‘Flash’ standalone film finally finds its directors in ‘Spider-Man’ writers

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” scribes John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein are in negotiations to direct “Flashpoint,” the Flash standalone movie starring Ezra Miller.

Warner Bros. had no comment.

The studio had initially courted Ben Affleck to return to the director’s chair, but he passed on the gig. By tapping Daley and Goldstein, the studio seems to eye a comedic tone for the film, given the duo’s directing background on movies like “Vacation” and the upcoming “Game Night,” starring Jason Bateman.

The two are no strangers to the comic-book world, having penned the script to the smash hit “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” which they were also on the shortlist to direct.

“Flashpoint” had been on hold since director Rick Famuyiwa stepped away from the project. While looking for his replacement, the studio decided to take the script in a different direction. Joby Harold has turned in a new draft after a page-one rewrite.

Executives took their time in finding a new helmer because Miller, who plays the speedy superhero, is busy getting ready to shoot “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” the second installment in the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise.

This comes as Warner Bros. is reshuffling the DC Universe with New Line exec Walter Hamada recently promoted to oversee its comic book movies. The studio also recently tapped Michael De Luca as a producer on the “Suicide Squad” sequel.

Daley and Goldstein are repped by UTA and Fourth Wall Management.

‘Shannara Chronicles’ Canceled After Two Seasons

“The Shannara Chronicles” has been canceled after two seasons, Variety has confirmed.

The show, based on the book series by Terry Brooks, aired its first season on MTV in early 2016 before moving to Spike ahead of its second season this past fall. The move came amid restructuring at MTV and Spike parent company Viacom. CEO Bob Bakish made changes at several Viacom-owned networks, with MTV shedding most of its scripted fare in favor of unscripted shows like a revival of “Fear Factor” hosted by rapper Ludacris. Spike itself is also preparing to relaunch as the Paramount Network.

The 10-episode second season of “The Shannara Chronicles” took a massive hit in the ratings compared to Season 1. Premiering in October, the show managed an anemic 0.09 rating in adults 18-49 and 250,000 viewers per episode, down approximately 75 percent.

The series starred Austin Butler, Ivana Baquero, Manu Bennett, Aaron Jakubenko, Marcus Vanco, Vanessa Morgan, Malese Jow, Gentry White, Caroline Chikezie, and Desmond Chiam. Al Gough and Miles Millar created the series and executive produced along with Brooks, Jon Favreau, Jonathan Liebesman, and Dan Farah. The series was produced and distributed worldwide by Sonar Entertainment in association with Millar/Gough Ink and Farah Films.

Report: Porn star said she had yearlong affair with Trump in 2006

A porn star who was reportedly paid $130,000 before the 2016 presidential election for her silence over an alleged sexual relationship she had with Donald Trump a decade earlier told Slate magazine that the alleged affair lasted “nearly a year,” the online magazine reported Tuesday.

According to Slate magazine editor in chief Jacob Weisberg, Stephanie Clifford, the adult film actress also known as Stormy Daniels, told him that she first met Trump at a 2006 celebrity golf tournament in Nevada, where they had the first of numerous sexual encounters. At the time, Trump had been married to Melania for less than two years.

On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported the alleged $130,000 payment was arranged by the Trump Organization’s longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen. According to the New York Times, the arrangement came as Clifford was “discussing sharing her account with ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’” and Slate.

Both the White House and Cohen fiercely denied the reports.

“These rumors have circulated time and again since 2011,” Cohen said in a statement to the Times. “President Trump once again vehemently denies any such occurrence as has Ms. Daniels.”

Cohen also released a letter signed by Daniels denying that she had a “sexual and/or romantic affair with Mr. Trump many, many, many years ago.”

“Rumors that I have received hush money from Donald Trump are completely false,” the letter said.

“These are old, recycled reports, which were published and strongly denied prior to the election,” the White House said in a separate statement.

In the months leading up the 2016 election, Clifford told Weisberg that, through their lawyers, she and Trump reached an agreement for the Republican nominee to pay her “a six-figure sum to keep quiet.”

Weisberg said Clifford texted him “an unsigned two-page document spelling out this arrangement,” which appeared to use pseudonyms to “shield the real names of the parties.”

“Stephanie Gregory Clifford aka Stormy Daniels is referred to by the pseudonym ‘Peggy Peterson,’ and ___________ is referred to by the pseudonym ’David Dennison,’” the document said, according Weisberg.

“Daniels said she was talking to me and sharing these details because Trump was stalling on finalizing the confidentiality agreement and paying her,” Weisberg explained in his report. “Given her experience with Trump, she suspected he would stall her until after the election, and then refuse to sign or pay up.”

According to Weisberg, Clifford told him that she “was holding back on the juiciest details, such as her ability to describe things about Trump that only someone who had seen him naked would know.” (Earlier Tuesday, Clifford’s friend Alana Evans told NBC’s Megyn Kelly that Daniels later told her that Trump had chased her around the bedroom “in his tighty whities.” Evans relayed the same story to the Daily Beast.)

On Nov. 4, 2016, the Journal reported the National Enquirer — the tabloid owned by Trump supporter David Pecker — agreed to pay $150,000 to a former Playboy model for her story of an affair with Trump but then didn’t publish it.

Two weeks before that, in late October 2016, another porn star, Jessica Drake, accused Trump of sexual assault. The alleged incident occurred at the same 2006 golf tournament where Clifford said she first met Trump, who has denied multiple sexual misconduct allegations.

Former Trump aide Bannon refuses to comply with House subpoena

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon declined on Tuesday to comply with a subpoena ordering him to answer questions from a U.S. House intelligence panel about his time at the White House as part of its investigation into allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. election.

After Bannon initially refused to answer questions about the matter, Devin Nunes, the committee’s Republican party chairman, authorized a subpoena during the meeting to press Bannon to respond.

Even then, Bannon refused to answer questions after his lawyer had conferred with the White House and was told again to refuse to answer questions about the transition period immediately after Trump was elected, or Bannon’s time in the administration, according to Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee.

Separately, the New York Times reported that Bannon had been subpoenaed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller to testify before a grand jury in a probe of alleged ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, on Tuesday.

It was the first time Mueller is known to have used a subpoena against a member of Trump’s inner circle, the Times said. It cited a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

A spokesman for Mueller’s office declined comment. Bill Burck, a lawyer for Bannon, could not immediately be reached for comment on the subpoena or his testimony before the House panel.

The reported subpoena of Bannon does not mean he is a target of Mueller’s criminal investigation.

Bannon, a champion of Trump’s “America First” agenda, was among the Republican’s closest aides during the 2016 election campaign, the presidential transition and his first months in office.

But the pair had a bitter public falling out over comments Bannon made to author Michael Wolff for his recent book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”

In the book, Bannon is quoted as describing a June 2016 meeting between Trump associates, including the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and a Russian lawyer, as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”

Russia has denied meddling in the election and Trump has denied any collusion between his campaign and Moscow.

Bannon was fired by the White House in August, though he continued to speak with Trump and tried to promote the president’s agenda.

PRESSURE TACTIC?

Bannon spent hours on Tuesday meeting behind closed doors with members of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee. He was the latest high-profile figure to appear before the panel as part of its investigation into allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. election.

Bannon refused to speak not only about his time at the White House, but also any conversations he had with President Trump after he had left the administration “that might be for the purpose of the President seeking his advice on anything,” Schiff said.

“We expect to have Mr. Bannon back in, we hope very soon, with a different position by the White House,” Schiff said.

Asked if the White House had told Bannon not to answer certain questions, spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said: “As with all congressional activities touching upon the White House, Congress must consult with the White House prior to obtaining confidential material.”

“We’ve been cooperating fully with these ongoing investigations and encourage the committees to work with us to find an appropriate accommodation in order to ensure Congress obtains information necessary to its legitimate interests,” she said.

Mueller’s subpoena, which was issued last week, could be a pressure tactic to induce Bannon to cooperate fully with his investigation.

Attorney Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, said the most likely reason for a Mueller subpoena of Bannon was that “he thought having an attorney present and giving Bannon a more relaxed setting would not yield the same testimony as if he got him in the grand jury room with no attorney there and a more adversarial style of questioning.”

A witness is not permitted to bring an attorney into a federal grand jury proceeding, but can step outside to consult with counsel.

(Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball, David Alexander, Karen Freifeld and Makini Brice; Writing by Warren Strobel; Editing by Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney)

Even the eyelashes freeze: Russia sees minus 88.6 degrees F

n this photo taken on Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018, Anastasia Gruzdeva, left, poses for selfie with her friends as the temperature dropped to about -50 degrees (-58 degrees Fahrenheit) in Yakutsk, Russia. Temperatures in the remote, diamond-rich Russian region of Yakutia have dropped to near-record lows, plunging to -67 degrees Centigrade (-88.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in some areas. (sakhalife.ru photo via AP)

MOSCOW (AP) — Even thermometers can’t keep up with the plunging temperatures in Russia’s remote Yakutia region, which hit minus 67 degrees Celsius (minus 88.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in some areas Tuesday.

In Yakutia — a region of 1 million people about 3,300 miles (5,300 kilometers) east of Moscow — students routinely go to school even in minus 40 degrees. But school was canceled Tuesday throughout the region and police ordered parents to keep their children inside.

In the village of Oymyakon, one of the coldest inhabited places on earth, state-owned Russian television showed the mercury falling to the bottom of a thermometer that was only set up to measure down to minus 50 degrees. In 2013, Oymyakon recorded an all-time low of minus 71 degrees Celsius (minus 98 Fahrenheit).

Over the weekend, two men froze to death when they tried to walk to a nearby farm after their car broke down. Three other men with them survived because they were wearing warmer clothes, investigators reported.

But the press office for Yakutia’s governor said Tuesday that all households and businesses in the region have working central heating and access to backup power generators.

Residents of Yakutia are no strangers to cold weather and this week’s cold spell was not even dominating local news headlines Tuesday.

But some media outlets published cold-weather selfies and stories about stunts in the extreme cold. Women posted pictures of their frozen eyelashes, while YakutiaMedia published a picture of Chinese students who got undressed to take a plunge in a thermal spring.

Ashes: Mitchell Starc ruled out of fourth Test with heel injury

Australia pace bowler Mitchell Starc has been ruled out of the Boxing Day Test against England with injury and will be replaced by Jackson Bird.

Starc has a bruised heel and has been on crutches for the past few days.

Australia have already sealed the Ashes, holding a 3-0 lead over England, who could hand a debut to leg-spinner Mason Crane in Melbourne.

Pace bowler Craig Overton is set to miss out for the tourists because of a hairline fracture of the rib.

Starc, 27, is the leading wicket-taker in the series, with 19. Fellow pace bowler Bird, meanwhile, has not played a Test for a year.

Speaking before Starc’s absence was confirmed, Tasmanian Bird said. “It would be unbelievable to play an Ashes Test on Boxing Day. I’ll be ready and preparing as I normally would for any Test match.”

Australia also have a doubt over wicketkeeper Tim Paine, who has not yet travelled to Melbourne after his father-in-law suffered a stroke.

Reserve batsman Peter Handscomb, a part-time keeper who has taken the gloves in one-day internationals, was going through keeping drills in practice on Saturday.

“It’s a terrible time for Tim and his family,” said Bird. “Hopefully we see him on Boxing Day, but it’s fully understandable if he needs time with his family to get over that.”

With the Ashes already gone, England are looking to avoid a second successive 5-0 whitewash down under.

They are also on eight consecutive defeats in Australia and have never before suffered nine successive losses.

“In our eyes it is now a two-Test series,” said wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow. “That’s how we’ve got to look at it, to go out there and try to win both these Test matches.

“Let’s try to put things right that we haven’t previously and start with a clean slate.”

Philippines mall fire: At least 37 feared dead in Davao

At least 37 people are feared to have died in a fire that tore through a shopping mall in the southern Philippine city of Davao, local officials say.

Firefighters battled for hours to extinguish the blaze that started on the third floor and spread to the floor above, trapping call centre employees.

Their chances of survival were “zero”, Davao’s Vice-Mayor Paolo Duterte said.

President Rodrigo Duterte, the vice-mayor’s father, visited the scene.

President Duterte, a Davao native, met families of the missing outside the burning NCCC mall.

The cause of the fire, which began on Saturday morning, is being investigated.

The mall’s marketing manager, Janna Abdullah Mutalib, said the blaze started on the third floor, where clothes, appliances and furniture were sold, the Philippines Star website reports.

Davao lies about 800km (500 miles) south-east of the capital Manila.

Venezuela expels top Brazil and Canada diplomats

Venezuela has expelled the Brazilian ambassador to Caracas, Ruy Pereira, and Canadian charge d’affaires Craib Kowalik.

The move was announced by the head of Venezuela’s powerful Constituent Assembly, Delcy Rodriguez.

Ms Rodriguez accused Brazil of violating the rule of law and Canada of interfering in Venezuela’s internal affairs.

Both countries have strongly criticised the move.

The decision to expel Ambassador Pereira may have been triggered by Brazil’s recent complaint that President Nicolás Maduro was “constantly harassing the opposition”.

Canada imposed sanctions on senior Venezuelan officials a few months ago.

‘Rude and vulgar’

Venezuela’s diplomatic relations with Brazil have deteriorated since Brazil’s centre-right President, Michel Temer, replaced left-wing leader Dilma Rousseff.

Her impeachment was described by Mr Maduro as a “right-wing coup”.

“Diplomatic relations with Brazil will not be restored until the government reinstates the constitutional order it has effectively broken,” said Ms Rodriguez at a news conference on Saturday.

The Brazilian government said the move showed once again the authoritarian nature of President Maduro’s administration.

Ms Rodriguez accused Mr Kowalik of “permanent and insistent, rude and vulgar interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela”.

Relations with Canada have been difficult for months. Ottawa imposed sanctions on Venezuelan officials earlier this year for alleged human rights violations and corruption.

Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said in November that the sanctions were illegal and accused the Canadian government of “shameful and utter submission to Donald Trump’s administration”.

Canada responded to the expulsion of its charge d’affaires by saying it would not be cowed into easing pressure on the Maduro government.

Canada and Brazil were among many countries critical of Mr Maduro’s decision to convene a Constituent Assembly, which effectively replaced the opposition-controlled National Assembly.

The announcement prompted mass street protests, which killed more than 120 people in four months.

The opposition boycotted the poll in July and also held an unofficial referendum in which they said more than seven million Venezuelans voted against the constituent assembly.

The European Union and major Latin American nations have said they will not recognise the new body.

The US imposed sanctions on Mr Maduro and the Trump administration labelled him a “dictator”.

Mr Maduro’s six-year term ends in 2019. He is due to run for re-election next year.

The opposition has accused Mr Maduro and his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, of destroying the country’s economy with their socialist policies.

Venezuela has one of the world’s highest inflation rates and for years has suffered from a shortage of basic goods, including medicines.

Tropical Storm Tembin: Philippines rescuers seek victims

Rescuers are searching for victims of a tropical storm in the southern Philippines which has killed some 200 people in mudslides and flash floods.

Rescue teams have yet to reach some of the affected areas on Mindanao island.

About 150 people are still missing after Storm Tembin swept through the region, with another 70,000 displaced from their homes.

The rescue effort is being hampered by continuing heavy rain, power cuts and blocked roads.

In the early hours of Sunday, Tembin, known as Vinta in the Philippines, was south of the Spratly Islands, heading towards southern Vietnam. It had gathered strength, with maximum winds of 120km/h (75 mph).

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was saddened by the loss of life, adding that the UN was ready to help.

There are fears the death toll will rise further.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is due to visit communities affected by Storm Tembin on Sunday.

Police said 135 people had been killed and 72 were missing in northern Mindanao, while 47 were dead and 72 missing in the Zamboanga peninsula. Another 18 died in Lanao del Sur province.

One of the worst hit areas was the mountain village of Dalama. Footage showed houses buried in mud or engulfed in floodwaters.

“The flood was already close and the people were not able to get out from their homes,” survivor Armando Sangcopan told local TV.

Aid workers said people had not heeded warnings to evacuate ahead of the arrival of Tembin, either because they believed the storm would not be severe or they had nowhere else to go.

Many victims were swept away from low-lying residential areas when the flash floods and landslides struck.

More deaths were reported in Bukidnon, Iligan and Misamis Occidental.

Andrew Morris, from the UN children’s agency Unicef in Mindanao, said in some areas there were big risks of disease, particularly for children, and restoring clean water supplies would be a priority.

“Lanao del Sur province is the poorest in the Philippines, and in the past seven months there have been around 350,000 people displaced in that province because of fighting,” he told the BBC, referring to battles between government forces and Islamist militants in Marawi.

Meanwhile, Richard Gordon, of the Philippines Red Cross, told the BBC: “We have already provided water and hot food.

“And we’re going to be distributing non-food items – certainly blankets, mosquito nets and certainly hygiene kits for those who are in evacuation centres so that we can alleviate the suffering of many of the folks there.”

A week ago, Tropical Storm Kai-Tak hit the central Philippines, killing dozens.

The region is still recovering from Typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 5,000 people and affected millions in 2013.

North Korea: New UN sanctions an act of war

North Korea has described the latest UN sanctions imposed on the country as an “act of war”.

A foreign ministry statement said the measures were tantamount to a total economic blockade, the official KCNA news agency reported.

It added that strengthening North Korea’s deterrence was the only way to frustrate the US.

The UN Security Council imposed the new sanctions on Friday in response to Pyongyang’s ballistic missile tests.

The US-drafted resolution – unanimously backed by all 15 Security Council members – includes measures to slash North Korea’s petrol imports by up to 90%.

North Korea is already subject to a raft of sanctions from the US, the UN and the EU.

What did the North Korean statement say?

Characteristically bellicose, it described the latest UN sanctions “as a violent breach of our republic’s sovereignty and an act of war that destroys the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula and a wide region.

“The United States, completely terrified at our accomplishment of the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force, is getting more and more frenzied in the moves to impose the harshest-ever sanctions and pressure on our country.

“We will further consolidate our self-defensive nuclear deterrence aimed at fundamentally eradicating the US nuclear threats, blackmail and hostile moves by establishing the practical balance of force with the US.”

What exactly are the new sanctions?

The US said it was seeking a diplomatic solution to the issue and drafted this new set of sanctions:

  • Deliveries of petrol products will be capped at 500,000 barrels a year, and crude oil at four million barrels a year
  • All North Korean nationals working abroad will have to return home within 24 months under the proposals, restricting a vital source of foreign currency
  • There will also be a ban on exports of North Korean goods, such as machinery and electrical equipment

The UN sanctions came in response to Pyongyang’s 28 November firing of a ballistic missile, which the US said was its highest yet.

US President Donald Trump has previously threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it launches a nuclear attack. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has described the US president as “mentally deranged”.

What about previous sanctions?

Last month, the US unveiled fresh sanctions against North Korea which it said were designed to limit the funding for its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

The measures targeted North Korean shipping operations and Chinese companies that trade with Pyongyang.

The UN also approved new sanctions following North Korea’s nuclear test on 3 September.

These measures restricted oil imports and banned textile exports – an attempt to starve the North of fuel and income for its weapons programmes.

What effect have previous sanctions had?

The US has been imposing sanctions on North Korea for more than a decade with little success.

In fact, North Korea has said fresh sanctions will only make it accelerate its nuclear programme. It has continued to test nuclear and ballistic missiles despite these recent examples of UN pressure:

  • 30 November 2016: UN targeted North Korea’s valuable coal trade with China, slashing exports by about 60% under a new sales cap. Exports of copper, nickel, silver, zinc and the sale of statues were also banned
  • What happened next? On 14 May 2017, North Korea tested what it said was a “newly developed ballistic rocket” capable of carrying a large nuclear warhead
  • 2 June 2017: UN imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on four entities and 14 officials, including the head of North Korea’s overseas spying operations
  • What happened next? On 4 July, North Korea claimed it had carried out its first successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)
  • 6 August 2017: UN banned North Korean exports of coal, ore and other raw materials and limited investments in the country, costing Pyongyang an estimated $1bn – about a third of its export economy
  • What happened next? On 3 September, North Korea said it had tested a hydrogen bomb that could be miniaturised and loaded on a long-range missile.

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