Week In Review
By Travis Marmara Edited by Elissa D. Hecker
Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into: Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Technology/Media, and General News:
Morgan Wallen Holds No. 1 Slot Again Following Use of Racial Slur
Earlier this month, Morgan Wallen was shown on camera casually yelling an anti-Black slur after a night of drinking with friends. While the country artist has since apologized and donated proceeds to the NAACP, sales have subsequently increased in the wake of this controversy.
Second City Is Sold to Private Equity Group
Second City, the famous comedy theater company, which opened in 1959 and helped launch the careers of Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, and Keegan Michael-Key, was sold to a private equity group, ZMC. The sale price, though not formally disclosed, is rumored to be roughly $50 million. The sale marks the first change in ownership since the 1980's and comes amidst the coronavirus pandemic, which has limited shows, tours, and other in-person events. The new owner is committed to continuing to make Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion restructuring changes.
In Canada, Did a Comedian's Joke Go Too Far?
In Canada, the highest court is addressing the question of whether a comedian has the constitutional right to offend another person in a case that pits harmful speech against the freedom of expression. The case stems from a comedy routine by Mike Ward, who joked about Jérémy Gabriel, a well-known disabled teenage singer, calling him "ugly" and his singing off-key, while also making fun of his hearing aid. Defenders of Ward say his speech is protected under the Constitution and ruling otherwise would have a chilling effect on expression. Advocates for Gabriel state, however, that "bullying a disabled teenager is discriminatory and violates the right to dignity, which is protected under Quebec law."
Guggenheim Museum Reaches Agreement With New Union
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum has agreed to a collective bargaining agreement with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 30, which covers the museums facilities, maintenance, and art handling staffs. The three-year agreement provides for nearly a 10% increase in salary over that span of time, wherein the employees will provide contributions to health insurance premiums. The agreement concludes negotiations that began in 2019.
Indianapolis Museum of Art Apologizes for Insensitive Job Posting
The Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields recently posted a position for a director who would work not only to "attract a more diverse audience but to maintain its 'traditional, core, white art audience.'" The museum has since adjusted the posting an apologized for the incident. This comes amongst the backdrop of previous artists of color who have expressed disappointment with the museum's lack of support for nonwhite artists. In the wake of the controversy, Charles Venable, head of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, has since resigned. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/13/arts/design/indianapolis-museum-job-posting.html?searchResultPosition=1
Chicago Lists Lincoln Statues Among Monuments to Review
In response to last summer's protests, the city of Chicago has created a committee in an effort to reexamine statues and monuments in the community. The committee said that it had reviewed "500 monumental sculptures, commemorative plaques and other pieces of public art in the city, almost all of which were created between 1893 and the 1930s." Among those pieces, 41 were chosen for "public discussion," the committee said, for reasons that included '"promoting narratives of white supremacy"'; the presentation of '"inaccurate or demeaning characterizations of American Indians"'; and memorializing historical figures with connections to racist acts, slavery and genocide." Some prominent historical figures whose public pieces are being reviewed include "Ulysses S. Grant, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and several monuments to Indigenous people."
French Mayor Opens Museums, Defying Coronavirus Orders
Amidst the curfews, lockdown orders, and rising coronavirus cases in France, the southern French town of Perpignan has since defied government orders and opened the city's four museums to the public. Louis Aliot, Perpignan's mayor, "is a member of National Rally, the far-right political party associated more with a hard line on immigration than with support for the arts," and became an unlikely champion of the arts as a result.
Accusations of Sexual Harassment Rock Greek Arts World
Nearly a month after the first high-profile accusation of abuse and sexual assault by Sofia Bekatorou, a prolific Greek sailor and 2004 Olympic champion, many public figures in the Greek arts scene have also come under scrutiny for actions taken against their victims in decades past. Greece is notoriously seen as one of the most conservative countries, where cases of sexual abuse and assault are rarely prosecuted, or even discussed. Such cases, however, remain prevelent. For example, "studies suggest, up to nine in 10 women face unwelcome advances in media, sports, politics and other male-dominated sectors." Consequently, Greece's culture ministry said it was "overseeing an initiative to create a code of conduct for state-owned cultural institutions."
Former Chief Operating Officer of Global Premier Soccer Charged in Visa Fraud Scheme
Justin Capell, the former Chief Operating Officer of Global Premier Soccer (GPS), a former youth soccer organization, was charged for visa fraud conspiracy. Among the charges includes "fil[ing] fraudulent visa petitions on behalf of at least seven professional soccer teams in order to secure visas for GPS's foreign coaching staff." The co-conspirators face up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000.
The Mets Quietly Fired a Second Employee for Sexual Harassment
Ryan Ellis, a minor league hitting coordinator who was elevated to the New York Mets this year, was fired over allegations of sexual assault. The case marks the third instance of sexual assault of current and former employees this year. Subsequent to the firing of Jared Porter, who was hired in January of this year to be the team's general manager and fired quickly thereafter for sending over 60 text messages with unwanted advances, it was revealed that Mickey Callaway, the former manager of the Mets, is under investigation for harassment of female reporters when he was a member of the Cleveland Indians and New York Mets. Complaints to Human Resources prompted an initial investigation of Ellis, where he was placed on probation and sent to counseling, but remained with the team. In the wake of the Porter and Callaway cases, a second investigation was opened that revealed new information, leading the team to fire Ellis.
Vincent Jackson's Brain Will Be Donated to CTE Study
Vincent Jackson, a former all-Pro wide receiver for the San Diego Chargers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was found dead in a Florida hotel room, where he had been living since January 11th. Respected for his community service efforts, Jackson was nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award four years in a row with the Buccaneers, an award that recognizes a player's off-the-field engagement with the local community. While the circumstances surrounding his death have yet to be determined, his family will be donating his brain to Boston University. The school has the largest repository of brains dedicated to the study of chromic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease linked to repeated hits to the head that has plagued National Football League and other athletes.
After Leader's Sexist Remark, Tokyo Olympics Makes Symbolic Shift
Yoshiro Mori, a former Prime Minister of Japan, recently resigned as leader of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee after stating that "women talked too much in meetings." After public pressure, the committee selected Seiko Hashimoto, a former Olympic medalist in speed skating nearly 30 years Mori's junior. Prior to selecting Hashimoto, Mori originally selected his successor, Saburo Kawabuchi, an 84-year old male and former leader of Japanese soccer. Hashimoto's appointment marks a welcome change for Japan, which "ranks 121st out of 153 countries in the World Economic Forum's global gender gap index." Hashimoto has been a strident voice for gender equality, pushing to make "the morning-after birth control pill available as an over-the-counter drug at pharmacies, helping establish one-stop centers for victims of sexual violence and advocating that women be allowed to keep their surnames after marriage."
China Is Preparing for Another Olympics in Beijing, Like It or Not
As host of the 2022 Winter Games in February, Beijing is facing public pressure to address human rights abuses. Some countries have contemplated boycotting the Olympics in the city due to the country's rights abuses, which include stripping Hong Kong of its promised democratic freedoms and the mass incarceration of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. Beijing was put in a similar position in 2008 when it hosted the summer games and capitulated to public demands, promising to make changes to better address democratic inadequacies. However, much has changed since 2008. For example, "Xi Jinping, is far more confident, neither inclined nor compelled to compromise. And China itself is no longer an emerging capitalistic power but the world's second-largest economy." In response, China is promising to retaliate if countries decide to boycott.
International Court Accuses Two Central African Militia Leaders of Attacks on Muslims
Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona, a former a senior official at the Confederation of African Football, and Alfred Yékatom, a former legislator, recently faced charges in the International Criminal Court for playing a part in a civil war that has racked the Central African Republic. The civil war, which started in 2013 and is still ongoing, has pitted Christian militias, to which the accused hold associations, also known as the "anti-balaka," against the Muslim minority. The two men faces charges of "murder, torture, persecution, cruel treatment, mutilation, and recruiting child soldiers."
Big Tech's Next Big Problem Could Come From People Like 'Mr. Sweepy'
Already facing more than 10 competition lawsuits by federal and state governments, Google and Facebook are now defending against a growing type of case: private antitrust lawsuits by publishers, advertisers, and users who claim that Google and Facebook's dominance in the advertising space has forced them to agree to their arbitrary rules and procedures. Such suits have the benefit of using evidence garnered in government investigations for use in private suits, which normally can only be obtained by filing a lawsuit. If successful, "private lawsuits could be costly for Facebook and Google. The companies work with millions of advertisers and publishers every year, and Google hosts apps from scores of developers, meaning there are many potential litigants."
TikTok Stars and Social Media Creators Can Now Join Hollywood's Top Union "The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists has approved an 'influencer agreement' that expands coverage and membership options to online content creators." The agreement marks the latest bellwether of where the industry is going and who it sees on the rise. Casting agents and producers have used social media to scout for new talent. More traditional talent have also gone to these platforms to increase their brand awareness. Creators and the branded content they create are also seen as a new revenue steam for the entertainment industry. For example, "brands are poised to spend up to $15 billion on influencer marketing by 2022, up from $8 billion in 2019." In turn, the guild, which represents about 160,000 professionals in film, television and radio. has provided legitimization to an industry that many had brushed aside, providing essential services, like healthcare and pension plans to these workers.
Parler, a Social Network That Attracted Trump Fans, Returns Online
Removed by web-hosting services as a result of helping to incite violence that led to the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6th, Parler, a hub for right-wing conversation, has worked behind the scenes to get back online. Through the aid of a small provider near Los Angeles called SkySilk and other companies with ties to Russia and neo-Nazism, the site similar to Twitter for conservative voices is functioning once again, despite its connections to the insurrection.
Obscure Musicology Journal Sparks Battles Over Race and Free Speech
In the fall of 2019, Philip Ewell, a black music theory professor at Hunter College gave a rousing speech at the Society for Music Theory in Columbus, Ohio, ascribing music theory as a profession dominated by white males and plagued by racism. As an example, Professor Ewell cited the often studied music theorist, Heinrich Schenker, who is described as a "virulent racist" who wrote of "primitive" and "inferior" races as being propped up in the profession. Meanwhile, at the University of North Texas, Professor Timothy Jackson, a white music theorist, who has devoted himself to the study of Schenker and oversaw the Journal of Schenkerian Studies, took offense, citing Schenker as being Jewish in prewar Germany and whose work was destroyed by the Nazis. Beyond a disagreement about Schenker, Professor Jackson started making racist remarks against Black musicians. Later on, the Journal of Schenkerian Studies published "anti-Black statements and personal ad hominem attacks." The University of North Texas has since concluded an investigation, which found that Professor Jackson failed to "hew to best practices" and had "too much power over the journal's graduate student editor." He was subsequently barred from the magazine, and money for the Schenker Center was suspended. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/14/arts/musicology-journal-race-free-speech.html?searchResultPosition=1
As Fox News Struggles at Home, Murdoch Brings Its Playbook to the U.K.
Rupert Murdoch is leading a group of investors to create a right-wing news service meant to challenge left-of-center leaning BBC. The decision comes in the wake of the January 6th riot at the Capitol, where constant misinformation of election fraud and corrupt voting machines helped fuel the insurrection. Murdoch's venture, known as UK TV, is seeking to exploit what it sees as a gap in news media for "edgy commentary and personality-driven programs" in the U.K. market. This, however, is not Murdoch's first foray into the British media space. In 2017, the broadcasting regulator censured Fox News "for violating impartiality standards: Sean Hannity's coverage of Mr. Trump's ban on people from majority-Muslim countries and Tucker Carlson's coverage of a terrorist attack in Manchester." Instead of a traditional format, UK TV will function as a streaming service, tapping into the ever-growing market.
Facebook Blocks News in Australia, Diverging With Google on Proposed Law
Under a proposed law from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, "both Google and Facebook would be required to negotiate with media publishers and compensate them for the content that appears on their sites." While the two companies initially were in lockstep in trying to prevent the legislation, they have since taken different approaches. Google entered into a "three-year global agreement with Rupert Murdoch's News Corp to pay for the publisher's news content, one of several such deals it has announced recently where it appears to be effectively capitulating to publishers' demands." Facebook--which does not see itself as a news platform, but rather a community of users who share pictures, political views, and sometimes news articles--dug in further, and said that it would "restrict people and publishers from sharing or viewing news links in Australia." In the wake of Facebook's decision, however, many vital points of information, such as pages for the state health departments, emergency services, and the Bureau of Meteorology were removed, while conspiracy pages for aliens, vaccines, and 5G remained.
Five Reader Comments Just Cost a News Website $124,000
An appeals court in Malaysia found Malaysiakini, an independent Malaysian newspaper, guilty of contempt of court and ordered it to pay a fine of nearly $124,000 for five comments left by readers on a story criticizing the country's judiciary. The comments were removed later, but not in time to avoid prosecutions. The court reasoned that "Malaysiakini should have vetted the comments and refrained from posting those that constituted contempt of court." Critics of the decision note the chilling effect the decision would have for free speech in a country of 33 million people.
French TV Presenter Investigated Over Rape Accusations
An investigation has been opened regarding sexual assault allegations made against French news anchor Patrick Poivre d'Arvor, a presenter of prime-time evening news for over two decades. The complaints were filed by 37-year-old writer and YouTuber, Florence Porcel, who states that in 2004, when she was 21, "Mr. Poivre d'Arvor invited her to come and watch his news show after she wrote to him. After the show, he took her to his office and sexually assaulted her." In response, Poivre d'Arvor denied the allegations and said he would file two complaints against Porcel for making false accusations and defamation.
Hong Kong's Move to Overhaul Broadcaster Fans Fears of Media Crackdown
The Hong Kong Government issued a report stating that Radio Television Hong Kong, a news outlet that is frequently critical of the government, lacked transparency and objectivity and called for greater supervision over the news outlet. Radio Television Hong Kong is publically funded but is operated independently. Pro-democracy advocates say this is the latest attempt by the government to limit freedom of the press in the country.
Indian Court Clears Journalist of Defamation Claim in #MeToo Case
In October 2017, journalist Priya Ramani wrote an article for Vogue India that described "an uncomfortable hotel room encounter with a senior editor during a job interview more than 20 years earlier." By the end of the month, scores of other women also accused the same man in similar encounters. The accused, M.J. Akbar, a former prominent minister and newspaper editor, subsequently resigned and filed a defamation suit against Ramani the day after. After a years-long legal battle, a New Delhi court recently acquitted Ramani of defamation against Akbar, stating that the "right of reputation can't be protected at the cost of right to dignity." The ruling is seen as a victory for the #MeToo movement in a country that only recently codified the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act in 2013, an act that requires employers to set up committees to investigate sexual harassment violations.
Biden Takes Center Stage With Ambitious Agenda as Trump's Trial Ends
Now that the impeachment trial of former President Trump has concluded, President Biden is shifting his full focus on his agenda items, namely the passage of a coronavirus relief package, before transitioning to other policy matters, including "infrastructure, immigration, criminal justice reform, climate change and health care." While Biden has already instituted a variety of executive orders addressing these policy agendas, he faces razor thin majorities in Congress in trying to pass meaningful legislation. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/14/us/politics/biden-agenda-impeachment-trump.html?searchResultPosition=1
Merrick Garland Faces Resurgent Peril After Years Fighting Extremism
Senate hearings will begin today to confirm Merrick Garland for the position of Attorney General. Garland is most recently known for being nominated to the Supreme Court in 2016, which was ultimately thwarted when then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell held up the nomination for eight months prior to the election, stating that the next president should decide who should be appointed. If confirmed, Judge Garland will oversee a sprawling and complex Department of Justice investigation into the riot at the Capitol, which, to date, has led to 230 arrests and investigations of 500 people. One past experience that may help guide the Department of Justice case that addresses extremism and domestic terrorism is his prior role in the Justice Department, where he oversaw the case against notorious domestic terrorist Timothy J. McVeigh, who detonated a bomb in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which killed 168 people, including 19 children.
The White House Is Taking Women's Issues Seriously. Really.
The Biden administration will be creating a Gender Policy Council that will have representation across different agencies and will work on "all of the issues that touch American lives, most notably women's lives, such as national security, health care and economics." Julissa Reynoso, who previously served as ambassador to Uruguay, and Jennifer Klein, a former senior adviser to then-first lady, Hillary Clinton, will serve as co-chairs of the council and will be in charge of "ensuring that gender equity underscores the work of all branches of government."
NAACP Sues Trump and Giuliani Over Election Fight and January 6th Riot
The NAACP filed a federal lawsuit against Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, on behalf of Mississippi Representative, Bennie Thompson, claiming that they violated the Ku Klux Klan Act, legislation from 1871 that "includes protections against violent conspiracies that interfere with Congress's constitutional duties." The suit asserts that Trump, Giuliani, and far-right extremist groups, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, conspired to "incite a violent riot at the Capitol, with the goal of preventing Congress from certifying the election." The actions of the mob led lawmakers like Thompson and other black legislative aides, who make up only 5% of staffers, to fear for their lives, as they represent some of the most vocal critics of the Trump movement. These sentiments were reaffirmed after court documents "detailed plans by individuals in the pro-Trump mob to kill specific members of Congress."
More Oath Keeper Suspects Charged in Capitol Riot Plot
The Justice Department charged six suspected members of the Oath Keepers, a radical right-wing militia group, for their role in organizing the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6th. One of the accused members is Kelly Meggs, the self-described leader of the Oath Keepers' Florida chapter. The indictment states that the six individuals worked with three other Ohio Oath Keepers members, who were charged last month, to break into the Capitol. According to previous court filings, "the Oath Keepers began working to undermine Mr. Biden's win within a week of Election Day in November, setting up training sessions for 'urban warfare' and 'riot control,' and discussing a plot to ferry heavy weapons into Washington on a boat across the Potomac River."
In an accompanying inquiry, the FBI is looking into communications between Roger Stone, a former "fixer" for President Trump, and right-wing militia groups to determine whether he had advanced knowledge of the insurrection at the Capitol. Stone was provided voluntary security by the Oath Keepers in and around the time in question. New evidence also indicates that "in the days leading to and including the day of the assault, Mr. Stone associated with men who eventually stormed the building," which may provide an opportunity to launch a full investigation into Stone.
Promotions for Female Generals Were Delayed Over Fears of Trump's Reaction
In the period between the November election and the inauguration of President Biden, Pentagon officials agreed that General Jacqueline D. Van Ovost of the Air Force and Lieutenant General Laura J. Richardson of the Army should be promoted to four-star commands. What was unusual was that the Pentagon held back their recommendations in hopes that Joe Biden would win the presidency. The fear was that if the candidates were nominated, Trump would replace them before he left office. Instead, the Pentagon took a chance and waited for the incoming administration, which would be more supportive of the female leaders before submitting the picks to the White House. The two leaders now face a much clearer path to confirmation by the Senate.
Biden Tells Allies 'America Is Back,' but Macron and Merkel Push Back
In an address to the Munich Security Conference, President Biden voiced his confidence that the United States was "wiping out the traces of Trumpism in the United States' approach to the world," a message that was well received by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with whom President Biden has close relationships with from his time as Senator and Vice President. President Biden also discussed the importance of strengthening existing NATO relationships, which received pushback from Macron, who believes that NATO decision making should be equally weighted and not dominated by the United States. President Biden also opined on the importance of limiting reliance on the Chinese marketplace, which was met with ambivalence by Merkel, whose country is a major exporter of high-end automobiles and other products to China.
Perseverance's Pictures From Mars Show NASA Rover's New Home
NASA landed its newest rover, Perseverance, on Mars, joining the 2012 rover, Curiosity, on the red planet. Perseverance will build upon Curiosity's findings, which located evidence of past water, an essential for life on other planets, and will be tasked with searching the locations where water once existed for "biosignatures", such as fossils or any other evidence of once-living organisms. Additionally, Perseverance will study the rocks in Jezero Crater to determine whether they are volcanic basalt--which would allow geologists to calculate their ages--or sedimentary--which would give clues as to whether the area was once inhabitable.
House Democrats and White House Split Over Lawsuit for Ex-Trump Aide's Testimony
A sign of intra-party fighting between House Democrats and the executive branch, the two are in conflict over whether Donald F. McGahn, a former White House Counsel to former President Donald Trump, should be compelled to testify as a witness for his role is efforts by Trump to impede the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller II into Russian interference with the 2016 election. The House Judiciary Committee previously subpoenaed McGahn to testify at an oversight hearing, but he refused. The case poses novel legal questions that touch on issues of absolute immunity and its scope when it involves a subpoena to testify during a time period where administrations change hands. Ultimately, the executive branch is reluctant to establish a precedent whereby future Republicans will force testimony about internal matters.
Harry Dunn's Family Can Sue for Damages in U.S., Judge Rules
In 2019, Anna Sacoolas, a State Department employee, struck and killed 19-year-old British motorcyclist, Harry Dunn, after she drove on the wrong side of the road. Dunn's family subsequently filed a civil suit in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, alleging wrongful death. Sacoolas asserted diplomatic immunity and argued that Britain would be the more convenient forum, but has refused to return back to England to face criminal prosecution. The refusal led to a standoff where the British and the Dunns argued that there was a denial of justice as a result of the United States failing to extradite Sacoolas. The Virginia court, however, noted Sacoolas's inconsistencies in her argument, and allowed the family to proceed with litigation in the United States.
Erik Prince, Trump Ally, Violated Libya Arms Embargo, United Nations Report Says
According to a report by United Nations (UN) investigators, Erik Prince, the former head of the security contractor Blackwater Worldwide, prominent supporter and financial donor to Trump, and brother to former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, violated a UN arms embargo on Libya when, in 2019, he sent weapons to militia commander, Khalifa Hifter, who was attempting to overthrow the internationally backed government. The report also states that, "as part of the operation, which the report said cost $80 million, the mercenaries also planned to form a hit squad that could track down and kill selected Libyan commanders." Possible repercussions for Prince could consist of "U.N. sanctions, including a travel ban and a freeze on his bank accounts and other assets."
Texas Storms, California Heat Waves and 'Vulnerable' Utilities
The states of California and Texas have taken radically different approaches for governing energy needs of its citizens. Yet California, which opted for environmental regulations that call for energy companies to produce excess for reserve in times of emergency, and Texas, which favored deregulation and market-driven forces to control supply and demand, are both currently off the energy grid, where extreme heat in California and frigid temperatures in Texas have caused blackouts. The situations in the two states encapsulate how extreme fluctuations in temperature and natural disasters rooted in climate change can affect everyone. Many have argued that public utilities have long needed an overhaul for systems that do not function in extreme temperatures, and that climate change has exposed and exacerbated existing issues of electric grids, which operate regionally and not nationally.
Beyond the immediate effects of climate change being experienced by residents in these states, the Federal Reserve has also opined on the long-term effects of climate change and the issues they present from a financial perspective. It noted that "banks and other lenders need to prepare themselves for the realities of a world racked by climate change, and regulators must play a key role in ensuring that they do." Preparation to avoid devaluation of climate-sensitive assets is seen as key to prevent outsized losses and disruptions in the larger economy. Such disruptions "pose risks to insurers, can disrupt the payment system and make otherwise reasonable financial bets dicey," leading to a destabilized financial market.
Pennsylvania G.O.P.'s Push for More Power Over Judiciary Raises Alarms
Conservative legislators in the state of Pennsylvania are proposing to replace the current system of statewide elections for judges with judicial districts drawn by the legislature. The proposed legislation, which already passed the State House, would be an amendment to the state's constitution and would allow a partisan legislature to redraw districts every 10 years. Opponents say that the proposition is simply a form of gerrymandering extended to the courts, meant to disenfranchise People of Color. Proponents say that similar legislation already exists in other states, including Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Illinois.
Three Detectives Obtained a False Murder Confession. Was It One of Dozens?
The Bronx District Attorney's Office opened an inquiry addressing whether tactics used by three detectives had tainted guilty verdicts in 31 homicide cases that relied on confessions. The examination comes after the emergence of hundreds of cases across the country in which people were sent to prison only to be exonerated later through the use of DNA or the discovery of new evidence. The National Registry of Exonerations found that "official misconduct played a role in the criminal convictions of more than half of 2,400 Americans who were exonerated between 1989 and 2019. For Black men wrongly convicted of murder, the proportion was 78 percent."
Heating Up Culture Wars, France to Scour Universities for Ideas That 'Corrupt Society'
The French government announced that The National Center for Scientific Research, the state organization that the minister ordered to oversee the investigation, would launch an inquiry into academic research that it says feeds "Islamo-leftist" tendencies that "corrupt society.'' "Islamo-leftism,'' a term adopted by leaders of the President Emmanuel Macron administration, blames "left-leaning intellectuals of justifying Islamism and even terrorism." Among the most outspoken critics have been university presidents and scholars, who are concerned that such an investigation will stifle academic freedom and discussions of "race, gender, post-colonial studies and other fields that the French government says have been imported from American universities and contribute to undermining French society."
A Ripple Effect of Loss: U.S. Covid Deaths Approach 500,000
Approximately one year has passed since the first known death due to coronavirus. In that timespan, 500,000 Americans have died from the disease, which accounts for more deaths than "the battlefields of World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War combined." Despite the grim news and concern over new variants of the disease, many believe that the country has turned the corner. Reports indicate that new cases are down significantly, the number of deaths is slowing, and vaccines are being administered at a consistent pace. Nonetheless, the number of deaths is staggering and has affected all swaths of the population. Recent figures show that "one in 670 Americans has died" of coronavirus. "In New York City, more than 28,000 people have died of the virus -- or one in 295 people. In Los Angeles County, which has lost nearly 20,000 people to Covid-19, about one in 500 people has died of the virus. In Lamb County, Texas, where 13,000 people live scattered on a sprawling expanse of 1,000 square miles, one in 163 people has died of the virus."
2.5 Million Women Left the Work Force During the Pandemic. Harris Sees a 'National Emergency.'
According to data issued by the Labor Department, the pandemic has affected women more than men. Since the beginning of the pandemic nearly one year ago, 1.8 million men have left the work force. In comparison, 2.5 million women have left the workforce, an issue Vice President Kamala Harris calls a "national emergency" that should be covered by the coronavirus stimulus package. Further, Vice President Harris said "the pandemic has put decades of the progress we have collectively made for women workers at risk." Citing the demands of child care, along with furloughs and layoffs pushing many women out, the Biden administration has proposed in the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan "$3,000 in tax credits issued to families for each child, a $40 billion investment in child care assistance and an extension of unemployment benefits."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Announces $200 Million 'Down Payment' to Track Virus Variants
The Biden administration recently directed nearly $200 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to better identify the emerging variants of Coronavirus. The aim is to use the money to increase the number of positive virus samples that a lab can sequence, with the ultimate goal of sequencing 25,000 genomes per week. The news comes amidst the backdrop of new British and South African strains of the virus coming to the United States.
People Who Have Had Covid Should Get Single Vaccine Dose, Studies Suggest
New research shows even those who contracted coronavirus should get the vaccine, which works to amplify the effectiveness of the antibodies present in those who survived. This is especially important for those who only experienced mild symptoms or no symptoms and whose experience produced few antibodies. A separate study by New York University confirmed these results, finding that "most people [who] had been infected with the coronavirus eight or nine months earlier . . . saw their antibodies increase by a hundredfold to a thousandfold when given the first dose of a vaccine."
Cuomo Faces Revolt as Legislators Move to Strip Him of Pandemic Powers
Governor Andrew Cuomo recently admitted to intentionally withholding vital information detailing deaths in nursing homes to the state legislature. In response, Democratic state senators will vote on a bill to strip Governor Cuomo of his unilateral emergency power. The action comes after the FBI and U.S. Attorney General's Office for the Eastern District of New York announced that they will be investigating the Cuomo administration for its handling of nursing homes during the pandemic. The decision to remove emergency powers was contemplated earlier this year but has gained momentum recently in the wake of these controversies. The news also acts to support the legislature's goal of returning to co-equal branches in making decisions related to the pandemic. Ultimately, the bill intends to "limit the governor's ability to supersede state laws to combat the pandemic and would establish a 10-person commission, made up of members of the Assembly and Senate, to evaluate any future pandemic-related directives by Mr. Cuomo, as well as suspensions of laws."