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:


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.'

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.

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.

"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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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."

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.