September 12, 2019

After announcing plans to donate to an anti-hate group in order to "move past" a series of controversies, PewDiePie is already backtracking.

The wildly popular YouTube star, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, announced this week he would make a $50,000 donation to the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish organization that fights against anti-Semitism and other forms of hate. Kjellberg, the most popular person on YouTube, has come under fire in recent years for anti-Semitic content in his videos, including when he paid a man to hold up a sign reading "Death to all Jews." He also apologized in 2017 after shouting the N-word while playing a video game. Earlier this year, his name was evoked by the Christchurch shooter, something Kjellberg said "sickened" him.

But Kjellberg's plans to donate to the Anti-Defamation League sparked backlash among his fans, who objected to the organization's past condemnation of material in his videos, which Kjellberg has argued were just jokes taken out of context. Some even conjured up baseless conspiracy theories that Kjellberg had been blackmailed, although in a subsequent statement, Kjellberg explained he thought the donation was "important" because "I wanted to show publicly that I can move past it and move on."

Despite that, Kjellberg is now calling this off, The Verge reports, in a video Thursday saying he made a "mistake" by not selecting a charity he is "personally passionate about" while saying he did not know "a lot of things" about the Anti-Defamation League until fans pointed them out. He also said he has "felt a responsibility" to "do something" after the Christchurch shooting but that "this was not the right way to go about it."

"I'm sorry for messing this up," Kjellberg added. He says he still plans to donate the $50,000 to a different charity that has not been announced. Brendan Morrow

September 21, 2018

President Trump began the week by ordering that certain documents related to the Russia investigation be declassified. He's ending the week by walking that demand back.

On Monday, Trump ordered the Justice Department to declassify some materials related to the Russia investigation, including pages of the warrant the FBI obtained to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in 2016, The New York Times reports. He also called for the release of text messages between DOJ and FBI officials who the president has accused of being biased against him. Trump faced criticism for pushing the release of documents related to an ongoing investigation that his campaign is the subject of, and Bloomberg reported Wednesday that the Justice Department would still heavily redact the documents before releasing them.

Now, Trump is walking the order back entirely, saying on Twitter that the Justice Department feels releasing the documents "may have a perceived negative impact on the Russia probe." Trump also said that "key Allies" have asked him not to release the documents, echoing his statement in an interview on Thursday that he's "dealing with foreign countries that might have a problem" with the declassification order. Therefore, Trump has instead asked the inspector general to "review these documents on an expedited basis." But the president concluded by teasing he may change course yet again, writing, "In the end I can always declassify if it proves necessary." Brendan Morrow

September 6, 2018

Just weeks after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the ironically unpopular idea of bringing a "best popular film" category to the Oscars, the concept is being abandoned — at least for now.

Per The Hollywood Reporter, the Academy said Thursday that the new award, which was intended to recognize "outstanding achievement in popular film" in a category separate from Best Picture, will no longer be introduced at the 2019 Oscars as originally planned. Based on the "wide range of reactions" the announcement received in August, "further discussion with our members" is needed before the award can be implemented, Academy CEO Dawn Hudson said. The Academy will continue to workshop the idea, however, leaving open the possibility of a second try in 2020.

News of the new Oscar category prompted almost universally negative reactions last month, with critics arguing that it would inevitably be seen as a consolation prize as another film got the "real" award of Best Picture. There was also confusion over what actually constitutes a "popular" film, considering movies like Get Out, La La Land, and The Martian have been nominated for Best Picture in recent years while also being box office hits. The Academy never fully clarified its intentions with the award before announcing this delay. Brendan Morrow

May 3, 2018

Former House chaplain Rev. Patrick Conroy penned a scathing letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Thursday, rescinding his previous offer of resignation.

Conroy last month said that Ryan ousted him for no reason, asking him to resign without explaining why. He told The New York Times that he suspected it was over a prayer that got "too political" ahead of the passage of the GOP tax bill. The chaplain offers daily Catholic prayers for the House of Representatives before each session begins.

Conroy said he was bewildered at the time, but submitted a letter of resignation per Ryan's request. In his Thursday letter to the speaker, the chaplain said he'd like to take it back, and that he had no intention of going anywhere unless given an explanation or fired. "I have never been disciplined, nor reprimanded, nor have I ever heard a complaint about my ministry during my time as House chaplain," wrote Conroy.

Ryan dismissed Conroy's suggestion that he was asked to resign for political reasons, reports NBC News. "This is not about politics or prayers, it was about pastoral services," said Ryan, arguing that members of Congress were not being "adequately served."

Conroy wrote that Ryan hadn't even personally reached out with the request, instead sending his chief of staff, who told Conroy "maybe it's time that we had a chaplain that wasn't a Catholic." Summer Meza

October 21, 2016

After waiting five days to even acknowledge his Nobel Prize, Bob Dylan is already over it. The singer appears to have deleted the single sentence on his official website that stated he was a "winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature," which had marked Dylan's only public acknowledgement of the award since he was announced the winner last Thursday.

The sentence initially appeared in all caps atop a page promoting his new book of lyrics, The Lyrics: 1961-2012. Now, the nod is nowhere to be seen.

No reason was given for the blurb's removal, though perhaps its disappearance isn't so surprising given Dylan's silence on the award so far. Though Dylan performed a concert on the very day he was announced the winner, he didn't say anything about the prize. The Swedish Academy announced Monday it had given up trying to contact Dylan after numerous unsuccessful attempts to confirm his attendance at its banquet honoring the Nobel winners in December.

Dylan is the first songwriter to win the Nobel for literature, "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition." Becca Stanek

April 15, 2016

It took AMC Entertainment CEO Adam Aron a mere two days to realize that allowing texting in movie theaters might not be such a good idea. Following a frenzy of criticism on social media, Aron released a statement Friday decidedly ruling out his previous proposal. "We have heard loud and clear that this is a concept our audience does not want," Aron said in a statement, promising that his theaters wouldn't be allowing texting "today," "tomorrow," or "in the foreseeable future."

Initially, Aron thought that allowing texting in some theaters might make the experience more appealing to millennial moviegoers who you "can't tell... to turn off their cell phones." But after the public's overt display of disapproval, Aron says AMC will instead be enhancing its theaters in other ways, including more big screens, more comfortable seating, new food and drink options, and technological advancements. Becca Stanek

February 18, 2015

The University of Massachusetts at Amherst today reversed its controversial decision to bar Iranian graduate students from enrolling in certain science and engineering programs after it was hit with a wave of criticism and charges of discrimination. 

The school said it will instead develop "individualized study plans to meet the requirements of federal sanctions law and address the impact on students."

Earlier this month, UMass made the decision to forbid Iranian students from enrolling in a range of graduate programs in the fields of physics, chemistry, and microbiology, claiming the ban was necessary for the school to comply with federal sanctions involving access to nuclear engineering information.

"We have always believed that excluding students from admission conflicts with our institutional values and principles," said Michael Malone, UMass' vice chancellor of research and engagement. "It is now clear, after further consultation and deliberation, that we can adopt a less restrictive policy." Teresa Mull

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