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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:


Bob Dylan Sells His Songwriting Catalog in Blockbuster Deal

In "what may be the biggest acquisition ever of a single act's publishing rights," Universal Music has purchased the entire songwriting catalog of Bob Dylan. That catalog consists of over 600 songs dating back to 1962. Although the price has not been disclosed, it is estimated at being north of $300 million.

Trading Box Office for Streaming, Stars Still Want Their Money as Streaming Will Rival Theaters

Disney revealed that its "big-budget movies will first go to theaters" and other "offerings will debut online," while Warner Brothers announced that it will release its films in theaters and streaming. This transition has not occurred without complications: studios like Warners Brothers have had to renegotiate contracts with representatives and talent agencies because the typical measure, box office sales, will not be the measure of a film's popularity in the near-term.

Visa and Mastercard to Investigate Financial Ties to Pornhub

Payment companies Visa and Mastercard announced that "they would investigate financial links after The New York Times reported that videos on Pornhub depict child abuse." Visa stated that it was "actively engaging with the relevant financial institutions," and the company "works with 61 million merchants and moves nearly $12 trillion in money through the financial system in a year." It also announced that if the website is not complying with "applicable laws or the financial institutions' acceptable use policies and underwriting standards, they will no longer be able to accept Visa payments."

FKA twigs Sues Shia LaBeouf, Citing 'Relentless' Abusive Relationship

The musician FKA twigs filed an action in Los Angeles against Shia LaBeouf, alleging "sexual battery, assault, and infliction of emotional distress." In one instance detailed in the action, she alleged that in 2019, LaBeouf was "driving recklessly" and then removed his seatbelt and threatened to crash the vehicle "unless she professed her love for him." In bringing this action, she said that she would "like to be able to raise awareness on the tactics that abusers use to control you and take away your agency."

Under the Mask, the Next Batman Will Be Black

A new Batman comic is coming, written by John Ridley (who authored "12 Years a Slave"), and the new Batman will be Tim Fox, "the son of a business associate of Bruce Wayne." That is not the only change in the comic, which DC Comics has teased for months: "in addition to Timothy Fox as Batman, Jonathan Kent, the son of the Man of Steel, is Superman, and Yara Flor, who is from Brazil, is Wonder Woman."

A Costly Quip Angers Chinese Moviegoers, and a Film Is Yanked

In the film "Monster Hunter," a pun about knees was been deemed "racist" and led to a boycott of the film. The film was "based on a popular video game", but has since been pulled from theaters, with the distributor vowing to cut the scene from the movie and re-release it. Critics wrote that the dialogue, containing a pun based on the words "knees" and "Chinese," was a "reference to a racist playground taunt implying that people of Asian descent are dirty."


Metropolitan Opera to Lock Out Stagehands as Contract Talks Stall

The Metropolitan Opera (Met), after having reached "a bargaining impasse," said that "it would lock out the workers needed to build sets for next season's productions." The Met announced that it "needs to cut labor costs significantly if it is to survive until and after it reopens," but the unions "bristled at the request, saying that their members cannot handle such a long-term financial hit after going many months without pay."

Dispute Erupts Over Translation Rights to New Nobel Laureate

Louise Gluck, after winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, "has found herself at the heart of less-welcome publicity, because of a dispute over who should hold the Spanish-language rights to her work." The dispute arose when her agent switched publishers, and the previous publisher has said that "it should be rewarded for broadening her readership and publishing, at a loss, her work." The publisher stated that it may not litigate the dispute, but that "there is also something called ethics." Gluck has declined to "weigh in" on the issue.

Carnegie Hall Stands By Its Chairman, Despite Tax Violations

The chairman of Carnegie Hall, Robert F. Smith, "has acknowledged his involvement in a 15-year scheme to hide more than $200 million in income and evade taxes, but he retains the support of the hall's board." He had promised to be "a stabilizing presence at Carnegie" when he took the chairman position in 2016. Smith has acknowledged that he "signed a nonprosecution agreement in which he agreed to pay large fines and cooperate with investigators."

Ronald Lauder Gives Major Arms and Armor Gift to the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Ronald Lauder, "at a time when cultural institutions all over the world are struggling in the pandemic," has donated "91 pieces of arms and armor to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which the New York institution is calling the most important donation of its kind in 80 years." Lauder, "the cosmetics magnate and philanthropist," has declined to "disclose the donation's value."

Dutch Panel for Looted Art Claims Must Change Course, Report Finds

A committee in the Netherlands found that the "country's art restitution panel", the Dutch Restitutions Commission, "showed too little empathy to victims of Nazi aggression and sided too often with museums." This comes after the Netherlands had developed a reputation for "taking action to research stolen art and return it to its rightful owners," but the committee concluded that the commission had "essentially moved in the wrong direction" when balancing the interests of "claimants against those of museums."

In Cuba, Internet Fuels Rare Protests

Artists have used the internet to fuel protests that have swelled to become the "largest protests in decades" in Cuba. The protests began "after seeing videos of police detentions that were filmed on cellphones and circulated online," and the "swift mobilization of protesters was a rare instance of Cubans openly confronting their government--and a stark example of how having widespread access to the internet through cellphones is testing the power balance between the communist regime and its citizens."

Black Ballerina, Playing a Swan, Says She Was Told to Color Her Skin

A dancer with the Staatsballett Berlin, Chloe Lopes Gomes, said that she was "directed to use white makeup to perform in 'Swan Lake'" and had other "racially insensitive incidents" during her time at the ballet. She was asked several times to apply white makeup, and when she told a supervisor that she would "never look white," the supervisor said, "Well, you will have to put on more than the other girls."


U.S. Will Not Punish Olympic Athletes for Peaceful Protests

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, in a break with the International Olympic Committee, announced that "it would not prosecute athletes who participate in demonstrations", such as "kneeling or raising a fist at a medal ceremony." The policy "has come under heightened scrutiny as mass protests calling for racial equality, including demonstrations by professional athletes, have spread widely this year in the United States and other countries."

Fighters Win Key Ruling in Case That Could Upend Ultimate Fighting Championship's Business

A federal judge has ruled that Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighters are entitled to "class-action status" in an action alleging that UFC has suppressed the fighters' pay. If the fighters prevail in the action, it could lead to UFC paying significantly more to the fighters to the tune of billions of dollars, fundamentally altering "the world of mixed martial arts and establish[ing] new antitrust case law."

Virtual Cycling and Real Cheating: Cracking Down on 'Digital Doping'

Companies like Zwift are attempting to help cyclists and runners to compete during the pandemic, but there have been concerns about cheating. The company has sought to stop "the practice of manipulating race data to either improve digital performances or cover up human or technical errors," but some professional athletes who have been accused of cheating have said that "they did not intentionally cheat and that they had been made scapegoats as the company tries to show it is taking the matter seriously."

Suspension Reduced for Gymnastics Coach Accused of Emotional and Physical Abuse

An arbitrator determined that Maggie Haney, a "top gymnastics coach accused of berating and mistreating athletes", will face a five-year ban from the sport rather than an eight-year ban. The arbitrator found that some of the testimony at the underlying hearing should have been excluded, but the five-year ban still is the "harshest one that USA Gymnastics" has "handed down in a case that did not involve sexual abuse."

Questions Mount for a French Soccer Federation in Crisis

The French soccer federation is facing pressure from Nike, "its main sponsor", for permitting an environment to exist that consists of "bullying, misbehavior, and sexism, and troubling details about interactions between an official at its top player academy and a teenage prospect." Last week, France's ministry of sport announced that it will launch an investigation into allegations detailed in The New York Times that detailed the federation's mishandling an investigation "involving inappropriate behavior by a former instructor at its national training center."

The Women Faced Off to Play Soccer. One Team Lost Because of Hair Dye

The women's teams "at Fuzhou University and Jimei University" in China were going to face off in a tournament, but "they were barred from participating because players from both teams had dyed hair, which was against the rules." The Chinese province's rules state that players may be disqualified "from a match if they wear accessories or jewelry, or have 'strange' hairstyles or dyed hair."


U.S. and States Say That Facebook Illegally Crushed Competition

The Federal Trade Commission has teamed up with 40 states in accusing Facebook "of buying up its rivals to illegally squash competition, and they called for the deals to be unwound, escalating regulators' battle against the biggest tech companies in a way that could remake the social media industry." This comes after an 18-month investigation by federal and state authorities, which have focused on Facebook's acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp.

Twitch Cracks Down on Hate Speech and Harassment

The live-streaming site twitch has "announced new guidelines after contending with claims that its streamers were too easily abused." The site has become very popular for streaming video game players, and Amazon owns the site. Twitch "will ban lewd or repeated comments about anyone's physical appearance and expressly prohibit the sending of unsolicited links to nudity."

Google Chief Apologies for AI Researcher's Dismissal

The chief executive of Alphabet (Google's parent company), Sundar Pichai, apologized for dismissing AI researcher Timnit Gebru, "whose exit has roiled the company's work force and raised questions about its stated commitment to diversity and the responsible development of AI technology." Pichai has not admitted to employees that the company was wrong, but Gebru has said that Google fired her after she sent an email criticizing Google's "lack of progress in hiring women and minorities as well as biases built into its artificial intelligence technology."

Jimmy Lai, Hong Kong Media Mogul, Charged Under New Security Law

In Hong Kong, police on Friday announced that Jimmy Lai, "the outspoken founder of an ardently antigovernment newspaper, had been charged under the city's new national security law with colluding with foreign forces." The move represents "the rapidly shrinking space for speech and independent journalism in China," and Bloomberg News also announced that "plainclothes security officials had earlier that week detained Haze Fan, a Chinese staffer in Beijing, also on potential national security violations."

Afghan Journalist Is Killed in Latest Attack on Media Figures

Malalai Maiwand, "a well-known TV and radio journalist," was killed in "one of a string of high-profile targeted killings in Afghanistan." ISIS gunmen were found responsible for the attack, which occurred while she was traveling to her work and is the "third fatal attack on a well-known media personality in just over a month and sowing fear in a community that came of age reporting on a country at war for decades."

General News

Options for Reversing Election Results Continue to Fizzle as Biden Administration Takes Shape

In the latest example of President Trump's fizzling effort to reverse the election results--only at the presidential election level--the Supreme Court declined to hear a case brought by Texas arguing that the election results should be reversed and that Trump should have been re-elected. To date, the result fits into a pattern of defeat for Trump and his allies, as no court has yet reversed state or local results based on Trump's arguments of widespread election fraud. Nonetheless, there remain other efforts in addition to overturning the election results: following the pardon of Michael Flynn, there is discussion abound of Trump issuing pardons to close allies and family before leaving office in the event they face prosecution after leaving the administration (which may come from investigations into the Trump Organization's taxes and the Manhattan District Attorney's investigation). Meanwhile, the incoming Biden administration is continuing to take shape, with many former Obama era associates coming back, albeit in different roles (including Susan Rice, Denis McDonough, and Tom Vilsack). While the Trump administration has taken to issuing regulation changes and executive orders in the waning weeks of the administration, it is widely expected that those will be reversed once Biden takes office.

Supreme Court Backs Muslim Men in Case on No-Fly List

The Supreme Court "ruled in favor of three Muslims men who say they were put on the no-fly list in retaliation for refusing to become government informants." Additionally, the Court "dismissed a challenge to Delaware's court system, which takes account of the political affiliations of judges in an attempt to achieve ideological balance."

Supreme Court Hears Holocaust Survivors' Cases Against Hungary and Germany

The Supreme Court, after having heard arguments regarding "whether a 1976 law that bars most suits against other nations allows Jewish victims to sue over the theft of their property," appeared to be wary in ruling on whether "Hungary and Germany must pay for property said to have been stolen from Jews before and during World War II." The two cases center on Hungary and Germany having taken possessions from Holocaust survivors and their families during the war and forcing families to sell their art collections in the years before the war.

Supreme Court Weighs President's Power to Fire Head of Housing Agency

The Supreme Court heard arguments in an action brought by shareholders of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac arguing that "the law that created the agency [the Federal Housing Finance Agency] was unconstitutional" and that the shareholders were owed billions of dollars in payments. Several justices "seemed wary of the sweep of a second aspect of the shareholders' arguments, which said the lack of presidential supervision of the housing agency's director meant that a 2012 agreement between the agency and the Treasury Department must be undone, requiring the repayment of vast sums."

House Passes Defense Bill Overwhelmingly, Defying Trump's Veto Threat

The House of Representatives passed a $741 billion defense policy bill that "would require that Confederate names be stripped from American military bases, defying President Trump's veto threat and moving lawmakers one step closer to a potential showdown in his final weeks in office." The vote was largely bipartisan, with 335 members voting for the bill and 78 voting against, and the bill may ultimately be the "first veto override of his presidency."

A Single Senator Dashes Hopes for Latino and Women's Museums--For Now

Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, "blocked the creation of Smithsonian museums honoring women and Latinos, warning they would worsen societal divides." Bipartisan bills had passed through the House "for the first time by overwhelming margins," but the objections of Lee were sufficient "to stop both measures and ensure that for now," proponents of a National Museum of the American Latino and of a national women's history museum are left frustrated.

Justice Department Executes Two Men, Making 10 Executions This Year

The Trump administration has now overseen the execution of 10 inmates this year after it "resumed its use of capital punishment in July after a 17-year hiatus." This makes 2020 the "deadliest year in the history of federal capital punishment since at least the 1920s."

Three Years After Family Separation, Her Son Is Back. But Her Life Is Not

With many migrant families having been separated under the Trump administration's "most controversial immigration policy" and now reunited, some have detailed their struggles: one, Leticia Peren, had left her young son upon entering Texas, and 26 months later, she found that her son had "made new friends, went to a new school, learned to live without her" while she had developed stress-related physical conditions from the frantic time she spent separated from her son.

New York's $226 Billion Pension Fund Is Dropping Fossil Fuel Stocks

New York State's pension fund "will drop many of its fossil fuel stocks in the next five years and sell its shares in other companies that contribute to global warming by 2040." The pension fund is "one of the world's largest and most influential investors", as it has over $226 billion in assets and influences other retirement funds' investment decisions.

Minneapolis City Council Votes to Remove $8 Million From Police Budget

Minneapolis' city council has voted to "divert nearly $8 million from the proposed policing budget to other city services, a move heralded by some as an important step toward transforming public safety in a city where law enforcement has long been accused of racism." The funds are approximately 4.5% of the total police budget of $179 million and "was not nearly the sweeping change that activists and some lawmakers had demanded in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in May."

Shift to a Not-So-Frozen North Is Well Underway, Scientists Warn

A new report has been released opining that "there is no reason to think that in 30 years much of anything will be as it is today" in the Arctic as it continues to see "near-record warming." The region has seen "shrinking ice and snow cover," and the changes are ones "that were scarcely imaginable even a generation ago."

Lebanon Prime Minister Charged With Negligence in Beirut Blast

The Lebanese prime minister, Hassan Diab, has been charged with negligence by an investigating judge in relation to the August explosion that killed nearly 200 people in the capital. The charges "were a significant escalation in the effort to identify those responsible for the blast by targeting political figures who many in Lebanon had feared were too powerful to hold accountable." However, Diab and a former minister have attacked the integrity of the inquiry, "setting the stage for a battle between the judiciary and the politicians that could end up derailing the investigation."


Coronavirus Numbers Continue to Rise, Necessitating Additional Shutdowns

As the third "wave" of coronavirus cases continues to search for its peak, states, and local governments have grappled with balancing additional shutdowns (such as the ending of indoor dining in New York City) with keeping economic vigor. As cases have risen, the nightmare scenario--overburdening medical facilities--has become reality in several hotspots throughout the country. Nonetheless, there is optimism, as vaccines begin to be approved and administered: in the United Kingdom, the first vaccines are being administered as the vaccine received expedited approval. With the economic fallout continuing to be an issue, investors and Americans alike have looked to Congress to see what aid may be coming: thus far, it remains far from clear what an additional stimulus package may look like or whether it may actually come into existence. In Europe, as countries have grappled with rising rates despite more organized shutdown efforts, a new aid package was approved--providing hope that Congress will negotiate an effective stimulus.

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