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Week In Review

By Eric Lanter Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into: Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media/Technology, General News, and Coronavirus:


Hollywood's 'We're Not in Kansas Anymore' Moment

Hollywood has changed during the pandemic, and the clearest example of that is the release of "Wonder Woman 1984". The film "will be released in theaters and on HBO Max on Christmas Day," which is the "clearest sign that streaming is now central to the film industry's business model."

Latinos, Long Dismissed in Hollywood, Push to Make Voices Heard

For many Latinos in Hollywood, "every gain seems to be followed by a setback." For example, although one gets hired, that person becomes "otherized and marginalized" and then is "expected to be the culture negotiator and ambassador and defender of every culture, not just" his/hers/theirs. One such person, Tanya Saracho, and others have become involved in the Untitled Latinx Project, which seeks to change that culture in Hollywood.

Netflix Pulls 'Chappelle's Show' at Dave Chappelle's Request

Comedian Dave Chappelle stated that Netflix and HBO Max should not have been licensed to air his comedy show, "Chappelle's Show", and called for his supporters to boycott the airing of his show because he was not paid additional compensation and he felt that the original contract was unfair, especially as it didn't require his consent to license it. Netflix and HBO Max began streaming "Chappelle's Show" after ViacomCBS, the owner of Comedy Central, licensed the show to the two streaming services.

With a Kiss, Netflix Gets Tangled in India's Religious Tensions

Netflix is facing scrutiny for releasing a new show, "A Suitable Boy," which has scenes between a "Hindu and a Muslim" that nationalist leaders have decried "at a time of rising interfaith conflict and government efforts to control online content" in India. Many leaders of the Hindu nationalist party have "have called on Indians to boycott the streaming service," but experts say that Netflix is not "likely to face serious legal trouble."


The Metropolitain Opera Seeks Pay Cuts in Exchange for Pandemic Paychecks

The Metropolitan Opera "is offering many employees their first paycheck in months if their unions agree to long-term cuts." It is offering furloughed employees "up to $1,500 a week in exchange for new union contracts that include long-term pay cuts," and this move comes just "two months after announcing that the curtains would not part again until fall 2021."

Employees at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Vote to Unionize

At the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, employees "have voted to join the United Auto Workers, becoming one of the latest bargaining units within a leading American cultural institution." The move to unionize comes after the museum has "enacted a number of cost-saving measures over the summer after projecting a budget shortfall of about $14 million."

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Appoints Chief Diversity Officer

The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that it will be appointing Lavita McMath Turner as its "first chief diversity officer." It began its search earlier this year after "a staff letter" urged the leaders in the museum to acknowledge "a deeply rooted logic of white supremacy and culture of systemic racism at our institution." Turner has worked in academia in various roles at the City University of New York and worked as a government relations officer at the Brooklyn Museum.

Penguin Random House to Buy Simon & Schuster

ViacomCBS, the owner of Simon & Schuster, agreed to sell the company to Penguin Random House, which was "the largest book publisher in the United States" and is owned by the "German media conglomerate Bertelsmann." The sale of Simon & Schuster would create "a combination that could trigger antitrust concerns."

Grave Is Found at Site of Historic Black Church in Colonial Williamsburg

An archaeological project in Colonial Williamsburg has unearthed a grave site "beneath a parking lot" which is also near "the foundations for a brick church built in 1856." Archaeologists have "uncovered one and possibly two graves and more than 12,000 artifacts, including an ink bottle, doll fragments, and coins."

Pedophile Scandal Can't Crack the Closed Circles of Literary France

The writer Gabriel Matzneff is a documented pedophile, and the scandal surrounding him has "opened a window on the entrenched and clubby nature of many of France's elite institutions." Although Matzneff, an award-winning French author, had been known to be a pedophile for decades and "brazenly defended" it, the lack of controversy in the French literary community surrounding Matzneff is evidence of the "insular world that dominates French literary life."


The College Athletes Who Are Allowed to Make Big Bucks: Cheerleaders

Although star football and basketball stars have been "forbidden to make money from their athletic fame beyond what the university provided to cover their attendance," cheerleaders have received "thousands of dollars through sponsorship deals with Crocs, L'Oreal, American Eagle, and Lokai." This has occurred because the NCAA "and its universities do not regulate cheerleading in the same ways they do other sports."

First Women Plays Football in a Power 5 Game

Sarah Fuller, "a goalkeeper for Vanderbilt's women's soccer team," played on the football team in its kicking unit "because other members of its kicking unit had close contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus." She has become "the first women to play during a regular-season game in one of college football's Power 5 conferences by booting a kickoff."

National Basketball Association Players Meet With Pope Francis on Social Justice Efforts

A group of five National Basketball Association (NBA) players and officials "met privately with Pope Francis" at the Vatican to "discuss their efforts toward addressing social justice and economic inequality." The Vatican had extended the invitation to the NBA players' union, and that invitation was based on the Pope wanting "to learn more about their activities."

African Soccer Chief Is Barred for Five Years Over Ethics Violations

FIFA has "barred the top official in African soccer from" soccer for a period of five years after he "was found guilty of breaching four separate articles of the organization's ethics code", including "abuse of office, misappropriation of funds, and rules concerning the offering and acceptance of gifts." The ban disqualifies him "from standing for a new term early next year," but he received a shorter ban than another official in Africa who had violated "one of the same rules."

Black Goalkeepers, Big Clubs, and Europe's Uneven Playing Field

Soccer "still struggles for Black representation in leadership roles: There are few Black managers, and even fewer Black executives." This remains the case even after other sports have changed: "Black quarterbacks were once as rare in the NFL as Black entrants were at tennis championships and golf majors." In European soccer, there remains "a deep-rooted skepticism toward Black goalkeepers, one that has been allowed to fester through lack of analysis, lack of opportunity, and even lack of acknowledgement."

'The Queen's Gambit' Sends Chess Set Sales Soaring

The Netflix show, "The Queen's Gambit", has set off an unlikely phenomenon: chess set sales are now soaring. The show features a "chess prodigy" and has "reignited interest in the game and fueled demands for sets, accessories, and timers."

MEDIA & TECHNOLOGY Fox News Reaches Settlement With Parents of Seth Rich

Joel and Mary Rich, the parents of Seth Rich, "a Democratic aide whose unsolved murder became fodder for right-wing conspiracy theories about the 2016 election," have settled a case they brought against Fox News based on its coverage of Rich's murder. They filed the lawsuit in 2018 and alleged "extreme and outrageous" conduct by Fox News "fueled damaging rumors about him." The settlement terms "were not disclosed."

'Tokenized': Inside Black Workers' Struggles at the King of Crypto Start-Ups

Coinbase, "the most valuable US cryptocurrency company, has faced many internal complaints about discriminatory treatment," and many of its Black employees have been fired or quit due to that treatment. Some have complained that they were excluded "from meetings and conversations" and made to "feel invisible," and many former employees have corroborated this treatment and said that the "start-up has long struggled with its management of Black employees."


With Transition Started and No Proof of Fraud Sticking, Trump Administration Shifts Its Plan

Although President Trump's team has sought any avenue available for changing the results of the election, they have not been successful. Amid rumors that he may announce his candidacy for the 2024 presidential election even as President-elect Biden is taking the oath of office on January 20, 2021, there still remains the business of each state's electors casting their votes and the certification of the election result. Trump has said that once the electors cast their votes, he will acknowledge the result. Nonetheless, Biden has moved forward with constructing his cabinet and preparing to take office which has gained steam after the federal government "ascertained" that he had indeed won the election. Trump has issued a pardon for his former aide, Michael Flynn, and is expected to issue additional pardons (potentially even one for him). Meanwhile, Biden and his team have been buoyed by the stock market's rise since the election result, but there remain significant questions about what level of cooperation Congressional Republicans may display once he takes office.

Midnight Ruling Exposes Rifts at a Supreme Court Transformed by Trump

The United States Supreme Court has now shown that it has changed from just months ago: in a 5-4 ruling, it "rejected restrictions on religious services in New York imposed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo to combat the coronavirus, shoving the chief justice into dissent with the court's remaining liberals." Although Chief Justice Roberts has been known as one who is "fundamentally conservative," given the addition of Justice Barrett, Justice Kavanaugh, and Justice Gorsuch, many analysts see the latest ruling as the beginning of a new, more conservative pattern that observers can expect.

Purdue Pharma Pleads Guilty to Role in Opioid Crisis

Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to "criminal charges involving OxyContin," and documents filed in the action have implicated the consulting firm McKinsey: McKinsey's consultants talked in 2017 of boosting Purdue's sales and even recommended that Purdue's distributors receive "a rebate for every OxyContin overdose attributable to pills they sold." There also was mention in documentation that McKinsey's employees thought to destroy records related to its work for Purdue, but it is not clear whether the consultants did in fact destroy any records.

U.S. Shutters Warehouse Where Migrants Were Kept in 'Cages'

The South Texas Customs and Border Protection facility that had been the site of "fetid, overcrowded conditions" and filled with "chain-link pens" containing "migrant families and unaccompanied children" has now closed for renovations. The facility is scheduled to undergo improvements and reopen in 2022, and the renovations are set to add room partitions that will "afford modest housing accommodations" and "modern processing areas." It is estimated that the facility once housed "about 2,000 migrants, many of them young mothers with children and young people who crossed the border without their parents."

Illegal Tampering by Diesel Pickup Owners Is Worsening Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency Says

A new federal report has concluded that the "owners and operators of more than half a million diesel pickup trucks have been illegally disabling their vehicles' emissions control technology over the past decade, allowing excess emissions equivalent to 9 million extra trucks on the road." The practice is similar to that in the "Volkswagen scandal of 2015, when the automaker was found to have illegally installed devices in millions of diesel passenger cars worldwide" in an effort to "trick emissions control monitors."

New Rule Would Allow U.S. to Use More Methods for Executions

The Justice Department has created a new regulation that "would permit methods including firing squads and electrocution" in executions at a time when the Trump administration has sought to rush executions of five more prisoners. The new rule is just one "of a spate of moves and rule-making processes before" Trump leaves office, but "the practical effect of the rule remains unclear." Nonetheless, Biden may choose to rescind the rule upon taking office.

U.S. Border Agency Settles With Two Americans Detained for Speaking Spanish

Two women were detained in 2018 by a Border Patrol agent because the officer "heard them speaking Spanish at a convenience store," and they brought suit against the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The case has settled, according to the ACLU of Montana, between the two women, one born in El Paso, Texas and the other born in El Centro, California, and they have expressed hope that the lawsuit will push U.S. Customs and Border Protection "to reassess its conduct."

Democrats Claim Veto-Proof Majority in New York Senate, Pressuring Cuomo

The New York State Senate has changed: Democrats now have a veto-proof majority. The Democrats "bucked the national trend on down-ballot races," and some analysts expect that the Senate will "pursue progressive initiatives without fear of a veto", which will put Governor Cuomo in a position where he may struggle to navigate his own party's politics.

Unemployment Scam Using Inmates' Names Costs California Hundreds of Millions

A task force in California has submitted a request to Governor Gavin Newsome for "significant resources" to combat "what appears to be the most significant fraud on taxpayer funds" in the state's history. The law enforcement task force detailed a "rash of fraudulent pandemic unemployment claims under the names of jail and prison inmates, including more than 100 on death row," which has "bilked California out of hundreds of millions of dollars." With only 17 fraud investigators at the state's unemployment office, there has been fraud throughout the state since the pandemic started, and with the pressure to issue unemployment checks as quickly as possible to those in need, catching and stopping the fraud has proved to be a difficult task thus far.

Wildfire Smoke Is Poisoning California's Kids. Some Pay a Higher Price

The fires that have burned "millions of acres in California aren't just incinerating trees and houses"; the smoke from those fires have filled "the lungs of California's children" and there may be "grave effects over the course of" those children's lives. For those children with access to an air purifier or the ability to move out of the area "when ash rains down from the sky," it is expected that the effects of the smoke will be significantly reduced.

Saudi Activist Who Fought For Women's Right to Drive Is Sent to Terrorism Court

One of Saudi Arabia's "more prominent prisoners," Loujain al-Hathloul, "has been accused of harming the kingdom's security" and has had her case transferred to a terrorism court in the country. She has been detained "since spring 2018 and charged with crimes that include seeking to change the kingdom's political system, campaigning for women's rights, and communicating with foreign journalists, diplomats, and human rights organizations."

Tackling 'Period Poverty,' Scotland Is First Nation to Make Sanitary Products Free

Scotland's Parliament "voted unanimously" to make it "the first country in the world to make period products freely available to all who need them." The policy is meant to end "period poverty" which is the "prohibitive expense that have left many without access to sanitary products when they need them." Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has called the new policy an "important policy for women and girls."

European Union Border Agency Accused of Covering Up Migrant Pushback in Greece

The European Union (E.U.) border agency, known as Frontex, "is under fire for letting Greece illegally repel migrants as the agency expands to play a more central role at the bloc's external borders." There is mounting evidence that Frontex was helping cover up violations, and some analysts see this development as "an erosion of the rule of law at the E.U. borders which is willful."

Gunmen Assassinate Iran's Top Nuclear Scientist in Ambush, Provoking New Crisis

The top nuclear scientist in Iran, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, "was shot and killed Friday in what the Iranian media called a roadside ambush as he and his bodyguards traveled outside Tehran." Iran has "expressed fury over the killing" and has blamed "it on Israel and the United States." The death of Fakhrizadeh "may complicate President-elect Biden's intention to restore the Iranian nuclear deal."


The Coronavirus Continues Its Ascent as Vaccines Near

News that multiple vaccines have achieved over 90% effectiveness in clinical trials has brought many experts to say that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for the coronavirus pandemic. However, the negative effects of the virus continues: there has been an uptick in unemployment claims (even as some employers, like Amazon, have hired a record number of employees after online retail has surged at the expense of brick-and-mortar). In some parts of the United States, hospitals have approached their capacity, and surges in the virus have taken place in states that had the fewest restrictions in the preceding weeks and months. Experts have warned that, with Thanksgiving weekend seeing significant travel by Americans, there is a high probability of an increase in rates, and with vaccines weeks or months still away from widespread distribution, there is much more hardship before the end of the pandemic.

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