Academy Awards Live Broadcast To Include 4 Cinematography Categories After All

An Oscar statue is pictured at the press preview for the 91st Academy Awards Governors Ball in Los Angeles.

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Chris Pizzello/Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that its February 24 live broadcast of the Oscars will include four cinematography awards, reversing a decision to present them during commercial breaks.

Television viewers of the 91st Academy Awards will see presenters open the envelopes, and winners make their way to the stage and give speeches for best cinematography, film editing, live action short, and makeup and hairstyling.

The plan to shift those awards categories into commercial breaks, first announced in August, was intended to shorten the often over-long broadcast event.

“The Academy has heard the feedback from its membership regarding the Oscar presentation of four awards,” the organization said in a statement issued Friday. “All Academy Awards will be presented without edits, in our traditional format. We look forward to Oscar Sunday, February 24.”

The announcement came after an outcry by some of Hollywood’s heaviest hitters, including BlacKkKlansman director Spike Lee and Roma director Alfonso Cuarón.

In an open letter to the Academy, hundreds of cinematographers, directors and actors, including Martin Scorcese, Ethan and Joel Coen, and George Clooney wrote that the decision to curtail the telecast “is nothing less than an insult to those of us who have devoted our lives and passions to our chosen profession.”

“When the recognition of those responsible for the creation of outstanding cinema is being diminished by the very institution whose purpose it is to protect it, then we are no longer upholding the spirit of the Academy’s promise to celebrate film as a collaborative art form,” the letter added.

That message was underscored in a Thursday night meeting between the academy’s top leadership and prominent members of the cinematography community who urged the academy to include the four awards in the live broadcast.

The Academy’s reversal is the latest backpedal connected with this year’s Oscars ceremony.

In September, the Academy dropped a plan to create a new award for blockbuster movies or “best popular film,” a proposal critics said would diminish the impact of the awards.

In December, comedian Kevin Hart stepped down as host of the Oscars ceremony after his homophobic and sexist tweets surfaced, leaving the event without a host for the first time since 1989.

Acknowledging the fluid awards program planning, the Academy tweeted Friday, “Nine days until the showtime, still tweaking the script.”

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Tribune Publishing Recognizes 'Hartford Courant' Newsroom Union

Tribune Publishing has agreed to recognize a new union representing journalists at the Hartford Courant in Connecticut’s capital.

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Journalists at the Hartford Courant have won the right to organize, just four days after they asked parent company Tribune Publishing to recognize the union. Organizers at the Connecticut newspaper had also filed a petition for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board.

“The company has agreed to voluntarily recognize the Hartford Courant Guild as the representative of certain newsroom employees at the Hartford Courant and Courant Community,” Tribune Publishing said in a statement Friday. “No date has been set for the beginning of contract negotiations.”

The Courant is the latest of several Tribune newspapers to see their newsrooms unionize. Similar successful efforts were made at the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., and the Daily Press in Newport News, Va. (Tribune Publishing, previously named Tronc, subsequently sold the LA Times.)

The Hartford Courant Guild will cover nearly 60 reporters, editors and photographers at the paper. More than 80 percent of eligible staffers signed union cards saying they want to be represented, organizers said.

“We acknowledge Tribune Publishing for taking this step, which expedites contract negotiations, and recognizes the overwhelming will of our newsroom to take a seat at the table,” the union said in a statement.

It added, “We look forward to building a more productive and collaborative relationship with the company as we join the conversation shaping the future of the Hartford Courant. We fight for improved resources and support so we can continue to serve our readers to the best of our abilities.”

Tribune Publishing has been the focus of sale and merger talks, and in January the newspaper chain announced the departures of its CEO and the two top officials of its digital arm.

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U.S. Agency Tightens Immigration Rules To Spotlight Child Marriage

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said Friday that it was implementing new guidelines to identify minors in spousal and fiancée visas.

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The Department of Homeland Security has announced new guidelines to track child marriages among immigrants in the United States.

While debates on immigration have focused on national security, and President Trump’s determination to build a wall along the southern border has resulted in a national emergency declaration, the new rules address a far lesser known immigration issue.

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, there is no minimum age requirement for a person to request or benefit from visa applications in which spouses or fiancées are minors.

Friday’s policy shift is meant to “emphasize that a marriage involving a minor warrants special attention,” a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spokesperson told NPR.

Officers will now have to consider how old the petitioner and beneficiary were when they wed and whether it violated the law where the wedding took place, the agency said in a statement. Adjudicators will also have to consider what the law dictates in the U.S. state where the couple plans to reside.

More than 8,600 approved visa petitions for spouses or fiancées between 2007 and 2017 involved a child, according to a women’s advocacy group called Unchained At Last. In 95 percent of those cases, the organization says, the minor was a girl.

While immigration debates have focused on the need to secure the southern border, immigrants themselves are but a small piece of the United States’ child marriage problem, a piece that could easily be fixed by setting an age requirement on spousal and fiancée visa petitions, founder and executive director Fraidy Reiss tells NPR.

“These new guidelines don’t really help,” she says. “What we need right now is legislation that closes this dangerous, gaping loophole.”

She says child marriage through immigration mainly happens in two ways: Girls or young women already in the United States are forced to marry men overseas for the man to get a visa and a path to citizenship, or girls outside of the United States are brought to the country on a spousal or fiancée visa under family or financial pressure.

They can be subjected to sexual and physical abuse, deprived of schooling and denied a path to citizenship should their partners choose not to finish their paperwork. In the worst cases, some women and girls are “never allowed to leave home” and are “treated basically as slaves,” Reiss says.

Sex with a child is allowed within marriage under statutory rape laws in 38 states, she adds.

An estimated 650 million girls and women in the world today were married before their 18th birthday, according to UNICEF.

NPR has previously reported that more than 200,000 children — overwhelmingly girls — were married between 2000 and 2015 in the United States.

According to a Tahirih Justice Center report, most states have laws that appear to set the minimum marriage age at 18, but allow for exceptions such as parental consent, judicial order or pregnancy.

Prior to Friday’s updated guidelines for officers, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services relied on an electronic flagging system if a minor spouse or fiancée was detected in filed petitions. A special unit would then assess the ages and relationship of the couple.

“While these are steps in the right direction, ultimately it is up to Congress to bring more certainty and legal clarity to this process for both petitioners and USCIS officers,” Director L. Francis Cissna said.

Applicants petitioning to bring a parent to the United States must be at least 21.

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Senate Panel Launches Bipartisan Probe Into Think Tank Linked To Butina, Torshin

Maria Butina walks with Alexander Torshin then a member of the Russian upper house of parliament in Moscow, Russia in this photo taken in 2012. The Senate Finance Committee is now investigating a think tank linked to both of them.

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The Senate Finance Committee is launching a bipartisan investigation into how a conservative think tank aided Maria Butina, the admitted Russian agent who sought political influence through her ties with the National Rifle Association.

Butina pleaded guilty to acting as a foreign agent in the United States in December, and her alleged Russian government handler Alexander Torshin was sanctioned by the United States in April 2018.

In a letter to Dimitri Simes, the CEO of the Center for the National Interest think tank, the committee requested records related to meetings Torshin and Butina had in 2015 with the Federal Reserve Vice Chairman and the Treasury Department Undersecretary for International Affairs.

Republican Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Democratic Ranking Member Ron Wyden of Oregon also sent letters to the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve to find out more about these meetings and to receive more details about their policies regarding meeting with foreign officials.

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by NPR, which the Federal Reserve responded to the day before the Senate Finance Committee made public its intention to investigate, answers some of the questions being posed by the committee.

The documents reveal that Paul Saunders, then the Executive Director of the Center for the National Interest, reached out to the Federal Reserve in order to set up meetings for Torshin.

“I am writing to request an appointment for Mr. Alexander Torshin,” Saunders wrote, in a March 2015 email. “Mr. Torshin is in the United States on a private visit… he would like to discuss U.S.-Russia relations and international economic issues and can also share his perspective on Russia’s financial situation and its impact on Russian politics.”

The Center for the National Interest was established by former President Richard Nixon, and is considered a conservative think tank with a reputation for following a foreign policy school of thought known as realism. Henry Kissinger is the honorary chairman of the board of directors, and many of the other directors are well known conservative thinkers.

NPR’s FOIA request also yielded an internal memorandum that summarizes the meeting held between Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer, Torshin and Butina in April 2015.

The memo reveals that back in Spring 2015, both Torshin and Butina were already touting their relationships with the National Rifle Association — and reveals the meetings with senior officials were an offshoot of their primary trip purpose: to attend the yearly NRA conference.

“Butina… served as translator during the meeting. She is Founding Chairman and Board Member of a Russian organization which promotes the right to bear arms. They are both life members of the National Rifle Association,” the internal memo reads. “They are in the United States to attend the NRA’s annual meeting.”

The Senate Finance Committee’s public announcement Friday of a bipartisan probe into this matter reveals a new element of the numerous congressional investigations into Russia.

“A critical issue facing the Committee and the country is the extent to which the Russian government engaged in efforts designed to undermine our political system and governmental policy through obfuscation and manipulation,” the two senators wrote in their letters Friday.

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