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Weinstein attorney Donna Rotunno dishes on ‘celebrity victimhood’ in #MeToo era – Fox Business

January 18th, 2020

The twelve jurors and three alternates were selected by the close of Harvey Weinstein’s Friday in court, setting the stage for what would soon be an estimated six weeks-long rape and sexual assault trial featuring Hollywood stars, civil rights advocacy and, surely, drama.

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It had been two weeks of celebrity sightings – whether inside the courtroom or in front of the New York courthouse – bickering between defense attorneys and prosecutors and a virtual revolving door of roughly 680 potential jurors including the model Gigi Hadid, who wasn’t chosen.

Harvey Weinstein, left, arrives at court with his lead attorney Donna Rotunno on Tuesday, Jan. 7, the first day of jury selection. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

HARVEY WEINSTEIN CAUGHT ON CELLPHONE TIRADES: POTENTIAL JUROR

“It went as well as it could have under those circumstances,” Weinstein’s lead attorney, Donna Rotunno, told FOX Business in a telephone interview just hours after court on Friday. “I always say that when the defense takes on a case, you start off every case down 21-to-nothing. That’s the nature of the game.”

Supermodel Gigi Hadid arrives at a Manhattan courthouse for jury selection. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Weinstein, 67, is accused of raping a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and sexually assaulting another in 2006. If convicted, he could face life in prison.

The once-feared former studio boss behind such Oscar winners as “Pulp Fiction” and “Shakespeare in Love” has said any sexual activity was consensual. The initial claims against him in October 2017, however, fueled a barrage of additional accusations that drove the rise of the #MeToo movement, which called out sexual misconduct, particularly among the powerful and famous.

Coming less than a year after the election of an American president who himself had been accused of inappropriate sexual advances, the Weinstein case was followed by allegations against high-profile personalities from casino mogul Steve Wynn, who stepped down from the company that bears his name, to television personality Charlie Rose, who was fired by CBS and PBS.

Last week, California prosecutors announced a new set of charges against Weinstein — including forcible rape, sexual penetration by use of force and sexual battery — in connection with two reported incidents in the course of as many days.

Prosecutors in Los Angeles County accused the movie producer of forcing himself into an unidentified female victim’s hotel room on Feb. 18, 2013, and raping her, according to a statement. He’s also accused of assaulting a different woman in a Beverly Hills hotel room a day later.

Despite the defense team’s multiple attempts to have the case moved out of New York City, as well as requests to interview potential jurors in private and one to have the judge removed, their efforts were largely unsuccessful.

Opening statements are expected to begin Wednesday.

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Amid widespread media coverage and the pressure attached to the case’s outcome, Manhattan Supreme Court Judge James Burke at one point warned potential jurors: “This trial is not a referendum on the #MeToo movement.”

Harvey Weinstein arrives at the Oscars in 2014. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Five women and seven men will make up the jury. Of the dozen, four people – one man and three women – are African-American, while a fourth woman is African-American and Latino, ABC News reported. Two women and one man will serve as alternates.

Much of Thursday and Friday were spent with Weinstein’s defense team, led by Rotunno, sparring with prosecutors such as lead attorney Joan Illuzzi – and vice versa – over the ages, genders and races of the potential jurors.

Rotunno came down on assistant district attorney Illuzzi for largely rejecting men as prospective jury members, while the prosecutor complained to the judge that the defense was excluding young, white women.

“He has eliminated every single young, white female from both panels,” Illuzzi said, referring to one of Weinstein’s attorneys, according to Variety.

Donna Rotunno arrives at a Manhattan courthouse on Thursday, Jan. 16, for jury selection in Harvey Weinstein’s trial. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Rotunno was called out for arguing against a white, female juror because she neglected to inform the court that she was writing a book based on “assumptions about women in the workplace,” according to the report.

The woman was ultimately designated Juror No. 11, Rotunno told FOX Business.

“She did not disclose that she is writing a book called ‘The Age of Consent’ that deals with many issues that this trial is going to address,” Rotunno said during the call. “We did what we could with the constraints that were put on us, and you know, hopefully, we have a fair jury.”

Rotunno took the reins as Weinstein’s lead attorney in July and was joined by colleague and fellow attorney Damon Cheronis.

There are so many things that are wrapped up into this case that it would almost be impossible to find this type of perfect storm involved in a case ever again

– Donna Rotunno

“I chose to represent Harvey Weinstein because I think these are the types of cases that lawyers that do what I do live for,” Rotunno said shortly after she joined the legal team, which had already included Arthur Aidala.

The Chicago-based attorney is no stranger to defending men in sexual assault cases, nor is she new to high-profile cases of a sensitive nature.

“In a case like this,” she said,” the deck is stacked against you even more – given media presence, given the pressure on the [district attorney’s] office to convict… there’s political pressure, there’s social pressure, there are the pressures of the movement.”

The #MeToo movement is a topic Rotunno has not shied away from, despite representing a man who, according to a report by The Cut, has been accused of sexual misconduct by at least 100 women. Several accusers, many of whom are celebrities, are expected to testify.

“The court of public opinion takes over, and we lose sight of the fact that Harvey Weinstein is an innocent man unless a jury finds otherwise”

– Donna Rotunno

Rotunno believes the sheer number of accusers lends credence to her arguments in defense of Weinstein.

In some ways, the notion of #MeToo leaves women “feeling like you’re a part of something,” she said.

“What happens is you might have a memory or a recollection of something that now morphs into something else… there’s almost like a celebrity victimhood status now. People join movements and they say, ‘Oh, well, #BelieveAllWomen. Well, OK, if we’re going to believe all women, then I can say whatever I want.’”

Actor Rose McGowan, right, speaks at a news conference as actor Rosanna Arquette, center left, listens outside a Manhattan courthouse Jan. 6. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

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She called the #MeToo movement “dangerous,” a statement she previously made when being interviewed for a recent New York Times article. “I have to look at #MeToo through the lens of a criminal defense attorney because that’s the way #MeToo is affecting my client in this situation,” she told FOX Business.

“I believe in the justice system. I believe everyone has a right to the presumption of innocence and everyone has a right to a fair trial and due process,” she said. “And that’s what we lose in social movements – people get stripped of their rights, whether it’s inadvertent or not … That’s just not the way our system of justice is. That’s not what it’s founded on.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Box Office: ‘Bad Boys for Life’ Scores Big With $66 Million Launch – Variety

January 18th, 2020

Bad Boys for Life” is showing plenty of power at the North American box office with an impressive  launch of around $66 million at 3,740 venues over the four-day holiday weekend.

Sony’s sequel to 1995’s “Bad Boys” and 2003’s “Bad Boys II” far exceeded the studio’s pre-release forecasts of a $38 million weekend. The film, which generated an A Cinemascore and a five-star rating on PostTrak, reunites Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as old-school cops taking down the leader of a Miami drug cartel, and carries a $90 million production budget.

Bad Boys for Life” will wind up with the second-highest take for the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend after “American Sniper” at  $107.2 million and well ahead of “Ride Along” at $48 million. It’s also well above the $46 million opening for “Bad Boys II.” Sony Pictures is already developing a fourth “Bad Boys” with screenwriter Chris Bremner returning.

Universal’s opening of its fantasy-adventure “Dolittle” should wind up second with $31 million at 4,155 locations. Although the Robert Downey Jr. vehicle is showing a weekend total somewhat above earlier predictions of $22-$25 million, “Dolittle” will need to show staying power in coming weeks to recoup its $175 million budget, which is substantially higher than many family comedies.

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Universal’s “1917,” which won last weekend impressively with $37 million, is leading the rest of the pack with an estimated $26.6 million at 3,612 sites for the four days. The World War I epic picked up 10 Oscar nominations on Monday, including a best picture nod.

The sixth weekend of Sony’s “Jumanji: The Next Level” is edging out the fifth frame of Disney’s “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” The “Jumanji” sequel should wind up the weekend with $12.7 million at 3,323 sites for a domestic total of about $273 million and “Skywalker” will add on $10.4 million to go past the $493 million mark for North America.

Warner Bros.’ legal drama “Just Mercy” was heading for sixth place with about $7.6 million at 2,457 locations to push it to about $21 million after four weeks. Sony’s fourth frame of “Little Women,” which scored six Oscar nominations, followed with about $7.3 million at 2,503 venues to lift its North American total past $85 million.

“Bad Boys for Life,” from directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, has generated a mostly positive critical reception, with a 75% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

“Dolittle” stars Downey as a veterinarian able to talk to animals. Stephen Gaghan directed “Dolittle,” which centers on the title character seeking a cure to nurse the young Queen Victoria of England back to health. Antonio Banderas and Michael Sheen star in live-action roles, while the voice cast includes Rami Malek, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Emma Thompson, Tom Holland, Selena Gomez, Marion Cotillard and John Cena.

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Box Office: ‘Bad Boys for Life’ Eyes $68M, ‘Dolittle’ Goes to the Dogs – Hollywood Reporter

January 18th, 2020

Starring Robert Downey Jr., ‘Dolittle’ may only earn $30 million over the long Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.

In another win for Sony Pictures, Bad Boys for Life is laughing much louder than expected in its North American box office debut while, across town, Dolittle is going to the dogs for Universal.

Bad Boys for Life, reteaming Will Smith and Martin Lawrence after a 17-year-hiatus, grossed $23.5 million on Friday for a projected $66 million to $68 million debut over the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, well ahead of expectations and successfully restarting the action-comedy franchise.

The threequel, earning solid reviews and an A CinemaScore from audiences, will have no trouble scoring the second-best showing ever for the MLK holiday behind American Sniper ($107 million), not adjusted for inflation. And there’s already talk of a sequel.

Friday’s audience was led by African-Americans (43 percent), males (56 percent) and ticket buyers under the age of 35 (57 percent), according to PostTrak.

Bad Boys 3 cost $90 million to produce before marketing. Years in the making, the R-rated pic was directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah.

Dolittle, grossing $6.3 million on Friday, is now looking at a projected four-day gross of $31 million. While that’s somewhat ahead of tracking, it is still a dismal start for a film that cost $175 million to $200 million before marketing. The hope now is that family audience gives Dolittle long legs; it also could make up ground overseas.

The period film, starring Robert Downey Jr., hoped to reboot the franchise about the iconic vet who can communicate with animals. Directed and co-written by Stephen Gaghan (Syriana, Traffic), Dolittle was supposed to open last May, but its release was delayed twice after Universal rushed to rework parts of the story and complete reshoots.

The timing of Dolittle, produced by Team Downey, isn’t ideal for Universal following office bomb Cats (both films rely heavily on VFX effects, not to mention animals).

Dolittle — ravaged by critics and marking Downey’s first turn on the big screen post-Iron Man — had been tracking for a four-day gross of $22 million to $28 million. On Friday, the pic skewed female (61 percent) and Caucasian (60 percent). Ticket buyers gave the film a so-so B CinemaScore.

The last Dolittle movie, starring Eddie Murphy, hit the big screen 19 years ago and was set in contemporary times.

A much-needed balm for Universal is the early success of Sam Mendes and Amblin Entertainment’s awards frontrunner 1917, which scored 10 Oscar nominations Jan. 13, including for best picture.

Now in its second weekend of wide release, 1917 isn’t all that far behind Doolittle, earning $6.2 million on Friday for a projected four-day weekend of $26.6 million for Universal and Amblin.

1917 isn’t the only best-picture enjoying a bump. Parasite, adding 496 theaters for a total location count of 843 — its widest footprint to date — is on course for a four-day weekend of nearly $2 million, followed by a projected $1.6 million for Jojo Rabbit, which upped its theater count by 880 locations to 1,005 following Oscar nominations.

Best picture contender Ford v Ferrari also upped its screen count, and should gross roughly $1.3 million over the holiday frame. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Joker also tried to capitalize on their nominations by going back into theaters, but since both movies are available on home entertainment, their weekend box office results will be nominal, or $360,000 and $430,000, respectively.

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Box Office: ‘Bad Boys 3’ Dominates Over ‘Dolittle’ With $24M Friday – Forbes

January 18th, 2020

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence’s Bad Boys For Life is the year’s first blockbuster, while Robert Downey Jr.’s Dolittle is (probably) the year’s first big-budget bomb.

Boy, when Sony does a franchise revival right, they do it really “right.” There doesn’t seem to be a lot of middle ground between “Wohoo!” (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”) and “D’oh!” (Charlie’s Angels), but Columbia’s Bad Boys For Life certainly falls in the “win” category. The long-in-development action sequel reuniting Will Smith and Martin Lawrence 16.5 years after Bad Boys II, got off to a roaring start. The $90 million, R-rated action comedy parlayed genuine interest, decent trailers, surprisingly strong reviews and solid word-of-mouth for a surprisingly good movie into a boffo $23.5 million Friday, including $6.36 million in Thursday previews. That’s the second-biggest Friday ever in January, behind the $30 million “first day of wide release” Friday of American Sniper on this same frame in 2015.

Clint Eastwood’s war actioner earned $89 million over its Fri-Sun wide release expansion and $107 million over the Fri-Mon holiday. Among other big MLK weekend openers, Ice Cube and Kevin Hart’s Ride Along earned a $14.4 million Friday on this holiday frame in 2014 for a $41.5 million Fri-Sun/$48.6 million Fri-Mon weekend. That would still be, from a $23.5 million Friday, a $68 million Fri-Sun/$79 million Fri-Mon debut. Heck, legs as poor as Cloverfield (a $40 million Fri-Sun/$46 million Fri-Mon haul in 2008 from a $17 million Friday) would still get Bad Boys For Life to $69 million by Monday night. I went through a lot of MLK weekend openers (remember Hotel For Dogs?), and there’s not a ton of wiggle room here, at least not negatively speaking.  

There could be unusual-for-this-weekend frontloading, but there are no negative variables. Michael Bay’s first two Bad Boys movies are considered generational action classics, and this one is much better than expected. To the extent Bad Boys For Life is soaring past Sony’s low-ball $38 million Fri-Mon guestimate, A) it’s their job to play down expectations and B) this is a case where strong reviews and solid word of mouth (including an A from Cinemascore) will turn a likely big into a likely smash. The whole “make a good movie” thing can be the hardest factor for which to account, which is partially why there is an emphasis on pre-sold elements (brands, franchises, marquee characters and movie stars). But something went very right on the set of the Adil El Arbi-and-Bilall Fallah-directed sequel.

It’s not just nostalgia for Bad Boys, but also the mere idea of a big-budget, star-driven, real-world action thriller that began to become an endangered species right around the time of Bad Boys II and its $273 million global gross on a $130 million budget. Even in 2003, the film felt like Will Smith and Michael Bay’s last rodeo with that kind of unapologetic R-rated action. Smith transitioned to PG-13, four-quadrant sci-fi (I, Robot), horror (I Am Legend), melodrama (Pursuit of Happyness), romance (Hitch) and superhero stories (Hancock), while Bay took one crack at serious sci-fi (The Island) before getting sucked into five Transformers movies. There remains a hunger for well-made, big-scale running-n-gunning action flicks, as we’ve seen with Mission: Impossible, Fast and the Furious and John Wick.

It helps that Bad Boys 3 is the best of the series, mixing the “our action heroes are getting old and culturally irrelevant” tropes with a dash of Fast & Furious-style worldbuilding and helping of “What legacy do we leave behind beyond corpses and collars?” pathos that aligns it with Smith’s Spies in Disguise and Gemini Man. It’s not as self-critical as Unforgiven or Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo, but it spends as much time on plot and character as action with a surprisingly melodramatic third act. To the extent that the trailers were light on plot, the film contains several unspoiled elements that will only increase buzz in audiences discovering the twists and turns for themselves. We’ll see how the weekend unfolds, but Sony’s got another proverbial Jumanji on their hands.

The only other new release was Universal’s much-delayed (and much too-expensive) Dolittle. The Robert Downey Jr. passion project grossed $6.3 million on Friday, including $925,000 in Thursday previews. If it continues like Hotel For Dogs ($22.9 million over the Fri-Mon frame from a $4.34 million Friday in 2009) and Monster Trucks ($14 million from a $2.95 million Friday in 2017), the poorly-reviewed and heavily-reshot fantasy comedy will earn $25 million over its Fri-Sun frame and $33 million over the Fri-Mon holiday weekend. But if it plays like Paul Blart: Mall Cop ($39.2 million from a $9.8 million Friday in 2009), it’ll end the holiday closer to $25 million. If we were talking about a reasonably priced Doctor Dolittle movie, a $33 million Fri-Mon debut wouldn’t be so bad.

Alas, this film cost an absurd $175 million, making it a “must break records to break even” situation. I don’t know the budget at which this film was greenlit, nor do I know how good/bad the original Stephen Gaghan cut was before Universal allegedly requested three weeks of reshoots. The culprit was allegedly the lack of comedy and/or kid-friendly elements. I am shocked that the director of Syriana and the writer of Traffic didn’t nail the kid-friendly talking animal bits. The finished version is a cut-to-the-bone (89 minutes-plus credits) sprint which got miserable reviews. This smells like another King Arthur and the Legend of the Sword or The Wolfman, where huge amounts of money were thrown at a doomed project to turn a two-star film into a… two-star movie. 

Universal deserves all finger-wagging for greenlighting a huge-budget Doctor Dolittle movie starring the man behind The Soloist and The Judge, directed by the guy behind Syriana which then required costly reshoots courtesy of Jonathan Liebesman and Chris McKay. When folks complain about the lack of opportunities afforded to women and/or minorities, it’s stuff like this, whereby the guy who wrote Traffic is given a mega-budget shot at a Doctor Dolittle movie (never mind that the Betty Thomas version, starring Eddie Murphy, was the only Dolittle movie that was ever a smash hit) over any “not a white guy” filmmakers. Downey Jr., an excellent actor to be sure, was never an opener before Marvel and never became one after Iron Man. Sherlock Holmes is an exception, but Sherlock Holmes cost $90 million.

Barring an overseas miracle, Dolittle will be a loser for the Comcast-owned studio, even if it’ll be more “a disappointment in relation to cost” as opposed to an epic Catsastrophe. Nonetheless, as bad as Universal has had it of late (Abominable, Black Christmas, Last Christmas, Cats, Dolittle, etc.), they still have an Oscar-nominated hit in 1917 (which should have $81 million domestic by Monday) and they are itching to unleash what could be a deluge of probable hits (The Invisible Man, Trolls: World Tour) and super-smashes (No Time to Die, Fast & Furious 9, Minions: The Rise of Gru). If Disney can go from John Carter to The Avengers without missing a beat, then Universal will be fine as James Bond, Gru and Dominic Toretto come through accordingly.

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DaBaby Assaults Hotel Worker – TMZ

January 18th, 2020

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New trailers: Black Widow, Morbius, TNT’s Snowpiercer, and more – The Verge

January 18th, 2020

With all the noise around how there’ll probably never be a second season of Watchmen this week, I figured I should finally get around to writing about Watchmen since it’s been weeks since it wrapped up.

There was a ton I liked about the series: the show within a show; the oddball, barely explained side characters; the way it reframes some of the graphic novel’s biggest ideas. The Hooded Justice episode, in particular, was worth watching the entire season for. That hour is perhaps a better encapsulation of the show than the entirety of the show, and it feels so true to the book that it hardly seems like it wasn’t in there in the first place.

I did find the series’ structure a little frustrating, though. Very little actually happens during the timeline of the show — there’s a murder, some flashbacks, and then the ending arrives. Nearly everything important occurred before the show started, and we just have to wait for characters to reveal to us what they’ve already done. Those twists and turns add up to something interesting, I just wish it had felt a little more like that scheming was happening in the present, rather than like we were waiting for a “republic serial villain” to lay things out for us when the time is right.

Check out seven trailers from this week below.

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Black Widow

Marvel put out a short new teaser for Black Widow this week. It includes a lot of the same footage as the first trailer, so there’s not too much to see here. But for those eager for spoilers, it also includes a first glimpse at the film’s villain, Taskmaster. The movie comes out May 1st.

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Morbius

The first second of this trailer features a ripped, shirtless vampire, just in case you were wondering what kind of movie this is going to be. Morbius is Sony’s latest attempt to expand its universe of Spider-Man films. While I’m utterly unmoved by everything I’m seeing here, there is one fun little twist: Michael Keaton. He appears for a split second at the end of the trailer, suggesting he’s reprising his role from Spider-Man: Homecoming. Morbius comes out July 31st.

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Snowpiercer

After the success of Bong Joon-ho’s film adaptation in 2013, Snowpiercer is being turned into a series for TNT. It’s a strange world that leaves a lot of room for exploration, so I’m curious to see where this goes. For now, though, the imagery all looks really similar to what appeared in the film. The show debuts May 31st.

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Guns Akimbo

Daniel Radcliffe plays an internet troll who gets guns bolted onto his hands and is forced to participate in an online reality show death match. I really cannot offer a comment beyond that. It comes out March 5th.

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Next In Fashion

Netflix keeps adding more and more reality shows, and Next In Fashion looks like an easy winner. The Project Runway-esque series gives Queer Eye fans another place to watch Tan France, who co-hosts with Alexa Chung. The series debuts January 29th.

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Dispatches From Elsewhere

AMC has a mysterious new series coming up from Jason Segel. It’s hard to explain just what’s going on here — the whole thing looks a little bit like Netflix’s Maniac, a little bit like a Michel Gondry film, and a little bit like a mishmash of every show about some dark global conspiracy. Point being, you should at least check this out for a moment to see what it’s like — plus, it co-stars André 3000. The show debuts March 1st.

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Verotika

The Misfits’ Glenn Danzig directed a horror movie. It is his directorial debut. I’ll leave it at that.

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Hank Azaria Says He Will No Longer Voice Apu on ‘The Simpsons’ – Rolling Stone

January 18th, 2020

Hank Azaria revealed in a new interview that he will no longer voice the character of Apu on The Simpsons. The actor’s departure from the role follows a swell of backlash against the Indian-American convenience store owner and the stereotypes it furthered on the long-running animated series.

“All we know there is I won’t be doing the voice anymore, unless there’s someway to transition it or something,” Azaria told Slash Film of Apu.

Although Azaria would no longer voice the character, The Simpsons weren’t necessarily removing Apu from Springfield: Slash Film suggests producers could recast the character with an Indian actor.

“What they’re going to do with the character is their call,” Azaria said. “It’s up to them and they haven’t sorted it out yet. All we’ve agreed on is I won’t do the voice anymore.”

In 2017, comedian Hari Kondabalu released the documentary The Problem With Apu that pinpointed his issues with the character. “For the longest time, Apu was the most prominent representation of South Asian Americans, and despite how much our society has changed in the last three decades, the character persists today,” Kondabalu said at the time of the documentary’s release.

Six months later — after The Simpsons itself shrugged off the Apu controversy — Azaria addressed the situation during an appearance on the Late Show. “And I’ve tried to express this before: You know the idea that anybody – young or old, past or present – was bullied or teased based on the character of Apu, it just really makes me sad,” Azaria said. “It was certainly not my attention, I wanted to spread laughter and joy with this character. And the idea that it’s brought pain and suffering in any way, that it’s used to marginalize people, it’s upsetting, genuinely.”

Now, midway through the series’ 31st season, Azaria said that he and producers mutually agreed that he no longer voice Apu. “We all feel like it’s the right thing and good about it,” the actor said.

“If @HankAzaria is indeed no longer doing the voice of Apu, I do hope they keep the character & let a very talented writing staff do something interesting with him. If not to better the show, then to at least spare me some death threats,” Kondabolu tweeted Friday. “My documentary ‘The Problem with Apu’ was not made to get rid of a dated cartoon character, but to discuss race, representation & my community (which I love very much). It was also about how you can love something (like the Simpsons) & still be critical about aspects of it (Apu).”

Kondabolu added, “Most people who saw the documentary like it & those that didn’t see it…hate it. You can see it on Amazon, truTV app & other places. Feel free to watch it by legal or illegal means. I don’t get paid more either way & it’s the message of the film that has the most value to me.”

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Meghan Markle is hunting for luxury real estate in Canada’s billionaire’s row – Page Six

January 18th, 2020

Meghan Markle is house-hunting in one of Canada’s most exclusive enclaves, eyeing a $27 million waterfront property in Vancouver, in yet another sign that she and Prince Harry are planning a permanent move away from Britain’s royals.

The Duchess of Sussex, who fled to Canada with 8-month-old Archie shortly after she and Prince Harry announced their split from the British royal family earlier this month, has been holed up on Vancouver Island in a lavish property owned by a Canadian billionaire while her husband deals with the fallout of their bombshell announcement in London.

Markle is reportedly interested in purchasing a sprawling 6,900-square-foot property in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighborhood with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the Vancouver skyline, according to a report in the UK’s Sun newspaper.  The 108-year-old mansion on four levels features six bedrooms and five bathrooms and 20-foot beach-side walls and tall hedges for privacy.

“Meghan has expressed an interest in this beautiful house,” a realtor told the newspaper last week. “It would be perfect for her, Harry and little Archie.

“The neighborhood is known as a haven for wealthy people and has a very laid-back atmosphere. I’m sure they would be very happy there, and they would be welcomed with open arms.”

The tony neighborhood, which features yoga on nearby Kitsilano Beach, is home to a group of moneyed entrepreneurs, including Canadian billionaire Chip Wilson who founded the Lululemon yoga wear empire, and whose mansion is worth more than $40 million.

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Diagnosed with dementia, she documented her wishes for the end. Then her retirement home said no. – The Washington Post

January 18th, 2020

Seven years ago, at age 57, Saran was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, a progressive, fatal brain disease. She had started forgetting things, losing focus at the job she had held for three decades. Then tests revealed the grim diagnosis.

“It was absolutely devastating,” Saran, 63, said. “It changed everything. My job ended. I was put out on disability. I was told to establish myself in an [extended] community before I was unable to care for myself.”

So Saran uprooted herself. She sold her home in 2015 and found a bucolic retirement community in rural New York whose website promised “comprehensive health care for life.”

And now, she is fighting with that community over her right to determine how she will die — even though she has made her wishes known in writing. Similar fights could ensnare millions of Americans with dementia and similar end-of-life directives in coming years.

In 2018, after two brain hemorrhages, Saran conferred with a lawyer and signed an advance directive for dementia, a controversial new document that instructs caregivers to withhold ­hand-feeding and fluids at the end of life to avoid the worst ravages of the disease.

“It’s not something that I am willing to endure,” she said. “I don’t want my life prolonged beyond the point where I’m participating in life.”

But when Saran submitted the document to her New York continuing care retirement community, Kendal at Ithaca, where she has spent more than $500,000 to live, officials there said they could not honor her wishes.

In a letter, lawyers told Saran that the center is required by state and federal law to offer regular daily meals, with feeding assistance if necessary. No provision exists, the letter said, for “decisions to refuse food and water.”

When asked about Saran, Kendal’s executive director, Laurie Mante, wrote in an email: “We recognize the great complexity in balancing our residents’ wishes with what is required of us. We have a dedicated team who works to balance those interests, and, when appropriate, work with our residents and their families to seek alternative paths.”

It’s a cruel quandary for Saran and other Americans who have turned to dementia directives that have been created in recent years. Even when people document their choices in these directives — while they still have the ability to do so — no guarantee exists that those instructions will be honored, said Stanley Terman, a California psychiatrist who advises patients on end-of-life decisions.

“It is, in my opinion, a false sense of security,” Terman said.

That may be especially true for the 2.2 million people who live in long-term care settings in the United States. People with dementia are most likely to die in nursing facilities, according to new research from Duke University and Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System.

“If you’ve got the resources, where you’ve got family and paid caregivers at home, you’re all set,” said Karl Steinberg, a California geriatrician and hospice physician who has written extensively about dementia directives. If you’re living in a facility, he said, “it’s not going to happen.”

One key question is whether patients with dementia — or those who fear the disease — can say in advance that they want oral food and fluids stopped at a certain point, a move that would hasten death through dehydration.

It is a controversial form of VSED — voluntarily stopping eating and drinking — a practice among some terminally ill patients who want to end their lives. In those cases, people who still have mental capacity can refuse food and water, resulting in death within about two weeks.

Many states prohibit the withdrawal of assisted feeding, calling it basic “comfort care” that must be offered. Only one state, Nevada, explicitly recognizes an advance directive that calls for stopping eating and drinking. And that’s via a little-known law that took effect in October.

Critics of such documents, however, say they could lead to forced starvation of incapacitated people. The directives may be biased, reflecting a society prejudiced against age, disability and cognitive change, said James Wright, medical director of three long-term care facilities in Richmond and lead author of a recent white paper advising facilities not to honor dementia directives.

Based on his years of clinical experience, Wright said many people with dementia become content with their situation, even when they never thought they would be.

“To enforce an advance directive on someone who may have had a complete turnaround on what they think of a life worth living is unethical and immoral,” Wright said.

The dementia directives offered in the past few years are aimed at filling what experts say has been a major gap in advance-care planning: the gradual loss of capacity to make decisions about one’s care.

One version, published in 2018 by Barak Gaster, a professor of medicine at the University of Washington, was downloaded 130,000 times after being mentioned in a New York Times story and continues to be retrieved about 500 times per week.

“This is an issue that people have really thought a lot about,” Gaster said. “They worry about it a lot. They’re so eager and excited to have a structured opportunity to make their wishes known.”

Traditional advance directives focus on rare conditions, such as a persistent vegetative state or permanent coma, Gaster said. “And yet the No. 1 reason a person would lose ability is dementia,” he said.

As the U.S. population ages, more people — and their families — are grappling with dementia. By 2050, nearly 14 million Americans 65 and older may be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

“We are right now experiencing the very first upswing of the giant wave of dementia that’s heading our way,” Gaster said.

Saran is on the crest of that wave.

Divorced, with no close family, she turned to Kendal — with its 236 independent units and 84-bed health center — as her final home. During her four years there, she has noticed some decline in her mental clarity.

“Even some of the simplest mathematical problems, like even seven times seven, I can’t think of it now,” Saran said.

Still, she is able to manage her affairs. She cooks her own food and cares for her three cats — Squeaky, Sweetie and Pirate, a one-eyed tabby. A longtime Buddhist, she often drives to a nearby monastery to practice her faith.

In late summer, Saran invited visitors to her small cottage at Kendal, where tapestries hang on the walls and bookshelves are filled with tomes on religion, death and dying.

Frontotemporal dementia affects about 60,000 people in the United States, and patients often die within seven to 13 years. But Saran’s disease appears to be progressing more slowly than expected.

“I think I have great capacity,” said Saran, who wears her silver hair long and favors jeans, linen shirts and turquoise jewelry.

She chain-smokes, lighting up the Seneca cigarettes she buys for $3 a pack from a nearby Indian reservation. She thought about quitting but decided it was not worth the effort and continues to indulge her habit. “If you had my diagnosis, wouldn’t you?” she said.

When Saran was hospitalized after her strokes, she suddenly understood what losing her abilities might mean.

“I realized, oh, my God, I might get stuck in a situation where I can’t take any independent action,” she recalled. “I better make sure I have all my paperwork in order.”

She was stunned to learn it might not matter, even after her local lawyer, Chuck Guttman, drafted health-care proxy documents and a power of attorney. “I thought this was it,” she said. “I thought I’d move here and everything was taken care of, everything was settled. And now it’s not.”

Mante, Kendal’s executive director, declined to comment on Saran’s specific situation, even after Saran authorized her to do so. “As with all of our residents,” she wrote, “we are working diligently to provide for an enriching, quality living environment that honors her independence and wishes.”

Saran said no one from Kendal has yet reached out to discuss an “alternative path.”

Not all dementia directives include instructions about assisted feeding. Gaster said he and his colleagues had “heated conversations” before deciding to leave that issue off their popular document.

Instead, he said, his option helps more people by addressing general goals of care for each stage of the disease. The most important thing, he said, is for people to consider their choices and share their desires with their loved ones.

The debate, Gaster said, boils down to whether “assisted feeding is basic support” or “a medical intervention that can be declined in advance.”

“There’s still a very wide perspective of viewpoints on that,” he said.

Backed by statute and practice, facilities say they are bound to offer food to all residents willing to eat, and to assist with hand-feeding and fluids if a person needs help. The controversy centers on the definition of those terms.

Wright says late-stage dementia patients who show any interest in food — a flick of the eyes, grunting or gestures, opening the mouth — should be fed until they refuse it. Steinberg and others contend the default should be “don’t feed unless they ask for it.”

It is always going to be “somewhat of a guess,” Wright said, about whether hand-feeding someone is help — or force. “I’ve not seen any guidelines that can faithfully give good unbiased guidance,” he said. “I feel that I personally can determine when food means something to my patients and when it doesn’t.”

The growing efforts to use advance directives were inspired, in part, by high-profile cases of dementia patients who were spoon-fed against their apparent wishes. In Oregon and in British Columbia, courts ruled that food and water were basic care that could not be withdrawn.

But so far, there has been no court case that says a clear advance directive for VSED “may or must be honored,” said Thaddeus Mason Pope, a professor at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law who studies end-of-life decisions.

Pope said he has heard of many people who move out — or their families move them out — of long-term care facilities to avoid assisted feeding in the last stages of dementia.

Saran has considered that, too.

“I should probably just leave,” she said, although that would mean losing the nonrefundable investment she already has made. She thinks about moving out every day, but then what? Hospice might be a solution, but only if there is room when she needs it, she said.

Saran said her situation should be viewed as a cautionary tale. She wishes she had asked more questions before moving into her community and insisted on answers about how she would die once her dementia progressed.

“I didn’t realize I was signing away my right to self-determination,” she said. “I am appalled that my future demented self takes precedence over my competent current self.”

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. It is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation that is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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Painting found hidden in Italian gallery wall confirmed as long-lost Klimt – CNN

January 18th, 2020

Written by Amy Woodyatt, CNN

Italian authorities have confirmed a painting found hidden in the wall of a Piacenza art gallery is the long-lost “Portrait of a Lady” by Austrian artist Gustav Klimt.
In December, gardeners at the Ricci Oddi Modern Art in Piacenza found the canvas, partially concealed by a black trash bag, while cleaning ivy off a wall.

The workers discovered the trash bag with the painting after they opened a small, rusted metal door which revealed a cavity that had been hidden by more than 30cm of ivy, gallery employee Dario Gallinari told CNN in December.

The portrait, which depicts a young woman with rouged cheeks and dark hair, disappeared from the gallery during a building renovation in 1997 and was presumed stolen.

In a statement published on their website on Friday, the gallery said that experts had deemed the painting to be authentic.

The painting’s disappearance in 1977 was somewhat of a mystery — its frame was found near the gallery’s skylight shortly after the work disappeared, leading to speculation that the thieves could have entered and left through it.

A forgery of the painting, wrapped up and posted to a disgraced politician, was seized by authorities a month later, Reuters news agency reported — adding further intrigue to the case.

But the discovery of the painting inside the wall suggests the work may have never even left the building, according to CNN affiliate Sky TG24.

According to head of culture Jonathan Papamarenghi, “Portrait of a Lady” was second on the list of the most valuable artworks missing in Italy, after a work by Caravaggio stolen from a church in Sicily in 1969, Reuters news agency reported.

The painting was part of a series of female portraits that Klimt painted in the last few years of his life, some of which were never finished.

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