By Christina Stylianou Edited by Elissa D. Hecker
Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into: Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Technology/Media, General News, and COVID:
Disney Sues to Keep Complete Rights to Marvel Characters
Moving to defend its Marvel superhero franchises, the Walt Disney Company filed a flurry of lawsuits seeking to invalidate copyright termination notices served by artists and illustrators involved with marquee characters like Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Thor. Daniel M. Petrocelli, a Los Angeles litigator, filed the complaints on Disney's behalf in federal courts in New York and California. The reclamation attempts stem from a provision of copyright law that, under certain conditions, allows authors or their heirs to regain ownership of a work after a given number of years. Such efforts turn on whether authors worked as hired hands or produced the material on their own and then sold it to publishers. The Copyright Revision Act of 1976, which opened the door to termination attempts, bans termination for people who delivered work at the "instance and expense" of an employer. "Since these were works made for hire and thus owned by Marvel, we filed these lawsuits to confirm that the termination notices are invalid and of no legal effect," Petrocelli said by phone.
After Prosecutors Painted A Portrait of A Predator, the Defense Cast Accusers as Liars and Fame-Seekers in The R. Kelly Trial
The prosecution's summation offered a dramatic crescendo to the 5-week trial, which included hours of disturbing testimony from R. Kelly's accusers, some of whom had never before spoken publicly. The singer, 54, pleaded not guilty to all the charges. The closing arguments illustrated the expansive breadth of the prosecution's case against the singer -- and the steep challenge his defense team faced in the trial. The racketeering case against Kelly was built around 14 underlying crimes that federal prosecutors said he committed as part of the criminal enterprise at his command. Yet the charge itself only requires that 2 of those crimes be proven. Prosecutors constructed a final image of Kelly as a calculated manipulator who destroyed the lives of those around him. They characterized the singer as a volatile man whose "violent temper" led to harsh physical abuse of many women and girls. They told jurors that he often promised visitors fame or success in their careers, while only intending to use them for sex, and said that Kelly created a fear-inspiring system of control that entrapped his accusers and prevented them from speaking out.
The defense's case began following 5 weeks of testimony that included 11 accusers, 6 of whom testified that they were underage when their sexual encounters with the singer began. At first, the defense witness who took the stand said that he had never seen the singer hanging around underage girls, but the witness, Larry Hood (a childhood friend of Kelly's and former Chicago police officer) then acknowledged that he had been present when Kelly first met the R&B singer Aaliyah, whom Kelly is accused of having sex with when she was 13 or 14. Another defense witness, Dhanai Ramnanan, described himself as an aspiring singer who worked in the studio with Kelly on and off for some 15 years. He said he had never witnessed Kelly verbally abuse or strike a woman, nor prohibit her from eating or using the restroom -- all accusations made during the first weeks of trial. Kelly did not testify in his own defense.
The defense team's closing arguments depicted Kelly as a generous and caring partner who loved the women around him "as a family" and treated them "like gold," but whose loyalty was not reciprocated. His attorney argued that the government's case, which revolved around allegations related to 6 women, was flimsy and built on a bed of fabrications. He contended that, while Kelly's accusers appeared to be sympathetic, their stories could not be trusted. He described one witness as "a super-stalker," "a super-hustler," and "a groupie extraordinaire." He argued that the case against Kelly was not about a series of accusations against a single man, but rather revolved around the historical balance between liberty and injustice in the United States and the decisions that everyday people make to shift the scale to either side. Invoking Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he argued that if jurors acquitted Kelly, they would be demonstrating the sort of courage that defined the civil rights movement.
T.I. and Tiny Will Not Be Charged in Los Angeles Sexual Assault Investigation
Prosecutors in Los Angeles declined to pursue criminal charges against the rapper T.I. and his wife, Tameka Cottle Harris, following an investigation into whether the couple drugged and sexually assaulted a woman in 2005, citing the statute of limitations. In May, the Los Angeles Police Department said it had opened a criminal investigation into the incident, in which a military veteran said she met the famous couple in the V.I.P. section of a Los Angeles club and became incapacitated after drinking with them. She said the couple then raped her in a hotel room. A lawyer representing the woman said at the time that she was among 11 people (in Georgia and California) who said they had been victimized by the Atlanta-based couple or members of their entourage. Unfortunately, as there was only one alleged victim in Los Angeles in this case, the exception to the statute of limitations that allowed the authorities to pursue older cases, as they did when they brought charges against Harvey Weinstein, did not apply in this case.
The Surveillance Apparatus That Surrounded Britney Spears
Britney Spears's father and the security firm he hired to protect her ran an intense surveillance apparatus that monitored her communications and secretly captured audio recordings from her bedroom, including her interactions and conversations with her boyfriend and children, according to a former employee of the security firm. Alex Vlasov, the employee, supported his claims with emails, text messages, and audio recordings he was privy to in his 9 years as an executive assistant and operations and cybersecurity manager for Black Box, the security firm. Recording conversations in a private place and mirroring text messages without the consent of both parties can be a violation of the law. It is unclear if the court overseeing Spears's conservatorship was aware of or had approved the surveillance. Vlasov's account, and his trove of materials, create the most detailed portrait yet of what Spears's life has been like under the conservatorship for the past 13 years. Vlasov said the relentless surveillance operation had helped several people linked to the conservatorship -- primarily her father, James P. Spears -- control nearly every aspect of her life. A lawyer for her father states, "All of his actions were well within the parameters of the authority conferred upon him by the court. His actions were done with the knowledge and consent of Britney, her court-appointed attorney, and/or the court. Jamie's record as conservator -- and the court's approval of his actions -- speak for themselves." Spears's lawyer, Mathew S. Rosengart, said in a statement: "Any unauthorized intercepting or monitoring of Britney's communications -- especially attorney-client communications, which are a sacrosanct part of the legal system -- would represent a shameful violation of her privacy rights and a striking example of the deprivation of her civil liberties." "Placing a listening device in Britney's bedroom would be particularly inexcusable and disgraceful, and corroborates so much of her compelling, poignant testimony," Rosengart said. "These actions must be fully and aggressively investigated."
Black Irish, Mariah Carey's New Liquor, Can't Be Sold in Ireland Amid Trademark Dispute
Singer Mariah Carey, announcing her new liquor brand last month, said it was called Black Irish in a nod to her father, who was Black, and her mother's Irish heritage. However, at least for now, she can't sell it in Ireland or the rest of the European Union. For over a year, Carey's line of Irish cream liqueur has been locked in a dispute with Darker Still Spirits, an Irish liquor company that has owned the "Black Irish" European trademark since 2015. Darker Still registered its trademark claim in March 2015, and officially introduced its Black Irish product, which is stout blended with whiskey, in June 2020. Carey's representatives, through a company called Lotion, filed for the European trademark in January 2020, and later applied to protect "A Cause for Celebration Black Irish" -- a move that was rejected by the European Union's Intellectual Property Office. The European authorities are still evaluating the status of the Black Irish trademark.
Prosecutor in Geneva Drops Criminal Inquiry in $2 Billion Art Dispute
The Geneva public prosecutor's office dropped its criminal investigation of Yves Bouvier, a Swiss businessman who has been embroiled in a long-running battle with Russian billionaire and art collector, Dmitry E. Rybolovlev, over the acquisition of $2 billion of artworks. It was the last outstanding criminal case initiated by Rybolovlev in his dispute with Bouvier in what has been one of the art world's longest and most bitter entanglements, which has been fought in legal jurisdictions around the world, including Singapore, Paris, Monaco, and Geneva. The prosecutor ruled that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with the charges, ending all current criminal proceedings against Bouvier that resulted from the dispute with Rybolovlev. Rybolovlev's lawyers, however, said it wasn't the end and that he intended to appeal. In a statement, his lawyers suggested that the case against Bouvier had not yet been properly judged on its merits -- whether Bouvier was acting as an agent for Rybolovlev or as an independent art dealer in his own right. The battle began 6 years ago, after Bouvier helped Rybolovlev buy 38 pieces of world-class art for $2 billion over a period of about 12 years. Rybolovlev has said in court papers that he believed that Bouvier was acting as his agent and adviser on the transactions, and he paid Bouvier a fee for his services. He later discovered, he said, that Bouvier had bought many of the items in advance, then flipped them to him at a markup of $1 billion. Bouvier insisted in court papers that he was not an agent or adviser and instead, like any art dealer, was entitled all along to charge Rybolovlev whatever prices he wished for the art he sold to his client and that Rybolovlev was prepared to pay.
Valentino Wants Everyone to Get Vaxxed -- and Cloned
In August, after receiving his second Covid-19 vaccine shot, Pierpaolo Piccioli, the creative director of Valentino, posted a selfie on Instagram, wearing a black hoodie with the red Valentino "V" logo on the chest. Beneath it, instead of the brand name as usual, was the word "Vaccinated". The photo immediately garnered attention and requests for the sweatshirt to be made publicly available. The sweatshirt, or a slightly elevated version of it, will be available on Valentino's website, retailing for €590 (or about $690 USD), with 100% of the proceeds going to UNICEF to support its work with the World Health Organization's Covax program, which is focused on getting vaccines to countries where they are not yet widely accessible. The sweatshirt was not originally made or conceived of by Valentino. It was originally designed by a company in Los Angeles called Cloney that specializes in bootlegging the city's cultural references (celebrity, social, fashion) and putting them on small-batch tees, sweats and baseball caps. Piccioli and his team had discovered the products online and bought out Cloney's remaining stock for personal use. Upon seeing the response to his Instagram post, Piccioli reached out to Cloney to produce the sweatshirt as a Valentino x Cloney collaboration, whereby Cloney would effectively be donating the idea and Valentino would donate the money -- an estimated €800,000 (or about $938,000) to start, which is based on how many sweats they anticipate selling. Piccioli said, "It's not a symbol of freedom to not be vaccinated. It's a symbol of lack of respect for others." The sweatshirt, he thought, was a "genius" way of expressing that.
Title IX Is Turning 50, But More Work Remains To Level The Playing Field For Female Athletes
In June 2022, Title IX will be 50 years old. The law has had a massive impact on female participation in organized college sports. Despite the gains, however, today 90% of intercollegiate athletic programs are still discriminating against women, with women being annually short-changed by $1 billion in scholarship dollars and 148,030 participation opportunities. With the market for name, image, and likeness (NIL) rights opening up for college students, the imbalance in resources provided to men and women threatens to grow. Much of this gender disparity is rooted in the historical under-resourcing of women's sports. (This is reflected in professional sports, as well.) Colleges need to work to balance the scales, so that the longer-run NIL market for men and women will gradually equalize. In the short run, greater male notoriety will perpetuate or exacerbate the inequalities.
New Olympic Rules On Trans Athletes Delayed Again Because of "very conflicting opinions"
The new guidelines for international sports federations are not expected to be released until after the Beijing Winter Olympics in February 2022, 3 years later than originally intended. The news was revealed by the International Olympic Committee's (IOC's) science and medical director, who said that the forthcoming advice would "prioritise inclusion" and "avoidance of harm." Current guidelines issued in 2015 allow trans women to compete in the women's sports if they keep their total testosterone level below 10 nanomoles per litre for 12 months. Unfortunately, this regulation has resulted in the exclusion of athletes with naturally high levels of testosterone. The IOC's approach would shift to a more individualised, sport-specific approach. The guidelines will serve as a framework, with the international federations determining the specific rules for their sports and events.
U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee Will Require Covid-19 Vaccinations for Winter Games
This week, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee announced that all athletes and team staff members who use the organization's training centers and facilities would need to be fully vaccinated by November 1st. Any athletes vying to represent the U.S at the Winter Games in Beijing will need to show proof of vaccination to be able to join the American delegation by December 1st. The IOC has not announced a vaccine requirement for the Beijing Games, but is expected to release a playbook next month detailing its preliminary rules and plans for preventing the spread of the virus at the 2022 Olympics, just as it did before the Tokyo Games. It is unclear, as yet, what rules athletes, officials, team staff members, and journalists will face in China. In Tokyo, 28 athletes tested positive in the lead-up to the Summer Olympics and during the competition, as did 13 athletes for the Paralympics.
The National Basketball Association Denies Andrew Wiggins's Request for a Religious Exemption From the Vaccine
The National Basketball Association (NBA) has denied the request of Andrew Wiggins, a Golden State Warriors player, for a religious exemption from the coronavirus vaccine, which is required in San Francisco to attend large indoor events, including Warriors home games. The NBA's decision complicates matters for the team and for Wiggins, a 26-year-old forward who was the No. 1 draft pick in 2014. He said in March that he did not plan to get the vaccine unless he was forced to do so. The ruling means that Wiggins will be barred from attending home games in San Francisco, where his team is based, unless he gets inoculated. The city mandated last month that people show that they are vaccinated in order to attend large indoor events. A negative coronavirus test will not suffice.
Twitter to Pay $809.5 million to Settle Shareholder Lawsuit
Twitter said that it will pay $809.5 million to settle a consolidated class action lawsuit alleging that the company misled investors about how much its user base was growing and how much users interacted with its platform. The original lawsuit was filed in 2016 by Twitter investor Doris Shenwick and claimed that Twitter executives "knowingly made inaccurate public statements regarding these metrics, and failed to disclose internal information about them, resulting in an inflated share price that fell when the truth about user engagement became known." The proposed settlement resolves all claims against Twitter without admission of any wrongdoing.
The Securities and Exchange Commission has opened an investigation into Activision Blizzard
Activision Blizzard, the video game maker behind "Call of Duty" and other major franchises, said that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was investigating it over "disclosures regarding employment matters and related issues." A press officer for Activision said that the SEC had issued subpoenas to the company and several current and former employees, but did not offer more details on the focus of the investigation. The company is cooperating with the inquiry, the official said in an emailed statement. Activision spent the summer grappling with accusations of sexual misconduct and workplace discrimination.
No More Apologies: Inside Facebook's Push to Defend Its Image
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive, signed off last month on a new initiative code-named Project Amplify. The effort, which was hatched at an internal meeting in January, had a specific purpose: to use Facebook's News Feed, the site's most important digital real estate, to show people positive stories about the social network. The idea was that pushing pro-Facebook news items, some of them written by the company, would improve its image in the eyes of its users.
Google to Spend $2.1 Billion on Manhattan Office Building
Google announced that it would spend $2.1 billion to buy a sprawling Manhattan office building on the Hudson River waterfront, paying one of the largest prices in recent years for an office building in the United States and providing a jolt of optimism to a real estate industry lashed by the pandemic. The transaction comes during a precarious period for New York City's office market, the largest in the country, as the swift embrace of remote work and the shedding of office space have presented the most serious threat to the industry in decades.
News Media Can't Shake 'Missing White Woman Syndrome,' Critics Say
On Monday night, the MSNBC host Joy Reid invited two women on her show, "The ReidOut", to discuss the case of Gabrielle Petito, a 22-year-old woman whose disappearance during a cross-country road trip generated a cascade of front-page headlines, news alerts, and prime-time segments on cable news channels. The guests, Lynnette Grey Bull and Derrica Wilson, are advocates for missing Indigenous and Black women and children, and they argued that the kind of media attention Petito's disappearance was getting was sorely lacking when it came to the hundreds of disappearances that didn't involve white women.
Trump Sues His Niece and The New York Times Over Leaked Tax Documents
Former President Donald J. Trump filed a lawsuit accusing Mary L. Trump, The New York Times and 3 of its reporters of conspiring in an "insidious plot" to improperly obtain his confidential tax records and exploit their use in news articles and a book. The lawsuit claims that The New York Times reporters, as part of an effort to obtain the tax records, relentlessly sought out the former president's niece, and persuaded her "to smuggle the records out of her attorney's office" and turn them over to them. That action, according to the lawsuit, breached a confidentiality agreement that was part of the settlement of litigation involving the will of the former president's father, Fred C. Trump, who died in 1999. Trump's lawsuit, filed in State Supreme Court in Dutchess County, N.Y., accuses the newspaper, its reporters and his niece of being motivated "by a personal vendetta and their desire to gain fame, notoriety, acclaim and a financial windfall and were further intended to advance their political agenda."
That Comment Someone Left on Facebook? It Can Get You Sued
Dylan Voller had become famous overnight in 2016 after a television news exposé on the mistreatment of juveniles in Australia's criminal detention system broadcast a photograph of him, at age 17, hooded and strapped to a chair by guards. The image, likened by some to those of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, shocked many Australians, prompting a national investigation. Beneath articles about the investigation written by major Australian news outlets and posted to their Facebook pages, commenters attacked Voller, falsely accusing him of a number of criminal acts. Instead of confronting the commenters directly, Voller sued the news media outlets, arguing that they were defaming him by permitting the comments on their Facebook pages. Crucially, he did not ask them to remove the comments before filing his lawsuit, essentially arguing that they should be liable for comments they might not even be aware of. His victory this month before the country's top court could be a blow to Facebook's ability to draw viewers to its content and further muddies the waters in a global debate over who should be held liable for what is said on social media.
An Experiment to Stop Online Abuse Falls Short in Germany
In 2017, the country enacted one of the world's toughest laws against online hate speech. It requires Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to remove illegal comments, pictures or videos within 24 hours of being notified about them or risk fines of up to 50 million euros, or $59 million. Supporters hailed it as a watershed moment for internet regulation and a model for other countries. However, an influx of hate speech and harassment in the run-up to the German election, in which the country was to choose a new leader to replace Angela Merkel, its longtime chancellor, has exposed some of the law's weaknesses.
An American Journalist Sits in Prison as Myanmar Suppresses Dissent
Danny Fenster, an American journalist who was arrested in May as he prepared to leave Myanmar, was ordered to remain in prison as police investigate a vague accusation that he disseminated information that could be harmful to the military. The court hearing marked his 120th day in custody. Fenster is the only American known to be under arrest in Myanmar, and has become an international symbol of the military junta's crackdown on free expression. No formal charge has been filed against the Detroit native. No evidence has been presented against him at any of his e8 court appearances, which are conducted by video and last only a few minutes. He is not permitted to speak or ask questions and has rarely met with his attorney since his arrest on May 24th. Fenster, the managing editor of Frontier Myanmar magazine, is accused of disseminating information that might induce military officers to disregard or fail in their duties, a charge often brought against journalists in the Southeast Asian nation. He faces 3 years in prison.
New Taliban Guidelines Stir Fear About the Future of Press Freedom
Concerns are growing at the increased constraints the Taliban government has placed on the news media in Afghanistan, after officials issued a new framework of rules for journalists that critics say open the door for censorship and repression. Qari Muhammad Yousuf Ahmadi, the interim director of the Government Media and Information Center and a longtime Taliban spokesman, unveiled 11 rules for journalists this week. They include directives against publishing topics that are in conflict with Islam or insulting to national personalities, and also instruct journalists to produce news reports in coordination with the government media office. The once-vibrant media industry in Afghanistan has been in free fall since the Taliban seized control last month. Many Afghan journalists fled the country, fearing repression and violence from the new rulers, while dozens more have gone into hiding and are still seeking a way out of Afghanistan.
How the U.S. Helped, and Hampered, the Escape of Afghan Journalists
In telephone interviews last week, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and 2 other officials closely involved in the evacuation of journalists and many others from Afghanistan made the case that the U.S. exit should be seen as a success. They pointed to the scale of the operation -- 124,000 people evacuated, in total -- as the ultimate American commitment to Afghanistan's civil society. "We evacuated at least 700 media affiliates, the majority of whom are Afghan nationals, under the most challenging conditions imaginable," Blinken said in an interview on Friday. "That was a massive effort and one that didn't just start on evacuation day." However, people at major news organizations and others who pushed to get journalists out of the country reported that they were incredulous that the United States would claim to have played a pivotal role in the exodus.
Abortion Providers Ask the Supreme Court for Fast Review of Texas Ban
Abortion providers in Texas returned to the Supreme Court, asking the justices to take another look at their challenge to a state law that bans most abortions after 6 weeks and was designed to evade review in federal court. By a 5-to-4 vote on September 1st, the Court refused to block the law, citing the "complex and novel" procedural questions it presented. Since then, abortion providers in Texas have turned away most patients seeking the procedure. In the new filing, the providers asked the Court to grant certiorari to decide what they said was a pressing question: "whether a state can insulate from federal court review a law that prohibits the exercise of a constitutional right by delegating to the general public the authority to enforce that prohibition through civil actions."
Lawsuits Are Filed Against a Texas Doctor Who Said That He Performed An Abortion
A man in Arkansas and another in Illinois filed what appeared to be the first legal actions under a strict new abortion law in Texas that is enforced by ordinary citizens, regardless of where they live. The Arkansas man, Oscar Stilley, who was described in the complaint as a "disbarred and disgraced" lawyer, said in an interview that he had filed the lawsuit against a Texas doctor who publicly wrote about performing an abortion, to test the provisions of the law. Stilley said that he was not trying to halt abortions by Dr. Alan Braid, a San Antonio physician who wrote in The Washington Post that he had violated the Texas law. "I'm not pro-life," Stilley said in an interview. "The thing that I'm trying to vindicate here is the law. We pride ourselves on being a nation of laws. What's the law?" Dr. Braid was also sued on Monday by an Illinois man, Felipe N. Gomez, who described himself in his complaint as a "pro-choice plaintiff." John Seago, legislative director for Texas Right to Life, the state's largest anti-abortion group, which lobbied for the new abortion law, claims that "[n]either of these lawsuits are valid attempts to save innocent human lives" and that "[b]oth cases are self-serving legal stunts, abusing the cause of action created in the Texas Heartbeat Act for their own purposes."
Biden Vows to Double Aid On Climate Change, One of the Key Issues Facing Leaders
President Biden said that his administration would seek to double aid aimed at helping developing nations address climate change, raising a pledge he made in April to about $11.4 billion a year by 2024. The pledge is considered critical to the success of United Nations-led climate talks that are scheduled to take place in November in Glasgow, though whether and when the money will materialize depends on congressional approval.
House Passes Spending Bill and Debt Limit Increase Over G.O.P. Opposition
The House approved legislation to keep the government funded through early December, lift the limit on federal borrowing through the end of 2022, and provide emergency money for Afghan refugees and natural disaster recovery, setting up a fiscal showdown as Republicans warn that they will block the measure in the Senate. The bill is urgently needed to avert a government shutdown when funding lapses, and a first-ever debt default when the Treasury Department reaches the limit of its borrowing authority within weeks. It has become ensnared in partisan politics, with Republicans refusing to allow a debt ceiling increase at a time when Democrats control Congress and the White House. The bill passed with only Democratic votes in the closely divided House, 220 to 211.
Regulators Racing Toward First Major Rules on Cryptocurrency
After largely standing aside for years as cryptocurrency grew from a digital curiosity into a volatile but widely embraced innovation, federal regulators are racing to address the potential risks for consumers and financial markets. Their concerns have only grown as both new and established firms have rushed to find ways to profit from bringing the massive wealth held in cryptocurrency into the traditional financial system through quasi-banking services, like interest-bearing accounts and lending. Now, the Treasury Department and other agencies are moving urgently on an initial target for tighter regulation: stablecoins.
The January 6th Committee Subpoenaed Top Trump Advisers, Ramping Up Its Investigation
The select committee investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol subpoenaed four of President Donald J. Trump's closest advisers, ramping up its scrutiny of what the former president was doing before and during the deadly riot. The subpoenas, the first the panel has issued, seek information from Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff; Dan Scavino Jr., who was a deputy chief of staff; Stephen K. Bannon, Trump's former adviser; and Kash Patel, the former Pentagon chief of staff. The committee is demanding that the men turn over documents by October 7th and submit to depositions the following week.
Appeals Panel Overturns Army Judge's Ruling on Torture
A Pentagon appeals panel threw out a ruling by an Army judge who found that evidence obtained during the torture of a defendant could be considered in determining pretrial matters in a death-penalty case at Guantánamo Bay. "The issue of admissibility of such evidence is not ripe or ready for judicial review," the Court of Military Commission Review ruled in a 6-page decision that essentially left to another day the overarching issue of whether prosecutors can in some instances use evidence obtained through the torture of a prisoner. Lawyers brought the appeal on behalf of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi man accused of plotting Al Qaeda's bombing of the U.S. Navy destroyer Cole off Yemen in 2000, which killed 17 U.S. sailors. Nashiri was waterboarded by psychologists working for the CIA, and his trial has been mired in pretrial proceedings for a decade as the court that was set up after the attacks of September 11, 2001, tries to deal with the legacy of the torture.
Alabama Begins Removing Racist Language From Its Constitution
The last time Alabama politicians rewrote their State Constitution, back in 1901, their aspirations were explicitly racist: "to establish white supremacy in this state." One hundred and twenty years later, the Jim Crow-era laws that disenfranchised Black voters and enforced segregation across Alabama are gone, but the offensive language written into the State Constitution remains. Now, as communities across the South reconsider racist symbols and statues, activists in Alabama, who have labored for 20 years to convince voters that rewriting their Constitution is important and long overdue, see an opportunity to get it done. Efforts to rewrite the State Constitution failed twice before. Finally last fall, voters -- jolted partly by racial justice protests across the country -- gave a green light. This month, a committee of lawmakers and lay people began the process of redrafting; their work will go before the voters next year to be ratified before the new Constitution can take effect.
Trump Campaign Knew That Lawyers' Voting Machine Claims Were Baseless, Memo Shows
In a defamation lawsuit brought against the Trump campaign and others by a former Dominion employee, Eric Coomer, recently released court documents contain evidence that officials in the Trump campaign were aware early-on that many of the claims against Dominion Voting Systems, and the separate software company, Smartmatic, were baseless. By the time the news conference held by Trump's team of lawyers occurred on November 19th, 2 weeks after the 2020 election, Trump's campaign had already prepared an internal memo on many of the outlandish claims about the companies, determining that those allegations were false. The documents also suggest that the campaign sat on its findings about Dominion even as Sidney Powell and other lawyers attacked the company in the conservative media and ultimately filed 4 federal lawsuits accusing it of a vast conspiracy to rig the election against Trump.
Ancient Footprints Push Back Date of Human Arrival in the Americas
Ancient human footprints preserved in the ground across the White Sands National Park in New Mexico are astonishingly old, dating back about 23,000 years to the Ice Age. The results, if they hold up to scrutiny, would rejuvenate the scientific debate about how humans first spread across the Americas, implying that they did so at a time when massive glaciers covered much of their path.
New York City Sues Jail Officers, Saying That Illegal Strike Worsened Rikers Crisis
New York City sued a union representing its jail officers, saying that the staff absenteeism that has led to an ongoing crisis on Rikers Island amounted to an illegal strike that had endangered staff and detainees there alike. The lawsuit, filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, said that the union, the Correction Officers Benevolent Association, and its leadership, had condoned a coordinated campaign of absenteeism over the course of this year, which led to a sharp degradation in the quality of life at the notorious jail complex. The suit was filed just a day after a Bronx man's death on the island brought the total number of people who have died in the custody of the city's Department of Correction this year to 11.
Taliban Complete Interim Government, Still Without Women, and There Is A Harsh New Reality for Afghan Women and Girls in Taliban-run Schools
The Taliban refused to bow to the demands of the United Nations and the international community to include women in its cabinet, announcing the completion of an interim government with a lineup that was entirely male and kept members of the Taliban's old guard in the top echelon of the leadership. The announcement, which focused on filling posts at the deputy-minister level, did give a few of those jobs to ethnic minorities, including Tajiks, Uzbeks, and one Hazara, the new deputy minister of health. Yet those small numbers and the lack of women appeared likely to hamstring the government's efforts to secure funding from donors. The Taliban dismissed the demand for diversity and said that it was due recognition by the world.
The emerging government has also made clear that it intends to severely restrict the educational freedoms enjoyed by many women and girls the past 20 years. The only question is just how draconian the new system will be, and what type of Islamic-based education will be imposed on both boys and girls. When schools reopened last week for grades 7 through 12, only male students were told to report for their studies. The Taliban said nothing about girls in those grades, so they stayed home. Both boys and girls in grades one through 6 have been attending schools, with students segregated by gender in the higher three grades. When the Taliban were in charge from 1996 to 2001, they barred women and girls from school. After the U.S.-led invasion toppled Taliban rule in late 2001, female students began attending schools and universities as opportunities blossomed. Women were able to study for careers in business and government, and in professions such as medicine and law. By 2018, the female literacy rate in Afghanistan reached 30%, according to a new UNESCO report, but since the Taliban swept back into Kabul and seized power in August, its spokesmen have said that it will impose its severe interpretation of Shariah law. The new government has said that some form of education for girls and women will be permitted, but those parameters have not been clearly defined by Taliban officials.
Covid Vaccine Prompts Strong Immune Response in Younger Children, Pfizer Says
The Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine has been shown to be safe and highly effective in young children aged 5 to 11 years. The news sets the stage for authorization of the vaccine for younger children, possibly before the end of October. The need is urgent: Children now account for more than one in 5 new cases, and the highly contagious Delta variant has sent more children into hospitals and intensive care units in the past few weeks than at any other time in the pandemic.
Food and Drug Administration Authorizes Pfizer Booster Shots for Older and At-Risk Americans
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized people over the age of 65 who had received Pfizer-BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine to get a booster shot at least 6 months after their second injection. The FDA also authorized booster shots for adult Pfizer-BioNTech recipients who are at high risk of becoming severely ill with Covid-19 or are at risk of serious complications from the disease due to frequent exposure to the coronavirus at their jobs. The authorization sets up what is likely to be a staggered campaign to deliver the shots, starting with the most vulnerable Americans.
Moderna vs. Pfizer: Both Knockouts, but One Seems to Have the Edge
In a half-dozen studies published over the past few weeks, Moderna's vaccine appeared to be more protective than the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the months after immunization. The latest such study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, evaluated the real-world effectiveness of the vaccines at preventing symptomatic illness in about 5,000 health care workers in 25 states. The study found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine had an effectiveness of 88.8%, compared with Moderna's 96.3%.
Federal Panel Recommends Booster Shots, Opening New Campaign Against the Virus
An influential scientific panel recommended booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine for a wide range of Americans, including tens of millions of older people. However, the experts declined to endorse additional doses for health care workers, teachers, and others who might have higher exposure on the job. The decisions were made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) panel, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, in a series of votes, during which scientists agonized over their choices. The recommendations revealed deep divisions among federal regulators and outside advisers about how to contain the virus nearly 2 years into the pandemic. Just a day earlier, the FDA authorized booster shots for certain frontline workers, but the CDC's advisers disagreed that the doses were needed by so many healthy people.