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Week In Review

By Angela Peco Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

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

Entertainment Settlement Reached in Suit Accusing James Franco of Sexual Misconduct Two former students have dropped their claims against Franco but terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Franco denied allegations that students had been subjected to sexually exploitative auditions and film shoots at the acting and film school that he founded.

Bruce Springsteen's DWI, Reckless Driving Charges Dismissed Springsteen pleaded guilty to drinking in an area where it was barred and was fined $450 but the driving charges were dismissed because his blood alcohol level was 0.02 percent, well below New Jersey's 0.08 percent legal limit.

Golden Globes Faces Lawsuit and Questions About Voting The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is under scrutiny for both its finances and the lack diversity of its 87 members, who are often courted by studios, production companies and publicists. The Association is also facing a lawsuit brought by a Norwegian reporter who claims that the organization denied her entry and "acted as a monopoly, hogging prized interviews even though relatively few of its members actively worked as journalists." The Association was created in the 1940s after foreign correspondents "banded together to gain access to movie stars."

Netflix Productions Are More Diverse Than Studio Films A study commissioned by Netflix analyzed 126 movies and 180 series released during 2018 and 2019 and looked at around 20 indicators to conclude that Netflix programming is more diverse than studio films. Among its most significant findings is that 36% of all Netflix leads "came from underrepresented groups, compared with 28 percent in the top 100 grossing theatrical films."

New York's Pop-Up Concerns Kick Off with Jazz at a Vaccination Site A series of shows are underway all over New York for a series called "NY PopsUp". The program is intended to revive arts in the city, with the audience usually being health care workers and individuals receiving vaccines at locations like the Javits Center.

Rapper's Arrest Awakens Rage in Spanish Youth Barcelona is experiencing its second week of protests led by young people who oppose the arrest of rapper Pablo Hasel. The Spanish rapper faces a 9-month jail sentence "on charges that he had glorified terrorism and denigrated the monarchy."

Arts Staggering Job Losses in the 'Creative Economy' in California and New York An Otis College report found that California's "total job loss in the 'creative economy workforce' reached about 13 percent statewide and 24 percent in Los Angeles County." The losses, which came between February and December 2020, underscored that an economic recovery in California has to be driven by employment gains in the arts sector. A related report found ythat the pandemic led to a plunge in arts jobs in New York City, with arts and recreation employment down 66%.

Dubay v King The 11th Circuit affirmed a grant of summary judgment for the defendants in this copyright infringement case that alleged that Stephen King's "Dark Tower" series of books infringed plaintiff's comic book series "The Rook". The court found that there was no substantial similarity and that King's protagonist was "far more complex" than the hero in the comic book series.

The Dispossession of Andre Leon Talley The article discusses attempts to evict the fashion icon from his White Plains home, where he has lived since 2004. Talley has filed a counterclaim, saying he believed that his close to $1 million in "rent" payments over the years were "an equity investment intended to result in his ownership of the house." The house was originally purchased by the former head of Manolo Blahnik USA and his partner for $1 million on the understanding that Talley would live in it and make payments every month. The article raises issues about the wavy lines in fashion with regard to relationships and compensation.

Donor's Ties to Epstein Criticized at MoMa and Dartmouth More than 150 artists are taking the position that Leon Black should step down as the chair of the Museum of Modern Art amid news that he paid $158 million to Jeffrey Epstein and had a close professional association with the convicted sex offender.

Lincoln Center is Taking it Outdoors Lincoln Center plans to create 10 outdoor performance and rehearsal spaces so it can move small-scale performances outside. The initiative is called "Restart Stages" and will begin with an April 7th concert.

A Mural at Risk is Remade David Adjaye has remade a mural that appeared on the front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Labor Center in New York City. The union has since moved to a new building and Adjaye managed a "rescue" of the original by reproducing sections of it at the new headquarters.

Tech Advances Fuel a Boom in Digital Art The article discusses a fast-growing market for "digital art, ephemera and media called NFTs, or 'nonfungible tokens'" that amounted to $250 million worth of sales.

Way Off Broadway, a Preview of Its Recovery Australia is now a prime example of how theatrical and musical performances can slowly return with the use temperature-taking robots, scanning codes for contact tracing, and generous refund policies.

Dutch Officials Urge New Look at Claim on Kandinsky Painting After the country's Restitutions Commissions found that an Amsterdam museum could hold on to Kandinsky's work "Painting With Houses", the city's mayor recommended that the restitution panel reconsider the case of the painting. The heirs have argued that the work was sold under duress by its Jewish owners after the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands. It has been in the Stedelijk Museum's collection since 1940.

Sports Coach John Geddert Found Dead After Abuse Charges Former USA Gymnastics coach John Geddert died by suicide in Michigan after being charged with human trafficking and sex crimes spanning eight years. He was charged with 24 felonies in connection with the abuse of young gymnasts and was expected to turn himself in this week.

National Basketball Association Investigating Racial Slur The National Basketball Association (NBA) has launched an inquiry after player Jeremy Lin, who is Taiwanese-American, posted a message on his Facebook page about the racism that Asian Americans face, revealing he was himself called "coronavirus" on the court.

Los Angeles Sheriff Characterizes Tiger Woods Crash as an Accident The sheriff appeared to rule out any potential criminal charges and says there was no evidence of impairment in the single-car crash that injured Tiger Woods this week.

WNBA Team Co-owned by Kelly Loeffler is Sold The Atlanta Dream, whose players revolted against the co-owner and supported Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock in the January run-off elections, was sold to an ownership group led by two real state executives and former WNBA star Renee Montgomery.

Kevin Mather Resigns as Mariners President Mariners's president Kevin Mather "inflamed tension between the players' union and teams" in a speech that preceded his resignation. Mather publicly confirmed some of the union's major grievances with owners and "hinted at the kind of groupthink among owners" that has severed trust with the players' union.

Media/Technology Federal Communications Commission Approves a $50 Monthly High-Speed Internet Subsidy The funding is aimed at low-income households "to bridge the access gap to broadband connectivity amid the pandemic" and support distance learning, work, and digital health care. A one-time $100 discount will also be available for computer or tablet purchases.

Court Ruling Clears the Way for California to Enact Net Neutrality Law In denying a motion for preliminary injunction brought by a group of telecommunications providers, the federal judge ruled that California can enforce the net neutrality law it enacted in response to a Trump-era decision to roll back federal net neutrality regulation. While the Biden administration is expected to support the reinstatement of federal net neutrality rules, the effect of the ruling means that California can now require all internet content to be accessible to consumers without internet service providers blocking or degrading content.

Questioning a Publishing Megamerger The article discusses the merger of Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster and its anticipated impact on many parts of the industry. It also raises the issue of federal regulators running into difficulty when assessing how big the two companies would be if combined, given that publishing is a fragmented business with a lot of players and it is hard "to get an accurate read on how dominant one player is."

House Democrats Press Cable Providers on Election Fraud Claims In advance of a hearing on disinformation in the media, members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee are asking cable, satellite, and over-the-top companies to explain their role in "the spread of dangerous misinformation." The article notes that "Congress can raise the issue of whether cable providers bear responsibility for the programs they deliver to millions of Americans, but it may have no way to force them to drop networks that had spread misinformation."

Slate Suspends Podcast Host Mike Pesca After Debate Over Racial Slur Mike Pesca said he was suspended after defending the use of a racist slur in some contexts. He had made the comments during a conversation with other Slate staff members.

MyPillow CEO Sued Over Election Fraud Claims Dominion Voting Systems has sued Mike Lindell, alleging that he exploited false claims about election fraud involving its voting machines to support his company's sales, including through the use of a "defamatory marketing campaign" that released promo codes like "FightforTrump" and "QAnon."

Facebook Strikes Deal to Restore News Sharing in Australia An Australian law that would require social media sites like Facebook to pay for news content that appears on their sites prompted the company to block its users from sharing links to news articles. That practice has now been restored after the company was granted some minor concessions and more time to negotiate deals with publishers so it would not be forced to make payments defined by media companies.

U.S. Report Holds Saudi Prince Responsible for Journalist's Death A U.S. intelligence report found that the Saudi Crown Prince approved the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. The Biden administration announced travel and financial sanctions on Saudi nationals involved in the killing but took no direct action against Prince Mohammed. According to a New York Times report, the elite unit that is said to be behind Kashoggi's death has carried out dozens of operations, including forcible repatriating Saudis.

Spreadsheet on Censorship Shows China's Human Toll A spreadsheet circulating online and maintained by an anonymous person tracks China's crackdown on speech, including how many people are detained or arrested for blaspheming "heroes and martyrs". There are nearly 2,000 entries of people sanctioned for their speech.

Myanmar's Military Plans a Digital Wall A draft cybersecurity law was distributed to telecoms and internet providers following the military coup in Myanmar, outlining new rules that would give the military powers to block websites and cut off access to "problematic" users. The law follows a recent push to build out surveillance capabilities that bear similarities to China's policies. The military has already cut access to the internet and major social media sites.

Facebook Bars Myanmar Military After Coup Facebook announced it had barred the country's military from its platforms, including by removing its official page and taking down a state TV network page. Facebook took action after years of being heavily criticized for allowing the military to incite hatred against the country's minority groups.

Bangladeshi Writer Detained Over Social Media Posts Dies in Jail Mushtaq Ahmed was detained under the 2018 Digital Security Act for social media posts that were critical of Prime Minister Hasina's response to the pandemic.

General News Supreme Court Denies Trump's Bid to Conceal Tax Returns The Court issued a brief, unsigned order declining to intervene after an appellate court rejected Trump's argument that an earlier subpoena was issued in bad faith, was overly broad and may have been politically motivated. Trump's accountants, Mazars USA, have now complied with the grand jury subpoena issued in 2019 and turned over 8 years of tax records and related documents to the Manhattan district attorney's office.

Supreme Court Declines to Hear Pennsylvania Election Case on Mailed Ballots The Supreme Court announced that it would not hear an appeal from Pennsylvania Republicans seeking to disqualify mail-in ballots that arrived after Election Day. While acknowledging that the number of ballots at issue would not have affected the outcome of the election, 3 dissenting judges said the Court should have used the case to provide guidance for future elections, and specifically on the power of state courts to revise election laws.

Supreme Court to Hear Cases on Abortion Referrals and Immigration The Court has taken up 2 cases involving Trump administration initiatives. The first will address limits on a federal health program in an effort to restrict access to abortions. The program, Title X, helps women of limited means access "birth control, preventative health screenings for breast and cervical cancers, and treatment for sexually transmitted infections." At issue is the wording of a 1970 law that bars federal grants from being "used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning," which the Trump administration relied on to prevent clinics receiving federal money from referring patients for abortions at other clinics. The second case involves the "public charge rule" and a Trump administration policy that would deny green cards to immigrants who considered "likely to make occasional use of public benefits," including noncash benefits for housing or food.

A Spike in Partisanship on Federal Appeals Courts Partisan alignment used to be rare when full appeals courts considered decisions. The nature of en banc review changed in the Trump era, given the high number of conservative appointments to federal courts. The results were based on a study that examined 950 en banc cases over 54 years, with 35% of en banc decisions in 2018-2020 involving "either a partisan reversal or partisan split."

Democrats Are Already Maneuvering to Shape Biden's First Supreme Court Pick Party leaders are urging consideration of candidates who don't come from a traditional Ivy League background, in addition to lobbying for racial diversity on the bench.

Biden Revokes Trump's Pause on Green Cards Biden is reversing Trump's decision to "suspend immigration" and block new green cards, which was a policy put in place in April of 2020 to "put unemployed Americans first in line for jobs" during the pandemic. The proclamation says the former policy did not advance the interests of the U.S. and prevented family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents from joining their families.

Stolen-Election Myth Fuels G.O.P. Push to Change Voting Laws Republican legislators are expected to push for big changes to election laws in the follow-up to the 2020 election. These measures will include increased barriers to voting by mail, "clamping down on citizen-led ballot initiatives and outlawing private donations that provide resources for administering elections."

Democrats' Plan for $15 Minimum Wage in Peril A ruling by the top Senate parliamentarian all but eliminated the prospect of a gradual rise to the minimum wage. The decision disqualified minimum wage from the stimulus plan as it "violated the strict budgetary rules that limit what can be included in the [$1.9 trillion stimulus] package."

Retracing the Russian Cyberattack and Debating Retaliation Corporate executives told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the scope and scale of the SolarWinds breach of government agencies and companies is still unclear. Even more significant was their announcement that the attack might still be continuing, noting that the intrusion into networks across the government and private sector is more widespread than originally thought. The breach was attributed to one of Russia's main intelligence agencies, S.V.R.

Senate Confirms Biden's Pick to Lead the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a career diplomat, was confirmed as Biden's United Nations (UN) envoy. She joined the Foreign Service in 1982, served as ambassador to Liberia for 4 years, and then as the top United States diplomat for African affairs, where she helped oversee the response to the Ebola epidemic.

New Targets for Emissions Fall Short of Paris Goals New climate targets submitted by UN countries aim to reduce emissions by less than 1%, far lower than the Paris Agreement goals. The U.S. has yet to submit its 2030 targets.

Uncertainty Remains for Migrants at Border Even as Policies Shift As the Biden administration tackles Trump-era border restrictions, confusion, and disparate treatment of migrants characterizes the current state of affairs. Biden is keeping the "pandemic rule" in place, which authorizes agents to turn migrants around. Another policy required keeping asylum seekers in Mexico as they awaited adjudication of their cases. To process these individuals, the Biden administration is requiring them to register online and test negative for the coronavirus. Other migrants, however, have successfully crossed the border and have been released into the United States, bypassing the process.

The Words That Are In and Out With the Biden Administration The article describes the shift in tone and language in the new Biden administration, including the replacement of the phrase "illegal alien" with "noncitizen", the return of the phrase "climate change", and the use of LGBTQ references in White House communications with the public.

House Passes Sweeping Gay and Transgender Equality The bill, which extends "civil rights protections to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity," was passed by the Democratic-led House in 2019 but its Senate prospects are bleak.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell Suggests That Congress Explore Child-Care Options In testimony before the House Financial Services Committee, Powell said that child-care is an "area worth looking at," suggesting that "improved child-care support policies from the government might help pull more women into the labor market."

Capitol Riots Costs Will Exceed $30 Million The architect of the Capitol and other officials say that the physical and psychological toll of the January 6th riot will exceed $30 million in costs. This amount is expected to cover increased security, the repair of damaged statues and artifacts, and mental health services for staff.

Capitol's Former Security Officials Point to Intelligence Failures Before Riot In the first public hearing on the Capitol riot, former security officials say a communication breakdown and the failure of the FBI to give adequate warning about what was being planned allowed Trump supporters to overwhelm police and storm the Capitol.

Retired NYPD Officer Who Guarded City Hall Charged in Capitol Riots Thomas Webster has been charged with assaulting a police officer with a metal flagpole during the January 6th Capitol riot. The former officer retired from the New York Police Department in 2011.

Department of Justice Ramps Up Investigation into George Floyd's Death The federal government has accelerated its investigation in the death of George Floyd, even as the murder trial for the former officer charged in his death is approaching. A new federal grand jury has been empaneled and the Justice Department is calling new witnesses. Focus is expected to shift to a possible grand jury indictment if there was an acquittal or mistrial in Derek Chauvin's case.

A Special Unit to Prosecute Police Killings Has No Convictions In 2015, Governor Cuomo appointed a special prosecutor and handed over these files to the office of the state attorney general. More than 5 years and 43 investigations later, the office has had no convictions. A quarter of the investigations are still open and those completed led to 3 officers being charged.

Two Former Aides Detail Claims Against Governor Cuomo Former aide Lindsey Boylan described several years of interactions with Cuomo in an essay on Medium, accusing the governor of sexual harassment, including an unsolicited kiss in his Manhattan office. A second aide, Charlotte Bennett, came forward with additional allegations, stating that the governor had asked her questions about personal life, which she "interpreted as clear overtures to a sexual relationship."

Illinois Becomes First State to Eliminate Cash Bail The push to eliminate cash bail was an effort by state legislators to end a practice they say disproportionately impacts the poor and keeps them incarcerated. While states like New York and California have reformed their bail systems to limit the use of bail, Illinois is the first state where "judges will no longer be able to set any kind of bail for a defendant charged with a crime," thus preventing a practice that forces people to remain in detention even though they haven't been convicted of the charges. The change was part of a criminal justice omnibus bill that included other reforms, including a requirement that police departments statewide use body-worn cameras.

The Future of Texas The article discusses Texas' economic future, including its various strengths (a diverse population and top research universities) but also its challenges, the primary one being climate change.

How One State Managed to Actually Write Rules on Facial Recognition Massachusetts is now circumscribing, through legislation, the use of facial recognition technology in criminal investigations. The police reform legislation, expected to go into effect in July, requires law enforcement to seek a court order before conducting a facial recognition search, which can only be run by state police, the FBI or the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

Coronavirus Update Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Authorizes Johnson & Johnson's Vaccine Distribution of the one-dose vaccine will begin within days.

State Lawmakers Defy Governors in a COVID-era Battle for Power Legislators across the U.S. are moving aggressively to strip governors of some of their powers. The intent is to restrict their ability to act unilaterally under extended emergencies because these powers are now frequently being exercised to put in place pandemic-related restrictions.

New Coronavirus Variant Spreading in New York The variant, called B.1.526, contains a mutation that helps the virus evade the immune response.

Nursing Homes See 80% Drop in Virus Cases Deaths among nursing homes have dropped significantly since vaccinations began, outpacing national declines.

Normalcy Is Near, But the Coronavirus is Threatening a Comeback While scientists are expecting another rise in infections, the anticipated surge will be blunted by vaccines and ongoing caution.

U.S. Slow to Shield Its Inmates from Virus The article discusses the rate of infection in U.S. prisons, jails and detention centers, with more than 620,000 inmates and correctional officers infected so far. Only 5% of people serving federal sentences have been granted home confinement as a measure to reduce prison populations.

Younger Military Personnel Reject Vaccine A third of troops have declined the vaccine, which is currently optional, with much of the reluctance attributed to beliefs that vaccines are unsafe or were developed too quickly.

Global Vaccination Effort Reveals Stark Inequalities While vaccine distribution has begun in poorer countries under an initiative knows as Covax, rich nations are still buying most of the available supply. Covax has a financing gap of $23 billion and more than 130 countries have yet to vaccinate a single person.

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