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‘Best Actor’: Dutch film awards go gender-neutral
19 August 2021, 1:05 PM

The main movie awards in the Netherlands will form this year only single out the best acting performance in a leading and supporting role, instead of handing out separate prizes to male and female actors.

The move is meant to make the Golden Calf awards – named after the small golden statues presented to winners – more inclusive, organisers said on Thursday.

“We want to unite all makers, regardless of their background or gender,” said Jenny Booms, director of the Dutch Academy for Film. “The awards, in the end, are about craftsmanship.”

Improving gender equality in film has been a topic of discussion for years, as awards and major festivals have come under scrutiny over the low number of women directors in the running for top awards.

In 2017, the MTV Movie and TV Awards introduced gender-neutral acting awards, but important prizes such as the Academy and Emmy Awards still separate acting performances by men and women.

The Dutch actors association ACT said it welcomed the move, which it said could help make the awards more inclusive and would promote diversity.

The Golden Calves have been awarded annually since 1981 for the best Dutch film and the best Dutch director and actors of the past year.

Former winners include director Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instinct, Total Recall), and actors Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner) and Carice van Houten (Game of Thrones).

Already crowned ‘the greatest’, Felix takes a victory lap
19 August 2021, 12:37 PM

Allyson Felix isn’t done just yet.

Just two weeks after she picked up gold in the 4X400m relay in Tokyo, her second of two medals from the 2020 Games to become the most decorated woman in track and field history, the 35-year-old American is returning to the track.

But after the pressure of competing in her fifth and final Games – and all of the expectations that came with them – Felix told Reuters the quick pivot to compete in Saturday’s Prefontaine Classic is hardly a burden.

“For me it’s a lot of fun,” said Felix, who will race in her favourite event – the 200 metres – at Eugene, Orgeon’s Hayward Field, where she made a tearful farewell appearance at her final US team trials earlier this summer.

“I really just want to be able to compete again and see the fans and do that. I think that the weight of trials and what that all means, I think that was just a bit heavier.”

For the 11-time Olympic medallist and 13-time World Champion, a bit of fun is long overdue.

After giving birth to her daughter, Camryn, via an emergency C-section in 2018, she became an advocate for working mothers, penning an opinion piece in the New York Times in which she said she faced pay cuts from sponsors including Nike after having her child.

“Becoming a mother inspired me in a whole new way, but also, you know when I spoke out and hearing from women all across industries (who had) just a shared experience,” said Felix. “Knowing your story is not done, that you still have so much more to offer. I felt like I carried that with me to Tokyo.”

In Tokyo, she was wearing shoes from her own “Saysh” line, launched this year.

“To build Saysh during a pandemic was really challenging,” said Felix. “It was my proudest moment at the Olympics to be able to compete in my own shoes.”

The challenges of the pandemic extended onto the track as well.

Like other athletes, Felix had a gruelling, year-long wait for Tokyo, training under COVID-19 restrictions and undergoing testing detailed in the mini-documentary series “BD On Location.”

She was tested for COVID-19 so many times that she lost count.

“My daughter, she’s taken a number of tests as well, just with things that she’s done and it’s just so interesting how we adapt,” said Felix. “I saw her the other day, she was giving her doll a COVID test.”

As for her post-competition life, she is ready to tackle a new challenge: skiing lessons so she can finally join the rest of her family on their annual holiday trip to Vail.

“I’m always at the bottom of the hill like waiting for everybody to come back,” said Felix. “There’s just been so many sacrifices.”

Woman who says R. Kelly sexually abused her when she was 16 to resume testimony
19 August 2021, 12:22 PM

A woman who says R. Kelly demanded she calls him “Daddy” when she was 16 and choked her until she passed out is expected to retake the witness stand on Thursday in Brooklyn federal court, on the second day of the R&B’s singer’s sex abuse trial.

Jerhonda Pace, 28, is one of six women and girls, whom prosecutors say R. Kelly dominated and demanded absolute fealty from in a two-decade racketeering scheme where he recruited and abused his victims. They include the late singer Aaliyah, who was 15 when she married Kelly.

In an opening statement on Wednesday, Assistant US Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez told a jury that Kelly used “lies, manipulation, threats and physical abuse” to control his victims, and often filmed their sexual encounters.

Kelly, a three-time Grammy winner whose songs include “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Bump N’ Grind,” has pleaded not guilty to a nine-count indictment that includes accusations of bribery and extortion.

The trial is the culmination of years of suspicions and accusations against Kelly, many discussed in the 2019 Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” and nearly four years after the start of the #MeToo era.

Known as Jane Doe No. 4 in the indictment, Pace testified on Wednesday that Kelly knew she was 16 when they had intercourse because she had shown him identification, but he told her to pretend she was 19.

Once a fan, Pace said Kelly began mistreating her, demanding that she call him “Daddy” and making her ask permission to go to the bathroom. She said the relationship ended after R. Kelly choked her until she passed out.

Kelly’s defense team, which will get a chance to question Pace, said on Wednesday the government’s case had “gaps,” and that Kelly’s accusers wanted to get back at him after their relationships ended.

Prosecutors say Kelly used an entourage of managers, bodyguards and others to recruit victims, and threatened to blackmail them if they fled.

Other female accusers and at least one male accuser are expected to testify for the government, some using only their first names.

Kelly was acquitted of child pornography charges at a 2008 trial in Illinois.

Kelly could face decades in prison if convicted.

Several killed amid firing by Taliban and stampede during rally in Afghan city: witness
19 August 2021, 12:12 PM

Several people were killed on Thursday in the Afghan city of Asadabad when Taliban fighters fired on people waving the national flag at an Independence Day rally, a witness said, a day after three people were killed in a similar protest.

The protests by people waving the Afghan flag, in some cases after tearing down white Taliban flags according to media, are the first signs of popular opposition to the Taliban since their stunning advance across the country and capture of the capital, Kabul, on Sunday.

It was unclear if the casualties in Asadabad resulted from the firing or from the stampede that it triggered, witness Mohammed Salim said from the eastern city, the capital of Kunar province.

“Hundreds of people came out on the streets,” Salim said. “At first I was scared and didn’t want to go but when I saw one of my neighbours joined in I took out the flag I have at home.”

“Several people were killed and injured in the stampede and firing by the Taliban.”

A Taliban spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

There were also protests but no reports of serious violence in the eastern city of Jalalabad and a district of Paktia province, media reported.

Afghanistan celebrates its 1919 independence from British control on August 19.

On Wednesday, Taliban fighters fired at protesters waving the black, red and green national flag in Jalalabad, killing three, witnesses and media reported.

Media reported similar scenes in Asadabad and another eastern city, Khost, on Wednesday with protesters in some places tearing down the white Islamic banner of the Taliban.

First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who is trying to rally opposition to the Taliban, expressed support for the protests.

“Salute those who carry the national flag and thus stand for dignity of the nation,” he said on Twitter.

Saleh said on Tuesday he was in Afghanistan and the “legitimate caretaker president” after President Ashraf Ghani fled as the Taliban took Kabul.

CALL FOR END TO AIRPORT CROWDS

The crackdown on protests will raise new doubts about Taliban assurances they have changed since their 1996-2001 rule when they severely restricted women, staged public executions and blew up ancient Buddhist statues.

They now say they want peace, will not take revenge against old enemies and would respect the rights of women within the framework of Islamic law.

While Kabul has been generally calm since Taliban forces entered on Sunday, the airport has been in chaos as people rushed for a way out of the country.

Twelve people have been killed in and around the airport since then, a NATO and a Taliban official said. The deaths were caused either by gun shots or by stampedes, the Taliban official said.

He urged people who do not have the legal right to travel to go home. “We don’t want to hurt anyone at the airport,” said the Taliban official, who declined to be identified.

The United States and other Western powers pressed on with the evacuation of their nationals and some of their Afghan staff from the capital’s airport, from where about 8 000 people have been flown out since Sunday, a Western security official said.

Under a pact negotiated last year by former President Donald Trump’s administration, the United States agreed to withdraw its forces in exchange for a Taliban guarantee they would not let Afghanistan be used to launch terrorist attacks.

The Taliban also agreed not to attack foreign forces as they left.

President Joe Biden said US forces would remain until the evacuation of Americans was finished, even if that meant staying past an August 31 US deadline for withdrawal.

UK says military operation established to evacuate British nationals from Afghanistan
13 August 2021, 9:42 PM

The British government on Friday said a military operation has been established to support the evacuation of British nationals from Afghanistan.

“Operation Pitting, the military support to the drawdown of British nationals and entitled personnel has commenced in Afghanistan. This may also include the use of RAF (Royal Air Force) aircraft if required”, Britain’s defence ministry said in a statement.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed to the use of military support for the next phase of drawing down British nationals from Afghanistan and Home Office officials will be travelling there to support the increase in processing.

UN chief calls for immediate halt to Taliban offensive

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday called on the Taliban to immediately halt their offensive in Afghanistan, warning that “Afghanistan is spinning out of control.”

“The message from the international community to those on the warpath must be clear: seizing power through military force is a losing proposition. That can only lead to prolonged civil war or to the complete isolation of Afghanistan,” Guterres told reporters.

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