Urgency of Climate Talks Seen in Coal Plants, Ice

As politicians haggle at a U.N. climate conference in Poland over ways to limit global warming, the industries and machines powering our modern world keep spewing their pollution into the air and water.

The fossil fuels extracted from beneath the Earth’s crust — coal, oil and gas — are transformed into the carbon dioxide that is now heating the planet faster than scientists had expected even a few years ago.

The devastating wildfires, droughts, floods and hurricanes of recent months and years are intensifying the urgency of the two-week conference in Katowice, which is due to end Friday.

But not far from the conference center, plumes of smoke rise from Europe’s largest lignite, or brown coal, power plant, in the central Polish town of Belchatow. Of the 50 most polluted cities in the European Union, 36 are in Poland.

IN PHOTOS: The Urgency of Climate Talks 

Elsewhere, from the U.S. to Japan and China, the coal plants, oil refineries and other installations needed to power factories and heat homes are playing their role in a warming Earth.

The negotiators at the international talks are also discussing financial support to poor countries, which are bearing the brunt of drought and flooding, which translate often into agricultural disaster and famine and are a factor behind greater migration.

The challenge of reducing emissions is made more difficult by the growing demand in the developing world for fuel as people there also seek to achieve the benefits and comforts of the industrialized world.

In Africa and Asia, which have become dumping grounds for the rich world’s waste, it is now common to see poor people scavenging for scraps of paper and other recyclable materials at garbage dumps, competing sometimes with crows or storks.

Fumes from cars are also playing their role in poisoning the air in many cities, from Jakarta and Katmandu to Moscow to Brussels.

Environmentalists in Katowice are warning that time is running out to prevent ecological disaster, a message also being taken up by artists.

In London, 24 large blocks of glacial ice from the waters surrounding Greenland have been placed in front of the Tate Modern and six at other city locations. Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson hopes his installation, called “Ice Watch” and launched Tuesday to coincide with the climate conference in Katowice, will impact people emotionally and inspire urgent public action.

The installation will be on show until the ice melts.

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Spanish Prosecutors File Tax Evasion Charges Against Shakira

Spanish prosecutors are charging pop music star Shakira with tax evasion, alleging she failed to pay more than 14.5 million euros ($16.3 million) between 2012 and 2014.

The charges Friday allege Shakira listed the Bahamas as her official residence for tax purposes during those years but was in fact living in Spain with her partner, Spanish soccer player Gerard Pique.

Prosecutors in Barcelona say her travel abroad was for short periods because of professional commitments, while most of the year she stayed in Spain. They want her to pay tax in Spain on her worldwide income.

The Colombian singer officially moved to Spain for tax purposes in 2015.

A magistrate will assess whether there is enough evidence to put Shakira on trial.

Shakira’s representatives said they had no immediate comment.

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Nancy Wilson, Song Stylist, Dies at 81

Grammy award winning singer Nancy Wilson has died. She was 81 years old.

Wilson, who retired from touring in 2011, died late Thursday  after a long illness at her home in Pioneertown, a California desert community.

Wilson referred to herself as a “song stylist” instead of a singer and she did have a way of styling a song to make it her own.

Probably her best-known and most stylized song is “Guess Who I Saw Today,” a tour de force of cool  in which she ever so patiently waits for her lover to come home so she can share the details of her day.  

She sweetly asks him, “Guess who I saw today” after stopping in “a most attractive French cafe and bar.”  

She saw two people “so in love even I could spot it clear across the room.”  

And then she teases, asking over and over “Guess who I saw today” and finally and dramatically  reveals  “I saw you.”

Wilson resisted being identified with any one genre of music, winning musical accolades in several categories, from R&B to jazz and funk..

“How Glad I Am” brought her a Grammy in 1965 for best R&B performance, and she later won Grammys for best jazz vocal album in 2005 for the intimate “R.S.V.P (Rare Songs, Very Personal)” and in 2007 for “Turned to Blue,” a showcase for the relaxed, confident swing she mastered later in life. The National Endowment for the Arts awarded her a “Jazz Masters Fellowship” in 2004 for lifetime achievement.

Wilson also had a busy career on television, film and radio, her credits including “Hawaii Five-O,” “Police Story,” the Robert Townsend spoof “Meteor Man” and years hosting NPR’s “Jazz Profiles” series. Active in the civil rights movement, including the Selma march of 1965, she received an NAACP Image Award in 1998.

Wilson listed Nat King Cole, Dinah Washington and Jimmy Scott among her influences.  

The Associated Press reports that in accordance with Wilson’s wishes, there will not be a funeral service.  Instead, a celebration of her life will likely be held in February, her birthday month.

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NYC Taxi Drivers 2019 Calendar Celebrates Immigrants

With the New Year just weeks away, New York taxi drivers have prepared their own unique gift to the city, a 2019 calendar featuring themselves. According to statistics, around 90 percent of yellow cab drivers are immigrants, and the calendar, which is a comedic take on the traditional pin-up, draws attention to this fact while being light and entertaining. Nina Vishneva reports from New York in this story narrated by Anna Rice.

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Dogs Pose with Santa for Christmas Photos

The dogs were primped, pampered and posed like fashion models before their big moment in front of the camera. A pair of matching, elegant-looking pups decked out with black velvet and rhinestone collars looked like they should belong to the Kardashians. 

About 100 dogs got their pictures taken with Santa Claus by a professional pet photographer at Dogma Gourmet Dog Bakery and Boutique in Arlington, Virginia. From large Golden Retrievers to pint-sized Chihuahuas, the pups were dressed for the holidays.

“I like the ones where you can see the interaction where the dog looks like he’s having a conversation quietly with Santa,” said professional pet photographer, Jeannie Taylor. “They’re part of the family. They should have their Santa photos, just as they should be part of family photos.”

“It’s fun, it’s festive and making memories,” said Sheena Cole who came with her Corgi to the annual event.

Annual event for some

Some people bring their dogs every year, including Brian Rose who arrived with two Schnauzers he calls his kids. 

“We get the girls dressed up in their little ribbons and see all the other dogs in their costumes,” he said.

They included canines wearing a Santa hat or dressed as elves. Alycia Foley wanted the Santa picture with her bulldog Quincy to reflect both Christmas and Hanukkah. 

“I put a yamaka and scarf on him for Hanukkah because I’m Jewish. I celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah, so I wanted him to celebrate both.”

Money to charities

A large portion of the $25 cost for each photo is donated to several local dog rescue groups. Zach Klipple with Vindictive Pit Bull Rescue said the money goes to buy items like food, toys, crates and kennels.

​Many of the dogs at the event were rescues. Melinda Thalor, who calls herself a pet grandparent, asked her daughter’s rescue dog, “to show me your smile.” 

“The support this event gives to the animals is wonderful. We’ve always had rescue dogs and they’re the best kind,” Thalor said.

Say ‘cheese’

During the photo shoots it was a challenge to get the dogs to stay still, so Taylor and her assistant used innovative ways to get their attention, which seemed to do the trick.

“We make sounds that are out of the norm of their daily routine — high pitch squeaky toys, and weird noises with our mouths,” Taylor explained.

While some dogs enjoyed the attention, others tried to make a bolt for the door.

“Let’s get out of here,” said Santa laughing, reflecting on what the dogs must be thinking.

Santa knows

Jim Greer, who for years has played Santa for both children and dogs, said the pups can be like kids, too.

“Some of them will jump up in your lap. Others will run away from you. I get one once in a while that will bark at me. I’ve been nipped at a couple of times, but I haven’t been bitten, and hopefully we can keep it that way,” he said and laughed.

Penny Edwards and her 3-year-old daughter came in their matching pajamas, along with their brown-and-white dog named Blue. The little girl told Santa what she would like for Christmas, and said Blue told Santa he wanted cheese and a ball. 

Pet parent Amy Kessler is looking forward to sending Christmas cards with her cute white dog’s photo to friends and family.

“He’s so happy and smiling and it cheers everyone up, I think, to see a little pup with Santa,” she said with a smile. 

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‘A Star Is Born’ Tops SAG Awards Nominations, Snubs Abound

“A Star Is Born” led nominations for the 25th Screen Actors Guild Awards with four nods including best ensemble on Wednesday, firmly establishing Bradley Cooper’s romantic revival as this year’s Academy Awards front runner.

In nominations announced in West Hollywood, Calif., the actors guild — one of the most predictive bellwethers of the Oscars — threw cold water on the awards campaigns of numerous contenders while elevating others. But “A Star Is Born” fared the best of all, landing nominations for Cooper (best male actor), Lady Gaga (best female actor) and Sam Elliott (best supporting male actor).

The other nominees for the group’s top award, best ensemble, were: “Black Panther,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “BlacKkKlansman” and “Crazy Rich Asians.”

That category is the most closely watched because only once in the last two decades has the eventual Oscars best picture winner not been nominated for best ensemble at the SAG Awards. The one aberration, though, was last year, when Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” overcame the SAG omission on its way to winning best picture.

Unless a new trend is forming, that’s worrisome news for Oscar hopefuls like “Vice,” Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic (which led last week’s Golden Globe nominations); Alfonso Cuaron’s Netflix drama “Roma” (the overwhelming choice of critics groups); and the 1962 road trip “Green Book.”

“Vice” still scored SAG nods for Christian Bale and Amy Adams, just as “Green Book” won nominations for Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali.

But “Roma” was shut out entirely, as was Damien Chazelle’s Neil Armstrong drama “First Man” and Barry Jenkins’ Harlem love story “If Beale Street Could Talk.” Most expected Regina King of “Beale Street” to be among the supporting female actor nominees.

Instead, Wednesday’s nominations gave an unlikely boost to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the Freddie Mercury biopic that has been a hit with audiences but was slammed by critics. Despite being widely viewed as a riveting one-man show by Rami Malek, the film ended up nominated for its ensemble cast. Malek was also nominated for best actor.

The screen actors appeared to favor big ticket sellers over smaller independent ensembles.

Ryan Coogler’s comic-book sensation “Black Panther” also landed a nomination for its stunt ensemble team. Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” scored nods for both John David Washington and Adam Driver. “Crazy Rich Asians” co-star Awkwafina, a presenter Wednesday morning, has the unusual pleasure of announcing the hit romantic comedy’s ensemble nomination. “It was all me,” she joked.

Yorgos Lanthimos’ period romp “The Favourite” failed to crack best ensemble, but its three leads — Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone — were all nominated, as expected. Stone added a second nod for her performance in the Netflix miniseries “Maniac.”


 Emily Blunt also scored two nominations herself: one for her lead performance in “Mary Poppins Returns” and one for her supporting role in “A Quiet Place.”

The other best female performance nominees alongside Blunt, Lady Gaga and Colman were Glenn Close (“The Wife”) and Melissa McCarthy (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”)

Blunt’s nomination for “A Quiet Place” was among the nominations’ many surprises, as was Margot Robbie’s supporting turn as Queen Elizabeth in “Mary Queen of Scots.”

Timothee Chalamet (“Call Me By Your Name”) scored his second straight SAG nomination for his supporting performance in the addiction drama “Beautiful Boy.” Rounding out the category alongside Ali, Driver and Elliott was Richard E. Grant for “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Usually, about 15 of the SAG’s 20 individual acting nominees line up exactly with the eventual Oscar field.

In television categories, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Ozark” led with four nominations each. “Barry,” “GLOW,” “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “The Kominsky Method” trailed close behind with three nominations each.

Up for best ensemble in comedy are “Atlanta,” “Barry,” “GLOW,” “The Kominsky Method” and “The Marvelous Mrs Maisel.” The drama series ensemble nominees went to: “The Americans,” “Better Call Saul,” “The Haidmaid’s Tale,” “Ozark” and “This Is Us.”

Though Netflix was nearly shut out on the film side (its lone nomination was for the stunt ensemble of “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”), it dominated the television categories with 15 total nods.

The SAG Awards will be held Jan. 27 and broadcast live by TNT and TBS. This year’s show will honor Alan Alda with the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award.

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Sports, Deaths Among 2018’s Top Google Searches

Sports, disaster and death were among the top searches on Google last year.

Each December, the technology company releases it’s top trending searches of the year. Topics that drew the interest of Americans included the World Cup, Hurricane Florence and three people who died in 2018 — rapper Mac Miller, designer Kate Spade and TV host and author Anthony Bourdain.

Google does not come up with its lists based on the number of total searches. Instead, the company looks at the search terms that enjoyed the highest spike compared to the previous year.

“Black Panther” topped the list of most searched movies, while rising stars in the Democratic party dominated the list of most searched politicians.

Here are the Top 10:

1. World Cup

2. Hurricane Florence

3. Mac Miller

4. Kate Spade

5. Anthony Bourdain

6. Black Panther

7. Mega Millions Results

8. Stan Lee

9. Demi Lovato

10. Election Results

Other categories include:


1. World Cup

2. Hurricane Florence

3. Mega Millions

4. Election Results

5. Hurricane Michael


1. Demi Lovato

2. Meghan Markle

3. Brett Kavanaugh

4. Logan Paul

5. Khloe Kardashian


1. Stacey Abrams

2. Beto O’Rourke

3. Ted Cruz

4. Andrew Gillum

5. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez


1. Black Panther

2. Incredibles 2

3. Deadpool 2

4. Avengers: Infinity War

5. A Quiet Place

All of the 2018 Google top trending search lists can be found here.

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Yalitza Aparicio: An Indigenous Mexican Woman Captivates Hollywood

Yalitza Aparicio had just gone along with her sister to the casting call for Alfonso Cuaron’s new film. She had no intention of trying out herself.

But destiny put her in front of the camera and that was how the Mexican woman of indigenous origins, who had just graduated as a teacher but wasn’t yet working, became the star of “Roma.”

She is likely now to spend the next few months learning how to handle Tinseltown red-carpet ceremonies — Cuaron’s latest film is a sensation, and her work is generating major buzz.

“Roma” won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, has been nominated for three Golden Globes and is a strong favorite for the Oscars in February.

“It wasn’t something that I really wanted or had dreamed about,” Aparicio, who turned 26 on Tuesday, told AFP.

“Because of your socioeconomic status or your culture, you think you can’t aspire to be an actress, and to participate in this medium that sounds like a fantasy.”

Passion project

After his Oscar-winning “Gravity,” which took home seven trophies, Cuaron bet on a very personal project.

“Roma” tells the story — in black and white — of the two women who made a deep mark on his childhood in Mexico City.

Cleo, played by Aparicio, is a domestic worker who becomes pregnant after her first sexual encounter.

The director’s mother and lady of the house, played by Marina de Tavira, is about to be left by her husband for another woman.

Framing all of it is the turbulent Mexico of the early 1970s.

Aparicio had no Cleo in her childhood in Tlaxiaco, a town of 40,000 people in the southwestern state of Oaxaca.

But her own mother, who raised her on her own, worked as a maid and that helped Aparicio understand the relationship of love and heartbreak that can form between caregivers and their bosses.

“There were scenes during the filming that stirred my memories, and there arose, all by itself, my character’s need to protect the children from what was happening so they would not suffer,” she said.

Cuaron, who also directed “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” said the actors in “Roma” were “the best” he has ever worked with.

The film, which had a cinematic release in select U.S. theaters, will be available on Netflix on December 14.

Casting call

The first requirement for becoming a member of the cast of “Roma” was to physically resemble the real people in the director’s life.

“The directive was that they had to physically look as much like the original people as possible,” Cuaron told AFP. “And on top of that, they should have the same energy.”

Aparicio’s sister ended up not being cast because of her advanced pregnancy.

But since the young teacher was there, she did the first of many screen tests that led ultimately to her winning the part inspired by Libo, the director’s nanny, who Cuaron says “cries every time” she sees the movie.

Before filming began, Aparicio met with the now elderly ex-domestic worker.

“She told me only how she came to the house, about her relationship with the family, but it was left at that,” she said.

Then filming began.

Change ‘little by little’

Cuaron did not give out the entire script at once, only parts of it.

Filming unfolded in a replica of the house where he had lived as a child in the upper middle class Mexico City neighborhood of Roma — hence the film’s title.

The set was so close to the real thing that his mother, who died recently, and the rest of the family were impressed.

Despite having no previous experience, Aparicio has been applauded by other actors, like Tom Hanks, and by critics. The New York Times included her in a list of best performances of 2018.

“After living through this whole adventure, I realized that the movies aren’t as far away as I thought from what I had always dreamed of doing,” she said.

“Through films, you can educate people in a more massive way. But let’s see if some offers come my way,” she added, discussing her future with humility.

For now, Aparicio plans to experience the moment, which has included not just accolades but also ugly racist and class-related insults from some of her compatriots after she appeared in designer clothes in Vanity Fair magazine.

She ignores the abuse, though, and focuses on what’s important to her: change.

“I am showing my people that they also can reach something like this, that just because you don’t have blonde hair and green eyes, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a part of it,” she said.

“There are certain things that will change little by little in our culture and let’s hope that with this picture, something is learned.”

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Beauty Meets Despair in Racial Injustice Movie ‘Beale Street’

Some films about race in America are angry, many are passionate, or terrifying or heartbreaking, and a few are funny.

If Beale Street Could Talk, opening in U.S. theaters in major cities Friday, is marked by a quiet beauty and dignity, despite the despair that runs through it.

Based on the 1974 novel with the same title by the late James Baldwin, the film is director Barry Jenkins’ follow-up to his 2016 Oscar-winner Moonlight.

It is the latest in a slew of movies by or about African-Americans that were nominated last week for Golden Globe Awards, including Spike Lee’s Ku Klux Klan thriller BlacKkKlansman, superhero movie Black Panther, and 1960s road trip Green Book.

​If Beale Street Could Talk is the story of two hopeful young lovers in Harlem whose future is ruined when the man is imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. Baldwin said Beale Street could stand for any black community in the United States.

Jenkins said he was drawn to make the film because of its blend of “sensuality and love — both physical and emotional love — but also this other voice that was very, very clear about social critique and taking America to task for the role it has played in the lives and the degradation of black folks.”

Yet Jenkins, who also adapted the screenplay, says rage is not in his wheelhouse as a filmmaker.

“I feel like anger has never been the best place for me to work from,” he said.

In contrast to the more strident tone of the novel, the film is made from the perspective of young and pregnant Tish, played by newcomer KiKi Layne, and her loving family.

“Tish is so young and pure and wide-eyed and so innocent, that to work from any other place than that would have felt like a false move,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins sees Beale Street and Moonlight as companion pieces, partly because he wrote both films during the summer of 2013. They are also about black families, albeit very different.

Moonlight depicted a young black gay man growing up in a hard-scrabble neighborhood of contemporary Miami.

“I still get notes and letters from total strangers who feel their lives have been impacted or in some ways improved because of the visibility that Moonlight brought to their personal lives,” he said.

Jenkins hopes Beale Street leaves audiences with “a sense of optimism that the lives and souls of black folks in America have often been rooted in despair and degradation, and yet there has always been love, joy, family and community.”

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Golding’s ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Performance Leads to More Roles

Even though Henry Golding garnered instant fame from starring in the smash hit Crazy Rich Asians, the British-Malaysian actor isn’t sure if he’ll ever eclipse his meteoric success in the box-office hit.  


“I don’t know how I’m going to top this year. It’s all downhill from here,” he told The Associated Press recently, with a twinge of sarcasm.  


Even Golding knows that viewers are clamoring for more of the 31-year-old actor, who starred in his first-ever movie role as the suave, Oxford-educated heir Nick Young in Crazy Rich Asians, the romantic comedy that spent three weeks at the top of the North American box office and grossed more than $173 million in North America alone.  


It was the first Hollywood film to have a predominantly Asian-American cast since The Joy Luck Club, which debuted 25 years ago.  


Golding had a sense the movie would resonate with audiences when filming it because it “was an amazing work of art.” But it wasn’t until after the movie’s release that he was able to measure its impact on viewers.  


“That’s when I started getting messages. People were coming up to me saying, ‘The movie is amazing,’ ‘You guys did such a fantastic job,’ ‘It means so much to me to see our faces portrayed on the big screen,’ ” he said. “For me, it was wild.”    

For Golding, his rise has certainly been pretty wild since director Jon M. Chu chose him to star in Crazy Rich Asians without any movie appearances. Golding had primarily worked as a television host for shows on BBC, Discovery Channel Asia and ESPN Asia networks.  


Now, Golding is on the fast track as others are seeing the potential in him. After Crazy Rich Asians, he took on a much darker role in Paul Feig’s thriller A Simple Favor starring Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick.  


Next, Golding will be playing a gay British-Vietnamese man who travels to his birth country in Vietnam to scatter the ashes of his parents in the film Monsoon, expected to be released in 2019. He’ll also star in Guy Ritchie’s Toff Guys with Matthew McConaughey and Kate Beckinsale.  


Golding said his recent projects have given him more confidence. He’s been putting in extra work through acting classes to hone his skills.  


“If you’re looking for longevity, you have to be a hard worker,” he said. “You have to put in the due diligence. You’ve got to be that people person. Essentially you become a commodity. You need to be that showman. … It’s a long road, but I’m getting to that point.” 

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