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Week In Review

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:


Entertainment

Cosby Is Freed After Reversal By State Court

Bill Cosby was released from prison after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his 2018 conviction for sexual assault, a dramatic reversal in one of the first high-profile criminal trials of the #MeToo era. The court tossed the comedian's conviction for assaulting Andrea Constand because of a non-prosecution agreement Cosby had with a prior prosecutor. Cosby was released from prison because of the ruling, which bars him from being tried again in the case.

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/06/30/court-overturns-bill-cosbys-sex-assault-conviction-bars-further-prosecution.html


Three Years in Prison for Actress Who Lured Women Into NXIVM Cult Group

"Smallville" TV show actress Allison Mack was sentenced to 3 years in prison for her role in NXIVM, a New York-based cult in which women were branded with its leader's initials and ordered to have sex with him. Mack, 38, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis in Brooklyn, after pleading guilty in 2019 to racketeering and conspiracy. She is expected to begin serving her sentence on September 29th.

https://www.reuters.com/business/media-telecom/actress-allison-mack-be-sentenced-role-nxivm-cult-2021-06-30/


Melendez v. Sirius XM Radio

Sirius XM Holdings Inc. recently won the dismissal of a lawsuit by John Melendez, known by his alter ago Stuttering John, claiming that it illegally exploited his celebrity on channels dedicated to radio and television host Howard Stern. Melendez left Stern's radio show in 2004 and became the announcer for NBC's "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno". He sought unspecified damages last August in accusing Sirius of using his name, persona, and voice from old recordings without permission to add listeners and sell advertising. U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty in Manhattan subsequently ruled that federal copyright law preempted Melendez's claims that Sirius violated his publicity rights under California law. He also said that Melendez didn't show that he was injured or that Sirius illegally used him to promote its services, including channels not dedicated to Stern. The lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-sirius-xm-holdgs-stuttering-john-idCAKCN2E02OO


Spears's Father Calls for Inquiry Into Her Claims

Britney Spears's father, Jamie Spears, filed court documents calling for an investigation into the pop star's explosive testimony about life under her conservatorship. At a June 23rd hearing, Spears offered a startling account of the past 13 years of her life; alleging abuse, forced labor, and lack of autonomy over her body. Spears was put under the conservatorship in 2008 after a series of erratic incidents that ended in a 5150 involuntary psychiatric hold. Her father, Jamie, has been in charge of her career and finances ever since. During the hearing, Britney Spears also alleged that she was prescribed medication such as lithium against her will and told that she was not allowed to get married, have another child, or have her IUD removed. In the new documents filed June 29th, lawyers for Jamie requested an evidentiary hearing.

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/britney-spears-conservatorship-jamie-spears-inquiry-1191429/


Company Set to Manage Spears Estate Asks to Quit

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge confirmed that she will soon hear a petition filed by Bessemer Trust, a wealth management firm, to remove itself as a planned co-conservator of pop icon Britney Spears' financial dealings. The firm asked to leave the arrangement in a request filed in court. The company cited the singer's anguished comments in court late last month as the reason for its departure. Judge Brenda Penny set the date for hearing Bessemer's request for July 14th.

https://www.npr.org/2021/07/01/1012290964/judge-bessemer-allowed-withdraw-from-britney-spears-conservatorship


Arts

Springsteen is 'Proof of Life' on Broadway

In a city whose cultural soul had been shuttered for more than a year with boarded up windows and empty streets, it was Springsteen who called it back to life, his gruff and guttural rasp the first to echo across a Broadway stage to a paying audience in 471 days. "Springsteen on Broadway" is no traditional Broadway production -- no mesmerizing choreographed musical numbers, no enchanted sets, no multi-page bios of cast members in the Playbill. The show consists of a man alone onstage: his ensemble a microphone, a harmonica, a piano and 6 steel strings stretched across a select slab of spruce wood. "I am here tonight to provide proof of life," Springsteen called out early on. It was a line from the monologue of his original show -- which ran for 236 performances, in 2017 and 2018 -- and now it carried extra weight. The 15 months that Broadway had been shuttered was its longest silence in history.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/27/theater/bruce-springsteen-broadway.html


Lots of Benjamins for 'Hamilton': Musical Qualifies for Pandemic Relief

The megahit had 5 separate productions around the nation, and with each applying for $10 million in pandemic relief to help get back onstage, the tally could reach $50 million. "Hamilton" is the biggest Broadway hit in years, and until the coronavirus pandemic shuttered all of its productions, it was making money: It has played to full houses since it opened in 2015, and on Broadway it has been seen by 2.6 million people and grossed $650 million. The production is getting the funds because before the pandemic, it had 5 separately incorporated productions running in the U.S. -- one on Broadway and 4 on tour -- and, under the rules set for the government's Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, which provides pandemic relief for the culture sector and live-event businesses, each was eligible for $10 million to help make up for lost revenue. The practice of separately incorporating touring productions is standard in the commercial theater business. "Hamilton" stands to get the most money because it had the most touring productions.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/29/theater/hamilton-broadway-federal-aid.html


Strong Partner Lifts New York Dance

The Dance Theater of Harlem was one of 286 "historically underfunded and overlooked" organizations around the country that were included in the latest $2.74 billion in donations from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, a novelist and the former wife of Jeff Bezos, and her husband, Dan Jewett. This round included arts organizations, and in New York City, that meant aid for groups including El Museo del Barrio, the Studio Museum in Harlem, Ballet Hispanico, and Jazz at Lincoln Center.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/27/arts/dance/mackenzie-scott-dance.html


Yale Drama Can Now Go Tuition-Free

Some 200 students per year will now attend the prestigious Yale School of Drama without paying tuition, thanks to the generosity of David Geffen. The school has announced that the billionaire entertainment mogul is giving it $150 million, which it claims is the largest gift in the history of American theater. The graduate school offers programs in acting, design, directing, and playwriting. It will now rename itself the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale University. The school has said that, starting in August, it would eliminate tuition for all returning and future students in its masters, doctoral, and certificate programs. Tuition at the school had been $32,800 per year. James Bundy, the drama school dean, said that he hoped that the move would lessen the impact of student debt on graduates' career choices. The drama school is home to the Yale Repertory Theater, whose alumni include Meryl Streep, Lynn Nottage, and Lupita Nyong'o.

https://deadline.com/2021/06/david-geffen-yale-drama-150-million-gift-tuition-free-for-students-1234784679/


Peering Into the Paint

High-tech scanning technologies used by geologists, planetary scientists, drug companies, and the military are revealing secrets of how artists created their masterpieces. Art experts, aided by a scientist who used to design cameras for reconnaissance planes, are increasingly taking advantage of a technique that is also used to study Mars to help answer questions of authenticity and attribution. The pandemic has turned out the be a boon for the science of art. When the National Gallery and other museums closed temporarily, venerated paintings could be taken down for study without incurring the wrath of disappointed visitors.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/28/science/vermeer-paintings-fakes-scans.html


House Votes to Remove Capitol's Confederate Statutes

On June 29th, the House of Representatives voted to remove Confederate statues from the Capitol building. The H.R. 3005 Bill passed by a vote of 285-120. Last July, a similar bill passed through the House, but not the Senate, which had a GOP majority at the time. The Bill stipulates that the Capitol's Archie Brett Blaton identify Confederate statues. If this Bill were to pass in the Senate, the statues would be removed from the U.S. Capitol building and returned to the states who originally lent them. However, the Bill does specify that a bust of former Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney, the writer of the 1857 Dred Scott ruling that denied Black American citizenship, be replaced with one of Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court Justice. While the Bill focuses on the removal of Confederate figures, it also states that any work depicting persons "who served voluntarily with [...] the military forces or government of a state while it was in rebellion against the United States" will also be taken down. Additionally, the Bill also asks that statues of Charles Brantley Aycock, John Caldwell Calhoun, and James Paul Clarke -- all prominent white supremacists who served in the U.S. government -- be removed, even though they weren't Confederate figures.

https://www.artnews.com/art-news/news/remove-confederate-statues-capitol-1234597480/


State-Approved Music Fills Lineup of Events

A wave of nationalistic music, theater, and dance is sweeping China, part of Beijing's efforts to improve the party's image and strengthen political loyalty and ensure that its Centennial is met with pomp and fanfare. The celebrations are part of efforts by Xi Jinping, China's authoritarian leader, to make the party omnipresent in people's lives and to strengthen political loyalty among artists. Xi, who has presided over a broad crackdown on free expression in China since rising to power nearly a decade ago, has said that artists should serve the cause of socialism rather than become "slaves" of the market. In honor of the party's Centennial, Xi's government has announced plans for performances of 300 operas, ballets, plays, musical compositions, and other works.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/01/arts/china-communist-party-music-theater-dance.html


Fashion Retailers Face Inquiry Over Suspected Ties to Forced Labor in China

French prosecutors are investigating whether household names like Zara, Uniqlo, and Skechers profited from exploiting Uyghurs in Xinjiang, China - concealed "crimes against humanity." The inquiry follows an April lawsuit filed against the same 4 companies by human rights groups and a Uyghur woman who said that she had been imprisoned in Xinjiang.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/02/fashion/xinjiang-forced-labor-Zara-Uniqlo-Sketchers.html?searchResultPosition=1


Stolen Picasso and Mondrian Works Found in Greece

Stolen Picasso and Mondrian paintings have been found stashed in a ravine in Greece. Ending a long-running mystery, a construction worker guided the police to the hiding place after admitting that he had taken the works in a drawing one-man raid on the National Gallery in Athens in 2012.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/01/world/europe/greece-picasso-mondrian-stolen-art.html


Sports

A Payday Decades in the Making Begins a New Era for College Athletes

A new era in college sports begins this week. Following Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear's executive order allowing athletes to be compensated for the use of their names, images, and likenesses (NIL), at least 7 states will put into effect NIL laws. The law allows athletes to make money for things like endorsement deals, signing autographs, and social media content. That was prohibited under NCAA rules, but now, the organization is in the process of reforming those rules. This is especially so after the recent Supreme Court decision weakened the NCAA's long held, but increasingly outdated, notion of amateurism in college sports.

https://www.npr.org/2021/06/28/1010129443/a-new-era-dawns-in-college-sports-as-the-ncaa-scrambles-to-keep-up'


Washington is Fined $10 Million, and Snyder Temporarily Cedes Control

The Washington Football Team has been fined $10 million as a result of the league's investigation into the team's workplace culture. This comes based on the outcome of the review of the franchise, which was led by independent counsel Beth Wilkinson. All $10 million of the fine will be used one "support organizations committed to character education, anti-bullying, healthy relationships and related topics," according to a league statement. In addition to the organization being fined, Dan Synder will also "temporarily remove himself from day-to-day business operations of the club, ceding that control to his wife and new co-chief executive, Tanya Synder." All senior executives, including both of the Synders, will now take part in training in workplace conduct, covering topics such as bullying, diversity and inclusion, LGBTQ+ issues, and other issues.

https://www.si.com/nfl/washingtonfootball/news/tanya-snyder-mortified-washington-football-team-news-fined-10-million-owner-dan-steps-aside-nfl


U.S. Sprinter Faces Uncertain Path After Failing Drug Test

American athlete and sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson may be suspended from the Tokyo Olympic Games after failing a drug test over cannabis. The Olympics in Tokyo are set to begin on July 23rd and run until August 8th. Richardson tested positive for a prohibited substance, failing the test for only cannabis. American sprinters Jenna Prandini, who placed fourth, and Gabby Thomas, who finished fifth, were notified that they have been moved up in rotation and will be competing and alternate for the Olympics. Richardson lost her mother one month prior to the Olympic Trials, and said that cannabis was her way of coping with the grief. The minimum 30-day suspension would disqualify Richardson from the 100 meter dash, but the 30 days would be up in time for her to compete in the 4X100 meter relay in the Olympics. Her 10.86 time in the U.S. Olympic Trials on June 19th has been provisionally disqualified.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/lindseybartlett/2021/07/02/sprinter-shacarri-richardson-could-miss-olympics-after-failed-drug-test-for-cannabis/?sh=57a912246442


"Excommunicated" After Abortion and Missed Doping Test

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) announced that it has upheld the 5-year ban levied against American hurdler Brianna McNeal for violating anti-doping rules, which will bar her from competing in the Tokyo Olympics and could effectively end her career. According to the details of the case, McNeal missed a doping test in January 2020 after having an abortion, then changed the date of the procedure on medical forms because she mistakenly thought that her doctor had listed the wrong date. The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) charged McNeal, the 2016 Olympic gold medalist in the 100-meter hurdles, with tampering. In an April hearing, it argued that she had falsified the doctor's notes with an intent to deceive anti-doping officials and avoid being penalized for missing the test. McNeal contended that she was depressed and disoriented after the procedure and made an honest mistake. The disciplinary panel sided with the AIU in the aftermath of the April hearing and provisionally suspended McNeal in June for 5 years. She was allowed to compete at the U.S. Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon late last month while her appeal with CAS was pending and finished second in the 100-meter hurdles to qualify for Tokyo. McNeal will now be replaced on Team USA by Gabbi Cunningham, the fourth-place finisher. McNeal's ban will also preclude her from competing at the Paris Olympics in 2024.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/olympics/2021/07/02/brianna-mcneal-out-tokyo-olympics-five-year-ban-upheld-cas/7837419002/


The Future of Gaming Could Be on the Cloud

Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon are ramping up offerings on a platform that lets people enjoy high-quality games on any device. Cloud gaming is a nascent technology that could reshape how people play games. Facebook announced that it had expanded the reach of its cloud gaming platform, which was released last fall, to cover 98% of the mainland U.S. In addition, Microsoft made its cloud gaming service available on more devices. Further, Amazon broadened access to its burgeoning cloud service, giving Prime members a free trial version during its Prime Day last month. It has been a busy period for the small but growing cloud gaming industry, which is expected to surpass $1 billion in revenue and 23 million paying customers by the end of this year, according to Newzoo a gaming analytics firm. Revenue is projected to grow more than $5 billion by 2023 as the technology improves.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/01/technology/cloud-gaming-latest-wave.html


Prosecutors Still Considering Charges for Fan Who Caused Accident

During State 1 of the Tour de France, a fan caused a huge crash that took out the majority of the peloton. Tour de France organizers have said they will sue the spectator who caused the massive pileup. A woman held up a banner while standing on the edge of the road and was looking straight at the television motorbike cameras, with her back turned on the speeding peloton. German rider Tony Martin of Jumbo Visma brushed past her and was knocked off balance near the head of the peloton, and when he fell it caused a horrifying domino effect, creating a tangle of bikes and bodies.

https://www.yahoo.com/news/tour-france-organizers-taking-action-183200518.html


Myanmar or Japan? An Athlete Makes a Daring Bid For a New Life

After defying Myanmar's military rulers at a soccer match, Ko Pyae Lyan Aung decided to seek asylum, but he was still being watched. While Aung's case has riveted Japan and put pressure on the government, his fate may ultimately hinge on 2 of the most politically sensitive issues in the country today: Its hostile immigration system and its response to the Myanmar coup. Few countries are less hospitable to refugees than Japan, which settled just 47 asylum seekers last year, less than 1% of applicants. In recent months, the immigration system has become a political battlefield after the deat of an emaciated Sri Lankan migrant in a detention cell. At the same time, the government has been under intense pressure at home and abroad to do more to dissuade Myanmar's military as it has ruthlessly crushed protests against its February 1st coup.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/03/world/asia/japan-myanmar-soccer-asylum.html


Media/Technology

Judge Dismisses Antitrust Cases Against Facebook

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled that the lawsuits were "legally insufficient" and didn't provide enough evidence to prove that Facebook was a monopoly. The ruling dismisses the complaint but not the case, meaning that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) could refile another complaint.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/federal-judge-dismisses-government-antitrust-lawsuits-against-facebook-11624907747


Court Wins for Facebook Put Pressure on Congress

After a federal judge threw out state and federal competition cases against Facebook, calls grew for lawmakers to quickly change century-old monopoly laws. Technology giants like Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple, which dominate e-commerce, social networks, online advertising, and search, have risen in ways unforeseen by the laws. In recent decades, the courts have also interpreted the rules more narrowly. The dismissal renewed questions about whether the laws were suited to taking on tech power. The decisions underlined how cautious and conservative courts could slow an increasingly aggressive push by lawmakers, regulators, and the White House to restrain the tech companies, fueling calls for Congress to revamp the rules and provide regulators with more legal tools to take on the tech firms.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/29/technology/facebook-google-antitrust-tech.html


Two Justices Say They Support Reassessment of Libel Case

Two justices called for the Supreme Court to reconsider New York Times v. Sullivan, the landmark 1964 ruling interpreting the First Amendment to make it hard for public officials to prevail in libel suits. One of them, Justice Thomas, repeated views he had expressed in a 2019 opinion. The other, Justice Gorsuch, offered fresh support for the view that the Sullivan decision ruling warranted a reassessment. They made their comments in dissents from the Court's decision not to take up a libel case brough by the son of a former prime minister of Albania.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/02/us/supreme-court-libel.html?searchResultPosition=1


Fox News Settles Case with Rights Agency

Fox News has agreed to pay a record $1 million to settle an investigation by the New York City Commission on Human Rights into what a panel called a "culture of pervasive sexual harassment and retaliation at the network."

https://deadline.com/2021/06/fox-news-new-york-city-human-rights-commission-1234783423/


Trustees at North Carolina Grant Tenure to Journalist, Ending Weekslong Dispute

Nikole Hannah-Jones was granted tenure by the UNC-Capel Hill Board of Trustees, ending a weeks-long controversy that had erupted on the North Carolina campus and online. Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, is set to begin her position as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism on July 1st. In April, Hannah-Jones was offered the position on a 5-year teaching contract, spurring outrage form supporters amid speculation the board received pressure from conservatives not to grant her tenure. Knight chairs historically have been hired with tenure.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/education/2021/06/30/nikole-hannah-jones-unc-trustees-vote-tenure-1619-creator/7808885002/


Amazon Seeks Recusal of New FTC Chair

Amazon on Wednesday filed a motion seeking to recuse FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan from antitrust investigations into the company. Khan was sworn in as chair of the FTC last month. She made a splash in antitrust circles with her 2017 Yale Law Journal article, "Amazon's Antitrust Paradox". Amazon is pressing for her recusal form ongoing antitrust probes of the e-commerce giant, citing her past criticisms of the company's power. In a 25-page motion, they argued that Khan lacks impartiality in antitrust investigations into Amazon.

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/06/30/amazon-seeks-recusal-of-ftc-chair-lina-khan-in-antitrust-probes.html


Fighting Bias Creep in Artificial Intelligence Is a Magnet for Start-Ups

The problem of bias in artificial intelligence (AI) is facing increasing scrutiny from regulators and is a growing business for start-ups and tech stalwarts. In April, the FTC warned against the sale of AI systems that were racially biased or could prevent individuals form reaching employment, housing, insurance or other benefits. A week later, the European Union unveiled draft regulations that could punish companies for offering such technology. It is unclear how regulators might police bias. Many in the tech industry believe that businesses must start preparing for a crackdown. Over the past several years, studies have shown that facial recognition services, health care systems, and even talking digital assistants can be biased against women, people of color, and other marginalized groups.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/30/technology/artificial-intelligence-bias.html


Pandemic Lockdowns Fueled Predators Worldwide, Especially Online, U.S. Says

The number of cases of online sex exploitation, including of children, appeared to skyrocket last year as people spent more time on computers. The State Department released a report that assessed cases of reported human trafficking and exploitation between April 2020 and March 2021. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken warned that some countries were not doing enough to stop human trafficking. Victimization grew as law enforcement and other resources were diverted to managing public health measures at the height of the pandemic. The report found that predators increasingly recruited and groomed children - who were spending more time online, often without supervision - for sex trafficking and sexually explicit material.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/01/us/politics/coronavirus-lockdown-online-exploitation.html?searchResultPosition=1


Iran's Disinformation Targets Israel

According to Israeli disinformation researchers, an Iranian disinformation campaign is active. Over several months, Iranian agents had infiltrated small WhatsApp groups, Telegram channels and messaging apps that Israeli activists used for intimate discussion among dozens to thousands of people. Once there, the agents shared polarizing images and text, and began to send direct messages to people within the groups. Their goal, most likely, was simply to cause trouble, and to make people in these otherwise trusting online communities wary of one another. The first-of-its-kind discovery of the Iranian campaign by FakeReporter, an Israeli disinformation watchdog group, offers insight into how countries have miniaturized their disinformation campaigns in an effort to stay under the radar of tech companies that have become more aggressive in rooting them out.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/30/technology/disinformation-message-apps.html


Morocco Hunger Strike Bares Journalists' Peril

For years, Soulaimane Raissouni, a Moroccan newspaper editor, didn't shy away from reporting on some of the most sensitive issues in the North African kingdom, including antigovernment protests that erupted in 2011 and 2016. However, his criticism of how the authorities have handled the pandemic appeared to go too far. A little over a year ago, he was arrested at his home after accusations of a sexual assault - allegations that he says are false and trumped up to intimidate him. Imprisoned ever since, he launched a hunger strike almost 3 months ago in protest. On June 10th, he appeared in court, emaciated and unable to walk without assistance. Raissouni is one of at least 10 Moroccan journalists who have been jailed in recent years, most of them accused of sex crimes and other acts deemed illegal in Morocco, including certain forms of abortion. Rights groups say that the cases are being pursued by authorities whose true aim is to silence the country's small cadre of independent journalist with false and politically motivated accusations.

https://www.livedailynews24.com/journalists-monthslong-hunger-strike-points-to-perils-of-reporting-in-morocco/


General News

Supreme Court Acts Cautiously in Cases on Transgender Rights and Police

The Supreme Court on Monday let stand a transgender youth's victory in a case on access to high school bathrooms and revived a lawsuit from the parents of a man who had died in police custody. Both moves drew opposition from some of the Court's most conservative members. The Court's default mode this term has often appeared to be caution, frustrating conservatives who had hoped that its 6-Justice majority of Republican appointees would act more boldly.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/28/us/supreme-court-transgender-rights-police.html


Justices Reject Appeal By Florist Who Declined to Serve Gay Couple for Wedding

The Justices let stand a gay couple's victory against a florist who said that her religious beliefs did not allow her to create floral arrangements for same-sex weddings. The move left open a a question the Court last considered in 2018, when a similar dispute between a Colorado baker and a gay couple failed to yield a definitive ruling. As is its custom, the Court did not give reasons for declining to hear the case, which social conservatives had hoped the Justices would use to make a clearer statement favoring religious beliefs over gay rights.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/02/us/supreme-court-florist-gay-rights.html?searchResultPosition=1


Court Agrees to Hear Case on School Aid and Religion

The case, from Maine, will address questions left open in a decision last year requiring Montana to let religious schools take part in a scholarship program. The case, Carson v. Makin, No. 20-1088, is broadly similar to one from Montana decided by the Court last year. In that case, the Court ruled that states must allow religious schools to participate in programs that provide scholarships to students attending private schools.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/02/us/supreme-court-government-aid-religious-schools.html?searchResultPosition=1


Justices Back Pipeline Project's Ability to seize Land Owned by New Jersey

By a 5-to-4 vote, the Supreme Court said that the federal government could delegate its power to condemn state property to a private company. Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority in the case, said that there was a long history of eminent domain actions against the state property rooted in federal power. He went on to say that the government was entitled to delegate its power of eminent domain to private parties even where state property is at issue. Justices Breyer, Alito, Sotomayor, and Kavanaugh joined the Chief Justice's majority opinion. Under the Natural Gas Act, a federal law, the federal government can authorize private companies to use its eminent domain power in at least some circumstances.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/29/us/supreme-court-pipeline-new-jersey-land-seizure.html


Supreme Court Lets Eviction Moratorium Stay in Place

The Supreme Court refused to lift a moratorium on evictions that had been imposed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The vote was 5-4, with Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Kavanaugh in the majority. The Court gave no reasons for its ruling, which is typical when it acts on emergency applications.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/29/us/politics/supreme-court-eviction-ban.html


Supreme Court Says California Can't Make Charities Disclose Donors

The Supreme Court struck down a California rule requiring nonprofits to disclose the names and addresses of their largest donors. Two conservative nonprofits had challenged the requirement as unconstitutional. The 6-3 decision, which divided the 9 justices along ideological lines, reversed a 2018 appeals court ruling. The rule had forced nonprofits to give the state their so-called Schedule B forms, which include the personal information of all donors worldwide who had contributed more than $5,000 in a given tax year. The state had argued that it needed the information to help it police misconduct by charities.

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/07/01/supreme-court-says-that-california-cant-require-all-nonprofits-to-disclose-their-donors.html


Arizona Ruling Raises Bar for Voter Law Challenges

Democrats and voting rights groups say that they can no longer count on the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, to serve as a backstop for preventing racially discriminatory voting restrictions. The 6-3 decision by the Supreme Court that upheld voting restrictions in Arizona has effectively left voting rights advocates with a higher bar for brining federal cases under the Voting Rights Act: proving discriminatory intent.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/02/us/politics/supreme-court-arizona-voting.html?searchResultPosition=1


An Unpredictable Court Term Ends With a Turn to the Right

The chief justice's power waned, and the 3 Trump justices grew more influential. The term ended with an exclamation point, with the Court imposing new limits on the Voting Rights Act. There were 2 very different Supreme Courts in the term that just ended. For much of the last 9 months, the Court seemed to have defied predictions that the newly expanded conservative majority of 6 Republican appointees would regularly steamroll their 3 liberal colleagues. Rather than issuing polarized decisions split along ideological lines, the Court was fluid and unpredictable. There was no longer a single swing justice whose vote would often decide close cases. Instead, the center of the Court came to include 4 conservative justices, who, in various combinations occasionally joined the Court's 3-member liberal wing to form majorities in divided cases.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/02/us/supreme-court-conservative-voting-rights.html?searchResultPosition=1


House Passes $715 Billion Bill to Rebuild Infrastructure

The House of Representatives voted to approve a $715 billion transportation and water infrastructure bill focused on improving and repairing roads, bridges, transit, and rail, and ensuring clean drinking water. The vote was 221-201, with 2 Republicans voting with Democrats in favor. The bill, known as the INVSEST in America Act, will deliver on key priorities in President Biden's American Jobs Plan, and can be used to negotiate with the Senate and the White house to determine what specific policy proposals can be included as part of the recently announced bipartisan infrastructure framework.

https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/01/politics/house-vote-infrastructure-bill/index.html


U.S. Departs Last Afghanistan Base, Effectively Ending 20 Years of War

With little fanfare, Bagram Air Base - once the military's nerve center - was handed over to the Afghans, after nearly 20 years of waging war from the hub, effectively ending major U.S. military operations in the country. The final withdrawal occurred in an atmosphere of grave concern over the Afghan security forces' ability to hold off Taliban advances across the country. The American exit was completed quickly enough that some looters managed to get into the base before being arrested. The quiet leave-taking, months ahead of Biden's announced September 11th departure, highlights Washington's efforts to signal 2 different messages: one to the U.S. public that its longest foreign war is ending, and another to the Afghan government that the U.S. is not abandoning the country in the middle of a Taliban offensive and would retain some ability to conduct airstrikes, if need be.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/02/world/asia/afghanistan-bagram-us-withdrawal.html?searchResultPosition=1


Juul Will Settle First Vaping Suit For $40Million

North Carolina has become the first U.S. state to hold Juul Labs accountable for what state officials say was the e-cigarette maker's role in encouraging vaping among young people. North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein announced a settlement with Juul under which the company will pay $40 million and make changes to its business practices. The lawsuit, originally filed in May of 2019, alleged that Juul unlawfully marketed and sold its products, including sleek vaping devices and sweet and fruit-flavored pods, to children.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/juul-north-carolina-settlement-40-million-e-cigarettes/


Boy Scouts Agree to Settle Abuse Case for $850 Million

Under an agreement one lawyer described as "the tip of the iceberg", the organization would pay tens of thousands of people who said they had been sexually abused over several decades. The legal costs associated with the allegations led the Boy Scouts organization to file for bankruptcy. They reached an $850 million settlement agreement.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/02/us/boy-scouts-of-america-sexual-abuse-settlement.html?searchResultPosition=1


House Opens January 6th Investigation Over GOP Opposition

In a largely party-line vote, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives approved legislation to create a select committee to launch a new inquiry into the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. With a larger share of Republicans voting against the plan, it makes the latest turn in a partisan fight to investigate the riot.

https://www.npr.org/2021/06/30/1011415934/the-house-will-vote-on-a-select-committee-to-investigate-the-jan-6-riot


Internal Revenue Service's Work on Returns Has Backlog of 35 Million

A growing backlog of unprocessed tax returns now stands at 35 million, creating ongoing refund delays for millions of taxpayers, the National Taxpayer Advocate said in a recent report. That represents an increase in the Internal Revenue Sevice's (IRS's) backlog of unprocessed returns from May, when it was holding 31 million returns. Some taxpayers have been waiting months for their refunds and have been unable to learn when their tax returns might process or when they can expect to receive their refunds. As the typical refund stands at more than $2,800 per taxpayer, a delay could cause financial hardship, especially for the many households that rely on their refunds to pay bills. The backlog comes after a "perfect storm" that created "perhaps the most challenging filing season taxpayers, tax professionals and the IRS have ever experienced." The pandemic caused the IRS to shut down some of its operations, while it was also given more responsibility from Congress through several new tax initiatives, such as the 3 rounds of stimulus checks that were distributed by the tax agency.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/tax-refund-delay-irs-returns-backlog-35-million/


U.S. to Create New Marker For Passports of Nonbinary

The State Department has announced that it will add another option on passports for applicants who are non-binary, intersex, and gender non-conforming. Passport applicants can now select their own gender markers between "male" and "female", which means that transgender travelers will no longer have to provide medical certification if their gender identities doesn't match the markers on their birth certificate or other documents. The changes were immediately celebrated by LGBTQ groups and other organizations across the country.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/news/2021/07/01/passport-have-new-gender-option-added-non-binary-people/7826603002/


Panel Indicts Top Executive Under Trump

Allen H. Weisselberg, a loyal Trump employee for decades, now faces charges and a test of his loyalty. The Trump Organization executive is coming under increasing pressure to turn on the family. In nearly a half-century of service to Trump's family businesses, Weisselberg, 73, has survived -- and thrived -- by anticipating and carrying out his boss's dictates in a zealous mission to protect the bottom line. Now that fealty and the rewards he and his family reaped from it have landed him in serious legal jeopardy. He has been indicted in an ongoing investigation of Trump and Trump's company by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/30/nyregion/trump-organization-cfo-allen-weisselberg.html


U.S. Exposes Details of Russian Hacking Efforts

Two weeks after President Biden met President Putin of Russia and demanded that the latter rein in ransomware attacks on U.S. targets, American and British intelligence agencies exposed the details of what they called a global effort by Russia's military intelligence organization to spy on government organizations, defense contractors, universities, and media companies.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/01/us/politics/biden-putin-russia-hacking.html?searchResultPosition=1


Heat Wave in Northwest Like Nothing Seen Before

The heat wave baking the U.S. Pacific Northwest and British Columbia, Canada is of an intensity never recorded by modern humans. Portland, Oregon has already broken its all-time record hottest temperature at 108 degrees and the peak of the heat wave has not yet even been reached. These are extremely dangerous numbers, especially in a region not used to such heat and where many don't have air conditioning. The heat is being caused by a combination of a significant atmospheric blocking pattern on top of a human-caused climate changed world where baseline temperatures are already a couple to a few degrees higher than nature intended.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/heat-wave-dome-2021-seattle-portland-weather/


House Panel Seeks Testimony From Oil and Gas Giants on Climate Disinformation

The chairman of a House subcommittee is demanding that executives of Exxon Mobil Corp., Shell, Chevron, and other major oil and gas companies testify before Congress about the industry's decades-long effort to wage disinformation campaigns around climate change. The move comes a day after a secretive video recording was made public in which a senior Exxon lobbyist said that the energy giant had fought climate science through "shadow groups" and had targeted influential senators in an effort to weaken President Biden's climate agenda.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/02/climate/congress-exxon-climate-change.html?searchResultPosition=1


Since When Have Trees Existed Only for Rich Americans?

Across the nation, the wealthier and whiter the neighborhood, the greener is the view. Discriminatory practices still shape our cities and, along with income inequality, define who can enjoy a healthy tree canopy and who is surrounded by concrete. Access to clean air and outdoor activities seems like a basic right, but in cities across the country, lower-income communities and communities of color more often live in neighborhoods with a higher share of concrete surfaces, such as roads, buildings, and parking lots, and a very limited number of trees and parks.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/06/30/opinion/environmental-inequity-trees-critical-infrastructure.html?searchResultPosition=1


Arctic's 'Last ice Area' Is Not Resistant to Global Warming

The region, which could provide a last refuge for polar bears and other Arctic wildlife that depends on ice, is not as stable as previously thought, according to a new study. The findings have potentially troubling implications for the Wandel Sea and nearby waters north of Canada, a region often referred to as the "last ice area".

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/01/climate/arctic-sea-ice-climate-change.html?searchResultPosition=1


In Report, United Nations Calls for Countries to Root Out Racism Against People of African Descent

The United Nations's human rights chief, in a landmark report launched after the killing of George Floyd in the U.S., is urging countries worldwide to do more to help end discrimination, violence, and systemic racism against people of African descent and "make amends" to them -- including through reparations. The report offers a sweeping look at the roots of centuries of mistreatment faced by Africa and people of African descent, notably from the transatlantic slave trade. It seeks a "transformative" approach to address its continued impact today.

https://www.npr.org/2021/06/28/1010870697/the-u-n-rights-chief-says-reparations-are-needed-for-people-facing-racism


Countries Back Minimum Tax on Companies

Most of the countries negotiating a global overhaul of cross border taxation of multinationals have backed plans for new rules on where companies are taxed and a tax rate of at least 15%. The Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which hosted the talks, said a global minimum corporate income tax of at least 15% could yield around $150 billion in additional global tax revenues annually. It said that 130 countries, representing more than 90% of global GDP, had backed the agreement at the talks. EU members Ireland, Hungary, and Estonia did not sign the deal. The deal is to be finalized by October and take effect in 2023.

https://www.reuters.com/business/countries-backs-global-minimum-corporate-tax-least-15-2021-07-01/


Cyberattack Threatens Hundreds of Businesses

Hundreds of businesses around the world, including one of Sweden's largest grocery chains, grappled with potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities after a software provider that provides services to more than 40,000 organizations, Kaseya, said it had been the victim of a "sophisticated cyberattack". Security researchers said the attack may have been carried out by REvil, a Russian cybercriminal group that the FBI has said was behind the hacking of the world's largest meat processor, JBS, in May.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/02/technology/cyberattack-businesses-ransom.html?searchResultPosition=1


Coronovirus

Delta Variant Has Covid Cases on the Rise

The delta variant of the novel coronavirus is quickly spreading globally, leading to lockdowns in some countries that previously had few reported COVID-19 cases. This variant first identified in India is said to be even more contagious than the British variant (now known as alpha). The delta variant comprises roughly 25% of new infections in the U.S. and has been found in more than 80 countries since it was first detected.

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/why-experts-are-so-concerned-about-the-rise-of-the-delta-variant#What-is-the-delta-variant?


Three Studies, One Verdict: Vaccines Point the Way Out of the Pandemic

New scientific research underscores the effectiveness of vaccines and their versatility in the fight against the coronavirus. Three scientific studies offered fresh evidence that widely used vaccines will continue to protect people against the coronavirus for long periods, possibly years, and can be adapted to fortify the immune system still further if needed. Most people immunized with the mRNA vaccines may not need boosters, one study found, so long as the virus and its variants do not evolve much beyond their current forms -- which is not guaranteed. Mix-and-match vaccination shows promise, a second study found, and booster shots of one widely used vaccine, if they are required, greatly enhance immunity, according to a third report. Scientists had worried that the immunity conferred by vaccines might quickly wane or that they might somehow be outrun by a rapidly evolving virus. Together, the findings renew optimism that the tools needed to end the pandemic are already at hand, despite the rise of contagious new variants now setting off surges around the globe.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/28/health/coronavirus-vaccine-immunity.html


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