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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:

Entertainment Karen Olivo Won't Return to 'Moulin Rouge!' In a 5-minute Instagram video, Karen Olivo, star of "Moulin Rouge! The Musical", announced that she would not be returning to the cast when the play resumes. Citing a Hollywood Reporter story detailing the culture of abusive behavior to staffers by producer Scott Rudin, who was not a producer for "Moulin Rouge!", and the silence of the industry that implicitly condoned such behavior, Olivo stated that '"Broadway is not the place I want to be."'

In related news, Rudin apologized for '"troubling interactions with colleagues'" and said he would not have '"active participation"' in his ongoing shows, which include "The Book of Mormon", "To Kill a Mockingbird", and "West Side Story". Among the allegations against Rudin include throwing a baked potato at an assistant's head and smashing a computer monitor on the hand of a different assistant.

Did the Music Industry Change? A Race 'Report Card' Is on the Way The Black Music Action Coalition, which comprises managers, lawyers, and others in the music industry, was created in the summer of 2020 with the purpose of accounting for how the industry as a whole is addressing social justice issues. In June, the coalition will issue a report that will indicate the "steps the companies have taken toward racial parity, and track whether and where promised donations have been made. It will also examine the number of Black executives at the leading music companies and the power they hold, and how many Black people sit on their boards."

The Healing Power of Music Beyond aesthetic pleasure, researchers are finding that music has a profound clinical impact on treating patients with asthma, autism, depression, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, and strokes. In conjunction with other treatment, music has shown the ability to help patients "cope with their stress and mobilize their body's own capacity to heal." Further, a "review of 400 research papers .... in 2013 concluded that '"listening to music was more effective than prescription drugs in reducing anxiety prior to surgery."' Similarly, reading and writing poetry has shown to have therapeutic effects, especially those suffering grief or anxiety due to the pandemic, and has enabled those to "process difficult feelings like loss, sadness, anger, [and] lack of hope."

Arts Art Institute of Chicago Names Its Next Board Chief Denise Gardner has been picked to be the chairwoman of the Art Institute of Chicago, becoming the first Black woman to hold the position. In her past, Gardner has supported Black artists and provided resources to underrepresented communities in the arts. Gardner also serves on the steering committee of the Black Trustee Alliance for Art Museums, which assists in making museums more diverse through the hiring of Black trustees, artists, and curators.

Nonfungible Tokens Are Shaking Up the Art World. They May Be Warming the Planet, Too Nonfungible tokens, also known as "NFTs", are taking the art world by storm. An NFT is ultimately a piece of artwork "stamped with a unique string of code and stored on a virtual ledger called a blockchain." When an artist uploads the piece, it starts a process known as "mining," which involves mathematical calculations that requires lots of computing power and harnessing of energy. New light has been shed on the ecological toll of such actions. According to some estimates, "the creation of an average NFT has a stunning environmental footprint of over 200 kilograms of planet-warming carbon, equivalent to driving 500 miles in a typical American gasoline-powered car." This has led some to question the technology and even pull artwork that utilizes blockchain technology.

Book by Officer Who Shot Breonna Taylor Is a New Test for Publishers Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly, infamously known for his role in the shooting of Breonna Taylor, had agreed to book deal with small, independent publisher, Post Hill Press. Simon & Schuster was set to distribute the book, but after news of its release made its way onto the internet, Simon & Schuster quickly did an about face, announcing that it would not distribute the book. Distributors typically are not allowed to select which titles they ship, and it is exceedingly rare that they take such action.

His Fence Says 'Black Lives Matter.' His City Says Paint Over It In West St. Paul, a small community outside the Twin Cities in Minnesota, a 75-foot fence was painted on depicting Kimetha Johnson, the city's first Black mayoral candidate, and "Black Lives Matter" written in large, bold print. Ryan Weyandt, who owned the fence and the house it borders, received a notice from West St. Paul officials in November informing him that he was violating the city's sign ordinance. The city cited the local ordinance, which bans signs '"painted, attached or in any other manner affixed to fences, roofs, trees, rocks or other similar natural surfaces."' While the city says that its restrictions are not based on the content of the mural, others in the town of 20,000, where only 5% are African-American, disagree. The news comes amidst the trial of Derick Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who is charged with killing George Floyd.

A Clash of Wills Keeps a Leonardo Masterpiece Hidden In connection with a planned show commemorating the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci's death, the Louvre planned to hang "Salvator Mundi," which fetched over $450 million at a recent auction. The anonymous bidder -- many of whom believe to be Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia -- withheld the painting from being shown. Some believe that the Saudis were never serious about including the painting in the French show, as they wanted the paining to hang next to the "Mona Lisa". In turn, the French never publicly acknowledged the authenticity of the "Salvator Mundi", leading some to question whether the paining was a da Vinci. As a result of the standoff, the painting remains out of sight for the planned exhibition.

Turkey Fights for Return of a Work It Says Was Looted A dispute has arisen over the possession of famed art sculpture, "The Guennol Stargazer", which was carved roughly 6,000 years ago and depicts the female form abstractly. The Turkish government, citing the 1906 Ottoman Decree, claims broad ownership over antiquities found in the country. Christie's, which held an audition that fetched $14.4 million for the piece (before the buyer rescinded) has kept it in a vault. A civil trial in the Southern District of New York will now determine the rightful ownership of the piece.

Sports NCAA Responds, Tentatively, to Transgender Athlete Bans In at least 30 states, bills have emerged that would consider barring transgender athletes from competing in sports competitions. In response, the NCAA released a statement saying that it is '"committed to ensuring that NCAA championships are open for all who earn the right to compete in them."' The statement, however, falls short of pulling championships from states considering such legislation, an action taken by the NCAA in 2016 after North Carolina passed a law restricting bathroom access for those who identify as transgender.

U.S. Women's Team Clears Hurdle to Reviving Equal Pay Fight Judge R. Gary Klausner, of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, approved a partial-settlement agreement between U.S. Soccer and the Women's National team on working conditions that was reached last year. Rejecting the main argument of equal pay, Judge Klausner allowed the Women's National team to continue to argue claims over unequal working conditions regarding team flights, hotels, venue selection, and staffing. Now that issues over working conditions have been resolved, the team is pursuing its appeal of Judge Klausner's ruling that dismissed their demands for equal pay.

NCAA Fines U.S.C. Men's Basketball Over Bribery Case In 2019, former associate head coach of the University of Southern California's men's basketball team, Tony Bland, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery for his acceptance of a $4,100 bribe from a sports agent in exchange for directing future NBA eligible players to a Las Vegas management company. Last week, the NCAA disciplinary committee placed a 2-year probation on the basketball program and fined it $5,000, plus 1% of the program's budget, in response to Bland's actions. The NCAA's decision also prevents Bland from working in a college athletics program for 3 years.

Hideki Matsuyama Wins the Masters With a Groundbreaking Performance THideki Matsuyama became the first Asian-born male golfer to win the Masters golf tournament. He finished 10 under par for the tournament and closed with a one shot lead over Will Zalatoris. Matsuyama's win comes at a time when violence against Asian-Americans has grown at an alarming pace.

Major League Baseball Pushes Incentives to Encourage Players to Get Vaccine On March 29th, Major League Baseball (MLB) and the players' union sent the players a 3-page memorandum discussing how the strict health and safety protocols to curb the spread of the coronavirus would be relaxed for those who are vaccinated and for teams that reach an 85% threshold. Under the plan, vaccinated players can "gather on team planes, trains or buses again" and "virus testing can be reduced from every other day to twice a week." For teams, masks would no longer be required in the bullpen or dugout, and shared clubhouse activities, like card games and video games, could also return.

Topps is Releasing Official NFT Baseball Cards on April 20th Topps, the collectible card company, announced that it will be auctioning off its products as NFTs. The market for NFTs exploded through the National Basketball Association's (NBA) version called "Moments", which are purchasable video clips that have sold for up to $200,000. The Topps cards will start selling on "April 20th, with 50,000 standard packs (containing six cards for $5) and around 24,000 premium packs (offering 45 cards for $100) set to be sold in the first wave."

Technology/Media 'Master', 'Slave', and the Fight Over Offensive Terms in Computing The Internet Engineering Task Force is attempting to address antiquated and racist terms within engineering language, such as "master", "slave", "whitelist", and "blacklist". The group, which is composed of roughly 7,000 volunteers around the world, is organized to solve the internet's trickiest engineering issues to ensure uniformity of the internet. Yet a consensus has not been reached by the volunteer group on what terms to use instead, if any. Without such guidance, internet companies have tackled the issue on their own, creating their own terms such as "source" and "replica" to replace the offensive terms.

Smartmatic Says Disinformation on Fox News About the Election Was 'No Accident' A recent lawsuit filed by election technology company Smartmatic alleges that unfounded conspiracy theories pushed by Fox News and Fox hosts, including Maria Bartiromo, Jeanine Pirro, and Lou Dobbs, destroyed the company's reputation and business. In its motion to dismiss, Fox News argued that it covered the 2020 election in a responsible way and that mentions of Smarmatic were merely part of the overall story that then-President Trump was not conceding the election. In the coming weeks, the presiding judge will determine whether Smartmatic's case will proceed.

Mark Zuckerberg is Urged to Scrap Plans for an Instagram for Children In response to Instagram's plan to develop an Instagram for children under the age of 13, an international group of 35 children's and consumer groups demanded that the company halt its plans. While the application's goal of targeting a younger demographic was to curb bullying, protect them from sexual deviants, and prevent them from using the main site, the coalition said that '"it will likely increase the use of Instagram by young children who are particularly vulnerable to the platform's manipulative and exploitative features."'

Feeding Hate With Video: A Former Alt-Right YouTuber Explains His Methods Many around the globe, including regulators, tech companies, and users, are struggling to understand the breadth and power that social media companies have in sowing hate and violence. For those individuals who had a part in creating an environment of such hate on the internet, some are realizing their roles and have taken efforts to detail the actions they took to gain notoriety on the internet for fringe movements. This includes make strategic edits to videos, showing aggressors as victims, and seeking confrontations to help attract millions of views on YouTube and similar platforms. Algorithms on social media platforms then recommend other similar videos that are even more extreme, creating an echo chamber of views.

Reuters Names a New Editor in Chief Reuters announced that Alessandra Galloni will become Editor-in-Chief of the news publication. The news marks the first time a woman has been appointed to the top editorial position in its 170-year history. Galloni had been the global managing editor of the publication since 2015 and had previously worked for 13 years as a reporter and editor at the Wall Street Journal.

Former Condé Nast Editor Plans a Vanity Fair for the Substack Era Heat Media, the creation of Jon Kelly, formerly of Vanity Fair, is creating a new publication platform that would provide writers with equity and a percentage of the subscription revenue they would generate. The new media company, which is yet to be named, has already received venture capital money and is alleged to include a daily newsletter, a website, and access to events in its $100 per year subscription. To allocate money to the writers, "the publication would rely on an algorithm to gauge how many readers bought a subscription because of a specific writer."

Hong Kong Court Sentences Jimmy Lai and Other Pro-Democracy Leaders to Prison A Hong Kong court sentenced Jimmy Lai, head of a tabloid-style publication that is often critical of Chinese government, to 12 months in prison for his participation in a peaceful demonstration addressing China's intrusion into Hong Kong's territory. Supporters of Lai say that the sentence marks the latest signal of Beijing's influence in turning Hong Kong from a epicenter of free speech to one that punishes those who openly oppose China.

General News Beyond Pandemic's Upheaval, a Racial Wealth Gap Endures While President Biden's executive orders and pandemic relief bill have taken steps to address racial inequality in areas covering health care, education, and infrastructure, some have pointed out that such efforts have not done enough to address the wealth gap between white and Black Americans. It has been shown that "for every dollar a typical white household has, a Black one has 12 cents, a divide that has grown over the last half-century." Economists estimate that the wealth gap has cost the United States economy "$1 trillion to $1.5 trillion over 10 years, or 4 to 6 percent of the projected gross domestic product in 2028." In response, Vice President Kamala Harris and several Democratic senators have supported proposals that target the racial wealth gap, including a program to increase Black homeownership and creating trust accounts for newborns called "baby bonds".

Democrats' Supreme Court Expansion Plan Draws Resistance House and Senate Democrats introduced legislation that would expand the Supreme Court from 9 justices to 13. Democrats view the legislation as a way to restore neutrality on the Court, after Mitch McConnell refused to allow a vote on the nomination of Merrick Garland during the Obama administration and rammed through the vote on Justice Amy Comey Barrett just days before the 2020 election. The bill faces steep opposition in the Senate, where the filibuster remains, and amongst Republicans, who see the measure as trying to "pack" the Court to gain a partisan advantage. The size of the Court is not set by the Constitution, but rather through legislation, and has not been changed since 1869.

Biden Wavers on Restricting Refugee Entry In contravention to earlier promises to allow more than 60,000 individuals fleeing war and persecution into the United States, the Biden administration announced that it would limit the number of refugees to the 15,000 limit set by the Trump administration. President Biden cited concerns that lifting the cap would overwhelm and create chaos in an already strained refugee-processing system. In response to outcries by Democrats and human rights activists, the White House reversed course again and said that it promised to announced an increased number by May 15th.

U.S. Imposes Stiff Sanctions on Russia, Blaming It for Major Hacking Operation The Biden administration announced sanctions on 32 entities and individuals for their part in effectuating the Kremlin's directive to sow confusion and misinformation in the 2020 election. In addition, "ten Russian diplomats, most of them identified as intelligence operatives, were expelled from the Russian Embassy in Washington. And the administration banned American banks from purchasing newly issued Russian government debt." In response, Russia promised retaliation at a yet-to-be-determined time.

Defying Republicans, Big Companies Keep the Focus on Voting Rights In the wake of the state of Georgia passing restrictive voting rights legislation that limits the use of early voting and the presence of drop boxes, amongst other restrictions, a group of prominent businesses, including Google, Netflix, BlackRock, Ford, PayPal, and Twilio have created a coalition which purpose is to use its clout to oppose voter suppression legislation in Georgia and other states. Similarly, MLB recently announced that it was moving its 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver due to the passing of voter suppression laws. In addition, Apple's upcoming movie "Emancipation", starring Will Smith, who plays an enslaved man who emancipated himself from a Southern plantation and joined the Union Army, pulled out of filming in Georgia.

Biden to Withdraw All Combat Troops From Afghanistan by Sept. 11th According to President Biden, the military will withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September 11th, coinciding with the twentieth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on American soil. The move goes against the Pentagon's advice to remain in Afghanistan until Afghan security forces can hold their own against the Taliban. The conflict in Afghanistan has cost the lives of nearly 2,400 troops and roughly $2 trillion. President Biden's plan has drawn praise from Democrats and those in the military, who saw no end to the costly war. Republicans and others in the military, however, note that such a move would put troops in danger and would create fertile ground for terrorist organizations to plan future attacks against the United States.

House Panel Advances Bill to Study Reparations in Historic Vote In a vote by the House Judiciary Committee, members voted "to recommend for the first time the creation of a commission to consider providing Black Americans with reparations for slavery in the United States and a '"national apology"' for centuries of discrimination." The bill, however, faces an uphill battle for passage, as some Democrats and unified Republicans argue that Black Americans do not need government assistance of crimes committed years ago. Polling indicates that support is growing for such a plan, but has not yet become mainstream.

A Capitol Police Lieutenant Won't Face Charges in the Jan. 6th Shooting Death of a Rioter. After a 3-month investigation, the Justice Department announced that it will not be pursuing criminal charges against a Capitol Police lieutenant who shot and killed Ashli Babbitt after she entered the Capitol on January 6th. Along with others, Babbitt had tried to access the floor of the House through the Speaker's Lobby. After an analysis of videos posted on social media, evidence from the scene of the shooting, witness statements, and Babitt's autopsy, the Justice Department found insufficient evidence to lead to a criminal prosecution.

How the Capitol Riot Suspects Are Challenging the Charges After the FBI opened a probe into the events that led up to and including the riot at the Capitol on January 6th, over 400 people have been charged with crimes among the several hundred investigations that have taken place. With no underlying precedent for the events that took place, prosecutors and defendants are using creating arguments to bolster their position or weaken their opponents'. For example, "one prosecutor made a novel legal argument last week, suggesting in court that a rioter had '"corralled"' a segment of the crowd into storming the Capitol and thus had turned the mob itself into a weapon." Defense attorneys, on the other hand, have argued that their clients cannot receive a fair trial, as the "city's liberal electorate was barraged by media accounts describing rioters . . . as '"white supremacists"' who had launched a '"domestic terror attack."'

Oath Keeper Pleads Guilty and Will Cooperate in Jan. 6th Riot Inquiry Jon Ryan Schaffer, an Oath Keeper member who was charge in connection with the riot at the Capitol, has pleaded guilty to obstructing an official proceeding and entering a restricted building with a dangerous weapon and has agreed to cooperate with the government, opening up the opportunity to identify others of the far-right group who had a part in the insurrection. Currently, 12 other members of the organization have been charged for their participation in the event.

Capitol Police Told to Hold Back on Riot Response on Jan. 6th, Report Finds In an internal report issued by Inspector General, Michael A. Bolton of the Capitol Police, the 104-page document outlined that the Capitol Police had advanced notice that "Congress itself [was] the target" and police officers were instructed by top leadership not to use their most aggressive tactics to subdue the mob. Part of the explanation for not using such tactics as sting balls and stun grenades, which are often used for crowd control, was that the officers were not adequately trained to use the equipment, and senior officials were afraid they would be used to injure or even kill people. In the wake of the riot, "three top security officials in charge that day resigned in disgrace, and they have since deflected responsibility for the intelligence failures, blaming other agencies, each other and at one point even a subordinate."

Justice Dept. Restores Use of Consent Decrees for Police Abuses Attorney General Merrick Garland is restoring the use of consent decrees as one of the department's most important tools in combating police abuses and creating future change. Consent decrees are "court-approved deals between the Justice Department and local governmental agencies that create a road map for changes to the way they operate." The announcement comes amidst the backdrop of the ongoing case against Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who is accused of killing George Floyd. The policy change reverses the prior administration's restrictions on the use of consent decrees that were imposed by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the end of his tenure.

Derek Chauvin Declines to Testify as His Defense Ends After 2 Days Derek Chauvin, who is on trial for the infamous killing of George Floyd, which led to widespread, nationwide movements to raise awareness of social injustice initiatives, has declined to testify on his own behalf. The defense team for Chauvin has argued that Floyd's underlying health deficiencies and his use of drugs caused his death and that Chauvin's actions were reasonable considering Floyd's apparent resistance.

Police Officer Who Shot and Killed Daunte Wright Was Training Others In Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, Duante Wright, a 20-year-old Black man was shot and killed in his car after body camera footage showed he was attempting to avoid arrest. Officer Kimberly Porter, who shouted "Taser!" after Wright managed his way back into his car after his arrest, instead shot Wright in the chest once, killing him instantly. Porter, a 26-year veteran of the police force was in the midst of training junior officers that day. The incident has led to daily protests in Brooklyn Center. Porter has since resigned from the Brooklyn Center Police Force.

The incident, which involved a case of so-called "weapon confusion", however, is not entirely unique. What is consistent is that other cases of "weapon confusion" has infrequently led to prosecutions or arrests. In fact, "a New York Times review of 15 other cases of so-called weapon confusion over the past 20 years showed that only five of the officers were indicted. Only three, including the only two cases in which people were killed, were eventually found guilty." A difference to note is that in cases of "weapon confusion" qualified immunity rarely applies to the officer's actions, usually allowing cases to proceed.

Court Vindicates Black Officer Fired for Stopping Colleague's Chokehold In 2006, a domestic dispute arose, leading to the arrest of a Black man. In response to a call by a colleague, Officer Kwiatkowski, who was asking for help, Officer Cariol Horne found Kwiatkowski in a rage and was repeatedly punching the arrestee in the face. After Kwiatkowski put the handcuffed man in a chokehold, who subsequently shouted that he could not breathe, Horne jumped on her colleague, forcibly removed him, and exchanged punches. Cariol was fired from her job, just one year shy of the 20 years needed to receive a pension, while Kwiatkowski received a promotion that same year. Fifteen years later, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, the attention brought to chokeholds, and Cariol's law, named after Horne, which requires "officers to step in when one of their own used excessive force," a judge recently vacated an earlier ruling that affirmed her firing, allowing Horne to receive the back pay and benefits she had previously been denied.

Subpoenaing the Brookings Institution, Durham Focuses on Trump-Russia Dossier Under the Trump administration, John H. Durham was appointed as special counsel to investigate the Trump-Russia inquiry that was opened by the FBI. One of the key avenues Durham has focused on is the so called "Steele Dossier", which included political opposition research that was used to obtain a court warrant to wiretap former Trump associates. Additionally, Durham has subpoenaed Igor Danchenko, a Russian researcher and former Bookings Institution staffer who helped gather rumors about Trump and Russia for the Steele Dossier, to provide documents. The Durham report was long heralded by the Trump administration to prove a deep-state conspiracy against him, but has not yet come to light, evoking sarcastic statements from Trump asking, "Where's Durham?", "Is he a living, breathing human being?", and "Will there ever be a Durham report?"

As New York Courts Seek to Root Out Racism, a Clerk Is Heard Using a Slur At the end of a Family Court proceeding in Manhattan, a court clerk was overhead on Zoom calling a 15-year-old boy, who was being held in detention and who was subject of the proceeding, anti-Black slurs and epithets. The clerk has been suspended without pay and the court system's inspector general is opening an investigation into the matter. The incident comes after a report released last October that found that "court officers routinely used racial slurs without consequence, calling the fundamental fairness of the state's justice system into question."

Liberty University Sues Jerry Falwell Jr., Alleging Deception Liberty University sued its former president, Jerry Falwell Jr., for more than $40 million, alleging breach of contract and fiduciary duty for withholding allegedly damaging information from the school's board of trustees. The charges stem from Falwell Jr. allegedly being blackmailed by a man who was having an affair with his wife. The complaint states that by keeping the extortion a secret from the school, Liberty's reputation was damaged. Falwell Jr. claims that the lawsuit is merely an attempt to defame him and is untruthful.

Coronavirus Johnson & Johnson Vaccinations Paused After Rare Clotting Cases Emerge Six women between the ages of 18 and 48 have developed rare blood-clotting disorders within 1 to 3 weeks after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Over 7 million people in the United States have received the company's vaccine thus far and over 10 million doses have already been shipped out across the country. Out of an abundance of caution, the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a joint statement recommending a nationwide pause in the vaccine's use to examine the rare, but significant complications associated with the company's vaccine.

As Covid Death Toll Passes 3 Million, a Weary World Takes Stock On Saturday, the death toll from Covid-19 surpassed 3 million. The estimates exceed the populations of Berlin, Chicago, and Taipei. While industrialized nations have been successful in vaccinating its populations, hot spots have emerged in Eastern Europe and Latin America, where the virus is accelerating. Even in larger nations, such as France, which had its third national lockdown, there appears to be no end in sight, despite advances in vaccine distribution.

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