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Grammy Awards Renew Discussion About Transparency and Diversity

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  • Women made history at the Grammy Awards on Sunday, with Beyonce breaking the record for most Grammys won by any woman or singer ever and Taylor Swift becoming the first woman to win Album of the Year three times.
  • Still, the night was clouded by renewed calls for the Recording Academy to address its lack of transparency and inclusion.
  • Singers Zayn Malik and The Weeknd recently joined the list of stars who have called out the Academy’s “secret committees,” who vote for the show’s most prestigious awards.
  • The Weeknd took it a step further by promising to boycott the show indefinitely after he was snubbed with zero nominations despite breaking chart records with music from his critically acclaimed and top-selling R&B album, “After Hours.”

Beyonce’s Record Breaking Win Prompts Discussion

Beyonce and Taylor Swift’s record breaking wins stole the spotlight at Sunday night’s Grammy Awards, but criticism from major stars and fans still poured in ahead of and during the telecast. 

Swift’s quarantine-recorded album “folklore” took home Album of the Year, making her the first woman to win the award three times. Beyonce went into the night with 24 Grammys to her name and left with 28, making her the woman and singer with the most wins in the award show’s history. She is now tied with producer Quincy Jones for having the second-most Grammy statues, behind only conductor Georg Solti.

However, her win prompted discussion about how the Recording Academy awards even its most celebrated artists. Of Beyonce’s 28 trophies, just one comes from a major category, her Song of the Year win for “Single Ladies” in 2010. Most of her wins come from genre categories like R&B. 

Compare that to the career of Allison Krauss, who Beyonce overtook as the woman with the most Grammy Awards. Of Krauss’s 27 Grammys, three came from top categories. Even Swift, who has 11 wins to her name, has three awards from major categories.

The gap highlights one of the Grammy’s largest issues: diversity and inclusion. The show has a history of awarding Black artists in scattered below-the-line categories, but it often looks them over when it comes to top prizes. In recent years, Beyonce has been snubbed by artists like Beck and Adele, the latter of whom devoted a portion of her speech to the matter. A similar moment occurred last night when Billie Eilish devoted her Record of the Year win to Megan Thee Stallion, who was a favorite to win for her song “Savage,” which featured Beyonce. 

“You deserve it, honestly. Genuinely this goes to her,” the “Everything I Ever Wanted” singer said while accepting the award. “Can we just cheer for Megan thee Stallion?” 

BTS Fans Slam Show

This familiar pattern of white artists acknowledging the successes of their Black peers on the stage of the show that snubbed them was not the only reason the show faced backlash. BTS fans in particular felt the Recording Academy used the band for its popularity while neglecting to reward them for their massive achievements.

The in-demand K-pop boy band was nominated for just one award last night: Best Pop Duo or Group Performance for their song “Dynamite.” Before the telecast even began, they lost to Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande’s “Rain on Me,” which marked the first time a duet by female artists won the category.

Still, for the more than three hours that the show ran, the Grammys repeatedly teased BTS’s performance, which it saved for the end of the program. Fans argue that if BTS is important enough to the show that it was designated such a coveted performance spot, the band also deserves recognition in major categories like Record and Song of the Year. The hashtag #SCAMMYS trended on Twitter as fans vented their frustrations.

Grammys Called Out for Secret Committees

Anger at the show started well before it even began airing. The Recording Academy has long been accused of being an unprincipled organization. Last week, The Weeknd even promised to boycott the show indefinitely because of its alleged deception.

The Weeknd was expected to be among the most nominated artists for the 2021 Grammys. His album “After Hours” and single “Blinding Lights” received critical acclaim and even broke Billboard records. Reports say he and the show engaged in heated talks with ultimatums regarding his Super Bowl performance before he wound up with a whopping zero nods. 

After nominations came out, he tweeted that the show was corrupt. On Thursday, he told The New York Times he would no longer allow his label to submit his work to the show because of the “secret committees” in the academy. 

Hours before the show aired, singer Zayn Malik joined critics in slamming the Grammys for not making enough progress on transparency and inclusion. Last week, he also called the show out for allegedly making their nominations based on gifts they receive from artists and producers.

The Recording Academy appears to be aware of these issues. During the show, the organization’s president, Harvey Mason Jr, took to the stage pledging to listen to marginalized voices. It also aired a statement condemning racism, sexism, and all forms of hate and vowed to work towards unity.

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Esquire) (Associated Press)

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Anti-Vaxxers Spread Conspiracy Theory Claiming Bob Saget Died From COVID-19 Booster Shot

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This comes less than a month after anti-vaxxers spread a similar false rumor about comedian Betty White.


Anti-Vaxxers Spread Unfounded Theory About Bob Saget’s Death

Anti-vax and right-wing conspiracy theorists are spreading unfounded claims that comedian Bob Saget died as a result of receiving his COVID-19 booster shot.

Saget, best known for his role as Danny Tanner on “Full House,” died this week at the age of 65 in Orlando, Florida. The Orange County Sheriff’s office said they were responding to “a call about an unresponsive man in a hotel room” and pronounced Saget dead on the scene at the Ritz-Carlton. They found “no signs of foul play or drug use” and some reports have since claimed that it appears Saget may have died in his sleep. No further cause of death has been released. 

Not long after the news of his death, anti-vaxxers begin circulating baseless claims that a COVID-19 booster shot killed Saget. Saget said he received his booster shot on a Dec. 13 episode of his podcast. Many have shared a clip where he talks about the booster to suggest that was his cause of death.

COVID-19 vaccines and boosters have been proven to be both safe and effective. That, of course, has not stopped conspiracy theorists from endlessly touting false assertions about unproven side effects and responses.

Claims about Saget’s death being vaccine-related can be found on Twitter, Reddit, TikTok, Telegram, and other social media platforms. Many of the posts, despite containing clear misinformation, have remained on these sites for several days without being taken down. 

Candace Owens Promotes Booster Theory

The conspiracy found a large platform this week when conservative news personality Candace Owens discussed it on her Daily Wire talk show. Owens has repeatedly spoken against COVID-19 vaccines and uses her platform to regularly share all kinds of political and cultural misinformation. 

During the Jan. 11 episode of “Candace,” which was flagged by Media Matters, Owens said the public has a “right to demand answers” about the circumstances around Saget’s death and the booster. 

“I’m just not on Big Pharma’s payroll and I refuse to peddle in their lies. And so to that end, today, I’m going to point out another truth and it will likely be deemed a conspiracy theory until it’s not,” she said. “There are too many healthy individuals, like Bob Saget, who we know have received their vaccinations, who are dropping dead, suddenly and unexpectedly, with no further explanation. Healthy athletes, young students in their physical prime — the majority of them males — dropping dead suddenly and unexpectedly in the middle of games from heart issues.”

Owens continued to peddle anti-vax rhetoric regarding the media and vaccine mandates. She also spewed unsubstantiated suggestions that “healthy men are dying” because of vaccines. 

“All of this to say I don’t know why a healthy man, who was in the middle of a comedy tour, suddenly and unexpectedly drops dead in his hotel room,” she continued. “But I do know that we have a right to ask the question. All of us do. In fact, when the entire world has suddenly and unexpectedly been prescribed an injection that we don’t need, it is not only our right to ask questions but also our right to demand answers.”

Anti-Vax Misinformation Has Found A Large Platform

Not even a month before Saget’s death, anti-vaxxers likewise falsely claimed that comedian and actress Betty White died from receiving her COVID-19 booster. White passed at the age of 99, just weeks before her 100th birthday. According to her death certificate, she died from a stroke she had six days before her death on Dec. 31. 

After people started falsely claiming the booster caused her death, White’s agent released a statement clarifying these rumors were not true. 

“Betty died peacefully in her sleep at her home,” Jeff Witjas told People Magazine. “People are saying her death was related to getting a booster shot three days earlier but that is not true. She died of natural causes. Her death should not be politicized — that is not the life she lived.”

Media platforms have struggled to control the swelling amount of misinformation users constantly spread, specifically regarding the pandemic and vaccinations. While many sites have promised to remove, flag, or fact-check incorrect posts, anyone who wants to find anti-vax information will have an easy time doing so. 

This week, a group of doctors and medical workers urged Spotify to lay out a misinformation policy, citing the false claims Joe Rogan has repeatedly made about vaccines on his podcast. Several international fact-checking organizations also recently demanded that YouTube do more to fight disinformation on its service. Over the last year, citizens and politicians have asked that Twitter, Facebook, and Google do more to slow the spread of pandemic-related misinformation.

“While we understand that your companies have implemented policies regarding the removal of vaccine-related misinformation and dedicated resources to stop the spread of misinformation, we believe more must be done,” a group of Democratic senators wrote in a letter to the three company’s CEOs. “It is imperative that you be transparent about the amount of harmful misinformation that appears on your platforms and the effectiveness of your efforts to remove this content, so that public health organizations and experts can respond appropriately.”

See what others are saying: (Insider) (The Daily Beast) (The Daily Dot)

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Kim Kardashian, Floyd Mayweather, and Others Sued Over Alleged EthereumMax Crypto Scam

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EthereumMax executives and partners are being accused of sharing “misleading promotions and celebrity endorsements” in order to “artificially increase the interest in and price” of the coin.


Lawsuit Alleging Crypto Scam Filed in California

Reality star Kim Kardashian, boxer Floyd Mayweather, and former NBA star Paul Pierce are among several celebrities and executives being sued for allegedly misleading investors into a pump-and-dump crypto scam.

The class-action lawsuit was filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California by New York resident Ryan Huegerich. Huegerich brought the complaint on behalf of himself and others who claim to have lost money after investing in the coin EthereumMax between May 14, 2021 and June 27, 2021.

Kardashian, Mayweather, and Pierce are among a slew of people with substantial followings who promoted EthereumMax in the spring and summer of 2021. Pierce tweeted about the coin, saying he “made more money with this crypto in the past month” than he did with ESPN in a year. Kardashian touted the cryptocurrency in an Instagram story post that included a link for her followers to “swipe up to join the E-Max community.”

Mayweather drew attention to EthereumMax during his highly-anticipated fight against YouTuber Logan Paul, which accepted the coin as payment for tickets to the event. During the match, he wore shorts with the coin’s name and logo. Mayweather also endorsed the coin during a Bitcoin conference in Miami, Florida. 

Plaintiffs Allege Stars Participated in Pump-And-Dump Scheme

The plaintiffs argued that the three stars, along with several others, promoted the coin with false information. According to the lawsuit, the defendants touted “the ability for investors to make significant returns due to the favorable ‘tokenomics’ of the EMAX Tokens” in order to sell their portions for a pump-and-dump profit.

The Company’s executives, collaborating with several celebrity promotors, (a) made false or misleading statements to investors about EthereumMax through social media advertisements and other promotional activities and (b) disguised their control over EthereumMax and a significant percent of the EMAX Tokens that were available for public trading during the Relevant Period,” the lawsuit said.

“The misleading promotions and celebrity endorsements were able to artificially increase the interest in and price of the EMAX Tokens during the Relevant Period, causing investors to purchase these losing investments at inflated prices,” the suit continued.

The plaintiffs slammed the EthereumMax coin as a “speculative digital token created by a mysterious group of cryptocurrency developers.” According to the lawsuit, the coin “has no connection” to the popular cryptocurrency Ethereum, but uses the name in an effort to “mislead investors into believing that the EMAX Tokens were a part of the Ethereum network (when they are not).”

A spokesperson for EthereumMax condemned the allegations in a statement to The Wall Street Journal.

“The deceptive narrative associated with the recent allegations is riddled with misinformation,” the spokesperson said.

Kardashian, Mayweather, and Pierce have not responded publicly to the lawsuit. 

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (CNBC) (BBC News)

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Cardi B’s Defamation Suit Against YouTuber Goes to Trial

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Cardi B claims the YouTuber “became obsessed with slandering and harassing” her.


Cardi B Alleges YouTuber Harmed Her Reputation

The trial for a defamation case rapper Cardi B brought against an entertainment YouTuber began Monday in Atlanta, Georgia.

In the lawsuit, Cardi claims that Latasha Kebe, who is known online as UnwineWithTashaK, repeatedly made false statements in an effort to destroy the “Up” singer’s reputation. The suit alleges that Kebe told her YouTube following that Cardi had worked as a prostitute, used cocaine, cheated on her husband, and had contracted STDs like herpes and HPV.

Kebe reached one million subscribers last week. Her videos get anywhere from 50,000 to 500,000 views. 

Cardi has called the purportedly unfounded statements “degrading and harassing.” She says that Kebe began spreading the misinformation in 2018 and has since made dozens of videos furthering those claims. 

Kebe became obsessed with slandering and harassing [Cardi],” the lawsuit says per Rolling Stone, which obtained a copy of the document. “In the 16 months preceding the filing of this lawsuit, Kebe put out at least 38 videos regarding [the rapper].”

What Will Be Argued in Court?

Kebe has denied the accusations and previously countersued, alleging that Cardi encouraged her fans to harass her online. A judge dismissed the suit over a lack of evidence. 

According to Billboard, the trial is expected to last two weeks. It is unknown if Cardi will have to take the witness stand herself. 

Michael S. Overing, a lawyer and defamation expert not involved in the case, told Rolling Stone that Cardi has good odds of winning her case.

Cardi probably has a pretty good shot at this one,” he said, noting she had provided “very specific factual statements” that could potentially be “readily proven false.”

“But the problem with these lawsuits, traditionally, is that it’s very hard to prove that you suffered actual damages,” he continued. “This is where the question of actual malice comes in.” 

Overing, among other experts, believes that much of this case will come down to whether or not the jury believes that Kebe acted with ill-intent. This means that in order to win the case, the musician’s team will likely have to prove that Kebe knew the claims were false when she spread them.

See what others are saying: (Billboard) (Rolling Stone)

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