Atlanta, other U.S. cities make pitch for 2026 World Cup

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Level : Intermediate


ATLANTA (AP) — After being slowed by the pandemic, the race among 17 U.S. cities to land a coveted spot hosting the 2026 World Cup is back on.

Two FIFA inspectors were in Atlanta Friday to get a look at 72,000-seat Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of a record-setting Major League Soccer team and centerpiece of the city’s bid.

FIFA vice president Victor Montagliani, who also leads regional governing body CONCACAF, joked that Atlanta is now “a football city, as in the real football that is played globally.”
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Trailblazing tourist trip to orbit ends with splashdown

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By MARCIA DUNN AP Aerospace Writer

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Four space tourists safely ended their trailblazing trip to orbit Saturday with a splashdown in the Atlantic off the Florida coast.

Their SpaceX capsule parachuted into the ocean just before sunset, not far from where their chartered flight began three days earlier.

The all-amateur crew was the first to circle the world without a professional astronaut.

The billionaire who paid undisclosed millions for the trip and his three guests wanted to show that ordinary people could blast into orbit by themselves, and SpaceX founder Elon Musk took them on as the company’s first rocket-riding tourists.
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Disney backs theatrical releases for remaining 2021 films

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By JAKE COYLE AP Film Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — After endless disruption due to the pandemic and the super-charged growth of streaming services, moviegoing may be going back to something a little like normal.

The Walt Disney Co. on Friday announced that all of its remaining films this year will open exclusively in theaters. That includes the Marvel release “Eternals” (Nov. 5), Ridley Scott’s “The Last Duel” (Oct. 15), the animated release “Ron’s Gone Wrong” (Oct. 22), Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” (Dec. 10) and the Kingsman sequel “The King’s Man” (Dec. 22).

All of the films will have a minimum run of 45 days in theaters before streaming. The animated fantasy “Encanto” (Nov. 24) will head to Disney+ after 30 days.

Disney’s move comes after a year in which the studio, with a few notable exceptions like the recent hit “Free Guy,” premiered many of its releases both in theaters and on Disney+ in so-called “day and date” releases. That included the Marvel movie “Black Widow,” after which star Scarlett Johansson sued Disney, alleging the day-and-date approach breached her contract and deprived her of potential earnings. Disney has said the release complied with Johansson’s contract and called the suit without merit.

But it increasingly appears that the days may be number for day-and-date, at least when it comes to Hollywood blockbusters. Warner Bros., which has released all of its 2021 films simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max, has pledged to revert to exclusive theatrical runs next year. One pandemic shift sure to linger — shorter theatrical runs, as the once-traditional 90-day window has shrunk to 45 days or less for most studios.

Disney’s strategies are especially closely watched because of its enormous sway in the industry as the largest Hollywood studio. Disney accounted for 38% of domestic moviegoing in 2019. But its commitment to theatrical releases was sure to be a huge relief for cinema owners and a sign of some normality returning to moviegoing this fall.

Day-and-date releases proliferated during the pandemic while studios turned to boosting their in-home streaming services and compensating for diminished ticket sales. Theater owners have said that sacrifices many millions in box office and may deter from a movie’s cultural impact.

And, lately, the box-office returns — even during the recent coronavirus surge — have been promising. Disney’s “Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” smashed the record for Labor Day openings last weekend, earning $90 million over the four-day weekend. Many in the industry have taken that as proof of the power of a theater-only release, and a positive sign for the fall movie season. Sony Pictures immediately after moved up the release of its Marvel sequel, “Venom: Let There Be Carnage.”

“Following the tremendous box office success of our summer films which included five of the top eight domestic releases of the year, we are excited to update our theatrical plans for the remainder of 2021,” said Kareem Daniel, chairman of Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, in a statement. “As confidence in moviegoing continues to improve, we look forward to entertaining audiences in theaters, while maintaining the flexibility to give our Disney+ subscribers the gift of ‘Encanto’ this holiday season.”

Qualifier to champion: Britain’s Raducanu, 18, wins US Open

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NEW YORK (AP) — British teenager Emma Raducanu arrived in New York last month with a ranking of 150th, just one Grand Slam appearance to her name and a flight booked to head out of town after the U.S. Open’s preliminary rounds in case she failed to win her way into the main tournament.

And there she was in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday, cradling the silver trophy to complete an unlikely — indeed, unprecedented — and surprisingly dominant journey from qualifier to major champion by beating Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 6-3 in the final.
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No cashiers, please: Futuristic supermarket opens in Middle East

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Level : Intermediate

By ISABEL DEBRE Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The Middle East on Monday got its first completely automated cashier-less store, as retail giant Carrefour rolled out its vision for the future of the industry in a cavernous Dubai mall.

Like Amazon’s breakthrough unmanned grocery stores that opened in 2018, the Carrefour mini-market looks like any ordinary convenience store, brimming with sodas and snacks, tucked between sprawling storefronts of this city-state.

But hidden among the familiar fare lies a sophisticated system that tracks shoppers’ movements, eliminating the checkout line and allowing people to grab the products they’ll walk out with. Only those with the store’s smartphone app may enter. Nearly a hundred small surveillance cameras blanket the ceiling. Countless sensors line the shelves. Five minutes after shoppers leave, their phones ping with receipts for whatever they put in their bags.

“This is how the future will look,” Hani Weiss, CEO of retail at Majid Al Futtaim, the franchise that operates Carrefour in the Middle East, told The Associated Press. “We do believe in physical stores in the future. However, we believe the experience will change.”

The experimental shop, called Carrefour City+, is the latest addition to the burgeoning field of retail automation. Major retailers worldwide are combining machine learning software and artificial intelligence in a push to cut labor costs, do away with the irritation of long lines and gather critical data about shopping behavior.

“We use (the data) to provide a better experience in the future … whereby customers don’t have to think about the next products they want,” Weiss said. “All the insights are being utilized internally in order to provide a better shopping experience.”

Customers must give Carrefour permission to collect their information, Weiss said, which the company promises not to share. But the idea of a vast retail seller collecting reams of data about shoppers’ habits already has raised privacy concerns in the United States, where Amazon now operates several such futuristic stores, known as Amazon Go. It’s less likely to become a public debate in the autocratic United Arab Emirates, home to one of the world’s highest per capita concentrations of surveillance cameras.

With the pandemic forcing major retailers to reassess the future, many are increasingly investing in automation — a vision that threatens severe job losses across the industry. But Carrefour stressed that human workers, at least in the short-term, would still be needed to “support customers” and assist the machines.

“There is no future without humans,” Weiss said.

Three men guided millions through horror of Sept. 11, 2001

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NEW YORK (AP) — “Turn on your television.”

Those words were repeated in millions of homes on Sept. 11, 2001. Friends and relatives took to the telephone: Something awful was happening. You have to see.

Before social media and with online news in its infancy, the story of the day when terrorists killed nearly 3,000 people unfolded primarily on television. Even some people inside New York’s World Trade Center made the phone call. They felt a shudder, could smell smoke. Could someone watch the news and find out what was happening?

Most Americans were guided through the unimaginable by one of three men: Tom Brokaw of NBC News, Peter Jennings of ABC and Dan Rather of CBS.
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China allows couples third child amid demographic crisis

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Level : Intermediate

BEIJING (AP) — China will now allow couples to legally have a third child as it seeks to hold off a demographic crisis that could threaten its hopes of increased prosperity and global influence.

The ceremonial legislature on Friday amended the Population and Family Planning Law as part of a decades-long effort by the ruling Communist Party to dictate the size of families in keeping with political directives. It comes just six years after the last change.
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How Instagram star helped rescue dozens from Afghanistan

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Dozens of desperate Afghans who had been trying to flee the Taliban before Tuesday’s deadline for the U.S. withdrawal from Kabul made it to safety with help from an unexpected place: Instagram influencer Quentin Quarantino.

Quarantino is the alter ego of 25-year-old Tommy Marcus of New York City, previously best-known for his liberal memes and his jokes about opponents of COVID-19 vaccinations. Along with his followers, Quarantino raised $7 million within days on GoFundMe to launch rescue missions into Afghanistan to evacuate as many people as possible, many of whom said they had been threatened by the Taliban.

On Wednesday, their mission “Operation Flyaway” helped ferry 51 people from Afghanistan to Uganda on a privately chartered plane financed by the GoFundMe campaign.
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New Zealand loses its precious ‘Rings’ series to Britain

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By NICK PERRY Associated Press

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand has long been associated with “The Lord of the Rings” but with the filming of a major new television series suddenly snatched away, the nation has become more like Mordor than the Shire for hundreds of workers.

In a major blow to the nation’s small but vibrant screen industry, Amazon Studios announced Friday it would film the second season of its original series, inspired by the books of J.R.R. Tolkien, to Britain.

“The shift from New Zealand to the U.K. aligns with the studio’s strategy of expanding its production footprint and investing in studio space across the U.K., with many of Amazon Studios’ tentpole series and films already calling the U.K. home,” the company said in a statement.
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UN Women hopes $40 billion will accelerate gender equality

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Level : Advanced

By EDITH M. LEDERER Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The outgoing head of the U.N. women’s agency is hoping that in five years the $40 billion recently pledged to promote gender equality will lead to many more women in leadership positions, a reduction of violence against women, and the more than 40 million women who fell into extreme poverty because of the COVID-19 pandemic — and more — escape the poverty trap.
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