By Ariana Sarfarazi Edited by Elissa D. Hecker
Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into: Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Technology & Media, General News, and COVID:
After 13 Years, Spears Regains Rights to Control Her Own Life
A Los Angeles judge has terminated the conservatorship that has overseen popstar Britney Spear's life and finances for nearly 14 years. Spears and her fans have been rallying to end the arrangement. Spears testified earlier this year that the arrangement stripped her of control of every aspect of her life and traumatized and exploited her. Spears also asked for the court to end the arrangement without her having to undergo additional mental evaluation. In a move that is very unusual, the judge agreed to end the conservatorship without further evaluation of Spears and declared that there was "no need for a capacity declaration" of Spears because it had been a voluntary conservatorship.
Houston Police Wary of Crowd Before Tragedy
The day before rapper Travis Scott took the stage at the Astroworld musical festival that has since left 9 concertgoers dead and over 300 in need of medical attention, Houston's Chief of Police personally visited Scott in his trailer to convey concerns about the energy of the crowd. Several accounts confirm that, even before Scott took the stage, Houston city officials worried that the crowd would be difficult to control because that is exactly what happened the last time that he held his Astroworld Festival, two years earlier.
Rap Megastar's Ties to Houston Create Possible Consequences for Investigators
Rapper Travis Scott's ties to his hometown of Houston could cause conflicts of interest and therefore complicate the criminal investigation into the deaths of concertgoers during Scott's performance at the Astroworld music festival. Scott personally knows Houston's police chief, his family is connected to Houston's mayor, and Scott has himself already received a key to the city. Lina Hidalgo, Houston's top county official, has voiced a strong interest in seeking an independent investigation of the deaths after Houston's police chief voiced concerns about crowd control to Scott personally before the event, and local police allowed Scott to continue the show for roughly 40 minutes after the city had declared the concert a "mass casualty event."
'Rust' Shooting Spurs Debate Over Using Guns on Sets
Ever since actor Alex Baldwin accidentally fatally shot the cinematographer of his film "Rust" with a gun that he was incorrectly told contained no live ammunition, a debate regarding the use of firearms on sets has been growing. Baldwin, a producer on "Rust" and its star, has since called for productions to hire police officers to monitor gun safety, whereas Dwayne Johnson has announced that his production company will no longer use real guns on set. Additionally, dozens of cinematographers have signed a commitment not to work on projects that use functional firearms, and a state lawmaker in California is drafting legislation that would ban operational firearms on sets.
Member of 'Rust' Crew Accuses Several People of Negligence in Lawsuit
Serve Svetnoy, the chief lighting technician on the film "Rust", has sued the film's producers, including Alec Baldwin and several other members of the crew who were tasked with handling guns on set, for negligence in failing to follow safety protocols that would have prevented the fatal shooting of the film's cinematographer on set. In the lawsuit, Svetnoy described holding the film's cinematographer, a long-time friend, as she lay dying after she was struck by a live round fired by Baldwin.
'Apprentice' Contestant Ends Trump Defamation Lawsuit
Summer Zervos, a former contestant on 'The Apprentice' who sued former President Trump of defamation in 2017 after he accused her of lying when she said he had kissed and groped her without her consent, has agreed to end her defamation lawsuit against him. Although the lawsuit stalled for a time during Trump's presidency, the court eventually allowed it to continue after he left office, but Zervos has since announced that she has decided not to pursue the case further for reasons that remain unclear. Although she has agreed to drop the lawsuit, Zervos's attorneys have issued a statement clarifying that Zervos stands by her allegations and has accepted no compensation.
Smithsonian Moves Toward Returning Benin Bronzes
The Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African Art has announced that officials have removed priceless West African artifacts known as the Benin Bronzes that were looted by the British Army from the Kingdom of Benin more than a century ago, as it begins the process of potentially repatriating the works back to what is now Nigeria. This announcement makes the Smithsonian the latest Western cultural institution - and one of the most prominent to date - to agree to return items that were stolen in the 1897 raid on Benin City as part of a wider strategy to consider returning even high-value artifacts to their original homes upon request in order to heal "the wounds of the past."
Aiming to Change Depictions of Muslims
The Pillars Fund, an advocacy group in Chicago, is teaming up with Disney to oversee a new initiative to promote the inclusion of Muslims in filmmaking. The project, the Pillars Muslim Artist Database, aims to give Muslim actors, directors, cinematographers, sound technicians, and others who can help create more nuanced portrayals the chance to compose online profiles that can be reviewed by those hiring for film, television, and streaming platforms.
Indigenous Activists Try to Stop Sale of Sacred Artifacts
Indigenous activists are seeking, through protest and petitions, to prevent Christie's from selling sacred artifacts of the Taino, an Indigenous people of the Caribbean whose descendants can now be found throughout the Antillean Islands. Christie's is set to auction the artifacts at its "Pre-Columbian Art & Taino Masterworks" auction in Paris, which includes 38 works from the private Fiore Arts Collection of Taino art. The auction house says that none of the objects to be sold in Paris are from illicit sources, but in a video introducing the auction items also suggests that the Taino people were destroyed by Spanish conquest and therefore extinct, which is not accurate. In October, the Mexican Embassy in France also set a letter of protest to Christie's Paris, arguing that such sales encourage transnational crime and create favorable conditions for looting.
Museum in Hong Kong Finally Opens. It's Already in Danger.
M+, Hong Kong's new contemporary art museum that has been billed as Asia's premier art institution has finally opened, but it is already in danger of censorship by the Chinese Communist Party. The Museum, which is one of the largest contemporary art museums in the world, has envisioned itself as a world-class institution; however, even before its opening, pro-Beijing figures have criticized art pieces in its collection as an insult to China and have called for them to be banned. While some of the best known works in the M+ were created by exiled Chinese dissidents and draw upon topics that are taboo in mainland China, Chinese officials have threatened to scrutinize every exhibition for illegal content.
Olympic Sprinter Convicted of Murder Is Up for Parole
Oscar Pistorius, the Olympic sprinter who garnered global headlines after killing his girlfriend in 2013 in Pretoria, is already up for parole in South Africa. Pistorius, who shot his girlfriend through a locked bathroom door and was convicted of manslaughter - later upgraded to murder - and sentenced to 15 years in prison, has now served half of his sentence, making him automatically eligible for parole under South African law. However, Pistorius will first have to face his victim's parents as part of the parole-consideration process, who are "shocked and surprised" at the prospect of his early release.
International Olympic Committee President Makes Urgent Plea for Legal Sanctions to Fight Global Criminal Activity in Sports
President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach has made an urgent plea to governments around the world to create legal sanctions against criminal activity within sports. Bach praised the ongoing cooperation between the IOC and Interpol to tackle corruption but argued that deterrent sanctions are needed beyond simply banning those engaging in criminal activity from attending a sports event. Bach argued that in order to effectively deter such activity, criminals cannot feel "safe" in any country and must face the prospect of imprisonment and other criminal sanctions for sports organizations.
Scientists Fight New Source of Vaccine Information: Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rogers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback and celebrity who is one of the most visible athletes in the country, has defended his decision to not get vaccinated and has spoken out against the vaccines, despite recently testing positive for Covid. Rodgers, who has said he has followed most of the protocols for unvaccinated players except for wearing a mask during weekly news conferences, had not been publicly upfront about his decision until now, previously evading answering questions when asked if he was vaccinated and responding only that he was "immunized" without explaining further.
National Football League Fines Rodgers, a Second Packer and Their Team
The National Football League (NFL) has fined Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receiver Allen Lazard, both of whom remain unvaccinated against Covid-19, a total of $14,650 each for failing to follow the Covid-19 protocols agreed on by the NFL and the players' union. Rodgers and Lazard were penalized for attending a Halloween party with other players even though Covid-19 protocols prohibit unvaccinated players from the team facility in a group of more than 3 players, and for not wearing masks when speaking with reporters, another violation of the NFL's safety protocols. The team was also penalized $300,000 for failing to police the players' behaviors and failing to report the players' violations to the league.
Suit Accuses Vikings Star of Violent Assault
A former girlfriend of Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook has accused him of violently assaulting her during a confrontation at his home in November 2020 and has filed a civil suit against him for battery, assault, and false imprisonment. Cook has denied the allegations and contends that she was the aggressor during the dispute. No criminal report was filed in response to the incident.
Former Raiders Receiver Ruggs Charged After Fatal Car Crash
Former Raiders receiver Henry Ruggs has been charged with 4 felonies and a misdemeanor for his role in a Las Vegas car crash that killed a 23-year old woman and her dog. Ruggs has been charged with 2 accounts of driving under the influence causing death or substantial harm and 2 counts of reckless driving, both of which are felonies in Nevada. If convicted, each DUI count is punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison, and each reckless driving count carries a penalty of 1 to 6 years in prison. If Ruggs is convicted of the DUI charges, he must be sentenced to prison and cannot receive probation.
Hint of the Kerrigan-Harding Sequel on the Attack of a Soccer Player
After a Paris St.-Germain women's soccer player and new signing to the team, Kheira Hamraoui, was violently attacked by 2 masked men when her teammate drove her home, the teammate Aminata Diallo was taken into custody by French investigators for allegedly arranging the violent assault against her professional rival. The incident and accusations of personal rivalry and professional jealousy evoked memories of the 1994 assault on figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, who was similarly attacked in a plot orchestrated by the ex-husband of a rival skater, Tonya Harding.
Gruden Sues NFL and Goodell, Alleging 'Soviet Style' Plot
Former coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, Jon Gruden, who resigned after the New York Times published details of emails in which he made homophobic, misogynistic, and racist remarks, is suing the NFL and its commissioner, Roger Goodell, for allegedly intentionally leaking the emails in a plot to smear his reputation and ruin his career. The lawsuit accuses the league and Goodell of engaging in a "Soviet-style character assassination" of Gruden during the middle of the Raiders' season to inflict "maximum damage" to the former coach.
United States High Jumper Erik Kynard to get 2012 Olympic Medal from Russian Doper
American high jumper Erik Kynard will finally get his gold medal from the 2012 London Olympics after the IOC approved reallocating results from those games because of doping cases. Kynard originally placed second behind Ivan Ukhov, who was proven years later to have taken part in the Russian state-backed steroid doping program and was banned from competing for 4 years in 2019. As a result, the IOC executive board has signed off on reallocating medals and final results for 5 events from the London Olympics, including men's and women's high jump.
NCAA Draft Constitution Heeds Alston's Antitrust Warnings
The NCAA released a draft of its new constitution, which advocates for a decentralized model of NCAA governance and is consistent with the Supreme Court's ruling in NCAA v. Alston, which struck down the NCAA's heavy-handed restrictions on student-athlete compensation and benefits as violation of anti-trust laws. The constitution, which is expected to be ratified in January, calls for Divisions 1, II, and III to organize themselves as they see fit as long as they stay consistent with overarching NCAA principles. Under this new plan, divisions would individually set standards for academic eligibility; develop policies on name, image, and likeness; devise methods for revenue distribution to members; construct standards to investigate and punish schools for wrongdoing; determine their own governing structure and membership; and formulate their own rules for conferences, which would craft policies for "licensing, marketing, sponsorship, advertising, and other commercial agreements that may involve" the name, image, and likeness of athletes. The new plan also responds to long-standing criticisms that athletes are excluded from the rulemaking process by guaranteeing that student-athletes are voting members on the NCAA's board of governors and divisional leadership boards.
Justice Department Brings Charges Against Russian and Ukrainian Ransomware Attacks
In furtherance of a sustained, coordinated, and global effort to combat ransomware, the Justice Department has brought charges against a Russian national accused of conducting ransomware attacks known as REvil against American entities and businesses and has also recovered $6.1 million in ransom paid. The department has also arrested another Ukrainian national for conducting multiple ransomware attacks, including the July 2021 assault on the technology company Kaseya.
Meta to Drop Thousands of Ad-Targeting Categories
Meta, the social media company formally known as Facebook, has announced that it is planning to eliminate advertisers' ability to target users with promotions based on their interactions with content in a number of categories, including those related to health, race and ethnicity, political affiliation, religion, sexual orientation, and thousands of other topics. The move, which is intended to limit the way that targeting tools can be abused, takes effect on January 19th and affects users on Meta's apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger and the company's audience network, which places ads in third-party apps.
Apple Can't Delay Changes to App Store
A judge has rejected Apple's request to delay an injunction that permits developers to direct their users away from iOS apps to pay for services elsewhere, such as a separate web browser, and means that Apple cannot take a cut of these purchases through the App Store. The ruling is part of Apple's long-running legal fight against Epic Games, the maker of the video game Fortnite. Under its current rules, Apple levies a 15-30% commission on all in-app purchases made in the App Store - a practice that Epic Games and other developers including Spotify have said is anti-competitive.
Two Agencies Investigating Ozy Media
The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission have opened investigations into the company Ozy Media, though the precise focus of the investigations cannot be determined. Ozy Media previously announced in October that it was shutting down, shortly after the New York Times reported that someone in company had impersonated a YouTube executive during a conference call with Goldman Sachs, which was considering an investment, to say that YouTube had a great working relationship with Ozy and that Oxy's videos were successful on the platform. A lawsuit was also filed last month accusing Ozy of misleading potential investors.
Groups Says It Was Told Biden Diary Wasn't Stolen
Project Veritas, the conservative group under scrutiny in a Justice Department investigation of how a diary kept by President Biden's daughter Ashley Biden was published days before the 2020 election, has told a federal court that the diary was not stolen. Rather, the group claims that it received a diary from 2 people who said they had legally obtained it after Ashley Biden abandoned it but had "no involvement" with how those individuals acquired the diary. By contrast, a warrant used by federal authorities to search the home of the group's founder indicated that federal authorities believe the property was stolen.
Hearst Employees Rebel at Return-to-Office Order
Heart's magazine journalists from titles such as Cosmopolitan, Esquire, and Good Housekeeping are protesting a mandatory return the office policy in which employees must be vaccinated and would eventually be expected to return to the Hearst Tower in Manhattan 3 days a week. More than 300 employees have signed a petition objecting to the company's return to office plan, and their union, the Writers Guild of America East, has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that Hearst has failed to provide requested information regarding the return-to-office protocols and has rejected the union's plan for a flexible arrangement that would allow for remote work.
E.U.'s $2.8 Billion Antitrust Fine Against Google Upheld in Court
Google has lost its appeal to overturn a landmark antitrust ruling by European regulators in which the European Commission fined Google 2.4 billion euros (about $2.8 billion) for giving preferential treatment to its own price-comparison shopping service over rival services. The penalty was the first of 3 issued by the European Commission's top antitrust enforcer against Google, and other investigations are underway against other American tech giants, such as Amazon, Apple, and Facebook, for similar anti-trust violations. Google can appeal the decision to the European Court of Justice. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/10/business/google-eu-appeal-antitrust.html
Trusted Broadcaster Muzzled as Hong Kong Minds Beijing
Hong Kong's public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), a 93-year-old institution that set the news agenda with aggressive and open coverage of the city and was once venerated by residents as one of the most trusted news sources in Hong Kong's once freewheeling media landscape, has now been virtually silenced by a pro-China crackdown. Under a sweeping national security law that China imposed last year to silence dissent, a government-appointed director of RTHK has now been installed to transform the once fiercely independent institution to something that resembles a propagandistic Chinese state broadcaster and anything remotely challenging the Chinese government has been censored. Under the security law, Chinese officials have effectively dismantled Hong Kong's civil society and attacked media outlets deemed unfriendly, and RTHK was long expected to come under pressure.
U.S. Journalist Is Sentenced to 11 Years in Myanmar Jail
Danny Fenster, an American journalist who has been imprisoned in Myanmar since May, has been found guilty of three charges and sentenced to 11 years in prison, the toughest possible sentence. The charges, which include disseminating information that could be harmful to the military, violating the country's Unlawful Association Act, and violating Myanmar's immigration law, stem from news coverage in Myanmar Now, a news outlet with which he formally worked. The State Department has repeatedly called for Fenster's release and has vowed to continue to work for his release, but the sentence seems to signal that Myanmar's military government will not bow down to pressure or sanctions from the United States or other countries. Fenster also faces two additional charges, terrorism and sedition, which each carry a maximum of 20 years. Fenster is the only American known to be detained in Myanmar and has been held at Insein Prison, which is notorious for its harsh treatment of political prisoners.
Figure In 1892 'Separate but Equal' Case Is Closer to Pardon
Homer Plessy, mixed-race shoemaker from New Orleans who spurned a landmark Supreme Court decision that upheld the "separate but equal" doctrine which underpinned laws, such as Jim Crow, that segregated and disenfranchised African Americans for decades, may now finally get justice. Plessy was arrested in 1892 for taking a seat in the whites-only car and was charged with violating the Louisiana Separate Car Act, however 130 years after his arrest the Louisiana Board of Pardons has voted to clear his record. The Supreme Court's ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson has come to be regarded as one of the most shameful decisions in the Court's history. Louisiana officials have described now pardoning Plessy, who died in 1925, as a way to attempt to rectify wrongs of the past and to acknowledge the vast and devastating reach the Supreme Court decision had.
Climate Summit Reaches Accord Amid Contention
Diplomats from nearly 200 countries have struck a major agreement aimed at intensifying global efforts to fight climate change by calling on governments to return next year to the United Nations summit with stronger plans to curb their planet-warming emissions and urging wealthy nations to "at least double' funding to protect poor nations from the hazards of climate change. While some activists have called the agreement disappointing because the world still remains far from limiting global warming, the agreement at least establishes a clear consensus that all countries need to do much more.
U.S. and China Join in Seeking Emissions Cuts
The United States and China have announced a joint agreement to "enhance ambition" on climate change, thereby committing to work together to do more to cut emissions while China also committed for the first time to reduce methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The pact between the world's two biggest polluters came as a surprise as nearly 200 countries gathered in Glasgow for the United Nations climate summit.
Court Weighs Rules' Scope in Spy Case Against FBI
The Supreme Court is wrestling with the scope of the state secrets doctrine and will decide whether it merely allows the government to withhold evidence that it says could harm national security or whether it entitles the government to insist that lawsuits against it based on government secrets be dismissed entirely. The case arises from the surveillance of Muslims in Southern California in 2006 and 2007 by an FBI informant, after which 3 of the men who were spied upon sued the FBI for violating their rights to exercise their religion, but the government moved to dismiss the case against it, invoking the State Secrets privilege.
Bans on Critical Race Theory Threaten Free Speech, Advocacy Group Says
In a new report, the free expression group PEN America, which surveys more than 50 bills proposed across the country, emphasizes that Republican-led bills banning critical race theory and other "divisive concepts" in public schools in various states threatens free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment. PEN America argues that the bills are designed to chill academic and educational discussions and impose government dictates on teaching and learning, and thus are "educational gag orders" that amount to a "sweeping crusade for content and viewpoint-based state censorship."
Trump Aides Ignored Law, Report Finds
A government watchdog agency, led by the Office of Special Counsel, has found that 13 of former President Trump's most senior aids, including his son-in-law and chief of staff, campaigned illegally for Trump's re-election in violation of The Hatch Act, a law designed to prevent federal employees from abusing the power of their offices on behalf of candidates. The report of the Office of Special Counsel describes a concerted, willful effort to violate the law by the most senior officials in the White House, including: Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette; Kellyanne Conway, counselor; Alyssa Farah, White House communications director; David Friedman, ambassador to Israel; Jared Kushner, senior adviser; Kayleigh McEnany, press secretary; Mark Meadows, chief of staff; Stephen Miller, senior adviser; Brian Morgenstern, deputy press secretary; Robert C. O'Brien, national security adviser; Marc Short, chief of staff to the vice president; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf.
Oklahoma's Top Court Throws Out $465 Million Opioid Ruling Against Johnson & Johnson
The Oklahoma Supreme Court has thrown out a 2019 ruling that required Johnson & Johnson to pay the state $465 million for its role in the opioid epidemic. The Court, in a 5-1 decision, rejected the state's argument that the pharmaceutical company violated "public nuisance" laws by aggressively overstating the benefits of its prescription opioid painkillers and downplaying the dangers, finding that "Oklahoma public nuisance law does not extend to the manufacturing, marketing, and selling of prescription opioids". The ruling, however, could quash plaintiffs' hopes for a favorable resolution in courts nationwide against opioid manufacturers, distributors, and retailers after opioids have contributed to the deaths of 500,000 people in the United States since the late 1990s. However, while the Oklahoma ruling is similar to another California court ruling, because public nuisance laws are state-specific, it is unclear how much impact the Oklahoma decision could ultimately have on cases elsewhere.