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/Technology and General News:
May the Fourth Be With Disney
Disney ignited controversy on Twitter when it asked for fans to post their favorite Star Wars-related memory but then added a caveat that any tweet mentioning Disney+, the streaming service, and the hashtag #MayThe4th would become property of Disney's and potentially used in its media. Users began firing back, and one asked, referring to Jack Dorsey, Twitter's chief executive, "At what point do you step in and specifically say that hashtags don't belong to anyone?"
Oscars Rule to Allow Films to Skip a Theatrical Release This Year
The Academy Awards, scheduled for February 28, 2021, are going to be different than in previous years. Given the Covid-19 pandemic, the Academy approved new rules, including one that permits "a streaming film" to "skip a theatrical release entirely and still remain eligible for the Academy Awards." There is a caveat as well: "Only films that had a previously planned theatrical release are still eligible for Oscar consideration," which will exclude traditional television-only movies from being considered.
Supreme Court Rules Georgia That Cannot Copyright Entire State Code
The Supreme Court has ruled, in a 5-4 decision, that Georgia cannot copyright its state code and "annotations cannot be copyrighted if they are the official work of state lawmakers." Approximately 20 other states have also claimed "that parts of similar annotated codes are copyrighted," and Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that if they were copyrightable, "then states would be free to offer a whole range of premium legal works for those who can afford the extra benefit. A state could monetize its entire suite of legislative history. With today's digital tools, states might even launch a subscription or pay-per-law service."
Los Angeles Dealers Create Their Own Virtual Gallery
Galleries in Los Angeles have created a new marketing website, galleryplatform.la, and formed a group, Gallery Association Los Angeles, to help dealers throughout the city have a platform to market works. While analysts expect that the art market will not be as explosive as in recent years, the platform will help those with a more moderate budget to buy works and "stay engaged with art", as some galleries have reported not having "a single sale since the lockdown."
Face Masks and Fewer Seats: One Theater Tries Saving Summer
While many theaters have already cancelled their summer seasons, one theater in Massachusetts, the Barrington Stage Company, is attempting a "stripped-down season that combines performances with safety." Many of the shows will be one-person shows, and the theater is planning to remove 70% of the seats with more entrances and exits into the theater.
Alaska School District Votes Out Classics Deemed Too Controversial
In Palmer, Alaska, school board members have "raised concerns about language and sexual references in five books deemed too controversial", including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and The Great Gatsby. According to the board, the books contained "sexually explicit material" and "'anti-white' messaging", as well as "mentions of rape, incest, racial slurs, profanity, and misogyny."
In Seoul, the Art World Gets Back to Business
In South Korea, art galleries have reopened, and they foreshadow what a post-COVID-19 shopping experience for art may resemble in the United States as well: contract tracing and masks. While the South Korean government's approach differs from that in European countries and the United States, the galleries in South Korea's capital, Seoul, have reported that with "government-supplied N95-grade masks for everyone, comprehensive testing, thorough contact tracing of the infected, and immediate isolation of anyone exposed to an infected person," there is little concern of infection given the precautions taken.
U.S. Women's Soccer Team's Equal Pay Claims Dismissed by Judge
In the United States District Court for the Central District of California, Judge R. Gary Klausner has dismissed at the summary judgment stage the claims relating to the women's soccer team's equal pay. He preserved claims relating to "unequal treatment in areas like travel, hotel accommodations, and team staffing," and a trial limited to those issues is scheduled for June 16th, but the equal pay argument was "the heart of the players' case."
Some Sports May Have to Skip This Year, Fauci Says
The leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, has announced that "it might be very difficult for major sports in the United States to return to action this year." The crucial factor for the resuming of sports is "broad access to testing that quickly yields results." Although President Trump has urged sports commissioners to resume play, Fauci noted that, "if you can't guarantee safety, then unfortunately you're going to have to bite the bullet and say, 'We may have to go without this sport for this season.'"
Elite Gymnastics Coach Suspended for Eight Years
Maggie Haney, "an elite gymnastics coach," has been suspended for eight years by U.S.A. Gymnastics after a disciplinary hearing. She had been accused of "verbally abusing and mistreating athletes", such as forcing them "to train through injuries." Following the eight-year suspension, she will have a two-year probationary period after which she may reapply for membership after having completed courses that the United States Center for SafeSport oversees.
Summer Olympics in 2021 'Exceedingly Difficult' Without Coronavirus Vaccine
A prominent Japanese physicians' group is casting doubt about whether the 2021 Summer Olympics may be staged after all, even though they have been pushed to one year after the originally scheduled games. The determining factor may be whether there is an effective vaccine for COVID-19. One doctor noted that without a vaccine, "it would be exceedingly difficult" for the games to be held.
Facebook Restructures Its Security Teams
Facebook has "displaced more than two dozen employees who work on security" as the company continues to grapple with the threat of cyberattacks and other security issues with its platform. There have been cuts in the past two years to its security group, which were "spurred by infighting and long-running issues within the department." A company spokeswoman noted that Facebook is "investing more in automated detection and bringing in new skills."
With Little Hesitation, Struggling News Outlets Accept Federal Aid
Struggling news outlets have taken millions of dollars from the Paycheck Protection Program, and editors and publishers generally have said that "they see no real conflict of interest." The program is intended to help small business, which is defined as with 500 or fewer employees, and many smaller newspapers have had struggling finances for years leading up to the pandemic.
Europe's Privacy Law Hasn't Shown Its Teeth, Frustrating Advocates
When the General Data Protection Regulation was proposed in Europe, it was "heralded as a model to crack down on the invasive, data-hungry practices of the world's largest technology companies," but, two years later, the law has failed to achieve the hopes set for it. Thus far, it has not had the impact desired, as there has been "a lack of enforcement, poor funding, limited staff resources, and stalling tactics by the tech companies, according to budget and staffing figures and interviews with government officials."
Setback for Harry and Meghan in Legal Battle with U.K. Tabloids
On Sunday, a judge ruled that The Mail "would not be judged on whether it had acted dishonestly in publishing a letter from the Duchess of Sussex to her father, Thomas Markle." The case represented a move by Prince Harry and Meghan to fight back against the invasive British tabloids who had "stirred up conflict" and "published offensive and intrusive articles about the duchess." An article about this will appear in the upcoming Spring issue of the EASL Journal.
The COVID-19 Pandemic Continues to Plague the United States and Europe as Reopening Becomes Closer
With the economy in the United States and Europe facing months of recovery and unemployment claims now topping 20 million in the United States alone, many people are prepared for a prolonged recession and recovery. Others have taken to protesting at their respective state capitals based on their governors extending stay-at-home orders and maintaining that non-essential businesses remain closed. Regardless, health experts have continued to state that widespread reopening is not safe until there is much greater access to testing, personal protective equipment, and contact tracing.
Squabbling over the existing stimulus money for businesses is likely to continue, even if Congress proposes additional programs to relieve the stress of the pandemic.
Congress is likely to return to its session within the coming weeks, and is facing pressure to deliver another boost to the economy, small businesses, and the unemployed. The federal response to the pandemic has faced significant scrutiny, with various governments criticizing others': the Chinese government has accused the United States of disinformation and vice versa; the federal government has implied that hospitals and states should have done more to prepare for the pandemic and vice versa. With the United States the epicenter of the pandemic and continuing to face a high daily death toll, tragic scenes have played out with businesses closing and funeral homes and morgues unable to manage in places like New York City.
It is widely expected that the summer and fall will look drastically different than usual, even as testing continues to grow. Universities are seeing many students defer enrollment, and it is likely that classes will remain remote or reduced in size when the fall semester starts. Voting by mail has gained momentum, but it remains unclear what impact the pandemic may have on the presidential election in the fall.
Supreme Court Dismisses Challenge to New York City Gun Ordinance
The Supreme Court has found a Second Amendment case to be moot after New York City repealed the challenged regulation. The case would have been the first Second Amendment case in nearly 10 years, and in a dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a 31-page decision claiming that the case was not moot and "that the regulation flatly violated the Court's Second Amendment precedents."
Supreme Court Rules for Insurers in $12 Billion Obamacare Case
In an 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court has sided with insurers in ruling that "the government must shield insurers from losses under the Affordable Care Act." Justice Sonia Sotomayor authored the majority decision and said that it vindicated "a principal as old as the nation itself: The government should honor its obligations." The Affordable Care Act includes a provision promising insurers that they are protected and that it is not contingent on Congress appropriating money to cover the shortfalls.
Court Hears Case Regarding Subpoena and Border Wall
The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has heard arguments in two cases involving disputes between the House of Representatives and the Trump administration with the fundamental question yet to be decided: "May a chamber of Congress sue the executive branch?" It is likely that however the matter is decided, there will be an appeal to the Supreme Court, "given the long-term constitutional stakes", which involve whether the House may enforce a subpoena as related to a "former White House lawyer and spending on a border wall."
Detroit Students Have Constitutional Right to Literacy, Court Rules
The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has ruled that the State of Michigan "had been so negligent toward the educational needs of Detroit students that children had been 'deprived of access to literacy'" in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The decision is the first one in decades that determined that "a federal court has declared that American public school students have a constitutional right to an adequate education."
Trump Appointees Manipulated Agency's Payday Lending Research
An ex-staffer at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has claimed that Trump's appointees there "had manipulated the agency's research process to justify altering a 2017 rule that would have sharply curtailed high-interest payday loans." The appointees allegedly pressured "staff economists to water down their findings on payday loans and use statistical gimmicks to downplay the harm consumers would suffer if the payday restrictions were repealed."
The Marine Corps Battles for Its Identity, Over Women in Boot Camp
The Marine Corps has faced scrutiny for keeping men and women separate during recruit training, and it represents a "last stand" for the military branch, which critics have called "slow to move toward gender integration." Some see it as a "last stand" and others "an attempt to keep at bay a changing American society that threatens the very fabric of a force that regards itself as the nation's toughest."
Latest Tactic to Push Migrants From Europe: A Private, Clandestine Fleet
The government of Malta has attempted to stop the maritime migration from Africa to Europe, and it has deployed a fleet of "private merchant vessels" to "intercept migrants at sea and return them by force to a war zone in Libya." The fleet is privately owned, but the boats are acting "on the instructions of the Armed Forces of Malta." Maritime experts have said that the tactic is "among the most egregious" because it involves "a designated flotilla of private vessels" acting in waters that "fall within the responsibility of European coast guards."
In Victory for Women in Sudan, Female Genital Mutilation Is Outlawed
A new law in Sudan "criminalizes genital cutting, a harmful practice that nine in 10 Sudanese women are said to have endured," but some have warned that the new law alone will not eliminate the practice. The law creates a penalty of three years in prison and a fine, but experts have noted that the practice is "enmeshed with cultural and religious beliefs, considered a pillar of tradition and marriage, and supported by women as well as men."
Chinese Coffee Chain's Scandal Renews U.S. Calls for Oversight
A Chinese competitor to Starbucks, Luckin Coffee, once sought to compete with Starbucks in China, but its implosion, and the circumstances surrounding that implosion, have "bolstered the cause of American politicians aiming to stop opaque Chinese companies from raising money in the United States. Luckin Coffee had raised billions of dollars, with over half a billion coming from Wall Street, but an accounting fraud revealed that the company did not have the money or assets that it represented to investors. Congressional aides have argued that federal regulators should put a law in place that require transparency from companies, so that a future Luckin Coffee may be detected.