FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
March 11, 2016
MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

It was a seemingly inconsequential tweet that brought together Mexican actress Kate del Castillo and the notorious drug lord El Chapo. "Mr. Chapo, wouldn't it be cool if you started trafficking with the good? ... Come on señor, you would be the hero of heroes. Let's traffic with love, you know how," she posted in January of 2012.

While a relative unknown in the States, del Castillo made a name for herself in Mexico for her hugely popular role as a drug trafficker in The Queen of the South; both her tweet and her role earned her the attention and respect of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the drug lord known as "El Chapo." Not long after her post, representatives for El Chapo got in touch with del Castillo about giving her the rights to El Chapo's life story, with the hope of del Castillo starring in the ensuing film.

Which is where Sean Penn got involved.

Penn authored a 10,000 word essay for Rolling Stone earlier this year about traveling with del Castillo to meet El Chapo — an essay that was widely criticized for being both totally insane and ethically dubious. While previously only Sean Penn's side of the story was available, del Castillo has since spoken to The New Yorker, raising further questions about Penn's motivations:

The final version [of Penn's article] included this addition: "And then, as it seems we are at the entrance of Oz, the highest peak visibly within reach, we arrive at a military checkpoint. Two uniformed government soldiers, weapons at the ready, approach our vehicle. Alfredo lowers his passenger window; the soldiers back away, looking embarrassed, and wave us through. Wow. So it is, the power of a Guzmán face. And the corruption of an institution." This scene, del Castillo maintains, did not occur: they didn't go through any military checkpoint, much less one where government soldiers waved them on. Sulichin and Ibáñez, who were in the car ahead of del Castillo and Penn, also have no recollection of encountering a military checkpoint. (Penn maintains that his version is correct.) [The New Yorker]

That's not the only discrepancy — and, what's more, Penn allegedly hadn't even been transparent about being on the trip to work on an article in the first place. Read the entire scoop in The New Yorker. Jeva Lange

10:25 p.m. ET
Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images

Kim Jong-Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, was killed by a highly toxic nerve agent that the United Nations has classified as a weapon of mass destruction, Malaysian police said Thursday.

Earlier this month, Kim Jong-Nam was at the Kuala Lumpur airport when he said a woman grabbed his face and sprayed him with some sort of chemical; he died from a seizure on the way to the hospital. Authorities say a preliminary analysis of swabs taken of his face and eyes shows ethyl N-2-Diisopropylaminoethyl Methylphosphonothiolate, the most potent of all nerve agents, which is lethal after just a fraction of a drop is absorbed through the skin.

Previously only seen in chemical warfare, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says exposure to the nerve agent can lead to convulsions, paralysis, and fatal respiratory failure. The police have said two attackers rubbed a liquid on Kim's face before they fled and washed their hands. Catherine Garcia

9:32 p.m. ET
Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images

Some of Hollywood's biggest names will gather in Beverly Hills on Friday for a pro-immigrant rights rally.

Organized by the United Talent Agency, the United Voices rally "aims to express the creative community's support for freedom of speech and artistic expression, and stand against policies of exclusion and division," the company said in a statement. UTA is one of the most powerful talent agencies in Hollywood, and represents Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, who is nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Farhadi said he won't attend Sunday's ceremony because President Trump's executive order banning travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, is "unjust."

Jodie Foster, Michael J. Fox, Wilmer Valderrama, and California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom are slated to speak at the rally, and James Franco, Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, Seth Rogen, and Aisha Tyler are all set to appear. The rally is being held in lieu of UTA's annual Oscar gala, and the agency said it will also donate $250,000 to the International Rescue Committee and the ACLU. Catherine Garcia

8:53 p.m. ET
Pool/Getty Images

While he would like to live in a world without any nuclear weapons, President Trump told Reuters Thursday that as it stands today, the United States has "fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity" and he wants the U.S. arsenal to be "at the top of the pack."

"We're never going to fall behind any country even if it's a friendly country, we're never going to fall behind on nuclear power," he said. The anti-nuclear Ploughshares Fund organization says the United States has 6,800 warheads, compared to Russia's 7,000. New START, a strategic arms limitation treaty between the U.S. and Russia, requires that both countries curb their arsenals of strategic nuclear weapons to equal levels by Feb. 5, 2018, keeping them there for 10 years. Trump told Reuters this was a "one-sided deal," and he's "going to start making good deals."

To modernize its aging bombers, land-based missiles, and ballistic missile submarines, the United States is spending $1 trillion over 30 years. Daryl Kimball, executive director of the nonprofit Arms Control Association, told Reuters that both the U.S. and Russia have "far more weapons than is necessary to deter nuclear attack by the other or by another nuclear-armed country." Catherine Garcia

8:12 p.m. ET
Vittorio Zumino Celotto/Getty Images/

In addition to white people, Richard Spencer also loves the band Depeche Mode. Unfortunately for Spencer, the feelings are not mutual.

Spencer, the white nationalist and alt-right poster boy who became infamous during the presidential campaign as a supporter of Donald Trump, told a reporter at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday that Depeche Mode "is the official band of the alt-right." Later, Spencer told Rolling Stone he is a "lifelong Depeche Mode fan," and his "tongue was firmly in cheek" when he made his earlier statement. "They aren't a typical rock band, in terms of lyrics and much else," he said. "Depeche Mode is a band of existential angst, pain, sadism, horror, darkness, and much more." The group doesn't do "bubblegum pop," Spencer continued, and he claimed their album Music for the Masses has a "bit of a fascist element."

Considering one of Depeche Mode's most notable songs, "People Are People," includes the lyrics, "I can't understand/What makes a man/Hate another man/Help me understand," it was no surprise a representative for the band quickly told Rolling Stone Depeche Mode "has no ties to Richard Spencer or the alt-right and does not support the alt-right movement." Catherine Garcia

6:59 p.m. ET
Pool/Getty Images

After several media outlets reported on Donald Trump's advisers being in constant contact with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign, the White House requested the FBI publicly denounce the stories, several U.S. officials told CNN Thursday.

The White House wanted the FBI and other agencies investigating the matter to say the Feb. 14 reports from The New York Times and CNN were false and the two sides never communicated, the officials said, but FBI Director James Comey rejected the request, made by White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, because of the ongoing investigation of ties between Trump associates and Russians known to U.S. intelligence. The White House is not supposed to directly communicate with the FBI, and such a request violates procedures that limit contact with the FBI over pending investigations. Catherine Garcia

4:49 p.m. ET

Beyoncé will forgo her planned performance at the 2017 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, event organizers announced Thursday. The pop star, who announced last month she is expecting twins with husband Jay Z, cited doctors' advice to "keep a less rigorous schedule in coming months" as the basis for the decision.

In lieu of leading the Coachella 2017 lineup, Beyoncé will headline the 2018 festival. Her replacement for this year has yet to be announced.

Beyoncé has not revealed her due date, but as she was already showing at her performance at the Grammys on Feb. 12, many predicted she might drop out of Coachella. She was slated to headline on both April 15 and April 22 of the two-weekend-long affair in Indio, California.

If you need to see it to believe it, read Coachella's announcement in full below. Becca Stanek

4:46 p.m. ET
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

During this week's congressional recess, some lawmakers returned to their home districts to meet with constituents for the first time since President Trump took office last month. Many Republicans found themselves facing angry crowds during subsequent town halls, including Sen. Joni Ernst (Iowa), Sen. Tom Cotton (Ark.), and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Utah), while House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.), and others have been criticized for failing to make themselves available to their constituencies at all.

All the hubbub has some GOP representatives declining full-stop to hold town halls. In attempting to defend those evasive lawmakers, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) on Tuesday cited the case of former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was shot in the head at a constituent meeting in January 2011. After Giffords was shot — she survived the incident and returned to the House floor just seven months later, but resigned from Congress in 2012 — Gohmert says the House Sergeant at Arms "advised us ... that civilian attendees at congressional public events stand the most chance of being harmed or killed," arguing the meetings are a threat to public safety. Gohmert also cited the dangers of possible paid protesters from the "more violent strains of the leftist ideology ... who are preying on public town halls to wreak havoc."

One person who's not buying Gohmert's reasoning? Giffords, who on Thursday responded to his comments with a statement declaring town halls are "what the people deserve in a representative." She noted she "was shot on a Saturday morning. By Monday morning, my offices were open to the public." "To the politicians who have abandoned their civic obligations, I say this," she wrote. "Have some courage. Face your constituents. Hold town halls." Kimberly Alters

See More Speed Reads