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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 General News:


As Theaters Stare Down Uncertainty, Ars Nova Buys Itself Time

With many theaters uncertain about their future, the Ars Nova company has committed to paying its workers for three months, in a move that "gives itself breathing room to prepare for when it can open again." Ars Nova is taking the risk that it will be able to survive the shutdown, but it has long been a launchpad for careers including those of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Annie Baker, and Billy Eichner.


A Fight Over Money and Loyalty and Who is to Credit for an Artist's Rise

A little-known art student at Hunter College, Derek Fordjour, became famous about six years ago when his paintings began to be collected by the likes of Michael Ovitz and Beyonce. The gallery that worked with Fordjour before his rise to fame, the Robert Blumenthal Gallery, has sued him, saying that he owes the gallery seven additional works based on a contract that they entered into for him to produce 20 works in exchange for $20,000. Given Fordjour's meteoric rise in the industry, the gallery is now saying that, in lieu of the seven pieces he promised, it would accept no less than $1.45 million.

They Were Meant to Be the Season's Big Books. Then the Virus Struck

Last year, the publishing industry began to plan its schedule of releases, and because the presidential election is slated for November, many of the releases that were expected to be hits were moved up from the fall to the spring. However, with the coronavirus pandemic, publishers are now pushing back the releases of books to summer and fall, hoping that bookstores will reopen by then and that authors will be able to tour the country and promote their books.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Tells Staff It Is Extending Pay Until May 2

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which has struggled to deal with declining revenues, has announced that it will extend paying its staff through May 2 despite its closure due to the coronavirus. The museum has also announced that it may make up for its declining revenues by dipping into its $3.6 billion endowment.

National Gallery of Art Returns Picasso Work to Settle Claim

The National Gallery of Art has returned the Pablo Picasso work, "Head of a Woman," to the heirs of a "prominent German-Jewish banker who was persecuted by the Nazis." The work had been sold to a dealer in 1934, and the National Gallery subsequently acquired the work as a donation in 2001.

Early van Gogh Painting Stolen From Dutch Museum

A heist at the town of Laren, 20 miles from Amsterdam, has resulted in a Vincent van Gogh painting, "The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring," being stolen. The police received an alarm and arrived at the museum to find that a glass door had been shattered and that the painting was the only work missing. The painting had been a loan from the Groninger Museum, and the museum from which it was stolen had been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.


2020 Olympics Postponed to 2021

After weeks of avoiding an announcement, the International Olympic Committee announced that the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo will be postponed to most likely July 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is an extraordinary move, as the only Olympics Games to have been cancelled were in 1916, 1940, and 1944, and they have not previously been postponed. As part of the postponement, $200 million in funding that would have gone to pay for the living and training expenses of American athletes is not set to arrive until next August.

Coronavirus Pandemic Hobbles World Antidoping Efforts

The coronavirus pandemic has "presented an extraordinary opportunity: Enforcers for the time being are not going to knock on their doors demanding a urine or blood sample" in relation to antidoping efforts. Ordinarily, antidoping officials would be collecting samples from athletes, "gathering intelligence, meeting with whistle blowers, or working in labs to try to find testing techniques that will put them one step ahead of the cheaters." It is expected that the testing hiatus will last for several weeks, which could "wreak havoc on efforts to control illicit performance enhancement."

FIFA Plans Huge Emergency Fund to Support Ailing Soccer Industry

FIFA is planning to tap into its $2.7 billion cash reserve to create "an emergency fund to support the ailing soccer industry" to deal with the mounting "concerns and daily updates about the crisis wrought by the coronavirus pandemic on the global soccer industry." The fund, if global soccer leaders approve it, "would amount to the biggest response from any major sports governing body to the financial impact of the pandemic."

Idaho Is First State to Bar Some Transgender Athletes

Governor of Idaho Brad Little signed a bill called the Fairness in Women's Sports Act, which "prohibits transgender people from changing their birth certificates to match their gender identities." By signing the bill, the governor makes Idaho the "first state in the United States to bar transgender girls from participating in girls' and women's sports and to legalize the practice of asking girls and women to undergo sex testing in order to compete." While other states have had their legislatures introduce bills to restrict the ability of transgender athletes to participate in sports, Idaho becomes the first to pass such legislation into law.

NCAA Allows Extra Year of Eligibility for Athletes in Curtailed Spring Sports

Last week, the NCAA Division I Council voted to open the door to another year of eligibility for all spring-sport athletes, whose seasons were cut short by the coronavirus outbreak. There are conditions, however: an athlete may be able to return depending on each university's decisions, which will be weighed by "how much scholarship aid to offer and whether to apply for an individual to receive an NCAA waiver allowing an additional season." This policy is set to apply to "baseball, softball, golf, tennis, lacrosse, track and field, beach volleyball, and rowing."

How Skiing Through a Pandemic Can Create a Community Crisis

In response to the coronavirus, North American ski resorts have closed, but mountain sports have continued to draw large crowds, to the alarm of public safety officials. Skiers and snowboarders have gathered in "backcountry trails or to slopes", which are not expressly forbidden, but have prompted public officials to implore "skiers and snowboarders to scale back" based on the risk of spreading the virus, the increased threat of avalanches, and the potential for medical resources to be diverted from the pandemic.

A Tennis Coach Was Abusing Minors. Should the Sport's Federation Have Known?

The United States Tennis Association (USTA) has long claimed that it was capable of policing itself, and thus, in 2014, when the United States Olympic Committee proposed a new initiative to "protect athletes from abusers," the USTA objected to having a "single mandatory national entity" overseeing cases. Months prior to that, a Bay Area USTA coach was arrested for "a second time on charges of abusing one of his teenage players," and he would continue to coach for the following three years until a player worked with police and recorded the coach admitting to having sex with a minor. While the coach is now serving a 255-year prison sentence, there is no record that the USTA took any action against the coach.

No Live Sports on TV? Consumers Want a Refund

Customers who have subscribed to services that have broken out fees for sports channels have begun asking their providers: Why are we footing the bill for services we are not receiving? While sports channels continue to be on air, they are simply replaying previous games or questioning what effect the coronavirus will have on restarting or canceling seasons for sports around the world.

Caesars in U.K. Is Fined for Allowing Problem Gamblers to Keep Betting

Britain's gambling authorities "have ordered Caesars Entertainment to pay a record fine of $16 million for failing to prevent money laundering and for allowing people with gambling problems to lose huge amounts over repeated visits to its casinos." The Gambling Commission had investigated 11 casinos in Britain and found that "systemic failings in the way the company dealt with high-spending, frequent customers" was causing the outcome.


How Much Should the Public Know About Who Has the Coronavirus?

The coronavirus pandemic has brought to light the "perennial tug-of-war between privacy and transparency in the United States", with privacy appearing "to be winning." There are significant questions surrounding the pandemic, such as which cities have patients, with whom those patients came into contact, and what clinics or locations that patient visited before he or she knew he or she was infected. In many countries, such as India and other countries that are typically referred to as autocracies, the flow of information has been tightened. In India, when a newscaster was prepared to deliver the latest news about the pandemic, the station was cut off by order of India's Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and blocked the channel for the following 48 hours.

New York Attorney General Looks Into Zoom's Privacy Practices

With the videoconferencing platform Zoom surging in popularity as millions of Americans are working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, its privacy practices have come under scrutiny. New York Attorney General Letitia James has announced that she is investigating "what, if any, new security measures the company has put in place to handle increased traffic on its network and to detect hackers." The company has faced criticism in being "slow to address security flaws such as vulnerabilities 'that could enable malicious third parties to, among other things, gain surreptitious access to consumer webcams,'" and it has also faced scrutiny for pulling data from people's LinkedIn accounts and using that data within its own platform. The platform has also "become a target for harassment and abuse coordinated in private off-platform chats."

Facebook Aims $100 Million at Media Hit by the Coronavirus

Facebook has announced that it will give $25 million in grants to "local news outlets and spend $75 million in a marketing drive aimed at news organizations internationally in response to the coronavirus-prompted economic downturn, which has caused advertising to plummet and has threatened media industry revenues." Many "alt-weeklies" have had significant layoffs, and there have been pay and hour cuts as "advertising has dropped sharply" since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic "despite huge interest in news that has led to traffic surges and a rise in digital subscription sign-ups."

Coronavirus Likely to Hasten End of Advertising-Driven Media: New York Times Columnist

It is expected that the coronavirus will hasten the end of "advertising-driven media," and it is the opinion of a New York Times columnist that the "government should not rescue" those media companies. The biggest newspaper chain in the country, Gannett, is worth a "mere $261 million" but is difficult to sell to others because it has high-interest loans owed to a "giant New York private equity firm and relying on an advertising business model that may be in its death throes because of the coronavirus."

Pakistani Court Overturns Conviction in 2002 Killing of Daniel Pearl

A court in Pakistan has ruled that there was "sufficient evidence to convict Ahmed Omar Sheikh of abducting" the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, "but not of killing him." Pearl was abducted in 2002 in Karachi while working on an article about Pakistani militant groups and was later killed, and with the court's latest move, the four men who were connected with his abduction and killing are either released or expected to be released in the near future.

Myanmar Journalists Who Quoted Rebel Spokesman Face Arrest

Authorities in Myanmar have begun a "new crackdown on free speech" by arresting "a prominent editor on terrorism charges for publishing an interview with a rebel army spokesman, and on Friday," authorities announced that they will be charging two more editors with similar crimes. Journalists and human rights activists have denounced the actions as "an attempt to reinstate authoritarian measures" at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has dominated headlines.

Prince Harry and Meghan Scale Down Royal P.R. Machine

Last week, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan "would down their popular social media sites and transferred the management of their image and philanthropy to a new team of advisers in Los Angeles." It is the latest move in their journey to "step back" from their duties as members of the British royal family. They have said that they prefer for attention to "remain fixed on the coronavirus pandemic" rather than the latest developments related to them which have "commanded breathless headlines."

General News

Coronavirus Continues to Ravage the United States and World

The United States and the New York City metropolitan area have become the epicenters of the coronavirus pandemic, as the country's total reported cases now exceed 310,000 and total deaths pass 9,100. Forty-one states throughout the country have had their governors issue stay-at-home orders, but nine states have refused to follow suit, despite warnings from top officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including Dr. Anthony Fauci, who, given his prominent position and his persistence in correcting statements made by the Trump administration, has had to have additional security assigned to him, given conspiracy theories that he is attempting to undermine the federal response to the pandemic. The federal response has come under fire for being insufficient; first as being too slow and later for not being forceful enough. While the federal government has deployed two ships to California and New York to serve as hospitals, governors and hospitals have called for additional protective equipment, such as masks, gowns, and ventilators, and while the Trump administration invoked the Defense Production Act, it hesitated in requiring companies to change their production to equipment. The Trump administration came under fire when the son-in-law of President Trump, Jared Kushner, appeared to take a leadership role in the response to the pandemic and then announced that the federal stockpile of protective equipment was meant to be for the federal government; not for states who may require equipment.

Abroad, shutdowns have become ubiquitous. From India to Russia, governments have taken a strong stance, and critics have observed that those governments that leaned toward autocracy have only become more emboldened by the pandemic as they seek to tamp down panic and control the media coverage within their countries. In Iran, some have found that the sanctions imposed on the country have led to additional deaths, and in Brazil, the government has continued to doubt the impact of the virus. Throughout the world, there remain populations that are extraordinarily in danger should the virus pervade, including the refugee camps that remain in Syria.

As domestic businesses suffer given the requirement coming from governors that they shutter, concern grows about the depth and length of the recession that follows. With the number of unemployment claims filing to unprecedented levels, 10 million in two weeks, economists have questioned how quickly the recovery will be once the pandemic ends. Even with the stimulus package signed into law, small businesses have found that obtaining loans has not yet been as easy as hoped, and for the restaurant industry, there remain questions as to whether it will ever look the same, as small restaurants, particularly in New York City, operate on the thinnest of margins during normal times. Some have looked to the stimulus model from Germany for inspiration as to how the stimulus should have been administered in the United States, as it appears to have delivered help more quickly and efficiently than that currently underway via the Department of Treasury. Regardless, Congress and an oversight panel will be serving roles similar to that taken in relation to the 2008 stimulus package with regular reports as to who is receiving funding from the stimulus and when. Businesses such as Amazon, Target, and Instacart have had workers strike or threaten to strike to obtain more protections in their working as the online retailing continues to explode.

With the number of cases certain to keep growing in the coming weeks, particularly on a state-by-state basis, as new hot spots for the virus become known, the response within the United States continues to be reliant on consistent testing, which has been another point of criticism about the Trump administration's response. Although the CIA continues to analyze the data that it can obtain from the actual numbers in China, which are certain to be higher than those reported in media sources, there remain significant questions not about how far below the actual number of cases the United States is but the magnitude of that underreporting. While the CDC has vowed that there will no longer be a testing shortage and that the number of tests within the country is analogous to South Korea at the outset of its dealing with the virus outbreak, the CDC has acknowledged that it will be several weeks before testing becomes ubiquitous.

Below are links to specific reporting from the past week relating to the coronavirus pandemic: U.S. to Announce Rollback of Auto Pollution Rules

It is expected that the Trump administration will announce a final rule to roll back "Obama-era automobile fuel efficiency standards, relaxing efforts to limit climate-warming tailpipe pollution and virtually undoing the government's biggest effort to combat climate change." The new rule would allow vehicles "to emit nearly a billion tons more carbon dioxide over the lifetime of the vehicles than they would have under the Obama standards and hundreds of millions of tons more than will be emitted under standards being implemented in Europe and Asia."

Supreme Court Postpones April Oral Arguments Over Coronavirus

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the United States Supreme Court has postponed oral arguments scheduled for April and "is considering alternative options for handling the various outstanding cases." The Court's term is set to end in June, and the Court is set to issue rulings online today. The Court's spokeswoman said that the nine justices remain healthy.

Trump Picks McConnell Protege for Influential Appeals Court Seat

Justin Walker, a protege of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has been a favorite of conservatives, and Friday, President Trump nominated him to fill a vacancy on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, despite the American Bar Association rating Walker as unqualified. Walker has served "for less than six months as a United States District Court judge in Kentucky."

Problems in FBI Wiretap Applications Go Beyond Trump Aide Surveillance

An inspector general in the FBI has found that there were "pervasive problems in the FBI's preparation of wiretap applications." The audit "revealed a broader pattern of sloppiness by the FBI in seeking permission to use powerful tools to eavesdrop on American soil in national security cases," and the report has been released while Congress is debating whether to add new limits to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Trump Proceeds With Post-Impeachment Purge Amid Pandemic

President Trump fired the intelligence community's inspector general, Michael Atkinson, who had forwarded a whistle-blower complaint last year to Congress that prompted Congress to open its impeachment inquiry. President Trump spoke to reporters, saying that Atkinson "took a fake report and he brought it to Congress," making him a "total disgrace" to inspector generals.

Records in 1946 Lynching Case Must Remain Sealed, Court Rules

The Moore's Ford lynchings have long cast a pall in rural Georgia, as they occurred in 1946, and to date no one has ever been charged in killing the two black couples who were lynched. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that a federal judge cannot unseal the grand jury records "except for a limited set of circumstances governing grand jury rules of secrecy"m which reverses the lower court's 2017 finding that the evidence should be unsealed.

The Growing Culture of Secrecy at Guantanamo Bay

The national security court at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba has been known for its opacity since its inception, but recent developments indicate that it is only becoming more opaque: during a recent hearing, the defense lawyers found that prosecutors were using a wireless silver tablet computer to communicate directly with representatives from the CIA to ensure that there was no accidental "disclosure of classified information." The judge had privately approved the use of the tablet via a secret order and regretted that he had not disclosed that order to the defense, but nonetheless stood by his decision to do so. This comes after government censors have redacted significant portions of public hearing transcripts, anonymous testimony has been permitted, and soldiers have been permitted to take their "name tapes off their Army uniforms when on the courtroom premises."

Rabbi Dies Three Months After Hanukkah Night Attack

Rabbi Josef Neumann, who was attacked in December in an anti-Semitic attack in Monsey, New York, has succumbed to his injuries. The incident had shocked the New York area as it came after a string of anti-Semitic attacks, and four others were hospitalized with serious injuries, all of whom "quickly recovered."

A Prominent Former Neo-Nazi for Decades Now Says He Wants to Help Destroy It

Jeff Schoep, a man who had called the infamous Charlottesville, Virginia white supremacist rally "a glorious day for white solidarity in America," has now renounced his views and is speaking publicly against the neo-Nazi organizations that he led for two and a half decades. While civil rights experts "have said reformed neo-Nazis should use their outsize influence to draw others away from white nationalism" and others not as well-known as Schoep have attempted to do so, it remains unclear the path that a former neo-Nazi should take in defeating "the resurgence of open bigotry tearing at the country's social fabric."

JPMorgan Announces New Diversity Push

JPMorgan Chase has announced that it will "make diversity training mandatory for all employees" in the wake of a New York Times report documenting instances of racism at its Arizona branches. The December article showed that a black employee and black customer struggled to "gain access to the same opportunities as their white peers" at Chase locations. The bank also announced that it would "expand the recruiting team" that is dedicated to diversifying hirees.

U.N. Security Council 'Missing in Action' During Coronavirus Fight

The Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, has called the pandemic the most challenging crisis since the organization's founding in the wake of World War II, but the Security Council has remained "conspicuously silent." Although Guterres has called for action to be taken in halting armed conflicts around the world so that countries can focus their resources on the pandemic, the Security Council, the body that can vote to coerce through military or economic means, has disregarded Guterres' call thus far.

E.U. Court Rules That Three Countries Violated Deal on Refugee Quotas

The European Court of Justice has found that Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic have "violated their obligations by refusing to take in their fair share of asylum seekers at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015." The ruling came as the European Union had agreed to distribute 160,000 asylum seekers and the trio of countries refused to participate in the relocation of refugees and therefore placed more pressure on Italy and Greece to manage the high volume of new arrivals at that time and continuing to 2017 when the relocation program lapsed.

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