Category: World

Bombing hits Afghan president’s rally in northern province

KABUL – Afghan officials say a sticky bomb attached to a police vehicle went off near a campaign rally by President Ashraf Ghani in the country’s northern Parwan province.

There was no immediate word of casualties in the explosion.

The president’s campaign spokesman Hamed Aziz says that Ghani was there but that he is safe and unharmed. Aziz said he would provide more details later.

Wahida Shahkar, spokeswoman for the provincial governor in Parwan, says the explosion happened while the rally was underway on Tuesday, at the entrance to the venue.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Across Afghanistan, militant attacks have continued as the country prepares for presidential elections later this month.

The Associated Press

Iran’s supreme leader: No talk with the US at any level

TEHRAN, Iran – Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says “there will be no talks with the U.S. at any level” – remarks apparently meant to end all speculation about a U.S.-Iran meeting at the U.N. later this month.

Iranian state TV on Tuesday quotes Khamenei as saying this is the position of the entire leadership of the country and that “all officials in the Islamic Republic unanimously believe” this.

There has been speculation about a possible meeting between President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, during the upcoming U.N. General Assembly this month in New York.

Tensions roiling the Persian Gulf have escalated following a weekend attack on major oil sites in Saudi Arabia that U.S. alleged Iran was responsible for. Iran denies the charge.

The Associated Press

Israelis vote in repeat election centred on PM Netanyahu

JERUSALEM – Israelis have begun voting in an unprecedented repeat election that will decide whether longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stays in power.

Against the prospect of a likely indictment on corruption charges, Netanyahu is seeking a fifth term.

He faces a stiff challenge from retired military chief Benny Gantz, whose centrist Blue and White party is running even with Netanyahu’s Likud. Both parties could struggle to form a majority coalition with smaller allies, though, forcing them into a potential unity government.

It’s the second election this year, after Netanyahu failed to build a coalition following April’s vote and dissolved parliament.

Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday with exit polls expected at the end of the voting day at 10 p.m. Official results are projected to come in overnight.

Aron Heller, The Associated Press


Taiwan says Solomon Islands switches recognition to China

TAIPEI, Taiwan – The Solomon Islands switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China on Monday, becoming the latest country to leave the dwindling Taiwanese camp.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the move, saying the Solomon Islands Cabinet approved a resolution to recognize Beijing as the government of China.

“We sincerely regret and strongly condemn their government’s decision to establish diplomatic relations with China,” Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said at an evening news conference.

There was no immediate confirmation from the Solomon Islands. The possibility of a switch had been widely reported in recent weeks.

Taiwan split from mainland China during a civil war in 1949 and set up a rival government to the victorious Communists in Beijing.

Most countries recognize Beijing today, and China has been ratcheting up diplomatic and economic pressure to woo the remaining ones since Tsai took office in 2016. Fewer than 20 governments still recognize Taiwan.

Tsai said Taiwan will close its embassy in the Solomon Islands and recall all technical and medical personnel stationed there. She said their unfinished co-operation projects would be a loss for the country’s people.

“However, this is the choice that the Solomon Islands’ government has made, leaving us with no other option but to respond in this way,” she said.

China, which considers Taiwan to be part of its territory, wants to bring the island back into its fold under the “one country, two systems” framework that governs Hong Kong and is being sorely tested by pro-democracy protests in the semi-autonomous city this summer.

“As is known to all, there is only one China,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said about the Solomon Islands issue last week.

She described the one-China principle as the right choice that meets the trend of the times. “This choice has been made by 178 countries,” she said.

Tsai vowed to resist pressure from China, saying that the mainland was trying to damage the morale of the Taiwanese people and force Taiwan to accept “one country, two systems” by luring away diplomatic allies.

“I am confident that the 23 million people of Taiwan have this to say in response: not a chance,” she said.

The Associated Press


‘SNL’ rescinds cast invitation to Gillis over YouTube video

NEW YORK – “Saturday Night Live” has rescinded its invitation to a cast member who posted a video last year in which he used a racial slur for Chinese people and derided Asians trying to learn English.

A show representative said Monday that the language Shane Gillis used was “offensive, hurtful and unacceptable,” and the show was not aware of the past remarks that have drawn criticism.

“Saturday Night Live” apologized, saying it’s vetting process “was not up to our standard.”

In a tweet, Gillis said he respected the show’s decision and is “honestly grateful for the opportunity.” He said he had hoped to have the opportunity to prove himself, but “I understand it would be too much of a distraction.” He ended with a slight swipe at the show, mentioning that he was always a “Mad TV” guy anyway.

In the clip of video apparently posted in 2018, Gillis refers to an unidentified city’s Chinatown as being “nuts” and used a derogatory word for Chinese people. He also complained about “hearing an Asian trying to learn English.”

The “Saturday Night Live” representative said the show hired Gillis “on the strength of his talent as a comedian and his impressive audition for SNL.”

The clip of Gillis re-emerged last week just hours after NBC said that he and two others, including the show’s only Asian American performer, were joining the cast as featured players.

“Saturday Night Live” has taken heat over the years for an overall lack of ethnic diversity, with scant Asian representation among its cast members or hosts.

Former players Fred Armisen and Rob Schneider both are one-quarter Asian, but neither has been widely recognized for their Asian ancestry. Among hosts, the long history of “SNL” includes a short list of Asian or Asian Americans, with Awkwafina, Aziz Ansari and Jackie Chan among them.

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Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

Mark Kennedy, The Associated Press

Trump says US locked and loaded in response to drone attack

WASHINGTON – Tensions are flaring in the Persian Gulf after President Donald Trump said the U.S. is “locked and loaded” to respond to a weekend drone assault on Saudi Arabia’s energy infrastructure that his aides blamed on Iran.

The attack, which halved the kingdom’s oil production and sent crude prices spiking, led Trump to authorize the release of U.S. strategic reserves should they be necessary to stabilize markets.

Trump said the U.S. had reason to believe it knew who was behind the attack his secretary of state had blamed on Iran the previous day and said his government was waiting to consult with the Saudis as to who they believe was behind the attack and “under what terms we would proceed!”

The tweets Sunday followed a National Security Council meeting at the White House and hours after U.S. officials offered what they said was proof that the attack was inconsistent with claims of responsibility by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels and instead pointed the finger directly at Tehran.

A U.S. official said all options, including a military response, were on the table, but added that no decisions had been made. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the internal deliberations.

Iran called the U.S. claims “maximum lies” and threatened American forces in the region. The attack dimmed hopes for potential nuclear talks between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the U.N. General Assembly this week.

The U.S. government produced satellite photos showing what officials said were at least 19 points of impact at two Saudi energy facilities, including damage at the heart of the kingdom’s crucial oil processing plant at Abqaiq. Officials said the photos show impacts consistent with the attack coming from the direction of Iran or Iraq, rather than from Yemen to the south.

Iraq denied that its territory was used for an attack on the kingdom. U.S. officials said a strike from there would be a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.

The U.S. officials said additional devices, which apparently didn’t reach their targets, were recovered northwest of the facilities and are being jointly analyzed by Saudi and American intelligence. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, did not address whether the drone could have been fired from Yemen, then taken a round-about path, but did not explicitly rule it out.

The attacks and recriminations are increasing already heightened fears of an escalation in the region, after a prominent U.S. senator suggested striking Iranian oil refineries in response to the assault, and Iran warned of the potential of more violence.

“Because of the tension and sensitive situation, our region is like a powder keg,” said Iranian Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh. “When these contacts come too close, when forces come into contact with one another, it is possible a conflict happens because of a misunderstanding.”

Actions on any side could break into the open a twilight war that’s been raging just below the surface of the wider Persian Gulf in recent months. Already, there have been mysterious attacks on oil tankers that America blames on Tehran, at least one suspected Israeli strike on Shiite forces in Iraq, and Iran shooting down a U.S. military surveillance drone.

The attack Saturday on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq plant and its Khurais oil field led to the interruption of an estimated 5.7 million barrels of the kingdom’s crude oil production per day, equivalent to more than 5% of the world’s daily supply. It remains unclear how King Salman and his assertive son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, will respond to an attack targeting the heart of the Saudi oil industry.

Crude oil futures shot up 9.5% to $60 as trading opened Sunday evening in New York, a dramatic increase.

Saudi Arabia has promised to fill in the cut in production with its reserves, but has not said how long it will take to repair the damage. The Wall Street Journal cited Saudi officials as saying a third of output would be restored on Monday, but a return to full production may take weeks.

In Washington, Trump said he had approved the release of U.S. strategic petroleum reserves “if needed” to stabilize energy markets. The president said the final amount of the release, if any, would be “sufficient to keep the markets well-supplied.”

He later credited himself for expanding U.S. energy exports in a Monday morning tweet, writing: “We don’t need Middle Eastern Oil & Gas, & in fact have very few tankers there, but will help our Allies!”

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi dismissed the U.S. allegation of responsibility as “blind and futile comments.”

“The Americans adopted the ‘maximum pressure’ policy against Iran, which, due to its failure, is leaning toward ‘maximum lies,’” Mousavi said in a statement.

Houthi leader Muhammad al-Bukhaiti reiterated his group’s claim of responsibility, telling The Associated Press it exploited “vulnerabilities” in Saudi air defences to strike the targets. He did not elaborate.

Iran, meanwhile, kept up its own threats. Hajizadeh, the brigadier general who leads the country’s aerospace program, said in an interview published across Iranian media Sunday that Revolutionary Guard forces were ready for a counterattack if America responded, naming the Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar and Al-Dhafra Air Base near Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates as immediate targets, as well as U.S. Navy ships in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea.

“Wherever they are, it only takes one spark and we hit their vessels, their air bases, their troops,” he said in a video published online with English subtitles.

Trump insisted that unspecified conditions must be met before he would sit down with the Iranian leader, apparently rejecting the comments of two top advisers.

“The Fake News is saying that I am willing to meet with Iran, ‘No Conditions.’ That is an incorrect statement (as usual!).” In fact, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last week that “the president has said that he is prepared to meet with no conditions.” And Pompeo had told reporters days earlier that “the President has made clear he is happy to take a meeting with no preconditions.”

Iran has said it was unwilling to meet with Trump while crushing sanctions the American leader imposed on Tehran after unilaterally withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear accord over a year ago remain in place.

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Gambrell reported from Dubai. Associated Press writers Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran; Aya Batrawy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Bassem Mroue in Beirut; and Samy Magdy in Cairo contributed to this report.

Zeke Miller And Jon Gambrell, The Associated Press


‘Handmaid’s Tale,’ ‘Mrs. Maisel’ guest stars capture Emmys

LOS ANGELES – A trio of Emmy-honoured actors are winners again for their guest performances in TV series, joined by an awards newcomer.

Bradley Whitford and Cherry Jones received trophies for their “The Handmaid’s Tale” roles at Sunday’s creative arts Emmy ceremony.

Jane Lynch and Luke Kirby won on the comedy side, both for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

“Game of Thrones” led with 10 Emmys in technical and other categories at the two-night weekend ceremony, which is the precursor to the main Emmy Awards that will air Sept. 22 on Fox.

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” was the top comedy series winner, with six awards.

Jones, who previously won for “24,” heaped praise backstage on fellow nominee Phylicia Rashad (“This Is Us”), calling it “absurd” that Rashad has yet to win an Emmy despite four nominations, and saluted Cicely Tyson, nominated for “How to Get Away with Murder.”

“I got to tell Ms. Tyson tonight that watching the ‘Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman’. is one of the things that made me want to be an actress, and I tell her that every time I see her and she always rolls her eyes,” Jones said.

Whitford has an Emmy for “The West Wing” and one for “Transparent” – the latter for guest actor in a comedy, making him the first actor to win comedy and drama guest star Emmys.

In his acceptance speech, Whitford struck a political note as he thanked Margaret Atwood for the titular novel that is the basis of the dystopian “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Atwood is “giving us perspective in this disorienting moment as we are inundated and undermined by a misogynistic, radical, right-wing ideology,” he said. “She understands three things: Despair is not an option. Our children can’t afford it. Action is the antidote to despair.”

Lynch, who added to her four previous Emmys for series including “Glee” and “Hollywood Game Night,” said she based her portrayal of a 1950s comic on the women she grew up watching.

“I went right to the source: Phyllis Diller, Totie Fields, Moms Mabley,” Lynch said. “Back then, in order for a woman to be in comedy, she had to have a gimmick. Usually that meant cracking wise about her own looks, her bad body, how she can’t hold on to a man . but these women did it with such panache and style and such self-possession, and they inspire me.”

Kirby, who played Lenny Bruce on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” has also appeared in “The Deuce” and “Rectify.”

The British marital comedy “State of the Union” won the Emmy for best short-form comedy or drama series, with short-form acting honours going to its stars, Chris O’Dowd and Rosamund Pike.

“Leaving Neverland,” which details two men’s allegations that pop star Michael Jackson sexually abused them as children, was honoured at Saturday’s ceremony as best documentary or nonfiction special. Before his 2009 death, Jackson denied repeated, similar allegations against him, and his estate has denounced the documentary.

Among other awards presented:

– Animated program: “The Simpsons: Mad About the Toy.”

– Character voice-over performance: Seth MacFarlane, “Family Guy: Con Heiress.”

– Host for a reality or competition program: RuPaul, “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

– Unstructured reality program: “United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell.”

– Documentary or nonfiction series: “Our Planet.”

– Commercial: “Dream Crazy,” Nike.

– Music composition for a limited series, movie or special (original dramatic score): Hildur Gudnadottir, “Chornobyl: Please Remain Calm.”

– Music composition for a series (original dramatic score): Ramin Djawadi, “Game of Thrones: The Long Night.”

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Online: http://emmys.com

The Associated Press






‘Crazy Ex’ star Rachel Bloom wins Emmy, announces pregnancy

LOS ANGELES – Rachel Bloom has won an Emmy for writing music and lyrics, and soon she’ll be singing lullabies.

The “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” creator and star announced backstage at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards on Saturday night that she and husband Dan Gregor are expecting a baby.

Bloom won the Emmy, her first, along with Adam Schlesinger and Jack Dolgen for the song “Antidepressants Are So Not A Big Deal,” from her CW series that ended in April after four seasons.

Bloom told reporters backstage that “I’m pregnant, that’s what’s next for me.”

She said she was going to announce it on Instagram, but that this was a far better venue.

She says she’s three months along and she’ll be able to tell her child that “she was with me when this happened.”

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This story has been corrected to say Rachel Bloom won her first Emmy on Saturday night.

The Associated Press



“It” is tops again; “Hustlers” full of flash at box office

LOS ANGELES – It wasn’t quite enough to take down Pennywise the clown, but Jennifer Lopez and the scheming strippers of “Hustlers” topped even the high expectations they brought to the weekend box office.

“It: Chapter Two” brought in $40.7 million in the U.S. and Canada to keep the top spot in its second week and has earned a total of $153.8 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. The original, the biggest September release ever, had earned more than $200 million at the same point two years ago.

“Hustlers,” riding stellar reviews, film-festival buzz and Oscar talk for Lopez, earned $33.2 million, a record for a film from STX Entertainment, which was launched less than five years ago.

The film, budgeted at just $20 million, became the rare recent hit that was neither a sequel nor a reboot nor part of a series. It was also the biggest opening ever for a live-action Lopez film, and had numbers comparable to co-star Constance Wu’s hit “Crazy Rich Asians,” whose long-term box office success could be a model for “Hustlers.”

“This is exactly the kind of movie that every studio dreams of producing, because it’s going to be profitable, prestigious and a long-term performer,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore. “A lot of original type movies that are non-franchise non-sequels, many of them have had a rough go this year. This is a nice counter-balance to that.”

Based on a New York magazine piece, “Hustlers,” written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, tells the true story of a group of New York City strippers who, put out by the recession’s effects on their Wall Street patrons, start a side con that involves drugging their wealthy marks and running up exorbitant credit card bills that they get a cut of.

“We didn’t look at it as a stripper movie,” said STX Motion Picture Group Chairman Adam Fogelson. “We looked at it as a crime movie, not unlike something like ‘Wolf of Wall Street.’”

Even with its buzz, industry projections had the film making about $25 million over the weekend, but it appealed to an even wider audience than expected.

“It definitely skewed female as we always expected, but it was very diverse as far as ethnic groups, and it brought in a broad range of ages for an R-rated film,” Fogelson said.

And with its strong word-of-mouth and the forthcoming season of awards and end-of-year top 10 lists, it could keep bringing in the dollar bills for months.

“This is a movie that everyone is talking about,” Fogelson said.

“Angel Has Fallen,” starring Gerard Butler, was a distant third with $4.4 million, and has brought in $60.4 million in its four weeks of release.

The week’s other new release, “The Goldfinch,” landed with a thud, bringing in just $2.6 million. The adaptation of Donna Tartt’s acclaimed 2013 novel, starring Ansel Elgort, got reviews as dreary as those of “Hustlers” were strong.

“It: Chapter Two” was hardly a slouch, despite underperforming compared to the 2017 original. Bringing in more than $150 million in two weeks during usually-dead September is a rare achievement.

“It’s a massive number,” said Dergarabedian. “The ‘It’ franchise has now done over a billion dollars worldwide. That first film was really lightning in a bottle.”

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Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theatres, according to Comscore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. “It: Chapter Two,” $40.7 million ($47 million international).

2. “Hustlers,” $33.2 million ($4.5 million international).

3. “Angel Has Fallen,” $4.4 million ($4.9 million international).

4. “Good Boys,” $4.3 million ($1.8 million international).

5. “The Lion King,” $3.6 million ($6.9 million international).

6. “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw,” $2.8 million ($8.1 million international).

7. “Overcomer,” $2.7 million.

8. “The Goldfinch,” $2.6 million ($985,000 international).

9. “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” $1.9 million.

10. “Dora and the Lost City of Gold,” $1.85 million ($4.4 million international).

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Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theatres (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to Comscore:

1.”It: Chapter Two,” $47 million.

2.”Detective Conan: The Fist of Blue Sapphire,” $25.4 million.

3.”Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos,” $19 million.

4.”The Last Wish,” $18.7 million.

5.”The Legend of Hei,” $14.5 million.

6.”Downton Abbey,” $11.7 million.

7.”Tazza: One-Eyed Jacks,” $11 million.

8. “Ne Zha,” $9.9 million.

9.”Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” $8.4 million.

10.”Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw,” $8.1 million.

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Follow AP Entertainment Writer Andrew Dalton on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton.

Andrew Dalton, The Associated Press



Kanye West brings ‘Sunday Service’ to Georgia

LITHONIA, Ga. – Rapper Kanye West brought his collection of choir singers and musicians to an Atlanta-area megachurch for his religious popup performance called “Sunday Service.”

News outlets report West visited New Birth Missionary Baptist Church on Sunday drawing a large group of parishioners and celebrities including rappers T.I. and 2 Chainz.

The rapper’s wife, Kim Kardashian West, on the ABC daytime show “The View” said West’s “Sunday Services” is a musical ministry and Christian service that discusses Jesus and God.

The church’s Instagram stories show West performing “Father Stretch my Hands,” and a gospel set to the tune of Ginuwine’s “So Anxious.”

West’s popup group has made various appearances on Sundays since January including a stop in Dayton, Ohio at a benefit event supporting the community affected by the mass shooting .

The Associated Press