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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/Coronavirus:


Pay Discrimination Suit Against Disney Adds Pay Secrecy Claim

In 2019, 2 employees of Disney, LaRonda Rasmussen and Karen Moore, filed a lawsuit against the company alleging gender discrimination and unequal pay against the company. The lawsuit was then expanded to include 8 other women and alleged further that the company engaged in a strict policy of "pay secrecy," wherein women were told by their superiors never to speak about their compensation to other employees and were even reprimanded for doing so. Critics of "pay secrecy" tactics cite their effect on equal pay, as they deprive women of the information needed to make such demands. The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 makes it illegal for employers to retaliate against their workers for discussing wages with colleagues. Further, the state of California added the California Fair Pay Act, enacted in 2015, which further protects the right of employees to openly discuss their own pay.

Live-Event Businesses Will Be Able to Apply for a Relief Grant Program Starting April 8th

According to the Small Business Administration, it will begin to take applications on April 8th from music clubs, theaters, museums, and concert promoters to distribute the $16 billion in federal funds. Businesses will be eligible for up to $10 million in aid, and the process will occur on a rolling basis, with those who have lost at least 90% of their revenue from the pandemic applying first.

Oscar Nominations 2021: "Mank" Leads Nominations and Chloé Zhao Makes History

The Academy nominated 2 women for best director, including Chloé Zhao for her work on "Nomadland" and Emerald Fennell for "Promising Young Woman". Additionally, roughly half of the 20 acting nominations went to People of Color, demonstrating a welcome change for the 9,137 voting members, who are mostly white and male.


Art Market Shrank 22% in Pandemic Year, Study Says

A recent report by Art Basel and UBS Art Market noted that, in 2020, the global sales of art and antiques decreased by 22% in comparison to the prior year. In a shift in marketplace, however, more people moved online and to private transactions at auctions houses, which saw a 36% spike in sales.

In response, more museums are taking advantage of a temporary 2-year easement of an Association of Art Museum Director's policy that previously restricted art institutions in the United States from selling their artwork for maintenance costs associated with operations. Critics argue that the intention of displaying artwork is for public benefit. Others see the move as a necessary step to ensure that these institutions stay in operation.

The Arts Are Coming Back This Summer. Just Step Outside.

As vaccines continue to be distributed and injected around the country, theater companies have begun planning the next steps. While there are still capacity requirements, theater companies have been working with local governments and actor unions to ensure that plays will be performed safely and outdoors. Companies that normally hold shows outdoors are not at a competitive disadvantage, but "indoor work remains a ways off in much of the country, as producers wait not only for herd immunity, but also for signs that arts patrons are ready to return in significant numbers. Broadway, for example, is not expected to resume until autumn."

In France, theaters have also not yet open. However, protesters took to the streets and even forced their way into national playhouses throughout the country demanding that the theaters reopen. Similarly, roughly 2,000 individuals of Actors' Equity signed a petition, seeking to meet with their union officials. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Actors' Equity has restricted its members from participating in any production unless they occur at one of the 22 theaters nationwide that Actors' Equity previously approved. SAG-AFTRA members, however, face no such regulations.

France to Return Klimt Painting to Rightful Heirs After Nazi-Era Sale

The Musée d'Orsay in France will be returning famed Gustav Klimt piece, "Rosebushes Under the Trees", to the family of Nora Stiasny, a Jewish woman who sold the painting under duress to a Nazi sympathizer and later died during the Holocaust. The painting is legally considered France's "inalienable property" and an act of Parliament is required (and expected to pass) to return the painting to the Stiasny family.

Berlin Theater Back in Crisis After Director Quits

Influential German newspaper Die Tageszeitung recently published a report detailing sexual harassment claims made by 10 women against Klaus Dörr, the director of the Volksbühne theater in Berlin. The report stated that "Dörr had stared inappropriately at women who worked at the theater, made sexist comments and sent inappropriate text messages." Dörr has since resigned from his post and apologized for his inappropriate actions.


NCAA Quietly Eases a Virus Safety Rule for Tournament

In preparation for the men's and women's basketball tournaments, which will be held this month in Indianapolis and San Antonio, respectively, the NCAA rewrote provisions in its coronavirus safety protocols to require negative results on virus tests for players and staff to be separated by at least 12 hours. This marks a distinct change from the original guidelines, which called for teams to "remain in quarantine until two consecutive tests on separate days are confirmed negative, at which time team practice may begin."

College Athletes Seek to Use March Stage to Pressure NCAA

Using the large platform that basketball athletes have during the March Madness tournament, 12 players from 15 schools have gone to Twitter to advocate for addressing the NCAA's control over their marketing opportunities as athletes, using the #NotNCAAProperty hashtag. Players have also requested to meet with current NCAA president, Mark Emmert, to implement new rules that would situate athletes on similar ground as non-athletes with respect to promotion opportunities, including allowances on the ability to make money through social media and advertising coaching lessons.

The NCAA tournament has also shed light on the difference in resources provided to male and female athletes participating in the basketball competitions in Indianapolis and San Antonio. For example, to test for coronavirus, male athletes are administered PCR testing, which is considered the most accurate form of testing, while female counterparts receive rapid antigen tests, which yield quicker, but less accurate results, and are far cheaper. Images online also surfaced displaying the differences in training facilities, where male players were afforded a well-stocked complex and female athletes received one rack of hand weights. The NCAA has since apologized and vowed to remedy the vast discrepancies.

Black National Football League Players Want New Advocate in Concussion Settlement

Retired National Football League (NFL) players Kevin Henry and Najeh Davenport filed dementia-related claims as part of a settlement with the NFL over concussions. In providing payment, the NFL and representatives for the players agreed that neuropsychologists would use a race-norming test developed by Dr. Robert Heaton as a guideline to determine whether a player could be diagnosed with dementia and thus receive a payout. The former players argued in a recent lawsuit, however, that using the Heaton test to determine claims inherently discriminates against former black athletes, as the test uses 2 separate scoring curves, depending on race.

Professional Teams Sue Insurance Companies over Pandemic Losses

The Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL and the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association filed respective complaints against their insurance providers, seeking payouts from the insurance companies as a result of a disruption of business stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

NFL Finalizes New 11-Year Media Rights Deal, Amazon Gets Exclusive Thursday Night Rights

The NFL has reached a television rights deal with existing partners ViacomCBS, Fox, Comcast, and Amazon to broadcast football games. The 11-year agreement totals over $100 billion dollars and will run through the year 2033. Amazon will pay $1 billion per year for the exclusive rights to broadcast the Thursday Night Football game. ViacomCBS, Fox, and Comcast will all pay over $2 billion per year, while Disney, which owns ESPN and ABC, will be paying the most, around $2.7 billion, for an expanded array of games.

Deshaun Watson Accused of Sexual Assault in Civil Suits

Seven women have filed civil lawsuits against Deshaun Watson, quarterback of the Houston Texans NFL franchise. All the incidents show a pattern of behavior and stem from encounters with Watson, where he allegedly used force to try and initiate sexual acts, exposed himself, and threatened to ruin the reputation of one of the women. Watson responded by saying that he '"never treated any woman with anything other than the utmost respect" and that he looked forward to clearing his name.

Tokyo Olympic Ceremonies Chief Resigns Over Female Comedian Insult

A local Japanese magazine, Shukan Bunshun, reported that creative director for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics ceremonies, Hiroshi Sasaki, remarked that Naomi Wantanabe, a popular plus-size entertainer, should appear at the opening ceremony as an "Olympig" and suggested that she should wear pig ears. Sasaki has since stepped down and apologized for his remarks.

Spectators From Overseas Are Barred From Tokyo Olympics

The Olympic Games in Tokyo were originally scheduled to be held in the summer of 2020. Due to the pandemic, the games were moved to the summer of 2021. Citing health concerns, Seiko Hashimoto, President of the Tokyo committee, announced that spectators from overseas will be prohibited from attending the event. The decision was made jointly with the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee, and the national and local governments in Japan.

Inter Milan, a Storied Italian Soccer Club, Is Threatened by Shifting Prospects in China

Between 2015 and 2017, Chinese business and wealthy investors have poured in over $1.8 billion, acquiring equity stakes in over a dozen European soccer teams. Due to shifting political winds and the financial effects of Coronavirus in China, however, many Chinese companies have become strapped for cash and are at risk of losing the clubs. Suning, an electronics retailer in China, paid $306 million in 2016 for a majority stake in Inter Milan. Currently, however, many players have agreed to defer payment or have not been paid at all, due to the financial situation of Suning.


Epoch Media Casts Wider Net to Spread Its Message Online

In the wake of the Capitol riot on January 6th, large media/tech companies, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, removed thousands of accounts to limit the spread of misinformation. Since then, many right-wing readers have moved to smaller, fringe websites. Up to 13 of these smaller sites have connections to the Epoch Media Group, a news organization that has become "a top purveyor of conspiracy theories and political misinformation," rivaling Breitbart News and the Daily Caller.

Twitter Hacker Pleads Guilty in Florida Court

Graham Ivan Clark, the juvenile who last year hacked Twitter accounts of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and former President Barack Obama, wherein he solicited Bitcoin and tweeted fraudulent messages from these accounts, has agreed to serve 3 years in juvenile prison. He also agreed not to use computers without permission or supervision from law enforcement.

Teen Vogue Editor Resigns After Fury Over Racist Tweets

Alexi McCammond, a prominent young journalist of Axios, who covered the Biden campaign and was named an emerging journalist of the year by the National Association of Black Journalists, was selected to become the new Editor-in-Chief of Teen Vogue, a title held by only 2 black women before her. Tweets from a decade ago and internal pressure from workers at Teen Vogue subsequently forced McCammond and the magazine to part ways. In the 2011 tweets, McCammond made comments on "the appearance of Asian features, derogatory stereotypes about Asians and slurs for gay people." McCammond apologized for the tweets and deleted them in 2019. Images of the tweets, however, resurfaced after it was announced she would be leading the journalistic efforts at the magazine, leading to renewed backlash.

For Political Cartoonists, the Irony Was That Facebook Didn't Recognize Irony

In recent years, and in response to critique, Facebook has been more active in policing certain kinds of speech on its platforms, including political speech, posts advocating violence, and posts by the fringe of society. Yet the company's artificial intelligence has had difficulty distinguishing the nuances of language, including the detection of sarcasm and irony. The result is that in trying to police its site, it has removed pages and posts that do not contravene its own policies or any laws.

Facebook Agrees to Pay for Murdoch's Australia News Content

After Google agreed last month to a global agreement with News Corp to pay for its content in Australia, Facebook has also agreed to pay the news publisher, after the country temporarily blocked news links inside Australia due to pending legislation that requires the tech giants to pay publishers for their content. The agreement strikes a markedly different tone from last month, when the company argued that it was not a news source, but rather a platform where users shared the news, amongst other interests.

Tabloid Hired Gun Tells of Shady Hunt for Meghan Markle Scoops

In 2016, The Sun, a popular British tabloid, hired private investigator Daniel Portley-Hanks to dig up dirt on Prince Harry. Portley-Hanks ultimately logged in to TLOxp, "a service with a vast database of restricted information about individuals and businesses, and pulled up a trove of details -- home addresses, cellphone numbers, Social Security numbers" and found information relating to Meghan Markle, who Prince Harry was suspected to be dating at the time. Portley-Hanks sold the information to The Sun for $2,055, leading to a swath of tabloids involving the couple, including Prince Harry's apparent desperation to meet Markle, a fallout between Markle and her father, and unflattering and racist portrayals of Markle. U.S. privacy statutes prohibit people from passing these reports to news organizations. American news organizations, however, can use TLOxp for basic research, but only has access to a limited set of data.

China Punishes Microsoft's LinkedIn Over Lax Censorship

LinkedIn has been the only U.S.-based social network to operate in China, long known for its censorship of the internet. In part, LinkedIn has been able to operate in China because it censors the posts of millions of its Chinese users. The operation of LinkedIn in China has created a fascinating case study and pathway for other U.S social media companies to operate in the country. However, China's internet regulator rebuked LinkedIn executives this month for failing to control political content. As a punishment, "officials are requiring LinkedIn to perform a self-evaluation and offer a report to the Cyberspace Administration of China, the country's internet regulator."

General News

Biden Administration Faces Legal Fight Over State Aid Restrictions on Tax Cuts

A provision in the recently passed $1.9 trillion economic relief legislation provides that local governments cannot use aid money to cut taxes. In response, the state of Ohio has sued to block the provision, arguing that such provision is a violation of state sovereignty and would infringe on the ability for states to determine policy. Ohio is expected to receive $5.5 billion in federal relief funds, which may now be delayed due to the pending lawsuit.

In addition, also tucked into the legislation are "tens of millions of dollars for organizations dedicated to curtailing domestic abuse, which skyrocketed during the pandemic, as well as vouchers for people fleeing violence at home, to help them find safe shelter and rebuild their lives."

Treasury Ramps Up Racial Equity Review as It Deploys Relief Funds

Subsequent to President Biden's Executive Order calling for federal departments to seek racial equity, the Treasury Department is proceeding to undergo a formal racial equity review of the department and its initiatives. The effort will be led by incoming Deputy Treasury Secretary Adewale Adeyemo, and coincides with the Treasury Department's goal of ensuring that financial assistance resulting from the stimulus bill will be distributed fairly across different races.

Deb Haaland Becomes First Native American Cabinet Secretary

Deb Haaland made history this week after the Senate confirmed her nomination to lead the Interior Department, marking the first time that a Native American has been confirmed to lead a cabinet agency. The department oversees, amongst other things, "about 500 million acres of public land, federal waters off the United States coastline, . . . and the protection of thousands of endangered species," and covers nearly 1.9 million Native Americans.

Senate Approves Burns to Lead CIA

This week, the Senate confirmed the appointment of William J. Burns, a career diplomat, to lead the CIA. Burns, who was confirmed by unanimous consent, was a former ambassador in Russia and Jordan and was a senior State Department official. He also has close ties to President Biden. For example, "during the Obama administration, Mr. Burns was instrumental in beginning the secret diplomatic talks that eventually led to the negotiations over the Iran nuclear deal."

Russian Interference in 2020 Included Influencing Trump Associates, Report Says

According to a declassified intelligence report, Russia sought to influence individuals close to former President Trump with the intent of spreading an election fraud narrative and discrediting Joe Biden. The report invalidates efforts by the Trump administration and his allies to "sow doubts about the intelligence agency's assessments that Russia not only wanted to sow chaos in the United States but also favored his re-election."

Police Shrugged Off the Proud Boys, Until They Attacked the Capitol

While the insurrection visualized a stark contrast in ideologies across the United States, the existence of far-right groups is no surprise. This article details the knowledge that local and federal law enforcement agencies had on groups like the Proud Boys. Ultimately, "the group's propensity for violence and extremism was no secret. But the F.B.I. and other agencies had often seen the Proud Boys as they chose to portray themselves . . . : as mere street brawlers who lacked the organization or ambition of typical bureau targets like neo-Nazis, international terrorists and Mexican drug cartels."

In fact, in the days leading up to the insurrection, nearly 60 Proud Boys members joined a cryptic channel called "Boots on the Ground" to communicate. On the night before the riot, the leader of the Proud Boys also detailed specific instructions to his members on the platform: "Be decentralized. Use good judgment. Avoid the police." Then, in a nod to the group's hard-drinking habits, he said: "Don't get drunk until off the street."

In City After City, Police Mishandled Black Lives Matter Protests

In the wake of protests across the United States following the killing of George Floyd, third-party investigators, watchdog groups, and consultants assessed the response by police departments in 9 cities, issuing their findings in separate reports. More often than not, the reports claim that "officers behaved aggressively, wearing riot gear and spraying tear gas or '"less-lethal"' projectiles in indiscriminate ways, appearing to target peaceful demonstrators and displaying little effort to de-escalate tensions. In places like Indianapolis and Philadelphia, reviewers found, the actions of the officers seemed to make things worse."

On Mexico's Border With U.S., Desperation as Migrant Traffic Piles Up

During the Biden administration, the United States is struggling to manage the influx of unaccompanied minor children who are crossing the border, subsequently captured, and held in detention facilities. In response, President Biden has directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist in managing the facilities. President Biden has also asked counterparts in Mexico to assist with the increase in border crossings. Thus far, "Mexico's response has mostly been to ramp up raids of smuggling rings and to begin sending migrants -- most of them from Central America -- back home."

The Roadblocks to Equal Rights for Women, a Century Later

In recent years, the states of Nevada, Illinois, and Virginia ratified the Equal Rights Act, marking the constitutionally required 38 states needed to amend the Constitution. On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed a bill along party lines that removes a deadline for ratification that expired in the 1980s. The bill reopens negotiations to amend the Constitution to incorporate the provisions of the Equal Rights Act, mainly to ensure equal protection under the law, regardless of sex. Passage in the Senate faces an uphill battle, with only a handful of Republican supporting the amendment. Ironically, the United States, a beacon of democracy, remains one of the few countries in the world not to provide explicit guarantees of gender equality.

Purdue Pharma Offers Plan to End Sackler Control and Mounting Lawsuits

Purdue Pharma recently submitted its restructuring plan, which requires members of the billionaire Sackler family to be removed from controlling positions within the company. The plan also creates a new company in which revenue generated will be geared toward remediating the addiction epidemic associated with the former company's most popular drug: Oxycontin. The plan, if approved by creditors, will pool payments of the $4.275 billion settlement to pay individual plaintiffs, hospitals, insurers, and state and local governments. A noteworthy absence from the proposal is the ability to pursue civil action against the Sacklers individually.

Catholic Order Pledges $100 Million to Atone for Slave Labor and Sales

The Jesuit conference of priests has vowed to raise $100 million in an effort to benefit the descendants of slaves held by Jesuits. For more than a century, Jesuits relied on slave labor to "help finance the construction and the day-to-day operations of churches and schools, including the nation's first Catholic institution of higher learning, the college now known as Georgetown University." Nearly half of the annual budget will be provided as grants to related organizations dedicated to reconciliation initiatives. About a quarter of the budget will provide educational support through financial aid, and the remaining portion will be earmarked for pressing needs of descendants who are old or infirm.

Judges Juggle Over 2,700 Cases Each as Families Wait for Day in Court

The U.S. District Court in New Jersey is facing an extreme backlog of cases. Recent figures state that 46,609 cases are still awaiting action and the situation has only been amplified by the coronavirus outbreak. Additionally, due to 6 vacancies on the 17-person bench that have been left open for years, each working judge handles a workload over 3 times the national average. Ultimately, for many who are seeking justice, the impasse has led to calls for action.

Suspect in Atlanta Spa Attacks Is Charged With 8 Counts of Murder

Over the past couple of months, there have been a string of racially-motivated attacks against Asian Americans. In a most recent and deadly example of this trend, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, opened fire on 3 different spa parlors in Atlanta, Georgia, killing 8 people in total, and 6 women of Asian descent. Long told police that the attacks were motivated by a '"sexual addition"' and "saw the spas as an outlet for something '"that he shouldn't be doing."' Long has been charged with 8 counts of murder in connection with the slayings. Many Asian-American women, however, have noted that racism and sexism have always gone hand-in-hand, and that racism often comes in the form of unwanted sexual pursuits and harassment. For those in the Asian-American community, the way this topic has been discussed is symbolic of the common misunderstandings others have regarding racism, hate, and prejudice. The ability to organize attacks have only become easier with the advent of certain technologies, such as Telegram and 4chan, which have perpetuated Asian stereotypes and called for retaliation and violence against Asian Americans for their perceived role in the Coronavirus pandemic.

Cuomo Faces New Claims of Sexual Harassment From Current Aide

A current aide in Governor Andrew Cuomo's office, Alyssa McGrath, joined the growing number of women who have detailed disturbing interactions with the governor, describing that the Governor would "ogle her body, remark on her looks, and make suggestive comments to her and another executive aide." McGrath's allegations are noteworthy in that she represents the first current aide in Cuomo's office to speak publicly about Cuomo's alleged behavior. Her account, however, "echoes other stories that have emerged in recent weeks about a demeaning office culture, particularly for young women who worked closely with the governor."

'She Wants Well-Qualified People': 88 Landlords Accused of Housing Bias

A recent lawsuit filed by watchdog group Housing Rights Initiative alleges that nearly 90 brokerage firms and landlords in New York City have discriminated against those using Section 8 housing vouchers toward rental units in buildings. New York City receives the largest share in the country of the $22 billion annual federal budget allocated to the Section 8 program, which provides that "recipients typically pay 30 percent of their monthly income toward rent, with the voucher covering the balance of the rent and utilities."

Trawling for Fish May Unleash as Much Carbon as Air Travel, Study Says

The journal Nature recently found that the act of trawling, which involves fishing vessels dragging a net across the ocean floor to catch different sea-dwelling animals for food consumption, releases as much carbon dioxide into the ocean as air travel. Trawling also has the effect of releasing carbon stored at the sea floor, which undisturbed, could remain there for thousands of years. Researchers say that the exposure of carbon will lead to "more acidified water, threatening marine life, and [will] reduce the oceans' capacity to absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide."

Russia Erupts in Fury Over Biden's Calling Putin a Killer

In a recent television interview, President Biden cautioned of a possible '"irreversible deterioration of relations'" between the United States and Russia. In the same interview, when asked whether he believed Vladimir Putin was a killer, President Biden responded: '"Mmm hmm, I do."' In response, Putin cited a Russian schoolyard rhyme: "'When we characterize other people, or even when we characterize other states, other people, it is always as though we are looking in the mirror."'


White House to Spend Billions to Increase Virus Testing and Ease Reopening

The Biden administration announced it would be investing $10 billion to scale out increased coronavirus screening of students and teachers with the goal of returning to full in-person learning by the end of the year. Accordingly, "the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will distribute the money to states in early April and will spend an additional $2.25 billion to expand testing in underserved communities beyond the schools."

In connection with reopening schools, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also authored guidance that students can be spaced 3 feet apart instead of 6 feet, so long as all are wearing masks. The new guidance allows many school districts, which were using 6 feet distance as direction for reopening schools, to allow more in-person teaching.

U.S. Rushes to Expand Covid Vaccine Eligibility in a 'Race Against Time'

As cases, deaths, and hospitalizations have all fallen sharply from January peaks, infection rates have stubbornly stayed the same, hovering around 55,000 new cases a day nationwide. In response, "officials in at least 20 states have committed in recent days to opening coronavirus vaccine appointments to all adults in March or April," which coincides with President Biden's plan to allow all Americans to sign up to receive the vaccine by May 1st.

Such a push to expand shot distribution still faces resistance by Republican Senators, 25% of whom have not received a vaccine, despite being available to them since December 2020. Senators, like Rand Paul of Kentucky, have openly refused the vaccine, saying he got it "naturally." Others, like Senator Ron Johnson, cite their contraction of Coronavirus as the "best immunity possible" to the disease (which is scientifically false).

In Russia, a Virus Lockdown Targets the Opposition

In what many are seeing as a façade for punishing opponents of the Kremlin, a Russian court has sentenced 10 opposition politicians and dissidents to house arrest for violating coronavirus safety rules related to organized rallies. Lawyers for the dissidents argue that the court and authorities are twisting the rules to punish their clients for political purposes.

Trust in AstraZeneca Vaccine Is Shaken in Europe

In Europe, many countries have suspended the administration of Covid-19 vaccines manufactured by AstraZeneca. Concerns around the vaccine are based on news of a few recipients who have developed blood clots or abnormal bleeding. However, "researchers and drug regulators say they have seen no evidence of an increase in such complications or a connection to the inoculation." In fact, the pharmaceutical manufacturer said that an analysis of "more than 17 million people who had received its vaccine found that they were actually less likely than the general population to develop dangerous clots."

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