Week In Review
By Angela Peco Edited by Elissa D. Hecker
Joe Biden Elected As the 46th President of the United States
After four tense days of vote-counting, Biden crossed 270 Electoral College votes with his win in Pennsylvania on Saturday. He also carried Arizona, Wisconsin, and Michigan on his path to the presidency. It was Biden's "third bid for the White House, becoming the oldest person elected president." While election day and early voting turnout rose sharply (early votes neared 100 million), the demographic breakdown of those who voted is not yet clear.
In his first address as president-elect, Biden referenced the geographical and demographic diversity of the coalition that helped elect him and pledged to govern for all Americans.
Kamala Harris Makes History as First Woman and Woman of Color as Vice President-Elect
Kamala Harris is the first women, first Black person, and first person of Asian descent elected to America's second-highest office. The article traces Harris' rise, discussing her upbringing, high school years in Montreal, legal career, and political rise over the last 10 years.
Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into: Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media/Technology, General News, and Coronavirus:
Right to Create TV Series Based on "Breakfast at Tiffany's" Subject of Tense Legal Battle
According to a complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, author Truman Capote's estate entered into an agreement with Paramount Pictures in 1991 to let the studio option a new project based on his book. If the studio did not act within a certain time, the right would revert to the estate's trustee. The trustee takes the position that the rights reverted based on old copyright law, because the author died during the initial 28-year terms and the right to renew copyright passed to statutory heirs. Paramount contests.
Johnny Depp Loses Defamation Suit Over "Wife Beater" Story
In dismissing the case against a British newspaper, the judge said News Group Newspapers had shown what they published about incidents between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard was "substantially true."
The Afterlife of Discarded CDs
The article explains the CD recycling process, as CDs are ground into a powdery material that takes a million years to decompose in a landfill. The raw material is often used to mold building materials and items for cars, but sales of the material to China plummeted after the country restricted imports of most plastic.
New Jersey Voters Approve New Tax to Finance the Arts
Sixty-four percent of voters in New Jersey approved a new arts tax in a nonbinding referendum. The new dedicated revenue stream will benefit the arts and is similar to taxes created in St. Louis and in three Michigan counties. The new tax would likely charge residents half a cent per $100 of assessed property value; renters are exempt.
Publishers Move to Make Books, and the Publishing Industry, More Diverse
Publishers across the industry have stepped up diversity efforts by making senior-level hires, acquiring books from diverse writers depicting more diverse stories, or "launching diversity-minded imprints".
Dispute Over Pissarro's "Shepherdess" Back in Court
The painting was looted by Nazis and belongs to a Paris-based woman who shares it with an Oklahoma museum. Leone Meyer wants to now revisit the 2016 settlement that has the painting returning to America every three years and is seeking permanent ownership of the painting without any rotation. Meyer ran into issues finding a French institution who would assume the cost and risk of transporting the painting to and from the U.S., meaning the painting would remain in the U.S. indefinitely.
Art World Steps Back from Iranian Painter Aydin Aghdashloo Amid Allegations
Aghdashloo "has been accused by at least 13 women of sexual misconduct" and the art world is responding. A petition in Canada calls for an art festival to cut ties with him. Iran recently cancelled an exhibit and Tehran Auction is considering withdrawing two of his paintings. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Supreme Court Denies National Football League, DirecTV Appeal to Dismiss Antitrust Lawsuits
The Court declined to review an appellate court decision allowing an antitrust case against the National Football League (NFL) to go forward. The lawsuit was launched by bars, restaurants, and similar establishments and "challenges how teams currently pool telecast rights and collectively negotiate a licensing package for out-of-market games." The plaintiffs take issue with DirecTV's "Sunday Ticket" prices, which they say are exorbitant and the result of alleged collusion among the NFL's 32 teams.
National Basketball Association to Start New Season on December 22nd
The players' union took a formal vote of the team player representatives, agreeing to a reduced 72-game schedule, with a potential salary escrow for players in the range of 18% for the next two years.
National Basketball Association Store Landlord Asking Judge to Rule on the Case Without Jury Trial
Landlord Joe Moinian claims that the NBA continues to use the store for storage and other purposes and chooses not to open it, even though it is permitted to do so at 50% capacity.
Warriors Take Oracle Arena Debt Battle to State Supreme Court
At issue is the team's outstanding debt on the 1996 renovation of the Oakland Arena. The Warriors are appealing a state appeals court decision that reaffirmed that it owes about $47 million in principal and interest to the Coliseum Authority.
NFL Fines, Strips Raiders of Draft Pick; Penalizes Steelers for Coronavirus Violations
The NFL has fined the Las Vegas Raiders $500,000 and stripped the Raiders of a sixth-round draft choice for violations of the NFL's coronavirus protocols. The team reportedly included a failure on the part of a player to wear a tracking device within team facilities, as well as impermissible gatherings without masks in a team facility. Both the team's head coach and players had been previously fined for other violations. Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was also fined $100,000 and the team $250,000 for violating mask-wearing protocols while on the sidelines during a game against Baltimore.
Changing a Toxic Culture in Gymnastics, One Complaint at a Time
Gymnasts are coming forward with allegations of misconduct against coaches, seeking to expose what they say is a toxic culture in the sport. The article discusses gymnast Hailee Hoffman's complaint against coach Mary Wright.
World Anti-Doping Agency Agrees to Pay Footballer Mamadou Sakho' Substantial Damages
The settlement ends a long-running dispute between the French soccer player and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), with WADA apologizing for defamatory allegations and saying it accepted that he "did not breach the UEFA anti-doping regulations, did not cheat, had no intention of gaining any advantage, and acted in good faith." Sakho was provisionally suspended in 2016 after testing positive for higenamine, which was in a dietary supplement he was taking.
Why Networks Held Back on Early Calls in Battleground States
Major news networks exercised restraint and waited days to make a projection, finally making the call for Biden on Saturday. Fox News and The Associated Press both made early projects that Biden had won Arizona and were both criticized for it. They were the last two to project a Biden win on Saturday. CNN was the first to call it after additional vote tallies came in from Philadelphia. The Associated Press relied on the work of 4,000 local reporters who collected vote counts from county clerks across the country to determine the outcome.
It's the End of an Era for the Media
Ben Smith of The New York Times takes the position that Trump's "riveting show allowed much of the television news business to put reckoning with the technological shifts" of our time. Among other factors, a wave of retirements will also bring about a leadership shift that could see new executives assert final editorial control or pull newsrooms in new directions.
New York Post Turns Tougher on Trump
Top editors at the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid are taking a more critical stance toward Trump. There is also expected to be a leadership turnover, with adviser (and former editor in chief) Col Allan a retiring next year.
Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube Try to Thwart Election Interference and Misinformation
The companies spent billions of dollars improving their sites' security, policies, and processes to fight misinformation and other harmful content before and after the election.
"Stop the Steal" Facebook Group is Taken Down
It was one of the fastest growing groups on Facebook, calling into question the legitimacy of the election by claiming the ballot count was being manipulated to favor Biden. Facebook shut down the group for trying to incite violence.
President Trump Says That He Will Contest the Outcome of the Election in Court
In a statement released on Saturday, the president refused to acknowledge President-Elect Biden as the winner and continued to advance allegations of voter fraud. He referenced the prospect of mandatory recounts in the highly contested states and has already filed several lawsuits alleging wrongdoing in various battleground states.
Two Georgia Senate Races Go to Runoff Elections
To sets of candidates are headed to runoff elections in January after they fell short of a majority, which is the criteria for winning in the state of Georgia. If no candidates gets over 50% of the vote, the top two vote-getters face off in a runoff election. The outcome of these races will likely determine which party has control of the Senate.
Democrats' Post-Election "Family Meeting" Descends into Chaos
According to reports of a caucus-wide conference call following the election, "moderate House Democrats lashed out at their liberal colleagues ... for advancing an agenda that, the centrists said, cost the party a number of seats" in the election. Members of the Progressive Caucus pushed back on that narrative, attributing their positions to a reenergized base. As of Thursday, Democrats had "failed to flip a single seat held by a Republican incumbent," an outcome that defied most polls and forecasts.
Man Who Led G.O.P. Through 2020 Recount Says Finish 2020 Count
James Baker, the former secretary of state who led the Republican team in the 2020 Florida recount said publicly that he was opposed to the White House's efforts to halt the tabulation of ballots.
Court Mulls if Life Term is Justified for Juveniles
At issue is whether the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment requires judges to find that a juvenile offender is "permanently incorrigible" before sentencing them to life without the possibility of parole. The case concerns a 15-year-old who stabbed his grandfather to death in 2004. The court has previously ruled that automatic life sentences for juvenile offenders violated the Eighth Amendment.
Justice Barrett Hears Her First Supreme Court Argument
Justice Barrett's first case "concerned efforts by the Sierra Club ... to obtain documents about harm to endangered species," with the federal government resisting those efforts and saying that the records were protected by an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act, which shields "documents that would disclose deliberations before final decisions." The Justice questioned government lawyers about the government avoiding Freedom Of Information Act obligations by characterizing documents as "draft". Justice Barrett is being assisted by four new law clerks, three of whom had earlier Supreme Court clerkships. Justice Ginsburg's clerks have been assigned to work for three other justices.
Court Weighs the Legacy of Same-Sex Marriage with a Philadelphia Case
At issue is whether a city may exclude a Catholic social services agency from its foster care system because the agency refuses to screen same-sex couples as potential foster parents. In telephonic hearings, the lawyer for the agency said that it wants to continue its work and that no gay couple had ever applied to the agency, and that if one does, it would be referred to a different agency.
When asked whether the situation could be analogized to an agency refusing to certify interracial couples as foster families, the agency replied that the government had a particularly compelling interest in eradicating racial discrimination, seeming to suggest that discrimination based on sexual orientation did not attract the same interest.
U.S. Expels Children from Other Countries to Mexico
The U.S. has begun sending children from Central America to Mexico, despite the children having no family connections there. The expulsions violate a diplomatic agreement with Mexico and are part of an aggressive border closure policy that the Trump administration says is necessary to contain the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. Mexico had agreed to an arrangement where either Mexican children or children under adult supervision could be expelled into Mexico.
Uber and Lyft Drivers Remain Independent Contractors in California
California voters passed Proposition 22 in the most expensive ballot-measure campaign in state history. Under Prop. 22, gig workers are exempted from state labor laws, including obligations around minimum wages, unemployment benefits, and health insurance. Prior to the vote, a court ruling required companies like Uber and Lyft to change how they classified employees and required them to comply with Assembly Bill 5.
QAnon Supporter Headed to Congress
Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia won a House seat in the election. She previously voiced support for QAnon and its pro-Trump conspiracy theories, signaling that conspiracy theories have gained a new foothold in the party.
U.S. Is Officially Out of Paris Climate Accord; Other Countries Pressing Ahead
The U.S. announced its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement in 2017 but the earliest it could file paperwork to begin the withdrawal process was November 2019. A year later, the U.S. formally withdrew from the non-binding agreement that Trump called a job-killer that would "punish the American people while enriching foreign polluters." Signatories to the agreement have announced climate action targets, including commitments from Britain, the E.U., Japan and South Korea to "aim to neutralize their own emissions of planet-warming gases by 2050."
Study Urges Reduction of Greenhouse Gases in Food Production
Research published in the journal Science says that rising greenhouse gas emissions from food production will make it difficult to limit global warming to the targets set in the Paris accord. Global emissions from food production make up about 30% of our carbon output.
Police Chat Board Yields Clues of Racism by Ranking Official
A New York Police Department's anti-harassment official was relieved of his command in the Equal Employment Opportunity Division after investigators found that he was posting racist messages on an online chat board called the Rant. Deputy Inspector James Kobel denied being the one posting under the name "Clouseau". He has been placed on modified assignment pending completion of the inquiry.
Officers in George Floyd Case to Be Tried Together
A judge in Minneapolis denied the former officers' change of venue request, ruling that the trial would remain in the Minneapolis and all four defendants will stand trial together. Judge Cahill of Hennepin County also ruled that due to social gathering restrictions and the interest in the case, the trial will be broadcast next spring. He left open the possibility of a change of venue if the court is unable to seat a jury untainted by the publicity in the case.
Steve Bannon Loses Lawyer After Suggesting Beheading of Fauci
William Burck has dropped Steve Bannon as his client. Bannon faces fraud charges in federal court in Manhattan. In a recent video posted to Twitter, Bannon called for the beheading Dr. Fauci and FBI Director Wray.
Moratorium Bars Insurers from Ending Fire Policies
California has barred insurers from dropping policies in wildfire areas. This is a one-year freeze that applies to about one-fifth of the state's residential insurance market (approximately 2.1 million households).
$26 Billion Settlement Offer in Opioid Lawsuits Gains Support from State Governments
The offer would settle thousands of lawsuits against three major drug distributors and one drug manufacturer over their roles in the opioid epidemic. The money is intended to help states pay for treatment and prevention programs.
The Unhealthy Kidfluence on Children
A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics analyzed the impact of YouTube videos featuring kid influencers who review toys and games, finding that 90% of foods featured were unhealthy items, causing concerns among public health experts monitoring youth obesity rates.
Gamblers Outside the U.S. Took Presidential Odds
While betting on the election is illegal in the U.S., internationally, gamblers wagered on Biden.
Stunning No-Confidence Vote for Alzheimer's Drug
A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel declined to endorse the new Alzheimer's treatment made by Biogen (the drug's name is aducanumab). The panel said that it lacked sufficient "evidence of its effectiveness in slowing cognitive decline". While its nonbinding vote does not mean the FDA won't approve the drug, it does signal there is still skepticism and concerns about the consistency of evidence.
Crispr Gene Editing Can Mar Embryo Codes
A study has found that the gene editing tool can cause unwanted changes in human embryos, including prompting cells to lose entire chromosomes, instead of repairing genetic mutations. The paper says that it is too soon to apply Crispr to reproductive genetics because of these unintended consequences.
Foreign Leaders Congratulate Biden and Harris
Leaders across the world congratulated Joe Biden on his electoral win, with many expressing a sense of relief at the return of more "traditional habits and methods of American power abroad."
Poland Delays Implementation of Widened Ban on Abortion
Following two weeks of protests, Poland's government announced it will delay implementation of an October court ruling that abortions due to fetal abnormalities violated the constitution.
Ivory Coast President Wins Unconstitutional Third Term
Defying constitutional term limits, Alassane Ouattara is one of a few African nation incumbents to bend the rules to stay in power. The opposition boycotted the election.
U.S. Surpasses 100,000 Cases in One Day
Five states set single-day case records last week, while 23 others recorded more cases than any other seven-day stretch.
Trump's Chief of Staff and Six Aides Test Positive for Coronavirus
A slew of positive tests, including Mark Meadows, aides and a Trump campaign adviser, is raising fears of another outbreak at the White House.
Coronavirus Rapid Testing Falters in the Asymptomatic
A new study at the University of Arizona found that a particular rapid test detected a lower percentage of positive cases than those identified by the slower, lab-based PCR test.
Pregnant Women Face Increased Risks from COVID-19
U.S. health officials "added pregnancy to the list of conditions that put people with COVID-19 at increased risk of developing severe illness" after findings that symptomatic pregnant women "were more likely to develop complications and die than nonpregnant women with symptoms."
New Jersey Inmates Released to Reduce Spread of COVID
Over 2,000 inmates were released in New Jersey, accounting for the largest single-day reduction of any state's prison population. The individuals released were within a year of completing their sentences for crimes other than murder and sexual assault.
Student Reporters Expose Clusters at Colleges
Student newspapers are reporting on university outbreaks, which have become a significant contributor to rising infection numbers. The reports are often at odds with official statements from university officials.
In Pandemic, Rich Nations Have Failed the Poorest
A report from the Group of 30, a gathering of international economists, says that "the wealthiest nations have been cushioned by extraordinary surges of credit unleashed by central banks and government spending collectively estimated at more than $8 trillions" when "developing countries have yet to receive help on such a scale" from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
European Allies Worry About Exposure to Coronavirus from U.S. Diplomat
European diplomats worry that they may have been exposed to the coronavirus after a State Department official tested positive after his trip to Europe, when he held in-person meetings with British officials.