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Week In Review

By Ariana Sarfarazi Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into: Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Technology/Media, General News, and Covid:

ENTERTAINMENT 'Hollywood Ending' as Behind-the-Scenes Workers Agree to a Contract Late on Saturday, October 16th, IASTE - the union of Hollywood's behind-the-scenes workers - reached a tentative agreement for a new 3-year contract with film and TV studios including Disney, NBCUniversal, WarnerMedia, Amazon, Apple, and Netflix, therefore narrowly averting a strike that would have begun on Monday, October 18th. IATSE negotiators agreed to a deal after winning concessions on several fronts, including 54 hours of rest on weekends (on par with actors), a minimum rest of 10 hours between leaving set and returning, pay increases, and funding by the studios of a $400 million deficit in the IATSE pension and health plan without imposing premiums or increasing cost of health coverage.

Chappelle Show Raises Questions 'Is It Art?' but Also 'Is It Hate?' Comedian Dave Chappelle's comments on transgender people and gender in his latest Netflix special "The Closer" have led to outside criticism and internal unrest at Netflix, a company that once revolutionized Hollywood. Netflix employees have internally taken 2 separate sides - while Netflix executives have supported the special on the grounds of free speech, other employees have planned a walkout, been suspended, and even been fired for actions taken in protest of what they deem to be transphobic hate speech.

Clover v. Tesfaye The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the summary judgment entered in favor of Abel Tesfaye (also known as "The Weeknd") and his collaborators in a copyright infringement claim alleging that the defendants' song "A Lonely Night" illicitly copied the plaintiffs' song "I Need to Love". The Ninth Circuit found that plaintiffs Brain Clover and Scott McCulloch failed to establish that the defendants had access to their work because "I Need to Love" was never released to the public or generated any royalties. Additionally, the Court held that the plaintiffs failed to show that the works were so similar that their resemblance could only be explained by copying rather than coincidence, independent creation, or prior common source. Further, the Court found that the plaintiffs failed to adequately address evidence of a prior common source: Blondie's 1979 song "Heart of Glass". Clover v. Tesfaye.pdf

For One Cosby Juror, The Work Continues Cheryl Carmel, a jury forewoman in Bill Cosby's 2018 trial on sexual assault charges, is now an activist lobbying to change Pennsylvania law on consent. Throughout Cosby's trial, Carmel and other jurors learned that Pennsylvania law does not recognize being too intoxicated to physically or verbally resist a sexual encounter as lack of consent in sexual assault cases. Since Cosby's trial ended, Carmel has been fighting to get Pennsylvania to define consent as an affirmative act, or one that emphasizes that the absence of "no" does not constitute permission.

Short Flight Makes Star of 'Star Trek' the Oldest Space Tourist At 90 years old, William Shatner, the actor who played Captain Kirk in Star Trek, became the world's oldest space traveler when he flew aboard a rocket built by Blue Origin for space tourists, the private space company owned by Jeff Bezos. The rocket traveled at 2,235 miles per hour, sent the crew 65.8 miles high, and lasted approximately 10 minutes and 17 seconds, which gave the passengers about 4 minutes of weightlessness.

Durst Is Sentenced to Life in Prison for 2000 Murder of Friend Robert Durst, disgraced New York real estate mogul whose story was memorialized in a documentary, was sentenced to life in prison for the 2000 execution-style murder of a close confidante, Susan Berman. A Los Angeles jury convicted Durst of first-degree murder last month after it found that the prosecution had proven special circumstances - that Durst shot Berman, a journalist and screenwriter, because he feared she was about to tell investigators what she had learned about the 1982 disappearance of his first wife, Kathie McCormack Durst.

ARTS Dealer Admits Selling Fakes The owner of Sadigh Gallery, a well-known antiquities gallery in Manhattan, pled guilty to selling thousands of fraudulent ancient artifacts that were in actuality modern mass-produced knockoffs made to look old. In an elaborate scam taking places over decades, owner Mehrdad Sadigh falsified certificates of authenticity, hired a company to remove negative reviews suggesting the items' inauthenticity, and influenced others to post false positive reviews of the gallery, thereby inventing dozens of appreciative customers. In a sentencing memorandum filed with the court, the District Attorney's office asked that Sadigh be sentenced to 5 years' probation and banned from ever again being involved in the sale of antiquities, "both genuine and fake."

Once-Rising Artist Turned into a Forger, Prosecutors Say Christian Rosa, a once-rising artist, was charged by federal prosecutors for scheming to defraud art buyers through the sale of 4 pieces purportedly by artist Raymond Pettibon. According to federal prosecutors, Rosa swindled buyers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in the fraudulent sale of paintings that were backed by certificates of authenticity on which Rosa allegedly forged Pettibon's signature. Rosa was living in California prior to fleeing from the United States and remains at large.

A Female Conductor Makes a Breakthrough The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has chosen Nathalie Stutzmann, a conductor and singer from France, as its next music director. Stutzman will be only the second woman in history to lead a top-tier American orchestra, after Marin Alsop, who recently ended her tenure as the music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Not one of the other 25 largest orchestras in the United States are led by a woman.

Visa Backlog Snarls Return for Classical Artists As the easing of coronavirus restrictions has allowed live performances to return, many cultural organizations, including the New York Philharmonic and Metropolitan Opera, are struggling to get artists into the United States because of a long backlog of visa applications at American embassies and consulates. The delays are affecting many industries, but the visa backlog is particularly upending classical music, which relies on stars from all over the world to perform in concert halls and opera houses.

A Reminder of Racism Sets Off a Storm Composer Bright Sheng has stepped away from a class he teaches at the University of Michigan after students complained that he had shown a 1965 film of Laurence Olivier playing "Othello" in blackface. After students complained to the department that they were not only offended by the video itself but also questioned why it was selected to be shown in class, Sheng initially apologized. However, after weeks of emails, open letters, and cancelled classes, Sheng voluntarily stepped back from the class entirely in order to allow for a "positive learning environment."

Female Icon to Replace Columbus in Mexico Mexico City has replaced a statue of Christopher Columbus with one of a precolonial indigenous woman. The new statue is widely seen as an attempt by Mexico City's mayor, the first woman elected to lead North America's largest city, to address fierce debates over the region's legacy of European conquest and colonialism and the treatment of women.

SPORTS Ronaldo Hacker Info Rejected While Gruden Resigns as Leaks Shake Industry A federal magistrate judge has recommended the dismissal of Kathryn Mayorga's $100 million lawsuit against Cristiano Ronaldo, which alleges that Ronaldo raped Mayorga in 2009, because Mayorga's attorneys relied on confidential documents obtained through a hacker. The ruling comes as other highly publicized leaks rattle the sports industry, including the "Pandora Papers" which apparently reveal the offshore bank accounts held by several high-profile sports figures, and the leak of emails of Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden, causing his resignation within hours of their release.

National Football League Coach Out Over Slurs in His Emails Las Vegas Raiders Coach Jon Gruden resigned after sending emails using misogynistic and homophobic language to disparage people. Gruden resigned merely hours after The New York Times detailed emails in which he denounced the emergence of women as referees, the drafting of a gay player, and the tolerance of players protesting during the playing of the national anthem. As part of a separate workplace misconduct investigation that did not involve Gruden directly, National Football League (NFL) officials found that he casually and frequently unleashed misogynistic and homophobic language over several years to mock some of the NFL's most momentous changes.

Lawyer for NFL Had Cozy Ties to Team Official Under Scrutiny A trove of 650,000 emails gathered in the NFL's investigation of workplace misconduct in the Washington Football Team's front office show that from 2009 to 2018, Jeff Pash, the NFL's General Counsel, had a chummy relationship with Bruce Allen, the Washington executive Pash was expected to oversee and who he was investigating. The emails show that for nearly a decade, Allen sent emails to Pash in which he casually joked about racial and political diversity, griped about referees and NFL initiatives to improve player safety, arranged tickets and perks, and thanked Pash for getting a fine lifted.

Washington State Football Coach's Refusal of Vaccine Roils a Campus and Results in Dismissal Nick Rolovich was fired from his Washington State coaching position for cause for refusing to take the Covid-19 vaccine. Rolovich was denied a religious exemption from the mandate. Additionally, 4 Washington State assistant coaches have also been terminated for the same reason.

The Nets Bar Kyrie Irving from All Games Until He Is Vaccinated The National Basketball Association has barred the Brooklyn Nets's starting point guard Kyrie Irving from playing all games until he is vaccinated, a move that could jeopardize the success of the season for the Nets and could set up a battle with the players' union. Irving has faced the prospect of only being able to play on the road with the Nets because of local coronavirus ordinances in New York that require most individuals to be at least partially vaccinated to enter facilities such as sports arenas, but the Nets's general manager and owner have made the decision to bar Irving from all games and practices. The Nets's decision to sit Irving for the road games that he is eligible to play sets the stage for a potential battle between the team and the players' union, though Irving will still be paid for road games this season.

Electronic Arts Sports Imagines a FIFA-less FIFA Negotiations have stalled between Electronic Arts (EA) and FIFA regarding the renewal of a licensing agreement that allows the California video game maker to use FIFA's name. The licensing agreement has grown to become FIFA's single most valuable commercial agreement (now worth about $150 million), and FIFA is currently seeking more than double what it currently receives. In addition to the existing financial dispute between the parties, the negotiations have also stalled because FIFA and EA cannot agree on what the gamer's exclusive rights should include.

FIFA to Introduce New Agent Regulations and Limit Commission FIFA plans to issue new regulations next year requiring the amount of money agents earn from deals to be made public. New regulations will also include a licensing system, character tests, and commission caps (at 3% of a player's salary when representing a player and 6% if representing both player and buyer), and will prohibit conflicts of interest, such as club or national association officials owning stakes in player agencies.

China's Boom Takes Big Hit, Leaving League in Limbo and Players Unpaid China's top soccer league, once heralded as the sport's new frontier thanks to a few years of powerful support, ambitious owners, and massive spending that lured top players, is now having an existential crisis. Teams that once spent millions to acquire players cannot pay their bills and China's top division, the Super League, hasn't played a game in months. FIFA is investigating complaints filed by players and future prospects for the Chinese league remain unclear.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Is Latest Sport Rocked by Abuse Allegations Martial arts star and owner of an organization called Fight Sports, Roberto Abreu, has been heavily criticized for mishandling sexual abuse allegations in his Brazilian jiu-jitsu organization. Abreu has been fiercely criticized for ignoring a young girl who accused another instructor and Abreu's close friend of sexual assault instead of using his influence to expose and forcefully denounce sexual misconduct in the sport.

TECHNOLOGY/MEDIA To Plug Leaks, Facebook Clamps Down on Its Internal Message Board Facebook recently announced to its employees that is making some of its internal online discussion groups for workers private within the company, thereby limiting who can view and participate in threads focused on platform safety and protecting elections, which Facebook refers to broadly as "integrity". The move to minimize leaks from within the company follows the disclosure by Frances Haugen, a former employee and member of Facebook's civic misinformation team, of thousands of pages of internal documents to regulators, lawmakers, and the news media.

For Instagram, Dread at Loss of 'Teen Time' Instagram has privately wrestled with retaining and engaging teenagers on the app according to internal documents. The app deems the loss of teenage users to other social media platforms as an "existential threat", as if it loses the teen foothold in the U.S., it loses the "pipeline", according to a strategy memo that laid out a marketing plan for this year. To combat this threat, starting in 2018 it earmarked nearly $390 million a year to targeting teenagers through digital ads, though focusing so singularly on a narrow age group is highly unusual according to marketers.

Strict Policy of YouTube Spills Over to Facebook YouTube's strict policies against election misinformation were followed by sharp drops in the false and misleading videos on Facebook and Twitter, underscoring the video service's power across social media. Researchers at the Center for Social Media and Politics at New York University found a significant drop in the number of election fraud claims shared on Facebook and Twitter after YouTube announced that it would remove videos that promoted the unfounded theory that widespread errors and fraud changed the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

Governor Accuses a Journalist of Hacking Missouri Governor Mike Parson has asked for a criminal investigation of a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter after flaws in a state website were revealed to display teachers' social security numbers. The reporter had alerted Missouri education officials and the teachers' union that the website listed teachers' names, certification status, and social security numbers, and waited 2 days until the state had fixed the problem before publishing on article revealing the security problem. At a subsequent news conference, Parson asked prosecutors to investigate the reporter, who he accused of carrying out a "hack" of teachers' private information, in a move that infuriated reporters and media rights groups, who said that the reporter was being threatened with a criminal investigation for doing their job.

Apple's Plan to Scan Phones in Europe Gets Red Flagged More than a dozen prominent cybersecurity experts have criticized plans by Apple and the European Union to monitor people's phones for illicit material in an effort to detect images of child sexual abuse on iPhones. The technology, known as client-side scanning, would allow Apple (or potentially law enforcement officials) to scan images uploaded to Apple's iCloud storage device. Privacy experts say that the technology is dangerous because it would erode digital privacy and could be used by authoritarian governments to track down political dissidents and other enemies. Apple has said it will reject any such requests by foreign governments, but the opposition has led Apple to pause the release of the scanning tool.

LinkedIn Set to End Operations in China Citing a "challenging" environment and difficult compliance requirements, LinkedIn is shutting down its professional networking service in China. LinkedIn, which is owned by Microsoft, says that it will offer a new app for the Chinese market focused solely on job postings, which will not have social networking features such as sharing posts and commenting. LinkedIn had previously been censoring posts in China to operate there in compliance with the country's laws, as the internet is closely controlled by the government. LinkedIn had been one of the only American social networks to operate in China - Twitter and Facebook have been blocked in the country for years, and Google left more than a decade ago.

A Defamation Case That Rests on a Single Apostrophe A missing apostrophe in a Facebook post could cost a real estate agent in Australia thousands of dollars after a court ruled that a defamation case against him could proceed. In the post in question from last year, the agent accused his former employer at a real estate agency of not paying its "employees" retirement funds to all the agency workers. At issue is the word "employees" - a judge in New South Wales ruled that the lack of an apostrophe in the word "employees" could be read to suggest a "systematic pattern of conduct" by the agency rather than an accusation involving one single employee, and allowed the defamation case to proceed.

Modi Uses India's Antiterror Law to Jail Critics for Years Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India's government has jailed thousands of people through a statute that critics say is aimed at silencing dissent. India's antiterrorism law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, makes one guilty of terrorism unless they are able to prove their innocence, and gives judges the right to extend pretrial detention almost indefinitely. More than 8,300 people have been arrested and jailed in the last 5 years, including political dissidents and organizers. The Modi government has also shut down the internet during protests, given itself greater access to people's online data (including tracing encrypted messages), and has persuaded social media giants to shut down millions of accounts in India for offenses against the government, which opponents argue is an abusive of power.

GENERAL NEWS Let Her Finish: Interruptions of Female Justices Led to New Supreme Court Rules Justice Sonia Sotomayor has said that the Supreme Court's rules for oral arguments have been revamped after a study found that female justices were more prone to being interrupted by male justices and attorneys. The new format now allows justices to ask questions individually, in order of seniority, after an attorney's time is up, which Justice Sotomayor has said has made an "enormous impact" in the courtroom.

Justices Weigh Letting Kentucky A.G. Defend Abortion Law The Supreme Court heard arguments in a Kentucky abortion case, but the justices barely discussed the Kentucky law at issue - an anti-abortion law that challengers say effectively bans the common method of abortion in the second trimester of pregnancy (dilation and evacuation). Instead, the justices focused on the question of whether Kentucky's attorney general (a Republican) can defend a state abortion law when the governor (a Democrat) refused to pursue further appeals after a federal appeals court struck down the law. As the argument progressed through complicated jurisdictional and procedural questions, the justices seemed inclined to say yes - the Kentucky attorney general can intervene even if the governor has declined to do so.

Biden Formally Recognizes Indigenous Peoples' Day President Biden has proclaimed Monday, October 11th as Indigenous Peoples' Day, becoming the first U.S. president to formally recognize it. While some states, such as Alaska and New Mexico, have adopted the holiday over the years thereby choosing to forego Columbus Day celebrations, not all states have accepted Indigenous Peoples' Day. Though it is not yet a federal holiday, there is a bill currently pending in Congress that proposes to make it one, but some members of indigenous communities say recognizing the day does not go far enough.

Administration to End Raids on Immigrants in Workplace The Biden Administration has announced that it will not conduct mass arrests of undocumented workers during enforcement operations at U.S. businesses, a reversal from the Trump Administration's policies. "Work-site raids" have long been criticized for dissuading workers from reporting labor violations out of a concern that they would be arrested. The change in policy comes during a labor shortage in the United States and offers reassurance that undocumented workers are not at risk of being deported en masse.

Study Finds Racial Bias Skewed Aid in Program A study shows that Black business owners were more likely to get Paycheck Protection Program loans from online lenders than from banks and other financial institutions. The majority of Black borrowers who received aid from the PPP program got their loans from a financial technology company, not a bank. These findings come amid growing scrutiny of how algorithmic systems can inadvertently perpetuate biases, therefore making it harder for Black business owners to find a willing lender. Regulators like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are examining whether lenders using such systems run afoul, even inadvertently, of fair-lending laws.

Food and Drug Administration, in First, Gives Backing to E-Cigarette The Food and Drug Administration has approved 3 Vuse vaping products, saying that the product's benefits in helping smokers quit outweighs the risks of hooking youths. This is the first time that an electronic cigarette has been approved to be sold in the United States.

Couple Accused of Trying to Sell Submarine Secrets Appear in Court A Maryland couple accused of trying to sell some of America's most closely guarded nuclear submarine secrets face life in prison if convicted on the charges. The couple is accused of attempting to sell nuclear propulsion secrets to an undercover FBI officer through a series of dead drops featuring memory cards hidden in peanut butter sandwiches, gum packages, and Band-Aid wrappers. The Justice Department has sought the continued detention of both Jonathan Toebbe, a nuclear propulsion expert who after leaving the military worked for the U.S. Navy as a civilian, and his wife, arguing that they are flight risks.

U.S. Regains Seat on Council for Human Rights at United Nations The United States has regained its seat at the U.N. Human rights Council, 3 years after quitting under the Trump administration. The Trump administration had abandoned its seat in 2018 because of what it called the body's hypocrisy and anti-Israel prejudice, but the Biden administration says that the U.S. can be more effective as a member. Based in Geneva, the Council is regarded as the world's most important human rights body.

FBI Deputy Director Dismissed Under Trump Wins Back His Pension Andrew G. McCabe, the former FBI deputy director fired under Trump, will receive his pension and other benefits after settling a lawsuit with the Justice Department. The Justice Department has now reversed McCabe's firing and has settled the lawsuit he filed asserting that he was dismissed for political reasons. Under the settlement, McCabe will officially retire, receive his pension and other benefits, and will get about $200k in missed pension payments.

International Monetary Fund Director Survives Accusation of Misconduct The International Monetary Fund's executive board has determined that Kristalina Georgieva will remain managing director despite allegations that she manipulated data to placate China when she was a World Bank official. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said that absent further evidence regarding Georgieva's role in data manipulation at the World Bank, there was no basis for change in leadership, a position that could lead to political blowback for the Biden administration. Republicans and Democrats in Congress previously urged Yellen to insist on "full accountability" after evidence emerged that Georgieva instructed staff to find a way to ensure that China's ranking did not fall in its annual report on national business climates.

COVID-19 PANDEMIC U.S. to Open Land Borders to Vaccinated The Biden Administration will lift travel restrictions at the borders with Canada and Mexico starting in November for fully vaccinated travelers. Foreign travelers who provide proof of vaccination and are looking to visit friends and family or shop in the United States will be allowed to enter. The lifting of the bans will effectively mark the reopening of the United States to travelers and tourism for the first time in nearly 19 months.

Biden Offers 17 Million Vaccine Doses to Africa President Biden announced the donations of millions of coronavirus vaccines to a group of African countries during a meeting with Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, Biden's first in-person meeting at the White House with a leader of an African country. The Biden administration's donation of 17 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the African Union comes a month after Kenyatta publicly pleaded for more equitable vaccine distribution around the world at a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.

Panel Endorses Second J&J Dose For All Over 18 A key federal advisory committee has voted unanimously to recommend Johnson & Johnson booster shots, which will be available next week if the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention accept the recommendation as expected. Committee members also made clear that they believe Johnson & Johnson recipients might benefit from the option of a booster of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Modern vaccine, something the FDA is currently considering.

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