Below is the previous week's news in the categories of Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media, and General News:
R. Kelly Faces Two New Counts of Sex Crimes in Minnesota
Following an alleged incident involving the prostitution and solicitation of an underage fan at a concert, R. Kelly is now facing four sets of separate sex-crime charges. Kelly is already facing multiple federal and state sex-crime charges in the Eastern District of New York, Northern District of Illinois, and Cook County in Illinois. The three-year statute of limitations for such cases in Minnesota only applied if Kelly remained in the state. This case is also urging Minnesota to change its laws to "more properly reflect crimes" against children, because as it currently stands, the only available statute under which he can be charged is the prostitution statute.
Star of the ABC "Rookie" series, actress Afton Williamson will not be returning to the second season after accusing fellow actor Demetrius Gross of sexual harassment and assault and the show's Hair Department Head of racial bullying and discrimination. The ABC network is waiting for the outside investigation to run its course before taking any action.
Movie Studio Cancels Release of 'The Hunt' in Response to Shootings
Universal Studios has canceled the release of its upcoming satirical thriller, "The Hunt", about a group of Americans who are captured to be hunted and killed for sport. The decision came after criticism from President Trump and the back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton.
A Beloved Novelist of Black Identity in America: Toni Morrison, 1931 - 2019
Pulitzer Prize winning and Nobel laureate Toni Morrison passed away after a short illness at the age of 88. Morrison was a legendary novelist and playwright whose work who used the lenses of racial and gender identity to explore American identity. Born in 1931, Morrison did not publish her first novel, The Bluest Eye, until the 1970's, and it is considered to be a classic. Some of her other more notable works include Beloved and Song of Solomon. Morrison was the first black woman in history to win the Nobel Prize for Literature and also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama in 2012.
The Metropolitan Opera and former conductor James Levine have ended their legal battle of more than a year, after the Met fired Levine amid sexual misconduct allegations. Levine was suspended back in 2017 after several male students accused the legendary conduction of sexual abuse dating all the way back to the 1960s. Levine filed suit against the opera house in March of 2018 claiming the accusations were baseless and he sought $5.8 million in damages. The Met subsequently filed a counterclaim. The details of the settlement have not been made public.
Japan-South Korea Tussle Forces Art Exhibit Closing
An exhibit at a major Japanese art festival was recently shut down following protests. This comes at a time when diplomatic ties between Japan and South Korea are at a new low because of disputes over wartime history and trade policy. The exhibit "Statue of a Girl of Peace" depicted "comfort women" or "ianfu" who provided sex (most often against their wills) for Japanese troops before and during WWII. The exhibit has received many threats and criticism, which led to its closing.
A 17-year-old has been charged with attempted murder after tossing a 6-year-old boy off of the popular viewing platform at the Tate Modern. The boy fell approximately 100 feet before he landed on a fifth-floor rooftop and was airlifted to a nearby hospital. He has remained in stable but critical condition. There is no known connection between the teenager and the young boy and the motive is unknown. The museum is still open to the public, but it is unknown whether the platform will be reopened.
Sponsors Join Soccer's Equal-Pay Fight, Taking a Cue From Consumers
U.S. soccer players and their union are in a battle with U.S. Soccer Federation over gender discrimination against female athletes. The players are using the power of media and the influence of their sponsors to apply pressure to U.S. Soccer. Sponsors such as Nike (who has recently had its own gender discrimination issues), Visa, and Secret have already launched campaigns pushing for gender equality in sports. This all comes at a time when consumers want brands to make public their stands on a variety of social and political issues. Consumers want to support brands who share their values.
Driven by Olympic Mandates, Sport Adds More Women to the Mix
After continuing to lag behind most other sports at the Olympic Games, World Sailing has voted for full gender equity in the number of athletes and medals for the 2024 Olympics. World Sailing will achieve this goal in part by adding new races to the sport: a mixed two-person offshore race and a mixed kiteboarding relay. World Sailing's president said that these new measures have a two-fold objective, to make the sport more interesting to youth and bring up the level of mixed sport. National governing bodies have already started to mobilize to form these new teams.
Stephen Ross, the billionaire owner of the Miami Dolphins and investor in Equinox gyms and SoulCycle has come under fire for defending his decision to hold a Trump fundraiser. The decision has drawn boycott threats and criticism from within his own businesses. SoulCycle has since tried to distance itself from Ross. Kenny Stills, a wide receiver for the Dolphins, called Ross out on social media for his inconsistent efforts to fight racial inequality. Ross has a nonprofit called the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality that champions social justice and improving race relations.
Plea on Gun Violence Draws Not a Penalty, but an Award
Major League Soccer (MLS) player Alejandro Bedoya made a passionate statement against the gun violence epidemic plaguing the U.S. after scoring a goal in a game. Only hours after the mass shooting in El Paso and Dayton, Bedoya grabbed and on-field microphone and shouted "Hey Congress, do something now. End gun violence! Let's go!" Joining a long list of outspoken athletes who are calling attention to our societal ills, many thought that Bedoya would be penalized by the MLS because the outburst happened during a nationally televised game. However, not only did MLS not discipline Bedoya, it made him Monday's MLS' "Player of the Week".
After 2 more mass shooting this year, politicians are looking for a scapegoat and have circled back to an old refrain: video games. Trump and other Republicans are blaming society's glorification of violence for the uptick in mass shooting in the U.S. Video games have been getting the blame for these shooting since Columbine in 1999, although there is no evidence of a causal link between the games and violent behavior.
8chan, a "free speech" website started in 2013, has since become a haven for violent extremist rhetoric. Initially started by Fredrick Brennan as a free speech utopia in response to the increasingly restrictive 4chan, the site has now become a go-to resource for violent extremists with connections to at least 3 mass shooting this year (Christchurch, the Poway, California synagogue shooting, and the El Paso shooting). 8chan has always been home to fringe movement and internet-based communities whose speech and behavior get them removed from more mainstream sites (i.e. GamerGate, "incels", and QAnon supporters). Now being used as a megaphone (because of being nearly completely unmoderated) for mass shooters and a recruiting platform for violent white nationalists, its founder is now calling for the site to be shut down. Critics have also lobbied the site's service providers to get it taken down, since the new owners of the site are remaining defiant in the face of the criticism and one of the site's providers, Cloudflare, has since stopped working with the site.
How Trump Campaign Used Facebook Ads to Amplify "Invasion" Claim
According to the New York Times, the Trump campaign has posted more than 2,000 Facebook ads this year that use the word "invasion" spending over $1.25 million on the immigration-specific ads. With immigration a central issue for the 2020 presidential election, this is a big deal. In light of the recent El Paso shooting, these ads are coming under fire, with such lines as, "America's Safety is at Risk" and "It's Critical that we Stop the Invasion", which were mirrored in the shooter's manifesto. There is no direct evidence that these ads influenced the shooter, but the ads and Trump's rhetoric are coming under heavy scrutiny.
Why Hate Speech On the Internet Is a Never-Ending Problem
Most of today's internet giants that are now the topic of heated debated about free speech and their roles in the spread of domestic terrorism were not around when the Communications Decency Act of 1996 was passed. This federal law has helped companies such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and many others thrive. However, this law also protects sites that host content from users that can be classified as hate speech on these fringe sites. Section 230 of the Act shields these websites from liability for content posted by their users, and they can moderate their sites without being liable for the content they host. In light of recent events and intensified scrutiny of big tech companies, lawmakers are questioning whether Section 230 should be changed.
Palin's Lawsuit Against New York Times Is Reinstated
A federal appeals court has ruled that a lower court was wrong to dismiss former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's defamation lawsuit against the New York Times over an editorial linking her to a 2011 mass shooting. The editorial, published in 2017, suggested that material distributed by Palin's Political Action Committee played a role in inciting a mass shooting in Tucson, Ariz. that killed 6 people and wounded Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The New York Times corrected the editorial two days later, saying there was "no such link established." Due to a procedural irregularity, the case was sent back down and the actual merits of the defamation case will be up to a lower court to decide.
Facebook lost a federal appeal in a lawsuit over facial recognition data after a federal appeals court rejected its effort to undo a class action lawsuit claiming that it illegally collected and stored biometric data for millions of its users without their consent. The company now faces a massive damages payment over its privacy practices.
President Trump's talking points around major U.S. events recently have been mirroring statements and theories that emerged from conservative media outlets, such as Fox News. Not only did Trump's statements after the El Paso shooting echo media pundit statements, but so did his statements about the city of Baltimore last month. Trump is even following suit by "condemning" the "racism, bigotry and white supremacy", while blaming mental health issues and video games for the violence and refusing to toughen gun control measures. The New York Post, a pro-Trump outlet, has broken from the pack, urging the President to take action on the mass shooting and gun control.
Acquisition of Gannett Creates Print Goliath in a $1.4 Billion Deal
New Media Investment Group Inc. (GateHouse Media) agreed to acquire Gannett Co. (USA Today and more than 100 other publications nationwide) in a $1.4 Billion deal that unites the two biggest U.S. daily newspaper chains in an industry that's consolidating to survive.
Fight Turns to Domestic Terror Without a Clear Path to Follow
The recent shootings in El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH has renewed the debate over how the U.S. should combat domestic terrorism. Homegrown terrorism, especially that by white supremacists, is now as big a threat as terrorism from abroad, but the U.S. is ill-equipped to protect against it. Officials say that preventing these attacks requires adopting the same type of broad, aggressive approaches used to fight international extremism, but many in this administration are hesitant to do so. Under current federal law, officials have few options to curtail these events before they happen domestically because of First Amendment issues, lack of agency jurisdiction, and a lack of penalties.
G.O.P. Gets Behind Bills in Congress for Gun Seizures and Washington's Eyes Turn to McConnell for Response to Gun Violence
After recent mass shootings, Congressional Republicans are under intense pressure to come together around legislation that would move to take weapons from high-risk individuals. If the measure is signed into law, it would be the most significant gun control legislation within the last 20 years. These "red flag" laws, although not as strong as now-expired assault weapons ban or the bills passed by the House in February, are still running into opposition from Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. After the back-to-back shootings, Republicans are starting to call for more restrictions.
Gun control organizations are also turning their focus on Mitch McConnell and other vulnerable Senate Republicans who are up for re-election in 2020. These politicians blocked a background check bill passed in February by the Democratic-controlled House. In light of the recent mass shootings, the conversations around background checks and other gun control methods are at the forefront of the political debate.
An Echo of Trump's Language In Texas Gunman's Manifesto
The 21-year old accountable for the El Paso shooting that killed 20 people and injured dozens more wrote a manifesto decrying immigration and used language akin to the fear-stoking language President Trump uses when discussing border security and immigration. Trump denies any connection or influence, while Democratic presidential candidates argue that he is encouraging this extremism. Trump's staff and advisors say it is unreasonable to hold him responsible for the heinous acts of these extremist or white supremacists.
In an effort to force Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to step down, the Trump administration has escalated its pressure campaign by placing new sanctions on the Venezuelan government. In an executive order issued last week, the U.S. will freeze and block the transfer of all Venezuelan government property and assets in the U.S. These sanctions will also apply to any U.S. individuals or entities who/that try to do business with Venezuela. While this is going on, the humanitarian and economic crisis still ravages the country. The U.S. has now put Venezuela in the same league as Cuba and Nicaragua. It is unclear what effect these new sanctions will have on Maduro and the status quo.
According to the World Meteorological Organization, July was the hottest or equal to the hottest month in recorded history. This news comes along with the forecasting of the years 2015 to 2019 being the 5 hottest on record. Temperature records have been shattered all around the world this year as an effect of climate change and climate disruption.
Water usage has been growing at more than twice the rate of the human population and as of 2019, 17 countries are now experiencing "extremely high" levels of baseline water stress. Around 1.7 billion people are currently living in areas where agriculture, industries, and cities withdraw 80% of their available water supply every year. Water stress can lead to food insecurity, conflict and migration, and financial instability. New solutions are emerging, but not fast enough. It's a grim future if the world's population doesn't improve its agricultural efficiency, decrease water usage, and recycle.
The United Nations warns that the world's land and water resources are being exploited at "unprecedented rates", which combined with climate change, is putting dire pressure on the ability of the world to feed itself. The report also concluded that the window to address the threat is closing rapidly, half a billion people already live in places turning into desert. Climate change will make it even worse as extreme weather threatens to disrupt, and over time shrink, the global food supply.
Jailhouse Lawyer Propels a Case to the Supreme Court
Calvin Duncan, a former inmate at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, identified an issue that is now before the U.S. Supreme Court. The pending case, Ramos v. Louisiana, is asking the Court whether it is constitutional to allow nonunanimous verdicts in state criminal trials. The Court might overrule a 1972 decision and hold that the Sixth Amendment requires unanimity; this case has the potential to save hundreds of individuals from life in prison, although the change would not apply retroactively.
In Puerto Rico, Installation of the New Governor is Challenged
Puerto Rico is facing its biggest constitutional crisis and days of protests after Governor Ricardo Rossello was forced to leave office. Senate President Schatz has filed a constitutional challenge after Rossello's handpicked successor, Pedro Pierluisi was sworn in as governor without confirmation from the Senate. The lawsuit claims that consent duty under the island's constitution was usurped and Pierluisi should be removed. This case could lead to further political turmoil of the bankrupt government.
Veteran protestors, as young as 7 years old, have had to flee gunshots and tear gas while marching against police brutality. A generation of largely African-American children in Ferguson have been molded by the unrest of 2014 and the aftermath that has followed. They are no longer able to just be kids; they are now scarred by their traumatic experiences and the stigma of Ferguson.
Epstein is Dead; Found in His Cell in New York Jail
The Justice Department is investigating the "apparent" suicide, while in federal custody, of disgraced millionaire financier who was accused of sex trafficking. The 66-year-old was not on suicide watch at the time of his death, even though two weeks prior he was found injured in his cell with marks on his neck. His death came the day after a trove of court documents was unsealed, providing new details about the sex ring and naming names. Epstein's death leaves many questions unanswered.
The U.S ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman, is resigning after a "historically difficult" term. Huntsman's 2-year tenure in Moscow was repeatedly undermined by frictions between the two superpowers. In 2018, critics called for Huntsman's resignation after the questionable summit in Helsinki between Trump and Putin. Huntsman has served in 5 presidential administrations and is rumored to be considering a third term as Utah governor once he returns to his home state. He officially steps down on October 3rd.
One of Two Charges Against Ex-Obama Aide is Dropped
Former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig, accused of lying about foreign lobbying for Ukraine, has had one of his two criminal charges dropped by a federal judge. Judge Amy Berman Jackson dismissed a count of making false and misleading states to the Department of Justice's Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA unit, because of ambiguity in the breadth of the provision under which the charge was brought. The other lying charge was brought under a separate but related law and will still proceed to trial. Craig had argued that both counts should be dismissed. He faced a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison for each count.
Man Who Sent Pipe Bombs to Trump Critics is Sentenced to 20 Years
Fifty-seven-year-old Floridian Cesar Sayoc who admitted to sending 16 pipe bombs to prominent Democrats and CNN was sentenced to 20 years in prison. His bombs targeted individuals such as Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, and Robert DeNiro, as well as the New York and Atlanta CNN offices.
Federal Bureau of Investigation Opens Domestic Terrorism Investigation in Gilroy
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has now opened a domestic terrorism investigation into last month's mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California after finding that the shooter had a list of potential targets of violence. The motive for the attack is still unknown. The 19-year-old gunman killed 3 people before dying of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, when he opened fire on July 28th. The potential targets on the list included religious institutions, federal buildings, courthouses, and political organizations from both parties.
FBI Agent Says His Firing Was Politically Motivated
Former FBI agent Peter Strzok is suing the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI, alleging that his firing was politically motivated and violated his constitutional rights. Strzok is accusing FBI deputy director of relenting to pressure from President Trump and his political allies after Strzok criticized the President. Strzok also alleges that the DOJ and FBI violated his First and Fifth Amendment rights by firing him for expressing his political views and depriving him of the right to due process to challenge his firing and violations of the Privacy Act. Furthermore, Strzok's lawsuit contrasts his firing with the way the White House has handled other controversies.
Lawsuit Accuses Boy Scouts of Hiding Extent of Abuse
800 former Boy Scouts accuse leaders of abuse. They claim that Boy Scouts of America didn't properly vet volunteers and engaged in a cover-up to hide "the extent of the pedophilia epidemic within their organization." Incidents were either not reported to law enforcement or were kept hidden from family members.
When A Message From Mom is Against the Law: A Battle Over Extending Birth Parents' Rights
Lawmakers are clashing over a new New York adoption law that would give more rights to birth parents even when adoptive parents object. The emotionally charged legislation would fundamentally shift the relationship between birth parents and their children after a court has taken the children away permanently and another family steps in to adopt them. Under this new law, a judge can order children stay in contact with their birth parents if it "helps the child". Only 8 other states allow similar leeway. The New York legislature has passed the measure and the bill is currently awaiting Gov. Cuomo's signature.
Prosecutors in California Say District Set Up Purposely Segregated School
A school district in one of California's wealthiest counties has agreed to desegregate a flailing school that the state attorney general found was intentionally created to segregate students and it "knowingly and intentionally maintained and exacerbated" racial segregation. To track the district's progress, the state has created a desegregation advisory group after a 2-year state investigation.
Trump Campaign Challenges California's Tax Return Law
President Trump's re-election campaign and the Republican party has sued California over a new state law requiring presidential primary candidates to release their tax returns. The new legislation would require the returns to qualify for the state ballot and its constitutionality has been called into question in a number of legal challenges. Qualifications for running for president are defined in the U.S. Constitution and it is argued that California is overstepping its authority. It is unclear in which direction the courts will go, as legal opinions are varied on the constitutionality, but the lawsuits will delay its implementation until after the 2020 election.
New York Expands National Rifle Association Investigation to Include Group's Board Members
The National Rifle Association's (NRA's) court battle began in early 2018 when Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed banks, insurers, and other state-licensed financial companies to review their relationships with the NRA and other gun rights groups for "reputational risk". The NRA fired back with free-speech claims, but their latest maneuver demanding that NY produces a wide range of investigatory documents was rejected by U.S. Magistrate Judge Christian Hummel. On August 6th, Attorney General Letitia James issued a subpoena for documents from more than 90 current and former members of the NRA's board, looking at whether the organization has misused funds earmarked for charitable purposes.
FedEx has announced that it is ending its ground delivery contract with Amazon.com, essentially severing ties with one the world's biggest shippers. Amazon is bolstering its own delivery network. FedEx ended its air cargo services for the company back in June. It is noted that Amazon accounted for less than 1.3% of FedEx's total revenue for 2018. Amazon's aggressive plans to expand internal shipping is threatening regular delivery providers, like FedEx and UPS.
U.S. Moves to Ban Huawei From Government Contracts
In furtherance of the trade war between the U.S. and China, the White House is expected to start implementing provisions of a law that bars the U.S. government from doing business with Huawei Technologies and several other Chinese companies. The Chinese telecommunications giant is trying to block the rule in court. Huawei is a giant maker of telecommunications equipment and smartphones. The prohibition is part of a broader defense bill signed into law last year that covers direct purchases that have raised security concerns inside the American government.
China Deploys Currency as Lever in Trade Feud, Jolting Global Markets
In response to President Trump's trade tariffs and the intensifying trade war between the U.S. and China, the Chinese central bank let the yuan depreciate, which led to a global fall in financial markets. This move could in turn stall the U.S.'s economic expansion. In response, the U.S. has designated China a currency manipulator with the International Monetary Fund for the first time since 1994. This back and forth between the world's two largest economies will continue to have an effect on global financial markets.
India has revoked Kashmir's "special status" as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist project, raising fears of unrest, and tried to cut off all communications of that region with the outside world. It's a controversial move to usurp power from the nation's only Muslim-majority state. Essentially, the government has scraped the portion of the constitution that gave the state of Jammu and Kashmir near-autonomous authority to conduct its own affairs (except for matters of foreign policy and defense). Now the area has turned from a state to a union territory under the control of India's central government in New Delhi. India unilaterally pushed to change Kashmir's status without Pakistan's buy-in which could lead to widespread unrest in the region.
Beijing to Hong Kong: Don't 'Take Restraint for Weakness'
Amid the third month of violent anti-government protests, Chinese officials have urged protesters in Hong Kong not to mistake Beijing's "restraint" for weakness. Beijing has said it will take a hard line against the protests and has no plans to open a dialogue on activists' demands for political reforms. They are also urging Hong Kong citizens to turn on the protesters. The amount of violence and property damage continues to rise and there is growing speculation that the Chinese Government will send in the People's Liberation Army.
Parliament Removes Lawmaker in Kenya for Taking Baby to Work
Kenyan lawmaker Zuleika Hassan was removed from parliament after bringing her 5-month-old baby to work. Hassan had a domestic emergency and there is no child care in the legislative building. Under Kenya's laws, the parliamentary speaker is entitled to remove anyone classed as a "stranger"--even if a child. Her ejection has prompted an uproar on both sides of the debate.
Celebrations in Sudan as Factions Sign Pact for Civilian Rule
After the recent ouster of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir (who served in that capacity for 30 years) and months of unrest, the ruling military council and pro-democracy protesters have signed a constitutional declaration establishing a 3-year transitional military-civilian period. Although this is a step towards establishing democracy in Sudan, there are still many issues (i.e. the fate of the paramilitary, immunity from prosecution and other humanitarian law issues) that were left undecided in this landmark power sharing agreement aimed at establishing civilian rule.