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Week In Review

By Eric Lanter Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

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


Weinstein Trial Continues With His Attorneys Questioning Accusers' Credibility

The lawyers for Harvey Weinstein have begun their defense in the trial in Manhattan and are seeking to discredit the prosecution's strongest witnesses. So far, they have argued that memories can be false and unreliable after having heard three weeks of testimony from over 20 witnesses, including six women who have accused Weinstein of raping or sexually assaulting them.

Movies Starring Women and People of Color Continue to Surge

Studies published by the University of Southern California's Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and the University of California Los Angeles' Institute for Research on Labor and Employment have shown that women and people of color figured "more prominently in popular films in 2019 than in any other year measured." The figures that the studies released have doubled the numbers from just over a decade prior, but nominations by major award organizations remains lagging behind that trend.

Taylor Swift's Next Big Deal Is for Her Songwriting

Taylor Swift is leaving Sony/ATV, which has been the "home of her music publishing rights since age 14," as she has entered into a new agreement with Universal. This move comes as the artist, now 30 years old, "sees being a songwriter as a primary part of her artistic identity, writes all her own material, alone or with collaborators."

After Oprah's Departure, Film About Simmons Accusers Finds New Home

HBO Max is set to carry the documentary called "On the Record," which features several women who have accused Russell Simmons of sexual misconduct. Originally, Oprah Winfrey and Apple's streaming service were set to feature the film, but both purportedly dropped the film in January after a "pressure campaign by the hip-hop mogul." It is set for release on HBO Max in May.


MAGA War on Architectural Diversity Weaponizes Greek Columns

The Trump administration is weighing imposing a "classical style on new federal buildings," which takes aim "at the heart of modernism and diversity." One target of the administration's ire is the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, which "is the most successful new public building in Washington." The proposed order would also change the method of selecting plans for buildings, taking it away from the peer review system that has led to more modern designs and instead require "traditional or classical architectural styles."

Top L Brands Executive Complained of Harassment and Then Was Locked Out

The #MeToo movement has not come to an end; it has in fact moved into corporate governance: The holding company for Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, L Brands, has come under fire for its lack of diversity and allegations of mishandling of claims of "gender discrimination and sexual misconduct." It is expected that there will be more revelations as there has been a shakeup by one of the leading female executives, Monica Mitro, in making public the allegations.

Banksy Cannot Control His Legacy

It is well known in the art community that Banksy is a "master of manipulating the news media and the art market," but there remain questions about whether his legacy will be long-lasting and the legacy that he wants. He began 15 years ago as a street artist who smuggled "his works into museums as pranks," but now when he has a stunt, like having a work just sold at auction be put halfway through a shredder, the reaction is almost entirely positive. The question has remained whether his popularity will endure and whether he will ultimately be considered a "historically significant artist." Banksy once shunned copyright protection and now strongly controls both his copyrights and trademarks.

Disney CEO Apologizes to PTA Asked to Pay After 'Lion King' Screening

An elementary school in Berkeley, California screened "The Lion King" at a fundraiser organized by students' parents, and contact from Disney was forthcoming, asking for a $250 licensing fee for the screening of their material. Quickly following was a post on Twitter from Disney's CEO, Robert Iger, apologizing to the school's PTA and a vow to "personally donate to their fund raising initiative."

Miuccia Prada Will Be Getting Sensitivity Training

Based on a settlement between Prada and the New York City Commission on Human Rights, Prada will begin sensitivity training with its employees. The genesis for the action being filed with the Commission was a set of figurines in Prada's SoHo store's window that some took to resemble "monkeys in blackface." Additionally, other brands, such as Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana, are likely to receive similar training after having respectively created a "blackface sweater" and "caricatured Chinese culture."

Royal Ballet Suspends Choreographer Over Sexual Misconduct Claims

The Royal Ballet suspended the choreographer and artist-in-residence Liam Scarlett after accusations of sexual misconduct at the Royal Ballet School emerged. The company immediately suspended him after receiving word of accusations and launched an investigation into the alleged misconduct, which included encouraging male students at the school to send him nude photos.

In Iraq, Art Flowers Amid Protests

Throughout Baghdad, protests have been commonplace as discontent with the government grows, and accompanying those protests are artists including painters, sculptors, and musicians. The capital is now "overflowing with political art", such as "banners with messages to the government", such as a building that has been painted to look "like a ship about to set sail with the slogans written on white cloth ballooning in the wind."


Fantasy Sports Contests Are Illegal Gambling: New York Appeals Court

The Appellate Division has ruled that a law "that authorized fantasy sports in the state" is not constitutional in a blow to companies such as FanDuel and DraftKings. Governor Andrew Cuomo had signed the bill into law in August 2016, and the law declared that fantasy sports were not gambling, but four residents sued, claiming that they had been harmed by gambling and that the State Constitution prohibited gambling other than that which takes place at horse tracks and casinos. The Appellate Division found that the law was not only unconstitutional but that daily fantasy sports "could not be exempted from the penal code."

Major League Soccer Reaches Deal With Its Players

Major League Soccer (MLS) and its players have announced "an agreement in principle on Thursday for a five-year collective bargaining agreement that raises pay and improves working conditions." The agreement raises the salary cap, which is a concept foreign to every other top league, to $11.6 million from $8.5 million. As MLS seeks to rival the top leagues of the world, it still struggles to attract the top soccer talent, as many top players earn more in annual salaries than an MLS club may pay to an entire roster.

Media and Technology

Ex-CIA Analyst Faces Trial for Agency's Biggest Leak

The Vault 7 leak was "the largest disclosure of classified CIA information" in the agency's history and caused "catastrophic" damage to national security as WikiLeaks published thousands of pages of documents "about how the CIA hacks into overseas targets, revealing its ability to compromise smartphones and turn certain televisions into listening devices." A 31-year-old computer engineer, Joshua Schulte, is now beginning trial in federal court in Manhattan "to defend against charges that he was the leaker" responsible for the documents being sent to WikiLeaks.

Fox News Denies Editing Interview at Trump's Request

In December 2016, Fox News anchor Chris Wallace interviewed Donald Trump for several hours in preparation for airing an interview on "Fox News Sunday," and one question about Michael Flynn, the son of the national security adviser, did not make the cut. Stephen Bannon, the former campaign manager, told the special counsel's office that "Fox agreed to cut out that part of the interview" because it was deemed "embarrassing for Trump," but Wallace and Fox News have denied the accusation, with Wallace saying it was "utter foolishness and completely misleading."

Twitter Moves to Target Fake Videos and Photos

Facing pressure from users, Twitter announced that "it would more aggressively scrutinize fake or altered photos and videos." Starting in March, it will begin adding "labels or take down tweets carrying manipulated images and videos," which is short of an outright ban and comes one day after "YouTube also said it planned to remove misleading election-related content on its site."

Johnson and BBC Trade Jabs, as War on the Press Flares

The British "government is questioning the BBC's public funding and even picking fights with papers that have backed Prime Minister Boris Johnson with gusto." Johnson's ministers have boycotted a popular BBC radio show, and Johnson, a one-time journalist, has taken to attacking "the British press corps, including journalists from newspapers that backed his Brexit campaign." The rancor has "drawn comparisons to President Trump's clashes with the White House news media," even though Johnson has avoided "Trump's inflammatory language."

The Epoch Times Gets New Megaphone on YouTube

The Epoch Times, one of the more "mysterious fixtures of the pro-Trump media universe," is a print newspaper created 20 years ago "by practitioners of Falun Gong, the persecuted Chinese spiritual practice," and in recent years, it has made a shift to posting ads on YouTube. The ads have come after it spent over $1 million to promote its content on Facebook but was caught "trying to evade its advertising transparency rules and barred it from taking out more ads."

Child-Welfare Activists Attack Facebook Over Encryption Plans

Facebook is "facing criticism for how encryption can allow child exploitation to flourish undetected on its services" as it moves forward with a plan to encrypt all of its messaging platforms. Advocates say that doing so would "allow child predators to operate with impunity across the company's apps", which include WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger.

IBM, Marriott, and Mickey Mouse Take on Tech's Favorite Law

Powerful companies and industries "are fighting to weaken Big Tech by limiting the reach of one of its most sacred laws." Section 230, the law that "makes it nearly impossible to sue platforms like Facebook or Google for the words, images, and videos posted by their users," is facing attack from companies as powerful as IBM, Marriott, and Disney as they lobby Congress to amend the law.

Facial Recognition App Is Identifying Child Victims of Abuse

Clearview AI, a secretive facial recognition company "with a database of three billion images," is being used in many law enforcement agencies to "identify children who are victims of sexual abuse." While it is a powerful tool for those agencies, the database raises questions about accuracy and the handling of the data in the database. While some have objected to it being used, others have called it "the biggest breakthrough in the last decade" in terms of solving child sexual abuse crimes.

Bezos Sued by His Girlfriend's Brother

Michael Sanchez, a Hollywood talent manager and brother of Jeff Bezos' girlfriend Lauren Sanchez, has filed a lawsuit against Bezos claiming that Bezos and his security consultant defamed Sanchez "in connection with a 2019 National Enquirer story revealing Bezos' extramarital affair." The action, filed in state court in California, alleges that Bezos and his consultant "falsely told journalists that he had leaked 'graphic nude photographs' of Bezos to The Enquirer."

Brazil Drops Charges Against Glenn Greenwald, a Journalist

A federal judge in Brazil has ruled that Glenn Greenwald, an American journalist, "should not stand trial for his role in bringing to light hacked cellphone messages." Experts in criminal law "were critical of the decision to charge Greenwald", as the charges "did not clearly implicate the journalist in criminal conduct."

General News

Senate Votes to Acquit Trump Day After Emboldened President Delivers State of the Union

The United States Senate voted to acquit President Donald Trump of the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Requiring a two-thirds majority to convict, only one Republican--former Republican candidate for President Mitt Romney--voted to convict. Those who voted to convict faced promises of reprisal from President Trump, and already, two witnesses who testified, Gordon Sondland and Alexander Vindman, were fired from their posts.

Faulty Iowa App Was Part of Push to Restore Democrats' Digital Edge

The results in the Democratic caucus in Iowa remains unclear, but what is clear is that it will be either Pete Buttigieg or Bernie Sanders who claims victory. Former Vice President Joe Biden appears to have finished in a disappointing fourth behind Senator Elizabeth Warren and just ahead of Senator Amy Klobuchar, but the final results are far from clear, as an app that the Democratic Party had implemented to gain a digital edge has been plagued with errors that may lead to a re-canvass of votes where inconsistencies have been found.

Coronavirus Spreads, Killing the Doctor Who Reported Its Dangers as China Shuts Itself Off

The coronavirus crisis continues to grow as China refuses aid from global organizations, such as the World Health Organization. The economic impact and death toll of the virus surpasses that of SARS. The handling of the virus by the Chinese government has come under scrutiny as President Xi Jinping has not been publicly speaking on the subject. Global organizations, such as the World Health Organization, have complained of being refused help in fighting the virus and having to combat a significant amount of misinformation on social media about the virus.

Senate Report Criticizes Response to Russian Meddling and Blames Partisanship

A Republican-led committee has released a report saying that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been "skeptical about a more forceful American response to Russian interference in the 2016 elections." The Intelligence Committee has found that "partisan divisions and Republican congressional leaders' reluctance to publicly acknowledge Russian election interference in 2016 contributed to a delayed response by the Obama administration in the midst of the presidential campaign." McConnell is said to have been concerned "in part that a big public announcement could in effect aid the Russian effort" to interfere in the election.

Court Dismisses Emoluments Case Brought Against Trump

A federal appeals court ruled on Friday that an action brought by "215 Democratic members of Congress accusing President Trump of illegally accepting benefits from foreign governments" was dismissed because "individual lawmakers cannot sue the president on behalf of the entire Congress." Legal experts "had widely considered the suit to be the weakest of three lawsuits accusing the president of violating the Constitution's emoluments clauses. The court ruled that because the 29 senators and 186 representatives did not constitute a majority of either legislative body, they were "powerless to approve or deny the president's acceptance of foreign emoluments."

Trump Gives Venezuela's Guaido the Embrace He Wanted

President Trump has met with Venezuela's opposition leader, Juan Guaido, which has been a meeting that Guaido has long hoped for to "demonstrate the United States' support for his claim to being the country's rightful president." His meeting with Guaido on Wednesday at the White House came just after Guaido was recognized at the State of the Union address on Tuesday night as "the true and legitimate president of Venezuela."

160 Nations Ban These Weapons, and the U.S. Now Embraces Them

The Trump administration has approved use of "cluster bombs and antipersonnel land mines, deadly explosives known for maiming and killing civilians long after the fighting ended," which have been banned by more than 160 countries. The new policies are part of a "military strategy that named Russia and China as the United States' great power rivals" as both powers have "significant ground forces, and mines historically have been used to deny an adversary's troops the ability to advance on the battlefield."

Trump Administration Freezes Global Entry Program

It is expected in the coming days that New York State will sue the federal government based on the Department of Homeland Security's move to "block New Yorkers from participating in 'trusted traveler programs' in retribution for a new state law that could hinder federal immigration enforcement." Governor Andrew Cuomo has called the move "an abuse of power" and "extortion." The conflict began in December when a state law took effect allowing New Yorkers to apply for driver's licenses without having to prove that they are in the United States legally.

Trump Opens National Monument Land to Energy Exploration

On Thursday, the Trump administration "finalized plans to allow mining and energy drilling on nearly a million acres of land in southern Utah that had once been protected as part of a major national monument." The Interior Department released a blueprint allowing approximately 861,974 acres of land to be opened for oil, gas, and coal companies to "complete the legal process for leasing mines and wells" on the land that had once been part of Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Justice Department Drops Antitrust Probe Against Automakers That Sided With California on Emissions

The Justice Department, after approximately five months of investigation, has dropped "its antitrust inquiry into four automakers that had sided with California in its dispute with the Trump administration over reducing climate-warming vehicle pollution, deciding that the companies had violated no laws." The four automakers, Ford Motor Company, Volkswagen of America, Honda, and BMW, had defied Trump's "planned rollback of national fuel economy standards."

Puerto Ricans Are Left With $1.6 Billion in Unpaid Insurance Claims

In Puerto Rico, "homeowners and cities say they are getting pennies on the dollar" for the insurance claims they have filed in relation to Hurricane Maria. Even though the hurricane came in 2018, insurers "still have not paid long-pending claims that would allow the cities to install new warning equipment," even as hundreds of earthquakes have come in recent weeks. Thus, rather than rehabilitate the earthquake alert sirens, Puerto Ricans have become accustomed to using whistles.

After a Dozen Deaths, Justice Department Investigates Mississippi Prisons

Prisons in Mississippi have been the site of over a dozen deaths in recent weeks, and there have been smuggled cellphones documenting the deteriorating conditions. The Justice Department has announced that it will be launching a "civil rights investigation to explore whether prison officials have done enough to protect inmates from one another and the quality of mental health care and suicide prevention efforts." While officials have said that the disorder is owing to "warring gangs," others have said that the overcrowded and understaffed system has caused the chaos.

Federal Hate Crime Charges Filed in El Paso Shooting

The man who opened fire at a Walmart killing 22 people in El Paso is now facing federal hate crime charges. A federal grand jury indicted the suspect, Patrick Crusius, for targeting Hispanics in the "racially motivated massacre that left 22 people dead." The indictment now includes 90 counts with 22 being hate crimes resulting in death, 23 counts of hate crimes with attempted murder, and 45 counts of discharging a firearm in the commission of a hate crime.

Number of Homeless Students Rises to New High

A new report from the National Center for Homeless Education has found that over 1.5 million public school students "were homeless at some point during the 2017-18 school year." It is the highest number in over 10 years and "reflected a growing problem that could negatively affect children's academic performance health."

Fireflies Have A Mating Problem: The Lights Are Always On

A study in the journal BioScience has announced that bright lights have made light pollution an issue to such an extent that fireflies are having increasing difficulty reproducing, as that pollution outshines "their mating signals." While male fireflies "light up to signal availability and females respond with patterned flashes to show that they're in the mood," lights from advertisements or homes have begun "interfering and blocking potential firefly couples from pairing up," according to the study authored by researchers from Tufts University and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

How a Health Aide Won Ex-Client's $283-A-Month Apartment

A novel case has come from a New York State court: A home health aide who had cared for a woman for many years "won the right to the rent-controlled apartment" where the elderly woman had "lived for about 60 years before she died." New York State law requires that an immediate family member or one with an intertwined relationship, such as a spouse or child, may take over the rent-regulated apartment upon the owner's death, but this decision appears to expand who may qualify for that.

Bernie Madoff Says He Is Dying and Seeks Early Prison Release

Bernard Madoff has said that he has less than 18 months to live given the fact that he has entered "the final stages of kidney disease," and he is requesting release from prison. He admitted in 2009 to "running a scheme that bilked thousands of investors out of their cash, wiping out his victims' savings and destroying lives."

Former Pimco CEO Gets 9 Months in Prison in College Admissions Case

Douglas Hodge, the "retired chief executive of the bond giant Pimco," paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to get four of his seven children into elite schools, and on Friday, a federal judge sentenced him to nine months in prison for "money laundering conspiracy and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud." To date, it is the most severe punishment of any parent in relation to the "college admissions scandal," even though it fell short of the two years that prosecutors sought.

China's Lavish Funds Lured U.S. Scientists, But What Did It Get in Return?

China's "Thousand Talents recruitment plan attracted US scientists with its grants," but investigators are now saying that "China used the program to steal sensitive technology." The Senate has declared that the recruitment programs are "a threat to American interests", as scientists may have intentionally or unintentionally been providing to the Chinese government research directly from American laboratories. One expert in the field asked, "One question would be, is this a bug, or a feature of these programs, to have a link to espionage?"

Audio Captured Iran Plane Downing

The transcript of air traffic communications relating to Iran's downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet were leaked to a Ukrainian news site, and Iran has since halted its cooperation "with Ukraine's inquiry into the downing of the Ukrainian plane." It is clear from the transcript that there were flares emanating from the missile prior to its striking the plane, which killed all 176 people on the plane at a time when there were high tensions between Iran and the United States and raised fears of escalating violence.

New Travel Ban Shuts Door on Africa's Biggest Economy, Nigeria

The federal government has announced an expansion to its travel ban: Nigeria, Sudan, Tanzania, Eritrea, Myanmar, and Kyrgyzstan are now subject to the travel ban. It is an expansion of the travel ban put in place in 2017, which restricted travel from Muslim-majority countries and was sold to the public as a move to keep out "radical Islamic terrorists." This latest move has left Nigerians "somewhat blindsided," and its top diplomat has received an assurance "by American officials that visa restrictions could soon be lifted."

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