of the president. They asked a judge to declare it "invalid and unenforceable." The high Court ruled earlier last month that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. could subpoena tax records from Trump's accountant over his objections.


European Union Punishes Polish Towns That Say They're 'L.G.B.T.-Free'

The European Commission rejected funding for 6 Polish towns that declared themselves to be "LGBT-free," a growing local trend where municipalities issue resolutions declaring themselves unwelcoming toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. A European Commission spokesperson told NBC News in an email that the commission would not name the towns, but said that there is "a fundamental principle of equality of treatment that is at the heart of our selection process." The decision means that these 6 undisclosed towns' applications to "twin" with other European Union cities--similar to "sister cities" in the United States--were rejected. Applications can unlock up to 25,000 euros in funding for conferences and other group-building activities.


Hong Kong Disqualifies Pro-Democracy Hopefuls from Legislative Races

Weeks after the Chinese government imposed a new national security law on Hong Kong, raising fears of a broader crackdown on the semi-autonomous territory, the city's authorities took aggressive steps against the pro-democracy opposition. Officials last week barred 12 candidates, including well-known pro-democracy figures, from the September legislative election. The disqualifications came a day after the police made what appeared to be the first targeted arrests of 4 activists ((3 men and 1 woman aged 16 to 21) accused of posting pro-independence messages online.


Torrent of Rain Floods a Fourth of Bangladesh

Torrential rains have submerged at least a quarter of Bangladesh, washing away the few things that count as assets for some of the world's poorest people. The country's latest calamity illustrates a striking inequity of our time: the people least responsible for climate change are among those most hurt by its consequences.



Brief Reprieve, Then the Virus Charges Back

First, the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast were hit hardest as the coronavirus tore through the nation. Then it surged across the South. Now the virus is again picking up dangerous speed in much of the Midwest--and in states from Mississippi to Florida to California that thought they had already seen the worst of it. As the U.S. rides what amounts to a second wave of cases, with daily new infections leveling off at an alarming higher mark, there is a deepening national sense that the progress made in fighting the pandemic is coming undone and that no patch of America is safe.


Virus Wipes Out 5 Years of Economic Growth

The second-quarter contraction set a grim record, and it would have been worse without government aid that is expiring. The coronavirus pandemic's toll on the nation's economy became emphatically clearer last week, as the government detailed the most devastating 3-month collapse on record, which wiped away nearly 5 years of growth. Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced, fell 9.5% in the second quarter of the year as consumers cut back spending, businesses pared investments, and global trade dried up. The drop--the equivalent of 32.9% annual rate of decline--would have been even more severe without trillions of dollars in government aid to households and businesses.


Contact Tracing Has Largely Failed in the U.S.

Contact tracing, a cornerstone of the public health arsenal to tamp down the coronavirus across the world, has largely failed in the U.S.: the virus' pervasiveness and major lags in testing have rendered the system almost pointless. In some regions, large swaths of the population have refused to participate or cannot even be located, further hampering health care workers.


U.S. Deaths Top 150,000 Shattering Forecasts

The U.S. surged past 150,000 COVID-19 fatalities as states battle a resurgence of the virus with differing attitudes about how to stop the spread. The bleak milestone comes on the heels of the U.S. hitting 4 million confirmed infections by July 23rd, without relief in sight. The 3 most populous states--California, Texas and Florida--were among several that set 7-day records for virus deaths.


Testing Chief Concedes that Turnaround of 2 to 3 Days is Out of Reach

With the reopening plans of schools and businesses hinging on rapid test results, the Trump administration's testing czar says that a 2-to-3-day turnaround "is not a possible benchmark we can achieve today." The assessment from Adm. Brett P. Giroir, the assistant secretary of health, most likely did not fully reflect the mounting frustration among patients and health professionals just as the school year starts. During a lengthy House hearing with top government health officials, Dr. Giroir told lawmakers that the nation was averaging about 820,000 tests daily, up from 550,000 earlier this month. Yet the raw numbers belie the testing crunch that officials around the country are facing amid soaring caseloads, particularly in the South and West. He went on to say that "turnaround times are definitely improving", adding that it was "very atypical" to wait more than 12 days for results.


Texas Lawmaker's Positive Diagnosis Stokes Safety Concerns in Congress

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and officials at the Capitol issued broad new face covering requirements after a Republican member of Congress from Texas tested positive for the coronavirus. The member, Rep. Louie Gohmert, often shunned wearing masks and was known to vote without one.


Mass Protests Bring Fear of Hot Spots

Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people out of their homes and onto the street in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians, and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases. Many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, but urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread the virus.


Analysis Shows Infections on Campus Before Classes Begin

As college students and professors decide whether to head back to class, and as universities weigh how and whether to re-open, the coronavirus is already on campus. A New York Times survey of every public 4-year college in the country, as well as every private institution that competes in Division I sports or is a member of an elite group of research universities, revealed at least 6,600 cases tied to about 270 colleges over the course of the pandemic. This is even before the academic year begins at most schools.


First Day Back, Indiana School Finds Infection

As more schools abandon plans for in-person classes, one that opened in Indiana had to quarantine students within hours. Just hours into the first day of classes, a call from the county health department notified Greenfield Central Junior High School in Indiana that a student who had walked the halls and sat in various classrooms had tested positive for the coronavirus. Administrators began an emergency protocol, isolating the student and ordering everyone who had come into close contact with the person, including other students, to quarantine for 14 days. It is unclear whether the student infected anyone else.


Release Rate of Black Youth in Detention Centers Lags

After an initial burst, the rush to release people from jail amid the coronavirus pandemic has slowed. As a new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation reveals, that's particularly true among young people, and especially true when it comes to Black youth. The report finds that after an increase in releases in March, young people were less likely to be released from detention in April and May. While the population of detained young people has decreased by 27% since the pandemic began, it nonetheless grew slightly in May.


Program Helped Reduce Child Hunger, Study Says

Research by the Brookings Institution found evidence that a new payment program, Pandemic-EBT, aimed to help the 30 million children who were at risk for child hunger. In the week after each state issued its payments, child hunger fell by about 30%.


U.S. and Oregon Agree to a Deal on Agents' Exit

Oregon Governor Kate Brown released a statement last week announcing that the federal government agreed to begin withdrawing its officers from downtown Portland. They will also clean up the courthouse, removing the graffiti. The agreement includes Oregon State Police troopers and other local officers replacing federal officers at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse. Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf offered a different view of the agreement, however, saying that federal officers will remain in Portland "until the violence toward our federal facilities ends." Oregon State Police will coordinate with Federal Protective Service officers to ensure that all federal facilities remain protected and secure.


Virus Cuts Off Global Lifeline Aiding Millions

As the pandemic destroys paychecks, migrant workers are sending less money home, threatening an increase in poverty from South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa to Eastern Europe and Latin America.


August 5, 2020

A Right of Publicity Bill in New York State Has Finally Passed and Is Awaiting Governor Cuomo's Signature

By Judith B. Bass
Member, EASL Executive Committee
Member, NYSBA Media Law Committee
Thanks to the members of the New York State Bar Association Committee on Media Law subgroup under the leadership of Sandra Baron and Daniel Kummer who had a role in reviewing and commenting on the legislation.

Both houses of the New York State Legislature have now passed a bill establishing a right of publicity in New York for the first time. The bill also provides for a private right of action for unlawful dissemination of sexually explicit depictions of individuals. A copy of the final bill, S. 5959, is attached here: NewYorkFinalRightOfPublicityBillS5959D (1).pdf. The vote was unanimous in the New York State Senate (60-0) and almost unanimous in the New York State Assembly (140-1). The legislation has been sent to the Governor for signature.

The passage of this bill follows several years of legislative sessions when an earlier (and potentially more problematic) version of the bill failed to pass or come up for a vote. There were also a number of ongoing prior efforts to have New York join the list of states that recognize a deceased person's right of publicity in some fashion.

The bill provides for a new Section 50-f to be added to the New York Civil Rights Law entitled "Right of publicity." It applies to deceased persons domiciled in New York State at the time of death. Violations of Section 50-f are compensable by damages equal to the greater of $2,000 or the amount of compensatory damages suffered by the injured party, plus profits attributable to such use, and punitive damages. It is to take effect 180 days after it is signed into law, and apply to deceased individuals who die on or after that date.

The bill deals with two categories of deceased persons: "deceased personalities" and "deceased performers."

Right of Action for Deceased Personalities

Under Section 50-f (2)(a), the bill provides for a right of action on behalf of "deceased personalities" for the use of their names, voices, signatures, photographs or likenesses for commercial purposes without consent, i.e., on or in products, merchandise or goods, or for purposes of advertising those goods. A "deceased personality" is defined as a person "whose name, voice, signature, photograph or likeness has commercial value at the time of his or her death or because of his or her death..." The right of action extends for 40 years after the death of the deceased personality. Persons claiming to represent the rights of a deceased personality are required to register with the New York Secretary of State before any claim can be made.

Importantly, the bill provides for a number of exceptions to the prohibited uses. Pursuant to Section 50-f (2) (d) (i), it is not a violation if the use of a deceased personality's name, voice, signature, photograph or likeness is in a play, book, magazine, newspaper or other literary work, a musical work, art work or other visual work (like photography), or in a work of political, public interest, educational or newsworthy value, including for purposes of comment, criticism, parody or satire, or in an audio or audiovisual work that is fictional or nonfictional entertainment (or an advertisement or commercial announcement of any of the foregoing.)

Deceased Performers' Digital Replica Right

Under Section 50-f (2) (b), the bill provides for damages for the use of a "deceased performer's digital replica" in a "scripted audiovisual work as a fictional character" or in the "live performance of a musical work" without consent when the use "is likely to deceive the public into thinking it was authorized." A "deceased performer" is defined as a person who "for gain or livelihood was regularly engaged in acting, singing, dancing, or playing a musical instrument." A "digital replica" is defined as a computer-generated, electronic performance in which the person did not actually perform "that is so realistic that a reasonable observer would believe it is a performance by the individual." The use will not be considered "likely to deceive" if there is a conspicuous disclaimer provided in the credits of the scripted audiovisual work and any related advertisement saying it has not been authorized. A "digital replica" does not include remastering or reproduction of a sound recording or other audiovisual work.

There are strong exceptions to this section as well. Under Section 50-f (2) (d) (ii), it is not a violation if the work is a parody, satire, commentary, criticism, or a work of political or newsworthy value, including a documentary, docudrama, historical or biographical work "regardless of the degree of fictionalization" -- except in a live performance of a musical work. In Section 50-f (2) (d) (iii), it also specifically provides that it is not a violation if the use of the name or likeness is in connection with a news, public affairs or sports program, or in any political campaign.

Right of Action for Dissemination of Sexually Explicit Depictions

A separate Section 52-c has also been added to the law providing for a private right of action for unlawful "dissemination or publication of a sexually explicit depiction of an individual." This section addresses the troubling practice of works known as "deepfakes" being distributed without approval of performers. It applies to a "depicted individual" who, through digitization, appears to be giving a performance he/she/they did not actually perform or whose actual performance was subsequently altered in violation of the section. "Digitization" includes realistically depicting nude body parts of another human being or computer-generated nude body parts as those of the depicted individual, or making it appear that the depicted individual is engaging in sexual conduct in which he/she/they did not engage. The depicted individual has a cause of action against whomever distributed such a depiction unless the depicted individual has signed an agreement consenting to the disclosure of such depiction; a disclaimer is not sufficient. Damages for dissemination of sexually explicit material include injunctive relief, compensatory and punitive damages, and attorney's fees.

Significantly, under Section 52-c (4)(a), there is no liability for disclosure or dissemination of sexually explicit material if such disclosure is (i) in the course of reporting unlawful activity, exercising law enforcement duties, or in hearings, trials or other legal proceedings; or (ii) the material is a "matter of legitimate public concern, a work of political or newsworthy value, or commentary, criticism" or otherwise protected constitutionally, provided that such material is not newsworthy "solely because the depicted individual is a public figure."


On its website, SAG-AFTRA praised the passing of the bill as a "milestone in the union's continued efforts to protect performers against digital image and voice exploitation." It also stated that, in prohibiting the use of a deceased individual's voice and image in advertising and trade, a "glaring oversight in right of publicity jurisprudence has finally been fixed thanks to the work of our members in New York."

Professor Jennifer E. Rothman, a leading expert on the right of publicity, commented shortly before passage of the legislation as follows: "A welcome improvement over the prior few iterations of this proposed legislation, this bill leaves intact current Civil Rights Law Sections 50 and 51 (https://www.rightofpublicityroadmap.com/law/new-york) which have been protecting the right of publicity for the living in New York since 1903. This means that the law will stay as it currently is for the living and will not upset more than 100 years of established legal precedents and jurisprudence." https://www.rightofpublicityroadmap.com/news-commentary/new-york-reintroduces-much-improved-postmortem-right-publicity-bill

Professor Rothman also stated that "[n]o effort has been made to justify exactly why a forty-year postmortem period is needed in New York for deceased celebrities...But given the much more thoughtful and targeted approach of this postmortem provision and its capacious exceptions, the harm to free expression is likely to be fairly minimal--especially if it is made prospective." https://www.rightofpublicityroadmap.com/news-commentary/new-york-reintroduces-much-improved-postmortem-right-publicity-bill

August 11, 2020

Week In Review

By Chantelle A. Gyamfi
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

This is Chantelle's last WIR column, and we thank her for her wonderful work!

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


Ninth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Another "Inside Out" Case

The Walt Disney Company has won another copyright infringement case involving "Inside Out". In a new unpublished decision addressing substantial similarity in copyright actions, the Ninth Circuit affirms its dismissal of author Carla Jo Masterson's claim against Disney's animated film "Inside Out", holding that the alleged similarities to the plaintiff's book of poetry and movie script are unprotectable upon application of Ninth Circuit's extrinsic test.

The case is Carla Masterson v. The Walt Disney Company, et al, Case number: 0:19-cv-55650. Check out the decision below.


"Moodsters" Files Writ of Certiorari to Appeal Ninth Circuit Dismissal

The Moodsters Company has petitioned for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court. This copyright case against Disney relates to the movie "Inside Out", which is separate from the above Masterson case decided by the Ninth Circuit. In its petition, Moodsters Co. asks the Court to review the Ninth Circuit's decision that dismissed its 89-page amended complaint and found the Moodsters characters uncopyrightable as a matter of law. The Supreme Court has never before addressed character copyrights.

Read the petition at: https://www.ipwatchdog.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Moodsters-Cert-Petition.pdf

NBCUniversal Pushes Out Chairman

NBCUniversal, the media giant owned by the cable operator Comcast, has pushed out the leader of its network entertainment group amid a pending investigation into claims of workplace harassment. The company said that Paul Telegdy, the chairman of NBC Entertainment, would be leaving the company. Telegdy, a longtime television executive, was about to be investigated by outside counsel hired by NBCUniversal after accusations from several Hollywood stars, including the actress Gabrielle Union, that he fostered a toxic work environment.



Country Rapper Can't Avoid Suit Saying He Shot Up Paintings

The Middle District of Florida court denied a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss claims brought under the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) based on country rap artist Ryan UpChurch's shooting artist Jacob Aaron LeVeille's paintings with guns and making derogatory remarks about the artist on social media. Florida-based LeVeille, who claims that his "unique paintings of country musicians have achieved growing acclaim among visual art and country music aficionados," filed suit against UpChurch last year, alleging that "Upchurch intentionally mutilated [his] works ... for purposes of damaging [his] honor and reputation, and the reputation of [his] art," thereby running afoul of a relatively obscure federal law called the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 ("VARA").

The case is LeVeille v. Upchurch, Case No. 3:19-cv-908-J-39MCR. Read more at: https://www.law360.com/florida/articles/1298047/country-rapper-can-t-avoid-suit-saying-he-shot-up-paintings

Lord & Taylor Files for Bankruptcy

Lord & Taylor, the department store company that traces its roots to 1826, is the latest retailer to file for bankruptcy protection as the coronavirus outbreak accelerates the demise of chains that were already teetering. The chain was acquired last year by the clothing rental start-up Le Tote in an unusual $100 million deal. Now Le Tote and Lord & Taylor are both seeking Chapter 11 protection from their creditors in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The companies said in a filing that they operated 38 locations, which had been temporarily closed since March 2020. A representative for Le Tote and Lord & Taylor did not immediately respond to a request for comment. This will be felt across the fashion industry.


Men's Wearhouse Files for Bankruptcy

The owner of Men's Wearhouse and JoS. A. Bank, which once dominated the market for affordable men's suits, also filed for bankruptcy protection, as demand plummeted for its corporate clothing with the coronavirus pandemic keeping America's office workers at home. The company, Tailored Brands, had about 1,400 stores and 18,000 employees. It had already announced plans in July to eliminate 20% of its corporate jobs and close up to 500 stores, and on Sunday said that it planned to use the restructuring process to slash its debt by at least $630 million. "Our enduring commitment to help customers look and feel their best will allow us to overcome the challenges of Covid-19," Dinesh Lathi, chief executive of Tailored Brands, said in a statement accompanying the filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas.


Tourist Posing With 200-Year-Old Sculpture Breaks Its Toes

An Austrian man has apologized for the damage he caused to a Canova sculpture, saying he didn't realize he had crunched the foot of the plaster Pauline Bonaparte. The tourist, on a trip to celebrate his 50th birthday, was visiting an art museum in northern Italy last week when he posed with the statue of a reclining Pauline Bonaparte. Her husband had commissioned the seminude sculpture by the Italian artist Antonio Canova in the early 19th century. The tourist, as captured on security camera footage, sat down at her feet and mimicked Bonaparte's luxurious sprawl in repose. Someone snapped a photo. By the time he got up, Bonaparte had lost some of her toes. The local authorities tracked the man down using visitor logs at the Gypsotheca in Possagno. They are currently required in Italy to assist in contact tracing during the pandemic, CNN reported. By Tuesday, the man -- whom the museum did not identify by name -- wrote apologetically to the president of the foundation that oversees the museum.


Racism Pervasive at Canadian Museum

In recent weeks, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights has been engulfed by accusations of discrimination and harassment. Last week, the museum released a report from an external review, which concluded that "racism is pervasive and systemic within the institution." For a museum devoted to documenting the history of human rights, the report was a stinging rebuke. After the report was issued, Pauline Rafferty, the museum's chairwoman and acting chief executive, vowed to take several immediate steps, including the establishment of a diversity and inclusion committee.


Rick Gates, Ex-Trump Aide and Mueller Witness, Is Publishing a Memoir

Rick Gates, a high-level aide on Donald J. Trump's 2016 campaign, is preparing to tell his story in a memoir that will be published weeks before the 2020 election. Gates, who was sentenced to 45 days in jail for lying to investigators and for his role in a criminal financial scheme, is the latest former aide to join a parade of former Trump campaign and administration officials who have published memoirs. Given his proximity to Trump's campaign, and the evidence he provided against two of Trump's closest advisers, his onetime campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his onetime campaign adviser, Roger J. Stone Jr., Gates's account is likely to generate interest across the political spectrum.



Citing Systematic Inequities, Some Players Opt Out of Season

Thirteen Pac-12 Conference football players threatened to opt out of the coming season, saying that they would not play until systemic inequities that have been highlighted by college athletics' response to the coronavirus pandemic were addressed. The players, who are from 10 schools and include All-American and honor roll candidates, said that playing a contact sport like football during the outbreak would be reckless because of what they described as inadequate transparency about the health risks, a lack of uniform safety measures, and an absence of ample enforcement. Those shortcomings, they added, are emblematic of a system in which players have little standing to address social, economic or racial inequalities, and far more of the millions of dollars they help generate should go toward addressing them.


Pac-12 Coach Rejects Players' Activism in Recorded Call

Kassidy Woods, a redshirt sophomore receiver at Washington State, was concerned about the pandemic. The coach was sympathetic until he learned he was joining a players' rights initiative. Nick Rolovich, the new football coach at Washington State, and Woods had a 5 minute, 9 second conversation in which Woods, who was competing for a starting position, had called to tell Rolovich that he was opting out of the season.

Woods explained that he had been diagnosed with the sickle cell trait when he enrolled at Washington State and with so much uncertainty about the coronavirus's lingering effects, he did not feel comfortable playing. "I've got nothing wrong with that," Rolovich replied. Then he asked Woods a question: was he joining the Pac-12 Conference unity group? Rolovich was referring to the Pac-12 football players who announced that they were threatening to sit out the season unless their demands, including more concrete health and safety protocols and measures that would amount to a redistribution of much of the wealth that players generate for their schools, were met. "Yes, sir," Woods said. Well, the coach said, that would be a problem.

Woods's scholarship would be honored for this year, as is required for anyone who opts out for health reasons, but if he was part of this organized effort, it was going to be handled differently, the coach said. Woods could not work out with the team because it would send a mixed message and his locker should be emptied. Rolovich then urged Woods to tell others they would face the same consequences.


As the Virus Spreads Through Major League Baseball, So Does Frustration

Major League Baseball (MLB) wants to insulate itself from that world, but its 30 teams are traveling throughout the United States to stage a 60-game season. MLB determined that a so-called bubble approach was impractical, and the areas it considered months ago -- Arizona, Texas, and Florida -- to carry out a season in a contained environment have since become hot spots for the virus. Road trips have increased the risk of infection.


MLB Tightens Virus Protocols Again in Wake of Outbreaks

MLB has again tightened its health protocols in an effort to safely navigate the rest of its shortened season. In a 6-page memo sent to teams and players, MLB added new areas in which players must wear masks, restricted the places players can visit outside the ballpark, and said that players who do not abide by the rules would be subjected to discipline. "We recognize that these changes place additional burdens and restrictions on players and staff," said the memo. "But if we desire to play, they are necessary to limit infections and, if someone does test positive, to keep the virus from spreading." The memo states that all players and staff members must wear face coverings over their mouths and noses at all times in stadiums, except for players on the field. Players and staffers must also wear masks at all times in hotels -- "except when alone in their rooms," and in all public places while traveling. Surgical masks or N95/KN95 respirators are required while on airplanes or buses.


Lawsuits Accuse Sport's Kingmaker of Sexual Assault

The equestrian world's biggest kingmaker, George Morris, an Olympian who was barred for life from the sport one year ago, is now facing lawsuits by 2 people who said that he raped them as teenagers. The suits were filed in New York, one year to the day after Morris, a former United States Olympic team coach who remained even into his 80s one of show jumping's biggest luminaries, was barred by the United States Equestrian Federation. The ban followed an investigation by the United States Center for SafeSport, an independent body that investigates sexual misconduct in Olympic sports, into allegations that he sexually abused minors decades ago. Jimmy Williams, a California riding coach who minted Olympians and died in 1993, was also part of a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles. The equestrian federation and the riding academy where he was employed for decades were sued by a woman who said that Williams had sexually assaulted her from the ages of 12 to 17. In a symbolic move, Williams was recorded as barred from the federation in 2018 after an investigation by The New York Times revealed accusations by nearly a dozen women, including the Olympian Anne Kursinski, that he had preyed upon them as girls. The plaintiffs in the Morris lawsuits, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, are 2 of the men who initially came forward to SafeSport, prompting its investigation that led to the barring of Morris, who won a silver medal as a show jumper in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, and went on to coach the United States Olympic team and most recently the Brazilian team.


National Football League Staff Members Resist Calls to Return to Office

Workers who have been ordered back to the National Football League's (NFL) headquarters are resisting, arguing that the reopening was rushed and that in some ways they have been put in an "impossible situation." In a letter sent to Commissioner Roger Goodell, representatives from an internal group, the Parents Initiative Network, said that "many of us continue to struggle with the prospect of returning to the office in the midst of the pandemic." The group said that its members have "underlying physical health concerns, mental health concerns, child care issues, medically fragile family members, and the list goes on and on." NFL officials have said that allowances will be made for employees with particular health concerns or family challenges, but the Network took issue with that, too. The NFL is requiring workers who want to continue to work remotely to discuss these requests with human resources representatives. Workers said that requirement "puts our colleagues in an impossible situation", because of their desire to maintain their own and their family members' privacy on matters of physical and mental health, among other reasons.


Gymnasts Call to End Abuse Goes Global

A culture in gymnastics that has tolerated coaches belittling, manipulating, and in some cases physically abusing young athletes is being challenged by Olympians and other gymnasts around the world after an uprising in the United States. Many current and former competitors, emboldened by their American peers, have broken their silence in recent weeks against treatment they say created mental scars on girls that lasted well into adulthood. One gymnast, who is just 8 years old, said a coach tied her wrists to a horizontal bar when she was 7 and ignored her as she cried out in pain. At a time when the Tokyo Olympics would be in session, had they not been postponed until 2021 by the coronavirus pandemic, gymnasts have been sharing horrific stories of coaches body-shaming them, stifling their emotions, using corporal punishment on them and forcing them to train with injuries, using the pursuit of medals as a way to rationalize shameful behavior. The stories from gymnasts in all levels of the sport are part of a coordinated effort, similar to the #MeToo movement, calling for the sport's leaders to eradicate existing norms that in reality are not normal at all.


Team Canada Trained Hard, Maybe Too Hard

The chance to host the 2010 Winter Games was supposed to be a godsend for Canadian athletes who compete in skeleton, the headfirst sled run down a twisting track. While most competitors get access to the track for just a handful of days leading up to the Olympics, the host country gets to practice far more, because its athletes are logistically closer and the sport's rules allow it. The home team can memorize every detail of every turn on run after treacherous run. That is how the team became case studies in a process that is beginning to realign how neuroscientists and a handful of coaches and athletes understand the connection between brain injury and sliding sports. During the last decade, football and other contact sports have received most of the attention and research interest for traumatic brain injuries in sports. By comparison, sliding sports, niche activities that require athletes to careen down twisting tracks of ice on sleds at 80 miles per hour, have been largely ignored. However, for years, elite competitors have talked about the mental fog, headaches, inability to eat or speak effectively, and sensitivity to light and sound that a day of training, or, for some, even a single routine run can produce.



Did The Advertiser Boycott Over Facebook Work?

The advertiser boycott of Facebook took a toll on the social media giant, but it may have caused more damage to the company's reputation than to its bottom line. The boycott, called #StopHateForProfit by the civil rights groups that organized it, urged companies to stop paying for ads on Facebook in July to protest the platform's handling of hate speech and misinformation. More than 1,000 advertisers publicly joined, out of a total pool of more than 9 million, while others quietly scaled back their spending. The 100 advertisers that spent the most on Facebook in the first half of the year spent $221.4 million from July 1 through July 29, 12% less than the $251.4 million spent by the top 100 advertisers a year earlier, according to estimates from the advertising analytics platform Pathmatics. Of those 100, 9 companies formally announced a pullback in paid advertising, cutting their spending to $507,500 from $26.2 million. Many of the companies that stayed away from Facebook said they planned to return, and many are mom-and-pop enterprises and individuals that depend on the platform for promotion.


Microsoft Says It Will Continue Pursuit of TikTok

Microsoft announced that it would continue to pursue the purchase of TikTok in the United States after consulting with President Trump, clearing the way for a potential blockbuster deal between the software giant and the viral social media phenomenon. The announcement came as Trump has expressed repeated concerns about TikTok and national security in recent weeks because of the app's Chinese origins and backing; on Friday, Trump threatened to ban the app entirely within the United States, saying any decision could come as soon as Saturday. Those plans appeared to change after several of Trump's allies and Satya Nadella, the chief executive of Microsoft, spoke with Trump over the weekend.



Trump Reverses Course on TikTok, Opening Door to Microsoft Bid

Trump gave the go-ahead for Microsoft to pursue an acquisition of TikTok, in his first public comments about the popular Chinese-owned video app after he had threatened to ban it from the United States entirely. At the White House, Trump said that TikTok would shut down on September 15th unless Microsoft or another company purchased it, and that he had suggested in a call that the chief executive of Microsoft "go ahead" with the acquisition. "It can't be controlled for security reasons by China," Trump said of TikTok, adding that he did not mind if Microsoft or another very secure, "very American" company bought it instead. Trump said that such a purchase would funnel a large amount of money to China, and argued that the United States should receive money in return for letting the deal happen, without explaining how that would work.


Poisoning Facial Recognition Data

In recent years, companies have been prowling the web for public photos associated with people's names that they can use to build enormous databases of faces and improve their facial recognition systems, adding to a growing sense that personal privacy is being lost, bit by digital bit. A start-up called Clearview AI, for example, scraped billions of online photos to build a tool for the police that could lead them from a face to a Facebook account, revealing a person's identity. Now researchers are trying to foil those systems. A team of computer engineers at the University of Chicago has developed a tool that disguises photos with pixel-level changes that confuse facial recognition systems. Named Fawkes in honor of the Guy Fawkes mask favored by protesters worldwide, the software was made available to developers on the researchers' website last month. After being discovered by Hacker News, it has been downloaded more than 50,000 times. The researchers are working on a free app version for non-coders, which they hope to make available soon.


Federal Trade Commission Investigating Twitter for Potential Privacy Violations

Twitter said that it was under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for potentially misusing people's personal information to serve ads, adding that it faced fines of $150 million to $250 million. In a corporate filing, Twitter disclosed that the FTC began the investigation last October after it had linked a database of its users' personal information, which it had for security purposes, with a system used by advertising partners. The action, which Twitter said was inadvertent, may have violated a 2011 agreement that the company signed with the FTC over consumer privacy. At the time, Twitter had agreed to a settlement with the agency after hackers had gained administrative control of the social media service on multiple occasions. Under the agreement, Twitter was restricted from misleading people about the measures it took to protect their security and privacy. An FTC spokeswoman declined to comment on the investigation.


Ad Agency Sues Scott Rudin

A major Broadway advertising agency has sued the powerful producer Scott Rudin, claiming that he owes the company $6.3 million. The litigation, filed in New York State Supreme Court, is an unusual public break between 2 major players on Broadway, an industry that has been shut down and facing major economic distress since March. The dispute predates the coronavirus pandemic: according to the lawsuit, the agency and the producer have been at loggerheads since last September. The agency, SpotCo, says that Rudin has failed to pay it for advertising work done on 8 shows, including a revival of "West Side Story" that opened in February and a revival of "The Music Man" that was supposed to open this fall, but has been delayed because of the pandemic.


Snyder Sues Media Site

Daniel Snyder, the owner of the Washington NFL team, has accused an online media company of accepting payment in exchange for publishing defamatory rumors, including one that Snyder was named on a list of sexual offenders maintained by Jeffrey Epstein, the sex criminal and financier. In a lawsuit filed in New Delhi and in federal court papers in California, Snyder said the news site, Media Entertainment Arts WorldWide, whose parent company is based in India, published stories that it knew were false and designed to malign him, some using information from anonymous posts on social news sites, including Reddit. The suit is Snyder's first public strike after a wave of attacks on his operation of the team, from minority owners and sponsors who sought to divest, to a Washington Post report of widespread sexual harassment within its front office. Snyder, who seeks $10 million in damages, wants to identify if, and by whom, Media Entertainment Arts WorldWide was paid to publish the articles.


The Only Two Black Employees Quit Bon Appétit

The only two Black editorial staff members at Bon Appétit quit as the magazine grapples with criticism from its own staff over racial inequality. The departures came a day after 3 journalists of color said they would no longer participate in the magazine's popular video series, citing inequitable pay. The 2 staff members, Ryan Walker-Hartshorn and Jesse Sparks, gave notice weeks ago. Both accused the magazine's parent company, Condé Nast, of failing to recognize their contributions. They added that they felt they had been exploited as props in the company's new efforts to diversify its work force.


Targeting WeChat, Trump Takes Aim at China's Bridge to the World

With much of the Chinese internet locked behind a wall of filters and censors, the country's everything app is also one of the few digital bridges connecting China to the rest of the world. It is the way exchange students talk to their families, immigrants keep up with relatives, and much of the Chinese diaspora swaps memes, gossip, and videos. Now, that bridge is threatening to crumble. The Trump administration issued an executive order that could pull China's most important app from Apple and Google stores across the world and prevent American companies from doing business with its parent company, Tencent. Light on details, the decree could prove cosmetic, crushing or something in between. If enforced strongly when it takes effect in 45 days, the order will take dead aim at China's single most groundbreaking internet product, which 1.2 billion people use every month. An effective ban on the app in the United States would cut short millions of conversations among investors, business partners, family members, and friends. The threat alone will likely start a new chapter in the deepening standoff between China and the United States over the future of technology.



How a Chat Group Led to Prison

When a group of young Russians set up a chat group on social media nearly 3 years ago, they called themselves the "Club of Plant Lovers," creating an innocuous gathering place for online discussion about their hobbies, university studies, and sometimes politics. After a few weeks, however, the chat group, which had changed its name to "New Greatness," was joined by a new member who promoted unusually strident views against President Vladimir V. Putin and pushed to turn the online chatter into a political movement dedicated to radical change. The new member was actually an informer and agent provocateur working for Russia's security apparatus. As a result of the informer's work and subsequent testimony as a prosecution witness in what became known as the "New Greatness Case," a Moscow court found 7 original members of the group guilty of "creating an extremist society" with intent to "prepare or commit extremist crimes." Six were given sentences, 3 of them suspended, of between 6 and 7 years in a penal colony, mostly in line with what prosecutors had demanded. A seventh defendant, Anna Pavlikova, a minor at the time of her arrest, received a milder suspended sentence of 4 years. All had pleaded not guilty and accused the informer of setting them up. Even by Russia's low standard of due process, the case set a grim new benchmark for a judicial and law enforcement system that human rights activists say is increasingly untethered from any commitment to justice.


Pakistan's Journalists Face Abductions

When Prime Minister Imran Khan boasted last year that Pakistan had one of the "freest presses in the world," journalists were quick to object, saying that intimidation of reporters across the country was intensifying. It has only gotten worse since. Two years into Khan's term, censorship is on the rise, journalists and activists say, leaving the country's heavy-handed military and security forces unchecked as they intimidate the news media to a degree unseen since the country's era of army juntas. The security forces frequently pressure editors to fire or muzzle reporters, while the government starves critical news outlets of advertising funds and refuses to settle previous bills worth millions of dollars. The abduction of a prominent reporter by state security officers in late July, coupled with the disappearance of a rights activist in November, has heightened those concerns. In June, Pakistan's Military Intelligence agency admitted that it had detained the activist and that he is awaiting trial in a secret court on undisclosed charges.



Paycheck Protection Program Ends

Small businesses are in limbo again as the coronavirus outbreak rages and the government's $659 billion relief program draws to a close. Companies still struggling with sharply reduced revenue are wondering if Congress will give them a second chance at the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), after giving out 5.1 million loans worth $523 billion. While the program that began on April 3rd has received mixed reviews, business owners still need help as the virus continues to spread and hamstring the economy. Congress is debating further help for small business as part of a broader coronavirus relief package. One proposal would allow the hardest-hit businesses, those whose revenue is down over 50%, to return for a second PPP loan; there is still over $100 billion in unclaimed money in the program.


Without $600 Weekly Benefit, Unemployed Face Bleak Choices

A federal supplement to jobless pay was a lifeline for millions and for the economy. Its cutoff, even if temporary, may have lasting consequences. On Saturday, with negotiations in Congress stalled and on the verge of collapse, Trump signed 4 directives aimed at providing economic assistance, including financial help to the unemployed. However, it was unclear if Trump had the authority to act on his own on matters requiring federal spending, or how long it would take for money to start flowing if he did. Congress may yet agree on a new emergency spending bill that would include extra unemployment benefits, perhaps including retroactive payments for the period when the program lapsed. For many of the 30 million Americans relying on unemployment benefits, it could already be too late to prevent lasting financial harm. Without a federal supplement, they will need to get by on regular state unemployment benefits, which often total a few hundred dollars a week or less. For many families, that will not be enough to pay the rent, stave off hunger or avoid mounting debt that will make it harder to climb out of the hole.


G.O.P.'S Suit Against Pelosi Dismissed

Judge Rudolph Contreras, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, dismissed a suit filed by congressional Republicans against Speaker Nancy Pelosi that sought to block the House of Representatives from using a proxy-voting system to allow for remote legislating during the coronavirus pandemic. The dismissal means that the court did not rule on the merits of the claims, instead finding that they lacked the grounds to bring the suit. Pelosi quickly hailed the decision. "Remote voting by proxy is fully consistent with the Constitution and more than a century of legal precedent, including Supreme Court cases, that make clear that the House can determine its own rules," she said in a statement. "The nation is in the middle of a dangerous pandemic, and the House of Representatives must continue to work."


New Study Finds a Vast Racial Gap in Death Penalty Cases

Black lives do not matter nearly as much as white ones when it comes to the death penalty, a new study has found. Building on data at the heart of a landmark 1987 Supreme Court decision, the study concluded that defendants convicted of killing white victims were executed at a rate 17 times greater than those convicted of killing Black victims. There is little chance that the new findings would alter the current Supreme Court's support for the death penalty. Its conservative majority has expressed impatience with efforts to block executions, and last month it issued a pair of 5-to-4 rulings that allowed federal executions to resume after a 17-year hiatus. Further, the Court came within one vote of addressing racial bias in the administration of the death penalty in the 1987 decision, McCleskey v. Kemp. By a 5-to-4 vote, the Court ruled that even solid statistical evidence of race discrimination in the capital justice system did not offend the Constitution. Opponents of the death penalty have been deeply critical of the decision, comparing it to the Dred Scott case, the Supreme Court's 1857 ruling that enslaved Black people were property and not citizens.


Trump Puts Pentagon in Political Crossfire with Tata Appointment

In making an end run around Congress to appoint Anthony J. Tata, a retired brigadier general with a history of Islamophobic and other inflammatory views, to a top Defense Department post, Trump has once again put the military exactly where it does not want to be: In the middle of a political battle that could hurt bipartisan support for the Pentagon. Tata, who had been nominated to the No. 3 job at the Pentagon, was unlikely to win Senate approval because of past incendiary comments, according to congressional staff members from both sides of the aisle. At a time when vulnerable Republican senators are grappling with how to deal with the movement to end systemic racism that has rolled across the country, Tata's nomination to the top policy post was widely seen as a step too far.


Landmark Supreme Court Win for Tribes Upends Courts in Oklahoma

The Supreme Court ruling recognizing the lands of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation was hailed as a historic win for tribes and their long struggle for sovereignty. It has since upended Oklahoma's justice system, forcing lawyers and the police to rewrite the rules of whom they can and cannot prosecute inside the newly recognized borders of a reservation that stretches across 11 counties and includes Tulsa, the state's second-largest city. Prosecutors are giving police officers laminated index cards that spell out how to proceed, depending on whether suspects and victims are "Indian" or "non-Indian." Elected district attorneys handle most criminal cases in America, but they generally have little to no authority over tribal citizens for crimes committed on reservations. So now, from downtown Tulsa through rolling farms and dozens of small towns in eastern Oklahoma, local prosecutors are handing off hundreds of criminal cases involving tribal victims and defendants.


Rescue of Troubled Trucking Company With White House Ties Draws Scrutiny

At a virtual congressional hearing in May, Senator Jerry Moran, Republican of Kansas, asked Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin for help. A struggling trucking company in his state was on the brink of collapse and needed government support. Eager to assist, Mnuchin assured the senator that "we will look at that specific company and see what we can do and get back to you." That company, YRC Worldwide, had lost more than $100 million in 2019 and was being sued by the Justice Department over claims it defrauded the federal government for a 7-year period. Yet 6 weeks after the hearing, YRC received a bailout from the Treasury Department -- a $700 million loan in exchange for a 30% stake in the business. The company's stock price soared 74%, though it has come down since. The rescue, which was approved on the grounds that YRC was critical to national security, made the company one of the largest recipients of taxpayer money meant to support businesses and workers struggling amid the coronavirus.


Filings Seeking Trump Records Hint at Fraud

The Manhattan district attorney's office suggested that it had been investigating Trump and his company for possible bank and insurance fraud, a significantly broader inquiry than the prosecutors acknowledged in the past. The suggestion by the office of the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., came in a new federal court filing arguing that Trump's accountants should have to comply with a grand jury subpoena seeking 8 years of his personal and corporate tax returns. Trump has asked a judge to declare the subpoena invalid.


Trump Reinstates Tariff on Canadian Aluminum

Trump announced that he was re-imposing a 10% tariff on Canadian aluminum to help struggling American producers, a step that is likely to incite retaliation and worsen ties with Canada just one month after the countries' new trade deal went into effect. Speaking at a Whirlpool factory in Clyde, Ohio, Trump said that he had signed a proclamation that would reimpose the levy on Canada, accusing the country of "taking advantage of us as usual."


Judge Whose Son Was Killed by Misogynistic Lawyer Speaks Out

The federal judge whose son was killed by a misogynistic lawyer spoke out for the first time about the shooting, describing the horror that unfolded as her only child ran to answer the door and a "madman" opened fire. Judge Esther Salas also issued a call for increased privacy protections for federal judges, saying the death of her 20-year-old son, Daniel, should not be in vain. Her husband, Mark Anderl, who was shot 3 times, remains hospitalized. She called for a national conversation on ways to safeguard the privacy of federal judges.


Postal Service Leader Sets Reorganization Amid Scrutiny Over Mail Ballots

The Postal Service announced a substantial reorganization meant to increase efficiency as Democratic lawmakers demanded an inquiry into whether changes by Trump's postal officials could threaten the effective use of mail-in ballots for the November election. Louis DeJoy, the postmaster general and a major donor to Trump's campaigns, was named to oversee the service in May. On Friday, he shifted top personnel, including some decades-long veterans of the Postal Service, and made changes to its organizational structure. "The new organization will align functions based on core business operations and will provide more clarity and focus on what the Postal Service does best; collect, process, move and deliver mail and packages," the Postal Service said in a statement.


Court Rules House Can Sue to Force Testimony

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said in a 7-to-2 decision that enforcement of congressional subpoenas was crucial to its oversight duties over the executive branch and remanded to a panel of judges other issues raised in the case. Donald McGahn is unlikely to appear before Congress ahead of the election, but the decision endorsed strong congressional oversight powers and Congress's ability to take the White House to court if an administration fails to comply with its subpoenas. "Effective functioning of the legislative branch critically depends on the legislative prerogative to obtain information, and constitutional structure and historical practice support judicial enforcement of congressional subpoenas when necessary," Judge Judith Rogers wrote for the court's majority. "And it cannot undertake impeachment proceedings without knowing how the official in question has discharged his or her constitutional responsibilities."


Long Legal Fight May Follow Vote in November

As the 2 parties clash over how to conduct an election in a pandemic, Trump's litigiousness and unfounded claims of fraud have increased the likelihood of epic postelection court fights. The possibility of an ugly November -- and perhaps even December and January -- has emerged more starkly in recent days as Trump complains that the election will be rigged and Democrats accuse him of trying to make that a self-fulfilling prophecy. With about 85 days until November 3rd, lawyers are already in court mounting pre-emptive strikes and preparing for the larger, scorched-earth engagements likely to come. Like the Trump campaign, Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s campaign and its network of Democratic support groups are stocking up on lawyers, and Democrats are gaming out worst-case scenarios, including how to respond if Trump prematurely declares victory or sends federal officers into the party's strongholds as an intimidation tactic.


Court Says Trump Accuser's Defamation Suit Can Proceed

A New York judge has rejected Trump's bid to temporarily halt proceedings in a lawsuit filed against him by the writer E. Jean Carroll, who has accused him of rape, a ruling that allows the case to move forward in the months before the presidential election. The decision was a victory for Carroll, who sued Trump last November for defamation after he called her a liar and said he had never met her. She published a memoir last summer that accused Trump of attacking her in a department store dressing room in Manhattan in the 1990s. Lawyers for Trump had sought to put the lawsuit on hold while an appeals court is deciding whether to dismiss a similar lawsuit filed against Trump by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on "The Apprentice", who has accused him of sexually assaulting her. In their bid for a delay, the lawyers also said that the Constitution gave a sitting president immunity against civil lawsuits in state court.


New York Attorney General Sues the National Rifle Association

New York's attorney general, Letitia James, issued a legal challenge to the National Rifle Association, arguing in a lawsuit that years of runaway corruption and misspending demanded the dissolution of the nation's most powerful gun rights lobby. While the legal confrontation could take years to play out, it constitutes yet another deep blow to an organization whose legendary political clout has been diminished by infighting and financial distress.


Falwell Taking Leave From Liberty University Amid Photo Uproar

Jerry Falwell Jr., one of Trump's most prominent and controversial evangelical supporters, will take an indefinite leave of absence from his role as president and chancellor of Liberty University. The news comes days after Falwell posted, and then deleted, a photograph on Instagram of him posing alongside a woman with his pants unzipped and his arm around her.


Russia is Trying to Assist Trump in the Race

Russia is using a range of techniques to denigrate Joseph R. Biden Jr., American intelligence officials in their first public assessment that Moscow continues to try to interfere in the 2020 campaign to help Trump. At the same time, the officials said China preferred that Trump be defeated in November and was weighing whether to take more aggressive action in the election. Officials briefed on the intelligence said that Russia was the far graver, and more immediate, threat.


Poland's Supreme Court Declares Presidential Election Valid

Poland's Supreme Court upheld the results of President Andrzej Duda's narrow victory in presidential elections last month, the country's closest contest since the fall of communism in 1989, a decision that clears the path for the country's conservative Law and Justice party to continue in power. Thousands of supporters of the opposition candidate and rights groups had filed legal challenges in the country's highest court demanding that the election be reassessed after Duda edged out Rafal Trzaskowski, the opposition candidate and the liberal mayor of Warsaw. Duda secured 51.03% of the vote, while Trzaskowski won 48.97% in a mid-July runoff. Opponents of Duda pointed to many irregularities during the campaign and election, including pushing forward with the vote despite the coronavirus pandemic, limited access to the vote for Poles abroad, and the role of the public media and government officials in the campaign.


Tuberculosis Rebounds

Until this year, Tuberculosis (TB) and its deadly allies, H.I.V. and malaria, were on the run. The toll from each disease over the previous decade was at its nadir in 2018, the last year for which data are available. Yet now, as the coronavirus pandemic spreads around the world, consuming global health resources, these perennially neglected adversaries are making a comeback. It's not just that the coronavirus has diverted scientific attention from TB, H.I.V., and malaria. The lockdowns, particularly across parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, have raised insurmountable barriers to patients who must travel to obtain diagnoses or drugs. Fear of the coronavirus and the shuttering of clinics have kept away many patients struggling with H.I.V., TB, and malaria, while restrictions on air and sea travel have severely limited delivery of medications to the hardest-hit regions. About 80% of tuberculosis, H.I.V., and malaria programs worldwide have reported disruptions in services, and one in 4 people living with H.I.V. have reported problems with gaining access to medications, according to U.N. AIDS. Interruptions or delays in treatment may lead to drug resistance, already a formidable problem in many countries.



U.S. Surpasses 5 Million Cases

While politicians wrangled over a pandemic relief package and schools struggled over whether to open their doors to students, the United States passed another milestone on Saturday: more than 5 million known coronavirus infections. No other country has reported as many cases. Brazil ranks second, with more than 3 million, and India is third with 2 million.


Even Asymptomatic People Carry the Coronavirus in High Amounts

A new study in South Korea, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, offers more definitive proof that people without symptoms carry just as much virus in their noses, throats, and lungs as those with symptoms, and for almost as long. Discussions about asymptomatic spread have been dogged by confusion about people who are "pre-symptomatic" -- meaning they eventually become visibly ill -- versus the truly asymptomatic, who appear healthy throughout the course of their infection. The new study is among the first to clearly distinguish between these two groups.


What is Insurable in a Pandemic?

Since the pandemic hit the United States this year, thousands of business owners have discovered that the business interruption policies they bought, and have been paying thousands of dollars in annual premiums to sustain, won't pay them a thing -- just as they are struggling through the biggest business interruption in modern memory. Now, many of them are taking their insurers to court, hoping to force them to cover some of the financial carnage. So far, more than 400 business interruption lawsuits have been filed, according to insurance lawyers. Business owners think that business interruption claims should be paid when business is interrupted, but insurance companies don't always agree. Most business interruption policies include highly specific language stating that for a claim to be paid out, there has to be "direct physical damage" -- say, a flood that washes away a building or a fire that burns down inventory, forcing a business closure.


Governor Cuomo Says That New York Schools Can Reopen

Schools across New York State can reopen for in-person instruction this fall, solidifying New York's status as one of the few states in America that has a virus transmission rate low enough to bring children back into classrooms. Just a few months after New York became a global epicenter of the pandemic, the governor opened the door for millions of students across the state to return to classrooms, even as most public school students in the country will start the school year remotely. However, Cuomo's announcement does not guarantee that school buildings in the state's more than 700 local districts will actually reopen in the coming weeks. It is now up to local politicians and superintendents to decide whether to reopen, and how to do so. Their in-person reopening plans must also be approved by the State's Departments of Education and Health in the coming weeks.


Russia Plans Mass Vaccinations in The Fall

Russia plans to launch a nationwide vaccination campaign in October with a coronavirus vaccine that has yet to complete clinical trials, raising international concern about the methods the country is using to compete in the global race to inoculate the public. The minister of health, Mikhail Murashko, that the plan was to begin by vaccinating teachers and health care workers. He also told the RIA state news agency that amid accelerated testing, the laboratory that developed the vaccine was already seeking regulatory approval for it. Russia has used the race as a propaganda tool, even in the absence of published scientific evidence to support its claim as a front-runner.


August 17, 2020

Week In Review

By Angela Peco
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

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


Supreme Court Asked to Intervene in 'Stairway to Heaven' Copyright Dispute

The estate of Randy Wolfe sued Led Zeppelin in 2014, accusing the band of stealing from his song Taurus. A 2016 jury ruled that while Led Zeppelin members may have heard Wolfe's song before writing "Stairway to Heaven", the two songs were not similar enough to constitute copyright infringement. An en banc decision of the Ninth Circuit appeals court upheld the original ruling. Wolfe's estate has now filed a petition for a writ of certiorari asking the Supreme Court to overturn the 2016 verdict. It also points to two mistakes in the Ninth Circuit's ruling - "the first relating to what elements of a song enjoy copyright protection, the second regarding what constitutes originality under copyright law."



Case Regarding Publisher and Songwriter Streaming Royalty Rates Headed Back to Copyright Royalty Board

An appellate court has remanded a case involving streaming royalty rates back to the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB). It remains unclear why the Court sent the case back, given that there were different sets of arguments made on appeal. They generally all took issue with how the CRB determined the rates, including its gradual rate increase from 10.5% to 15.1% of revenue over five years, which amounted to a significant 44% rate increase to the headline rate. The National Music Publishers' Association also took issue with CRB's decision on family and student discounts, which cut into the rate increase, caused companies like Spotify to overpay music publishers, and then claw back payments.



Declaratory Judgment on Future Termination Notices Justified

Under the U.S. termination right, authors who assign their copyrights to another entity have a one-time opportunity to terminate the assignment and reclaim their rights after 35 years. Recording artists have had a tougher time than songwriters relying on this law to reclaim assigned rights from their labels. Labels have taken the position that record contracts are work-for-hire agreements, "making the label and not the artist the default owner of the resulting copyright." As there has been no assignment of rights from artist to label, they say that the right to terminate does not apply. Artists have since sued labels on this very issue and sought declaratory judgments on the validity of their termination notices. Those artists received a win this week, when a New York federal judge allowed an amended complaint that includes a request for declaratory relief, saying there is now a case for these judgments, "because resolving certain legal issues prior to the effective dates of termination would be useful even if not a complete solution."



Artists Struggling to Block Their Music from Being Used at Campaign Rallies

Artists have had little recourse to stop political campaigns from using their songs - those campaigns typically pay a fee to entities like ASCAP and BMI for the public performance rights for millions of songs. However, performance rights organizations have recently allowed songwriters to exclude their music for political use and are warning "candidates that a performance license might not cover all claims by a musician." Whether this is legally permissible under the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees has yet to be explored in court and musicians themselves are willing to test this out by suing for copyright infringement. As an example, Neil Young recently sued the Trump campaign, accusing it of playing two of his tracks without a license. He is asking that Trump be enjoined from further playing his songs and seeking statutory damages.



Author Says Entertainment Lawyer Tried to Sabotage Television Deal to Adapt Book About Supreme Court Justices

Lawyer and author Linda Hirshman says that an entertainment attorney misrepresented his rights to her book Sisters in Law and sabotaged negotiations to option the book to production companies. The book looks at Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, their careers, and their rise to the Supreme Court.


R. Kelly Associates Charged with Threatening His Accusers

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn announced the arrests of three people connected to R. Kelly. They are accused of trying to intimidate or bribe two of R. Kelly's accusers - one woman was offered $500,000 for her silence; another was threatened with the release of sexually explicit photographs. The singer remains in custody at a Chicago jail on charges related to sexual abuse of minors in two separate cases.


Second City's Race Problem Is Out in the Open

Comedian and TV writer Dewayne Perkins recounts his experiences at Second City, Chicago's improv theater and the premier home for improv comedy. To him, "Second City is so heavily associated with whiteness" and he often felt demeaned, tokenized, and marginalized, feelings shared by many other performers of color, who in a recent series of open letters and town halls demanded that the theater "reform its organization and culture to correct racial disparities."


The Rockettes' 'Christmas Spectacular' Is Canceled

The Rockettes' 2020 production at Radio City Music Hall has been cancelled due to uncertainty associated with the pandemic.



Mango v. Buzzfeed

The Second Circuit affirmed a judgment against Buzzfeed for using a photographer's work without permission and removing his name. The Court considered the Digital Millennium Copyright Act claim and found that the defendant was not required to have known that removing the copyright management information would have caused third parties to infringe; rather, it was enough that the defendant was infringing.


Pinterest Employees Demand Gender and Race Equality

Over 200 employees signed an online petition and staged a virtual walkout in solidarity with former co-workers who have accused the company of racial and sex discrimination. The petition targets pay disparity and seeks more transparency from the company about promotion levels, retention, and pay.


Former Pinterest Executive Files Bias Suit

Pinterest's former chief operating officer, Francoise Brougher, has filed a gender discrimination lawsuit accusing the company of firing her after she complained about sexist treatment, including being left out of meetings, given gendered feedback, and being paid less than her male counterparts.


Aesha Ash Joins Faculty of the School of American Ballet

The former City Ballet dancer is the first Black female member to join the school's permanent faculty. Ash recounts her early experiences in ballet, a field less concerned with diversity than it is now. She says that slights and comments about her race added up over the years, and she left the company in 2003. She maintained her ties to the dance world and in 2011 created a project that used ballet and photography to dismantle stereotypes and fight the objectification of Black women.


New York City Museums and Other Cultural Institutions Can Open on August 24th

Governor Cuomo announced that New York State museums in Phase 4 can open later this month, but will have to operate at 25% capacity and with timed ticketing in place. Face coverings will be mandatory. The directive does not apply to theaters and other performing arts venues.


More Layoffs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The museum said it would lay off 79 employees and furlough another 181. Its total employee count has dropped by 20% since March. The cuts were part of the museum's pandemic survival strategy.


Museum Director Deletes "Black Lives Matter" from Online Postings

The executive director of the Seattle Children's Museum said she removed online mentions of the phrase "Black Lives Matter" partly out of fear that the museum would lose funding. The phrase had come up in the context of children's book lists posted on the museum's Facebook and Instagram accounts. Following the deletions, nine employees went on strike. All of those employees were laid off in what the museum says was a preplanned layoff. The board has hired an external investigator to look into the incident.


Massachusetts Forces Theaters to Reduce Seating Capacity

Two theater productions in the Berkshires will now only allow 50 audience members apiece after the state rolled back its reopening protocols that initially allowed up to 100 people. The plays are significant because they "were the first permitted by Actors' Equity, the labor union representing performers and stage managers, during the pandemic."


'Godspell' Review: Musical Theater Rises from the Dead

The New York Times reviews the Berkshire Theater Group's socially distanced production of 'Godspell,' calling it a "revival in every sense." The show is one of the first professional musicals in the U.S. since the lockdown.


Lincoln Library Cancels Exhibition Over Racial Sensitivity Concerns

The Illinois library said it was concerned that parts of a traveling exhibition created by the International Spy Museum were outdated and lacked context, and that it would not be a good use of its time and resources to update the exhibit on domestic terrorism, especially with regard to the Ku Klux Klan.


Black Nurse Featured in San Francisco Murals May Save Them from Destruction

Featured in a fresco by muralist Bernard Zakheim, Biddy Mason, an enslaved woman who went on to become a midwife and a nurse will likely soon be credited from saving the frescos from destruction. The murals were set to be destroyed when the building/auditorium they are housed in was going to be demolished to make way for a new research center - that is, until a history student at the University of California informed the painter's family and urged it to retrieve the frescoes. Unfortunately, neither the family nor the university could afford to move them.

In June of this year, a federal agency said that it wanted them preserved and made an ownership claim because the murals were created as part of the Federal Art Project. While the university rejects the General Services Administration's ownership claim, it announced that it was seeking bids to remove the frescoes and preserve them as a piece of California's Black history.


Catholic Churches Drop Composer's Hymns After Abuse Accusations

Prominent liturgical publishers and 32 American archdioceses have cut ties with composer David Haas after multiple women came forward accusing Haas of sexual abuse and harassment. The churches will no longer play his music or allow him to perform at Masses and other events.


Brooks Brothers to Be Sold for $325 Million

The retailer, which filed for bankruptcy in July, is seeking court approval of a $325 million sale to a joint venture between Simon Property and Authentic Brands Group (ABG). Simon Property is a mall owner, while ABG is a licensing firm that previously acquired the intellectual property of brands like Sports Illustrated and Barneys. This is another major fashion house that is feeling the pain of the pandemic.


A Close Look at Fashion Supply Chain Reveals Human Rights and Environmental Abuses

The focus of this article is TAL Apparel, one of the most powerful companies in the global fashion supply chain, with factories operating in Vietnam, Myanmar, Nepal, and Bangladesh. Despite any public positions that the company and its affiliates have taken about sustainable fashion and labor rights, living and working conditions for garment workers are extremely poor and many are subjected to forced labor or inadequate compensation.


International Debate Over the Definition of a Museum

There have been few changes to the definition of "museum" since the 1970s. A committee of the Paris-based International Council of Museums recently debated the issue, consulted with members and proposed five new definitions to the executive board. Then, a wave of resignations followed, along with "accusations of back-alley political games." At their core, the disagreements are grounded in what committee members view as incongruous notions - that these institutions are either "places that exhibit and research artifacts, or ones that actively engage with political and social issues."


German Museum's Future Clouded by Discovery of Nazi Symbol in Mosaic Floor

A recent decision by federal lawmakers to grant a German museum public funds has set off a new dispute over its creator's past after a Nazi symbol was discovered in a mosaic floor of the museum in 2017. The Kunststatte Bossard is now commissioning an independent study into Johann Bossard's ties to Nazism. For now, the swastika remains covered under Germany's ban on Third Reich symbols.



Democratic Senators Suggest Bill of Rights for College Athletes

Ten Democratic senators have unveiled a framework for collegiate sports "centered around the principle of empowering athletes," which they "plan to formalize in the form of a bill in the coming months." The bill of rights proposes revenue-sharing agreements with conferences so student athletes can receive "fair and equitable compensation" for the use of their names, images and likenesses; better health and safety benefits; and relaxed transfer rules. It also calls for an oversight commission for college athletics, which Senator Blumenthal called "undeniably exploitive."



National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) Calls Off All Fall Championship Events

National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) President Mark Emmert was not opposed to the idea of using bubbles for NCAA championships in 2021, which could be a viable arrangement for basketball.


NCAA Recommends Opt-Out Players Keep Eligibility

The NCAA's Division 1 Council recommended that the Board of Governors implement a rule to allow student athletes who opt out of the 2020-2021 season to keep their remaining eligibility if they sit out the season for coronavirus-related reasons. Subject to approval, the rule would also allow players to make a decision midseason, as long as they have not played in more than half of a season's games before opting out.


Select NCAA Conferences Postpone Fall Sports

The Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences announced plans to postpone their fall sports while the ACC, SEC, and Big 12 said they will go ahead with their fall schedules. The Pac-12 left the door open for an early 2021 return if coronavirus conditions improve. The College Football Playoff board and management committee is expected to provide guidance on the implications of these conferences' decisions on the structure and format of play for the remaining schools.


In Push to Play, College Football Stars Show Sudden Unity

Two recent campaigns show that student athletes are increasingly asserting themselves, be it on social justice issues or in their latest effort to salvage the football season by calling for universal medical protocols to protect player health during the pandemic.


Postponed College Football Games Could Disrupt $1 Billion in Television Ads

With two of college football's five powerhouse conferences postponing their football seasons, companies that were relying on football broadcasts will likely have to shift their spending to other areas this fall, leading to yet another decline in advertising revenue at TV networks already hard hit by pandemic-related cancellations and production delays.


How Collegiate Track Athletes Are Forcing Reform in Their Sport

When 36 Wesleyan University track and cross-country alumni came forward with accounts of a toxic culture in their former program, the school launched an investigation into the conduct of coach John Crooke. That investigation concluded that Crooke had not violated any policies. The former student athletes say he was then asked to engage with athletes and lead the reform of an environment he created. While the university recently announced that Crooke has retired, the students continue to press school administrators for change.


Hockey Embraces Black Lives Matter Campaign

After the sport was rocked by high-profile racist incidents, the National Hockey League (NHL) and its players are speaking out more against systemic racism and the need to combat it. Players have been demonstrating during the anthem by kneeling or raising their fists, and an executive said that the NHL "has begun a high-profile effort to make anti-racism part of its identity." The article notes that the NHL remains the only major North American sports league not to volunteer for an audit by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, which publishes reports on "race, gender and hiring in sports and the sports media industry."


The National Basketball Association's Bubble Is Holding

Marc Stein of The New York Times describes the National Basketball Association's (NBA) efforts in establishing the bubble environment in Florida as well as the approach that various NBA teams took to ease into that structure.


Women's National Basketball Association Players Escalate Protest of Anti-Black Lives Matter Team Owner

Players stepped up their protest against Senator Kelly Loeffler, co-owner of the Atlanta Dream, by wearing T-shirts supporting her political opponent in a special election in November. Loeffler has spoken disparagingly of the Black Lives Matter movement and derided the WNBA for dedicating its season to the movement.


Lacrosse Plays on In the Pandemic

Lacrosse has not been immune to the many pandemic-related challenges that other sports have faced. The difference is that play has, for the most part, continued throughout summer, despite concerns by players and parents that they are receiving conflicting information and that teams are openly flouting safety precautions.



Washington National Football League Team Owner Suggests Conspiracy to Damage His Ownership

Dan Snyder has filed a request for discovery in federal district court to access to documents in the possession of what he calls a disgruntled employee who is accepting money in exchange for spreading damaging information against him. Snyder is hoping that the documents will bolster his defamation lawsuit against an Indian media company. Snyder has recently suggested that allegations of sexual harassment at his organization are part of a broad conspiracy to discredit him as team owner.


The Daily News - A Newspaper Without a Newsroom

Tribune Publishing announced that it is permanently closing the Manhattan newsroom of The Daily News, the largest-circulation newspaper in the country. The parent company said reopening that the office was not necessary to maintain current operations, but suggested it would reconsider the need for physical offices in the future.


Fox News Leads in Prime-time Ratings

Fox News was the highest-rated television channel in the 8 to 11 p.m. time slot, and not just among news networks. The prime-time hours on that network are filled by Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity.


Fortnite Creator Sues Apple and Google After Video Game is Banned from App Stores

Epic Games has opened a multifront war against Apple and Google by first encouraging Fortnite users to pay for its app directly from the company through its own in-app payment system, rather than through Apple or Google, each of which collects commissions. That move resulted in having the app banned from the App Store and the Google Play Store. Epic Games then sued Apple in federal court, arguing that the company is violating antitrust law by maintaining "its 100% monopoly over the market for in-app payments on iPhones." While it launched a similar suit against Google, Fortnite remains available on Android devices because Google's android software does not prevent users from downloading apps outside its app store.


Officials Urge Zuckerberg to Better Police Online Hate

Twenty state attorneys general called on Facebook to address online harassment and discrimination and work to prevent online hate, bias, and disinformation by "allowing third-party audits of hate content and offering real-time assistance to users."


Facebook Removes Trump Campaign Post

The company took down a Trump campaign video, which it said spread coronavirus misinformation. The video claimed that children were immune to the virus, a claim that the company found was in violation of its rules against misinformation around the virus.


Age of TikTok Users Raises Questions About Preteen Children's Safety on the Platform

As the Trump administration raises privacy and national security concerns with the Chinese-owned video app, another issue has surfaced with the age of its users. The company recently said that a third of its users are 14 and under. Given that users must be at least 13 to be on the app, there is a very real possibility that a large number of them are much younger than that. Any company that looks into purchasing TikTok's U.S. operations will have to contend with this issue and demonstrate compliance with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, which "requires internet platforms to obtain parental permission before collecting personal information on children under 13."


Facial Recognition Start-Up Mounts a First Amendment Defense

Clearview AI is a company that scrapes photos from the internet and "sells access to the resulting database to law enforcement agencies." It also analyses images and generate a unique faceprint for each person. In response to lawsuits alleging violations of privacy laws, the company's legal team plans to argue that its activities are a form of speech protected by the First Amendment.


Bible-burning Video Goes Viral in a Win for Russian Disinformation

A video of a few Portland protesters burning a Bible originated with a Kremlin-backed video news agency and was soon picked up conservative media, in what The New York Times calls "one of the first viral Russian disinformation hits of the 2020 presidential campaign."


Arrests Target Press Freedom in Hong Kong

Authorities arrested media tycoon Jimmy Lai under the new national security law in a move that the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Hong Kong called "a direct assault on Hong Kong's press freedom" and one that "signal[s] a dark new phase in the erosion of the city's global reputation." Police also raided the offices of his newspaper in what was widely viewed as Beijing's crackdown against critics and democracy advocates.


Algerian Journalist Sentenced for Reporting on Protests

Khaled Drareni was sentenced to three years in prison for reporting on the Hirak protest movement, which precipitated the removal of Algeria's president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in 2019.


General News

Senator Kamala Harris Selected as Joe Biden's Running Mate

Kamala Harris, 55, is the first woman of color to be nominated for national office by a major political party and only the fourth woman to be chosen for a presidential ticket. Harris was a career prosecutor who served as California's attorney general and was then elected senator in 2017. She is the daughter of immigrants who were civil rights activists.


Biden and Harris Pledge a Strong Challenge to Trump

In their first public appearance as running mates, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris offered a vision of recovery from the coronavirus and the ensuing economic crisis. They also pledged to address racial injustice in the country and pressed their case that the Trump administration has failed Americans at every turn.


How President's Trump's Rhetoric Feeds Racist and Misogynistic Tropes

In referring to Kamala Harris as an "angry" or "mad woman," President Trump is reinforcing the hurtful and long-standing stereotype of the "angry Black woman," a trope that "has been used to denigrate artists, athletes and political figures" and dismiss the opinions of Black women. Trump also characterized Harris's treatment of Justice Kavanaugh during his Senate confirmation hearings as "nasty." In further comments, he said that he is relying on the American "suburban housewife" vote and touted his administration's efforts to end a program "where low income housing would invade their neighbourhood."



Supreme Court Allows Rhode Island to Make Voting by Mail Easier

The Court rejected a Republican challenge to a state order that said voters were no longer required to have a witness or a notary observe the completion of absentee ballots. The Court distinguished this case from others in which state officials had successfully opposed changes to state laws ordered by federal judges, explaining that, "here state election officials support the challenged decree." Last month, the Court had voted 5 to 4, rejecting an Alabama judge's ruling suspending the witness requirement, but state officials in that case had objected to the ruling.


Supreme Court Blocks Oregon's Measure to Ease Referendum Rules During Pandemic

In yet another voting-related emergency application, the Supreme Court blocked an injunction easing Oregon's requirements for placing a referendum on the ballot. The ballot measure was intended to address partisan gerrymandering by requiring an independent commission to set voting districts, instead of the State Legislature. A federal judge had previously lowered the number of signatures required and extended the deadline for gathering them due to the coronavirus.


Supreme Court Rules That California Jail Took Adequate Steps to Protect Inmates from Coronavirus

The Court temporarily stayed an injunction issued by a federal district court judge that required jail officials "to allow detainees to maintain social distancing, be tested if they show symptoms and have access to cleaning supplies." In her dissent, Justice Sotomayor pointed out that the jail's transportation practices and inmates' sleeping arrangements were among the ways in which the jail failed to safeguard the health of thousands of detainees.


Record 76% of Americans Can Vote by Mail in 2020

According to a New York Times analysis, at least three-quarters of Americans will be eligible to receive a ballot in the mail for the November election. These numbers are attributable to temporary administrative changes made in response to the pandemic.


President Trump Resists More Funding for Postal Service, Reinforcing His Opposition to Mail Voting

The president said in no uncertain terms that he opposed Democratic demands for additional funding for the Postal Service and election security measures, citing his concern with the possibility of election fraud if there is widespread mail-in voting. Democrats say that the president is "intent on undercutting mail balloting and sowing discord and confusion over the result of the election."


Postal Service Warns States That It May Not Meet Mail-in Ballot Deadlines

As more states consider vote-by-mail operations in an effort to carry out elections safely, the Postal Service has advised all 50 states and the District of Columbia that "certain deadlines for requesting and casting mail-ballots are incongruous with the Postal Service's delivery standards." Though state laws set out much shorter timelines, the Postal Service says that individuals planning to vote by mail should request ballots at least 15 days before the election.


Patriot Act Provisions Will Likely Remain Lapsed This Year

Certain provisions of the Patriot Act, which expired months ago, will likely not be renewed before the November election, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not signaled that he intends to move forward with the legislation when Congress reconvenes. This past May, the Senate and the House passed slightly different versions of a bill addressing the surveillance powers, and Speaker Pelosi appointed House members to a conference to try to reconcile them. No senators have yet been appointed to that conference.


Environmental Protection Agency Weakens Methane Rule

Though scientists continue to stress the need to curb methane pollution, mainly from fossil fuel production, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has rolled back a major Obama-era climate change regulation requiring oil and gas companies to detect and repair methane leaks. The EPA estimates that about 850,000 tons of methane will be released into the atmosphere in the next 10 years and that "the rule change will yield economic benefits of roughly $100 million a year" in that same time frame.


President Trump Signs Landmark Land Conservation Bill

The Great American Outdoors Act guarantees maximum annual funding for a federal program to acquire and preserve land for public use. The funding will likely address a maintenance backlog in national parks first.


Homeland Security Officials' Appointments Violated Federal Law

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has concluded that the top two officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are illegally serving in their positions. The finding comes after the GAO reviewed succession rules and the appointment process of Chad Wolf and Kenneth Cuccinelli, both of whom it found "are serving under an invalid order of succession" and in violation of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. As the GAO cannot enforce its findings on the administration, it will refer the issue to the department's inspector general and to Congress.


How Homeland Security's Mission Took on a Political Turn

The Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf appears to be bending to the president's will to further his political agenda on issues as wide-ranging as illegal immigration, travel bans, and domestic protests.


Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia Subject of Complaint Saying He Intervened in Case Before the Agency

A complaint filed by a Labor Department lawyer says that Secretary Scalia abused his authority when he intervened and sought a settlement in a pay discrimination case against Oracle. The lawyer says she objected to his intervention and criticized the settlement offer of $40 million as being too low, and then she faced reprisal for speaking out, including being reassigned. If the Office of Special Counsel, which received the complaint, finds there is merit to it, "it could ask the department to stand down on [the lawyer's] reassignment."


Concerns After Census Bureau Moves Up Deadline to Count Hard-to-Reach Residents

Earlier this month, the Trump administration decided to end the 2020 census count four weeks early. Officials have since raised concerns that they cannot accurately count the country's hardest-to-reach residents in six weeks due to logistical challenges compounded by the pandemic. The implications of a skewed count are serious, given that governments use population data to make policies and allocate funding.


Former FBI Lawyer Expected to Plead Guilty Following Review of Russia Inquiry

The lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, was charged with falsifying a document, namely an email from the CIA, that was relied upon to secure a wiretap on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. The charges results from a criminal inquiry of the Russia investigation, which President Trump has characterized as illegitimate and politically motivated. There is no public evidence thus far to suggest that the lawyer's actions were part of a broader conspiracy or that law enforcement acted with political bias.


Manhattan District Attorney Says That Trump Is Not Entitled to Details of Tax Returns Inquiry

President Trump's lawyers recently argued that the subpoena for his tax returns was overly broad and amounted to illegal harassment. They requested a hearing to discuss whether the district attorney's office should disclose the justifications for the subpoena. In response, the office of the district attorney said that Trump is not entitled to learn more about the scope of the criminal investigation and about details of secret grand jury proceedings, much like any other recipient of a subpoena.



Deutsche Bank Subpoenaed by New York Prosecutors

News of the subpoena suggests that the Manhattan district attorney's office's criminal investigation into Trump's business practices is more wide-ranging that initially thought. Reports first indicated that the inquiry was focused on hush-money payments made to two women who claimed to have had affairs with the president, just before the 2016 election.


Justice Department Accuses Yale of Discrimination in Application Process

Following a two-year investigation into the school's admissions policies, the Justice Department found that Yale University violated federal civil rights law by discriminating against Asian-American and white applicants. It said that Yale violated Supreme Court rulings on affirmative action by using race as a predominant or determining factor in admissions and directed the university to suspend the consideration of race or national origin in admissions for one year.


Appeals Court Blocks Immigrant Wealth Test

A federal appeals court blocked the Trump administration's "public charge" rule that would disqualify green card applicants if they have relied on federal support programs, like food stamps or housing vouchers. The decision covers New York, Connecticut, and Vermont.


Appeals Court Weighs Whether to Permit Hearing into Justice Department's Decision to Drop Flynn Case

A majority of the judges on a federal appeals court seemed poised to allow a hearing into the Justice Department's decision to drop the case against the president's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. In submissions before the full Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the Justice Department said that granting a hearing to publicly examine the department's motives in dropping the case against Flynn would damage the executive branch.

While the rationale for why the department dropped the case against Flynn has shifted over time, it basically centers on the idea that Flynn's
false statements to the FBI were not material to any investigation. The judge overseeing the case appointed amici to critique the decision, which he found to have been politically motivated.


President Trump Assesses John Lewis' Legacy

In widely criticized comments, President Trump reflected on the life of the late congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis by saying that he had never met Lewis and that Lewis did not attend his inauguration.


Puerto Rico Faces Political Crisis After Botched Primary Elections

Officials in Puerto Rico partially suspended the primary election after paper ballots failed to reach voting centers and many ran out of ballots. The electoral commission rescheduled the remainder of the vote. At least two candidates for governor are demanding that the votes that were already cast be counted and added to ballots cast on a future date.


Another Inspector General Resigns from the State Department

Stephen Akard is the second inspector general to leave the department. His predecessor, Steve Linick, was fired by President Trump in May of this year. Linick had opened an investigation into Secretary Pompeo's use of department resources and Akard took over that investigation. A department spokesperson said that Akard would be returning to the private sector.


State Department Traces Russian Disinformation Links

The report focuses on an ecosystem of websites that spread pro-Kremlin propaganda but does not directly discuss election interference. In announcing the release of the report, Secretary Pompeo said that the department would offer "up to $10 million for information to help identify any person who, acting at the direction of a foreign government, tries to hack into election or campaign infrastructure."


Trump Says He Is Considering Pardon for Edward Snowden

The comments followed an interview the president gave to the New York Post, in which he acknowledged that some people viewed Snowden's treatment by the U.S. government as unfair. Snowden was granted asylum in Russia and is wanted in the U.S. on espionage charges.


Trump Allies and Activists Linked to Kanye West's Campaign

A number of individuals on Kanye West's campaign have ties to Republican causes and are said to be assisting West's bid to get on the ballot as a third-party candidate in an effort to divert votes from Biden.


California Condemns Prosecution Over Stillbirth

California prosecutors charged a woman whose pregnancy ended in a stillbirth with murder after the coroner's office had ruled the death a homicide "because of toxic levels of methamphetamine in the fetus's system." California is one of 38 states with "fetal homicide laws recognizing the fetus as a victim in cases of violence against a pregnant woman." In an amicus brief filed in support of the defendant's petition, California's attorney general took the position that a lower court's interpretation of the state's penal code would "subject all women who suffer a pregnancy loss to the threat of criminal investigation and possible prosecution for murder." Civil rights groups have also raised concerns, saying the charges create a "dangerous precedent for criminalizing the choices that women make while pregnant." The woman's lawyers have argued that prosecuting the case could also have a chilling effect on women seeking health care or counseling for substance abuse when pregnant.


Appeals Court Rejects California's Ban on High-Capacity Magazines

The Court ruled that the state ban on high-capacity magazines violates the Second Amendment, finding that these types of magazines are "protected arms" under the Constitution and often used for legal purposes.


Female Chief Quits New York Police Department, Files Suit

One of the department's highest-ranking women has quit the force and filed a federal gender discrimination lawsuit, accusing the commissioner and the department of "systematically denying women the opportunity to complete for senior leadership positions."


New York City Mayor Attributes Surge in Gun Violence to the Virus and Bail Reform

Mayor Bill de Blasio said court delays and bail reform are behind a recent uptick in gun violence in New York City. An analysis of police data released to The New York Times suggests the opposite; rather, the state's new bail law (i.e. the elimination of cash bail) and the mass release of inmates from city jails to reduce crowding and curb infection played almost no role in the spike.


New York Companies to Hire More Minority New Yorkers

Executives at 27 major companies have pledged to hire 100,000 low-income and minority workers in New York City over the next 10 years and will be funding a non-profit organization that will collaborate with universities, city government, and other non-governmental organizations to prepare this generation of workers for high-paying jobs.


New York Authorities Accuse Egg Producer of Price Gouging

A lawsuit filed against Hillandale Farms accuses one of the country's largest egg producers of price gouging during the pandemic and raking in $4 million in illegal revenue. The company defended its actions (which included charging four times more per carton), saying that egg prices are subject to volatile pricing and the pandemic caused massive disruption in the industry.


McDonald's Sues Former CEO

The company says that former CEO Steve Easterbrook concealed evidence during an investigation into his conduct, for which he was fired last fall. Easterbrook carried out relationships with three employees. McDonald's is seeking to recoup a severance payout worth more than $40 million.


U.S. and Taiwan Celebrate Bond

The U.S. Secretary of Health's recent visit to Taiwan marked the highest-level American visit to Taiwan in decades. It was particularly significant as ties between the U.S. and China deteriorate.


Israel and the United Arab Emirates Reach Major Diplomatic Agreement

The two countries announced they would establish "full normalization of relations" in exchange for Israel temporarily suspending annexation of occupied West Bank territory. The deal makes the Emirates the third Arab country (along with Jordan and Egypt) to have normal diplomatic relations with Israel. The Palestinian Authority rejected and denounced the trilateral deal (involving the U.S.), which many see as a deal aimed at bolstering the U.S.-Gulf alliance against Iran.

German Automaker Daimler to Settle U.S. Emissions Charges for $2.2 Billion

The company said it has agreed to pay $2.2 billion to settle U.S. claims tied to 250,000 Mercedes-Benz vehicles sold in the U.S., which were programmed to cheat on diesel emissions tests.


Company in India Offers Paid Leave for Menstrual Periods

Zomato, a global food-delivery company, has introduced a new paid leave policy for employees in India. The policy allows up to 10 of days of period leave a year for female and transgender employees.


Lebanon's Government Resigns Over Beirut Explosion

Lebanon's entire cabinet resigned this week amid widespread anger and protests over the explosion that killed more than 150 people, wounded thousands, and left hundreds of thousands homeless. Lebanon has been in the throes of a long-standing economic crisis, marked by high unemployment and inflation rates, which citizens attribute to government corruption and mismanagement. Protesters are now calling for a complete political turnover and want both the president and the speaker of Parliament to step down.


Coronavirus Update

Health Experts Raise Alarm Over Federal Rules on Hospital Data

The Department of Health and Human Services issued an order last month requiring hospitals to send daily coronavirus reports to a private vendor that would transmit the data to a central database in Washington. Current and former members of a federal advisory panel are raising concerns with this approach, which rerouted the data away from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They say the transition has left hospitals "scrambling to determine how to meet daily reporting requirements," which include data on hospital bed counts and informs decisions about allocation of resources like ventilators and drugs.


Firm Collecting Virus Data Refuses to Answer Senators' Questions

Citing a nondisclosure agreement signed with the Department of Health and Human Services, Pittsburgh-based TeleTracking Technologies declined to provide information on how it collects and shares coronavirus data under its six-month, $10.2 million contract. Several senators had sent a letter to the company seeking information on how the contract was awarded and whether the data would be made available to the public.


Scientists Retrieve Live Virus from Hospital Air

A research team at the University of Florida isolated live virus from aerosols collected from patients hospitalized with COVID-19, at a distance of seven to 16 feet. Though not yet peer reviewed, the findings provide unambiguous evidence that there is infectious virus in respiratory droplets and not simply fragments of genetic material, thus supporting the position that airborne virus plays a significant role in community transmission.


Observable Fall in Daily Testing Rates

Public health experts warn that a downward trend in testing, which has persisted for much of the last two weeks, will hamper the coronavirus response in the U.S. The trend might reflect a number of issues with and barriers to testing, including fewer people seeking tests; long lines and delays in getting results; and the lack of a "robust system to test vast portions of the population."


Trump Considers Banning Re-entry by Citizens Infected with Coronavirus

The president is considering a rule that would temporarily block American citizens and permanent residents from returning to the U.S. if authorities have reason to believe they may be infected with the virus. CDC experts say any prohibition on their return would apply only in rare circumstances and be limited in duration.


Trump Signs Executive Orders for Pandemic Relief; Governors Say Orders Imperil State Budgets

After Congress failed to pass a new pandemic aid package, the president signed an order providing for a $400 weekly supplement to unemployment checks, which is contingent on states coming up with $100 of that on their own. Governors voiced their opposition to the order and said the responsibility to pay a share of unemployment benefits would put a serious strain on their budgets and states would have to pull funds away from other pressing budgetary needs.




Trump's Payroll Tax Holiday Order Gives Employers New Dilemma

President Trump has ordered businesses to suspend payroll taxes from September through the end of 2020, leaving many employers to grapple with difficult legal and logistical questions. The Treasury Department is expected to release guidance about the policy.


State and Local Budgets Central Issue in Debate Over Pandemic Rescue Package

Facing widespread budget shortfalls, state and local governments are and will be cutting spending and jobs to balance their budgets. Federal Reserve officials are now warning that struggling states could once again be the reason behind a slow economic recovery, much like during the last recession. With Republicans staunchly against state bailouts and the Senate formally adjourned until September, it is unclear if or how Congress will address one of the primary vulnerabilities ahead.


Pandemic Wreaks Havoc on Public Transit Systems

Experts say transit cuts are more acutely felt in low-income areas and are disproportionately impacting people of color and essential workers. Public transit leaders are warning that the $25 billion in aid is drying up and more severe cuts to service are looming.


Rush to Treat COVID-19 Patients with Plasma Undermines Studies

Although thousands of COVID-19 patients are being treated with blood plasma, the fact that they are being treated outside of rigorous clinical trials is hampering research that could have shown the efficacy of the treatment. The administration has spent $48 million to fund a program with the Mayo Clinic and the fact that patients can get the treatment under the government program means many have been unwilling to join clinical trials where they could have been given a placebo.


New York City's Health Commissioner Resigns After Disagreements with Mayor Over the Virus

Dr. Oxiris Barbot, commissioner since 2018, left the post after Mayor Bill de Blasio stripped her agency of a key virus-tracing program and relegated her staff to the background of the work being done to control the disease. Her departure brings renewed focus on de Blasio's handling of the pandemic. Barbot is succeeded by Dr. Dave Chokshi, a former senior leader at the city's public hospital system.


New Jersey Schools Expected to Offer All-Remote Option

Governor Philip Murphy has given New Jersey districts the option to offer all-virtual classes, going back on a previous requirement that there
be some in-person classes in the fall. In order to introduce virtual instruction, districts must document why they cannot safely provide in-person instruction. They are also required to set a date for an eventual return to in-person instruction.


Nearly 1,200 Students Quarantined Following Georgia's School Reopening

Despite growing case counts, students in the Cherokee County School District returned to class. Two high schools have already closed and close 1,200 students and staff members have been ordered to quarantine after a string of positive tests.


The 2020 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally - Undaunted Tradition

The annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, went ahead as usual, marking one of the largest gatherings since the coronavirus emerged in the U.S., with many participants in violation of protective measures against the spread of the virus.


Russia First to Announce Coronavirus Vaccine

Russian President Putin announced that Russia has approved a coronavirus vaccine, but the timing of the announcement means that the vaccine has not yet gone through Phase 3 trials. Russia later confirmed that a Phase 3 trial would begin shortly, involving about 2,000 people in Russia, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and Mexico. Infectious disease experts, however, warn that rushing the vaccine-approval process could leave people at risk and that Phase 3 is a crucial step for gathering data and testing the efficacy of the vaccine on tens of thousands of people.


Europeans Are Partying and Vacationing, With Little Regard for the Virus

Crowds flocking to European beaches and social events, including illegal outdoor raves, are infuriating public health officials and raising concerns that coronavirus numbers could rise again in Europe. Officials say that alcohol and drugs could exacerbate risks associated with social gatherings and police have stepped up their presence in public spaces.


August 24, 2020

Week In Review

By Eric Lanter
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

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


Lizzo Notches a Win in 'Truth Hurts' Copyright Case

In Los Angeles, a federal judge dismissed an action that two individuals brought against Lizzo seeking a share of profits and royalties from her hit song, "Truth Hurts." The individuals, Justin and Jeremiah Raisen, claimed that they were involved in writing the song, but the judge found that "a joint author of one copyrightable work does not automatically gain ownership of a derivative work in which the joint author had no hand in creating."


Smollett Case: Special Prosecutor Finds 'Abuses of Discretion'

A special prosecutor has found that the Cook County state's attorney's office "did not violate the law in its handling of the case" involving actor Jussie Smollett, but that it "did abuse its discretion in deciding to drop charges and put out false or misleading public statements about why it did so."


Second Circuit Affirmed Preemption Claim

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court's granting summary judgment for Rick Ross, finding that a right of publicity claim under Connecticut common law was preempted by copyright law. The plaintiff, the rapper 50 Cent, had accused the defendant, Rick Ross, of violating his right of publicity when Ross released a promo for his new album featuring 50 Cent's stage name and an unaltered 30-second sample of 50 Cent's voice from his song "In Da Club."

In re Curtis James Jackson, III, Debtor; Jackson v. Roberts, 19-0480-BK.In re Curtis James Jackson, III.pdf

Hollywood Executive Ron Meyer Leaves NBCUniversal After Secret Settlement

Ron Meyer, a Hollywood executive for 40 years, stepped down from his role at NBCUniversal, where he had been the executive vice chairman. He has said that he resigned because of an attempt to "extort" him relating to a "past extramarital affair," but he did not identify who had made that attempt.


Ellen DeGeneres Tells Her Staff That Three Top Producers Are Out

The Ellen DeGeneres Show has confirmed that it has disposed of three of its producers: Ed Glavin, Jonathan Norman, and Kevin Leman. The departures come amidst the show facing allegations that it has been a "toxic work culture" consisting of "racism, fear, and intimidation." Former employees and guests have provided their accounts of witnessing that work culture, but others have come to the defense of DeGeneres and the show. The investigation remains underway.


Pledging to Tell More Inclusive Stories, MGM Remakes Orion Pictures

Alana Mayo is set to lead a division at MGM, Orion Pictures, which "will release two or three films a year and focus exclusively on underrepresented filmmakers." The greenlight committee for the division will be "made up entirely of women" and will not be subject to the chair of MGM's film group as he "will not have a vote in selecting the films that Orion makes or acquires for distribution."


Cuba Gooding Jr. Accused of Rape in Civil Suit as He Awaits Groping Trial

While awaiting trial for an alleged instance of groping, Cuba Gooding Jr. has now been accused of twice raping a woman in a Manhattan hotel in 2013. That woman filed an action against the actor, and alleged that when she attempted to leave the hotel room, he "blocked her way out and eventually pushed her onto the bed and raped her." Then, when she was attempting to escape, he "raped her again, according to the complaint."


Lori Loughlin Receives Sentence in College Admissions Case

After having "resigned from her exclusive country club, downsized from her expansive Bel Air estate, and saw her acting career crater," Lori Loughlin has received her prison sentence of two months for her role in the college admissions scandal. She tearfully apologized at the sentencing and said that she "was acting out of love for her children," but the judge noted his astonishment that "someone who had what he called 'a fairy-tale life' would corrupt the college admissions system out of a desire for even more status and prestige."


Thailand Police Arrest Activists, Escalating Protest Crackdown

Human rights lawyers have identified a "mounting crackdown" by Thailand's government, which is "seemingly allergic to dissent." This week, a "member of the Thai collective Rap Against Dictatorship," was arrested for "sedition." Activists have called for reform to the monarchy's powers, and those activists have been facing charges of sedition, which carries a potential sentence of seven years. Sunday saw the largest rally in Thailand "since a military coup six years ago."



Misconduct Relating to Copyright Infringement Leads to Sanctions

The Northern District of New York has sanctioned Richard Liebowitz for fraudulent reports of attorney hours in an attempt to gouge the defendant in a copyright infringement action where Liebowitz represented the plaintiff, a photographer claiming a copyright interest in a photograph of pork that the defendant printed in its weekly advertisement for food products. Liebowitz also inflated the value of the copyright and had a history of misconduct similar to that in this matter, and the Northern District of New York has recommended to the Chief Judge that Liebowitz be removed from the roll of the Court.

AdLife Marketing & Communications Company, Inc. v. Buckingham Brothers, LLC, 5:19-CV-0796 (LEK/CFH).Adlife Marketing v Buckingham Brothers.pdf

Guggenheim Approves Diversity Plan After Staff Complaints of Racism

Several of New York's museum leaders "have taken pay cuts to offset some of the financial damage their institutions are suffering from their Covid-related closures," but one group is calling on the head of the Guggenheim to take a deeper cut "instead of continuing to target the museum's most vulnerable staff with furloughs." Additionally, the museum announced that it approved a diversity plan in response to staff complaints of racism.



SAG-AFTRA Members Complain of Changes in Health Insurance

Over 8,000 people have signed a petition seeking to reverse policy changes within SAG-AFTRA that would leave members without health insurance through the union. The current plan is intended to raise the minimum earnings per year from $18,040 to $25,950 for eligibility in the health insurance plan.


At Theaters, Push for Racial Equality Leads to Resignations and Restructuring

Theaters throughout the country are reforming themselves. One artistic director in New York, William Carden, noted: "The key to antiracism is sharing power. It takes a lot of work and a lot of humility, and it requires that white people step aside." There has been restructuring as a result of the "outcry over racial injustice this summer," and theaters throughout the country are beginning to reflect that restructuring.


Tony Awards Ceremony Will Go Ahead, Online

Administrators for the Tony Awards have announced that they will hold the awards ceremony online this fall "to honor shows that opened before the coronavirus pandemic shuttered Broadway." The 18 shows that opened before February 19th will be eligible for awards during the ceremony.


Italy Wants Its Tourists Back Unless They Sit on the Statues

Although the coronavirus pandemic has "crushed the tourism industry in Italy this year" and dealt a "significant blow to the country's economy," Italians are persisting in reminding tourists that they do not have a "free pass to run amok among the country's cultural treasures." This reminder comes after Germans "took an unauthorized dip in the Grand Canal in Venice," an Austrian "broke to the of a plaster statue of Napoleon's sister," and a "French tourist was caught red-handed using a black felt-tip pen to immortalize her stay in Florence on the city's famed Ponte Vecchio."



Court Upholds Decision to Dismiss Video in Robert Kraft Case

The owner of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft, refused to take a plea involving his visits to a Florida massage spa, and argued that police surveillance video violated his Fourth Amendment rights. A court in Florida found that "the police improperly gathered video evidence central to the case made against Kraft and two dozen other men who were recorded visiting and receiving treatment at severan South Florida day spas."


Washington Hires Former Player as National Football League's First Black Team President

Jason Wright, who played in the National Football League (NFL) for seven years, has been hired as the first African-American team president in the league. He is set to become the president of the Washington Football Team and has no experience working at an NFL team, as he has worked for the past seven years at McKinsey & Company.


Who Should Compete in Women's Sports? There Are 'Two Almost Irreconcilable Positions'

A charged debate continues "about who should be allowed to compete in women's sports, as transgender athletes have become increasingly accepted on the playing field while still facing strong resistance from some competitors and lawmakers." Balancing "inclusivity, competitive fairness, and safety" remain the top issues for those on both sides of the debate.


Reds Announcer Is Suspended After Using Homophobic Slur on Air

The Cincinnati Reds' announcer, Thom Brennaman, has apologized for making homophobic remarks on a hot mic during a game. He immediately apologized after the remarks, and he has been suspended from announcing future games.


Kansas City Chiefs Ban Headdresses at Stadium

The Kansas City Chiefs have announced that the team will prohibit "fans from wearing ceremonial headdresses and Native American-style face paint at Arrowhead Stadium, becoming the latest organization to confront offensive symbols amid a nationwide discussion of racist imagery and iconography."


National Basketball Association Playoff Teams Feel the Pain of Bubble Injuries

Since the National Basketball Association's restart in the "bubble" at Walt Disney World, there have been "at least five season-ending injuries" as well as a number of other injuries. The injuries come after medical experts warned that players would be susceptible to injury after having a shutdown of four months and a mere three weeks of practices and scrimmages before opening the season.



Facebook and Other Top Tech Companies Continue to Face Challenges

Mark Zuckerberg testified before the Federal Trade Commission as to whether Facebook broke antitrust laws, and tech companies more broadly are facing pressure from advertisers to obtain "more control over where and how their ads show up" on media platforms. Additionally, Facebook has announced that it is developing plans to ensure that the platform cannot be used to delegitimize the election results by President Trump. Meanwhile, Apple passed a landmark by reaching a two trillion dollar valuation.





TikTok to Challenge Trump Administration Over Executive Order

TikTok, the Chinese internet company, is set to challenge the Trump administration, alleging that it has been denied "due process" by Trump's announcement that the app will be blocked within the United States. Additionally, the app contends that it has "been unfairly and incorrectly treated as a security threat."


Trump Administration Widens Huawei Dragnet

The Trump administration announced "that it was restricting Huawei's ability to buy a wider array of chips made or designed with American equipment and software, tightening the limits it has placed on the Chinese telecom giant as it looks to cripple its ability to sell smartphones and telecom gear around the world." The Commerce Department put in place the new rule, which expands a previous prohibition to semiconductors, "covering any chips made abroad with American equipment."


General News

The Democratic National Convention, a Very Different Convention, Concludes

The Democratic National Convention, which many analysts deemed an infomercial for the Democratic Party, given its many solo appearances by top members and supporters, went off without a hitch despite the unusual format. The convention lacked surprises, however, as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were confirmed to be on the ticket and now start the official general election campaign. Each night, President Trump tweeted his analysis of the convention, and he attempted to take attention and votes away from the Democrats by announcing mid-convention that he was issuing a pardon of Susan B. Anthony for her crime of voting. The Republican National Convention is set to begin next week with President Trump speaking each night at the convention.












The Postal Service Faces Scrutiny as the House Approves a Funding Bill

In a rare Saturday vote, the House of Representatives approved "legislation blocking cost-cutting and operational changes at the Postal Service that Democrats, civil rights advocates, and some Republicans fear could jeopardize mail-in ballots this fall." The measure would "require the Postal Service to prioritize the delivery of all election-related mail and grant the beleaguered agency a rare $25 billion infusion to cover revenue lost" during the pandemic. It is questionable whether the Senate will approve a similar bill, but the week's headlines focused on the new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, having "moved swiftly to cut costs", which led to "vital mail and package services" seeing "significant delays this summer."









The Coronavirus Pandemic Continues With Pockets Flaring Throughout the U.S.

While there remain significant discrepancies between how opened up parts of the United States are--such as Governor Andrew Cuomo announcing that gyms in New York City will begin to reopen and there continuing to be no indoor dining within the City--the number of cases has stayed steady. Following gatherings, such as President Trump's Tulsa rally and the biker rally in Sturgis, there have been upticks in pockets throughout the country, which have also led many schools and universities to announce that for the fall, they will have partial or entire courseworks online. The global death toll has passed 800,000, and the United States is set to pass 200,000 deaths in the coming weeks.















Supreme Court to Hear Case Involving College's 'Free Speech Areas'

The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments relating to Georgia Gwinnett College's "free speech expression areas", in which one student stood to "talk about his Christian faith" for 20 minutes "when school officials told him he had to stop or face discipline." Based on the college's rules, there are just two designed free speech areas, and attorneys for the student have argued that the college has limited free speech to a patio and a sidewalk, which consist of 0.0015% of the college campus.


GOP-Led Senate Panel Details Ties Between 2016 Trump Campaign and Russia

The Senate Intelligence Committee has released a report "totaling nearly 1,000 pages" that details the "extensive web of contacts between Trump campaign advisers and Kremlin officials and other Russians, including at least one intelligence officer and others tied to the country's spy services," during the 2016 presidential campaign. The report is expected to be the last word on the issue and is "one of the highest-profile congressional investigations in recent memory." The report concluded that the Russian "intelligence services viewed members of the Trump campaign as easily manipulated, and some of Trump's advisers were eager for the help from an American adversary.




Republican Embrace of QAnon Goes Far Beyond Trump

President Trump has left little doubt that he welcomes the support from QAnon, a group that believes there is a widespread conspiracy of child sex trafficking by the world's elites and that President Trump is covertly fighting that conspiracy, and as QAnon supporters have won some primaries, the Republican Party has more broadly had to deal with its members supporting QAnon. The Texas Republican Party used a slogan, "We Are the Storm," which is "a rallying cry for QAnon adherents," but the party has announced that the slogan came instead from a poem.





Steve Bannon Is Charged With Fraud in We Build the Wall Campaign

President Trump's former adviser Stephen Bannon has been charged "with defrauding donors to a private fund-raising effort called We Build the Wall, which was intended to bolster the president's signature initiative along the Mexican border." Prosecutors allege that the effort raised over $25 million and that Bannon "used nearly $1 million of it for personal expenses."


Trump Administration Finalizes Plan to Open Arctic Refuge to Drilling

In what is likely to lead to an intense legal battle, the Trump administration has announced its plan to open part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge "to oil and gas development", which would overturn "six decades of protections for the largest remaining stretch of wilderness in the United States." It is believed that the refuge sits on top of oil numbering in the billions of barrels, and the refuge is home to "polar bears and migrating herds of caribou."


Trump Must Turn Over Tax Returns to District Attorney, Judge Rules

In the Southern District Court of New York, Judge Victor Marrero held that the Manhattan district attorney was entitled to receive President Trump's tax returns in its investigation into the President's business practices. Attorneys for President Trump have announced that they will be filing an appeal, and it is unlikely that the tax returns will be obtained before the November presidential election (even if they are, they will likely not be made public).


Judge Blocks Trump Officials' Attempt to End Transgender Health Protections

Judge Frederic Block of the Eastern District of New York "blocked an effort by the Trump administration to erase protections for transgender patients against discrimination by doctors, hospitals, and health insurance companies, dealing a blow to the broader legal reasoning it has used to try to roll back transgender rights across the government." The ruling "temporarily blocks enforcement of the new rule, which was due to take effect Tuesday, while a lawsuit moved forward."


Trump Cites the Veterans Affairs as a Central Achievement, but Troubles Simmer

Although President Trump has bragged about his record on veterans affairs, there continue to be "systemic problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs", including "charges of sexism" and ineptitude. A group of workers recently accused the Kansas City Veterans Affairs of "fostering a culture of racism," and the secretary of veterans affairs continues to be "ensnared in an investigation into whether he used his authority to discredit a female veteran who said she was assaulted at a veterans health center." Additionally, an inspector general found that a new office "formed to protect whistle-blowers" has instead pursued retaliation against those whistle-blowers.


Immigrant 'Dreamers' in Search of a Job Are Being Turned Away

Although President Trump has sought to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has granted employment authorization to young immigrants, the program has remained in place. However, some large employers, including Procter and Gamble, have refused to hire DACA beneficiaries, known as Dreamers. One, David Rodriguez, has filed a lawsuit "that seeks to use civil rights law to prevent employers from turning away immigrants like himself, a legal fight that is underway even as President Trump is threatening to end the program."


'Lottery Lawyer' Is Accused of Fleecing Winners in $107 Million Fraud

Jason Kurland of Rivkin Radler, calling himself the "Lottery Lawyer," is facing charges that he stole money from "high-profile lottery winners" along with a "mob associate." The lottery winners hired Kurland, and Kurland put $107 million of his clients' money into investments that resulted in the lottery winners losing over $80 million. Additionally, Kurland and his associates "spent some of the funds on golf club memberships, yachts, private jets, a Porsche, and other luxury cars and shopping sprees at stores like Fendi."


Former Uber Security Chief Charged With Concealing Hack

Uber's former security chief, Joe Sullivan, was fired in 2017 when Uber's new chief executive came in, and now Sullivan has been charged "with attempting to conceal from federal investigators a hack that exposed the email addresses and phone numbers of 57 million drivers and passengers." The charges are thought to be the "the first against an executive stemming from a company's response to a security incident."


Pentagon Report Finds Military Surveillance Did Not Spy on Protesters

A Pentagon report has concluded that when the National Guard deployed a "reconnaissance plane in four American cities to monitor protests this spring," it did not "violate rules against the military collecting intelligence on citizens." However, the inspector general who authored the report found that the "National Guard officials failed to obtain prior approval from Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper to use the plans because they mistakenly believed they were not intelligence aircraft, which require high-level signoff."


Ex-Green Beret Charged With Spying for Russia in Elaborate Scheme

Prosecutors have charged a former Army Green Beret captain, Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, of "providing national defense information to Russia in an elaborate spying operation that appeared to begin in 1996." He provided "sensitive military information and the names of fellow service members so Russia could try to recruit them, complained that the United States was too dominant in the world, and accepted money and gifts including liquor and a Russian military uniform."


Ex-CIA Officer Is Accused of Spying for China

The Department of Justice announced that it has charged a former CIA officer "with giving classified information to the Chinese government" in just the latest instance of "former intelligence officers" being accused of spying for China. The suspect was a CIA officer during the 1980s and then worked as a "contract translator for the FBI in the 2000s." The officer is alleged with providing to Chinese intelligence officials information relating to "CIA personnel, foreign informants, classified operations, cryptography and other methods of concealing communications" in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars.


A Detailed Look at the Downside of California's Ban on Affirmative Action

Californian voters will choose this fall whether to repeal Proposition 209, which is a ballot initiative that bans "racial preferences in admission to the state's world-renowned public universities." The measure passed 24 years ago, and a study released Friday found that "by nearly every measure, the ban has harmed Black and Hispanic students, decreasing their numbers in the University of California system while reducing their odds of finishing college, going to graduate school, and earning a high salary."


Poor Planning Left California Short of Electricity in a Heat Wave Before Wildfires

Losses continue to pile up as the wildfires in California grow. The wildfires have now spread from the "Southern California deserts to the Sierra Nevada to the vineyards and movie sets and architectural landmarks." In total, the week's approximate 560 fires have burned "more than 771,000 acres." Just as the heat wave was picking up in California, "scores of power plants were down or producing below peak strength" in a "stunning failure of planning, poor record keeping, and sheer bad luck."



Most of $600 Million Settlement in Flint Water Crisis Will Go to Children

The State of Michigan announced that there has been a $600 million settlement "for the victims of the water crisis that upended Flint." Approximately 80% "of the settlement will go to people who were younger than 18 during the crisis" and a significant amount of that money will go to victims under seven years of age. The settlement still requires "a federal judge's approval," but some in the Flint community have expressed doubts about the settlement and how long payment may take.


323,911 Accusations of New York Police Department Misconduct Are Released Online

On Thursday, in a "major milestone in a long and contentious political battle to open records of police discipline to public scrutiny", records relating to over 323,000 accusations of misconduct against New York City police officers were released. The New York Civil Liberties Union has published the records in a database accessible online after obtaining those records from the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which was made possible when the state legislature "repealed a law that had kept them secret."


The National Rifle Association's Next Foe Is One of Its Own

The National Rifle Association (NRA) is now facing an "adversary from within its own senior ranks," Josh Powell. While the association had previously faced attack from New York's attorney general, who is seeking to dissolve the organization, Powell is releasing a new book, which will detail the association's fraudulent and corrupt activities. Powell has been named as a defendant in the the attorney general's action, and he had been thought to be the "de facto second-in-command" within the NRA.


Navalny, Being Treated in Germany, Looms Over Russian Politics

The most prominent opposition figure in Russian, Aleksei Navalny, arrived in Berlin for treatment "after falling into a coma in Siberia in what his family and supporters suspect was a deliberate poisoning weeks before nationwide local elections." Russian officials delayed his departure from Russia, and he was admitted to "one of Germany's leading medical research facilities, where he is undergoing extensive diagnostic tests."


August 29, 2020

EASL Theater News for the Week of August 28

By Bennett Liebman

Broadway League Update on Actions Toward Equity and Inclusion, https://www.broadwayleague.com/home/

Major Broadway Theater Owner Jujamcyn Sues Insurance Companies Over Paltry COVID Payout, https://deadline.com/2020/08/jujamcyn-theaters-broadway-lawsuit-chubb-insurance-covid19-coronavirus-1203023669/

Insurers Battle Broadway Theater Owner Over Pandemic Payout, https://www.forbes.com/sites/marchershberg/2020/08/25/insurers-battle-broadway-theater-owner-over-pandemic-payout/#4f0195d01064

First Indoor Theater Performances Since COVID Shutdown Get Equity Greenlight, https://www.backstage.com/magazine/article/indoor-theater-performances-equity-approval-covid-19-71569/

Unemployment Is Rampant. So This Theater Is Giving Freelancers Money., https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/24/theater/the-public-unemployment-freelancers.html

Social distancing guidelines for singers updated after new COVID transmission study results, https://www.londontheatredirect.com/news/social-distancing-guidelines-for-singers-updated-after-new-covid-transmission-study-results

Theatre reopening 'doomed to failure' without insurance solution, UK, https://www.thestage.co.uk/news/theatre-reopening-doomed-to-failure-without-insurance-solution

For ever and a day: why we turn to Shakespeare at times of crisis, https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2020/aug/22/for-ever-and-a-day-why-we-turn-to-shakespeare-at-times-of-crisis

Broadway Stars Reflect on the Theater Shutdown in New York City, https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2020/08/25/broadway-stars-reflect-on-the-theater-shutdown-in-new-york-city#

Theater Blog Roundup: 4 Essential Aspects of Playwriting, 15 Favorite Musicals, 50 Two-Handers, 74th annual Tony Awards, https://newyorktheater.me/2020/08/22/theater-blog-roundup-4-essential-aspects-of-playwriting-15-favorite-musicals-50-two-handers-74th-annual-tony-awards/

How Theater Actors Are Surviving During the Pandemic, https://www.backstage.com/magazine/article/how-theater-actors-are-surviving-during-the-pandemic-71472/

Broadway Producer Brian Moreland on Racism, Fighting for Change, and How Theaters Will Reopen, https://www.thedailybeast.com/broadway-producer-brian-moreland-on-racism-fighting-for-change-and-how-theaters-will-reopen

Column: Looking ahead to fall's weirdo 2020 Tony Awards, and what they must achieve, https://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/theater/chris-jones/ct-ent-tony-awards-jones-0830-20200827-lm475y5vajgfjpawgw6k3g3hza-story.html

Tony Awards Ceremony Will Go Ahead, Online, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/21/theater/tony-awards-ceremony-online.html

August 31, 2020

Week In Review

By La-Vaughnda A. Taylor
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

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


Lifting Spirits a Bit, as Most Stages Remain Dark

Hundreds of freelancers are getting $1,000 relief payments from the Public Theatre, a leading Off Broadway nonprofit. The "financial relief payments" have been given to 368 people, including technicians and crew members, such as carpenters, truck drivers, engineers and programmers, teaching artists who facilitate classes, workshops and talkbacks; and members of working groups that support developing artists.


Astor-White v. Strong

The Ninth Circuit has affirmed a 2(b)(6) dismissal of copyright claims against the TV show "Empire". Astor-White claimed that the defendants' (Fox) television series "Empire" infringed his copyrighted treatment of a television series, "King Solomon". The Court held that Astor-White did not adequately allege actual copying. "King Solomon" was not "widely disseminated", it was only shared with three people. The mere allegation that those three people and he had a "working relationship" with or "move[ed] in similar circles" as Fox does not establish that Fox has a "reasonable opportunity or reasonable possibility of viewing" "King Solomon". Astor-White also failed to plausibly allege that Fox unlawfully appropriated "King Solomon", because the works did not share similarities in protectable expression. The district court correctly concluded as part of the extrinsic test that the two works only shared unprotectable "ideas and concepts, material in the public domain, and scenes á faire."


Trio Charged with Leaking Movies Online in Global Ring

Three men are facing federal charges of participating in an international piracy ring that distributed popular movies and television shows online before their release dates. In an attempt to take down the elite global piracy ring Sparks Group, U.S. officials have charged three men with copyright infringement. It is estimated that the Sparks Group cost film production studios tens of millions of dollars.


Ties to Racial Killing Lead to Firing at Hot97

Employees of the radio station said they were shocked to see a colleague known as Paddy Duke in a new HBO documentary about the racist murder of a Brooklyn teenager in 1989. It turns out that Duke (Pasquale Raucci) as a teenager was one of eight young men charged in the 1989 killing of Yusef K. Hawkins, a Black 16-year-old in Brooklyn. Hawkins's murder, along with the Central Park jogger case, came to represent a brutal period of racism and violence in the city and is the subject of a new HBO documentary, "Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn", which led to the revelation. Raucci, now 50, was quickly fired. The company sent an email to staffers that said no one "was aware of this situation until the airing of the HBO documentary," and noted the immediate "adverse business impact and damage to our reputation." Still, many listeners, along with employees past and present, were left feeling betrayed and confused by the news, which came amid a summer of national uproar regarding unjust killings of Black people and a struggle over how best to move forward.


TikTok Stars Facing Charges After Hosting House Parties

Blake Gray and Bryce Hall, two TikTok starts, were charged with misdemeanors last week after holding two large house parties in defiance of local health orders. Los Angeles is taking action against people who host parties in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. The pair could face up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.


A Storied Paris Theatre Fires Its Artistic Director

After Ruth Mackenzie was accused of bullying employees, the Théatre du Chatelet said she would no longer lead the prestigious venue. She broke boundaries as the artistic director of the theatre, one of Paris' most famous stages. In 2017, she became the first woman to run the theatre, which opened in 1862. Shortly after she took office, the theatre closed for a two-and-a-half-year, $35 million renovation, and Mackenzie used that time to reinvent the institution. When it reopened last fall, the revamped programming made headlines and appealed to new audiences. Although Mackenzie's time at the theatre was not without problems, she denies the accusation of bullying. The Board dismissed her with immediate effect and she is seeking legal advice to challenge the decision.



Actors' Equity Aprroves Three Indoor Shows

Actors' Equity has agreed to allow its members to work on three shows that will run in repertory at the Weathervane Theatre in the White Mountains region of New Hampshire, as well as in a one-man show at Music Theatre of Connecticut, and a one-woman show at Northern Stage in Vermont. Among them is a seven-person, socially distanced staging of "Little Shop of Horrors". All three venues have agreed to provide COVID-19 testing regularly, in addition to reducing audience capacity for social distancing and high-quality air filtration systems. The Weathervane productions will be modified slightly, with the orchestra not having any wind or brass instruments in the band to avoid the spread of the virus. While masks will only be required for patrons when not in their seats at the Weathervane, they are required at all times for the solo shows.


Trouble At Home for Detroit Museum

Critics say that the Institute of Arts is not doing enough to relate to the predominately Black city in which it is located or to the people of color on its staff. The Detroit Institute of Arts had just avoided selling off parts of its collection to help pay the debts of the city that owned it. It also recently established a new independent ownership structure, new revenue streams, and a new director. However, five years in, and at a time when museum leaders across the country are being challenged on whether their institutions are systemically racist, few are confronting as many thorny issues as this one. Current and former staff have called for the resignation of the director, complaining that he has developed a corrosive, authoritarian manner while retaining a certain obtuseness on matters of race in a city that is predominately Black. There are also concerns that he has flouted ethics rules; complaints have been filed with state and federal regulators. While there are many critics, there are also some Black leaders from Detroit who suggest his critics are unfair and overlooking the many steps he has taken to reach out to their community.


The Met is Almost Ready for You

With more protocols in place, the nation's largest museum is reopening. After five months of closure due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) is finally ready to open its doors again, but with some changes. Exhibits too small to allow for social distancing will be closed to visitors, timed tickets will be scanned by hand-held devices, and for the first time, there will be valet parking for bicycles, since many people are avoiding mass transit. Most notably, the museum will now mainly be a New York institution, given the pandemic's ongoing travel restrictions. Like all New York museums that are reopening, the Met also has to play by the state's rules, namely 25% occupancy, timed ticketing, and masks. It will also require visitors to have their temperatures taken before entry.


Whitney Cancels Show Over Art Deals

The Whitney Museum of American Art last week canceled an upcoming exhibition after artists of color objected to the institution's having obtained their works through discounted sales largely meant to benefit racial justice charities. For an exhibition entitled "Collective Actions: Artist Interventions In a time of Change", the vaunted NY museum managed to alienate a group of artists it had hoped to celebrate. Several of them charged the museum with propagating systemic racism by not properly compensating Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) artists for their works, nor asking permission for the works to be displayed. The exhibition, originally scheduled to open on September 17th, was intended to showcase the critical role of artists in documenting moments of seismic change and protest, according to a now-deleted press release. Negative reaction was quick and widespread.


Union Files Complaint Over Virus App

New York City's largest municipal union has filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the Museum of Natural History over the institution's plan to require employees to record possible coronavirus symptoms on an app. The head of the union called it overly intrusive. Under the museum's plan, each day before work, the app would have asked employees to report if they had a fever or systems, like a cough or congestion. The app would have told employees whether they were cleared to work or, if not, where they might get tested for the virus. The results would then be reported to their employer. Many of the union's members saw the app, called ProtectWell, as an invasion of privacy and objected to the museum choosing a program whose data was not protected by HIPAA, the federal law on patient privacy.


Reopening to a World That Has Changed

After being closed for 163 days by the coronavirus pandemic, the British Museum last week become the last of Europe's major museums to welcome back visitors. Apart from the pandemic safety changes, the museum has also made some more permanent changes. The museum's director has said that the events surrounding the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police made him want to intensify the museum's work addressing its links with slavery and colonialism. The museum made two main changes for the reopening. The first was moving a bust of Hans Sloane - a physician and collector of curiosities whose holdings formed the basis of the museum when it was founded in 1753 - from a plinth in a prominent gallery to a display case. Now he is labeled as a "slave owner". The vitrine contains other objects related to Britain's involvement in the slave trade. The second move was the creation of a guided route around the museum called "Collecting and Empire", with plaques that explain how certain items had made their way into the museum. The changes he announced may seem small, but they caused a stir in Britain last week, angering some traditionalists.



Black Ex-Players See Bias in Payouts

Two retired players have accused the National Football League (NFL) of "explicitly and deliberately" discriminating against hundreds if not thousands of Black players who filed dementia-related claims in the landmark concussion settlement reached in 2013, making it harder for them to qualify for payouts worth as much as $3 million. In two legal actions filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, the players asked that the judge stop the NFL from insisting that race-based benchmarks be used to evaluate the players' claims. They also asked that the scores on Black players' neurocognitive exams be calculated using "race-neutral" scales that would put them on an even footing with white players. The allegations of systematic discrimination are the latest and perhaps most damning criticism of the settlement, which has been stung by delays, predatory lenders, accusations of fraud, and a lack of transparency since players began filing claims four years ago. It is unclear what percentage of Black players have had their dementia claims denied compared to white ex-players, because the settlement administrator does not publish data on the race of applicants.


New Harassment Claims Made Against Washington NFL Team

After new harassment claims, Dan Snyder vows more oversight of Washington's NFL Team. Twenty-five women alleged instances of workplace harassment in a new report that charged the NFL owner with involvement in producing a lewd video and propositioning a cheerleader.


With Walkouts, National Basketball Association Players Jolt Pro Sports

Last week, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Major League Soccer (MLS) and the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament halted for a day and canceled games in protest of the latest shooting of a Black man by police. Never before had the world of sports spoken so emphatically. The timing was unmistakably significant and the athlete walkouts were set starkly against a Trumpian vision presented at the Republican National Convention. No longer is sports offering a gentrified protest, with league-endorsed slogans on basketball jerseys. The athletes took action. This shattered the bubble of normalcy that had settled upon the NBA and its fans, who watched happily from home as a pandemic and protests raged. Jaylen Brown, Sterling Brown, and LeBron James have spoken out, like so many of their NBA compatriots, and are part of an emboldened generation of Black athletes, a vanguard challenging America's norms in numbers never seen before. At the very same time, the Republican National Convention represented and embraced an entirely different vision - one nostalgic for the past, wary of change, and angry for an entirely different reason.


Stanford Athletics Was a Family, Until It Wasn't

As a result of the coronavirus, Stanford cut teams and Olympic hopefuls all over the U.S. feel a chill. They fear that if Stanford, which has deep resources and a reputation as a factory for Olympians, can't maintain its sports programs amid the pandemic, then no one can. After being told that Stanford athletics was a family, many student athletes were blindsided when the university abruptly announced that it was cutting men's volleyball and 10 other teams - nearly one third of Stanford's 36 varsity programs. The last seasons of those sports would be in 2020-21, if the pandemic allows, and Stanford said there would be no chance of saving the teams through fund-raising.


Basketball Resumes, With Plans Beyond the Court

NBA players voted in favor of resuming the playoffs after boycotting playoff games last week. The players and league officials met with part of their discussions focused on formulating an action plan to address racial injustice issues. The NBA and players then announced a plan that includes a push for police accountability and voter registration, as well as support for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Demanding societal change and ending racial injustice has been a major part of the NBA restart.


After a Long Lull, Protesting Becomes Popular Again in Baseball

Following the boycott by NBA players, players from several baseball teams opted to cede the floor to the larger social unrest gripping the country. Taking a stand, or a knee, or refusing to play because of racial injustice in Major League Baseball (MLB) - a sport saturated with tradition and unwritten rules of conduct where the majority of players, coaches, executives, and owners are white - is different than doing so in the NBA, WNBA or NFL, leagues where most of the players are Black. Over the decades, the number of Black players in MLB has dwindled to about 8%. Some of the walkouts in MLB were pulled off last minute, contentious, or inconsistent. Yet in several cases last week, there was evidence that the sport's white leaders and players were listening more.


Star Athletes Will Lead a Multimillion-Dollar Drive to Recruit Young Poll Workers

More Than a Vote, a group of athletes headlined by LeBron James, is launching a campaign to address poll worker shortage and the need to keep polling stations open in Black electoral districts. The project is a collaboration with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and aims to recruit young people to serve at polling locations in Black communities in swing states, including Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, and Ohio. The effort will involve poll worker recruitment, a paid advertising campaign, and a corporate partnership program that will encourage employees to volunteer as poll workers. Election officials throughout the country have reported a shortage of poll workers to staff in-person voting sites amid the coronavirus pandemic.


Atlantic City Casinos Report $112 Million Loss

The coronavirus outbreak sent Atlantic City's casinos plunging to a $112 million second-quarter operating loss as the gambling houses remained closed for the entire 3-month period. That compares with an operating profit of nearly $160 million in the second quarter of last year. Only one of the 9 casinos - the Gold Nugget - reported an operating profit for the quarter, and that was helped by its internet gambling operation.


U.K. Soccer Star is Swiftly Convicted in Greece, but Case is Hardly Settled

Manchester United star Harry Maguire has claimed he thought he was being kidnapped by fake police in Mykonos and tried to run away "in fear for his life" after they hit him in the legs and told him he "won't play again." He was recently handed a 21-month suspended prison sentence following a brawl on the Greek island of Mykonos. Maguire has said that he is appealing the decision made against him a court on the Greek island of Syros and now faces a retrial. The English star insisted that he hadn't done anything wrong and didn't own an owe an apology to anybody after the Greek prosecutor called for one.


Soccer Official Evades Arrest by Afghan Forces for Assault

The powerful former chairman of Afghanistan's soccer federation, who faces criminal charges of sexual abuse of female players, eluded capture by Afghan Special Operations officers on Sunday, laying bare the tenuous reach of the national government. The unsuccessful police operation against the fugitive, Keramuddin Keram, took place in Panjshir Province, a predominately ethnic Tajik area that has long supported and protected Keram.



TikTok Sues United States Over Trump Ban

TikTok sued the U.S. government last week, accusing the Trump administration of depriving it of due process when the President used his emergency economic powers to issue an executive order that will block the app from operating in the country.


Facebook Plans to Sue Thais Over Order to Restrain Critic

Facebook is planning legal action against the government of Thailand for ordering the social media platform to partially shut down access to a group critical of the Thai monarchy. Facebook has complied with the request in the meantime, blocking users in Thailand from seeing posts from the group, Thai Royalist Marketplace, which has around one million users. The group's creator and critic of the monarchy who is living in self-imposed exile in Japan said that Facebook's decision to comply "is detrimental to both the right to freedom of expression and democracy in this region." In the U.S., Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg have repeatedly attempted to position the company as a defender of free speech, but overseas it has typically been more deferential to autocratic governments. It has also been reported that Zuckerberg lobbied Trump and members of Congress to take action against rival TikTok on the grounds that it wasn't committed to free expression.


Nine Years Later, FBI Agent Who Protested Torture Gets to Tell Entire Story in Memoir

After a lawsuit and nine years later, the CIA has relented and W.W. Norton will republish former FBI counterterrorism agent Ali Soufan's book next month under the revised title The Black Banners (Declassified): How Torture Derailed the War on Terror After 9/11. It has restored sections and adds new details to the history of the U.S.'s early post-September 11th fight against Al Qaeda. In the interim, some of what Soufan sought to discuss has become public, including the 2014 declassification of a lengthy summary of a landmark Senate study about CIA torture.


Palin's Lawsuit For Defamation Can Go to Trial, Judge Rules

A federal judge said last week that there was enough evidence in Sarah Palin's defamation lawsuit against The New York Times Company to send it to a jury trial, a victory for the former vice-presidential candidate and governor. The suit centered on a Times editorial published in June 2017 under the headline "America's Lethal Politics". Palin claims that the editorial wrongly linked her to the 2011 mass shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. The judge said there was "sufficient evidence to allow a rational finder of fact to find actual malice by clear and convincing evidence."


Ousted Host Alleges That TMZ Discriminated Against Her

A former employee of the gossip outlet TMZ and a related website filed a discrimination complaint last week with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the California state Department of Fair Employment and Housing, saying that she was wrongfully fired after complaining about a misogynistic workplace under the leadership of Harvey Levin. The former employee said she faced discrimination and was threatened with a lawsuit if she went public with her case. She described the workplace as a "boys' club", a "bro-fest", and a "frat house" in which women were belittled and held to a higher standard than their male colleagues. A representative for TMZ and TooFab said in a statement that Zilio was fired from the company "because of multiple and documented incidents of plagiarism and inaccurate reporting" and the company went on to say that it would "vigorously" defend the decision to part ways with Zilio.


Challenge to Networks: Covering a Live Convention When Falsehoods Start Flying

The Republican Convention's third night happened amid an unusual confluence of major stories - a dangerous hurricane about to strike Louisiana, a Wisconsin city torn apart following a police shooting, and the sports world's forceful response. Republicans decided the show must go on and, for the most part, television networks followed. Throughout the convention coverage, there were hints that much was going on in the wider world. The inability to pivot aggressively and spend more time on other stories no doubt had much to do with each network having all of its top-level political talent on hand. Networks, after giving extensive coverage to the Democrats previously, are cognizant of being fair to the Republicans.


Social Media a Potent Tool for Bannon's Group

Since the arrest of his former senior political adviser Stephen K. Bannon, Trump has tried to distance himself from the nonprofit group that raised more than $25 million for the supposed purpose of building a wall along the border with Mexico. However, social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are living documentation of just how hard the backers of the group, We Build the Wall, worked to demonstrate that they were not only were close to Trump and his family, but had been endorsed by them. The We Build the Wall organization ran a livestream of Trump's remarks and then sent out the recording over YouTube to try to make sure it was widely seen, promoting the video again via its social media accounts. Other conservative leaders and Trump supporters made visits to the construction site, with every stopover by a celebrity or elected official becoming another fund-raising opportunity.


Chief Executive of TikTok Says He Will Resign

TikTok has been under pressure from the Trump administration, and Kevin Mayer, the chief executive of the Chinese-owned video app, said last week that he was resigning after the company came under sustained pressure form the Trump administration over its ties to China.


Beijing Complicates Sale of TikTok

ByteDance has been ordered by President Trump to divest short video app TikTok in the United States amid security concerns over the personal data it handles. China's new rules around tech exports mean that ByteDance's sale of TikTok's U.S. operation could need Beijing's approval, a requirement that would complicate the forced and politically charged divestment.


As China Sets a Digital Dragnet, Hong Kong Dodges, and Weaves

Emboldened by a new law, Hong Kong security forces are turning to harsher tactics as they close a digital dragnet on activists and others, including unlocking phones to obtain passwords. Not accustomed to such pressures, Hong Kong lawmakers and activists, and the American companies that own the most popular internet services there, have struggled to respond. Pro-democracy politicians have issued instructions to supporters on how to secure digital devices. Dogged by the global reach of the law, even people from Hong Kong living far away from the city worry.


General News

Census Facing Severe Doubts Over Accuracy

The 2020 census is in its final stage, but there are still 38 million households uncounted and state and local officials are raising growing concerns that many poor and minority households will be left out. More than one in three people hired as census takers have quit or failed to show up. Officials project optimism, but a chorus of experts says that the pandemic and politics could lead to a deeply flawed count. COVID-19 and rising mistrust of the government on the part of hard-to-reach groups, like immigrants and Latinos, already had made this census challenging. Another issue has also upended it: An order last month to finish the count one month early, guaranteeing that population figures will be delivered to the White House while Trump is still in office.


Trump Nominated as G.O.P. Delivers Ominous Message

President Trump was trying to rewrite history and enlist front-line Covid workers to the cause. The strain showed. There was a focus on grievance instead of uplift. Trump spent his time recasting his history on the virus, race, and his record. Trump and his political allies mounted a fierce and misleading defense of his political record on the first night of the Republican Convention while unleashing a barrage of attacks on Joseph R. Biden Jr. and the Democratic Party that were unrelenting in their bleakness.


G.O.P. Offers No New Platform for 2020, Aside from Enthusiastic Support of Trump

The Republican National Committee issued a resolution stating that due to constraints on the size of this year's Republican National Convention, it will not be adopting a new party platform, leaving in place the one from 2016. The resolution says that the platform committee would have agreed to continue supporting President Trump and his administration, but did not want to have a small group draft a new platform for the party.


Federal Reserve Chair Paves Way for a Period of Lower Rates

Federal Reserve Chair has unveiled a new approach to setting U.S. monetary policy, letting inflation and employment run higher in a shift that will likely keep interest rates low for years to come. Powell said last week that the Federal Reserve will seek inflation that averages 2% over time, a step that implies allowing for price pressures to overshoot after periods of weakness. It also adjusted its view of full employment to permit labor-market gains to reach more workers.


Wisconsin City Erupts After a Police Shooting and U.S. Investigates As Kenosha Boils

The scene of a white police officer shooting a Black man continues to occur with devasting frequency in the U.S. In Kenosha, Wisconsin, another Black man, Jacob Blake, was shot seven times in the back. The city has since erupted in protests over the police shooting. Kenosha, a city of 100,000 that a generation ago was a car-making powerhouse, is the latest place where a police shooting left residents reeling. The shooting, which was captured in a brief but searing video by a neighbor, drew immediate condemnation from Wisconsing Governor Tony Evers. The shooting instantly became a rallying cry for demonstrators in cities like Portland, Madison, and Chicago, and a topic in the presidential race, where Wisconsin is a crucial battleground. The Justice Department announced a civil rights investigation as new details emerged in the case.



White House Serves as Campaign Prop, Breaking a Tradition

In a video shown at the Republican National Convention, President Trump and acting head of Homeland Security Chad Wolf welcomed five immigrants through a naturalization ceremony. The ceremonies are typically momentous and celebrated with family and close friends. However, this one shocked government ethics experts, who said its use as part of a partisan political convention violated the Hatch Act. The federal law restricts federal employees from participating in certain political activities to safeguard federal programs from election and partisan influences.


White House Dismisses Suggestions that Events Broke Corruption Law

The Trump administration has pushed back against widespread criticism that its staging and filming of events at the White House used as programming for the Republican Convention was illegal - dismissing arguments that it had violated the Hatch Act, a law intended to prevent the use of public power for private political gain. During the convention, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a speech from Jerusalem, in an apparent violation of separate State Department rules, and the first lady delivered a speech from the Rose Garden. Trump's chief of staff suggested that the Hatch Act was outdated. The White House put forward a legal theory for why the two ceremonies were not Hatch Act violations, saying its role in staging them and posting videos of them on YouTube was an official act unrelated to the campaign's decision to then use the publicly available material for political purposes. Yet a range of legal and ethics experts agreed that the administration was blowing through the spirit of the Hatch Act.


One Million More People File Claims Seeking Jobless Benefits

Just over one million people filed for jobless claims, a dip of 98,000 from the previous week, according to data released by the Labor Department. Claims have largely plateaued in the last several weeks after steadily declining from a peak of nearly 7 million in March. The figures are unprecedented.


Postal Chief, in Heated Exchange with House Panel, Defends Changes

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy faced a barrage of sharp attacks last week from House Democrats, who criticized DeJoy's actions and questioned his motivations since taking n his role leading the U.S. Postal Service in June. He defended his performance, downplaying the changes he made, and saying he was focused on stopping the Postal Service's money-losing ways. DeJoy faced pointed questions along with attacks over his role as a finance official in the Republican National Committee and a major donor to Trump, who has repeatedly attacked mail-in voting.


Trump Keeps Trumpeting Drug Order No One Has Seen

The president's campaign has made his efforts to lower prescription drug prices a centerpiece of his re-election pitch, but the executive order remains unseen. Trump has made his executive order tying prescription drug prices in the U.S. to the prices paid in Europe and other developed nations, yet no such executive order has been released. Trump has boasted of his efforts in campaign advertising, on the official White House website, and on Twitter. A White House spokesman declined to comment on the missing order. The directive, which Trump refers to as a "favored nations clause," was one of four executive orders announced at the signing ceremony on July 24th.


New York Seeks an Order for Eric Trump to Testify

The New York State attorney general's office has stepped up its inquiry into whether President Trump and the Trump organization committed fraud by overstating assets to get loans and tax benefits, asking a judge to order Eric Trump to answer questions under oath and the company to hand over documents. Eric, who is Trump's son and an executive vice president of the company, abruptly canceled an interview with the attorney general's office last month, and last week the Trump Organization told the office that the company and its lawyers would not comply with 7 subpoenas related to the investigation. The investigation began back in March of 2019 after Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, told Congress that the president had inflated his assets in financial statements.


Evictions Are Looming as Shields Near End

For tenants, especially those with limited means, having a lawyer can be the difference between being evicted or being able to stay on in a rented home. Yet legal representation for tenants is relatively rare in housing courts. Landlords are represented by lawyers at least 80% of the time, while tenants tend to have lawyers in fewer than 10% of cases. This unlevel playing field is about to come into sharper focus in the months ahead, now that the 4-month pause on evictions provided by the CARES Act, followed by a 30-day notice period that ends on Monday, is coming to an end. The moratorium had provided protection to about 12 million tenants living in qualifying properties. Additionally, local moratoriums in some states had protected renters in homes not covered by the federal law. "Tenants are not equipped to represent themselves, and eviction court places them on an uneven playing field that allows landlords to run roughshod over their rights." Demand for legal assistance with housing issues is on the rise in states where local moratoriums for rentals not covered by the CARES Act have already ended.


Immigration Agency Avoids Furloughs for Thousands, but Forces Steep Cuts

Plunging revenue from immigration fees nearly forced U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to furlough more than two-thirds of its work force. Now cuts will come from its operations. The federal agency that oversees legal immigration canceled furloughs to 70% of its work force last week, shifting the cost savings to other parts of the agency's operations, such as the processing of citizenship applications. The planned furlough would have brought the immigration system to a near halt. However, allowing the thousands of immigration officers to continue working will come at a cost. Officials asked Congress back in May for an emergency infusion of $1.2 billion, but some USCIS employees and members of Congress said that it was Trump's increased vetting of applications, travel restrictions, and other measures used to deter potential immigrants that have diminished fee revenue. Both Democrats and Republicans also criticized the administration for not providing enough information about the emergency request, leaving thousands of immigration officers questioning for weeks whether they would still be on the payroll of the agency.


Navajo Nation Says Execution Would Violate Its Sovereignty

The Justice Department executed the only Native American man on federal death row, despite urgent pleas from more than a dozen tribes to respect Navajo culture and spare his life. The inmate faced the death penalty for his part in the 2001 murder of a Navajo woman, Alyce Slim, and her 9-year-old granddaughter, Tiffany Lee. His execution is the first time that a Native American man has been put to death by the federal government for a crime committed against another Native American on a reservation. Tribal activists have argued that this case exemplifies the fraught relationship between tribes and federal law enforcement, which often disregards protections for tribal sovereignty.


House Panel Plans to Hold Pompeo in Contempt of Congress for Eluding Subpoenas

The House Foreign Affairs Committee announced that it would move to hold Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in contempt of Congress for defying its subpoenas related to the State Department's participation in Senate Republican's investigation targeting the Bidens. The move amounts to a rare and stinging rebuke of the nation's top diplomat, who has drawn criticism for flouting norms of diplomatic custom in pursuit of Trump's political interests in his own ambitions. The chairman sought records from Pompeo, but was told that receiving the records was contingent upon his committee agreeing to investigate the Bidens. A spokesman for the State Department called the announcement "political theatrics and an unfortunate waste of taxpayer resources."


Looking Back to 1963, and Ahead to November

Thousands gathered for a protest last Friday aiming to recall the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.'s (MLK) "I Have a Dream" speech. Hours after Trump stood on the South Law of the White House to rail against what he called agitators bent on destroying "the American way of life", thousands of Americans streamed to the Lincoln Memorial, not a mile away, to deliver what seemed to be a direct reply. The march was devised in part to build on the passion for racial justice that MLK summoned when he delivered his famous address on that same spot 57 years ago. Civil rights advocates and Black ministers often cast Trump as the prime obstacle to their goal, and voting to remove him as the first step toward a solution. With the march coming just after the conclusion of the Republican National Convention, the two events presented starkly different accounts of the state of the country in a summer marked by widespread protests of police officers killing Black people and a pandemic that has taken about 181,000 lives and cost millions of jobs. King's March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom drew an audience of a 250,000 in 1963. The Commitment March last week did not approach that number, in part because the city is requiring quarantines for visitors from 27 states. Much of the event was streamed live on the internet or broadcast. Attendees were screened for fever, required to wear masks, and were told to stay apart to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection.


Intelligence Officials Stop In-Person Briefings on Election for Congress

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has informed the House and Senate Select Committees on Intelligence that it will no longer be briefing in-person on election security issues. Instead, ODNI will primarily provide written updates to the congressional panels. Other agencies supporting election security, including the Department of Justice, Department of Defense, and Department of Homeland Security, intend to continue briefing Congress. The abrupt announcement is a change that runs counter to the pledge of transparency and regular briefings on election threats by the intelligence community.


Intelligence Officials Call Mail-In Voting Secure

The FBI says that it has no evidence of any coordinated fraud schemes related to voting by mail this year, undercutting repeated claims by Trump and his camp about what they've called security problems. That disclosure was made in an election security briefing for reporters last week by high-ranking officials from the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and ODNI.


Ancestry Says Holocaust Records Will be Free

Steven Spielberg's U.S.C. Shoah Foundation has partnered with the genealogy giant Ancestry to digitize about 50,000 records, adding to a free searchable database in Ancestry's Holocaust archive. The partnership, along with an additional 9 million records from the Arolsen Archives in Germany that Ancestry digitized this year to add to its site, nearly doubles the size of its Holocaust archives. A recent glitch during a soft launch trial run left some survivors and their family members, already uncomfortable about having so much sensitive information public, wondering just what is free and what isn't. Ancestry said it is working to "simplify" the experience so that "there is no possible confusion about the free availability of these two collection." Some survivor families feel betrayed by Shoah's move to add their family histories to a public website without consulting them, given the psychology of victimhood and trauma of the Holocaust's legacy.


A Race to Evacuate, Facing a Storm Surge Called 'Unsurvivable'

A 100-mile stretch from Texas to Louisiana is facing an "unsurvivable storm surge" as Hurricane Laura hurdled towards land form the Gulf of Mexico. It was forcasted that the surge could penetrate up to 30 miles inland from the immediate coastline, bringing dangerous gusts and flash flooding with it. Emergency evacuation orders were in effect for half a million people who live in regions of Texas and Louisiana and includes some the poorest counties in the nation.


Insurer Won't Keep Lawyer Who Helped Whistle-Blower

Mark S. Zaid, the lawyer for the government whistle-blower whose concerns about Trump's dealings with Ukraine sparked impeachment proceedings, has been dropped by his malpractice insurer because his underwriter said it had no "appetite" for his "high-profile" work. The insurer, Hanover Insurance Group, declined Zaid's request to reverse course. A Hanover senior compliance consultant said that the insurer discovered his whistle-blower practice when it reviewed the attorney's website, and that such an area of law was "ineligible" for coverage. Zaid disputed that, saying he was asked about - and discussed - his whistle-blower practice when he was applying for insurance coverage.


Iran to Open Nuclear Sites to Inspection By the United Nations

Iran has agreed to let United Nations (UN) inspectors into two previously blocked nuclear sites, reversing itself during an international feud over its nuclear program that has divided world powers and increasingly isolated the United States. The reversal comes amid a UN Security Council split over whether to restore international sanctions against Iran's economy - and demolish a 2015 accord that limits its nuclear program. In a joint statement, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran said they had reached a good-faith agreement for the inspections to verify that Tehran's nuclear program remained peaceful. Just two months ago, the IAEA had accused Iran of hiding suspected nuclear activity after inspectors were refused access in 2 unidentified locations.


Africa Cheers As Wild Polio is Eradicated

The independent Africa Regional Certification Commission for Polio Eradication last week officially declared the World Health Organization African Region to be free of wild polio virus.


Germany Calls for Inquiry as Doctors Say Putin Critic Was Poisoned

Tests indicate that Alexei Navalny was the victim of a poisoning and he is being treated with atropine, the same antidote used after the 2018 nerve agent attack in Salisbury, according to the German clinic where the Kremlin critic is a patient. Berlin's Charité hospital did not identify the specific poison responsible for Navalny's sudden illness. The statement was the first medical corroboration of a poisoning attack on Navalny and marked him as likely the latest Kremlin opponent to face an attempt on his life. A hospital in the Russian city of Omsk had previously denied that Navalny had been poisoned. Supporters said doctors there were under government pressure to cover up any evidence of an attack against the opposition critic. International leaders have voiced concern over the Russian opposition critic's health and confirmation of his poisoning will likely prompt a wave of condemnation of the Kremlin.



Stung by Trump, U.S. Food and Drug Administration Authorizes Plasma Therapy

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was accused of "Deep State" delay tied to the election. The move came on the eve of the Republican Convention and after Trump pressed it to move faster to address the pandemic. The FDA gave emergency approval for expanded use of antibody-rich blood plasma to help hospitalized coronavirus patients, allowing Trump to claim progress on the eve of the convention. The decision will broaden use of a treatment that has already been administered to more than 70,000 patients. However, the FDA cited benefits for only some patients, and, unlike a new drug, plasma cannot be manufactured in millions of doses; its availability is limited by blood donations.


FDA 'Grossly Misrepresented' Data on Plasma Therapy, Scientists Say

The scientific community is distancing itself from the Trump administration's claim that convalescent blood plasma curtails COVID-19 deaths by 35%. The president, along with the heads of FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), cited the statistic as they announced emergency authorization of the treatment. Several statisticians and scientists criticized what they said was a gross overstatement of the benefits, with some calling for him to walk back his comments.


Two Are Ousted After FDA Overstates Plasma Data

The agency's chief spokeswoman, Emily Miller, was removed from her position just 11 days into the job and the contract was terminated of a consultant who had advised her to correct misleading claims about plasma's benefits. The ousting was an urgent bid to restore the tarnished credibility of the agency after erroneous claims that overstated the benefits of plasma treatment for Covid-19 were made during a news conference with Trump. The removals come at a moment when the FDA, which will be making critical decisions about whether to approve coronavirus vaccines and treatments, is struggling to salvage its reputations as a neutral scientific arbiter.


Virus Aid to Hospitals Rested on Compliance With Private Company

The HHS told hospitals in April that reporting to the vendor, TeleTracking Technologies, was a "prerequisite to payment". The Trump administration tied billions of dollars in badly needed coronavirus medical funding this spring to hospitals' cooperation with a private vendor collecting data for a new Covid-19 database that bypassed the CDC. The highly unusual demand, aimed at hospitals in coronavirus hot spots using funds passed by Congress with no preconditions, alarmed some hospital administrators and even some federal health officials.


Battling Heat and the Virus at the Harvest

Climate change is adding on the hazards already faced by some of the country's poorest, most neglected laborers. So far this year, more than 7,000 fires have scorched 1.4 million acres, and there is no reprieve in sight, officials warned. In the valley is where the smoke gets stuck when the wind blows it in form the north and south. Still hundreds of thousands of men and women continue to pluck, weed, and pack produce for the nation here, as temperatures soar into the triple digits for days at a time and the air turns to a soup of dust and smoke, stirred with pollution.


No Symptoms? Don't Test, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Says

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quietly modified its coronavirus testing guidelines this week to exclude people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19 - even if they have been recently exposed to the virus. Experts questioned the revision, pointing to the importance of identifying infections in the small window immediately before the onset of symptoms, when many individuals appear to be most contagious. Models suggest that about half of transmission events can be traced back to individuals still in this so-called pre-symptomatic stage, before they start to feel ill - if they ever feel sick at all.


'Clarification' From CDC on Who Needs a Test Adds to the Confusion

After saying that those exposed to the virus need not get tested, the agency's director clarified that "testing may be considered" for those people. In seeking to clarify, he said that "testing may be considered for all close contacts of confirmed or probable Covid-19 patients." Yet his clarification may have further confused the issue. Administration officials said that "not necessarily" needing a test was consistent with "may be considered" for one. However, experts said the shift in language was leaving patients, doctors, and state and local public health officials - who rely on the CDC for guidance - perplexed.


U.S. Connects Health Funds to Virus Data

The Trump administration threatened hospitals last week with revoking their Medicare and Medicaid funding if they did not report coronavirus patient data and test results to HHS. The threat was included in new emergency rules, announced by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, that make mandatory what has until now been a voluntary reporting program. The centers' administrator said the changes "represent a dramatic acceleration of our efforts to track and control the spread of Covid-19."


New Clue on Why Men are Hit Harder

Women produce a more powerful immune response than do men, a new study finds. The coronavirus may infect anyone, young or old, but older men are up to twice as likely to become severly sick and to die as women of the same age. The first study to look at immune response to the coronavirus by sex has turned up a clue: Men produce a weaker immune response to the virus than do women, the researchers concluded. The findings suggest that men, particularly those over age 60, may need to depend more on vaccines to protect against the infection.


The Return to Campus Has Created Clusters From Coast to Coast

As college students and professors return to campus, coronavirus cases are turning up by the thousands.


About August 2020

This page contains all entries posted to The Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Blog in August 2020. They are listed from oldest to newest.

July 2020 is the previous archive.

September 2020 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.