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Week In Review

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:

Entertainment Netflix Employees Walk Out to Protest Dave Chappelle's special Amid cheers and chants of "Team trans!," dozens of Netflix employees walked out of a company office building to protest a recent Dave Chappelle stand-up special, in one of the most visible signs of worker unrest in the history of the streaming service. Critics inside and outside the company have said that Chappelle's show, "The Closer", promotes bigotry against transgender people. The protest put the tech company directly at the center of broader cultural debates about transphobia, free speech, and employee activism.

Alec Baldwin Was Told Gun in Fatal Shooting on Set Was Safe, Officials Say On a ranch in northern New Mexico, Alec Baldwin was filming a new movie afternoon when his character needed a gun. An assistant director grabbed one of three prop guns that the film's armorer had set up outside on a gray cart, handed it to Baldwin, and, according to an affidavit signed by Detective Joel Cano of the Santa Fe County sheriff's office, yelled "Cold Gun!" -- which was supposed to indicate that the gun did not have any live rounds in it. When Baldwin fired the gun, law enforcement officials said, it struck and killed the film's cinematographer and wounded its director and raised new questions about firearms safety on film sets.

Striving for Authenticity, Films Often Use Real Guns on Set Hollywood was in a state of shock after Baldwin fired a gun being used as a prop on a New Mexico film set, killing a cinematographer and wounding the director. Real firearms are routinely used while cameras are rolling, and injuries of any kind are rare. The reason is that safety protocols for firearms on sets are well established and straight forward.

Alec Baldwin Film Set Had Previous Accidental Gun Discharges, Crew Members Say There were at least two accidental gun discharges on the set of an Baldwin movie being filmed in New Mexico days before he fatally shot the cinematographer, according to three former members of the film's crew. The discharges occurred on October 16th, the former crew members said, prompting a complaint to a supervisor about the safety practices on the set, which was outside Santa Fe. The crew members, who asked not to be named out of fear that their future employment in the industry could be affected, were among several workers who quit, just hours before the fatal shooting, over complaints about unpaid work and working conditions on the production.

YouTube Sued Over Animal Abuse Videos, Accused of Not Enforcing Ban A number of videos of animal abuse were available on YouTube until very recently. Some of the videos have been on the site for years, viewed hundreds of thousands of times. Some also carried advertisements for pet food or vacation rental homes. That meant that YouTube's parent company, Google, was sharing advertising revenue with the people who posted the videos. The videos are now the subject of a lawsuit filed in California Superior Court in Santa Clara. Lady Freethinker, an animal rights nonprofit, sued YouTube, accusing it of breach of contract. The suit claims that the platform failed to live up to its agreement with users by allowing animal abuse videos to be uploaded and failing to take action when alerted about the content.

Russian Film Crew Wraps Space Station Shoot and Returns to Earth A Russian actress and a film director landed safely on Earth after spending 12 days aboard the International Space Station shooting scenes for the first feature-length drama made with scenes shot in space. Yulia Peresild, the actress, and Klim Shipenko, a film director, were launched into space with a Russian astronaut on October 5th aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. They used the orbital laboratory as one of the main sets for their movie "The Challenge". The 12-day journey, backed by Russia's space agency Roscosmos, was the latest act in a race among spacefaring countries to generate public excitement about human spaceflight and demonstrate that destinations like the space station aren't exclusive to government astronauts. The mission also adds another superlative to Russia's spaceflight record over the United States: beating Hollywood to orbit.

Arts Broadway Is Back. Here's What It's Like for Theatergoers. The return of live performance -- on stages from Broadway to Carnegie Hall to Lincoln Center to the Brooklyn Academy of Music -- after the long shutdown has been a cause for celebration for culture-starved theatergoers and music and dance lovers. As with so many things in the age of the coronavirus, coming back has entailed a few adjustments: the ability to deftly juggle proofs of vaccination, photo IDs, and tickets to get inside; preshow announcements that now urge people to keep their cellphones off and their masks on; and the absence of intermissions at some concerts and dance performances.

As Broadway Returns, Shows Rethink and Restage Depictions of Race Broadway is back, but as shows resume performance after the long pandemic shutdown, some of the biggest plays and musicals are making script and staging changes to reflect concerns that intensified after last year's huge wave of protests against racism and police misconduct.

Art Institute of Chicago Ends a Docent Program and Sets Off a Backlash Like many museums around the country, the Art Institute of Chicago has been trying to forge closer ties with the racially and economically diverse city it serves. Museum officials decided that one area in need of an overhaul was its 60-year-old program of volunteer educators, known as docents, who greet school groups and lead tours. Last month, the board overseeing the program sent a letter to the museum's 82 active docents -- most of whom were white older women -- informing the volunteers that their program was being ended. The letter said that the museum would phase in a new model relying on paid educators and volunteers "in a way that allows community members of all income levels to participate, responds to issues of class and income equity, and does not require financial flexibility to participate." The move has erupted into the latest cultural flash point as museums around the country wrestle with making their staffs, boards, and programming more diverse.

Jefferson Statue Will Be Removed From New York City Council Chambers For more than 100 years, a 7-foot-tall statue of Thomas Jefferson has towered over members of the New York City Council in their chamber at City Hall, a testament to his role as one of the nation's founding fathers and the primary author of the Declaration of Independence. Yet for the last two decades, some Black and Latino Council members, citing Jefferson's history as a slaveholder, called for the statue to be banished -- a push that gained significant momentum in the last year, as the nation has broadly reconsidered public monuments that can be viewed as symbols of systemic racism. Last week, city officials voted unanimously to remove the statue from Council chambers, but delayed a decision on where to put it.

Chinese Pianist Is Held on Prostitution Suspicion, State Media Says A prominent Chinese pianist, Li Yundi, has been detained on prostitution suspicion in Beijing, state-run news outlets in China reported. Li, 39, who had gained celebrity in China as a performer and a reality television personality, was accused of soliciting a 29-year-old woman, according to People's Daily, the official newspaper of the ruling Communist Party. The authorities in Beijing did not provide many details of the incident, saying in a statement that a 39-year-old man with the last name Li had acknowledged wrongdoing and had been detained "in accordance with the law." In an apparent reference to Li's case, the Beijing authorities later posted a photo of piano keys alongside the text: "The world is not simply black and white, but one must distinguish between black and white. It must never be mistaken."

Sports Plan Filed to Scrap Race as Factor in National Football League Concussion Settlement After months of haggling, the National Football League (NFL) and lawyers representing Black players who accused the league of discrimination filed a joint proposal that will scrap the use of a race-based method to evaluate dementia claims made by former players in the NFL's concussion settlement. The tentative agreement was filed more than a year after two former players sued the NFL for discrimination. They asserted that the league has systematically and secretly denied benefits worth potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars to Black players, and criticized how the league has handled the groundbreaking class action settlement that has paid more than $800 million in claims so far.

High School Sports: New York State Public High School Athletic Association Allows State High School Athletes to Profit From Accomplishments The New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) has opened the door to state high school athletes earning revenue from their names and athletic accomplishments. The NYSPHSAA approved changes to its amateur rule that allows students to benefit from their names, images and likenesses (NIL) in certain situations. The NYSPHSAA Executive Committee decision follows the NCAA adopting an NIL policy this past summer that permits athletes to benefit from their achievements through endorsements, business deals or being compensated for speaking engagements or autographs. The state organization stipulated that NIL arrangements are only allowed if that athlete's school is not involved, stating that they can "participate in commercial endorsements provided there is no school team, school, section or NYSPHSAA affiliation." Students are also prohibited from appearing in their schools' uniforms in endorsements and cannot use the logos or marks of the schools, sections or the NYSHPSAA in endorsements. Roblox, the Gaming Site, Wants to Grow Up Without Sacrificing Child Safety In March, Roblox debuted on Wall Street. As of Friday, it was worth $44 billion and more than 43 million players used it each day -- more than double the number of daily users it had two years ago. One of the most striking differences, though, is the age of its users. As users have grown up, Roblox, a colorful, blocky platform that offers millions of online games of all types, from exploring tropical islands to fostering digital pets, has attempted to grow up with them. Roblox's effort to keep in touch with an older audience while maintaining a safe environment for its youngest users offers both a road map and a cautionary note for other internet companies attempting the opposite: engaging with a younger audience.

Jail For '84 Gold Medalist Paul Gonzales Over Teenage Girls Sex Offenses Paul Gonzales, part of the most decorated Olympic boxing team of all time, has been jailed for over three years for sex offenses with minors. The 57-year-old, who won gold in 1984 alongside the likes of Mark Breland and Pernell Whitaker, was accused of using his position as a trainer to gain access to young girls. The former fighter-turned-coach pleaded no contest to two molestation charges of conducting lewd acts on a child aged 14 or 15.

Vanessa Bryant, in Deposition, Describes Learning of Deaths of Kobe and Gianna Details of the day Kobe, 41, and Gianna Bryant, 13, had been killed along with seven others in a helicopter crash just outside Los Angeles have become public for the first time through questions Vanessa Bryant answered during a videoconferencing meeting with a lawyer in Los Angeles County. She is suing the county and some of its agencies and employees for emotional distress she said was caused by emergency medical workers who took and shared photos of the human remains at the helicopter crash site.

Celtics Games Are Pulled in China After Enes Kanter's Pro-Tibet Posts Boston Celtics games were abruptly pulled from the Chinese internet after a center on the team, Enes Kanter, said on social media that the country's leader, Xi Jinping, was a "brutal dictator," citing his government's repressive policies in Tibet. The incident could spell fresh trouble for the National Basketball Association (NBA) in China. The NBA has millions of devoted fans there but has also just spent two years mending its image in the country after a Houston Rockets executive tweeted support in 2019 for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

Technology/Media Facebook Will Pay Up To $14 Million To Settle Claims That It Favored Foreign Workers Facebook agreed to pay up to $14.25 million to settle claims brought by the federal government in the waning days of the Trump administration that the company had discriminated against United States workers. The Justice Department sued the company in December, arguing that Facebook had declined to "recruit, consider or hire" qualified United States workers for thousands of positions. Instead, prosecutors said, the company gave those jobs to foreign workers who held temporary work visas. The agreement with the Justice Department included payments of $4.75 million to the government and as much as $9.5 million to "eligible victims of Facebook's alleged discrimination," according to a news release. The combined settlement is the largest ever collected by the agency's civil rights division for violations of the anti-discrimination provision in the Immigration and Nationality Act. The company also separately settled concerns raised by the Labor Department this year over whether it had violated labor regulations.

Mark Zuckerberg Will Be Added To a Facebook Privacy Lawsuit The attorney general for the District of Columbia added Facebook's chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, to a consumer protection lawsuit, in one of the first efforts by a regulator to expose him personally to potential financial and other penalties. The attorney general, Karl Racine, said that continuing interviews and reviews of internal documents for the case had revealed that Zuckerberg played a much more active role in key decisions than prosecutors had known.

Facebook's Oversight Board Faults Its Policy on Preferential Treatment The panel appointed by Facebook to review its policy decisions sharply criticized the company on Thursday for not being transparent about an internal program that gives prominent users preferential treatment on the social network. The group, known as the Facebook Oversight Board, said that Facebook failed to provide relevant information about a system called cross check, which was first disclosed by The Wall Street Journal and exempts high-profile users from rules like those prohibiting harassment or incitement to violence that others on the platform must follow.

Internal Alarm, Public Shrugs:Facebook's Employees Dissect Its Election Role In early November 2020, a Facebook data scientist wrote in a note to his co-workers that 10% of all U.S. views of political material -- a startlingly high figure -- were of posts that alleged the vote was fraudulent. In numerous cases, Facebook's employees sounded an alarm about misinformation and inflammatory content on the platform and urged action, but the company failed or struggled to address the issues. The internal dispatches were among a set of Facebook documents obtained by The New York Times that give new insight into what happened inside the social network before and after the November election, when the company was caught flat-footed as users weaponized its platform to spread lies about the vote.

Russia Is Censoring the Internet, With Coercion and Black Boxes Russia's boldest moves to censor the internet began in the most mundane of ways: with a series of bureaucratic emails and forms. The messages, sent by Russia's powerful internet regulator, demanded technical details, like traffic numbers, equipment specifications and connection speeds, from companies that provide internet and telecommunications services across the country. Then the black boxes arrived. The telecom companies had no choice but to step aside as government-approved technicians installed the equipment alongside their own computer systems and servers. Sometimes caged behind lock and key, the new gear linked back to a command center in Moscow, giving the authorities startling new powers to block, filter, and slow down websites that they did not want the Russian public to see. The process, underway since 2019, represents the start of perhaps the world's most ambitious digital censorship effort outside China. Under President Vladimir V. Putin, who once called the internet a "C.I.A. project" and views the web as a threat to his power, the Russian government is attempting to bring the country's once open and freewheeling internet to heel.

Google Said It Had Successfully 'Slowed Down' European Privacy Rules, According To Lawsuit Google said in an internal document that it had successfully "slowed down" European privacy rules in collaboration with other tech companies, according to a legal filing. Ahead of a 2019 meeting with other major tech companies, Google said in a memo that it had "been successful in slowing down and delaying" the European Union's ePrivacy Regulation process and had been "working behind the scenes hand in hand with the other companies," according to the filing. The new details appeared in an unredacted version of a lawsuit filed by Texas and 11 other states, which argued that Google had abused its dominance over the intricate technology that delivers ads to consumers online. News organizations, including The New York Times, had asked the judge in the case to remove the redactions from the complaint. The details offer a rare look into how major tech companies have lobbied against a growing array of proposed regulations.

German Editor in Sex Inquiry Is Forced Out Germany's most powerful newspaper removed its top editor after months of defending his sexual relationships with women in the workplace as the scandal began to envelop the paper's globally ambitious parent company, Axel Springer. Bild, a center-right tabloid that has fed popular anger at Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Covid-19 restrictions, dismissed the editor in chief, Julian Reichelt, after The New York Times reported on details of Reichelt's relationship with a trainee, who testified during an independent legal investigation that in 2018 he had summoned her to a hotel near the office for sex and asked her to keep a payment secret. Hours after Reichelt was ousted, the newsmagazine Der Spiegel published allegations that Reichelt had abused his position to pursue relationships with several women on his staff. The dismissal marked the belated arrival of the global #MeToo movement at Axel Springer and it came as the German company is making significant investments in the American market, including its acquisition this summer of Politico for $1 billion.

Downfall in Austria Highlights How Cozy Ties to Media Can Turn Dark At only 31, Sebastian Kurz became Austria's youngest-ever chancellor and formed a government with the far right. Kurz was quickly seen in Europe as the poster boy of an ascendant right for a new generation, a political Wunderkind who had salvaged conservatism by borrowing the far right's agenda, buffing it up and bringing it into the mainstream. However, prosecutors now say that many polls before that election were falsified and that Kurz and a small cabal of allies with cultlike devotion to him paid off one of Austria's biggest tabloids to ensure favorable news coverage. Once in power, prosecutors say, he institutionalized the system, using taxpayers' money to elevate the appearance of his own popularity and punish journalists and media outlets that criticized him. Kurz, who stepped down as chancellor on October 9th, has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with any crime, but he remains under investigation for bribery and embezzlement.

General News Justice Department Asks Supreme Court to Block Texas Abortion Law and Supreme Court Again Refuses In a forceful brief, the Biden administration urged the Supreme Court to temporarily block a Texas law that bans most abortions in the state while a legal challenge moves forward, calling the law "plainly unconstitutional." Leaving the law in effect, the brief said, would allow Texas to flout half a century of Supreme Court precedents that forbid states from banning abortions before fetal viability, or about 22 to 24 weeks into a pregnancy. The challenged law, called Senate Bill 8, has been in force since the beginning of September and effectively bars abortions after around six weeks of pregnancy. The Supreme Court then once again refused to immediately block the Texas law, but in an unusual move, the justices agreed to fast-track their consideration of appeals from the Justice Department and abortion providers in Texas, scheduling arguments for November 1st. The justices will now be grappling with two high-profile abortion cases in the space of a month. The case from Texas will require them to sort through complex procedural questions prompted by a novel law drafted to avoid review in federal court -- an approach to restricting abortion that other states are also considering. Then, on December 1st, the Court will hear a challenge to a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks and that anti-abortion activists hope will lead the Court's expanded conservative majority to overturn or undermine the constitutional right to abortion established by Roe v. Wade in 1973.

A Century-Long 'Reign of Error' for a Supreme Court Typo A new study of the extraordinary impact of a tiny typographical error in a Supreme Court opinion almost a century ago highlights the importance and potential consequences of every word written into a Court opinion. The mistake appeared in a slip opinion issued in 1928, soon after the Court announced a decision in a zoning dispute. It contained what seemed like a sweeping statement about the constitutional stature of property rights: "The right of the trustee to devote its land to any legitimate use is property within the protection of the Constitution." However, the author of the opinion, Justice Pierce Butler, had not meant to write "property." He meant to say "properly." The Court eventually fixed the mistake, but the wrong version of the statement has appeared in at least 14 court decisions, the most recent of which was issued last year; in at least 11 appellate briefs; in a Supreme Court argument; and in books and articles.

University of North Carolina Can Keep Affirmative Action, Judge Rules The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill may continue using race as a factor in its admissions process, a federal judge ruled, rejecting the argument of a conservative nonprofit legal group that is trying to dismantle college affirmative action policies across the country. In her ruling, which came down decidedly against the plaintiff, Judge Loretta C. Biggs said that the university's use of race in deciding which students to admit was narrowly tailored, and that the university had made an effort to consider race-neutral alternatives.

Climate Change Poses a Widening Threat to National Security The Biden administration released several reports about climate change and national security, laying out in stark terms the ways in which the warming world is beginning to significantly challenge stability worldwide. The documents, issued by the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense as well as the National Security Council and director of national intelligence, mark the first time that the nation's security agencies collectively communicated the climate risks they face. The reports include warnings from the intelligence community about how climate change can work on numerous levels to sap the strength of a nation.

Treasury Warns That Digital Currencies Could Weaken U.S. Sanctions The Biden administration warned that digital currencies posed a threat to America's sanctions program and said in a new report that the United States needed to modernize how sanctions were deployed so that they remained an effective national security tool. The warning was included in a six-month Treasury Department review of the nation's sanctions program, which has been used more aggressively in recent years as a lever in international diplomacy. The focus on digital currencies coincides with an administration-wide effort to determine how to regulate new financial technology without stifling innovation.

Black Staff Members Are Leaving Congress. Those Left Are Sounding the Alarm. Low pay, a high cost of living and an insulated culture make it hard for Black aides to build a career in Congress. Now Black staff members are sounding the alarm on a "painful" two years, including the coronavirus pandemic and the January 6th attack on the Capitol, that they say have exacerbated the challenges they face in pursuing a career on Capitol Hill. In a published letter, two congressional staff associations called for better pay and "a stronger college-to-Congress pipeline" to recruit Black graduates. They also urged voters to push lawmakers to diversify their staffs. Published on behalf of more than 300 Black staff members who work in the House and the Senate, it offers a glimpse at the experiences of those who work behind the scenes drafting policy, interacting with constituents and advancing the agendas of members of Congress.

Trump Sues to Block Release of White House Papers To January 6th Inquiry Former President Donald J. Trump sued Congress and the National Archives, seeking to block the disclosure of White House files related to his actions and communications surrounding the Capitol riot. In a 26-page complaint, a lawyer for Trump argued that the materials must remain secret as a matter of executive privilege. He said that the Constitution gives the former president the right to demand their confidentiality even though he is no longer in office and even though Biden has refused to assert executive privilege over them. The lawsuit touches off what is likely to be a major legal battle between Trump and the House committee investigating the attack. Its outcome will carry consequences for how much the panel can uncover about Trump's role in the riot, pose thorny questions for the Biden administration, and potentially forge new precedents about presidential prerogatives and the separation of powers.

House Finds Bannon in Contempt for Defying January 6th Inquiry Subpoena The House voted to find Stephen K. Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress for stonewalling the investigation into the Capitol attack, pressing for information from a close ally of Trump even as Republicans moved to insulate the former president from accountability. The vote of 229 to 202, mostly along party lines, came after Bannon refused to comply with a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the assault, declining to provide the panel with documents and testimony. The action sent the matter to the Justice Department, which now must decide whether to prosecute Bannon and potentially set off a legal fight that could drag on for months or years.

In a First, Surgeons Attached a Pig Kidney to a Human, and It Worked Surgeons in New York have successfully attached a kidney grown in a genetically altered pig to a human patient and found that the organ worked normally, a scientific breakthrough that one day may yield a vast new supply of organs for severely ill patients. Researchers have long sought to grow organs in pigs that are suitable for transplantation into humans. Technologies like cloning and genetic engineering have brought that vision closer to reality in recent years, but testing these experimental organs in humans has presented daunting ethical questions.

Russia Breaks Diplomatic Ties With the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Russia plans to cease its diplomatic engagement with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), in the latest sign of unraveling relations between Moscow and the West. Though significant on a diplomatic level, the announcement was not apparently accompanied by any military moves by Russia threatening European security and Moscow still maintains diplomatic relations with the individual governments in the alliance. The decision will end a post-Cold War experiment, which was never very successful, in building trust between Russia and the Western alliance, established decades ago to contain the Soviet Union, which officials in Moscow accused of later encroaching on former Soviet territory.

A Warning That Africa's Last Glaciers Will Soon Vanish The last three mountain glaciers in Africa are receding at such a rapid pace that they could disappear within two decades, a symbol of the broader devastation being wrought by climate change on the continent, according to a new U.N. report. While African nations contribute less than 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the report by the World Meteorological Organization and other agencies underscored the outsize impact that changes in the climate are having on the continent's 1.3 billion people as floods grow worse, droughts last longer, and temperatures continue to rise.

Afghan Women Who Once Presided Over Abuse Cases Now Fear for Their Lives In mid-August, as the Taliban poured into Kabul and seized power, hundreds of prisoners were set free. Men once sentenced in female judges' courtrooms were among them. Within days, female judges began receiving death threat calls from former prisoners. More than 200 female judges remain in Afghanistan, many of them under threat and in hiding, according to the International Association of Women Judges. Taliban officials have recovered their personal information from court records, several former judges said, and some have had their bank accounts frozen.

'No Girls': Women in Egypt Fight to Get Judgeships When 98 women were sworn in to serve on Egypt's highest administrative court, breaking a barrier and taking seats in an enclave once restricted to men, the moment was celebrated in an hourlong ceremony broadcast on national TV. Yet for many Egyptian women seeking to become judges, it was the exception that proved the rule.

COVID Food and Drug Administration to Allow "Mix and Match" Approach for Covid Booster Shots The Food and Drug Administration is planning to allow Americans to receive a different Covid-19 vaccine as a booster from the one they initially received, a move that could reduce the appeal of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and provide flexibility to doctors and other vaccinators. The government would not recommend one shot over another, and it might note that using the same vaccine as a booster when possible is preferable, people familiar with the agency's planning said. Vaccine providers could also use their discretion to offer a different brand, a freedom that state health officials have been requesting for weeks.

Small Needles and Short Lines: Biden's Plan to Vaccinate Young Children The campaign to vaccinate young children in the United States against the coronavirus will not look like the adult version. There will be no mass inoculation sites. Pediatricians will be enlisted to help work with parents. Even the vials -- and the needles to administer doses -- will be smaller. Biden administration officials, anticipating that regulators will make the vaccines available to 5- to 11-year-olds in the coming weeks, laid out plans to ensure that some 25,000 pediatric or primary care offices, thousands of pharmacies, and hundreds of school and rural health clinics will be ready to administer shots if the vaccine receives federal authorization.

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