Mexico's suit against US gunmakers edges ahead

Seized weapons are seen at a Mexican military base in the border city of Tijuana before being destroyed

Mexico City (AFP) - The US federal court examining Mexico's lawsuit against top US arms manufacturers has set deadlines for the case's first proceedings, foreign ministry officials said Sunday.

Last week, the Massachusetts court approved the calendar proposed by the relevant parties.

"The defendant companies will have until November 22, 2021 to present their response to the Mexican lawsuit and oppose the legal defenses they deem pertinent," the ministry statement said. 

After that, the Mexican government will have until January 31, 2022 to respond and the defendant companies will have to present their response before February 28, 2022. 

The process is expected to conclude in the first half of next year. 

In early August, the Mexican government sued nine US gun manufacturers and two distributors -- including Smith & Wesson, Beretta, Colt, Glock, Century Arms, Ruger and Barrett -- for what it deemed a "negligent and illicit" trade that encourages drug trafficking and violence in its territory. 

The Mexican government maintains that between 70-90 percent of the weapons recovered at crime scenes in Mexico have been trafficked from the United States. 

The lawsuit, unprecedented in the countries' bilateral relationship, was accepted by the US justice about two weeks after it was filed.   

The litigation seeks compensation for the damage caused by the firms' alleged "negligent practices," as well as the implementation of adequate standards to "monitor and discipline" arms dealers.

Mexico, with a population of 126 million people, has been plagued by widespread deadly violence since December 2006, when the government of then-president Felipe Calderon launched a controversial military anti-drug operation. 

Since then, according to government figures, more than 300,000 people have been murdered in Mexico, the majority by firearms and in events related to drug trafficking. 

Mexico tightly controls weapons sales; they are practically impossible to access legally.

Deported Haitians angry after US sends them back to Port-au-Prince

In recent days, more than 15,000 Haitians crossed into the US country from Mexico and found themselves stranded for days in Texas under a bridge spanning the Rio Grande river, blocked from moving onwards

Port-au-Prince (AFP) - Migrant families sent back to Haiti by the United States after attempting to enter the country from Mexico are angry at their treatment and fearful of returning back home to a life punctuated by gang violence.

The deportation of Haitian migrants had been temporarily suspended by Washington after a devastating earthquake hit the Caribbean nation last month.

But in recent days, more than 15,000 Haitians crossed into the country from Mexico and found themselves stranded for days in Texas under a bridge spanning the Rio Grande river, blocked from moving onwards. 

Washington began sending back members of this group on Sunday, with three flights full of Haitian nationals landing in the capital Port-au-Prince after taking off from Texas hours earlier. 

"(US President Joe) Biden knows well what is happening, but he doesn't care," said one woman, tears streaming down her face as she described her time at a US migrant detention facility in Texas. 

"He treated us, us and our children, worse than animals," she said.

Fellow returnee Garry Momplaisir, who spent five days at the same facility, said that those held there had been forced to sleep on a concrete floor under thin plastic tarps.

"We weren't able to shower. There were toilets, but no space to bathe ourselves," the 26-year-old added, who was deported with his wife and their five-year-old daughter. 

As they waited for Haitian authorities to complete their re-entry paperwork, many of the returned migrants took the opportunity to give their children a basic wash. 

'No one can explain the horror'

According to flight manifests seen by AFP, nearly half of the 327 Haitians deported by the United States on Sunday are under five years old and were born abroad. 

Before arriving at the US-Mexico border, several of the Haitians had emigrated to Chile and Brazil in 2016 and 2017. 

"In Santiago, I had a small business, my husband worked. We were able to save money -- that's what allowed us to make the whole trip to the United States," said a 28-year-old woman, who identified herself only as Jeanne. 

She, her husband and their three-year-old son Mael, who has a Chilean passport, spent two months and $9,000 traveling through South and Central America and Mexico on their way to the United States along a route that human rights groups consider among the most dangerous in the world. 

"It's an inexplicable thing. No one can really explain the horror," Jeanne said. "If I had known what I was going to live through, I would have never made the trip," she said, tearing up. 

The family thought they would benefit from the extension of the Temporary Protected Status policy in the United States, which allowed Haitians to temporarily stay in the country regardless of their immigration status. 

But the rule, which offers protections to migrants whose home countries are dealing with catastrophes like natural disasters, only applied to Haitians already in the United States on July 29. 

Biden promised a more humane approach to immigration as compared to his predecessor Donald Trump, but the veteran Democrat has fought to stem the tide of migrants crossing the border since he took office in January.

"If I had been able to work, I never would have left (Haiti)," Jeanne, who emigrated in 2016, said. "But now the situation has worsened."

Jeanne, whose mother remains abroad, will live in a gang-controlled neighborhood on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince with her in-laws. 

"Imagine, some guys were able to enter the president's house and kill him in his room," Jeanne said, referring to the assassination of Haitian president Jovenel Moise in July.  

"And me? I can't be comfortable," she said. 

Haitian migrants' tortuous journey ends in Mexico limbo

Murat

Tapachula (Mexico) (AFP) - After weeks on the road, traversing mountains and jungles, risking assault and drowning, thousands of Haitian migrants hoping to reach the United States have instead found themselves stranded in Mexico.

Many embarked on the journey encouraged by family and friends already living the American dream -- but who often failed to mention the dangers that lay in wait.

Tens of thousands of migrants, including many Haitians previously living in South America, are stuck in the southern Mexican city of Tapachula, waiting for documents that would allow them to continue.

Those who tire of waiting or run out of money try crossing Mexico anyway, hoping not to be caught by the authorities and deported to Guatemala.

But when they reach the border with the United States, they find themselves trapped again.

Thousands of migrants, many of them Haitians, are now crowded under a bridge in Texas after crossing the Rio Grande river, hoping to be allowed into the country.

Despite the hardships, migrants keep pouring into southern Mexico from Guatemala.

Fleeing quake fallout

Every night, Murat "Dodo" Tilus wakes with an excruciating pain in his arm -- the result of a fall on a Colombian mountain on his way to the United States, where he hopes to join his brother.

He set off from Chile with his wife, daughter and two grandchildren on August 8, leaving a country that had welcomed him following the 2010 earthquake that left 200,000 dead in Haiti.

"My house collapsed (in the quake), my relatives died, then I decided with my wife to go to another country," the 49-year-old electrician told AFP.

But the "Chilean dream" began to fade in 2018 when the government imposed measures making life harder for migrants.

These days in Chile, "it's very difficult to get a work permit. Everything became more expensive, so people want to leave to look for a better life," he said.

He and his wife Rose Marie raised about $5,000 for the journey, setting off by bus.

After a month-long odyssey crossing 10 countries, they arrived in Tapachula.

Now they sleep in a room in a home that they share with four other Haitian families, while they wait for an appointment to process their refugee claim.

It is only thanks to money sent by Tilus's brother that they are not sleeping in the streets like some migrants.

The Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance is struggling with a backlog of requests for documents.

So far this year, it has arranged about 77,559 permits for migrants, compared with 70,400 for all of 2019.

Hundreds of migrants tried to cross Mexico on foot this month in caravans but were blocked by the Mexican authorities.

"I want to continue (to the United States) legally," Tilus said.

Perilous journey

Judith Joseph fled to Chile from Haiti in 2017 after one of her three children was murdered.

Despite suffering from ailments including diabetes and difficulty walking, the 43-year-old set off on July 10 and arrived in Tapachula nearly two months later with her other two children, Samuel and Cristelle.

The worst part of the journey was crossing the Darien Gap, an area of jungle between Colombia and Panama infested with armed gangs and drug traffickers.

They saw some migrants drown, while others lost their few belongings.

Life in Haiti, where his mother worked in a market, was equally difficult, said 11-year-old Samuel.

"There were mice in the kitchen at night. During the day there were always Haitian soldiers shooting outside the house," he said.

Now they share a room with others on the outskirts of Tapachula, while they wait for refugee status to continue a journey that Samuel wishes they had never begun.

"I didn't want to leave. I wanted to stay in Chile," he said.

In-person Emmys return as Netflix eyes TV's top prize with 'The Crown'

Leading streamer Netflix has never won best drama at the Emmys -- nor best comedy, nor best limited series

Los Angeles (AFP) - Television's top stars will gather in person for the first time in two years at Sunday's Emmys, where Netflix is tipped to finally win the small screen's biggest prize for "The Crown."

The critically adored British royals saga will battle for the best drama prize with "Star Wars" series "The Mandalorian" and others at a ceremony held outdoors with a limited live audience in downtown Los Angeles due to ongoing Covid-19 concerns.

Leading streamer Netflix has utterly transformed the TV landscape since creating its first original show in 2012, but surprisingly has never won a top series prize at television's equivalent of the Oscars -- best drama, best comedy, or best limited series.

"'The Crown' does feel like it finally has come to the moment where it's going to have its moment," Variety awards editor Clayton Davis told AFP. "It's going to be the first big series win for Netflix."

"The writing is on the wall. This is Netflix's year," wrote IndieWire's TV awards editor Libby Hill.

As well as "The Crown" -- which in its fourth season depicts the ill-fated marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana -- the streaming giant is banking on the wildly popular "The Queen's Gambit."

Starring Anya Taylor-Joy as a gifted but troubled chess prodigy, that show sent chessboard sales skyrocketing worldwide, and is the favorite to win top honors in the fiercely competitive limited series section -- for shows ending after one season.

Add in nominations from Regency romp "Bridgerton" to nature documentary "David Attenborough: A Life on our Planet" -- plus 34 Emmys won in technical categories announced ahead of Sunday's gala -- and Netflix could be eyeing an all-time record haul.

"What we're seeing is Netflix finally breaking through," Deadline columnist Pete Hammond told AFP.

"They've always done well with the nominations, but never the final tally."

Disney+ arrives

If anyone can ruin Netflix's party, it will likely be Disney+, the new kid on the TV streaming block in just its second year, bringing beloved big-screen characters from "Star Wars" and Marvel films to the Emmys party.

Baby Yoda and a digitally de-aged Luke Skywalker helped "The Mandalorian" jointly top the overall nominations count alongside rival drama "The Crown." 

An outside bet for best drama is "Pose" -- Billy Porter's LGBTQ-focused show exploring New York's 1980s underground ballroom culture has mounted a dazzling Emmys campaign for its final season.

In limited series competition, quirky sitcom-inspired Marvel superhero show "WandaVision" on Disney+ has exceeded all critical expectations.

The category also features Kate Winslet's small-town detective drama "Mare of Easttown," and British break-out series "I May Destroy You," which examines the aftermath of a rape -- both from traditional Emmys juggernaut HBO.

'Fun, ritzy party'

Last year's ceremony -- held before coronavirus vaccines were available -- was an entirely virtual affair, with comedian Jimmy Kimmel standing in a deserted downtown Los Angeles auditorium as winners beamed in via video.

This time, comedian Cedric the Entertainer takes on hosting duties, with a strict guest list of 500-odd nominees gathering under strict pandemic precautions including proof of inoculation.

"Making that level of celebrities ill is not on our agenda," Emmys producer Ian Stewart told Variety, nonetheless promising a "fun, ritzy party" for those who clear security. 

With the Delta variant still raging and international travel complicated, some overseas contenders including the cast of "The Crown" are expected to dial in from a London satellite hub.

The strategy echoes the approach adopted last year by the cast of "Schitt's Creek," who swept every comedy acting prize at the start of the Emmys ceremony as they beamed in from their base in Toronto.

This year, Apple TV+ phenomenon "Ted Lasso" is the comedy frontrunner, and Jason Sudeikis is a favorite for best actor for his work as an out-of-his-depth American football coach handed control of an English soccer team.

"I think the show will end up with another 'Schitt's Creek' kind of situation, where it wins everything in the first 45 minutes of the show," said Hammond.

Many A-list stars are expected to appear Sunday, but others such as "Friends: The Reunion" nominee Jennifer Aniston have decided to stay away for health reasons.

The slimmed-down audience capacity means some of those in contention will not even have invitations.

"It's going to look different," said Davis. "Hopefully, I just cross my fingers this is the last 'hybrid' show that we see.

"I'm really just hoping it's the last one. Because I'm done with them. And I think the rest of America are."

Ex-inmates decry worsening state of New York's 'hellhole' jail

Rikers is one of America's highest-profile prisons and has incarcerated celebrities from Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols, to rapper Tupac Shakur and former International Monetary Fund managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn

New York (AFP) - It's held disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein, rapper Tupac Shakur and ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn: New York's notorious Rikers Island prison is now under intense scrutiny over the deaths of at least nine inmates this year.

Officials who visited the high-profile jail this week, and former inmates spoken to by AFP, say conditions have worsened dramatically at the sprawling complex due to widespread staff shortages during the pandemic.

"It's the wild, wild West in there," said Johnny Perez, who was in and out of Rikers between 1996 and 2001 on robbery and gun possession charges.

Glenn Martin -- who spent three days in Rikers, where he was stabbed four times in an attack, after a shoplifting arrest as a 16-year-old in the late 1980s -- calls it a "hellhole." 

"It's described as a gladiator school for a reason," the 49-year-old told AFP, listing another of Rikers' monikers: "torture island." 

Marvin Mayfield, detained for a total of 22 months over two stretches in the 1980s and 2007 for burglary, said Rikers leaves "a stain on the soul of everyone" who goes there.

The jail, which opened in 1932 and also housed John Lennon killer Mark David Chapman and the Sex Pistols' Sid Vicious, has long had a reputation for being a hotbed of violence.

Incidents against inmates and guards have in part been blamed on its remote location in the East River between The Bronx and Queens boroughs.

But lawmakers and activists say the situation has spiraled out of control in recent months, with conditions becoming unsafe for both prisoners and officers.

They say basic sanitary needs are not being met and rates of self-harm are rising.

"What I witnessed was a humanitarian crisis. A horror house of abuse and neglect," said New York State assemblywoman Emily Gallagher, who visited this week. 

"There's garbage everywhere, rotting food with maggots, cockroaches, worms in the showers, human feces and piss," Gallagher tweeted, adding that broken limbs were not being treated.

New York City's department of corrections (DOC) says nine people have died at Rikers this year, up from seven last year and three in 2019. Local media has reported 10 deaths in 2021, at least five from suicide.

The DOC has been struggling with staffing for months; posts have been unattended with inmates left to fend for themselves.

Closure plans

Some 2,700 guards -- almost a third of the city's entire prison force -- are currently not working, some because of coronavirus which spread through US jails.

Prison officers unions say guards are overworked from triple shifts while others are recovering from the effects of Covid-19 and injuries inflicted by inmates.

They add that many are forced to stay away because conditions have become too dangerous, but officials say some are abusing an unlimited sick leave policy.

Mayor Bill de Blasio launched an emergency relief plan for Rikers this week, boosting staffing and implementing 30-day suspensions for officers who go AWOL.

The proposal included emergency contracting to repair broken doors and clean facilities.

On Friday, Governor Kathy Hochul announced the immediate release of 191 inmates to help temper what she called a "volatile" situation.

The number of inmates at Rikers has fallen from around 20,000 in the 1990s to almost 6,000 today.

The vast majority are awaiting trial. They are also overwhelmingly from Black and Hispanic communities.

Perez has made return visits for advocacy work and says the jail has not improved since his release.

"It's ten times as worse," he told AFP.

In June, the DOC launched initiatives to increase staffing and safety and says it is making "every effort" to improve conditions.

Lawyers and criminologists have been calling for the prison's closure for years, citing its age and reputation for violence.

It is due to close by 2026 under a $8.7-billion proposal by de Blasio to replace it with four smaller facilities. 

But he leaves office at the end of this year. Neither Perez, Martin nor Mayfield, all now justice reform campaigners, are confident it will shut. But they say it must.

"It's a cancer. It can't be fixed. It needs to be removed and cut out," said Mayfield, 59.

Fed expected to stay cautious as economy sends mixed signals

The Federal Reserve is closely watched, but it may not make big changes at its upcoming policy meeting

Washington (AFP) - With the United States on the upswing from the Covid-19 pandemic, the Federal Reserve is expected to weigh in next week on whether the economy is healthy enough to begin withdrawing stimulus measures credited with aiding the revival.

But the two-day meeting of the central bank's policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) beginning Tuesday ultimately may be a static event, like many others in recent months.

Analysts do not expect the Fed to immediately begin the much-expected slowing of its massive bond purchases, and while the committee will release updated economic forecasts, few big changes are expected from previous estimates released three months ago.

The FOMC "likes to prepare markets for any major change," said Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at RSM US. 

When he addresses the press after the meeting, Fed Chair Jerome Powell "may choose the opportunity to signal that the tapering is coming, which would likely be a November announcement with a December start," the economist said.

The Fed took several emergency measures starting in March 2020, acting quickly as the pandemic caused the world's largest economy to collapse.

In addition to slashing the benchmark lending rate to zero, the Fed began buying massive quantities of bonds and other securities to ease lending conditions and ensure the financial system would not seize up.

Powell has said the bank could begin drawing back on those purchases by the end of the year, but experts expect them to take their time.

"I think the tapering train left the station last meeting already," said Roberto Perli, founding partner and head of global policy research at Cornerstone Macro, who also expects the bank to begin slowing its purchases in the last two months of the year.

Better or worse?

The FOMC will convene as the economy sends mixed signals about two of the central bank's top priorities: employment and prices.

The United States added a disappointing 235,000 new jobs last month, though there were better employment gains in prior months as Americans returned to positions lost to Covid-19 business closures or found new ones.

"The Fed is never swayed by just one report, they look at the trend and the trend is still pretty good," Perli said. 

"I think they'll read the data and say we're still very much on a safe track. I don't think the data changes anything in their mind."

The rebounding economy has spurred a sharp uptick in inflation this year, but in August, the consumer price index grew at a slower pace than in prior months.

Analysts will closely examine the Fed's updated economics projections, particularly in light of the inflation spike and the Delta variant of Covid-19, which has added to uncertainty across the economy and harmed hiring and business operations.

"I'm expecting mostly a status quo statement with a downgrade to the forecast with respect to slower growth, and a slight upgrade to the forecast with respect to improved employment," Brusuelas predicted.

Favoring the doves

The meeting's most-scrutinized aspect will be tapering the Fed's monthly asset purchases, currently at least $80 billion in Treasury securities and $40 billion in agency mortgage‑backed securities.

However, should the economy take a turn for the worse, "The Fed can simply delay its announcement and the start of its tapering operations until later this year or more likely early 2022," Brusuelas said.

"In many ways, the evolution of the data is working in favor of the doves" who prefer lower rates and easy money policies, he added.

The Fed has said it will eventually lift the benchmark lending off zero, though it's unclear when central bankers will consider employment sufficiently healed after the pandemic caused more than 20 million job losses.

"If they're looking for 3.5 (percent unemployment) then they'll start raising rates again in 230 years," economist Joel Naroff quipped. 

"If they're looking for 4.5 (percent unemployment) and still declining then I think the end of next year is reasonable."

US Congress back for frantic autumn with Biden agenda at stake

The US Congress, pictured as the sun rises over Washington in March 2021, will see one of its busiest months in years

Washington (AFP) - US lawmakers will dive into the busiest legislative period in years in the coming week, with President Joe Biden counting on a united front from Democrats to pass make-or-break spending bills that he hopes will improve his sagging approval ratings. 

Facing stinging criticism over the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan and a stubbornly elevated pandemic death toll, Biden is banking on going into next year's midterm elections with historic economic reforms under his belt.

Avoiding a government shutdown is also at the top of the agenda, alongside dodging a catastrophic credit default, which may be the largest of the looming deadlines.

Build Back Better

Democrats are hoping to secure a sweeping $3.5 trillion social policy package through a process known as reconciliation, meaning the bill can pass with a simple majority in the evenly divided 100-member Senate. 

Without reconciliation, 60 votes would be needed in a procedural vote just to advance the legislation, which would require support from 10 Republicans.

The so-called "Build Back Better" package aims to tackle climate change, lower child care and education costs for working families, and create millions of jobs.

Biden said in a speech Thursday he was confident Congress would pass the plan, characterizing it as a moment that could "change the trajectory of our country for years or decades to come."

Republicans are unsurprisingly dismissing the proposals as an example of out-of-control tax-and-spend politics, but the real battle is playing out between moderate and progressive Democrats.

Worried about inflation and the national debt -- $28.8 trillion and rising -- centrist Democratic senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema oppose the high ticket price, although Manchin has indicated he may be open to a $1.5 trillion package. 

"We don't have the need to rush into this and get it done within one week because there's some deadline we're meeting or someone's going to fall through the cracks," Manchin, who represents West Virginia, told NBC. 

Senate budget chairman Bernie Sanders, backed by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, has drawn his own red line, telling CNN that any bill that falls below the $3.5 trillion total is "absolutely not acceptable to me."

Rebuffing misgivings about rising debt, House Democrats have circulated a plan to pay for Build Back Better through nearly $3 trillion in new taxes, mainly from wealthy Americans and corporations, on top of smaller reforms such as tougher tax enforcement.

Infrastructure

A $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill passed the Senate in August with the support of one-third of the 50 Republicans in addition to all 50 Democrats. 

Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised a vote by September 27 in the House of Representatives, where her party holds a razor-thin majority.

But here too, the real fight is internal, with Democratic progressives saying they won't vote for it until the larger reconciliation package is squared away.

Moderates won't vote for reconciliation without infrastructure, which they say would be an easy win demonstrating Biden's self-professed talent in bringing all sides together.

It is not clear how the debate will play out, but Hill watchers warn the process could take weeks or even months to complete.

The infrastructure bill includes $500 billion in new federal spending on roads, bridges, transportation, high-speed internet and climate change measures including a network of charging stations for electric cars. 

Debt ceiling and shutdown

The US debt ceiling must be suspended or raised soon in the coming weeks to avoid a default, which would trigger economic collapse and a worldwide financial meltdown.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned of "irreparable damage to the US economy" as soon as next month.

Democrats usually join with Republicans to suspend the debt limit and did so most recently in August 2019, under Donald Trump's administration.

Lawmakers will have to approve a new budget before October 1 to avoid a government shutdown -- when financing for federal agencies dries up and they can no longer function.

Democrats are also looking at attaching disaster aid for wildfires and floods to any legislation aimed at averting the shutdown, creating an incentive for lawmakers in disaster-hit Republican states to play ball. 

But Republicans are threatening to withhold their votes on any debt ceiling package.

They argue that Schumer, Pelosi and the White House should have addressed the debt limit in the Build Back Better package, because it doesn't require Republican support.

Republicans have suggested that Biden's policies have created the need for the debt limit increase. 

An analysis of Treasury Department data shows however that Republicans accrued $7.8 trillion in new debt during the Trump administration -- more than a quarter of the total -- in just four years.

The country has added a fraction of that -- around $600 billion -- since Biden's inauguration on January 20.

Emmy nominees in key categories

The Emmy Awards, the top honors in television, will be handed out in Los Angeles on September 19, 2021

Los Angeles (AFP) - Here is a list of the nominees in key categories for the 73rd Emmy Awards, which will be handed out in Los Angeles on Sunday.

Netflix's latest season of British royals drama "The Crown" and Star Wars television series "The Mandalorian" on Disney+ topped the list with 24 nods each.

OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES

"The Boys" (Prime Video)

"Bridgerton" (Netflix)

"The Crown" (Netflix)

"The Handmaid's Tale" (Hulu)

"Lovecraft Country" (HBO)

"The Mandalorian" (Disney +)

"Pose" (FX Networks)

"This is Us" (NBC)

OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES

"black-ish" (ABC)

"Cobra Kai" (Netflix)

"Emily in Paris" (Netflix)

"The Flight Attendant" (HBO Max)

"Hacks" (HBO Max)

"The Kominsky Method" (Netflix)

"PEN15" (Hulu)

"Ted Lasso" (Apple TV+)

LEAD ACTOR, DRAMA

Sterling K. Brown, "This is Us"

Jonathan Majors, "Lovecraft Country"

Josh O'Connor, "The Crown"

Rege-Jean Page, "Bridgerton"

Billy Porter, "Pose"

Matthew Rhys, "Perry Mason"

LEAD ACTRESS, DRAMA

Uzo Aduba, "In Treatment"

Olivia Colman, "The Crown"

Emma Corrin, "The Crown"

Elisabeth Moss, "The Handmaid's Tale"

Mj Rodriguez, "Pose"

Jurnee Smollett, "Lovecraft Country"

LEAD ACTOR, COMEDY

Anthony Anderson, "black-ish"

Michael Douglas, "The Kominsky Method"

William H. Macy, "Shameless"

Jason Sudeikis, "Ted Lasso"

Kenan Thompson, "Kenan"

LEAD ACTRESS, COMEDY

Aidy Bryant, "Shrill"

Kaley Cuoco, "The Flight Attendant"

Allison Janney, "Mom"

Tracee Ellis Ross, "black-ish"

Jean Smart, "Hacks"

SUPPORTING ACTOR, DRAMA

Giancarlo Esposito, "The Mandalorian"

O-T Fagbenle, "The Handmaid's Tale"

John Lithgow, "Perry Mason"

Tobias Menzies, "The Crown"

Max Minghella, "The Handmaid's Tale"

Chris Sullivan, "This Is Us"

Bradley Whitford, "The Handmaid's Tale"

Michael K. Williams, "Lovecraft Country"

SUPPORTING ACTRESS, DRAMA

Gillian Anderson, "The Crown"

Helena Bonham Carter, "The Crown"

Madeline Brewer, "The Handmaid's Tale"

Ann Dowd, "The Handmaid's Tale"

Aunjanue Ellis, "Lovecraft Country"

Emerald Fennell, "The Crown"

Yvonne Strahovski, "The Handmaid's Tale"

Samira Wiley, "The Handmaid's Tale"

SUPPORTING ACTOR, COMEDY

Carl Clemons-Hopkins, "Hacks"

Brett Goldstein, "Ted Lasso"

Brendan Hunt, "Ted Lasso"

Nick Mohammed, "Ted Lasso"

Paul Reiser, "The Kominsky Method"

Jeremy Swift, "Ted Lasso"

Kenan Thompson, "Saturday Night Live"

Bowen Yang, "Saturday Night Live"

SUPPORTING ACTRESS, COMEDY

Aidy Bryant, "Saturday Night Live"

Hannah Einbinder, "Hacks"

Kate McKinnon, "Saturday Night Live"

Rosie Perez, "The Flight Attendant"

Cecily Strong, "Saturday Night Live"

Juno Temple, "Ted Lasso"

Hannah Waddingham, "Ted Lasso"

OUTSTANDING LIMITED SERIES

"I May Destroy You" (HBO)

"Mare of Easttown" (HBO)

"The Queen's Gambit" (Netflix)

"The Underground Railroad" (Prime Video)

"WandaVision" (Disney+)

OUTSTANDING TELEVISION MOVIE

"Dolly Parton's Christmas On The Square" (Netflix)

"Oslo" (HBO)

"Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia" (Lifetime)

"Sylvie's Love" (Prime Video)

"Uncle Frank" (Prime Video)

LEAD ACTOR, LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE

Paul Bettany, "WandaVision"

Hugh Grant, "The Undoing"

Ewan McGregor, "Halston"

Lin-Manuel Miranda, "Hamilton"

Leslie Odom, Jr, "Hamilton"

LEAD ACTRESS, LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE

Michaela Coel, "I May Destroy You"

Cynthia Erivo, "Genius: Aretha"

Elizabeth Olsen, "WandaVision"

Anya Taylor-Joy, "The Queen's Gambit"

Kate Winslet, "Mare Of Easttown"

SUPPORTING ACTOR, LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE

Thomas Brodie-Sangster, "The Queen's Gambit"

Daveed Diggs, "Hamilton"

Paapa Essiedu, "I May Destroy You"

Jonathan Groff, "Hamilton"

Evan Peters, "Mare Of Easttown"

Anthony Ramos, "Hamilton"

SUPPORTING ACTRESS, LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE

Renee Elise Goldsberry, "Hamilton"

Kathryn Hahn, "WandaVision"

Moses Ingram, "The Queen's Gambit"

Julianne Nicholson, "Mare Of Easttown"

Jean Smart, "Mare Of Easttown"

Phillipa Soo, "Hamilton"

Top five programs with most overall nominations:

"The Crown" - 24

"The Mandalorian" - 24

"WandaVision" - 23 

"The Handmaid's Tale" - 21

"Saturday Night Live" - 21

"Ted Lasso" - 20

Australia shrugs off China anger on nuclear subs

The deal extends US nuclear submarine technology to Australia as well as cyber defence, applied artificial intelligence and undersea capabilities

Sydney (AFP) - Australia on Friday shrugged off Chinese anger over its decision to acquire US nuclear-powered submarines, while vowing to defend the rule of law in airspace and waters where Beijing has staked hotly contested claims.

US President Joe Biden announced the new Australia-US-Britain defence alliance on Wednesday, extending US nuclear submarine technology to Australia as well as cyber defence, applied artificial intelligence and undersea capabilities.

Beijing described the new alliance as an "extremely irresponsible" threat to regional stability, questioning Australia's commitment to nuclear non-proliferation and warning the Western allies that they risked "shooting themselves in the foot".

China has its own "very substantive programme of nuclear submarine building", Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison argued Friday in an interview with radio station 2GB.

"They have every right to take decisions in their national interests for their defence arrangements and of course so does Australia and all other countries," he said.

In a series of media interviews, the Australian leader said his government was reacting to changing dynamics in the Asia-Pacific region where territory is increasingly contested and competition is rising.

Australia is "very aware" of China's nuclear submarine capabilities and growing military investment, he told Channel Seven television.

"We are interested in ensuring that international waters are always international waters and international skies are international skies, and that the rule of law applies equally in all of these places," he said.

Australia wanted to ensure that there were no "no-go zones" in areas governed by international law, the prime minister said.

"That's very important whether it is for trade, whether it is for things like undersea cables, for planes and where they can fly. I mean that is the order that we need to preserve. That is what peace and stability provides for and that is what we are seeking to achieve."

'Stab in the back'

The Australian move also infuriated France, aghast at losing a contract to supply conventional submarines to Australia that was worth Aus$50 billion (31 billion euros, $36.5 billion) when signed in 2016.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said it was a "stab in the back" from Australia.

But the main backdrop to the alliance is China's rise.

China claims almost all of the resource-rich South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars in shipping trade passes annually, rejecting competing claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Beijing has been accused of deploying a range of military hardware including anti-ship missiles and surface-to-air missiles there, and ignored a 2016 international tribunal decision that declared its historical claim over most of the waters to be without basis.

China has also imposed tough trade sanctions on a range of Australian products, widely seen in Australia as a reaction to Canberra's opposition to Chinese investment in sensitive areas and to its questioning of the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

'The forever partnership'

Morrison said the new defence alliance, prepared in 18 months of discussions with the United States and Britain, will be permanent.

"It involves a very significant commitment not just today but forever. That is why I refer to it as the forever partnership. It is one that will see Australia kept secure and safe into the future," he said.

Australia's defence spending will rise, Morrison said, as the new alliance also requires greater investment in cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and undersea capabilities.

Morrison told Australian media that the defence alliance had been "well received" in his discussions so far with leaders in Japan, India, Singapore, New Zealand, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea. 

Indonesia's government said it took note "cautiously" of the agreement. "Indonesia is deeply concerned over the continuing arms race and power projection in the region," the foreign ministry added in a statement.

Speaking during a visit to Washington for talks with his US counterparts, Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton was even more dismissive of the reaction by some Chinese officials and government-backed media to the deal, describing it as "counterproductive and immature and frankly embarrassing".  

Dutton said Australia was willing to host more US Marines on rotation through the northern city of Darwin and wanted to see air capability enhanced.

US to charge ex-Boeing pilot over 737 MAX crashes: report

Boeing's 737 MAX was grounded for 20 months following two deadly crashes that killed hundreds

New York (AFP) - Federal prosecutors are preparing to indict a former Boeing test pilot suspected of misleading aviation regulators over the safety issues blamed for two fatal 737 MAX crashes, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. 

Mark Forkner was the lead contact between the aviation giant and the United States' Federal Aviation Administration over how pilots should be trained to fly the planes, the Journal said.

According to documents published in early 2020, Forkner withheld details about the planes' faulty flight handling system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS -- later blamed for both crashes -- from regulators.

The 737 MAX was formally certified in March 2017, but was grounded worldwide for 20 months following two crashes in October 2018 and March 2019 that killed 346 people.

The MAX was allowed to fly again at the end of 2020, once the MCAS software was modified.

Boeing has acknowledged its responsibility in misleading regulators and agreed to pay more than $2.5 billion dollars to settle certain lawsuits.

Neither the US Justice Department nor Forkner's lawyer responded to requests for comment.

The Wall Street Journal said it was not clear what charges Forkner would face.

Here are the Emmy nominees in key categories

The Emmy Awards, the top honors in television, will be handed out in Los Angeles on September 19, 2021

Los Angeles (AFP) - Here is a list of the nominees in key categories for the 73rd Emmy Awards, which will be handed out in Los Angeles on Sunday.

Netflix's latest season of British royals drama "The Crown" and Star Wars television series "The Mandalorian" on Disney+ topped the list with 24 nods each.

OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES

"The Boys" (Prime Video)

"Bridgerton" (Netflix)

"The Crown" (Netflix)

"The Handmaid's Tale" (Hulu)

"Lovecraft Country" (HBO)

"The Mandalorian" (Disney +)

"Pose" (FX Networks)

"This is Us" (NBC)

OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES

"black-ish" (ABC)

"Cobra Kai" (Netflix)

"Emily in Paris" (Netflix)

"The Flight Attendant" (HBO Max)

"Hacks" (HBO Max)

"The Kominsky Method" (Netflix)

"PEN15" (Hulu)

"Ted Lasso" (Apple TV+)

LEAD ACTOR, DRAMA

Sterling K. Brown, "This is Us"

Jonathan Majors, "Lovecraft Country"

Josh O'Connor, "The Crown"

Rege-Jean Page, "Bridgerton"

Billy Porter, "Pose"

Matthew Rhys, "Perry Mason"

LEAD ACTRESS, DRAMA

Uzo Aduba, "In Treatment"

Olivia Colman, "The Crown"

Emma Corrin, "The Crown"

Elisabeth Moss, "The Handmaid's Tale"

Mj Rodriguez, "Pose"

Jurnee Smollett, "Lovecraft Country"

LEAD ACTOR, COMEDY

Anthony Anderson, "black-ish"

Michael Douglas, "The Kominsky Method"

William H. Macy, "Shameless"

Jason Sudeikis, "Ted Lasso"

Kenan Thompson, "Kenan"

LEAD ACTRESS, COMEDY

Aidy Bryant, "Shrill"

Kaley Cuoco, "The Flight Attendant"

Allison Janney, "Mom"

Tracee Ellis Ross, "black-ish"

Jean Smart, "Hacks"

SUPPORTING ACTOR, DRAMA

Giancarlo Esposito, "The Mandalorian"

O-T Fagbenle, "The Handmaid's Tale"

John Lithgow, "Perry Mason"

Tobias Menzies, "The Crown"

Max Minghella, "The Handmaid's Tale"

Chris Sullivan, "This Is Us"

Bradley Whitford, "The Handmaid's Tale"

Michael K. Williams, "Lovecraft Country"

SUPPORTING ACTRESS, DRAMA

Gillian Anderson, "The Crown"

Helena Bonham Carter, "The Crown"

Madeline Brewer, "The Handmaid's Tale"

Ann Dowd, "The Handmaid's Tale"

Aunjanue Ellis, "Lovecraft Country"

Emerald Fennell, "The Crown"

Yvonne Strahovski, "The Handmaid's Tale"

Samira Wiley, "The Handmaid's Tale"

SUPPORTING ACTOR, COMEDY

Carl Clemons-Hopkins, "Hacks"

Brett Goldstein, "Ted Lasso"

Brendan Hunt, "Ted Lasso"

Nick Mohammed, "Ted Lasso"

Paul Reiser, "The Kominsky Method"

Jeremy Swift, "Ted Lasso"

Kenan Thompson, "Saturday Night Live"

Bowen Yang, "Saturday Night Live"

SUPPORTING ACTRESS, COMEDY

Aidy Bryant, "Saturday Night Live"

Hannah Einbinder, "Hacks"

Kate McKinnon, "Saturday Night Live"

Rosie Perez, "The Flight Attendant"

Cecily Strong, "Saturday Night Live"

Juno Temple, "Ted Lasso"

Hannah Waddingham, "Ted Lasso"

OUTSTANDING LIMITED SERIES

"I May Destroy You" (HBO)

"Mare of Easttown" (HBO)

"The Queen's Gambit" (Netflix)

"The Underground Railroad" (Prime Video)

"WandaVision" (Disney+)

OUTSTANDING TELEVISION MOVIE

"Dolly Parton's Christmas On The Square" (Netflix)

"Oslo" (HBO)

"Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia" (Lifetime)

"Sylvie's Love" (Prime Video)

"Uncle Frank" (Prime Video)

LEAD ACTOR, LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE

Paul Bettany, "WandaVision"

Hugh Grant, "The Undoing"

Ewan McGregor, "Halston"

Lin-Manuel Miranda, "Hamilton"

Leslie Odom, Jr, "Hamilton"

LEAD ACTRESS, LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE

Michaela Coel, "I May Destroy You"

Cynthia Erivo, "Genius: Aretha"

Elizabeth Olsen, "WandaVision"

Anya Taylor-Joy, "The Queen's Gambit"

Kate Winslet, "Mare Of Easttown"

SUPPORTING ACTOR, LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE

Thomas Brodie-Sangster, "The Queen's Gambit"

Daveed Diggs, "Hamilton"

Paapa Essiedu, "I May Destroy You"

Jonathan Groff, "Hamilton"

Evan Peters, "Mare Of Easttown"

Anthony Ramos, "Hamilton"

SUPPORTING ACTRESS, LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE

Renee Elise Goldsberry, "Hamilton"

Kathryn Hahn, "WandaVision"

Moses Ingram, "The Queen's Gambit"

Julianne Nicholson, "Mare Of Easttown"

Jean Smart, "Mare Of Easttown"

Phillipa Soo, "Hamilton"

Top five programs with most overall nominations:

"The Crown" - 24

"The Mandalorian" - 24

"WandaVision" - 23 

"The Handmaid's Tale" - 21

"Saturday Night Live" - 21

"Ted Lasso" - 20

Giant sequoias wrapped in foil to protect from US forest fires

The giant sequoias of California are some of the biggest trees in the world, and a popular draw for tourists

Los Angeles (AFP) - The world's biggest trees were being wrapped in fire-proof blankets Thursday in an effort to protect them from huge blazes tearing through the drought-stricken western United States.

A grove of ancient sequoias, including the 275-foot (83-meter) General Sherman Tree -- the largest in the world -- were getting aluminum cladding to fend off the flames.

Firefighters were also clearing brush and pre-positioning engines among the 2,000 ancient trees in California's Sequoia National Park, incident commanders said.

"They are taking extraordinary measures to protect these trees," said park resource manager Christy Brigham, according to The Mercury News.

"We just really want to do everything we can to protect these 2,000- and 3,000-year-old trees."

Millions of acres (hundreds of thousands of hectares) of California's forests have burned in this year's ferocious fire season.

Scientists say man-made global warming is behind the yearslong drought and rising temperatures that have left the region highly vulnerable to wildfires.

On Thursday, two fires were looming down on the park's Giant Forest, home to five of the world's largest trees, including the General Sherman.

Around 500 personnel were engaged in battling the Paradise Fire and the Colony Fire, which together have already consumed 9,365 acres of woodland since they erupted from lightning strikes on September 10.

The enormous trees of the Giant Forest are a huge tourist draw, with visitors travelling from all over the world to marvel at their imposing height and extraordinary girth.

While not the tallest trees -- California redwoods can grow to more than 300 feet -- the giant sequoias are the largest by volume.

Smaller fires generally do not harm the sequoias, which are protected by a thick bark, and actually help them to reproduce; the heat they generate opens cones to release seeds.

But the larger, hotter blazes that are laying waste to the western United States are dangerous to them because they climb higher up the trunks and into the canopy.

US reality show 'The Activist' backtracks after uproar

Indian actress Priyanka Chopra, who had been one of the hosts of

Washington (AFP) - Creators of a new reality show pitting activists promoting charitable causes against each other were forced to change course following a massive backlash, with a top star apologizing Thursday for her participation.

"The Activist," whose launch was announced this week, was to be broadcast on American network CBS in October and co-produced by non-governmental organization Global Citizen, with celebrity hosts such as the singer Usher, actress Priyanka Chopra and dancer Julianne Hough.

But no sooner had they unveiled plans for the "groundbreaking" programming they insisted would inspire real change, the producers announced they were dramatically reformatting the show, jettisoning the competitive activism-themed contests and switching to a one-time documentary rather than a multi-episode series.

"We got it wrong," Global Citizen said in an online apology. "Global activism centers on collaboration and cooperation, not competition."

CBS had said the audience of the original show would follow the adventures of "six activists from around the world working to bring meaningful change to one of three urgent universal causes: health, education and the environment."

The finale was to take place at the Group of 20 summit of world leaders in Rome in late October.

But CBS said they recognized that format "distracts from the vital work these incredible activists do in their communities every day," and that the concept would be reimagined into a non-competitive prime-time special.

"I have been moved by the power of your voices over the past week," Chopra told her 27 million Twitter followers Thursday.

"The show got it wrong, and I'm sorry that my participation in it disappointed many of you."

Hough, posting on Instagram, said she recognized that for some the show idea "felt like the Oppression Olympics" and disrespected activists who have faced abuse -- or even have been killed -- fighting for their causes.

"The judging aspect of the show missed the mark," she said.

Russia whines about vaccine mandate for UN General Assembly

All leaders and diplomats attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week will have to provide proof of vaccination, the city government said Wednesday, sparking anger from Russia.

Delegates must be vaccinated to enter the debate hall, the mayor's office told the assembly president in a letter dated September 9, but Moscow queried whether New York had the authority to enforce the mandate.

Attendees must also be vaccinated if they want to eat or exercise indoors, the letter added.

More than one hundred leaders including US President Joe Biden, Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have announced they plan to attend in person.

Others will make an address via videolink.

Bolsonaro, who had the virus last year, has said he would be the "last Brazilian" to get vaccinated.

His office did not immediately respond to requests for comment from AFP regarding the New York announcement.

New York began enforcing a vaccine mandate on Monday, requiring proof of at least one shot for many indoor activities, including restaurants and entertainment venues.

The letter signed by New York City's health commissioner and confirmed by his spokesman said the UN debate hall was classified as a "convention center," meaning all attendees must be vaccinated.

"They must also show proof of vaccination prior to dining, drinking or exercising indoors on the UN campus, and in order to partake in all of New York City's wonderful entertainment, dining and fitness activities," he said.

'Clearly discriminatory measure'

But Russia's ambassador requested an urgent meeting of the General Assembly to discuss the move.

Vassily Nebenzia wrote to assembly president Abdulla Shahid Wednesday saying he had been "very much surprised and disappointed" by a letter Shahid wrote to members in which he supported the proof of vaccination requirement.

"We strongly object that only people with a proof of vaccination should be admitted to the GA hall," Nebenzia wrote in the letter seen by AFP.

He described it as "a clearly discriminatory measure," adding that preventing delegates to access the hall was a "clear violation of the UN charter."

New York accepts all vaccines that have been approved by either the World Health Organization or America's federal Food and Drug Administration.

Nebenzia said the "rights of people who have received vaccines that are not approved by the CDC" must also be taken into consideration.

He added that the agreement between the United States and the UN over the world body's headquarters prohibited US actors from regulating the running of the UN.

The city's letter also reminded diplomats that New York state requires everyone to wear masks on public transport.

"New York City strongly encourages universal mask use indoors regardless of vaccination status," the note added.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement that the city would set up a pop-up vaccination site at the UN headquarters next week offering free single-dose Johnson & Johnson shots.

The high-level week of the 76th session of the General Assembly starts on Tuesday and finishes the following Monday.

It will be a combined in-person and remote event after last year's UNGA took place virtually because of the pandemic.

Dozens and sometimes hundreds of people usually accompany leaders on foreign trips but because of coronavirus each delegation is only allowed seven people into the UN headquarters and only four into the hall.

Shots for shots: Los Angeles bars to require Covid vaccines

Drinkers in Los Angeles will from October 2021 have to show proof of vaccination if they want to enter a bar like this one

Los Angeles (AFP) - Drinkers in Los Angeles will need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 starting next month, authorities said Wednesday, as mandates spread across the United States.

Bars and nightclubs in Los Angeles county will be required to check that patrons have had the shot, the health department said, in the same way they demand proof of age.

The county, home to around 10 million people, joins New York City in making jabs compulsory for swathes of the entertainment industry, in a country that has not yet fully embraced the life-saving vaccines.

"This is a reasonable path forward that could position us to be better able to break the cycle of the surges," said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

The order will also require anyone at an outdoor event with more than 10,000 people either to be vaccinated or to show a negative test result.

The requirement will include sporting events -- such as at baseball and American football games -- as well as at theme parks like Universal Studios Hollywood.

Masks are already mandatory in most indoor public settings in LA County, and some outdoor ones.

San Francisco announced last month that proof of vaccination would be required for indoor dining and entertainment venues, while party city New Orleans soon followed suit.

Vaccinations and other Covid-19 mitigation strategies are a controversial topic in the United States, with a small but vocal minority fiercely opposed.

Scientists say vaccinations are highly effective at preventing the worst effects of the coronavirus, as well as helping to slow transmission, including of the infectious Delta variant that is tearing through the US.

Despite the ready availability of free and safe vaccines throughout the country, only 54 percent of Americans are fully protected.

Californians resoundingly endorsed Governor Gavin Newsome in a recall election Tuesday, after Republicans had tried to unseat him in part because of his robust response to the coronavirus, which they claimed was overreach.

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