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Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are suing Meta Platforms Inc, formerly known as Facebook, for $150 billion over allegations that the social media company did not take action against anti-Rohingya hate speech that contributed to violence. 

A U.S. class-action complaint, filed in California on Monday by law firms Edelson PC and Fields PLLC, argues that the company’s failures to police content and its platform’s design contributed to real-world violence faced by the Rohingya community. In a coordinated action, British lawyers also submitted a letter of notice to Facebook’s London office. 

Facebook did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment about the lawsuit. The company has said it was “too slow to prevent misinformation and hate” in Myanmar and has said it has since taken steps to crack down on platform abuses in the region, including banning the military from Facebook and Instagram after the February 1 coup. 

Facebook has said it is protected from liability over content posted by users by a U.S. internet law known as Section 230, which holds that online platforms are not liable for content posted by third parties. The complaint says it seeks to apply Burmese law to the claims if Section 230 is raised as a defense. 

Although U.S. courts can apply foreign law to cases where the alleged harms and activity by companies took place in other countries, two legal experts interviewed by Reuters said they did not know of a successful precedent for foreign law being invoked in lawsuits against social media companies where Section 230 protections could apply. 

Anupam Chander, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, said that invoking Burmese law wasn’t “inappropriate.” But he predicted that “It’s unlikely to be successful,” saying that “It would be odd for Congress to have foreclosed actions under U.S. law but permitted them to proceed under foreign law.” 

More than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August 2017 after a military crackdown that refugees said included mass killings and rape. Rights groups documented killings of civilians and burning of villages. 

Myanmar authorities say they were battling an insurgency and deny carrying out systematic atrocities. 

In 2018, U.N. human rights investigators said the use of Facebook had played a key role in spreading hate speech that fueled the violence. A Reuters investigation hat year, cited in the U.S. complaint, found more than 1,000 examples of posts, comments and images attacking the Rohingya and other Muslims on Facebook. 

The International Criminal Court has opened a case into the accusations of crimes in the region. In September, a U.S. federal judge ordered Facebook to release records of accounts connected to anti-Rohingya violence in Myanmar that the social media giant had shut down. 

The new class-action lawsuit references claims by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, who leaked a cache  of internal documents this year, that the company does not police abusive content in countries where such speech is likely to cause the most harm. 

The complaint also cites recent media reports, including a Reuters report last month, that Myanmar’s military was using fake social media accounts to engage in what is widely referred to in the military as “information combat.” 

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In the shadows of the coronavirus pandemic, violence against women has been on the rise around the world, including in South Africa, where half of the country’s women report at least one incident of violence in their lifetime. Now, a local tech company has developed an alarm system to help stop the abuse. For VOA, Linda Givetash reports from Johannesburg. Camera – Zaheer Cassim.

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Allyship, an old noun made new again, is Dictionary.com’s word of the year. 

The look up site with 70 million monthly users took the unusual step of anointing a word it added just last month, though “allyship” first surfaced in the mid-1800s, said one of the company’s content overseers, John Kelly. 

“It might be a surprising choice for some,” he told The Associated Press ahead of Tuesday’s unveiling. “In the past few decades, the term has evolved to take on a more nuanced and specific meaning. It is continuing to evolve and we saw that in many ways.” 

The site offers two definitions for allyship: The role of a person who advocates for inclusion of a “marginalized or politicized group” in solidarity but not as a member, and the more traditional relationship of “persons, groups or nations associating and cooperating with one another for a common cause or purpose.” 

The word is set apart from “alliance,” which Dictionary.com defines in one sense as a “merging of efforts or interests by persons, families, states or organizations.” 

It’s the first definition that took off most recently in the mid-2000s and has continued to churn.  

Following the summer of 2020 and the death of George Floyd, white allies — and the word allyship — proliferated as racial justice demonstrations spread. Before that, straight allies joined the causes of LGBTQ oppression, discrimination and marginalization. 

“This year, we saw a lot of businesses and organizations very prominently, publicly, beginning efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion. Allyship is tied to that. In the classroom, there is a flashpoint around the term critical race theory. Allyship connects with this as well,” Kelly said. 

In addition, teachers, frontline workers and mothers who juggled jobs, home duties and child care in lockdown gained allies as the pandemic took hold last year. 

Without an entry for “allyship,” Kelly said the site saw a steep rise in lookups for “ally” in 2020 and large spikes in 2021. It was in the top 850 searches out of thousands and thousands of words this year. Dictionary.com broadened the definition of “ally” to include the more nuanced meaning. The terms “DEI” and “critical race theory” made their debuts as entries on the site with “allyship” this year. 

What it means to be an authentic ally has taken on fresh significance as buzz around the word has grown louder. One of the aspects of allyship, as it has emerged, is how badly it can go. 

Among the examples of how to use the word in a sentence cited by Merriam-Webster is this one written by Native activist Hallie Sebastian: “Poor allyship is speaking over marginalized people by taking credit and receiving recognition for arguments that the unprivileged have been making for their entire lives.” 

As global diversity, equity and inclusion executive Sheree Atcheson wrote in Forbes, allyship is a “lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency and accountability with marginalized individuals and/or groups of people.” It’s not, she said, “self-defined — work and efforts must be recognized by those you are seeking to ally with.” 

Allyship should be an “opportunity to grow and learn about ourselves, whilst building confidence in others,” Atcheson added. 

Among the earliest evidence of the word “allyship,” in its original sense of “alliance,” is the 1849, two-volume work, “The Lord of the Manor, or, Lights and Shades of Country Life” by British novelist Thomas Hall: “Under these considerations, it is possible, he might have heard of Miss Clough’s allyship with the Lady Bourgoin.” 

Kelly did some additional digging into the history of allyship in its social justice sense. While the Oxford English Dictionary dates that use of the word to the 1970s, Kelly found a text, “The Allies of the Negro” by Albert W. Hamilton, published in 1943. It discusses extensively the potential allies of Black people in the struggle for racial equality: 

“What some white liberals are beginning to realize is that they better begin to seek the Negro as an ally,” he wrote. “The new way of life sought by the liberal will be a sham without the racial equality the Negro seeks. And the inclusion of the Negro in the day-to-day work, in the organization, the leadership and the rallying of the support necessary to win a better world, can only be done on the basis of equality.” 

On the other side of allyship, Kelly said, “is a feeling of division, of polarization. That was Jan. 6.” Allyship, he said, became a powerful prism in terms of the dichotomy at a chaotic cultural time during the last two years. 

Other dictionary companies in the word of the year game focused on the pandemic and its fallout for their picks. Oxford Languages, which oversees the Oxford English Dictionary, went for “vax” and Merriam-Webster chose “vaccine.” The Glasgow, Scotland-based Collins Dictionary, meanwhile, plucked “NFT,” the digital tokens that sell for millions. 

While Merriam-Webster relies solely on site search data to choose a word of the year, Dictionary.com takes a broader approach. It scours search engines, a broad range of text and taps into cultural influences to choose its word of the year. 

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U.S. news outlets say the Biden administration is expected to announce a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games this week.   

A diplomatic boycott means no U.S. officials would attend any events of the Beijing 2022 Games, while still allowing athletes on Team USA to participate. That would avoid a repeat of 1980, when then-President Jimmy Carter kept U.S. athletes from attending the Moscow Summer Games over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in late 1979.   

CNN was first to report the expected announcement. 

President Joe Biden has been under enormous pressure from congressional lawmakers to announce a boycott over China’s human rights abuses, including the detention of millions of Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang province and the crackdown on pro-democracy forces in Hong Kong.   

Biden said last month he was considering a diplomatic boycott. 

The Beijing Winter Olympics will run from February 4-20. 

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The Kennedy Center Honors is returning to tradition this year.

The lifetime achievement awards for artistic excellence will be presented Sunday night in a gala at the Kennedy Center’s main opera house after the coronavirus pandemic forced delays and major changes to last year’s plans.

Honorees include Motown Records creator Berry Gordy, “Saturday Night Live” mastermind Lorne Michaels, actress-singer Bette Midler, opera singer Justino Diaz and folk music legend Joni Mitchell.

This year’s event also represents a return to political normalcy, with President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden planning to attend. The Democrat will be the first president to be at the Kennedy Center Honors since 2016. 

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump skipped the show the first three years he was in office after several of the artists honored in 2017, his first year in office, threatened to boycott a White House reception if the Republican participated. 

The Trumps also scrapped a traditional White House ceremony for the honorees, which Biden is resuming. Presidents usually host a lighthearted gathering with the honorees at the White House before the awards ceremony.

Last year, the pandemic forced organizers to bump the annual December ceremony back to May 2021. Performance tributes to the artists were filmed over several nights and at multiple locations on campus.

This year’s main COVID-related modification was shifting the annual Saturday ceremony, where honorees receive their medallions on rainbow-colored ribbons, to the Library of Congress instead of the State Department.

Sunday’s ceremony, which will be broadcast Dec. 22 by CBS, is the centerpiece of the Kennedy Center’s 50th anniversary of cultural programming. The center opened in 1971.

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Somalia’s annual Mogadishu International Book Fair has resumed following the suspension of the event last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Restrictions were applied to the invitation-only event this year in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The sixth edition of the Mogadishu book fair was a big distraction for residents of the capital, Mogadishu, away from the political tension linked to disagreements over the ongoing parliamentary elections in the country.

This year’s book fair was limited to a few people, especially authors, due to the coronavirus pandemic. But according to the founder of the fair, Mohamed Diini, organizers are already working to accommodate more people next year.

“In essence, we really are doing about 10% of what we did and, ultimately, we just wanted to do something, even if it is little so that next year, we can go back to our previous state, Insha Allah,” Diini  said.

Selected students from Mogadishu schools were invited this year to the children’s corner, where they enjoyed reading, storytelling and cultural tales.

Hanan Abdi Tahlil from Mogadishu International School is one of them.

She said she is very happy and excited to take part in the Mogadishu book fair this year, adding that they enjoyed storytelling from Cigaal Shidaad and Wiil Waal fictional tales among others. She also said she was looking forward to attending next year.

Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, who is busy resolving an electoral-related stalemate, congratulated the organizers of the book fair.

In a tweet, the prime minister stressed the need to encourage the pen and the book to replace arms and tribalism.

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Through clouds of billowing dust, two men circle each other warily before one plunges forward, grabbing his rival’s clothing and, after a brief struggle, deftly tackling him to the ground.

The crowd, arrayed in a circle around them, some sitting on the ground, others standing or clambering onto the backs of rickshaws for a better view in a park in the Afghan capital, erupts in cheers. Victor and vanquished smile good-naturedly, embracing briefly before some of the spectators press banknotes into the winner’s hand. 

The scene is one played out each week after Friday prayers in the sprawling Chaman-e-Huzori park in downtown Kabul, where men — mainly from Afghanistan’s northern provinces — gather to watch and to compete in pahlawani, a traditional form of wrestling. 

Although the Taliban, who took over Afghanistan in mid-August, had previously banned sports when they ruled the country in the 1990s, pahlawani had been exempt even then. Now, just over three months into their new rule of the country, a handful of Taliban police attended the Friday matches as security guards.

The matches are simple affairs. There is no arena other than the broad circle formed by the spectators. The competitors, barefoot in the dust, all use the same tunics, one blue and one white, passed from one athlete to the next for each match. Each competitor represents his province, with the name and province announced to the spectators by the referee.

Each match has four rounds, and the winner is the first who can flip his opponent onto his back. A referee officiates, while judges among the crowd deliver their verdicts in cases when there is no obvious winner. Many end in ties.

“We provide this facility so our people can have some enjoyment,” said Juma Khan, a 58-year-old judge and deputy director of last Friday’s event. A security guard at a market during the day, the former wrestling athlete has been judging competitions for the past 12 years, he said. Just like his father, and his grandfather, and his great-grandfather before him. “It’s our culture.”

Most athletes and spectators spend two to three months in the Afghan capital working — as manual laborers or in hotels, restaurants and markets — before heading back home to their families for a few weeks. 

Pahlawani provides a few hours of much anticipated entertainment. The men gather in the dust-blown field that is Chaman-e-Huzori park at around 2 p.m. every Friday and stay until sunset, with around 10 to 20 young men coming forward from the crowd to compete.

Then, as the sun sets behind Tapai Maranjan hill in the background, the competitors are finished. In the blink of an eye, as billowing dust swirls around speeding rickshaws, their horns blaring, the crowd melts away for another week.

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Art censorship in Hong Kong is “very much real,” an expert said after the city’s much-anticipated art gallery opened recently without showcasing some expected artworks by a Chinese dissident.

The former British colony’s largest art museum, M+, opened Nov. 12 to great fanfare, but also heated debate because of its failure to exhibit two of famous exiled artist Ai Wei Wei’s artworks in a donated collection of celebrated Swiss art collector Uli Sigg.

Among the collection of contemporary Chinese art from the 1970s to the 2000s, Ai’s Study of Perspective: Tiananmen, a photo that features Ai’s middle finger in front of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, and Map of China, a sculpture made of salvaged wood from a Qing Dynasty temple, have been under review by authorities since March this year, essentially barring them from display.

That came two weeks after M+ director Suhanya Raffel guaranteed that the gallery would show Ai’s art and pieces about the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, according to The South China Morning Post.

In the same month, Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam said the authorities would be on “full alert” to ensure museum exhibitions would not undermine national security, after pro-Beijing lawmakers said the artworks at M+ caused “great concerns” to the public for “spreading hatred” against China, public broadcaster RTHK reported.

In a September editorial in local media outlet Stand News, Ai called the government’s decision to shelve his two pieces “incredible.”

“The Study of Perspective series I started at Tiananmen Square 26 years ago once again became the testing ground for an important change in history, and a convincing note for China’s political censorship of its culture and art,” Ai wrote. Other images in the series featured the middle finger in front of the White House, the Swiss parliament and the Mona Lisa.

Sigg donated over 1,400 artworks and sold 47 pieces to M+ gallery in 2012, before the city experienced political turmoil from the 2014 Occupy Central movement, the 2019 anti-government protests and implementation of the controversial national security law last year.

 

Sigg originally wanted to make mainland China home to his collection, but no art galleries there could ensure that his artworks, including Ai Wei Wei’s, would be displayed without restriction, according to SOAS University of London art history professor Shane McCausland.

“Hong Kong’s legal framework at the time promised that these artworks could be shown…[but] policy on display will have changed dramatically after the national security law came in,” McCausland told VOA.

The head of the West Kowloon Cultural District, Henry Tang, said ahead of the M+ gallery opening that the board would “uphold and encourage freedom of artistic expression and creativity,” but added that the opening of M+ “does not mean artistic expression is above the law.” He also denied that the two artworks put under review meant they were illegal.

However, such an ostensibly normal bureaucratic act from the government is China’s usual form of censorship, McCausland said.

“It’s often unclear even to the initiated, where the boundary lies, as it moves all the time. The laws are framed in vague language: they often appear to be applied arbitrarily and randomly. …The application depends on the [Chinese] leadership from the top, where there is a degree of sensitivity to criticism and intolerance of critiques,” he said.

 

The city’s freedom of artistic expression has been declining since the national security law took effect last year, according to a local independent performance and dance artist who asked that she only be identified by her initial, “V.”

“This [the ban] did not come as a surprise – some artists’ works that might be considered sensitive are not allowed to display recently after the national security law was out, not to mention M+ is a government venue,” V told VOA.

Self-censorship has become a norm in Hong Kong’s art circles, V added.

“The atmosphere has been rather tense. Some movie screenings had to be canceled. Now we still want to voice out our views, but we start thinking about if we should express in a very edgy way, or if politics is the only way for us to express,” she said.

A new film censorship law came into effect in November that aims to “prevent and suppress acts or activities that may endanger national security.”

The supposedly autonomous region is now on track to mirror mainland China’s propaganda and censorship, McCausland said.

“Essentially Hong Kong is poised to become very similar to the framework within the rest of China, with artists being vigilant and constantly watching the moving sense of what’s OK and becoming attuned to when the likelihood is high of the system kicking in with legal ramifications, such as house detention or other judicial options that are open to the authorities, which they are happy to use to ensure the public discourse of harmony,” he said.

Growing art censorship is expected to intensify the talent drain in Hong Kong, which has witnessed an exodus to Western countries, including Britain and Canada, since the start of the 2019 anti-government protests, the art expert said.

“We know there was an astounding majority in favor of democracy – the views of the people were very clear but now you are hearing and seeing the space for expression has been closed down, and often in a heavy-handed way,” McCausland said.

The University of Hong Kong, one of Hong Kong’s most prestigious educational institutions, has ordered the removal of a sculpture commemorating the student victims of the Tiananmen crackdown since October. The university cited “the latest risk assessment and legal advice” as the reason for the request to take away the iconic statue that has been in place for the last 24 years.

“Being an ‘artivist’ [activist artist] is not easy anymore – I started thinking about the role I should play in this era. … I can’t say for sure I will go, but some of my artist friends left because funding has become more challenging,” V said. 

 

 

 

 

 

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As the world races to vaccinate billions more people against COVID-19 while the virus’ new omicron variant spreads, India is testing using drones to deliver vaccines to people in mountainous Jammu and Kashmir, where more than 70% of the population lives in rural areas.

It typically takes a couple hours by road to deliver vaccines from one of the region’s main medical centers in Jammu to a hospital located in Marh, a village in mountains nearby. Last month, officials said the delivery took just 20 minutes by the “Octacopter” drone.

Doctors say immunization campaigns have long been challenged by the region’s mountains and weather, which can thwart efforts to reach those living in remote areas.

Director of Health Services Jammu, Dr. Renu Sharma, told VOA that the trial last month delivering 200 doses gave hope that drones could be a useful delivery option.

“If the project is given [approved] it will be very helpful for remote areas especially in Jammu division given the difficult terrain,” Sharma said.

Other parts of Kashmir remain inaccessible for vehicles at times, making drones a better option.

“The areas like Sikardar, Safaid Aab, and Marno are challenging especially in winters. It takes us six to eight hours on foot from Dawar to reach to these areas,” Bashir Ahmad Peroo, a health worker from Gurez area, told VOA.

A spokesperson for the Directorate of Health Services Kashmir, Dr. Mir Mushtaq, told VOA that doctors now often stock enough medicine in the summer to last the local population all winter. Drones could help bolster supplies during the cold months.

Its creators say the Octacopter can carry a payload of 10 kilograms, with a range of 20 kilometers, and a maximum speed of 36 kph.

India’s CSIR-National Aerospace Laboratories developed the Octocopter drones and the country’s minister of state for science and technology, Dr. Jitendra Singh, said they hope they will be able to deliver more than just COVID-19 vaccines, including medical supplies, equipment, and critical packages to remote communities.

 

Indian health statistics indicate more than 4,400 people have died from coronavirus in Jammu and Kashmir, and doctors say since late last month there has been a rise in the number of new positive tests each day, making the vaccination campaign ever more important. 

 

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Apple Inc. iPhones of at least nine U.S. State Department employees were hacked by an unknown assailant using sophisticated spyware developed by the Israel-based NSO Group, according to four people familiar with the matter.

The hacks, which took place in the last several months, hit U.S. officials either based in Uganda or focused on matters concerning the East African country, two of the sources said.

The intrusions, first reported here, represent the widest known hacks of U.S. officials through NSO technology.

Previously, a list of numbers with potential targets including some American officials surfaced in reporting on NSO, but it was not clear whether intrusions were always tried or succeeded.

Reuters could not determine who launched the latest cyberattacks.

NSO Group said in a statement Thursday that it did not have any indication their tools were used but canceled access for the relevant customers and would investigate based on the Reuters inquiry.

“If our investigation shall show these actions indeed happened with NSO’s tools, such customer will be terminated permanently and legal actions will take place,” said an NSO spokesperson, who added that NSO will also “cooperate with any relevant government authority and present the full information we will have.”

NSO has long said it only sells its products to government law enforcement and intelligence clients, helping them to monitor security threats, and is not directly involved in surveillance operations.

Officials at the Uganda Embassy in Washington did not comment. A spokesperson for Apple declined to comment.

A State Department spokesperson declined to comment on the intrusions, instead pointing to the Commerce Department’s recent decision to place the Israeli company on an entity list, making it harder for U.S. companies to do business with them.

NSO Group and another spyware firm were “added to the Entity List based on a determination that they developed and supplied spyware to foreign governments that used this tool to maliciously target government officials, journalists, businesspeople, activists, academics, and embassy workers,” the Commerce Department said in an announcement last month.

Easily identifiable

NSO software is capable of not only capturing encrypted messages, photos and other sensitive information from infected phones, but also turning them into recording devices to monitor surroundings, based on product manuals reviewed by Reuters.

Apple’s alert to affected users did not name the creator of the spyware used in this hack.

The victims notified by Apple included American citizens and were easily identifiable as U.S. government employees because they associated email addresses ending in state.gov with their Apple IDs, two of the people said.

They and other targets notified by Apple in multiple countries were infected through the same graphics processing vulnerability that Apple did not learn about and fix until September, the sources said.

Since at least February, this software flaw allowed some NSO customers to take control of iPhones simply by sending invisible yet tainted iMessage requests to the device, researchers who investigated the espionage campaign said.

The victims would not see or need to interact with a prompt for the hack to be successful. Versions of NSO surveillance software, commonly known as Pegasus, could then be installed.

Apple’s announcement that it would notify victims came on the same day it sued NSO Group last week, accusing it of helping numerous customers break into Apple’s mobile software, iOS.

In a public response, NSO has said its technology helps stop terrorism and that they’ve installed controls to curb spying against innocent targets.

For example, NSO says its intrusion system cannot work on phones with U.S. numbers beginning with the country code +1.

But in the Uganda case, the targeted State Department employees were using iPhones registered with foreign telephone numbers, said two of the sources, without the U.S. country code.

Uganda has been roiled this year by an election with reported irregularities, protests and a government crackdown. U.S. officials have tried to meet with opposition leaders, drawing ire from the Ugandan government. Reuters has no evidence the hacks were related to current events in Uganda.

A senior Biden administration official, speaking on condition he not be identified, said the threat to U.S. personnel abroad was one of the reasons the administration was cracking down on companies such as NSO and pursuing new global discussion about spying limits.

The official added that the government has seen “systemic abuse” in multiple countries involving NSO’s Pegasus spyware.

Sen. Ron Wyden, who is on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said: “Companies that enable their customers to hack U.S. government employees are a threat to America’s national security and should be treated as such.”

Historically, some of NSO Group’s best-known past clients included Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Mexico.

The Israeli Ministry of Defense must approve export licenses for NSO, which has close ties to Israel’s defense and intelligence communities, to sell its technology internationally.

In a statement, the Israeli Embassy in Washington said that targeting American officials would be a serious breach of its rules.

“Cyber products like the one mentioned are supervised and licensed to be exported to governments only for purposes related to counter-terrorism and severe crimes,” an embassy spokesperson said. “The licensing provisions are very clear and if these claims are true, it is a severe violation of these provisions.” 

 

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Alec Baldwin Thursday denied responsibility for the fatal shooting of a cinematographer on the set of his Western movie “Rust,” saying he would have killed himself if he believed the shooting was his fault.

In an emotional television interview, the actor said he did not pull the trigger on the gun he was holding during a rehearsal, and that he did not think he would be criminally charged in the case.

“I feel someone is responsible for what happened, but I know it isn’t me. I might have killed myself if I thought I was responsible, and I don’t say that lightly,” Baldwin told ABC television’s George Stephanopoulos in his first public comments about the Oct. 21 shooting on the set near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed and director Joel Souza was wounded when the gun fired off a live bullet.

The incident, including how live ammunition made its way to the set, is still being investigated by authorities in New Mexico. No criminal charges have been filed.

Baldwin had been told the gun was “safe” by crew members in charge of checking weapons. 

“I’ve been told by people in the know… that it is highly unlikely I would be charged with anything criminally,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin said he “would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them.”

In his first public description of what happened, he said the Colt revolver went off when he was cocking the gun and rehearsing camera angles with Hutchins.

“In this scene, I am going to cock the gun. I said, ‘Do you want to see that?’ And she said yes. So I take the gun and I start to cock the gun. I’m not going to pull the trigger. I

said, ‘Did you see that?’ She said, ‘Well just cheat it down and tilt it down a little bit like that’. And I cocked the gun and go, ‘Can you see that? Can you see that? And I let go of the hammer of the gun and the gun goes off.”

Baldwin said he first thought Hutchins had fainted and it wasn’t until hours later that he was told she had died. He said he “couldn’t imagine” ever making a movie that involved guns again.

The actor, best known for TV comedy series “30 Rock,” has been widely criticized for not checking the gun thoroughly himself. But he insisted in the interview that was not the actor’s job.

“When that person who was charged with that job, handed me the weapon, I trusted them… In the 40 years I’ve been in this business all the way up until that day, I’ve never had a problem,” he said.

Two crew members have filed civil lawsuits accusing Baldwin, the producers and others of negligence and lax safety protocols on the set. But Baldwin said he “did not observe any safety or security issues at all in the time I was there.”

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After decades of excavation efforts, Egypt has opened the ‘Avenue of Sphinxes,’ a 3,400-year-old walkway that connects Luxor’s main ancient temples. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this photo gallery with words by Elle Kurancid.

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A 29-year-old man has been arrested in the death of philanthropist Jacqueline Avant, who was fatally shot this week at the Beverly Hills home she shared with her husband, legendary music executive Clarence Avant, police said Thursday.

Aariel Maynor, who was on parole, was taken into custody early Wednesday by Los Angeles police at a separate residence after a burglary there, Beverly Hills Police Chief Mark Stainbrook said. 

Police recovered an AR-15 rifle at that home that was believed to have been used in the shooting of Jacqueline Avant. Maynor accidentally shot himself in the foot with the gun, police said, and was being treated before he could be booked into jail. 

Authorities said they did not believe there were any other suspects in the Avant case, and Stainbrook said there were no outstanding threats to public safety. 

Police had not yet determined a motive or whether the Avant home was targeted. It was not immediately known if Maynor had an attorney. 

Maynor has previous felony convictions for assault, robbery and grand theft.

Police were called to the Avants’ home early Wednesday after receiving a call reporting a shooting. Officers found Jacqueline Avant, 81, with a gunshot wound. She was taken to the hospital but did not survive. 

Clarence Avant and a security guard at their home were not hurt during the shooting. 

Reported shooting

An hour later, Los Angeles police were called to a home in the Hollywood Hills — about 7 miles (11.27 kilometers) from the Avant residence — because of a reported shooting. They found Maynor there, as well as evidence of a burglary at that home, and took him into custody. 

Jacqueline Avant was a longtime local philanthropist who led organizations that helped low-income neighborhoods including Watts and South Los Angeles, and she was on the board of directors of the International Student Center at the University of California-Los Angeles. 

Grammy-winning executive Clarence Avant is known as the “Godfather of Black Music” and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year. The 90-year-old was also a concert promoter and manager who mentored and helped the careers of artists including Bill Withers, Little Willie John, L.A. Reid, Babyface, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. 

Tributes to Jacqueline Avant poured in from across the country. She was remembered by former President Bill Clinton, basketball icon Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Democratic Representative Karen Bass of California and music star Quincy Jones.

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The Duchess of Sussex on Thursday won the latest stage in her long-running privacy lawsuit against a British newspaper publisher over its publication of parts of a letter she wrote to her estranged father.

The Court of Appeal in London upheld a High Court ruling that the publisher of The Mail on Sunday and MailOnline website unlawfully breached the former Meghan Markle’s privacy by reproducing a large chunk of the handwritten letter she sent her father, Thomas Markle, after she married Prince Harry in 2018.

Associated Newspapers challenged the decision at the Court of Appeal, which held a hearing last month. Dismissing the appeal, senior judge Geoffrey Vos told the court Thursday that “the Duchess had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of the letter. Those contents were personal, private and not matters of legitimate public interest.”

The publisher said it was “very disappointed” and was considering an appeal to the U.K. Supreme Court.

In a statement, Meghan, 40, condemned the publisher for treating the lawsuit as “a game with no rules” and said the ruling was “a victory not just for me, but for anyone who has ever felt scared to stand up for what’s right.”

“What matters most is that we are now collectively brave enough to reshape a tabloid industry that conditions people to be cruel, and profits from the lies and pain that they create,” she said.

Associated Newspapers published about half of the letter in five articles in August 2018. Their lawyers disputed Meghan’s claim that she didn’t intend the letter to be seen by anyone but her father.

They said correspondence between Meghan and her then-communications secretary, Jason Knauf, showed the duchess suspected her father might leak the letter to journalists and wrote it with that in mind.

The publisher also argued that the publication of the letter was part of Thomas Markle’s right to reply following a People magazine interview with five of Meghan’s friends alleging he was “cruelly cold-shouldering” his daughter in the run-up to her royal wedding.

But Vos said that the article, which the Mail on Sunday described as “sensational,” was “splashed as a new public revelation” rather than focusing on Thomas Markle’s response to negative media reports about him.

In their appeal, Associated Newspapers had also argued that Meghan made private information public by cooperating with Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, authors of “Finding Freedom,” a sympathetic book about her and Harry.

The duchess’ lawyers had previously denied that she or Harry collaborated with the authors. But Knauf said in evidence to the court that he gave the writers information, and discussed it with Harry and Meghan.

Knauf’s evidence, which hadn’t previously been disclosed, was a dramatic twist in the long-running case.

In response, Meghan apologized for misleading the court about the extent of her cooperation with the book’s authors.

The duchess said she didn’t remember the discussions with Knauf when she gave evidence earlier in the case, and said she had “absolutely no wish or intention to mislead the defendant or the court.”

Meghan, a former star of the American TV legal drama “Suits,” married Harry, a grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, at Windsor Castle in May 2018.

Meghan and Harry announced in early 2020 that they were quitting royal duties and moving to North America, citing what they said were the unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media. They have settled in Santa Barbara, California, with their two young children.

In her statement Thursday, Meghan said she had been subject to “deception, intimidation and calculated attacks” in the three years since the lawsuit began.

“The longer they dragged it out, the more they could twist facts and manipulate the public [even during the appeal itself], making a straightforward case extraordinarily convoluted in order to generate more headlines and sell more newspapers — a model that rewards chaos above truth,” she said.

Associated Newspapers had argued the case should go to a trial on Meghan’s claims against the publisher.

Associated Newspapers said in a statement Thursday that it believed “judgment should be given only on the basis of evidence tested at trial,” especially since “Mr. Knauf’s evidence raises issues as to the Duchess’s credibility.”

Lawyer Mark Stephens, who specializes in media law and is not connected to the case, said he believed the publisher will appeal, though it would be unusual for Britain’s Supreme Court to take such a case. He said the publisher could also try to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

“There’s an issue of principle here, which is whether this case should be finished before a trial without disclosure, without testing the evidence,” Stephens said. The ruling did not settle questions about whether the letter to Thomas Markle was “always intended for Meghan’s side to publish and to leak and to use as briefing material,” he added.

Associated Newspapers “have a right to this trial, and I think that that is just going to protract the pain for Meghan Markle,” Stephens said.

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Alec Baldwin said he did not pull the trigger of the gun that killed a cinematographer on the movie set of “Rust,” while investigators in New Mexico zeroed in on how live ammunition may have found its way to the set. 

Baldwin, who was holding a gun he was told was safe when it went off, spoke in his first full interview about the October 21 shooting. 

“Well, the trigger wasn’t pulled. I didn’t pull the trigger,” the actor told ABC television journalist George Stephanopoulos, according to an excerpt released on Wednesday of the interview, which is to be broadcast on Thursday. 

“I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them. Never,” Baldwin added. 

Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed and director Joel Souza was wounded in what Baldwin had previously called a tragic accident on the set of the Western movie he was making near Santa Fe. 

The Santa Fe Sheriff’s Department said on Wednesday that it had no comment on Baldwin’s statement. It was not known whether authorities were pursuing an accidental discharge scenario. 

No criminal charges have been filed. Investigators have been focusing their efforts on how live bullets, rather than dummies, got onto the set. 

Court documents released on Wednesday showed they found “Rust” documents and suspected live ammunition for a revolver like the one Baldwin was using during a search this week at the premises of an Albuquerque supplier of props and weapons for movie sets. 

The supplier, identified as Seth Kenny, earlier told police he believed the live bullets found on the set may have been “reloaded ammunition” that he previously had acquired from a friend, according to the documents. Reloaded ammunition is made up of recycled components, including bullets. 

Kenny could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. 

Baldwin, best known for playing an egotistical TV network executive on the TV comedy series “30 Rock,” has kept a low profile since the accident at the Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe. 

Baldwin, who was the star and also a producer on the low-budget Western, “went through in detail what happened on the set that day,” Stephanopoulos said on Wednesday on ABC’s “Good Morning America” show ahead of the interview broadcast. 

Two crew members have filed civil lawsuits accusing Baldwin, the producers and others on the production of negligence and lax safety protocols. The producers have said they are conducting their own internal investigation. 

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