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Week In Review

Updated: Apr 19, 2021

By La-Vaughnda A. Taylor Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

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

Entertainment Weinstein Files Appeal of Conviction in Sex Case Lawyers for disgraced U.S. film producer Harvey Weinstein have launched an appeal against his conviction for rape and sexual assault. Weinstein, 69, was convicted in NYC in February 2020 and later sentenced to 23 years in prison. He has vowed to clear his name and the long-anticipated appeal signals the start of what is expected to be a lengthy attempt to have his conviction quashed. His lawyers argued that the judge made several errors that denied Weinstein's right to a fair trial.

LA Stage Alliance Disbands After Award-Show Blunder The organization that runs the annual competition honoring theater works in Los Angeles imploded after it misidentified an Asian-American actor. The awards ceremony, streamed online last week, showed a picture of a different Asian-American actress when announcing her category and mispronounced her name. The reaction was swift and furious, as long-simmering frustrations over the function of the LA Stage Alliance, which administers the awards, combusted with the pain and anger of an Asian-American community devastated by a wave of anti-Asian violence. 46 theaters resigned from the LA Stage Alliance -- about a third of its members. The organization, which for nearly a half-century had been the main coalition for a sprawling theatrical ecosystem int eh nation's second largest city, then announced that it was disbanding.

First Union Contracts for Spotify Podcasters Unions representing employees at 2 prominent podcasting companies owned by Spotify, the audio streaming giant, announced that they had ratified their first labor contracts. The larger of the 2 unions, with 65 employees, is at The Ringer, a sports and pop culture website with a podcasting network. The second union, at the podcast production company Gimlet Media, has just under 50 employees. The groups were among the first in the podcasting industry to unionize, and both were represented by the Writers Guild of America, East.

A Time to Open the Theater Doors Theaters, comedy clubs, and other arts venues can now open at 33% capacity in New York City, with a limit of 100 people indoors or 200 people outdoors -- live performing arts are returning, but not all at once. In addition to Broadway theaters and large concert halls that see the one-third capacity rule as prohibitive; smaller venues, including some of the city's foremost jazz and rock clubs, do so as well. Although theater and club owners have spent the pandemic yearning for the green light from the governor, the level of activity that will be allowed to start is not sufficient to warrant opening many of their doors. Some politicians have been reticent about the loosening of restrictions.

Venues Seek Federal Aid: System Has Other Ideas On the first day when nightclubs, movie theaters, and other arts organizations hurt by the pandemic could apply for $16 billion in federal aid, the system malfunctioned. No applications went through. Shortly after, the Small Business Administration (SBA) -- which runs the initiative, the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program -- abandoned its effort to salvage the broken system and shut it down for the day. After discussion with the vendors that built the system, the SBA decided "to shut down the portal to ensure fair and equal access once reopened, since this is first-come, first-serve." The meltdown echoed problems the SBA had last year in taking applications for the Paycheck Protection Program, which it also oversees. The aid was authorized by Congress late last year after months of lobbying by an ad hoc coalition of music venues and other groups that warned of the loss of an entire sector of the arts economy. Even before the fiasco, the opening of the shuttered venue program was riddled with complexity and confusion. The application process is extensive. Successful applicants will receive a grant equal to 45% of their gross earned revenue from 2019, up to $10 million. Those who lost 90% of their revenue (compared to the prior year) after the coronavirus pandemic took hold will have a 14-day priority window for receiving the money, followed by another 14-day period for those who lost 70% or more. Vneues owned by large corporations, like Live Nation or AEG, are not eligible.

Will People of Color Win All 4 Acting Oscars? 5 years after back-to-back bouts of #OscarsSoWhite put a spotlight on award-season diversity, could the Academy Awards be on the verge of a major breakthrough where people of color win every single acting trophy? Academy Awards history could be made at this year's ceremony, especially if the SAG Award winners repeat. If so, it will be the first year in Oscar history that actors of color will have triumphed in all 4 acting races. Yet even if that record doesn't fall, plenty more are poised to do so. The lineup of acting nominees is the most diverse ever, and 70 women were nominated across 23 categories, a record. This year's eclectic mix of newcomers and veterans practically ensures that Oscar history will be made when the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony is broadcast on April 25th.

With a Musical, China Tries to Rewrite Its Oppression of Uyghurs The movie is part of Beijing's wide-ranging new propaganda campaign to push back on sanctions and criticism of its oppression of the Uyghurs. "The Wings of Songs" is a state-backed musical that is the latest addition to China's propaganda campaign to defends its policies in Xinjiang. The campaign has intensified in recent weeks as Western politicians and rights groups have accused Beijing of subjecting Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang to forced labor and genocide. The film debuted in Chinese cinemas las week and offers a glimpse of the alternate vision of Xinjiang that China's ruling Communist Party is pushing to audiences at home and abroad.

Arts Artistic Appropriation vs. Copyright Law An appeals court ruled that Andy Warhol violated photographer Lynn Goldsmith's copyright by appropriating her image of Prince for a silk-screen he did in 1984. The Second Circuit insisted that for reuse to be "fair," the transformation can't be so minor that the re-user's work "remains both recognizably deriving from, and retaining the essential elements of, its source material." The concept of "transformation" has been driving lawyers and judges crazy since the Supreme Court first introduced it in a 1993 case. 2021.03.26 Second Circuit Opinion.pdf http:// href="">

Some Cities Try to Give Artists Steady Income San Francisco and other cities are trying to give artists steady income. San Francisco's mayor's office recently unveiled the initiative, city payments that were approved by the arts commission, which will provide a guaranteed monthly income of $1,000 over 6 months to 130 eligible artists, testing the universal basic income. Thought pilot programs, cities are giving checks to artist in hopes of allowing them to focus on their creative output instead of having a second job.

Richard Lippold's 'Orpheus and Apollo,' Once at Lincoln Center, Finds a Home at The Airport Richard Lippold's soaring sculpture "Orpheus and Apollo", which had been removed from Lincoln Center's Philharmonic Hall (now David Geffen Hall) in 2014, will be suspended in flight once again: as the centerpiece of La Guardia Airport's Central Hall. The relocation agreement between Lincoln Center, which could not accommodate the sculpture in its renovation plans for Geffen Hall, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey overseeing the airport's $8 billion transformation, was brokered by Goldberger, an adviser on both projects. Central Hall, which will be accessible pre-security, is being developed as the living room of La Guardia around the sculpture, which consists of 190 bars of gleaming metal hanging on steel wires from the ceiling. It will be visible from many perspectives both inside and outside through the glass facade.

On Canal Street, Listening to Artists Again The central section of Canal Street used to be a magnet for artists. A few still live nearby in lofts they've inhabited since the 1980s; for the rest, the area lost its main draw in 2014 when the art-supply Mecca Pearl Paint closed. For the city's powerful, central Canal Street is a problem to solve, and a redevelopment opportunity. This past year, the combination of the pandemic and windows being boarded up for fear of riots only deepened the anomie. For the last few months, the storefront at 327, a weathered 3-story building between Mercer and Greene, has gathered artists, street characters, neighbors, and passers-by in quirky communion, raising ghosts of Canal's past while planting new creative seeds as the temporary home of the Canal Street Research Association invented by the artist Alexandra Tatarsky and Ming Lin. The space is many things at once, such as art on view and books on economics, literature, and philosophy ,and wind projections of art films, amongst other things. The project has become a memory bank in a kind of haphazard sociology that blends real-estate insight, art-history factors, and talks of hangovers, tattoos, and other incidents.

Dutch Police Arrest Suspect in Art Thefts Dutch authorities have linked a suspect to 2 major art thefts that took place during the early days of lockdown last spring. The police announced on Thursday that they had arrested a 58-year-old man on suspicion of stealing both Vincent Van Gogh's "The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring" (1884) and Frans Hals's "Two Laughing Boys with a Mug of Beer" from 2 museums in the Netherlands. The suspect, who has not been named, was arrested at his home in the town of Baarn. Neither painting has been recovered.

Defacing a $400,000 Painting, All Because of a Mix-Up The vandalism of a piece by the graffiti artist JonOne at a gallery in South Korea has prompted a debate about contemporary art. A couple saw brushes and paint can in front of a paint-splattered canvas at a gallery in a Seoul shopping mall. So they added a few brush strokes, assuming it was a participatory mural. However, the painting was actually a finished work by an American artist whose abstract aesthetic riffs on street art. The piece is worth more than $400,000, according to the organizers of the exhibition that featured the painting. Now on social media, South Koreans are debating what the vandalism illustrates about art, authorship, and authenticity.

Possible Caravaggio is Pulled From Auction They call it a "sleeper": With a starting price of just $1,800, a potentially undervalued old master painting was pulled from auction and is now thought to be worth millions of dollars. A sale of art and antiques at the Madrid auction house Ansorena was scheduled to include a grimy oil on canvas of Christ being crowned with thorns, cataloged as from the "circle" of the 17th century Spanish painter José de Ribera. The suggested starting bid was set at 1,500 euros, or about $1,800. The Museo del Prado in Madrid, which had become aware that this painting might be a long-lost work by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, the most celebrated of all Baroque artists, alerted Spain's culture ministry. The culture ministry then announced an export ban on the painting and it was withdrawn from the auction the following day.

Use of Cotton From Xinjiang Carries a Cost Under pressure to renounce cotton harvested in a Chinese region marked by gruesome repression, global brands face backlash from nationalist Chinese consumers. Faced with accusations that it was profiting from the forced labor of Uyghur people in the Chinese territory of Xinjiang, the H&M Group -- the world's second-largest clothing retailer -- promised last year to stop buying cotton from the region. Last month, H&M confronted a new outcry, this time from Chinese consumers who seized on the company's renouncement of the cotton as an attack on China. Social media filled with angry demands for boycott, urged on by the government. Global brands like H&M risked alienating a country of 1.4 billion people.

As China Targets Nike and H&M, Local Brands See a Chance to Capitalize Chinese rivals to Western names have improved their quality and marketing. Now the country's defiance could give them an edge with young patriots. Western fashion brands like H&M, Nike, and Adidas have come under pressure in China for refusing to use cotton produced in the Xinjiang region, where the Chinese government has waged a broad campaign of repression against ethnic minorities. Shoppers vowed to boycott the brands. Celebrities dropped their endorsement deals. Foreign brands also face increasing pressure from a new breed of Chinese competitors making high-quality products and selling them through savvy marketing to an increasingly patriotic group of young people. There's a term for it: "guochao," or Chinese fad.

Garment Workers Worldwide Still Awaiting Severance Pay A new report says that millions of dollars in wages have been withheld from garment workers around the world by factories contracted by major fashion brands. In the last 12 months, jobs at Nike, Walmart, and Benetton around the world have disappeared, as major brands in the U.S. and Europe canceled or refused to pay for orders in the wake of the pandemic, and suppliers resorted to mass layoffs or closures. Most garment workers earn chronically low wages and few have any savings. This means that the only thing standing between them and dire poverty are legally mandated severance benefits that most garment workers are owed upon termination, wherever they are in the world. A study has identified 31 export garment factories in 9 countries, where a total of 37,637 fired workers were not paid the full severance pay they legally earned, a collective $39.8 million.

Sports A Woman Proved That Discrimination Denied Her a FIFA Role, and No One Was Punished One of soccer's 6 regional bodies had engaged in discriminatory behavior against a female official by hindering her chances of getting a seat on its board and a leadership position with the sport's global governing body, FIFA. The official, Mariyam Mohamed, also convinced judges at the sports' top court that an influential Kuwaiti sheikh had actively interfered in elections held by the Asian Football Confederation in 2019 to achieve his desired outcome. The full ruling has not yet been published. A panel at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland concluded that the inaction by Asian soccer officials over several months amounted to a "denial of justice" for Mohamed. Yet 2 months since the decision was announced, the impact of what on paper appears to be a powerful enunciation of ethics breaches and a disregard for women's rights has had all the effect of a snowball hitting a tank. Nothing has happened. The trained elections will not be rerun, the men who offered Mohamed inducements to drop out have not been punished, and soccer's leaders have taken no action.

Study Finds Covid Spikes After Games with Fans As the National Football League (NFL) makes plans to return to stadiums at full capacity this season, researchers published findings that "fan attendance at NFL games led to episodic spikes" in the number of Covid-19 cases. New research submitted to The Lancet, a scientific journal, in late March suggested that there was a link between the games that had large number of fans in the stands and an increase in the number of infections in locales near the stadiums. The study, which was submitted for peer review, is one of the most comprehensive attempts to address the potential impact of fans at NFL games.

Two of Watson's Accusers Take Their Claims Public Over 20 women have filed civil assault lawsuits against the NFL quarterback anonymously, but 2 of the complainants have now given emotional statements describing sexual abuse. Last week, 2 of the women involved in those suits spoke out for the first time, making their identities public. In the suit, the plaintiffs are referred to as Jane Does. Ashley Solis, a massage therapist who filed suit against Watson, the Houston Texans' star quarterback, spoke at a news conference with her attorney. The Houston Police Department is investigating.

Judge Rules That Accusers Will be Named in Watson Case Judges ruled that accusers of Texans' Deshaun Watson must disclose their identities. One judge ordered that the name of one of the 22 women who has filed lawsuits accusing Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson of sexual assault and harassment must be made public. A second judge made the same determination in the cases of 3 other women. According to reports, 9 women agreed to allow Buzbee to release their names as of this time. Judge Dedra Davis of the 270th district granted defense attorney Rusty Hardin's request and asked that Buzbee refile the case within 2 days.

Olympic Bobsledder Who Killed Himself Last Year Had C.T.E. Pavle Jovanovic hanged himself in his family's metal works shop in central New Jersey in May 2020. He was 43. He is believed to be the first bobsledder and the first athlete in an Olympic sliding sport to be found with C.T.E., the disease caused by repeated brain traumas. Jovanovic represented the U.S. at the 2006 Olympics. The finding of C.T.E. in Jovanovic's brain is likely to send shock waves through a sport that is just beginning to understand the dangers of what participants refer to casually as "sled head". Athletes have long used the term to describe the exhausted fog, dizziness, and headaches that even a routine run can cause. Jovanovic was the third elite North American bobsledder to kill himself since 2013. In recent years, an increasing number of current and retired athletes in sliding sports, especially bobsled and skeleton, have said that they suffer chronically from many of the same symptoms that plague football players and other contact sport athletes.

National Basketball Association Back on Defensive With China Lucrative endorsements deals with Chinese sports brands supporting Xinjiang cotton could pull the National Basketball League (NBA) and its athletes back into another geopolitical firestorm. U.S.-Chinese tensions, human rights, and business are once again meeting uncomfortably on the basketball court. In China, local brands are prospering from a consumer backlash against Nike, H&M, and other foreign brands over their refusal to use Chinese cotton made by forced labor. In the U.S., 2 of those same Chinese brands, Li-Ning and Anta, adorn the feet of NBA players -- and those players are being rewarded handsomely for it. Two players reached endorsement deals with Anta in February. Another signed on this week. Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors already had a shoe deal with Anta that has been widely reported to be valued at up to $80 million. Dwayne Wade has a clothing line with Li-Ning that is so successful, he has recruited young players for the brand. Like the foreign brands in China, the NBA and its players could soon feel themselves squeezed between Washington and Beijing. Western companies are being pressured by American officials and lawmakers to respond to accusations of genocide in Xinjiang. However, they face a consumer-driven backlash in China, where celebrities have severed ties with brands like Burberry and patriotic citizens have burned their Nike shoes on social media.

Local Star, Violent Turn, and a Town Left Reeling A small city that bills itself as Football City U.S.A. is grappling with the shooting deaths of members of a prominent local family by Phillip Adams who, many say, had been adrift after his NFL career ended. Phillip Adams was a journeyman cornerback during a 6-year career in the NFL. He struggled to find work and he had a child to support and little apparent direction in a life freighted with high expectations. His behavior was increasingly erratic. Then, for reasons no one yet knows for sure, Phillip Adams, a former NFL cornerback, went to the Rock Hill, S.C., home of a prominent doctor and shot everybody he saw before fatally turning the gun on himself. Now, the football-loving community of 65,000 is struggling to contend with Adams's suddenly violent turn and its aftermath. Before he killed 5 people and critically wounded a sixth person, Adams had seemed adrift since he last played NFL football almost 6 years ago. Family members are openly questioning whether football damaged his brain.

Media/Technology Supreme Court Rules for Google in Closely Watched Copyright Case The Copyright Alliance, which represents content companies and creators, warned that the Supreme Court's decision in favor of Google "has the potential" to broaden the fair use doctrine, something that would open the door to greater unauthorized use of copyrighted material. There is the possibility that the decision could be "misinterpreted" by lower courts. The 6-2 decision was closely watched by entertainment industry legal teams, as the Motion Picture Association had warned that Google's interpretation of the law "would threaten the legitimate rights of copyright owners, to the ultimate detriment of the public. They warned that a broader interpretation of fair use could allow for unauthorized knockoffs of popular TV shows and movies.

Facebook Job Ads Vary by Gender, Study Finds The Facebook algorithm shows gender bias in job ads, a USC study finds. Facebook is showing different job ads to women and men in a way that might run afoul of anti-discrimination laws. According to the study, Facebook targeted an Instacart delivery job ad to a female-heavy audience and a Domino's Pizza delivery job ad to a male-heavy viewership. In contrast, Microsoft Corp's LinkedIn showed the ads for delivery jobs at Domino's to about the same proportion of women as it did the Instacart advertisement. Amid lawsuits and regulatory probes on discrimination through advertisement targeting, Facebook has tightened controls to prevent clients from excluding some groups from seeing job, housing, and other ads. However, researchers remain concerned about bias in artificial intelligence (AI) software choosing which users see an advertisement. Facebook and LinkedIn both said they study their AI for what the tech industry calls "fairness'.

Who is Going to Save Newspapers? One arena in which the billionaires can still win plaudits as civic-minded saviors is buying a metropolitan daily newspaper. The local business leader might not have seemed like such a salvation a quarter century ago, before Craigslist, Google, and Facebook began divvying up newspapers' fat ad revenues. Generally, the neighborhood billionaires are considered worth a careful look by the paper's investigative unit. Yet a lot of papers don't even have an investigative unit anymore, and the priority is survival. This media landscape nudged newspaper ownership from the vanity column toward the philanthropy side of the ledger. The latest example comes in the form of a $680 million bid by Hansjörg Wyss, a little-known Swiss billionaire, and Stewart W. Bainum Jr., a Maryland hotel magnate, for Tribune Publishing and its roster of storied broadsheets and tabloids, like The Chicago Tribune, The Daily News, and The Baltimore Sun.

Behind the Fox Throne, A Lawyer with Clout Viet Dinh, the Fox Corporation's chief legal office and close friend of Fox's chief executive Lachlan Murdoch, has been seen internally as the company's power center since Murdoch moved his family to Sydney, Australia last month. Dinh's ascent caps an unlikely turn in his career that began when he met Lachlan Murdoch at an Aspen Institute event in 2003. The Murdoch heir later asked him to both fill a seat on the company's board and to be godfather to his son. Two former Fox employees and one current and one former Fox News employee familiar with his role painted him as the omnipresent and decisive right hand of a chief executive who is not particularly hands-on. While Dinh is not running day-to-day programming, he manages the political operation of a company that is the central pillar of Republican politics and he's a key voice on corporate strategy who has played a role in Fox's drive to acquire and partner its way into the global online gambling industry.

China Slaps Alibaba With $2.8 Billion Fine in a Warning to Big Tech After China imposed a record antirust fine on Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., the e-commerce giant did an unusual thing: it thanked regulators. It's a sign of how odd China's crackdown on the power of big tech has been compared with the rest of the world. Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook would likely not express such public gratitude if the U.S. government were to hit Facebook Inc. or Apple Inc. with record antitrust fines. Yet almost everything about China's regulatory pushes out of the ordinary. For Alibaba, the $2.8 billion fine was less severe than many feared and helps lift a cloud of uncertainty hanging over founder Jack Ma's internet empire.

South Korean is Sentenced to 34 Years for Running Exploitative Chat Rooms A South Korean man, 25-year-old Moon Hyeong-wook, was sentenced to 34 years in prison as part of the country's crackdown on an infamous network of online chat rooms that lured young women, including minors, with promises of high-paying jobs before forcing them into pornography. The man opened one of the first such sites in 2015. Moon operated a clandestine members-only chat room under the nickname "GodGod" on the Telegram messenger app, offering more than 3,700 clips of illicit pornography.

General News Shifting Course, Justices Lift Limits on Home Prayer Meetings in 5-4 Vote The Supreme Court, citing religious liberty has lifted another of California's COVID restrictions, holding that the state may not prevent people from gathering in homes for Bible study and prayer meetings. The Court issued a 5-4 order barring the enforcement of a state restriction that was due to expire. The Court's conservatives slammed the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for what they called another "erroneous" decision in favor of the state. This is the fifth time the that the Court has summarily rejected the Ninth Circuit's analysis of California's COVID restrictions on religious exercise.

An Extraordinary Winning Streak for Religion at the Supreme Court The Supreme Court has become far more likely to rule in favor of religious rights in recent years, according to a new study that considered 70 years of data. The study, to be published in The Supreme Court Review, documented a 35% point increase in the rate of rulings in favor of religion in orally argued cases, culminating in an 81% success rate in the court led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. Plainly, the Roberts court has ruled in favor of religious organizations, including mainstream Christian organizations, more frequently than its predecessors. With the replacement of Ruth Bader Ginsburg with Amy Coney Barrett, this trend will not end soon and may accelerate. More broadly, one new study found, "the politicization of religious freedom has infiltrated every level fo the federal judiciary." The five most pro-religion justices all sit on the current court, the study found.

Biden Orders Panel's Review on Expanding Supreme Court President Biden has ordered a 180-day study of adding seats to the Supreme Court, making good on a campaign-year promise to establish a bipartisan commission to examine the potentially explosive subjects of expanding the Court or setting term limits for justices. The president acted under pressure from activists pushing for more seats to alter the ideological balance of the Court after Trump appointed 3 justices, including one to a seat that Republicans had blocked his predecessor, Obama, from filling for almost a year. The result is a Court with a stronger conservative tilt, now 6 to 3, after the addition of Trump's choices. While Biden, a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has asserted that the system of judicial nominations is "getting out of whack," he has declined to say whether he supports altering the size of the Court or making other changes -- like imposing term limits -- to the current system of lifetime appointments.

7 Women Nominated for the Court of Appeals For the first time in New York State Commission on Judicial Nomination history, all 7 candidates to fill the upcoming vacancy on the Court of Appeals are women. The Commission's nominees to the governor are: Ellen Nachtigall Biben, Kathy Hirata Chin, Caitlin J. Halligan, Valerie Brathwaite, Erin M. Peradotto, Madeline Singas, and Shirley Troutman. By law, the governor is required to make his appointment from the list no sooner than April 23rd nor later than May 8th. The New York State Senate -- within 30 days after receipt of the governor's choice -- must confirm or reject the appointment. The applicant pool was diverse; of the 45 candidates, 26 (or 57%) were women and 14 (or 31%) were of diverse backgrounds.

Biden's First Spending Blueprint Puts Priority on Domestic Needs The Biden administration unveiled a $1.5 trillion partial budget request for the next fiscal year, calling for increases across a range of domestic programs aimed at fighting poverty and climate change, while keeping defense spending relatively flat. The 41-page document lays out the White House's spending priorities, and while it's up to Congress to set exact spending levels and programs, the budget is expected to be received favorably by the Democratic majorities on Capitol Hill. The administration's first budget blueprint does not contain details of the president's $2 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan, nor does it lay out projected spending on programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Details on those and the president's proposed tax increases are promised later this spring. The budget numbers would increase overall spending on discretionary programs by $118 billion, or 8.4% above last year's levels. Defense spending would remain essentially flat, with an increase of $12.3 billion, or 1.7%, while other domestic programs get a 15.9% boost.

Democrats Win Key Tool for Enacting Biden Plans A surprise decision by a top Senate official gives Democrats multiple chances to skirt Republican opposition, but it could sap momentum for weakening the filibuster. They might not have the votes to gut the filibuster, but they were just handed the procedural keys to a backdoor assault on the Senate's famous obstruction tactic. With a ruling that Democrats can reuse this year's budget blueprint at least once to employ the fast-track reconciliation process, Democrats can now conceivably advance multiple spending and tax packages this year alone without a single Republican vote, as long as they hold their 50 members together. It is a means of weakening the filibuster without having to take the politically charged vote to do so. Democrats insist that they have made no decisions about how to use the tool.

How Businesses Led by Minorities Received Less Relief A year after the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) started, studies show how its design hurt Black-and other minority-owned businesses. Congress created the PPP in March 2020 as an emergency stopgap for what lawmakers expected to be a few months of sharp economic disruption. However as the pandemic raged on, the program -- which made its first loans one year ago this past week -- has turned into the largest small-business support program in American history, sending $734 billion in forgivable loans to struggling companies. The program helped nearly 7 million businesses retain workers, but has also been plagued by complex, changing rules at every stage of its existence. One year in, it has become clear that the program's hasty rollout and design hurt some of themes vulnerable businesses. Analyses of dates and interviews with dozens of small businesses and bankers show that Black- and other minority-owned businesses were disproportionately underserved by the relief effort, often because they lacked the connections to get access to the aid or were rejected because of the program's rules.

U.S. and Iran Agree to Return to Nuclear Deal After weeks of failed starts and back-channel exchanges, the countries will negotiate through intermediaries in Vienna to try to bring both back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement. Restoring the nuclear agreement would be a major step, nearly 3 years after President Trump scrapped it, and perhaps begin a thaw in the frozen hospitality between the 2 countries. Yet it is far from clear that the complex diplomatic choreography now under discussion -- in which American sanctions would be lifted as Iran cuts back on its production of nuclear fuel and allows international inspectors full access to its facilities -- could happen before the Iranian presidential election in June.

Government's 'No-Fly List' is Challenged in New Suit A Michigan man challenged the constitutionality of the government's so-called no-fly list in a lawsuit, accusing the FBI of violating his due process rights by barring him from air travel and giving him no meaningful opportunity to challenge their decision. The case, developed by the American Civil Liberties Union, opens a new front in a still-unresolved clash between the scope of individual rights and collective security measures after the attacks of September 11, 2001: the government's practice of placing people on watch lists based on suspicions of links to terrorism.

Biden Moves to Curb Plague of Gun Crime During a speech in the Rose Garden, President Biden announced several steps that the Justice Department will take to "curb the epidemic of gun violence," including a renewed push for "red flag" laws at the state level, requiring gun owners to report modifications to pistols and regulating the sale of so-called "ghost guns."

With No Address or ID, Missing Out on Stimulus Many people living in homeless shelters and on the street have not received the federal stimulus checks they're entitled to, stymied by misinformation and bureaucracy. Just about anyone with a Social Security number who is not someone else's dependent and who earns less than $75,000 is entitled to the stimulus. However, some of the people who would benefit most form the money are having the hardest time getting their hands on it. Some homeless people mistakenly assumed they were ineligible for the stimulus. Others said that bureaucratic hurdles, complicated by limited phone or internet access, were insurmountable. Paradoxically, the very poor are probably the most likely people to pump stimulus money right back into deviated local economies, rather than sock it away in the bank or use it to play the stock market.

A Particle's Tiny Wobble Could Upend the Known Laws of Physics Experiments with particles known as muons suggest that there are forms of matter and energy vital to the nature and evolution of the cosmos that are not yet known to science. Evidence is mounting that a tiny subatomic particle seems to be disobeying the known laws of physics, scientists announced, a finding that would open a vast and tantalizing hole in our understanding of the universe. The result, the physicists say, suggest that there are forms of matter and energy vital to the nature and evolution of the cosmos that are not yet known to science. The new work, they said, could eventually lead to breakthroughs more dramatic than the heralded discovery in 2012 of the Higgs boson, a particle that imbues other particles with mass.

Swelling Anti-Asian Violence: Who is Being Attacked Where Over the last year, in an unrelenting series of episodes with clear racial animus, people of Asian descent have bene pushed, beaten, kicked, spat on, and called slurs. Homes and businesses have been vandalized. The violence has known no boundaries, spanning generations, income brackets and regions. Using media reports from across the country, the New York Times found more than 110 episodes since March 2020 in which there was clear evidence of race-based hate. There have been many more attacks on people of Asian descent in which hate is not a clear motivation the way it is when racial slurs are used. The incidents have unfolded in most every region, but they have been mostly in big cities along the coasts with large Asian populations, although findings also occurred in small towns as well.

New York Reaches Deal on $212 Billion Budget to Jump-Start Recovery Governor Cuomo and the Legislature have agreed to raise taxes on the wealthy and give aid to renters, businesses, and undocumented immigrants in a $212 billion state budget. Many of the budget's key initiatives are aimed at jump-starting the recovery of a state that was the onetime epicenter of the pandemic. It includes $2.3 billion in federal funds to help tenants late on rent: $1 billion in grants and tax credits for small businesses that suffered for the economic downturn; and a $2.1 billion fund to provide one-time payments for undocumented workers who did not qualify for federal stimulus checks or unemployment benefits. All were proposals championed by Democratic leaders.

New York to Provide $2.1 Billion for Undocumented Immigrants After a sweeping move by lawmakers this week, New York will now offer one-time payments of up to $15,600 to undocumented immigrants who lost work during the pandemic. The effort -- a $2.1 billion fund in the state budget -- is by far the biggest of its kind in the country and a sign of the state's shift toward policies championed by progressive Democrats. This fund dwarfs a similar relief program enacted in California, where officials set up $75 million cash assistance program last year that gave undocumented immigrants a $500 one-time payment on a first-come, first-served basis.

Aide Says Cuomo Groomed Her for Months Before Groping Her A woman who has accused Cuomo of groping her in the Executive Mansion gave a fuller account in a published report, detailing how she believed that the governor had groomed her for months with a series of tight hugs and sexually suggestive comments. The groping incident followed later in 2020, said the woman, an administrative assistant who still works at the Capitol and who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Georgia's Law Erodes Guardrails Against Subverting Elections Trying to reverse an election result without credible evidence of widespread fraud is an act of a different magnitude than narrowing access. A successful effort to subvert an election would pose grave and fundamental risks to democracy, risking political violence and secessionism. Beyond any provisions on voting itself, the new Georgia election law risks making election subversion easier. It creates new avenues for partisan interference in election administration. This includes allowing the state elections board, now newly controlled by appointees of the Republican State Legislature, to appoint a single person to take control of typically bipartisan county election boards, which have important power over vote counting and voter eligibility. The law also gives the Legislature the authority to appoint the chair of the state election board and 2 more of its 5 voting members, allowing it to appoint a majority of the board. It strips the secretary of state of the chair and a vote. Even without this law, there would still be a risk of election subversion.

Governor of Arkansas, a Republican, Vetoes an Anti-Transgender Bill Arkansas' Republican governor vetoed an anti-transgender health care bill that would have prohibited physicians in the state from providing gender-affirming "procedures" for trans people under the age 18. The governor told reporters that he killed HB 1570 because the bill "would be and is a vast government overreach" and because it would have created "new standards of legislative interference with physicians and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters involving young people." The governor called the legalization "a product of the cultural war in America," adding that his veto comes even though he believed the bill was "well-intended." The governor predicted during his remarks that the state's Republican-controlled General Assembly "will likely override" his veto, noting that it takes only a simple majority to do so.

Texas Committee Approves Measure Adding New Rules to Restrict Voting The Texas State Senate advanced a far-reaching elections bill earlier this month with several provisions placing new restrictions on the voting process, particularly for those living in densely populated counties. The vote on Senate Bill 7 was 18-13 after more than 7 hours of debate and several amendments to the legislation. The controversial measures included in the initial bill are changes to poll watchers, voting hours, disability verification, and the number of county polling locations. The bill would also ban drive-through voting and limit extended early voting hours.

Major Setback to Labor As Amazon Employees Reject Unionization Bid Workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama handed the online retail giant a decisive victory when they voted against forming a union and cut off a path that labor activists had hoped would lead to similar efforts throughout the company and beyond. After months of aggressive campaigning from both sides, 1,798 warehouse workers ultimately rejected the union, while 738 voted in favor of it, according to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which is overseeing the process. About 53% of the nearly 6,000 workers cast their ballots. The union said it would file an objection with the NLRB charging the company with illegally interfering with the union vote. The union push was the biggest in Amazon's 26-year history and only the second time that an organizing effort from within the company had come to a vote. However, Bessemer was always viewed as a long shot, since it pitted the country's second-largest employer against warehouse workers in a state with laws that don't favor unions.

Capitol Rioters Traveled from Towns Where Fear of Racial Change Prevails Counties with the most significant declines in the non-Hispanic white population were the most likely to be homes to people who stormed the Capitol. Political scientist Robert Pape found that most of the people who took part in the assault came from places, his polling and demographic data showed, that were awash in fears that the rights of minorities and immigrants were crowding out the rights of white people in American politics and culture. If Pape's initial conclusions hold true, they would suggest that the Capitol attack has historical echoes reaching back to before the Civil War. In the shorter term, the study would appear to connect January 6th not only to the once-fringe right-wing theory called the Great Replacement, which holds that minorities and immigrants are seeking to take over the country, but also to events like the far-right rally in Charlottesville, VA in 2017, where crowds of white men marched with torches chanting, "Jews will not replace us!"

Ex-Trump Official Fined for Violating Hatch Act A former political appointee under the Trump administration has been disciplined for improperly using her official position in the Department of Housing and Urban Development *HUD) to support former President Trump's reelection campaign. Lynne Patton, who served as a regional administrator for HUD, was fined $1,000 and barred from federal employment for 4 years after admitting to violating the Hatch Act, a federal law that limits partisan activity by federal employees to ensure the government functions fairly.

Leader Kept National Rifle Association's Bankruptcy Filing Secret Wayne LaPierre, the embattled chief executive of the National Rifle Association (NRA), said that he had kept his organization's recent bankruptcy filing secret from almost all of its senior officials, including its general counsel, chief financial officer, and top lobbyist. He also did not inform most of the NRA's board. LaPierre made the comments on the stand at trial in federal bankruptcy court in Dallas. Though the NRA is solvent, it filed for bankruptcy protection in January in an audacious bid to circumvent regulators in New York, where the NRA has been chartered for a century and a half. The state's attorney general, Letitia James, had sued the association in August, trying to shut it down amid claims of mismanagement and corruption. She is also seeking tens of millions of dollars in misspent funds from LaPierre and 3 other current or former NRA leaders. The nonprofit organization has been enmeshed in scandal for the last 2 years.

Distrct Attorney to Void Up to 90 Convictions Tied to Fired New York Detective The District Attorney wants to dismiss 90 convictions tied to an ex-New York Police Department (NYPD) detective accused of perjury. "Knowingly and repeatedly framing innocent people obliterates the credibility of any police officer," said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. Gonzalez announced last week that he is going to ask the court to vacate and dismiss 27 felony convictions and 63 misdemeanor convictions that were based on work conducted by former undercover NYPD detective Joseph Franco. Franco was indicted by a New York County grand jury in April 2019 on numerous charges, including official misconduct and 16 counts of first-degree perjury. Three months later, he was indicted on 10 additional counts of perjury. The indictments stem from 4 incidents in which he is accused of "framing numerous individuals for making narcotics transactions." He was fired by the NYPD in May and is currently awaiting trail on both indictments.

French Men are Finally Put on Notice as #MeToo Gains Ground Since the start of the year, well-known men from diverse fields -- politics, sports, the news media, academia, and the arts -- have been accused of sexual abuse and placed under investigation. At the same time, confronted with these high-profile cases and a shift in public opinion, French lawmakers are hurrying to set 15 as the age of sexual consent -- only 3 years after rejecting such a law. The recent accusations have not only led to official investigations, the loss of positions for some men, and outright banishment from public life for others. They have also resulted in a rethinking of French masculinity and of the archetype of Frenchmen as irresistible seducers -- as part of a broader questioning of many aspects of French society and amid a conservative backlash against ideas on gender, race, and post colonialism supposedly imported from American universities.

Amid Sexual Abuse Uproar, Australia Plots 'Road Map for Respect' After 2 months of sexual harassment and assault scandals, including a claim of a rape inside Parliament House, Australia's conservative government agreed to accept a series of recommendations that aim to prevent gender-based abuse and increase accountability for misbehavior in the workplace. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he would accept 55 suggestions -- called a "roadmap for respect" -- from the country's human rights commissioner to tackle a problem that has been festering for years in politics. His plan includes more education in schools and the promise of new legislation to end exemptions for judges and members of Parliament from the country's sex discrimination law. It would also allow victims to file complaints for up to 2 years after an attack. Morrison's announcement comprises his most comprehensive effort so far to tackle a problem that has been festering for years in Australian politics, with women mistreated, demeaned or sexually harassed, usually without recourse.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Links Rape to 'Vulgarity' and How Women Dress Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has linked the rise in cases of rape and sexual violence in the country to how women dress. Jemima Goldsmith, his former spouse, reacted to the statement by saying that the 'onus is on men'. Khan said incidences of rape and sexual violence are spreading 'like cancer.'

Coronavirus Biden Moves Up Eligibility for Vaccine Eligibility President Biden has announced that the deadline for adult eligibility for Covid-19 vaccines nationwide is being moved up to April 19th. Biden had previously called for states and territories to make all adults eligible for shots by May 1st. As of Tuesday, 36 states have opened eligibility for vaccinations to people ages 16 and older, while 12 more and the District of Columbia are already set to do so by April 19th. Most states were already on track to match the president's new April 19th deadline before he announced it. It is unclear how moving up a deadline set by the president actually changes the distribution of the vaccines or how quickly they're injected into Americans' arms. It was also not immediately clear if the new, earlier deadline also signals that vaccine supply is arriving faster or if there are new plans to more quickly vaccinate Americans waiting to get their shorts.

Highly Contagious Variant is Dominant in New Cases, Director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Warns The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that the highly transmissible coronavirus variant (B.1.1.7) first detected in the U.K. has now become the dominant strain circulating in the U.S. According to CDC data, over 16,000 cases of the variant have been documented in the U.S., though experts warn that is likely an undercount. Studies have suggested that the variant is more transmissible and likely more deadly. Florida reports the most cases of the variant at over 3,100. Michigan, Wisconsin, California, and Colorado follow with the next highest numbers. Hospitals are also reporting seeing younger adults in their 30s and 40s suffering from severe Covid-19 effects.

Chance of Catching Covid From Surfaces is Low The CDC acknowledged what scientists have been saying for months, that the risk of catching the coronavirus from surfaces is low. When the virus began to spread in the U.S. last spring, many experts warned of the danger posed by surfaces. American responded in kind, wiping down groceries, quarantining mail, and clearing drugstore shelves of Clorox wipes. The era of "hygiene theater" may have come to an unofficial end, as the CDC updated its surface cleaning guidelines, noting that the risk of contracting the virus form touching a contaminated surface was less than onw in 10,000.

Intelligence Report Warns Pandemic is Chipping Away at the World Order U.S. intelligence officials have little comfort to offer a pandemic-weary planet about where the world is heading in the next 20 years; with a short answer: it looks pretty bleak. The National Intelligence Council, a center in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that creates strategic forecasts and estimates, often based on material gathered by U.S. spy agencies, has recently released its quadrennial "Global Trends" report. Looking over the time horizon, it finds a world unsettled by the coronavirus pandemic, the ravages of climate change -- which will propel mass migration -- and a widening gap between what people demand from their leaders and what the leaders can actually deliver. The intelligence community has long warned policymakers and the public that pandemic disease could profoundly reshape global politics and U.S. national security. The Council has called it "the most significant, singular global disruption since World War II and "has reminded the world of its fragility" and "shaken long-held assumptions" about how well governments and institutions could respond to a catastrophe.

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