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Week In Review

By Chantelle A. Gyamfi

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


Lizzo Countersued Over "Truth Hurts"

The authorship of the hit song "Truth Hurts" became one of the industry's most closely watched controversies, after Lizzo was accused by two songwriting brothers, Justin and Jeremiah Raisen, of taking her song's signature boast -- a wisecrack about the results of a DNA test, which itself came from a tweet -- from another song they had written with her, and denying them credit.

Lizzo responded in October by suing the Raisens and another writer who said he was involved in the original track, saying that their claims did not have "any merit," and announcing that she would be granting writing credit and royalties to the woman behind the tweet that had started it all. The Raisens filed a detailed counterclaim seeking credit and royalties on "Truth Hurts," arguing that their work in a joint early songwriting session set the "DNA test" line to music.

Weinstein Undergoes Heart Procedure Before Transfer to Jail

Harvey Weinstein underwent a heart procedure at a New York City hospital and was transferred to the Rikers Island infirmary unit shortly afterwards. Weinstein, the once powerful film producer, was convicted of rape and criminal sexual assault after a trial in Manhattan and a judge ordered him held in jail until his sentencing next week. However, hours after the verdict, Weinstein experienced extremely high blood pressure and heart palpitations and he was taken directly from State Supreme Court in Manhattan to Bellevue Hospital Center, where he was treated for 10 days in a ward for inmates. Weinstein had a stent implanted to alleviate a blockage and was then transferred to Rikers.

Weinstein Hires Aide for Prison

About three weeks ago, well before a jury found Weinstein guilty of two felony sex crimes, he hired a "prison consultant" named Craig Rothfeld. Rothfeld's private firm, Inside Outside Ltd., was created to help new inmates understand the details of what he calls "the journey"-- the confusing and often frightening passage from living an ordinary life to living behind bars. In the last few weeks, Rothfeld has worked with Weinstein's lawyers to make sure that city jail officials give the producer medical attention while he was being detained before his sentencing.

As Weinstein Awaits Prison, Prosecutors Detail 40 Years of Accusations

Manhattan prosecutors urged the sentencing judge to consider what they said was a four-decade history of sexual assaults against women for which Weinstein had never been charged. A jury convicted Weinstein last week of rape and criminal sexual assault after a trial that was widely viewed as a milestone in the #MeToo movement. In a sentencing memorandum in which they argued for a substantial prison term, prosecutors detailed a litany of sex crimes and instances of sexual harassment that they said Weinstein had committed starting in 1978.


Court Finds Fair Use in Students' Downloads of Book Excerpts

The court in Cambridge University Press v. Becker considered whether it was a fair use for Georgia State University students to download for free digital excerpts of academic books. The university digitally distributed course reading materials, and thus allowed students to view, download and print for free excerpts. A prior decision finding fair use had been appealed to the Eleventh Circuit and reversed. In considering the issue again, the court found that downloads of all but 11 of the 48 excerpts constituted fair use.

Read more about the case: Cambridge University Press v. Becker (N.D. Ga.) Case 1:08-cv-01425-ODE Cambridge University Press.pdf

Hachette Workers Protest Woody Allen Book

Dozens of Hachette Book Group employees left work protesting the company's decision to publish an autobiography by Woody Allen. The publisher originally said that Allen's book, titled "Apropos of Nothing," would come out under its Grand Central imprint on April 7th; but the announcement drew criticism because of the allegations that Allen molested his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow. He has denied the accusations and wasn't charged after two investigations decades ago. Following the wave of protests and criticism, Hachette announced that it would no longer be publishing the book.

Cultural World Girds for Coronavirus

As the coronavirus spreads in the United States, theaters, museums, and concert halls are hyperaware that their establishments could become petri dishes for a virus that is spread person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Most institutions are familiar with what happens if a storm or strike interrupts their operations, but a viral epidemic is new territory. Many museums, theaters, music venues, and dance companies are having to educate themselves on what a viral outbreak will mean for their businesses. Do their insurance policies cover infectious diseases? If performances are canceled, will artists be paid? If so, for how long? For now, as coronavirus cases tick upward in Washington State, California, and New York, it's generally business as usual at museums and theaters -- but with much more disinfectant.

The Show Must Go On, Even Amid a Coronavirus Outbreak

While the coronavirus has taken a big toll on the arts world in terms of closed venues and canceled events, it has also spurred plenty of show-must-go-on creativity in some of the hardest-hit areas, as performers and organizations have tried to adapt to trying circumstances. Venice's ornate opera house, La Fenice, was determined to keep going after the coronavirus forced it to cancel its performances: This week a string quartet gathered in the empty, eerily silent theater and played Beethoven, streaming the concert online and winning an ovation of handclap emojis.

Truck Crashes into Easter Island Statue

The Easter Island statues are sacred to the people of the island, which they call Rapa Nui. The statues have stood for centuries, facing inland to watch over the community that reveres them as memorials of their ancestors. An unoccupied truck rolled on Sunday onto an ahu, a ceremonial mortuary structure that supports about half of the nearly 1,000 statues, causing what Ma'u Henua, the island's cultural heritage organization, called a "seriously damaging" crash.

Bangladesh Made Big Safety Strides After Factory Disaster

The death of a garment worker, Rima Khatun, last year stirred memories of the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013, in which a Dhaka factory collapse killed more than 1,100 people, mostly women. Bangladesh, the second-largest garment exporter after China, had made significant improvements in its labor and safety conditions following the Rana Plaza catastrophe, but Khatun's death has renewed concerns.


National Basketball Association Advises Players to Avoid High-Fives as Coronavirus Fears Grow

TheNational Basketball Association (NBA) has told players to avoid high-fiving fans and strangers and avoid taking any item for autographs, the NBA's latest response in its ongoing monitoring of the coronavirus crisis that has spread to most corners of the planet.

Women Finally Get a Chance to Sled

The Cresta Run, a three-quarter-mile track and the birthplace of the sport practiced on it, skeleton, the Olympic sport akin to sledding, had kept women off its ice for decades. Women were allowed on the Cresta Run freely until the 1920's a members-only club that controls the ice chute agreed in 2018 to allow women to participate during a two-year trial.

NBCUniversal Forges Ahead with Tokyo Olympics

NBCUniversal has sold $1.25 billion in ads for the Summer Games. If NBCUniversal is anxious about how coronavirus may affect its plans for the Olympic Games, it is trying not to show it. The coronavirus could disrupt not only NBCUniversal's coverage of the Games, but also its advertising arrangements, sponsorship deals and promotional events. If the Tokyo Olympics are canceled, insurance is likely to cover losses related to broadcast rights and production through force majeure clause claims. However, what is not clear whether that would protect NBCUniversal if Olympics-themed commercials and promotional tie-ins were scrapped. In most circumstances, companies pay for Olympics ads after they appear. If the Games are canceled, or continue with fewer nations competing and lower ratings, NBCUniversal may be required to release companies from their ad commitments or otherwise compensate them.


Matthews Exists MSNBC

Chris Matthews, veteran political anchor and host of the long-running MSNBC talk show "Hardball," resigned in an abrupt departure from a television perch that made him a fixture of politics and the news media over the past quarter-century. Matthews made clear that the timing of his exit was not entirely his choosing. In fact, it came amongst the mounting criticism he had faced in recent days over a spate of embarrassing on-air moments, including a comparison of Senator Bernie Sanders's campaign to the Nazi invasion of France; an interview with Senator Elizabeth Warren in which the anchor was criticized for a condescending and disbelieving tone; and an essay published by journalist Laura Bassett, accusing Matthews of making multiple inappropriate comments about her appearance and reviving longstanding allegations about the anchor's sexist behavior.

Facebook Removes Misleading Trump Census Ads

Facebook announced that it had removed misleading ads run by Trump's re-election campaign about the 2020 census, in a stand against disinformation ahead of the decennial population count that begins next week. The Census Bureau will not begin to survey the public for its population survey until next week. The ad linked the census to the Trump campaign, a misrepresentation of the official government survey, said civil rights groups. Facebook has typically taken the most permissive -- and most criticized -- approach to political speech, allowing candidates and their campaigns to post misleading information and target those messages to specific audiences. However, it has drawn the line on interfering with the national census.


Supreme Court Considers Rights of Asylum Seekers

The Supreme Court is considering whether immigrants seeking asylum may sue in federal court after the authorities deny their requests in summary proceedings. The case, Department of Homeland Security v. Thuraissigiam, No. 19-161, concerns the fundamental question of who is entitled to seek habeas corpus; its ruling will affect thousands of asylum seekers.

Supreme Court to Hear Third Obamacare Appeal

The Supreme Court granted requests from Democratic state officials and House members who wanted to thrust the fate of the Affordable Care Act into the public eye just as Americans prepare to vote this November and have agreed to hear a third major challenge to the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court did not say when it would hear the case, but under its ordinary practices, arguments would be held in the fall and a decision would land in the spring or summer of 2021.

Justices Give Few Hints on How They Will Rule on Louisiana Abortion Law

The Supreme Court is considering whether Louisiana can require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The arguments were the Court's first sustained consideration of abortion since Trump's appointments of Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh shifted the Court's makeup to the right. The case is likely to have broad implications for the presidential campaign.

Roberts Condemns Schumer

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who only very rarely responds to criticism of federal judges, issued a statement denouncing remarks made by Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, at a rally outside the Supreme Court. Schumer, speaking while the Court heard arguments in a major abortion case, directed his criticism at Trump's two Supreme Court appointees, Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh. "You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price," Schumer said. "You will not know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions."

Military to Head to Border Before Supreme Court's 'Remain in Mexico' Ruling

The Trump administration will deploy 160 troops to two ports of entry along the southwestern border before a Supreme Court decision that officials fear could prompt large crowds of migrants to seek entry into the United States. Under authority that Trump granted in 2018, Customs and Border Protection will send two teams of 80 military police, engineers, and aviation units to San Ysidro and El Paso, as the Supreme Court considers the legality of an administration policy that forces asylum seekers to remain in Mexico as their cases are adjudicated.

Taliban and U.S. Strike Deal to Withdraw American Troops from Afghanistan

After more than a year of talks, the United States signed a deal with the Taliban that sets the stage to end America's longest war -- the nearly two-decade-old conflict in Afghanistan that began after the September 11th attacks killed tens of thousands of people, vexed three White House administrations, and left mistrust and uncertainty on all sides.

U.S. Announces Troop Withdrawal in Afghanistan

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper announced that the United States has begun withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, the first steps in what could be a complete exit from the country within the next 14 months. Speaking to reporters at a Pentagon news conference, Esper said the initial troop drawdown -- which would reduce the American presence in Afghanistan to 8,600 from the current 12,000 -- was required to begin within 10 days of the peace agreement signed last week between the United States and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar.

Bill Aims to Hold E-Commerce Companies Liable for Counterfeits

A bipartisan House bill aims to stem the flow of counterfeits from China and other countries into the United States by putting pressure on companies like Amazon, making them legally liable for fake goods sold on their websites. The bill, called the Shop Safe Act, would create trademark liability for companies selling counterfeit goods that pose risks to consumer health and safety, like drugs and medical products. It would also force companies to more rigorously vet sellers who operate on their platforms and to remove counterfeit listings and those who repeatedly sell knockoffs.

Judge Says That Barr Distorted Mueller Report

Federal Judge Reggie B. Walton sharply criticized Attorney General William P. Barr's handling of the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, saying that Barr put forward a "distorted" and "misleading" account of its findings and lacked credibility on the topic.

Court Bans Agents Who Botched Carter Page Surveillance from Seeking Wiretaps

A secretive federal court effectively barred FBI officials involved in the wiretapping of a former Trump campaign adviser from appearing before it in other cases, at least temporarily. James E. Boasberg, the chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, also largely accepted changes that the FBI has said it will make to its process for seeking national-security wiretaps following a damning inspector general report about errors and omissions in applications to monitor the adviser, Carter Page.

Immigration Officers Condemn Guatemala Deal

In an amicus brief filed in Federal District Court in Washington, a union representing 700 asylum and refugee officers with USCIS said the deal with Guatemala violates international treaty obligations by deporting migrants to a country where they are likely to face persecution. Under the asylum deal, initially described as a "safe third country agreement," the administration can deport migrants at the southwestern border seeking safety in the United States to Guatemala to seek refuge there. Asylum officers said the policy unlawfully sends a vulnerable population to a country "in which their lives and freedom are directly threatened."

Cuccinelli's Appointment to Immigration Post Is Illegal

Judge Randolph D. Moss of United States District Court in Washington ruled that Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II was unlawfully appointed to lead United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and that two policies he put in place that limited asylum seekers' access to counsel should be nullified. Judge Moss said that the Trump administration violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, which stipulates who can fill vacant leadership positions at federal agencies, when Cuccinelli was tapped in June to be the acting director of the agency that oversees legal immigration.

The Act says that an official temporarily filling a cabinet level position before Senate confirmation must be next in the line of succession by serving as the "first assistant" or must have worked as a senior official in the agency for at least 90 days - that was not the case for Cuccinelli.

ICE to "Flood the Streets" With Surveillance

ICE is boosting its operations in sanctuary cities to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants, conducting round-the-clock surveillance in addition to deploying elite tactical agents. ICE has begun 24-hour-a-day surveillance operations around the homes and workplaces of undocumented immigrants. The agency plans to deploy hundreds of additional officers in unmarked cars in the coming weeks to increase arrests in cities where local law enforcement agencies do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.

Apple to Pay Up to $500 Million in Slow Phones Settlement

Apple has agreed to pay up to $500 million to settle a class action lawsuit that accuses the multinational technology company of slowing down older iPhones to induce owners to buy new models. According to the proposed settlement, iPhone users may file claims if they owned an iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6S, 6S Plus, 7, 7 Plus or SE device that they bought before December 21, 2017. The settlement states that the final payment each user receives will depend on the number of filed claims and any additional legal fees and expenses approved by the court. The settlement agreement requires Apple to pay owners of certain iPhone models $25 per device, with a minimum total payout of $310 million and maximum total payout of $500 million.

Environmental Protection Agency Updates Plan to Limit Science Used in Environmental Rules

The Trump administration has formally revised a proposal that would significantly restrict the type of research that can be used to draft environmental and public health regulations, a measure that experts say amounts to one of the government's most far-reaching restrictions on science. The revisions mean that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would give preference to studies in which all underlying data is publicly available. That slightly relaxed restrictions in an earlier draft that would have flatly excluded any research that did not offer up its raw data, even if that data included medical information protected by privacy laws or confidentiality agreements.

Scientists Confirm That Global Warming Contributed to Wildfires

Researchers have found that human-caused climate change had an impact on Australia's recent devastating wildfires, making the extremely high-risk conditions that led to widespread burning at least 30% more likely than in a world without global warming. The research is the latest in a growing subfield of climate science: attribution studies that look for links, or the lack of them, between climate change and specific weather-related events. The studies usually compare models of current conditions to those of the world around 1900, before large-scale emissions of carbon dioxide and other planet-warming gases began. The Australian study was conducted, like many others, by an international group of scientists called World Weather Attribution. It was made public before being peer reviewed and published in a scientific journal, but scientists with the group said it followed what are now well-established practices for such studies.

Mulvaney Ousted as Chief of Staff

Trump has ousted Mick Mulvaney, his acting White House chief of staff, and replaced him with Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina, a stalwart ally. Trump announced the change on Twitter after arriving in Florida for a weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate. The decision was seen as a long-delayed move cleaning up in the aftermath of the Senate impeachment trial as he shuffles his inner circle for the eight-month sprint to Election Day.

Boeing Faces Nearly $20 Million Fine by Federal Aviation Administration

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recommended that Boeing be fined nearly $20 million for installing equipment in the 737 Max and other aircraft before its approval. The FAA accused Boeing of installing the equipment, the Head-Up Guidance System from Rockwell Collins, on nearly 800 jetliners from June 2015 to April 2019. The systems included sensors that had not been tested or approved when they were installed, though Rockwell Collins later conducted the necessary testing and risk analysis. In response, Boeing noted that the proposed $19.68 million fine did not involve a safety issue and said a review had found that the systems "met or exceeded" the original requirements.

Nazi Guard Ordered Out of U.S.

The Justice Department has ordered that a Tennessee man, Friedrich Karl Berger, who served as a guard at a Nazi concentration camp in Germany during World War II be deported to Germany, where he is a citizen and has continued to receive a pension based on his employment, "including his wartime service." "Berger was part of the SS machinery of oppression that kept concentration camp prisoners in atrocious conditions of confinement," Brian A. Benczkowski, an assistant attorney general in the department's criminal division, said in a statement. "This ruling shows the Department's continued commitment to obtaining a measure of justice, however late, for the victims of wartime Nazi persecution."

Greece Suspends Asylum as Turkey Opens Gates for Migrants

Greece took a raft of tough measures as it tried to repel thousands of migrants amassed at its border with Turkey. It deployed major military forces to the border, seeking to fortify the area after Turkey allowed migrants to pass through to the European Union over the weekend. The Greek government also said that it would suspend asylum applications for a month and summarily deport migrants entering illegally. Neither action is permitted by European Union law.

International Criminal Court Allows Afghanistan War Crimes Inquiry to Proceed

The International Criminal Court (ICC) ruled that its chief prosecutor could open an investigation into allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan, including any that may have been committed by Americans, a step that infuriated the Trump administration.

Russia Bombed Syrian Civilian Targets, United Nations Says

United Nations investigators announced in a report that Russia had committed war crimes in Syria by carrying out indiscriminate airstrikes on civilian targets in 2019, condemning tactics they said the Syrian government and its allies were still using in the northwest province of Idlib. The investigators also said that Syrian rebels allied with Turkey had carried out war crimes during the invasion of Kurdish areas in northern Syria, and that Al Qaeda-linked rebels had inflicted scores of civilian casualties in rocket attacks on government-held areas. The accusations were made in the latest report of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria, the Geneva-based panel that has been monitoring the nearly decade-old conflict in Syria.

ISIS Rapist Sentenced to Death

Iraq has held thousands of trials for members of the Islamic State, but until last week, none had sought to bring justice specifically to the thousands of members of the Yazidi religious minority who were kidnapped, raped, and killed. For the first time, an Iraqi court has held the Islamic State accountable for its atrocities against the Yazidi religious minority by sentencing Mohammed Rashid Sahab to death for participating in a terrorist organization and in the rape and abduction of Yazidi women. This trial was the first in which a Yazidi victim personally confronted her attacker. The victim, Ashwaq Haji Hamid Talo, gave a restrained but searing account to judges and before the public -- in the presence of the ISIS militant to whom she was once given as a gift, and who raped her repeatedly.

Buttigieg and Klobuchar Endorse Biden, Aiming to Slow Sanders

On the eve of Super Tuesday, former Vice President Joe Biden, Jr. received endorsements from Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar. The dual endorsement, and their joint appearances with Biden at campaign events in Dallas, was remarkable. Rarely, if ever, have opponents joined forces so dramatically, as Klobuchar and Buttigieg went from campaigning at full tilt in the South Carolina primary on Saturday to joining on a political rescue mission for a former competitor, Biden, whom they had once regarded as a spent force.


Close to One Million Coronavirus Tests Could Be Ready in U.S. This Week

Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced looser regulations on who can develop tests for the coronavirus, which will allow for a significant increase in the number of Americans likely to be screened. Private companies and academic laboratories have been pulled in to develop and validate their own coronavirus tests, a move to get around a government bottleneck after a halting start, and to widen the range and number of Americans screened for the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Missteps in Screening Left Potential for Virus's Spread

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) botched its first attempt to mass produce a diagnostic test kit, a discovery made only after officials had shipped hundreds of kits to state laboratories. A promised replacement took several weeks, and still did not permit state and local laboratories to make final diagnoses. Further, the CDC essentially ensured that Americans would be tested in very few numbers by imposing stringent and narrow criteria. This begs the question: did a failure to provide adequate testing give the coronavirus time to gain a toehold in the United States?

House Passes $8.3 Billion Emergency Coronavirus Response Bill

Racing to confront a growing public health threat, the House resoundingly approved $8.3 billion in emergency aid to combat the novel coronavirus. The bipartisan package, which includes nearly $7.8 billion for agencies dealing with the virus and came together after days of intensive negotiations, is substantially larger than what the White House proposed in late February. It also authorizes roughly $500 million to allow Medicare providers to administer telehealth services so that more elderly patients, who are at greater risk from the virus, can receive care at home.

Coronavirus Testing Offered with Just a Doctor's Approval

The CDC has announced that anyone who wants a coronavirus test may get one if a doctor agrees. Under the new criteria, patients who have fevers, coughs or difficulty breathing qualify for diagnostic testing, depending on their doctors' judgment. However, with flu season in full swing, tens of millions of Americans already have respiratory symptoms, and doctors have no quick way to discern who should be tested. The move greatly increases the number of patients who qualify, but it's not clear that there are enough tests for those who will want them.

How Worried Should You Be About the Coronavirus?

One of the most common questions asked of health experts about the new coronavirus is some variation of the same thing: How worried should I be?? First, while global knowledge of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, is growing every day, much remains unknown. Many cases are thought to be mild or asymptomatic, for example, making it hard to gauge how wide the virus has spread or how deadly it is. Second, much of the risk comes not from the virus itself but from how it affects the societies it hits. For most people, the disease is probably not particularly deadly; health officials tend to put it somewhere within range of an unusually severe seasonal flu. Even in a global pandemic, it's expected to kill fewer people than the flu virus. Data so far suggests that if you catch the coronavirus, you may be likelier to have no symptoms at all than to require hospitalization. The coronavirus is thought to be much more dangerous for people over age 70 or with existing health conditions.

Top Coronavirus Official for U.S. Has Fought an Epidemic Before

Dr. Deborah Birx was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2014 to lead the government's fight against the global AIDS epidemic. Now she is coordinating the response to the coronavirus. As Trump's newly named White House coronavirus response coordinator, she has the difficult task of tracking and orchestrating the government's effort to contain the outbreak, while projecting a calm, authoritative presence to counter the mixed messages from Trump.

Test Kits in Short Supply

Despite efforts by Trump to reassure the public that coronavirus tests are getting disseminated quickly, several states, doctors and patients complained that access was limited and their frustration is mounting alongside the growing number of cases around the country. More than 300 cases have been confirmed, at least 17 have died, and thousands are in self-quarantine. Public health officials are warning that no one knows how deeply the virus will spread, in part because the federal government's flawed rollout of tests three weeks ago has snowballed into an embarrassing fiasco of national proportions.

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