By La-Vaughnda A. Taylor Edited by Elissa D. Hecker
Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into: Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media/Technology, and General News:
Olivia de Havilland 104, Who Starred in 'Gone With the Wind,' Dies
Olivia de Havilland, who is best known for her role in "Gone With the Wind,", died in Paris from natural causes at the age of 104. de Havilland was one of the last remaining actresses from Hollywood's Golden Age and a 2-time Academy Award winner. In her later years, she stayed mostly out of the limelight and preferred to live a quiet life in France. de Havilland is remembered for her strength in challenging the studios to liberate actors from contracts that exploited them. The actress has a famously tempestuous relationship with her sister, actress Joan Fontaine, and she mounted a lawsuit against the producers of the 2017 series "Feud" over her portrayal by Catherine Zeta-Jones. She argued that producers did not have her approval over her depiction and that the show damaged her "professional reputation for integrity, honesty, generosity, self-sacrifice and dignity." The case was rejected by California's high court in July 2018, but she vowed to take it to the Supreme Court. In 1943 when her contract with Warner Brothers ended, the studio tried to keep her on, claiming that she had six months left due to various suspensions. She fought the case in court and spent $13,000 of her own money. The suit was based on an old California law that put a 7-year limit on the period for which an employer can enforce a contract against an employee. The "anti-peonage law" forbade employers to reduce workers to serfdom. The victory, known as "the de Havilland decision," freed many actors from uncompromising contracts and allowed for negotiations with the studios for much more favorable terms. It also proved to be another nail in the coffin for the old studio system.
Venice Plans to Hold Its Film Festival
The Venice Film Festival is set to be one of the only large-scale events in the entertainment world to go ahead this year. This week, Luca Zaia, the governor of the Veneto region in Italy, announced plans for the festival to go ahead on its scheduled dates of September 2-12. The festival will have a reduced slate with 2 outdoor screening locations to ensure social distancing.
Humanities Grants Funded
The National Endowment for the Humanities announced $30 million in grants for 238 humanities projects across the country. The last round of funding for fiscal year 2020 "will support vital research, education, preservation and public programs in the humanities." The peer-reviewed grants were awarded in addition to $50 million in annual operational support provided to the national network of state and jurisdictional humanities councils.
U.S. Backs Down in Battle to Stop President's Former Fixer From Writing a Tell-All
The Trump administration has dropped its attempt to stop Michael Cohen, the president's former fixer and personal attorney, from writing a tell-all book. Last month, after tweeting that his book was nearly complete, Cohen was returned to prison. The American Civil Liberties Union joined a suit on his behalf and a judge in New York ordered his return to home confinement, saying that the government had retaliated against him by putting him back behind bars. Last week, U.S. attorneys told the same judge that the government had dropped its support for a gag order to stop Cohen from publishing a book. The government does not "intend to further litigate or appeal the court's rulings."
Black Plays Knocking on Stage Door
Interviews with artists and producers suggest that there are more than a dozen plays and musicals with Black writers circling Broadway--meaning, in most cases, that the shows have been written, have had promising productions elsewhere, and have support from commercial producers or nonprofit presenters. However, bringing these shows to Broadway would mean making room for producers and artists who often have less experience in commercial theatre than the powerful industry regulars who most often book theatres.
T. Rex Isn't Required to Wear a Mask, However
The American Museum of Natural History plans to open on September 9th at 25% capacity. Visitors will need to reserve time-entry tickets online in advance, and face masks will be required for everyone 2 and older. Staff members will also be subject to daily temperature checks. The museum will be open 5 days a week instead of its typical 7, from Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. While it previously had a pay what-you-wish admission policy for all visitors, it will implement a fixed admission fee for visitors from outside the tristate area--$23 for adults, $18 for students and seniors and $13 for children ages 3 to 12.
The Drama Will Be Enhanced by Testing
The Salzburg Festival is unfolding its abbreviated centennial season with an elaborate coronavirus protection plan, supported by political and financial resources. Bucking the coronavirus-trend, Salzburg is going ahead with performances featuring casts interacting closely and full orchestras in the pit. The 44-day anniversary program had been mostly postponed until next year. It was replaced with a reduced, 30-day schedule, through August 30th, with concerts, plays, and 2 (instead of 7) staged operas that were planned over the past few months, almost unheard-of short notice for opera on this level. The festival has put in place stricter measures than the Austrian government has mandated. The festival's theatres will each be capped at about half their capacities; audiences will sit in a staggered, chessboard-like formation and will be asked to wear masks as they enter and leave, but can remove them during performances. Intermissions will be eliminated, and attendees will provide their contact information with the purchase of each nontransferable ticket, so that they can be informed if it turns out they attended a performance with an infected person. Artists and staff have been divided into 3 groups, depending on their ability to socially distance. Singers, orchestra musicians, and others who need to interact with one another closely are in the "red" group and are tested weekly, regardless of whether they have symptoms.
Picasso Mural Taken Down in Norway
Activists protested the removal of art from government offices that faced demolition in Oslo. The removal of a pair of concrete murals by Pablo Picasso was completed last week from a government building in the Norwegian capital. Opinions were divided over whether to spare what some considered an architectural masterpiece, while others considered it as ugly. The so-called Y-block will be replaced by a modern and safer construction after the government headquarters were targeted in June 2011 by Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik. For some, the building dating to 1969 stands as a painful reminder of the terror attack, when it suffered some structural damage. To others, it's a post-modernist masterpiece by Norwegian architect Erling Viksjoe. Some also say that by razing the building, officials are symbolically finishing Breivik's job. The demolition had been at a standstill since 2014 due to a series of postponements, chiefly because of the protests.
Church Volunteer Confesses to Starting Fire at Nantes Cathedral
A church volunteer admitted to starting a fire that devasted the cathedral in the French city of Nantes. The Rwandan refugee, who worked as a warden at the cathedral, was rearrested on Saturday night. His lawyer told reporters his client felt "relief" after confessing. No motive for the fire, which destroyed the cathedral's 17th century organ as well as historic stained-glass windows, was given.
For National Basketball Association, a Safe, Strange Haven in a Hot Spot
The National Basketball Association (NBA) has transported 22 of its 30 teams to a complex at Disney World in Florida to play out the season in a worsening pandemic. NBA players have gathered for the most extraordinary experiment in league history to play out the rest of the season without fans on a confined campus and must abide by a thick book of rules that includes assigned seats on the bench and prohibitions on postgame showers until players return to a team hotel. The Womens National Basketball Association is engaged in a similar experiment in Bradenton, Florida.
National Football League's Message Against Sexism and Racism is Undercut in Owner's Suites
The National Football League (NFL) has taken strides to repair its image as being insensitive to issues facing women and people of color. However, the league continues to be confronted by an uncomfortable reality: its efforts can be undercut by reports of toxic behavior at the tops of its franchises. Woody Johnson, the owner of the New York Jets and U.S. ambassador to Britain, was accused of making comments to embassy colleagues were found to be racist or sexist, complaints that State Department investigators included in a report filed in February. The accusations against Johnson have surfaced as the NFL grapples with 2 other crises of racism and sexism that reached recent turning points, including Daniel Snyder and the Washington Football Team's name change and investigation of charges in the team's front office of widespread harassment of women. The reemergence of issues of discrimination involving 2 of the league's most prominent team owners comes as the nation confronts systemic racism in many of its institutions, including sports teams and leagues.
Including Transgender Athletes Breaks Law, Trump Administration Says
A high school sports policy in Connecticut that allows transgender students to participate in athletics based on their gender identity violates federal law and could cost the state federal education funding, the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights has found. The finding comes after the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian organization, filed complaints against the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and the Glastonbury school board on behalf of 3 high school student-athletes. The Conference and school officials have 20 days to resolve the violation.
Games Postponed After Two Cardinals Players Test Positive for Coronavirus
Major League Baseball's (MLB) season is just more than a week old, yet the schedule continues to change due to COVID-19 cases. As many as 20 members of the Miami Marlins, including 18 players, have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent days. Multiple Cardinals players and staffers tested positive as well, forcing the postponement of St. Louis' games in Milwaukee this past weekend. As of Saturday, 17 different MLB games had been postponed due to COVID-19 cases and three of the league's 15 games (20%) originally on the slate for this past weekend were not played as scheduled. MLB will try to make up all postponed games later in the season via doubleheaders and eliminating off-days. If that is not possible, then MLB is prepared to allow teams to finish the season with an unequal number of games played, and determine the postseason field with winning percentage. That would not be ideal, but there is precedent from the 1981 strike.
FIFA President Faces Criminal Inquiry
A federal prosecutor in Switzerland has said that he had opened a criminal investigation into Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, after concluding that there were "indications of criminal conduct" in meetings between Infantino and an official overseeing an investigation into soccer corruption. The investigation follows the resignation last week of Switzerland's attorney general, Michael Lauber, who stepped down after a federal court upheld allegations that he had lied about meeting with Infantino. Lauber had been overseeing an investigation of the 2015 corruption scandal that led to criminal indictments against some of the top leaders at FIFA.
Worse Than the Bastille: Litigation Looms in France
France made the decision to truncate its soccer season rather than try to resume it. The teams in first place of each division were declared champions, and the teams at the bottom were relegated. Most people were not happy and 2 teams, Amiens and Toulouse, which were relegated from the top division, have threatened legal action.
Media and Technology
U.S. 'Intelligence' Reports on Journalists Are Halted
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf has ordered an investigation into agency's intelligence unit that assembled reports on journalists covering the unrest in Portland. The reports focused on the reporters' use of leaked information about the agency's operations in Portland, where the federal deployment was denounced by local leaders and officers had clashed nightly with protesters. The Department of Homeland Security Intelligence and Analysis Directorate was ordered to halt the information collection, after Wolf was notified of the work, first disclosed by the Washington Post.
Facebook, Fighting False News in Ukraine, Faces Accusations of Biased Fact-Checking
Facebook hired a Ukrainian group battling Russian disinformation to flag misleading posts. However, critics say that the fact checkers' work veers into activism. Earlier this year, Facebook hired StopFake to help curb the flow of Russian propaganda and other false news across its platform in Ukraine. Like all of Facebook's outside fact checkers, StopFake signed a pledge to be nonpartisan and not to focus its checks "on any one side." In recent weeks, StopFake has been battling accusations of ties to the Ukrainian far right and of bias in its fact-checking. The episode has raised thorny questions for Facebook over who it allows to separate truth from lies--and who is considered a neutral fact checker in a country at war.
Teen Charged with Leading Twitter Breach
Many celebrity Twitter accounts posted the same strange message last week, including Former President Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Kanye West. They, and dozens of others, were being hacked, and Twitter appeared powerless to stop it. Initially, it was thought that the hack was the work of professionals, but it turned out the "mastermind" was 17 year old Graham Ivan Clark. The Florida teen and 2 others were arrested and charged with communications fraud and fraudulent use of personal information. The breach sparked a massive outcry from Capitol Hill, with lawmakers demanding that the social media giant quickly come clean about the circumstances around the breach. Several Senate panels, including Intelligence, Commerce, and Homeland Security, have been weighing if they should launch their own investigations into the incident.
Murdoch Son Quits Board of Papers
James Murdoch resigned from the board of directors of News Corp., the publishing arm of his family's media empire, in a very public sign of dissent that typically plays out behind closed doors. The rupture capped a period of intensifying criticism of the coverage and views offered by the news empire created by his father Rupert Murdoch. Such criticism has come from outside observers, current news staffers for the Wall St. Journal and Fox, and James himself. On Friday, James released a letter to the board signaling a broad philosophical clash between his father and older brother, although he did not divulge details.
Europe Tries New Strategy to Limit Tech
The region's lawmakers and regulators are taking direct aim at Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple in a series of proposed laws. EU leaders are pursuing a new law to make it illegal for Amazon and Apple to give their own products preferential treatment over those of rivals that are sold on their online stores. Officials are drawing up a law to force Facebook to make its services work more easily with rival social networks and to push Google to share some search data with smaller competitors. In Germany, authorities are debating a rule that would let regulators essentially halt certain business practices at the tech companies during an antitrust investigation.
Justices Uphold Limits on Religious Services During Health Crisis
A sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court denied a rural Nevada church's request to strike down as unconstitutional a 50-person cap on worship services as part of the state's ongoing response to the coronavirus. In a 5-4 decision, the high Court refused to grant the request from the Christian church east of Reno to be subjected to the same COVID-19 restrictions in Nevada that allow casinos, restaurants, and other businesses to operate at 50% capacity with proper social distancing. Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley argued that the hard cap on religious gatherings was an unconstitutional violation of its parishioners' First Amendment right to express and exercise their beliefs. Chief Justice Roberts sided with the liberal majority in denying the request without explanation.
Justices Let Wall Construction Continue
The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to let lower court rulings go into effect that would stop the Trump administration from spending any more Pentagon money on the border wall. The Court denied a request from the Sierra Club. Four of the Justices, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan would have granted the request. In May of 2019, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to put a hold on a ruling by a federal judge in California that blocked the use of $2.5 billion of Pentagon counter-drug program money to build more than 100 miles of boarder wall. The judge said that only Congress could approve such a transfer. The Supreme Court issued the stay after questioning whether the groups opposed to the wall had the proper legal status to challenge the transfer in court. A federal appeals court found that the groups did have standing in a ruling last month.
Court Voids Death Penalty for Bomber of Marathon
A federal appeals court overturned Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's death sentence in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, saying that the trial judge did not adequately screen jurors for potential biases. A 3-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ordered a new penalty phase trial on whether the 27-year-old Tsarvaev should be executed for the attack that killed 3 people and wounded more than 260 others. It is now up to the government to determine whether to put the victims and Boston through a second trial, or to allow closure to this terrible tragedy by permitting a sentence of life without parole.
Appellate Court Erases Dismissal of Flynn Case
The entire Federal Appeals Court in Washington said last week that it would take up a case involving Attorney General Barr's decision to drop the prosecution of Trump's former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, erasing a split decision by a 3-judge panel in June ordering an immediate end to the case. Oral arguments are set for August 11th before the full Court.
Astronauts Reach Space Station for Open-Ended Stay
After 2 months on the International Space Station, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley have completed the first crewed flight of the Crew Dragon capsule. The astronauts completed a fiery, high-speed journey back from the International Space Station splashing down in calm Gulf of Mexico waters off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, hundreds of miles from a churning Tropical Storm Isaias in the Atlantic in a triumphal denouement to a historic mission. It was the first time in the 59-year history of crewed American space travel that astronauts had used the Gulf as a landing site, adding to other firsts that marked a new chapter in NASA's human spaceflight program: the first launch of American astronauts to orbit from U.S. soil since the Space Shuttle was retired in 2011 and the first launch into orbit of humans on vehicles owned and operated by a private company, SpaceX.
Trump's Attacks on Mail Service Sow Voting Fears
President Trump escalated his ongoing attacks on the mail-in voting process, suggesting in a tweet that the November election should be delayed. The statement came 5 days before a primary election in Michigan which would be marked by a huge number of absentee ballots due to fears of spreading coronavirus at polling places. His suggestions have garnered a massive and immediate backlash from Republicans and Democrats. The President went on to say that 2020 will be the "most inaccurate and fraudulent Election in history." His rhetoric appears to be an attempt to sow doubt in the eventual outcome of the presidential vote. Trump has repeatedly attacked mail-in voting, implying that Democrats have created a system that exacerbates fraud without providing any evidence. The president does not have the power to delay any federal election. This power is reserved to the states or Congress, according to the National Constitution Center.
Diplomat is Said to Tie Tariffs to Elections
The Trump administration has been accused of attempting to pressure another foreign country into helping Trump's reelection prospects, according to a letter from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The letter cities Brazilian news articles that report U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Todd Chapman pressured members of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's administration to lower ethanol tariffs in order to support President Donald Trump's reelection efforts. Another Brazilian outlet published a similar story finding that he had made the request, and was rebuffed by government officials. Engel has called for Chapman to respond to the reports by August 4th. If the reports are accurate, Chapman's actions could be in violation of the Hatch Act, which prevents federal employees from engaging in certain political activities, such as partisan campaigning for candidates.
Senate Fails to Agree on Extension of $600 Weekly Aid
In late-night negotiations with congressional Democrats on Thursday, White House officials offered a short-term extension of the popular unemployment benefit paying out-of-work Americans $600 per week, a CARES Act provision that formally expired last Friday. However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer rejected the offer, arguing that Republicans don't understand that the situation requires a solution that is larger in scope. Pelosi noted that it had been 10 weeks since House Democrats passed a $3 trillion bill in May that would have extended the benefits for those without work at the current level of $600 per week, in addition to their weekly unemployment insurance checks. She condemned congressional Republicans and the White House for not coming to the negotiating table earlier.
Army Officer Who Clashed with Trump Vows to Speak Out on U.S. Security
The Army officer who was a key witness during the impeachment inquiry into Trump last year and later retired after what he called a campaign of bullying and intimidation by the president and his allies, sharply criticized the administration last week and said he would use his new civilian status to champion national security issues ahead of the elections in November. Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, a decorated Iraq war veteran who served on the staff of the White House's National Security Council, accused the administration in an op-ed in the Washington Post of using Soviet-style tactics to punish dissenters.
Parent of Slain Student Takes on Smith & Wesson
The father of a mass shooting victim and 2 gun safety groups petitioned the federal government to stop the firearms manufacturer Smith & Wesson from using what they described as "deceptive and unfair" marketing to promote assault-style rifles. As part of the complaint, it is alleged that Smith & Wesson mimicked first-person-shooter video games in its advertising materials to attract adolescents and young adults. They added that the marketing of the company's AR-15-style guns "attracts, encourages and facilitates mass shooter." Many feel that the Federal Trade Commission may not do much, but other potentially will, such as elected officials. The 34-page complaint accuses Smith & Wesson of cultivating a "halo" of credibility by running ads that appeared to feature active members of the military carrying firearms resembling M&P rifles. Most of the rifles are sold to civilians rather than to military or law enforcement.
Misogyny Fed Lawyer's Rage Against Judge
Law enforcement officials believe that Roy Den Hollander killed the 20-year-old son of a federal judge in New Jersey. De Hollander was a self-described "anti-feminist" lawyer known for his misogynistic tirades and the dozens of frivolous lawsuits he filed. A Manhattan judge dismissed one of them in May, and a few weeks later, New Jersey federal judge Esther Salas canceled a scheduled hearing in a different suit. Den Hollander's rage turned to violence last month when he showed up at Judge Salas's home, posing as a FedEx deliveryman and opened fire, killing her 20-year-old son and wounding her husband. The judge, who was in the basement at the time, was not injured. Days before, Den Hollander, 72, had traveled by train to San Bernardino County, California, where he shot and killed a rival men's rights lawyer at his home. Hours after the shooting in New Jersey, the police found Den Hollander's body off a road in upstate New York with a single gunshot to the head. In his nearby rental car, investigators found a list naming more than a dozen possible targets.
Blood Test is 'Big Step Forward' In Early Detection Alzheimer's
Finding an easy way to diagnose the brain-robbing disease could be a game changer in helping manage Alzheimer's. Last week, doctors announced an experimental blood test that is highly accurate and is eliciting a great deal of hope in the field.
Barr's U.S. Attorney Pick for Brooklyn is Facing Scrutiny From All Sides
Attorney General Barr's choice, Seth D. DuCharme, was not a purely political appointee. DuCharme is stepping into the position at a fraught time for any U.S. attorney whose office has the jurisdiction to investigate Trump's associates. With the election just over 3 months away, and as political polarization intensifies across the country, DuCharme is facing scrutiny from all sides. This was a promotion of one of Barr's closest advisers in Washington.
A Virginia Town Rethinks Its Confederate Pillars
For 150 years Lexington, a picturesque city nestled in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, has been known to the outside world as the final resting place of Robert E. Lee, the Confederacy's commanding general during the Civil War and Stonewall Jackson, whom Lee referred to as his "right arm." They form the basis of a daily existence here that has long been tethered to the iconography of the Civil War and its 2 most famous Confederate generals, whose legacy has seeped into the town's culture like the July humidity. However, Lexington is no longer a bastion of conservatism. It's a liberal college town of about 7,000 people that voted 60% for Hillary Clinton 4 years ago and in 2018 gave 70% of its vote to the Democratic Senate candidate, Tim Kaine. Black Lives Matter signs dot the windows of downtown stores, and residents haven't backed a Republican for president since Ronald Reagan. These dueling sensibilities place Lexington at particularly delicate intersection of the national debate over Confederate monuments and emblems.