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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 and General News:


IRS Says Prince's Estate Worth Twice What Administrators Reported

The IRS, in filings with the U.S. Tax Court, has made clear that it disagrees with the value of Prince's estate: the IRS is now "seeking nearly $39 million in taxes and fees based on a valuation of Prince's assets." Although the estate's administrator valued the estate at $82.3 million, the IRS has valued the estate at $163.2 million.

Blizzard Sued for 'Wiretapping' World of Warcraft Website Visitors

Blizzard Entertainment Inc. is now being sued for its use of a "mouse-tracking software called Mouseflow to record visitors' sessions" on its World of Warcraft website. One plaintiff, a California resident has "filed a putative class action complaint" alleging that the use of the software constitutes "intentional wiretapping under the California Invasion of Privacy Act."

Bobby Shmurda Eligible for Release From Prison in February

Brooklyn rapper Bobby Shmurda, "who was sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy and weapons possession, will be eligible for release next month." His "viral ascent was cut short" when he faced "gang conspiracy charges," but because of "good behavior" while in prison, he is being permitted to serve the "remainder of his seven-year sentence on parole."


Great Gatsby's Copyright Expires

On January 1, 2021, the copyright on "The Great Gatsby" expired, and it is "like a literary version of Pfizer losing its patent to Lipitor: Generic versions will flood the market." Industry analysts expect that there will now be on the market "illustrated editions, scholarly editions, cheap knockoff editions (beware), and editions with introductions by John Grisham and others."

San Francisco's Top Art School Says Future Hinges on a Diego Rivera Mural

The University of California "is aiding the San Francisco Art Institute [SFAI], but SFAI officials say selling a $50 million Rivera could save the school" even though the move is outraging former students. The potential sale of the Rivera work comes months after the SFAI was close to losing its campus and art collection except for when the California Board of Regents "stepped in to buy its $19.7 million of debt from a private bank, in an attempt to save the 150-year-old institution from collapse."

Congress Poised to Apply Banking Regulations to Antiquities Market

Congress passed legislation that gave it "greater oversight" over the antiquities trade, "which regulators have long feared provided fertile ground for money laundering and other illicit activities." The legislation "empowers federal regulators to design measures that would remove secrecy from transactions" which have "long worried" regulators of the antiquities trade given their opaque nature.

Art World Sets Plans for 2021 Fairs (in Pencil)

With 2020 being a wash for art fairs and exhibitions, organizers and collectors "are looking cautiously forward in the coming year, knowing that their schedules will be at the mercy of the coronavirus." In 2019, "sales from the world's art fairs reached an estimated $16.6 billion, with dealers relying on fairs to generate more than 40 percent of that year's revenue, according to last year's Art Basel & UBS Art Market Report."

Richard Liebowitz Suspended in the Southern District of New York

Richard Liebowitz, an attorney known for representing photographers in protecting their work, has been suspended from practicing law in the Southern District of New York (SDNY), "pending the final adjudication of the charges against him and until Liebowitz has the opportunity to present his defense at an evidentiary hearing." The order was issued by the Committee on Grievances for the SDNY.


NCAA President Seeks Delay on Vote to Let Students Profit From Fame

NCAA president Mark Emmert has stated that he "strongly recommended" that the NCAA wait to vote on whether students may profit from their fame. The move is "effectively stepping back from pledges to lawmakers and others that college sports leaders would act this winter on the issue known as name, image, and likeness," but the move also comes as the NCAA begins to face additional scrutiny from the Department of Justice.

Horse Trainer Barred in New York and Other States for Giving Horse a Racist Name

After a horse trainer gave a horse a racist name, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) barred that trainer from its circuit competitions. The trainer is not permitted to "enter horses or have stalls on the nation's premier circuit," and the NYRA president and chief executive released a statement: "Racism is completely unacceptable in all forms. NYRA rejects Eric Guillot's toxic words and divisive behavior in the strongest terms."

Steve Cohen's Past Re-emerges to Cast Doubt on His Updated Image

Steve Cohen, the Mets' new owner, "has portrayed himself as affable and accessible," but a "gender discrimination complaints filed by a former employee paints a far different picture." While he has appeared in recent media appearances and on Twitter as being friendly and joyful, others who worked with him at his hedge funds have known him to have a "mercurial nature that has prompted him to lash out at traders he believes are not making him enough money."

Kelly Loeffler Is Done in the Senate. But What About in the Women's National Basketball Association?

With Senator Kelly Loeffler's days in the Senate coming to an end, there remain questions about her co-ownership of the Atlanta Dream. Those questions are even more pronounced as "many players want her gone" from the league altogether, and there has been talk that LeBron James may make a move to acquire an ownership interest in the team.

A Push for Cyclists' Safety After 5 Die Near Las Vegas

With the Las Vegas metropolitan area growing, cars and construction leave cyclists in a precarious position. With five cyclists dying last month, there have been increased calls for better regulation and more protection for cyclists, and activists are attempting to not only implement more protections but to "toughen penalties for motorists who injure or kill bicyclists, making such offenses a felony with required jail time of up to one year."


Hundreds of Google Employees Unionize, Culminating Years of Activism

After years of "increasing outspokenness by Google workers," hundreds of Google employees have unionized, and executives "have struggled to handle the change." Over "400 Google engineers and other workers have formed a union," and the formation of the union "is highly unusual for the tech industry, which has long resisted efforts to organize its largely white-collar work force."

U.K. Judge Blocks Assange's Extradition to U.S., Citing Mental Health

Although U.S. officials have sought for the U.K. to extradite the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to "face charges of violating the Espionage Act," a judge in the U.K. has ruled that Assange "was at extreme risk of suicide" and therefore blocked the extradition to the U.S. The decision is "a major victory against the US authorities who charged him over his role in obtaining and publishing secret military and diplomatic documents related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Congress Certifies Election Result After Insurrection, Leading to Calls for Trump's Resignation and Impeachment

In the history of American transfers of power, this was a week that most Americans would have found impossible to occur. It began with the release of a phone call of a sitting President asking a Georgia state official to "find" votes that would swing the state of Georgia to his column and that state official declining to entertain the request. The President's efforts culminated in he and his surrogates rallying supporters outside the White House to march to the Capitol and engage in "trial by combat" and to refuse to "concede" the election result by disrupting Congress' certification of the Electoral College's vote--the last procedural step in confirming Joe Biden as the President-elect and setting up his inauguration for January 20th. The President's supporters complied: they marched to the Capitol, and in extraordinary scenes for what many have called the "temple of democracy", those supporters overwhelmed police, broke through barricades and windows and doors, and invaded the halls, offices, and chambers of the Capitol, forcing members of the House of Representatives and Senate to take cover and flee for their lives. Federal law enforcement eventually took back control of the building, arresting some of the rioters--who left a trail of destruction throughout the building--and the law enforcement response since has been swift: those rioters who had committed some of the most pronounced degradations of the building and its traditions have been arrested throughout the country. Regardless of the destruction, Congress reconvened the night of the turmoil and certified that Biden will become President on January 20th. The response in Washington and around the country has left the remaining 10 days of the Trump administration up in the air: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have blocked President Trump's accounts, there have been talks of invoking the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump (which Vice President Pence has apparently rejected as a viable option), there have been talks of President Trump's resignation (which reports have characterized as an option that President Trump simply will not entertain), and there have been plans put in place for Democrats in the House of Representatives to proceed with one article of impeachment--incitement of insurrection. Nonetheless, the longer term consequences of the week's events remain to be seen.

Covid-19 Continues Its Global Rampage

With vaccinating underway at a pace that many have found to be stunningly slow--and wasteful, given that some vaccines are being discarded as there are insufficient numbers of people in the categories being permitted to receive the vaccines--the numbers in the United States and around the world continue to break records. President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to accelerate the rate of vaccination in the country upon taking office on January 20th. There remain significant concerns: some industries, such as television and movie production, are struggling to continue at their current rate given the concern of spreading the virus. Meanwhile, there remain concerns about mutations of the virus: one mutation that was found in the United Kingdom is known to be more easily spread, but likely to be equally deadly. A stimulus package is looking likely under the Biden administration and the newly-Democrat-controlled Congress, but the precise contours of that package remain unclear a week and a half before Biden is set to be sworn in.

Justice Department Seeks to Pare Back Civil Rights Protections for Minorities

The Department of Justice "has submitted for White House approval a change to how it enforces Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits recipients of federal funding from discriminating based on race, color, or national origin" and "covers housing programs, employers, schools, hospitals, and other organizations and programs." The move is the latest by the Trump administration "to undo some civil rights protections for minority groups."

As Understanding of Russian Hacking Grows, So Does Alarm

American officials in the intelligence community have named Russia as the "likely" source for the "broad hacking of the United States government and private companies", which is a "clear rebuke of President Trump's efforts, in posts on Twitter, to suggest that China was behind the hacking." The statement released by 4 government agencies "is as definitive a blaming of Russia as the United States has yet made, and echoed the early statements in 2016 about the Kremlin's interference in that year's election."

Trump Administration, in Parting Gift to Industry, Reverses Bird Protections

The Trump administration has created a rule change that "means companies will not be punished for killing migratory birds", which analysts see as a "parting gift" to the oil and gas industries that have "long sought to be shielded from liability for killing birds unintentionally in oil spills, toxic waste ponds, and other environmental disasters." In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized a regulation that "effectively bars some scientific studies from consideration when the agency is drafting public health rules."

U.S. Disaster Costs Doubled in 2020, Reflecting Costs of Climate Change

In 2020, disasters across the U.S. "caused $95 billion in damage", which is "almost double the amount in 2019 and the third-highest losses since 2010." The figures "are the latest signal of the growing cost of climate change" and can be attributed to disasters, including the record number of storms in the Atlantic Ocean last year and the largest wildfires in California ever recorded.

Sale of Drilling Leases in Arctic Refuge Fails to Yield a Windfall

The Trump administration has sought to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge "to fossil fuel development," but after opening up the refuge to bids, "only half of the oil and gas leases offered for sale Wednesday received bids, and all but two of those came from the state of Alaska itself." Although the move to sell oil and gas leases was expected to "bring in close to a billion dollars for the federal Treasury, in all the sale netted less than $15 million, with half of that going to the state."

Jacob Blake Shooting: No Charges Against Officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin

In Kenosha, Wisconsin, the top prosecutor has "declined to bring charges against the police officer who shot and gravely wounded Jacob Blake outside an apartment building in August, an episode that sparked protests and rioting and made the city an instant flash point in a summer of unrest that began with the killing of George Floyd." The announcement came after investigators "reviewed 40 hours of video and hundreds of pages of police reports."

Deutsche Bank Will Pay $125 Million Over Bribery Violations

Deutsche Bank "will enter a deferred prosecution agreement to resolve charges stemming from its attempts to win business in several countries." Authorities in the U.S. said payments issued to consultants in places like "Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Italy, and China" were not the "referral fees" the bank said, but "were actually bribes to politically connected fixers that gave the scandal-marred German bank access to foreign officials."

China Moves to Punish Lawyers Hired to Help Hong Kong Activists

Two lawyers, Lu Siwei and Ren Quanniu, "were barred from aiding a group of pro-democracy protesters who were arrested at sea, but could still lose their licenses." The move by Chinese legal authorities is the latest in suppressing Hong Kong's pro-democracy opposition, and the "case has highlighted fears of the Communist Party-controlled legal system on the mainland and the risks it poses to the city's tradition of an independent judiciary."

China's New Rules Could Hit U.S. Firms and Send a Message to Biden

China's Ministry of Commerce has issued an order empowering "Beijing to tell companies to ignore US restrictions and allows them to sue other businesses if they comply." The move is retribution for the Trump administration's "new rules that would punish global companies for complying with Washington's tightening restrictions on doing business with Chinese companies."

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