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Week In Review

By Eric Lanter

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


Weinstein Jury Continues Deliberation

The judge in Harvey Weinstein's trial received a note on Friday indicating that the jury was "deadlocked on the most serious charges in the indictment, but also that they might have reached a verdict on three other counts." In addition, the jury inquired whether a partial verdict may be accepted, which Weinstein's counsel indicated they would accept; however, the judge and prosecutors refused to accept a partial verdict.

A TV Star's Suicide Prompts Blame Game in Britain

The former host of the popular British television show "Love Island," Caroline Flack, has died in an apparent suicide. Social media in Britain has been flooded with tributes followed by calls for a law to stop "Britain's tabloid newspapers from publishing stories that relentlessly dive into celebrities' private lives," as Flack had been a fixture in those tabloids for romances with Prince Harry and Harry Styles.

For Harry and Meghan, No More 'Royal' in Their Brand

Following negotiations between Buckingham Palace and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, it has been announced that the couple will not use the word "royal" in any of their commercial or philanthropic activities. They had planned to use SussexRoyal as an "umbrella brand for their charitable foundation and social media accounts" and as their servicemark.


Six Cooper Hewitt Trustees Resign After Director's Removal

There is disruption at the Cooper Hewitt: 6 trustees have resigned from the board to protest the removal of Caroline Baumann, the director, after an investigation that included her 2018 wedding. The inspector general of the Smithsonian found an apparent conflict of interest with Baumann's acquiring of her "dress and the venue for" her wedding ceremony, which board members found not to be deserving of such punishment.

Victoria's Secret Sale Caps End of Wexner's Retail Empire

With the sale of Victoria's Secret, one of the companies under the L Brands umbrella that Leslie Wexner managed, Wexner has begun to see the consequences of his questionable relationship with disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein and leadership decisions that had brought Victoria's Secret from a runaway success to a more modest retailer. He has announced that he would step down from L Brands and sell his controlling stake in Victoria's Secret, and the departure of the "Merlin of the mall" comes after questions were raised about how women were treated at L Brands.

Forensic Architecture Founder Says U.S. Prevented His Visit

The director of an investigative group Forensic Architecture, Eyal Weizman, has announced that a United States embassy official in London told him that "an algorithm had identified a security threat that was related to him" and thus prevented his visit to the country. He noted that he previously had visited the United States on numerous occasions without incident, and the basis for his denial to visit on this occasion has not been revealed.

Trump Denounces Oscar Winner 'Parasite'

At a rally in Colorado, President Trump criticized the selection of the film "Parasite," a South Korean film, as winner of the best picture award at the Oscars. He addressed the crowd: "And the winner is a movie from South Korea. What the hell was that all about?" He continued, "Can we get 'Gone With the Wind' back, please?"

Notre-Dame Crypt and Square May Reopen in Spring

Officials in Paris have announced that, despite previous delays in reopening parts of the Notre Dame Cathedral, it is expected that the crypt and the square in front of the cathedral is likely to reopen in the next several months. President Emmanuel Macron of France has made a promise to reopen the cathedral within the next 5 years as extensive repairs continue to be made to the structure.


U.S. Women's Soccer Team Sets Price for Ending Lawsuit: $67 Million

The United States Soccer Federation (USSF) and the women's national team have filed respective motions asking to end the lawsuit: while the USSF is seeking to dismiss the claims, the women's players are asking for a pretrial decision in the amount of nearly $67 million. The motions are pending in the Central District of California, and the results may inform the result of the action.

Players' Union Pushes Back on Major League Baseball's Portrayal of Astros Investigation

The head of the Major League Baseball (MLB) players' union, Tony Clark, has said that the MLB, when it learned of the investigation into the Astros, did not intend to punish any Astros players for their roles, which directly contradicts the statement previously made by Commissioner Rob Manfred. Many have criticized MLB's response, as it has become clear that the 2017 Astros illegally stole "signs electronically on its way to a World Series title."

Report Reveals Insider Dealing at Russia's Antidoping Agency

Consultants at Baker Tilly have authored a report finding that the antidoping agency in Russia has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to companies "linked to former senior executives at the agency." The agency, known as Rusada, also was found to be paying "as much as 50 percent more than market rates for the purchases."

Paris St.-Germain President, Nasser al-Khelaifi, Charged in Soccer Scheme

Swiss authorities have accused the president of the Paris St.-Germain (PSG) soccer club, Nasser al-Khelaifi, with inciting a former top official of FIFA to commit a crime by accepting bribes and criminal mismanagement. The charges come against al-Khelaifi at a time when he is not only president of PSG, but also presides over broadcaster BeIN and sits on the boards of Europe's governing body, UEFA.


U.S. Designates China's Official Media as Operatives of Communist State

The Trump administration has continued its efforts to counter China's influence as it designates China's official media, including the Xinhua News Agency, as operatives of the Chinese state. The decision comes after years of debate for fear of "restricting the freedom of the press" but also as administration officials have "moved aggressively on multiple fronts to fight what officials describe as extensive Chinese influence and intelligence operations in the United States."

China Expels Three Wall Street Journal Reporters as Media Relations Sour

Tensions have risen inside the Wall Street Journal after China denounced 3 of the newspaper's journalists: 53 reporters and editors have asked executives to apologize and consider changing its headline, "China is the Real Sick Man of Asia," an opinion essay that detailed "economic repercussions of the coronavirus outbreak." This development shows the increasing influence that the Chinese government has in framing the media surrounding the country.

Unloved by Trump, National Public Radio Carries On

When the President recently said that it was "a very good question" why National Public Radio (NPR) continues to exist, NPR saw a spike in donations. The White House budget proposal seeks to eliminate federal funding for NPR by 2023, but Congress has typically stood in the way of that happening: for the 2020 budget, the White House had sought funding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting with $30 million, but Congress allocated $465 million. Notwithstanding the fact that NPR receives about 1% of its budget from federal funds, NPR is taking the threat seriously and seeking to secure donations and maintain its programming.

E. Jean Carroll Says That Elle Magazine Fired Her After Trump Rape Accusation

E. Jean Carroll, the longtime columnist for Elle magazine, has blamed President Trump for her recent departure from the magazine, "saying in a defamation lawsuit he had damaged her reputation by calling her a liar." She had accused him of sexually assaulting her over 20 years ago, which President Trump had repeatedly denied. As a result of the damage to her reputation and her career, she filed a defamation suit against him in November.

New Mexico Sues Google Over Children's Privacy Violations

The State of New Mexico has filed an action against Google, the "top tech brand in public schools," for its use of educational products in spying on students, according to New Mexico's attorney general. The data that Google collected about students included "data on their physical locations, websites they visited, YouTube videos they watched and their voice recordings."

General News

In Case on Wealth Test for Green Cards, a Scathing Sotomayor Dissent

On Friday, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration may move forward with its plan to "deny green cards to immigrants who are thought to be likely to become 'public charges' by making even occasional and minor use of public benefits like Medicaid, food stamps, and housing vouchers." Justice Sonia Sotomayor authored a dissent that criticized the administration for its use of the Supreme Court "after interim losses in the lower courts": "Claiming one emergency after another, the government has recently sought stays in an unprecedented number of cases, demanding immediate attention and consuming limited court resources in each. And with each successive application, of course, its cries of urgency ring increasingly hollow."

Roger Stone Sentenced to Over Three Years in Prison

The Republican political consultant and friend of President Trump, Roger Stone, has been sentenced to over 3 years in prison for his role in "obstructing a congressional inquiry," even as extraordinary upheaval took place at the Justice Department and a standoff took place between President Trump and Attorney General William Barr. It is unclear whether President Trump may pardon Stone.

Former Pentagon Analyst Pleads Guilty to Sharing Classified Information

Former Pentagon analyst Henry Kyle Frese has pleaded guilty to sharing classified information with 2 journalists, one of whom was his girlfriend. He faces up to 10 years in prison, and the case was prosecuted through the use of a wiretap on his phone, which is "perhaps the most intrusive tool in criminal investigators' arsenal" but justified as the leak created a threat to national security, according to the assistant attorney general for national security.

Pressure for Barr to Step Down as Justice Department and Trump Continue to Spar

This week saw a massive standoff between President Trump and the Justice Department. While Attorney General William Barr had complained that President Trump's tweets had made it difficult for him to fulfill his responsibilities, President Trump flexed his pardon power and pardoned a number of high profile individuals, including former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. President Trump had called for prosecutors to drop their case against Roger Stone even right before sentencing, and he has since said that he continues to be "draining the swamp."

Lawmakers Warned that Russia Is Meddling in 2020 Election Campaigns as Nevada Prepares for Caucus

As Nevada prepared to host the caucuses for the Democratic presidential nomination, word came from United States intelligence agencies that the Russian government is continuing to support President Trump's re-election efforts and to boost the campaign of Bernie Sanders. President Trump denounced the revelation and called it a "hoax" that Democrats have conjured up to hurt his campaign.

Trump Names Grenell Acting Head of Intelligence

The new acting director of national intelligence, Richard Grenell, has brought in his own aides and has asked to "see the facts underlying the finding that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election and favors President Trump's re-election." He comes into the role as acting director with little relevant experience for the roll and has hired as an aide one who is rumored to have license to "clean house."

Top Defense Official Latest to Be Ousted After Impeachment Saga

With senior officials departing the administration, one of the litmus tests of those entering and remaining in the Trump administration are those who have demonstrated their support for the President. Those who testified or cooperated in the impeachment inquiry were the first to leave in recent weeks, but now those who remain have started to feel more unease as the efforts to remove the disloyal intensify.

Trump Effort to Keep U.S. Tech Out of China Alarms American Firms

President Trump, in a series of tweets, said that the United States would not restrict sales to China, showing a "sharp shift in administration policy." American firms had expressed concerns about the effort to keep technology out of China due to the affect it would have on commerce, and President Trump's remarks that the United States is "open for business" and that fears of national security being compromised were merely an "excuse."

Congress' Spending Power Weakens as Trump Seizes Wall Money

The Trump administration's "plan to divert more military funds to building a border wall is the latest example of the long-running erosion of Congress' power of the purse." The Pentagon's announcement this month that it would divert billions of dollars to constructing the border wall caused "bipartisan outrage" throughout Washington.

U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Russian Oil Company

The United States has imposed sanctions on Russian oil giant Rosneft Oil Company for its support of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The sanctions are part of a pressure campaign by the Trump administration for Maduro to "give up power, nearly two years after he was re-elected in a widely disputed vote."

Peace Talks Continue in Afghanistan

Despite an Afghan soldier killing 2 Americans, peace talks between the United States and Afghanistan continue. The war in Afghanistan has been a "bleeding stalemate in which even some Afghan soldiers turn their guns on American service members, viewing them as invaders instead of partners," and the question has become whether casualties can end in any other way other than bringing the U.S. presence in the country to an end.

Payout From National Opioids Settlement Won't Be as Big as Hoped

When lawsuits were filed against companies in the pharmaceutical industry, there were "expectations of a whopping payday," but lawyers have said that "companies will shell out far less" than expected. One research firm has predicted that the total may be between $75 billion and $85 billion, which falls far short of the settlement with tobacco companies in 1998 that resulted in payment of over $206 billion over 25 years.

Jeff Bezos Commits $10 Billion to Address Climate Change

Amidst news that oil and gas production may be emitting more carbon into the atmosphere than previously thought, Jeff Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon and the world's richest person, said that he was committing $10 billion to address the climate crisis. The initiative he is starting, Bezos Earth Fund, will "fund scientists, activists, and nongovernmental organizations" in fighting climate change, which he called "the biggest threat to our planet."

Boy Scouts Seeks Bankruptcy to Survive Deluge of Sex Abuse Claims

The Boy Scouts of America has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after numerous sex abuse claims emerged in recent years. Thus, the nonprofit group has followed in the footsteps of Catholic dioceses and USA Gymnastics in filing bankruptcy "amid sex-abuse cases." The bankruptcy filing is not expected to affect the running of day-to-day programs, as those are managed through local councils.

Kickstarter Employees Vote to Unionize in a Big Step for Tech

In a remarkable first in the technology industry, the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter voted to unionize. The decision, which the National Labor Relations Board formalized, had a narrow margin, with 46% of employees voting for unionization and 37% opposing it. The debate "had been a source of tension at the company for many months" and is significant for the industry as "workers have become increasingly activist in recent years over issues as varied as sexual harassment and climate change."

New York Police Department to Remove DNA Profiles of Non-Criminals From Database

The New York Police Department (NYPD) has announced that it will begin "expunging some of the 82,000 people" in its DNA profile database "who have never been convicted of a crime." The database had faced scrutiny from civil liberties advocates, "who point out it is hard to get a profile erased once it is put in and argue it violates the privacy rights of many innocent people." The NYPD is set to audit its database and "flag for removal any samples more than two years old that have not been linked to an ongoing investigation or conviction."

New York Attorney General Accuses New York Ciy of Fraud Over Taxi Crisis

New York State Attorney General Letitia James has accused New York City of "committing fraud by artificially inflating the value of yellow taxi medallions, and she demanded $810 million from the city to compensate the thousands of cabdrivers who are now saddled with enormous debt." The Taxi and Limousine Commission had touted medallions as "a solid investment with steady growth" and then went on to reap "a profit from the sale of thousands of them at auction at exorbitant prices."

How China Tracked Detainees and Their Families

A leaked Chinese government document "shows how people were monitored and selected for internment camps in Xinjiang. A 137-page spreadsheet outlines the information that officials had gathered for the residents in Xinjiang, which includes "names and government identification numbers of more than 300 people held in indoctrination camps and information on hundreds of their relatives and neighbors." The document "shows the range of behaviors that the authorities see as problematic that would be normal elsewhere, such as giving up alcohol, wanting to go on a religious pilgrimage, or attending a funeral."

China Detains Activist Who Accused Xi of Coronavirus Cover-Up

A prominent Chinese legal activist, Xu Zhiyong, and his girlfriend, Li Qiaochu, a social activist, have been silent and missing. Zhiyong had accused China's leader Xi Jinping as "hungry for power" and had accused him of trying to "cover up the coronavirus outbreak in central China." Their detention over the weekend shows the "far-reaching efforts to limit dissent in China."

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