April 20, 2020

After three elections within the last year, Israel finally has a government.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the conservative Likud Party, has struck a deal with his political rival and chief challenger Benny Gantz, who heads the center-right Blue and White faction.

In a joint statement, the two said they reached "an agreement for the establishment of a national emergency government." The exact terms haven't been announced yet, but reports from Israel suggest it's a three year deal, in which Netanyahu and Gantz will serve as prime minister for the first and second half of that span, respectively.

A coalition between the two parties was long seen as the clearest path to avoiding a fourth election, but there were numerous obstacles, including Gantz's past refusal to forge a unity government under Netanyahu's leadership while he was under indictment for corruption. But it appears the efforts to solve the gridlock was expedited in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tim O'Donnell

October 10, 2019

For the first time since 1981, Iranian women on Thursday were able to attend a FIFA soccer match, watching as Iran defeated Cambodia 14-0 in a 2022 World Cup qualifying game.

Thousands of women attended the match at Tehran's Azadi Stadium, sitting in a section separate from men and watched over by 150 female security officers. In 1981, hardline conservatives proposed banning women from attending most sporting events, and before Thursday, Iran was the last country to prohibit women from going to soccer games. Facing pressure from FIFA, which threatened banning Iran from participating in international matches if the country didn't let women attend games, the government relented, setting aside 4,000 tickets for women.

Amnesty International isn't impressed, saying this is merely a "cynical publicity stunt by the authorities intended to whitewash their image." Iranian women, however, are thrilled, after years of fighting for the opportunity to watch a live match. Zahra Pashaei, a 29-year-old nurse, had only watched games on television, and told The Associated Press attendees were "so happy that finally we got the chance to go to the stadium. At least for me, 22 or 23 years of longing and regret lies behind this." Catherine Garcia

September 12, 2019

Live from New York, it's ... long overdue.

Saturday Night Live announced three new cast members Thursday, including Bowen Yang, whose hiring makes history, as NBC News writes he's the show's first full-time East Asian cast member. Yang joined SNL in 2018 as a writer and has appeared on the air, in March playing Kim Jong Un in a sketch, TV Lines notes.

Before Yang's hiring, Vanity Fair notes there was former cast member Fred Armisen, who is one-quarter Korean, while Deadline notes former cast member Rob Schneider is a quarter Filipino and former cast member Nasim Pedrad is of Iranian descent.

As Yang is openly gay, IndieWire writes that he is also "only the third out gay male cast member in the show's history," with the first two being Terry Sweeney and John Milhiser.

Alongside Yang, Chloe Fineman and Shane Gillis were also tapped as cast members Thursday. These announcements come as the show was in need of some new talent, with comedian Leslie Jones announcing last month her departure after five seasons. The premiere of SNL's 45th season, which will be hosted by Woody Harrelson, is set for Sept. 28. Brendan Morrow

August 1, 2019

Women in Saudi Arabia will now be able to apply for passports and travel abroad without permission from male guardians, the Saudi government announced early Friday.

Under the new law, any citizen 21 or older can apply for a passport and travel outside of the country without prior consent. Previously, a woman had to receive approval from their husband, father, son, or other male relative to obtain a passport or travel outside of the kingdom. Women can also now register marriages, divorces, and births, and receive official family documents.

For women trying to escape from domestic violence, the rules made it extremely difficult and dangerous to flee the country. Those who were able to get out said they hacked into phones and changed the settings on a government app that grants women permission to leave, The Associated Press reports. Saudi Arabia has slowly been moving forward with reforms, granting women the right to drive in 2018. Catherine Garcia

July 30, 2019

Just days before he is set to leave office, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has selected Pedro Pierluisi as the island's new secretary of state, the El Nuevo Dia newspaper reports.

Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, and Pierluisi, a lawyer, is the former representative in Congress. Under Puerto Rico's rules of succession, the secretary of state is next in line to become governor. Rosselló announced earlier this month that he planned on resigning, effective August 2, following outrage over leaked group chats between Rosselló and several of his top aides and advisers. The messages included sexist and homophobic remarks, as well as jokes about Hurricane Maria victims.

The secretary of state role had to be filled quickly, as the last person to hold the office, Luis Rivera Marin, resigned on July 13 due to his part in the group chat scandal. The third person in the line of succession, Secretary of Justice Wanda Vázquez Garced, told Rosselló this week she didn't want to become governor, which put the search for a secretary of state replacement in overdrive. Catherine Garcia

May 14, 2019

Donald Trump Jr. has agreed to privately testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee in mid-June, people familiar with the matter told CNN Tuesday.

Under the terms of the deal, President Trump's eldest son will testify for up to four hours, answering questions related to five or six topics. Members of the committee will be allowed to ask Trump Jr. questions about his June 2016 meeting with Russians at Trump Tower and the Trump Tower Moscow project, CNN reports. This will also be the final time Trump Jr. will be asked to appear before the panel regarding its probe into Russian meddling during the 2016 election.

The committee issued a subpoena for Trump Jr. earlier this month, and he had until Monday to respond; people with knowledge of the matter said once negotiations started, the deadline was extended to Tuesday. Catherine Garcia

December 3, 2018

To quote Hope van Dyne: it's about damn time.

Marvel Studios is plotting its first superhero movie to center around an Asian lead — a film about Shang-Chi, a kung fu master superhero who originated in a 1973 comic, Deadline reports. ScreenCrush describes the character as essentially "Marvel's answer to Bruce Lee." No one has been signed on to helm the film, but Deadline reports that Marvel is looking for an Asian director, and Chinese-American screenwriter Dave Callaham (The Expendables, Wonder Woman 1984) has reportedly been hired for the script.

Earlier this year, Marvel's first film to center around a black lead, Black Panther, was a box office phenomenon, becoming the highest-grossing film of the year and the third-highest grossing film to ever be released in the United States. The studio's first film to center around a female lead, Captain Marvel, hits theaters in March (although Evangeline Lilly's Hope van Dyne was the co-lead of July 2018's Ant-Man and the Wasp).

It's not entirely clear how Shang-Chi will factor into Marvel's broader plans for its ongoing film franchise, which is broken up into different "phases" that each lasts several years. The untitled fourth Avengers film will conclude the third phase in May 2019, with Spider-Man: Far From Home kicking off phase four in July. No other movies have been officially announced for phase four, but Shang-Chi could very well make its way in there, as Deadline reports the studio is "fast-tracking" it. Brendan Morrow

November 25, 2018

The Camp Fire in Northern California's Butte County, which killed at least 85 people and destroyed more than 18,000 buildings, is 100 percent contained, officials said Sunday.

The fire broke out on Nov. 8, sweeping through the town of Paradise. Officials say the blaze scorched more than 153,000 acres and burned down 14,000 homes. It was the deadliest fire in California history, and there are 249 people still missing.

More than 1,000 firefighters are still on site, with most taking part in search and recovery efforts and clearing hazards from roadways. Rain in the area helped extinguish hot spots, and despite the concerns of officials, did not trigger any mudslides. Catherine Garcia

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