April 22, 2020

A galaxy far, far away! What a concept!

Russian Doll co-creator Leslye Headland is working on a new Star Wars show for Disney+, Variety reported on Wednesday. She'll reportedly serve as writer and showrunner for the series, which Variety describes as female-centric and taking place "in a different part of the Star Wars timeline than other projects." The Hollywood Reporter has also confirmed the news, writing the deal dates back several months while noting that Headland attended the premiere of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in December.

This is another Star Wars series headed to Disney's streaming service after The Mandalorian, which spawned the breakout Baby Yoda. The animated show Star Wars: The Clone Wars is nearing the end of its final season on Disney+, and a live-action series based on Obi-Wan Kenobi and another based on Rogue One's Cassian Andor are also both in the works.

No other information about the Headland show has been revealed, although some quickly began to wonder if it could be related to a rumored series about fan-favorite comic book character Doctor Aphra. Headland's hiring comes as many fans have called for greater female involvement in Star Wars; The Mandalorian's Deborah Chow last year became the first woman to direct live-action Star Wars, and she's working on the Obi-Wan show as well.

When this new series might arrive on Disney+ isn't clear, but for now, a second season of The Mandalorian is slated for this fall, and a third season is already being developed. Brendan Morrow

2:01 a.m.

Lily Ebert never forgot about the kindness shown to her by an American soldier during the darkest time of her life.

Ebert, 90, was born in Hungary, and at 14, she was sent to Auschwitz. Her mother, brother, and sister were killed, and she survived being forced to work in a munitions factory and a death march. She was liberated in April 1945, but after going through so much trauma, she could not feel at ease.

One American approached her and gave her a German banknote inscribed with an optimistic message. "The start to a new life," he wrote. "Good luck and happiness." This man was "the first person who was kind and wasn't an enemy," Ebert told CNN, and she held onto the banknote, keeping it with her through moves to Switzerland, Israel, and London.

After sharing this story with her 16-year-old great-grandson, Dov Forman, he tweeted photos of the banknote, hoping to learn the identity of the GI who helped Ebert. The man had also written "assistant to Chaplain Schachter" on the bill, and internet sleuths determined he was Private Hyman Schulman, a Jewish soldier from Brooklyn. He died seven years ago, but Ebert and Forman were able to set up a Zoom meeting with his children. "It means so much that we can now connect with the family," Ebert said. Catherine Garcia

1:50 a.m.

A federal judge stepped in Monday to stop the first federal executions since 2003, ruling that the three inmates slated to be put to death this week have a right to argue their concerns about the constitutionality of lethal injection drugs in court. "The public is not served by short-circuiting legitimate judicial process," said U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan in Washington, D.C. The Trump administration immediately appealed the decision, and when the federal appeals court in D.C. declined to overturn the stay, the administration petitioned the Supreme Court.

Attorney General William Barr lifted a hold on federal executions last year, and Daniel Lewis Lee was scheduled for execution at the federal person in Terre Haute, Indiana, on Monday evening. Lee was convicted of the murder of thee people, including an 8-year-old girl, in Arkansas in 1996, as part of a white supremacist plot to set up a whites-only nation in the Pacific Northwest.

Last month, Barr said "we owe it to the victims of these horrific crimes, and to the families left behind, to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system."

But family members of Lee's victims were among the biggest opponents of executing him, arguing he should be given a life sentence like the plot leader who participated in the murders. They also have an appeal at the Supreme Court. "For us it is a matter of being there and saying, 'This is not being done in our name; we do not want this,'" said relative Monica Veillette.

The federal government has executed just three people since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988. But things have shifted "since the Justice Department last carried out an execution in 2003," The Washington Post notes, "Executions and death sentences have both declined significantly, public support for capital punishment has fallen, and more states have abolished the practice entirely. State have struggled to obtain drugs, with pharmaceutical firms opposing the use of their products to carry out death sentences, in some cases going to court to fight against it." Peter Weber

1:09 a.m.

Grant Imahara, an electrical engineer who went on to host MythBusters and White Rabbit Project, has died. He was 49.

The Hollywood Reporter on Monday said it confirmed Imahara died following a brain aneurysm.

He joined MythBusters in its third season, and was known for designing and building robots. He reunited with co-hosts Kari Byron and Torry Belleci in 2016 for Netflix's White Rabbit Project. On Monday night, Byron tweeted a photo with Imahara and the caption, "Sometimes I wish I had a time machine."

A Los Angeles native, Imahara attended the University of Southern California, and after graduating spent nine years working for Lucasfilm's THX and Industrial Light and Magic divisions. He specialized in animatronics, and worked on several major films, including the Star Wars prequels, The Matrix Reloaded, Van Helsing, and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Catherine Garcia

12:47 a.m.

During a press conference on Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) was interrupted by an activist who accused him of misleading the public over the true number of coronavirus cases in the state.

Florida is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, with public health experts saying the rapid increase is due to the state reopening too early and without enough precautions. DeSantis' press conference, held at a Miami hospital, came one day after Florida recorded 15,300 new coronavirus cases, the highest single-day total of any state since the beginning of the pandemic.

While DeSantis was speaking, a heckler in the audience began shouting at him, yelling, "Shame on you! You are an embarrassment!" The man was identified as Thomas Kennedy, Florida director of the immigration advocacy group United We Dream. Kennedy accused DeSantis of "doing nothing" and "falsifying information" about the extent of the coronavirus crisis in the state. As he was escorted out of the room, Kennedy declared that DeSantis is "deceiving the public" and "should resign." DeSantis did not respond.

On Saturday, Rebekah Jones, Florida's former data chief, published an op-ed in USA Today saying the state's COVID-19 data is "unreliable, confusing, and hazardous to our health." Jones said she was fired in May because she refused to "manually manipulate" data at the request of state leaders. Catherine Garcia

12:11 a.m.

For people who believe trying to contain COVID-19 is too hard, or not worth the socioeconomic tradeoffs, or too uncomfortable, letting the new coronavirus spread freely throughout the population to achieve herd immunity — the point where the virus has saturated a community enough that it is effectively contained — without waiting for a vaccine might sound like a tempting, viable alternative to masks, social distancing, and more stringent measures.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) disagrees, and he explained why with some back-of-the-envelope math in a Twitter thread Monday evening.

In Mississippi, 40 percent of the population would equal 1.2 million people getting infected, versus the 36,680 cases that have already left the state's hospitals "stressed to the point of pain," Reeves wrote. To put it another way, Mississippi would need at least 3,187 new COVID-19 cases every day for a year, triple the state's worst days of this pandemic.

And even if you were willing to stomach 1.2 million to 2.4 million Mississippi residents getting infected with the virus, a study from King's College in London released Monday suggested people may lose their COVID-19 immunity within months, making herd immunity moot. Peter Weber

July 13, 2020

The Atlanta Braves on Monday said the organization's 108-year-old name "honors, respects, and values the Native American community," and there are no plans to come up with a new one.

On Monday, the Washington Redskins announced their name and logo will be retired, as the moniker is considered a slur against Native Americans. The Braves do not believe their name is insensitive, with the organization saying discussions have been held with Native American and tribal leaders, and a change is "not under consideration or deemed necessary. We have great respect and reverence for our name and the Native American communities that have held meaningful relationships with us do as well. We will always be the Atlanta Braves."

The team does have an advisory board that is taking a closer look at the "Tomahawk Chop" motion, which was popularized when Deion Sanders joined the Braves in 1991. Critics consider this gesture to be a racist caricature targeting Native Americans, and the Braves said this is "one of the many issues we are working through," with the organization "continuing to listen to the Native American community, as well as our fans, players, and alumni to ensure we are making an informed decision on this part of our fan experience." Catherine Garcia

July 13, 2020

Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Monday lamented the way Blake Neff, the former head writer for his show, is being treated, after years of racist, sexist, and homophobic comments he posted online came to light.

Neff resigned on Friday, after Fox News learned about the messages he posted pseudonymously on the forum AutoAdmit. In a memo sent to Fox News staff on Saturday, network leaders called Neff's online conduct "abhorrent" and his remarks about Blacks, Asian-Americans, and women "horrendous and deeply offensive." Neff, who was hired at Fox News in 2017, recently told Dartmouth's alumni magazine that when Carlson reads off the teleprompter, "the first draft was written by me."

Fox News said Carlson would discuss Neff's actions during his Monday show, and near the end of Tucker Carlson Tonight, he said what his former staffer wrote "anonymously was wrong. We don't endorse those words, they have no connection to the show." However, there are "ghouls that are beating their chest in triumph at the destruction of a young man," he said, and "self-righteousness also has its costs."

Carlson continued to deflect, telling his audience: "We are all human, when we pretend we are holy, we are lying. When we pose as blameless in order to hurt other people, we are committing the gravest sin of all and we will be punished for it. No question." On his show, people are judged for "what they do, not for how they were born," he added, and "Blake fell short of that standard and he has paid a very heavy price for it."


Carlson also shared that he plans on taking the next four nights off, going trout fishing during a "pre-planned vacation." Last August, Carlson hastily took a few days off after saying white supremacy was a "conspiracy theory" and "not a real problem" in the United States. Catherine Garcia

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