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IT40 News for 01/04/2019

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#1 Trump summons congressional leaders as shutdown lingers

IT40 News for 01/04/2019 6 IT40 News for 01/04/2019

A partial US government shutdown began at midnight on Dec. 22, 2018,. when a funding agreement between the Congress and President Trump could not be reached.

(Pictured) President Donald Trump attends a Cabinet meeting on day 12 of the partial U.S. government shutdown at the White House in Washington, on Jan. 2.

The United States Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Narwhal sits at a dock at its station during the partial US government shutdown on Dec. 30, in Newport Beach, Calif.. Active duty Coast Guard service members will receive a one-time emergency paycheck on Dec. 31 after working without pay since Dec. 21.

Tourists look at Statue of Liberty statues as they congregate in lower Manhattan during the holiday week on Dec. 29 in New York City. Despite the government shutdown, the Statue of Liberty and the Museum of the American Indian, two major tourists destinations, have so far remained open.

Tourists look at Statue of Liberty statues as they congregate in lower Manhattan on Dec. 29 in New York City.

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#2 Police believe Idaho woman disposed of missing Colorado mom’s phone

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Detectives investigating the alleged murder of a Colorado mother are looking into a new lead hundreds of miles away. Sources tell CBS News that officials are investigating an Idaho woman for her possible role in Kelsey Berreth's disappearance in November. Berreth's fiancé, Patrick Frazee, has been charged with her murder.

We're not releasing the name of the 32-year-old nurse from Twin Falls, Idaho, who police are looking into since she hasn't been charged, but police believe she may have helped Frazee cover up the alleged murder by disposing of Berreth's cell phone, reports CBS News' Nikki Battiste. Details of their relationship are unclear, but they reportedly knew each other for years.

Investigators believe Frazee – a blacksmith – murdered the 29-year-old flight instructor around Thanksgiving Day in her Colorado home. The engaged couple did not live together, but have a one-year-old daughter, Kaylee. 

Berreth was last seen on store surveillance video with their baby the day she vanished. Three days later, police say Berreth's cell phone pinged nearly 600 miles away in Gooding, Idaho. Several texts from the phone were sent, including one to her employer saying she would be away for a week and another to Frazee.

District Attorney Dan May said investigators do not believe Frazee acted alone. He's charged with five counts, including two counts of first degree murder.

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#3 Stocks rally as Fed chief eases concerns about rate hikes

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Stocks rallied Friday after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank will be patient in raising rates.

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The Dow jumped more than 800 points as Boeing, UnitedHealth and 3M outperformed. The S&P 500 rallied 3.6 percent, with the tech sector surging. The Nasdaq shot 4.4 percent higher.

Netflix rose sharply after Goldman Sachs added the streaming service to its conviction buy list. Analyst Heath Terry called Netflix “one of the best risk/reward propositions in the Internet sector. ”

Dow member Intel rallied after Bank of America Merrill Lynch upgraded it to buy from neutral.

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#4 Powell says he would reject any Trump request to resign

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Video by Reuters

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WASHINGTON — Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Friday that he will not resign if asked to do so by President Donald Trump, and that he is prepared to be patient in deciding when to raise interest rates again.

Both of those messages cheered stock market investors who had been worried about Trump's repeated attacks on his hand-picked choice to lead the nation's central bank and also the Fed's seemingly inexorable march to higher rates.

"There is no pre-set path for policy," Powell said during an appearance at a conference of economists in Atlanta. "With the muted inflation readings we have seen coming in, we will be patient as we watch to see how the economy evolves."

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#5 U.S. payrolls rise 312,000, wages top estimates in jobs blowout

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U.S. employers added the most workers in 10 months as wage gains accelerated and labor-force participation jumped, reflecting a robust job market that nevertheless faces mounting risks in 2019.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 312,000 in December, easily topping all forecasts, after an upwardly revised 176,000 gain the prior month, a Labor Department report showed Friday. Average hourly earnings rose 3.2 percent from a year earlier, more than projected and matching the fastest pace since 2009. Meanwhile, the jobless rate rose from a five-decade low to 3.9 percent, reflecting more people actively seeking work.

The hiring and wage gains will support consumer spending and offer some respite after a spate of weak economic data and cuts in corporate revenue forecasts fueled stock-market jitters. Still, it may be hard to replicate such labor-market strength in 2019 amid the U.S.-China tariff war, softening manufacturing, a housing slowdown and a projected cooling in global growth.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is scheduled to speak later Friday morning in Atlanta. While the report is in line with the Fed’s view of a healthy job market and officials last month penciled in two interest-rate hikes for 2019, the central bank may need more evidence of strength before moving forward with the next increase following four in 2018.

Before Friday’s report, investors had begun betting that policy makers will instead end up cutting borrowing costs.

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#6 WSJ editorial shreds Trump’s Afghanistan claims

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A Wall Street Journal editorial published Friday ripped into President Donald Trump for comments he made about the Soviet Union's decadelong war in Afghanistan, blasting his “reprehensible” recollection of the conflict and his “slander” of U.S. allies.

The editorial referred to comments made by Trump during a meandering 90-minute meeting of his Cabinet on Wednesday, where Trump belittled the role of U.S. allies in the Middle East, accusing them of sending minimal resources to back up U.S. troops in comparison with the American presence there.

“What other countries have done for the last long period of time is give us some soldiers and then talk about it like it’s the end of the world, and we’re subsidizing their militaries by billions and billions and billions of dollars,” Trump said, claiming the efforts were meant to appease previous U.S. presidents so they could say American allies were fighting alongside the U.S. in an increasingly unpopular war.

“This mockery is a slander against every ally that has supported the U.S. effort in Afghanistan with troops who fought and often died,” the Journal's editorial said, citing the more than 450 British soldiers who have been killed there.

Just as "reprehensible," the Journal's editorial board noted, "was Mr. Trump’s utterly false narrative of the Soviet Union’s involvement" in Afghanistan.

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#7 This woman offered to be the ‘mom’ at any gay wedding. Her post went viral.

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After Sara Cunningham’s youngest child told her in 2011 he was gay, it took years for the Oklahoma City secretary and mother of two to accept it. Eventually, she began to stand up against her conservative Baptist church’s stance that homosexuality is shameful.

"We tried to ‘pray the gay away’ for years,” said Cunningham, 55. “And I felt like I had to choose between my son and my faith.”

She chose her son. In July she decided to take a stand in another way. Literally.

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Saddened on learning of a same-sex couple whose parents refused to attend their wedding, Cunningham wrote a short post on Facebook over the summer offering to “stand in” as a mother at LGBTQ marriage ceremonies.

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#8 Hackers Leak Details of German Lawmakers, Except Those on Far Right

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BERLIN — Twitter shut down an account on Friday that an unidentified hacker had been using for weeks to expose the personal details of several hundred German lawmakers in what appeared to be major privacy breach for the German political establishment.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the publication of the information, including personal emails, chats, identity cards and contact details. It was also not clear how the data was obtained, German officials said.

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Links to sites hosting the material were posted on Twitter by an account named GOd. The breach appeared to target lawmakers from every major political party but one: the far-right Alternative for Germany, or AfD. Personal information from artists and journalists with leftist political leanings was also published.

Germans prize personal privacy — a legacy of abuses by the Nazi- and Communist-era secret police — and the country has long had some of the world’s strictest laws protecting personal information. Germany forced Google to allow individuals to blur images of their homes on its Street View mapping service, following outrage over the amount of data the company was collecting.

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#9 Four countries now have links to American detained in Russia as international spillover widens

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MOSCOW —The international links to an American charged with espionage in Russia widened Friday as Ireland became the fourth nation to acknowledge Paul Whelan as a citizen and seek consular access.

The expanding passport list for Whelan, a 48-year-old former Marine arrested last week in Moscow, has boosted the complexities and diplomatic fallout for Moscow.

In addition to demands by the Trump administration for greater details on Russia’s claims against Whelan, three other nations are now in the mix and offering potential assistance.

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Whelan also carried passports from Canada, where he was born, as well as from Britain and Ireland. Whalen obtained the two European passports through family lineage.

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#10 Thousands stranded on Thai islands as Tropical Storm Pabuk hits

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Tropical storm Pabuk is expected to hit Thailand on Jan. 4, forcing airports and ferries to close and bring downpours and massive sea swells.

A wave crashes along the shore during heavy rains ahead of tropical storm Pabuk's arrival in Nakhon Si Thammarat on Jan. 4.

Slideshow by photo services

Thousands of people were left stranded on Thailand's southern gulf coast as Tropical Storm Pabuk made landfall on Friday.

Authorities had moved to suspend all flights and ferry services ahead of the storm, which hit Pak Panang district in Nakhon Si Thammarat Province at 12.45 p.m. local time (12:45 a.m. ET) with maximum sustained wind speeds of 75 kilometers per hour (46 mph), according to Thailand's Meteorological Department.

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#11 US official: airstrike kills terrorist behind USS Cole bombing

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The terrorist behind the 2000 attack on the USS Cole is believed to have been killed in a US airstrike in Yemen on Tuesday, according to a US administration official.

Jamel Ahmed Mohammed Ali Al-Badawi was an al Qaeda operative who the US believes helped orchestrate the October 12, 2000, attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors.

The official said all intelligence indicators show al-Badawi was killed in a strike in Yemen as a result of a joint US military and intelligence operation.

US officials told CNN that the strike took place in Yemen's Ma'rib Governorate.

The administration official said that al-Badawi was struck while driving alone in a vehicle and that the US assessed there was not any collateral damage.

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#12 North Korea warns US to stop ‘meddling’ in its affairs with South Korea

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SEOUL — North Korea sent a warning to the U.S. on Thursday to avoid “meddling” in its affairs with South Korea and criticized Washington’s “unreasonable attitude” and “hostile” policies.

An editorial in the country’s state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper blamed the U.S. for stagnation in the relationship between North and South Korea, claiming that “the United States does not want to see the improvement and development of the inter-Korean relations.”

While relations between Pyongyang and Washington remain at an impasse over North Korea’s nuclear disarmament and the lifting of international sanctions, Seoul has been pushing forward in peace gestures and engagement with the North.

The two Koreas have removed 10 guard posts in the demilitarized zone that divides the peninsula and recently held a groundbreaking ceremony on a project to connect their railroad systems. But that project and others like it cannot move much further until the U.S.-led sanctions on North Korea are lifted.

The North has also been eager to reopen a jointly run factory park in its border town of Kaesong and to resume South Korean tours to the resort area of Mount Kumgang.

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#13 Knifeman goes on Sydney bumper car rampage before killing himself

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SYDNEY (Reuters) - An Australian man rammed his four-wheel drive into a Sydney police car, hijacked a supermarket delivery truck and taxi, rammed other cars and stabbed and wounded a passerby before killing himself in front of police on Friday.

The dramatic chain of events, which police said was not terror-related, began when police tried to pull over the four-wheel drive for not displaying license plates.

The driver rammed the police car, dumped the four-wheel drive and hijacked a supermarket delivery truck about 7 km away, then continued across town for another 20 km to a suburb near the airport, hitting several cars along the way.

The driver, 24, tried to steal another car, stabbing a passerby who tried to stop him, before stealing a taxi. Police finally stopped the attacker in the taxi and tried to Taser him, but the man stabbed himself in the chest and died at the scene.

"The offender wasn't trying to intentionally harm people," Acting Assistant Commissioner Mick Fitzgerald told reporters in Sydney.

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#14 China closer to equipping warships with railguns, state media reports

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China is getting closer to equipping its warships with electromagnetic railguns, state media reports -- which, if true, means its fleet could soon boast some of the most advanced weapons technology on the planet.

Citing CCTV, the state-run Global Times on Thursday reported the underlying railgun technology -- which utilizes electrical power rather than explosives to launch projectiles -- was based on "fully independent intellectual property," rather than copied from other countries.

Unconfirmed sightings of a Chinese landing ship apparently equipped with a test railgun in an undisclosed location have circulated around the internet this week.

Military expert Carl Schuster, former director of operations at the US Pacific Command's Joint Intelligence Center, told CNN that if the reports were accurate, the weapon was likely to be "a year or two away from being operational."

"They'll say it's operational -- what that mean the operational evaluation has started, (and they're) testing it under more realistic conditions," he said. "Typically you're looking at a year before being deployed."

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#15 Britney Spears Taking Indefinite Hiatus After Her Dad ‘Almost Died’

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(Video provided by Us Weekly)

Britney Spears delivered some heartbreaking news Friday afternoon (Jan. 4), announcing on Instagram that her new Vegas show "Britney: Domination" will not be happening, as her father's health is ailing.

"It’s important to always put your family first… and that’s the decision I had to make," she wrote in a lengthy post along with a picture of her as a child with her parents. "A couple of months ago, my father was hospitalized and almost died. We’re all so grateful that he came out of it alive, but he still has a long road ahead of him. I had to make the difficult decision to put my full focus and energy on my family at this time. I hope you all can understand."

© Allen Berezovsky/WireImage
Britney Spears

A release about the news says that "Britney: Domination" will be put on hold until further notice, but Spears gave refund information in her post, declaring, "I will not be performing my new show Domination."

Spears' father, Jamie, was rushed to the Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas two months ago after his colon spontaneously ruptured. He was immediately admitted to surgery and spent the following 28 days in the hospital. He's expected to make a full recovery, but Britney is "dedicating my focus and energy to care for my family," as stated in the release.

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#16 Lady Gaga’s Ally Billboard From ‘A Star Is Born’ Is Up in Los Angeles: Pic

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We just wanted to take another look at her!

Just ahead of Sunday’s 2019 Golden Globe Awards, a subtle nod is being made to the nominated film, A Star Is Born. 

In Los Angeles, a billboard featuring Lady Gaga in character as Ally is currently located outside of the Chateau Marmont on the Sunset Strip. The exact same billboard in the exact same location was featured in the hit film. 

The New York Times writer Kyle Buchanan shared photos of the real-life billboard to his Twitter account ahead of this weekend’s first big awards show. 

The film is up for five awards at the Golden Globes, including Best Motion Picture — Drama, Best Actress for Gaga, Best Actor for co-star Bradley Cooper, Best Director for Cooper, and Best Original Song for “Shallow.” 

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#17 Kevin Hart ‘evaluating’ his decision to step down as Oscars host as Ellen DeGeneres voices support

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Kevin Hart may be having a change of heart after announcing he was stepping down from hosting the 2019 Academy Awards in the wake of controversy over homophobic and transphobic comments he made in old tweets.

This new development comes after Hart taped an appearance on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show, which will air Friday.

“I really want you to host the Oscars,” DeGeneres, a former Oscars host herself, says in a preview clip from her show. The talk show host goes on to reveal she personally called the Academy to let them know she would support reinstating Hart as the host.

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#18 Black Filmmakers Make History in 2018, But Female Directors Still Shut Out (Study)

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Black filmmakers made history in 2018. A movie business that has historically been dominated by white men became a little less monochromatic over the last twelve months, as studios apparently became more receptive to public pressure to back projects from a more diverse group of filmmakers. Fourteen percent of the directors of the top 100 grossing movies last year were black, according to a new report by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. That’s a 270% increase over 2017 and a 200% increase from 2007 in terms of representation and comes after grassroots campaigns such as #OscarsSoWhite brought public attention to the lack of representation in Hollywood.

“All of the activism and attention surrounding the issue of diversity, inclusion, and belonging has shown that the time has come,” said Dr. Stacy L. Smith, the report’s co-author.”This is the first time we’re reporting a major change in representation behind the camera.”

The push for greater diversity in the filmmaking ranks benefitted studios’ bottom lines. Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther,” Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman,” and Steven Caple Jr.’s “Creed II” were all critical and commercial successes. And while Ava DuVernay’s “A Wrinkle in Time” was a box office disappointment, the fantasy adventure represented an important milestone as the first $100 million production to be directed by a black woman.

But it wasn’t all good news in terms of inclusion. Women continue to be given fewer directing opportunities than men. Only four of the top 100-grossing movies last year were helmed by female directors — Kay Cannon (“Blockers”), Abby Kohn (“I Feel Pretty”), Susanna Fogel (“The Spy Who Dumped Me”), and DuVernay with “A Wrinkle in Time.” That paltry representation is in line with historical trends. From 2007 to 2018, just 4.3% of all directors across the 1,200 top-grossing films were female, which translates into a ratio of 22 men to every one woman with a directing credit. Women of color were barely given any chance to slide behind the camera. Only five black females, three Asian females, and one Latina directed any of these 1,200 films over the last twelve years.

The USC study is the second report this week to highlight the gender imbalance on major movies. A similar report from San Diego State University found that 92% of the top 250 highest-grossing domestic releases had no women directors, 73% had no women writers, and 27% had no women producers.

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#19 Bethenny Frankel’s severe fish allergy forced her plane to turn around

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Bethenny Frankel is chronicling the latest ordeal with her fish allergy, just weeks after an allergic reaction rendered her unconscious and landed her in the ICU.

The "Real Housewives of New York City" star, 48, revealed on Twitter Thursday that a flight she boarded had to turn around after she realized fish was being served on the aircraft. (She did not disclose which airline she was traveling with.)

"Called airline (multiple times) to say I have fish allergy. Got on & they’re serving bass," Frankel began on Twitter. "They couldn’t not serve it they said." 

After alerting the crew of her allergy, Frankel says the pilot "made (an) announcement to (the) plane" that they would have to turn around. The reality star adds that she protested the diversion because "it would delay people" to no avail. 

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#20 Justin Timberlake Announces He’s Back on Tour After Canceling 2018 Dates Due to Health Issues

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Justin Timberlake is back!

Almost a month after postponing the remainder of his 2018 concerts, the "Can't Stop the Feeling" crooner announced on Thursday that he has officially returned to his Man of the Woods Tour. In a quick Instagram video, Timberlake, 37, wears a black-and-white Cindy Sherman shirt with a black beanie and pants, and tells fans that he'll be performing in Washington D.C. on Friday.

"First of all, Happy New Year. Hope everybody had a good holiday. Second of all, D.C. we here. We're back. Can't wait. Excited, ya'll ready?" Timberlake says in the clip, which has the caption, "And... we’re back. See you tomorrow DC! #MOTWTOUR." 

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#21 Wendy Williams to Return After Apologizing for ‘Less Than Stellar’ Shows

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Wendy Williams is ready for a fresh start in 2019. The Wendy Williams Show will return live on Monday, January 7, following a scheduled two-week hiatus, Us Weekly can confirm.

Monday’s show will mark the 54-year-old’s first episode since she apologized for slurring her words on December 20 episode.

“I sincerely apologize if you feel that today’s show was less than stellar. I’m on your TV screens every day wanting to spread laughter, entertainment and cheer. As I reported earlier in the week, I have a hairline fracture on my upper arm, which hurts like hell. I’ve never broken a bone or experienced a fracture in my life,” Williams penned. “In the key place where the fracture is, and trying to scurry around and do too much, I am now paying the price. I’ve never taken a pain medication in my life (except when I got snatched over 20 years ago) until this week.”

The Ask Wendy author added that she took the pain medication, which she usually avoids, to “power through and try to deliver a great show” against “the better judgement” of the people around her.

“I really do ride or die for my craft and give 200%. Not to mention everyone is aware at this point about my thyroid condition (don’t cry for me Argentina),” she continued. “For all my fellow thyroid sufferers, you know what the deal is. And for those that don’t: I encourage you to please read up. Needless to say, whatever today’s performance was with the legendary The Lox, who said such nice things, I have no regrets and I appreciate everyone’s genuine concern for my wellness and care.”

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#22 Kevin Hart May Be Invited Back as Oscars Host After Controversy, Source Says

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Kevin Hart may host the 91st Academy Awards after all.

Less than a month since Hart, 39, announced he was stepping down from the role after declaring he would not apologize for his past homophobic comments, The Academy is considering asking him back, a source tells PEOPLE.

“There has been a steady stream of buzz that things might work out between Kevin and the Academy,” the source explained.

“The Academy never really axed him — they wanted him to apologize — he wouldn’t, and then he was the one to drop out.”

Later, however, Hart did apologize, which the insider says left “a lot of people at the Academy scratching their heads because he did what they wanted him to do so really he didn’t need to quit in that case.” 

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#23 Sandra Oh, Andy Samberg want lighter tone at Golden Globes

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LOS ANGELES — Actress Sandra Oh wants to bring a lighter tone to the Golden Globes after last year's awards show took a much more serious approach centered on the #MeToo movement.

Oh said Thursday that she and fellow host Andy Samberg will provide a "moment of joy" at the 76th annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills on Sunday night. She and Samberg were first paired as award presenters during a comical set at the Emmys last year when Oh ripped up the winner's envelope, referencing the 2017 Oscars "La La Land" slip-up before the duo pieced together the card and announced the actual winner.

"I know when Andy and I were talking about the feeling that I really want to bring, and really focus on, is just to have a moment of joy," said Oh, who is favored to win a Golden Globe award for best actress for her "Killing Eve" role. "Honestly, with who is going to be in that audience, the nominees this year, it excites me so tremendously ... mostly because of the diversity in that room."

Hollywood Foreign Press Association President Meher Tatna called last year's ceremony an important moment in the television and film industry as many dressed in black in solidarity with the victims of sexual harassment. But she said Sunday's awards won't be as politically charged.

Tatna said she hopes the Golden Globes can return to its roots as the "party of the year" by giving attendees an opportunity to "escape reality." The awards show is known for being a place of celebration, serving a bevy of champagne.

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