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Endeavor Video-Streaming Group Poaches WWE as Customer Away From Disney

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 08:40 AM PST

The newly formed Endeavor Streaming products and services division of the talent agency and media company has announced WWE as a marquee client.

Previously, WWE had relied on BAMTech, now called Disney Streaming Services, to deliver its over-the-top WWE Network subscription service.

Endeavor Streaming‘s best-in-class technology enables us to offer more features, elevate the user experience and provides us even more opportunity to delight our fans around the world,” WWE chairman/CEO Vince McMahon said in a statement.

The Endeavor Streaming group combines Endeavor’s internally developed video platform technology with NeuLion, a technology product and service provider specializing in digital video broadcasting, distribution and monetization, which the company acquired for $250 million in March 2018. With the change, the NeuLion brand name will be discontinued.

Endeavor Streaming’s other clients include the NFL, NBA, Euroleague, Univision, Sportsnet, Sky Sports, MSG, National Geographic, and Big Ten Network. The group will also continue supporting Endeavor properties like PBR (Ride Pass) and UFC (UFC.TV and FIGHT PASS).

In addition to WWE, other recently inked customers include the U.K.’s BT Sport Box Office service and OSN, an entertainment network serving the Middle East and North Africa.

The Endeavor Streaming business will be co-led by Endeavor CTO Nick Wilson and Will Staeger, president of business operations. Staeger previously was an SVP in IMG’s original content division after formerly working at ESPN, WWE, and Dick Clark Prods.

“We’ve integrated Endeavor’s scalable platform with NeuLion’s industry leading technology and feature set to provide clients with the best tools and services in video streaming, removing technology as a barrier in reaching their consumers,” according to a joint statement form Wilson and Staeger.

Robert B. Reich: On democracy and dictatorship

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 08:40 AM PST

The wonderful thing about Donald Trump’s presidency (I never thought I’d begin a column this way), is that he brings us back to basics.

The basic difference between a democracy and a dictatorship comes down to means and ends.

Democracy is about means, not ends. If we all agreed on the ends (such as whether to build a wall along the Mexican border), there’d be no need for democracy.

But of course we don’t agree, which is why the means by which we resolve our differences are so important. Those means include a Constitution, a system of government based on the rule of law, and an independent judiciary.

A dictatorship, by contrast, is only about ends. Those ends are the goals of the dictator — at a minimum, accumulating and preserving personal power. To achieve those ends, a dictator will use any means necessary.

Which brings us back to Trump.

The conventional criticism of Trump is that he is unfit to be president because he continuously breaks the norms of how a president should behave.

Trump’s norm-breaking is unsettling, to be sure, but Trump’s more fundamental offense is that he continuously sacrifices means in order to build personal power.

He thereby violates a president’s core responsibility to protect American democracy.

A president who shuts down government in order to get his way on a controversial issue, such as building a wall along the border with Mexico, and offering to reopen government as a concession when his opponents give in, is not protecting democracy.

He is treating the government of the United States as a bargaining chip. He is asserting power by any means possible. This is the method of a dictator.

A president who claims he has an absolute right to declare a national emergency and spend government funds that Congress has explicitly refused to appropriate for the ends he seeks is also assuming the role of a dictator.

A president who spouts lies during a prime-time national television address over what he terms an “undeniable crisis” at the southern U.S. border, which is in fact no crisis at all, is using whatever means are available to him to preserve and build his base of power.

The real international threat to America is not coming from Mexico. It is coming from a foreign government intent on undermining our democracy by propagating lies, turning Americans against each other and electing a puppet president.

We do not know yet whether Trump colluded with Vladimir Putin to win the 2016 election. What we do know so far is that Trump’s aides and campaign manager worked with Putin’s emissaries during the 2016 election, and that Putin sought to swing the election in favor of Trump.

We also know that since he was elected, Trump has done little or nothing to stop Putin from continuing to try to undermine our democracy. To the contrary, Trump has obstructed inquiries into Russian meddling.

The overall pattern is clear to anyone who cares to see it. Trump’s entire presidency to date has sacrificed the means of democracy to the end of his personal power.

He has lied about the results of votes and established a commission to investigate bogus claims of fraudulent voting. He has attacked judges who have ruled against him with the goal of stirring up the public against them.

He has encouraged followers to believe that his opponent in the 2016 election should be imprisoned. He has condemned as “enemies of the people” journalists who report unfavorably about him, in an effort to fuel public resentment — perhaps even violence — against them.

To argue, as some Trump apologists do, that whatever Trump does is justified because voters put Trump in power is to claim that voters can decide to elect a dictator.

They cannot. Even if a majority of Americans attempted such thing (and remember, Trump received 3 million fewer votes than his opponent in 2016), the Constitution prohibits it.

The choice could not be clearer. Democracy is about means, while dictatorship is about ends. Trump uses any means available to achieve his own ends.

We can preserve our democracy and force Trump out of office. Or we can continue to struggle against someone who strives to thwart democracy for his own benefit.

In the months ahead, that choice will be made, one way or the other.

(Robert Reich’s latest book is “The Common Good,” and his newest documentary is “Saving Capitalism.”)

Mom of ‘Fortnite’ Superfan Orange Shirt Kid Sues Epic Over Use of His Dance

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 08:28 AM PST

The mother of the young boy affectionately known as Orange Shirt Kid, whose awkward “Orange Justice” dance won over so many “Fortnite” players they convinced Epic Games to put it into the game, is now suing the studio over its inclusion.

While this is just the latest in a strong of plaintiff’s going after Epic Games for inclusion of their dance moves in “Fortnite,” what makes this particular case odd is that the “Orange Shirt Kid” submitted the dance to Epic Game’s BoogieDown contest to have the dance included in the game. When he didn’t make the cut a mass of players took to Change.Org to petition Epic to include him in the game. Eventually, much to the delight of the kid himself, they got their way.

In the rules for the contest, Epic spells out that players won’t be paid for the use of selected dance moves and also notes that it has the right to use the dance for publicity for the game. The dance was also never sold, but instead given away as part of the free battle pass. So it had to be unlocked by playing, but not through a purchase.

In the lawsuit, filed last week, there’s no mention of the BoogieDown contest, nor of the tweets — now deleted — from Orange Shirt Kid in which he submits his dance moves or celebrates Epic’s post-contest decision to add him to the game. Instead, the child’s mother, Rachel McCumbers, says that Orange Shirt Kid “exploded in popularity in or around early 2018, after he made a video of himself performing the Random and the accompany Catchphrase.”

After the dance, which the lawsuit says is called “the Random,” gained popularity, Fortnite players started a campaign to encourage Epic Games to incorporate the Random in “Fortnite,” according to the suit. It also notes that the child was the victim of “extreme cyberbullying” and that he was forced to deactivate both his Instagram and YouTube accounts.

The suit also notes that now when people perform this dance they don’t call it the Random, but rather refer to it by the name used in Fortnite: “Orange Justice.”

McCumbers is seeking unspecified damages.

Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht LLP, which filed this lawsuit, is also the law firm behind complaints filed against Epic Games by Brooklyn rapper 2 Milly, actor Alfonso Ribeiro, and Instagram star Backpack Kid over the use of their dance moves in the game.

For a deeper dive into the issues surrounding the “Fortnite” dance lawsuits, make sure to read our explainer.

When Will Xi Jinping Travel to North Korea?

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 08:08 AM PST

Kim Jong Un’s diplomatic calendar for 2019 officially began last week, when he visited Beijing unannounced for a short visit to coincide with what was likely his thirty-fifth birthday. The trip marked his fourth encounter with Xi after three previous meetings in 2018—all in China.

As during their initial encounter in March 2018—the first meeting between Kim and a foreign head of state since his ascent to the seat of power in Pyongyang in December 2011—Xi accepted an invitation from Kim to visit North Korea soon.

There’s still no indication that Xi is likely to visit North Korea anytime soon. As North Korea state media’s official report on the latest Xi-Kim encounter noted, the two leaders did acknowledge that 2019 will mark the 70th anniversary of bilateral ties between the two states.

Just days after Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1979, Kim Il Sung extended diplomatic recognition—on October 6. China will have its own 70th anniversary events later this year, but it’s not unimaginable that the two sides might choose to use the occasion of seventy years of diplomatic ties for a trip by Xi to Pyongyang.

Following the latest Kim-Xi meeting in Beijing, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs addressed rumors that Xi would travel to Pyongyang as early as April this year—possibly around the time of North Korea’s Day of the Sun national holiday to commemorate Kim Il Sung’s birthday.

“Yesterday I said that China and the DPRK have the fine tradition of maintaining high-level exchanges,” a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted. “We will release relevant information in a timely manner when we have it.”

The emphasis on “high-level exchanges” by the Foreign Ministry is no accident. During their first meeting last March, Xi laid out four principles that should guide relations between Beijing and Pyongyang.

The first of these was to have high-level exchanges between the two sides continue. “High-level exchanges have always played the most important guiding and promoting role in the history of China-DPRK relations,” Xi was paraphrased as having said by Chinese state media.

In a second point, Xi underlined that these “high-level exchanges” would serve the purpose of allowing for “strategic communication” between the two sides. That appears to have panned out—with Kim visiting Xi both before and after his June 12 summit meeting with U.S. President Donald J. Trump last year.

His latest trip to Beijing, meanwhile, comes as the United States and North Korea work out the details for a second leader’s level summit.

Even as we wait for a trip by Xi to Pyongyang, it is possible that a senior member of the Chinese political establishment—including a member of the Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC)—might travel to North Korea first.

During Kim’s time in Beijing, a few characters outside of Xi played prominent roles. For instance, Wang Huning, a PBSC member, received Kim upon his arrival, participated in his site visits in Beijing, and even sent Kim off.

Another candidate may include the Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan, though he appeared to have played a peripheral role if any during Kim’s fourth visit. (North Korea’s state media report on Kim’s visit makes no mention of Wang.)

However and whenever it comes, it does indeed appear that we will get a trip by Xi this year to Pyongyang.

Shawn Holiday Named Head of Urban Music at Sony/ATV Music Publishing

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 08:05 AM PST

Shawn Holiday has been appointed Head of Urban Music at Sony/ATV Music Publishing, the company announced today. In this newly-created position Holiday will be based in Los Angeles and oversee the company’s urban music operations. He will report to Co-Presidents, U.S. Danny Strick and Rick Krim.

He will hold this role in addition to his position as co-head of urban music at Columbia Records, a post announced last month that he shares with former Warner Bros. VP Phylicia Fant.

Sony/ATV Music Publishing Chairman and CEO Martin Bandier said: “I’ve had the privilege of working with Shawn for many years and this promotion is truly well-deserved and a valuable one for Sony/ATV. His creative instincts and people skills are amazing and he is well respected across the music industry. He will be an important member of our senior executive team.”

Shawn Holiday said: “I want to thank Marty and everyone on the Sony/ATV team. The passion within this group when it comes to identifying talent is second to none. I’m honored to play a bigger leadership role in developing songwriters and artists who not only create hits but move the culture in powerful ways.”

Holiday initially joined Sony/ATV in 2011 in the role of SVP, A&R/Creative. He has since worked closely with a number of songwriters and artists at the company, including Cardi B, French Montana, Bryson Tiller, Daniel Caesar and Travis Scott. He was recently featured on Variety’s Hitmakers List.

GLAAD Hires Viacom’s Mathew Lasky as Communications Director

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 08:00 AM PST

GLAAD has hired Viacom‘s social impact strategist Mathew Lasky as its communications director.

He will oversee communications for GLAAD, the GLAAD Media Awards, GLAAD Media Institute, and the communications strategy for GLAAD’s day-to-day work to accelerate LGBTQ acceptance. Lasky will also lead GLAAD’s outreach around its annual television and film reports and expand GLAAD’s visibility within Hollywood. He reports to GLAAD Chief Communications Officer Rich Ferraro.

Lasky comes to GLAAD from the social impact team at MTV, VH1, and Logo, where he oversaw social impact initiatives for the brands’ shows and events including “Catfish,” “Teen Mom,” “The Challenge,” “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” the VMAs, and “Love & Hip Hop.” He also developed the brands’ strategies around LGBTQ Pride Month, GLAAD Spirit Day, Wear Orange for Gun Safety, and Transgender Awareness Week. He also sat on the leadership board of Emerge, Viacom‘s LGBTQ employee resource group.

At Viacom, Lasky created Logo’s Global Ally campaign, a multi-year storytelling project focused on telling the stories of international LGBTQ activists which debuted during the season finale of VH1’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” He also played a key role in MTV’s work around responding to the rise of gun-violence in schools with Everytown for Gun Safety, and developed partnerships with non-profit partners including the ACLU, Human Rights Campaign, United We Dream, and more.

Before joining MTV, VH1, and Logo, Lasky was a communications consultant for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Mozambique and his work focused on LGBTQ rights and stigma reduction for those living with HIV/AIDS.

He is based in GLAAD’s New York City office.

ITV Orders Period Drama Based on ‘Belgravia’ Novel from ‘Downton Abbey’ Creator

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 07:47 AM PST

ITV has greenlit a new period drama series based on the novel “Belgravia,” which was written by Julian Fellowes, the creator of “Downton Abbey.”

The production company behind that period hit, NBCUniversal’s Carnival Films, is making the new series. Fellowes already has an NBC series, “The Gilded Age,” and other projects in the works for 2019.

Fellowes will adapt “Belgravia” for TV himself. The novel was first published in 2016. It is set in the titular upmarket area of London in the 1800s.

The story opens on the eve of Waterloo, at a high society ball attended by many who will go on to lose their lives in the battle, as well as Sophia Trenchard, the beautiful daughter of Wellington’s chief supplier. It then follows events decades later when the emerging nouveau riche, including the successful Trenchard family, are rubbing shoulders with London’s established upper classes, and when secrets from the past threaten to emerge.

It is not clear whether NBCUniversal’s international TV sales arm, or ITV‘s own ITV Studios Global Entertainment division will have the rights outside the U.K. Shooting will get underway within weeks.

Neither ITV or Carnival would comment, but Variety confirmed the news. It was first reported by Deadline.

Tidal Under Investigation in Norway Over ‘Fake Streams’

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 07:38 AM PST

Norway’s authority for investigation of economic and environmental crimes (Økokrim) has launched an investigation into claims that Tidal has falsified streaming numbers, the Norwegian publication Dagens Næringsliv (via Music Business Worldwide) reported this morning. Last year, the paper, which has aggressively investigated Tidal, accused the company of intentionally falsifying streaming numbers for Beyonce’s “Lemonade” and Kanye West’s “Life of Pablo” albums and consequently paying inflated royalties to the artists’ labels. The company, which is primarily owned by Beyonce’s husband Jay-Z, has steadfastly denied the reports.

Økokrim’s chief public prosecutor, Elisabeth Harbo-Lervik, confirmed that an investigation by Norwegian authorities was launched late last year and is “still in an early stage.” The paper claims that at least four former Tidal employees have been interviewed before a judge, with facing over 25 total hours of questioning.

Tidal issued a statement Monday morning that reflects its contentious relationship with Dagens Næringsliv. “Tidal is not a suspect in the investigation,” the statement reads. “We are communicating with Økokrim. From the very beginning, DN has quoted documents that they have not shared with us in spite of repeated requests. DN has repeatedly made claims based on information we believe may be falsified. We are aware that at least one person we suspected of theft has been questioned. We cannot comment further at this time and refer to our previous statement, which still stands.”

Tidal, which has rarely shared its data publicly, had a streaming exclusive on West’s album for its first six weeks of release and continues to be the exclusive streamer for Beyonce’s album. It claimed that West’s album had been streamed 250 million times in its first 10 days of release in February of 2016, while claiming it had just 3 million subscribers — a claim that would have meant every subscriber played the album an average of eight times per day; and that Beyonce’s album was streamed 306 million times in its first 15 days of release in April of 2016.

These claims led the Norwegian paper to investigate the service’s numbers and report that it was intentionally inflating its subscriber count, a report supported by research from British firm Midia, which estimated that Tidal’s total number of subscribers was closer to 1 million globally.

On Monday, Tidal referenced a statement from CEO Richard Sanders last May, which reads, “We reject and deny the claims that have been made by Dagens Næringsliv. Although we do not typically comment on stories we believe to be false, we feel it is important to make sure that our artists, employees, and subscribers know that we are not taking the security and integrity of our data lightly, and we will not back down from our commitment to them. When we learned of a potential data breach we immediately, and aggressively, began pursuing multiple avenues available to uncover what occurred. This included reporting it to proper authorities, pursuing legal action, and proactively taking steps to further strengthen our stringent security measures that are already in place. Additionally, we have engaged an independent, third party cyber-security firm to conduct a review of what happened and help us further protect the security and integrity of our data.”

According to Dagens Næringsliv, the three former employees who were interviewed — two business analyst employees and the head of business intelligence, responsible for analyzing streaming numbers — left Tidal at the same time in the second half of 2016. The paper says the three executives “recognized signs of manipulation regarding the relevant Kanye West and Beyoncé albums” and then contacted a lawyer before informing the company’s management about their findings. The three subsequently resigned from the company.

Variety will have more on this story as it develops.

La farsa de la ‘no intervención’ mexicana en Venezuela

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 07:34 AM PST

El corresponsal extranjero y columnista de The Miami Herald y El Nuevo Herald

No es casualidad que el dictador venezolano Nicolás Maduro haya gritado “¡Viva México!” en el acto en que asumió un segundo mandato de seis años: México fue una de las pocas democracias occidentales que envió un representante a la ceremonia, que fue boicoteada por Estados Unidos, la Unión Europea y la mayoría de los países latinoamericanos.

El nuevo presidente izquierdista de México, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, quien revirtió la política de México en las últimas dos décadas de defender la democracia y los derechos humanos en todo el mundo, argumenta que simplemente está cumpliendo con un mandato constitucional de no interferir en los asuntos internos de otros países.

Pero eso no es cierto, o en el mejor de los casos es una interpretación tramposa de la Constitución de México. El artículo 89 de la Constitución mexicana insta al presidente a conducir una política exterior de “no intervención” en los asuntos internos de otros países, y guiada por “el respeto, la protección y la promoción de los derechos humanos”.

Al no levantar la voz contra la represión del régimen de Maduro que dejó más de 150 muertos el año pasado, o la reelección fraudulenta de Maduro en 2018 que contribuyó a lanzar a millones de venezolanos desesperanzados al exilio, López Obrador no solo no cumple con las convenciones interamericanas, sino que podría estar violando la Constitución de México.

Además, la supuesta política de “no intervención” de México, conocida como la “Doctrina Estrada”, en honor al canciller que la lanzó a principios del siglo XX, es un mito. Los presidentes populistas nacionalistas a los que López Obrador más admira la violaron rutinariamente.

El ex presidente mexicano Lázaro Cárdenas apoyó abiertamente a los republicanos en la Guerra Civil Española de 1936-1939, y rompió relaciones con el dictador Francisco Franco. Los ex presidentes Luis Echeverría y José López Portillo tomaron partido abiertamente con las víctimas de las dictaduras en Chile y Nicaragua, y rompieron relaciones con las dictaduras de los dos países en 1974 y 1979, respectivamente.

El propio López Obrador instó a otros países a condenar las elecciones de México en 2006 que él denunció como fraudulentas, y que fueron mucho más abiertas y más libres que las elecciones del año pasado en Venezuela.

Al ponerse del lado de Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia y Nicaragua, López Obrador se está aislando del resto de América Latina y de importantes aliados en Estados Unidos.

La Organización de los Estados Americanos aprobó una resolución el jueves, declarando a Maduro un presidente ilegítimo. México fue la única democracia latinoamericana importante en abstenerse.

López Obrador también está antagonizando a importantes aliados en el Congreso de los Estados Unidos.

El senador Bob Menéndez, el demócrata de más alto rango en el Comité de Relaciones Exteriores del Senado, me dijo que está “descontento” con la nueva política de López Obrador sobre Venezuela.

Menéndez, que es cubano-estadounidense, es la clase de aliados que López Obrador necesita con urgencia en el Congreso estadounidense para ponerle freno a las políticas anti-mexicanas de Trump.

Entonces, ¿por qué López Obrador está dando oxígeno político a Maduro?

A juzgar por mi impresión tras entrevistarlo hace varios años, López Obrador tiene poco conocimiento, o interés, en asuntos extranjeros. Es un político local. Puede que simpatice con los dictadores de izquierda, pero la política internacional no es lo suyo.

Algunos críticos dicen que López Obrador está abrazando el mito de la “no intervención” porque quiere permanecer en el poder para siempre, y que usará ese argumento en el futuro para rechazar las críticas de otros paises.

Pero lo más probable es que el respaldo tácito de López Obrador a Maduro sea un intento de complacer al ala de la izquierda jurásica de su partido, MORENA. La presidenta de MORENA, Yeidckol Polevnsky, y muchos de sus legisladores son admiradores de las dictaduras de Venezuela y Cuba.

Pero López Obrador, y México, pagarán un alto precio político por su apoyo de facto a Maduro. Si no cambia, México perderá respeto entre las democracias occidentales y sus principales aliados en el Congreso de Estados Unidos, donde más los necesita.

‘Black Panther,’ ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ Nominated for Best Publicity Campaign

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 07:30 AM PST

Hollywood publicists have selected nominees for the best publicity campaigns of 2018.

On the film front, Disney’s “Black Panther,” Fox’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Paramount’s “A Quiet Place,” Sony’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Universal’s “Halloween,” and Warner Bros.’ “Crazy Rich Asians” received nods for the Maxwell Weinberg award for top movie publicity campaign of 2018.

Nominated for top television publicity campaigns are “The Alienist” for Gabriela Zapata, “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” for Ryan Aguirre, “Mayans, M.C.” for Chris Kaspers, “Pose” for Yong Kim, and “Single Parents” for Shari Rosenblum.

Press Award nominees are Chris Cavell of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times, Erik Davis of Fandang, Tom O’Neil of Gold Derby, and Andy Reyes of Entertainment Tonight. Nods for the International Media award went to Vera Anderson of HFPA/Mexico; Nelson Aspen of Sunrise, Australia; Jami Philbrick of Mtime, China; Jeremy Kaye of Screen International; and Adam Tanswell of HFPA/UK.

Nominations for the excellence in unit still photography for movies are Murray Close, Claire Folger, Matt Kennedy; Merrick Morton, and Hopper Stone. Nominations for the excellence in unit still photography for television are Beth Dubber, Richard Cartwright, Colleen Hayes, Macall Polay, and Van Redin.

Those up for the Les Mason Award, described as the top honor bestowed by publicists, include Riki Arnold, senior publicist and photo editor at the Walt Disney Studios; Gabriela Gutentag, unit publicist; Sheryl Main, unit publicist; Ernie Malik, unit publicist; and Rochelle Romanelli, senior publicist at Paramount Pictures International.

As previously announced, the publicists will honor Jamie Lee Curtis with the lifetime achievement award and director Jon M. Chu with the Motion Picture Showman of the Year Award.

The 56th Annual ICG Publicists Awards will be held Feb. 22 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. The event, chaired by Tim Menke, is traditionally held two days before the Academy Awards.

President Trump Denies Working for Russia: ‘It’s Just a Hoax’

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 07:28 AM PST

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump told reporters that he “never worked for Russia,” responding to reports over the weekend that the FBI opened an investigation into whether he was willingly or unwittingly working on behalf of the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I never worked for Russia, and you know that answer better than anybody. I never worked for Russia. Not only did I never work for Russia, I think it is a disgrace that you even asked that question because it’s a whole big fat hoax. It is just a hoax,” he told reporters as he prepared to leave on a trip to New Orleans on Monday.

Trump also condemned the question of whether he was a Russian asset when he was asked about it on Saturday during a call in to Jeanine Pirro’s Fox News show. “I think it is the most insulting thing I have ever been asked,” he said, before bashing the New York Times, which broke the story about the FBI probe. But he did not directly answer Pirro’s question of whether he had actually worked for Russia.

The Washington Post also reported that Trump had concealed details of his conversations with Putin, including an instance in 2017 when the president took the notes of his interpreter and instructed him not to discuss the meeting.

Trump told reporters on Monday that he didn’t “know anything about it,” and went on to say that the conversation with the Russian president “was a very successful meeting.”

“I have those meetings one on one with all leaders,” he said.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, suggested that Democrats may seek to subpoena the interpreter or the notes, as they had last year.

“Last year, we sought to obtain the interpreter’s notes or testimony, from the private meeting between Trump and Putin,” Schiff wrote on Twitter. “The Republicans on our committee voted us down. Will they join us now? Shouldn’t we find out whether our president is really putting ‘America first?'”

New Version of ‘Count of Monte Cristo’ in the Works for U.K. Broadcaster (EXCLUSIVE)

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 07:25 AM PST

A new TV adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ classic “The Count of Monte Cristo” is in the works for a major British broadcaster, with Lydia Adetunji and Amit Gupta writing the series. It will be the first screen version of the story to feature a black count in the title role.

The 19th-century novel followed Edmond Dantes as he sought revenge after being wrongly framed and imprisoned for treason. The classic tale has inspired countless film and TV adaptations. The new series is the first project from Neon Ink, the fledgling U.K.-based production company set up by former ITV Studios execs Kate Lewis and Julia Walsh.

French author Dumas wrote about his own African heritage and the discrimination he faced in his own life. Having a black count in Adetunji and Gupta’s take on his story, which will retain the period setting, will be a first, with casting to follow if the project gets a final greenlight.

Neon Ink is backed by European production and distribution group Banijay, whose French studios arm is understood to be jointly developing the new series. The broadcaster is still not known, but it is one of the big British players. Banijay would not comment, but has a sizable international sales operation and is expected to take it out internationally.

Adentunji’s credits include Sky series “Riviera,” and the upcoming ITV adaptation of Malorie Blackman’s “Noughts and Crosses.” Gupta’s work includes the BAFTA-nominated Andrea Riseborough and Michael Sheen film “Resistance.”

Hotstar, Fox’s Indian Streaming Service, Moves Into Original Content With Big-Name Talent

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 07:21 AM PST

Fox and Star India’s leading OTT platform, Hotstar, is partnering with a plethora of top Indian talent to create original programming under the brand Hotstar Specials, the company announced Monday.

Filmmakers who have signed up to create content for Hotstar include Shekhar Kapur (“Elizabeth: The Golden Age”), Neeraj Pandey (“M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story”), Kabir Khan (“Tubelight”), Nikkhil Advani (“P.O.W.: Bandi Yuddh Ke”), Ram Madhvani (“Neerja”), Venkat Prabhu (“Biriyani”), Sudhir Mishra (“Daas Dev”), Tigmanshu Dhulia (“Paan Singh Tomar”), Nagesh Kukunoor (“Dhanak”), Mahesh Manjrekar (“Natsamrat”), Vishal Furia(“Lapachhapi”), Rohan Sippy (“SideHero”), Debbie Rao (“Pushpavalli”), Sharad Devarajan (“Chakra The Invincible”) and Salman Khan (“Race 3”).

The expansion into original content comes as the race heats up for online viewers in the world’s second-most-populous country. Driven by cheap data charges, streaming is becoming an important platform in India, with aggressive competition between Hotstar, Netflix, Amazon, Eros Now, Sony Liv and Viacom 18’s Voot. Hotstar is the market leader, with about 150 million active monthly users.

Its move into original content will focus “on big-scale, high-quality drama,” Gaurav Banerjee, President and Head of Hindi General Entertainment Channels for Star India, told Variety. The Hotstar Specials will be a minimum of six episodes each, with longer lengths being determined by the filmmakers, Banerjee said. While the names of the individual shows or their budgets were not revealed, the first of them will begin streaming by the end of March.

“One of the opportunities in digital is that we can keep on changing the format,” Banerjee said. “In television, one of our constraints is [that] the experience is around an appointment viewing, so the show has to start at 9:00 p.m.; it has to be around 30 minutes or one hour in duration. All of that we are seeking to change with what we try and do with all of these shows.”

The commissioning of Hotstar Specials marks a major shift from the regime of former CEO Ajit Mohan, when the company was more circumspect about original programming created exclusively for the streaming platform as opposed to shows created for its sister television channels in the Star Television Network. Past Hotstar originals include news satire “On Air With AIB” and filmed play series “CinePlay.” Hotstar also draws on a library of films together totaling 100,000 hours across 18 languages, and enjoys a near-stranglehold on the rights for cricket, India’s most popular sport.

Hotstar’s owner, Star India, is operated by 21st Century Fox, whose entertainment assets are in the process of being absorbed by Disney. What will happen to Hotstar when Disney launches its own global direct-to-consumer channel, Disney+, is unclear.

How ‘The Upside’ Beat the Box Office Bankruptcy Curse

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 07:18 AM PST

The Upside,” a feel good film about the bond that forms between a wealthy quadriplegic and his caretaker, scored a surprising box office victory last weekend. The movie had to overcome a series of obstacles and setbacks before it topped charts.

In the weeks leading up to the drama’s release, star Kevin Hart had been the subject of countless headlines analyzing whether or not the comedian will host this year’s Oscars. The entertainer was offered the gig, but quickly stepped down after controversy sparked over homophobic jokes he made in the past. A little unwanted press, however, is nothing compared to the turmoil leading up to the movie’s theatrical debut.

Its rocky gestation to the big screen makes “The Upside,” which doubled industry expectations with a $19.5 million opening weekend, all the more impressive. An English-language remake of the French hit “Les Intouchables” was first announced in 2011, and it took around five years before Hart and his co-star Bryan Cranston were both officially attached to the project. The Weinstein Company was originally on board to distribute “The Upside.” It had its world premiere at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, where it received indifferent reviews, but the movie was shelved after sexual assault allegations came to light against Harvey Weinstein. After the Weinstein Company went under, STX Entertainment and Lantern Entertainment saved the movie that was almost orphaned in bankruptcy.

Not all fledging films saved from abandonment fare as well. Take “Blue Sky” for example. Tony Richardson’s acclaimed drama won Jessica Lange an Oscar in 1994, but after it was postponed for three years when Orion Pictures filed for bankruptcy, the movie wasn’t able to find an audience and ended its box office run with a meager $3 million. The failure of Orion left scores of stray and neglected films. Among them: “Love Field,” “The Favor,” “Car 54, Where Are You?,” and “Clifford.” Nearly every one of these pictures bombed at the box office when they finally saw the light of day.

More recently, Halle Berry’s “Kidnap” had to find another home following the liquidation of Relativity Media. It was in limbo for years before Aviron Pictures purchased rights for the thriller. That one performed better, earning $34 million globally in 2017. But other films delayed or sold off in the wake of Relativity’s financial failure, such as “Masterminds” and “Hunter Killer,” collapsed at the box office. And while STX may have scored by rescuing “The Upside” out of bankruptcy, the studio fared poorly with “The Space Between Us,” a sci-fi romance that the company purchased during the waning days of Relativity. It eked out less than $15 million despite carrying a budget that was double that figure.

Another Weinstein casualty was “Fahrenheit 11/9,” Michael Moore’s followup to his acclaimed documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11.” The poor box office performance of that particular title can’t be tied to the distributor alone. Moore’s anti-Trump critique didn’t tap into the zeitgeist the same way he was able to do so with his scathing takedown of the Bush administration in “Fahrenheit 9/11.” But it’s a wonder what might have happened with a marketing push beyond the scope that a smaller company like Briarcliff Entertainment was able to provide. That’s not to say “Fahrenheit 11/9” would have broken any box office records, but perhaps it might have made back more in ticket sales than just its production budget.

For most movies, especially indie titles, most of the behind-the-scenes noise isn’t something that traditionally permeates beyond Hollywood. Audiences typically aren’t aware of any production chaos, and even if they are for some reason obsessive readers of the Hollywood trades, they aren’t likely making a decision based on a distributor’s financial headaches. It does, however, provide a bigger obstacle to the studio when it comes to marketing a film and choosing its release date.

“Frequently, Hollywood gets wrapped up in a lot of its own noise. That noise [doesn’t always] permeate the rest of popular culture,” said Adam Fogelson, STX’s Motion Picture Group chairman. “I think far fewer people knew about the inside baseball. Most moviegoers became aware of this movie when we started running trailers.”

Revamped trailers were just part of what STX and Lantern were able to nail with “The Upside.” A mid-January launch meant the movie didn’t have much direct competition. Moreover, the studio worked with director Neil Burger to recut the R-rated movie into a PG-13 title in hopes that it would be more accessible for a broader audience. That seemed to work, as audiences embraced the film that critics largely gave the cold shoulder.

“Hiccups along the way can lead to a poor performance [at the box office], and it’s not so much about the movie,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior box office analyst with Comscore. “It comes down to the marketing. Most people have not seen the movie, so the average moviegoer is relying on the consistency of that messaging. It’s entirely up to the acquirers to get a clear plan in place.”

There’s a lot to be learned for long-delayed movies that have still yet to debut in theaters. The collapse of Global Road Entertainment left Johnny Depp’s “City of Lies,” a police drama about the murder investigations of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G., destitute. And the Weinstein Company’s demise resulted in a number of homeless high-profile projects. Among them is “Hotel Mumbai,” a thriller about the 2008 terrorist attacks at the Taj Mahal. Bleecker Street and ShivHans Pictures are teaming up to distribute the movie in North America. It has bankable stars with Dev Patel and Armie Hammer — and it’s even got solid reviews to match following its release at Toronto in 2018. Will the thriller beat the odds and break out at the box office? There could still be an upside for former Weinstein Company titles still hoping to hit the big screen.

Where Did Indians Come From, Part 3: What Is Caste?

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 07:17 AM PST

This is the third part of an ongoing series, which traces the origins of India’s people and civilization. Previous parts can be found here: Unraveled: Where Indians Come From, Part 1, and, Where Indians Come From, Part 2: Dravidians and Aryans.

No discussion of India’s genetic history is complete without a consideration of the phenomenon of caste, an imprecise English-language word that encompasses two distinct ideas that have historically been socially significant in the Indian context: varna, and jati. Varna, which is what most non-Indians think of as caste is the “stratification of all of society into at least four ranks”: the brahmins (priests, intellectuals), kshatriyas (warriors and rulers), vaishyas (merchants, artisans, some farmers), and shudras (laborers), below which are the untouchables or dalits. The stratification is both socioeconomic and ritual: often members of higher castes could not accept cooked food or being touched by members of lower castes (as this would cause “ritual pollution”). On the other hand, the varna system, as described in the earliest Hindu scriptures, the Vedas, was not necessarily hereditary (though most modern brahmins and kshatriyas have male-line ancestors originating from the original steppe clans that settled in the subcontinent after 1,000 BCE), and resembles in some ways the class system more prominent throughout the West. Other, non-hereditary interpretations include the varnas being idealized human callings. However, thinking of caste as only varna obscures its more prominent jati aspect, a feature that many would prefer to sweep under the rug.

Caste and Hinduism are not instricintly linked: both can function and survive without each other. Caste is in many ways basal to the social order of South Asia: there are Muslim, Christian, and Buddhist castes, and the phenomenon also exists in Sri Lanka and Pakistan. However, both varna and jati were elaborated on in ancient Hindu texts like the Manusmriti. As Hinduism and caste have been evolving together in India for so long, it is not surprising that there is some level of intertwinement between the two. But hereditary caste has almost no legal and ideological support anymore, even if it still often functions at the ground level due to custom. It was inevitable that a modern, “new” Hinduism would emerge from India’s contact with modernity and the Western Enlightenment, one shorn of caste, but containing ancient spiritual values.

The concept of jati is what most Indians mean on the daily level when they refer to caste. It closely resembles the sociological definition of caste, as defined by geneticist Davis Reich: “a group that interacts economically with people outside of it (through specialized economic roles), but segregates itself socially through endogamy (which prevents people from marrying outsiders).” While it has no legal validity in India today, and is opposed by both nationalists and liberals who see it as detrimental to a united, strong society, it has historically been the most important social reality for Indians, for at least the past 1,500 years. There are thousands of jati groups or “castes”: anywhere between 4,600 and 40,000. “Each is assigned a particular rank in the varna system, but strong and complicated endogamy rules prevent people from most jatis from mixing with each other, even if they are of the same varna level… in the past, whole jati groups have changed their varna ranks [by raising their ritual status].” More than anything, endogamy, and the eating (vegetarianism is usually associated with brahmins and vaishyas, meat with kshatriyas and shudras, no rice, offal and beef with dalits), clothing, and other lifestyle customs associated with a particular jati were the most important aspects at the social level, not varna (some British censuses tried to fix all jatis in varna rankings). Most Indians reading this will not need academic literature to understand this at the visceral level, until recently, extreme familial paranoia and irrationality enforced this system surprisingly well.

The caste-system is in any case, extremely complex, and functions differently throughout India. For example, kshatriyas (and rajputs) and vaishyas are rare in South India, because most male-line descendents of these groups remained in north and west India, and the small brahmin population in South India is the result of a later series of migrations around 1,500 years ago, as developing states in that region needed brahmins for ritual and administrative purposes. Thus, technically, many of the elite, high-ranking ruling castes in South India are shudras, but for all practical purposes function as kshatriyas (and tend to have more Iranian farmer DNA than other castes in their respective regions), so as to make the traditional idea of varna pointless in the south.

According to Reich, one hypothesis for why the system developed in this manner was suggested by the anthropology Irawati Karve:

Thousands of years ago, Indian peoples live[d] in effectively endogamous tribal groups that did not mix, much like tribal groups in other parts of the world today. Political elites then ensconced themselves at the top of the social system (as priests, kings, and merchants), creating a stratified system in which the tribal groups were incorporated into society in the form of laboring groups that remained at the bottom of society as Shudras and Dalits. The tribal organization was thus fused with the system of social stratification to form early jatis, and eventually the jati structure percolated up to the higher ranks of society, so that today there are many jatis of higher as well as of lower castes. These ancient tribal groups have preserved their distinctiveness through the caste system and endogamy rules. 

This theory fits in well with the evidence, discussed in a previous article in this series, of an expanding Aryan society incorporating and assimilating new groups as it spread throughout India, though there must have been a greater openness to mixing, incorporating new elites, and taking spouses from other groups in ancient times than in medieval times, as genetic evidence shows that mixing between castes and the groups that formed modern Indians’ ancestry took place between 4,000 and 2,000 years ago. That the different castes were originally distinct tribes is backed up by the traditional obsession with the need to remain separate, not only in terms of not intermarrying, but by eating apart, eating different things, and maintaining all sorts of minute, distinct customs. It was probably around 2,000 to 1,500 years ago that texts like the Manusmriti was written and enforced, probably more through social pressure than political coercion; after all, if by this time, upper-caste groups had adopted this structure by the time, it must have become a socially desirable norm that all groups would wish to emulate. It can be assumed that by the Gupta Era, around 400 CE, a time known for its “orthodoxy,” the jati system had spread to all segments of Indian society, at which time mixing stopped. While the system in many ways does disadvantage lower castes, it also allowed every group to preserve its bloodline and tribal boundaries, and many of the non-upper castes must have feared losing status to castes below them, which is why they put up with it, even if it meant not being at the top. However, until recently, scrupulosity in observing the caste restrictions has been most associated with brahmins, who probably combined their status at the top of the varna system with the idea of jati to develop a strongly distinct and insular role at the top of India’s society hierarchy. It was also probably brahmins who gave this synthesis its intellectual shape and rationalization.

Caste is therefore a historical phenomenon in Indian society. Yet, a very popular theory, with advocates both among the post-colonial left and Hindu-nationalist right, holds that caste was relatively fluid until the British Raj. Those who hold this view argue that the British constructed the rigid caste system that we see today (though not the caste groups themselves), to dominate and divide Indians; their evidence consists of the various caste-surveys conducted during the Raj. But this theory can hardly explain the deep, visceral passion Indians had for their castes, which the British could hardly have caused over the course of two to three generations, especially when their policy was to avoid interfering with the customs of their Hindu and Muslim subjects to starve off revolt. In fact, it was the British period that began the erosion of caste, as India was increasingly plugged into a global, capitalist civilization that was both ideologically and economically opposed to hereditary jati. In modern India, most of the clothing and eating distinctions of the castes are being rapidly erased; only the avoidance of intermarriage remains, but that too may rapidly change in urban areas. But because castes are so entrenched in the Indian mind, and in its social organization, it may take decades, if not centuries, for the system, especially its hereditary aspect, to dissipate altogether, particularly in rural areas. That there are caste quotas in India’s political system can hardly be helpful in hastsening its demise.

Genetically, the jati system is clearly observable, and fascinating, because the mixture between various groups in South Asia stopped almost totally around 1,500 years ago, preserving the distinct hereditary backgrounds of different castes, before all the original ancestral groups in the subcontinent (farmer, steppe, and aboriginal) were fully homogenized. The various different geographic origins of India’s founding groups shows up in the genetic structures of today’s castes, with a strong correlation between the proportion of Iranian farmer and Aryan steppe ancestry in a caste and its socioeconomic position in the caste hierarchy within a certain region. Genetically, India’s population structure is much more complex than China’s, or Europe’s. Reich writes that it is “composed of a large number of small populations.”

The farmer/steppe (ANI) to farmer/aboriginal (ASI) ratio of the castes is relative in each particular region, in a gradient from northwest to south India, so a a lower-caste individual in Punjab may be more ANI genetically than a high-caste individual from Tamil Nadu. The Meghwal, an “untouchable” caste from Rajasthan are 60.3 percent ANI, while the Velama, a high caste associated with administration and rule from Andhra Pradesh, are 54.3 percent ANI.

Genomic insights into the origin of farming in the ancient Near East. (Source: NIH)

Because of this hereditary, genetic factor, the concept of caste is intermediate between the sociological ideas of class and race. While class refers to the division of a society based on social and economic status, race refers to groups of people who share similar physical traits and origins. In a sense, castes, which do not have distinct languages or religions, functioned as subcultures or ethnicities belonging to the same “race” (as previously explained, every group in India is descended from the same ancestral peoples, albeit in different proportions). The 20th century dalit activist and politician B.R. Ambedkar noted that caste “is not nearly a division of labor. It is a division of laborers…a hierarchy in which the divisions of laborers are graded above one above the other.” It is important to study, because while caste is manifested in a certain way in South Asia, all the elements that comprise it can be found in other societies. The implications of the DNA of caste, and the revolution on India’s genetics will be the topic of the next, and final installment in this series on the origins of Indians.

Why China’s SSBN Force Will Fall Short for the Foreseeable Future

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 07:15 AM PST

Not all ballistic missiles submarines are built equal, and neither is all maritime geography. In a recent article at the Bulletin for Atomic Scientists, Owen Cote examines the boomer balance between China and the United States in light of the long-running competition between the United States and the USSR during the Cold War. Cote suggests that for the foreseeable future the United States can rely on technological and geographic advantages that will keep its own deterrent secure, while putting China’s at risk.

Cote offers a history of the undersea nuclear competition during the Cold War. The United States Navy, first to deploy operational SSBNs, soon became aware that its new submarines were detectable at long range with the appropriate passive sonar technology. Having ascertained the problem, the U.S. Navy first took steps to make its SSBNs quieter (and thus nearly immune to Soviet detection), and second expanded its listening capabilities such that it could more fully monitor Soviet SSBNs. In consequence of technology, and because of certain geographic advantages, U.S. boomers could hide effectively while Soviet boomers were under perpetual threat from U.S. Navy attack boats.

The Soviets were aware of these problems, and did their best to resolve them. As is well-known, the Soviets eventually decided on a “bastion” strategy, using a large chunk of their fleet to protect SSBN patrol areas. As Cote points out, the Soviet solution to the problem was immensely costly in resources. The inability of Soviet boomers to reliably hide meant that the Soviet Navy needed to use substantial surface, air, and subsurface assets to keep the boomers protected. With respect to detecting NATO boats, the Soviets lacked the geographic reach to develop equally capable monitoring capabilities of their own.

Fast forward to today, and the technological gap between U.S. and Chinese submarines is as large or larger than the gap between the U.S. and the USSR. More importantly, the United States has huge advantages in terms of its ability to monitor Chinese entry into the Pacific. Although the technical details are complex, Chinese submarines cannot reliably reach patrol areas in range of the larger part of the United States without being detected and tracked by the United States. Moreover, the U.S. likely has the political and diplomatic heft to maintain its access to the chokepoints that hem the PLAN in. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, China does not now and will not in the projectable future have a way of similarly monitoring the ingress and egress of U.S. subs.

This leaves the Chinese in a position very similar to that of the Soviet Union, with perhaps an even greater degree of geographic constraint. China could adopt a bastion strategy, but as of yet there’s no indication that the PLAN wants to think of itself primarily as a defensive force. Indeed, its fleet construction does not suggest ASW as the dominant mission.

And this means that for the foreseeable future, China simply cannot rely on its SSBN force to act as a reliable second-strike deterrent against the United States. To be sure, as Cote points out the SSBNs will remain an effective deterrent against India and other nuclear powers. But even if China extends the range of the missiles on its boats, it will still suffer severe disadvantages in terms of basing and patrol ranges. The U.S.SR could not dent the U.S. advantage, and it does not appear that China will be able to balance the equation, either.

The views expressed here are his personal views and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army, the Army War College, or any other department or agency of the U.S. government.

Monument Releasing Seals North America on Carlos Reygadas’ ‘Our Time’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 07:02 AM PST

MADRID — New York-based independent distributor Monument Releasing, founded by Visit Film’ Ryan Kampe, has secured North American distribution rights to “Our Time,” from Mexico’s Carlos Reygadas, winner of Cannes Jury (“Still Light”) and Director (“Light After Darkness”) prizes.

Monument Releasing will open “Our Time” in cinema theaters in North America in June 2019, followed by a VOD and home entertainment release.

Struck with Michael Weber’s The Match Factory, the sales agent on the film, as well as one of its co-producers, the deal will give more outlets to a title which world premiered at last year’s Venice Festival, after Reygadas’ first four main features played Cannes.

“Our Time” turns on a couple who live on a ranch in , central Mexico, raising fighting bulls. Esther runs the ranch, Juan, a renown poet, raises the bulls. They have an open relationship, but Juan’s world is thrown out of kilter when Esther becomes infatuated with the estate’s horse trainer.

Shot for two years on a ranch in, with Reygadas lensing 50 hours of its surrounding nature, “Our Time” has Reygadas and his wife and editor Natalia Lopez playing Juan and Esther. But the film is neither autobiographical nor a self portrait, he has insisted, rather a vision of the lack of, and need for, human communication shot in context which records the beauty and brutality of nature.

“Our Time” is produced by Jaime Romandia. The film is a production of Romamdia’s Mantarraya Productions and Reygadas’ NoDream Cinema, with The Match Factory, Denmark’s Snowglobe, Paris’ Luxbox, Norway’s Mer Films, Swedish regional fund Film i Väst, Mexico’s Detalle Films, and Geneva’s Bord Cadre Films co-producing.

“Theatrical projection is an essential element to complete the visual and auditory immersion of cinema. For me, the film was made with the intention of seeing it on a large screen in a large room that envelops the viewer in sound,” Reygadas said, Expressing his thanks at “Our Times” securing a U.S. theatrical release.

“Filmmaking which is based on individual vision rather than cliché has increasingly less space to exist in our current media environment,” he added.

“This is the main threat of the continuing growth of ‘small screen’ platforms. They not only kill the joy of going to the theater, but reduce all films to a clear lowest common denominator, as a product that may be paused, screened in the background, or even deserted. My gratitude to Monument Releasing and the film lovers who go beyond the fodder to keep the cinema tradition alive.”

Monument’s team called “Our Time” an “epic that anyone who has ever been in any type of relationship will identify with.”

“For one filmmaker to be able to breathe art into such an experience of humanity is incredible and we can’t wait to get an audience into theaters to see this masterpiece on a big screen”

Previous releases from Monument take in Mark Webber’s SXSW 2017 hit “Flesh and Blood”; “Metamorphoses,” Christophe Honoré modern retelling; Michel Franco’s Cannes best screenplay winner “Chronic” with Tim Roth outstanding as a palliative care worker; and Rolf de Heer’s Australian drama “Charlie’s Country,” which won David Gulpilil a best actor prize at Cannes Un Certain Regard.

Awesome Games Done Quick 2019 Raised $2.39 Million for Prevent Cancer

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 07:02 AM PST

Charity fundraising organization Games Done Quick raised over $2 million dollars for the Prevent Cancer Foundation in an event that concluded on Sunday, according to a press release.

Games Done Quick (GDQ) raises money through speedrunning, which is when players complete video games within seemingly impossible time constraints in an attempt to break records. Many players take advantage of tricks and exploit glitches to complete games in record time, while also relying on other skills such as accuracy and memorization.

GDQ held its week-long speedrunning marathon event, Awesome Games Done Quick 2019, last week in Rockville, MD. The event, which attracted 2,200 attendees, was broadcast on the GDQ Twitch Channel for hundreds of thousands of viewers. The peak concurrent viewer count for the event’s livestream was 221,000 users.

$2.39 million total was raised for the Prevent Cancer Foundation, the charity organization selected for the event.

GDQ has raised more than $19 million since its start in 2010. Previous charity recipients include Doctors Without Borders, the Organization for Autism Research, and CARE, according to the press release.

In addition to the charitable benefits, the event is a community gathering for speedrunners.

“I used to kind of equate speedrunning to almost like a high school,” Sent, prize coordinator said in a video recap of the event.”Where, like, everyone has their own cliques, ‘Super Metroid’ guys hang out with the ‘Super Metroid’ guys and, you know, the ‘Mario’ guys hang out with the ‘Mario’ guys. And then, you know, GDQ happens and it’s just this reminder that we’re all one big, connected community. And everyone comes together … it’s this amazing feeling.”

The next event will be the Summer Games Done Quick in Bloomington, MN, from June 23 to 30.

Nikki Bella broke down in tears when she moved out of John Cena’s home

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 07:00 AM PST

Nikki Bella broke down in tears as she moved out of John Cena’s house.

The WWE Superstar felt very emotional as she traveled to Tampa, Florida, to clear her possessions out of the home she shared with her ex-fiancé after breaking off their engagement last year.

During the Sunday night (01.13.19) premiere of ‘Total Bellas’, she said: “My break-up’s been a very difficult thing. I don’t even know if I can get through it. Moving all my stuff out is just, it makes it closure and I think that’s the hardest part. When you move out and you shut that door and you give someone your keys, that just shuts the door to your heart, to that love and to the memories. That no new memories will be made, which is so hard to think about.”

Also during the episode Nikki, 35, hinted she could move to Los Angeles, California because she was left around “too many” memories of her former flame.

She added: “I really love the energy of Los Angeles. It just has this hustle vibe, and I have to go there every week for work, you know, for photo shoots. And I don’t want to say non-moms, because I love my moms, but it has this single life, very ‘Sex and the City’ like New York. And so it’s like, not only am I craving it, but I feel like I need it in my life.”

The grappling star then tells her twin sister Brie Bella about her dilemma of house hunting in San Diego.

She added: “Even when I was looking at houses here, there’s a lot that remind me of my ex, and it’s just …”

And whilst Brie is opposed to the idea of her sister moving away, Nikki seems serious, as she then notes: “I might go look at places already, actually.”

Duchess Meghan reveals baby is due in April

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 07:00 AM PST

Duchess Meghan is due to give birth in April.

The 37-year-old royal let slip when she is set to welcome her baby into the world as she and her husband Prince Harry, 34, embarked on their first joint engagement of the year in the North West English town of Birkenhead on Monday morning (01.14.19).

The duchess – who was known as Meghan Markle before she married into the British Royal Family – also spilled to well-wishers that neither she nor Harry, 34, know the gender of the baby as they want it to be a “surprise”.

Local woman Kim Thompson, who spoke with Meghan during the visit, told the Daily Mail: “She said she is six months pregnant and due at the end of April, beginning of May.

“Another woman in the crowd joked that she was a trained midwife. Meghan said that one of her friends had [given birth] five weeks early and [the midwife] said the baby comes when they are ready.

“I said, as long as they are healthy, and Meghan agreed. Then she said, pointing to Harry, ‘He’s going to make a fantastic father.’ Harry was asking a mum how she spelled her daughter’s name – Lily.”

Another local woman, Sonia Richards, revealed: “I told her I teach hypnobirthing and she said, ‘It’s such a special thing that you are doing’. She looked radiant, she looked really well and I just wished her a wonderful birth.”

The Duchess of Sussex was wearing a purple dress from Babaton by Aritizia paired with a red coat from Canadian brand Sentaler.

The royal accessorized the vibrant ensemble with a Hearst brown leather ‘bowling’ bag and vertiginous red stilettos while wearing her brunette tresses in a sleek chiffon bun.

Nicole Kidman ‘mortified’ by Rami Malek snub

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 07:00 AM PST

Nicole Kidman was “mortified” when she realized she’d snubbed Rami Malek at the Golden Globe Awards.

The ‘Big Little Lies’ actress had presented ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ with the Best Picture gong at last weekend’s ceremony, and a clip later went viral which showed the 37-year-old actor repeatedly fail to get her attention when he got on the stage and she’s admitted she “did not feel” or hear him approach.

She told ‘Entertainment Tonight’ on the red carpet at the Critics’ Choice Awards on Sunday (01.13.19): “We’re really good friends. I just did not feel his hand on my back so I was mortified.

“I love that man. He’s so gentle and softly spoken. He’s a darling.”

But despite the apparent awkwardness, the two stars were “laughing” about the incident just days later.

Nicole said: “He sent me an email. I sent him an email… we were laughing, actually. We were both in a bit of a daze.”

Also on the red carpet, Rami insisted he hadn’t lost his love for Nicole as a result of the snub.

He said: “Nicole’s the best and we’ve been having a laugh about it together, she’s another one I’ve admired for so many years.”

The 51-year-old actress came face-to-face with the ‘Mr. Robot’ star on the red carpet, and they were caught on camera hugging and chatting before posing for photos together.

Rami previously admitted he found the publicity surrounding the snub “ridiculous”.

He said: “She’s been a friend for a long time, and that’s why the whole thing I find absolutely ridiculous and hilarious. But I’m having a laugh about it all.

“I got up there, and I was in such a daze I don’t even know how I put together a collection of words that sounded coherent.

“So the fact that I knew Nicole [was there], I was like, ‘Oh, here’s a bit of safety.’ And then she just didn’t see me. It was as simple as that.”

PaleyFest Announces Full 2019 Lineup, Including ‘The Walking Dead,’ ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,’ ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 07:00 AM PST

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” will open this year’s PaleyFest television festival in Hollywood, Calif., the Paley Center for Media announced Monday.

“Just days before we commence shooting Season 3 of ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,’ we thought we’d drop by and kick off the fabulous PaleyFest 2019. It’ll be a fun night of celebrating with fans, and the last time we’ll all look rested until August,” said executive producers Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino.

The cast and creative team of Amazon’s period comedy will visit the Dolby Theatre on March 15, leading a long and diverse list of screenings and panels that also include Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie” and CB’s evening with Stephen Colbert, both on March 16, as well as VH1’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and Fox’s “9-1-1,” both on March 17.

“Not only is PaleyFest a tremendous honor, it’s also an amazing drag name,” said RuPaul. “I can’t wait to share the magical journey of RuPaul’s Drag Race’ and pay tribute to the 140 drag queens who have sashayed their way into the hearts of fans around the world!”

Added Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, “We said yes because we heard RuPaul is going to be there.”

The CW’s joint farewell seasons event for “Jane The Virgin” and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is on March 20; AMC’s “The Walking Dead” appears on March 22; CBS’ joint “Hawaii Five-0,” “MacGyver” and “Magnum PI” event takes place on March 23; and CBS All Access’ joint “Star Trek: Discovery” and “The Twilight Zone” event is on on March 24.

“We are delighted and honored to be returning to PaleyFest as this season has marked an exciting new chapter for ‘The Walking Dead.’ We can’t wait to be surrounded by our passionate fans to discuss the themes and threats our survivors have been facing in the new world they inhabit,” said “The Walking Dead” showrunner Angela Kang.

These series join the previously announced panels for “This Is Us,” “Pose” and “Parks and Recreation,” which is seeing its 10th anniversary in 2019. The “Parks and Recreation” panel will take place on March 21, with “Pose” appearing March 23 and “This Is Us” being the final screening and panel of the festival, in the evening of March 24.

“We’re thrilled to announce this incredible lineup of programs,” said Maureen J. Reidy, the Paley Center’s president and CEO. “We’re so proud that our lineup reflects the diversity of the television viewing experience — from history-making programs highlighting the LGBTQ+ community, to Emmy Award-winning comedies and dramas with strong female characters, action-packed adventure series, and a conversation with one of the sharpest voices on late-night TV. This year’s selections epitomize why PaleyFest LA is the premier television festival.”

PaleyFest benefits the Paley Center’s preservation and archival digitization efforts, and its ongoing mission to explore the significant impact of media on our culture and society. The Paley Center is home to the nation’s foremost publicly accessible archive of television and radio content, with over 160,000 programs spanning the history of media, including collections that feature achievements in television from the African-American, Hispanic, and LGBTQ+ communities, women and, most recently, music.

PaleyFest 2019 takes place March 15-24, with Citi cardmembers and Paley Center supporting, fellow and patron members receiving special presale access to tickets beginning Jan. 15 at 12 p.m. ET / 9 a.m. PT. Tickets then open up to Paley Center individual members Jan. 17 at 12 p.m. ET / 9 a.m. PT and to the general public Jan. 18 at12 p.m. ET / 9 a.m. PT.

Gretchen Carlson on New Lifetime Documentary and the ‘Pervasive Epidemic’ of Sexual Harassment

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 06:27 AM PST

Gretchen Carlson‘s new two-hour Lifetime documentary, “Gretchen Carlson: Breaking the Silence,” focuses not on her $20 million settlement in 2016 against the late Roger Ailes and Fox News, but on the everyday occurrences of sexual harassment that American women experience in the workplace.

The A+E Originals-produced special, which airs Monday at 8 p.m., examines several allegations of misconduct and retaliation, including those from a fire battalion chief and a former nurse’s aide. Under particular scrutiny is the fast-food industry, specifically McDonald’s.

“We wanted to showcase that part of the population, whether it be waitresses or people who work minimum wage jobs anywhere else,” Carlson told Variety, “because they tend to be on the lower end of the spectrum where they really, truly can’t afford to come forward.”

She sees commonalities between their cases and hers. The former Fox News host, a high-profile voice in the #MeToo movement, said that experiencing sexual harassment provides an “immediate connection with people who have gone through something similar, and it doesn’t matter where you come from, doesn’t matter what job you have, doesn’t matter what your income is.”

Calling the issue a “pervasive epidemic,” Carlson is looking for policy changes on both the corporate and legislative levels. Starting with corporations will have “the greatest impact,” she said, and is currently backing a bipartisan bill to end forced arbitration in the workplace, which she says silences victims of sexual harassment.

“This issue is apolitical,” said Carlson. “People don’t ask you before they harass you what party you’re in. And we’ve seen titans from both sides fall. You can’t pick who you want to believe and who you don’t based on your politics.”

Men are a necessary part of the solution, in her view, to witness and report cases of harassment as well as to boost women in the workplace.

“That’s why we need men in this equation: to promote more women, pay them fairly, put them in the boardroom, etc., which is a huge part of this issue,” said Carlson. “When you have more women in high positions, this kind of thing doesn’t happen.”

As for the upcoming Lionsgate and Showtime projects on Ailes’ downfall in the works, Carlson said that her settlement prevents her from participating in any of those projects, but has expressed frustration about her portrayal. Nicole Kidman has been tapped to play Carlson in the Lionsgate film; Naomi Watts will play her in the Showtime limited series based on the Gabriel Sherman book, “The Loudest Voice in the Room.”

In a now-deleted tweet from Dec. 10, Carlson remarked that the Lionsgate “script I’ve seen makes other people out to be heroes unjustifiably. Hard to see your own story faked.”

“It’s just frustrating when you can’t say, ‘Well no, that’s not exactly how that happened,'” she told Variety, adding that she is a fan of both actors. “And because it’s such a sensitive issue, and because there was so much pain and emotion and courage involved in it, you just want to make sure that it’s right. So I’m very hopeful that both projects will be accurate.”

So will she watch either the film or the TV series, once they’re released?

“Sure,” she said. “When I’m not driving my kids around.”

Spotify Strikes Deal With India’s T-Series

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 06:12 AM PST

As widely speculated, Spotify and T-Series, India’s leading music and film company, have agreed to a global content deal, the companies announced today. The deal will see Spotify‘s worldwide audience gain access to T-Series‘ entire Indian song catalog, including Bollywood and regional movie soundtracks, as well as non-film albums and emerging artist content.

The deal moves forward Spotify’s plans to launch in India, which Variety reported in November is expected to come early this year.

Founded in the early 1980s as a cassette label, T-Series now boast more than 160,000 songs in its catalog, among them some of the most popular Indian songs recorded over the past 30 years. It also has the world’s most-viewed YouTube channel, with videos that have been viewed more than 58 billion times and more than 80 million subscribers since it launched in 2006.

“One of the ways Spotify has helped revolutionize music discovery is through its ability to connect millions of fans with the best music and artists from all over the world in a way that just wasn’t possible before streaming,” says Paul Smith, Director, Head of International Licensing at Spotify. “Today’s deal with T-Series significantly strengthens our Indian music catalogue, bringing Bollywood to more than 200 million Spotify users worldwide. Having T-Series on Spotify is hugely significant and shows our commitment towards providing the very best music for our users.”

Chairman and Managing Director, T-Series, Bhushan Kumar adds: “We are bullish about India’s most popular music company tying up with the world’s most popular music streaming service. We are confident that together we will be able to reach new markets and spread the love for Indian music far and wide.”

Neeraj Kalyan, T-Series President and Digital Head continues: “Indian music lovers globally will be in for a musical treat with over 160,000 songs in several languages from the T-Series catalogue. I am sure Spotify’s expertise earned in mature markets will be helpful for the Indian streaming industry and will pave the way for a paid ecosystem in the streaming business in India.”

The deal comes after last June’s roll out of Spotify’s Global Cultures Initiative, which included the launch of Indian music hub Desi, now with over 930,000 followers and featuring popular playlists such as Desi Hits.

 

Arcade Fire’s Win Butler and Regine Chassagne to Perform at Sundance (EXCLUSIVE)

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 06:00 AM PST

Arcade Fire‘s Win Butler and Regine Chassagne, Preservation Hall Jazz Band and photographer Danny Clinch are among the participants in Make Change, a series of conversations and intimate performances to be held at the Salesforce Music Lodge during the Sundance Film Festival. Chassagne is of Haitian descent, by way of Canada, and she and Butler have previously joined musical forces with the Preservation Hall Foundation in New Orleans. In February, the musicians, along with DJ Windows 98, will re-team for the Krewe du Kanaval Ball.

The husband and wife team of Butler and Chassagne will also take the stage for a conversation with radio personality Anne Litt of KCRW.

The program will run from January 25 to 27 and support a variety of charities, including the KANPE Foundation, an organization that helps struggling Haitian families achieve financial autonomy, and the Preservation Hall Foundation, which aims to preserve the musical heritage of New Orleans. The nightly agenda includes panel discussions moderated by Litt.

Said Preservation Hall’s Ben Jaffe: “We’re excited about the Make Change series at Sundance, and the opportunity to both get a chance to perform and bring awareness to the work we do in New Orleans and beyond with the Preservation Hall Foundation. Music has provided us such an amazing platform to make positive change, and this weekend should be a great celebration of that.”

See the full schedule below:

Friday, January 25th

4:00 PM
A conversation with KCRW personality Anne Litt and music photographer Danny Clinch

Saturday, January 26th

4:00 PM
A conversation with KCRW personality Anne Litt and Arcade Fire‘s Win Butler & Régine Chassagne

9:00 PM
A performance by Arcade Fire’s Win Butler & Régine Chassagne supporting KANPE… followed by a performance by DJ Windows 98

Sunday, January 27th

4:00 PM
A conversation with KCRW personality Anne Litt and Preservation Hall Jazz Band

9:00 PM
A performance by Preservation Hall Jazz Band benefiting the Preservation Hall Foundation … followed by a performance by DJ Windows 98

Improbable Urges Unity to Rectify “Farcical” Situation for Devs

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 06:00 AM PST

Improbable is urging Unity to clarify its terms of service or to otherwise unsuspend the SpatialOS developer’s license, according to a blog post titled “A final statement on SpatialOS and Unity“.

Improbable maintains its Unity license and access are still suspended, following a public statement issued by Unity which states that legacy developers can still run their SpatialOS games.

“Improbable still has all its Unity license and access suspended. We cannot easily fix bugs, improve the service or really support our customers without being in a legal grey area,” reads the blog post from Improbable.

“Anyone who has ever run a live game knows this is a farcical situation that puts games at risk. Unity has still not clarified this, granted an exception or had a conversation with us, but we hope this will change.”

In December, Unity amended its license agreement in a move that would mean managed service like SpatialOS would be in breach of terms of service, according to Improbable. The cloud gaming company states that Unity did not notify them beforehand.

“When we became aware of the changes, shortly after they were made, we were in intermittent commercial discussions with Unity,” continues Improbable’s lengthy post. “As the clause stood it was so sweeping we assumed we had misunderstood or it was in error, and asked for clarification.”

“We had no other contact from Unity until 9th January. A Unity account manager spoke with a customer using SpatialOS and explained that Improbable was no longer permitted to use Unity. The customer contacted us to express their concern.

“Shortly after this, we received a helpdesk notification that our licenses were unusable due to a breach of the terms of service, but without specific details. At this point, we reached out to our day-to-day contacts at Unity. They confirmed that Unity was asserting we were in breach and our license was unusable (i.e. our service must stop).”

The blog post follows a war of words between Improbable and Unity on Thursday over the cloud gaming company’s claims. On Thursday night, Epic Games and Improbable announced a joint fund of $25 million USD to assist developers affected by apparent changes to Unity’s terms of service.

“Currently the lack of clarity in the Terms of Service for Unity – and the ambiguity created by their subsequent statements – places us and developers in a difficult situation,” says Improbable. “We urgently need clarity in order to move forward. Everyone requires a long term, dependable answer from Unity on what is and is not allowed, in a documented legal form.”

Variety has reached out to Unity for comment.

Viacom Explores Sale of Majority Stake in Its China Channels

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 05:58 AM PST

Viacom is exploring the sale of its majority stake in its TV channels in China, according to media reports Monday.

The media giant has held talks with at least one entity in China over the sale of stakes in channels such as MTV and Nickelodeon, the Wall Street Journal said. The newspaper, which was the first to report the move, did not name the potential buyer.

News of the talks comes as the U.S. and China become increasingly entrenched in the trade war that has soured relations between the nations over the past several months. Although a reduction in Viacom‘s stakes would remove its control over its channels in China, bringing on a Chinese majority owner could help with navigating the country’s tricky political and regulatory environment.

Viacom sources told Variety that the company, under CEO Bob Bakish, remains committed to the Chinese market, whose mammoth size makes it impossible to ignore. Also, partnering up with a local enterprise is a model that Viacom has pursued elsewhere in Asia, including the region’s other billion-plus-population country, India. There, Viacom sold a stake in its joint venture, Viacom18, to its partner, TV18, last year, allowing TV18 to assume majority control.

Reports said that the talks in China center only on Viacom’s television operations and do not involve Paramount Pictures, whose “Transformers” spinoff, “Bumblebee,” is currently top of the box office in the Middle Kingdom.

The Trouble With the “Working Hypothesis”

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 05:48 AM PST

Oren Cass, domestic issues director for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign and a writer for National Review and other journals, has produced a conservative’s treatise on the social and economic ills of America, and what might be done to repair them. The Once and Future Worker, published in November, holds that a social philosophy based on consumption, equality, the welfare state and quality of life achieved through regulation-the essential vision of a liberal century from the Roosevelts through Richard Nixon-should be scrapped for more solid values: work, family, country, one might say. Above all, Cass believes in a society and culture rooted in the pride and pleasures of productive labor. “[The] argument at its most basic,” he writes, “is that work matters. More specifically, [the book] offers what I will call the Working Hypothesis: that a labor market in which workers can support strong families and communities is the central determinant of long term prosperity.”

Thus the labor market, in Cass’s view, is the proper medium for delivering a work-friendly world. And the trouble comes when politicians, especially Democrats,”trample” on the market. The Democrats’ “actual agenda,” according to Cass, 

Centers on the interests advanced by its coalition of labor unions, environmentalists and identity groups. Its policies rely on an expectation that government mandates and programs will deliver what the market does not. This agenda inserts countless regulatory wedges that aim to improve the conditions of employment but in the process raise its cost, driving apart the players that the market is attempting to connect. Better market outcomes require better market conditions. Government cannot command that workers be more valuable or employment relationships be more attractive, but by trying, it can bring about the reverse. The economic landscape is pocked with the resulting craters.

ABANDONING THE WORKER

The vision of a labor market offered by Cass is Deist; it is the idea of the clockmaker, of intelligent design. Its Western roots lie in pre-revolutionary France, which borrowed the theme from classical China and Confucius. In the English language, it owes much to that great figure of the Scottish Enlightenment, Adam Smith. Supply and demand work like Yin and Yang: natural law and celestial harmony prevail in the equilibrium between two fixed and immutable, separate yet inseparable social forces-in this case the employer and the employed, the capitalist and the worker. The latter seeks a job; the former offers one. A bargain is struck at a given wage, when the employer decides that the worker is worth his keep, and the worker decides the wage is worth the leisure foregone. Work and production follow. The “abandonment of the worker” lamented by Cass began when the government intruded in the labor market by, among other things, creating social insurance, supporting unions, and introducing regulations to protect the environment.

Thus Cass criticizes environmental laws, going all the way back to the Clean Air Act of 1970, for killing jobs. He attacks “adversarial” unions and proposes that they be transformed into non-confrontational “co-ops” concerned with how to “optimize workplace conditions.” He finds fault with the U.S. educational system for promising an equal chance for all, and suggests that it should embrace tracking and begin funnelling students deemed less able into vocational training at an early age. He supports the exclusion, to a degree, of foreign workers and products. He promotes the big idea of a wage subsidy to persuade employers to take on low-productivity workers whom they might otherwise shun. And he favors decentralizing welfare policies to the states in order to promote experiments, diversity, and local measures appropriate to local needs.

THE NEW JIM CROW

Each of these proposals builds on the mental model of a labor market, in which it is the interaction of supply and demand that set wages and determine levels of employment. Clean air and water (and workplace and product safety) regulations raise costs to business, forcing them to move offshore or close down. Therefore, to cite two examples offered by Cass, standards for particulates or mercury should be rolled back. Unions have already achieved what their members reasonably need, and now only serve to prevent the labor market from reaching its natural balance. The result is wages that are too high and jobs that are too few. And employers should be subsidized to create jobs on the principle that if labor is cheaper, they will hire more of it rather than invest in capital improvements.

These measures would supposedly increase employment. But even if one accepts that premise, one might first ask, “does America really need more work?” Americans have the highest labor-force participation in the industrial West. They work the longest hours and enjoy the shortest vacations. The United States is, notoriously, a working country. And it has a pretty good record on unemployment too, with by far the fastest recovery to near-full employment from the Great Financial Crisis of any major economy.

Nor does Cass fear that work may soon disappear, say from automation. He’s a relentless techno-optimist; in his view since past waves of technology have always created new jobs to replace those swept away, the present one must do likewise-although Cass also doubts that there is any such wave underway, given the low recent rates of measured productivity growth. Here, fair to say, he is in murky waters. Obviously technology is spreading rapidly, costing jobs. But the U.S. economy has managed to create new jobs anyway, thanks to the growth of incomes and debt. This is a reminder that in the modern market economy it is consumption and spending that drive production, employment and work. John Maynard Keynes of course knew this, but Cass dismisses his economics out of hand.

In truth, cutting labor costs, as Cass proposes to do, might slow the adoption of new technologies, but it cannot reverse it. You cannot bring checkout clerks back to stores that have purchased automated registers, any more than you can return hand-riveters to assembly lines, even if the workers were to offer to work for free. Nor will permitting more pollution revive coal-mining in West Virginia, where employment in the coal industry peaked in 1946. The creation of new jobs, at which the United States is an outstanding success, depends on new sectors, new businesses, and on its vast non-profit sector, especially in education and health and elder-care, which has in turn been fostered over a century by high wages, pensions, public spending and by the charitable deduction in taxes on income and on estates and gifts.

Cass’s preoccupation with the labor market is thus one vast misunderstanding. Cass is not alone in this misunderstanding; most economists share it as a matter of their most basic training. But actually, there is no such thing as a “labor market.” There is no adjustment mechanism that increases employment when the cost of labor falls, or cuts it because wages or other costs rise. Employment rises and falls with production, which rises and falls with consumption and investment spending.  If you seek “long-term prosperity” and “strong communities and families,” the real challenge is how to fuel consumption and employment through steady wages and good public and non-profit services, rather than through unstable private debts, which drive booms and busts.

Cass’s theory of regulation, although widely held, is also mistaken. He regards the “regulatory wedges” pushed by Democrats as a form of interference in markets. They are not. Regulation is essential. Without it, no modern market would exist. Indeed no system, whether biological, mechanical, or social can survive without regulation. The body regulates temperature and blood pressure; a radiator regulates a car’s engine; and the government frames standards for every aspect of the modern market, from bacteria in food to fraud in banking. Environmental and safety regulations drive scientific research, technical innovation, cost reductions, and competitiveness. Legal penalties for deceit establish trust and reduce transaction costs; minimum wages promote productivity. Not every regulation is well-designed; some may be too weak to be effective or too strong to be practical. Weaker firms may bridle at the costs of compliance; some will go out of business. But even granting this, it is always the most advanced sectors-those least threatened by regulation-that make the best products and offer the most stable jobs.

Social insurance and welfare policies serve equally important functions. The reason the United States has a federal minimum wage and national programs for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, deposit insurance, and food stamps is that setting such policies at the national level establishes a common floor, regulating the conduct of the fifty states. Cass offers a bright vision of what he calls a “FlexFund,” effectively a slush fund for the states, to be used as each decides. This is an old scam. Cass acts as if it will not occur to states to slash their benefits to chase their poor to other states. He writes as if there were no such thing as the American Legislative Exchange Council, a state-level coordinating council for reactionary social policy, currently working everywhere to cut social benefits and taxes. There is.

In short, there is historical precedent for the type of society Cass envisions-a fixed social hierarchy of boss and worker, with tracked education, decentralized and degraded social services, low taxes and union-free factories. Although he does not acknowledge it, that society is the Jim Crow South, before the New Deal and the Civil Rights Act. However strong working families were at the time, it is perhaps not the sort of society to which most present-day workers would wish to return.

WORKERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE

And yet, it is hard not to sympathize with the moral core of Cass’s argument. The United States is, in fact, a nation whose culture is founded on work and respect for work. And when one reflects on this fact, the source of its present unease becomes clear. For decades, American life has been dominated by layabouts-by a broad, bi-coastal, bipartisan elite of non-workers. There are the entitled wealthy and the corporate chiefs, mostly Republicans, and the grasping professionals at the upper levels of banking, law and mass entertainment, mostly Democrats. The connection between them and the American middle classes, let alone the struggling and the poor, is minimal. Their values, whether genteel or sybaritic, are not those of the working mainstream. Donald Trump owed his nomination and election to his pretended rejection of all that, to his ability to appear as the tribune of the working man. It was an act that top politicians had been trying to pull off for decades, at least since the day in 1988 that Republican presidential candidate George H.W. Bush munched a pork rind.

In calling attention to the centrality and troubles of working people, Cass has a point. Where he goes wrong is in diagnosis, and therefore cure. American workers are hurting not because of job-killing regulations, but because they have lost their bargaining power. Contrary to Cass, labor unions have not been central to the Democratic Party for a long time. Democratic leaders in modern times have largely focused their attention elsewhere, on assistance for food, housing, job training, on health care, income supplements and access to loans.  Cass is right in skewering the latest extension of this practice, the notion of a “universal basic income,” which he correctly derides as antithetical to the American work ethic. And the problems of the workplace are not well summarized by a shortage of jobs.

The serious issues lie precisely in that key nexus of employer and worker. A telling case-in-point lies in a feature of Obamacare that may account for why that legislation, so widely reviled on passage, proved so popular in the 2018 midterms. Obamacare freed many workers from health-insurance dependency on their bosses. And so it changed, at a stroke, a half-hidden, ugly bit of leverage of the powerful over the weak. A high minimum wage, quite apart from the fact that at $15 an hour it would give some 30 percent of American workers a raise, would cut the ground from under labor contractors who bring in undocumented workers to take hard and dangerous jobs at low pay. The Earned Income Tax Credit, which offers tax credits to low-wage workers, helps to buffer the fluctuating incomes of those, such as construction workers, whose jobs come and go. A job guarantee for citizens and legal residents, federally-funded and administered by local authorities and non-profits, would give American workers agency and leverage over low-end employers. These are the steps, along with growing and strengthening unions, that would truly change the power balance in the American workplace, and in culture and society at large.

This article was originally published on ForeignAffairs.com.

Hugh Grant Appeals for Script Stolen in Car Break-In

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 05:17 AM PST

Hugh Grant has appealed for the return of a script that was stolen by thieves who broke into his car.

“In the unlikely chance that anyone knows who broke into my car tonight and stole my bag, please try and persuade them to at least return my script,” the star of “A Very English Scandal” said on his official Twitter account. He added: “Many weeks worth of notes and ideas.”

Grant also asked for the return of his children’s medical cards, offering the west London address of his production company Coach Films as a contact point.

The film and TV star did not offer up any details of where the crime took place or what the script was for in the message to his 335,000 Twitter followers. There were hundreds of responses to the Tweet, but none, seemingly, that offered any information likely to lead to recovery of the script and other missing items.

Grant won acclaim last year for his portrayal of disgraced U.K. political leader Jeremy Thorpe in limited series “A Very English Scandal,” which was on the BBC in the U.K. and Amazon in the U.S.

The “Four Weddings and Funeral” and “Paddington 2” star’s upcoming projects include Guy Ritchie movie “Toff Guys.” On TV he will star alongside Nicole Kidman and Donald Sutherland in HBO’s upcoming six-part series “The Undoing.”

Why You May Need a Pro Trustee: Trust Administration is Not Just Common Sense

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 04:57 AM PST

As an officer at a trust company, I often find myself defending the use of a professional trustee to attorneys and prospects. Typically, criticisms of trustees center around fees, locality and beneficiaries’ perceived lack of access to funds and to the administrator.

SEE ALSO: Should You Treat Your Kids Equally in Your Will?

Occasionally, though, I hear this challenge: “Trust administration just isn’t that difficult.” The reported court cases between unhappy beneficiaries and equally unhappy related trustees indicate otherwise. Here’s a story that illustrates how common-sense solutions can lead to unanticipated consequences that professional trustees know to avoid.

A retired attorney (let’s call her Betty) is in search of a successor trustee. Betty’s parents had identical estate plans with trusts for Betty’s two siblings (let’s call them Jack and Jill). Betty, whom her parents viewed as the responsible one, received her share in each estate outright, but since the second of their parents passed away eight years ago, Betty has served as trustee for two separate trusts apiece for Jack and Jill. It’s not uncommon for parents to want to control an inheritance for a seemingly wayward child.

The four trusts are close in value, with about $550,000 in each. The trusts are identical in that the trustee has the power to pay from income and principal each year for the beneficiary’s health, maintenance and support, but with no requirement to distribute anything. Betty has served diligently for eight years, keeping records of all her actions, without collecting any fee or even any reimbursement for her expenses. Betty declined to collect a fee because she felt that her siblings resented her service and the trusts enough without having to pay her, too. But now Betty is tired and wants to quit dealing with all this work.

When I reviewed the trust agreements, it was clear why Betty had not merged Jack and Jill’s trusts into one apiece. Their mother had executed an amendment to her estate plan after their father’s death that made that impossible. Under the father’s plan, when Jack and Jill each passed away, the trust passed only to their descendants. But the mother, feeling that Betty had gone above and beyond for her, executed an amendment providing that when Jack and Jill each passed away, the mother’s trust for each should be divided again among her surviving children, which meant another possible share for Betty and the likelihood that Jack and Jill’s children would get much less benefit, if any, from the trust.

That change put Betty in a precarious position as an interested trustee, because she can make decisions about her mother’s trusts that could either put additional money into Betty’s pockets someday or diminish Betty’s share. Of course, Betty only receives a share if she survives Jack and/or Jill.

So, to be fair, Betty dutifully ensures that she invests Jack and Jill’s trusts in the exact same asset allocation and investments. She pays out all the income from each trust every year. Whenever Jack or Jill needs an additional distribution, she takes the distribution in equal portions from both her mother’s trust and father’s trust, to ensure that her mother’s trust, which may eventually also benefit Betty, will grow or diminish at the same rate as her father’s trust, which will never benefit Betty.

Betty took it one step further. Whenever she makes a principal distribution to Jill from her trusts, she then makes an equal distribution to Jack from his trusts, regardless of whether it is warranted. Betty figures this is fair because keeping the trusts equal will ensure that she gets about the same amount from each of her mother’s trusts. Over the years, all four trusts have stayed essentially equal relative to when they first divided.

Although Betty’s decisions all seem fair and prudent, they may possibly be a breach of trust that can result in a judgment that Betty caused a loss that she must replace from her own assets.

See Also: A Guide to the Softer Side of Estate Planning

Let me explain: Jill has few other resources. Each year, she spends every trust distribution of income and principal she receives just to get by. Also, Jill has been the only beneficiary who has ever requested an additional distribution, which she does several times a year. At Jill’s death, Jack will receive an additional share of one of Jill’s trusts, if he survives her.

Jack, on the other hand, has substantial resources and retirement income. He has been accumulating both the income and principal he has received from his two trusts in his own investment account, spending only as needed to pay his taxes. If Jill survives Jack, she will receive a share of one of his trusts at his death. However, Jack has steadily been given funds from that trust that presumably will benefit only his spouse and descendants, not Jill.

So, while Betty has tried to be fair to Jack and Jill, she has essentially been undermining the trust assets that may eventually pass to the ultimate beneficiaries of Jack’s trusts by distributing funds unnecessarily to Jack. Under Jack’s control, those funds could pass under his Last Will to anyone he chooses, such as a new spouse and stepchildren.

In addition, by keeping the trust principals equal, Jill has actually given herself a financial benefit. Since her mother’s trust will not entirely benefit Jack and Jill’s descendants, Betty could have made all principal distributions from her mother’s trusts in order to increase the likelihood that Jack and Jill’s descendants — whom Jack and Jill would likely want to benefit more than their siblings — would indeed receive a greater share of the trusts at Jack and Jill’s death. Instead, Betty has ensured that she gets a pro rata share equal to the initial division at the expense of Jack’s and Jill’s descendants.

Trust administration requires more than common sense, and the trustee’s duties to the beneficiaries require a keen consideration for objectivity and loyalty. Corporate trust officers are trained, credentialed, supervised and audited to ensure that the multitude of policies and procedures are followed and provide a proper — and defensible — result within the trust’s terms and the standard of care for ethical and prudent administration.

There’s a lot of gray area there, and the consequences of a breach of trust — even inadvertently — can be a financial nightmare for an individual trustee just doing her best.

See Also: How to Perform the Duties of Executor of an Estate

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This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

Copyright 2019 The Kiplinger Washington Editors

All contents copyright 2019 The Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

2019 New Year’s Resolution: Fix My Retirement Plan

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 04:34 AM PST

Most people, particularly those in or near retirement, are concerned (and for good reason) about what the market performance in December did to their retirement plans. My friends, knowing what I do, ask me, “So, what do you think about the market?”

SEE ALSO: Quiz: What Do You Know about Wills and Trusts? Test Your Estate-Planning Smarts

My answer to them is, “We’re OK, but the kids will inherit less from my retirement accounts if my wife and I are hit by the proverbial bus tomorrow.” In other words, my income is safe and relatively unaffected by market results even as my overall account has slimmed down.

If your New Year’s goal is to “Fix my retirement plan,” this article will give you five steps to accomplish your resolution. You’ll be able to “set it and forget it,” so you don’t have to make it again year after year.

Step 1 – Find your retirement income potential

As a first step, take a few minutes to determine your Income Power. It’s a simple calculation that shows you how much income your retirement savings can generate — starting at your retirement, increasing over time, and continuing for life.

At the same time, update or find your latest Social Security projection. Combine the two for an idea of your potential income. Of course, you’ll need the right kind of retirement plan to reach your full potential.

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Income Power Example (January 2019)

A 62-year-old woman with $2.15 million in retirement savings looking to retire in six years has the following Income Power:

  • Starts at $142,000 per year
  • Increases to $255,000 per year at age 85
  • Totals nearly $4.8 million if she survives to 90
  • Totals $2.15 million at a minimum, no matter long she lives

Her Social Security starting at age 68 is projected to be $30,000 per year, so she looks to start retirement with over $170,000 per year in income.

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Step 2 – Create your retirement budget

Once you determine how much income you expect, it makes sense to figure out how much you plan to spend. Add up your rent, food costs, transportation, insurance and gifts for the kids and grandkids. Here’s a sample retirement expense worksheet.

Don’t forget to plan for unreimbursed medical and caregiver expenses, which can be large, and usually increase as you get older. If you can, create a budget for today and an estimate for 10 years from now.

With those budget numbers in hand, do you have an excess of income over budget? If there’s a wide deficit, take a good look at your Income Power. Saving more between now and retirement can boost your income. If there’s a surplus, maybe with the right retirement plan you can invest some of your retirement savings in something you’ve always wanted but didn’t know you could afford. You might fund your grandkids 529 plan at a higher level or invest some of your money in tech stocks you’ve shied away from. Or you might set it up an “as needed” fund for stuff that you didn’t plan for.

See Also: How to Save $1 Million in Less Than 40 Years with a Roth

Step 3 – Prioritize the Three L’s

Your retirement plan will need to address your personal objectives, because they will drive your investment strategies and other tactics. When you prepare and prioritize the Three L’s — lifetime income, legacy and liquidity — you will significantly improve your chances for a successful retirement.

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The Three L’s defined

  • Lifetime Income: Will your money run out if you spend at your budgeted amounts?
  • Legacy: Will there be money left for children or grandchildren at your passing?
  • Liquidity: Will money spent on unbudgeted events or lost in market downturns spoil answers to above?

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Thinking through the answers to these questions will help you evaluate your retirement plan. Even with this research and prioritization, you will have to make decisions based on some information that is unknowable: How long will I live? What will the market do over the next 20 years? What unexpected events will challenge even the best retirement plan?

How do you plan with so much uncertainty? The most important thing, we believe, is to educate yourself regarding the differences in how most retirement planning operates. Which brings us to Step 4 …

Step 4 – Research different planning approaches

The standard approach recommended by most advisers is to allocate your savings between stocks and bonds and to use a formula to determine how much you can withdraw each year. Here is a traditional retirement calculator you can play with.

The problem with such “asset allocation/withdrawal” plans is that they rarely are designed to last a lifetime, leaving the retiree with a lot of the risk. And they fail to distinguish between rollover IRA and after-tax personal savings or account for appropriate tax treatment.

Go2income.com has created an income allocation tool that provides more income with less market risk and treats rollover IRA and personal savings differently. Read about Income allocation and how it can increase your income and at the same time make it more dependable.

Step Five – Talk to an adviser

No matter how much you understand these planning methods, you’re likely going to need to speak to an adviser. Just as selecting the type of doctor to see depends on the treatment you expect, so do does selecting an adviser.

To pursue the standard asset allocation/withdrawal approach, talk to your current adviser or select the firm delivering the online advice. Make sure, however, you discuss your sources of income in the plan and how they are derived from your rollover IRA or personal savings. Bring your Income Power report and your Income Allocation plan with you to the meeting.

By working at your retirement plan slowly but surely over the coming months, you can use your 2020 New Year’s resolution to tackle something more difficult, like a promise to exercise three times a week.

See Also: The Bucket Approach for Investing in Your 50s

We will help you accomplish your New Year’s resolution. Visit Income Power and Income Allocation to find answers to your questions.

Comments are suppressed in compliance with industry guidelines. Click here to learn more and read more articles from the author.

This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

Copyright 2019 The Kiplinger Washington Editors

All contents copyright 2019 The Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Peter Farrelly wants to be better

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 04:00 AM PST

Peter Farrelly is doing his best to “become a better person”.

The ‘Green Book’ director admitted he has learned a lot since his movie’s Golden Globe win was overshadowed by the revelation he used to expose himself to cast and crew members as a joke and he hopes the scandal doesn’t put people off from seeing the movie.

Speaking to ‘Entertainment Tonight’ on the red carpet at the Critics’ Choice Awards on Sunday (01.13.19), he said: “You learn, you grow. You try to become a better person. It’s all ultimately about the movie and that’s what we hope people see. I love this movie. I think it’s special.

“It’s been quite a trip, the whole thing, I’ve got to say.

“When we got into this whole thing … I didn’t know about this whole world. I’ve never made a movie for awards. So to be in the middle of it all is a real eye-opener.”

The movie has been further embroiled in scandal when an old anti-Muslim tweet written by Nick Vallelonga, one of the film’s writers, resurfaced and the 62-year-old director revealed the scribe has taken a “step back” so he isn’t a “distraction” from ‘Green Book’.

He said: “Nick’s good. He just wanted to take a step back and not be a distraction right now. He’s not feeling good about it, of course. None of us are. But it’s a growing and a learning experience. For him and a lot of people.”

Peter previously issued a statement apologising for his past antics, admitting he was “embarrassed” by his on-set behaviour.

He said: “I was an idiot. I did this decades ago and I thought I was being funny and the truth is I’m embarrassed and it makes me cringe now. I’m deeply sorry.”

And Nick also apologised and deleted his Twitter account over the scandal.

He said: “I want to apologise. I spent my life trying to bring this story of overcoming differences and finding common ground to the screen, and I am incredibly sorry to everyone associated with ‘Green Book’.

“I especially deeply apologize to the brilliant and kind Mahershala Ali, and all members of the Muslim faith, for the hurt I have caused.”

Allen Leech married

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 04:00 AM PST

Allen Leech has got married.

The ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ actor and 32-year-old actress Jessica Blair Herman tied the knot on January 5 at a star-studded ceremony held at Alisal Ranch and Resort in California’s Santa Ynez Valley that was officiated by the bride’s mother and though they had envisaged a sunny day for their nuptials, things didn’t quite go to plan.

The Irish star said: “It ended up being something quite different. When you get married in California you expect sunshine, but a little bit of Ireland blew over on the day and we had some heavy rain.”

As a result of the rain, the string quartet the couple had booked were unable to perform, so wedding guests Lea Michele and Darren Criss stepped up to entertain fellow attendees including Allen’s ‘Downton Abbey’ co-stars Michelle Dockery and Dan Stevens and ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’s Rami Malek.

Allen told Britain’s HELLO! magazine: “Everyone rallied round, the weather only made the day more epic.

“Darren and Lea are such great people and great friends, and they said, ‘Absolutely no problem’ when we told them the situation. We grabbed a guitar and they ended up singing the music for our ceremony.

“Everyone said they had never been to a wedding where everyone was singing before the bride had even arrived.”

The 37-year-old actor – who wore a navy Armani suit and burgundy bow tie – was bowled over when he saw Jessica in her Monique Lhuillier gown for the first time.

He gushed: “That moment of seeing Jessica, oh my God, it was magical. It will stay with me forever.”

The ‘People v OJ: American Crime Story’ actress – who got engaged to Allen last February after two years of dating – is expecting married life to be “uncomplicated and beautiful”.

She gushed: “As soon as I met him there was a sense of ease and comfort, that I knew marriage would be uncomplicated and beautiful with him.”

Kylie Jenner exacts egg revenge

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 04:00 AM PST

Kylie Jenner has exacted her revenge on an egg after her Instagram record was smashed.

The ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians’ star’s post from February 2018 announcing the birth of her and boyfriend Travis Scott’s daughter Stormi had been the most liked post on the photo-sharing app but an online campaign to get a simple photo of the foodstuff to surpass its popularity has proven successful as it’s earned over 23 million likes in just 10 days.

The mysterious Egg Gang had shared the simple photo on an account called world_record_egg and wrote: “Let’s set a world record together and get the most liked post on Instagram. Beating the current world record held by Kylie Jenner (18 million)! We got this [prayer emoji] (sic)”

But the 21-year-old reality star didn’t take losing her world record lying down as she’s now shared a video of herself cracking a similar-looking egg on the “really hot” ground, which she captioned: “Take that little egg.”

Fans of the egg have also been taking to Kylie’s original record-breaking photo of newborn Stormi clutching her thumb and adding the word ‘egg’ or just emojis of the breakfast favourite into the comments.

The Egg Gang have been blown away by the success of their campaign and have hinted they have got more records in their sights.

They wrote on their Instagram Story: “This is madness. What a time to be alive. Thank you so much for all of your support and messages. I’m gonna try to get back to as many of you as possible. But for now I need to sleep. It doesn’t end here though, we’re only just getting started. #EggGang. Mic drop.(sic)”

Barbara Broccoli, Lucinda Syson Land First U.K.-Based Artios Awards

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 03:21 AM PST

James Bond producer Barbara Broccoli and casting director Lucinda Syson will collect Artios Awards in London after the Casting Society of America joined forces with the British Independent Film Awards to add a U.K. component to its prize proceedings for the first time.

The accolades will be handed out Jan. 31 at The London Edition hotel during BIFA‘s pre-existing Most Promising Newcomer Dinner. Jessie Buckley scooped the newcomer award at BIFA‘s annual awards last December.

Broccoli will be honored with a lifetime achievement award for her work on the Bond movies as well as on independent features such as the recent “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.”

Syson, who has worked on movies including “Wonder Woman” and “Blade Runner 2049” as well as the upcoming “Game of Thrones” prequel and untitled “Terminator” reboot, will receive an Artios Award for excellence in casting.

“Unrivaled creativity, unique vision and professional commitment – these qualities make Lucinda Syson and Barbara Broccoli the perfect honorees for our inaugural ceremony in London,” said Rich Mento, vice president of the Casting Society of America. “These dynamic women embody the spirit of the Artios Awards, and CSA is thrilled to honor their indispensable contributions to the craft of casting and the global entertainment industry.”

The CSA already runs dual ceremonies for the Artios Awards in New York and Los Angeles. “We’re honored to be working with BIFA to make these awards possible in Europe as well as the United States, and we see it as part of CSA’s growing international presence across the globe,” said Nancy Bishop, head of CSA Europe.

The U.S. and U.K. events take place on 31 Jan.

China Box Office: ‘Bumblebee’ Leads, But Trails Previous ‘Transformers’ Films

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 03:02 AM PST

Paramount’s “Transformers” spin-off “Bumblebee” far outstripped local competitors at China’s weekend box office to bring in $25.8 million, according to figures from consulting firm Artisan Gateway. Yet despite strong praise from audiences about the film’s more character-focused storytelling and the cuteness of its eponymous Autobot, the new origin story has still under-performed compared to the previous franchise titles directed by Michael Bay.

IMAX screenings accounted for $2.5 million of its three-day haul, bumping the film’s total IMAX revenue in China up to $10 million. As of Sunday night, the Hailee Steinfeld-starring tale has grossed a cumulative $107 million in China after ten days in theaters.

The figures make it appear unlikely that the Travis Knight-directed picture will outstrip the latest “Transformers” installments. “The Last Knight” brought in $229 million in China in 2017, while “Transformers: The Age of Extinction” grossed an even larger sum at a time when the country had fewer screens and multiplexes, earning $320 million in 2014.

Bumblebee” beat two new local titles, a local holdover and a Japanese animation. In second place with a $15.9 million opening weekend was “The Big Shot,” a Chinese remake of the 2015 Korean comedic crime thriller “Veteran,” one of the highest grossing South Korean movies of all time.

“White Snake”, a co-venture between Warner Brothers and Beijing-based Light Chaser Animation, came in third with an opening weekend of $7.5 million. It is the first animated take on a popular Chinese legend depicted numerous times before on the big screen. It tells of a white snake spirit who falls in star-crossed love with a scholar and takes on human form to be with him. The movie plays with temporal dimensions and means that the sprite met her man in a past life.

In its third weekend, “Kill Mobile,” a comedy drama and Chinese remake of the Italian film “Perfect Strangers”, came in fourth with $4.5 million. It beat Japanese anime film “Fate/Stay night: Heaven’s Feel,” which took in $3.6 million in its three day opening.

Despite nearly 40 days in theaters, James Wan’s “Aquaman” continued to drawn in a trickle of movie-goers, making $1.82 million, according to data from other sources. Granted a theatrical extension by Chinese authorities, it will remain in cinemas through Feb. 6, the second day of the Lunar New Year — a prime movie-going period when China typically seeks to showcase local rather than foreign titles.

Box office competition for the holiday will be brutal. Some 13 films — including blockbusters directed by Stephen Chow, Ning Hao, and Han Han and starring Jackie Chan — are set for release on Feb. 5, the first day of what for many in China will be a week-long break.

Miley Cyrus’ birthday tribute to Liam Hemsworth

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 03:00 AM PST

Miley Cyrus celebrated Liam Hemsworth’s birthday with a list of her “favourite things” about him.

The ‘Hunger Games’ actor turned 29 on Sunday (13.01.19) and his wife paid a touching tribute to her “favourite dude” by thanking him for giving her the “happiest days” of her life.

She captioned her Instagram post: “HBD 2Da Hubz (sic)” and wrote in the lengthy note: “L, HBD to my #1…When we met you were 19, today, you are 29…I thought I could share some of my favorite things about my favorite dude in honor of this special day.

“The way you look at me, The way you look at our dogs … our pigs, our horses, our cats, our fish.

“The way you look at your family …. Your friends …. At Strangers …. At Life ….

“The way you look at the ocean and the way you always take your time.

“The way you go outside when I ask ‘what’s the weather like?’ instead of checking our phone…

“The look on your face when you receive good news and how you look AT the bad news.(sic)”

The ‘Wrecking Ball’ hitmaker admitted she’s trying to learn from Liam’s example.

She went on: “I love how you always try things your way but are never too proud to ask for help. (Yes, I’ve noticed, and take note, I’m a work in progress.)”

And Miley doesn’t even mind any of her husband’s bad habits.

She continued: “I love the dirty socks on the floor because it means YOU’RE HOME.

“I love when you introduce me to a new band, so when you’re away I can listen, and it feels like you’re here.”

After reflecting on their morning breakfasts, hungover Chinese takeaways, attending parties together and brushing their teeth alongside one another, the ‘Malibu’ singer concluded her heartfelt post by expressing her gratitude and unconditional love for her spouse.

She wrote: “I love going to a random party and remembering basically everyone is fake AF out here and how lucky I am to share a life with someone so REAL. I love how you let ME be ME. Put simply… I love YOU. Unconditionally.

“In our time together you have displayed what it really means to love through all circumstances. I respect you and you respect me.

“You and me baby… let’s take this dark place head on and shine through with the light of L.O.V.E. Thank you for giving me the happiest days of my life.(Sic)”

Zoe Ball’s show debut

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 03:00 AM PST

Zoe Ball was “so excited” to kick off her BBC Radio 2 breakfast show on Monday (14.01.19).

The 48-year-old presenter – who is the flagship programme’s first female host – played Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect” as her first song and admitted she felt “ready” for “the big day” ahead.

She began the programme by saying: “Hello. My name is Zoe. How’s your belly off for spots? Good morning Radio 2 superstar listeners, here we go.

“And, relax. After all the build-up, and the chat and the preamble, the big day is finally here. We are so super-excited. I’m ready.

“Welcome to the first ever Zoe Ball Breakfast Show, I’ve been so excited about saying that.”

Thanking listeners for their support before she made her debut, she said: “‘It’s been really wonderful for all of us, it’s been really positive.”

And of her song choice, she explained: “It had to be a dame on this occasion.”

Zoe took over the show from Chris Evans and revealed he had sent her a “lovely message” on Sunday (13.01.19) evening.

Her first guests on the programme were John Cleese and Nadiya Hussain, who brought in a cake in the shape of a full English breakfast to mark the occasion.

Ahead of her debut on the show, the former weekend breakfast DJ had promised to get the balance right between music and “enough” chat, as well as making sure her listeners learned something from the programme.

She previously said: “The thing we really wanna do is bring lots of music, lots of energy, not too much chat – but enough, and we want people to have learned something by the end of the show.”

Chris will return to the airwaves with his new Virgin Radio show next week.

Demi Lovato backs sobriety post

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 03:00 AM PST

Demi Lovato has liked a meme about sober living.

The 26-year-old singer – who was hospitalised following a drug overdose last July – delighted her fans when a post on Instagram account f***ing_sober caught her eye.

The meme showed a group of friends toasting around the table, with one of the women holding an imaginary glass, and had a message printed above which read: “When you’re all about that new sober life but still tryna hold onto your old ideas.(sic)”

The image was captioned: “One of these days I swear I’ll actually resemble a real human person.”

The ‘Confident’ singer’s endorsement of the post didn’t get missed by fans, with a number of them adding comments to the post.

One wrote: “Demi likes this. This is us.”

While another excitedly shared: “Demi Lovato liked this too.”

Earlier this month, the former ‘X Factor’ judge pledged never to take another day for granted after fighting back to health following her near-fatal overdose.

She posted: “So grateful for the lessons I’ve learned this year. I will never take another day in life for granted, even the bad ones.”

Demi also thanked her fans for supporting her through her recent troubles.

She said: “Thankful for my fans, friends, family and everyone who supported me through this year. God bless.”

Prior to Christmas, Demi revealed she feels “sober and grateful to be alive” after her overdose.

The singer – who spent time in rehab after she was found unconscious at her Los Angeles home – reassured fans she is fine but also asked for some space.

She wrote on Twitter: “I am sober and grateful to be alive and taking care of ME…

“I’m so blessed I get to take this time to be with family, relax, work on my mind, body and soul and come back when I’m ready. I have my fans to thank for that. I’m so grateful, truly. I love you guys so f**king much thank you (sic).”

NBC’s All-Star Elvis Presley Tribute Gets International Launch

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 02:06 AM PST

NBC‘s upcoming Elvis Presley tribute special, which will see Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendes and others pay tribute to the rock ‘n’ roll legend, will be taken out internationally by Alfred Haber Television.

The distributor has landed the rights to the one-off show, which goes out on the U.S. network on Feb. 17. The special celebrates the 50th anniversary of NBC‘s 1968 show, which helped Presley put himself back at the top of the charts.

Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, Josh Groban, Carrie Underwood, and Blake Shelton will all be in the new show. The modern-day stars will perform Elvis classics including “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Hound Dog,” “All Shook Up,” and “Blue Suede Shoes.”

There will also be outtakes from the 1960s special and interviews from those involved in the original broadcast. Veteran music producer Ken Ehrlich will produce the new show.

“We all know Elvis Presley as the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, but it was his ’68 comeback special on NBC that truly secured his reign,” said Alfred Haber. “Now, 50 years later, the ‘Elvis All-Star Tribute’ is the fitting salute to the man, his music, and the night he reclaimed his crown.”

Alfred Haber handles international sales for a raft of U.S. produced music shows and events including the coverage of the Grammy Awards.