Week In Review

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:


Lifting Spirits a Bit, as Most Stages Remain Dark

Hundreds of freelancers are getting $1,000 relief payments from the Public Theatre, a leading Off Broadway nonprofit. The "financial relief payments" have been given to 368 people, including technicians and crew members, such as carpenters, truck drivers, engineers and programmers, teaching artists who facilitate classes, workshops and talkbacks; and members of working groups that support developing artists.

Astor-White v. Strong

The Ninth Circuit has affirmed a 2(b)(6) dismissal of copyright claims against the TV show "Empire". Astor-White claimed that the defendants' (Fox) television series "Empire" infringed his copyrighted treatment of a television series, "King Solomon". The Court held that Astor-White did not adequately allege actual copying. "King Solomon" was not "widely disseminated", it was only shared with three people. The mere allegation that those three people and he had a "working relationship" with or "move[ed] in similar circles" as Fox does not establish that Fox has a "reasonable opportunity or reasonable possibility of viewing" "King Solomon". Astor-White also failed to plausibly allege that Fox unlawfully appropriated "King Solomon", because the works did not share similarities in protectable expression. The district court correctly concluded as part of the extrinsic test that the two works only shared unprotectable "ideas and concepts, material in the public domain, and scenes á faire."

Trio Charged with Leaking Movies Online in Global Ring

Three men are facing federal charges of participating in an international piracy ring that distributed popular movies and television shows online before their release dates. In an attempt to take down the elite global piracy ring Sparks Group, U.S. officials have charged three men with copyright infringement. It is estimated that the Sparks Group cost film production studios tens of millions of dollars.

Ties to Racial Killing Lead to Firing at Hot97

Employees of the radio station said they were shocked to see a colleague known as Paddy Duke in a new HBO documentary about the racist murder of a Brooklyn teenager in 1989. It turns out that Duke (Pasquale Raucci) as a teenager was one of eight young men charged in the 1989 killing of Yusef K. Hawkins, a Black 16-year-old in Brooklyn. Hawkins's murder, along with the Central Park jogger case, came to represent a brutal period of racism and violence in the city and is the subject of a new HBO documentary, "Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn", which led to the revelation. Raucci, now 50, was quickly fired. The company sent an email to staffers that said no one "was aware of this situation until the airing of the HBO documentary," and noted the immediate "adverse business impact and damage to our reputation." Still, many listeners, along with employees past and present, were left feeling betrayed and confused by the news, which came amid a summer of national uproar regarding unjust killings of Black people and a struggle over how best to move forward.

TikTok Stars Facing Charges After Hosting House Parties

Blake Gray and Bryce Hall, two TikTok starts, were charged with misdemeanors last week after holding two large house parties in defiance of local health orders. Los Angeles is taking action against people who host parties in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. The pair could face up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

A Storied Paris Theatre Fires Its Artistic Director

After Ruth Mackenzie was accused of bullying employees, the Théatre du Chatelet said she would no longer lead the prestigious venue. She broke boundaries as the artistic director of the theatre, one of Paris' most famous stages. In 2017, she became the first woman to run the theatre, which opened in 1862. Shortly after she took office, the theatre closed for a two-and-a-half-year, $35 million renovation, and Mackenzie used that time to reinvent the institution. When it reopened last fall, the revamped programming made headlines and appealed to new audiences. Although Mackenzie's time at the theatre was not without problems, she denies the accusation of bullying. The Board dismissed her with immediate effect and she is seeking legal advice to challenge the decision.


Actors' Equity Aprroves Three Indoor Shows

Actors' Equity has agreed to allow its members to work on three shows that will run in repertory at the Weathervane Theatre in the White Mountains region of New Hampshire, as well as in a one-man show at Music Theatre of Connecticut, and a one-woman show at Northern Stage in Vermont. Among them is a seven-person, socially distanced staging of "Little Shop of Horrors". All three venues have agreed to provide COVID-19 testing regularly, in addition to reducing audience capacity for social distancing and high-quality air filtration systems. The Weathervane productions will be modified slightly, with the orchestra not having any wind or brass instruments in the band to avoid the spread of the virus. While masks will only be required for patrons when not in their seats at the Weathervane, they are required at all times for the solo shows.

Trouble At Home for Detroit Museum

Critics say that the Institute of Arts is not doing enough to relate to the predominately Black city in which it is located or to the people of color on its staff. The Detroit Institute of Arts had just avoided selling off parts of its collection to help pay the debts of the city that owned it. It also recently established a new independent ownership structure, new revenue streams, and a new director. However, five years in, and at a time when museum leaders across the country are being challenged on whether their institutions are systemically racist, few are confronting as many thorny issues as this one. Current and former staff have called for the resignation of the director, complaining that he has developed a corrosive, authoritarian manner while retaining a certain obtuseness on matters of race in a city that is predominately Black. There are also concerns that he has flouted ethics rules; complaints have been filed with state and federal regulators. While there are many critics, there are also some Black leaders from Detroit who suggest his critics are unfair and overlooking the many steps he has taken to reach out to their community.

The Met is Almost Ready for You

With more protocols in place, the nation's largest museum is reopening. After five months of closure due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) is finally ready to open its doors again, but with some changes. Exhibits too small to allow for social distancing will be closed to visitors, timed tickets will be scanned by hand-held devices, and for the first time, there will be valet parking for bicycles, since many people are avoiding mass transit. Most notably, the museum will now mainly be a New York institution, given the pandemic's ongoing travel restrictions. Like all New York museums that are reopening, the Met also has to play by the state's rules, namely 25% occupancy, timed ticketing, and masks. It will also require visitors to have their temperatures taken before entry.

Whitney Cancels Show Over Art Deals

The Whitney Museum of American Art last week canceled an upcoming exhibition after artists of color objected to the institution's having obtained their works through discounted sales largely meant to benefit racial justice charities. For an exhibition entitled "Collective Actions: Artist Interventions In a time of Change", the vaunted NY museum managed to alienate a group of artists it had hoped to celebrate. Several of them charged the museum with propagating systemic racism by not properly compensating Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) artists for their works, nor asking permission for the works to be displayed. The exhibition, originally scheduled to open on September 17th, was intended to showcase the critical role of artists in documenting moments of seismic change and protest, according to a now-deleted press release. Negative reaction was quick and widespread.

Union Files Complaint Over Virus App

New York City's largest municipal union has filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the Museum of Natural History over the institution's plan to require employees to record possible coronavirus symptoms on an app. The head of the union called it overly intrusive. Under the museum's plan, each day before work, the app would have asked employees to report if they had a fever or systems, like a cough or congestion. The app would have told employees whether they were cleared to work or, if not, where they might get tested for the virus. The results would then be reported to their employer. Many of the union's members saw the app, called ProtectWell, as an invasion of privacy and objected to the museum choosing a program whose data was not protected by HIPAA, the federal law on patient privacy.

Reopening to a World That Has Changed

After being closed for 163 days by the coronavirus pandemic, the British Museum last week become the last of Europe's major museums to welcome back visitors. Apart from the pandemic safety changes, the museum has also made some more permanent changes. The museum's director has said that the events surrounding the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police made him want to intensify the museum's work addressing its links with slavery and colonialism. The museum made two main changes for the reopening. The first was moving a bust of Hans Sloane - a physician and collector of curiosities whose holdings formed the basis of the museum when it was founded in 1753 - from a plinth in a prominent gallery to a display case. Now he is labeled as a "slave owner". The vitrine contains other objects related to Britain's involvement in the slave trade. The second move was the creation of a guided route around the museum called "Collecting and Empire", with plaques that explain how certain items had made their way into the museum. The changes he announced may seem small, but they caused a stir in Britain last week, angering some traditionalists.


Black Ex-Players See Bias in Payouts

Two retired players have accused the National Football League (NFL) of "explicitly and deliberately" discriminating against hundreds if not thousands of Black players who filed dementia-related claims in the landmark concussion settlement reached in 2013, making it harder for them to qualify for payouts worth as much as $3 million. In two legal actions filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, the players asked that the judge stop the NFL from insisting that race-based benchmarks be used to evaluate the players' claims. They also asked that the scores on Black players' neurocognitive exams be calculated using "race-neutral" scales that would put them on an even footing with white players. The allegations of systematic discrimination are the latest and perhaps most damning criticism of the settlement, which has been stung by delays, predatory lenders, accusations of fraud, and a lack of transparency since players began filing claims four years ago. It is unclear what percentage of Black players have had their dementia claims denied compared to white ex-players, because the settlement administrator does not publish data on the race of applicants.

New Harassment Claims Made Against Washington NFL Team

After new harassment claims, Dan Snyder vows more oversight of Washington's NFL Team. Twenty-five women alleged instances of workplace harassment in a new report that charged the NFL owner with involvement in producing a lewd video and propositioning a cheerleader.

With Walkouts, National Basketball Association Players Jolt Pro Sports

Last week, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Major League Soccer (MLS) and the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament halted for a day and canceled games in protest of the latest shooting of a Black man by police. Never before had the world of sports spoken so emphatically. The timing was unmistakably significant and the athlete walkouts were set starkly against a Trumpian vision presented at the Republican National Convention. No longer is sports offering a gentrified protest, with league-endorsed slogans on basketball jerseys. The athletes took action. This shattered the bubble of normalcy that had settled upon the NBA and its fans, who watched happily from home as a pandemic and protests raged. Jaylen Brown, Sterling Brown, and LeBron James have spoken out, like so many of their NBA compatriots, and are part of an emboldened generation of Black athletes, a vanguard challenging America's norms in numbers never seen before. At the very same time, the Republican National Convention represented and embraced an entirely different vision - one nostalgic for the past, wary of change, and angry for an entirely different reason.

Stanford Athletics Was a Family, Until It Wasn't

As a result of the coronavirus, Stanford cut teams and Olympic hopefuls all over the U.S. feel a chill. They fear that if Stanford, which has deep resources and a reputation as a factory for Olympians, can't maintain its sports programs amid the pandemic, then no one can. After being told that Stanford athletics was a family, many student athletes were blindsided when the university abruptly announced that it was cutting men's volleyball and 10 other teams - nearly one third of Stanford's 36 varsity programs. The last seasons of those sports would be in 2020-21, if the pandemic allows, and Stanford said there would be no chance of saving the teams through fund-raising.

Basketball Resumes, With Plans Beyond the Court

NBA players voted in favor of resuming the playoffs after boycotting playoff games last week. The players and league officials met with part of their discussions focused on formulating an action plan to address racial injustice issues. The NBA and players then announced a plan that includes a push for police accountability and voter registration, as well as support for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Demanding societal change and ending racial injustice has been a major part of the NBA restart.

After a Long Lull, Protesting Becomes Popular Again in Baseball

Following the boycott by NBA players, players from several baseball teams opted to cede the floor to the larger social unrest gripping the country. Taking a stand, or a knee, or refusing to play because of racial injustice in Major League Baseball (MLB) - a sport saturated with tradition and unwritten rules of conduct where the majority of players, coaches, executives, and owners are white - is different than doing so in the NBA, WNBA or NFL, leagues where most of the players are Black. Over the decades, the number of Black players in MLB has dwindled to about 8%. Some of the walkouts in MLB were pulled off last minute, contentious, or inconsistent. Yet in several cases last week, there was evidence that the sport's white leaders and players were listening more.

Star Athletes Will Lead a Multimillion-Dollar Drive to Recruit Young Poll Workers

More Than a Vote, a group of athletes headlined by LeBron James, is launching a campaign to address poll worker shortage and the need to keep polling stations open in Black electoral districts. The project is a collaboration with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and aims to recruit young people to serve at polling locations in Black communities in swing states, including Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, and Ohio. The effort will involve poll worker recruitment, a paid advertising campaign, and a corporate partnership program that will encourage employees to volunteer as poll workers. Election officials throughout the country have reported a shortage of poll workers to staff in-person voting sites amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Atlantic City Casinos Report $112 Million Loss

The coronavirus outbreak sent Atlantic City's casinos plunging to a $112 million second-quarter operating loss as the gambling houses remained closed for the entire 3-month period. That compares with an operating profit of nearly $160 million in the second quarter of last year. Only one of the 9 casinos - the Gold Nugget - reported an operating profit for the quarter, and that was helped by its internet gambling operation.

U.K. Soccer Star is Swiftly Convicted in Greece, but Case is Hardly Settled

Manchester United star Harry Maguire has claimed he thought he was being kidnapped by fake police in Mykonos and tried to run away "in fear for his life" after they hit him in the legs and told him he "won't play again." He was recently handed a 21-month suspended prison sentence following a brawl on the Greek island of Mykonos. Maguire has said that he is appealing the decision made against him a court on the Greek island of Syros and now faces a retrial. The English star insisted that he hadn't done anything wrong and didn't own an owe an apology to anybody after the Greek prosecutor called for one.

Soccer Official Evades Arrest by Afghan Forces for Assault

The powerful former chairman of Afghanistan's soccer federation, who faces criminal charges of sexual abuse of female players, eluded capture by Afghan Special Operations officers on Sunday, laying bare the tenuous reach of the national government. The unsuccessful police operation against the fugitive, Keramuddin Keram, took place in Panjshir Province, a predominately ethnic Tajik area that has long supported and protected Keram.


TikTok Sues United States Over Trump Ban

TikTok sued the U.S. government last week, accusing the Trump administration of depriving it of due process when the President used his emergency economic powers to issue an executive order that will block the app from operating in the country.

Facebook Plans to Sue Thais Over Order to Restrain Critic

Facebook is planning legal action against the government of Thailand for ordering the social media platform to partially shut down access to a group critical of the Thai monarchy. Facebook has complied with the request in the meantime, blocking users in Thailand from seeing posts from the group, Thai Royalist Marketplace, which has around one million users. The group's creator and critic of the monarchy who is living in self-imposed exile in Japan said that Facebook's decision to comply "is detrimental to both the right to freedom of expression and democracy in this region." In the U.S., Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg have repeatedly attempted to position the company as a defender of free speech, but overseas it has typically been more deferential to autocratic governments. It has also been reported that Zuckerberg lobbied Trump and members of Congress to take action against rival TikTok on the grounds that it wasn't committed to free expression.

Nine Years Later, FBI Agent Who Protested Torture Gets to Tell Entire Story in Memoir

After a lawsuit and nine years later, the CIA has relented and W.W. Norton will republish former FBI counterterrorism agent Ali Soufan's book next month under the revised title The Black Banners (Declassified): How Torture Derailed the War on Terror After 9/11. It has restored sections and adds new details to the history of the U.S.'s early post-September 11th fight against Al Qaeda. In the interim, some of what Soufan sought to discuss has become public, including the 2014 declassification of a lengthy summary of a landmark Senate study about CIA torture.

Palin's Lawsuit For Defamation Can Go to Trial, Judge Rules

A federal judge said last week that there was enough evidence in Sarah Palin's defamation lawsuit against The New York Times Company to send it to a jury trial, a victory for the former vice-presidential candidate and governor. The suit centered on a Times editorial published in June 2017 under the headline "America's Lethal Politics". Palin claims that the editorial wrongly linked her to the 2011 mass shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. The judge said there was "sufficient evidence to allow a rational finder of fact to find actual malice by clear and convincing evidence."

Ousted Host Alleges That TMZ Discriminated Against Her

A former employee of the gossip outlet TMZ and a related website filed a discrimination complaint last week with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the California state Department of Fair Employment and Housing, saying that she was wrongfully fired after complaining about a misogynistic workplace under the leadership of Harvey Levin. The former employee said she faced discrimination and was threatened with a lawsuit if she went public with her case. She described the workplace as a "boys' club", a "bro-fest", and a "frat house" in which women were belittled and held to a higher standard than their male colleagues. A representative for TMZ and TooFab said in a statement that Zilio was fired from the company "because of multiple and documented incidents of plagiarism and inaccurate reporting" and the company went on to say that it would "vigorously" defend the decision to part ways with Zilio.

Challenge to Networks: Covering a Live Convention When Falsehoods Start Flying

The Republican Convention's third night happened amid an unusual confluence of major stories - a dangerous hurricane about to strike Louisiana, a Wisconsin city torn apart following a police shooting, and the sports world's forceful response. Republicans decided the show must go on and, for the most part, television networks followed. Throughout the convention coverage, there were hints that much was going on in the wider world. The inability to pivot aggressively and spend more time on other stories no doubt had much to do with each network having all of its top-level political talent on hand. Networks, after giving extensive coverage to the Democrats previously, are cognizant of being fair to the Republicans.

Social Media a Potent Tool for Bannon's Group

Since the arrest of his former senior political adviser Stephen K. Bannon, Trump has tried to distance himself from the nonprofit group that raised more than $25 million for the supposed purpose of building a wall along the border with Mexico. However, social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are living documentation of just how hard the backers of the group, We Build the Wall, worked to demonstrate that they were not only were close to Trump and his family, but had been endorsed by them. The We Build the Wall organization ran a livestream of Trump's remarks and then sent out the recording over YouTube to try to make sure it was widely seen, promoting the video again via its social media accounts. Other conservative leaders and Trump supporters made visits to the construction site, with every stopover by a celebrity or elected official becoming another fund-raising opportunity.

Chief Executive of TikTok Says He Will Resign

TikTok has been under pressure from the Trump administration, and Kevin Mayer, the chief executive of the Chinese-owned video app, said last week that he was resigning after the company came under sustained pressure form the Trump administration over its ties to China.

Beijing Complicates Sale of TikTok

ByteDance has been ordered by President Trump to divest short video app TikTok in the United States amid security concerns over the personal data it handles. China's new rules around tech exports mean that ByteDance's sale of TikTok's U.S. operation could need Beijing's approval, a requirement that would complicate the forced and politically charged divestment.

As China Sets a Digital Dragnet, Hong Kong Dodges, and Weaves

Emboldened by a new law, Hong Kong security forces are turning to harsher tactics as they close a digital dragnet on activists and others, including unlocking phones to obtain passwords. Not accustomed to such pressures, Hong Kong lawmakers and activists, and the American companies that own the most popular internet services there, have struggled to respond. Pro-democracy politicians have issued instructions to supporters on how to secure digital devices. Dogged by the global reach of the law, even people from Hong Kong living far away from the city worry.

General News

Census Facing Severe Doubts Over Accuracy

The 2020 census is in its final stage, but there are still 38 million households uncounted and state and local officials are raising growing concerns that many poor and minority households will be left out. More than one in three people hired as census takers have quit or failed to show up. Officials project optimism, but a chorus of experts says that the pandemic and politics could lead to a deeply flawed count. COVID-19 and rising mistrust of the government on the part of hard-to-reach groups, like immigrants and Latinos, already had made this census challenging. Another issue has also upended it: An order last month to finish the count one month early, guaranteeing that population figures will be delivered to the White House while Trump is still in office.

Trump Nominated as G.O.P. Delivers Ominous Message

President Trump was trying to rewrite history and enlist front-line Covid workers to the cause. The strain showed. There was a focus on grievance instead of uplift. Trump spent his time recasting his history on the virus, race, and his record. Trump and his political allies mounted a fierce and misleading defense of his political record on the first night of the Republican Convention while unleashing a barrage of attacks on Joseph R. Biden Jr. and the Democratic Party that were unrelenting in their bleakness.

G.O.P. Offers No New Platform for 2020, Aside from Enthusiastic Support of Trump

The Republican National Committee issued a resolution stating that due to constraints on the size of this year's Republican National Convention, it will not be adopting a new party platform, leaving in place the one from 2016. The resolution says that the platform committee would have agreed to continue supporting President Trump and his administration, but did not want to have a small group draft a new platform for the party.