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:
Ninth Circuit Refuses to Adopt "Ordinary Observer" Test for Substantial Similarity and Copyright Infringement
The Ninth Circuit was recently asked to determine whether to continue to apply the Circuit's two-part extrinsic/intrinsic test for "substantial similarity" with regard to a copyright infringement claim or to depart from this approach and apply the Second Circuit's "ordinary observer" test instead. In Johannsongs-Publishing, Ltd. v. Lovland, an unpublished opinion issued on November 29, 2021, the Ninth Circuit declined to depart from its precedence and affirmed summary judgment in favor of defendants who were accused of copyright infringement in connection with the song "You Raise Me Up". Johannsongs-Publishing claimed that it owned the rights to a 1977 song, "Soknodur", except as to the rights for that song's lyrics. Johannsongs-Publishing claimed that "You Raise Me Up", which was written by Rolf Lovland and Brendan Graham and released in 2001 by Secret Garden and later by Josh Groban in 2003, infringed on its rights in "Soknodur". In 2018, Johannsongs-Publishing filed a copyright infringement claim against the defendants who were involved in publishing and/or selling "You Raise Me Up". The defendants moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the elements claimed to be similar between the two songs were not actually "sufficiently similar" to support a finding of copyright infringement. They further claimed that any similarities that did exist were derivative of Irish folk songs such as "Danny Boy" (aka "Londonderry Air"), which was in the public domain.
For the Ninth Circuit's decision in Johannsongs-Publishing, Ltd., please see https://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/memoranda/2021/11/29/20-55552.pdf
In Bill Cosby Case, Supreme Court Is Asked to Toss Ruling That Freed Him
Prosecutors who say Bill Cosby belongs in prison are asking the United States Supreme Court to throw out an appellate court ruling earlier this year that overturned his 2018 conviction for sexual assault on due process grounds. Cosby walked free from prison in June after serving less than three years of a three-to-10-year sentence. His release followed a ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that Cosby's rights had been violated when the Montgomery County District Attorney's office pursued a criminal case against him despite what the appellate court found was a binding "non-prosecution agreement" given to him by a previous district attorney. It was a dramatic reversal in one of the first high-profile criminal convictions of the #MeToo era. The petition for review challenges that decision, arguing that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court erred in its ruling. Some legal experts had not expected prosecutors to file an appeal to the Supreme Court, seeing the case as a matter of state rather than federal law, and one that involves a specific set of circumstances that do not involve far-reaching constitutional issues. For the appeal to succeed, the justices would have to decide that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision relied on and misinterpreted a federal law or constitutional provision, experts said.
Prosecutors: Jussie Smollett Faked Attack After Real Threat Was Ignored
After a drawn-out and tumultuous legal process, the trial of actor Jussie Smollett began at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago. Smollett made himself the victim of a staged hate crime in 2019 to draw the attention of his colleagues on the television show "Empire" after he decided they had failed to take an earlier written threat seriously, a prosecutor said on Monday. Dan K. Webb, the special prosecutor, laid out what he saw as Smollett's motive in opening arguments. Smollett is standing trial on six counts of felony disorderly conduct associated with the reports he made to the police. The grand-jury indictment asserts that he had "no reasonable ground for believing that such an offense had been committed."
One of Jussie Smollett's Attackers Tells Court Events Were All Staged
Jussie Smollett, frustrated by what he saw as a muted reaction to a death threat he had received in the mail, enlisted a friend in 2019 to stage a fake attack that would grab public attention, the friend testified at the actor's trial. Abimbola Osundairo, the younger of the two brothers who have said they took part in what they describe as a hoax, said the strange request had come after Smollett showed him an image of a threatening letter he had received. It featured a red stick figure hanging from a noose, a gun pointed at the figure, and the acronym MAGA on it. Smollett later arranged a meeting with him, Osundairo said, after sending him a text message in which Smollett said that he needed help "on the low." At the meeting, they discussed how the television studio behind "Empire", the show on which they both worked, was not taking the letter seriously, Osundairo told the court. "He said he wanted me to beat him up". "I looked puzzled, and then he explained he wanted me to fake beat him up." Osundairo testified during the third day of Mr. Smollett's trial on charges that he filed a false police report about the attack, a case that largely relies on the accounts of Osundairo and his brother, Olabinjo Osundairo, who say that Smollett devised the attack. Smollett has denied staging the attack and his lawyers have suggested that the brothers have fabricated the account to avoid prosecution.
Movie Theaters Must 'Urgently' Rethink the Experience, a Study Says
About 49% of prepandemic moviegoers are no longer buying tickets. Some of them, roughly 8%, have likely been lost forever. To win back the remainder, multiplex owners must "urgently" rethink pricing and customer perks in addition to focusing on coronavirus safety. Those were some of the takeaways from a new study on the state of the American movie theater business, which was troubled before the pandemic -- attendance declining, streaming services proliferating -- and has struggled to rebound from coronavirus-forced closings in 2020.
A 'Simpsons' Episode Lampooned Chinese Censorship. In Hong Kong, It Vanished
An episode of "The Simpsons" that ridicules Chinese government censorship appears to have been censored on Disney's newly launched streaming service in Hong Kong, adding to fears about the shrinking space for free expression and criticism in that city. Other episodes of the show are available on Disney+, which made its much-anticipated debut in Hong Kong this month. However, in season 16 the archive skips directly from episode 11 to episode 13, omitting episode 12, "Goo Goo Gai Pan," in which the Simpson family travels to Beijing. Concerns about censorship have grown rapidly in Hong Kong since last June, when Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law to crush monthslong anti-government protests. Hong Kong, a former British colony, was promised at least 50 years of civil liberties after its return to Chinese control in 1997. Yet under the law, many of those liberties have vanished, with news outlets muzzled, songs banned, and museums closely regulated.
Josephine Baker Becomes First Black Woman Inducted Into France's Tomb of Heroes
Josephine Baker, born in Missouri and beloved of France, whose life spanned French music-hall stardom as a famed dancer and American civil rights activism, became the first Black woman to be inducted into the Panthéon, the nation's hallowed tomb of heroes. 46 years after her death in Paris, soldiers from the Republican Guard bore a flag-draped coffin up the red-carpeted stairs of the Panthéon, where Baker joined 75 men and five women, including the author Émile Zola, scientist Marie Curie, and resistance hero Jean Moulin. The coffin carried soil from the United States, France, and Monaco -- places that shaped Baker's life. Her body, at the request of the family, will stay in Monaco.
Judge Tosses Photographer's Lawsuit Against Miramax Over Pulp Fiction Poster
Firooz Zahedi, the photographer who shot the image for the classic Pulp Fiction poster, has lost a claim against movie maker Miramax after a judge tossed out his lawsuit, saying that he waited too long to file it. Zahedi filed the lawsuit against Miramax in 2020, asserting copyright infringement and claiming that the contract for the job limited the use of the image to promotion of the movie. Zahedi claimed that Miramax violated those terms when it used the image on consumer products for fans of the movie. The poster features an image of actress Uma Thurman flopped down on a bed, smoking a cigarette with a handgun and the Pulp Fiction book nearby. Zahedi first became aware of the infringement when he received an action figure with the image on it as a gift, at least five years prior to filing the action. The U.S. District Court, District of Central California, dismissed the case, holding that the three-year statute of limitations (which begins to run from the time the party asserting the claim became aware of the infringement) had lapsed.
For the U.S. District Court's (Central District of California) decision in Zahedi, please see https://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/21119224/zahedi-opinion.pdf
Pop Artist Jeff Koons Sued Over Adult Film Set Prop
An artist who made a sculpture of a serpent wrapped around a rock for Italian adult-film star and politician Cicciolina (Ilona Staller) said in a complaint that Jeff Koons, Staller's ex-husband, unlawfully used the sculpture in his works. Koons misused Michael Hayden's art in a series of works called "Made in Heaven", which depicted the pop artist in sexual positions with Staller on top of the sculpture, according to the complaint brought in Manhattan federal court. Representatives for Koons did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The complaint said that Hayden lived and worked in Italy in the late 1980s and often designed sets and props for Staller's films and live performances. Hayden said that he created the sculpture for Staller in 1988 specifically because he "knew that Cicciolina was fond of snakes." According to the complaint, Koons traveled to Italy in 1989 to be photographed with Staller for his "Made in Heaven" series. Hayden said that three works in the series depict Koons and Staller on the rock-and-serpent sculpture. The complaint says that Koons never asked Hayden for permission to use his sculpture, offered to credit him, or paid for a license. Koons has been sued for copyright infringement several times, including in a 2015 lawsuit for allegedly ripping off a photograph from a gin ad. Hayden's attorney Jordan Fletcher of Fletcher Law also represented the photographer in that case, which the parties resolved in 2016.
For the Michael A. Hayden v. Jeff Koons Complaint, which was filed in U.S.D.C., Southern District of New York, please see https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/legaldocs/gkplglwwwvb/IP%20KOONS%20COPYRIGHT%20complaint.pdf
As 'Nutcracker' Returns, Companies Rethink Depictions of Asians
"The Nutcracker", the classic holiday ballet, is back after the long pandemic shutdown. Many dance companies are reworking the show this year partly in response to a wave of anti-Asian hate that intensified during the pandemic and a broader reckoning over racial discrimination. Artistic leaders are jettisoning elements like bamboo hats and pointy finger movements, which are often on display during the so-called Tea scene in the second act, when dancers perform a short routine introducing tea from China. (It's one in a series of national dances, including Hot Chocolate from Spain and Coffee from Arabia.) In Pacific Northwest Ballet's "Nutcracker" this year, a new character is featured in the Land of Sweets: Green Tea Cricket, a springy, superhero-like figure meant to counter stereotypes of Chinese culture. Tulsa Ballet is infusing its production with elements of martial arts, choreographed by a Chinese-born dancer and Boston Ballet is staging a new spectacle: a pas de deux inspired by traditional Chinese ribbon dancing.
Alice Sebold Apologizes to Man Wrongly Convicted of Raping Her
Alice Sebold, the best-selling author of the memoir Lucky and the novel The Lovely Bones, apologized publicly to a man who was wrongly convicted of raping her in 1982 after she had identified him in court as her attacker. The apology came eight days after the conviction of the man, Anthony J. Broadwater, was vacated by a state court judge in Syracuse, N.Y., who concluded, in consultation with the local district attorney and Broadwater's lawyers, that the case against him was deeply flawed. As a result of the conviction, Broadwater, 61, spent 16 years in prison before being released in 1998 and was forced to register as a sex offender. In a statement posted on the website Medium, Sebold, who described the rape and the ensuing trial in Lucky, said that she regretted having "unwittingly" played a part in "a system that sent an innocent man to jail."
Esper Claims That Defense Department Is Improperly Blocking Parts of His Memoir
Former Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper has sued the agency he once led, accusing officials at the Pentagon of improperly blocking significant portions of an upcoming memoir about his tumultuous tenure under President Donald J. Trump. The allegations by Esper, whom Trump fired shortly after losing his re-election bid last November, are laid out in a lawsuit filed in Federal District Court in Washington, D.C. "Significant text is being improperly withheld from publication in Secretary Esper's manuscript under the guise of classification," the suit said. "The withheld text is crucial to telling important stories discussed in the manuscript." Esper said in a statement that his goal with the book, titled "A Sacred Oath", which is expected to be published in May, was to give the public "a full and unvarnished accounting of our nation's history, especially the more difficult periods."
Who Owns a Recipe? A Plagiarism Claim Has Cookbook Authors Asking
In 2011, the cookbook editor Rux Martin noticed something unsettling on the cover of a women's magazine: a vanilla cupcake decorated with yellow, cream, and white jelly beans arranged to mimic corn kernels, a faux butter slice made from a yellow fruit chew, and black and white sugars to imitate salt and pepper. The confection looked just like the corn-on-the-cob cupcake in "Hello, Cupcake!" a best-selling 2008 cookbook she had edited. Yet the accompanying recipe gave no credit to the authors, Alan Richardson and Karen Tack. Martin wrote to the magazine expressing disappointment, but never heard back. She asked a lawyer for her publisher whether they could do anything about the identical feature. "He said the wording on the method isn't the same, there is no similarity on the headnote -- tough luck," said Martin, who is now a freelance editor. "I think that pretty much encompasses the problem in a nutshell." U.S. copyright law seeks to protect "original works of authorship" by barring unauthorized copying of all kinds of creative material: sheet music, poetry, architectural works, paintings and even computer software. Recipes are much harder to protect. This is a reason as to why they frequently reappear, often word for word, in one book or blog after another. Cookbook writers who believe that their works have been plagiarized have few options beyond confronting the offender or airing their grievances online.
With $125 Million Gift, Met Museum Jump-Starts New Modern Wing
Seven years after announcing ambitious plans to rebuild its wing for Modern and Contemporary art -- which then had to be put on hold because of financial problems -- the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that it had finally secured a lead donation of $125 million, the largest capital gift in its history, from its longtime trustee Oscar L. Tang and his wife, Agnes Hsu‐Tang, an archaeologist and art historian. The wing will be named after them for a minimum of 50 years. With their donation, the Tangs join a rarefied group of philanthropists who have made game-changing gifts of $100 million or more to underwrite cultural building projects (and secure naming rights). T
The Show Goes On, Even After China Tried to Shut It Down
After a decade building an online following as a political cartoonist by lambasting China, whether for its censorship (and Western complicity in it), its treatment of the Uyghur minority, or the crackdown in Hong Kong, Chinese-Australian artist Badiucao said he was keen to show work in a traditional institutional setting, referencing his first solo exhibition which was set to open this November in the municipal museum of Brescia, an industrial city in the northern Italian region of Lombardy. In October of this year, cultural officials at the Chinese Embassy in Rome sent Mayor Emilio Del Bono of Brescia an email criticizing the city's decision to host the exhibition and requesting that it be canceled. The show would compromise friendly relations between China and Italy, the email added. In an interview in his office, Del Bono said, "It was clear this is an undesirable artist for the Chinese government." He and the president of the Brescia Musei Foundation, which runs the museum, responded with a letter emphasizing that the show in no way shed a bad light on China or its people, but that social critique was a function of art, and that Brescia had "always championed freedom of expression and would continue to do so," Del Bono said."Art should never be censured... In democracies, it often denounces, and even mocks, those who are in power. It's part of the rules of democracy."
The Clock Is Ticking as Baseball Veers Toward a Lockout
Major League Baseball (MLB) officials and the seven club owners who comprise the league's labor policy committee came to Texas to bargain directly with the players during the union's annual off-season executive board meetings. As a deal could not be struck by the collective bargaining agreement's (CBA) expiration, a lockout resulted. MLB has not had a work stoppage since the strike that prematurely ended the 1994 season, canceled that year's World Series, and bled into the next season. Since the last CBA was struck before the 2017 season, the union and players have become increasingly vocal about what they consider flaws in the system. Players want a series of improvements, including getting younger players (who are cheaper and have been relied upon more) compensated sooner in their careers, allowing players to reach salary arbitration and free agency sooner, and forcing teams to be more competitive through a series of measures including changes to the amateur draft. Owners, on the other hand, believe that MLB players have the best deal in professional sports and point to this off-season's free-agent spending as one bullet point in that argument. MLB has also said that it wants to improve the competitive balance among teams but has proposed different ways to accomplish that than the union.
Patriots QB Mac Jones Files Trademark Application for 'MJ10′ for Use on Apparel
As first reported by ESPN'S Darren Rovell, Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones has filed to trademark "MJ10″ as a word mark to use on apparel. According to the trademark filing, Jones has trademarked "MJ10″ for use on "beanies, hats, pants, shirts, shoes, socks, sweaters, sweatpants, tank-tops, athletic jackets, athletic shirts, athletic shorts, athletic sweaters, long-sleeved shirts, long jackets." The move is reminiscent to the one made by his predecessor, Tom Brady, who turned "TB12″ into his personal brand, going from logos on gear to TB12 Sports, a full-fledged physical therapy mini-empire that now has locations in Massachusetts, New York, and Florida.
Rams and National Football League Settle St. Louis' Lawsuit Over Franchise's Relocation to Los Angeles for $790 Million
The National Football League (NFL) and Rams owner Stan Kroenke will pay $790 million to settle a lawsuit filed by St. Louis interests over the team's relocation to Los Angeles. The settlement does not include a promise from the NFL to grant St. Louis an expansion franchise in the future. It wasn't immediately clear how much would be paid by Kroenke and how much would be covered by owners of the league's 31 other teams. "This historic agreement closes a long chapter for our region, securing hundreds of millions of dollars for our communities while avoiding the uncertainty of the trial and appellate process,'' read a statement from St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page. St. Louis area officials haven't yet determined how the settlement funds will be used.
Women's Tennis Association Suspends Tournaments in China Over Treatment of Peng Shuai
The women's professional tennis tour announced that it was immediately suspending all tournaments in China, including Hong Kong, in response to the disappearance from public life of the tennis star Peng Shuai after she accused a top Communist Party leader of sexual assault. With the move, the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) became the only major sports organization to push back against China's increasingly authoritarian government. WTA officials made the decision after they were unable to speak directly with Peng after she accused Zhang Gaoli, a former vice premier of China, in social media posts that were quickly deleted. The Chinese government quickly removed all mentions of Peng's accusation, and coverage of Peng from news media outside China has been censored. She has not been seen in public except in the company of government officials in more than two weeks. Peng, 35, a Grand Slam doubles champion and three-time Olympian, resurfaced late last month in a series of appearances with Chinese officials, including in a video conference with Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee IOC), which will bring the Winter Games to Beijing in February. "While we now know where Peng is, I have serious doubts that she is free, safe and not subject to censorship, coercion and intimidation," Steve Simon, the chief executive of the WTA, said in a statement. "If powerful people can suppress the voices of women and sweep allegations of sexual assault under the rug, then the basis on which the WTA was founded -- equality for women -- would suffer an immense setback," he added. "I will not and cannot let that happen to the WTA and its players."
IOC Says That It Held Second Call With Peng Shuai
The IOC said that it had held a second call with the Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, trying anew to deflect criticism of its light-touch approach to China only months before the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing. "We share the same concern as many other people and organizations about the well-being and safety of Peng Shuai," the IOC statement said. "This is why, just yesterday, an IOC team held another video call with her. We have offered her wide-ranging support, will stay in regular touch with her, and have already agreed on a personal meeting in January." As with an earlier call with Peng, the IOC did not release video or a transcript of the call, nor did it say how Wednesday's call was arranged or specify who took part. The previous call included the IOC's president, Thomas Bach and an IOC member from China.
Antonio Brown and Two Others Suspended by NFL for Faking Vaccination Status
The NFL suspended Antonio Brown, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers star receiver, and defensive back Mike Edwards without pay for the next three games for misrepresenting their Covid-19 vaccination status, an egregious violation of protocols that were jointly agreed upon by the league and its players' union. A review conducted by the NFL and the NFL Players Association concluded that Brown and two other players, Edwards and the free-agent receiver John Franklin III, had acquired fake vaccination cards. The NFL would not publicly confirm the players' vaccination status or whether it was trying to determine who had been exposed to the players before it was publicly known that they had fake vaccination cards. The NFL has responded to breaches of Covid protocol over the last two seasons by fining the offending players, coaches, and teams. Last month, it docked the league's reigning most valuable player, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, $14,500 for not wearing masks inside his team's headquarters and other facilities or during his news conferences, as is mandated for unvaccinated players. Although Rodgers misled reporters who asked if he was vaccinated, the Packers were aware of his unvaccinated status and were fined $300,000 for not monitoring his behavior better. In this case, however, the NFL determined that acquiring fake vaccination cards -- a criminal offense -- merited the strictest punishment it has yet to mete out for an individual violation.
Federal Judge Rejects Dismissal of Harrison County, West Virginia, Student's Challenge of Transgender Sports Law
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of West Virginia announced a federal court's rejection of a motion to dismiss a challenge to the state's transgender sports bill. The initial lawsuit was filed by Lambda Legal, the ACLU, ACLU of West Virginia, and Cooley LLP, on behalf of a transgender student wishing to participate in school sports. The defendants in the suit -- the West Virginia Board of Education, the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission, and the Harrison County Board of Education -- had moved to have the case dismissed, which was rejected by Southern West Virginia U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Goodwin. House Bill 3293, which took effect on July 8th, adjusted West Virginia code to base eligibility for school sports teams upon biological sex, defined in the bill as "an individual's physical form as a male or female based solely on the individual's reproductive biology and genetics at birth."
Nassar Survivors Overwhelmingly Vote to Accept Settlement From USA Gymnastics
The years-long legal battle between USA Gymnastics and abuse survivors appears to be nearing an end after almost all the women suing the federation voted to accept a proposed $400 million settlement. Of the 505 ballots returned by survivors, 476 were in favor of the settlement plan, according to verification documents filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The remaining 29 ballots were deemed invalid because they were missing a signature or duplicated another ballot. Other creditors also supported the plan by large measures, with just three rejections out of an additional 76 ballots. It's not clear how much each survivor would get if the settlement is confirmed at a mid-December hearing in Indianapolis. There currently isn't enough money to fund the entire settlement, with at least one insurance carrier still disputing the amount it should pay. However the proposal that survivors overwhelmingly voted to approve allows for a partial settlement, and negotiations with the holdouts will continue ahead of the confirmation hearing.
Major News Outlets Side With Steve Bannon on One Part of His Legal Fight
A coalition of the nation's largest media companies and news organizations has filed a legal brief in support of Stephen K. Bannon, asking a federal court not to bar him from publicly releasing documents related to the January 6th Capitol riot. As part of a contempt of Congress case against him, the government is seeking to prevent Bannon from releasing thousands of pages of documents to which he has access. The coalition, which includes ABC, CBS, CNN, Dow Jones, NBC, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, filed the brief, arguing that the government's proposed order would violate the First Amendment. Bannon, a onetime adviser to former President Donald J. Trump, was indicted by a federal grand jury in November and charged with two counts of criminal contempt of Congress after he refused to comply with subpoenas to testify and to provide documents for the House committee investigating the mob attack. He has pleaded not guilty.
Two Election Workers Targeted by Pro-Trump Media Sue for Defamation
Two Georgia election workers who were the targets of a right-wing campaign that falsely claimed they manipulated ballots filed a defamation lawsuit against one of the nation's leading sources of pro-Trump misinformation. The suit against the right-wing conspiratorial website The Gateway Pundit was filed by Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss, both of whom processed ballots in Atlanta during the 2020 election for the Fulton County elections board. It follows a series of defamation claims filed by elections equipment operators against conservative television operators such as Fox News, Newsmax, and One America News. The lawsuit from Freeman and Moss is among the first to be filed by individual election workers who found themselves unwittingly dragged into the alternate universe of far-right media that claimed, and still does, that Trump won last year's presidential election.
Twitter's Jack Dorsey Steps Down From CEO Role
Jack Dorsey stepped down as chief executive of Twitter, the social media site he co-founded in 2006 and navigated through the tumultuous years of the Trump administration and increasing calls for regulation from lawmakers around the world. He was replaced by Parag Agrawal, who as the company's chief technology officer had recently been working on technologies associated with cryptocurrencies, which have become a fascination of the tech industry's power brokers. Dorsey's exit marks a significant shift at the company, which has navigated years of pressure from investors who thought it did not make enough money and criticism from Washington, particularly from Republican lawmakers who have complained that Twitter has helped stifle conservative voices in social media.
Those Cute Cats Online? They Help Spread Misinformation
Videos and GIFs of cute animals -- usually cats -- have gone viral online for almost as long as the internet has been around. Many of the animals became famous: There's Keyboard Cat, Grumpy Cat, Lil Bub, and Nyan Cat, just to name a few. Now, it is becoming increasingly clear how widely the old-school internet trick is being used by people and organizations peddling false information online, misinformation researchers say. The posts with the animals do not directly spread false information, but they can draw a huge audience that can be redirected to a publication or site spreading false information about election fraud, unproven coronavirus cures, and other baseless conspiracy theories entirely unrelated to the videos. Sometimes, following a feed of cute animals on Facebook unknowingly signs users up as subscribers to misleading posts from the same publisher.
Biden and Trump Securities and Exchange Commission Chiefs Trade Tips on How to Regulate Crypto
Regulators on the left and right rarely agree on policy. Yet, when it comes to cryptocurrency, two men who have led the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are remarkably aligned: The technology and offerings may be new, but old rules still apply. Jay Clayton, the Republican SEC chairman under Trump, interviewed Gary Gensler, the current SEC chief in the Democratic Biden administration, at the Digital Asset Compliance and Market Integrity Summit in New York. Both agree that cryptocurrency tokens are "largely" used to raise money for entrepreneurs and, as such, meet "the time-tested definitions of an investment contract and are thus under the securities laws." Their agreement on this issue is significant because it suggests that many, if not most, crypto issuers are violating the law by failing to register with the SEC and could be subject to enforcement actions.
CNN Suspends Chris Cuomo After New Details on Help He Gave His Brother
The star CNN anchor Chris Cuomo was suspended indefinitely by the network after new details emerged about his efforts to assist his brother, Andrew M. Cuomo, the former governor of New York, as he faced a cascade of sexual harassment accusations that led to the governor's resignation. Chris Cuomo had previously apologized for advising Andrew Cuomo's senior political aides -- a breach of traditional barriers between journalists and lawmakers -- but thousands of pages of evidence released by the New York attorney general, Letitia James, revealed that the anchor's role had been more intimate and involved than previously known. "The documents, which we were not privy to before their public release, raise serious questions," CNN said in a statement. "When Chris admitted to us that he had offered advice to his brother's staff, he broke our rules and we acknowledged that publicly. But we also appreciated the unique position he was in and understood his need to put family first and job second. However, these documents point to a greater level of involvement in his brother's efforts than we previously knew. As a result, we have suspended Chris indefinitely, pending further evaluation," the network added.
Meghan Wins Legal Battle Against The Daily Mail on Sunday
Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex and the wife of Prince Harry, won a decisive victory in her long-running legal feud with a British tabloid, as an appeals court rejected a bid by the publisher of the paper, The Mail on Sunday, to force a trial over her claim that it violated her privacy by publishing an anguished letter she sent to her estranged father in 2018. The three judges upheld a judgment by a High Court judge in February that The Mail's publication of the letter did not require a trial because it was "manifestly excessive and hence unlawful." Meghan, an American and a former actress, had a "reasonable expectation that the contents of the letter would remain private." The decision will spare Meghan a sensational trial in which she might have had to testify against her father, Thomas Markle, a retired Hollywood lighting designer, with whom she fell out before her wedding to Prince Harry in May 2018.
Israeli Company's Spyware Is Used to Target U.S. Embassy Employees in Africa
The iPhones of 11 U.S. Embassy employees working in Uganda were hacked using spyware developed by Israel's NSO Group, the surveillance firm that the United States blacklisted a month ago because it said the technology had been used by foreign governments to repress dissent, said several people familiar with the breach. The hack is the first known case of the spyware, known as Pegasus, being used against American officials. Pegasus is a sophisticated surveillance system that can be remotely implanted in smartphones to extract sound and video recordings, encrypted communications, photos, contacts, location data, and text messages. There is no suggestion that NSO itself hacked into the phones, but rather that one of its clients, mostly foreign governments, had directed it against embassy employees.
UK Competition Watchdog Orders Facebook's Parent Company, Meta, to Sell Giphy
Facebook's parent company, Meta, has been ordered to sell Giphy by the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The company bought the Gif-sharing search engine last year for a reported $315M. It planned to integrate Giphy's vast database of looping short video animations with another of its existing social-media platforms, Instagram. However, the CMA ruled the purchase to be unfair to competing social media platforms. "After consulting with interested businesses and organisations - and assessing alternative solutions put forward by Facebook - the CMA has concluded that its competition concerns can only be addressed by Facebook selling Giphy in its entirety to an approved buyer." Stuart McIntosh, who chaired the independent inquiry into the acquisition, said without action it would "allow Facebook to increase its significant market power in social media even further, through controlling competitors' access to Giphy Gifs." "By requiring Facebook to sell Giphy, we are protecting millions of social-media users and promoting competition and innovation in digital advertising," he added. Experts said the decision by the regulator was a significant one. Peter Broadhurst, partner at law firm Crowell & Moring, said: "This is the first time the CMA has ever blocked a major digital tech deal and indicates the direction of travel for the UK regulator's oversight of similar deals going forward." In its decision, the CMA noted that Giphy's advertising services had the "potential" to compete with Facebook's.
Twitter and Facebook Hit Back at Chinese Propaganda Campaigns
Twitter and Facebook said they have removed thousands of accounts connected to Chinese information campaigns, in the latest sign of Beijing's ambitions to shape the global narrative around the country. In a notice, Twitter said that it took action against two networks comprising more than 2,000 accounts that worked to undermine accusations of human rights abuses in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang, where Chinese officials have interned Muslim minorities and subjected them to harsh surveillance. Both networks promoted videos shot within Xinjiang that sought to portray the region as one of prosperity and freedom. One of the networks, which Twitter attributed to the Chinese Communist Party, also coordinated verbal attacks against activists and articles critical of China, while bolstering Chinese state media with positive comments and likes, according to a report on the takedown released by the Stanford Internet Observatory, a research group focused on the misuse of technology and social media.
In Latest Assault on Dissent, Egypt Convicts a Human Rights Activist
An Egyptian court convicted a prominent human rights advocate and lawyer of spreading false news and insulting a government authority, adding another name to a growing list of activists, journalists, and dissidents whom the state has aggressively targeted and sought to silence for years. The penalty imposed on the lawyer, Hossam Bahgat, was relatively modest, but the prosecution was just the latest chapter in a legal odyssey that has brought him to near ruin.
How the Politics of Abortion Are Poised to Intensify
With the Supreme Court now looking likely to weaken or overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, activists and both political parties are bracing for a new battle over one of the country's longest-running cultural divides. State lawmakers, not Supreme Court justices, would largely hold the decision-making power over abortion and determine the ease or difficulty of obtaining one. Many legislators would be forced to argue over the most intimate details of transvaginal sonograms, conception, and when exactly life begins. Newer issues, like fights over telemedicine and abortion pills, could gain fresh political momentum, as patients seek out ways to circumvent restrictions by managing their own abortions. In the aftermath of the oral arguments at the Supreme Court in the Mississippi case, both sides appeared to agree on at least one thing. "This could be an important point, a seismic shift in the politics of this issue," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, which supports anti-abortion candidates and campaigns against abortion rights supporters in races across the country. A decision by the Supreme Court is likely to come in June or July, months before the midterm elections that will determine control of Congress and the future of President Biden's agenda.
Taliban and 9/11 Families Fight for Billions in Frozen Afghan Funds
Nearly 20 years ago, about 150 family members of September 11th victims sought a measure of justice for their losses by suing a list of targets, like Al Qaeda and the Taliban. A decade later, a court found the defendants liable by default and ordered them to pay damages now worth about $7 billion. Yet with no way to collect it, the judgment seemed symbolic. Today, however, the Taliban are back in control of Afghanistan. The group's leaders say their country's central bank account at the Federal Reserve in New York, in which the former government accumulated about $7 billion from foreign aid and other sources, is rightfully theirs. That in turn has raised a question: If the money is the Taliban's, shouldn't the plaintiffs be entitled to seize it? High-level officials in the Biden administration are now debating the answer to that question, which presents a complex knot of national security, legal, diplomatic, and political problems. Among the specifics to be worked out is whether and how the United States can sidestep any legal requirement to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate Afghan government in order to use the money in the central bank account to help resolve the families' claim.
A Public Flagpole, a Christian Flag and the First Amendment
There are three flagpoles in front of Boston's City Hall. One flies the American flag, and the second that of Massachusetts. What appears on the third is at issue in a case the Supreme Court will hear in January. That flagpole, which ordinarily flies the flag of Boston, is occasionally made available to groups seeking to celebrate their backgrounds or to promote causes like gay pride. In a 12-year period, the city approved 284 requests for the third flag. It rejected only one, from Camp Constitution, which says that it seeks "to enhance understanding of our Judeo-Christian moral heritage." The group's application said that it sought to raise a "Christian flag" for one hour at an event that would include "short speeches by some local clergy focusing on Boston's history." The flag bore the Latin cross. The city rejected the request, saying that flying the flag would amount to government endorsement of religion. The group sued, arguing that the city's decision violated its right to free speech.
Appeals Court Questions Trump's Bid for Secrecy on Jan. 6 Papers
A federal appeals court panel appeared skeptical of Trump's claim that he has the power to block a congressional subpoena for White House records related to the January 6th attack on the Capitol. President Biden thinks that lawmakers should see the files, producing a clash with his predecessor over executive privilege. During about three and a half hours of oral arguments, the three-judge panel signaled concern with figuring out what general rule or legal test should govern not just this dispute but any future ones in which a sitting president and a former one disagree over whether to invoke executive privilege over particular documents. There is no clear Supreme Court precedent to determine what should happen in such a dispute, which arose when the House committee investigating the assault subpoenaed the National Archives for records showing Trump's communications and movements leading up to and during the crisis.
Federal Scrutiny of Cuomo Widens to His Office's Treatment of Women
Federal prosecutors have broadened their scrutiny of former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to include a civil rights investigation, after the New York attorney general's office concluded that he had sexually harassed female employees and fostered a toxic work culture. In a letter to state officials before Cuomo officially left office, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division said that it had opened an inquiry into reports of sexual harassment and retaliation in the governor's office, according to two people who reviewed the letter. Investigators, the letter said, were seeking to determine whether the governor's office had engaged in a "pattern and practice of discrimination and retaliation" in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, a federal law that protects against harassment based on a person's gender.
Why It Might Be Difficult to Convict Andrew Cuomo of Forcible Touching
When former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo was charged in October with allegedly groping a female aide's breast inside the Executive Mansion, the move was seen as something of a high-stakes risk. The criminal complaint was centered on a single charge of forcible touching, a misdemeanor typically seen in cases involving unwanted sexual advances in public places, and often difficult to prosecute. Of the roughly 1,400 cases brought in a typical year across the state where forcible touching is the top charge, nearly four in 10 are dismissed or dropped, according to Division of Criminal Justice Services records; and even when the cases advance to court, few result in meaningful jail time. The prosecution of Cuomo, who has vigorously denied the allegations against him, will certainly present challenges. The complaint is based on the account of Brittany Commisso, a former executive assistant to Cuomo. She has told investigators that Cuomo reached under her blouse late last year and groped her breast while they were alone in the Executive Mansion. Evidence filed by the sheriff, which includes cellphone records, official schedules, card swipes, emails and flight logs, attempts to place Cuomo and Commisso in the same room at the same time, but like most forcible touching cases, there is no known irrefutable physical evidence against the former governor, putting the weight of the prosecution on the accuser's testimony.
Barbados, Formally Casting Off the Queen, Becomes a Republic
In the early hours of Tuesday, at a ceremony attended by hundreds of masked officials, a prince, and at least one pop star, the Caribbean island of Barbados became a republic, cutting ties with Queen Elizabeth II and casting off the last major vestige of its colonial past. The nation swore in its first president, Sandra Mason, a former governor general who had been appointed by the queen. A 21-gun salute rang out as the national anthem played. The red, yellow and navy blue royal flag was lowered -- exactly 55 years after the country gained independence from Britain.
A Federal Judge Blocks Biden's Vaccine Mandate for U.S. Health Workers
A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction to halt the start of President Biden's national vaccine mandate for health care workers. The injunction, written by Judge Terry A. Doughty, effectively expanded a separate order issued by a federal court in Missouri. The earlier one had applied only to 10 states that joined in a lawsuit against the president's decision to require all health workers in hospitals and nursing homes to receive at least their first shot by December 6th and to be fully vaccinated by January 4th. "There is no question that mandating a vaccine to 10.3 million health care workers is something that should be done by Congress, not a government agency," Judge Doughty, of U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, wrote. He added: "It is not clear that even an act of Congress mandating a vaccine would be constitutional." The judge, who was nominated to the court by Trump, also wrote that the plaintiffs had an "interest in protecting its citizens from being required to submit to vaccinations" and to prevent the loss of jobs and tax revenue that may result from the mandate.
Most Covid Vaccines Will Work as Boosters, Study Suggests
People looking for a booster shot of a Covid-19 vaccine probably don't need to fret about what brand it is: Many combinations of shots are likely to provide strong protection, according to a large new study. In a comparison of seven different vaccine brands, British researchers found that most of them prompted a strong immune response, with the mRNA shots from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech eliciting the largest responses. However, it's too soon for researchers to say much about how well different vaccine boosters will work against the new Omicron variant, which has mutations that may allow it to evade some of the antibodies produced by existing Covid-19 vaccines. Some researchers suspect that people would need a very high level of antibodies to protect against it.
New York City Sets Vaccine Mandate for Religious and Private School Workers
New York City will require employees at yeshivas, Catholic schools, and other private schools to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, in what is believed to be the largest effort in the nation to force religious schools to adhere to a vaccine mandate. The new directive is expected to affect roughly 930 schools and 56,000 employees. They will have to show proof they received the first dose of a vaccine by December 20th. "We're doing everything in our power to protect our students and school staff, and a mandate for nonpublic school employees will help keep our school communities and youngest New Yorkers safe," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. Teachers and other employees at public schools were already required to get vaccinated, and more than 95% of the Department of Education's employees have done so. Students are not required to be vaccinated, and the mayor has resisted setting a mandate for students, as some other American cities have.