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According to German newspaper Bild and Russia Today, Rammstein frontman Till Linemann is in critical condition in a Berlin hospital, after complaining of a fever after a solo concert in the Russian capital. The vocalist was tested for the COVID-19 virus as well as pneumonia and is now being kept in quarantine. It is said that at one stage he was in... Read More/Discuss on Metal Underground.com

Roger Stone was sentenced to 40 months — or 3 years and 4 months — in prison Thursday morning for impeding Trump-Russia investigation.

Stone, who worked as a campaign adviser for Trump, was found guilty in November 2019 on all federal counts in a trial stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Those counts included providing false statements to the House Intelligence Committee about contact with WikiLeaks, obstructing a congressional investigation of Russian election interference, and witness tampering.

Going into the sentencing, Stone requested probation and the Department of Justice recommended prison time.

Also Read: Colbert Thinks Trump Is Turning the US into a Banana Republic - Except That He 'Does Not Eat Fruit' (Video)

It’s believed that Trump will pardon Stone. Trump ramped up his support of his friend and ally this week, tweeting things like, “Two months in jail for a Swamp Creature, yet 9 years recommended for Roger Stone (who was not even working for the Trump Campaign). Gee, that sounds very fair! Rogue prosecutors maybe? The Swamp!”

Trump also tweeted a clip of Fox News host Tucker Carlson urging Stone’s pardon.

Earlier in the week, Trump commuted the sentence of disgraced former Illinois governor and “Celebrity Apprentice” contestant Rod Blagojevich, citing Blagojevich’s wife’s appeals to him directly on Fox News. He also pardoned Edward DeBartolo Jr., the former San Francisco 49ers owner who was convicted in a gambling fraud scandal. Trump is expected to pardon Stone.

Attorney General Bill Barr publicly condemned Trump’s tweets on Stone last week, saying they “make it impossible for me to do my job.”

“I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody … whether it’s Congress, a newspaper editorial board, or the president,” he said in an interview with ABC News. “I’m gonna do what I think is right. And you know … I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me.”

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www.thewrap.com | 2/20/20

The continued growth of the games industry has been both a huge surprise and an inevitable certainty: Surprising because very few observers expected it to reach the $180 billion annualized market size it currently boasts, and inevitable because “Fortnite,” “Mario,” “Halo,” “Candy Crush” and Twitch have all become fixtures with audiences in the living room, at the office and on the go.

This year will be critical in the evolution of games. Here are six key trends in the gaming industry to keep an eye on in 2020:

1. Gaming could eclipse the market size of paid TV by 2021 based on current growth trajectories. 
In terms of overall revenue, gaming is now bigger than music and movies combined. Gaming is on track to become the No. 1 entertainment category in the next several years. IDG estimates that gaming reached roughly $180 billion in revenue last year and is on track to exceed $230 billion by 2023. Asia-Pac (led by China, Japan and South Korea) is the biggest overall bucket, followed by North America. But rest of world — led by what we are calling “The Opportunity Markets” of Southeast Asia, Middle East North Africa, Australia/New Zealand, Russia, India, Latin America and Turkey, among others — will post the strongest Compounded Annual Growth Rate in the next 4 years — 13% versus 6% for North America, 9% for Europe and 5% for Asia.

Also Read: 'Sonic the Hedgehog' Breaks Video Game Box Office Record With $58 Million Opening

2. The games market will become more fragmented and more consolidated at the same time.
In other words, there will be growth of cross-play, where a title can be played simultaneously by players of different platforms  (a PS4 “Call of Duty” gamer can play against a friend who has “Call of Duty” for Xbox One). At the same time, there will be growth of siloed walled gardens, where publishers build out their own platforms. The two sub-industries will be able to coexist in 2020.

While these two trends appear to be diametrically opposed to each other, there will be a mix of some new cross-play collaborations above and beyond “Fortnite”/”Minecraft”/”Call of Duty,” while at the same time EA, Ubisoft, Bethesda, Rockstar and others will continue to build out their own siloed platforms to complement their existing external platform partnerships. Sometime in the next 3-4 years, however, IDG believes that there will be a consumer reckoning, whereby having to log into 10+ platform accounts to access all of a gamer’s gaming content will become too cumbersome and cross-play/interoperability will be valued over fragmentation.

3. Gaming represents the next frontier for social media and for traditional media.
Players and viewers spend an increasing amount of time in share of day through game communities. As an example, Netflix’s greatest competitor might not be Disney+ or Hulu. “Fortnite” is a competitive threat, and Netflix said as much last year when the company stated that “Fortnite” was cannibalizing Netflix customers’ screen time. This battle for entertainment share of day is becoming more multi-faceted, and in many fronts of this battle, gaming and esports are winning. When evaluating the games market, it is important to take a community-centric approach. Both competitive and livestreaming platforms are benefiting from this broader trend, and it is reshaping entertainment as we know it.

Also Read: All 46 Video Game Movies Ranked, Including 'Sonic the Hedgehog'

4. Gaming and esports are the new Trojan horse for Gen Z and millennials.
Although there remains a sizable audience and appetite for traditional media and linear TV, those in younger demographics are often discovering content for the first time on Twitch, YouTube and other communities where gaming and esports are primary content drivers. These same audience segments represent the same people that traditional media have termed “cord-cutters,” and the growing share of gaming and esports is beginning to impact traditional media and even traditional sports.

While a streaming viewer of an esports event might hold a different value versus a Super Bowl television viewer, the scale and scope of gaming/esports/livestreaming entertainment can no longer be denied. Even if we split the League of Legends World Championship Series audience in half, since half of the global audience came from China, the remaining half is still pretty in-line with the total audience of this month’s Super Bowl event. And while the growth in viewership for traditional sports events has decelerated and, in some cases, declined year-over-year, the growth in gaming/esports viewership continues apace.

5. Esports is finally growing up and approaching esports 2.0.
In esports 1.0, the ecosystem was beginning to build out, but there was still a focus on short-term opportunities and a more transactional nature to partnerships. Many of the lower-quality companies are beginning to get weeded out of the market, while top-notch esports teams, franchises, brands and leagues are emerging with best practices and credibility to lend long-term strength to this burgeoning market. However, a rising tide does not necessarily lift all boats, and the same can be said in the case of esports.

There will be winners, but there will also be a lot of losers during this consolidation phase, as the market transitions in a flight to quality, with cleaner business models where dollars are tracked more accurately, operating models become more crystallized and less emblematic of the Wild Wild West. The partnership focus will become less transactional and, instead, will emphasize sustainable, long-term relationships.

Also Read: A New Era for Video Game Streaming? Competitors Target Twitch

6. Gaming and esports will benefit this year from a variety of key catalysts.
Next-gen console launches will release sometime in Q4 2020 for both PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X. Although console transitions are always disruptive to some extent, our checks with game developers indicate that there is more seamlessness in building next-gen content this time around versus prior transitions.

Cloud gaming platforms are still finding their footing, but there should be a bit more traction in 2020, although the bigger potential for this market is still a long ways off. VR gaming will also remain on the periphery but begin to establish itself more as we begin to see better VR-focused game content in the form of “Half-Life: Alyx” from Valve, among others. And the most important innovations in the games market will likely come from business model innovations, in addition to content innovations. Anticipate new genre mash-ups but also new ways of monetizing consumers that will provide additional value and engagement to the gaming experience.

Related stories from TheWrap:

'Sonic the Hedgehog' Breaks Video Game Box Office Record With $58 Million Opening

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A New Era for Video Game Streaming? Competitors Target Twitch

www.thewrap.com | 2/18/20

Joseph Vilsmaier, a German director and cinematographer behind the acclaimed 1993 World War II drama “Stalingrad,” died on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. He was 81.

His agent confirmed to the AP that Vilsmaier died “peacefully” at his home in Bavaria on Tuesday.

Vilsmaier’s film “Stalingrad” about a group of German soldiers fighting in the battle of Stalingrad in Soviet Russia won three Bavarian Film Awards in 1993, including one for Best Production and one for Vilsmaier’s cinematography.

Vilsmaier spent nine years working in a music conservatory as a runner and technician before moving up in the ranks and eventually landing a job as a camera operator for German television.

Also Read: Paula Kelly, 'Night Court' and 'Sweet Charity' Actress, Dies at 77

His first film, 1989’s “Autumn Milk,” starred his wife Dana Vávrová and was a box office success in the country. That film’s success was later matched by 1997’s “The Harmonists,” about the rise and fall of the Comedian Harmonists, Germany’s most famous a capella group in the 1930s. His 1995 film “Brother of Sleep” was also nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes.

Vilsmaier’s last film is set to be released later this year, “Der Boandlkramer und die ewige Liebe,” a comedy which he completed before his death.

He is survived by his three daughters, Janina, Theresa and Josephina.

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www.thewrap.com | 2/12/20
Lead produced by Working Title Television, distributed internationally by Fremantle and coming soon to BBC Two, period thriller “The Luminaries” has initiated a global roll-out, closing pre-sales to Australia, France, Russia, Poland and Greece. Given the freshness of the sales, the identity of the buying broadcaster partners remains to be revealed soon. Pre-sales to more […]
variety.com | 2/10/20
Lebanon’s bonds pared this week’s tumble after a Beirut-based newspaper reported that Russia is considering financial support for the Arab nation - despite the Finance Ministry in Moscow later denying it was in talks about aiding the government.

Hulu’s “genre-bending” period comedy “The Great” tells the story of Catherine the Great in spirit, if not in fact. But there was at least one important fact that made it into the show — and inspired the entire project in the first place.

“I think when I started, the reason I wanted to do it was because basically I knew one thing about Catherine the Great,” series creator Tony McNamara said at the Television Critics Association press tour on Friday, “Which was — maybe she fornicated with a horse.”

Written by McNamara, who also wrote the tongue-in-cheek period piece “The Favourite,” “The Great” is described as “a genre-bending, anti-historical ride through 18th Century Russia following the wildly comic rise of Catherine the Nothing to Catherine the Great.”

Elle Fanning stars in the series as the titular Russian Empress, along with Nicholas Hoult, Phoebe Fox, Adam Godley, Gwilym Lee, Charity Wakefield, Douglas Hodge and Sacha Dhawan.

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“I would say this is the first comedy that I’ve done,” Fanning said. “You look at the scripts and say ok that’s a joke. I want people to laugh at this joke, how do I make this happen … And that did take a bit getting used to for me, getting into the rhythm. The delicious writing, it’s all there, you have to say it.”

“We pride ourselves on not being historically accurate,” she said. “So there is room to experiment there.”

Fanning said the essence of the character came through in McNamara’s scripts, but it wasn’t necessarily based entirely in the biography of the 300-year-old historical figure.

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“The scripts for me are what guide my story and my character,” Fanning said, calling out the true fact that Catherine invented the rollercoaster as one that actually did help her define the character. “[But] you can look at so many oil paintings of someone but they probably didn’t even look that way. So that doesn’t really help me as much as the script does in capturing the character that Tony has created and her essence.”

Added McNamara, “It seems more importantly to tell the story of a young woman and her rise than it is to get each thing and each detail entirely correct. And we wanted the audience to know that.”

“It isn’t a perfectly historically accurate document,” he said. “Other shows have done that, but that’s not what we’re doing.”

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www.thewrap.com | 1/17/20

“I am far from an ideal person,” Russian oligarch-turned-political-prisoner-turned-political-activist Mikhail Khodorkovsky says in “Citizen K.” “But I am a person with ideals.”

It’s the second half of that statement about which documentarian Alex Gibney is most concerned. The Oscar-winning director of “Taxi to the Dark Side” and “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief” has pointed his camera at Khodorkovsky not to paint a nuanced picture of an impossibly rich and complicated man (as the allusion to “Citizen Kane” suggests) but to tell the bizarre story of how the rise of Russian President Vladimir Putin unexpectedly turned Khodorkovsky into a heroic arch-nemesis.

And like many stories of heroes and villains, the good guy isn’t questioned very much, while the bad guy steals the show.

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“Citizen K” spends its first half detailing the tumultuous recent political history of Russian politics in which the fall of Communism led to a Wild West era of unchecked capitalism. A handful of powerful and determined oligarchs rose very quickly to financial power, often to the disadvantage of the Russian people, who were unaccustomed with individual wealth and easily conned by shady figures like Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Soon, Khodorkovsky controlled the country’s vast oil industry, and he and his oligarch cronies were using the newly liberated TV airwaves to keep an ailing Boris Yeltsin in power over his Communist opponents.

This, which every person interviewed in “Citizen K” seems to agree on, was a horrifying mistake, as it led directly to the rise of Vladimir Putin. A minor KGB official who somehow turned a kickback scheme into a promotion, Putin meandered into Yeltsin’s administration and soon became Yeltsin’s chosen successor. Putin quickly becomes president, and “Citizen K,” unsurprisingly, becomes The Putin Show.

Also Read: How Alex Gibney's ESPN Docuseries 'Enhanced' Tackles Moral Dilemmas of Modern Technology

What starts as a straightforward history lesson evolves into a catalogue of increasingly disturbing political maneuvers, in which Putin learns the power of the mass media and takes control over the whole enterprise. The brief era of strange-looking televised puppet shows, which openly critiqued politics in Russia, gives way to real-life puppet theater propaganda. Supposedly free television stations became tools of the president, towing the party line even when protestors are silenced via intravenous injection on camera.

Meanwhile, Khodorkovsky’s business suffers economic setbacks and, in an incident that would haunt him forever, a local mayor who challenged his business model was murdered on Khodorkovsky’s birthday. As circumstances change the oligarch’s perception of Russian political and economic realities — “You can’t imagine what it’s like to lay off tens of thousands of people,” he laments, without commenting on his own vast wealth — he becomes a more public figure, challenging Putin’s regime and, quickly, screwing himself over.

“Citizen K” catalogues Putin’s attacks on Khodorkovsky in a fascinating display of virulent insanity, as Khodorkovsky is convicted for refusing to pay taxes on the oil he sold and, later, convicted for never selling any oil at all. Khodorkovsky is accused of stealing 350 million tons of oil, an alleged criminal scheme that even the Joker would call idiotic.

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Gibney knows how to condense decades of Russian history and strife into a fast-paced and mesmerizing documentary. It helps that, as Gibney himself puts it, “Over time, complicated stories become simple.” Many of his interview subjects, reporters and oligarchs alike, marvel at how near-sighted and easily distracted they were by the complexities of the time to recognize the bigger picture and act accordingly.

“Citizen K” captures the big picture and sharpens the focus. It’s an undeniably informative and vital documentary, which clearly illustrates a disturbing political farce that has been allowed to thrive for far too long. Which is to say, at all.

Where “Citizen K” falls short is its depiction of Khodorkovsky, whose early indiscretions are breezed over as quickly as possible in order to get to his redemption. Khodorkovsky can no longer set foot in Russia without getting arrested for the aforementioned murder, an investigation which seems to have been wrapped up years ago, only to resurface at Putin’s convenience. Khodorkovsky now works from his headquarters in England, running the “Open Russia” opposition campaign from afar and trying to heal the wounds he helped open in his home country.

But by focusing so much on Khodorkovsky as a person with ideals, Gibney’s film eagerly shies away from showing him as a far from ideal person. It’s as though Putin is so bad that, in order to combat him, Gibney needs to elevate the opposition to superheroic levels.

It’s hardly irresponsible. It may even be necessary in order for the documentary to have the intended effect and to allow this vital modern history lesson to inspire audiences and lead to real and lasting change. But it leaves “Citizen K” feeling somewhat incomplete as a portrait of its subject, a rich (in more ways than one) and fascinating person whose life took bizarre turns and transformed him from an unscrupulous billionaire to an extremely scrupulous millionaire, with political martyrdom and years and years of imprisonment and hunger strikes in the middle.

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www.thewrap.com | 11/22/19

The second week of public hearings in the Donald Trump impeachment inquiry begins Tuesday morning at 6:00 a.m. PT/9:00 a.m. ET with testimony from two people who listened in on the July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky: Jennifer Williams, a State Department aide to Vice President Mike Pence, and Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman.

After a short break, the proceedings will resume at 11:30 a.m. PT/2:30 p.m. ET with testimony from former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker, and former White House Russia adviser Tim Morrison, both of whom are on the list of witnesses requested to appear by Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee.

In addition to broadcasts from the major television networks, C-SPAN will once again air the full uninterrupted hearings. Watch the testimony from Williams and Vindman at the top of this page starting at 6:00 a.m. PT/9:00 a.m. ET; watch Volker and Morrison’s testimony in the video below, beginning at 11:30 a.m. PT/2:30 p.m. ET:

Then on Wednesday at 6 a.m. PT/9 a.m. PT, all eyes will be on Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union who said he personally told Zelensky’s top aide that U.S. aid to Ukraine was linked to the Biden investigations. The afternoon session will include testimony from Laura Cooper and David Hale.

Also Read: 5 Key Moments From Trump Impeachment Hearing Day 2, From Trump's Tweet to a 'Devastated' Marie Yovanovitch

Fiona Hill, a top Russian specialist on the National Security Council, and David Holmes, the aide who heard the conversation between Sondland and Trump, will testify on Thursday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced in September that the House of Representatives would begin a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump.

The decision came in light of a whistleblower complaint that the president sought to use foreign power from Ukraine for his own political gain. During a phone call with Ukraine’s president, Trump reportedly pressured Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the son of former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden; earlier that week, Trump admitted that he had brought up Biden’s family during the call but told reporters that he did so because “we don’t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine.” The president also confirmed that his administration withheld nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine but denied that it was done for leverage.

Also Read: 5 Key Moments From Trump Impeachment Inquiry Hearing Day 1 (Video)

Week one of the impeachment saw testimony three career public servants: William Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine; George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs; and Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

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www.thewrap.com | 11/19/19

Amazon gave “Jack Ryan” fans a reason to stay in on Halloween night, releasing the second season one day ahead of schedule.

The drama, which stars John Krasinski as the famous Tom Clancy book character, was set to debut its sophomore season on Friday. All 13 episodes are now available for streaming.

In the second season of “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” after tracking a potentially suspicious shipment of illegal arms in the Venezuelan jungle, CIA Officer Jack Ryan heads to South America to investigate. As Jack’s investigation threatens to uncover a far-reaching conspiracy, the president of Venezuela launches a counter-attack that hits home for Jack, leading him and his fellow operatives on a global mission spanning the United States, U.K., Russia, and Venezuela to unravel the president’s nefarious plot and bring stability to a country on the brink of chaos.

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“Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” is co-produced by Paramount Television and Skydance Television. In addition to Krasinski, the second season also stars  Wendell Pierce (“The Wire”) as James Greer, Noomi Rapace (“Prometheus”) as Harriet ‘Harry’ Baumann and Michael Kelly (“House of Cards”) as Mike November.

The show is executive produced by Andrew Form, Brad Fuller, Michael Bay, Krasinski and Allyson Seeger, along with Carlton Cuse and Graham Roland, who created the series for television.

Additionally, Andrew Bernstein, Vince Calandra, David Graziano, Clancy, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Marcy Ross, Mace Neufeld, Lindsey Springer, Dennie Gordon and Phil Abraham executive produce Season 2.

Happy Halloween! To celebrate I thought I’d give all fans of Jack Ryan a little Halloween treat! When can you watch the new season? How about… right now!!! Yup! #JackRyan Season2! One day early! Only on @PrimeVideo pic.twitter.com/Pp7Qk6WLrM

— John Krasinski (@johnkrasinski) October 31, 2019

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www.thewrap.com | 10/31/19

The NHL is officially in the podcast game.

“Puck Culture” is a new weekly NHL podcast series premiering on Wednesday, Oct. 30, that will focus on what’s happening in hockey both on and off the ice, the league announced on Tuesday.

Host Jackie Redmond will be joined by a rotation of co-hosts from the NHL Network for the 30-40 minute episodes.

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“We have found great success with original content that combines hockey with pop culture,” NHL chief content officer and executive vice president Steve Mayer, tells TheWrap. “The positive response from avid and casual hockey fans to ‘Celebrity Wrap,’ our red carpet series, inspired us to double-down with the ‘Puck Culture’ podcasts.

“We have discovered so many from the worlds of music, television and film who love the NHL. Puck culture will allow our fans to hear from these passionate celebrities.”

Rather than simply breaking down the Xs and Os, the series will talk to NHL players and alumni, super hockey fans and celebrities. It is one of six podcasts the NHL has launched in the past year with additional podcasts expected later this season.

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“Puck Culture” will also compliment the NHL’s “Celebrity Wrap” series that launched last year, which has featured Hollywood stars such as Keanu Reeves, Sophie Turner, Chloe Grace Moretz, Seth Rogen and Mike Tyson talking about their love of hockey. To date, the video series has generated more than 12.8M views across the NHL’s YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and IG channels.

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The NHL recently announced a two-year, cross-platform marketing and promotional partnership with five-time Grammy Award-winning band Green Day, with their song “Fire, Ready, Aim” serving as the opening theme song for NBCSN’s “Wednesday Night Hockey” game broadcasts.

Songs from the band’s upcoming album will be featured across the NHL’s multimedia platforms, in-arena during games and at various NHL marquee events. The band will also perform at the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend in St. Louis, Missouri.

“Puck Culture” will be available at NHL.com/Podcasts as well as multiple iOS and Android podcast Apps, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts and TuneIn Radio.

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www.thewrap.com | 10/29/19

It’s the time of year when the number of potential contenders has dwindled to a precious few, and Oscar watchers tick them off one by one: “The Irishman” at the New York Film Festival in late September, “Little Women” on Oct. 23, “Dark Waters” on Oct. 28, “Richard Jewell” at the AFI Fest in November, “1917” at some indeterminate time after that… This week saw one more box get checked — Jay Roach’s “Bombshell,” the story of the fall of Fox News’ Roger Ailes that shouldn’t be confused with the 2018 documentary “Divide and Conquer” or “The Loudest Voice,” the Showtime miniseries starring Russell Crowe as the influential but disgraced Fox maven.

Roach’s version, which screened for the first time on Sunday, first for a SAG audience and then for a mixture of guilds, press and tastemakers at a swanky Pacific Design Center soiree, got awards folks excitedly buzzing for its focus not on Ailes (played by John Lithgow) but on the newswomen he was accused of harassing: Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron, also one of the film’s producers), Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) and a fictional composite who in this telling goes by the name of Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie).

All three actresses are clearly in the awards race, though Kidman may suffer from having a supporting role that’s not quite as meaty as Robbie’s. (In Best Actress, Theron is a potential rival to Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland for the win.) This is the movie that asks a simple question: Will Hollywood liberals vote for a movie that asks them to think of Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson as heroines because they stood up to the repulsive Ailes? Will the spirit of #MeToo trump (no pun intended) the natural distaste much of the Academy has for everybody who’s ever had anything to do with Fox News? Maybe.

By the way, TheWrap was amused to find that in a particularly heated scene in the Fox newsroom, as Carlson’s charges against Ailes are starting to get attention, somebody shouts, “Have you seen TheWrap?” At the reception afterwards, Roach told Sharon Waxman he didn’t know how that line got in the shooting script.

Also Read: 'Bombshell' Trailer: Nicole Kidman's Gretchen Carlson Is Ready to 'Go to War' Against Roger Ailes (Video)

“Parasite”

On Monday, the day after the “Bombshell” unveiling, the Oscar category formerly known as Best Foreign Language Film and now retitled Best International Feature Film kicked off 47 nights of screenings in 57 days with a double bill of Brazil’s “Invisible Life” and Lithuania’s “Bridges of Time.” Attendance at the first few screenings, which are divided between the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills and the Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood, was reportedly on the sparse side, but there’s lots of time left for things to pick up: A full 93 films are in contention, the most ever in the category.

As the screenings began, of course, one question hung over the entire field: Can anything possibly beat South Korea’s entry, Bong Joon Ho’s Palme d’Or winner “Parasite”? And the question became more pointed considering that the official Oscar screenings launched the day after a weekend in which “Parasite” set a box office record for the highest per-screen average of any film not in English.

I suspect that the answer is no, nothing can beat “Parasite” if the film lands key nominations outside the international-film category, particularly if it is nominated for Best Picture and/or Best Director. If it doesn’t have that imprimatur of quality, who knows? Oscar voters in the category can be notoriously unpredictable and sometimes timid in their choices, and “Parasite” is a bold and unnerving film.

Also Read: 'Parasite' Sets Foreign Language Record at Indie Box Office

“The Painted Bird”

Speaking of bold and unnerving… I’ve seen 21 of the international 93 entries so far, starting with “Les Misérables,” “Atlantics,” “Pain and Glory,” “The Whistlers,” “Parasite” and “Homeward” back at the Cannes Film Festival in May. And I have to say, voters had better be prepared, because two of the entries I’ve seen in the last week are among the most brutal filmgoing experiences I’ve had in a long time: the Czech Republic’s entry, Vaclav Marhoul’s near three-hour adaptation of the Jerzy Kosinski novel “The Painted Bird,” and Russia’s “Beanpole,” by young director Kantemir Balagov.

“The Painted Bird” is set during World War II, and follows a young Jewish boy who wanders through Eastern Europe and quietly suffers unspeakable horrors at the hands of almost everyone he encounters; “Beanpole” is set in a ravaged Leningrad just after the war, and contains two lengthy scenes — one of death, one of sex — that are almost unendurable. Both films are gorgeous to look at, both are extremely powerful and it wouldn’t surprise me to see one or both end up on the short list, but they are not easy to sit through.

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Paramount

Here’s what is easy to sit through: “Rocketman.” I saw it in Cannes but revisited it on Tuesday night on the Paramount lot, where the studio tried to jog voters’ memories by holding a screening and a Q&A and reception with director Dexter Fletcher, actors Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell and Bryce Dallas Howard, lyricist Bernie Taupin and Elton John himself.

The audience of guilds and guests loved the actors but went nuts for Sir Elton, who of course dominated the Q&A, charmed everybody and relentlessly plugged his just-published memoir. (When they tried to get him to talk about how horrible his mother was to him, he kept saying, “Read the book.”) Elton went out of his way to praise Fletcher and Egerton and said he would not change one frame of the film — which is saying something, considering how mercurial and insane the movie makes him out to be.

One night is not going to push “Rocketman” into the thick of the awards race, but hope springs eternal for Egerton and for the new song Elton and Bernie wrote for the end credits. (And for those costumes, of course.) If I didn’t find the film quite as winning the second time around, I had fun with it again and credit Fletcher and crew for their very smart choice to make it a full-fledged musical fantasy in which people break into song and the chronology is creative, to say the least. Every time I felt the urge to nitpick — He didn’t do “Crocodile Rock” at the Troubadour, and the door’s on the wrong side of the room! “I’m Still Standing” was written before he went into rehab, not after!! — I had to acknowledge that I was being silly, because this wasn’t supposed to be how it happened but how it felt.

It was a busy week for Elton, who appeared at Walt Disney Concert Hall on Monday night for Brandi Carlile’s wonderful performance of Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” album. (Egerton was there, too, as was Mitchell herself.) And then on Thursday, he was back in action at the Greek Theatre, where he and Egerton performed “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” after a screening with live orchestral music.

Also Read: 12 Documentaries to Check Out This Fall, Including Films by Bruce Springsteen and Agnès Varda (Photos)

“Rolling Thunder”

We’re still a few weeks off from the time when new nominations will be announced almost on a daily basis, but the Critics Choice Association — what used to be the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association — announced its fourth annual Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards this week. I’ve never quite trusted a group of film critics and writers for television, radio and online outlets to keep their fingers on the pulse of nonfiction filmmaking — and I say that as a member of the group and a former member of its nominating committee — but they do provide a look at what docs are getting through to mainstream voters.

And in a year without the doc hits that we saw last year — there’s no “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” or “Free Solo” or “RBG” or “Three Identical Strangers” — you can cross-reference the CCDA, the recent IDA Awards short list and the DOC NYC list of the likeliest awards movies to come up with a decent overview. On that basis, the docs with the most heat are “American Factory,” “Apollo 11,” “The Biggest Little Farm,” “The Cave,” “Honeyland” and “One Child Nation” — though I think that might be slighting “Maiden,” “For Sama,” “Diego Maradona,” “The Edge of Democracy” and “Knock Down the House,” among others.

Also of note, the Critics’ Choice nominating committee became the first to nominate or short-list “Rolling Thunder: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese” as a documentary, which I suppose is easy to do if you’re not paying attention to how much of the time Scorsese and the people he puts on screen are lying to you or trying to mislead you. I’ve gotten flak for saying this before and I’ll probably get more for saying it again, but here goes: It’s a great, wildly entertaining movie, but it’s not a documentary and it shouldn’t be getting doc awards or nominations.

But hey, the quote on the front of the “Rolling Thunder” awards screener that Netflix sent out says “A BRILLIANT ROCK DOC” in all caps, and the Academy’s Documentary Branch has put it on their voters’ streaming site and made it required viewing for 20 percent of the branch. So what do I know?

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www.thewrap.com | 10/18/19

Pamela Anderson stopped by ABC’s “The View” Friday and defended WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange from Meghan McCain, who called him a “cyber-terrorist,” and Joy Behar, who questioned if he supports President Donald Trump.

Asked about Assange’s state as he serves out an 11-month prison sentence in London while awaiting possible extradition to the United States, Anderson said her friend’s health has deteriorated and he’s lost weight, but “he is the most resilient person” she’s ever met.

Also Read: 'The View' Shoots Down Report of Possible Meghan McCain Exit, Expects 'All' Hosts to Return in Fall

“It is devastating that people have fallen for this campaign, especially in America,” she said, calling it “frustrating” that Americans have “embraced all this propaganda.”

If he’s extradited, she said, “I don’t think he’ll make it.”

Anderson continued to extol the virtues of the WikiLeaks founder, fighting back when McCain called him “a cyber-terrorist.”

Also Read: Julian Assange Indicted by US on 18 Counts in Classified Information Case

“You know who’s a national security risk is the military,” she said. “How many people have the American government killed, innocently, and how many have WikiLeaks?”

As the studio audience cheered her response, McCain probed, “So, you think the military is putting the government at risk?”

McCain then addressed a cheering male audience member: “Oh, calm down, Sir.”

“War crimes need to be punished and they haven’t. The war crimes that he’s exposed, no one’s done anything about it, but they put him in jail to shut him up,” Anderson responded.

Also Read: Top Newspaper Editors Condemn Assange Indictments, Say Journalists Could Be Stifled if He's Convicted

Assange was arrested in April in London after Ecuador president Lenin Moreno withdrew its offer of asylum in its embassy in the London capital. The U.S. Justice Department announced then that it was seeking extradition so the 47-year-old Australian national can face a federal charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to help break a password to a classified U.S. government computer.

Behar asked, “A lot of people say that … Assange interfered in the 2016 election by conspiring with Russia by releasing emails, hacked emails, which hurt Hillary Clinton. It’s almost like, ‘Is he responsible for giving us Trump?'”

Anderson responded, “Hillary Clinton is responsible for Trump.”

Asked if Assange is a Trump supporter, Anderson said, “No. No. No. I was with him.”

After appearing on the talk show, Anderson posted a series of tweets denouncing military spending.

I don’t feel comfortable
that 70% of taxes in USA goes to military.
For what?
To start wars at their discretion ?
War is a business.
And
governments need to be held accountable.
They are making these toxic decisions
In our name. $

– Pamela Anderson (@pamfoundation) September 6, 2019

Later in the thread, she also wrote, “we need less talk shows and more investigative journalists.”

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www.thewrap.com | 9/6/19

Amazon has a return date for John Krasinski’s “Jack Ryan.”

The series, based on the CIA officer from Tom Clancy’s books, will return for its second season on Nov. 1.

Amazon also released the full-length trailer for the upcoming season, which you can watch above. The trailer will run during NBC’s broadcast of the Green Bay Packers-Chicago Bears game that kicks off the 2019 NFL season.

Also Read: 'Jack Ryan' Season 2 Teaser Promises Plenty of Rooftop Running - and Yes, Jumping (Video)

Here is the description of the second season from Amazon:

In the second season of “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” after tracking a potentially suspicious shipment of illegal arms in the Venezuelan jungle, CIA Officer Jack Ryan heads down to South America to investigate. As Jack’s investigation threatens to uncover a far-reaching conspiracy, the President of Venezuela launches a counter-attack that hits home for Jack, leading him and his fellow operatives on a global mission spanning the United States, UK, Russia, and Venezuela to unravel the President’s nefarious plot and bring stability to a country on the brink of chaos.

“Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” is co-produced by Paramount Television and Skydance Television. In addition to Krasinski, the second season also stars  Wendell Pierce (“The Wire”) as James Greer, Noomi Rapace (“Prometheus”) as Harriet ‘Harry’ Baumann and Michael Kelly (“House of Cards”) as Mike November.

The show is executive produced by Andrew Form, Brad Fuller, Michael Bay, Krasinski and Allyson Seeger, along with Carlton Cuse and Graham Roland, who created the series for television.

Additionally, Andrew Bernstein, Vince Calandra, David Graziano, Clancy, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Marcy Ross, Mace Neufeld, Lindsey Springer, Dennie Gordon and Phil Abraham also executive produce Season 2.

Krasinski, who first rose to fame as Jim Halpert on NBC’s “The Office,” signed a three-year, first-look deal with Amazon Studios earlier this week through his Sunday Night production banner. Under the agreement, Krasinksi, alongside his partner, Allyson Seeger, and their production and development executive, Alexa Ginsburg, will develop television series for the studio.

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www.thewrap.com | 9/5/19
A mysterious and deadly explosion earlier this month at a naval weapons testing range in northwestern Russia resulted in the deaths of two workers due to radiation sickness, not traumatic injuries, as officials previously indicated, according to a report from an independent newspaper on Wednesday.
www.foxnews.com | 8/22/19
It did not make any sense to analyze the Saturday rally in Moscow as soon as it happened, but Monday appears to be just the right time to do it.  No one talks about the roots of the protest actions that took place in Moscow over the weekend. Most likely, they are not about the registration of certain individuals by the Moscow City Duma as candidates.The issue of the protest itself is broader. People took to the streets during the arrest of journalist Ivan Golunov, during the construction of an Orthodox temple in Yekaterinburg, etc. All those stories are symptoms of one and the same disease. One could see this disease spreading throughout Western Europe and the United States during the 1960s, but the causes of it were different. In the US, it was the Vietnam War and the killing of Martin Luther King. In Europe, there were protests against events in Czechoslovakia and other internal problems.But we remember that it was violation of social justice that defined all those protests. We also remember that many of those protests became "social elevators" for many politicians, who started coming to power in 15 or 20 years. For a very clear understanding of the situation, one may refer to two graffiti that students of the Sorbonne left in the streets of Paris in 1968: Since 1936 I have fought for wage increases. My father before me fought for wage increases. Now I have a TV, a fridge, a Volkswagen. Yet my whole life has been a drag. Don't negotiate with the bosses. Abolish them." "One cannot fall in love with industrial growth!" It appears that the Russian youth could chant the same slogans today, if the education system in Russia has not degraded since the years after the Soviet power. It was not only education that has degraded. The qualification of people who are responsible for the moderation of internal political processes has gone down the toilet as well. Kiriyenko's 'social elevators' serve primarily managers of large corporations, but in case of social upheavals they will humbly step aside to observe. Mass youth movements of Mr. Surkov, the Reaction newspaper and the Yoki website have been disposed of. If one looks at what  presidential grants are allocated to, one will see that they are not needed today, but could be good during the "lush" times. The United States eventually decided to pull out troops from Vietnam, abolish mandatory conscription and promote the PlayBoy technology (the protests are also known as 'sexual revolution' for a reason). Other countries had their own recipes.It is the internal essence of protests that plays the main role in the struggle that one can see in Russia developing today. If one doesn't know the essence, any struggle with external manifestations of protests will be useless.We know one thing. If the authorities remove all problems with the elections to the Moscow City Duma, the public protest will persist. The protest sentiment began to actively develop during the beginning of the pension reform, so it primarily involves the children of those people, whom the authorities have betrayed shamelessly. It has started snowballing for various reasons afterwards getting an increasing amount of citizens involved. It is 's time to open a tender for a team that would replace Sergei Kiriyenko with new ideas. The current political administrators under his leadership lack qualification to solve the issue of stability in the society.Photo: dw.com

Just watching Amazon’s teaser trailer for Season 2 of “Jack Ryan” might make you out of breath — imagine how John Krasinski feels.

Amazon Prime Video released the sneak peek for the second season of “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” during its busy Saturday morning at the Television Critics Association press tour.

Here’s how Amazon says the sophomore run — pun only kind of intended — will go down:

In the second season of “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” after tracking a potentially suspicious shipment of illegal arms in the Venezuelan jungle, CIA Officer Jack Ryan, portrayed by John Krasinski (“A Quiet Place”), heads down to South America to investigate.

As Jack’s investigation threatens to uncover a far-reaching conspiracy, the President of Venezuela launches a counter-attack that hits home for Jack, leading him and his fellow operatives on a global mission spanning the United States, UK, Russia, and Venezuela to unravel the President’s nefarious plot and bring stability to a country on the brink of chaos.

Also Read: 'Jack Ryan' Star John Krasinski Signs First-Look TV Deal With Amazon Studios

“Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” is co-produced by Paramount Television and Skydance Television. In addition to Krasinski, the second season also stars  Wendell Pierce (“The Wire”) as James Greer, Noomi Rapace (“Prometheus”) as Harriet ‘Harry’ Baumann and Michael Kelly (“House of Cards”) as Mike November.

The show is executive produced by Andrew Form, Brad Fuller, Michael Bay, Krasinski and Allyson Seeger, along with Carlton Cuse and Graham Roland, who created the series for television.

Additionally, Andrew Bernstein, Vince Calandra, David Graziano, Tom Clancy, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Marcy Ross, Mace Neufeld, Lindsey Springer, Dennie Gordon and Phil Abraham also executive produce Season 2.

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Krasinski, who first rose to fame as Jim from NBC’s “The Office,” signed a three-year first-look deal with Amazon Studios earlier this week through his Sunday Night production banner. Under the agreement, Krasinksi, alongside his partner, Allyson Seeger, and their production and development executive, Alexa Ginsburg, will develop television series for the studio.

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www.thewrap.com | 7/27/19

Filmmaker Oliver Stone got up close and personal while interviewing Russian president Vladimir Putin, with the two discussing the country’s ban on “homosexual propaganda,” the “behaviours and the thinking of the new generation”… and the possibility of Putin becoming godfather to Stone’s 22-year-old daughter.

Stone — who interviewed the Russian president in June shortly before the July 4 premiere in Italy of his documentary “Revealing Ukraine” — had mentioned pro-Russian Ukrainian politician and Putin ally Viktor Medvedchuk, when Putin said that Medvedchuk asked him to “take part in the christening of his daughter.”

“According to Russian Orthodox tradition, you can’t refuse such a request,” Putin said.

Also Read: Georgian TV Host's Expletive-Laden, Anti-Putin Rant Leads to Station Temporarily Going Off-Air

“Oh, you cannot refuse it?” Oliver responded. “Otherwise I would ask you to be the godfather for my daughter.”

“Does she want to become an Orthodox Christian?” Putin asked.

“Ok, we’ll make her that,” Stone responded, according to a transcript released by the Kremlin.

Stone went on to complain about “young people in America,” saying, “they are spoiled to some degree in the western world” and that he is “shocked by some of the behaviours and the thinking of the new generation.”

“And so much of the argument, so much of the thinking, so much of the newspaper, television commentaries about gender, people identify themselves, and social media, this and that, I’m male, I’m female, I’m transgender, I’m cisgender,” Stone said. “It goes on forever, and there is a big fight about who is who.”

Also Read: Elton John Accuses Vladimir Putin of 'Hypocrisy' on LGBT Rights Following 'Rocketman' Censorship

In 2013, Russia put a law into effect banning “homosexual propaganda” among minors, which LBGTQ groups have said has caused an upsurge in homophobic vigilantism in the country. Stone said of their new legislation, “It seems like maybe that’s a sensible law.”

“Revealing Ukraine” premiered in Russia Friday and has been touted by Russian state media. Although it was supposed to air on a Ukraine TV channel, the broadcast was cancelled because of protests.

You can read the entire transcript of the interview here, including what prompted Stone to tell Putin, “You are a peacemaker” and “I am very worried about you.”

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www.thewrap.com | 7/22/19

Georgian news presenter Giorgi Gabunia went off-script on live television Monday, hurling strongly-worded insults at Russian President Vladimir Putin and his late mother.

Rustavi 2, Georgia’s main commercial television channel, went off the air for a few hours after the outburst as a crowd of protestors gathered outside, according to the BBC. The station later apologized for Gabunia’s remarks. In a statement posted on its website, Rustavi 2 said Gabunia violated “the high standards established by our channel.” The station later announced it has suspended Gabunia for two months.

Here’s a light sampling of some of the least expletive-heavy phrases Gabunia aimed at Putin, as translated from Russian by the BBC: “There is no place for such a miserable creature like you, such a freak like you. You are stinking invader… Your mom is dead. Oh, that’s a pity. It really is. Let her burn in hell. Together with you and your father.”

Yikes. You can watch the clip above.

Also Read: Elton John Accuses Vladimir Putin of 'Hypocrisy' on LGBT Rights Following 'Rocketman' Censorship

Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said of the comments, “We consider these insults totally unacceptable… All this is simply consequence of the [Georgian] state’s reluctance or inability to restrain extremist youths,” according to the BBC.

“This is a war by provocateurs against their country, a dirty and disgusting game with the security of the state and citizens,” said Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze, according to the BBC.

Also Read: Jim Carrey Drops Trump's Balls in Putin's Lap With Latest Artwork

Gabunia’s outburst comes at a time when tensions are high between Georgia and Russia. The Associated Press reported that as of Monday, all direct flights between Georgia and Russia have been halted due to a direct order from Putin, following anti-Russian protests in Georgia’s capital city of Tbilisi.

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www.thewrap.com | 7/9/19

CBS has renewed the summer drama “Blood & Treasure” for a second season, the network announced on Wednesday.

Described as a “globe-trotting action-adventure drama,” the series stars Matt Barr as a former FBI agent who teams up with a resourceful art thief, played by Sofia Pernas, to catch a ruthless terrorist who funds his attacks through stolen arts and antiquities.

“‘Blood & Treasure’ is a fun, escapist adventure with comedic elements filmed in multiple locales around the world that has been a great performer and a wonderful addition to our summer schedule,” Amy Reisenbach, executive vice president, Current Programs, CBS Entertainment, said. “We’ve heard the story pitch for season two and look forward to seeing all-new exploits from Russia to Southeast Asia next year.”

Also Read: Ratings: 'Blood & Treasure' Series Premiere Doesn't Bring Riches to CBS

In the weeks since its debut late last month, “Blood & Treasure” has performed well for CBS on Tuesday nights, averaging 5.71 million viewers as the summer’s most-watched new scripted series.

In addition to Barr and Pernas, Oded Fehr, Michael James Shaw, Katia Winter, James Callis, Alicia Coppola, and Mark Gagliardi also star

The series is produced by CBS Television Studios in association with Propagate Content. Matthew Federman, Stephen Scaia, Taylor Elmore, Ben Silverman, Marc Webb, Mark Vlasic and Howard T. Owens are executive producers.

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www.thewrap.com | 6/26/19
Journalists in southern Russia are protesting the arrest of a newspaper editor on charges of terrorism widely seen as trumped up.
www.foxnews.com | 6/19/19

Dan Harris is stepping down from his post as anchor of ABC’s “Nightline” to focus on growing 10% Happier, a business based on his 2014 book of the same name.

“It is a high class problem: I simply have too many awesome things on my plate, between weekend ‘GMA,’ ‘Nightline,’ and the expanding 10% juggernaut (which, by the way, never would have come into being without an astounding level of support from ABC News),” Harris said in a memo to staff Tuesday. “So why, given all the options, did I decide to drop the ‘Nightline’ anchor gig? Because, frankly, you deserve an anchor who gives it his or her all. This team of amazing producers – who work all hours and travel all over the world – has the right to expect an on-air representative who is in the trenches with you day after day. And the circumstances of my life simply will not allow that right now.”

Harris, who has been with ABC News since 2000 and co-anchored “Nightline” since 2013, will remain as a co-anchor of the weekend of “GMA” and host ABC News’ “10% Happier” podcast.

Also Read: Summer TV Premiere Dates: Here's Every New and Returning Show (Photos)

“I’m happy to tell you that he’ll continue to report his trademark powerful and important, deeply reported stories for ‘Nightline’ and across ABC News,” Goldstone wrote in his own memo to the news division.

“Dan has traveled the world fearlessly for an up close look at some of the most dangerous places on the planet, from Rio de Janeiro’s war on drugs and Vladimir Putin’s Russia to the inner workings of the Sinaloa cartel’s drug operations in Mexico and notorious gang violence in El Salvador,” he continued. “At the same time, it’s been incredibly exciting to witness how Dan’s thriving 10% Happier franchise has grown from a best-selling book to an award-winning podcast, highly-rated app and second best-selling book, drawing millions of fans. It’s a testament to his hard work and a reflection of how vital meditation and mindfulness have become in our modern culture. I can’t wait to see where it goes next.”

See Harris’ full memo to staff below.

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Team,

It is surreal to step away from your dream job.

The irony is not lost on me. In my book, 10% Happier, I wrote at length about how I fought and pleaded to anchor Nightline. But it is the success of that book — and its spawn: a podcast and a tech startup — that are the reason I now have to step away.

It is a high class problem: I simply have too many awesome things on my plate, between weekend GMA, Nightline, and the expanding 10% juggernaut (which, by the way, never would have come into being without an astounding level of support from ABC News).

So why, given all the options, did I decide to drop the Nightline anchor gig? Because, frankly, you deserve an anchor who gives it his or her all. This team of amazing producers — who work all hours and travel all over the world — has the right to expect an on-air representative who is in the trenches with you day after day. And the circumstances of my life simply will not allow that right now.

I am not going away. I don’t know where my office will be, but it won’t be far. (Which means Jasmine won’t have to make an arduous journey for the next practical joke she wants to play on me.) More importantly, I will continue working on big, investigative stories. The reports I have been able to file for this show — from the Congo, Haiti, El Salvador, Brazil, Mexico, even Papua New Guinea — have been some of the most meaningful work of my life.

I love Nightline. I love doing these kinds of stories. And I love being part of this incredible culture. None of that will change.

It has been an absolute privilege for me to share the anchor seat for the past five and a half years on one of the most insightful and well-respected news shows on television. Nightline is in great hands with Steve, Juju, Byron and our team of senior producers.

I want to say thank you to everyone at Nightline — for doing some of the best work in broadcast news, for establishing and maintaining one of the most extraordinary collaborative work cultures I have ever seen, and for making fun of me when I deserve it (daily). I look forward to much more.

With immense gratitude,

Dan

And here’s Goldston’s note.

Team,

After nearly 6 years, Dan Harris has decided to step back from his anchor duties on Nightline to dedicate more time to his rapidly growing 10% Happier business and other roles at ABC News. I’m happy to tell you that he’ll continue to report his trademark powerful and important, deeply reported stories for Nightline and across ABC News.

Dan has traveled the world fearlessly for an up close look at some of the most dangerous places on the planet, from Rio de Janeiro’s war on drugs and Vladimir Putin’s Russia to the inner workings of the Sinaloa cartel’s drug operations in Mexico and notorious gang violence in El Salvador.

At the same time, it’s been incredibly exciting to witness how Dan’s thriving 10% Happier franchise has grown from a best-selling book to an award-winning podcast, highly-rated app and second best-selling book, drawing millions of fans. It’s a testament to his hard work and a reflection of how vital meditation and mindfulness have become in our modern culture. I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

While Dan may be stepping away from the Nightline anchor desk, he will continue to anchor the weekend editions of GMA with Eva, Whit, Adrienne and Rob and host the 10% Happier podcast.

Nightline has long been distinguished by captivating storytelling and in-depth, tenacious journalism. I’m incredibly proud of Steve, Juju, Byron and the entire team for carrying that legacy into the future, including a new slate of documentary features to come. There’s much more great work ahead from this stellar team.

Please join me in thanking Dan for his tremendous work as anchor at Nightline. Below you can read a personal note from him.

James

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www.thewrap.com | 6/11/19

Elton John biopic “Rocketman” was banned from the island nation Samoa last week due to its depiction of homosexuality onscreen.

According to Reuters, the country’s censor told the Samoan local newspaper the Samoa Observer on Monday that the film was not suitable and clashed with the country’s Christian values.

“We’re concerned with the cultural values and also the Christian beliefs here in Samoa — it’s not appropriate for public viewing,” censor Leiataua Niuapu Faaui said.

Also Read: 'Rocketman' Fact Check: Did Elton John Really Take His Stage Name From John Lennon?

In Samoa, “sodomy” is illegal and is punishable by up to seven years in prison. Over 97% of the population is Christian.

Samoa has previously banned the Harvey Milk biopic “Milk” in 2009, as well as the 2006 film “The Da Vinci Code.” Last year, Samoa edited scenes from a screening of the Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Last month, it was reported that Russia had censored scenes of gay sex from “Rocketman,” an action that earned a sharp criticism from John and the filmmakers.

Also Read: 'Rocketman:' Watch Footage From Elton John's Dodger Stadium Performance (Videos)

“We reject in the strongest possible terms the decision to pander to local laws and censor ‘Rocketman’ for the Russian market, a move we were unaware of until today,” John and the filmmakers said in a statement. “Paramount Pictures have been brave and bold partners in allowing us to create a film which is a true representation of Elton’s extraordinary life, warts and all. That the local distributor has edited out certain scenes, denying the audience the opportunity to see the film as it was intended is a sad reflection of the divided world we still live in and how it can still be so cruelly unaccepting of the love between two people. We believe in building bridges and open dialogue, and will continue to push for the breaking down of barriers until all people are heard equally across the world.”

“Rocketman” stars Taron Egerton as John in a musical biopic about the British pop singer’s life and career.

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www.thewrap.com | 6/11/19

This weekend, a European phenomenon is back — though Americans may have to hunt for clips on YouTube or seek out a VPN and watch via another country’s home broadcaster.

The Eurovision Song Contest, a cross between “The X Factor” and the Miss Universe pageant that offers Yanks a glimpse of what it’s like to be in a culture that doesn’t have jazz and blues as the foundation of its pop music.

For those who’ve never seen — or even heard of Eurovision — before, here’s a quick primer to get you caught up.

Also Read: Taylor Swift on 'Taylor Swift Award' Win: 'I'm Really Super Relieved' (Video)

What exactly is this contest?
Eurovision began as an idea back in the mid-1950s as a way for Europe to come together after World War II had ripped it apart. It was a pretty revolutionary effort for its time. Television was still the Wild West of communications and the Olympics hadn’t yet become an international broadcasting event. Eurovision was one of the first major attempts to hold an event that people from a wide range of countries could watch. With that in mind, the organizers wanted each country to showcase a song that was indicative of their culture.

That sounds like a pretty noble goal.
Yes … but it was also very out of touch with what was happening with music at the time. Rock ‘n’ roll was beginning to take root and The Beatles would take the world by storm just a few years after Eurovision’s inception. This meant that Eurovision’s lineup of ballads and cultural pieces quickly felt antiquated compared to the rock revolution that was going on in the charts. And that was six decades ago … the entries would only get weirder from there.

How weird?
For starters, there was once a rule implemented on and off over the years stating that participants could only enter songs that were in their country’s main language. When that rule was in effect, some countries found a loophole: give the song a hook that involves complete gibberish. Songs with titles like “Boom Boom” and “Diggi-loo Diggi-ley” poured out while the home-language rule was in effect.

Then there are the artists themselves. As Eurovision has evolved, more and more ridiculous acts have come out of the woodwork. Finnish monster-rock bands, Russian grandmas and Latvian pirates are among the acts that have performed for a TV audience of hundreds of millions in recent Eurovisions. And that Finnish monster rock band actually won.

Also Read: Celine Dion's Brother Daniel Dies Just 2 Days After Her Husband

Jeez! So is this just some musical freak show?
Well … let’s be fair. While there’s always been some silly novelty acts, there’s also some solid bits of Europop on hand every year from genuinely talented folks. Sweden won in 2012 with “Euphoria,” a soaring dance track by “Idol” contestant Loreen that went multi-platinum in her country after her victory.

There’s also a small handful of top stars on the winners’ list you might recognize. ABBA used Eurovision as a launch pad to stardom in 1974 with their song “Waterloo,” and French-Canadian Celine Dion’s win in 1988 was her biggest claim to fame before “Titanic” came out. Quality — or at least creativity — does tend to win out at Eurovision.

OK, so how does this contest work?
First, all the countries have a national contest where they vote on which song will represent at Eurovision. The participants are divided up into two semifinals, with the exception of the host nation and the “Big Five” countries — France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the U.K. — who automatically qualify for the final.  They are joined by the 10 countries that get the most votes in each semifinal. In the final, all 26 countries get three minutes to make a good impression, and then the whole continent votes “Idol”-style (not for their home country, of course), as do professional juries for each country.

Then the show transitions to a long procession of national “ambassadors” reading out who each country gave their votes to. The top 10 performers in each country’s vote get points, with 12 points going to the top vote-getter, followed by 10 and then eight down to one for the rest of the order. The same goes with the juries, but with 10 points going to the performer in first place.

And what does the performer with the most points win?
This trophy. Oh, and their country gets to host the competition next year.

What? No prize money? No contract? No vague promises of superstardom?
Nope. The winners do get their 15 minutes of fame and some success on the charts, but beyond ABBA and Celine, Eurovision winners almost never have long-term success. Again, Eurovision long ago moved away from the sort of music that leaves a lasting cultural impact.

Even now, a good chunk of the acts are homogenous power ballads that can blur together when performed in succession. Still, Eurovision is worth watching just for the spectacle of it all. The Disneyland-esque sweetness of the proceedings is charming, and the lack of stakes for the performers keeps it feeling light and fun rather than a battle for wealth, glory, and continental supremacy.

Also Read: 'Can't Stop the Feeling': Justin Timberlake Drops Catchy New Single (Video)

It has also made headlines in recent years that have allowed it to take steps beyond the realm of annual oddities like the Running of the Bulls. The winner in 2014 was gay Austrian singer Thomas Neuwirth, who performed as drag queen superstar Conchita Wurst. The victory transformed Conchita into an LGBT icon in Europe, even as Russian conservatives raged in fury and used the singer as an example of why Russia shouldn’t be a part of the EU. For all of Eurovision’s platitudes about tolerance and peace, this was a moment where those ideals were actually acted upon, even if it meant breaking the general tone of inoffensiveness.

If it’s supposed to be European, why is Australia a competitor?
It turns out that Eurovision has a major cult following in Australia, and they were invited to compete several years ago as a thanks for all the support down under. The expansion of the European Union means countries like Azerbaijan and Israel get to compete too.

So…if all these countries that aren’t strictly European are competing, does this mean we may be seeing the USA compete in Eurovision soon?
Eh…don’t count on it.

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www.thewrap.com | 5/18/19

Woody Allen’s film “A Rainy Day in New York” has been picked up for distribution in multiple European, South American and Asian territories, according to the New York Times.

On Monday, TheWrap reported that Italian distributor Lucky Red acquired the film for release in Italy on Oct. 3. The Times notes that A Contracorriente Films will now also release “A Rainy Day in New York” the following day on Oct. 4 in Spain.

A spokesperson told the Times that Filmwelt/NFP will release the film in Germany and Austria, and Filmwelt/NFP’s managing director Christopher Ott said in an interview with a German newspaper that they would be among the distributors bringing the film to Europe, China, Japan, South Korea, Russia and South America.

Also Read: Amazon Fires Back at Woody Allen Over Breach of Contract Lawsuit

Italian news reports said on Monday said that “A Rainy Day in New York” was also likely to be shown in France, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Allen’s film was blocked for release in the U.S. after distributor Amazon Studios terminated its four-picture deal with the director after the resurfacing of old accusations that Allen inappropriately touched Dylan Farrow, his then-7-year-old daughter with ex-girlfriend Mia Farrow. (Investigators found no evidence of abuse and Allen has repeatedly denied the accusations.)

In February, Allen responded and filed a $68 million lawsuit against Amazon Studios, claiming breach of contract. In April, Amazon pushed back and said it was “justified” in terminating the contract.

Also Read: Hollywood's Highest Paid Executives: Who Made Bank, Who Sank in 2018 (Updating)

Allen had also announced plans to shoot another film with the backing of Barcelona-based financing conglomerate Mediapro, which previously helped fund “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and “Midnight in Paris.”

“A Rainy Day in New York” stars Elle Fanning and Timothée Chalamet as two young people who arrive in New York and encounter rain and a series of unfortunate adventures. It also stars Rebecca Hall, Selena Gomez, Jude Law, Suki Waterhouse, Liev Schreiber and Diego Luna. Many of the stars of the film, including Chalamet and Hall, agreed to donate their salaries from the film to Time’s Up and LGBT charities.

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www.thewrap.com | 5/9/19

As one watches Werner Herzog and André Singer’s documentary “Meeting Gorbachev,” the mind floats back to the words of the late Gene Siskel, the film critic who was known for, amongst other things, a hypothetical question he posed to filmmakers: “Is my film more interesting than a documentary of the same actors having lunch together?”

“Meeting Gorbachev” is a film about Werner Herzog and Mikhail Gorbachev, the last president of the Soviet Union, having a series of three conversations, including one during which they enjoy fancy chocolates. It’s a conversation so deeply fascinating that there’s nothing else the filmmakers could have done to spice it up. Herzog and Gorbachev could have joined forces to halt an alien invasion and invent time travel, and it still wouldn’t have packed the same wallop.

Herzog narrates “Meeting Gorbachev,” which intercuts his interviews with documentary footage and historical context. If you knew little or nothing about Gorbachev, the information is vital and humane, and sometimes comical. We witness the young life of Gorbachev as he grows from a poor farmer to a powerful political force. He ascended to the highest office in the land in the 1980s, after a morbidly absurd number of leaders died before him.

Watch Video: Werner Herzog Says Mikhail Gorbachev Is Filled With 'Existential Solitude'

What followed was an unprecedented era in Russian history, as Gorbachev reached out to the west and helped bring an end to the Cold War. Gorbachev tells Herzog that he wanted “more democracy,” before adding — with perfect comic timing — “I also wanted more socialism.”

Few documentarians have mastered the interview process like Werner Herzog, who playfully pulls his subjects outside their comfort zone with unexpected poetic insights and unusual observations. He opens his interview with Gorbachev, who was a teenager during World War II, by joking that “the first German you met probably wanted to kill you.” He’s surprised to discover that not only was that not true, but Gorbachev’s real first experience with Germans was charming and, since candy was involved, delicious.

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Gorbachev’s ability to ingratiate himself beyond all expectations was instrumental to the sweeping political change he helped profligate in the 1980s and 1990s, a journey that Herzog and Singer outline in succinct detail. But they don’t get lost in the nuts and bolts. It’s easy now, decades later, to think of Gorbachev as a historical figure. “Meeting Gorbachev” isn’t about educating audiences on Gorbachev’s life — it’s too fawning to be credible as an objective document — it’s about meeting Gorbachev. Sitting in the same room, getting to know him, and illuminating his humanity while the 88-year-old politician is still around to show it.

And although “Meeting Gorbachev” does an excellent job of making the world-changing leader seem like a warm human being, fond of poetry and chocolate and deeply mourning the loss of his late wife, there are moments of resentment that seep in, and moments of bleak humor. Reflecting on the aftermath of his presidency, where power was seized and Russia turned away from Gorbachev’s political agenda, the ex-President admits he regrets “not sending [Boris] Yeltsin off somewhere.”

Also Read: 'The Mandalorian': Giancarlo Esposito, Werner Herzog and More Board 'Star Wars' TV Show

Though clearly entrenched in the past, any look at our political history is bound to in some way reflect on the present. Gorbachev’s condemnation of “reckless politicians” seems particularly pointed, and his declaration that “people who don’t understand disarmament and cooperation should [not be in] politics” is bound to a elicit a response from certain members of the audience, who no doubt have similar leanings in these comparable times.

“Meeting Gorbachev” only dips its toe into the waters of topicality. A few parallels here, a pointed remark there. The most glaring image of the whole film is at the funeral for Gorbachev’s wife, Raisa Gorbacheva, when a young Vladimir Putin can be seen looming over her open casket. Nothing is said of this moment, nothing pointed follows, and very little is said of Putin’s regime. There’s an elephant in the room, and we cut away before the stampede.

“Meeting Gorbachev” was brought to you by the History channel, and cinematically it has a made-for-television vibe. No doubt many audience members will find themselves nostalgic for watching cable on a Sunday afternoon with their dads. The footage, some of it from previous documentaries, is presented mostly as matter-of-fact, although the filmmakers can’t seem to resist a few cinematic gags, like floating the camera around a statue of Gorbachev at pivotal moments in a speech.

The real show here is Herzog and Gorbachev, two of the most interesting people in the world, getting to know each other, asking the big questions, fumbling through small talk, and becoming friends. You may already know everything there is to know about Mikhail Gorbachev. But you’ve probably never sat down with him for hours on end, and you’ve probably never empathized with him so much that you cried. For that you have this movie, and what a fascinating movie it is.

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www.thewrap.com | 5/3/19

Americans, it seems, can’t get enough of the Mueller Report with the dense 448 page probe into potential collusion between the Russian government and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign holding three of the top four spots on Amazon’s best seller list on Monday.

The number one spot was held by a 736 page edition put out by the Scribner and the Washington Post and billed on Amazon as “the only book with exclusive analysis by the Pulitzer Prize-winning staff of The Washington Post, and the most complete and authoritative available.”

Paperback editions of the report were selling for $10.22.

Also Read: MSNBC Criticized for 'Ambush' of Robert Mueller After Easter Church Service: 'Disgusting and Rude'

The number two spot was a $9.20 edition from Skyhorse Publishing, which leaned heavily on an introduction from Alan Dershowitz. The Harvard law professor has spent more than a year making the rounds on television, offering speculation about what might be in the report’s final conclusions.

“Alan Dershowitz is one of the most famous and celebrated lawyers in America. He was the youngest full professor in Harvard Law School history, where he is now the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus,” reads a product description. “Dershowitz is the author of numerous bestselling books, including the New York Times bestseller, ‘The Case Against Impeaching Trump.'”

A third version by Melville House was in fourth place on Amazon, with a no frills $7.40 edition. The only other book among Amazon’s top four best sellers was Delia Owens’ “Where the Crawdads Sing,” which ranked third.

The Amazon numbers suggest Americans were more than willing to pay for convenience, as the entire report is available for free on the Justice Department’s website. You can read it here.

Also Read: Fox News' Andrew Napolitano Says Mueller Report 'Might Be Enough to Prosecute' Trump

On Thursday, Attorney General William Barr delivered the full repot to Congress and posted the complete document (with redactions) online. Dashing many liberal hopes, the report found no evidence of organized collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and declined to indict the president on obstruction of justice charges.

“There was relentless speculation in the news media about the president’s personal culpability, yet as he said from the beginning, there was, in fact, no collusion,” Barr told reporters during a press conference in advance of the release in which he also attempted to explain some of the president’s behavior during the probe.

“There is substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by his sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents and fueled by illegal leaks,” Barr said.

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www.thewrap.com | 4/22/19

MSNBC came in for criticism on Sunday after reporter Mike Viqueira attempted to question special counsel Robert Mueller as he left Easter church services in Washington, D.C.

“Will you testify before Congress, sir? If he were anybody but the president, would Mr. Trump be indicted, sir?” Viqueira asked as Mueller struggled to get into his car. “Sir, why didn’t you make a recommendation to Congress one way or the other? Did the attorney general accurately characterize your positions on conspiracy and obstruction, sir?”

In response to each question, Mueller replied “no comment,” before heading into his car and driving away.

Also Read: Robert De Niro Calls Playing Robert Mueller on 'SNL' a 'Civic Duty' (Video)

Mueller has almost never been heard from in any form during the course of his nearly two-year investigation into Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election.

The Mueller probe, which wrapped last week, found that there had been no organized collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and also declined to indict the president for obstruction of justice.

Also Read: Fox News' Andrew Napolitano Says Mueller Report 'Might Be Enough to Prosecute' Trump

MSNBC’s man-on-the street style reporting on Sunday is more commonly found on celebrity websites like TMZ. And while the network may have been looking to burnish its “truth to power” credentials, the moment was panned online with many on the right and the left criticizing the aggressive approach taken just after church services — with some wondering why the left-wing media organization didn’t get in Mueller’s face before the conclusion of his investigation.

“It’s always a good look for a media outlet @MSNBC to go and ambush someone on his way to church especially Easter service,” Fox Nation host David Webb said in response to the video.

“This is probably not the best look,” noted author and liberal columnist Molly Jong-Fast.

“This is very gross. Don’t do this,” Vox senior correspondent German Lopez added.

Reps for MSNBC did not immediately respond to request for comment from TheWrap.

You can read more of the critics below.

It’s always a good look for a media outlet @MSNBC to go and ambush someone on his way to church especially Easter service. #sarcasm #Mueller #MuellersReport @NBCPolitics @NBCNews

– David Webb (@davidwebbshow) April 22, 2019

This is probably not the best look. https://t.co/ITn555Xqpw

— Molly Jong-Fast (@MollyJongFast) April 21, 2019

This is painful to watch. https://t.co/0xPuUhwJIK

— Gabby Orr (@GabbyOrr_) April 22, 2019

Disgusting and rude. https://t.co/6pgKLggqYj

— Mary ???? (@mchastain81) April 21, 2019

lol clown. https://t.co/cvSyzWl8vy

— Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) April 21, 2019

This is very gross. Don't do this. https://t.co/rZJ5EZzhj8

— German Lopez (@germanrlopez) April 21, 2019

Ladies and gentlemen, our national news media https://t.co/Lq9e27bUaC

— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) April 21, 2019

maybe we didn’t need to send the paparazzi after Robert Mueller on Easterpic.twitter.com/kpqHQzooGo

— Alex Thomas (@AlexThomasDC) April 21, 2019

Libs last week: [Wearing "It's Mueller Time" t-shirt and retweeting a Krassenstein brother] "Mueller is a hero and a patriot!!"

Libs this week: "Sir, why didn't you tell congress to impeach are you a Russian asset??!?!" https://t.co/Swm71O4M3H

— Comfortably Smug (@ComfortablySmug) April 21, 2019

MSNBC harassing people at church on Easter Sunday https://t.co/Zpg5E9bUaL

— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) April 21, 2019

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www.thewrap.com | 4/22/19

Swedish actress Bibi Andersson, known for her roles in “The Seventh Seal” and “Persona,” died on Sunday, according to Stockholm newspaper Aftonbladet. She was 83.

“She has been sick for many years, but it is sad. I found out that Bibi passed away lunchtime today,” director and friend Christina Olofsson told Aftonbladet.

According to Aftonbladet, Andersson had a stroke in 2009 while living in France with her husband Gabriel Mora Baeza. She returned to Sweden a few days later for hospital care. Shortly thereafter, she moved to a nursing home in Stockholm.

Also Read: British Comic Ian Cognito, 60, Dies on Stage During Stand-Up Performance

Andersson, who starred in several of writer and director Ingmar Bergman’s classic films, became well-known in the 1950’s, appearing in “The Seventh Seal” and “Wild Strawberries,” among countless other films.

She would go on to work constantly throughout the ’60s, ’70s and subsequent decades and as recently as 2007, with roles in more than 50 films such as “Persona,” “The Touch” and “Scenes From a Marriage.”

In 1968 Anderson was nominated for best foreign actress at the BAFTAs for her roles in two films: “Persona” and “Syskonbädd 1782,” or “My Sister My Love.” At the 13th Berlin International Film Festival in 1963, Andersson won the Silver Bear for best actress for her role in Vilgot Sjöman’s film “The Mistress.”

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www.thewrap.com | 4/14/19
Serbia's state television says that Mirjana Markovic, the widow of former strongman Slobodan Milosevic, has died in Russia.
www.foxnews.com | 4/14/19

CNN offered a defense of their frequent town hall events with the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, responding to a Daily Caller article by saying that they weren’t in it for the ratings but rather because it was “the right thing to do.”

“CNN does not host presidential town halls for ratings,” the company said through the @CNNPR Twitter account. “We host them because substantive conversations with presidential candidates inform and empower voters to make the best possible choices for their families and communities. And it’s the right thing to do.”

The Daily Caller piece by reporter Mike Brest took aim at the network by noting how every one of CNN’s 12 Democratic presidential town halls had come far behind Fox News and MSNBC’s regularly scheduled programming.

Also Read: Mark Geragos Blasts 'Lame-Ass' CNN as 'Know-Nothing Network' After Firing as Commentator

“The average viewership of CNN’s town halls were approximately 903,000 people,” Brest reported. “Comparatively, the Fox News programming that was going on while the town halls aired averaged 2.2 million viewers, whereas the MSNBC programming had 1.8 million viewers.”

The story received a big boost from President Trump, who retweeted it to his nearly 60 million followers.

CNN — which has long placed third in ratings behind their more opinionated rivals — rarely responds to negative ratings stories, but according to network media reporter Brian Stelter, the presidential retweet “prompted CNN P.R. to respond with a useful reminder that ratings are not the only rubric for a television network.”

With the 2020 Democratic presidential primary now well underway, CNN has looked to set itself up as a leader in early town hall events with candidates. The channel has presented talks with Sens. Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand. The network has also sponsored events with South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.

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www.thewrap.com | 4/12/19

Media of Russia is diverse, with a wide range of broadcast and print outlets are available to the consumer. In total, there are 93,000 media outlets in Russia, including 27,000 newspapers and magazines and 330 television channels. Television is the most popular source of information. There are three television channels with a nationwide outreach, and a multitude of regional channels. Local and national newspapers are the second most popular choice, while the Internet comes third. In all media spheres there is a mixture of private and state-ownership. The three main television channels have often come under criticism for their alleged bias towards the United Russia party and its candidates in their political programs.


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