Publisher: NYT Reporters Work on Book About Brett Kavanaugh

Two journalists who helped cover the confirmation process of Brett Kavanaugh are working on a book about the newest Supreme Court justice.


Portfolio says Wednesday that it has a deal with New York Times reporters Kate Kelly and Robin Pogrebin for “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh.”


The publisher says the book will focus on the “many unanswered questions” about Kavanaugh, who faced allegations of sexual harassment and assault stemming from his years in high school and college. Kavanaugh was narrowly confirmed in October after he and Christine Blasey Ford, who said that he had attempted to rape her during a party when they were in high school, both spoke before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Kavanaugh denied any wrongdoing.


Pogrebin said in a statement that a “fuller picture” of Kavanaugh was needed.

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Aretha Franklin’s ‘Amazing Grace’ Concert Film Finally Debuts

Three months after her death and 46 years after she first recorded it, Aretha Franklin’s live gospel concert is coming to the big screen.

“Amazing Grace,” filmed in January 1972 when the Queen of Soul was just 29 years old, follows Franklin over two nights giving a concert at the New Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles.

Belting out gospel songs like “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” “Climbing Higher Mountains” and an 11-minute version of “Amazing Grace,” Franklin brought churchgoers and guests (including Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger) to their feet.

But Franklin herself stands still, saying little in the 90-minute film.

“It’s a church service. It’s basically just our aunt standing there singing,” Sabrina Owens, Franklin’s niece and executor of her estate, told Reuters Television.

“She doesn’t have much conversation with anybody beyond some of the technical crews that’s around her. At some point she asked about a key and other point she asked about water, but she’s just basically standing there singing, giving her all, doing what she does best,” said Owens, who is also a producer on the film.

The service was released as an album in 1972, becoming a best-seller for Franklin. But the film languished for years over problems with synchronizing the visuals and the audio. Advances in technology made it possible to fix that issue and producer Alan Elliott, who took over the project some 10 years ago, got agreement from Franklin’s estate following the singer’s death in August to finally release the film.

Owens said Elliott told her about the film some three years ago. “I had never even heard about it and he sent me the link, and I was like, ‘Oh wow! This is really good.'”

“Amazing Grace” got its world premiere in New York on Monday, winning warm reviews, and will get a limited release in the city and in Los Angeles in late November and early December, making it eligible for Hollywood’s awards season.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper said the film is “a spine-tingling sensation” while the Hollywood Reporter called it “somewhat shapeless as a movie… But it does contain moments of bliss.”

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At $50M, ‘Pink Legacy’ Diamond Shines Brightest in Christie’s Sale

The ‘Pink Legacy’, a diamond weighing just under 19 carats, fetched a record 50.375 million Swiss francs ($50 million) as it outshone all other auction lots at Christie’s in Geneva on Tuesday.

Graded “vivid”, the highest rating for a pink diamond’s color, the gem is internally pure with a rectangular cut, and mounted on a platinum ring.

Once owned by the Oppenheimer Family, who built De Beers into the world’s biggest diamond trader, the diamond had a pre-sale estimate of $30 to $50 million. The identity of the seller was not disclosed.

Vivid colored diamonds are the most strongly saturated gems, displaying the optimum hue of the stone. Most pink diamonds of this color weigh less than one carat, the auction house – which was holding its semi-annual jewellery sale – said.

Christie’s said the ‘Pink Legacy’ achieved a new per-carat record for a pink diamond, and was the second most expensive one ever sold at auction.

($1 = 1.0073 Swiss francs)

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Trumps to Skip Kennedy Center Honors for 2nd Straight Year

For the second straight year, President Donald Trump will not be attending the Kennedy Center Honors celebrating cultural achievement.


Neither Trump nor first lady Melania Trump will be at the Dec. 2 event, Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s director of communications, said Tuesday.


Grisham also told The Associated Press it was “not likely” any new winners of the National Medal of Arts, National Humanities Medal or National Medal of Science would be announced before the end of the year. She said the remaining weeks of 2018 are “the busiest time of the year for the East Wing.”


Tuesday’s announcements continue the Trump administration’s unprecedented distance from the arts and science communities. No arts or humanities medals have been announced or handed out since September 2016, when Barack Obama was president — the longest gap by months since the awards were established in the mid-1980s. No science medals have been given since May 2016.


Other presidents, including Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, have missed Kennedy Center ceremonies. Trump is the first to miss them twice.


Grisham cited scheduling conflicts: Trump is scheduled to attend the G20 summit in Argentina at the end of the month. Had he come to the Kennedy Center, it’s unlikely he would have been warmly welcomed by at least some of the honorees, who include Cher and “Hamilton” playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda, both sharp critics.


Last year, honoree Norman Lear said he would boycott the event if Trump was there. The White House then announced the president and first lady would not be going “to allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction.”

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Southern California Fires Uproot Many Hollywood Celebrities

Thousands of firefighters in California are battling deadly wildfires in the northern and southern parts of the state. At least 44 people have died as a result of the fires. Many more have lost their homes. 

The wildfires in Southern California have been sweeping through many affluent communities near Los Angeles. Some evacuated residents are now returning home. Among them are celebrities who posted their thoughts and experiences on social media.

Actor Gerard Butler posted a video on his Twitter page, showing the charred and blackened remains of homes in his Malibu neighborhood. 

“It’s like a war zone, heartbreaking,” he said in the video. 

Other celebrities tweeted status updates. Singer and actress Miley Cyrus also lost her home in Malibu’s beach community. In a tweet, she wrote, “My house no longer stands but the memories shared with family and friends stand strong.” 

The wildfires also forced actress Alyssa Milano and director Guillermo del Toro to evacuate as they updated their fans on Twitter. 

Del Toro wrote about the home of his collection of fantasy and horror memorabilia: 

As the wildfires burned for days, thousands of firefighters were mobilized to contain the blaze. 

“I’ve been doing this job for 31 years and probably in the last five, maybe seven years, every year seems to get worse. A lot of that has to do with the recent drought and the drought that we’re still going through. And with that, that drought killed a lot of vegetation. And so, that dead vegetation is prone to burning, obviously,” said Cal Fire Unit Chief Scott Jalbert. 

Low humidity and high winds also contributed to what has made the wildfires so devastating to residents.  

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Miro Sorvino Urges #MeToo to Do More Than ‘Name and Shame’

Mira Sorvino believes the key to eradicating sexual misconduct lies more in preventative education than in “naming and shaming” the perpetrators.


The Oscar-winning actress was one of the first to come forward with allegations of abuse against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, and her resilience has not wavered.


She wants to work with students — from younger grades to the end of high school — to make them understand consent and their physical rights.


“So we don’t raise boys — because it’s mostly boys who do this, some girls, but mostly boys — who turn into men who commit these heinous crimes,” Sorvino told the Associated Press during a recent interview while promoting her role on the new season of the Sony Crackle series, StartUp.”


Sorvino agrees that the culture has changed over the past year, but feels there’s a long way to go, especially when bad behavior is validated in entertainment.


“That was sort of taught to us by like ’80s movies culture like ‘Sixteen Candles’ or ‘Porky’s’ or ‘Animal House’ which made it OK to commit date rape and it was the women’s fault because she was drunk rather than, ‘That’s date rape. How could you possibly take advantage of somebody who can’t even speak?'” she said.


She added: “That’s not cool. That’s not fun. But that’s what my generation of guys were brought up on. I mean I was brought up watching those movies, so we’ve got to change the culture. It can’t just be punishment and naming and shaming, it’s got to be prevention because that’s what we really want. We want no one victimized,” Sorvino said.


Sorvino has found some solace as a prominent voice in the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. Advancements by these organizations have become a rallying cry for women victimized over the years by varying degrees of sexual misconduct. On Dec. 1, she will join the Mika Brzezinski-led line-up for the “Know Your Value” event in San Francisco, which is designed to support and empower women.


She’s kept acting, too. In “StartUp,” Sorvino plays a quirky NSA agent with a deadly side that tries to take down a dark-web site to find a terror cell. The series raises questions about online privacy and the government. It’s currently streaming on Sony Crackle.


She also has helped lobby for legislation in California that provides protections and opportunities for women and girls. Three of the bills presented under the proposed #TakeTheLead legislation have been enacted into law after being singed by California Gov. Jerry Brown.


And she has bigger plans in mind, namely a change to the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing equal rights for women.


“This year coming up I really want to see the Equal Rights Amendment passed. It’s nuts that we don’t have explicit equality in the constitution,” Sorvino said.

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Gates Links Up with Tokyo 2020 Olympics to Tackle Development Goals

U.S. billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates will launch an ‘Our Global Goals’ partnership with the Japan Sports Agency in an effort to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by publicizing them through the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Gates, co-founder of Microsoft and the world’s second-richest person, has devoted much of his time in recent years to his family foundation, which aims to help reach the SDG objectives, including ending extreme poverty and combating climate change by 2030.

At an event in Tokyo on Friday, Gates said he was linking up with an Olympic Games for the first time to use it as a way to increase awareness of the SDGs and also urged Japan to become a world leader in aid and development.

The initiative has become an official Tokyo 2020 Olympics program.

“Countries like Japan will need to continue to invest generously, actually even more generously than they currently are,” the 63-year-old Gates said.

“Today, Japan spends around 3-5 percent of its aid budget on global health, so there is an opportunity to do even more.

“The sports community in Japan is fast approaching an exciting moment, as the eyes of the world will be on Tokyo as the Olympics get nearer,” he said.

“I am excited that you are using this opportunity to raise awareness and be ambassadors for a better world.”

Gates, who was joined on stage by Tokyo 2020 President and former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, did not release many details on Friday but plans to launch the program in 2019 as the buildup to the Games intensified.

“The opportunity for Japan is, even in a time when many countries are turning inward, to continue to say that we need to help those that are not doing as well,” said Gates.

“Continuing to commit to the Global Fund, continuing to commit to increase what they are doing with vaccines and polio is also part of that.

“The whole world loves sports and we have to be creative in how we take those amazing achievements and use that to remind people that there are some who are facing big challenges.”

Gates said in April he would invest $1 billion through 2023 to fund research and development efforts in combating malaria.

According to the World Health Organization, there were 216 million cases of malaria worldwide, causing 445,000 deaths in 2016, the most recent year with available data.

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After Musical Courtship, Mumford & Sons Net Perfect Producer

Ever been on a blind date with a rock star? How about four of them?

That was Grammy-winning producer Paul Epworth’s experience when he initially met up with Mumford & Sons to see if he and the four rockers could vibe, and possibly create not just music, but magic together.

“It was all a bit like a series of blind dates to see how we hit it off. It took us a couple of sessions before we found out what the best method was. The chemistry felt really good all throughout the process,” Epworth said.

“We went on a couple of dates,” said band leader Marcus Mumford. “We did sessions before Christmas, which led to pretty much the final version of the song called ‘Slip Away,’ which is on the record. And we just felt like he was exactly the person we needed to help steer this ship for this fourth record. And we’ve never enjoyed recording more.”

The result is the 14-track “Delta,” to be released Friday.

The band started writing new music after the album “Wilder Mind” was released in 2015, even though one of the “Delta” songs is six years old. Mumford said they tried to re-work the old track “about 400 times.”

“It’s called ‘Forever’ — ironically,” he said.

“It wasn’t called ‘Forever’ before. After the 600th time,” chimed in Winston Marshall, who plays banjo and electric guitar.

Epworth was part of the solution. The band says when they didn’t know what to do, he did.

“They were open to giving me a bit of space to run with stuff [and] try out what I had in mind,” Epworth said. “It definitely made me feel like I was essentially a fifth member of the band.”

The London group said they were familiar with Epworth’s work — the producer is best known for crafting Adele’s monster hit “Rolling in the Deep” and also winning an Oscar with the British vocalist for the James Bond theme song, “Skyfall.” Epworth’s credits also include songs with Coldplay, Florence + the Machine, U2, and Foster the People as well as lesser known acts such as Glass Animals, Bloc Party and Plan B.

Markus Dravs produced the band’s 2009 debut, “Sigh No More,” and its follow-up, 2012’s “Babel,” which won the album of the year Grammy. Both records reached multiplatinum status and launched hits on the pop and rock charts. “Wilder Mind,” produced by James Ford, still had rock hits but only went gold.

Epworth’s fifth member status proved invaluable for “Delta,” mainly recorded at Epworth’s The Church Studios in London.

“[Paul] would just come back one day and be like, ‘That is not your upbeat rock song. That is your downbeat piano ballad.’ We’d be kind of just blindsided by the moments of sheer visionary,” said multi-instrumentalist Ben Lovett.

“Especially for a band of four collaborators — to have that person to help, decision-tie-breaker, those sort of moments [are important],” Lovett added. “If it were to be that we kind of fell out with our producer, it would be fine because we could leave the situation. If we fall out with each other, we’ve got a major problem. Luckily that’s been something we’ve been able to avoid.”

The songwriting process for each track on “Delta” varied — each of the band members work on songs individually and then bring them to the group.

Mumford said over the years he’s learned how to be a better team player and let everyone’s voice be heard.

“In the old days there was a sliver of immediacy and I think a slight immaturity, creatively. … If someone else had a different idea, I personally had less patience for it than I do now,” he said. “Now, I trust these guys’ creative instincts so much. If they’ve got a different idea [and] it doesn’t chime with me straight away, I’m intrigued to see where it goes.”

One of the ideas that came from Lovett was “If I Say,” a beautiful, building rock song, where the string arrangement and orchestra shine brightly. Lovett said he wrote the song “in a dream that I had whilst I was going through a bunch of stuff.”

“I was halfway between grappling with a divorce but also being in a new relationship,” he continued. “The song questions a lot about commitment and about the power of commitment.”

Personal experiences are what drove the overall songwriting behind the album, bassist Ted Dwane said.

“We write autobiographically. A lot has happened to us in our personal lives in the past few years and the overriding theme felt like entering the world,” Dwane explained. “It felt like leaving the security of youth and innocence and manning up, basically.”

Mumford & Sons, who formed in 2007 and started out as a live band, will get a chance to showcase the new songs on their 60-date “Delta” Tour, which kicks off in Dublin on Friday and lands in the U.S. on Dec. 7 in Philadelphia.

They said another way they were inspired to write new songs came from listening to other artists’ music in the studio.

“We’ll constantly be introducing each other to new music like, ‘Listen to this song here’ and we’ll turn it up loud,” Mumford said. “Wins and I once had a very late, quite drunken night in London, demoing for the previous album where we listened to [Don Henley’s] ‘The Boys of Summer’ about five times really loud and then tried to record our own. We called it ‘Lads of Summer.’ It’s a monstrosity. We should have put it on the record though.”

“Maybe on the next one,” Marshall said. “By the way, I [expletive] love that song.”

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