By Ariana Sarfarazi Edited by Elissa D. Hecker
Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into: Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Technology/Media, and General News:
Second Circuit Decision in Shull v. Sorkin
The Second Circuit has affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' motion to dismiss copyright claims that had alleged that the show "Billions" infringed Plaintiff's book and character. The Plaintiff, well-known performance coach and psychological expert on human decision-making, Denise K. Shull, brought suit against Showtime, the network's corporate parent CBS, "Billions" creators Brian Koppelman, David Levien, and Andrew Ross Sorkin, and Showtime executive David Neviens, alleging copyright infringement and claiming that the show is an unauthorized derivative work based on key elements of her 2012 book, Market Mind Games. Shull further alleged that the show's portrayal of the character Dr. Wendy Rhoades is substantially similar in manner as Shull portrays the fictional characterization of herself in her book. The Second Circuit found that the district court properly concluded that "Billions" and Market Mind Games are not substantially similar because the plot of the book is wholly dissimilar to that of "Billions", the total concept and feel of Market Mind Games are quite different from "Billions", and that other aspects of the character, namely the gender and occupation, are generalized and non-protectible. The Second Circuit further found that any copying between the two works is de minimis, and that any stock similarities between Dr. Rhoades and the fictional version of Shull cannot support a plausible infringement claim.
Weinstein Sent to California to Face Sex Crime Charges
Authorities transported Harvey Weinstein, disgraced movie producer, from prison in Erie County, New York to Los Angeles where he will stand trial again for several counts of forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, and other sex crimes, in incidents involving five different women that took place between 2004 and 2013. Weinstein was previously sentenced to 23 years in prison in New York after more than 90 women have accused him of misconduct or assault. If convicted again in Los Angeles, he would serve the sentence in California after completing his prison term in New York.
California Sues Activision, Citing 'Frat Boy' Work Culture
The State of California has sued Activision Blizzard, a video game maker that produces the game "Call of Duty", over claims of sexual harassment and discrimination. After a two-year investigation, the State claims that Activision has fostered a "frat boy work culture" where executives sexually harass women, male employees openly joke about rape, and where male employees openly drink alcohol while engaging in inappropriate behavior toward women. The lawsuit alleges that, in addition to being subject to sexual harassment and needing to continually fend off unwanted sexual advances by male co-workers, women at the company were also routinely paid less than men for similar work and were less likely to be promoted.
Hollywood Studios Can Require Vaccines for Everyone on Set
Hollywood's major unions have agreed to a short-term plan that allows studios to require everyone a production set to be vaccinated. The agreement will be in effect through the end of September and will allow studios to relax pandemic protocols on production sets, even as the Delta variant climbs and Los Angeles increases safety measures, such as by decreasing the rate of regular coronavirus testing and loosening mask mandates in outdoor settings. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/20/business/hollywood-unions-pandemic-rules.html
Testing Britney Spears: Restoring Rights Can Be Rare
After 13 years, Britney Spears has asked to be released from her California conservatorship without undergoing a psychological evaluation, which experts say is unlikely to be granted, because mental health assessments generally serve as the key piece of evidence that a judge considers in deciding whether to restore independence. As the evaluation process to determine whether an individual subject to the conservatorship has "restored to capacity" is often convoluted and sometimes subjective, exits from conservatorships are extremely rare. Key evaluation criteria, such as what constitutes "capacity", who performs the psychological assessment, who chooses the evaluator, impacts of a mental health diagnosis, whether a judge must accept the evaluator's findings, the legal standard a judge applies to reach a decision, and whether a less restrictive approach than a conservatorship will be considered all vary across states.
Judge Orders Leader of Cultlike Group to Pay $3.4 Million to His Victims
A federal judge has ordered Keith Raniere, the leader of the cultlike group Nxivm, to pay $3.4 million in compensation to 21 victims. This restitution includes payments to remove brandings of Raniere's initials that were seared into some women's skin and intended to serve as permanent pledges of loyalty to Nxivm and a secret sect within it called the Vow, or D.O.S. Raniere was convicted in 2019 of sex trafficking and racketeering after ordering D.O.S. members known as "slaves" to perform sexual acts on other members of the cult, and was sentenced to 120 years in prison.
One of China's Big Stars Faces #MeToo Trouble and Brands are Fleeing
At least 11 companies, including the luxury brands Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, and Porsche, have suspended or terminated contracts with Chinese-Canadian singer Kris Wu after an 18-year-old has accused him of targeting and pressuring her for sex. Wu, who rose to fame as a member of the K-pop band EXO and who has a huge following on social media, is accused of targeting young women by inviting them to his house to assist with their career aspirations, then pressuring them to drink cocktails until unconscious and having sex with him. Wu has denied all allegations and has threatened to sue the accuser, a University student in Beijing, for defamation.
Initiatives for Disabled Artists Is Expanded
The Ford and Mellon Foundations are expanding the Disability Futures Initiative, a fellowship established last fall to support disabled artists, and the foundations will now commit an additional $5 million to support the initiative through 2025, which will support two additional cohorts of 20 fellows. The fellowship is an 18-month initiative that will provide 20 disabled artists, filmmakers, and journalists selected from the across the United States with $50,000 grants.
Rules for Audiences Can Spin Heads
In New York City, different venues have taken different approaches to balancing lingering coronavirus concerns with business plans for reopening, leading to a confusing and frustrating summer for consumers where vaccination and mask requirements all vary by venue. Although the State of New York does not mandate that a venue check a person's vaccination status, both large and intimate venues, such as Madison Square Garden, Radio City, Little Island, and Feinstein's/54 Below have taken this approach. Other venues, such as The Public Theater, have arranged for both full capacity/vaccinated and socially distanced sections. For other venues where proof of vaccination is not required, unvaccinated patrons must show proof of a recent negative coronavirus test and must wear masks. Rules are subject to change as the pandemic continues to evolve.
Klan Bust at Tennessee Capitol Removed
The bust of a Nathan Bedford Forrest, a slave trader, Confederate general, and early Ku Klux Klan leader, and two U.S. Navy admirals were moved from the Tennessee Capitol and installed at the Tennessee State Museum. The move comes after the Tennessee State Building Commission voted in favor of relocating the busts after years of protests, and the removal of the two admirals was intended to avoid singling out the Confederate general.
The Complex Reality of Virtual Art
British artist Damien Hirst's use of NFTs, or nonfungible tokens, which rely on blockchain technology to designate an official copy of a piece of digital media that would otherwise be cheap or free, raises questions about the risks and rewards of investing in digital art forms. For Damien's works, after a certain period of time, collectors of the NFTs will be required to decide whether to keep the NFT or the physical painting and whichever they don't choose will be destroyed. This new practice raises the question of whether it is better to keep the NFT or the physical artwork and which will be a more valuable investment. Investors of NFTs therefore need to understand the substantial risks of investing in the new art form.
Asians in Music: Heard, but Not Seen?
Despite the fact that artists of Chinese, Japanese, South Korean, and other Asian descent are well represented in classical music (with Asian musicians making up the majority of many orchestras and conservatories in the world), and despite the world-wide success of many Asian star musicians, such as cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Midori, and pianist Lang Lang, many Asian musicians face routine racism and discrimination in the industry. Stereotypes of Asian musicians as foreign, soulless, and mechanical are deep-rooted in classical music, many musicians are targets of harassment and racial tropes and slurs, and several describe losing career opportunities because they are not "white enough". While some Asian musicians say that they have rarely experienced overt racism, they nevertheless express feeling like an outsider in their own industry and have begun speaking out for change by speaking with leaders of cultural institutions, forming their own alliances of Asian artists, and taking to social media to challenge continued stereotypes.
Actors' Equity Expands Eligibility for Membership in Diversity and Inclusion Effort
Actors' Equity Association, the labor union for actors and stage managers, is expanding its membership to include any actor or stage manager who can demonstrate they have worked professionally in the United States. Under this new "Open Access" policy, union membership will no longer be limited to working for an Equity employer or to members of a sibling union. By expanding membership, this new policy is considered by the Union to be a pillar of its diversity and inclusion efforts. According to Equity, because the entertainment industry is disproportionately white, previously requirements for Equity membership contributed to the systemic inclusion exclusion of BIPOC artists by maintaining a system whereby mostly-white theatrical employers were effectively the gatekeepers of Equity membership.
U.S. Moves to Return Relic Said to Be Stolen From Cambodia
U.S. prosecutors in Manhattan are planning to return to Cambodia a 10th-century Khmer sacred sandstone statue known as "Skanda on a Peacock", said to have been plundered and sold by a collector who was accused of trafficking in stolen artifacts. The statute was taken in 1997 from an ancient Khmer temple and later sold to collector Douglas A.J. Latchford, who in 2019 was indicted on charges that included smuggling and conspiracy related to a scheme to sell looted Cambodian antiquities. Latchford has since died and his daughter has turned over her father's holdings of Khmer antiquities, valued by some at more than $50 million, to Cambodia. An unnamed person who inherited the statue has also voluntarily relinquished any claim to it.
Hitting Some Sour Notes with Brexit
With the U.K.'s exit from the European Union last year, touring Europe is now extremely complicated for U.K. bands and musicians, who now not only have to apply for visas, but must now also learn complicated new rules around trucking and exporting merchandise. For example, new rules mean that a British tour van carrying audio and lighting equipment or merchandise can only make three stops in Mainland Europe before it must return home. The new rules, which stem from a trade deal between the European Union and the British Government, are frustrating U.K. musicians and a new campaign know as Let the Music Move has been launched for the British government to compensate artists for the new extra costs and to renegotiate the tour rules.
Webber Delays 'Cinderella' Musical
Andrew Lloyd Webber has delayed the opening for his much-anticipated "Cinderella" musical, which was slated to open in London's West End this month, after a cast member tested positive for the coronavirus. Webber has been actively campaigning against Britain's coronavirus restrictions, such as only permitting theaters to seat audiences at 50% capacity, and requiring shows to cancel performances if one member of the cast came into contact with someone who tested positive. Webber subsequently announced that the production will not resume performances on August 18th.
Hong Kong Police Arrest Five Over Children's Books
Hong Kong police have arrested five members of a speech therapists' union for publishing a children's book, which police claim instills the hatred of the government in children. The book tells the story of fluffy white sheep who were constantly harassed by wolves, who tore down their houses, ate their food, and even spread poison gas, which led 12 sheep trying to defend their village to flee by boat before being captured and sent to prison. Hong Kong authorities say the sheep represent 12 activists who were arrested at sea while trying to escape to Taiwan and the wolves are the Hong Kong police. The move comes as Hong Kong authorities continue to crack down on political speech and stamp out dissent expressed during 2019 mass protests.
Michigan Football Players Are First to Monetize from Jersey Sales
Football players for the University of Michigan are now able to profit for their names, images, and likenesses when jerseys bearing their names are sold by The M Den, an officially licensed University of Michigan retailer with a big collection of merchandise. Michigan football players are the first in the nation to monetize off jersey sales pursuant to a direct agreement between The M Den and the players themselves (not the University of Michigan).
Federal Judge Dismisses Relevant Sports' Antitrust Claim vs. U.S. Soccer
A federal judge in Miami has dismissed an antitrust claim by Relevant Sports, a soccer match promoter, against the U.S. Soccer Federation for failing to sanction a proposed Spanish league match between Barcelona and Girona in Miami Gardens, Florida. The Court ordered Relevant to submit the dispute to the FIFA players' status committee for arbitration to resolve the matter, add FIFA to the lawsuit, or show that the court has jurisdiction over FIFA when the soccer's governing body is not a party to the suit.
National Football League Puts Stiff Penalties in Place for Unvaccinated, Jolting Teams
Although the National Football League (NFL) has stopped short of requiring that its players and other team personnel receive Covid-19 vaccinations, a new memo from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell details drastic penalties for team with unvaccinated personnel, stating that outbreaks traced to an unvaccinated player or staff member could warrant a game forfeiture for their team if a game cannot be rescheduled, which could result in players' not being paid. Additionally, if an unvaccinated player or staff member is shown to have caused an outbreak that forces a schedule change, the team experiencing the outbreak will be held financially responsible for the other team's expenses. If an outbreak occurs among vaccinated individuals in a "breakthrough" infection, the NFL will minimize and competitive and fiscal disruption for both teams. While the memo does not mandate vaccination, the NFL,for all intents and purposes, is requiring vaccinations for teams or risk significant penalty, and notable NFL players have publicly expressed their opposition to vaccination mandates. Additionally, unvaccinated players still face several restrictions, including daily testing, capacity limitations in weight rooms, and a requirement to travel on a separate plane.
Former Seton Hall Hoops Star Myles Powell Sues School, Says Staff Misled Him About Injury
Myles Powell, a former Seton Hall men's basketball star, is suing the university, claiming that his coach and the team's medical expert allowed him to play on a serious injury, a torn meniscus in his right knee, therefore worsening his condition and dashing his hopes of a National Basketball Association (NBA) career. Powell claims that he was told his injury is minor, but argues that such an injury should have kept him out for the remainder of the season to avoid exacerbating the injury.
New Law Allows Sports Uniform Modifications for Religious and Cultural Reasons
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has signed a bill into law that allows high school-level student athletes to make their athletic uniforms more modest for religious and cultural reasons. The new law allows student athletes to consult with their school boards rather than having to file a complaint with the Illinois High School Association, which governs sports in the state. https://www.advantagenews.com/news/local/granite-city-news/new-law-allows-sports-uniform-modifications-for-religious-and-cultural-reasons/article_a4858e7a-e4eb-11eb-94e2-3f8236129145.html
Suffering After Delay of Olympics, Dentsu Faces Another Test
Dentsu, an advertising giant in Japan and the Games' exclusive advertising partner, stood to be Japan's biggest winner of the Games but expectations have fallen short as numerous advertising campaigns and promotional events have been cancelled or pared down as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Many of Dentsu's clients, including top-sponsor Toyota, have pulled ads in Japan for fear of backlash against them as 80% of the Japanese public opposes holding the Olympics amid a state of emergency in Tokyo.
Norwegian Handball Players Reject Bikini Bottoms, and Are Fined for It
Norway's women's beach handball team was fined by the European Handball Federation, with each player fined 150 euros, for wearing shorts rather than the mandatory bikini bottoms. The Norwegian Handball Federation, which has repeatedly complained about the bikini bottom requirement since 2006, will pay the fines. The International Handball Federation requires women to wear bikini bottoms, while men can wear shorts. Norway's team had been planning for weeks to wear shorts citing an unfair double standard, and according to the International Handball Foundation, the Norwegian team is the only team that has complained about the uniforms.
Olympians Take a Knee Against Racism, Under New Policy Allowing Protests
Players on the British women's soccer team took a knee on the first day of competition at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in protest against discrimination and racism, and their opponents from Chile joined them. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) previously eased its rules on "athlete expression", and under the new guidelines, athletes in Tokyo can take a knew or perform similar gestures as long as their actions do not target specific people or countries and are not disruptive.
Brisbane Wins Right to Host 2032 Olympic Games
Bristbane, Australia has been chosen to host the Olympic Games in 2032. Brisbane previously bid to host the 1992 Olympics, but lost to Barcelona. Australia has previously hosted the Olympics twice before - in Melbourne in 1956 and Sydney in 2000 --- and will become the first country after the United States to have hosted the Games in three different cities. Hosting the games in Brisbane is expected to cost $5 billion.
Tokyo Games Boasts Gender Participation for First Time
The IOC has added 18 new events to the Tokyo Games in a push towards gender equality for the first time in the history of the Games. There are now an equal number of men and women for every sport, excluding baseball and softball, because of differing roster sizes.
Games Strive for Gender Equity, But Equality Still Seems Far Off
As the Olympic Games nears gender parity for the first time ever in its history, a series of gaffes by IOC officials and persistent gaps in the makeup of the IOC reveal that the Games are not yet so gender equal. While almost 49% of the nearly 11,000 athletes competing in Tokyo are women, only 33.3% of the IOC's executive board and only 37.5% of the IOC's committee members are women. Additionally, IOC executives have wrestled with gender-related blunders, such as when the IOC vice president essentially ordered the premier of Queensland, Australia to attend the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Games after she said she would not attend; the president of the Tokyo Olympics Organizing Committee was replaced after he publicly suggested that women speak too much in meetings; and the creative director for the opening ceremony stepped down after he called a plus-size fashion designer a "pig". Further, Olympic athletes who are new mothers have also complained about Covid-related restrictions in Tokyo that have prohibited them from bringing their young nursing babies to the Games, but the IOC reversed its decision in June, thereby allowing mothers to bring their infants.
Tokyo Olympics Open at Last, with Somber Air and No Fans
The Opening Ceremony of the 32nd Summer Olympics took place with no fans and virtually no cheering audience, with fewer than 1,000 dignitaries and invited guests attending in a stadium built to seat 68,000. The Ceremony marked the official start of the Olympics, with more than 11,000 athletes from 205 countries expected to participate in 33 sports over the next two weeks in Tokyo, an event that is widely opposed by the Japanese public.
Top Director of Ceremony Fired for Skit on Holocaust
The day before the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Games, organizers of the Games dismissed the creative director of the ceremony, Kentaro Kobayashi, after video footage emerged of him making fun of the Holocaust in a comedic act in the 1990s where he joked about "massacring Jews". Kobayashi, who has since apologized for the routine, is the fourth major creative to be dismissed or forced to resign from the Games because of offensive remarks. Keigo Oyamada, a composer who wrote music for the opening ceremony, resigned this week after footage of him confessing to severe bullying and abuse of disabled classmates from the 1990s surfaced on social media. In March, Hiroshi Sasaki, the previous creative director of the opening ceremony, stepped down from his role after a magazine revealed that he called a popular comedian and plus-size fashion designer a "pig". Additionally, Yoshiro Mori, the former president of the Tokyo organizing committee, resigned earlier this year after making sexist comments about women.
A Trump-Like Quandary Over Racism and Sports Roils Johnson in Britain
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under fire for failing to condemn crowds who booed England's national soccer team for kneeling to protest racial injustice during the European Championship. Political experts say there are alarming parallels between Britain and the United States, including both countries seeing the rise of a conservative populist leader refusing to defend the free speech rights of national sports teams (with former President Donald Trump speaking out against NFL players taking a knee in the United States).
Justice Department Outlines New Limits on Seizures of Reporters' Records
U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland has issued a broad ban on federal prosecutors using subpoenas, warrants, or court orders to seize reporters' records from their employers or from communications firms in an effort to uncover their confidential sources in leak investigations. By issuing this new practice, "the Department of Justice will no longer use compulsory legal process for the purpose of obtaining information from or records of members of the news media acting within the scope of news-gathering activities." However, certain exceptions apply, such as if a reporter is under investigation for an unrelated crime; if a reporter is suspected of committing a crime like "breaking and entering" to gather information; if the department is seeking to authenticate already published information -- a situation that arises sometimes in television news broadcasts of footage that can be evidence of a crime; or if reporters themselves have been deemed to be agents of foreign power or members of foreign terrorist groups.
U.S. and Key Allies Accuse China in String of Global Cyberattacks
The Biden Administration has accused the Chinese government of breaching Microsoft email systems used around the world, in the process detailing the relationship between Chinese intelligence and criminal hacking groups that operate from Chinese territory, and has organized a broad coalition of nations, including the European Union and all NATO members, to condemn the cyberattacks. However, the U.S.-led coalition has stopped short of taking concrete steps to punish China. The U.S. has criminally charged individual Chinese hackers for the attacks but has not yet issued sanctions or taken diplomatic action against China because of China's ability to retaliate.
How China Turned Into Cyber Threat To America
China, which has long been one of the biggest digital threats to the United States, was once condemned by the United States for online espionage, the bulk of which was conducted by the People's Liberation Army using low-level phishing emails against American companies to steal intellectual property. China has since, however, transformed into a mature digital adversary, with attacks now carried out by an elite satellite network of contractors at front companies and universities that work at the direction of China's Ministry of State Security. Now, in addition to phishing attacks, the espionage attacks employ sophisticated techniques like exploiting security holes in Microsoft's Exchange email servers and VPN security devices, which are harder to defend against, and that allow Chinese hackers to remain undetected for longer periods of time.
U.S. Details China's Role in Hacking of Pipelines
The United States claims that China has issued numerous state-sponsored cyberattacks that have breached dozens of oil and gas pipeline companies in the past decade and is warning pipeline owners to increase the security of their systems to protect against future attacks on U.S. pipeline infrastructure. This warning comes as the federal government tries to revitalize the pipeline industry after a Russian-based ransomware group attacked the business operations and forced the shutdown of a pipeline network that provides nearly half of the oil and gas supply to the East Coast thereby causing long gas lines and shortages.
Reporter Sues Washington Post, Claiming Discrimination
Felicia Sonmez, a Washington Post reporter covering breaking political news, has filed a $2 million discrimination suit against the newspaper and some of its top high-level editors, claiming that they discriminated against her by barring her from covering stories regarding sexual assault after she herself went public as a victim of assault. The lawsuit argues that she had been subjected to a hostile work environment after she publicly stated that she was assaulted by a fellow journalist while living in Beijing, with editors retaliating against her by banning her from covering sexual-assault related stories, such as Christine Blaséy Ford's sexual misconduct allegations against now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh. She also alleges that the newspaper suspended her after she tweeted a link to a news article detailing sexual assault allegations against Kobe Bryant shortly after his death and failed to provide her with security after she was inundated with rape and death threats.
Twitter Penalizes Lawmakers for Virus Inadequacies
Twitter suspended Republican lawmaker Marjorie Taylor Greene for 12 hours for posting coronavirus misinformation, which violates Twitter's policy against sharing misleading information about the coronavirus. Greene had tweeted that Covid-19 was not dangerous for people unless they were obese or over age 65 and said vaccines should not be required. As the White House has called on social media to do more to combat the spread of misinformation on their platforms, Greene claimed that Big Tech companies are working with the White House to attack free speech and to restrict any message that is not "state-approved."
New Plea to Vaccinate on Fox News
After months of relaying to viewers that Covid-19 vaccines are dangerous and that Americans are justified in refusing them, Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Steve Doocy are now encouraging viewers to get the Covid-19 vaccine as the Delta variant spreads. It is not immediately clear what has prompted the change in messaging, and although the White House has expressed concern over Fox News's messaging, there have been no high-level conversations between Fox News Media and the White House regarding its coverage.
Fourth Arrest in Hack of Twitter That Led to Short Shutdown
A 22-year old British man was arrested in Spain in connection with the hacking of more than 100 Twitter accounts in July 2020, which led to a temporary shutdown of the social media service, as well as cyberattacks on popular TikTok and Snapchat accounts. The arrestee is the fourth individual charged in the Twitter hack and faces charges in the United States of hacking, extortion, and cyberstalking. A group of hackers is accused of breaking into Twitter's systems by tricking employees into providing login information and using an administrative tool to take over the accounts belonging to key political figures and celebrities including former President Barack Obama, Kanye West, and Elon Musk, and using the accounts to conduct a Bitcoin scam.
National Basketball Association Studio Host at the Center of Interoffice Friction is Leaving ESPN
Maria Taylor, a popular studio host and ESPN reporter, has left ESPN after disparaging remarks were made about her by a colleague became public. In a conversation that ESPN reporter Rachel Nichols did not know was being recorded, Nicholas (who is white) said that Taylor (who is Black) got the role of hosting the NBA finals instead of her because ESPN executives were "feeling pressure" on diversity. Taylor's departure from ESPN was expected after a year of internal tension boiling among ESPN employees who cover the NBA, who grew frustrated by ESPN's handling of the situation. Many ESPN employees believed that the network was protecting Nicholas after ESPN took considerable time to respond internally to the controversy, though the network did eventually pull Nicholas from her duties as the NBA Finals' sideline reporter and issued a memo that Taylor was selected to host "NBA Countdown" for the finals on merit alone. Taylor's move comes after her contract with ESPN expired, and ESPN executives were unable to work out a deal for Taylor to stay with the company.
The Contest Over Our Data After We Die
Recent use of Anthony Bourdain's digitally regenerated voice in a new documentary about his life is the latest example of a celebrity being digitally reincarnated. In recent years, we have seen numerous people digitally resurrected as 2-D projections, 3-D holograms, C.G.I. renderings, and A.I. chat bots. We have also seen other more affordable forms of digital reincarnation, such as the animation of family photos of relatives long dead, and creation of other deepfakes. Uses of such forms of digital reincarnation has sparked debate about what should happen to someone's personal data when they die and raises important questions like who does our personal data (such as social media posts) belong to after we die? Further, does digital reincarnation of a deceased celebrity or public figure violate their posthumous right to privacy? While U.S. law does not currently recognize the deceased's right to privacy, we are starting to see people attempting to assert agency over their digital legacies, and such technology is opening doors for us to consider these ethical questions through a new lens.
Over $1 Billion in Ads on the Line in the Olympics
The Olympics have long been an ideal forum for companies to promote themselves, but this year advertisers are anxious about the more than $1 Billion they have collectively spent to run ads on NBC and its Peacock streaming platform after calls to cancel the Olympic Games have intensified as more athletes test positive for Covid-19. The event, which is taking place in empty arenas in the midst of a deadly pandemic, is deeply unpopular with Japanese citizens and many public health experts who fear a superspreader event, and sponsors/advertisers are concerned about public backlash. Some companies, such as Toyota, one of Japan's most influential companies, has since abandoned its plans to run Olympics-themed TV commercials in Japan for fear of backlash. In the United States, however, for companies like NBCUniversal, which has paid billions of dollars for the exclusive rights to broadcast the Olympics in the United States through 2032, marketing plans are moving ahead as usual. Although the situation is "not ideal", many companies claim that skipping that the Olympics is "not an option", given the worldwide reach of the Games.
Activist Loses Libel Case to a Refugee In the U.K.
A British far-right activist, Tommy Robinson, lost a libel case brought by a teenage refugee from Syria who was filmed being attacked at his school after Robinson falsely claimed the Syrian teen had himself violently attacked classmates. Robinson will be required to pay around $137,000 in damages and was ordered to pay the teen's legal costs. Robinson is the founder of the English Defense League, a nationalist group known for anti-Islam and anti-immigration stances, and has become a prominent figure internationally for supporters of similar fringe ideologies, including the far right in Europe and the United States.
Biden Brings in Antitrust Team to Test Titans
President Biden has assembled an aggressive antitrust team to lead the Justice Department's antitrust division, signaling the administration's willingness to clash with corporate America to promote competition across the economy. The appointments of top antitrust lawyers like Jonathan Kanter, Lina Khan, and Tim Wu demonstrates the Biden Administration's growing concern that the concentration of corporate power in technology as well as other industries, such as pharmaceuticals, agriculture, healthcare, and finance has hurt consumers and stunted economic growth and follows a recent executive order containing 72 initiatives meant to stoke competition in a variety of industries, increase scrutiny of mergers, and restrict the widespread practice of forcing workers to sign noncompete agreements.
Amazon Ends Arbitration for Customer Disputes
Amazon will no longer require customers to resolve their legal complaints against the company through a private and secretive arbitration process, but instead would have to pursue disputes with the company in federal court. Amazon has not announced its reason for dropping the arbitration requirement, but such a shift signals a significant retreat from a previous dispute resolution strategy that put consumers at a huge disadvantage and often helped the company avoid liability.
Walmart Loses Suit on Firing of Employee with Disability
A former Walmart employee who sued the company for discrimination on the basis of disability has been awarded $125 million by a jury, which will be reduced to $300,000, the maximum amount allowed under federal law for compensatory and punitive damages. The employee, who has Down Syndrome, worked at Walmart with the same routine schedule for 16 years and received raises and positive performance reviews during that time, was fired after Walmart instituted a computerized scheduling system that modified her work schedule. The abrupt change in schedule resulted in significant hardship for the employee, who thrives on routine. Walmart had refused to switch her back to her old schedule and fired her for excessive absenteeism. The jury found that Walmart failed to provide the employee with reasonable accommodation, even though she needed one because she has Down Syndrome and it would not have posed a hardship to the company.
Records Show the Summers are Hotter Than They Used to Be
The summer of 2021 is on pace to be the hottest summer on record, with summers in the Northeastern U.S. now hotter than in the deep South not so long ago. July in particular has been brutally hot in many places, with temperatures reaching 116 degrees in Oregon and 130 degrees in Death Valley, matching the hottest temperature ever recorded on earth. Numbers aside, the extreme heat is not just unpleasant but dangerous, fueling wildfires across the United States, such as the Bootleg fire in southern Oregon, which is creating its own weather system by spawning lightening and generating a fire whirl or a vortex of air and flame that looks like a fiery tornado. Climate researchers have concluded that this level of extreme heat would have been "virtually impossible without climate change."
Scientists Have Finally Filled in All the Gaps in the Human Genome
After two decades, a team of 99 scientists has deciphered the entire human genome. In the process of completing the full draft sequence, scientists have uncovered more than 100 new genes that may be functional and identified millions of genetic variations between people, which likely play a role in diseases. The project will enable scientists to explore the human genome in much greater detail, particularly given that large chunks of the genome had previously been blank but are now decipherable.
Regulators Prepare Response to Surge in Stablecoin Use
Top U.S. financial regulators have met to discuss stablecoins, asset-backed digital cryptocurrencies that derive their value from underlying currency or basket of assets and that are exploding in popularity so much so that economic officials see them as a risk to financial stability. U.S. regulators discussed the rapid growth of stablecoins, potential uses of stablecoins as a means of payment, and potential risks to end-users, the financial system, and national security. The Treasury Department plans to issue recommendations for stablecoins in the coming months.
Alzheimer Drug Approved Despite Doubts It Worked
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has greenlighted the use of Biogen's Aduhelm or aducanumab, a controversial new Alzheimer's drug and first new drug for Alzheimer's patients in 18 years, despite longstanding concerns among FDA officials that the drug doesn't actually work. Alzheimer's experts and other scientists are calling for investigations into how the agency approved the treatment with so little evidence that it actually helps patients. An investigation by the New York Times found that the process leading to the drug's approval took several unusual turns, including a decision for the FDA to work far more closely with Biogen than is typical in a regulatory review.
$26 Billion Deal Reached to Drop Opioid Lawsuits
Three major drug distributors (Cardinal health, AmerisourceBergen, and McKesson) as well as Johnson & Johnson, a pharmaceutical giant, have reached a $26 billion agreement with states that will release them from all civil liability related to the opioid epidemic. The agreement comes amidst a decades-long public health crisis that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans and lays the framework for billions of dollars to begin flowing into communities for addiction treatment, prevention services, and other expenses related to the epidemic. If the agreement is finalized, thousands of local governments and states will drop lawsuits against the companies and will pledge not to bring any future action. The distributors have been accused of turning a blind eye as pharmacies ordered millions of pills for their communities, despite being required by law to monitor quantities of prescription drug shipments. Johnson & Johnson, which supplied opioid materials to other companies and made its own fentanyl patches, is accused of downplaying the products' addictive properties to doctors and patients.
In New York, Settlement In Suit Tops $1 Billion
New York will receive more than $1 Billion as part of a pending $26 billion settlement deal intended to resolve thousands of lawsuits by states and local governments against drug companies involved in the opioid crisis. If the settlement deal is approved by enough states and municipalities, the payout to New York by drug distributors Cardinal Health, McKesson Corp., and AmerisourceBergen, as well as drug maker Johnson & Johnson will take place over the next 17 years to help communities pay for addiction prevention and treatment services to mitigate the harm caused by the opioid crisis. The settlement comes in the wake of more than 3,000 lawsuits against the pharmaceutical industry for its contribution to the epidemic and after thousands of New Yorkers have been killed by opioids in both their street and prescribed forms.
Labor Relations Board Says Inflatable Rats Are Allowed
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ruled that unions can position large synthetic inflatable rats, used to communicate displeasure over employment practices, near a work site even when the targeted company is not directly involved in a labor dispute. While picketing companies involved in labor disputes (known as a secondary boycott) is illegal under U.S. labor law, the Board ruled that the use of oversized inflatable rats is not a picket, but rather a permissible effort to persuade bystanders, thus dismissing claims that the rat's use was illegal coercion and finding that the rat is a protected form of expression.
U.S. Drops Pursuit of the Death Penalty in Seven Cases
The Department of Justice has declined to pursue the death penalty in seven cases, signaling a shift in the federal government's use of capital punishment at the federal level. Under former President Donald Trump, federal prosecutors were previously directed to seek the death penalty in all cases in which they won convictions, and the federal government executed 13 inmates in the last six months of Trump's administration, including three in his last day, after a previous two-decade hiatus in federal executions. The Biden Administration has, however, in addition to declining to seek the death penalty in cases where it had already been authorized, announced a moratorium on federal executions and has ordered a review of the way that death sentences are carried out.
Democrats Push for Voting Rights in Georgia
Senate Democrats are pushing in Georgia for a new voting rights law, seeking to make the case for a federal elections overhaul in Congress from the example of a state at the heart of the voting rights battle. At a Georgia state hearing, state lawmakers warned the Senate Rules Committee that Georgia's new restrictive, newly enacted voting law is a deliberate attempt by Republicans to disenfranchise Black voters, cause chaos at the ballot box, and consolidate their grip on power and demanded that Congress intervene. However, Senate Republicans have blocked voting rights legislation that Senate Democrats have previously proposed at the federal level, and not only dismissed the hearing in Georgia, but even boycotted it.
Mississippi Asks Supreme Court to Reject Roe v. Wade
In its petition for review, the Mississippi Attorney General urged the Supreme Court to overturn its "egregiously wrong" decision in Roe v. Wade, to do away with the constitutional right to abortion, and to sustain the state's new law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case in the fall after lower courts blocked the Mississippi statute for being squarely at odds with Supreme Court precedent. The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health, asks the justices to decide "whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional", and will give the expanded conservative majority on the Court the chance to confront whether the Constitution protects the right to end pregnancies.
Judge Blocks Stringent Law on Abortions In Arkansas
A federal judge has temporarily blocked Arkansas from enforcing its strict new abortion law that would ban nearly all abortions in the state except to save the life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency, finding that the law would cause "imminent irreparable harm" to doctors and their patients. Arkansas is one of several states that have passed abortion restrictions in a challenge to the constitutional right to the procedure established in Roe v. Wade, and judges have temporarily blocked similar restrictions in Ohio, Alabama, and Texas.
Lost Lives, Lost Culture: The Brutal Legacy of Indigenous Schools
The recent discoveries of unmarked graves at government-run schools for indigenous children in Canada have led to the resurfacing of parallel memories in the United States. In the century and a half that the U.S. government ran boarding schools for Native Americans, hundreds of thousands of children were housed and educated in a network of institutions created to "civilize the savage", with at one time in the 1920s nearly 83% of Native American school-age children attending such schools. Thousands of Native American children were products of this experiment of forcibly removing children from their families and culture in order to "assimilate" them, and thousands died while attending these schools in the U.S. Survivors living today are reckoning with lost culture, since they were not even permitted to speak their language at school as children, but are now reclaiming their identities.
Struggle to Prosecute Rape Endures Despite #MeToo
Statistics and accounts from victims show that prosecutors in New York City still struggle to prove sexual assault allegations, even though the MeToo movement led to a greater awareness about the prevalence of rape, an increase in reports to the police, a new hope that people accused would be more frequently held accountable. Most NYC prosecutors' offices rejected a greater percentage of sex crime cases in 2019 than they did a decade before, and in Manhattan, prosecutors dropped 49% of sexual assault cases that same year and increase from 37% in 2017. The low prosecution rate reflects the inherent challenges of prosecuting sexual assault, often where the attacker is not a stranger, where drugs/alcohol are involved, and where they are no third-party witnesses to the event. Critics argue that the high drop rate reflects prosecutors' unwillingness to tackle these challenges, with the city's district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., who has since declined to run for re-election, facing harsh criticism over his office's handling of sex crimes.
Federal Aviation Administration Clears Path for Link From Subway to La Guardia
The Federal Aviation Administration has approved a plan by New York Governor Cuomo to build a $2.1 billion AirTran linking midtown Manhattan to La Guardia Airport in just 30 minutes, and construction on the elevated rail link could begin as early as this summer. The federal approval came over the objections of environmentalists and other elected officials, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who have raised questions as to why the AirTrain was the only plan for getting travelers to and from the airport. Port Authority officials have defended the route for the AirTrain as being the least disruptive to the neighborhoods that surround the airport.
Inquiry Into Kavanaugh By FBI Draws New Ire
Nearly three years after Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh's tumultuous confirmation to the Supreme Court, the FBI has disclosed in a letter to Senate Democrats that the agency referred to White House lawyers the most "relevant" of the 4,500 tips the agency received during its investigation into Kavanaugh, but what happened to such referrals remains unclear. This disclosure has sparked concern from Senate Democrats on the Judiciary Committee who question the thoroughness of the vetting by the Trump White House.
Republicans Boycott Riot Investigations in Clash with Pelosi
Speaker Nancy Pelosi moved to bar two Republican Representatives, who are former President Trump's most ardent loyalists and most vociferous Republican defenders in Congress, from joining a select committee to investigate the January 6 Capitol riot. In a rare move, Pelosi announced that Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, both of whom amplified Trump's false claims of election fraud, could not be trusted to participate in the investigation. The decision angered some Republican Representatives, including minority leader Kevin McCarthy of California, who claimed that the investigation was nothing more than a political exercise to hurt the GOP and has announced that Republicans will boycott the investigation panel altogether.
Suspect Tries to Compare Capitol Attack to 2020's Violence in Portland
A Dallas man charged with storming the Capitol and facing off with officers inside has raised a selective prosecution defense, claiming that he has been charged with violent crimes because of his conservative beliefs while leftist activists in Portland, Oregon had similar charges stemming from last year's violence either reduced or dismissed. The comparison between the violence in Oregon and at the Capitol has long been a staple argument among right-wing media figures and Republican politicians, but this is the first time that a federal court has been asked to consider the merits of that argument. While selective prosecution defenses rarely succeed, the government has acknowledged the unrest in Portland as "serious" but has justified its charging in the Capitol riot cases because the defendants threatened not only the safety of the Capitol, but also "democracy itself."
Man Gets Prison for Role in January 6th Riot
A Capitol rioter who was the first to be charged with a felony after breaching the Senate floor and who plead guilty to storming the Capitol on January 6 with the intention of stopping the certification of the Electoral College vote was sentenced to 8 months in federal prison. His penalty could be a guidepost for the sentences of scores of similar defendants, though this defendant in particular was a first-time offender who had pleaded guilty and was therefore given some leniency in sentencing, which may not be applicable to other defendants facing similar charges.
Bezos Reaches Space but Sees It As a Small Step
Jeff Bezos, founder and former chief executive of Amazon and the richest human in the world, briefly launched into space from West Texas in a spacecraft that was built by his own rocket company, Blue Origin. Blue Origin, which was founded by Bezos more than 20 years ago, seeks to be a leader of space travel beyond short flights for space tourists, and has already tried to win contracts for a moon lander for NASA astronauts and launching satellites for the Department of Defense on large reusable rockets. However, Blue Origin has simply failed to upend the space industry the way that Elon Musk's company, SpaceX, already has, which regularly takes NASA astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station, has already deployed more than 1500 satellites to provide internet service everywhere, and its developing a rocket called Starship for missions to Mars and elsewhere.
U.S. Accuses Trump Insider of Hidden Ties
Thomas Barrack, a top Trump fundraiser, close friend of the former president, and the chairman of Trump's inaugural committee, has been indicted on lobbying charges after failing to register as a foreign lobbyist for the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as well as other federal charges, including obstruction of justice and lying to investigators. The indictment accuses him of using his access to then-President Trump to advance foreign policy goals of the UAE, including inviting UAE officials to give him a "wish list" of foreign policy moves they wanted the U.S. to undertake, then repeatedly misleading federal agents about his activities. Barrack joins a long line of former-Trump officials and associates facing criminal charges.
Her Political Signs Offend. Is It Protected Speech?
Andrea Dick, a die-hard supporter of former President Donald J. Trump, has covered her New Jersey home in pro-Trump, anti-Biden political banners signs, some of which use the "f" word, and to which Dick's neighbors and community members object as crude. The town's mayor has received numerous complaints about the signs, and while local officials have asked Dick to take down several signs for violation of a local anti-obscenity ordinance, she refuses to on the ground of her First Amendment right of free speech. A municipal court judge has given the property owner, Dick's mother, a week to remove the banners or face fines of $250 a day, finding that free speech is not an absolute right. Dick, however, has vowed to fight it in court on free speech grounds, which some experts say Dick will likely win, given current constitutional standards.
Free Speech Is Put to the Test in South Korea
Conspiracy theories about South Korea's history are spreading online, and the South Korean government is pushing criminal penalties to crack down on "historical distortions" and misinformation, a test of the country's commitment to free speech. For example, the 1980 uprising in Gwangju known in textbooks as the "Gwangju Democratization Movement", where citizens took to the streets to protest a military dictatorship and were shot down by security forces, is being recharacterized by right-wing extremists not as a heroic sacrifice for democracy, but a "riot" instigated by North Korean communists who had infiltrated the protest movement. In response, South Korea's government has rolled out new legislation aimed at cracking down on misinformation and mandating prison sentences for people who spread "falsehoods" about historical events. Free speech advocates and conservative critics have accused the South Korean president of using censorship of history as a political weapon.
Pressed to Act, Haiti Announces New Government
Claude Joseph, the prime minister who took control of Haiti's government immediately after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise on July 7th, is stepping down in an effort to join a new unity government intended to keep Haiti stable. Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon and politician, will be Haiti's new prime minister. Some Haitians say the move is being influenced and even directed by foreign countries, including the United States, and the move was met with anger by some Haitian activists, who lamented that the government did not consider what the people wanted before announcing itself.
Leftist Political Outsider Wins Presidency of Peru in Repudiation of Elites
Pedro Castillo, a leftist political outsider, has won the presidency in Peru by a landslide after defeating Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of a right-wing former president and towering symbol of the Peruvian elite. Castillo, the son of peasant farmers who never learned to read, burst onto Peru's national political scene as an anti-establishment candidate, despite having no political experience and never having held office, and is vowing to overhaul the political and economic systems to address poverty and inequality. Castillo will become Peru's first left-wing president in more than a generation and his election is the clearest repudiation of the country's existing establishment in 30 years. However, critics claim that Castillo is unlikely to have the support of the Peruvian Congress, military, media, and the elite in promoting his ambitious socialist reforms.
Biden Predicts FDA Will Give Final Approval for Virus Vaccines by the Fall
President Biden says that he expects the FDA to give final approval for coronavirus vaccines by the fall, which are currently authorized for emergency use. Biden also stated that he expects children younger than 12, who are not currently eligible to receive the vaccine, to be cleared for emergency use. Biden did not give any specific reasons for his statements.
Biden Advisers Expect Booster Will Be Needed
The Biden Administration expect vulnerable populations (people who are 65 and older or who have compromised immune systems) to need a third Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot after research data from Israel suggests that the vaccines, particularly Pfizer, are less effective after about six months. This statement is a sharp shift from just a few weeks prior, when the administration announced there was not enough evidence yet to back the need for boosters.
Facebook Says Biden is Scapegoating Over Vaccine Falsehoods
Facebook is pushing back after Biden officials denounced the social media giant for spreading misinformation about the Covid-19 vaccines, with President Biden himself making remarks that the social media platforms were "killing people." In a blog post, Facebook called on the administration to stop "finger-pointing" and blaming a handful of American social media companies, and argued that it has actually taken measures to contribute to vaccine acceptance among Facebook users in the United States, such as by prohibiting anti-vaccination ads and removing posts with misstatements about the vaccines.