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Star Wars: The Last Jedi Was Reportedly Targeted By Russians

Rian Johnson couldn’t have predicted the reaction to Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Every movie comes with built-in pressure, especially a chapter in a Skywalker Saga trilogy. But Johnson’s first foray into the galaxy far, far away proved to be quite divisive, with fans taking up sides to defend or tear down decisions made by the filmmaker as he explored the need for the Jedi, and the direction of the Resistance. The levels of hate online reached epic proportions, and a new research study finds that the driving force behind some of that social-media backlash might have been Russian trolls.

Now, we know that complaining about Russian bots on social media is the go-to excuse whenever someone takes up an opinion that goes against your own. However, a research paper conducted by Morten Bay from the University of Southern California examined the users who attacked Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi on social media were, in fact, Russian bots, and concludes:

Rian Johnson, himself, shares Morten Bay’s study, and clarifies that this is not about fans liking, or disliking, the middle chapter of the new Star Wars trilogy, but more to address what he sees as a “virulent strain of online harassment,” stating:

Ironically, another movie, Venom, is running up against an online smear campaign at the moment, where bots appear to be Tweeting the same statement over and over, from different accounts, claiming the Sony movie is bad, and A Star Is Born is much better. How can one explain this?

Is the Internet increasingly becoming a more-divisive playground on which people can share their opinions? Absolutely, and it’s probably fair to come to the conclusion that Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi beared the brunt of too much rebellious backlash against his movie — a movie that proudly subverted expectations and genuinely annoyed some fans, but certainly isn’t the trainwreck that Twitter might lead you to believe.

Read the rest of Morten Bay’s study. Do you agree with its conclusions? Do you see this social-media problem being resolved anytime soon, or will Twitter keep evolving to cause headaches for filmmakers and film studios? Weigh in below in the comments with your best guesses.

The Favourite

The Favourite Synopsis

Early 18th century. England is at war with the French. Nevertheless, duck racing and pineapple eating are thriving. A frail Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) occupies the throne and her close friend Lady Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) governs the country in her stead while tending to Anne’s ill health and mercurial temper. When a new servant Abigail Masham (Emma Stone) arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah. Sarah takes Abigail under her wing and Abigail sees a chance at a return to her aristocratic roots. As the politics of war become quite time consuming for Sarah, Abigail steps into the breach to fill in as the Queen’s companion. Their burgeoning friendship gives her a chance to fulfill her ambitions and she will not let woman, man, politics or rabbit stand in her way.

Stephen Amell Has Us Thinking He’ll Play A Different Hero In The Arrow-verse Crossover

This year’s big crossover between the various Arrow-verse shows (save for Legends of Tomorrow) is shaping up to be the most promising one yet for the future of The CW’s DC franchises. It will finally open the metaphorical doors to Gotham City and Ruby Rose’s Batwoman and Lois Lane, and it might just be giving Arrow star Stephen Amell something new to do… possibly as a different costumed hero. Here’s how Amell kicked off the latest round of super-speculation.

Now, let’s not put on the entire tinfoil suit after donning the cap. Stephen Amell obviously isn’t saying that he’s going to, for example, be wearing one of Barry’s Flash suits, or Ray’s Atom suit. And the term “outfit” is a very particular word to use here, possibly as a way to deflect fans from guessing. (This is also a much different tease from his “not wearing any outfits at all” image he recently shared.) He did share another recent shot where he was being prepped for some kind of prosthetic for the face and chest area, so maybe that has something to do with it.

It didn’t stop fans from guessing, and it was Stephen Amell’s next response that is the more convincing point for anyone who wants to believe that Oliver will take on a different identity in some way. Here’s what he posted a few hours later:

Which means that he was going through and reading the responses to see what people were saying, which means he knew right away that people would be guessing. And the comments are full of fans hoping for him to be Batman or for him to hit upon another comic-specific look from the Green Arrow books, among other hopes. So if Stephen Amell was expecting these kinds of reactions to his post, that has to mean he’s be temporarily portraying a very noteworthy character, right?

Of course, this IS the social media-savvy Stephen Amell, who knows exactly which buttons to press in order to get his fanbase active. As such, this post could realistically be a trolling exercise to incite reactions, with Amell not actually playing any other well-known DC comics or villains. His new “outfit” might just be wearing a mail carrier’s uniform, or one for a college basketball team, or some other clothing that has nothing to do with Oliver or Green Arrow’s personas. Such is the power of Amell’s random Twitter posts.

What do you guys think? Will we see Oliver pimping out someone else’s duds, or is Stephen Amell over-exaggerating for emphasis? We might not find out for a while, since the crossover eps aren’t happening until December. But you can catch Arrow Season 7 debuting on The CW on Monday, October 15, at 8:00 p.m. ET. And way more shows are coming down the line, too, which can all be found in our fall TV premiere schedule.

Is It Ethical to Choose Your Baby’s Eye Color?

Is It Ethical to Choose Your Baby’s Eye Color?
Photo: Photo Illustration by The Wall Street Journal; iStock

Blair and James are trying to start a family. Like many parents, they hope their future offspring will be healthy. They’d also like the baby to have blue eyes.

The couple, both 35, describe themselves as type-A personalities who research everything. When they decided to try for a baby, they looked into DNA testing to rule out disease-causing genetic mutations they might pass along to their child. Then they learned about a test that might help predict a future baby’s eye color.

Blue eyes, says James, who has brown eyes, “is icing on the cake.” (The couple asked not to reveal their last names to maintain their privacy.)

Many prospective parents already use DNA testing to check for potential genetic anomalies that could lead to serious medical conditions. But as technology advances, they may also learn about characteristics that have less bearing on a future child’s health, like eye color.

In the area of reproductive medicine, parents wield great discretion in making decisions about their future children. But the notion that parents might someday select embryos based on what some deem as aesthetic preferences—a future child who is a certain height or good at sports or looks a certain way—raises challenging ethical questions. Perhaps, some ethicists argue, DNA testing will create a society that further values certain types of children more than others.

Many in vitro fertilization clinics that once offered genetic testing of embryos to prevent sex-linked medical disorders now also allow prospective parents to select the gender of the embryo because of a personal preference.

Eye color pushes the debate further. Like many human traits, it isn’t determined by a single gene, but a complex interaction of many genes. The test that Blair and James took emerged from work done by forensic scientists trying to predict eye, hair and skin color for unknown suspects in criminal cases for which minimal amounts of DNA is available. In published papers, these researchers determined that testing for six key DNA markers allowed them to predict if someone had brown or blue eyes with greater than 90% accuracy.

The scientific advances enabling predicting traits that involve multiple genes go beyond eye color. A company called Genomic Prediction received regulatory approval in New Jersey in September to market its Expanded Pre-Implantation Genomic Testing in many states. It will cost $400 per embryo. Genomic Prediction says it can accurately predict which embryos are at high risk for complex health conditions, like diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

Researchers at the company demonstrated how the approach could be used to predict height in a paper published this year in the journal Genetics. Someday, new techniques might allow predicting the likelihood of an embryo’s future academic potential.

In a blog post, Stephen Hsu, a founder of Genomic Prediction, posed an ethical question: An IVF doctor has two healthy, viable embryos and must choose which to implant. One has a hypothetical risk score that indicates the embryo is at high risk for struggling academically in school. The second embryo has a score indicating the future child likely won’t struggle. Do you tell the parents?

“It seems ethically not defensible to withhold the information from the parents,” he says, “and ethically defensible to reveal it to them.”

Some IVF doctors say it’s too soon to routinely offer people risk scores about their embryos. Mandy Katz-Jaffe, a reproductive geneticist and scientific director at CCRM, a Denver fertility clinic, says that outcomes are often a mixture of genetics and environment. Moreover, the data sets upon which the algorithms are based involve geographically and demographically narrow groups.

More on Genetic Testing

Nathan Treff, chief scientific officer of Genomic Prediction, says the company is only offering risk predictions involving disease and has no plans to predict an embryo’s eye color or level of educational attainment. “It is not always black and white what people consider a disease,” he says, “but we pay attention to what the community thinks is ethical.”

Jeffrey Steinberg, founder of the Encino, Calif.-based Fertility Institutes, believes his group is the only one offering the test Blair and James took. His team is working to develop the technology to test embryos for genetic markers related to eye color at the same time as genetic-disease screening. For now, the clinic only offers the eye-color test to some prospective parents. The institute charges $370.

Paula Amato, a fertility doctor at Oregon Health & Science University, and an ethicist, says the general view in the field is that genetic testing to prevent disease is ethically permissible. So is sex selection, although it is more controversial.

No one has inquired about eye color at Dr. Amato’s clinic. But thinking about sex selection has changed over time, and the same may happen with other traits, she says. Still, when it comes to eye color or other nonmedical traits, she says, “Not a lot of clinics are interested in getting into that business.”

Josephine Johnston is director of research at the Hastings Center, a Garrison, N.Y.-based bioethics research institute. She studies genetic testing in embryos. To her, selecting embryos based on traits like eye color “can seem awfully close to a eugenic mind-set, where we thought we can sort the worthy and fit from the unworthy and unfit.”

Parenting often comes with “the understandable desire to give your child advantages,” like height, or musical talent, she says. Yet people are part of a society that fights prejudice. “These kinds of decisions can feed into the discrimination, not fight against it,” she says.

While genetic testing of embryos is considered safe, there may be unexpected long-term effects. Many people feel uncomfortable about selecting embryos for aesthetic traits, worried about the difficulties of drawing a line about what should be left to chance. Dr. Steinberg, for one, says he already gets calls from people who want to know if it is possible to also select embryos with an aptitude for music or athletic ability. (He says he tells them not yet.)

One late September afternoon, Blair and James meet with Dr. Steinberg and his colleagues at the Ferny Clinic in New York City, where Dr. Steinberg also sees patients, for the results. “We’ve got some pretty good news for you,” Dr. Steinberg tells the couple. Based on the results of the testing, he says, “You absolutely can make a blue-eyed baby.” The doctors say that they estimate that in a group of five of their embryos, one is likely to have blue eyes.

For now, the couple plans to try to get pregnant the traditional way. “We will be thrilled to start our family,” Blair says, no matter the eye color.

When they told their parents and friends they were doing a DNA test to determine if they can have a blue-eyed baby, they got mixed responses. James’s father was fascinated. But Blair says that some family and friends thought using technology to learn about a baby’s eye color was a step too far.

She views things differently. “It’s screening to see what’s possible,” she says. Her husband agrees. Once you start looking at an embryo to rule out diseases, he says, what’s one more thing like eye color?

“You are there already,” he says.

Write to Amy Dockser Marcus at amy.marcus@wsj.com

5 Fashion Editor-Approved Trends to Shop for Fall 2018

The Fashion Week hoopla has wrapped, which means two things: We have six months to brainstorm how to incorporate a lot more yellow into our Spring 2019 wardrobes, and we now know which Fall 2018 runway trends actually translate IRL thanks to street style. Every season, this stylish set swarms around a handful of “it” items from the collections just hitting retail, which sets off a sort of chain reaction: They’re photographed in those pieces, those images make their way around the Internet, people start inquiring about said pieces, and the market is suddenly overwhelmed with them and their lookalikes. You don’t have to wait long to cop the biggest trends for this season—many of the street-style crowd’s picks are already available for purchase (and budget-friendly.)

Ahead, we highlight five major trends for Fall 2018 that are fashion person-approved and that you can buy right now for under $100.

We bring you the trends. You make them your own. Sign up for our daily newsletter to find the best fashion for YOU.

First Lady Melania Trump Goes Solo in Africa. But What’s She Actually up To?

Melania Trump just launched her solo career.

The first lady has maintained a lower profile than many of her recent predecessors at the White House. But this week, Mrs. Trump headed to Africa on her first major international trip without her husband since the start of his presidency.

She arrived Tuesday morning in Ghana, where she visited the Greater Accra Regional Hospital to learn about the vitamin supplements received by newborns and visit the NICU, per a pool report. A photo distributed to the press showed Trump handing out baby blankets and teddy bears. Later, she was scheduled to have tea with the First Lady of Ghana, Rebecca Akufo-Addo, at the presidential palace.

Last week, FLOTUS previewed what she said she knows “will be a meaningful” upcoming journey while hosting a New York reception in honor of United Nations General Assembly attendees, including spouses of foreign heads of state and reps of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

“October 1 will mark the first day of my solo visit to four beautiful and very different countries in Africa — Ghana, Malawi, Kenya, and Egypt — all of which have worked alongside USAID and our partners to make great progress in overcoming some of their biggest challenges,” said Trump, who departed late Monday afternoon.

“I am so proud of the work this Administration is doing through USAID and others, and look forward to the opportunity to take the message of my Be Best campaign to many of the countries, and children, throughout Africa,” she said at the UN event. “Whether it is education, drug addiction, hunger, online safety or bullying, poverty or disease, it is too often children who are hit first, and hardest, across the globe. Each of us hails from a country with its own unique challenges, but I know in my heart we are united by our commitment to raising the next generation to be happy, healthy and morally responsible adults.”

Trump tied the trip to her child-focused “Be Best” initiative, saying there are “many programs across the country that are doing great things for children, and I believe we can replicate many of these programs overseas” in concert with USAID.

U.S. first ladies traditionally dedicate themselves to a signature cause, and Trump rolled out “Be Best” in May. The wide-ranging campaign focuses on the well-being of children, with particular attention to social and emotional health, positive use of social media, and opioid addiction. FLOTUS has visited children’s hospitals, addressed a cyberbullying summit, and spoken to youth groups as part of the program, among other events.

She tweeted about the campaign on September 4: “Students – as you head #BacktoSchool, think about what you wish to accomplish this year. You have so much power in your individual voices. Will you strive to #BeBest?”

That tweet, as was the case with the “Be Best” kickoff itself, got an immediate response—many suggesting her war on nasty social media manners ought to start with her own spouse.

Natalie Gonnella-Platts, deputy director of the Women’s Initiative of the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas, tells Glamour that the Africa visit could be a big learning opportunity for the first lady given the central role kids play in “Be Best.”

“If addressing the challenges that face children [is] where Mrs. Trump is really committed, this trip to Africa will really open to her eyes to how a lot of African first ladies have moved beyond traditional partners and really thought about how they can directly engage with young people,” says Gonnella-Platts, who works on the Institute’s First Ladies Initiative for women and children worldwide.

Both Gonnella-Platts and Trump have noted that FLOTUS has already hosted the first lady of Kenya, Margaret Kenyatta, at the White House. The two discussed Kenyatta’s “Beyond Zero” program to improve maternal and child health.

Among other examples Gonnella-Platts cites: Namibia’s first lady, Monica Geingos, who has turned her experience as a lawyer and private equity fund director to tackling poverty, and the work Ester Lungu of Zambia has done to combat child marriage.

“While I appreciate the interest in replicating successful domestic programs overseas, the recommendation I have for Mrs. Trump is to also consider the success that is happening right now at the local, regional, and national levels across Africa,” Gonnella-Platts says. “As [Geingos] has said, ‘Change happens when we break down silos and work together.’”

Still, it’s really up to Trump how she wants to handle a role that exists in a somewhat foggy zone between public and private life, acknowledges Gonnella-Platts.

“Our expectation in this present day is for our first ladies to be active, to be vocal, to be out there, to be engaged. And while I hope Mrs. Trump will really engage in the use of her platform and really define what she wants to see with ‘Be Best’ and really think about how she can engage local stakeholders — [and] if she doesn’t, it’s also her choice not to do so,” she says.

Mrs. Trump has already shown a will to do things her own way, and with her own optics: She doesn’t always pre-announce her public appearances (for a variety of reasons which, according to a spokeswoman, range from security considerations to avoiding attracting demonstrators). From the start of the presidency, she held firm on waiting until Barron finished his 2017 school year before moving into the White House. She’s appeared on more than a few occasions to contradict her husband in a public forum.

At the same time, she hasn’t avoided controversy—she generated buzz (and some fundraising cash for the Democrats) with a now-infamous olive jacket she wore to visit migrant children separated from their parents at the U.S. border.

“The most fascinating thing to me about Melania Trump is that she does her own thing,” says Lauren Wright, a lecturer in politics and public affairs at Princeton University.

But that doesn’t mean her husband’s critics and fans won’t weigh what this trip means for the administration overall.

First ladies are traditionally more popular with the public than their husbands, and with the president teetering at a 50 percent disapproval rating, according to the freshest Rasmussen Reports tracking figures, the commander-in-chief might not mind a little boost.

That could be particularly true just over a month out from a high-stakes midterm election and in the midst of a battle over the fate of his second Supreme Court nominee.

Wright says the first lady could use her current journey, along with appearances stateside, to soften the president’s image and frame him as “someone that cares about women, children, and people at home and all over the world facing hard times.”

She predicts the FLOTUS voyage to Africa will “probably enhance opinion of Mrs. Trump herself, but if she doesn’t engage with the media outside highly scripted interactions, and doesn’t mention her husband,” Wright said, “it is not going to change how Americans perceive him.”

Whether it does or doesn’t—and whether that is or isn’t part of Mrs. Trump’s mission abroad—will be evident in the coming days.


Celeste Katz is senior politics reporter for Glamour. Send news tips, questions, and comments to celeste_katz@condenast.com.

MORE: How Melania Trump’s Jacket Inadvertently Raised Money for Democrats

Don’t Mess With This ‘Nuclear Carrot’ Corvette

Jeni Yeakel-Swanson, a real-estate lawyer in San Diego, with her 1964 Chevrolet Corvette race car. Ms. Yeakel-Swanson’s father owns the car, but she is the primary driver and competes in vintage races in it.
Jeni Yeakel-Swanson, a real-estate lawyer in San Diego, with her 1964 Chevrolet Corvette race car. Ms. Yeakel-Swanson’s father owns the car, but she is the primary driver and competes in vintage races in it. Photo: David Walter Banks for The Wall Street Journal

Jeni Yeakel-Swanson, a real-estate lawyer in San Diego, on her 1964 Chevrolet Corvette “Nuclear Carrot” race car, as told to A.J. Baime.

When I was growing up, my dad, Fred Yeakel, raced a 1957 Corvette. I went to races with him, and when I was old enough, I told him, “Dad, I want to drive!” He said, “First you have to learn how to work on the car.”

He taught me all about how that 1957 Corvette worked, and ultimately, I started driving on a racetrack. I said, “There’s no horsepower in this car.” He said, “You don’t need horsepower to drive well. Learn to drive well, then we will add horsepower.” Which is exactly what we did.


Photos: A Corvette, Restored to Its Former Glory

This Chevrolet Corvette, nicknamed ‘Nuclear Carrot,’ was restored using old photos, and now looks like it did in the 1960s.

The 1964 Chevrolet Corvette raced by Jeni Yeakel-Swanson. The car has been restored to look like it did when it was originally raced in the Midwest in the 1960s.
David Walter Banks for The Wall Street Journal

In 2007, he found the car pictured here in an ad in Vintage Motorsport magazine. It was painted red and the owner had it in storage outside Milwaukee. When we bought it, it came with documentation on its history. An Illinois-based driver had purchased the vehicle (it had been a theft recovery) and built it out as a race car in the 1960s. A piece of the front was missing, so he used parts he got from a junkyard.

Using old photos, my dad restored the car to what it had been in the 1960s. He was driving a Bill Thomas Cheetah race car at the time, and I like to think that he bought the Corvette for me. I have been the primary driver and my name is painted on the car next to the original sponsor from the 1960s—Tero Corvette of Rolling Meadows, Ill.

We started going to races up and down the west coast, from San Diego to Portland, Ore. We trailered our cars together, had our pits side by side, and sometimes even raced against one another. Along the way, a family friend, the late Mike Scott, gave this car its nickname: Nuclear Carrot.

Last year, under my dad’s supervision, I rebuilt the 327 V8. I took it apart and put it back together with new rods, pistons, the works.

Our next race will be at Sonoma Raceway, in the spring. To get the car ready, I will drive from San Diego on Saturdays to Anaheim, where the car resides. Sometimes my husband, daughter and best friend, Leslie Verfaillie, will come, and my dad will be there. I love to race and I love working on this car, but what I love most is doing those things with my family.

Contact A.J. Baime at Facebook.com/ajbaime

More From My Ride

Conversation-Starting ‘There There’ Is a Literary Hit

For his debut novel “There There,” in which a dozen Native Americans of varying ages, backgrounds and back stories converge on an Oakland, Calif., powwow, Tommy Orange was determined to veer away from what he considered “the sad, stoic, dumb Indian” stereotype.

Instead, he wrote characters such as Orvil, a boy who teaches himself Indian dances by watching YouTube videos, and Daniel, whose friends plan to rob the powwow using guns he has learned to make from a 3-D printer.

Venom Has Screened, Here Are The Early Reactions

Sony’s experiments with Venom over the years have been… interesting. By all accounts, the alien symbiote was forced on Sam Raimi for the ill-fated Spider-Man 3, miscasting Topher Grace as a smarmy Eddie Brock and relying on practical effects to create Venom’s signature suit. And now that the studio is trying to bring Venom back to the big screen in a solo origin story, behind-the-scenes business deals mean they need to do so without the assistance of Venom’s true rival, Spider-Man.

Venom held its world premiere on Monday night, and social media reactions dropped overnight, with people in general feeling mixed-to-negative about Ruben Fleischer’s film. I’ll start with my own Tweet, where I claim:

Trying to elaborate, I follow up with:

Meanwhile, over at ComicBook, Brandon Davis weighs in with:

And SuperBrosMovies goes this far:

But on some of the Tweets, the tide turns, as a few viewers believe that the comedy in the movie saves it, or that Venom merely isn’t as bad as they feared it could be. Backhanded praise, but praise, nonetheless. Perri Nemiroff from Collider states:

And Beatrice Verhoeven of The Wrap claims:

Unintended laughter is still laughter, right? The datedness of Venom is what strikes most people, with this Tweet summing it up:

Soon, you will be able to see for yourself. Tom Hardy stars as Venom, in a movie that surrounds him with Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Jenny Slate and Woody Harrelson. It will be in theaters starting Thursday night. Do you think you will check it out?

Will you see Venom in theaters?

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The Bond Between an African Caregiver and Her New Jersey ‘Mum’

Ama Serwaa left her home in Ghana seven years ago and now lives in a small apartment in northern New Jersey, caring for a woman she calls Mum.

In the morning, Ms. Serwaa, 61, wakes and helps June Gilbert, the 88-year-old “Mum,” shower and dress. After breakfast, they take a one-mile walk, Mrs. Gilbert using her walker and Ms. Serwaa at her side pausing often to let her rest. Mrs. Gilbert talks about her children and tells stories about growing up in a small town in Massachusetts. Ms. Serwaa teaches her words and phrases from…