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September 2020 Archives

September 7, 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:


Adult Film Star Ron Jeremy Charged with 13 New Counts of Sexual Assault

The new charges bring the total number of alleged victims to 17.


Venice Film Festival Opens, Defiant but Socially Distant

Venice will host the first major international movie event since the beginning of the pandemic, with strict social distancing and masking measures. Certain seats will be left empty at theaters to facilitate distancing among spectators and the number of screenings has doubled to accommodate smaller crowds.



Theater Operator Sues Insurers That Denied It Coronavirus Payments

Jujamcyn Theaters, which operates five Broadway houses, is suing its insurance provider, claiming that it was wrongfully denied insurance coverage over losses suffered due to the pandemic. The insurance industry has denied a high number of claims for business income loss from all types of nonessential businesses that closed in March, generally using a two-pronged argument: "that its policies never promised this kind of coverage in the first place and that fulfilling all of these requests would bankrupt the industry." In its lawsuit, Jujamcyn argues that the pandemic did cause "direct physical loss or damage," which is needed to trigger payments, because the virus can adhere to surfaces and linger in buildings (even though there was no traditional building damage or shut down of the surrounding area by a civil authority).


2020 Art Basel Miami Beach is Cancelled

This year's event is being cancelled, with organizers citing coronavirus conditions in South Florida as the main reason for their decision.


Actress Leaves the Actors' Union to Play Othello

Actor Jessika Williams has left Actors' Equity, the labor union representing performers and stage managers, in order to play the title role in "Othello". The union has barred its members from in-person performances (except for some performances in New England, where rates of infection are low). Williams and several other actors have signed a "isolation covenant" while working at the American Shakespeare Center in Virginia.


President Trump Ended 2018 France Trip Having Art Loaded on Air Force One

President Trump returned to the U.S. with a few pieces of art from the American ambassador's residence, including a painting, bust, and figurines, which are now on display at the White House. The art is reportedly worth about $750,000 and because it was U.S. government property, the move was deemed legal.


Banksy-Funded Rescue Vessel Evacuated After Distress Call

Nearly 150 migrants were rescued off a ship funded by the artist Banksy and moved to a humanitarian ship patrolling the Mediterranean. The vessel had too many people on board and could no longer steer.



Congress Looks into Bias Claims in National Football League Concussion Settlement

Lawmakers are asking the National Football League (NFL) to explain the race-based benchmarks used in the landmark concussion settlement to determine whether retired football players suffering from dementia were eligible for payouts. The four senators have asked the NFL to outline what efforts it made to reduce any "embedded biases in the data" as players themselves ask the judge overseeing the settlement to have their neurocognitive exams recalculated using race-neutral scales and other metrics like education and age, to put them on an even footing with white players.


National Basketball Association's Head Coaching Diversity Under Scrutiny

The Brooklyn Nets' hiring of Steve Nash has once again raised questions about coaching diversity in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Nash is a two-time Most Valuable Player, but a newcomer to the coaching world, even though he has worked extensively with the Canadian national basketball team as the program's general manager. Nash's lack of coaching experience and the fact that other well-regarded Black coaches either remain unemployed or are put in situations where it may be more difficult to succeed, raises new questions about the NBA's practices in hiring and retaining Black coaches.




NFL Takes Over Sexual Harassment Investigator of Washington Football Team

The move is in response to criticism from some of the women alleging discrimination that team owner Daniel Snyder hired the firm investigating the matter and would be controlling the response to its findings. The law firm conducting "an independent review of the team's culture, policies and allegations of workplace misconduct" will now report to NFL officials. Lawyers representing former team employees also called on the league to "publicly commit to taking action to remove Snyder as majority owner" if the results of the investigation warrant it.


U.S. Threat to Pull Funding from the World Anti-Doping Agency Could Leave Americans Out of the Olympics

Anti-doping leaders say American athletes could be banned from the Olympics if the U.S. follows through on its threat to pull funding from World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). WADA says that it has been approached by various countries to introduce legislation that would render the U.S. non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code. The International Olympic Committee requires compliance to allow nations to participate in the games.

The U.S. is WADA's largest contributor, with $2.7 million in 2020. A recent report by the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy was very critical of WADA's governance model and its stance toward Russia and Russia's orchestration of a state-sponsored doping programme.


U.S. Justice Department Looking into FIFA for Possible Breaches of Antitrust Laws

The Justice Department's antitrust division has expressed concerns to soccer's governing body that any future rules prohibiting teams from playing regular-season games outside their home countries "could violate U.S. antitrust laws". The proposed rule is already the subject of litigation between American sports promoter Relevent Sports and FIFA and the U.S. Soccer Federation. Relevent has accused both organizations "of conspiring to block Relevent from bringing regular-season games from overseas leagues to North America."


Two Athletes Are United in Search for Justice

Professional basketball players Natasha Cloud and Bradley Beal, of the Washington Mystics and Wizards, respectively, are fashioning their careers to include anti-racism activism in the nation's capital.


Hockey Series Briefly Suspends Hostilities in Response to Police Shooting

Players in the Golden Knights-Canucks series have resumed play after a two-day suspension of the postseason in solidarity with other professional leagues who were protesting police shootings and the broader issue of racial injustice.


Minor League Baseball to Undergo Major Changes When Major League Baseball Agreement Ends

In 2018, Congress passed legislation exempting minor league players from federal minimum wage or overtime entitlements. As minor league owners (who don't pay the players) had supported Major League Baseball (MLB) in getting the law passed, many felt betrayed when the MLB announced that it planned to reduce the number of minor league teams from 160 to 120.

That plan will soon come to fruition when the current agreement between the two leagues expires on September 30th. Under MLB's most recent proposal, Minor League Baseball (MiLB) will no longer operate as an independent entity, but will be brought under MLB's umbrella. MLB teams will get to "pick their affiliates - four apiece, with discretion to cull the minor league clubs that play in substandard facilities or are simply inconveniently located."


National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to Furlough All Indianapolis-Based Staff

The NCAA will furlough its entire staff of about 600 employees in a cost-cutting measure. All staff will be subjected to a mandatory three-week furlough, which for some can be extended to eight weeks. The NCAA also implemented salary freezes and announced that senior management would take a 20% pay cut.


Family Accuses College of Forcing Ailing Son to Play Football

The family of a University of New Mexico student who died by suicide last year is suing the school, athletics staff, and the NCAA, alleging that the student was forced to play football even though he had injuries and suffered from severe headaches and depression. They accuse the defendants of negligence and say that student athletes recovering from injuries at the school were treated differently on the basis of race.


Novak Djokovic Announces Proposal for Men's Player Union

Novak Djokovic and Vasek Pospisil announced the beginning of a player-only association called the Professional Tennis Players Association. The self-proclaimed co-presidents said the group will be led by up to nine players and will focus on issues like "revenue sharing, disciplinary actions, player pensions, travel, insurance and amenities at tournaments." It is not clear what the distinction could be between this body and a players' union, which does not exist in tennis. Members of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Player Council, including Federer and Nadal, as well as the sport's governing bodies, spoke out against the plan. Andy Murray expressed concern about the male-only membership "policy," saying that there was value in having a group that represents both men and women.


Advertisers Ask Networks for Flexibility Around NFL Buys in 2020

Concerned about the viability of the NFL season, ad buyers are pressing TV networks for flexibility when it comes to their spending commitments if games get cancelled. Verizon, for example, wants to be able to walk back commitments or cancel ads closer to their air dates.


NBA 2K League Shows Signs of Viewership Growth

NBA's 2K League has shown signs of growth this year, especially as the NBA leaned on its e-sports arm during the pandemic to stage online tournaments and keep basketball content flowing even during the its shutdown. This year's games attracted 76% more viewers than last year and the NBA continues to develop the league, citing among other factors the sponsorship revenue that it generates.


The U.S. Open - An Experiment on Whether Big Events Can Return to New York

The U.S. Open has set in motion an "experiment that could show what international sports, as well as New York, might be capable of while navigating the public health threat." The tournament will provide public health experts and event planners with a new data set, considering that athletes were not required to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival in the U.S., but were required to undergo testing within the first 48 hours and every four days; to remain cloistered in a local hotel; and follow other preventative protocols while playing in empty stadiums.


The U.S. Open Descends into Pandemic Precaution Chaos

The U.S. Open instituted a series of rules changes for players who were exposed to Benoit Paire, a French player who tested positive for the virus. The precautions kept players confined to their hotel rooms and several matches were delayed or cancelled after different public health departments issued contradictory rulings on whether certain players should play following exposure. Nassau County's health department said two players who had direct contact with Paire, both on a women's doubles team, had to abide by the county's quarantine protocols, and were issued quarantine notices, which led to their withdrawal from the tournament.




A Modified "My Old Kentucky Home" To Be Played at Derby

Churchill Downs says the 100-year tradition of playing the song at the track will be modified and preceded by a moment of silence and reflection. The song was originally an abolitionist song that lost its meaning and became "caught up in the 'imagery of the lost cause'". It was often sung at minstrel shows in blackface. Track representatives acknowledged the history of racism in horse racing and said that a discussion of social justice issues will be incorporated in its coverage of the Derby.


Black Horse Owner Faces Pressure to Pull Out of the Kentucky Derby

The New York Times is reporting that Greg Harbut is being urged to follow the lead of professional athletes and boycott the Derby. Harbut, one of the industry's few African American owners, is adamant that the predominantly white sport must change, but says his participation in the race serves to "remind people ... that horse racing history here begins with African-Americans."


National Hockey League Could Temporarily Realign to Form Canadian Division

Though the National Hockey League (NHL) plans to start its 82-game season on December 1st, there is a possibility that it would create a Canadian Division for the 2020-21 season, in which the seven Canadian clubs "play exclusively against each other." The NHL could also revisit the hub concept, where players fly into a bubble city to play and fly back out.


English Premier League Terminates China TV Agreement

The soccer league said that it cancelled the broadcast contract, worth a reported $700 million, after it could not resolve a dispute with its Chinese partner, Suning Holdings. Suning failed to pay the league $200 million in fees on the first year of the three-year agreement. The Premier League has sustained huge financial damage due to the pandemic and lost a lucrative revenue stream when it resumed its season in front of empty stadiums. Politics has also come to bear on the relationship when Arsenal games were taken off the air in China after Mesut Ozil denounced China's treatment of its Muslim minority.



Twitter and Facebook Warn of Russian Meddling in U.S. Elections

Both companies are warning that Russia is actively involved in campaigns of disinformation, using fake accounts and circulating conspiracy theories aimed at American social media users.


Why Facebook's Blocking of New Political Ads May Be Futile

Facebook will block new political ads starting on October 27th, but critics say there are other ways that voter misinformation can spread on the social network, including by way of messages users post and discussions in private Facebook groups.



U.S. Preparing Antitrust Case Against Google

As the Justice Department builds its antitrust case against Google, there is reportedly some tension between attorney general William Barr and career prosecutors who say they need more time to build the case. The Justice Department has reportedly told lawyers to wrap up their work by the end of September, which the lawyers see as an arbitrary, and possible politically-motivated, deadline.


Journalist Quits Kenosha Paper in Protest of Its Jacob Blake Rally Coverage

Editor Daniel Thompson resigned over the paper's coverage of a rally in support of the Black man shot by a Kenosha police officer. Thompson took issue with a headline that focused on the words of a Black protestors who said, "If you kill one of us, it's time for us to kill one of yours," a remark that he said did not accurately sum up the article or the tone of the protests.


Twitter to Add New Context Feature to Trending Topics

Despite calls to remove the Trending Topics feature altogether, the company has decided to include explanatory tweets and descriptions to show
why a subject is trending in response to criticism that the feature allows for the spread of false or hateful information.


Another Teenager Linked to July Twitter Hack

A search warrant was recently executed at the home of a Massachusetts teenager who is thought to be partly responsible for planning the breach
and carrying out some of the cyberattacks. So far, three people have been arrested in the hack.


Time Off for Parenting Angers Nonparents in Tech Industry

Work policies at major tech companies have caused a rift between employees who are parents and those who are not. Facebook employees, for instance, took issue with policies that were extended to and primarily benefited parents. As a result of more flexible paid time off policies, some employees feel they are being asked to carry a heavier workload.


Facebook Could Block Sharing of News Stories in Australia

The response comes after a bill in Australia would require companies to pay media publishers when their content is posted on the social network. The draft legislation is supported by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and is aimed at addressing the "power imbalances between news publishers struggling with the collapse of traditional media and conglomerates with thriving online ad businesses."


BBC Loses Battle Over Lyrics of British Songs

The British broadcaster reversed its decision to strip the lyrics from two patriotic songs that are set to be performed at a televised concert. Critics say the lyrics of "Rule, Britannia!" and "Land of Hope and Glory" evoke a British colonial, imperialist past.


Charlie Hebdo Trial Reopens in Paris

While the two men responsible for carrying out the Charlie Hebdo attack died in a shootout with police, this trial will focus on individuals accused of aiding the 2015 attack on the magazine's offices and another attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris. The attack killed 17 people and was followed by a number of jihadist attacks in the city that killed another 130 people.


French Magazine Sparks Outrage Over Depiction of Black Lawmaker as Enslaved African

The racist portrayal of Daniele Obono came by way of a fictional narrative and illustration published in conservative French magazine Valeurs Actuelles. Among the images was one portraying the lawmaker with chains around her neck. The narrative was part of a series in which contemporary politicians are depicted in earlier historical periods and drew widespread condemnation across the political spectrum.


China Detains Australian Host for Chinese State TV

Australian journalist Cheng Lei was a host on Chinese state-run television. The government has not commented publicly on the case nor given reasons for her detention. The move has the potential to become another irritant in the country's relations with Australia, already strained due to the earlier detention of another Australian writer and businessman of Chinese heritage in 2019.


General News

Court Approves Warrantless Surveillance Rules

A declassified ruling issued in December of last year signed off on another year of the surveillance program while still noting that the FBI had committed "widespread violations" of privacy rules when its analysts searched through emails obtained from American companies without a warrant under a 2008 law known as Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act.


Election Officials Push Back Against Trump: Voting Twice is Illegal

Election officials say the president is sowing confusion by calling into question a system that already has robust checks against fraud, including against people voting twice. This, after the president encouraged North Carolina voters to test the integrity of the elections system by voting by both mail and in-person ballots. In some states, even soliciting someone to vote twice in an election is illegal. In terms of the precautions available to prevent people from voting twice or to detect double voting, states like North Carolina have electronic poll books at polling centers that are updated regularly with information about who has already voted, excluding the names of those who have already voted absentee.


Former Officials Say Justice Department Did Not Fully Examine Trump's Ties to Russia

According to former law enforcement officials, former deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein took steps to narrow a Justice Department inquiry into whether Trump's financial and personal ties to Russia posed a national security threat. The article reports that Rosenstein had a number of reasons for curtailing the investigation - he believed the FBI lacked sufficient reason to conduct an investigation and that the acting head of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, who had approved the opening of the inquiry, had conflicts of interest.


Department of Homeland Security Blocked Warnings of Russian Campaign Against Biden

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) declined to publish an intelligence document that warned of Russian attempts to undermine Biden's campaign by questioning his health in posts of Russian state media agencies. The acting secretary of DHS said the department's intelligence office questioned the quality of the report.


Promise to Fight Domestic Terrorism Remained Unfulfilled

Despite its commitment to address domestic terrorism and white nationalist threat, it is still unclear how the DHS intends to follow up on that promise. The article argues that leadership at the DHS appears to be doing the opposite of what it promised, especially in the context of recent protests, by refusing to cooperate with local governments to combat domestic unrest and deploying federal teams to maintain order, against the wishes of local governments.


Barr Imposes Limits on FBI Surveillance of Political Candidates

In a memo issued this week, Attorney General Barr said that before seeking a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor communications, the Justice Department and the FBI should warn elected officials or political candidates that they may be targets of foreign governments. There is also a requirement for the FBI to explain why it departed from this practice where no warning is given.


One Million Primary Ballots Were Mailed Late

According to an internal Postal Service audit, more than one million mail-in ballots were sent late - i.e. during the final week of the primary elections, putting absentee voters at risk of not having their votes back in time to be counted.


House Panel to Subpoena DeJoy Over Mail Delays and Trump Communications

The House Oversight Committee intends to subpoena DeJoy for documents it says were withheld from Congress related to mail delays and communications with the Trump campaign. House Democrats have accused DeJoy of sowing confusion through a set of cost-cutting changes he introduced at the U.S. Postal Service that have resulted in slower delivery times and that could impact the upcoming election.


Postal Service Paid Firm Tied to Postmaster General DeJoy $286 Million Since 2013

Documents obtained through a public records request show that the U.S. Postal Service paid the Postmaster General's former employer, XPO Logistics, $33-45 million annually since 2014 "for services that include managing transportation and providing support during peak time." More significantly, they show a surge in revenue for XPO from the Postal Service since DeJoy joined the Postal Service in June.


Trump Intends to Cut Federal Funding from Cities He Deems "Lawless"

President Trump has directed officials to identify "anarchist jurisdictions" and withhold federal funding from them. Most are cities controlled by Democrats and that have recently experienced a wave of protests and violence over systemic racism in policing. The president's memo targets New York and specifically mentions the recent rise in crime in the city, as well as the agreement to cut $1 billion in funding from the city's police department.


Federal Appeals Panel Says Trump Not Required to Turn Over Tax Returns While Matter is Being Appealed

According to the ruling, Trump is not required to turn over tax records to the Manhattan district attorney's office until a decision is issued in his appeal where he argues that the request for records is overbroad and politically motivated.


Court Denies Flynn's Request to End Case

In an en banc decision, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has ruled that a federal judge could proceed with his plans to scrutinize the Justice Department's request to dismiss its case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn.


New York Times Editorial Board: Punish Congressman for Video Fraud

The paper's editorial board is calling on Congress to take a stand against Representative Steve Scalise, who shared a doctored and misleading video featuring Joe Biden. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee filed a complaint against Scalise with the Office of Congressional Ethics, which reviews allegations of congressional misconduct and can refer complaints to the House Ethics Committee.


Trump Drawing on Campaign Funds to Pay Legal Bills

President Trump appears to have drawn on campaign donations to pay legal fees to a much greater extent than his predecessors. Trump "and his affiliated political entities have spent at least $58.4 million in donations on legal and compliance work since 2015," compared to Obama who spent $10.7. However, Trump has also taken a non-traditional approach by using campaign funds to cover legal costs related to cases in which he has a personal stake, including enforcing nondisclosure agreements with former staff.


Federal Borrowing Amid Pandemic Will Soon Exceed Annual Economy

Federal debt, as a share of the economy, is currently at 98% and set to exceed the size of the economy by 2021, putting government borrowing on the path to exceed that during World War II.


President Trump Denies Making Remarks Disparaging Fallen Soldiers

A recent report in The Atlantic says the president has repeatedly disparaged the intelligence of service members and has privately called soldiers killed in combat "losers" and "suckers." According to the article, he has also asked that wounded veterans be kept out of military parades. The president denied ever making those remarks and repeatedly called the report a fake story.


The Conspiracy Theories in President Trump's Fox News Interview

The article addresses several comments made by President Trump, including that a plane "loaded with thugs" is headed to the Republican convention; rich people are bankrolling racial justice protests against the U.S.; and that Biden is controlled by individuals exercising secret power.


Trump-Biden Presidential Debates Will Have Solo Moderators

All three televised debates will be hosted by a single moderator, in the following order: Chris Wallace of Fox News, Steve Scully of C-SPAN and Kristen Welker of NBC News. Susan Page of USA Today will moderate the vice-presidential debate. Candidates are selected by the non-partisan debate commission and cannot be vetoes by the candidates.


Biden Declares Himself an Ally of the Protesters

The Democratic candidate traveled to Kenosha, Wisconsin after days of protests over the shooting of a black man by police and made the case for unity in the face of racial injustice.


Charges Dropped Against Curtis Flowers, After Six Murder Trials and 24 Years

Prosecutors dropped murder charges against a man who was tried six times in the quadruple-murder case in Mississippi. All six trials before
mostly-white juries resulted either in mistrials or convictions that were later overturned. His latest conviction was thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court after it found that the prosecutor had violated Flowers' constitutional rights by seeking to disqualify black jurors during the jury selection process.


Seven Rochester Police Officers Suspended in Death of Black Man

The man died of suffocation in March, a week after his encounter with the police. Police body camera footage shows the officers putting a mesh hood over the man's head, at one point pushing his head to the pavement and holding him down for two minutes. His family says Daniel Prude was having a psychotic episode and acting erratically before the police encounter. Prude's death was ruled a homicide caused by "complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint."


Protests Continue in Portland; Fatal Shooting Inflames Debate on Urban Strife

Protests in Portland turned violent this week after a man affiliated with a right-wing group was shot and killed in the city. Those present at the demonstrations also reported tension after supporters of President Trump drove through the downtown area and clashed with protestors.


New York City Will Pay $5.9 Million to Settle Suit in Death of Transgender Woman at Rikers

This is the largest settlement recorded over an inmate's death at Rikers Island. It resolves a 2019 civil rights lawsuit brought by the inmate's family after the 27-year-old transgender woman died in custody after having an epileptic seizure while placed in solitary confinement.


National Rifle Association's Former No. 2 Calls for Gun Control

The former chief of staff for the National Rifle Association's (NRA) executive director, Wayne LaPierre, has come out in favor of universal background checks and red flag laws. In his new book, he also characterizes LaPierre as an inept manager but a skilled lobbyist. Both executives were recently named as defendants in a law suit brought by the attorney general of New York seeking millions of dollars in restitution.


Bar and Medical Licensing Exam Delays Keep Graduates in Limbo

Widespread disruptions in the administration of licensing exams for law and medical school graduates have left them unable to start their careers. Some remote tests were plagued by scheduling and technical problems, causing further confusion and prompting calls to eliminate licensing exams altogether, which many see as unnecessary and antiquated.


52 Former Franchisees Sue McDonald's for Discrimination

Over 50 Black franchise owners have sued the company, arguing that McDonald's steered them to less-profitable restaurants and did not provide them with the same support as white franchisees. As an example, Black franchisees would be asked to rebuild or remodel a store within a shorter period of time than white franchisees without the financial support often available to the latter. The plaintiffs seek compensation of $4 to $5 million per store.


Columbia University Removes Name of Slave Owner from Dorm

The university announced that Bard Hall, a Columbia medical school dormitory, will be renamed in the fall. The building bears the name of Samuel Bard, George Washington's doctor and a founder of Columbia's medical school and someone professors call a "significant slave owner by New York standards." The push to remove the name began with the university's broader research into its connections to slavery and how slave-trade profits had funded the school.


Indian Court Hands Down Symbolic Sentence for Outspoken Lawyer

The case was seen as a test of free expression in the country and involved a public interest lawyer who had posted critical tweets of the country's Supreme Court and its chief justice. Prashant Bhushan was ordered to pay a 1 rupee fine and a failure to do so would result in three months jailtime and disbarment. Justice critics in the country noted that had the lawyer been sentenced to prison, it would marked "the court's turn from independent arbiter to political tool".


Big Oil Pivots to Plastics and Eyes Africa

Faced with plunging profits and global focus on climate change, the fossil fuel industry is pushing U.S. trade negotiators to demand a reversal of Kenya's strict limits on plastics, which will limit its ability to import foreign plastic garbage into the country. The trade group sees Kenya as a future "hub for supplying U.S.-made chemicals and plastics to other markets in Africa" through a trade deal with the U.S.


Decades of Success Wiped Out in Latin America

The article describes the impact of the pandemic on Latin American students whose plans to study at various universities have been derailed due to the virus, plunging some back in poverty, unable to cover tuition or participate by virtual means.


Germany Says Putin Critic Alex Navalny Poisoned with Novichok Nerve Agent

Navalny is still in intensive care in Germany after being poisoned with a nerve agent on a domestic Russian flight last month. Moscow denies involvement.


Saudi Arabia Opens Airspace to Israeli Flights

Following an earlier announcement that Saudi Arabia and Israel have begun normalizing relations, Saudi Arabia has now opened its airspace to Israeli flights for the first time. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said that these developments will make flights cheaper and shorter and develop tourism.


Afghan Women Celebrate a Small Victory

Mother's names will now be printed on Afghan citizens' national identification cards, which had previously only included their fathers' name.
Activists see the move as a small boost for women's rights and a step toward normalizing women's presence in public spaces.


Coronavirus Update

Untangling the Paycheck Protection Program Fraud

While investigators have already found $62 million in alleged Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) fraud (funding often secured through forged documents and stolen identities), they are also looking for more insidious schemes to defraud the federal government's coronavirus relief program for small businesses. These cases will likely involve business owners who tried to exploit gray areas in the administration of the program, including those who found ways to spend the funds within eight weeks in order to have the loans forgiven, but then asked their employees to pay back a portion of their earning or to work for free in the future.


Small-Business Failures Loom as Federal Aid Dries Up

With the PPP lapsing in August and no deal on a new aid package, many businesses, including those who were well-established and financially sound before the pandemic-related closures, face tough choices. Economists warn that without a large-scale program, the current situation "could accelerate corporate consolidation and the dominance of the biggest companies," in addition to more closures.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tells States to Prepare for COVID-19 Vaccine by Early November

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have outlined several scenarios for state public health officials, one of which includes a plan to distribute a vaccine to health care workers and high-risk groups as soon as late October or early November. This is in line with statements made by both the head of the Food and Drug Administration and Dr. Anthony Fauci, that certain groups may receive the vaccine even before clinical trials are complete.


Pharma Companies Plan to Issue Joint Pledge on Vaccine Safety

Drug companies working on developing coronavirus vaccines are expected to issue a pledge next week that they will not release any vaccines that do not meet safety standards and that have not undergone rigorous testing, countering any suggestion that they will be politically pressured to seek premature approval of a vaccine.


Race for Coronavirus Vaccine Pits Spy Against Spy

According to intelligence officials, China also used its influential position in the World Health Organization to access information about vaccine work in order to guide its hacking attempts. Russian efforts to hack American, Canadian and British research institutes and companies have also intensified to give the country an edge on vaccine research.


New Coronavirus Adviser Roils White House with Unorthodox Ideas

The article profiles Dr. Scott Atlas, the new addition to the White House coronavirus taskforce. Atlas, whose views on the pandemic are often
at odds with those of top government doctors and scientists, brings a "libertarian-style approach to disease management," where the government focuses on at-risk groups but minimizes restrictions on the rest of the population.


Quick Testing Available If You Are Willing to Pay

Concierge services and small laboratories are giving wealthier New Yorkers the ability to get test results within 24 hours, while standard tests can take several days. Annual individual membership at these medical laboratories can cost $5,000. Companies needing quick turnaround testing, including movie production companies and banks, have also turned to small labs. The pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities in access to health care, beginning with access to tests and now with access to faster test results.


New Eviction Moratorium for Renters Financially Impacted by Coronavirus

The Trump administration has issued an order suspending evictions until December 31st. Renters must meet a five-pronged test that, among other factors, requires renters to have made best efforts to obtain government rental assistance; to show a substantial loss of household income; and to be making partial payments on rent. While renters receive some relief if they are eligible under this order, many are still calling on Congress to adopt a new aid package that includes broad rent relief to keep not only renters but also landlords afloat.



Data Suggests Infections in American Children Are Rising Fast

Data compiled by the American Academy of Pediatrics show that in the last four months, case numbers, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19 have increased at a faster rate in children and teenagers than among the general public.


U.S. Will Revive Global Virus-Hunting Effort That Ended in 2019

The new $100-million-program called Stop Spillover will begin in October but will have a similar purpose to the program run by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) whose funding ran out right before the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The previous program searched for dangerous new animal viruses in bat caves, wet markets and wildlife-smuggling routes.


SUNY Oneanta Campus Ends In-Person Classes

The entire campus at the State University of New York, Oneonta, shut down after more than 500 students tested positive for the coronavirus. In-person classes began in August and students began organizing parties soon thereafter, leading to a number of suspensions, an out of control outbreak, and cancellation of all in-person classes for the fall semester.


New York City Delays Opening Schools

The city's schools will now open on September 21st, 10 days than originally scheduled. As a result of a recent round of negotiations with the teachers' union, the city will require monthly random testing of students and staff attending in-person classes.


Motorcycle Rider Who Attended Sturgis Rally Dies of COVID-19

A man in his 60s who attended the motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota in August has died of COVID-19. Infections associated with the Sturgis rally now number 50.


Fear in Europe as Virus Spikes in Spain Again

A second wave of the coronavirus is impacting Spain, where the virus is spreading faster than anywhere else in Europe and may be a sign of the pandemic's resurgence in Europe.


EASL Theater News for the Week of September 4th

By Bennett Liebman

Without Rent Relief, 60 Percent of NYC's Independent Theaters May Close for Good, https://observer.com/2020/09/new-york-city-small-theaters-need-rent-relief/?fbclid=IwAR1QKZ0LZSJZ773J22_x1vTeYSMyvYN2TZ6yq8-MzM4DJuv7gF-WVVLQhaU

Can Greek Tragedy Get Us Through the Pandemic? https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/can-greek-tragedy-get-us-through-the-pandemic?fbclid=IwAR03VV6QUZKit6M-qNE5s5rNUWMk9TRI0TyG2iqVzOE41QlXkxENd-qMelI

Bringing the Theater Back to Life, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/04/podcasts/the-daily/Godspell-theater-coronavirus.html?rref=vanity

Actors' Equity Approves Alliance Theatre's A Christmas Carol: The Live Radio Play, https://www.playbill.com/article/actors-equity-approves-alliance-theatres-a-christmas-carol-the-live-radio-play

There'll Be a Theater Season. But How and Where and When?, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/01/theater/theater-season-adjustments.html

Investing in the Arts Will Speed Economic Recovery, https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2020-09-01/investing-in-the-arts-will-speed-cities-economic-recovery

AKA NYC to donate 500 hours of work to Black theater producers, http://bway.ly/s1m4mm#https://broadwaynews.com/2020/09/01/aka-nyc-to-donate-500-hours-of-work-to-black-theater-producers/

Lincoln Center Theater launches play commission program for its Broadway house, https://broadwaynews.com/2020/09/03/lincoln-center-theater-launches-play-commission-program-for-its-broadway-house/

A LOOK BEHIND THE SCENES OF BROADWAY NATIONAL TOURS, https://broadwaydirect.com/a-look-behind-the-scenes-of-broadway-national-tours/

San Diego's live theaters form alliance to support shuttered industry, expand diversity, https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/entertainment/theater/story/2020-09-01/san-diegos-live-theaters-form-alliance-to-support-shuttered-industr-expand-diversity

If we get it right, digital could be a game-changer for commercial theatre, https://www.thestage.co.uk/opinion/if-we-get-it-right-digital-could-be-a-game-changer-for-commercial-theatre

The Disability Scorecard: Are You Doing a Panel, or Actually Doing Something?, https://www.americantheatre.org/2020/08/28/the-disability-scorecard-are-you-doing-a-panel-or-actually-doing-something/

Stratford group unveils plans to rebuild and run historic Shakespeare theater, https://www.courant.com/ctnow/arts-theater/hc-ctnow-stratford-group-proposes-new-shakespeare-theater-20200827-iulfmm2efjcnzevwteopv2gosy-story.html

September 11, 2020

EASL Theater News for the Week of September 11, 2020

By Bennett Liebman

Ben Brantley, Take a Bow, https://www.nytco.com/press/ben-brantley-take-a-bow/

New York City can't rebound without Broadway, and Broadway's road back is uncertain, https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/theater_dance/new-york-city-cant-rebound-without-broadway-and-broadways-road-back-is-uncertain/2020/09/07/f3933444-e939-11ea-970a-64c73a1c2392_story.html

Fauci: We won't be able to sit in theaters until a year after an effective coronavirus vaccine is created, https://www.businessinsider.com/fauci-we-wont-go-in-theaters-until-year-after-vaccine-2020-9

Theater district restaurants eye reopening after indoor dining approval, https://broadwaynews.com/2020/09/09/theater-district-restaurants-eye-reopening-after-indoor-dining-approval/

She Gave Up a Life to play Othello, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/04/theater/othello-jessika-williams.html

Please, please, help artists survive, https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-please-please-help-artists-survive-20200904-uo3tanqfw5bt5kucidrw77evkq-story.html?fbclid=IwAR3riVByl5oVjiAh_hhLMOiKcrOi7d0tj6RGF7IuXGDDnTRz5LVRN3o-tLI

Center Theatre Group lays off more than half of its staff, https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2020-09-04/center-theatre-group-layoffs-covid

Will Chicago's Theater Scene Survive the Pandemic?, https://www.thrillist.com/travel/chicago/chicago-theater-surviving-covid-19-how-to-support

How New York City's Return to Normalcy Hinges on the Return of Broadway, https://www.broadwayworld.com/article/How-New-York-Citys-Return-to-

In 'Jersey Boys' Ruling, Appeals Court Adopts New Standard for Nonfiction, http://bway.ly/udrf4c#https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/in-jersey-boys-ruling-appeals-court-adopts-new-standard-for-nonfiction

While members of Congress chew the scenery, the arts wait for scraps, https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/theater_dance/while-members-of-congress-chew-the-scenery-the-arts-wait-for-scraps/2020/09/10/2d02d726-f357-11ea-999c-67ff7bf6a9d2_story.html

20 Theater Figures on How to 'Revolutionize' Their World, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/11/theater/how-to-revolutionize-theater.html

At Stamford Palace, Blumenthal pushes federal support for theaters in crisis, https://www.courant.com/ctnow/arts-theater/hc-ctnow-stamford-theaters-blumenthal-20200908-uhb4ng74zbbohp5wldbn3vxfhq-story.html

September 14, 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:


Kevin Spacey Accused in New Lawsuit of Sex Offenses

In a lawsuit filed in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan, two men accuse Kevin Spacey of sexual assault in the 1980s when they were both teenagers. The lawsuit is being brought under the Child Victims Act, which extended New York's statute of limitations for childhood sex abuse.


A Look at the Partnership Between Rapper Travis Scott and McDonald's

The collaboration consists of a limited-edition meal and a merchandise drop (including a $90 McNugget body pillow). For McDonalds, the co-branded merchandise is "a way to advertise to young people without all the burdens and potential misfires of actually advertising to young people," and for Scott, it is an opportunity to partner with a brand of magnitude and "slip his aesthetics into the global mainstream."


Calls Grow to Boycott 'Mulan' Over China's Treatment of Uighur Muslims

Disney's live-action remake was filmed in Xinjiang, a region that is home to the Uighur minority. Criticism was quick after viewers noticed that the film credits offered thanks to eight government entities in a region where members of the Uighur community have been detained in indoctrination camps and subjected to abuse.


Aging Rockers Emerge to Lead Belarus Revolt

Unlike most of Europe's rock artists who rose to stardom after the fall of Communism, Belarusian rockers were pushed underground in the early 1990s when President Lukashenko established an authoritarian regime. Amidst widespread protests disputing Lukashenko's re-election, musicians are staging their own acts of resistance and hoping that a new political system "could redeem [their] decades of isolation," when the government required lyrics and posters to be cleared by censors and musicians to sing in Russian, one of the country's two official languages.



Corbello v. Valli

The Ninth Circuit's decision affirmed the district court's finding a jury trial that the defendants' musical 'Jersey Boys' did not infringe the plaintiff's copyright in an autobiography of Tommy DeVito, a member of the band Four Seasons. The court found that the similarities were comprised of facts and other non-protected elements, and that any infringement of protected elements was fair use.


Schwartzwald v Oath

The Southern District of New York granted Huffpost's 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss the complaint by the photographer of a photo of John Hamm that went viral. The court found that Huffpost's use of the photo, which added a black box with "Image Loading" over the actor's crotch, was transformative and thus constituted fair use.


Goldsmith v Andy Warhol Foundation

Oral argument before the Second Circuit in the Goldsmith v Andy Warhol Foundation copyright case is scheduled for Tuesday, September 15 at 10 a.m. The public can listen using the link below.


On the Anniversary of 9/11, Lincoln Center Awakens with Hope

In the first large-scale performance since its closure in March, 28 Lincoln Center dancers brought 'Prologue' to the public via a livestream this year. 'Prologue' is an adaptation of 'Table of Silence," which has been presented at the theater every September 11 since the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.


American Ballet Theater Promotes Dancers, Despite Pandemic Slump

American Ballet Theater announced promotions for six soloists who now become principal dancers. While the dancers will receive raises with their promotions, their earnings this year were reduced given the cancellation of the spring and fall seasons and planned tours.


The Metropolitan Museum of Art Hires Its First Full-Time Native-American Curator

New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art has hired Patricia Marroquin Norby as associate curator of Native American art. Dr. Norby was previously senior executive and assistance director of the National Museum of the American Indian in New York.


Backlog at Printers Wreaking Havoc on Book Industry

Limited printer capacity and a spike in sales for print books are causing backlogs in the publishing industry. The fall publishing season is also a crowded one because long-planned fall releases are being sent to print alongside books that were bumped from spring and summer. The backlog is being exacerbated by the fact that America's two largest printing companies are operating under capacity and are both up for sale - one declared bankruptcy in April after its sales fell dramatically and the other temporarily shut down its printers due to the pandemic.


Pulitzer Board Changes Play Submission Rules

Cancelled plays and streamed productions will now be considered for the 2021 prize after the board changed eligibility rules for its annual drama honor.


Ayad Akhtar to Lead PEN America

Playwright and novelist Ayad Akhtar will serve as the new president of PEN America, the non-profit literary and human rights organization that focuses on protecting open expression in the U.S. and globally.


Global Gallery Sales Down 36%

According to a report published by Art Basel and UBS, modern and contemporary art sales at commercial galleries fell by 36% during the first half of 2020. The fall in sales was attributed to gallery closures and cancellations of major art fairs.


Dr. Anthony Fauci Says It Could Be a Year Before Theater Without Marks Feels Normal

Dr. Fauci estimates that it would not be until mid- to late 2021 that audiences can attend performances without masks and expect to return to pre-coronavirus comfort levels. The advice is contingent on a vaccine being released in early 2021 and a large number of people being vaccinated.


Preaching Caution to the Choir - Safety Precautions at In-Person Choir Rehearsals

The article discusses measures adopted by choirs as they return to in-person rehearsals. They include shorter rehearsal sessions, physical distancing, and the use of the Singer's Mask, which protrudes from the face to make singing more comfortable.


Tiffany's $16 Billion Sale Falls Apart

Prospective buyer LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton pulled out of the $16 billion deal, citing a request from the French government to delay the purchase beyond January of next year because of the threat of U.S. tariffs on French goods (in retaliation for French taxes on American technology companies). Tiffany filed a lawsuit in the Delaware Court of Chancery, arguing that "LVMH had breached its merger obligations by excluding the retailer from its discussions about the transaction with the French government."


T.S. Eliot's Estate Donates 'Cats' Royalties to Brontë Parsonage Museum

The gift of £20,000 will help sustain the museum, once the home of the Brontë sisters. The donation was made possible by royalties earned from the musical "Cats", which is based on Eliot's 1939 poetry collection Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.


Gucci Heir Alleges Child Sexual Abuse

Alexandra Zarini has a filed a lawsuit against three family members - her former stepfather, whom she accuses of sexual abuse, as well as her mother and her grandmother for covering up the abuse. Zarini is the granddaughter of Aldo Gucci, who turned the family-owned leather goods business into a global fashion house.


The Two Men Buying Your Favorite Retailers

The article profiles Jamie Salter and David Simon, who are acquiring brands like Forever 21 and Brooks Brothers. Salter is a licensing expert and the founder and chief executive of Authentic Brands Group. Simon is head of the largest mall operator in the U.S.


Retailer Century 21 is Closing

The discount retailer has filed for bankruptcy and will close all of its 13 locations. The company said it had failed to receive about $175 million from its insurers despite policies "to protect against losses stemming from business interruption such as that experienced as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic."


Student Blockade Protests Victor Orban's Reach at a Top Arts University in Hungary

A student demonstration took place at the University for Theater and Film Arts in Budapest, protesting legislation that transferred ownership of the public university to a private foundation and installed a new board of trustees that students say will force the university's vision and operations to fall in line with the values of the government of the day.



Canelo Alvarez Suing Golden Boy, DAZN Over Breach of Contract

In 2018, boxer Canelo Alvarez signed an 11-fight deal for $365 million with Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions. The promoter had a separate contract with DAZN, a sports streaming service. While Golden Boy promised to deliver DAZN a match between Alvarez and a "premier" opponent every year, Alvarez says he was not aware that DAZN had the right to reject his opponents and effectively freeze him out of future matches. If DAZN did have this right, then Alvarez argues that "Golden Boy breached its fiduciary duty and intentionally misled him on its own deal with DAZN." He is asking for over $280 million in damages (what is still owed to him under the contract plus lost sponsorship and gate revenue) and the ability to fight on shows promoted and broadcast by other entities.


National Football League Season Kicks Off with Team Protest

Opening night brought different reactions as the Houston Texans remained in their locker rooms during the national anthem, while most Kansas City Chiefs players linked arms. The Texans were met with a smattering of boos from fans when they ran onto the field.


Advertisers Flock to National Football League Broadcasts as a 'Safe Haven'

With some broadcast rights contracts expiring next year, the National Football League (NFL) is expected to command "gigantic increases for the upcoming cycle of new NFL contracts" as media partners look to extend their current deals. In determining their ad spend and placement, many companies are looking at the NFL as a "safe haven", in part because it was the first sport returning "in its regular time frame in its regular season", a significant achievement in the fact of such of uncertainty in sport.


Kansas City Chiefs Fans Adjust to New Game Rituals

To address concerns over the use of Native American imagery, the team banned the wearing of headdresses and is discussing the future of its tomahawk chop celebration. As fans adjusted to a new reality, including masking and socially distanced crowds, many also expressed mixed opinions on whether game traditions involving Native American imagery should be allowed.


Big 12 Decides Against Pursuing Outside Loans in Face of Pandemic Shortfall

As the Big 12 prepares for the start of its football season this week, its commissioner said the conference considered outside funding to offset financial losses due to the pandemic, but ultimately decided against taking on loans in favor of an approach that lets individual athletic departments consider mitigation measures. The Pac-12 Conference, which postponed all sports competitions for the rest of the year, reportedly investigated "a loan package that would approach" $1 billion.


Major League Baseball Set to Hold Postseason at Neutral Sites

Major League Baseball (MLB) plans to hold playoff games at four stadiums in Texas and California. The World Series is scheduled for October at the Texas Rangers' new stadium in Arlington, Texas. While the regular season was shortened to 60 games, MLB landed on the "bubble site" concept for its expanded playoff format.


MLB Players Object to Postseason Quarantines, Protocol Changes

MLB players believe that the less restrictive health and safety protocols that applied to the regular season should be in place for the postseason. MLB, on the other hand, is "adamant that players quarantine separately from their families for seven days before entering bubbles" to avoid outbreaks that would place the postseason in jeopardy.


National Basketball Association to Allow Coaches to Have Guests Inside Bubble

The policy change came after Denver Nuggets coach Malone decried the National Basketball League's current policy, which allowed players and referees to bring guests to the Disney campus but did not extend that same right to coaches. All guests are subject to a seven-day on-site quarantine. The amended policy takes effect at the start of the conference finals.


Why Was Novak Djokovic Disqualified from the U.S. Open?

Last weekend, the U.S. Open referee defaulted Djokovic from the 2020 tournament after he found Djokovic to have intentionally hit a ball "dangerously or recklessly within the court or ... with negligent disregard of the consequences." This explanation is based on the definition of "abuse of balls" in the sport's rulebook. The penalty came from the rule addressing "unsportsmanlike conduct." Under that rule, there is an escalating scale of penalties with clearly defined steps, ranging from a warning to a default. However, an official could opt for the most severe penalty (a default) instead of a point or game penalty, if the rule violation is egregious. What rendered the player's actions particularly egregious in the eyes of this particular referee was the fact that the line judge who was hit by the ball in the throat collapsed to the ground and stayed down for a prolonged period of time.


Caster Semenya Loses Appeal at Swiss Supreme Court

Two-time Olympic champion Caster Semenya lost her appeal of a decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) that upheld rules drafted by track and field's governing body that limit female runners' naturally high testosterone levels (runners with differences of sex development - SDS). The CAS decision found that the discrimination was "necessary, reasonable and proportionate" to maintain fairness in women's track. The ruling means that Semenya cannot compete at any top meets in distances from 400 meters to the mile unless she lowers her testosterone level through medication or surgery. The Swiss federal tribunal found that Semenya's "guarantee of human dignity" was not compromised because affected female athletes are free to refuse treatment.


Iran Executes Wrestler Accused of Murder After Participating in Anti-Government Protests

Wrestler Navid Afkari was executed in Iran despite a high-profile international campaign for clemency. Afkari was accused of fatally stabbing a water-utility worker. Government critics suspect that the charges were false and Afkari was being used as an example to silence dissent.


Japanese Soccer: Sitting in Silence With 5,000 Fans

The article describes the current state of affairs in Japanese soccer. Though spectators can now attend games, its orchestrated fans are prohibited from singing, chanting, and drumming.



No Evidence of Toxic Work Culture at Essence

Workplace investigations at Essence Communications, the media brand that includes Essence magazine, found no evidence of an abusive work culture or of sexual harassment at the company. In an essay published in June of this year, a group of Essence employees accused the company of systematically intimidating, harassing, and underpaying Black female employees.


Gaming: Video Game Star Returns to Twitch

Famous video gamer Tyler Blevins, known as Ninja, announced that he will livestream exclusively on the Amazon-owned platform Twitch. His return to Twitch comes after a short stint on Microsoft-owned Mixer, which announced that it is shutting down.


China Freezes Credentials for Journalists at U.S. Outlets

The Chinese government has stopped renewing press credentials of journalists working at American news organizations in China and has suggested that their work status will be determined by how Chinese media employees are treated in the U.S. In May of this year, the U.S. imposed 90-day limits on work visas and visa extensions for Chinese journalists working for non-American news outlets.


Fearing Detention, Two Australian Correspondents Flee China

The last two Australian correspondents working in China for Australian news organizations have left the country over fears that they would be detained after state security officers paid them unannounced visits. Their departure was yet another sign of souring relations between the two countries and came after China already detained a Chinese-born news anchor in August.


General News

Justice Department Intervenes in E. Jean Carroll Defamation Suit Against Trump

The White House requested that the Justice Department take over the case pursuant to the Westfall Act, arguing that Trump had acted in his official capacity as president when he denied author E. Jean Carroll's claim that he sexually assaulted her over 20 years ago. The move substitutes the government as the defendant.



Court Rejects Trump Order to Exclude Undocumented Migrants from Census

A three-judge panel in Federal District Court in Manhattan ruled that Trump lacked the authority to remove noncitizens from census
counts. The order would have impacted communities with large immigrant populations that would have lost House seats that are allocated based on the census.


Federal Judge Orders U.S. Census Bureau to Stop Plan to Wind Down Its Operations

A federal judge in California issued a temporary restraining order against the department that oversees the Census Bureau. The order stops the agency from winding down operations until a court hearing determines whether the agency can follow its revised plan for finishing the census at the end of September. The Census Bureau adopted the revised plan after the Senate failed to take up its request to finish the census later in the year and turn in apportionment numbers in December.


Franchise Workers Win Victory Over U.S. Effort to Curb Lawsuits

A federal judge struck down a Labor Department rule that made it more difficult for franchise workers to win judgments against the parent company if the restaurant violated minimum wage or overtime laws. Under the previous administration, a parent company was considered a "joint employer" and could be liable for violations committed by a contractor or franchisee. The new rule required evidence of control to render the parent company liable as a joint employer, which could be the ability to hire or fire the franchisee's employees, set their pay or dictate their schedules.


Appeal Court Deals Blow to Felons' Voting Rights in Florida

The Court ruled that Floridians who have completed sentences for felonies must pay outstanding court fines and fees before they can register to vote. The Court was reviewing a Florida law passed in 2019, which imposed the requirement to pay outstanding debts. The law was passed after the 2018 constitutional amendment restored voting rights for people who had completed sentences for felonies other than murder or sex crimes.


Three Senators on President Trump's Supreme Court List

President Trump released a list of 20 potential nominees to the Court, which now includes senators Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, and Josh Hawley. Trump issued a similar list before the 2016 election to try to "persuade wary conservatives to support his unconventional candidacy."


Impasse on Recovery Package Persists: Republican Proposal Dead on Arrival

On Tuesday, Senate Republicans presented a scaled-back stimulus plan that was immediately rejected by Democrats and failed on a vote. The proposal was a fraction of the $1 trillion plan that Republicans had offered earlier in negotiations, an amount that was also rejected by Democrats. The prospect of lawmakers leaving Washington in October without passing a relief bill is becoming more likely.



Trump and Biden Honor 9/11 Fallen

The presidential candidates honored those who died in New York City and Shanksville, Pennsylvania and travelled to both sites to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the attacks.


Postal Service to Hire Liaison in Effort to Ease Democrats' Concerns

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has hired Peter Pastre, a Republican lobbyist, "to act as a liaison for the agency with Congress and state and local governments" and ease concerns about the politicization of the U.S. Postal Service.


Safety Shapes Plan to Fortify Voting Stations

Despite the anticipated rise in mail voting, communities are still considering ways to re-configure polling sites and make in-person voting safer. One way of ensuring that is to hire younger poll workers who are less susceptible to serious virus-related outcomes. Other communities are looking to replace traditional polling places, like church basements and senior-living centers, with less cramped voting sites, and add additional check-in stations to reduce lines and wait times.


Microsoft Warns That Russian Hackers Are Targeting Both Parties

A Microsoft report says that Russian intelligence hackers are targeting both Republican and Democratic officials, while China is mostly aiming at Biden campaign officials, academics, and the national security establishment.


Department of Homeland Security Accused of Downplaying Threats from Russia and White Supremacists

In his whistleblower complaint, former Department of Homeland Securit (DHS) official Brian Murphy says that security chiefs downplayed threats from white supremacists and Russian election interference in order to boost Trump. He says that acting secretary Chad Wolf ordered him to stop producing assessments on those threats and told him not to disseminate a report on Russian disinformation campaign that called Joe Biden's mental health into question. Murphy says leadership is shaping "the agency's views around the president's language and political interests in ways that stretched the law and their authority."



U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Ukrainian Over Election Interference

The sanctions target Andriy Derkach, a Ukrainian lawmaker with ties to Russia. The Treasury Department accused Derkach of "releasing edited audiotapes and unsubstantiated allegations" against American political figures, including Joe Biden.


Bob Woodward's Latest Book Recounts Tense Moments Between President and Senior Leaders

According to a new book by journalist Bob Woodward, President Trump had tense relationships with members of the intelligence community and denigrated American generals in conversations with this trade adviser, saying they favored their relationships with allies over the country's economic interests and trade deals.


Citigroup Names Jane Fraser as Next Chief Executive Officer

Jane Fraser will become the first woman to lead a major financial institution in the U.S.


The Faces of Power in the United States

A review by The New York Times shows that over 80% of officials and executives in prominent positions in the U.S. are white. Even in categories where there have been diversity gains, that has not always translated to equal treatment.


$14.5 Billion Budget Gap Brings Talk of Wealth Tax in New York

A growing number of Democratic lawmakers in New York are pushing for higher taxes on the wealthy, in opposition to budget cuts that would be one option to tackle the debt and reign in the deficit. Governor Cuomo has come out publicly against the idea and has asked congressional leaders for $59 billion to cover two years of projected state deficits.


The New York City Fire Department Renames Its Highest Award After Fallen 9/11 Hero

The Fire Department of New York City (FDNY) acknowledged that the award was named after a man who held deeply racist beliefs. The James Gordon Bennett Medal will now be named after Chief Peter Ganci, who was killed in the September 11th attacks. Bennett was a newspaper publisher who pushed racist and segregationist views during the Civil War.


Rochester Police Chief Resigns

The city's police chief and other high-ranking officials resigned or were demoted in the aftermath of the death of a Black man following an encounter with police. When announcing the news, the city's mayor said the police chief acknowledged that things could have been handled differently, but that he had not tried to cover it up. Police had not publicly disclosed the man's death and body camera footage of the encounter was recently turned over to the family.


Wildfires Along the West Coast Consume Towns; Officials Prepare for Mass Deaths

Parts of California are under a blanket of smoke as wildfires burn from near the Mexico border to the Sierra Nevada in one of the state's worst wildfire seasons. 2.5 million acres have burned in the state, with communities in Oregon and Washington also impacted. The state is experiencing a disastrous wave of climate events, including rolling blackouts and triple-digit heat waves.





Federal Report on Finances Warns of Financial Havoc from Climate Change

The report, commissioned by Trump's Commodity Futures Trading Commission, warned about the impact of climate change on U.S. financial markets primarily because "the costs of wildfires, storms, droughts and floods spread through insurance and mortgage markets, pension funds and other financial institutions."


Trump Emerges as Inspiration for Germany's Far Right

Recent protests as well as online activity in Germany show that Trump's name is being invoked by far-right activists, conspiracy theorists, and people who, generally-speaking, are "quitting the mainstream ... [and] raging against the establishment." Far-right groups have also embraced Trump's policies by calling for a "Germany first" approach and believe in the existence of a "deep state" that is global in nature.


Saudi Court Orders Prison Terms for Eight Defendants in Killing of Jamal Khashoggi

Sentences for the eight men ranged from 10 to 20 years in prison. Saudi Arabia has not revealed the names of the men convicted of murdering Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey in 2018.


Myanmar Soldiers Confess Crimes Against Rohingya

Two soldiers have provided video testimony admitting their involvement in executions and mass burials, saying they obeyed orders in killing 30 members of the country's Rohingya Muslim minority. The International Criminal Court is examining whether military leaders committed large scale crimes against the Rohingya in Myanmar.


Boris Johnson Facing Revolt Over Northern Ireland Pact

The British Prime Minister announced his intention to legislate away terms of the UK's Brexit deal, which was ratified by all members of the European Union. Johnson plans to rewrite provisions on the treatment of Northern Ireland if Britain and the UK fail to strike a trade deal by the end of 2020. The Northern Ireland protocol was a central tenet of the Withdrawal Agreement. Under that agreement, "Northern Ireland would remain part of Britain's customs territory but would abide by European Union rules on issues ranging from safety standards to state subsidies to industry."


Arson Fire Destroys Most of Europe's Largest Refugee Camp

Thousands of asylum seekers were left without shelter after a fire at Greece's Moria refugee camp. There are also ongoing protests as refugees want to leave the encampment and reach Lesbos Island's port. Greek authorities have refused mass transfers off the island and into mainland Greece.


Rwanda Hints That Dissident Was Tricked into Returning

Rwanda's president said that government critic Paul Rusesabagina was not kidnapped from Dubai, but instead had been lured to Rwanda, where he now faces charges of murder and terrorism. It is not clear how the man was persuaded to board a plane from Dubai. Rusesabagina's charges stem from his leadership of an opposition movement whose armed wing is accused of carrying out attacks in Rwanda.


Palestinian Authority Rejects Tax Transfers from Israel

The Palestinian Authority is refusing to accept tax transfers from Israel because Israel's annexation of the West Bank remains a possibility. While Israel suspended the annexation plan as part of its agreement to normalize relations with the United Arab Emirates, it has refused to permanently drop the plan. In rejecting the transfers, the Palestinian Authority is foregoing over $100 million a month in import taxes that Israel collects on its behalf. Meanwhile, the fiscal situation is unsustainable, as Palestinians are suffering financial hardship and the Palestinian Authority is headed toward bankruptcy.


Bahrain Will Normalize Relations with Israel

The island kingdom became the second Arab nation to normalize relations with Israel and has already opened its airspace to new commercial passenger flights between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.


Coronavirus Update

Trump Admits Downplaying the Virus in Interviews with Bob Woodward

In audio recordings with journalist Bob Woodward, President Trump acknowledged the dangers posed by the coronavirus and admitted to publicly dismissing or downplaying concerns so as not to create a state of panic.


The Senate Is on Vacation While Americans Starve

In an opinion piece in The New York Times, former chair of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, warns that without a coronavirus relief bill, "the overall economy could degrade from its current slow rebound in growth to no growth at all." The writers say that three forces are disproportionately affecting low-income people and persons of color: the acceleration of the spread of the virus; the end of supplemental federal unemployment benefits; and the end of eviction moratoriums. They call for Congress to act.


Health Officials Try to Reassure Public that Science Will Set Vaccine Approval Following Similar Pledge by Pharmaceutical Companies

The director of the National Institutes of Health reiterated that a coronavirus vaccine would not be made available to Americans unless it was safe and effective. Dr. Francis Collins' testimony at a Senate hearing this week followed a pledge issued by nine pharmaceutical companies that they would not release any vaccine that had not passed rigorous testing.



Food and Drug Administration Vows to Uphold Scientific Integrity

A group of career scientists at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that their work would not succumb to political pressure and warned that if the agency's independence is jeopardized, people would not trust its safety warnings.


AstraZeneca Pauses, Then Resumes Vaccine Trial

The company halted trials of its coronavirus vaccine after a U.K. participant suffered neurological symptoms consistent with transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord that can cause paralysis. The trial resumed in the U.K. after the regulator conducted a review of safety data and concluded that the trial was safe to resume.


Justice Department Announces Dozens of Fraud Charges in Small-Business Aid Program

Fifty-seven people have been charged with trying to steal more than $175 million from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which offered emergency loans to businesses. Among those accused are individuals or small groups who lied about having legitimate businesses and associated expenses; others were coordinated criminal rings. In related news, former New York Jet Joshua Bellamy is accused of fraudulently obtaining a $1.2 million loan and using the funds to buy luxury goods.



Missouri Court Rules in Favor of Business Owners in COVID-19 Coverage Lawsuit

A federal judge in Missouri has ruled that businesses can sue their insurers for business interruption losses caused by the pandemic. The court found that the plaintiffs had satisfied the requirement of direct physical loss by showing that the virus' physical presence at their business premises (hair salon and restaurants) rendered the property unsafe and unusable.


New York City to Slowly Open Dining Indoors

Starting on September 30th, New York City restaurants can begin offering indoor service at 25% capacity. Governor Cuomo cited the city's infection rate, which is stable at under 1%, as one of the reasons for loosening some of the restrictions, even though Mayor de Blasio had favored a longer gap between the reopening of schools and the start of indoor dining.


Manhattan's Office Buildings Remain Empty as Employees Continue Working from Home

Fewer than 10% of the city's office workers had returned to the office by August, and only a quarter of major employers expect to bring workers back by the end of the year. Demand for New York office space has slumped due to the pandemic and businesses are hesitant to commit to long-term leases. The slump is also expected to impact the city's finances, considering that property taxes from office buildings account for nearly 10% of the city's total annual tax revenue.


U.S. Campuses See Explosion of Virus Cases

A New York Times tracker shows there are more than 88,000 coronavirus cases linked to campus activity in close to 1,200 schools.


September 18, 2020

EASL Theater News for the Week of September 18th

By Bennett Liebman

When Will Long Island Theaters Reopen?, https://www.newsday.com/entertainment/theater/long-island-theaters-fall-1.49095540

On the Anniversary of 9/11, Lincoln Center Awakens With Hope, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/11/arts/table-of-silence-9-11.html

How to Birth a New American Theater, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/11/theater/how-to-change-theater.html

Leading live theatre through a pandemic The Nonprofit Journal Project, https://www.secondwavemedia.com/features/nonprofit-journal-project-090920-regina-spain.aspx

Challenged to examine their White bias, some theater companies are taking on diversity -- from the top, https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/theater_dance/challenged-to-examine-their-white-bias-some-theater-companies-are-taking-on-

Broadway for Racial Justice Launches Initiative to Diversify Casting Offices, https://www.backstage.com/magazine/article/broadway-for-racial-justice-diversity-in-casting-71731/

Commentary: I'm lost without live theater. My wish list for how the digital show can go on, https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2020-09-15/zoom-theater-season-covid

Broadway's Roundabout Theatre Names Miranda Haymon As Resident Director, https://deadline.com/2020/09/roundabout-theatre-miranda-haymon-broadway-resident-director-1234577293/

Looking to Past Pandemics to Determine the Future of Theater, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/16/t-magazine/theater-coronavirus-covid-pandemic.html

A Broadway Season in Purgatory, https://www.townandcountrymag.com/leisure/arts-and-culture/a33915216/broadway-2020-season-coronavirus-impact/

Fauci says Broadway will see a 'gradual return to normal' through 2021, https://nypost.com/2020/09/16/broadway-will-see-a-gradual-return-to-normal-through-2021/

Boston-area theaters foresee a long road to recovery before reopenings are possible, https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/09/17/arts/boston-area-theaters-foresee-long-road-recovery-before-reopenings-are-possible/

Gateway Playhouse suing Actors Equity for understudy benefits, https://www.newsday.com/entertainment/theater/gateway-sues-actors-equity-1.49326077

September 21, 2020

Week In Review

By Eric Lanter
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Has Died

The nation mourns for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, perhaps one of the most well-known justices to ever sit on the United States Supreme Court. Her death "instantly upended the nation's politics in the middle of an already bitter campaign, giving President Trump an opportunity to try to install a third member of the Supreme Court with just weeks before an election that polls show he is currently losing." Trump and Senate Republicans are "weighing whether they have the votes to confirm his choice before the Nov. 3 election," and many Democrats have said that the upcoming fight is going to be even more contentious than the 2016 pre-election fight for Merrick Garland to be confirmed. It is expected that Ginsburg will "lie in repose at the Supreme Court for two days, according to two people familiar with the preliminary plans."






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


California Federal Court Rules on Case Between Nicki Minaj and Tracy Chapman

A judge in the Central District of California has ruled on Nicki Minaj's motion for summary judgment in a copyright infringement action brought by Tracy Chapman. The court found that Minaj's private experimenting with a sample from a Tracy Chapman song was a fair use but left for a jury trial the issue of whether Minaj is responsible for the track being leaked to a radio station.

Chapman v. Maraj, Case No. 2:18-cv-09088-VAP-SSx, (C.D. Cal. 2020).Chapman v Maraj.pdf">nysbar.com/blogs/EASL/Chapman%20v%20Maraj.pdf">Chapman v Maraj.pdf

Columbia Marching Band Shuts Itself Down Over 'Offensive Behavior'

Columbia University's marching band had developed "a wide reputation over the years for its irreverent, quirky performances," but it has announced that it is disbanding due to "a history riddled with offensive behavior." It had "served as the irrepressible court jester to the university's staid administration, and, at times, had offended students and the wider campus community with its jokes." Some have accused that the band was rife with "sexual misconduct, assault, theft, racism, and injury to individuals and the Columbia community as a whole."



West End Shows Announce a Return as Movie Theaters and Museums Attempt Reopening

In a controversial move, the Brooklyn Museum announced this week that it would be selling several works to raise funds. Other museums, such as the National Museum of African-American history, are attempting to reopen but have acknowledged that if the numbers rise in their areas, they will be prepared to close again. In London's West End, theaters have announced that they will be returning, but if the reopening of movie theaters in the United States is any indication, ticket sales will be light for the coming run.






Museum in India Celebrating Muslim Dynasty Gets a Hindu Overhaul

In Agra, a museum is being constructed that "was meant to showcase the arms, art, and fashion of the Mughals, Muslim rulers who reigned over the Indian subcontinent from the 16th to the 18th centuries," but officials have announced that they will be overhauling the museum to "instead celebrate India's Hindu majority, leaders, and history." The changes are the latest instance of a "Hindu nationalist revival sweeping" India led by its prime minister, Narendra Modi.



Steven Cohen Agrees to Buy the Mets, Again

Steven Cohen, a "hedge fund billionaire," is preparing to buy the Mets for approximately $2.4 billion, which will fulfill his "decade-long pursuit of owning a baseball team." However, his acquiring the team is shedding light on his work in the hedge fund industry, and in that industry, he still has faced "several discrimination claims filed by women who have worked for Mr. Cohen's largely male-dominated firm." Two complaints remain pending with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.



Big Ten Will Play Football in 2020, Reversing Decision

The Big Ten voted that it will reverse its earlier decision and begin playing football this fall. Trump demanded the return, and that demand was echoed by "players, coaches, and fans." It remains unclear whether the Pac-12, which has teams like Oregon, USC, Stanford, Colorado, and Utah, will return to playing this year as well.



In a Fitting Tribute, the Fed Cup Is Renamed After Billie Jean King

The International Tennis Federation announced that it will be renaming the Fed Cup, an annual team competition, and calling it the "Billie Jean King Cup." The event has been run since 1963 and is the equivalent of the Davis Cup, which is the men's team event that began in 1900 and is "named for its creator, Dwight Davis."



Iranian Hackers Found Way Into Encrypted Apps, Researchers Say, as U.S. Reimposes United Nations Sanctions on Iran

It was announced this week that Iranian hackers "have been running a vast cyberespionage operation equipped with surveillance tools that can outsmart encrypted messaging systems--a capability Iran was not previously known to possess, according to two digital security reports released Friday." The operation has targeted activists both domestic and abroad and could be used to spy on the Iranian general public. The Trump administration, over "strenuous objections of its closest allies," reimposed sanctions on Iran Saturday, "though the weight of their repercussions is unclear without the cooperation of the world's other major powers."



U.S. Orders Al Jazeera Affiliate to Register as Foreign Agent

The United States Justice Department ordered that AJ+, "a media outlet backed by the royal family of Qatar," be registered as a foreign agent. This move came as the Justice Department views the work of AJ+ as "political activities" and surprised "a high-level delegation from Doha just as officials from the two nations met to strengthen diplomatic and economic alliances." Al Jazeera suggested that the move is "part of a separate deal, signed on Tuesday and brokered by the Trump administration, in which the United Arab Emirates, a Qatari rival, normalized diplomatic relations with Israel."


Miami Herald Editor Apologies for 'Racist and Anti-Semitic' Insert

The editor of the Miami Herald apologized for an insert that appeared in its supplement Libre that compared Black Lives Matter activists to "Nazi thugs." The newspaper announced that it will be ending its relationship with Libre and "will never publish, print, or distribute its content again."


Facebook and Instagram Flag Tucker Carlson Virus Posts as Misinformation Piles Up

The two social media platforms warned viewers that Tucker Carlson's "interview with a Chinese virologist contained 'false information' about Covid-19." The video contained an interview with a Chinese virologist who claimed that the virus "is not from nature," but intelligence agencies "have been skeptical that the pathogen can be conclusively linked to a lab."



New York State Bar Association Appoints Task Force to Assist Policymakers and Journalists in the Midst of a Contentious Election

The New York State Bar Association announced that it is creating a task force "who will advise fellow attorneys, journalists, and members of the public on issues relating to the upcoming 2020 presidential race." The panel will consist of eight members chaired by election lawyer Jerry Golfeder and will focus on issues such as "constitutional and statutory provisions that govern the election process and potential court challenges over the election results, as well as the surge in mail-in ballots as a result of the ongoing pandemic."


General News

Presidential Election Heats Up

The presidential election continued to heat up as both candidates criss-crossed the country in very different fashions. While Joe Biden has continued to hold socially distanced events, Trump held an indoor rally that had few masks and virtually no social distancing. There continue to be reports of attempted intervention by Russians and white supremacists, according to the director of the FBI, and there remain significant concerns about the United States Postal Service's (USPS's) ability to manage the surge in mail-in ballots that are coming in the following weeks. It is expected that court challenges to the USPS changes under its new Postmaster General may also have an impact.









UN Turns 75 Amid Calamity and Conflict

The UN is celebrating its 75th year, but "a celebration of its accomplishments has been overshadowed by a pandemic and rising world tensions." It has also started to face "profound questions about its own effectiveness, and even its relevance." Although it was created to "avert another descent into another global apocalypse," many in the UN and outside of it agree that it "is weaker than it should be."


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Trump Administration Continue to Have Friction

The tension between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Trump administration continue to be brought to light. Documents have been released showing that Trump administration officials have sought to suppress the statistics and facts surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic or have changed the CDC's released information to conform with the Trump administration's narrative of the pandemic. Additionally, although the CDC had previously taken the position that testing was not necessary for those who were asymptomatic but may have come into contact with someone infected, it has now announced that even asymptomatic individuals should be tested if they suspect they came into contact with someone infected. Additionally, the Health Secretary, Alex Azar, has asserted authority over the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in a memo, which "would make it more difficult for the FDA to issue new rules, but it is unclear how it would affect the vetting of coronavirus vaccines."










Trump Health Aide Takes Leave and Apologies After Warning of Armed Revolt

Michael Caputo, the "assistant secretary of health for public affairs", announced that he will be taking a leave of absence "to focus on his health and the well-being of his family" after he had accused federal scientists of "sedition". He had posted "a bizarre and inflammatory Facebook video in which he accused government scientists of working to defeat President Trump and urged his followers to buy ammunition ahead of what he predicted would be an armed insurrection after the election."




Tensions Continue to Rise Between U.S. and China

The friction between the U.S. and China ramped up this week with the federal government announcing a travel restriction on visitors to Hong Kong and the ambassador to China stepping down. Then, the Trump administration announced that two hugely popular apps, TikTok and WeChat, would be banned from the United States starting this weekend. However, on Saturday, the administration announced that it had approved a deal between TikTok and major American companies that will "delay the U.S. government's threat to block the popular app." These moves came as news broke that Chinese hackers broke into over 100 firms and agencies in what were described as "sophisticated attacks to hijack networks and extort universities, businesses, and nonprofits."











Justice Department Opens Criminal Inquiry Into John Bolton's Book as Barr Continues to Expand the Power of the Department

The Department of Justice has announced that it is launching a criminal inquiry into whether John Bolton's book contained classified information. Meanwhile, Attorney General William Barr and the deputy attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, have emphasized that a sedition statute may cover "a variety of crimes and the push to consider it was proper" in the context of protestors who have been arrested around the country in relation to the Black Lives Matter protests. Rosen has emailed federal prosecutors and encouraged them to use the sedition statute "and other federal laws to try to stop violence at protests this summer--even in instances where local law enforcement would typically bring charges."





Climate Change Continues to Manifest in the Arctic, Shifting it to a New Climate

Between the wildfires in the American west and the fires in Greece that brought refugees to Germany this week, there has been renewed discussion about climate change. Additionally, a new study found that "open water and rain, rather than ice and show, are becoming typical" for the Arctic in what has changed the character of the area. Scientists said that the change is proof of the severe effects of global warming.






Independent Watchdog Report Finds Inequity in Farm Aid Payments

According to the Government Accountability Office, "big farms, along with Southern farmers, disproportionately benefited from the trade assistance program." The farm aid program has been criticized for mismanagement, as its intent was to "blunt the effects of" the trade war between China and the United States. The report found that eight of the top nine states receiving the top average payments per acre were in the South, "a region at the heart of Mr. Trump's political base."


Uneven Economy Continues to Face United States

Although unemployment claims have dipped, layoffs remain a concern for Americans. One economist has warned of a plateau, "point to a slower phase of the recovery after a hiring bounce in the spring." This comes just after poverty in the country had hit a record low before the pandemic recession. Additionally, despite pledges "to nominate more members of underrepresented ethnic and racial groups, companies have made little progress over the last five years" as a survey finds corporate boards have pushed diverse board seats to 12.5%.




War Crime Risk Grows for U.S. Over Saudi Strikes in Yemen

Department of State officials "have raised alarms about the legal risk in aiding airstrikes that kill civilians" in Yemen. The Trump administration "recently suppressed findings as it sold more weapons to Gulf nations," and the Department of State previously concluded that top "American officials could be charged with war crimes for approving bomb sales to the Saudis and their partners."


House Report Condemns Boeing and FAA in 737 Max Disasters

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee released a report calling the two crashes of Boeing's 737 Max planes as a "horrific culmination" of "engineering flaws, mismanagement, and a severe lack of federal oversight." The report comes after an 18-month investigation "based on interviews with two dozen Boeing and agency employees and an estimated 600,000 pages of records."


Inquiry Ordered Into Claims Immigrants Had Unwanted Gynecology Procedures

Congress and the Department of Homeland Security "are investigating claims by a nurse and lawyers that immigrant detainees in Georgia were complaining of unwanted procedures and rough treatment." There have been several allegations in a whistle-blower complaint that immigrants were receiving "gynecological procedures without fully understanding or consenting to them."


Eric Trump Will Comply with New York Inquiry, but Only After Election

Eric Trump's attorneys have stated "in a court filing that he was willing to be interviewed by investigators after voters cast their presidential ballots." The interview under oath is part of New York's attorney general investigating the "financing of his family company's properties." He claims that the delay is sought due to his "extreme travel schedule" and "to avoid the use of his deposition attendance for political purposes."


Rochester Mayor Abruptly Fires Police Chief Over Daniel Prude's Death and Louisville Police Announce Settlement With Breonna Taylor Family

The Louisville Police Department announced a settlement with Breonna Taylor's family in relation to her wrongful death earlier this year. In Rochester, the police chief resigned after it came to light that officials "spent months trying to suppress video footage of the police encounter that led to" Daniel Prude's death. By early June, members of the public still did not know about the death, and there was damning police body camera footage that the department did not want to be released.




Military Names New Judge for Guantanamo Bay 9/11 Trial

A Marine Corps colonel has been named the presiding military judge in the trial of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other individuals at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba "who are accused of plotting the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks." The previous judge retired over the summer for family reasons, and it is expected that the colonel, Stephen Keane, will "resume pretrial hearings in the case that has largely been on hold throughout the coronavirus pandemic."


U.S. Prosecutors' Bid to 'Bury' Evidence Draws Judge's Wrath

Judge Alison Nathan of the Southern District of New York "excoriated the government for its handling" of a case involving sanctions on Iran as it had secured a conviction of an "Iranian man who was accused of illegally funneling more than $115 million to his family business." Prosecutors afterward acknowledged that there were "problems in the way they had turned evidence over to the defense", as one prosecutor "had proposed to a colleague that they 'bury' a document that should have been provided to the defense." The judge vacated the conviction and started her own inquiry and called for the head of the prosecutor's office to review the decision.


Life on Venus? Astronomers See a Signal in Its Clouds

Scientists have detected a gas in Venus' atmosphere that "could turn scientists' gaze to a planet long overlooked in the search for extraterrestrial life." The gas, phosphine, is thought to be one that shows something is alive and is producing the gas, but other scientists remain cautious, as it is possible that phosphine may be produced on Venus by something other than living beings.


To Get to Afghan Talks, Lots of Last-Minute Deals and Nose Swabs

In Doha, there are ongoing direct negotiations between representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban. They are now negotiating face-to-face, and it is expected that a deal may result that has terms regarding prisoner swap and a final withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.


September 23, 2020

Exit for a Better Start--How to Break a Commercial Lease

By Tin-Fu (Tiffany) Tsai

When entering into a contract, it seems counterintuitive to picture how it will end. It is important to prepare for this possibility in the negotiation process. Every contract not carefully thought out is a litigation waiting to happen, and the current COVID-19 pandemic is just one of the many uncertainties complicating the deal. For example, it is not uncommon for a commercial lease to expand from a few years to decades. As a result, thinking beforehand about how a lease may end is crucial, because the terms of the lease may no longer match one's business strategy down the road.

The once the designated luxury shopping districts in New York City, Midtown East and the Upper East Side of Manhattan, have become war zones as many high-end brands are litigating against their landlords to exit their leases. Valentino, the Italian fashion brand, and Venus over Manhattan gallery, once known as the "Grand Central Terminal of the art world", are just a few of the well-known tenants that resorted to litigation. However, litigation is not the only way to end a lease. Although an exit strategy should be customized for any lease, this article hopes to provide an overview of alternatives for tenants to consider prior either to entering into commercial leases and/or before resorting to litigation.

Repurpose the Premises

Though not an actual exit of a lease, repurposing the premises is a way for a tenant to align the lease with its current needs. While the overall demand for brick-and-mortar stores has decreased, there has been a growing need for warehouse space due to growth of e-commerce. Repurposing the premises may not be allowed when there is a narrowly defined use provision under the lease. For example, if a lease specifies that the premises can only be used as a store front, it will be a breach of the lease for other uses. Furthermore, a tenant should be mindful of the zoning law requirements to ensure compliance.


The lease assignment is when a tenant transfers the entire lease or a portion of it to a new tenant. Most jurisdictions favor free alienability and permit the tenant to assign if the lease is silent about assignments. If not specified, New York courts allow the landlord to withhold the consent unreasonably or even without any reason at all.
Generally, the lease articulates the logistics of the right of assignment where a landlord's consent is required. The financial qualification of the new tenant is a common requirement to show the reasonableness of a landlord's consent.


Another option that relieves a tenant's financial burden is to sublet the premises to a subtenant. Essentially, subletting a lease will not release the tenant's obligations since the tenant remains on the lease and is liable for the subtenant's default. Similar to lease assignments, consent from the landlord is usually required, which could be withheld unreasonably if not specified under the lease.

Termination Right

A termination right, which is usually granted to a tenant with more leverage power, enables a tenant to exit the lease early without paying for the remainder of the term. It is not free of charge, as the tenant needs to satisfy certain conditions first, such as a minimum lease period, a triggering event, a prior notice, and recoupment of unamortized costs. Certain unamortized costs include free rent, brokerage commissions, legal costs, and buildout costs. Further, the termination right often results in higher rent as compensation to the landlord for early termination. Despite still having strings attached, a tenant may find the termination right a worthy avenue in which to retain a level of flexibility in response to future changes.

Lease Buyout

A lease buyout literally enables a tenant to buy an early way out. Often an expensive option, the price for a lease buyout depends heavily on the rental market. In a soft market, a tenant may be able to walk away without emptying its pockets, as the landlord is more optimistic in re-letting the premises. Generally, the "break-up fee" would reflect the landlord's cost of re-letting, the estimated vacancy period, the unamortized costs, and the remaining lease term. A landlord's development plan of the premises also plays a crucial role in the dynamic of the buyout negotiation. If the buyout matches a landlord's plan at the time, such as one to repurpose the premises, it is more likely to be settled at a lower price.

Force Majeure and Similar Common Law Doctrines

In an extreme situation, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, a tenant may have other options to excuse its lease obligations. Force majeure, a clause that had not attracted much attention until recently, has become a focal point as a result of the global pandemic. If written in a contract, the force majeure clause exempts a party's contractual obligation when it is disturbed by a triggering event that is neither foreseeable nor within the party's control. That said, whether a tenant can assert the force majeure clause to its advantage depends on the specific contractual language, which is narrowly construed by New York courts. If a certain type of triggering event is not included in the clause, New York courts usually conclude that it is intentionally excluded by the parties. Often, even when the clause is in place, it benefits the landlord and not the tenant.

If no force majeure clause is available under a lease, a tenant can still resort to other common law principles to relieve its contractual obligations, such as impossibility and frustration of purpose. A tenant should look out for provisions that waive common law defenses before raising those defenses against the landlord. For the impossibility to apply, the party's performance will only be excused if it is rendered objectively impossible by an unforeseeable triggering event. For example, if a lease requires a tenant to operate continuously, such tenant may argue for impossibility due to government orders limiting the operation hours. Frustration of purpose applies when an unforeseeable triggering event frustrates the basis of the contract and makes it pointless. For example, when a lease ties rent payments to the tenant's profits, a reduction of business caused by governmental restrictions may warrant a frustration of purpose defense. Again, New York courts interpret these doctrines narrowly and the asserted party bears the burden of proof. Still, many tenants, such as Valentino, are using them with hopes of terminating the lease or to reduce the rent payments. It may be too early to predict how those lawsuits will play out, but it is safe to say that the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to change how the courts view the issues.

The Landlord's Default

If a landlord has promised to have a certain type or percentage of occupancy threshold in a lease, commonly known as the co-tenancy provision, a tenant may have a way out upon the landlord's violation of such provision. Often, a demonstration of economic harm is a prerequisite before a tenant can terminate its lease. An exclusive use provision can also be helpful for a tenant when its landlord leases other spaces on the premises to the tenant's competitors. In addition, a tenant has a right of quiet enjoyment, which guarantees an undisturbed possession of the premises, and he or she can invoke a constructive eviction claim and further exempts contractual obligations when the landlord violates such right. For example, if a tenant is denied access to the premises, tenants may have a claim of constructive eviction.

Tenants may want to break the leases, but not the relationships or their bank accounts. Amongst all the uncertainties that are outside of one's control, the best policy is to read the fine print and understand what options a tenant may have to excuse or to reduce its contractual obligations. While repurposing the premises, subletting, and lease assignment keep the current lease in place, there are restrictions associated with these arrangements. The termination right and the lease buyout could be useful when the former is built into the lease and the latter is applied under a landlord's market. In rare cases, the tenants are better off if the conditions are met under force majeure, other common law doctrines, and landlords' defaults. In sum, different alternatives come with different price tags. With a good road map, one can find peace of mind.

September 25, 2020

EASL Theater News for the Week of September 25, 2020

By Bennett Liebman

Ruth Bader Ginsburg gave her life to the country -- and her heart to the performing arts, https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/theater_dance/ruth-bader-ginsburg-love-of-washington-thyeater/2020/09/19/161cf53e-fa85-11ea-89e3-4b9efa36dc64_story.html

Remembering Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, by Edward Gero, https://dcmetrotheaterarts.com/2020/09/19/remembering-justice-ruth-bader-ginsburg-by-edward-gero/

Ruth Bader Ginsberg Loved The Arts. Artists Respond to Her Death With Love, Fear, Anger and Action, https://newyorktheater.me/2020/09/19/ruth-bader-ginsberg-loved-the-arts-artists-respond-to-her-death-with-love-fear-anger-and-action/

Proposed NYC Legislation Could Create More Outdoor Performance Opportunities, Alleviate Roadblocks, https://www.playbill.com/article/proposed-nyc-legislation-could-create-more-outdoor-performance-opportunities-alleviate-roadblocks
The Government seems brazenly willing to discard Britain's mental health, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/theatre/what-to-see/government-has-brazenly-announced-willingness-discard-mental/

Theatre in crisis: 'British culture is world-beating - why leave us behind?' https://www.telegraph.co.uk/theatre/what-to-see/theatre-crisis-british-culture-world-beating-leave-us-behind/

UK arts leaders in despair: 'By the time we're allowed to reopen, we may be too decimated to do so', https://www.telegraph.co.uk/theatre/what-to-see/uk-arts-leaders-despair-time-allowed-reopen-may-decimated-do/

Why is the Theater Canon Filled with Men? These Women Want to Change That, https://tokentheatrefriends.com/2020/09/21/why-is-the-theater-canon-just-filled-with-men-these-women-want-to-change-that/

Metropolitan Opera closed until fall 2021 due to coronavirus concerns, https://broadwaynews.com/2020/09/23/metropolitan-opera-closed-until-fall-due-to-coronavirus-concerns/

'It's very carefully monitored': Andrew Lloyd Webber, 72, details his experience of Covid trials, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-8759285/Andrew-Lloyd-Webber-72-details-experience-Covid-trials.html

One Lost Weekend, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/09/24/arts/new-york-fall-arts-economy.html?referringSource=articleShare

What will theater look like in a post-COVID world? Old Globe launches initiative to answer that question, https://www.encinitasadvocate.com/art/story/2020-09-21/old-globe-launches-initiative-to-reimagine-theater-in-a-post-covid-world

Goldstar Launches Live Events Streaming Service, https://variety.com/2020/legit/news/goldstar-launches-live-events-streaming-service-exclusive-1234777556/

What to expect at a socially distanced night at the theatre, https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2020/sep/20/what-to-expect-at-a-socially-distanced-night-at-the-theatre

South Bay theaters take different routes to viability as shutdown continues, https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/09/24/theaters-take-different-routes-to-viability-as-shutdown-continues/

September 29, 2020

Week In Review

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:


Batiste v. Lewis (5th Cir.)

New Orleans jazz musician Paul Batiste sued hip-hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis for copyright infringement, saying that the pair digitally sampled 11 of his songs. The Court held that Batiste presented insufficient evidence to create a genuine dispute as to whether the defendants actually copied his music. Batiste failed to show access or that the songs were strikingly similar.


Actor Faces Threat From Doobie Brothers

A lawyer for the Doobie Brothers band is demanded that actor Bill Murray pays for using the group's hit song "Listen to the Music" in an ad for his William Murray golf wear. The "upbeat call for world peace" song was used in an ad for a $50 polo called Zero Hucks Given. In the demand letter, the lawyer also said that Murray had used songs owned by other clients without permission.



Iantosca v. Elie Tahari, Ltd. (SDNY)

Mark Iantosca is a professional photographer who photographed a digital content creator wearing the defendant's clothing. The defendant then posted the photograph to its social media pages. The plaintiff claims that the defendant did so without permission or obtaining a license to do so. The defendant challenges the copyright claim, because the plaintiff did not have a certificate of copyright registration for the photo when the complaint was filed. The defendant also argues permissible fair use, de minimus use, and credit to the photographer. The court held that reposting the photo to the brand's social media pages is not "trivial" because it is a business utilizing a professional photographer's work to promote its products. Attribution is not a defense against copyright and usage did not meet fair use test.


Coronavirus Relief Fund Raises Nearly $20 Million for Artists

A coalition of organizations administering the Artist Relief Fund - the Academy of American Poets, Artadia, Creative Capital, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, MAP Fund, National YoungArts Foundation, and United States Aritsts - has raised nearly $20 million since launching in April and has extended grant-making through December. The initiative provides unrestricted $5,000 relief grants to artists facing financial emergencies due to the impact of the COVID-19.


Hiller v. Success Group International

A jury has concluded that Hiller, the largest home-services company in Tennessee, had a valid copyright in the Guide and that the Success workbook copied protected elements of the Guide to train its technicians. Request for declaratory relief invaliding Hiller's copyright was rejected and affirmed by the Sixth Circuit. The jury concluded that Hiller created enough original material to gain copyright protection and was correctly instructed that the Guide's incorporation of some Clockwork-copyrighted content did not invalidate Hiller's copyright in the Guide's original parts.


The Metropolitan Opera Cancels Its Entire 2020-21 Slate

The Metropolitan Opera (Met) announced that because of the pandemic, it has cancelled its entire 2020-21 season; however it also announced ambitious artistic plans for its 2021-22 season, which will open with the Met premiere of Terence Blanchard's "Fire Shut Up in My Bones". Blanchard's opera is the first by an African American composer to be performed at the Met.


The Delay of a Retrospective Has Divided the Art World

The decision by four major museums to delay until 2024 a much-awaited retrospective of the modernist painter Philip Guston is roiling the art world, with some calling the decision a necessary step back during a period of surging racial justice protests and others deeming it a cowardly avoidance of challenging works of art. The retrospective, the first in more than 15 years, was supposed to open in June at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. The decision came after museums organizing the exhibition decided that Guston's familiar motif of cartoonish, haggard white-hooded Ku Klux Klansmen needed to be better contextualized for the current political movement.


Can Luxury Fashion Ever Regain its Luster?

The ground beneath the industry is heaving under the weight of a pandemic that has caused a plunge in sales, shocked global supply chains, and pushed American household names such as Brooks Brothers and Lord & Taylor to bankruptcy. Those shifts have prompted big questions about the business model of luxury fashion. The second quarter of 2020 was the luxury fashion industry's worst and industry growth is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels until at least 2023 or 2024.


Madrid Opera Shut Down by Audience Angry About Crowding

A performance of Giuseppe Verdi's "Un Ballo in Maschera" at the Teatro Real was canceled after spectators spent more than an hour shouting and clapping to protest against what they said were insufficient social distancing measures in the opera house's mezzanine levels.


Report Links U.K. Treasures to Colonialism and Slavery

93 properties managed by Britain's National Trust, the revered conservation society, cited in a recent report that they have direct connections to slavery and colonialism. The disclosure was said to have been done in an effort to shed a light on the "complex" and sometimes "hugely uncomfortable" stories behind the properties and their owners. Twenty-nine of the properties were among thousands across the country that received government payments as compensation for loss of "slave property" after Britain abolished slavery in parts of its empire in 1833. This just underscores the fact that the practice of enslaving African people was a fundamental part of the British economy in the late 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries.



Finish Line in Sight, The Bubble is Holding

With the presentation of the Stanley Cup just days away, the National Hockey League will soon be able to take a victory lap for being the first of the four major North American pro sports leagues to complete a season during the coronavirus pandemic. The quality of the hockey has been solid, and the safety protocols have held, but an adaptable mind-set for all parties, from top executives to stadium workers, has been crucial for the expanded 24-team postseason to work.


Italy in an Uproar Over the Curious Case of Suárez's Language Test

Italian authorities are investigating whether Barcelona striker Luis Suarez, an Uruguay national, was illegally helped to pass an Italian language exam last week, in order to receive a European passport that could help him transfer to a new club. The test cleared the way for a fast-track citizenship approval, which would mean that Juventus could sign him without exceeding its permitted quota of non-EU players, but suspicions were quickly raised in the media that he was given preferential treatment. He passed the exam despite his tutor allegedly saying "he can't speak a word."



Russian Trolls' Star Content Provider is Trump

Foreign Policy Research Institute fellow and former FBI special agent Clint Watts has said that "the Russians in 2016 had to make false news stories or manipulated truths to power their narratives. This time they're not writing anything that's not already said in U.S. space, often by Mr. Trump himself." Russia is once again interfering in the U.S. election, but this time, instead of having to make up its propaganda, it is relying on misleading statements made by Trump in speeches and tweets.


U.S. Suit Against Google is Said to Focus on Its Dominance in Search

The Department of Justice's (DOJ) impending lawsuit decision to narrow the case against Google to its search dominance could set off separate lawsuits from states over Google's power in other business segments. The DOJ's action against Google is set to be narrower than what some states and several career lawyers in the department had envisioned. The department DOJ also investigated Google's reach in ad technology and how the company prices and places ads across the internet. However, in an effort to file a case by the end of September, the DOJ decided to pick the piece that was furthest along in legal theory and that could best withstand a potential challenge.


Social Media Protections Targeted by DOJ

The DOJ sent Congress draft legislation that would reduce a legal shield for platforms like Facebook and YouTube, in the latest effort by the Trump administration to revisit the law as the president claims those companies are slanted against conservative voices. The original law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, makes it difficult to sue online platforms over the content they host or the way they moderate it. Under the proposed changes, platforms that purposely facilitate "harmful criminal activity" would not receive the protections. Platforms that allow "known criminal content" to stay up once they know it exists would lose the protections for that content.


TikTok Files for Injunction to Stop Trump's Ban of App

TikTok's parent company ByteDance and Oracle has filed a motion to stop the Commerce Department from enforcing a ban against the popular social app, continuing its fight with the Trump administration. The ban was supposed to come into place Sunday, but after the signing of the ByteDance/Oracle deal, it was delayed by a week, with additional delays expected as the deal closes in the coming weeks. Now the company seems to be taking more aggressive action to stop the government. In its filing, the company says that it has "made extraordinary efforts to try to satisfy the government's demands" and noted that the damage of the ban could be significant before a national election.


Facebook Removes Networks Linked to Russian Disinformation

Facebook and Twitter have said that they have removed several hundred fake accounts linked to Russian military intelligence and other Kremlin-backed actors involved in previous efforts to interfere in U.S. politics, including the 2016 presidential election. Facebook's head of security policy said that "hack-and-leak" operations are "one of the threats [they're] particularly focused on and concerned about ahead of the November election in the U.S. U.S. intelligence officials have warned that Russia is seeking to spread disinformation that would undermine former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign.


App Makers Form Alliance to Fight Apple and Google

A number of top app makers have banded together to fight against Apple's control of its App Store and, to a lesser extent, Google's control of the Play Store. Thirteen app publishers, including Epic Games, Deezer, Basecamp, Tile, and Spotify, have launched the Coalition for App Fairness. The new organization formalizes efforts the companies already have underway that focus on either forcing app store providers to change their policies, or ultimately forcing the app stores into regulation. Epic Games is currently involved in a lawsuit against Apple over the App Store's commission guidelines. Other app makers in the group have, through public statements, previously spoken out against Apple's practices, and some have also communicated their complaints to Congress. The group details its key issues, which include anti-competitive practices and the inability to distribute software to billions of Apple devices through any other means but the App Store, as an affront to personal freedom.


Aide Recounts Being Pressed To Stop Bolton

The account by a former National Security Council official also implied that the DOJ may have told a court that this book contains classified information and opened a criminal investigation based on false pretenses. White House aides improperly intervened to prevent a manuscript by Trump's former national security adviser John R. Bolton from becoming public, said a career official. In a letter, she also suggested that they retaliated when she refused to go along. This is the latest in a series of accounts by current and former executive branch officials as the election nears, accusing the president and his aides of putting his personal and political goals ahead of the public interest.


U.S. Revoked Award to Journalist for Criticizing Trump

An inspector general's report concludes that State Department officials nixed a high-profile award out of fear of offending higher-ups--then lied about it. The Trump administration revoked a prestigious award to a Finnish journalist because she had written social media posts critical of the U.S. president, then lied to Congress and the press about the reasons for revoking her award. Jessikka Aro, the Finnish journalist, faced online harassment campaigns and death threats for exposing Russia's disinformation and propaganda machine. Aro was told by U.S. diplomats in January 2019 that she would be honored at the State Department's International Women of Courage Award. Weeks later, the department rescinded the award, telling Aro it was due to a "regrettable error."


Alphabet Settles Lawsuits Over Harassment Claims

Google's parent company, Alphabet, has settled a series of shareholder lawsuits over its handling of sexual harassment claims, agreeing to greater oversight by its board of directors in future cases of sexual misconduct and committing to spend $310 million over the next decade on corporate diversity programs.


Paris Suspect Says Attack Targeted Paper

The suspect in the stabbing of two people outside the former Paris office of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo has confessed and said his attack was directed at the publication because it printed cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad. The suspect is an 18-year-old immigrant from Pakistan who arrived in France three years ago as an unaccompanied minor. Charlie Hebdo's former office was the target of a January 2015 terrorist attack that killed 12 people after the weekly first published the cartoons. The stabbing took place during the long-awaited trial of alleged accomplices in the 2015 attack. French authorities have not yet publicly confirmed the suspect's statement.


General News

President Plans to Name Amy Coney Barrett As His Court Pick

The selection of Judge Barrett, a deeply conservative jurist, kicked off an election-season confirmation fight. The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin hearings on October 12th. Barrett is a former Notre Dame law professor who now sits on a federal appeals court in Chicago and is a favorite of anti-abortion activists. She served as a clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia and says that "his judicial philosophy is mine too...a judge must apply the law as written. Judges are not policymakers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they may hold." Her confirmation would cement a 6-to-3 conservative majority on the court, leaving an imprint that could long outlast Trump's presidency. The nomination is expected to consume the Senate in the weeks ahead and quickly reverberate on the campaign trail, injecting polarizing issues like abortion rights into an election season already weighed down by the coronavirus pandemic and a national reckoning over racism.


Trump's Pick for Court Opens Dash to Vote

Trump's pick for the Supreme Court has compiled an almost uniformly conservative voting record in cases touching on abortion, gun rights, discrimination and immigration. If confirmed she would move the court slightly but firmly to the right, making compromises less likely and putting at risk the right to abortion established in Roe v. Wade. "She is sympathetic to Justice Scalia's methods, but I don't get the sense that she is going to be a philosophical leader on how those methods should be executed" says a law professor at Vanderbilt University.


G.O.P. Unity Shows Unyielding Drive to Remake Courts

Senator Mitt Romney said that he will back President Trump's push to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Only six weeks out from election, confirming a new justice would likely tilt the court decisively to the right. Although Romney has made no secret of his distaste for Trump previously, he was not about to pass up an opportunity to cement a court that could limit abortion rights, further empower business interests, and potentially strike down far-reaching federal programs.


Democrats and White House Strike Short-Term Deal to Avert Shutdown

The House approved a stopgap spending bill after Democratic congressional leaders and the Trump administration reached a deal on Tuesday to avert a government shutdown and extend funding through December 11th, agreeing to include tens of billions of dollars in additional relief for struggling farmers and for nutritional assistance.


Array of Legal Battles Concerning Voting Rules Still Face Supreme Court

Trump stacked the federal judiciary long before nominating his third Supreme Court Justice. So far, that hasn't helped him gain an advantage in 2020 voting as nearly has he might have liked. Facing a persistent polling deficit against Democratic nominee Joe Biden, Trump and his allies have undertaken an array of efforts to stop election officials from making voting easier during the coronavirus pandemic. The President fogs the air with groundless complaints of fraud while lawyers on his behalf challenge such adjustments as mail-in voting, expanded use of ballot drop-boxes, and relaxed deadlines for counting ballots that show up late. Courts in both red and blue states alike have repeatedly rebuffed them.


Remembering a Justice Who Remembered Them

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the young scholar spurned by every law firm in New York because of her gender before going on to become a champion of women's rights and a liberal icon, was honored on Wednesday by a former president, her colleagues on the Supreme Court, and long lines of everyday Americans who felt the influences of her long and storied career. For a justice who came to enjoy her improbable late-in-life celebrity, it was a modest, unassuming farewell, but one that moved many in a country polarized by politics and suffering from a horrible pandemic. Among those who waited hours to pass below her flag-draped coffin outside the Court were many women, often with daughters or mothers, who saw in Justice Ginsburg a source of personal liberation.


A Historic Tribute for Ginsburg Inside a Capitol Divided Over Replacing Her

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who won trailblazing legal victories for women's rights before ascending to the nation's highest court, broke her final barriers on Friday, becoming the first woman and the first Jewish American to lie in state in the United States Capitol. In a ceremony choreographed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to give the women of Congress a leading role, Justice Ginsburg was eulogized as a persistent warrior for justice whose example had inspired generations of women and girls. The tribute took place inside a Capitol deeply divided over replacing Justice Ginsburg so close to the presidential election.


Federal Judge Blocks Trump Administration from Ending the Census Count Early

Twice in the last 15 months, federal courts have scrutinized rationales offered by the Trump administration for trying to upend key parts of the 2020 Census, and twice judges have found them wanting. In this latest attempt, a federal district judge in California ruled that the Commerce Department had "never articulated a satisfactory explanation" for its decision to end the Census months earlier than had been planned, raising questions about the administration's motives.


Trump Won't Commit to Peaceful Transfer of Power

Trump has refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power if he loses the 2020 election to Democratic nominee Joe Biden. The Biden campaign responded, saying: "The American people will decide this election. And the U.S. government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House." The Trump campaign as pushed back on criticism of the president's answer.


Pentagon Leaders Worry That Trump Will Drag Military into Election

President Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power no matter who wins the election and his expressed desire in June to invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act to send active-duty troops onto American streets to quell protests over the killing of George Floyd, has caused deep anxiety among senior military and Defense Department leaders, who insist that they will do all they can to keep the armed forces out of the elections. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have said that he "foresees no role for the U.S. armed forces in this process", but this has not stopped an intensifying debate in the military about its role should a disputed election lead to civil unrest.


Appeals Court Allows House to Sue Over Wall Funding

A federal appeals court has reversed course in the border wall lawsuit, delivering a potential win to House Democrats who sued over President Trump's transfer of Defense Department funds to construct the wall. The Court disagreed with the lower court over the constitutional claims in the case and sent it back for further review. The decision is a blow to Trump, who made the border wall a cornerstone of his presidency. The Court ruled that "each member has a distinct individual right, and in this case, one chamber has a distinct injury", therefore the House Democrats can challenge the President's transfer of funds to build the border wall. The Appropriations Clause requires two keys to unlock the Treasury, and the House holds one of those keys. The appeals court stated that the Executive Branch snatched the House's key out of its hands.


The Department of Justice Aids Trump in Stoking Doubt on Vote with Nine Discarded Ballots

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has released details about an investigation into nine discarded mailed-in ballots in Pennsylvania in an unusual step that stoked new fears that President Trump's political appointees were using the levers of law enforcement to sow doubt about the election. FBI investigators are examining mail-in ballots from military members in Luzerne Country in northeastern Pennsylvania that had been "discarded." Seven of the nine ballots were cast for Trump. The ballots had been "improperly opened by election staff." Under Pennsylvania election law, no ballots can be opened until Election Day, even for processing. Election experts said that the announcement was highly irregular. The DOJ policy calls for keeping voter fraud investigations under wraps to avoid affecting the election outcome and the experts said it was almost unheard-of for the department to provide an update on the case and disclose the name of the candidate for whom the ballots had been cast.


Allies Skeptical of U.S. Push to Redefine Human Rights

European allies are skeptical of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's push to elevate religious liberty and property rights, which they fear could come at the expense of protecting marginalized groups. Pompeo's Commission on Unalienable Rights has come under scrutiny in recent months over fears that it could erode protections for women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. The response among European nations has been very skeptical. In response, diplomats said State Department representatives had rebranded their outreach efforts and would instead ask United Nations (UN) members to affirm their commitments to a human rights document passed by the body in 1948--a core tenet of Pompeo's commission. UN diplomats and human rights experts said the effort was equally worrisome, believing it was a cryptic way to ignore decades' worth of treaties since 1948 that enshrined protections for racial minorities, same-sex couples, and women around the globe--moving backwards.


Before Virtual UN Assembly, Trump Casts China As Villain in Pandemic

In his recorded video address to the annual UN general assembly, Trump unleased a rhetorical assault on China that seemed pitched at a domestic audience. Donald Trump and Xi Jinping offered starkly contrasting responses to the coronavirus pandemic, with the U.S. president blaming Beijing for unleashing a "plague" on the world--and his Chinese counterpart casting the fight against the virus as an opportunity for international cooperation. Trump also took the opportunity to attack the World Health Organization--falsely describing it as "virtually controlled by China"--and again incorrectly claiming that the international body had said there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission.


CIA Says Putin Directs Russian Steps to Aid Trump

The CIA has reasserted that Putin is likely directing election influence efforts to aid Trump. The assessment buttresses earlier findings that the Russian president supports Trump's re-election. This analysis is a signal that intelligence agencies continue to back their assessment of Russian activities, despite the president's attacks. The CIA has moderate confidence in its analysis, a lower degree of certainty than its 2016 assessment of Putin's preferences, in part because the intelligence community appears to lack intercepted communications or other direct evidence confirming his direction of Mr. Derkach's efforts. Putin, a former intelligence agent, is careful not to use electronic devices.


Trump Suggests Vaccine Standards are 'Political'

In suggesting he might reject tougher guidelines, Trump once again undermined efforts by government scientists to bolster public confidence in their work. The president's comments to reports came after the doctors told a Senate panel that they had complete faith in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and that science and data--not politics--were its guiding decisions. The FDA had planned to issue stricter guidelines for the emergency authorization of any new coronavirus vaccine, which would add a new layer of caution to the vetting process, even as the president has insisted a vaccine will be ready as early as next month. Trump cast doubt on the FDA plan.


Johnson & Johnson's Single-Dose Vaccine Begins Final Phase of Trials

The race for a vaccine got an infusion of energy last week, as Johnson & Johnson (J&J) announced that it has begun the final stage of its clinical trials, the fourth company to do so in the U.S. as the country hits a grim milestone of 200,000 deaths from the pandemic. J&J is behind the leaders, but its advanced vaccine trial will be by far the largest, enrolling 60,000 participants. Unlike some of its competitors, J&J's vaccine does not need to be frozen and may require just one shot instead of two. The company said that it could know by the end of this year if its vaccine works.


Consumers Have Lost $145 Million to Coronavirus Scammers, Federal Trade Commission Reports

Consumers have filed more than 205,000 reports of fraud linked to the coronavirus since the beginning of the year, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The average loss was $300 and it was more than double for seniors who are at least 80 years old. The prevalence of fraud is likely much higher than federal figures suggest, since they do not reflect scams unreported by consumers. Scammers have used multiple avenues to steal money from unsuspecting Americans, including crimes around financial relief, like stimulus checks and unemployment benefits, fake treatments for COVID-19, and fraudulent charities.


Officer Charged and Two Cleared in Taylor Killing

A grand jury in Louisville, KY indicted a former police detective on charges of reckless endangerment for his role in the raid on the home of Breonna Taylor, but the two officers who shot Taylor six times faced no charges. Protestors poured onto the streets after the announcement and there were also demonstrations in New York, Chicago, Milwaukee ,and smaller cities around the country. As the protesters took their anger and grief to the streets, two police officers were shot leading to officers in riot gear confronting protesters, releasing chemical agents and arresting several people.


Republicans' Inquiry Finds No Wrongdoing by Biden in Ukraine

A report released by Senate Republicans found that the role of Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma was "awkward" and at times "problematic" for U.S. officials dealing with the country, but provides no new evidence and found no instance of policy being altered as a result of his role. Republican Senator Ron Johnson, who led the investigation as chair of the Homeland Security Committee, had openly said that he hoped the election-year probe would hurt the Democratic nominee and help President Trump, while Democrats had decried the effort as purely political. Democrats have said that this effort has been a partisan and unnecessary distraction from important business before both Committees as the country faces the pandemic.


DOJ Releases Information Intended to Hurt Russia Inquiry

The attorney general provided information on two matters to President Trump's allies that was meant to damage the FBI's Russia investigation and the special counsel's office. The documents--related to flawed applications for wiretap on a former Trump adviser and an FBI agent's criticisms of the prosecution of the former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn--were the latest in a series of releases that have helped fuel the president's assertions of a "deep state" plot against him. Trump promoted several tweets from conservative commentators who used the finding to criticize the Russia investigation.


Judge Tells Eric Trump to Testify By October 7

Eric Trump had said he would not give a sworn deposition to the New York attorney general until after the election, but a state judge said he must cooperate sooner. He has to answer questions under oath in the fraud investigation into his family's real estate business. Trump's lawyers said he was willing to be interviewed--but would only do so after the election because he did not want his deposition to be used "for political purposes." Judge Arthur F. Engoron in the State Supreme Court in Manhattan, ruled that Trump had to sit for the deposition no later than October 7th, rejecting his arguments that a delay was necessary.


Putin Critic Leaves Hospital After Poisoning

Alexei Navalny, a frequent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been released from a German hospital more than a month after he fell ill in Russia and was transferred to Germany suffering from the effects of "severe poisoning," with what German officials confirmed was a deadly Russian nerve agent. Although he was released last week, doctors added that "it remains too early to gauge the potential long-term effects of his severe poisoning." German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other world leaders have asked Russia for answers, while the Kremlin has strongly denied any involvement.


Night Images Show China Has Added Detention Sites in Mostly Muslim Xinjiang

A new report by an Australian research group has identified and mapped more than 380 suspected detention facilities in China's western Xinjiang region. The institute scoured satellite photos for evidence of such facilities, including nighttime imagery that showed evidence of new construction in places where there had not been any illumination in the past. Their work followed eyewitness accounts, news reports, and other research that had documented the construction of such camps. They found 61 suspected detention sites that had seen construction or expansion between July 2019 and July 2020, including 14 facilities apparently still under construction. The findings contradict Chinese officials' claims that all "trainees" from so-called vocational training centers had 'graduated' by late 2019. Instead, the evidence suggests that many extrajudicial detainees in Xinjiang's vast 're-education' network are now being formally charged and locked up in higher security facilities, including newly built or expanded prisons, or sent to walled factory compounds for coerced labor assignments.



A Climate Crossroads With Two Paths: Merely Bad or Truly Horrific

America is now under siege by climate change in ways that scientists have warned about for years, but there is a second part to their admonition; decades of growing crises are already locked into the global ecosystem and cannot be reversed. Cascading disasters are occurring--from drought in the West fueling historic wildfires that send smoke all the way to the East Coast, or parades of tropical storms lining up across the Atlantic to march destructively toward North America. Conversations about climate change have broken into everyday life. The questions are profound and urgent. According to climate experts, the world hasn't even seen the worst.


A Second Term Could Make Trump's Environmental Rollbacks Stick

President Trump has initiated the most aggressive environmental deregulation agenda in modern history, but as his first term drives to a close, many of his policies are being cut down by the courts. These losses have heightened the stakes in the election--a second term, coupled with a 6-3 conservative majority on the High Court, could save some of his biggest environmental rollbacks.


At Climate Week, America's Cascading Disasters Take Center Stage

This year's events come amid a climate reckoning in the world's richest country. There were fire tornadoes in the American West; a slow-moving hurricane drowned northwest Florida; children in Silicon Valley breathed a bit of the foul air that children in the shanties of Delhi are accustomed to. Two of the world's three biggest economies, China and the European Union, pledged to act more quickly to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The world as a whole is nowhere close to where it needs to be to avert the worst effects of a warming world.


Emails Show How Pesticide Industry Swayed U.S. Stance in UN Talks

Emails from a pesticide industry lobbyist to employees at the Department of Agriculture have expressed alarm over proposed guidelines issued by a UN task force working to combat the rise of drug-resistant infections that kill thousands of people each year. A policy official urged U.S. agriculture officials to fight any effort to include the words "crops" or fungicides" in the guidelines--a position that would run counter to growing international consensus that the overuse of antifungal compounds is a threat to human health by contributing to drug resistance and should be monitored.


The Environmental Protection Agency Rejects Its Own Findings That Pesticide Harms Children's Brains

The Trump administration has rejected scientific evidence linking the pesticide chlorpyrifos to serious health problems. The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) new assessment directly contradicts federal scientists' conclusions five years ago that chlorpyrifos can stunt brain development in young children. The pesticide is widely used on soybeans, almonds, grapes, and other crops. It is a fresh victory for chemical makers and the agricultural industry, as well as the latest in a long list of Trump administration regulatory rollbacks. In announcing its decision, the EPA said that "despite several years of study, the science addressing neurodevelopmental effects remains unresolved." However, in making its finding, the EPA excluded several epidemiological studies that found a correlation between prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos and developmental disorders in toddlers.


Tapes of Boastful Remarks Force Leader of Alaska Mine Project to Resign

The chief executive of the partnership developing the Pebble Mine in Alaska resigned last week over comments made in meetings recorded by an environmental advocacy group. The executive, Tom Collier, embellished both his and the Pebble Partnership's relationship with elected officials and federal representatives in Alaska. The comments were "offensive" to "political, business and community leaders in the state." The Pebble project has been the subject of a long fight, with economic development forces on one side, and on the other, environmentalists and Native groups who are concerned about the damage to the region's wild salmon fishery. The Corps of Engineers in Alaska released a statement about the recordings, saying that it had "identified inaccuracies and falsehoods relating to the permit process and the relationship between our regulatory leadership and the applicant's executive." Other comments, including remarks about the state's two Republican senators and its Republican governor, forced Collier's resignation.


Scientists Tie Deadly Heat 'Blob' In the Pacific to Climate Change

The "blob" of hotter ocean water that killed sea lions and other marine life in 2014 and 2015 may become permanent. Six years ago, a huge part of the Pacific Ocean near North America quickly warmed, reaching temperatures more than five, degrees Fahrenheit above normal. It persisted for two years, with devastating impacts on marine life, including sea lions and salmon. The blob was a marine heat wave, the oceanic equivalent of a deadly summer atmospheric one, and far from a solitary event. Tens of thousands have occurred in the past few decades and the largest and longest ones have occurred with increasing frequency over time. Scientists have now linked these severe marine heat waves to climate change and say that they will more likely become much more severe.


Oil Giants Are Ocean Apart on Climate

U.S. and European Oil giants go different ways on climate change--BP and other European companies invest billions in renewable energy, Exxon and Chevron are committed to fossil fuels and betting on moonshots. As oil prices plunge and concerns about climate change grow, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, and other European energy companies are selling off oil fields, planning a sharp reduction in emissions, and investing billions in renewable energy. American oil giants Chevron and Exxon Mobil are going in a far different direction, by doubling down on oil and natural gas and investing what amounts to pocket change in innovative climate-oriented efforts like small nuclear power plants and devices that suck carbon out of the air. The disparity reflects the vast differences in how Europe and the U.S. are approaching climate change--European leaders have made tackling climate change a top priority, while Trump has called it a "hoax" and has dismantled environmental regulations to encourage the exploitation of fossil fuels.


Trump Uses Environmental Protection Agency Office to Widen War with 'Anarchist' New York City

The president has painted New York as an "anarchist jurisdiction," but his administration's threats to withhold funds are being dismissed as a politicized campaign tactic. The head of the EPA has threatened to move its regional headquarters out of Lower Manhattan, suggesting that local agency officials had become so fearful of New York streets that they are no2 considering moving offices. EPA administrator Andrew R. Wheeler cited three-month old protests against police brutality, and a small, recent protest against another federal agency, ICE, at a nearby building. Few in NY have taken the president's rhetoric seriously, and the threat from the administrator was also being dismissed as political theater to be deployed in Trump's re-election campaign.


Mankind's Feats Place California At Climate Risk

The engineering and land management that enabled the state's tremendous growth have left it more vulnerable to climate shocks--and those shocks are getting worse. The state has transformed its arid and mountainous landscape into the richest, most populous and bounteous place in the nation. Those same feats have given California a new and unwelcome category of superlatives. This year is the state's worst wildfire season on record.


About September 2020

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

August 2020 is the previous archive.

October 2020 is the next archive.

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