Apr 20
Her eye on the news

A moderator at the Tribeca Film Festival faced boos and derision from the audience after he asked acclaimed actress Michelle Pfeiffer about her weight during a panel that reunited the cast of the famous 1983 film Scarface. After a screening of the iconic gangster film, which recently celebrated its 35th anniversary, in New York City’s Beacon Theater, Scarface director Brian de Palma and starring actors Pfeiffer, Al Pacino, and Steven Bauer were joined on stage by moderator Jesse Kornbluth to reminisce about the process of creating the popular classic. But an initially excited audience was noticeably taken aback after Kornbluth abruptly demanded that Pfeiffer tell him how much she weighed during filming.

“As the father of a daughter, I’m concerned with body image. [During] the preparation for this film, what did you weigh?” Kornbluth asked bluntly.

Before Pfeiffer could respond, the audience erupted in a cascade of boos — as some could be heard asking why exactly Kornbluth felt the need to ask the actress’ weight.

“This is not the question you think it is,” Kornbluth told the audience, declining to provide any further explanation to his question.

“Well, OK. I don’t know,” Pfeiffer eventually said. “But I was playing a cocaine addict, which was part of the physicality of the part, which you have to consider. The movie was only supposed to be a three-month, four-month shoot. Of course, I tried to time it so that as the movie went on, I became thinner and thinner and more emaciated.”

“The problem was the movie went six months,” she added. “I was starving by the end of it because the one scene that was the end of the film where I needed to be my thinnest, it was [pushed to the] next week and then it was the next week and then it was the next week. I literally had members of the crew bringing me bagels because they were all worried about me and how thin I was getting. I think I was living on tomato soup and Marlboros.”

Watch video of the audience’s reaction to Kornbluth’s question, as well as Pfeiffer’s response, below.

Read the full story at IndieWire.


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Impossible choice

An American from the Midwest has told the improbable and harrowing story of how she became an ISIS widow. Samantha Sally told CNN how she ended up in Syrian-Kurdish custody after following her husband into Syria — and a life of beatings, torture, and serial rape — when he forced her to make an impossible choice. Sally, now 32, explained that she was forced to decide between staying behind in Turkey with her son, who was 7 at the time, and chasing after her husband who had taken the couple’s young daughter with him.

“I had to make a decision,” Sally recalled. “Maybe I would never have seen my daughter again ever, and how can I live the rest of my life like that?”

Sally and her husband Moussa Elhassani had been living an unremarkable life in Elkhart, Indiana, before Elhassani proposed that they move to his native Morocco for a year. Before moving, she said, they took a romantic vacation to Turkey when her formerly loving husband’s behavior abruptly became severe. She said he began to treat her like “a prisoner,” before taking her to the Syrian border and making her decide whether she would follow him.

“People can think whatever they want but they have not been put in a place to make a decision like that,” she said.

Elhassani became a sniper for ISIS. Meanwhile, Sally lived a lonely domestic existence punctuated by violent abuse from her husband. At one point, she said, she was jailed for three months by ISIS while pregnant for trying to escape. While in custody, she said, she endured torture and sexual abuse.

Later the family bought three slaves — two of whom were young teenage Yazidi girls — that Elhassani would rape. Sally has denied complicity in the girls’ serial rape, claiming that she was able to better protect them than if they had gone to other families. It was only last year after Elhassani was killed by drone strike, she said, that she finally felt she was “able to breathe.”

Speaking with CNN, one of the former Yazidi slaves expressed gratitude for Sally’s intervention, and the defiant ISIS widow expressed hope that she and her four children be allowed to return home to America.

Read the full story at CNN and Yahoo News.


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‘Extremely distressing’

Natalie Portman has said that she is honored to have won the Genesis Prize, an award sometimes referred to as the “Jewish Nobel,” but that she “cannot in good conscience” attend the award ceremony in Israel because of “recent events” — an apparent allusion to Israel’s violent response to Palestinian protests. At least 28 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds injured as thousands protested along the Gaza-Israel border. Israel has justified the violence by claiming that the protests are a charade meant to cover up attacks by Hamas.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the Genesis Prize Foundation officials said they were “very saddened” that Portman had decided not to attend, explaining that a representative for the Jerusalem-born Oscar winner had told them she “does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel” because “recent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her.” The foundation was launched in 2013 to mark Jewish achievements and contributions to humanity.

At least one Israeli politician, a controversial one, thinks Portman should be stripped of her citizenship due to her refusal to accept the award. The New York Post reports that Oren Hazan ranted about the idea to give Portman the award was “craziness” and went on to say the actress is “a Jewish Israeli, who on the one hand cynically uses her birthplace to advance her career and on the other is proud of the fact that she managed to avoid enlisting in the IDF.”

“She’s an actress, but she is unworthy of any honor in the State of Israel,” Hazan, a member of the Likud political party added. “Sweetness can come from strength: I call on Interior Minister Aryeh Deri to rescind Portman’s Israeli citizenship. She left Israel at age four, and has no real connection to the State.” Earlier this year, Hazan was temporarily removed from Knesset (Israel’s national legislature, according to Haaretz, over a series of sexist and chauvinist statements he’d made.)

Israel’s border blockade of Gaza has been in place since 2007, driving its two million residents deeper and deeper into poverty. Unemployment in Gaza is close to 50 percent, and electricity is available for fewer than five hours a day, according to CBS News. Among those injured during protests late last year was the 14-year-old cousin of 17-year-old Palestinian protester and icon Ahed Tamimi, who was later sentenced to eight years in prison by a military court after she was seen on video slapping two Israeli soldiers. Tamimi had accosted the soldiers after her cousin was shot in the head at close range with a rubber bullet which ended up embedded in his brain.

Read the full story at CBS News.


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Thousands of mourners lined up Friday at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston and waited hours to pay their final respects to former first lady and first mother Barbara Bush, who died earlier this week at the age of 92. Her casket arrived there early Friday morning and her body will lie in repose from noon until midnight. President Donald Trump did not attend, though first Melania Trump was there to represent the White House. Numerous other dignitaries are attending the memorial, including Bill and Hillary Clinton and Barack and Michelle Obama.

Bush family spokesperson Jim McGrath posted photos on Twitter showing George H.W. Bush along with his daughter, Doro, saying their last farewell to the matriarch of the political family dynasty. The memorial service capped several days of tributes and remembrances for Barbara Bush.

On Thursday, Jenna Bush Hager brought The Today Show hosts Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb to tears after she read aloud an emotional letter she wrote in tribute to her late grandmother, Barbara Bush.

“Dearest Ganny, when we lost you, we lost one of the greats,” Hager read. “You are a family’s rock; the glue that held us together. I hope you know in your final days how many people prayed for you, how many people told me they loved you.”

Hager, who shared the letter via voiceover as she was unable to be in the studio because she was preparing for the funeral in Houston, revealed that her grandmother had always taught her to act with “humility and grace,” to “treat everyone equally,” and to “read all the great books.”

“From you, Ganny, I’ve learned the gift of uniqueness and authenticity,” Hager said. “You taught us that humor, wit and grace are the best accessories, and that worrying too much about your looks, in your own words, ‘is boring. Words matter, kindness matters, looks fade.'”

Hager also shared one of the last emails her grandmother had written to her, which read simply: “I am watching you. I love you. Granny.”

Bush has also been remembered for her literacy advocacy, though most won’t identify her as a feminist. That said, she at least had a feminist streak in her, as evidenced from a 1990 commencement speech she delivered at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. “Somewhere out in this audience may even be someone who will one day follow in my footsteps and preside over the White House as the president’s spouse,” she told the graduates. “And I wish him well.” Watch a highlight of the moment, which drew an uproarious round of applause from the audience that day.

And below, watch video of Hager reading her letter on Today.

Read the full story at Yahoo News.


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'Wore it well'

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is winning plaudits for her choice of clothing worn during her visit to Buckingham Palace this week. Ardern donned a korowai  — a traditional Māori cloak — when she appeared for a dinner at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. The cloak is spiritually significant to the Māori — the indigenous people of the New Zealand islands. At the event, Ardern was seen shaking hands with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles, among others. She was accompanied by her partner, Clarke Gayford.

The decision to wear the cloak, which the Ngati Ranana London Māori Club loaned to Ardern, was seen by pundits as another public acknowledgment of the Māori people’s culture on the international stage. Ardern became the first New Zealand Prime Minister to speak during the traditional Māori welcoming ceremony on Waitangi Day, on the Waitangi grounds, a few months ago. Mark Sykes, the curator of Māori special collections at Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum, told The Guardian the gesture was also a proud moment for Māori people.

“Cloaks are worn for warmth, protection and to symbolize your status and mana [power],” Sykes observed. “I think it shows how she is portraying herself as a leader of Māori, of all of New Zealand, of everyone. It made me feel proud. She wore it well. She wore it so well.”

According to the Te Papa website, the korowai is a type of feather cloak that became prominent in the 1800s and are loaded with symbolism. “In the Māori world, birds are the children of Tānemahuta (god of the forest),” the museum’s website says, “and are messengers between people and gods. Each bird has a mauri (life force) and special qualities, and these become part of a cloak’s essence and personality.”

Late last year, Ardern capped a meteoric rise — known locally as “Jacindamania” — by winning the election, making her New Zealand’s third woman prime minister. Not long after, she and Grayford announced that they were expecting a baby in June.

Read the full story at NITV.


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‘A first step’

While many New Yorkers celebrated the removal of a century-old state of J. Marion Sims, a gynecologist who performed experimental surgeries on slave women at his home in Alabama, from its perch near Central Park, some have questioned why the statue was being relocated rather than destroyed. Richard J. Moylan, the president of the Green-Wood Cemetery, has given the statue a new home in the famous Brooklyn cemetery, accompanied by a plaque explaining Sim’s checkered history. Moylan has taken similarly controversial statues before — most notably, a statue known as “Civic Virtue” which depicted an 11-foot-tall man, crushing naked women, who symbolized vice, beneath his feet.

In an article for The New York Times, reporter Ginia Bellafante questioned the claims of city officials who celebrated the removal of the statue, noting that the monument was actually just “moving from one highly trafficked quarter of the urban landscape to another.” The Green-Wood cemetery, a national historic landmark, took in more than 280,000 visitors last year. The so-called removal, she added, was more so “a photo opportunity and a first step” than a “consummate expression of moral authority.”

Moylan, for his part, justified taking in the statue by saying that the accompanying plaque would provide “an opportunity to tell the story, good and bad” of the famous gynecologist’s life. But according to Bellafante, the idea that people are “at risk of forgetting the darker aspects of our past” belies the reality that racism continues to have devastating effects. Black women are reportedly three to four times more likely to die during pregnancy than white women, and the racial disparity in infant mortality rates has become even higher today than it was in 1850, back when Sims was performing gynecological experiments on slave women.

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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