By Angela Peco
Below are last week's topics of interest broken down into Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media, and General News
Accusers Recount How Weinstein Told Them, "This Is How the Industry Works"
Two women who accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault testified against him last week. Both were aspiring actresses when they met Weinstein in the mid 2000s. Dawn Dunning recounted how he suggested that she agree to a threesome with him to advance her career, telling her, "This is how the Industry Works." Miriam Haley, another woman testifying at the trial, recounted how Weinstein lunged at her and forcibly performed sexual acts on her in 2006. Weinstein has not been criminally charged in connected with the allegations of these two women, but they were allowed to testify to show what prosecutors allege is a pattern of behavior on Weinstein's part. He is accused of a total of five felony counts for his alleged behavior.
Hollywood Takes Steps to Curb Sexual Exploitation in the Industry
Revelations from Weinstein's case are leading to new rules on where and how to hold meetings and precipitating legal changes that make it easier to sue for sexual harassment. Actors are being encouraged to avoid one-on-one meetings in private settings, avoid hotel rooms, using hotel lobbies instead, and negotiating detailed, scene- and episode-specific "nudity riders" into their contracts.
New York Times Report Calls Victoria's Secret a "Culture of Misogyny"
The New York Times reports that L-Brands' chief marketing officer had a slew of complaints made against him over alleged inappropriate comments, behaviour, and touching of lingerie models, which he denies. Based on interview with 30 employees and court documents, the investigation also found widespread bullying and harassment of employees.
Aretha Franklin's Estate Still Unsettled After Niece Resigns as Executor
The executor announced her intent to resign because of disputes between family members. The family believed that Franklin had died without a will, which meant that her assets would be divided equally among her four sons, as is the rule under Michigan law. However, last May, a hand-written document was found under sofa cushions that appeared to be a will. Her sons are preparing for a possible trial this fall.
Grammy Awards Tinged by Grief Over Death of Kobe Bryant
Last weekend's Grammy Awards were marked by extreme sadness as performer after performer paid tribute to Kobe Bryant in their songs, while the host for the night, Alicia Keys, opened the show with poignant remarks on the loss of Kobe Bryant.
Iranian Rapper Detained in Turkey Faces Deportation
Turkish police acted on an Interpol red notice to detain Amir Tataloo in Istanbul. The rapper faces deportation to Iran, whose clerics have long censored the lifestyle of rappers and the wearing of tattoos. Tataloo previously spent four months in prison two years ago and was frequently detained over his tattoos. Known for making bold political and social statements through his music, fans questioned whether his more recent support for hardline conservative candidates had been genuine or simply an opportunity to get permits to perform.
Philadelphia Museum of Art Executive Apologizes to Sexual Harassment Complainants
Timothy Rub, director and C.E.O. of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, apologized to hundreds of employees for the mistakes the institution had made in dealing with complaints of sexual harassment against Joshua Helmer, one of the museum's former managers. Rub delivered his remarks at a full staff meeting. The Board of Directors had previously announced that it would lead a "cultural assessment," including staff interviews, to examine what went wrong. Some staff saw it as an inadequate response to the problem, arguing instead that mandatory harassment training and an anonymous reporting system should be set up.
Author E. Jean Carroll Seeks Trump's DNA
E. Jean Carroll maintains that President Trump assaulted her in the 1990s. She is now asking that he provide a DNA sample that she can then test against genetic material that is on the dress she was wearing at the time of the incident.
Hamilton Song Makes a Cameo in Trump Impeachment Trial
The title of John Bolton's forthcoming book is nearly the same as a song from Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton, titled "The Room Where It Happens." The song is sung by Hamilton's rival, Aaron Burr, and is performed while Hamilton, Jefferson, and Madison reach a compromise over the location of the American capital and the federal tax system.
Former Belgian King Acknowledges Daughter After Paternity Test
King Albert II, who abdicated in 2013, has acknowledged his daughter following the results of a court-ordered DNA test. Delphine Boel, an artist, had long held that she was the biological daughter of Albert and Baroness Longchamp, following their affair in the 1960s. Albert's lawyers said he has "taken note" of the results, adding that there are legal arguments for why "a legal paternity is not necessarily the reflection of a biological paternity," but that the king had decided not to raise them.
Sports World Mourns the Loss of Basketball Legend Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter were among nine people who died following a helicopter crash near Calabasas, California. Bryant leaves behind his wife and three daughters. A shooting guard, Bryant entered the National Basketball Association (NBA) directly from high school, and soon went on to become one of the sport's biggest stars, playing all of his 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers. He was also an author, producer, and actor. In recent days, the NBA community and the sports world at large honored Kobe's memory and his achievements on and off the court. He was 41.
Kobe Bryant's Death Exposed Once Again the Pitfalls for Big Brands
Some companies with tenuous ties to a celebrity have been accused of exploiting celebrity deaths to promote their products by releasing opportunistic ads touting their connection to the star. This time around, blockchain company Tron Foundation sent a tweet calling Kobe Bryant a member of the Tron Family, even though Bryant's only public interaction with the company was a speaking engagement in 2019. Nike used a more tactful approach in Bryant's case, citing his "immeasurable impact" and making no reference to any of his products. Marketing professionals call for sensitivity at a time like this and for companies to question how their brands fit into these situations.
USA Gymnastics Files $215 Million Settlement Offer to Nassar Victims
Under the proposed plan, survivors of Larry Nassar's sexual abuse would be asked to vote on whether they accept the $215 settlement. This is the amount that USA Gymnastics' insurers are willing to pay to resolve claims that the governing body failed to protect its athletes. The arrangement that most of the survivors accept would then apply to all of them. The lawyer representing nearly 200 of the 500 litigants has already rejected the plan.
SafeSport Suspends Coach Alberto Salazar After Accusations of Verbal Abuse
The U.S. Center for SafeSport has temporarily banned Alberto Salazar and placed his name on the centralized database of people facing disciplinary action. SafeSport investigated allegations of verbal use against Salazar after female athletes said that he harangued them about their weight and humiliated them in public. The coach has already been barred from track and field for four years due to doping violations, including trafficking in testosterone.
Major and Minor League Baseball Representatives Spar Publicly Over Proposed Overhaul of the Minor Leagues
A group of U.S. Representatives introduced a bipartisan resolution imploring Major League Baseball (MLB) to "abandon its proposal to strip major league affiliations from 42 minor league teams across the country." In urging MLB to sustain its minor-league system, the resolution also reminded MLB of the exemptions it enjoys from federal antitrust laws. The MLB wants to replace the affiliates with "independent teams" that would not include any players under contract with major league teams. Both sides have taken public positions and have held several negotiation sessions, with the next one scheduled for February 20th.
Football Leaks Reveal Information About Finances of Africa's Richest Woman
The 31-year-old Portuguese man behind Football Leaks, a platform that exposed soccer's questionable practices, also obtained information about how Isabel Dos Santos amassed her $2 billion fortune. The daughter of Angola's former president is being investigated for plundering Angola's state petroleum company and other state institutions to bankroll her various business, and could soon face charges of embezzlement.
White House Granted Right-Wing Christian Site Press Credentials for President's Davos Trip, Despite Site's History of Anti-Semitic Remarks
Five employees at media outlet TruNews received credentials to cover the president's trip to Davos. TruNews' founder, a pastor named Rick Wiles, recently described the president's impeachment as "a Jew coup" planned by "a Jewish cabal." Civil rights groups criticized the move, saying it serves as a validation of their work, "as the White House being on their side."
State Department Will Not Allow National Public Radio Diplomatic Correspondent on Secretary's Plane
It is not clear how long the ban might last. The association of journalists covering the State Department criticized the move as improper retaliation for an interview that Mary Louise Kelly did with Secretary Pompeo, where she questioned him about his role in the Ukraine controversy. Following the interview, Kelly recounted a tense exchange with Secretary Pompeo, who accused Kelly of lying to him about the terms of the interview in asking about Ukraine.
Chicago Tribune Reporters Calling for Investors to Stave Off Influence of New Majority Shareholder
Journalists are appealing to wealthy Chicagoans to invest in the paper after Alden Global Capital, a New York hedge fund, acquired the largest stake in the paper's parent company, Tribune Publishing. Concerns over its management strategy can be traced back to Alden's past practice of enacting deep staff cuts at the Denver Post in 2018.
The Guardian Newspaper Bans Advertising From Fossil Fuel Firms
British newspaper The Guardian announced that it will immediately stop taking advertising from oil and gas companies as part of efforts to reduce its carbon footprint and increase reporting on climate change.
Republican Senators Vote 51 to 49 to Block Impeachment Witnesses
In a push to bring the impeachment proceedings to a close, and to a virtually certain acquittal, Republican senators voted to block new witnesses and documents. One of the critical swing votes on the issue, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, said that it was inappropriate to deprive voters of their ability to re-elect the president over a "merely inappropriate telephone call or action," with the election fewer than 10 months away. Closing arguments were scheduled for Monday, with the vote on the verdict on Wednesday.
Revelations in John Bolton's Book Fueled Push for Impeachment Witnesses
Details from the former national security adviser's upcoming book appear to corroborate the claim that President Trump conditioned military aid for Ukraine on that country's willingness to investigate his political rivals. The news prompted some Republican senators to openly consider calling witnesses, like Bolton, to testify at the impeachment trial.
The president's defense, however, is centered on the argument that the Constitution calls for impeachment for "criminal-like behavior," and that the Founders did not intend vague terms like "abuse of power" and "obstruction of Congress," which are neither enumerated nor defined criteria, to be grounds for impeachment.
White House Assumed Disgruntled Bolton Would Write a Critical Book
The White House acknowledged that National Security Council staff reviewed John Bolton's book manuscript and briefed White House counsel, one of whom is now an impeachment defense lawyer. The president's defense lawyers, however, insisted this week that they had no knowledge of the revelations in Bolton's book, including those that are central to the claim that the president made aid to Ukraine contingent on Ukraine investigating his political rivals. There is still no definitive answer on whether Bolton can publish his book as is, or whether he must wait for government officials to censor any classified information in it.
War of Words Escalates Between Adam Schiff and President Trump
Representative Adam Schiff called the president "wrathful and vindictive," responding to a tweet that the president sent out where he said that Schiff, the lead House impeachment manager, has not yet paid the price "for what he has done to our country." Schiff interpreted the president's words as a threat. He had previously come under fire for his own choice language, after he mentioned a news report that alleged the White House would put Republicans' heads "on a pike" if they voted to convict."
Chief Justice Roberts Refuses to Ask Senator Rand Paul's Question, Which Named the Whistleblower
Chief Justice Roberts, who is presiding over the trial, has the task of reading senators' questions aloud. He refused to read this particular question, as it would have named the person whose complaint formed the basis for the charges against Trump. Rand's persistence was part of a broader effort to characterize the complaint as a ploy by the president's opponents to manufacture a basis for removing him. Despite Chief Justice Roberts' refusal, Senator Paul then read the name to reporters and posted it on Twitter.
World Health Organization Declares Global Emergency Over Wuhan Coronavirus
The announcement comes as over 10,000 cases have been reported worldwide, with clear evidence of human-to-human transmission. The declaration does not have the force of law but signals that the world's top health advisory body considers the situation as serious.
U.S. Government Restricts Entry into U.S. to Foreigners Travelling from China
The temporary restriction came after the secretary of health and human services declared a public health emergency and several airlines suspended air service between the U.S. and China. All foreign nationals who have been to China in the past 14 days are prohibited from entering the U.S. The restriction does not cover immediate family members of American citizens and permanent residents.
China Accused of Delaying Disclosure of Coronavirus Infections
In a show of aggression against the infection, China is building two new hospitals to house its coronavirus patients and Chinese authorities continue to have the epicenter of the virus cordoned off. However, the country is once again facing accusations that it put secrecy and order ahead of transparency, which "delayed a concerted public health offensive." Reports from China reveal that as part of the initial handling of the epidemic, a doctor tried to warn his medical school classmates of a mysterious illness in an online chat group, and authorities questioned why he had shared the information and compelled him to sign a statement that his conduct constituted illegal behaviour.
Markets Tumble as Fear Spreads Over Coronavirus
U.S. health officials say more than 100 people in 26 states are being evaluated for possible infection, with eight cases confirmed in the U.S. as of Sunday. The death toll in China has surpassed 300 people and infections have been confirmed in over 15 countries. Stocks tumbled last week, with shares of airlines and companies dependent on tourism from China hit particularly hard. The price of oil also dropped over fears that demand could fall. The S&P 500 suffered its worst loss since October, falling 1.8%.
Coronavirus Vaccine is Still Months, If Not a Year, Away
The Vaccine Research Center at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) urged Chinese officials to share the genetic makeup of the coronavirus that is spreading globally. After the complete genome was posted on a public database, the NIH team identified the genetic code they could use for the vaccine and several companies have already received grants to help develop it. Despite improved global coordination and advancements in genomics, it takes at least a year for a vaccine to undergo extensive testing and become available to the public.
Supreme Court Allows "Public Charge" Green Card Rule
In a 5 to 4 decision, the court lifted preliminary injunctions blocking a new program that allows officials to deny permanent legal status to immigrants who are likely to make use of public benefits. The rule broadened the types of public assistance that would disqualify someone on public-charge grounds. They now include noncash benefits like food stamps, Medicaid, and housing vouchers, used for 12 months in a 36-month period.
Testimony Reveals Details About the CIA's Post-9/11 Interrogation Program
A pretrial hearing to decide whether the defendants in the 9/11 case were tortured is revealing information on the role that doctors played in the CIA's overseas prison program. The defense lawyer for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed confronted former CIA psychologists over their enhanced interrogation techniques, putting before them various pieces of evidence collected at one of the CIA's overseas detention sites. Among the witnesses was James E. Mitchell, the person who helped devise the torture program. He testified that a board-certified physician was present for every session of waterboarding (nearly 183 instances of it in Mohammed's case). Other disturbing details are also being revealed, including the role of medical staff into practices like sleep deprivation, rectal rehydration and rectal feeding, and hooding and shackling of prisoners.
Trump Administration Announces States Can Now Cap A Portion of Medicaid Spending
In a major shift in Medicaid, the administration will test allowing state Medicaid programs to limit health benefits and prescription drug coverage for some. In return, it will change how the federal government makes contributions to the states. States have to opt in and they would be required to commit in advance to a per capita spending amount or to a total Medicaid spending amount in order to receive federal money. The current system has the federal government reimbursing states for a percentage of actual spending.
President Trump Signs Revised North American Free Trade Agreement
President Trump signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement into law last week, underscoring those aspects that reduce outsourcing and encourage auto manufacturing in North America. The trade deal also brings stronger protections for workers and expanded markets for American farmers.
House Votes to Repeal 2002 Law Authorizing Use of Force in Iraq
The purpose of the move was to try to reclaim Congressional war powers, and in doing so, to bar President Trump from using the 2002 law to authorize military action against Iran without the approval of Congress. The administration has threatened to veto the measure, arguing it would hinder the president's ability to defend American interests. Three successive presidents have used the law to justify strikes.
U.S. Interior Has Grounded Chinese-Made Drones
Allowing their use for emergency situations only, the U.S. Interior Department issued a temporary stop on the purchase and use of Chinese-made drones as it ensures that "cybersecurity, technology and domestic production concerns are adequately addressed." In May of this year, the Department of Homeland Security warned U.S. firms of the risks that these drones pose to company data.
Trump Administration Adds Six Countries to Travel Ban
Nigeria, Eritrea, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan, and Tanzania were added to the restricted travel list, adding to the seven countries already on it. Citizens from these countries will face stringent travel conditions. Immigrant visas will be banned for the first four countries. Immigrants from the other two will not be participate in the diversity visa lottery, which grants green cards to about 50,000 people a year.
Secretary of State Pompeo Call China's Communist Party "Central Threat of Our Times"
The comment came during a meeting with his British counterpart in the context of a broader discussion about a trade deal with Britain. While the administration has attempted to convince American allies of the risks of using equipment from Chinese technology companies for their telecommunications infrastructure, Britain has rebuffed the pressure to ban the company from systems like its 5G network.
U.S. Imposes New Sanctions on Iran
The new sanctions are aimed at preventing top Iranian officials from using the international banking system or any financial vehicles set up in Europe or elsewhere. The sanctions are largely symbolic, because Iranian officials are not likely to keep substantial assets in international banks. The U.S. is largely monitoring the impact of earlier sanctions that cut off all revenues from Iranian oil exports.
Iranian Students Describe Despicable Treatment at the Hands of Border Officials
At least 16 Iranian students have been turned away at American airports and have lost the chance to pursue post-secondary studies at American universities. In most cases, the State Department had already issued them visas, but the students were deemed "inadmissible" on arrival, at airports in Atlanta, Boston, and Chicago. Some were given a five-year ban on reapplying to return to the U.S. One student was placed in a holding cell and then transported in cuffs and chains to an immigrant detention facility to wait for the next flight to Iran. They describe their experiences as humiliating and dehumanizing, and see rising diplomatic tensions between the two countries as the reason why their futures have been compromised.
President Trump Releases Middle East Peace Plan
Palestinian leaders immediately rejected the proposal which does away with the decades-long goal of a two-state solution. Instead, the plan would guarantee Israel control of a unified Jerusalem, as its capital, and Israel would not be required to uproot any of its settlements in the West Bank. The proposal offered Palestine the possibility of a state with limited sovereignty and a promise of $50 billion in international investment to build the new Palestinian entity.
Special-Interest Access and Influence Alive and Well in Washington
The president's pledge to "drain the swamp" appears to have been undercut by the president's own practices. His critics point to various events where Trump has granted up-close access to deep-pocketed supporters and interest groups supporting his political cause, including a 2018 dinner for major donors to a super Political Action Committee supporting the president.
Rudy Giuliani Lobbied Ukrainian Official on Behalf of His Client
In a meeting with a top aide to Ukraine's president in the summer of 2019, Giuliani discussed the prospect of a White House meeting with the president. He also asked that Kyiv's mayor, Vitaliy Klitschko, a long-time friend and client of Giuliani's, be able to keep his job.
New York Times Releases Video of Trump, Parnas and Fruman at 2018 Fundraiser
The recording confirms the presence of Lev Parnas and his business partner, Igor Fruman, at Mar-a-Lago, where President Trump hosted a fundraiser in 2018. Both men are charged with campaign finance violations.
Auschwitz Survivors Warn of Rise in Anti-Semitism
Survivors marked the 75th anniversary of the death camp's liberation, warning about the disturbing growth of brazen anti-Semitism, globally. The message that resounded from the words of some of the 200 survivors in attendance was to not be silent or complacent, even in the face of small indignities. United Nations Secretary-General Guterres also stressed the need for "solidarity in the face of hatred."
Native American Tribe in Montana Gains Federal Recognition
In December 2019, Congress passed a provision granted the Little Shell tribe federal recognition. Little Shell was left landless after another tribe signed an 1892 treaty on its behalf because it had no federal recognition. They were offered 10 cents an acre. Most of those families migrated to Montana, where the tribe's 5,300 members can now access federal assistance and have the ability to hold land as a tribe.
American Life Expectancy Rises for First Time in Four Years, Now at 78.7 Years
The slight rise of one month is the result of improvements in cancer mortality rates and lower drug overdoses. The decline in drug overdose deaths in 2018 was the first in nearly three decades and signals that expanded access to treatment and the availability of naloxone may be helping.
New York Non-Profit Tasked with Preparing Apartments for the Homeless is Being Investigated for Fraud
Federal authorities executed search warrants at the offices of the Childrens Community Services and its subcontractors, which are being investigated for fraudulent billing practices. The city has paid the non-profit about $500 million since 2017 to provide nearly 1,900 units of housing for homeless people. Authorities suspect that subcontractors did not provide the supplies and services for which the non-profit then billed the city.
New York Man Who Served 25 Years in Prison Formally Cleared
Following a hearing in State Supreme Court in Manhattan this week, Rafael Ruiz was formally exonerated after serving 25 years in prison for a rape that occurred in 1984. He maintained his innocence throughout this time. In 2019, the Innocence Project located the rape kit from the victim's case and compared samples of Ruiz's DNA with those from the kit, which did not match.
Facebook Will Settle Facial Recognition Lawsuit for $550 Million
The company will settle the Illinois class-action lawsuit that stemmed from its use of the Tag Suggestions, a service that used face-matching software to suggest the names of people that appears in users' photos. The plaintiffs argued that the practice violated a state biometric privacy law by harvesting facial data from photos without users' permission and without disclosing how long that data would be kept.
Scientists Alarmed by Water Temperatures at Antarctica Glacier
The unusually warm water beneath a Florida-sized glacier may support estimates that the glacier will deteriorate at a faster pace than initially thought possible. The Thwaites Glacier is critical because it acts as a brake on part of the much larger West Antarctic Ice Sheet. If the ice that this glacier holds back melts, oceans levels would rise by more than a meter over centuries, which would put many coastal cities underwater.
European Parliament Approves Brexit Agreement
Members of the European Parliament voted 621-49, consenting to the terms of the withdrawal agreement. The United Kingdom officially left the European Union (E.U.) on Friday. The President of the European Commission urged both sides to join forces on issues like climate change. Despite the formal end of the relationship, many issues are still unresolved - Britain still needs to negotiate its future trade relations with the E.U. The E.U., for its part, is expected to extract pledges from Britain not to dilute its environmental, labor or antitrust rules, which could make Britain a less-regulated competitor.
Duterte Orders Cabinet Not to Visit the U.S.
The Philippine president issued the order after a former national police chief implicated in the country's drug war was denied a visa. He coupled the order with warnings of reduced cooperation between the two countries' armed forces.
Kenya's High Court Suspends National Biometric Identity Program
The court temporarily suspended the program, citing concerns over the lack of privacy laws to protect the security of the data and laws safeguarding minorities from discrimination. The program was put in place so that every Kenyan citizen and foreign resident could be issued a government ID to access services.