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Wolf of Wall Street Producer Charged in Money Laundering Scandal

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  • Riza Aziz, a producer on The Wolf of Wall Street, was arrested for five counts of money laundering in Malaysia.
  • Riza is the stepson of Malaysia’s former prime minister Najib Razak.
  • The charges against Riza relate to the 1MDB scandal, which involves Najib and alleged laundering he did while in office.
  • Riza pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Riza Aziz Arrested

Riza Aziz, whose production company Red Granite Pictures produced Oscar-nominated picture The Wolf of Wall Street, was arrested in Malaysia and charged with five counts of money laundering.

Riza was arrested by Malaysia’s Anti-Corruption Commission on Thursday. On Friday, he pleaded not guilty to the charges. Each count could be up to five years in prison. According to the New York Times, he has been released on a bail of $240,000.

Riza is the stepson of the former prime minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak. He and Riza’s mother have already been charged in the same scandal. Both have also pleaded not guilty. 

The scandal rocking the family is known as the 1MDB scandal. While Najib was still in office, he was accused of moving money from a government-run development company, 1Malaysia Development Berhad, to his own personal accounts. The United States Department of Justice believes the amount of money lost in the scandal could be as high as $4.5 billion.

What do These Charges Mean?

Riza is accused of transferring $248 million from Swiss bank accounts connected to 1MDB to his company Red Granite between 2011 and 2012. He allegedly used the money to finance his projects and buy high-end real estate. Red Granite has already paid $60 million in a settlement to the U.S. after a lawsuit showed movies like The Wolf of Wall Street and Dumber and Dumber To were funded via 1MDB. $57 million of that has been returned to Malaysia. 

“It is a shame that Riza has become collateral damage in a political crusade to jail his step-father,” Riza’s lawyer, Matthew Schwartz said in a statement that appeared in the Times. “When the actual evidence comes out, it will be clear that he has done nothing wrong.”

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (Financial Times) (The Wrap)

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Chris Pratt Criticized For Wearing Gadsden Flag T-Shirt

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  • Actor Chris Pratt was recently photographed wearing a t-shirt with a version of the Gadsden flag, featuring a coiled snake and the text “Don’t Tread On Me.”
  • After some social media users criticized the shirt and linked it to far-right ideologies, Yahoo published an article titled “Chris Pratt criticized for ‘white supremacist’ T-shirt.”
  • The link to white supremacy and far-right groups outraged many online, including big conservative voices like Ben Shapiro, who defended the symbol.
  • Yahoo has since changed the headline to “Chris Pratt criticized for T-shirt choice.”

Gadsden Flag T-Shirt 

Yahoo is facing backlash for publishing an article that linked actor Chris Pratt to white supremacy after he was spotted wearing a t-shirt with the Gadsden flag. 

The shirt in question features a coiled snake over an American flag with text that reads, “Don’t Tread On Me.” The coiled snake and text are from the Gadsden flag, which was created by American general Christopher Gadsden during the Revolutionary war.

On Monday, Vulture writer Hunter Harris posted a photo of the “Guardians of the Galaxy” star wearing the shirt. Then several social media users responded to the post expressing their disappointment with Pratt.

“Andy Dwyer would never wear a shirt emblazoned with a white supremacist dogwhistle. Chris Pratt is unequivocally the worst Chris,” one now-deleted tweet read. 

“That’s everyone’s fave, Chris Pratt, wearing a snake logo recently associated with lads from the Tea Party to the depths of 4chan.” read another. 

Yahoo Releases Story 

Yahoo Movies UK then picked up the story with the headline: “Chris Pratt criticized for ‘white supremacist’ T-shirt.”

“Although it is one of the symbols and flags used by the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team, Metallica, as well as some libertarian groups, over the years the flag has been adopted by Far Right political groups like the Tea Party, as well as gun-toting supporters of the Second Amendment,” the article reads.

“It has therefore become a symbol of more conservative and far right individuals and, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of the US, it also is ‘sometimes interpreted to convey racially-tinged messages in some contexts.’”

Many took issue with Yahoo’s report and its labeling of conservative groups. Others pointed out that the historical flag symbolizes freedom and liberty, not white supremacy. 

In 2016, The New Yorker published a piece titled “The Shifting Symbol of the Gadsden Flag,” that looked at how the flag has been used by “Tea Party enthusiasts, Second Amendment zealots—really anyone who gets riled up by the idea of government overreach.”

However, in the article, writer and historian Marc Leepson was quoted saying that the origins of “Don’t Tread On Me,”  were “completely, one hundred percent anti-British, and pro-revolution.” The report also notes that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said: “It is clear that the Gadsden Flag originated in the Revolutionary War in a non-racial context.”

Article Sparks Outrage

Many have since blasted Yahoo on Twitter, like conservative commentator Ben Shapiro and former NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch.

Some specifically criticized Yahoo for turning the outrage of a few commenters into a larger story.

Yahoo has since changed its headline to “Chris Pratt criticized for T-shirt choice.”

See what others are saying: (Yahoo) (Fox News) (Breitbart)

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Netflix Cuts Controversial Suicide Scene from ‘13 Reasons Why’ Season 1

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  • Netflix has removed a controversial and graphic suicide scene from its popular series “13 Reasons Why,” more than two years after the scene originally aired. 
  • The company and show creator said they made the decision after hearing concerns from medical experts.
  • The decision to re-edit the scene has been met with mixed reactions, with some praising the move, some saying it should have been done long ago, and others saying that it should have remained in the show because it is powerful and important to watch.

Netflix’s Announcement 

Netflix announced Monday that it has edited out a graphic suicide scene from the first season of “13 Reasons Why,” more than two years after it was released. 

The show, which centers on the suicide of a fictional teenager named Hannah Baker, stirred up controversy when it first aired in March of 2017. While many praised the show for raising awareness about suicide and bullying, others, including organizations like the National Association of School Psychologists and the Parents Television Council, accused Netflix of glorifying and romanticizing suicide to vulnerable teens.

Critics of the show found one scene that aired during the season 1 finale particularly upsetting because of its graphic depiction of Hannah taking her own life. 

“We’ve heard from many young people that 13 Reasons Why encouraged them to start conversations about difficult issues like depression and suicide and get help — often for the first time,” Netflix said in a statement.

“As we prepare to launch season three later this summer, we’ve been mindful about the ongoing debate around the show. So on the advice of medical experts, including Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, we’ve decided with creator Brian Yorkey and the producers to edit the scene in which Hannah takes her own life from season one.”

Suicide Scene Re-edited 

The nearly three-minute-long scene aired about midway through the episode and showed Katherine Langford’s character Hannah looking at herself in the mirror before she was shown cutting her wrists in a bathtub. The camera held on Hannah during her graphic final moments before showing her parents finding her body. 

The re-edited scene now shows Hannah looking at herself in the mirror, then cuts directly to her parents finding her body in the bathroom. Sources told The Hollywood Reporter that Netflix will also monitor and issue take-downs for any pirated clips that feature the original scene.

“Our creative intent in portraying the ugly, painful reality of suicide in such graphic detail in Season 1 was to tell the truth about the horror of such an act, and make sure no one would ever wish to emulate it,” show creator Brian Yorkey said in a statement before also mentioning that concerns from experts helped him reach this decision. 

“No one scene is more important than the life of the show and its message that we must take better care of each other. We believe this edit will help the show do the most good for the most people while mitigating any risk for especially vulnerable young viewers,” he added.

Mixed Reactions 

The decision to re-edit the scene was met with support from the American Association of Suicidology, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American School Counselor Association, Dr. Helen Hsu from Stanford, advocacy group Mental Health America, the Trevor Project and Dr. Rebecca Hedrick from Cedars-Sinai, according to THR.

We support the decision to edit the scene in which Hannah takes her own life from 13 Reasons Why. There has been much debate about the series in the medical community,” the groups said in a joint statement. “But this positive change will ensure that 13 Reasons Why continues to encourage open conversation about mental health and suicide prevention — while also mitigating the risk for the most vulnerable teenage viewers.”

However, the move was met with mixed reactions online, with some arguing that the scene was painful but powerful and should have remained in the show.

Meanwhile, others said the scene should have been cut from the series a long time ago.

If you or someone you know may be contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text TALK to 741741 for free, anonymous 24/7 crisis support in the US from the Crisis Text Line. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org.

See what others are saying: (The Hollywood Reporter) (NPR) (The Washington Post)

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Scarlett Johansson Clarifies “Politically Correct” Casting Comments After Backlash

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  • In a recent interview with As If magazine, Scarlett Johansson was quoted saying that she should “be allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal because that is my job and the requirements of my job.”
  • Her comments reignited a debate on social media about Hollywood casting and diversity in the film industry.
  • After facing backlash, Johansson released a statement saying that her interview was “edited for click bait and is widely taken out of context.”

As If Cover Story 

Scarlett Johansson says her recent remarks about “political correctness” in casting were taken out of context after the comments sparked much backlash online. 

The actress was previously criticized for accepting the role of a transgender man in the film “Rub & Tug.” She stepped down from the role last summer amid calls for the character to be played by a trans actor instead.

Before that, Johansson also faced backlash for playing a Japanese character in “Ghost in the Shell,” which critics again argued should have been played by a Japanese actor. 

In a cover story for As If magazine published last week, Johansson discussed her viewpoints on the issue. Then different media outlets quoted selections of her comments from the interview.

Johansson was quoted saying: “You know, as an actor I should be allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal because that is my job and the requirements of my job.

“There are a lot of social lines being drawn now, and a lot of political correctness is being reflected in art,” she added.

“I feel like it’s a trend in my business and it needs to happen for various social reasons, yet there are times it does get uncomfortable when it affects the art because I feel art should be free of restrictions.”

Twitter Users React

Headlines about Johansson’s comments began circulating on Twitter, prompting many users to speak out.

Still, some users came to Johansson’s defense on the issue. Some specifically pointed to the reactions that appeared when Halle Bailey was cast as Ariel in Disney’s live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid.”

Johansson Clarifies Comments

Johansson released a statement on Sunday through her reps saying that the interview, as it’s been quoted, “has been edited for click bait and is widely taken out of context.”

She explained that the question she was answering was about the “confrontation between political correctness and art.”

“I personally feel that, in an ideal world, any actor should be able to play anybody, and art, in all forms, should be immune to political correctness. That is the point I was making, albeit didn’t come across that way.”

“I recognize that in reality, there is a wide spread discrepancy amongst my industry that favors Caucasian, cis gendered actors and that not every actor has been given the same opportunities that I have been privileged to,” she added. “I continue to support, and always have, diversity in every industry and will continue to fight for projects where everyone is included.”

See what others are saying: (Fox News) (Entertainment Weekly) (The Hollywood Reporter

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