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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.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 17, 2020 9:32 AM.

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