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Scarlett Johansson pulls out of trans drama after backlash

Scarlett Johansson on Friday withdrew from the film "Rub & Tug" after her plans to portray a transgender man prompted a backlash.

In a statement to Out.com on Friday, Johansson said she's pulling out from the project "in light of recent ethical questions raised surrounding my casting." Last week, Johansson said she would star as Pittsburgh 1970s and '80s prostitution ring leader Dante "Tex" Gill, who was born Lois Jean Gill but identified as a man.

When transgender actors and advocates questioned the casting, Johansson initially responded with a statement that criticism "can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto and Felicity Huffman's reps." All are cisgender actors who won acclaim for playing transgender characters.

"Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I've learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realize it was insensitive," said Johansson, who added that she had "great admiration and love for the trans community."

"While I would have loved the opportunity to bring Dante's story and transition to life, I understand why many feel he should be portrayed by a transgender person, and I am thankful that this casting debate, albeit controversial, has sparked a larger conversation about diversity and representation in film," the actress added.

Johansson previously came under fire for playing an originally Asian character in the 2017 film "Ghost in the Shell." That film's director, Rupert Sanders, was set to also helm "Rub & Tug."

It's not clear if the film, which Johansson was also producing, will go forward. A representative for Johansson didn't respond to an email Friday. A spokesman for New Regency, which was set to produce "Rub & Tug," said it's uncertain what will happen with the film.

Some critics have argued that trans roles should be played by trans actors. Last week, numerous trans actors responded to Johansson's casting as another sign of a lack of opportunity for trans actors.

"Actors who are trans never even get to audition for anything other than roles of trans characters," Jamie Clayton, a transgender actress who stars in Netflix's "Sense8." ''That's the real issue. We can't even get in the room."

Jen Richards, trans activist and creator of the web series "Her Story," praised Johansson for stepping down.

"If you're tired of hearing about it, you can't imagine how tired trans actors are of talking about it," Richards said on Twitter. "We just want to work. And with more trans and nonbinary people, of all kinds, participating, the work will be a better and richer representation of our world. This is a win."

GLAAD, formerly known as the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said in a statement: "Scarlett Johansson's announcement, together with the transgender voices who spoke out about this film, are game changers for the future of transgender images in Hollywood."

Trump attacks CNN, NBC and British paper in news conference

President Donald Trump found time to attack CNN, NBC and the British tabloid The Sun, and offer fashion advice to a fourth news organization, while talking to reporters Friday with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

The leaders faced sharp questions at a news conference following their talks, which came between a reportedly contentious meeting of NATO representatives and Trump's upcoming summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Frequent Trump foil Jim Acosta of CNN tried to ask a question at one point and was rebuffed by the president.

"CNN is fake news," Trump said. "I don't take questions from CNN.

"Let's go to a real network," Trump said, pointing to John Roberts of Fox News Channel. Roberts asked if there was any way that relations with Russia would improve as long as the country occupied Crimea.

A day earlier, Trump took a question from CNN's Jeremy Diamond following the NATO meeting. And as Friday's session with May was breaking up, Acosta shouted, "Mr. President, will you ask Putin to stay out of U.S. elections?"

Trump turned around and answered yes.

Roberts, a veteran of CBS News and CNN, took some withering criticism online for not standing up for Acosta in the moment or, perhaps, ceding the microphone to his colleague.

CNN anchor Jake Tapper tweeted that he was "old enough to remember when other networks came to the defense of Fox News WH correspondents during the Obama years. Such did not happen here. Lesson for the kids out there: no one should ever try to do the right thing with the expectation that it will ever be reciprocated."

Media solidarity has become an issue with White House briefings lately, as some journalists suggest that reporters should band together to prevent press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders from changing the subject to avoid answering questions. It hasn't happened to any appreciable degree.

Roberts said later that he paused when Acosta and Trump went back and forth, and asked his own question when it became clear the president would not entertain one from CNN.

He noted he used to work at CNN. "There are some fine journalists who work there and risk their lives to report on stories around the world," Roberts said. "To issue a blanket condemnation of the network as 'fake news' is ... unfair."

Roberts also said it was similarly wrong for Trump to call Kristen Welker of NBC News dishonest. "She is as honest as the day is long," he said.

Trump took offense Friday when Welker asked him, "Are you giving Russian President Vladimir Putin the upper hand heading into your talks given that you are challenging the alliances that he is seeking to break up and defeat?"

Trump called it dishonest reporting. "Of course it happens to be NBC, which is possibly worse than CNN," he said. Welker was cut off when she tried to reply.

NBC News had no comment on the exchange. Margaret Talev, president of the White House Correspondents Association, said that "asking smart, tough questions, whether in a presidential press conference or interview, is central to the role a free press plays in a healthy republic."

"Saying a news organization isn't real doesn't change the facts and won't stop us from doing our jobs," Talev said.

All of the cable news networks, along with ABC, CBS and NBC, carried the news conference live. Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC's "Morning Joe" promised the show would fact-check the session live, much as it had done the day before following a NATO meeting. Co-host Joe Scarborough frequently broke in while Trump talked on Thursday, calling some of his claims untrue.

But MSNBC didn't break in to the Trump-May session Friday. There was no indication whether the live fact-check was considered a failed experiment, or whether it would be repeated on "Morning Joe" or any other show.

Trump was questioned Friday about critical statements he had made about May in an interview this week with The Sun, where he said she hadn't taken his advice about Brexit negotiations and he praised her political rival. He criticized the newspaper for not printing the positive things he said about May, although he later softened his stance when it was pointed out that the Sun released audio portions of the interview.

"I said very nice things about her," he said. "They didn't put it in the headline. I wish they'd put it in the headline."

The Sun's headline: "Trump's Brexit Blast: Donald Trump told Theresa May how to do Brexit 'but she wrecked it' — and says the US trade deal is off."

In a statement, the Sun said it stood by its reporting. "To say the president called us 'fake news' with any serious intent is, well ... fake news."

During one awkward moment in the news conference, Trump called attention to Reuters reporter Jeff Mason's hat. Roberts, sitting next to him, playfully doffed the hat to reveal Mason's bald head.

"I like you better without the hat," Trump said.

Mason took it off and asked his question.

___

Associated Press reporters Jill Lawless and Jill Colvin contributed to this report from London.

Christine Noestlinger, Austrian children's book author, dies

Christine Noestlinger, an Austrian author best known for her children's books such as "Fiery Frederica" and "Fly Away Home," has died at the age of 81.

The Residenz publishing house in Vienna said on Friday that Noestlinger died June 28 after a short illness.

Drawn from her childhood experiences during and after World War II, Noestlinger's books often featured strong characters overcoming adversity.

She was the recipient of numerous prizes for her work, including the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1984 and the inaugural Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2003.

Noestlinger published 150 books that were translated into 30 languages.

Oklahoma town doubles in population for Woody Guthrie fest

Woody Guthrie's Oklahoma hometown has doubled in population as thousands gather for a music festival in honor of the "This Land Is Your Land" singer.

The Journal Record reports that the town of Okemah jumps from about 3,000 to 6,000 people during the annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival.

Performers this year include Grammy winner Jason Mraz, Oklahoma's Turnpike Troubadours, and Annie Guthrie, daughter of Arlo Guthrie and the granddaughter of Woody Guthrie.

Festival organizer Kay Thompson says it brings music fans from around the world to Okemah, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) east of Oklahoma City. Thompson says some come from as far away as Scotland and Australia.

Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen have cited Woody Guthrie as an influence.

This is the festival's 21st year. It continues through Sunday.

___

Information from: The Journal Record, http://www.journalrecord.com

UK: Man gets life in prison for promoting Prince George plot

An alleged Islamic State group supporter who encouraged attacks on 4-year-old Prince George of Britain has been sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 25 years.

Husnain Rashid maintained he'd done nothing wrong during the early part of his trial, but later switched his plea to guilty on four counts of preparing terrorist acts and encouraging terrorism.

The 32-year-old Rashid, a former teacher at a mosque, was accused of using the Telegram messaging site to encourage "lone wolf" attacks and to provide advice on the use of bombs, chemicals and knives.

Prosecutors said he suggested a range of attack targets, including injecting poison into supermarket ice cream and George, the oldest child of Prince William and his wife, Kate.

One post included a photo of the young prince and the address of George's London school.

'Downton Abbey' movie to shoot this summer

Three years after going off the air, "Downton Abbey" is coming back as a movie.

Focus Features said Friday that it will this summer begin production on a "Downton" film that will reunite the Crawley family on the big screen. Series creator Julian Fellowes wrote the screenplay and will produce.

The long-rumored film adaptation is likely to be released sometime next year. The primary cast members are all set to return.

Over six seasons, "Downton Abbey" became a global hit, airing in at least 150 countries, and setting a record for non-U.S. television shows with 69 Emmy nominations.

Brian Percival, who directed the series' pilot, will direct the film.

Baron Cohen pranks 2 more celebrity politicians for show

Some politicians are going through the several stages of panic associated with an interview with Sacha Baron Cohen: remorse, damage control, anger and regret for being duped.

One of the comedian's latest targets, defeated Senate candidate Roy Moore, is threatening a defamation lawsuit over an upcoming episode of the comedian's new television series.

Sacha Baron Cohen has for years lured unwitting politicians into awkward interviews. Now one of his latest targets, defeated Senate candidate Roy Moore, is threatening a defamation lawsuit over an upcoming episode of the comedian's new television series.

In a statement posted on Facebook, Moore says he accepted an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington in February after being told he'd receive an award for supporting Israel.

"I did not know Sacha Cohen or that a Showtime TV series was being planned to embarrass, humiliate, and mock not only Israel, but also religious conservatives such as Sarah Palin, Joe Walsh, and Dick Cheney," Moore wrote on Facebook.

Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is running for U.S. Senate in Arizona, thought he was part of a show focusing on the top 20 most famous people in the United States.

Arpaio, 86, said he began to suspect something was amiss with the interview when Baron Cohen started using sexually explicit expressions.

He's not sure yet whether he'd take any action against Baron Cohen, who posed as a Finnish actor and wore a disguise during an October 2017 interview in Los Angeles.

"If they do a good job, maybe I'll send them a thank-you note," Arpaio said.

Neither Showtime nor Baron Cohen responded to requests for comment.

"Who Is America?" premieres Sunday on Showtime.

The network has been tight-lipped about the show. Baron Cohen has posted only a cryptic clip of a former vice president Dick Cheney being asked to sign a water jug that a man — presumably Baron Cohen — calls his "waterboard kit."

The comedian adopts various personas to trick interviewees, and as his rapper character Ali G he subjected Newt Gingrich and Pat Buchanan to awkward interviews. He even got a brief interview with Donald Trump in 2012, but the then-businessman walked out early in the session.

That same year, Baron Cohen dumped ashes on Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet at the Oscars while promoting his film "The Dictator."

It is unclear when the interviews with Cheney, Arpaio and Palin will air during the seven-episode "Who Is America?" run.

Baron Cohen's stunts have landed him in court before, and Moore is threatening to file a lawsuit depending on how "Who Is America?" portrays him.

Moore is suing four women who raised decades-old allegations of sexual misconduct during his Senate race.

"I am involved in several court cases presently to defend my honor and character against vicious false political attacks by liberals like Cohen," Moore said in his statement. "If Showtime airs a defamatory attack on my character, I may very well be involved in another. As for Mr. Cohen, whose art is trickery, deception, and dishonesty, Alabama does not respect cowards who exhibit such traits!"

Arpaio initially told The Associated Press that he regretted doing the interview. Then he corrected himself.

"No, I don't regret the interview," Arpaio said. "I'll talk to anybody."

Watch: Will Smith, Ciara join ‘In My Feelings’ challenge dance-off in epic fashion

Will Smith just upped the game in the #InMyFeelings challenge on social media.

It’s part of the latest craze to sweep the internet, inspired by Drake’s hit “In My Feelings” from the “Scorpion” album.

>> Read more trending news 

Originally dubbed #DoTheShiggy on Instagram, over 2.3 million tweets have been shared, dedicated to the #kikichallenge, #DoTheShiggy, Kiki and Keke.

Ciara and Russell Wilson followed up with their own epic version while vacationing in Cape Town, South Africa.

New York Giants star Odell Beckham Jr. jumped out of a car to pull of his dance.

Drake even put his own spin on it on stage during a recent show.

Drake’s “In My Feelings” is currently number 6 on the Billboard hot 100 chart.

FOP chief denies politics played role in porn actress arrest

Politics did not play a role in the arrest of porn actress Stormy Daniels, according to the head of the police union in Ohio's capital city where Daniels was briefly charged with interacting too closely with patrons who turned out to be undercover police officers.

Officers applied an illegal sexual contact law indiscriminately at Sirens night club during a performance, arresting two other women in addition to Daniels, said Jason Pappas, head of the FOP Capital City Lodge #9.

"The suggestion that this is politically motivated is absolutely untrue," Pappas said Friday.

Prosecutors on Thursday dropped charges against the porn star hours after she was accused of illegally rubbing undercover police officers' faces against her bare breasts during her performance.

The 39-year-old adult film star, who claims to have had sex with Donald Trump before he became president, was charged with three misdemeanors.

Daniels' lawyer called for an investigation into the arrest, saying some of the officers had what appeared to be "very Pro-Trump" social media pages. The lawyer, Michael Avenatti, tweeted screenshots from what he claimed was the Facebook page of one officer with a pseudonym and asked people to help confirm it.

Daniels was "set up" in a Columbus police sting operation, Avenatti said, calling it an "absurd use of law enforcement resources."

Pappas rejected that claim, noting the undercover vice team included black and female officers carrying out their responsibility to enforce laws covering strip clubs. He couldn't confirm the allegation about the officer's pro-Trump page.

"Every officer goes out there every day and enforces the law, not their personal political opinions," Pappas said.

Thursday afternoon, prosecutors said they were dropping the case because Ohio's law against physical contact between strippers and customers applies only to someone who "regularly" performs at a club. In Daniels' case, it was her first appearance at Sirens in Columbus.

Columbus police chief Kim Jacobs said "one element of the law was missed in error." She said the officers' motivations will be reviewed internally.

The cases of the two other women arrested are being reviewed, according to the city prosecutor's office.

Daniels considered reappearing at Sirens but later opted for a different club Thursday night, Vanity Gentlemen's Club. She performed there for about 20 minutes, baring her breasts but not physically interacting with any patrons. A host had announced: "No phones, no photography, no touching!"

About 100 patrons were in the club and threw dollar bills on her as she performed, partly covering the stage.

Police said Daniels' arrest was part of a long-term human trafficking investigation of adult clubs. Franklin County Municipal Court records show 23 similar cases this year, including the charges against Daniels, 14 last year and six the year before.

Daniels has said she had sex with Trump in 2006, when he was married. Trump has denied it. Before the election, she was paid $130,000 to stay silent in a deal handled by Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen. She is suing to invalidate the nondisclosure agreement.

___

Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo in Los Angeles and Catherine Lucey in Washington contributed to this report.

Emmy diversity gets a boost from Ricky Martin, Issa Rae

Sterling K. Brown and Donald Glover aren't such Emmy outliers this year.

More than a third of the 101 acting nominations for the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards went to ethnic minorities, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. That's up from a quarter of the field last year, when Brown ("This Is Us") and Glover ("Atlanta") won top acting awards.

Both men are nominated again, along with noteworthy first-timers including Latino actors Ricky Martin and Penelope Cruz for "The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story," Tiffany Haddish for "Saturday Night Live," Issa Rae for "Insecure" and John Legend for "Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert." Darren Criss, who is of Filipino descent, was also nominated for "American Crime Story."

Sandra Oh, the Canadian-born actress of "Grey's Anatomy" fame, became the first nominee of Asian descent in the leading drama actress category. Oh, who earned five supporting actress bids for "Grey's," has earned critical praise for her role as a spy hunting a female assassin in BBC America's "Killing Eve."

"I think we're all happy with the direction we're going. This is the most diverse class of performer nominees we've had ... which is fantastic," Maury McIntyre, TV academy president, said Thursday after the nominations for the Sept. 17 awards were announced.

Only one of this year's categories, supporting actor in a drama, lacked any performers of color. In three categories, more than half the field are minorities.

That includes supporting actor in a comedy series, with black actors Tituss Burguss ("Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt"), Brian Tyree Henry ("Atlanta") and Kenan Thompson ("Saturday Night Live") and Tony Shalhoub ("The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel"), of Lebanese descent, competing with Louie Anderson ("Baskets") Alec Baldwin ("Saturday Night Live") and Henry Winkler ("Barry").

In 2017, the nominations showed significant gaps in Emmy progress. "Master of None" star Aziz Ansari, who is of Indian heritage, was the sole Asian-American to be nominated for a continuing series lead or supporting role. Not a single Latino was included in the marquee acting categories.

The hard-won progress made by the African-American stars and makers of shows including "black-ish" and "Atlanta" has brought them creative influence and visibility that Latinos and Asian-Americans, America's first and third largest ethnic groups, respectively, are still aiming to achieve. The three ethnic groups make up a combined 37.2 percent of the U.S. population, according to U.S. Census figures.

The TV industry has faced pressure to change in recent years, including from a multi-ethnic civil rights coalition formed after major networks fielded a fall 1999 slate of new shows with only white stars. Networks and producers have taken steps to boost opportunities, but with uneven results.

Leonard James III, chair of the NAACP Image Awards committee, said last year that a long record of fighting for civil rights is behind the significant African-American gains.

"We've been engaged with the Hollywood community for 100 years," James said, including NAACP-led protests against D.W. Griffith's "The Birth of a Nation" in 1915, just six years after the organization was founded. "I think you're beginning to see some of that work get very positive results."

___

AP Music Writer Mesfin Fekadu in New York contributed to this report.

___

Lynn Elber can be reached at lelber@ap.org and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lynnelber.

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