Week In Review
By Chantelle A. Gyamfi Edited by Elissa D. Hecker
This is Chantelle's last WIR column, and we thank her for her wonderful work!
Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into: Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media/Technology, and General News:
Ninth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Another "Inside Out" Case
The Walt Disney Company has won another copyright infringement case involving "Inside Out". In a new unpublished decision addressing substantial similarity in copyright actions, the Ninth Circuit affirms its dismissal of author Carla Jo Masterson's claim against Disney's animated film "Inside Out", holding that the alleged similarities to the plaintiff's book of poetry and movie script are unprotectable upon application of Ninth Circuit's extrinsic test.
The case is Carla Masterson v. The Walt Disney Company, et al, Case number: 0:19-cv-55650. Check out the decision below.
"Moodsters" Files Writ of Certiorari to Appeal Ninth Circuit Dismissal
The Moodsters Company has petitioned for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court. This copyright case against Disney relates to the movie "Inside Out", which is separate from the above Masterson case decided by the Ninth Circuit. In its petition, Moodsters Co. asks the Court to review the Ninth Circuit's decision that dismissed its 89-page amended complaint and found the Moodsters characters uncopyrightable as a matter of law. The Supreme Court has never before addressed character copyrights.
Read the petition at: https://www.ipwatchdog.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Moodsters-Cert-Petition.pdf
NBCUniversal Pushes Out Chairman
NBCUniversal, the media giant owned by the cable operator Comcast, has pushed out the leader of its network entertainment group amid a pending investigation into claims of workplace harassment. The company said that Paul Telegdy, the chairman of NBC Entertainment, would be leaving the company. Telegdy, a longtime television executive, was about to be investigated by outside counsel hired by NBCUniversal after accusations from several Hollywood stars, including the actress Gabrielle Union, that he fostered a toxic work environment.
Country Rapper Can't Avoid Suit Saying He Shot Up Paintings
The Middle District of Florida court denied a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss claims brought under the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) based on country rap artist Ryan UpChurch's shooting artist Jacob Aaron LeVeille's paintings with guns and making derogatory remarks about the artist on social media. Florida-based LeVeille, who claims that his "unique paintings of country musicians have achieved growing acclaim among visual art and country music aficionados," filed suit against UpChurch last year, alleging that "Upchurch intentionally mutilated [his] works ... for purposes of damaging [his] honor and reputation, and the reputation of [his] art," thereby running afoul of a relatively obscure federal law called the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 ("VARA").
The case is LeVeille v. Upchurch, Case No. 3:19-cv-908-J-39MCR. Read more at: https://www.law360.com/florida/articles/1298047/country-rapper-can-t-avoid-suit-saying-he-shot-up-paintings
Lord & Taylor Files for Bankruptcy
Lord & Taylor, the department store company that traces its roots to 1826, is the latest retailer to file for bankruptcy protection as the coronavirus outbreak accelerates the demise of chains that were already teetering. The chain was acquired last year by the clothing rental start-up Le Tote in an unusual $100 million deal. Now Le Tote and Lord & Taylor are both seeking Chapter 11 protection from their creditors in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The companies said in a filing that they operated 38 locations, which had been temporarily closed since March 2020. A representative for Le Tote and Lord & Taylor did not immediately respond to a request for comment. This will be felt across the fashion industry.
Men's Wearhouse Files for Bankruptcy
The owner of Men's Wearhouse and JoS. A. Bank, which once dominated the market for affordable men's suits, also filed for bankruptcy protection, as demand plummeted for its corporate clothing with the coronavirus pandemic keeping America's office workers at home. The company, Tailored Brands, had about 1,400 stores and 18,000 employees. It had already announced plans in July to eliminate 20% of its corporate jobs and close up to 500 stores, and on Sunday said that it planned to use the restructuring process to slash its debt by at least $630 million. "Our enduring commitment to help customers look and feel their best will allow us to overcome the challenges of Covid-19," Dinesh Lathi, chief executive of Tailored Brands, said in a statement accompanying the filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas.
Tourist Posing With 200-Year-Old Sculpture Breaks Its Toes
An Austrian man has apologized for the damage he caused to a Canova sculpture, saying he didn't realize he had crunched the foot of the plaster Pauline Bonaparte. The tourist, on a trip to celebrate his 50th birthday, was visiting an art museum in northern Italy last week when he posed with the statue of a reclining Pauline Bonaparte. Her husband had commissioned the seminude sculpture by the Italian artist Antonio Canova in the early 19th century. The tourist, as captured on security camera footage, sat down at her feet and mimicked Bonaparte's luxurious sprawl in repose. Someone snapped a photo. By the time he got up, Bonaparte had lost some of her toes. The local authorities tracked the man down using visitor logs at the Gypsotheca in Possagno. They are currently required in Italy to assist in contact tracing during the pandemic, CNN reported. By Tuesday, the man -- whom the museum did not identify by name -- wrote apologetically to the president of the foundation that oversees the museum.
Racism Pervasive at Canadian Museum
In recent weeks, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights has been engulfed by accusations of discrimination and harassment. Last week, the museum released a report from an external review, which concluded that "racism is pervasive and systemic within the institution." For a museum devoted to documenting the history of human rights, the report was a stinging rebuke. After the report was issued, Pauline Rafferty, the museum's chairwoman and acting chief executive, vowed to take several immediate steps, including the establishment of a diversity and inclusion committee.
Rick Gates, Ex-Trump Aide and Mueller Witness, Is Publishing a Memoir
Rick Gates, a high-level aide on Donald J. Trump's 2016 campaign, is preparing to tell his story in a memoir that will be published weeks before the 2020 election. Gates, who was sentenced to 45 days in jail for lying to investigators and for his role in a criminal financial scheme, is the latest former aide to join a parade of former Trump campaign and administration officials who have published memoirs. Given his proximity to Trump's campaign, and the evidence he provided against two of Trump's closest advisers, his onetime campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his onetime campaign adviser, Roger J. Stone Jr., Gates's account is likely to generate interest across the political spectrum.
Citing Systematic Inequities, Some Players Opt Out of Season
Thirteen Pac-12 Conference football players threatened to opt out of the coming season, saying that they would not play until systemic inequities that have been highlighted by college athletics' response to the coronavirus pandemic were addressed. The players, who are from 10 schools and include All-American and honor roll candidates, said that playing a contact sport like football during the outbreak would be reckless because of what they described as inadequate transparency about the health risks, a lack of uniform safety measures, and an absence of ample enforcement. Those shortcomings, they added, are emblematic of a system in which players have little standing to address social, economic or racial inequalities, and far more of the millions of dollars they help generate should go toward addressing them.
Pac-12 Coach Rejects Players' Activism in Recorded Call
Kassidy Woods, a redshirt sophomore receiver at Washington State, was concerned about the pandemic. The coach was sympathetic until he learned he was joining a players' rights initiative. Nick Rolovich, the new football coach at Washington State, and Woods had a 5 minute, 9 second conversation in which Woods, who was competing for a starting position, had called to tell Rolovich that he was opting out of the season.
Woods explained that he had been diagnosed with the sickle cell trait when he enrolled at Washington State and with so much uncertainty about the coronavirus's lingering effects, he did not feel comfortable playing. "I've got nothing wrong with that," Rolovich replied. Then he asked Woods a question: was he joining the Pac-12 Conference unity group? Rolovich was referring to the Pac-12 football players who announced that they were threatening to sit out the season unless their demands, including more concrete health and safety protocols and measures that would amount to a redistribution of much of the wealth that players generate for their schools, were met. "Yes, sir," Woods said. Well, the coach said, that would be a problem.
Woods's scholarship would be honored for this year, as is required for anyone who opts out for health reasons, but if he was part of this organized effort, it was going to be handled differently, the coach said. Woods could not work out with the team because it would send a mixed message and his locker should be emptied. Rolovich then urged Woods to tell others they would face the same consequences. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/03/sports/coronavirus-college-athletes-opt-out.html?searchResultPosition=1
As the Virus Spreads Through Major League Baseball, So Does Frustration
Major League Baseball (MLB) wants to insulate itself from that world, but its 30 teams are traveling throughout the United States to stage a 60-game season. MLB determined that a so-called bubble approach was impractical, and the areas it considered months ago -- Arizona, Texas, and Florida -- to carry out a season in a contained environment have since become hot spots for the virus. Road trips have increased the risk of infection.
MLB Tightens Virus Protocols Again in Wake of Outbreaks
MLB has again tightened its health protocols in an effort to safely navigate the rest of its shortened season. In a 6-page memo sent to teams and players, MLB added new areas in which players must wear masks, restricted the places players can visit outside the ballpark, and said that players who do not abide by the rules would be subjected to discipline. "We recognize that these changes place additional burdens and restrictions on players and staff," said the memo. "But if we desire to play, they are necessary to limit infections and, if someone does test positive, to keep the virus from spreading." The memo states that all players and staff members must wear face coverings over their mouths and noses at all times in stadiums, except for players on the field. Players and staffers must also wear masks at all times in hotels -- "except when alone in their rooms," and in all public places while traveling. Surgical masks or N95/KN95 respirators are required while on airplanes or buses.
Lawsuits Accuse Sport's Kingmaker of Sexual Assault
The equestrian world's biggest kingmaker, George Morris, an Olympian who was barred for life from the sport one year ago, is now facing lawsuits by 2 people who said that he raped them as teenagers. The suits were filed in New York, one year to the day after Morris, a former United States Olympic team coach who remained even into his 80s one of show jumping's biggest luminaries, was barred by the United States Equestrian Federation. The ban followed an investigation by the United States Center for SafeSport, an independent body that investigates sexual misconduct in Olympic sports, into allegations that he sexually abused minors decades ago. Jimmy Williams, a California riding coach who minted Olympians and died in 1993, was also part of a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles. The equestrian federation and the riding academy where he was employed for decades were sued by a woman who said that Williams had sexually assaulted her from the ages of 12 to 17. In a symbolic move, Williams was recorded as barred from the federation in 2018 after an investigation by The New York Times revealed accusations by nearly a dozen women, including the Olympian Anne Kursinski, that he had preyed upon them as girls. The plaintiffs in the Morris lawsuits, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, are 2 of the men who initially came forward to SafeSport, prompting its investigation that led to the barring of Morris, who won a silver medal as a show jumper in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, and went on to coach the United States Olympic team and most recently the Brazilian team.
National Football League Staff Members Resist Calls to Return to Office
Workers who have been ordered back to the National Football League's (NFL) headquarters are resisting, arguing that the reopening was rushed and that in some ways they have been put in an "impossible situation." In a letter sent to Commissioner Roger Goodell, representatives from an internal group, the Parents Initiative Network, said that "many of us continue to struggle with the prospect of returning to the office in the midst of the pandemic." The group said that its members have "underlying physical health concerns, mental health concerns, child care issues, medically fragile family members, and the list goes on and on." NFL officials have said that allowances will be made for employees with particular health concerns or family challenges, but the Network took issue with that, too. The NFL is requiring workers who want to continue to work remotely to discuss these requests with human resources representatives. Workers said that requirement "puts our colleagues in an impossible situation", because of their desire to maintain their own and their family members' privacy on matters of physical and mental health, among other reasons.
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/07/sports/football/coronavirus-nfl-restart-season.html?searchResultPosition=1 Gymnasts Call to End Abuse Goes Global
A culture in gymnastics that has tolerated coaches belittling, manipulating, and in some cases physically abusing young athletes is being challenged by Olympians and other gymnasts around the world after an uprising in the United States. Many current and former competitors, emboldened by their American peers, have broken their silence in recent weeks against treatment they say created mental scars on girls that lasted well into adulthood. One gymnast, who is just 8 years old, said a coach tied her wrists to a horizontal bar when she was 7 and ignored her as she cried out in pain. At a time when the Tokyo Olympics would be in session, had they not been postponed until 2021 by the coronavirus pandemic, gymnasts have been sharing horrific stories of coaches body-shaming them, stifling their emotions, using corporal punishment on them and forcing them to train with injuries, using the pursuit of medals as a way to rationalize shameful behavior. The stories from gymnasts in all levels of the sport are part of a coordinated effort, similar to the #MeToo movement, calling for the sport's leaders to eradicate existing norms that in reality are not normal at all.
Team Canada Trained Hard, Maybe Too Hard
The chance to host the 2010 Winter Games was supposed to be a godsend for Canadian athletes who compete in skeleton, the headfirst sled run down a twisting track. While most competitors get access to the track for just a handful of days leading up to the Olympics, the host country gets to practice far more, because its athletes are logistically closer and the sport's rules allow it. The home team can memorize every detail of every turn on run after treacherous run. That is how the team became case studies in a process that is beginning to realign how neuroscientists and a handful of coaches and athletes understand the connection between brain injury and sliding sports. During the last decade, football and other contact sports have received most of the attention and research interest for traumatic brain injuries in sports. By comparison, sliding sports, niche activities that require athletes to careen down twisting tracks of ice on sleds at 80 miles per hour, have been largely ignored. However, for years, elite competitors have talked about the mental fog, headaches, inability to eat or speak effectively, and sensitivity to light and sound that a day of training, or, for some, even a single routine run can produce.
Did The Advertiser Boycott Over Facebook Work?
The advertiser boycott of Facebook took a toll on the social media giant, but it may have caused more damage to the company's reputation than to its bottom line. The boycott, called #StopHateForProfit by the civil rights groups that organized it, urged companies to stop paying for ads on Facebook in July to protest the platform's handling of hate speech and misinformation. More than 1,000 advertisers publicly joined, out of a total pool of more than 9 million, while others quietly scaled back their spending. The 100 advertisers that spent the most on Facebook in the first half of the year spent $221.4 million from July 1 through July 29, 12% less than the $251.4 million spent by the top 100 advertisers a year earlier, according to estimates from the advertising analytics platform Pathmatics. Of those 100, 9 companies formally announced a pullback in paid advertising, cutting their spending to $507,500 from $26.2 million. Many of the companies that stayed away from Facebook said they planned to return, and many are mom-and-pop enterprises and individuals that depend on the platform for promotion.
Microsoft Says It Will Continue Pursuit of TikTok
Microsoft announced that it would continue to pursue the purchase of TikTok in the United States after consulting with President Trump, clearing the way for a potential blockbuster deal between the software giant and the viral social media phenomenon. The announcement came as Trump has expressed repeated concerns about TikTok and national security in recent weeks because of the app's Chinese origins and backing; on Friday, Trump threatened to ban the app entirely within the United States, saying any decision could come as soon as Saturday. Those plans appeared to change after several of Trump's allies and Satya Nadella, the chief executive of Microsoft, spoke with Trump over the weekend.
Trump Reverses Course on TikTok, Opening Door to Microsoft Bid
Trump gave the go-ahead for Microsoft to pursue an acquisition of TikTok, in his first public comments about the popular Chinese-owned video app after he had threatened to ban it from the United States entirely. At the White House, Trump said that TikTok would shut down on September 15th unless Microsoft or another company purchased it, and that he had suggested in a call that the chief executive of Microsoft "go ahead" with the acquisition. "It can't be controlled for security reasons by China," Trump said of TikTok, adding that he did not mind if Microsoft or another very secure, "very American" company bought it instead. Trump said that such a purchase would funnel a large amount of money to China, and argued that the United States should receive money in return for letting the deal happen, without explaining how that would work.
Poisoning Facial Recognition Data
In recent years, companies have been prowling the web for public photos associated with people's names that they can use to build enormous databases of faces and improve their facial recognition systems, adding to a growing sense that personal privacy is being lost, bit by digital bit. A start-up called Clearview AI, for example, scraped billions of online photos to build a tool for the police that could lead them from a face to a Facebook account, revealing a person's identity. Now researchers are trying to foil those systems. A team of computer engineers at the University of Chicago has developed a tool that disguises photos with pixel-level changes that confuse facial recognition systems. Named Fawkes in honor of the Guy Fawkes mask favored by protesters worldwide, the software was made available to developers on the researchers' website last month. After being discovered by Hacker News, it has been downloaded more than 50,000 times. The researchers are working on a free app version for non-coders, which they hope to make available soon.
Federal Trade Commission Investigating Twitter for Potential Privacy Violations
Twitter said that it was under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for potentially misusing people's personal information to serve ads, adding that it faced fines of $150 million to $250 million. In a corporate filing, Twitter disclosed that the FTC began the investigation last October after it had linked a database of its users' personal information, which it had for security purposes, with a system used by advertising partners. The action, which Twitter said was inadvertent, may have violated a 2011 agreement that the company signed with the FTC over consumer privacy. At the time, Twitter had agreed to a settlement with the agency after hackers had gained administrative control of the social media service on multiple occasions. Under the agreement, Twitter was restricted from misleading people about the measures it took to protect their security and privacy. An FTC spokeswoman declined to comment on the investigation.
Ad Agency Sues Scott Rudin
A major Broadway advertising agency has sued the powerful producer Scott Rudin, claiming that he owes the company $6.3 million. The litigation, filed in New York State Supreme Court, is an unusual public break between 2 major players on Broadway, an industry that has been shut down and facing major economic distress since March. The dispute predates the coronavirus pandemic: according to the lawsuit, the agency and the producer have been at loggerheads since last September. The agency, SpotCo, says that Rudin has failed to pay it for advertising work done on 8 shows, including a revival of "West Side Story" that opened in February and a revival of "The Music Man" that was supposed to open this fall, but has been delayed because of the pandemic.
Snyder Sues Media Site
Daniel Snyder, the owner of the Washington NFL team, has accused an online media company of accepting payment in exchange for publishing defamatory rumors, including one that Snyder was named on a list of sexual offenders maintained by Jeffrey Epstein, the sex criminal and financier. In a lawsuit filed in New Delhi and in federal court papers in California, Snyder said the news site, Media Entertainment Arts WorldWide, whose parent company is based in India, published stories that it knew were false and designed to malign him, some using information from anonymous posts on social news sites, including Reddit. The suit is Snyder's first public strike after a wave of attacks on his operation of the team, from minority owners and sponsors who sought to divest, to a Washington Post report of widespread sexual harassment within its front office. Snyder, who seeks $10 million in damages, wants to identify if, and by whom, Media Entertainment Arts WorldWide was paid to publish the articles.
The Only Two Black Employees Quit Bon Appétit
The only two Black editorial staff members at Bon Appétit quit as the magazine grapples with criticism from its own staff over racial inequality. The departures came a day after 3 journalists of color said they would no longer participate in the magazine's popular video series, citing inequitable pay. The 2 staff members, Ryan Walker-Hartshorn and Jesse Sparks, gave notice weeks ago. Both accused the magazine's parent company, Condé Nast, of failing to recognize their contributions. They added that they felt they had been exploited as props in the company's new efforts to diversify its work force.
Targeting WeChat, Trump Takes Aim at China's Bridge to the World
With much of the Chinese internet locked behind a wall of filters and censors, the country's everything app is also one of the few digital bridges connecting China to the rest of the world. It is the way exchange students talk to their families, immigrants keep up with relatives, and much of the Chinese diaspora swaps memes, gossip, and videos. Now, that bridge is threatening to crumble. The Trump administration issued an executive order that could pull China's most important app from Apple and Google stores across the world and prevent American companies from doing business with its parent company, Tencent. Light on details, the decree could prove cosmetic, crushing or something in between. If enforced strongly when it takes effect in 45 days, the order will take dead aim at China's single most groundbreaking internet product, which 1.2 billion people use every month. An effective ban on the app in the United States would cut short millions of conversations among investors, business partners, family members, and friends. The threat alone will likely start a new chapter in the deepening standoff between China and the United States over the future of technology.
How a Chat Group Led to Prison
When a group of young Russians set up a chat group on social media nearly 3 years ago, they called themselves the "Club of Plant Lovers," creating an innocuous gathering place for online discussion about their hobbies, university studies, and sometimes politics. After a few weeks, however, the chat group, which had changed its name to "New Greatness," was joined by a new member who promoted unusually strident views against President Vladimir V. Putin and pushed to turn the online chatter into a political movement dedicated to radical change. The new member was actually an informer and agent provocateur working for Russia's security apparatus. As a result of the informer's work and subsequent testimony as a prosecution witness in what became known as the "New Greatness Case," a Moscow court found 7 original members of the group guilty of "creating an extremist society" with intent to "prepare or commit extremist crimes." Six were given sentences, 3 of them suspended, of between 6 and 7 years in a penal colony, mostly in line with what prosecutors had demanded. A seventh defendant, Anna Pavlikova, a minor at the time of her arrest, received a milder suspended sentence of 4 years. All had pleaded not guilty and accused the informer of setting them up. Even by Russia's low standard of due process, the case set a grim new benchmark for a judicial and law enforcement system that human rights activists say is increasingly untethered from any commitment to justice.
Pakistan's Journalists Face Abductions
When Prime Minister Imran Khan boasted last year that Pakistan had one of the "freest presses in the world," journalists were quick to object, saying that intimidation of reporters across the country was intensifying. It has only gotten worse since. Two years into Khan's term, censorship is on the rise, journalists and activists say, leaving the country's heavy-handed military and security forces unchecked as they intimidate the news media to a degree unseen since the country's era of army juntas. The security forces frequently pressure editors to fire or muzzle reporters, while the government starves critical news outlets of advertising funds and refuses to settle previous bills worth millions of dollars. The abduction of a prominent reporter by state security officers in late July, coupled with the disappearance of a rights activist in November, has heightened those concerns. In June, Pakistan's Military Intelligence agency admitted that it had detained the activist and that he is awaiting trial in a secret court on undisclosed charges.
Paycheck Protection Program Ends
Small businesses are in limbo again as the coronavirus outbreak rages and the government's $659 billion relief program draws to a close. Companies still struggling with sharply reduced revenue are wondering if Congress will give them a second chance at the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), after giving out 5.1 million loans worth $523 billion. While the program that began on April 3rd has received mixed reviews, business owners still need help as the virus continues to spread and hamstring the economy. Congress is debating further help for small business as part of a broader coronavirus relief package. One proposal would allow the hardest-hit businesses, those whose revenue is down over 50%, to return for a second PPP loan; there is still over $100 billion in unclaimed money in the program.
Without $600 Weekly Benefit, Unemployed Face Bleak Choices
A federal supplement to jobless pay was a lifeline for millions and for the economy. Its cutoff, even if temporary, may have lasting consequences. On Saturday, with negotiations in Congress stalled and on the verge of collapse, Trump signed 4 directives aimed at providing economic assistance, including financial help to the unemployed. However, it was unclear if Trump had the authority to act on his own on matters requiring federal spending, or how long it would take for money to start flowing if he did. Congress may yet agree on a new emergency spending bill that would include extra unemployment benefits, perhaps including retroactive payments for the period when the program lapsed. For many of the 30 million Americans relying on unemployment benefits, it could already be too late to prevent lasting financial harm. Without a federal supplement, they will need to get by on regular state unemployment benefits, which often total a few hundred dollars a week or less. For many families, that will not be enough to pay the rent, stave off hunger or avoid mounting debt that will make it harder to climb out of the hole.
G.O.P.'S Suit Against Pelosi Dismissed
Judge Rudolph Contreras, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, dismissed a suit filed by congressional Republicans against Speaker Nancy Pelosi that sought to block the House of Representatives from using a proxy-voting system to allow for remote legislating during the coronavirus pandemic. The dismissal means that the court did not rule on the merits of the claims, instead finding that they lacked the grounds to bring the suit. Pelosi quickly hailed the decision. "Remote voting by proxy is fully consistent with the Constitution and more than a century of legal precedent, including Supreme Court cases, that make clear that the House can determine its own rules," she said in a statement. "The nation is in the middle of a dangerous pandemic, and the House of Representatives must continue to work."
New Study Finds a Vast Racial Gap in Death Penalty Cases
Black lives do not matter nearly as much as white ones when it comes to the death penalty, a new study has found. Building on data at the heart of a landmark 1987 Supreme Court decision, the study concluded that defendants convicted of killing white victims were executed at a rate 17 times greater than those convicted of killing Black victims. There is little chance that the new findings would alter the current Supreme Court's support for the death penalty. Its conservative majority has expressed impatience with efforts to block executions, and last month it issued a pair of 5-to-4 rulings that allowed federal executions to resume after a 17-year hiatus. Further, the Court came within one vote of addressing racial bias in the administration of the death penalty in the 1987 decision, McCleskey v. Kemp. By a 5-to-4 vote, the Court ruled that even solid statistical evidence of race discrimination in the capital justice system did not offend the Constitution. Opponents of the death penalty have been deeply critical of the decision, comparing it to the Dred Scott case, the Supreme Court's 1857 ruling that enslaved Black people were property and not citizens.
Trump Puts Pentagon in Political Crossfire with Tata Appointment
In making an end run around Congress to appoint Anthony J. Tata, a retired brigadier general with a history of Islamophobic and other inflammatory views, to a top Defense Department post, Trump has once again put the military exactly where it does not want to be: In the middle of a political battle that could hurt bipartisan support for the Pentagon. Tata, who had been nominated to the No. 3 job at the Pentagon, was unlikely to win Senate approval because of past incendiary comments, according to congressional staff members from both sides of the aisle. At a time when vulnerable Republican senators are grappling with how to deal with the movement to end systemic racism that has rolled across the country, Tata's nomination to the top policy post was widely seen as a step too far.
Landmark Supreme Court Win for Tribes Upends Courts in Oklahoma
The Supreme Court ruling recognizing the lands of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation was hailed as a historic win for tribes and their long struggle for sovereignty. It has since upended Oklahoma's justice system, forcing lawyers and the police to rewrite the rules of whom they can and cannot prosecute inside the newly recognized borders of a reservation that stretches across 11 counties and includes Tulsa, the state's second-largest city. Prosecutors are giving police officers laminated index cards that spell out how to proceed, depending on whether suspects and victims are "Indian" or "non-Indian." Elected district attorneys handle most criminal cases in America, but they generally have little to no authority over tribal citizens for crimes committed on reservations. So now, from downtown Tulsa through rolling farms and dozens of small towns in eastern Oklahoma, local prosecutors are handing off hundreds of criminal cases involving tribal victims and defendants.
Rescue of Troubled Trucking Company With White House Ties Draws Scrutiny
At a virtual congressional hearing in May, Senator Jerry Moran, Republican of Kansas, asked Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin for help. A struggling trucking company in his state was on the brink of collapse and needed government support. Eager to assist, Mnuchin assured the senator that "we will look at that specific company and see what we can do and get back to you." That company, YRC Worldwide, had lost more than $100 million in 2019 and was being sued by the Justice Department over claims it defrauded the federal government for a 7-year period. Yet 6 weeks after the hearing, YRC received a bailout from the Treasury Department -- a $700 million loan in exchange for a 30% stake in the business. The company's stock price soared 74%, though it has come down since. The rescue, which was approved on the grounds that YRC was critical to national security, made the company one of the largest recipients of taxpayer money meant to support businesses and workers struggling amid the coronavirus.
Filings Seeking Trump Records Hint at Fraud
The Manhattan district attorney's office suggested that it had been investigating Trump and his company for possible bank and insurance fraud, a significantly broader inquiry than the prosecutors acknowledged in the past. The suggestion by the office of the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., came in a new federal court filing arguing that Trump's accountants should have to comply with a grand jury subpoena seeking 8 years of his personal and corporate tax returns. Trump has asked a judge to declare the subpoena invalid.
Trump Reinstates Tariff on Canadian Aluminum
Trump announced that he was re-imposing a 10% tariff on Canadian aluminum to help struggling American producers, a step that is likely to incite retaliation and worsen ties with Canada just one month after the countries' new trade deal went into effect. Speaking at a Whirlpool factory in Clyde, Ohio, Trump said that he had signed a proclamation that would reimpose the levy on Canada, accusing the country of "taking advantage of us as usual."
Judge Whose Son Was Killed by Misogynistic Lawyer Speaks Out
The federal judge whose son was killed by a misogynistic lawyer spoke out for the first time about the shooting, describing the horror that unfolded as her only child ran to answer the door and a "madman" opened fire. Judge Esther Salas also issued a call for increased privacy protections for federal judges, saying the death of her 20-year-old son, Daniel, should not be in vain. Her husband, Mark Anderl, who was shot 3 times, remains hospitalized. She called for a national conversation on ways to safeguard the privacy of federal judges.
Postal Service Leader Sets Reorganization Amid Scrutiny Over Mail Ballots
The Postal Service announced a substantial reorganization meant to increase efficiency as Democratic lawmakers demanded an inquiry into whether changes by Trump's postal officials could threaten the effective use of mail-in ballots for the November election. Louis DeJoy, the postmaster general and a major donor to Trump's campaigns, was named to oversee the service in May. On Friday, he shifted top personnel, including some decades-long veterans of the Postal Service, and made changes to its organizational structure. "The new organization will align functions based on core business operations and will provide more clarity and focus on what the Postal Service does best; collect, process, move and deliver mail and packages," the Postal Service said in a statement.
Court Rules House Can Sue to Force Testimony
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said in a 7-to-2 decision that enforcement of congressional subpoenas was crucial to its oversight duties over the executive branch and remanded to a panel of judges other issues raised in the case. Donald McGahn is unlikely to appear before Congress ahead of the election, but the decision endorsed strong congressional oversight powers and Congress's ability to take the White House to court if an administration fails to comply with its subpoenas. "Effective functioning of the legislative branch critically depends on the legislative prerogative to obtain information, and constitutional structure and historical practice support judicial enforcement of congressional subpoenas when necessary," Judge Judith Rogers wrote for the court's majority. "And it cannot undertake impeachment proceedings without knowing how the official in question has discharged his or her constitutional responsibilities."
Long Legal Fight May Follow Vote in November
As the 2 parties clash over how to conduct an election in a pandemic, Trump's litigiousness and unfounded claims of fraud have increased the likelihood of epic postelection court fights. The possibility of an ugly November -- and perhaps even December and January -- has emerged more starkly in recent days as Trump complains that the election will be rigged and Democrats accuse him of trying to make that a self-fulfilling prophecy. With about 85 days until November 3rd, lawyers are already in court mounting pre-emptive strikes and preparing for the larger, scorched-earth engagements likely to come. Like the Trump campaign, Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s campaign and its network of Democratic support groups are stocking up on lawyers, and Democrats are gaming out worst-case scenarios, including how to respond if Trump prematurely declares victory or sends federal officers into the party's strongholds as an intimidation tactic.
Court Says Trump Accuser's Defamation Suit Can Proceed
A New York judge has rejected Trump's bid to temporarily halt proceedings in a lawsuit filed against him by the writer E. Jean Carroll, who has accused him of rape, a ruling that allows the case to move forward in the months before the presidential election. The decision was a victory for Carroll, who sued Trump last November for defamation after he called her a liar and said he had never met her. She published a memoir last summer that accused Trump of attacking her in a department store dressing room in Manhattan in the 1990s. Lawyers for Trump had sought to put the lawsuit on hold while an appeals court is deciding whether to dismiss a similar lawsuit filed against Trump by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on "The Apprentice", who has accused him of sexually assaulting her. In their bid for a delay, the lawyers also said that the Constitution gave a sitting president immunity against civil lawsuits in state court.
New York Attorney General Sues the National Rifle Association
New York's attorney general, Letitia James, issued a legal challenge to the National Rifle Association, arguing in a lawsuit that years of runaway corruption and misspending demanded the dissolution of the nation's most powerful gun rights lobby. While the legal confrontation could take years to play out, it constitutes yet another deep blow to an organization whose legendary political clout has been diminished by infighting and financial distress.
Falwell Taking Leave From Liberty University Amid Photo Uproar
Jerry Falwell Jr., one of Trump's most prominent and controversial evangelical supporters, will take an indefinite leave of absence from his role as president and chancellor of Liberty University. The news comes days after Falwell posted, and then deleted, a photograph on Instagram of him posing alongside a woman with his pants unzipped and his arm around her.
Russia is Trying to Assist Trump in the Race
Russia is using a range of techniques to denigrate Joseph R. Biden Jr., American intelligence officials in their first public assessment that Moscow continues to try to interfere in the 2020 campaign to help Trump. At the same time, the officials said China preferred that Trump be defeated in November and was weighing whether to take more aggressive action in the election. Officials briefed on the intelligence said that Russia was the far graver, and more immediate, threat.
Poland's Supreme Court Declares Presidential Election Valid
Poland's Supreme Court upheld the results of President Andrzej Duda's narrow victory in presidential elections last month, the country's closest contest since the fall of communism in 1989, a decision that clears the path for the country's conservative Law and Justice party to continue in power. Thousands of supporters of the opposition candidate and rights groups had filed legal challenges in the country's highest court demanding that the election be reassessed after Duda edged out Rafal Trzaskowski, the opposition candidate and the liberal mayor of Warsaw. Duda secured 51.03% of the vote, while Trzaskowski won 48.97% in a mid-July runoff. Opponents of Duda pointed to many irregularities during the campaign and election, including pushing forward with the vote despite the coronavirus pandemic, limited access to the vote for Poles abroad, and the role of the public media and government officials in the campaign.
Until this year, Tuberculosis (TB) and its deadly allies, H.I.V. and malaria, were on the run. The toll from each disease over the previous decade was at its nadir in 2018, the last year for which data are available. Yet now, as the coronavirus pandemic spreads around the world, consuming global health resources, these perennially neglected adversaries are making a comeback. It's not just that the coronavirus has diverted scientific attention from TB, H.I.V., and malaria. The lockdowns, particularly across parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, have raised insurmountable barriers to patients who must travel to obtain diagnoses or drugs. Fear of the coronavirus and the shuttering of clinics have kept away many patients struggling with H.I.V., TB, and malaria, while restrictions on air and sea travel have severely limited delivery of medications to the hardest-hit regions. About 80% of tuberculosis, H.I.V., and malaria programs worldwide have reported disruptions in services, and one in 4 people living with H.I.V. have reported problems with gaining access to medications, according to U.N. AIDS. Interruptions or delays in treatment may lead to drug resistance, already a formidable problem in many countries.
U.S. Surpasses 5 Million Cases
While politicians wrangled over a pandemic relief package and schools struggled over whether to open their doors to students, the United States passed another milestone on Saturday: more than 5 million known coronavirus infections. No other country has reported as many cases. Brazil ranks second, with more than 3 million, and India is third with 2 million.
Even Asymptomatic People Carry the Coronavirus in High Amounts
A new study in South Korea, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, offers more definitive proof that people without symptoms carry just as much virus in their noses, throats, and lungs as those with symptoms, and for almost as long. Discussions about asymptomatic spread have been dogged by confusion about people who are "pre-symptomatic" -- meaning they eventually become visibly ill -- versus the truly asymptomatic, who appear healthy throughout the course of their infection. The new study is among the first to clearly distinguish between these two groups.
What is Insurable in a Pandemic?