Free Meek Mill?

If you are someone who follows the news in the rap community, or if your just an avid Philadelphia Eagles fan, then you probably already know about the legal situation involving Meek Mill.

For those who are not familiar with this controversy, let’s start from the top of this ten year saga.

How It All Began

When he was 18 years old, Meek Mill, whose full name is Robert Rihmeek Williams, was arrested while on his way to a corner store for illegally possessing a gun. As CNN reports,
“in 2008 he was convicted on gun and drug charges stemming from this arrest and he spent eight months in prison and was sentenced to five years probation.”

In 2014 and 2016, the rapper again found himself in and out of the court system for violating the travel restrictions that were placed in his conditions of probation.

Mill’s situation again made headline news several months ago, back in November of 2017, when the rapper was found to have once again violated the terms of his probation. This time, the judge “cited a failed drug test and the rapper’s noncompliance with a court order restricting his travel.” The rapper was subsequently sent to state prison and “he would be eligible for state parole supervision after two years.”

Roughly a month later, Mill lost a request for bail after the judge assed him to be a flight risk and “a danger to the community.”

Judge Brinkely

The current controversy involving this case appears to stem around the alleged decision-making and behavior of the judge involved in these court proceedings. The rapper’s attorney,  Joe Tacopina, has been highly critical of Philadelphia Judge Genece E. Brinkley in his public comments for a long time.

Among many other statements, Tacopina has said that “(Meek’s) frustrated, really frustrated and knows he’s being treated different than anyone else,” and that “he’s been on probation for nearly 10 years. Nobody goes on probation for 10 years.”

In fact, Mill’s legal team is now being threatened by Brinkely’s attorney with a lawsuit of her own.

In this complaint, Brinkely’s attorney cites defamatory claims perpetuated by Tacopina and others regarding alleged attempts on behalf of the judge to “extort favors from the rapper” during this legal process.



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Kirk Cousins

Tagging Cousins?

The NFL season may be over, but NFL intrigue is still high. In fact, it just got higher with a recent report which states that Kirk Cousins may be franchise tagged again by the Washington Redskins.

What is a franchise tag?

Almost exactly on year ago, Sports Illustrated and ESPN published articles detailing how NFL contracts work with respect to franchise tags.

Starting from the very top, the NFL and the NFLPA (National Football League Players Association) have agreed upon players’ rights and contractual obligations in their most recent CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement), which is in operation until after the 2020 season.

Under this current CBA, when a player’s contract nears expiration and he is about to be made eligible for free agency, the team that he is under contract with at that moment can designate him with this tag. As stated by ESPN, this labor designation “restricts a player’s potential movement in exchange for a high one-year salary.”

How does a franchise tag work?

There are two types of franchise tags. In an “exclusive rights” franchise tag, the player is stuck with his team for the upcoming season, and his agent is not allowed to entertain offers from other teams. However, the player’s compensation for that season would be worth “the average of the five-largest salaries at [that] player’s position through the end of [that] current year’s restricted free-agent signing period, or 120 percent of the player’s salary the previous year — whichever is greater.”

There are also a “non-exclusive” franchise tag, in which the player has the ability to sign an offer sheet with other teams, but the original team can match the offer’s exact terms or let the player leave and obtain several first round picks from the new team. The compensation rules under this tag are the same as those under the exclusive tag, according to ESPN.

Why tag Cousins?

Following several poor seasons, the Washington Redskins began their offseason this winter by trading one of their cornerbacks and a draft pick for the Chief’s Alex Smith.

Washington – which will reportedly sign Smith to a four-year extension with an average pay of $23.5 million annually, $94 million overall, and $70 million guaranteed – currently has two starting quarterbacks and two primary options for handling this dilemma.

First, they could let Cousins walk out and become a free agent, thereby allowing him to go anywhere he desires. Second, they can place a franchise tag on Cousins for the third consecutive year, and, in so doing, either trade him for players/picks or receive the benefits of him leaving while under a non-exclusive tag.

However, as ESPN also points out, tagging Cousins comes with considerable risk: “Washington could not trade him until he signs the franchise tag, and if Cousins wanted, he could delay signing it for weeks or even months, with the Redskins having to count his approximate $34.5 million against their salary cap … [However] if Washington decided to pull the franchise tag to get Cousins’ contract off its salary cap, it would lose the right to recoup a 2019 compensatory draft pick that it would get if Cousins were able to leave right away as a free agent.”

Time will tell how this situation plays out, but, judging by Washington’s previous offseason antics with Cousins, this situation could get very interesting.


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Israeli Lawsuit Following Lorde’s Cancelled Concert

Last December, Lorde, a pop star from New Zealand, found herself in the midst of controversy.

This week, two of her fans find themselves embroiled in an international lawsuit.

Lorde’s Cancellation

In the middle of last December, the singer announced several destinations that were scheduled to host concerts for her world tour: two major cities in Russia and Tel Aviv. It was the latter city which sparked some Twitter turmoil.

Reportedly, “within minutes of the tweet, the singer was hit with backlash over her decision to perform in Israel.” Social media users implored Lorde to take part in “an economic, intellectual and artistic boycott” against Israel for the nation’s alleged crimes and injustices perpetrated against the people living under the Palestinian Authority.

Two women, a Jewish New Zealander named Justine Sachs and a Palestinian New Zealander named Nadia Abu-Shanab, even went as far as publishing an open letter to Lorde requesting that she reconsider visiting Tel Aviv during her tour.

The letter, which portrays the Israeli government as equivalent to the apartheid state that maintained power in South Africa during the second half of the 20th century, and isolates Israel as the sole target for a boycott, perpetuates oversimplified and flawed premises regarding the complex dilemma between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority.

Even the letter’s conclusion – that “playing in Tel Aviv will be seen as giving support to the policies of the Israeli government, even if you make no comment on the political situation” – can easily be argued against, for there are obvious differences between going to Tel Aviv to give a political rally in support of the Israeli goverment’s activities and going to the city to play a concert for international fans who have no connection to that city’s national government.

Nevertheless, when notified of this letter, Lorde took to Twitter with the following response: “Noted! Been speaking w many people about this and considering all options. Thank u for educating me i am learning all the time too.” Shortly thereafter, the singer announced that she would be cancelling her show in Israel.

It’s important to point out that there were also fans who took to Twitter to persuade Lorde to keep her concert in Israel. Fans pointed out that major artists – such as Justin Bieber, Guns N’ Roses, Rod Stewart, Britney Spears, Aerosmith, Radiohead, Boy George, and Bryan Adams – played in Israel in 2017 despite facing similar calls to boycott the country.

Israeli Lawsuit

This past week, Shurat HaDin, an Israeli NGO, filed a lawsuit against the two women who published the open letter. The NGO was filed this suit on behalf of three Israeli minors who had purchased tickets to Lorde’s now cancelled concert.

The lawsuit is reportedly seeking “about $13,000 in damages.”

The lawyer representing the plaintiffs provided the following explanation: “This lawsuit is an effort to give real consequences to those who selectively target Israel and seek to impose an unjust and illegal boycott against the Jewish state. They must be held to compensate Israeli citizens for the moral and emotional injury and the indignity caused by their discriminatory actions.”

As pointed out by the Jerusalem Post, the lawsuit is being brought under the 2011 Israeli Anti-Boycott law, which “allows for civil suits against entities who call for a boycott of the state. The law has never been tested in court, according to the NGO.”

The two New Zealand women have yet to be summonsed, and they recently stated that, given the unsuccessful lawsuits previously initiated by the plaintiffs’ law firm and the support that they have subsequently received from people all around the world, they are not too concerned about this matter.


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PICTURE CREDIT = Getty Images (Telegraph)

Senate Blocks Abortion Ban

**Image credit – Getty Images (Telegraph)**

Back during the beginning of January, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) introduced a bill into the House known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

Accordingly, “this bill amends the federal criminal code to make it a crime for any person to perform or attempt to perform an abortion if the probable post-fertilization age of the fetus is 20 weeks or more.”

The abortion ban in this bill came with two exceptions: “(1) [abortions that are] necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman, or (2) when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.”

Additionally, this bill did not permit the prosecution of women who got prohibited abortions, but instead, as stated above, sought to criminalize performing or attempting to perform them.

Proponents of the bill substantiated their support by citing certain “scientific evidence showing that fetuses have the capacity to feel pain beginning at 20-weeks’ gestation.” However, those who fought against the bill responded that it “imposed an arbitrary cut-off point and [that it] would be dangerous, arguing that the vast majority of abortions happen well before 20 weeks of pregnancy.”

Last October, the bill was passed by a vote of 237 to 189 in the House. If passed by the Senate, the bill was expected to be signed into law, as “during the 2016 election, Trump said he would sign a 20-week abortion ban if it made it to his desk.”

However, last night, the bill was blocked from advancing by a vote of 51 to 46 in the Senate. The bill reportedly did not even make it out of debate. The Democrats successfully filibustered the matter, as the Republicans were unable to garner the 60 votes needed to bring the bill to a final floor vote.

The 51 to 46 tally obviously did not fall strictly along party lines. Two Republicans – Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) – voted with Democrats in favoring abortion protections and voting against this bill. Three Democrats – Joe Manchin (West Virginia), Bob Casey Jr. (Pennsylvania), and Joe Donnelly (Indiana) –  split from their party’s line and voted in favor of this bill with Republicans.



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Will Trump Meet With Mueller?

**Image from The Hill / Getty Images**

Last week President Trump said something that he should not have said. Allow me to be more specific.

For those who have not been keeping up with presidential politics, special counsel Robert Mueller continues to investigate allegations involving possible collusion between President Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. In the latest event of this ongoing political saga, Trump, while answering reporters’ questions on January 25th, stated that he would be willing to meet with Mueller while under oath.

A transcript of the full statement reads as follows:

Reporter: “Are you going to talk to Mueller?”
TRUMP: “I’m looking forward to it, actually. Here’s a start, just so you understand: there has been no collusion whatsoever. There’s no obstruction whatsoever, and I’m looking forward to it. I do worry when I look at all the things you people don’t report about, with what’s happening, if you take a look at, you know, the five months’ worth of missing texts–that’s a lot of missing texts–and as I said yesterday, that’s prime time. So, you [inaudible] look at that and say, ‘what’s going on?’ You do look at certain texts where they talk about insurance policies, or insurance, or they say the kinds of things they’re saying, you’ve gotta be concerned. But I would love to do that, and I’d like to do it as soon as possible. Good luck everybody.”
Reporter: Do you have a date set, Mr. President?
TRUMP: ” I guess they’re talking about two or three weeks, but I would love to do it. You know, again, I have to say, subject to my lawyers and all of that, but I would love to do it.
Reporter: Would you do it on your own, Mr. President?
TRUMP: “You mean like Hillary did it under, who said that? Oh, you say a lot. Did Hillary do it under oath?”
Reporter: I have no idea, but I’m not asking that–
TRUMP: I think you have an idea. Do you not have an idea? Do you REALLY not have an idea? I’ll give you an idea: she didn’t do it under oath. But I would do it under oath. And you know she didn’t do it under oath, right? If you didn’t know about Hillary, then you’re not much of a reporter.
Reporter: To reach a higher standard, you would do it under oath?
TRUMP: Oh I would do it under oath, yeah, absolutely(emphasis added)


Trump’s response begs two primary questions. Should Trump meet with Mueller under oath? Should Trump meet with Mueller at all? In short, no and no.

Let’s look at the latter question first. Andrew McCarthy, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, strongly asserts at the end of his latest article on this topic that Trump should “avoid Mueller’s highly skilled, highly aggressive prosecutors.”

There are multiple reasons as to why such an assertion is well supported. One reason of course being that Trump’s very own former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, recently got in trouble for lying to the FBI. Another reason being that Trump, when left to his own devices, has a habit of trapping himself in his own commentary.

Regarding the second question, stating incriminating information, or lying to avoid stating such information, while in a meeting with Mueller’s investigative team could easily land Trump in a world of trouble, especially if such statements were to be made under oath.

However, it is important to point out that, despite Trump’s above remarks involving Hillary Clinton, lying to the FBI and lying while under oath are both crimes. Thus, even if Trump met with Mueller on terms not involving a requirement to speak under oath, he could still face serious troubles if it were later determined that he provided false statements during Mueller’s inquiry.

In all likelihood, the operative statement out of all of the comments Trump made in the transcript above is “subject to my lawyers.” Trump’s lawyers will most likely never permit any meeting between these two to occur directly.

The closest Mueller will probably ever get to speaking with Trump is through communications with the his legal team.




CBS Getty Images

Passionate Kissing: The Craziest Defense Ever?

Last May, Gil Roberts, an American gold medalist sprinter at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio, was suspended after failing a drug test in March when probenecid was found to be present in his test samples. Prior to this failed test, Roberts had passed over a dozen intermittent tests since 2008.

Several months later, in July, the sprinter fought the suspension and took his matter to arbitration.

Seems like a typical sequence of events, right?

Well, when one takes a closer look at the arbitration decision that was publicly released, some interesting details become apparent which set Roberts’ defense slightly apart from typical defenses raised in objections to failed drug tests.

According to the decision, Roberts “testified that he did not intentionally take probenecid and that he did not mistakenly take … capsules.” So how did he account for the probenecid showing up in his test samples? He blamed his girlfriend’s sinus infection and his engagement in “frequently and passionately” kissing her prior to providing his failed sample:

On March 24, 2017, the date of the drug test, Ms. Salazar (Roberts’ girlfriend) arrived at Roberts’ apartment near noon; they kissed and ‘chilled out.’ Around 1:00 or 1:30 pm, she went into the kitchen to take her medicine [which she had recently obtained in India after getting a sinus infection during a family trip]. She did not tell Roberts what she was doing and he did not see her take the medicine. She opened the capsule, poured the contents in her mouth, then washed it down with water. Shortly thereafter she found Roberts and started kissing him. Roberts could not count the number of times they kissed between 1:00 pm and the doping control officer’s arrival.

The doping control officer arrived at 4:07 pm. 

Given these facts, as well as previous decisions regarding similar circumstances, the arbitrator reversed Roberts’ suspension after concluding “this was not a case of intentional doping,” rather it was “a case of incidental doping caused by kissing.”

This decision was later appealed by the World Anti-Doping Agency, however, yesterday the Court of Arbitration for Sport sided with Roberts’ defense.

The New York Times reported the following on this matter:

‘There could have been tongue kissing, but it was more that she kissed me so soon after taking the medicine,’ Roberts said Thursday, expressing relief that he had evaded a ban of up to four years for trace amounts of probenecid, a masking agent prohibited by sports regulators for its ability to disguise other drugs.

Three arbitrators wrote that it was more likely than not ‘that the presence of probenecid in the athlete’s system resulted from kissing his girlfriend.’ A different decision could have jeopardized Roberts’s Nike sponsorship, or his eligibility for the 2020 Olympics.

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**Image from CBS / Getty Images**

Betsy DeVos

DeVos’ Day in Court

On January 25, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, her Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, and the Department of Education (DoE) as a whole were sued by three civil rights organizations: SurvJustice, Equal Rights Advocates, and the Victim Rights Law Center.

The beginning of the 41 page lawsuit states the following:

Plaintiffs SurvJustice, Inc., Equal Rights Advocates, and Victim Rights Law Center bring this action against Defendants U.S. Department of Education, Secretary Elisabeth DeVos, and Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Candice Jackson seeking vacatur of the Department’s new policy, as expressed in a Dear Colleague Letter and Question and Answers guidance issued on September 22, 2017, concerning Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. (emphasis added)

The lawsuit centers on a decision made by the DoE back in September 2017 to rescind the Obama administration’s 2011 Dear Colleague Letter and 2014 Question and Answer document. At that time, the DoE stated that “the withdrawn documents ignored notice and comment requirements, [and] created a system that lacked basic elements of due process and failed to ensure fundamental fairness.”

As a replacement for those documents, the DoE issued its own interim guidance document, and the aforementioned organizations are now legally requesting that this document be invalidated for violating notice and comment requirements and basic elements of fundamental fairness.

The lawsuit is worth reading, but it is important to point out that many of the claims made in this lawsuit run in contradiction with a memo written by four feminist law professors at Harvard Law School regarding Title IX’s recent implementation.

Within the next several months, the DoE will most likely begin to fully initiate and finalize the notice and comment process necessary for instituting a more permanent replacement for its September guidance, which would make the central issue in this lawsuit no longer relevant.

Until that process is formally commenced, this lawsuit will be a thorn in the side of the DoE’s actions regarding Title IX and more fodder for DeVos’ critics.

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