Monday, February 19, 2018

News Briefs

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  • Monday, Feb. 19, 2018
Religious protests against gay films show divide in Romania
In this Saturday, May 20, 2017 file photo, a child holds a sign that reads "No to homosexual marriages and adoptions" during a counter march before of a gay pride parade in Bucharest, Romania. Religious protesters in Romania have disrupted the screening of two movies in Bucharest in Feb. 2018, saying they violate traditional values. The recent protests illustrate divided views about homosexuality, a provocative and difficult topic in the European Union member. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, file)
BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) -- 

Religious protesters in Romania have disrupted the screenings of two movies featuring gay themes, saying they violate traditional values. In response, a new screening of the Cannes award-winning movie "120 Beats Per Minute" is going to be held Tuesday in Bucharest.

The dispute illustrates Romania's divided views about homosexuality, which remains a difficult topic in the eastern European Union member where more than 85 percent of its people belong to Christian Orthodox churches. Homosexuality was only decriminalized when Romania prepared to join the EU in 2002.

Protesters calling themselves Christian Orthodox burst into a movie theater on Feb. 4 during the French AIDS drama "120 Beats Per Minute" by French director Robin Campillo.

Days later, protesters disrupted another movie featuring a relationship with a Romanian man and an ex-convict from the nation's oppressed Roma, or Gypsy, minority titled "Soldiers: A Story from Ferentari."

"(There's a) conflict between conservatives and liberals in Romania," Cristian Parvulescu, dean of the National School of Political Studies and Public Administration, told The Associated Press. "

Parvulescu says what's happening in Romania is similar to developments in other former communist countries.

"We are influenced by Hungary and Poland," he said

Protesters objected to "120 Beats" being shown at the Romanian Peasant Museum because "the Romanian peasant is a Christian Orthodox."

They sang the national anthem and religious songs while others held religious icons and banners saying: "Romania isn't Sodom" and "Hey Soros, leave them kids alone," referring to Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros.

The film, set in Paris in the 1990s, explores homosexuality and the AIDS epidemic. It won the Grand Prize from the jury at Cannes in 2017.

At the protest for the second film, protesters played Gypsy rock music to drown out the movie. Police were called in to break up the protest.

Dan Grajdeanu, who heads the Orthodox Brotherhood, believes the movies should not have been screened at the museum, which he says is "not the place to air low morality movies, that show homosexuality, pedophilia, pornography."

Filmmaker Cristian Mungiu, the distributor of "120 Beats Per Minute" in Romania, has urged the culture minister and Bucharest mayor to publicly support the movie but so far they have remained silent. It will be reshown Tuesday at the same museum.

Parvulescu says politicians are "very circumspect" on gay issues due to the influential Romanian Orthodox Church.

Last year, 3 million people signed a petition backing a referendum to amend the Romanian Constitution so it explicitly states that marriage only can be a union between a man and a woman. Same-sex marriages do not legally exist and are not recognized even when couples legally marry elsewhere.

The gay rights group MozaiQ condemned "the extreme gestures of some ultra-Orthodox and conservative groups ... who propagate hate against the LGBT community." It has urged Romanian politicians to "send a more decisive signal to society that discrimination is not acceptable."

MozaiQ chairman Vlad Viski said the movies were about "freedom of expression."

"In a democracy, sexual minorities must be protected," he said. "Extremist, radical speech has no place in a European democracy."

  • Monday, Feb. 19, 2018
Facebook to verify ads with postcards after Russian meddling
In this June 4, 2012 file photo, a girl looks at Facebook on her computer in Palo Alto, Calif. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)
MENLO PARK, Calif. (AP) -- 

Facebook will soon rely on centuries-old technology to try to prevent foreign meddling in U.S. elections: the post office.

Baffled in 2016 by Russian agents who bought ads to sway the U.S. presidential campaign, Facebook's global politics and government outreach director, Katie Harbath, told a meeting of the National Association of Secretaries of State in Washington on Saturday that the company would send postcards to potential buyers of political ads to confirm they reside in the U.S.

The recipient would then have to enter a code in Facebook to continue buying the ad. The method will first apply to ads that name candidates ahead of the midterm elections in November, said Facebook spokesman Andy Stone.

The plan was unveiled a day after special counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russians with interfering in the presidential election. Mueller's indictment described how Russian agents stole social security numbers and other information from real Americans and used them to create bank and PayPal accounts in order to buy online ads. Agents also recruited Americans to do things such as hold up signs at rallies organized to create content for Russian-created social media posts.

Facebook uncovered some 3,000 Russian-linked ads on Facebook and Instagram bought before and after the November 2016 election that it says may have been seen by as many as 150 million users. But ads were only part of the problem, as the Mueller indictments say that Russian agents also set up fake pages with names such as "Secured Borders," ''Blacktivist" and "United Muslims of America" that had hundreds of thousands of followers.

Facebook did not say how the new postcard method of verification would prevent foreign agents from setting up local mailing addresses and hiring people in the U.S. to check them. But Stone said the method was "one piece of a much larger effort to address foreign electoral influence on our platform."

Facebook's efforts largely center around verifying people on the platform are who they say they are. To catch duplicitous ad-buyers, for instance, it is now testing out in Canada a system that allows people to see which ads are being bought by a Facebook page — say, a candidate's — even if the person checking the ad is not in the group to whom the ad was intended to be shown.

Stone said Facebook was also able to detect and remove "tens of thousands" of fake Facebook pages in advance of French, German and British elections last year using improved machine learning techniques.

The company has said it would double the number of people working on its safety and security team to 20,000 this year and add 1,000 people to review advertising content.

  • Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018
Stanley Nelson's documentary showcases historically black colleges and universities
In this March 2, 1965 file photo, The Rev. Martin Luther King speaks at a Charter Day ceremony at Howard University in Washington. King discussed his civil rights movement theme, "We shall overcome." According the federal government a historically black college or university is an accredited learning institution started before 1964 that had a primary mission of educating black people. There are about 100 of them in 2018. (AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi)

Filmmaker Stanley Nelson knew he wanted to tell a story about the nation's historically black colleges and universities — not just about individual HBCUs, many of which have their own celebrated histories, but about what they collectively have meant to black people.

And in making the documentary "Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities," Nelson said, something quickly became clear: HBCUs never were just about learning what was in books. From their beginnings in the years after the Civil War, the nation's HBCUs have been driving forces for African-American economic and political advancement.

"As we were making the film, it became for us a look at American history, and African-American history, through this lens of HBCUs. They were involved in so many central events," said Nelson, who wrote, directed and produced the film, which made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival last year and is getting its national broadcast debut through the PBS series "Independent Lens" on Monday (2/19).

Before the Civil War, schooling for enslaved black people was largely outlawed in many Southern states. After the war, newly freed black people were allowed to learn but were far from welcome at institutions of higher education serving white people, leading to the creation of colleges and universities to cater to them, predominantly in the South.

According to the federal government, an HBCU is an accredited learning institution started before 1964 that had a primary mission of educating black people, and there are about 100 of them today. Though HBCUs were started for blacks, today they accept students of all races and their student populations are 78 percent black.

Nelson's film explores those HBCU origins and how their campuses became safe spaces for African-American intellectualism to flourish and places where larger societal issues also were felt.

In part of the film, viewers are introduced to how college educations became a front in the ideological conflict between two prominent African-Americans, Booker T. Washington and W.E.B Du Bois.

Washington, a graduate of Hampton University, became president of another HBCU, Tuskeegee Institute, and emphasized self-sufficiency for African-Americans, focusing on acquiring industrial trades and skills and earning the respect of whites through labor and hard work.

But Du Bois, who attended another HBCU, Fisk University, before going to Harvard University, had a different view for HBCUs and society at large. For him, colleges and universities were places to educate African-American leaders and thinkers, to be in the forefront of political and civil rights efforts pursuing equality.

Another part of the documentary shows how one of the most fundamental aspects of the civil rights movement, the case-by-case legal dismantling of the separate-but-equal system of segregation, came from the efforts of Thurgood Marshall and his mentor Charles Hamilton Houston, who taught him and other black students at Howard University's School of Law, another HBCU.

Other efforts that were fundamental to the civil rights movement, like the lunch counter sit-ins that started in Greensboro, North Carolina, also were connected to HBCUs — the first four men who asked for lunch service at a Woolworth's counter in February 1960 were students at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

Nelson, who's black, also has made movies about the Black Panther Party and the Freedom Summer. He attended an HBCU, Morris Brown College, for a term, and said it's "no accident" that so much civil rights effort and energy came out of HBCUs.

"It almost is not going to come from anywhere else," he said. "These are safe black intellectual spaces."

The film closes with a look at HBCUs today, their students and some of their challenges, like the plight of Morris Brown, which lost its accreditation in 2003 but still has some students. It doesn't delve deeply into those challenges, which Nelson described as a "complicated question" that could be its own movie.

Overall, the film is meant to give people a grounding, said Nelson, whose parents attended HBCUs.

"I think that there are just a few institutions that have sustained the African-American community," he said. "Black colleges and universities are certainly one of them."

  • Friday, Feb. 16, 2018
First Slate of Presenters Set For 90th Oscars
This image released by Sony Pictures Classics shows Daniela Vega in a scene from, "A Fantastic Woman." Vega plays a transgender woman whose partner dies and is subjected to harsh treatment by the family of her deceased lover and by police investing the death. (Sony Pictures Classics via AP)

Producers Michael De Luca and Jennifer Todd announced the first slate of presenters for the 90th Oscars® telecast.  Hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, the Oscars will air live Sunday, March 4, on the ABC Television Network.

The presenters, including past Oscar® winners and nominees, are Mahershala Ali, Chadwick Boseman, Viola Davis, Laura Dern, Jennifer Garner, Greta Gerwig, Tiffany Haddish, Tom Holland, Kumail Nanjiani, Margot Robbie, Emma Stone and Daniela Vega.

“Whether returning to the Oscars stage, or gracing it for the first time, each of these artists bring their own distinguishing and energetic appeal,” said De Luca and Todd. “Their contributions will make for an unforgettable evening.”

Ali won an Oscar for Actor in a Supporting Role for “Moonlight” (2016). His credits also include the Oscar-nominated film “Hidden Figures” (2016), “Free State of Jones” (2016), “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” (2015) and “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” (2014).  Ali will next appear in “Alita: Battle Angel,” “Green Book” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”

Boseman starred in the Oscar-nominated film “Marshall” (2017) and currently stars as the title character in “Black Panther” (2018). His credits also include “Captain America: Civil War” (2016), “Message from the King” (2016), “Get on Up” (2014) and “42” (2013). Boseman will next appear in “Avengers: Infinity War.”

Davis won an Oscar for Actress in a Supporting Role for “Fences” (2016).  Additionally, she garnered an Actress in a Leading Role nomination for “The Help” (2011) and an Actress in a Supporting Role nomination for “Doubt” (2008). Her other credits include the Oscar-winning films “Suicide Squad” (2016), “Syriana” (2005) and “Traffic” (2000) as well as the Oscar-nominated “Prisoners” (2013), “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” (2011) and “Far from Heaven” (2002). Davis will next appear in “Widows.”

Dern was Oscar-nominated for Actress in a Supporting Role for “Wild” (2014) and Actress in a Leading Role for “Rambling Rose” (1991). Currently, she appears in the Oscar-nominated “Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi” (2017). Additionally, Dern’s credits include “Downsizing” (2017), “Wilson” (2017), “The Founder” (2016), “99 Homes” (2014), “The Fault in Our Stars” (2014) and “The Master” (2012).

Garner’s credits include the Oscar-winning films “Dallas Buyers Club” (2013) and “Juno” (2007) as well as the Oscar-nominated “Catch Me If You Can” (2002). Her feature credits also include “Miracles from Heaven” (2016), “Men, Women & Children” (2014) and “13 Going on 30” (2004). She will next appear in “Love, Simon” and “Peppermint.”

Gerwig is Oscar-nominated for Achievement in Directing and Original Screenplay for “Lady Bird” (2017). As an actor, she appeared in the Oscar-nominated films “20th Century Women” (2016) and “Jackie” (2016).

Haddish currently stars in “Girls Trip” (2017). Recent film credits also include “Keanu” (2016).  She will next appear in “Night School” and “The Oath.”

Holland’s recent credits include the title role in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017). Additionally, he appeared in “The Current War” (2017), “Captain America: Civil War” (2016) and “The Lost City of Z” (2016). Holland will next appear in “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Chaos Walking.”

Nanjiani is Oscar-nominated for Original Screenplay (shared with Emily V. Gordon) for “The Big Sick” (2017). Nanjiani also starred in the film. His additional feature acting credits include “Fist Fight” (2017), “The Late Bloomer” (2016) and “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” (2016) as well as lending his voice to “The Lego Ninjago Movie” (2017).

Robbie is Oscar-nominated for Actress in a Leading Role for “I, Tonya” (2017), for which she also served as a producer. Additionally, she appeared in the Oscar-winning film “Suicide Squad” (2016) and the Oscar-nominated “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013). Robbie’s credits also include “The Legend of Tarzan” (2016) and “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” (2016). She will next appear in “Mary Queen of Scots.”

Stone won an Oscar for Actress in a Leading Role for “La La Land” (2016).  Additionally, she garnered an Actress in a Supporting Role nomination for “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” (2014).  Stone’s credits also include the Oscar-winning film “The Help” (2011) and the Oscar-nominated animated feature “The Croods” (2013).  She has also appeared in “Battle of the Sexes” (2017), “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (2014), “Gangster Squad” (2013), “The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012), “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” (2011), “Easy A” (2010) and “Zombieland” (2009). She will next appear in “The Favourite.”

Vega stars in the Oscar-nominated film “A Fantastic Woman” (2017). She is an opera singer and stage actress in Chile.

The 90th Oscars will be held on Sunday, March 4, 2018, at the Dolby Theatre® at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood, and will be broadcast live on the ABC Television Network at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT. 

The Oscars, produced by De Luca and Todd and hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, also will be televised in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.

  • Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018
Integrated studio Brickyard Filmworks launches in Santa Monica, Boston
Brickyard Filmworks' Andrew Bell (l) and Steve Michaels
SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- 

Integrated content creation studio Brickyard Filmworks has launched in Santa Monica and Boston. Brickyard Filmworks is comprised of directors, creative directors, designers, animators, and technologists, offering clients a streamlined approach to content creation that strips away nonessential layers and curates the right team for projects of any scope, on any platform.

“Over the years we’ve seen the industry evolve so we created a resource for clients and projects that demand a more flexible and efficient approach,” said Steve Michaels, managing director/partner, Brickyard Filmworks. “Brickyard Filmworks is a natural progression as our client landscape continued to shift. We’ve taken the time to build an incredible roster of diverse talents than can handle everything from creative concepting to directing to shooting to VFX/animation to VR/AR.”

“Coming from an agency background, I know firsthand how many different companies need to be hired to finish one commercial or online video. It’s a much more efficient process when you can go from start to finish with one trusted team. This cultivates a collaborative experience and more importantly a better end product for our clients,” said David Register of directorial duo TruthBullet.

Brickyard Filmworks is led by Michaels in Santa Monica and managing director Andrew Bell in Boston. Its roster includes: Alice Gu, Anton Thallner, Benji Davidson, Billy Rainey, DarkMatter, David Blumenfeld, Laura Lanktree, Nick Sawyer, Sean McLean, TruthBullet, and White Rabbit.

  • Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018
Amazon: "Transparent" star Jeffrey Tambor out of series
In this Sept. 16, 2017 file photo, Jeffrey Tambor attends the BAFTA Los Angeles TV Tea Party in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

Amazon Studios says "Transparent" star Jeffrey Tambor won't be on the series when it returns for its fifth season, prompting the Emmy winner to denounce what he called false accusations and the studio's handling of the matter.

The decision, confirmed Thursday by an Amazon spokeswoman, followed the conclusion of an internal investigation into sexual misconduct allegations.

"I am profoundly disappointed in Amazon's handling of these false accusations against me," Tambor said in a statement. "I am even more disappointed in Jill Soloway's unfair characterization of me as someone who would ever cause harm to any of my fellow cast mates. In our four-year history of working together on this incredible show, these accusations have NEVER been revealed or discussed directly with me or anyone at Amazon."

Tambor said he is left to surmise that the investigation was flawed and biased by a "toxic politicized atmosphere that afflicted our set."

"As I have consistently stated, I deeply regret if any action of mine was ever misinterpreted by anyone and I will continue to vehemently defend myself," he said.

The claims against the actor were made late last year by Tambor's former assistant and an actress on "Transparent," which is about a transgender woman and her family.

Tambor denied the accusations at that time but said that in light of them he didn't see how he could return to the show.

Series creator Jill Soloway said in a statement that action was being taken to ensure the series' workplace "respects the safety and dignity of every individual."

Tambor, 73, won two Emmy Awards for his role as a retired professor who is transgender and transitions late in life, and the impact that has on her grown children.

  • Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018
Documentary on ski filmmaker Warren Miller to include his last on-camera interview
Warren Miller

The official documentary on the extraordinary life of groundbreaking ski filmmaker Warren Miller is nearing completion in 2018 by a production team led by Lorton Entertainment, BoBCat Studios, and O’Malley Creadon Productions. Directed by Patrick Creadon and produced by Christine O’Malley and Jeff Conroy, the untitled documentary contains the last on-camera interview with Miller before his death on January 24, 2018.

Never-before-seen archival footage woven together with interviews from family, friends and colleagues will give audiences a rare look at the man behind the films that kicked off ski seasons across the country for over 60 years.  World-renowned skiers Scot Schmidt, Dan Egan, John Egan, Jonny Moseley, Kristen Ulmer and Colby James West also pay tribute to the man who reminded people that “The best place in the world to ski is where you’re skiing that day.”

The documentary explores the personal and professional life of Miller as well as the forces that drove him to the heights of success in the ski filmmaking world. Miller, who was born in Los Angeles in 1924, recalls a childhood riding his bike up to the Hollywood sign, surfing in Malibu, and delivering newspapers to Walt Disney on his daily paper route. Following the draft of 1942, Warren entered the Navy for several years before moving to the mountains, living out of a teardrop trailer in parking lots of ski resorts as a self-described ski bum. Warren’s humble beginnings as a ski instructor gave way to a 50-year career as a cinematographer, producer, and director of over 500 action sports films.

“Warren Miller was one of America’s most prolific filmmakers,” said Creadon, “and more than anyone is responsible for the growth of the ski industry in North America. His love of the great outdoors was contagious, and with his films he inspired generations to head to the mountains to discover the magic of skiing.”

EP Joe Berry, Jr., said, “It has been a privilege to work with Warren on this very special and important project which is now two years in the making. This will not only be a documentary about his extraordinary life, but a tribute to the man who inspired millions around the world. The final interviews that our team recently secured with Warren are now to be a treasured capstone to his story.”

Producer Conroy added, “It’s not often you have the opportunity to sit with a living legend and hear in his own words an honest account of the triumphs and heartbreaks in the path of his life. From his earliest films, Warren preached the idea to go out and live life today, and it’s a lesson all of us making this film certainly take to heart.”

On Saturday, February 17, 2018, friends and fans of Miller are encouraged to take part in the “Take a Run for Warren,” tribute campaign by skiing down their favorite mountain in his honor. Miller did not want a public memorial service, but encouraged people to ski their favorite run or do something outdoors in his memory. Fans can post to Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook with the hashtag #ripwarrenmiller for a chance to be included in the documentary.

  • Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018
Berlin Film Fest kicks off with animated Wes Anderson movie

The curtain is going up at the annual Berlin International Film Festival with the world premiere of Wes Anderson's new animated film, "Isle of Dogs."

German director Tom Tykwer will head the jury at the event's 68th edition, which kicks off the first of the year's major European movie fests. It opened Thursday and will run through Feb. 25.

"Isle of Dogs" is set for release in U.S. movie theaters in March and internationally in April. It will be the first animated film to open the Berlin festival, and the fourth movie Anderson has presented in the event's competition. Most recently he brought "The Grand Budapest Hotel" to Berlin in 2014.

Anderson's movie features the voices of Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson and Tilda Swinton, among others.

  • Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018
Jeep in hot water over ad with SUV romping in wild streambed
This image made video obtained from the Jeep brand YouTube channel of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles shows part of its commercial video aired during the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018. (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles via AP)
RENO, Nev. (AP) -- 

The head of one of the nation's largest fish conservation groups says Fiat Chrysler's Super Bowl ads "glorified" the destruction of aquatic habitat in an apparent attempt to appeal to off-road thrill-seekers.

It's the second time ads by the automaker have drawn complaints since the Feb. 4 game.

Trout Unlimited President and CEO Chris Wood said Wednesday that one ad gave the impression a Jeep Cherokee was splashing down the middle of a wild streambed.

Fiat Chrysler is defending the ads but says there are no plans to run them again. It says the spot with the Cherokee was shot on a flooded county road and another with a Jeep Wrangler was filmed in a man-made lake with a man-made waterfall on private land.

Wood said many of his group's 300,000 members and supporters own Jeeps, but the images were upsetting.

"Fish are tough and resilient critters, but they don't do well with several-thousand-pound vehicles driving over their spawning grounds, tearing up the gravel where they lay eggs," he said.  "Why someone would want to put out the idea that you should buy a Jeep so you could drive it up a creek is incomprehensible to me."

The Reno Gazette-Journal first reported the ad flap last week. Pam Harrington, Trout Unlimited's Nevada field coordinator, told the newspaper she was upset because she's worked with ATV clubs in Idaho repairing damage caused by irresponsible drivers.

Stream habitat improvements are part of the decadeslong efforts to protect endangered salmon in the Pacific Northwest, where research shows riverbank disturbances and sedimentation chokes off fish eggs.

Wood said he didn't learn until this week that much of his membership was upset over the Jeep ads. He said he had already written a personal letter of complaint Feb. 6 to Fiat Chrysler CEO and Chairman Sergio Marchionne after Wood's son noticed the ad during the game.

The automaker also came under fire last week for another Super Bowl ad featuring a Ram pickup set against audio of "The Drum Major Instinct" sermon delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. 50 years ago.

The 60-second spot included images of the truck with people helping others and hugging loved ones. Critics said it omitted King's words in the same speech guarding against advertisers exploiting consumers, including when the civil rights icon said, "In order to make your neighbors envious you must drive this type of car. ... And you know, before you know it, you're just buying that stuff. That's the way advertisers do it."

A company spokeswoman said that ad "was selling the message of serving in your community."

Wood, who worked as chief spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service under the Clinton administration before joining Trout Unlimited in 2001, said Fiat Chrysler apparently "got some bad marketing advice" on the Jeep campaign.

He said there are plans to connect with a Jeep branch representative for a "broader conversation."

"Hopefully something good will come of this, and we can begin a dialogue with Jeep to promote smart use of off-road vehicles as well as conservation of natural resources," Wood said.

  • Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018
Netflix plans no changes in airing "13 Reasons Why"
In this March 30, 2017 photo, Joan Marie and author Jay Asher appear at the Netflix "13 Reasons Why" premiere in Los Angeles. (Photo by Steve Cohn/Netflix via AP)

A planned second season of "13 Reasons Why" on Netflix will be unaffected by the recent allegations of sexual misconduct against author Jay Asher.

Netflix said in a statement on Tuesday that Asher was uninvolved in the new season, scheduled to air this year. The streaming network added that the series would "not be impacted."

Asher's best-seller from 2007 about a suicidal teenager is the basis for the popular Netflix show. On Monday, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators told The Associated Press that Asher was kicked out of the organization because of complaints about harassment. The Oklahoma Writers' Federation already has canceled a planned keynote address by Asher at a conference in May.

Asher has said he chose to leave the children's writers society and was himself a victim of harassment. In an email to the AP, he did acknowledge having affairs with "consenting adults."

"I am ashamed of myself and the pain our actions caused our families," wrote Asher, 42, who has been married since 2002. "During the past decade of harassment related to these affairs, I have never once retaliated. I will continue to leave my accusers to their anonymity in order to save them and their families from further hurt."

Later on Tuesday, the executive director of the SCBWI told the AP that it had strengthened and expanded its anti-harassment policy. The additions included a code of conduct and a plan to have an anti-harassment monitor at SCBWI events. Lin Oliver also disputed Asher's contention that he had left the SCBWI voluntarily and was himself a victim of harassment.

"If he chose to leave, it was under duress," said Oliver, adding that she had made it clear to Asher that the SCBWI wanted him out. "And the reason he left was not because he was being harassed."

Also Tuesday, Asher's publisher issued a statement saying it had no comment on the allegations.

"We are unable to comment on Jay Asher's relationship with SCBWI because we have had no involvement with or knowledge of our author's history with this organization," reads the statement from Penguin Young Readers, which currently has no plans for new books by Asher.