Arbitrator orders Fox to pay $179M in “Bones” profit dispute
By ANDREW DALTON
AP Entertainment Writer
Thursday, February 28
LOS ANGELES (AP) — An arbitrator has ordered 21st Century Fox to pay $179 million in a dispute over profits with the stars of the long-running TV show “Bones,” saying Fox executives engaged in “intentional fraud and malice.”
The decision was reached earlier this month and revealed in a court petition from the plaintiffs Wednesday demanding that Fox pay, a decision Fox said it would contest.
Arbitrator Peter Licthman, a retired Los Angeles Superior Court judge, rebuked top Fox executives by name for self-dealing and deceit and his decision includes $128 million in punitive damages, calling the sum “reasonable and necessary to punish Fox for its reprehensible conduct and deter it from future wrongful conduct.”
The overall figure is among the largest ever for a dispute over a television show and comes in a case that shines a light on finances within Hollywood conglomerates.
Lichtman said that Fox executives “engaged in a pattern and practice of fraudulent self-dealing by which it enriched itself” at the expense of the “Bones” producers and stars, who were owed a cut of profits.
David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel, the stars of “Bones” in its run from 2005 through 2017, sued 21st Century Fox in 2015, saying it denied them profits by licensing the show to Fox’s TV division and to Hulu for below-market rates. They were joined by executive producer Barry Josephson and Kathy Reichs, who authored the novels “Bones” is based on. The case went to private arbitration in 2016.
“We are so proud of the hard work we did on Bones for 12 seasons and only ever wanted Fox to live up to its promises and contractual obligations,” Deschanel said in a statement.
Boreanaz added in his own statement that “it’s clear that what we were saying all along was true: we were owed additional compensation for our work.”
Fox denounced the decision and vowed to fight it.
“The ruling by this private arbitrator is categorically wrong on the merits and exceeded his arbitration powers,” the company said in a statement. “Fox will not allow this flagrant injustice, riddled with errors and gratuitous character attacks, to stand and will vigorously challenge the ruling in a court of law.”
Among Lichtman’s findings were that Fox studio executives did not even attempt to try to find the true market value for shows similar to “Bones” when negotiations were going on with the Fox network.
He said that Fox sacrificed the Fox studio’s business for the sake of Hulu’s success, with the network handing over rights to “Bones” for a share of ad revenue that would not be shared with the studio. That hurt the haul of the producers.
Those parts of the ruling were making waves in Hollywood on Wednesday, with trade papers speculating what it might mean for other studios that have stakes in different entities that do business with each other.
“What we have exposed in this case is going to profoundly change the way Hollywood does business for many years to come,” said John Berlinski, attorney for the plaintiffs.
Lichtman also slammed what he called the “cavalier attitude” of the Fox executives who testified.
“None of the witnesses took responsibility or expressed any remorse for their actions,” the decision said, adding that the executives “appear to have given false testimony in an attempt to conceal their wrongful acts.”
Some of the executives Lichtman called out by name, including Peter Rice and Dana Walden, are headed to Disney as part of its $71.3 billion takeover of most of Fox.
Disney CEO Bob Iger said he stood by his soon-to-be colleagues.
“Peter Rice and Dana Walden are highly respected leaders in this industry, and we have complete confidence in their character and integrity,” Iger said in a statement on Wednesday. “Disney had no involvement in the arbitration, and we understand the decision is being challenged and will leave it to the courts to decide the matter.”
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Andrew Dalton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton .
Listening in to brain communications, without surgery
February 28, 2019
Author: Salvatore Domenic Morgera, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Bioengineering, University of South Florida
Disclosure statement: Salvatore Domenic Morgera has received research funding in networks from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, The Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies, National Science Foundation, and the United States Special Operations Command.
Partners: University of South Florida provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
Plenty of legitimate science – plus a whole lot of science fiction – discusses ways to “hack the brain.” What that really means, most of the time – even in the fictional examples – involves surgery, opening the skull to implant wires or devices physically into the brain.
But that’s difficult, dangerous and potentially deadly. It would be smarter to work with the brain without needing to open patients’ skulls. Neurological disorders are common, affecting more than a billion people worldwide, of all ages, genders, and educational and income levels. My neural engineering team’s research, as part of a wider effort across the bioengineering discipline, is working toward understanding and easing various neurological dysfunctions, such as multiple sclerosis, autism spectrum disorder and Alzheimer’s disease.
Identifying and influencing brain activity from outside the skull could eventually permit doctors to diagnose and treat a wide range of debilitating nervous system diseases and mental disorders without invasive surgery.
Wireless connections within the brain
My group believes we are the first to have discovered a new way nerve cells communicate with each other. Nerves are well known to connect through physical links – or what might be called “wired” connections – in which the axons of one nerve cell send electrical and chemical signals to the dendrites of a neighboring cell.
Our research has found that nerve cells also communicate wirelessly, by using the wired activity to create tiny electric fields of their own, and sensing the fields neighboring cells create. This creates the possibility of many more neural pathways and can help explain why different parts of the brain connect so quickly during the execution of complicated tasks.
We have been able to monitor these electric fields from outside the skull, effectively listening in on nerve communications. We hope that will help us find alternate, healthy connections for nerves damaged by multiple sclerosis, or rebalance nerve activity due to autism spectrum disorder, or prime neurons to fire together in specific patterns and restore long-term memories lost as a result of Alzheimer’s disease.
Specifically, we have found when an insulated, or myelinated, nerve fiber in the brain is active and sending signals along its length known as action potentials, special regions along its length generate a very small electric field. The cellular regions where this happens, called nodes of Ranvier, act like small antennas that can transmit and receive electrical signals.
Any disruption of the two highly specialized structures – the myelin sheath or the node of Ranvier – not only results in neurological dysfunction, but the surrounding electric field changes too.
Listening to nerves
The technological challenge involves precisely targeting specific parts of the brain to listen in on. The device must receive signals from areas roughly the diameter of a human hair, several centimeters deep within the brain.
One way is to place a small number of flexible antenna patches on the skull to create what we call a “brain lens.” Comparing readings from several patches lets us electronically target exactly the nerves to listen in on. We are designing and experimenting with metamaterials – materials engineered at the molecular level – that are especially good at serving as high-accuracy antennas that can be tuned to receive signals from very specific locations.
No pain, but potentially great gain
By listening in on wireless communications between nerves, we can identify areas of the brain where the electric fields indicate there are problems. The detailed characteristics of a nerve’s activity – or lack of activity – can offer clues about what specific problem is occurring in the brain. These findings could help diagnose potential medical conditions far more easily than current methods.
Look, for instance, at the actual case of one patient, a 38-year-old woman we’ll call “Bianca,” who has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative disease of the brain and spinal cord that has no known cure. Multiple sclerosis patients’ immune systems damage the myelin sheath between the nodes of Ranvier, causing communication problems between the brain and the rest of the body. This damage radically alters the activity in the affected nerves.
To monitor the progress of her disease, Bianca has had spinal taps to see if her spinal fluid has high levels of particular antibodies associated with MS. She has also had MRI scans to reveal the areas of her brain where the myelin is damaged, and will face additional testing to determine how fast information flows through her nervous system.
Using a brain lens device would let doctors monitor Bianca’s brain without painful spinal taps and uncomfortable and time-consuming MRIs and CT scans. It may some day allow Bianca to monitor her own brain and send the data to her specialist for evaluation.
Therapeutic treatment without drugs and surgery
In addition, we’re hoping that our approach can lead to new therapies that are also easier on patients. At the moment, Bianca is taking several drugs that carry significant health risks and often make her feel nauseated and fatigued. She is one of many, who want to try a different therapy option.
This work plans to go beyond identifying the regions of her brain where the electric fields indicate unhealthy conditions. Inspired by computer network management and advanced digital networks, which route signals around areas that are damaged or interrupted, we are developing a method by which our scalp patch system could send messages into the brain as well.
Each damaged nerve fiber is generally one of thousands packed together into a tract of nerve fibers where neighboring nerve fibers are typically healthy. Our device could help identify sites with myelin damage and follow those nerve fibers back before the point of damage, to pick up their undisturbed signals. Then we would use the brain lens to transmit complementary electric fields into the brain, sending those healthy signals to the areas around the myelin damage, to encourage neighboring nerve fibers to carry the messages the damaged fiber can’t.
So far, we have been able to simulate this approach in a super-computing environment where brain nerve parameters have been provided by clinical research laboratories. In the coming months, we will build and test a brain lens prototype. Listening in to the brain and communicating with it offers a fascinating new set of possibilities for medical diagnosis and treatment without surgery.
Sequencing the white shark genome is cool, but for bigger insights we need libraries of genetic data
February 28, 2019
Of more than 500 species of sharks in the world’s oceans, scientists have only sequenced a handful of genomes – most recently, white sharks.
Author: Gavin Naylor, Director, Florida Program for Shark Research, University of Florida
Disclosure statement: Gavin Naylor receives funding from the National Science Foundation and from the Lenfest Ocean Program
Partners: University of Florida provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
The headlines are eye-catching: Scientists have sequenced the genome of white sharks. Or the bamboo lemur, or the golden eagle. But why spend so much time and money figuring out the DNA makeup of different species?
I am an evolutionary biologist at the Florida Program for Shark Research. Our research focuses on understanding how modern sharks and rays diversified over the course of their evolution to colonize the habitats they occupy today.
Rough screening of whole genomes is useful to help identify genetic markers (sequences of genes) to better understand population-level processes. But the real and enduring value of whole genome sequencing is only realized when a lot of accurate, high-resolution genomes are amassed that can be compared with one another. This type of work is just getting started.
Blueprints without instructions
An organism’s genome – the complete catalog of its DNA – holds the blueprint for its design. Differences in the DNA sequences that make up genomes are responsible for the differences we see among individuals.
Identical twins are physically similar to one another because their genomes are identical. Siblings resemble each other because they inherit large stretches of their genomes from the same set of parents. And closely related species look more similar to each other than do those that are more distantly related, because their underlying genomes are more similar.
It follows that if we had a complete genome sequence for an organism, we would have all the information we’d need to understand how it works “from the ground up.” Indeed, this was the justification for the initial Human Genome Project
But an organism’s genomic DNA sequence can contain billions of nucleotides, or genetic building blocks. Trying to piece together what that organism might look like from its genome sequence would be like trying to make sense of thousands of concurrently transmitted telephone conversations from the “packets” of information that arrive at the receiving end of a fiber-optic telephone cable, without knowing anything about how the information was organized. The data is “all there,” but it’s hard to know what it means without an explicit interpreter. And scientists do not yet know how all of the information in genomes is organized, or how its activity is choreographed.
Bases are the part of DNA that stores information and gives DNA the ability to encode phenotype – a person’s visible traits. There are four types of bases in DNA: adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G) and thymine (T).
Learning by comparing
If it’s so hard to interpret information buried in genomes, why bother collecting the data? The answer is that if we compare genomes against one another, we can deduce which elements are responsible for particular traits.
For example, humans and chimpanzees have genomes that are approximately 98 percent similar. This means that the 2 percent difference between their respective genomes must somehow account for the differences in their appearance and associated traits. Comparing the genomes side by side allows us to identify the parts of the genome responsible for the observed differences.
Obviously, it is important to choose carefully which comparisons to make. Comparing a human genome with a duck-billed platypus genome isn’t going to tell us much about what makes humans – or duck-billed platypuses, for that matter – so “special.” The two species diverged about 150 million years ago, and there are so many differences in their genomes and in the traits they exhibit that it would be impossible to know which genomic differences were responsible for which traits.
However, comparing human and platypus genomes (two mammals) against a bird genome would allow us to identify aspects of human and platypus genomes that were shared, but distinct from the bird genome. And in turn, comparing genomes of several mammals and birds against genomes of amphibians would help us narrow down what genomic elements birds and mammals had in common that were different from amphibians.
Genomic information can help scientists understand evolutionary relationships among related species.
Building genetic libraries
Hierarchical comparisons like the one described above lie at the core of comparative genomics, a field that sets out to understand how patterns of variation in genomes are associated with, or “map to,” patterns of variation in observable traits. Biologists refer to this set of associations as the “genotype-phenotype map.”
Obviously, scientists need to know the evolutionary relationships among organisms before any of this can be done, and to make sure the genomic information we collect is accurate. If it is inaccurate or incomplete, we risk missing important associations between genotypes and the traits they code for.
Recent advances in next-generation DNA sequencing and computer science are revolutionizing the collection and analysis of this data. But it’s still expensive. It costs about US$30,000 to sequence and assemble a 2.5 billion base pair genome (for comparison, the human genome has about 3 billion base pairs) with sufficient accuracy to be useful for comparative genomic work – and more for larger genomes, such as that of the lungfish or the salamander.
An international consortium of scientists is working to collect high-quality genome sequences for all vertebrate animals that meet this standard. Initial comparisons are focusing on species selected to represent the evolutionary diversity of different groups of vertebrates – a carefully vetted set of birds, reptiles, mammals, amphibians and fishes. In September 2018 the project released its first 15 high-quality reference genomes for species including the Canadian lynx, zebra finch and blunt-snouted clingfish.
Subsequent comparisons will fill in the evolutionary gaps, until we eventually have a complete set of highly accurate genomes that can be compared with one another. These highly accurate genomes will improve our understanding of the genotype-phenotype map. They also will serve as as references for researchers trying to understand the role different genes play in guiding normal development, and for others exploring likely causes of developmental anomalies, birth defects and genetic diseases.
Other sequencing initiatives are less focused on obtaining highly accurate and/or complete genomes for comparative genomic work. Many are essentially “fishing expeditions,” looking to see if something interesting shows up, or to identify molecular markers that can subsequently be used for management and conservation efforts. For example, the recently published white shark genome found that olfactory genes were not as abundant as expected given white sharks’ good sense of smell, and that white sharks have a higher proportion of transposable elements – DNA sequences that can move from one location on the genome to another – than is typical.
Such projects are usually much less expensive, since they are not designed to obtain high-resolution genomic maps with complete coverage of the genome. Unfortunately, they have limited utility for downstream research. They are generally too incomplete to be useful for developmental biologists, and are of limited use for understanding the genotype-phenotype map.
Nonetheless, they do serve to spur public interest in the burgeoning field of genomics, which is already having a big impact in fields ranging from basic biology to applied personalized medicine. As more high-resolution genomes are gathered and compared, we can expect that our understanding of the architectures underpinning different life forms will expand exponentially.
Opinion: Don’t Let Tech Headlines Lead to Panic-Induced Policies
By Jennifer Huddleston
These incidents have led plenty of people to think the worst about our technological future, including some Democratic and Republican legislators. But let’s not forget that we have existing tools and laws for many situations. Bowing to pressure to “do something” rather than letting our system do its work has real risks. Overreacting could ruin the possibility of new and better innovation in the future.
In some cases, the solution is already in place. Apple fixed the bug affecting Facetime a few weeks later. And in cases where such a bug may have done real harm, lawsuits filed by individuals and investigations considered by attorneys general could provide legal remedies. We should remember that our court system can provide an appropriate balance in many such cases.
What’s more, regulatory authorities like the FTC already have the power to protect consumers if the data security or data privacy claims made by companies are truly misleading or otherwise creating clear harm. If an app misleads users as to why it’s collecting user data, what data it’s collecting, or other data security or privacy terms, each should fall squarely under the FTC’s unfair and deceptive trade practices authority.
We shouldn’t assume every headline involving privacy and data security involves malicious intent. Sometimes even companies with a high priority on data security and user privacy can make mistakes.
We also shouldn’t sell our fellow Americans short. There seems to be a rush to the conclusion that no customer who uses Apple, Facebook or other platforms knows what they are agreeing to. In fact, data show that individuals are comfortable identifying the trade offs between privacy and the usefulness of a service.
For example, one survey shows the vast majority of daily Google users are aware that the service collects information. Similarly, others show that most people are aware of available privacy-maximizing options like clearing cookies or using ad blockers. Even in the case of the controversial Facebook app, interviews with some users found that many knew quite well that they were providing Facebook with data in exchange for gift cards.
So while some may shudder at the idea of allowing a company to track every use of their smartphones in exchange for a benefit, others prefer the benefit.
Sometimes, of course, an incident can alert us to the need for a new regulation. These should be specific and narrowly tailored rather than enforcing a top-down system. We shouldn’t lock in one way of doing things when tech innovators invent better ways of doing things all the time.
An American version of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, a cumbersome system of internet controls focused on data privacy that went into effect last May, would not only change the pro-innovation approach that’s made the United States the world’s tech leader, but could actually make the problems leading to such headlines worse.
It comes with costly regulatory burdens that many small innovators — potential future tech giants — can’t afford to comply with, solidifying the position of larger tech companies. Such regulations can also close off pathways to future innovations that require a degree of freedom to pursue.
Not too long ago, headlines over privacy and data security concerns involved Big Tech players like MySpace and Yahoo. Luckily, we didn’t shift away from the American approach then, and the next wave of innovation was better. While it’s important to make informed personal choices about what we do online, a privacy panic won’t do much good.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Jennifer Huddleston is a research fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. She wrote this for InsideSources.com.