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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:


After 15 Years of Infighting, James Brown's Estate Is Sold

Since James Brown's death 15 years ago, a plan by the soul and funk music icon to leave the bulk of his estate to scholarships for needy children has been delayed by torrents of litigation. However, the mission of financing those scholarships has taken a major step forward under the terms of a new business deal. Primary Wave Music, a New York company that specializes in marketing estates and song catalogs, is buying the assets of the Brown estate, including music rights, real estate, and the control over Brown's name and likeness. Larry Mestel, the founder of Primary Wave -- which did a similar deal for half of Whitney Houston's estate, and owns the largest interest in Prince's -- envisions an array of new projects to honor Brown's legacy and promote his music to new generations of fans. Those may include a Broadway musical, television shows, and the creation of a Graceland-like museum attraction at Brown's mansion in South Carolina. The price of the deal was not disclosed, but is estimated at about $90 million. The money from the transaction will be used to endow the Brown scholarship trust "in perpetuity," said Russell L. Bauknight, a public accountant who has served as the estate's personal representative, or executor, since 2009. He said that once the estate is closed, he will continue to work with Primary Wave as a member of a board handling some of Brown's assets.

Bruce Springsteen Sells Music Catalog in Massive Deal

Bruce Springsteen has sold his music rights to Sony Music Entertainment in what may well be the biggest transaction ever struck for a single artist's body of work. Specific terms were not disclosed, but the transaction is valued at about $550 million. Sony clarified that the agreement involves two separate deals -- one for Springsteen's recorded work and another for his publishing. Some of the financing for the publishing acquisition was contributed by Eldridge, a private investment firm whose other media deals have included the songwriting catalog of the rock band the Killers.

$50 Million Gift to Juilliard Targets Racial Disparities in Music

For three decades, the Juilliard School has sought to bring more diversity to classical music by offering a weekend training program aimed largely at Black and Latino schoolchildren. Now the renowned conservatory is planning a major expansion of the initiative, known as the Music Advancement Program: Juilliard announced that it had received a $50 million gift that it would use to increase enrollment in the program by 40% and to provide full scholarships to all participants. "This will be transformational," Damian Woetzel, Juilliard's president, said in an interview. "It will broaden the pathway to the highest level of classical music education in such a significant way." The gift is from Crankstart, a foundation in California backed by the venture capitalist Michael Moritz and his wife, Harriet Heyman, a writer, who are longtime supporters of the program. Heyman, in announcing the gift, pointed to the lack of racial and ethnic diversity in American orchestras, where only about 4% of musicians are Black or Hispanic. The Music Advancement Program's "commitment to recruiting underrepresented minorities will help bring new spirit, as well as superb young musicians, to orchestras, concert halls and theaters everywhere," Heyman said in a statement.

A Former Insider at the Company Merging With Trump Media Sues Over 'Brazen' Fraud

A former nominee for director of the so-called blank-check company that plans to merge with former President Donald J. Trump's social media start-up is suing, claiming that he was frozen out of the deal. Brian Shevland, the former nominee, is seeking monetary damages over what his suit calls a "brazen act of fraud." The lawsuit, which is aimed at the chief executive of Digital World Acquisition Corp., the special purpose acquisition company that raised nearly $300 million for the merger, was filed in Miami federal court. Shevland, who runs his own investment management firm, says that he only found out that he was no longer a nominee for the company's board when Patrick Orlando, Digital World's chief executive, filed a document with the Securities and Exchange Commission that no longer included his name. The lawsuit says the unexplained removal from the filing in August, a month before the Digital World's initial public offering, "cemented the freeze-out" of Shevland, who said he was owed 7,500 shares of Digital World and was deprived of his right to buy more shares at a low price. The suit says that Orlando also broke a commitment to involve Shevland in other SPACs. In the lawsuit, Shevland claims that he was "instrumental" in securing the deal with Trump Media & Technology Group and raising capital for Digital World.

When Did Every Celebrity Become a Creative Director?

It's getting hard to keep up with the celebrity titles. Every week, it seems, there's a new creative director or partner or officer of some kind. Just this month, the rapper Cardi B announced that she was joining Playboy as its first creative director in residence. (She is also a partner in Whipshots, a vodka-infused whipped cream that was released in early December.) She joins a growing list of famous brand associates that includes Emily Ratajkowski, partner and creative director at Loops Beauty (face masks); Dakota Johnson, co-creative director and investor at Maude (sexual health and wellness products); Prince Harry, chief impact officer at BetterUp (employee coaching); Kendall Jenner, creative director at Fwrd (an online boutique); Drew Barrymore, creative director at Garnier (hair care and skin care); Jennifer Aniston, chief creative officer at Vital Proteins (supplements); and ASAP Rocky, guest artistic director at PacSun (clothing and accessories). Once upon a time, famous people signed on to brands as their "faces" or "spokespeople." With the rise of social media marketing came the flood of "ambassadors." Now, a corporate title once reserved for the heads of fashion houses or the artistic leads at advertising firms is being tacked onto the résumés of actors, singers, and models.

North Korea Executes People for Watching K-Pop, Rights Group Says

North Korea has publicly executed at least seven people in the past decade for watching or distributing K-pop videos from South Korea, as it cracks down on what its leader, Kim Jong-un, calls a "vicious cancer," according to a human rights report. The group, Transitional Justice Working Group, which is based in Seoul, interviewed 683 North Korean defectors since 2015 to help map places in the North where people were killed and buried in state-sanctioned public executions. In its latest report, the group said it had documented 23 such executions under Kim's government. Since taking power a decade ago, Kim has attacked South Korean entertainment -- songs, movies, and TV dramas -- which, he says, corrupts North Koreans' minds. Under a law adopted last December, those who distribute South Korean entertainment can face the death penalty. One tactic of the clampdown has been to create an atmosphere of terror by publicly executing people found guilty of watching or circulating the banned content.


Heirs Sue to Claim Mondrian Painting in Philadelphia Museum of Art

The heirs of Piet Mondrian have sued the Philadelphia Museum of Art to claim a painting by the Dutch artist that was confiscated by the Nazis as "degenerate" art and that they argue is "in the wrongful possession" of the museum, which received it as a gift nearly 70 years ago. A pioneer of abstract art, Mondrian painted "Composition With Blue" -- a work comprising two black lines against a white background and a small triangle of blue -- while living in Paris in 1926. It is one of just 17 lozenge-shaped works that the artist produced. Representatives of Mondrian's heirs say that it is worth at least $100 million today. They argue that Mondrian never lost title to the painting, which the Nazis confiscated in 1937 and then put up for sale, and so ownership of the painting is retained by his heirs. "American museums should no longer keep Nazi-looted art in their collections," said Lawrence M. Kaye of Kaye Spiegler PLLC, the New York law firm representing the heirs.

Penguin Random House Defends Effort to Buy Simon & Schuster

Penguin Random House, the largest book publisher in the United States, said in a court filing that its plan to buy a competitor, Simon & Schuster, would be a boon for the industry, benefiting authors, booksellers, and readers. The Justice Department disagreed. Last month, it sued to stop the $2.18 billion acquisition, as the Biden administration takes a more skeptical view of corporate consolidation across industries. In its complaint, the department attacked the deal on the grounds that it would harm best-selling authors, since they could potentially receive lower pay with one fewer publisher competing to acquire their books. It documented several bidding wars between Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster that went into six and seven figures and argued that if the proposed merger goes through, those authors wouldn't have received such lucrative advances. By focusing on authors' pay, the Justice Department signaled that it was taking a more sweeping view of antitrust law. In the joint response, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster said that the government's argument misunderstands the way the publishing industry functions.

The Metropolitan Opera to Mandate Booster Shots for Staff and Audiences

The Metropolitan Opera (the Met) announced that it would require all eligible adult employees and audience members to get Covid booster shots in order to enter the opera house, making its safety measures stricter than those on Broadway or at other venues. The Met is the first major performing arts organization in the city to announce a booster-shot mandate that will apply to audiences as well as staff members; the new rule will take effect on January 17th. The policy was announced as concern about rising caseloads and the spread of the Omicron variant is mounting: The average daily number of coronavirus cases in the city has more than doubled over the past two weeks. "We think we should be setting an example," Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Met, said in an interview. "Hopefully we will have an influence on other performing arts companies as well. I think it's just a matter of time -- everyone is going to be doing this."

'The Music Man' Once Had a Disabled Character. Then He Was Erased.

Many know Meredith Willson's 1957 Broadway musical, "The Music Man", as a light comedy centered on a cheeky scam artist who pretends to be a musician and sells the idea of starting a boys' band to a small town in Iowa. The show is being revived on Broadway starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster, and will begin performances this month. Several newly recognized drafts of the musical, written between 1954 and 1957, show that originally, the story focused more on the town's persecution of a boy in a wheelchair -- carrying a much more serious message than the final draft. At the time, children with disabilities were routinely institutionalized in horrific conditions and denied an education.

When the Show Doesn't Go On: Broadway Is Rattled by Covid Cancellations

Theater actors have long prided themselves on performing despite infections and injuries -- singing through strain and dancing through pain. No more. The coronavirus pandemic has upended the theater industry's longstanding "show must go on" philosophy, supplanting it with a safety-first strategy. The result: a raft of cancellations unlike any in history. On Wednesday, "Tina", a jukebox musical about Tina Turner, canceled both of its performances; "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child", a stage sequel to the novels, canceled its matinee, and "Hamilton" canceled its evening performance. A new musical adaptation of "Mrs. Doubtfire" had already canceled four performances between Sunday and Wednesday, while Lin-Manuel Miranda's improv troupe, "Freestyle Love Supreme", canceled three, and "Ain't Too Proud", the Temptations jukebox musical, canceled one. At an Off Broadway theater down the street, a strong-selling revival of "Little Shop of Horrors" scrapped four shows last weekend. All cited Covid.

Millions of Followers? For Book Sales, 'It's Unreliable.'

It's difficult to predict whether a book will be a hit. A jar of tomato sauce doesn't change that much from year to year, making demand reasonably predictable. Yet every book is different, an individual work of art or culture, so when the publishing industry tries to forecast demand for new titles, it is, however thoughtfully, guessing. As there are so few reliable metrics to look at, social-media followings have become some of the main data points publishers use to try to make their guesses more educated. An author's following has become a standard part of the equation when publishers are deciding whether to acquire a book. Followings can affect who gets a book deal and how big an advance that author is paid, especially when it comes to nonfiction. However, despite their importance, they are increasingly seen as unpredictable gauges of how well a book is actually going to sell.

Cuomo Is Ordered to Forfeit Earnings From $5.1 Million Book Deal

A New York State ethics board ordered former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to turn over millions of dollars in profits from his coronavirus pandemic memoir, giving him 30 days to comply. The extraordinary directive is the latest development in a fall from grace for the former governor, who in the span of just four months lost his job and reputation, and who is now facing a criminal trial after being accused of groping an aide in the Executive Mansion. It was not long ago that Cuomo was at his peak, winning nationwide acclaim and landing a lucrative book contract in the first months of New York's pandemic crisis. The resulting memoir, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic, was intended to capitalize on the moment and give him a financial cushion that would safeguard his future. By a 12-1 vote, New York State's Joint Commission on Public Ethics stripped him of all of the book's proceeds. The Commission had previously ruled that Cuomo had received authorization for the deal under false pretenses, and it decided that he was not entitled to keep any of the profits from it. The decision rests on Cuomo's application for approval of the book deal, in which his lawyer vowed that "no state property, personnel or other resources may be utilized for activities associated with the book." The commission contended that Cuomo broke that promise when he availed himself of administration officials and lower-paid aides to help him with writing, editing, and publication. The order, which is sure to set up a protracted legal fight, could be further complicated by Cuomo having already donated $500,000 of the book's proceeds to a charity, the United Way of New York State, to support its Covid-19 efforts. He also placed $1 million in a trust for his three daughters.

A Trove of Artifacts Officials Call 'Stolen' Are Returned to Italy

From the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, they seized a 2,500-year-old wine cup and six other items that long predated Caesar. From Fordham University in the Bronx, they took roughly a hundred Greco-Roman artifacts valued at $2 million. More antiquities were seized from museums in San Antonio and Cleveland and galleries and homes in New York City and Long Island. All told, the Manhattan district attorney's office has quietly confiscated 160 objects tied to one man, Edoardo Almagià, a 70-year-old Rome-based antiquities dealer who is accused in court papers of a three-decade-long smuggling spree. 150 Almagià items, and 50 more linked to other suspected traffickers, were ceremoniously delivered to the Italian consulate in New York in what officials say is the largest single repatriation of relics from America to Italy. The value of the 200 returned items -- which include painted jars and ornate vessels, marble busts and ceramic figurines -- was put at $10 million.

Afghanistan's National Museum Begins Life Under the Taliban

Under the watchful eyes of Islamic Emirate soldiers, the galleries of the newly reopened National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul are often quiet these days, the antiquities and other treasures inside safe from the sort of looting that overwhelmed the museum the last time the Taliban seized power there. Yet visitors, the lifeblood of any museum, have dwindled. Many of the educated people who were regular patrons of the museum have fled the country, some schools have shut down, and there are not many tourists sightseeing in Kabul. The museum, which closed in August when the Taliban seized control, reopened in late November, a positive sign to some who hope that restrictions will be looser this time and that rampant destruction won't reoccur.


China Enhances Intellectual Property Rights Protection for Beijing Winter Olympics

China said that it has strengthened the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) for the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games and Paralympic Winter Games. Zhang Zhicheng, head of the protection department of China's National Intellectual Property Administration (NIPA), told a press conference that an action plan for IPR protection of the two sporting events has been initiated across the country. Noting that the action plan aims to enhance the protection of Olympic symbols according to China's Regulations on the Protection of Olympic Symbols, Zhang said that it will also protect design patents and registered trademarks of Olympic symbols in accordance with the patent law and the trademark law. The plan will help improve the popularization of IPR protection involving Olympic symbols and raise legal awareness of IPR among the public. Zhang said that the action plan focuses on IPR protection in key areas such as commodity production bases, logistics distribution centers, and e-commerce platform headquarters, as well as promotes information sharing among related authorities.

Nassar Abuse Survivors Reach a $380 Million Settlement

Hundreds of female gymnasts who were sexually abused by Lawrence G. Nassar, the former team doctor of the national gymnastics team, have agreed to a $380 million settlement with U.S.A. Gymnastics and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, ending the latest dark chapter in one of the biggest child molestation cases in history. The settlement, announced on Monday during U.S.A. Gymnastics' bankruptcy proceedings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana, is among the largest ever for a sexual abuse case. The funds would seek to compensate more than 500 abuse victims, including Olympic gold medalists like Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, and Aly Raisman. A number of those victims were abused by their coaches or others in the sport. Many of the girls and women abused by Nassar have battled mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, and some have attempted suicide because of the abuse, which Nassar perpetrated under the guise of medical treatment. Denhollander, a lawyer, said that it was unclear how much money each survivor would receive from the settlement because an independent mediator would consider many factors, including the length of time and the severity of the abuse, when calculating a dollar amount per person.

The U.S. Women's National Team Makes Final Plea in Equal Pay Lawsuit Appeal, Calls Dismissal 'Flatly Wrong'

The U.S. Women's National Team (USWNT) made its closing written argument in a bid to overturn the dismissal of its equal pay lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, calling the lower court's original decision "flatly wrong". The USWNT's primary argument stayed the same, that the women were paid at a lower rate than their male counterparts. In this latest go-round, the USWNT's lawyers have emphasized recent events, including a ruling in a similar court case, to back up their appeal. Friday's deadline for written responses was the final stage before the appeal can move on to oral arguments. The USWNT's equal pay lawsuit was dismissed in May 2020 as the judge accepted U.S. Soccer's argument that that the women had actually been paid more in total compensation than their male counterparts. In their appeal filed in July, the USWNT's lawyers argued that that was only true because the women outperformed the men, all while the women's performance bonuses were still smaller. Now, in their final brief filed Friday in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the USWNT says an appeal granted earlier this month in another case demonstrates why the judge was wrong to dismiss their case in the first place. In that case, a woman named Tracy Sempowich sued for wage discrimination because, although she had been paid the same commission rate as her male colleagues, her base pay was lower. A judge dismissed her case, citing her higher total compensation than her colleagues, but the appeals court overturned it. She had been paid more because she made more sales, the court said, but the rate of pay was lower and "an employer violates the Equal Pay Act if it pays female employees at a rate less than that of similarly situated male employees." According to the USWNT's legal team, this proves that comparing total compensation between the USWNT and the U.S. Men's National Team is legally insufficient to determine whether discrimination happened. "Every court of appeals that has considered a total-compensation approach to the Equal Pay Act has rejected it," the USWNT brief says. U.S. Soccer, anticipating the USWNT side would raise the Sempowich case, issued a letter to the court last week arguing that it doesn't apply to this lawsuit because the Fourth Circuit was not asked to evaluate differing compensation structures akin to the U.S. national teams. Bonuses aside, the men are paid on a per-camp basis, whereas the women are paid on a hybrid structure where some players are paid based on call-ups but others are paid salaries. The case is expected to proceed with oral arguments, which could start as soon as March.

NCAA Reveals 'A Number' Of Schools Are Being Investigated

NCAA president Mark Emmert made headlines with an interesting comment this week. Emmert complained about name, image, and likeness (NIL) rules and suggested there are "a number" of schools under investigation by the NCAA for potential NIL violations. The NCAA president didn't offer any more information on the topic.

Facing Covid Spike, National Football League Mandates Boosters, but Stops Short on Testing

In all, 37 National Football League (NFL) players tested positive last Monday, the highest single-day total since the start of the pandemic, and the positive cases continued to roll in on Tuesday, when the Cleveland Browns placed eight players on the Covid-19 list. Even with a vaccination rate among players that is over 94%, more coronavirus cases have been reported this season in the NFL compared with last year, which show how difficult it is to control the spread of the virus. The NFL said that the players' positive tests were being driven by community spread, including contact with team employees, and said in a memo that it would mandate booster shots for team staff members who work most closely with players. In its memo to all 32 teams, the NFL ordered coaches and team employees who work directly with players to receive booster shots by December 27th or be relegated to noncontact roles "to ensure that we continue to reduce risk of transmission and allow us to complete the NFL season safely during the pandemic." However, the NFL Players Association said the rise in cases was caused by return to daily testing for everyone, regardless of vaccination status.

Virus Outbreaks Rattle NFL and College Sports as Big Games Approach

The NFL postponed three games that were slated for the weekend, the latest juggling of sports schedules as scores of college and professional athletes and coaches have tested positive for the coronavirus in the pandemic's latest surge. The NFL postponements generated the greatest attention, yet were far from the only disruptions caused by spikes in virus cases. Three ranked men's college basketball teams, U.C.L.A., Seton Hall, and Ohio State, were among more than a dozen men's and women's programs that shut down temporarily. While scientists are trying to assess the severity of the Omicron variant, it seems unlikely that cases will have eased within a month. Professional and college basketball as well as professional hockey at least have time on their side, with months remaining to account for any disruptions. Football, though, is entering the final stretch of its season. The NFL playoffs are set to begin next month and there is little wiggle room in its weekend games. There is only one open weekend between the conference championships and the Super Bowl, which is scheduled for February 13th in Los Angeles. College football's four-team playoff begins in two weeks. Its championship game is scheduled for January 10th, the day after the regular season ends in the NFL.

Phillip Adams Had Severe CTE at the Time of Shootings

The posthumous brain examination of Phillip Adams, a 32-year-old retired journeyman NFL player who shot and killed six people before dying by suicide in April, revealed that he had an "unusually severe" form of CTE, a degenerative brain disease found in athletes and others with a history of repeated hits to the head. Dr. Ann McKee, director of the CTE Center at Boston University, said tat an examination of Adams's brain showed significantly dense lesions in both frontal lobes, an abnormally severe diagnosis for a person in his 30s that most nearly resembled that of Aaron Hernandez, a former New England Patriots tight end who was 27 years old when he died by suicide after being convicted of a 2013 murder.

U.S. Olympic Leader Calls On China to Investigate Star's Allegations

With seven weeks to go before the start of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, leaders of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee criticized China's handling of the recent allegations of sexual assault from one of its star athletes. China's treatment of the three-time Olympian Peng Shuai, one of China's top tennis players, has become a contentious issue since November 2nd, when Peng accused a former top government official of sexually assaulting her. Little has been heard from her since. Peng, 35, disappeared from public view more than a month ago after she accused Zhang Gaoli, a former vice premier of China, of sexual assault. Her disappearance, China's efforts to censor any mention of her allegations, and its sometimes clumsy efforts to suggest she had retracted her claims have only intensified concerns about her safety among tennis officials, fellow athletes, and human rights groups. Peng has not appeared publicly or spoken with outsiders without the presence of a Chinese official since she went public with her allegations. She has participated in two video calls with the International Olympic Committee, at least one of them with Thomas Bach, the president of the committee. However, the organization did not release transcripts or videos of those calls and there was no discussion of the allegations. Susanne Lyons, chair of the organization, called for Peng's allegations to be fully investigated by the appropriate authorities, just as Steve Simon, the leader of the Womens Tennis Association (WTA), the women's professional tennis tour, has. Simon has repeatedly tried to get in touch with Peng but has been unable to communicate directly with her. This month, the WTA suspended its operations in China, specifically the nine tournaments it holds in the country, including the WTA Finals, a rare move by a sports organization to give up lucrative contracts in the world's largest country.

Step Aside, LeBron and Dak, and Make Room for Banjo and Kazooie

A miniature basketball hoop hangs from the bedroom door. Soccer trophies are prominent on the dresser. Each sport competes for the time and attention of David and Matthew Grimes. But both are losing ground to another staple of adolescence: the video game console. David, 13, and Matthew, 11, are fledgling e-sports athletes. David thumbs his controllers and listens to strategy talk from a YMCA coach on Monday nights. On Wednesday, he takes on all comers. Matthew has league play on Thursday. At least one weekend a month, they compete in a Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tournament. David and Matthew are part of a surging migration among members of Generation Z -- as those born from 1997 to 2012 are often labeled -- away from the basketball courts and soccer fields built for previous generations and toward the PlayStations and Xboxes of theirs. It's not a zero-sum game: Many children, including the Grimeses, enjoy sports both virtual and physical. However, it's clear that the rise of e-sports has come at the expense of traditional youth sports, with implications for their future and for the way children grow up.


Why Apps Suddenly Want to Protect Kids

When minors under 18 years old record videos and add them to YouTube, the public can no longer watch them. TikTok says that it will stop sending app notifications to teenagers at night. Facebook and Google have sharply restricted the ways that advertisers can tailor messages to minors on their sites. In recent months, internet companies have reworked their apps and policies to try to better protect the safety, privacy, and mental health of children. One big reason is Britain. In September, new guidelines went into effect in the U.K. that may be the world's most sweeping digital protections aimed at kids. As in the examples above, the British regulations -- formally called the Age-Appropriate Design Code or the Children's Code -- are also changing the internet experience for children and families in the U.S. and other countries. As U.S. lawmakers are debating updated laws to protect children online and scolding the head of Instagram, the horse has partly left the barn. The U.K. is essentially dictating how U.S. internet companies should protect American children.

Judge Clarifies Order on New York Times Coverage of Project Veritas

A New York trial court judge issued a clarification in an order that has temporarily prevented The New York Times (NYT)from seeking out or publishing certain documents related to the conservative group Project Veritas, allowing the newspaper some latitude to report on the organization until a final ruling is reached. The clarification, by Justice Charles D. Wood of State Supreme Court in Westchester County, came in response to a formal request from NYT lawyers. In the request, the NYT asked that the order be dissolved, while also requesting that the court clarify what it could and could not publish. Justice Wood's original order came about as part of a lawsuit filed by Project Veritas in 2020 that accused the NYT of defamation because of its description of the group's reporting practices. In the order, Justice Wood ordered that the newspaper cease further efforts to solicit or acquire attorney-client privileged material, effectively limiting its ability to report on Project Veritas. In his clarification, Justice Wood wrote that last month's order did not bar the NYT "from receiving attorney-client privileged material" from anyone whom Project Veritas authorized to waive privilege or from publishing "such information and material" it had obtained that way. He also specified that the NYT could publish such material if it became publicly available independent of NYT action. In addition, the clarification made clear that the NYT was free to interview Project Veritas lawyers.

Judge Rejects Fox News's Request to Dismiss Dominion's Defamation Suit

A judge rejected an attempt by the Rupert Murdoch-owned Fox News Media to dismiss a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems over the network's coverage of the company's role in the 2020 presidential election. In the ruling, Judge Eric M. Davis of the Superior Court of Delaware, where Fox is incorporated, wrote that he had denied Fox News Media's motion to dismiss the lawsuit because it was "reasonably conceivable that Dominion has a claim for defamation." Dominion, an election technology company, sued Fox News Media in March, accusing it of advancing lies that devastated its reputation and business. More than two dozen states, including several carried by former President Donald J. Trump, made use of Dominion, a Denver company founded in 2002, in last year's election. In May, Fox filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that Dominion's lawsuit threatened the news media's First Amendment right to chronicle and assess newsworthy claims. In his ruling, Judge Davis disputed the arguments put forth by Fox, including that its employees were reporting in a neutral manner on statements made by advisers of the then-president and that claims made on its channels were opinion, and thus constituted protected speech. The judge wrote that he was not persuaded by Fox's "neutral reportage" and "opinion" arguments. He added that the company either "knew its statements about Dominion's role in election fraud were false" or that it "had a high degree of awareness that the statements were false." Judge Davis also noted that Dominion had objected in writing to Fox's coverage, seemingly to no avail. The allegations made by Dominion in its complaint, he wrote, "support the reasonable inference that Fox intended to keep Dominion's side of the story out of the narrative."

Now in Your Inbox: Political Misinformation

A few weeks ago, Representative Dan Crenshaw, a Texas Republican, falsely claimed that the centerpiece of President Biden's domestic agenda, a $1.75 trillion bill to battle climate change and extend the nation's social safety net, would include Medicare for all. It doesn't, and never has. Yet few noticed Crenshaw's lie because he didn't say it on Facebook or on Fox News. Instead, he sent the false message directly to the inboxes of his constituents and supporters in a fund-raising email. Lawmakers' statements on social media and cable news are now routinely fact-checked and scrutinized. However, email -- one of the most powerful communication tools available to politicians, reaching up to hundreds of thousands of people -- teems with unfounded claims and largely escapes notice. Politicians have exaggerated and dissembled since time immemorial, including in their email dispatches. Yet the volume, the baldness, and the reach of the false claims have increased. The messages also underscore how, for all the efforts to compel platforms like Facebook and Twitter to address falsehoods, many of the same claims are flowing through other powerful channels with little notice.

Chris Wallace Leaves Fox News as Right-Wing Hosts Hold Sway

The star Fox News anchor Chris Wallace announced that he was leaving for CNN, stripping the Rupert Murdoch-owned network of its most decorated down-the-middle journalist as stridently conservative hosts like Tucker Carlson have increasingly set the channel's agenda. The network has pulled far ahead of CNN and MSNBC in the ratings with an expanded slate of right-wing commentary that denounces President Biden and defends former President Donald J. Trump. However, some members of its newsroom have been unnerved by programming that has given weight to vaccine skeptics or amplified conspiracy theories. Wallace, 74, had expressed concern to Fox News management about a recent documentary from Carlson, "Patriot Purge", which included the false claim that the January 6th riot was a "false flag" operation created to demonize the political right. Wallace's contract as host of "Fox News Sunday" was up at the end of December, and three people familiar with his thinking said he weighed several factors in choosing to leave, including a desire to expand his portfolio beyond politics to include business, sports and entertainment. He will host an interview program starting next year on CNN+, a new digital streaming platform.

Fox News Hosts Take the Offensive About Texts to Mark Meadows

The Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham vociferously defended themselves for sending text messages on January 6th that urged Mark Meadows, the last White House chief of staff under Donald J. Trump, to persuade the then-president to take action to stop the Capitol attack. The texts made vivid something that was already not a secret -- that key players at the network have acted as informal advisers to Trump. It is a situation that flouts journalistic ethical norms but does not appear to dissuade Fox viewers. In November, Fox News was the most-watched network. Hannity and Ingraham said that their texts -- which were read aloud in Congress -- did not differ from their public statements that day. The two said that in their view, the pro-Trump siege on January 6th -- in which rioters breached and entered the Capitol building, police officers were injured, millions of dollars of damage was done, and one rioter was fatally shot -- was similar to previous instances of civil unrest, adding that it had been overblown by other news media outlets. Their on-air statements continued their strong defense of Trump, 11 months after his attempt to subvert the election and his encouragement of the mob that carried out the violence. The text messages also suggested that the hosts believed that Trump -- who had delivered a combative speech near the White House to thousands of his supporters in the hours before the breach -- bore some responsibility for what took place that day.

Her Instagram Handle Was 'Metaverse.' Last Month, It Vanished.

In October, Thea-Mai Baumann, an Australian artist and technologist, found herself sitting on prime internet real estate. In 2012, she had started an Instagram account with the handle @metaverse, a name she used in her creative work. On the account, she documented her life in Brisbane, where she studied fine art, and her travels to Shanghai, where she built an augmented reality company called Metaverse Makeovers. She had fewer than 1,000 followers when Facebook, the parent company of Instagram, announced that it was changing its name. Henceforth, Facebook would be known as Meta, a reflection of its focus on the metaverse, a virtual world it sees as the future of the internet. In the days before, as word leaked out, Baumann began receiving messages from strangers offering to buy her Instagram handle. "You are now a millionaire," one person wrote on her account. Another warned: "fb isn't gonna buy it, they're gonna take it." On November 2nd, that happened. Early that morning, when she tried to log in to Instagram, she found that the account had been disabled. A message on the screen read: "Your account has been blocked for pretending to be someone else." "This account is a decade of my life and work. I didn't want my contribution to the metaverse to be wiped from the internet," she said. "That happens to women in tech, to women of color in tech, all the time," added Ms. Baumann, who has Vietnamese heritage.

Alibaba Dismisses Employee Who Accused Her Boss of Rape

Alibaba, China's e-commerce giant, has dismissed a woman who accused a superior of raping her during a business trip in July, a case that has highlighted the toxic workplace culture of the country's tech industry and the hurdles Chinese women face when they experience sexual harassment or assault. The woman, identified in court papers only by her last name, Zhou, learned of her dismissal in a letter last month from a company affiliate based in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Tmall Technology. Her case -- and the online furor it has stirred since August -- became one of the most prominent of China's struggling #MeToo movement, which has raised awareness of the issue of sexual abuse but also underscored the deep-rooted cultural and institutional biases that women in China face when they come forward.

How Beijing Influences the Influencers

Millions have watched Lee and Oli Barrett's YouTube dispatches from China. The father and son duo visit hotels in exotic locales, tour out-of-the-way villages, sample delicacies in bustling markets, and undergo traditional ear cleanings. The Barretts are part of a crop of new social media personalities who paint cheery portraits of life as foreigners in China -- and also hit back at criticisms of Beijing's authoritarian governance, its policies toward ethnic minorities, and its handling of the coronavirus. The videos have a casual, homespun feel. However, on the other side of the camera often stands a large apparatus of government organizers, state-controlled news media, and other official amplifiers -- all part of the Chinese government's widening attempts to spread pro-Beijing messages around the world. State-run news outlets and local governments have organized and funded pro-Beijing influencers' travel, according to government documents and the creators themselves. They have paid or offered to pay the creators. They have generated lucrative traffic for the influencers by sharing videos with millions of followers on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. With official media outlets' backing, the creators can visit and film in parts of China where the authorities have obstructed foreign journalists' reporting. Most of the YouTubers have lived in China for years and say that their aim is to counter the West's increasingly negative perceptions of the country. T

General News

Senate Confirms Biden's 40th Judge, Tying a Reagan-Era Record

The Senate confirmed President Biden's 40th federal judicial nominee, the most judges confirmed in a president's first year in the last 40 years. In a pre-dawn mad dash before leaving Washington for the holidays, lawmakers confirmed 10 district court judges, bringing the year-end total to 40 and notching an achievement not seen since former President Ronald Reagan. It underscored how the White House has set a rapid pace in filling vacancies on the federal bench, even besting the records set by the Trump administration, which maintained a laser focus on reshaping the judiciary. The milestone came as a welcome victory for frustrated congressional Democrats whose legislative agenda continues to hit roadblock after roadblock, including their attempts to pass Biden's signature social safety net, climate and tax bill, and their efforts to bolster voting rights and overhaul immigration.

Judge Rules That Congress Can See Trump's Tax Returns

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by Trump that sought to block Congress from obtaining his tax returns, ruling that the law gives a House committee chairman broad authority to request them despite Trump's status as a former president. In a 45-page opinion, Judge Trevor McFadden of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia held that the Treasury Department can provide the tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee, which could vote to publish them. Judge McFadden, however, stayed his ruling for 10 days to give Trump time to file an appeal, which he is very likely to do.

Judge Overturns Purdue Pharma's Opioid Settlement

A federal judge unraveled a painstakingly negotiated settlement between Purdue Pharma and thousands of state, local, and tribal governments that had sued the maker of the prescription painkiller OxyContin for the company's role in the opioid epidemic, saying that the plan was flawed in one critical area. The judge, Colleen McMahon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, said that the settlement, part of a restructuring plan for Purdue approved in September by a bankruptcy judge, should not go forward because it releases the company's owners, members of the billionaire Sackler family, from liability in civil opioid-related cases. Although the Sacklers did not file for personal bankruptcy protection, they had made immunization from opioid claims an absolute requirement in exchange for contributing payments amounting to $4.5 billion to the agreement. However, the bankruptcy code, Judge McMahon said, does not explicitly permit a judge to grant such releases, which she called "the great unsettled question."

Congress Passes Ban on Goods From China's Xinjiang Region Over Forced Labor Concerns

The Senate voted unanimously to approve legislation that would ban the import of a wide array of products made in China's Xinjiang region in a drive to prevent companies from sourcing goods produced through forced labor by persecuted Muslim minorities. Its passage was a victory for supporters of an aggressive human rights measure that faced a fierce corporate lobbying campaign from businesses that argued it was too onerous and would disrupt global supply chains. The vote sent the measure to President Biden's desk, where he was expected to sign it into law. The bill represents the most forceful legislative response yet to China's campaign against the Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group, which the Biden administration has called a genocide. It would impose a high standard for companies seeking to import products from the region, banning goods made "in whole or in part" in Xinjiang unless companies are able to prove to customs officials that the products were not made with forced labor.

Derek Chauvin Pleads Guilty to Violating George Floyd's Rights

Derek Chauvin pleaded guilty to a federal charge that he used his position as a Minneapolis police officer to violate George Floyd's constitutional rights, a move expected to extend Chauvin's time in prison beyond a decades-long state sentence for murdering Floyd. Chauvin, 45, pleaded guilty in the U.S. courthouse in St. Paul, an appearance that was most likely among the longest periods he had spent outside a prison cell since a jury found him guilty of second-degree murder in April. Since then, he has been held in solitary confinement in Minnesota's only maximum-security prison, where he is allowed out of his 10-foot by 10-foot cell for one hour a day. A federal prosecutor said in court that the government had reached a plea deal with Chauvin under which prosecutors would seek to have him imprisoned for 25 years. That sentence would run concurrently with his state sentence, meaning it would lengthen Chauvin's prison term by about two and a half years. Under the proposed sentence and rules about credit for good behavior, the earliest Chauvin would be released from prison would likely be around 2042, when he would be in his mid-60s. The sentence will ultimately be up to a judge at a later hearing.

Meadows Was Deeply Involved in Fighting Election Outcome, January 6th Panel Says and Recommends Contempt Charge

The House committee investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol released a report that laid out its case for a contempt of Congress charge against Mark Meadows, the chief of staff to former President Trump, presenting evidence of Meadows's deep involvement in the effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election. In the 51-page document, the committee said that it wanted to question Meadows about an email he had sent a day before the attack advising that the National Guard would be used to defend Trump supporters. The panel said that it also wanted to ask him about an exchange with an unnamed senator about rejecting electors for Biden. Meadows was cooperating with the committee's investigation, but he refused to appear for a scheduled deposition or to turn over additional documents, citing Trump's assertion of executive privilege. From a trove of about 9,000 documents that Meadows had turned over before halting his cooperation with the inquiry, a clearer picture has emerged about the extent of his involvement in Trump's attempts to use the government to invalidate the election results. The committee voted 9 to 0 to recommend that Meadows be charged with criminal contempt of Congress for defying its subpoena. Before the vote, Representative Liz Cheney, one of the leaders of the panel, added to the evidence implicating Meadows. She read aloud text messages sent to him by the president's son Donald Trump Jr. and by the Fox News hosts Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Brian Kilmeade urging that Trump speak out amid the mob violence.

Man Exonerated in Malcolm X Murder Files Lawsuit Against New York State

Muhammad A. Aziz -- one of two men exonerated in the assassination of one of the most influential Black leaders of the civil rights era -- has filed a claim against New York State for at least $20 million in damages, citing the toll that being "unjustly branded as a convicted murderer" inflicted on his mental well-being, public reputation, and personal relationships. His lawyers have also notified New York City that he intends to file a $40 million civil rights lawsuit against the city in 90 days if an agreement is not reached before that date. Taken together, the actions represent Aziz's first attempt to seek redress since the official reshaping of the historical record of the 1965 murder. In the claim against the state, his lawyers write that any monetary award would represent only "a modicum of compensation for the destruction wrought by this grievous miscarriage of justice."

Republican National Committee Is Said to Agree to Pay Up to $1.6 Million of Trump's Personal Legal Bills

The Republican National Committee (RNC) has agreed to cover up to $1.6 million of Trump's personal legal bills, in an unusual arrangement under which the party is paying to defend the former president from ongoing investigations that focus on his private business practices. "As a leader of our party, defending President Trump and his record of achievement is critical to the G.O.P.," Emma Vaughn, an RNC spokeswoman, said. "It is entirely appropriate for the RNC to continue assisting in fighting back against the Democrats' never-ending witch hunt and attacks on him." Trump's lawyer Ronald P. Fischetti is representing him as prosecutors in Manhattan weigh the possibility of charging him with fraud. At issue is whether Trump inflated the value of his assets to defraud lender. The office of the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., has questioned one of Trump's accountants before a grand jury in recent weeks. In a parallel civil fraud investigation, the New York State attorney general, Letitia James, whose office is also involved in the criminal inquiry, is seeking to question Trump under oath. The former president has accused both investigations of being politically motivated, and many Republican leaders have echoed his arguments.


Supreme Court Allows Vaccine Mandate for New York Health Care Workers

The Supreme Court refused to block New York's requirement that health care workers be vaccinated against the coronavirus even when they cite religious objections. As is often the Court's practice in rulings on emergency applications, its unsigned order included no reasoning. However, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch filed a 14-page dissent saying that the majority had betrayed the Court's commitment to religious liberty. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined Justice Gorsuch's dissent. Justice Clarence Thomas also said that he would have blocked the vaccine requirement, but he gave no reasons. Cases challenging President Biden's vaccine mandates affecting the private sector may soon reach the Court as well. Challenges to the mandates -- for federal contractors, health care workers, and companies with more than 100 employees -- are pending in lower courts.

Appeals Court Reinstates the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Vaccine Mandate for Workers at Larger Businesses

A federal appeals panel reinstated a Biden administration rule requiring larger companies to mandate that their workers get vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit to weekly testing by early January. The decision, by a split three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati, overturned a ruling last month by its counterpart in New Orleans, the Fifth Circuit, that had blocked the government from carrying out the rule. The contested rule, issued by the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has faced a wave of lawsuits from businesses and Republican-controlled states. Several challengers immediately said that they planned to file or already had filed emergency motions with the Supreme Court to block the rule. "The record establishes that Covid-19 has continued to spread, mutate, kill and block the safe return of American workers to their jobs," wrote Judge Jane B. Stranch. "To protect workers, OSHA can and must be able to respond to dangers as they evolve."

As U.S. Nears 800,000 Virus Deaths, 1 of Every 100 Older Americans Has Perished

As the coronavirus pandemic approaches the end of a second year, the United States stands on the cusp of surpassing 800,000 deaths from the virus, and no group has suffered more than older Americans. All along, older people have been known to be more vulnerable, but the scale of loss is only now coming into full view. Seventy-five percent of people who have died of the virus in the United States -- or about 600,000 of the nearly 800,000 who have perished so far -- have been 65 or older. One in 100 older Americans has died from the virus. For people younger than 65, that ratio is closer to 1 in 1,400.

The End of a Return-to-Office Date

Return-to-office dates used to be like talismans; the chief executives who set them seemed to wield some power over the shape of the months to come. Then the dates were postponed, and postponed again. At some point the spell was broken. For many companies, office reopening plans have lost their fear factor, coming to seem like wishful thinking rather than a sign of futures filled with alarm clocks, commutes and pants that actually button. The return-to-office date is gone. It's been replaced with "we'll get back to you."

Offices Shut and Holiday Parties Dim as a Familiar Feeling Sinks In

Office workers watched as events unfolded that were at once familiar and jarring in their persistence: Covid case counts ballooned and employer plans deflated. The United States is reporting an average of more than 120,000 new Covid cases each day, up 40% from two weeks ago. New York City is experiencing a spike in cases larger than any since last winter. Employers that had been growing bolder in their plans -- reopening offices, mandating or strongly suggesting that workers report back, promising holiday blowouts -- are now scaling back their ambitions for in-person business and socializing.

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