Week In Review
By La-Vaughnda A. Taylor Edited by Elissa D. Hecker
Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into: Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media and Technology, and General News:
Two Dispute Testimony of Weinstein's Accusers
A Brazilian actress and Mexican model testified on behalf of accused rapist Harvey Weinstein, with both women disputing key elements of the sexual assault claims made by prosecution witnesses. The defense team put them on the stand to rebut the narratives of Jessica Mann and Lauren Young. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to two counts of rape, two counts of predatory sexual assault and one count of criminal sexual act. If convicted he faces a maximum of life in prison.
https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/manhattan/ny-harvey-weinstein-defense-friends-testify-20200210-uup5sqxejbgthdyq6ilsazthoe-story.html Actor is Indicted Over Attack Police Called a Hoax
Actor Jussie Smollett has been indicted on six new charges of disorderly conduct, accusing him of filing false police reports claiming that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack last year. Smollett is due in court on February 24th. Cook County prosecutors last year dropped 16 disorderly conduct charges against Smollett, just over a month after Chicago police had accused him of orchestrating a hoax because he was upset with his salary on the TV show "Empire".
She Created a Dance, But Doesn't Get Credit
Jalaiah Harmon is the 14-year-old behind the viral "Renegade" dance. One of Jalaiah's choreographed dances became wildly popular and made a major viral impact. The dance became viral after a popular TikTok personality with over 26 million followers named Charli D'Amelio posted the dance on the app and did not credit Jalaiah. These viral dances after often created by young black talent, called "Dubsmashers," on smaller platforms and then are copied by users on TikTok, with usually no credit given. Rapper K-Camp has tried to reverse the tides by giving the original creator her due.
"Parasite" Win Makes History at the Oscars
The South Korean film "Parasite" made Oscar history last week by winning 4 Oscars, including Best Picture, Directing, International Feature Film, and Writing (Original Screenplay). Directed by Bong Joon-ho, "Parasite" gave South Korea its first Oscar and earned the distinction of being the first film not in English to win Best Picture.
Board Resigns Weeks Before France's Oscars
With just about two weeks to go before France's equivalent of the Oscars, the entire board of the César Academy, which organizes the awards, resigned after around 400 of the country's leading filmmakers and actors said in an open letter that its leadership was dysfunctional. This moved has plunged France's biggest film awards into crisis. The petition called for a complete overhaul of the system. The announcement arrived shortly after this year's nominations were announced and Roman Polanski lead the pack. Though Polanski, who pleaded guilty in 1977 for unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl, has been rejected by the U.S. film industry in the wake of the #MeToo movement, certain prestigious corners of France's film industry have embraced the controversial director. There have also been clashes over the French academy's lack of transparency over its voting process, in addition to a general lack of inclusivity.
Amazon Quiets Nazis, Book by Unsold Book
Over the past 18 months, Amazon has removed two books by David Duke, former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, as well as several titles by the founder of the American Nazi Party. While few may lament the disappearance of these hate-filled books, the increasing number of banished titles has set off concern among some of the third-party booksellers who stock Amazon's vast virtual shelves, saying that Amazon is operating under vague or nonexistent rules. Previously, Amazon largely escaped the controversies that pit freedom of speech against offensive content, unlike Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, but that may be reaching its end. The Nazi-themed items are removed under its policy on "offensive and controversial materials" and Amazon is becoming proactive in removing the material.
Rihanna's Lingerie Line Accused of Deceptive Marketing
Rihanna's inclusive underwear brand is being accused of "deceptive marketing" and luring shoppers into paying hefty monthly fees. Rihanna's Savage x Fenty brand is accused of luring customers into an expensive membership program "without clearly" disclosing all the terms and conditions. A complaint has been filed with the Federal Trade Commission and the California District Attorney's office for Santa Cruz County by the non-profit watchdog group Truth in Advertising. The complaint alleges that Savage x Fenty has been duping customers by promoting discounts that can only be used once they sign up for the $49.95-a-month VIP subscription.
Jury Convicts Avenatti in Nike Extortion Case
A jury has convicted Michael Avenatti of attempted Nike extortion. A federal jury in New York convicted the disgraced attorney of attempting to extort as much as $25 million from Nike over threats that he would expose misdeeds in the apparel company's grassroots basketball division.
Painful Theme, and Back Story, of Met Painting
In Gallery 634 of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, there is a stunning painting depicting a moment of sexual violence between Tarquin and Lucretia from Roman legend. More recently, the 17th-century work has been described as a portrayal of the rape of Tamar from the Old Testament. There is new evidence that suggests the painting, purchased by the Met in 1984, is likely the same one a Jewish art dealer, Siegfried Aram, left behind when he fled Germany when Hitler took power in 1933. The dealer tried unsuccessfully to reclaim the painting for a decade after the war.
Toppled, but Silent Sam Still Looms Over University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
The fate of the Silent Sam Confederate monument, which stood on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus for 105 years, is still undecided a year after it was toppled to the ground by protestors.
Trial of Avowed Pedophile Will Also Judge the French Elite
A French writer who openly promoted pedophilia and was protected by France's elite was charged in a Paris court for promotion of child sex abuse. Gabriel Matzneff wrote about pedophilia for decades and a case has been filed accusing him of defending and justifying pedophilia through his books and public appearances. Three of Matzneff's publishers dropped him following the publication of Vanessa Springora's Consent, the first account of the abuse by one of his underage victims. A cascade of elite French abandoned Matzneff as the scandal broke. The trial will begin in September 2021, where Matzneff's actions and those of French elite in his orbit will be scrutinized.
Profits by Athletes: Where the Fight Stands
The NCAA and its membership have been mired in fights behind closed doors in statehouses and on Capitol Hill over whether or not and the way student-athletes ought to be allowed to earn revenue off their renown. Currently, the NCAA's Division I handbook, Article 12 bars a student-athlete from accepting compensation in trade for permitting "his or her identity or image to promote, advocate or promote immediately the sale or use of a business services or products of any sort." The bylaws forbid sponsorships, money for autograph signings or monetizing social media channels. California has thrown a wrench in this rule by accrediting laws that challenged the NCAA's bans on brokers and endorsement offers. Although the measure is not scheduled to impact unil 2023, it has inspired lawmakers in a dozen different states to contemplate payments of their very own, and many have drawn bipartisan backing, some of which would come into play far sooner than California's legislation.
Ex-Coach Guilty of Lying in Nassar Case
A jury has convicted Kathie Klages, a former Michigan State University gymnastics coach, of lying to police when she denied that two teen athletes told her about sexual abuse by sports doctor Larry Nassar in 1997, nearly 20 years before he was charged.
League Expects to Lose Hundreds of Millions' of Dollars from China Rift, Silver Says
Commissioner Adam Silver said that the business loss from not being on the air games in China was "substantial," but that the National Basketball Association (NBA) accepted the consequences of its values. The precise numbers are still a little bit uncertain, but projected to be less than $400 million. Fortunately, the NBA does not foresee permanent damage to its business. The Chinese government shut the NBA out in October, after Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey shared an image on Twitter that supported pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. Morey later deleted the tweet, but controversy had already begun and would quickly snowball.
Russia May Lose Its Sochi Win
Russia is set to lose a biathlon gold medal from the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics following a new doping ban for a leading athlete. When confirmed by the International Olympic Committee, it will knock Russia off the top spot in the Sochi medal table in term of golds.
France's Ice Sports Chief Resigns in Abuse Scandal
Amid a widening scandal, the long-serving head of France's ice skating federation resigned last week. Under Didier Gailhaguet, pressure has been mounting as there have been increasing accusations of rape and sexual abuse against skating coach Gilles Beyer. Beyer has admitted to inappropriate relations with 10-time French skating champion Sarah Abitbol. Multiple skaters have accused two other coaches of sexual abuse and harassment as well. Gailhaguet accused France's sports minister, Roxana Maracineanu, of making him a "sacrificial victim." Gailhaguet has denied knowledge of the allegations against Beyer and blames the sports ministry for allowing him to continue working in the skating world.
A Former Owner of Newsweek Pleads Guilty
Etienne Uzac, a former co-owner of IBT Media and Newsweek Media Group, pleaded guilty to money laundering in the second degree and scheme to defraud in the first degree. William Anderson, the former CEO of Christian Media Corporation (CMC), pleaded guilty to the same charges. CMC and IBT Media were charged in late 2018 with a $35 million scheme to obtain loans and defraud lenders. The charges included money laundering, falsifying business records, and conspiracy. Uzac will be sentenced to "probation and possibly community service" when he is formally sentenced on April 20th. He will not face jail time.
Internet Delusion Oozes Offline into Real World
What began online more than two years ago as an intricate, if baseless, conspiracy theory that quickly attracted thousands of followers has since found footholds in the offline world. QAnon has surfaced in political campaigns, criminal cases, merchandising, and at least one college class. Most recently, the botched Iowa Democratic caucuses and the coronavirus outbreak have provided fodder for conspiracy mongering. About a dozen candidates for public office in the U.S. have promoted or dabbled in QAnon and its adherents have been arrested in at least seven episodes. The FBI cited QAnon in an intelligence bulletin last May about the potential for violence motivated by "fringe political conspiracy theories."
Top Philippine Broadcaster Faces Possible Shutdown
The Philippine government has taken steps that could effectively shut down one of the country's largest media organizations, drawing protests from press-freedom and democracy advocates. Solicitor General Jose C. Calida filed a petition in the Supreme Court last week to revoke the operating franchise of broadcast company ABS-CBN, citing a number of alleged offenses, such as foreign ownership, which is in violation of the Philippine Constitution. Protestors say that it is a fresh attack on press freedom under President Rodrigo Duterte. The move comes as the broadcaster was working publicly and privately to convince lawmakers to renew its franchise, which expires March 30th. ABS-CBN, whose news and entertainment shows reach tens of millions of Filipinos online and via TV and radio, says that it has done nothing wrong.
Britain Empowers Watchdog to Push for Policing of Internet Content
Britain is creating a media watchdog that would become an internet authority to push Google, Facebook, and other internet giants to police their own platforms. The watchdog Ofcom is to be given the power to regulate social media companies, holding them to account for harmful content, such as violence or child abuse. The digital media and culture secretary is introducing several measures based on a government White Paper launched in April last year. It called for fines, site blocks, and the prosecution of senior management for companies that fail to protect their users.
Two Video Bloggers, Posting Virus Reports, Go Missing
A second Chinese citizen journalist who had been covering China's deadly coronavirus outbreak from its epicenter in Wuhan has gone missing just days after the disappearance of Chen Qiushi, a former civil rights lawyer, who was video blogging from the city. Fang Bin, a Wuhan businessman who had been posting videos filmed form city hospitals, was allegedly arrested. In China, citizen journalists are rare because they can't obtain the official certificate required for reporting news, as they don't work for a registered outlet. However, amid increased public anger against the authorities, some have taken on the risk of offering the outside world a first-hand glimpse of the situation in Wuhan.
64.9 Degrees: 'Balmy Antarctica' Isn't Oxymoronic
Antarctica recorded its hottest temperature on record last week. The previous record of 63.5 degrees was set in 2015. The record appears to be likely associated (in the short term) with what is called a regional "foehn" event over the area (a rapid warming of air coming down a slope/mountain). It is currently summer in the southern hemisphere, but the temperatures don't usually get much higher than 50 degrees. The polar regions are heating up faster than the rest. The Antarctic Peninsula has warmed by 5.4 degrees in just the last 50 years.
Swearing Off the Financing of Dirty Oil Production
Some of the world's largest financial institutions have stopped putting their money behind oil production in the Canadian province of Alberta, home to one of the world's most extensive, and also dirtiest, oil reserves.
Calculating Pollution's Toll, Across State Lines
In most states, about half of the premature deaths caused by poor air quality are linked to pollutants that blow in from other states, according to a new study. The study investigated the sources and affects of two major pollutants that result from fuel burning that harm humans in the Lower 48 states from 2005 to 2018: ozone and fine airborne particles. The study found that in New York, for example, nearly 2/3 of premature deaths are attributable to pollution from sources in other states, making it the largest "net importer" of early deaths. The analysis could have implications for policymakers looking for ways to reduce air pollution and premature mortality, by regulating cross-state emissions. So far, only emissions from electric power generation are regulated in this way.
Reports of Online Videos of Child Sexual Abuse Climb by Millions
The number of reported photos, videos, and other materials related to online child sexual abuse grew by more than 50% last year, with videos outnumbering photos for the first time. Many of the world's biggest technology platforms remain infested with the illegal content. Nearly 70 million images and videos were reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The videos are now more readily detected by some companies. Facebook reported nearly 60 million photos and videos, more than 85% of the total. The platforms say that they will continue to develop the best solution to keep more children safe.
Trump Budget: Cut Safety Net, Add to Military
The White House has cut funds on Medicare and Medicaid to boost funds for military and veterans and aims to reduce deficits by $4.6 trillion over a decade. This budget charts a path for a potential second term by proposing steep reductions in social safety-net programs and foreign aid. The plan would increase military spending 0.3% to $740.5 billion for fiscal year 2021 and lower nondefense spending by 5% to $590 billion.
Justice Dept. Acts to Ease Sentence for a Trump Ally
NBC News reported that Attorney General William Barr has taken direct action in legal matters that are of personal interest to the president in order to ease sentences for Trump allies. Most recently, he intervened in the case against Trump surrogate Roger Stone, after prosecutors requested a sentence of 7 to 9 years for witness tampering and lying to Congress. Senior Department of Justice officials pushed for less prison time, which resulted in four prosecutors withdrawing from the case. The president ultimately may not need his attorney general to follow through on apparent plans to ease sentencing on his allies who have remained loyal to him. Trump has floated the idea of pardoning Roger Stone and Michael Flynn.
Barr Says Attacks from Trump Make Work "Impossible"
Attorney General Barr delivered an extraordinary rebuke of Trump, saying that the president's attacks on the Justice Department had made it "impossible for me to do my job" and that "I'm not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody." Barr has been among the president's most loyal allies, but has now publicly challenged Trump. Barr's remarks were aimed at containing the fallout from the department's botched handling of its sentencing recommendation for Trump's longtime friend Roger Stone.
House Moves to Revive Equal Rights Amendment
Lawmakers voted 232-183 to pass legislation that would repeal the 1982 deadline for states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). It was a mostly party-line vote, in which only 5 Republicans joined with 227 Democrats in favor of the bill. No Democrats opposed it. The ERA resurfaced last month when Virginia voted to ratify it, pushing the amendment past the required 38-state threshold. Republicans remain opposed to the amendment on the grounds that it might compel the federal government to pay for abortions - a claim disputed by some legal experts. In a rebuke to ERA supporters who accuse critics of the amendment of misogyny, it was mostly women GOP lawmakers who led debate against the bill.
Senate Passes Iran War Powers Measure, a Bipartisan Bid to Curb Trump
In a final vote of 55-45, the Senate passed a bipartisan war powers resolution aimed at reining in President Trump's ability to use military action against Iran without prior Congressional approval. Eight Republican senators supported the resolution despite pushback from Trump and Republican leaders on Capitol Hill. All 47 Democrats also backed the resolution. This resolution sends the message that "we don't support starting a war with Iran unless Congress votes that military action is necessary." Senator Kaine introduced the resolution last month after a drone strike, authorized by Trump, killed Iranian Gen.Qassem Soleimani.
Judge Allows Deal by T-Mobile and Sprint, Latest in a String of Mergers
A U.S. District judge ruled in favor of Sprint's $26 billion deal to merge with T-Mobile. The ruling clears one of the final hurdles for the deal, which can't close until the California Public Utilities Commission approves the transaction. Shares of both companies soared after the ruling. Attorney generals from several states brought a lawsuit to block the deal following approval from the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission, arguing that it would limit competition and result in higher prices for consumers. The court rejected the states' arguments. Both companies agreed to certain concessions to the government, including deploying a 5G network covering 97% of the U.S. population within three years of the closing deal. Sprint also agreed to sell its prepaid phone businesses as well as some of its wireless spectrum to Dish for $5 billion.
Justice Dept. Charges Four Chinese in Equifax Hack
The Department of Justice has charged four members of China's military for allegedly hacking into Equifax and stealing the personal information of millions of Americans in 2017, which was one of the largest data breaches in history. Allegedly, the hackers obtained the names, birth dates, and Social Security numbers of nearly 145 million Americans and the drivers' licenses of at least 10 million. All four charged are members of the 54th Research Institute, a component of China's People's Liberation Army. A federal grand jury returned the 9-count indictment on charges of computer fraud, economic espionage, and wire fraud. The men are considered wanted by the FBI.
Bad App Was Just a Link in Iowa's Chain of Failure
Weak oversight and rushed planning crippled the Democratic Caucuses in Iowa. The failure of the IowaReporterApp set off a chain reaction that resulted in the delay of the official results and just may end Iowa's prized place as the first primary contest. This debacle represents one of the most stunning failures of information security, ever. Voters will be paying close attention to how party leaders ensure that votes going forward have clear contingency plans in place, not just to protect against hackers, but from all types of technology failures.
An Algorithm That Grants Freedom or Takes It Away
Across the U.S. and Europe, software is making probation decisions and predicting whether teens will commit crime. Opponents want more human oversight.
Ransonware Hits Are on the Rise
Targeted ransomware attacks on governmental agencies and citizens in the U.S. are on the rise, crippling cities and businesses. This in turn has cybersecurity insurance rates increasing. Hackers are locking people out of their networks and demanding big payments to get back in. In 2019, 205,280 organizations submitted files that had been hacked in a ransomware attack, a 41% increase from the year before. The average payment to release files spiked to $84,116 in the last quarter of 2019, more than double what it was the previous quarter. Security experts say that even these numbers underestimate the true cost of ransomware attacks.
World Health Organization Heads to China as Coronavirus Deaths Surpass Those in SARS Outbreak
The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak has now surpassed that of the SARS epidemic.
Virus's Effect on Commerce Ripples Out
Experts expect disruptions for nations trading with China and for manufacturers dependent on it for components for electronics, consumer products, and pharmaceuticals. With plans to quarantine workers, delayed plant openings, store shutdowns, travel disruptions, and ongoing uncertainty among citizens and businesses prevailed, as the spreading coronavirus continued to wreak havoc in many industries.
Amazon Asks to Depose Trump in Contract Suit
Amazon is asking a federal judge for permission to depose President Trump and Defense Department officials to that prove bias and personal animus led the Pentagon to award a lucrative cloud contract to rival Microsoft. This is just another notch in the multi-year, high stakes quarrel between Amazon and Trump. The contract in question was a $10 billion, 10-year contract to build the Pentagon's war cloud. Both Amazon and Microsoft are battling for the reputation of the top cloud computing company. Amazon also seeks to depose former Defense Secretary Mattis, current Defense Secretary Esper, and the Department of Defense's information chief. The awarding of the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) project to Microsoft came as a surprise to many, as Amazon was long seen as the front-runner. Less than two weeks after Microsoft won the contract, Amazon filed its lawsuit.
Report Finds That White Supremacist Groups Expanded Propaganda Efforts
Incidents of white supremacist propaganda jumped by more than 120% in the U.S. last year, according to research. The distribution of such propaganda on college and university campuses nearly doubled last year, to 630 reported incidents from 320 in 2018.
Juul Aimed Ads at Youths, Suit Says
Juul targeted children and illegally marketed its e-cigarettes to underage consumers with ads on the Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon, a lawsuit alleges. The lawsuit claims that the e-cigarette maker rejected a campaign proposal targeting adults.
U.S. Charges That Huawei Tried to Steal Trade Secrets
The U.S. government filed racketeering charges against Huawei and its CFO, accusing the Chinese telecom giant of conspiring to steal trade secrets from 6 tech companies. The Department of Justice has charged them with conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The Trump administration has pursued charges against Huawei for close to a year, as the geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and China grows. Huawei is also charged with "making repeated misstatements to U.S. officials, including FBI agents and representatives from the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence." It is also alleged that the company concealed its involvement with business and technology projects in Iran and North Korea using the code names "A2" and "A9." Huawei denies the allegations.
Voting Rights Victory for North Dakota Tribes
Native American tribes in North Dakota secured a major victory when they settled a pair of lawsuits challenging the state's restrictive voter identification requirements. The lawsuits were brought by the Spirit Lake Nation, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and several individual voters contesting the state law mandating that voters present identification that includes their residential street address. The plaintiffs and voting rights advocates argued that the law placed undue hardships on residents living on reservations, because many don't have street addresses. The agreement also included a pending court-ordered Consent Decree that "will ensure all Native Americans who are qualified electors can vote." The agreement comes a week after North Dakota Governor Doug Bergum formally approved emergency rules that recognize various forms of tribal identification.
Pentagon Tells Congress That It Will Divert $3.8 Billion to Fund Southern Border Wall
The Trump administration has notified Congress that it plans to divert $3.8 billion from the Defense Department's budget to build the border wall. This is in addition to more than $11 billion that has already been identified to construct more than 500 miles of new barriers along the southern U.S. border with Mexico. That includes money that Congress haD appropriated and funding that was previously diverted from military construction and counternarcotic operations.
Cuomo Suggests Compromise to Trump on Global Entry Applicants
Gocernor Cuomo said that he would seek to give federal officials access to New York state driving records for applicants to Global Entry and other federal programs that allow travelers to quickly pass through airports and borders. The announcement came days after federal officials banned New York residents from applying to and re-enrolling in the Trusted Traveler Program. Cuomo added that he would meet with President Trump to discuss the programs and access to the driving records. Administration officials stressed that the potential change would not result in carte-blanche access to State Department of Motor Vehicle records. Cuomo also suggested again that the Trump administration was extorting the state and using it as leverage to find information on undocumented immigrants.
$2.6 Million Earmarked for Puerto Rico's Pension Fund Went to Hackers Instead
A forged message tricked government workers into wiring money to the wrong back account. Similar attacks known as business email compromises, have grown increasingly common across the country in recent years, often targeting municipalities. The online scam targeted more than $4M amid crisis, deepening concerns about the management of local government finances during an economic crisis. Authorities have frozen at least $2.9 million. Legislators have seen demanded a probe.
Puerto Rico Reaches Deal with Creditors to Settle $35 Billion in Debt
Puerto Rico has reached a deal with creditors who hold $35 billion in its general obligation bonds, passing an important milestone as it tries to resolve its $129 billion debt crisis. Under the new agreement, the debt would be settled for $10.7 billion, with $3.8 billion up front. The agreement reduces the debt repayment timeline by 10 years. It still needs to be approved by the bankruptcy judge overseeing the process.
Appeals Court Rejects Work Requirements for Medicaid Recipients in Arkansas
A federal appeals court rejected the Trump administration's approval of Medicaid work requirements in Arkansas, saying that the administration had neglected to consider the coverage loss people would suffer as a result. A three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously upheld a lower court ruling striking down the work requirements, ruling that the Department of Health & Human Services does not have authority to require some people covered by Medicaid to work, attend job training, volunteer, or attend school. More than 18,000 Arkansas residents lost their healthcare coverage when the work requirements went into effect before a lower court struck them down. Republican Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said that he hopes the case will reach the Supreme Court, saying that the work requirements were intended to help recipients get job opportunities while they received benefits.
Oklahoma to Resume Executions by Injection
The state of Oklahoma is set to resume executions 5 years after a pair of botched lethal injections forced officials to put a hold on all death sentences. No one has been executed in the state since January 2015.
Border Patrol is Sending Elite Tactical Teams to Many Sanctuary Cities
The Trump administration said that it is preparing to deploy elite Border Patrol tactical units to the interior of the United states to assist U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement teams in "sanctuary cities" and other jurisdictions where authorities are seeking to boost arrests and deportations.
Louisiana Man Pleads Guilty to Torching Black Churches
The son of a Louisiana deputy pleaded guilty to setting fire to three black churches. Holden Matthews, 22, admitted in court to setting fire to the Baptist churches in the heart of south central Louisiana's Cajun and Creole country, during a span of 10 days in 2019. He pleaded guilty to 3 counts of violating the Church Arson Prevention Act and to one count of using fire to commit a federal felony. Matthews admitted to setting the blazes in order to raise his profile as a "Black Metal" musician by copying similar crimes committed in Norway in the 1990s. Matthews had expressed disgust with Baptist beliefs on Facebook.
Ex-Clerk Says Prominent Judge Harassed Her
A former law clerk said that she was repeatedly sexually harassed by the prominent federal judge, the late Judge Stephen Reinhardt, for whom she worked, and that the judiciary's new system for reporting misconduct remains inadequate. The woman said that the judge repeatedly insulted her over her appearance, made vulgar comments, and disparaged other women who had leveled allegations of sexual harassment and assault. Judge Reinhardt was one of the nation's most-renowned appeals court judges. He was a Jimmy Carter appointee long viewed as the leading liberal stalwart in the nation's largest judicial circuit who died in 2018 at age 87.
Virus Lockdown Stifles Economy in a Wary China
As the death toll passes 1000, officials are demanding detailed health plans before Chinese factories and offices can reopen. It has been weeks since China locked down a major city to stop a dangerous viral outbreak, and one of the world's largest economies remains largely idle. Each city now has its own checks and crosschecks. Authorities have a long way to go before the outbreak can be tamed. Chinese officials have been criticized for their slow initial response and suppression of early warnings.
U.S. Bars Sri Lankan Chief Accused of War Atrocities
The U.S. has blacklisted Sri Lanka's army chief, Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva, over accusations of human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings during the country's civil war. He is no longer allowed to enter the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that "the U.S. will not waver in its pursuit of accountability for those who commit war crimes and violate human rights." The allegations of gross human rights violations against Silva had been documented by the United Nations and other organizations. The U.S. sanctions bar both Silva and his immediate family members from entering the U.S. Sri Lanka's Ministry of Foreign Relations urged Washington to review its decision.
Swiss Vote to Penalize Acts of Public Homophobia
Swiss voters agreed last week to penalize public homophobia, greenlighting an amendment that extends Switzerland's anti-racism laws to cover sexual orientation. The country, unlike many of its western European neighbors, does not yet have laws that specifically protect lesbians, gays, and bisexuals from discrimination. Preliminary figures showed that 60.5% voted in favor of widening existing laws against discrimination of incitement to hatred on ethnic or religious grounds to include sexual orientation.