Expanded, Amended Complaint Filed In Trump Emoluments Lawsuit
The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed an amended complaint expanding its lawsuit against President Trump. The lawsuit, filed in the SDNY, accuses Trump of violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution. The amended complaint is meant to address weaknesses in the initial lawsuit, which did not have a clear victim. It alleges that restaurants and their employees are harmed by Trump because they have to compete directly with restaurants owned by Trump or those in which he has a financial interest. Additionally, the amended complaint alleges that hoteliers are harmed by the presence of the Trump International Hotel in Washington, which is set to receive a $32 million tax credit to offset some of the costs of renovation. The Justice Department will likely counter that the emolument clause is only meant to cover gifts and compensation for services, and does not prohibit ordinary, arms-length transactions for services.
Ivanka's Continued Brand Extension on the Global Stage Is Raising Eyebrows
Ivanka Trump remains one of the most highly visible of President Trump's children, and historically has accepted the role of representing her father and the Trump brand in business dealings around the globe. As she entered into a new role as White House Advisor, she stepped down from her company and the Trump Organization and put her brand in a trust. She is subject to increasing scrutiny, due to her many overseas business dealings, especially now that she literally has a seat at the table with leaders of foreign countries where she has extensive business ventures. Trump is covered by the emoluments clause, barring her from accepting any benefit from a foreign leader or foreign state. She also must also recuse herself from any government decisions that may have an impact on her financial holdings. Trump maintains that she is abiding by her ethical obligations. However, even if she follows all of the rules, the mere sight of her at the table raises many eyebrows.
New Trademarks for Ivanka Trump's Brand Approved Same Day as State Dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping
Chinese officials maintain that they properly handled trademark applications filed by Ivanka Trump's brand. Earlier this month, Trump received approval of three of her trademark registrations on the same day her father hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at a state dinner at Mar-a-Lago. A spokesperson for Ivanka Trump stated that the filings were defensive, and a normal activity for a brand striving to protect itself. The approved trademarks covered jewelry, bags, and spa services.
Female Partner Who Sued for Gender Discrimination Expelled From Chadbourne & Parke
In a partnership vote at Chadbourne & Parke this week, Kerrie L. Campbell was expelled from the partnership. Campbell had sued the firm for gender discrimination, arguing that it paid female partners less and offered fewer opportunities for advancement than their male counterparts. Earlier in the week, a federal district court judge blocked her efforts to stop the vote. The firm maintained that her expulsion was unrelated to the lawsuit, and were instead related to her performance. Chadbourne joined the firm in 2014, and said she made multiple complaints about unequal pay that were ignored. By 2016, she was told that her practice no longer fit with the firm's direction, and that she should leave. She refused to depart, and ultimately brought suit against the firm. Two other female partners joined in the lawsuit.
While such "public ousters" are uncommon, the usual practice is for a partner to leave voluntarily if he or she brings a lawsuit. Chadbourne was recently acquired by Norton Rose Fulbright, and the new, merged firm will be left with the cleanup from the ouster and ongoing lawsuit.
In a statement on Thursday, Ivanka Trump said that she would donate unpaid proceeds from her book, "Women Who Work," to charity, including the National Urban League and the Boys & Girls Club of America. Her goal, through these donations, is to continue to empower women. Trump created the Ivanka M. Trump Charitable Fund, which will hold and distribute the unpaid proceeds and future royalties from the book. The Urban League will launch a new women's initiative, and the Boys and Girls Club will allocate the money for its existing STEM program.
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Hollywood Writers Strike
Voting began on Wednesday on whether members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) will authorize a walkout. The vote will end today, and has the potential to have a lasting impact on the industry. The sides would have to reach a deal by May 1st to avoid a work stoppage. The traditional wage issues are at play, but the area where the two sides are struggling to meet is health care. The WGA wants studios to financially support their its health care coverage, which is running deficits. The studios do not want to set a precedent for bailing out the health care plan, and have asked for fundamental changes in how the plan functions. The impact of a work stoppage would be felt immediately - many shows would switch to re-runs, others would be delayed. The larger potential consequence is a significant rise in Netflix and Amazon viewers, which studios and networks are fighting to retain. The streaming services have shows that are ready to go, in addition to a large catalogue of on-demand programming.
Minnesota Northern District Court Judge Blocks the Release of New Prince Album "Deliverance"
A Minnesota District Court Judge blocked the release of "Deliverance", an album of previously unreleased music by Prince. The album was packaged and finished by a long time Prince collaborator, George Ian Boxill, who planned to release the album digitally. The judge issued a TRO blocking the release and ordered Boxill to return to the estate "all recordings acquired through his work with Paisley Park Enterprises, including original recordings, analog and digital copies." Prince's estate recently made an agreement with Universal Music Group for the bulk of Prince's recording catalogue, including unreleased material. The deal with Universal is not without its bumps, as the company claims that some of the rights it acquired under the deal conflict with rights previously secured by Warner Music. The TRO does not cover the release of the single, "Deliverance", which was released prior to the hearing and has since again been made available online.
Investigators found narcotic painkillers throughout Prince's Paisley Park home following the accidental overdose that lead to his death. Fans and friends alike were surprised by his addiction, as he embodied a healthy, clean lifestyle. Many of the drugs found in his home were those for which he did not have a prescription, and were placed in over-the-counter vitamin and aspirin containers. Investigators are looking to Prince's longtime friend and employee, Kirk Johnson, to determine whether he knew the extent of Prince's addiction, and whether Johnson potentially helped Prince acquire the drugs. It is unclear where Prince got the opiates that ended up killing him. Some of the drugs found at his home contained fentanyl, which can be fatal, especially if taken by someone unaware of its strength.
The Fight for 007 - Five Studios Compete for Distribution Rights
The competition for the distribution rights of the James Bond brand is hot and heavy, considering the value of the rights at play is relatively small. MGM and Eon Productions control the Bond franchise. Sony Pictures Entertainment has held the rights to James Bond since 2006, with a contract to market and distribute four films. The recently expired contract was not very lucrative for Sony - it required the studio to pay 50% of the production costs, but Sony only received 25% of the profits after costs were recouped. Sony had to pay marketing and promotional fees, and also gave MGM a percentage of the profits in another project. However, James Bond films are almost certain to be global blockbusters, and as the industry becomes less certain, studios are clamoring to have a Bond movie in the works. The current contract over which the studios are fighting is for one film, perhaps so the franchise owners can consider selling the franchise or seeking a public offering.
Session Musicians and Backup Singers Cheer for the AFM & SAG-AFTRA IP Rights Distribution Fund
$60 million in royalties was distributed in 2016 to non-feature performers, including session musicians and backup singers. The AFM & SAG-AFTRA IP Rights Distribution Fund is a joint union fund, which collects royalties from digital platforms. It distributes royalties to performers, regardless of their union membership or affiliation. There are several arms of the fund, including the sound recording division, symphonic royalties division, and audiovisual division. The fund distributes far less than the larger SAG-AFTRA residual distribution fund, or the AFM's audiovisual disbursements, but the individual distributions can be quite large, and these sometimes-overlooked performers are grateful.
Disbarment and Up to Three Years In Prison for Lawyer Who Stole From a Judge's Estate
Queens Attorney Frank Racano received a one to three year prison sentence and automatic disbarment for stealing from the estate of the late Supreme Court Judge John L. Phillips. Racano had been entrusted with the proceeds from the sale of Judge Phillips' estate, which included the Slave Theater in Brooklyn. Over the course of two years, Racano wrote himself checks from the trust account, stealing close to the entire proceeds. In addition to his sentence, Racano was ordered to reimburse the estate.
The pending lawsuit in the New York State Court system is one of a series of suits attempting to reclaim pieces from the collection of Fritz Grunbaum, an Austrian Jew who died at Dachau. Grunbaum had a sizeable collection that was confiscated by Nazis in the late 1938s. His heirs are attempting to reclaim pieces from the collection bit by bit. The Appellate Division, First Department, ruled that the pending lawsuit may move forward, despite the existence of a separate lawsuit over a related artwork. The pieces that are the subject of the lawsuit are two drawings by Egon Schiele.
SPORTS 80 Game Suspension For Pittsburgh Pirate's Rising Star
Starling Marte, a player for the Pittsburgh Pirates, was handed an 80-game suspension after testing positive for nandrolone. Under the baseball's rules, first time offenders receive an 80 game suspension, without pay, and players become ineligible for postseason if they served their suspension during the season for using a performance-enhancing drug. Marte issued an apology to his fans and teammates.
Moral Conflict at the National Football League As It Establishes a Presence in Las Vegas
As the Raiders move to Las Vegas, the National Football League (NFL) must come to terms with its moral stance on gambling, with a franchise making its home in a city that has made gambling a way of life. The NFL has strongly opposed gambling, and actively fought efforts to let states introduce sports gambling. It also penalizes players or personnel who appear at casinos - while team owners collect sponsorship money from casinos, state lotteries, and fantasy football providers. The NFL has time to come to terms with these contradictions, as the Raiders' move to Las Vegas won't occur for another two years.
Phil Jackson Chastised by Union for Public Comments
The National Basketball Player's Association (NBPA) chastised Phil Jackson for his public comments about Carmello Anthony's employment with the Knicks. The NBPA has a gag rule for players, which forbids them from discussing a desire to be employed elsewhere. It argues that management should be held to the same standards. Jackson has come under criticism for his behavior in the past, including a $25,000 fine in 2014 for tampering.
Roll Call of Inauguration Donors Includes NFL and Major League Baseball Owners
Recently released documents show the sources for the $107 million raised for Donald Trump's inauguration. Among the list of donors, which filled 510 pages, were notable names in the NFL. Six, and possibly seven, team owners contributed $1 million each: Daniel Snyder (Washington Redskins), Stan Kroenke (Los Angeles Rams), Shahid R. Kahn (Jacksonville Jaguars), Bob McNair (Houston Texans), Robert K. Kraft (New England Patriots), and Wood Johnson (New York Jets). Additionally, Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys does not appear on the list by name, but he is listed as president of Glenstone Limited Partnership, the corporation that controls the Cowboys. Edward Glazer, whose family co-owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, contributed $250,000. Additionally, if the love of Trump by the NFL wasn't already apparent, NFL Ventures LP contributed $100,000. Finally, feeling the pressure from the NFL, the office of the commissioner of Major League Baseball donated a sizeable amount, as did Marlene Ricketts, whose family owns the Chicago Cubs. Other donors to the inauguration included friends from the resorts and casino industries, the energy industry, visa supporters, a company associated with the Venezuelan oil industry, a prominent catering company, and a slew of anonymous donors.
Former New England Patriot's tight end, Aaron Hernandez, recently committed suicide in prison. He had been convicted in 2015 of first-degree murder, and less than a week ago was found not guilty in another murder case, a shooting that took place in 2012. Prison officials attempted lifesaving techniques, but were unsuccessful. Hernandez was later pronounced dead at the hospital. He is survived by his four-year old daughter.
Federal Communications Commission Set to Roll Back Telecom Rules
Two votes to roll back Obama-era rules were set for last Thursday, paving the way for Ajit Pai's mission to deregulate the telecommunications and broadcast industries. Republicans and large industry firms strongly support these rollbacks, while consumer groups argue that consumers will be on the hook for higher prices and fewer options for services. One of the items up for vote was a plan to allow broadband providers to charge businesses higher prices to connect to their networks. The other item was a measure easing limits on the number of stations a broadcast company can own. Pai has argued that media ownership rules are out of date, given the rise of Internet companies, such as Facebook and Netflix.
Federal Communications Commission Taps Tech Companies for Views on Net Neutrality
The Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) met with various tech companies this week to get their feedback on the agency's proposed net neutrality rollbacks. Ajit Pai, the Chairman of the FCC, said his goal was to find "common ground" with the tech industry. As mentioned above, Pai is on a mission to deregulate the industry, and aims to ease restrictions placed on large telecom and broadcast TV companies. His primary targets are net neutrality and the classification of broadband as a utility service. Consumer groups are wary of the direction Pai is taking the FCC, and argue that the actions are an example of how money influences politics. Critics fear that media consolidation gives a voice only to a few the largest companies.
Mounting Sexual Harassment Claims Leads Fox to Oust O'Reilly
Bill O'Reilly was fired by Fox News, after a New York Times investigation revealed multiple settlements with women who complained about O'Reilly engaging in inappropriate behavior. In the aftermath of the investigation, 50 advertisers pulled from his show, and women inside and outside the company called for him to be pushed out. O'Reilly was the network's biggest asset, having served as an anchor at Fox since 1996. His departure marks the third significant loss for the network - including the departure of Roger Alies, also amidst a sexual harassment scandal, and Megyn Kelly, who departed on her own terms in January. Fox had recently extended O'Reilly's contract for an additional four years, but was aware of previous sexual harassment allegations and built in protections for the company. The network filled his spot with Tucker Carlson, and shifted its programming schedule. The women who came forward with their claims are encouraged by Fox's action, and many others are hopeful that this will, once and for all, signal a culture shift within the company.
Advertisers Drop From "The O'Reilly Factor" Like Flies
At its height, "The O'Reilly Factor" boasted 30 nationally broadcast spots each night, and had a roster of sponsors that included Mercedes-Benz and Aleve. In the wake of the New York Times investigation that revealed an ongoing sexual harassment scandal, two-thirds of the show's advertisers pulled out. The Times called it "a strikingly swift fall ushered in by an advertising exodus." Brands are well aware of the impact consumers can have, and know they can be hurt if they don't separate themselves from controversial issues that could strike a chord with their customers. While many companies merely shifted their revenue to other Fox News programs, the message that almost 50 major brands pulled their support from O'Reilly was clear. Social media played an increasing role as well, bytracking where brands place their ads. Consumers are starting to realize the power of where they place their dollars. The quick reaction of Fox in this case was surprising to all.
The Ouster of O'Rielly Comes With a Price Tag of $25 Million
Many were shocked when rumors circulated about Bill O'Reilly's exit package from Fox News. He will receive a payout of $25 million, the amount of his annual salary. This now brings the amount Fox has spent surrounding sexual harassment allegations to more than $85 million.
Debate at the Justice Department Over Whether to Prosecute Julian Assange
The Justice Department is again deciding whether to charge WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with espionage, or alternately theft of government documents. Mr. Assange was involved in disclosing classified documents that revealed C.I.A. software and techniques for hacking into electronics. An anonymous law enforcement official told the New York Times that the Attorney General was pressuring the Eastern District of Virginia to bring charges, but that prosecutors are skeptical that the charges will stick. The ACLU spoke out against the prosecution. Assange maintains that he is a journalist, who seeks to publish truthful information. Prosecution of him would "set a dangerous precedent," potentially leading to the Trump administration targeting other news organizations for obtaining and publishing information.
Former Inmate Sues Crime Magazine For Falsely Labeling Him As An Informant
Popular among prison inmates, and known as "the original street bible," the crime magazine Don Diva was sued by an inmate who claims that the magazine falsely labeled him a "rat," causing him to suffer a horrible 10 years in prison as a result. Russell Allen pleaded guilty to participating in a drug conspiracy run by Kenneth (Supreme) McGriff, a notorious Queens drug lord. Don Diva interviewed McGriff, who stated that Allen had testified against him. The statement was inaccurate, and although the magazine retracted the statement in a subsequent issue, the damage was done. In Allen's lawsuit, he claimed that he suffered death threats, time in solitary confinement, and was disowned by his family, which withdrew its financial and emotional support. The retraction never made it into the prison system. The magazine was banned from the prison system by federal officials - before the retraction was published - because of its reputation for revealing informants. Don Diva, without claiming fault, offered Mr. Allen a feature-length article about his experience if he drops the suit.
A Mix of Relief and Frustration Over Trump's "Buy American and Hire American" Visa Reform Order
Large Silicon Valley tech companies heaved a sigh of relief over President Trump's recent Executive Order that promised an overhaul of the H1-B foreign technical worker visa process. However, smaller tech startups feel the overhaul will discriminate against them, as they already struggle to attract talent due to the lower salaries they are able to offer. The Order, rather than outline significant overhauls, instead asks for a series of reports on the visa program. Critics of the Order say that it doesn't actually address the issue of foreign workers. One reform for which the Administration continues to advocate is changing the visa lottery system to give preference to the highest-paying jobs, which it says will help insure that only the "most skilled and highest-paid applicants" receive visas, and that talented American employees aren't replaced by foreign workers. This works in favor of the tech giants, but may negatively impact small startups, which are part of the heart of Silicon Valley.
Mark Zuckerberg's strategy for dominating the social media world is to focus on building and maintaining a presence as the biggest network. He is less concerned with developing new technologies than buying, implementing, and improving them. Facebook does this time and time again - starting with the purchase of Instagram and WhatsApp. The company then incorporates elements of these platforms that have made them so popular into the Facebook network, basically "heisting" them. Zuckerberg recently offered to buy Snapchat for $3 billion. When his offer was refused, he simply developed his own brand of "augmented reality," which debuted in recent weeks, that many believe will undercut Snapchat. People are critical of this method - taking ideas and improving them - while others say it is in the spirit of the tech industry, and a company like Facebook is in a better position to develop some of these technologies due to networks and supports they already have in place.
New YouTube Ad Placement Algorithms Negatively Impacting Small, Independent Media
Small, YouTube-based media outlets rely on ad revenue to fund their operations. YouTube's recent shifting ad placement algorithms have had a significant and negative impact on these smaller producers, and some argue have had the effect of chilling speech. Algorithms are used by YouTube to determine ad placement, and have to process 400 hours of content that is uploaded to the site every minute. The programs often cannot determine context, or distinguish commentary from hate speech. The system blocks ads from being placed next to content that it considers "not advertiser-friendly," and while it will exclude sexual humor and depictions of violence or drug use, it also excludes news reporting about those subjects. Content creators feel that the ad placement system needs to be further developed to "decipher context," and they fear speaking their minds or providing "honest" commentary for fear of losing revenue and being branded as not "brand-friendly."
Apple's App Store Content Subject to Chinese Scrutiny
Chinese efforts to regulate Internet content in the country have met challenges as the mobile phone industry continues to grow. Most recently, Chinese authorities indicated that they would summon Apple to discuss video streaming apps available in the company's App store, which authorities believe may be facilitating the streaming of forbidden live content. Other large tech companies, such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter, have long been banned from China, and Apple remains a rarity among foreign-owned companies that are allowed to offer content and apps through their own platforms. Apple withdrew its iBooks and iTunes Movies apps recently at the request of the Chinese government, and also pulled some news apps, such as the New York Times app, from its Chinese app store. Three agencies reportedly approached Apple regarding the summons.
Ann Coulter Determined to Keep Her Original Contract Date at UC Berkeley
UC Berkeley has attempted to reschedule a speech by Ann Coulter that it originally cancelled after receiving "specific intelligence" of threats that could cause danger to Coulter and others if she appeared on the college campus. Coulter has stated that she will show up on campus on the date outlined in her contract, regardless of the threats, and has sharply criticized the University for failing to provide adequate protections. She is not alone in her criticism, as people from across political spectrums are disappointed by the move and believe that it is a "letdown for free speech." A lawyer for the Berkeley College Republicans and the Young America's Foundation, who are sponsoring Coulter's appearance, has threatened to sue the University if it doesn't allow her speech to proceed. The University maintains that its primary goal is to keep both Coulter and the greater student body of 36,000 safe, and is struggling to understand why she continues to demand the event to proceed regardless of credible threats that would place the safety of so many at risk.