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Observer
OBSERVER MUST-READS
By Margaret Abrams

Taylor Swift’stour. Kaitlyn Flannagan for Observer

Can America’s pop princess redeem her reputation on tour, even if her singles aren’t selling?

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(she was spammed with snakes on Instagram after Kardashian leaked audio of her agreeing to be mentioned in Kanye’s song “Famous”).Her ticket sales, which were abysmal , are now making her real money.

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But does that mean she’s effectively reinvented her reputation?

The New York Post dubbed the Reputation tour a disaster before Swift even hit the road, citing the ticket sales and the fact that her album has yet to have a hit single. While her 1989 tour sold out in minutes, this one was called a “mega disappointment by one music industry insider.”

Swift did not allow bots and scalpers to buy her tickets and sell them at an upcharge. That benefits her fans, but “Taylor Swift Tix” does not. The program is supposed to give her most diehard fans an insider experience, as long as they’re able to pay for a better place in the online ticket line.

Charli XCX, Camila Cabello and Taylor Swift in Glendale, Arizona. Christopher Polk/Getty Images for TAS/Kaitlyn Flannagan for Observer

After Swift ditched her crunchy curls and country ballads, she presented herself as a relatable everywoman. Sure, she was a multi-millionaire who was best friends with half the Victoria’s Secret Angel roster, but she was one of the people. She cried when boys dumped her… but the boys just happened to be Harry Styles and Jake Gyllenhaal. She feuded with friends… even if the friends were members of the Kardashian empire.

But after Kim K. leaked Swift admitting that she was fine being featured on Kanye’s song, which went against the narrative she had presented as a woman betrayed by a friend, she was suddenly under attack. People left snake emojis underneath her Instagram photos. Her singles stopped topping the charts.

At this point, the celebrity feud seems mostly done—Khloe Kardashian even listened to Swift’s song “Delicate” while Snapchatting . Keep in mind, the move might have been inspired by pure pettiness, and not forgiveness, since Kanye mentioned her boyfriend’s cheating scandal in a song.

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November 07, 2016
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The Future of Hong Kong
November 07, 2016

Bejing is curtailing Hong Kong’s judicial independence by delivering an interpretation of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution that protects its special “one country, two systems” status.

China’s top legislative body, the Standing committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC), endorsed an interpretation of Article 104 of the Basic Law today (Nov. 7) which states that lawmakers must swear allegiance to Hong Kong as part of China, describes how they should do it, and the consequences of failing to do so. It could effectively bar two elected politicians, Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, after their controversial actions during their swearing-in ceremony in October.

When assuming office, lawmakers and principal officials and others must “correctly, completely, and solemnly” swear a scripted oath, including the part saying “I will uphold the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, bear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China,” the interpretation says.

If lawmakers and others reject to take the oath, or purposefully read their own lines or take the oath “not genuinely or solemnly,” they will be deprived of their right to assume office—and there is no chance to retake it.

This kind of interference in Hong Kong’s judicial independence is rare but not unheard of.

Article 158 of the Basic Law grants the NPCSC the power to interpret the law—but only under three criteria, writes Cora Chan , associate professor of Law at the University of Hong Kong. First, the interpretation must concern affairs that are the responsibility of Beijing or the relationship between Beijing and Hong Kong. Second, it must be issued at the request of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal (CFA), except when concerning China’s sovereignty. Third, “the interpretation is an interpretation rather than an amendment of the law.”

Of the four interpretations the NPCSC issued in the past, only the fourth meets all three criteria, she said, and Beijing is not adhering to principles of the law. “In line with Leninist legal tradition, the law is viewed by the Chinese Government as a mere tool to facilitate the Party agenda,” notes Chan.

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Why you can’t sue Seattle bikeshare companies
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(AP Photo/Andy Wong)

There are three options when it comes to Seattle bikeshares — bright orange, green, or yellow. But it turns out, two of those options come with a catch.

RELATED: Seattle sets bikeshare records while city considers next steps

That catch is the terms-of-use agreement that customers must approve in order to use LimeBike and ofo around Seattle.

“To be fair, nobody reads these things, but it’s in all caps, ‘By agreeing to arbitrate, each party is giving up its right to go to court and having any dispute heard by a judge and jury,’” KIRO Radio’s Tom Tangney said, pointing to a recent report in The Seattle Times .

That report notes that LimeBike and ofo both require customers to agree to arbitration should any issues arise. In other words, if something goes wrong while riding their bikes, you can’t sue them. The third Seattle bikeshare, SPIN, does not have this requirement.

“To be fair to these bike companies, lots of other companies do this too,” Tom said. “Amazon — if you use Amazon you have to go to private arbitration. They say that 15-20 of the largest banks that issue credit cards, you have to go to arbitration. Seven of the eight largest cell phone service providers require private arbitration … it’s not like this is so outside the mainstream, but maybe not something that most riders are aware of.”

The Times discovered the contractual language while reviewing the bikeshares after one year in operation.

RELATED: Seattle bikeshares 101

It isn’t just legal language that sets them apart, Tom points out. For example, LimeBike has a weight limit of 300 pounds, while ofo has a limit of 220 pounds.

“Two hundred and twenty pounds is not that big!” Tom said. “You can’t ride an ofo if you are more than 220 pounds?!”

“Legally,” Curley quickly noted, as legal hurdles to riding the bikes haven’t stopped people from using them .

Seattle bikeshare numbers continue to grow

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on LimeBike alone, in the year they’ve been in town.

Together, the three Seattle bikeshare companies have put nearly 10,000 bikes on the roads and sidewalks. Where those thousands of bikes are parked is where the annoyance issue comes in .

Still, Seattle’s stationless bikeshare program is beating Portland’s station-based system — Biketown. The Seattle Department of Transportation recently pointed out that it only took one month in operation for Seattle’s bikeshare companies to beat out Portland’s system. In August 2017, Seattle had 76,131 rides; Portland had 47,104.

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