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Amid Capitol violence, Facebook, Twitter remove Trump video

Facebook and Twitter removed a short video by President Donald Trump in which he urged supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol Wednesday to “go...

Scenes of violence at U.S. Capitol shock world

A mob invading the U.S. Capitol. Police officers with guns drawn inside the House of Representatives. Lawmakers hiding from intruders seeking to overturn a...

George Washington basketball game postponed due to DC curfew

WASHINGTON (AP) — A men’s college basketball game scheduled to be played in Washington on Wednesday night was postponed after a city curfew was...

Review | Pixar’s ‘Soul’ joins mid-life crisis, jazz fantasia

Pete Docter's “Soul” features stairway-to-heaven visions of the afterlife, a pre-birth “before” realm where souls are glowing turquoise orbs and an in-between spiritual realm trafficked by some kind of psychedelic pirate. And yet, kind of magically, it's about “just regular old living.” Pixar may have started simple with talking toys, but their concepts have grown increasingly elaborate over the years, giving abstract shape to interior consciousness ("Inside Out"), brightening a peopled world of the dead ("Coco") and conjuring a mythical suburban land with a father's half-resurrected body ("Onward"). “Soul" is a step further, again: a grand metaphysical whatsit — a mid-life crisis movie, a New York jazz fantasia and a body-swap comedy, all in one. Part of the fun, of late, with Pixar's more ambitious movies is following a plate-spinning act that juggles animation whimsy, kids-movie imperatives and the meaning of life in some seemingly impossible combination that nevertheless in the end makes us cry. You can imagine a Pixar Mad Libs coming up with a movie about hamsters in space that's really about graduating high school, or one with unicorn cousins who learn to cope with trauma. But part of what's refreshing about “Soul," which debuts Friday on Disney+, is its uniqueness. It's a deliberate and overdue new direction for Pixar. The animation giant's 23rd film, “Soul" is its first to feature a Black protagonist. Kemp Powers, the screenwriter of the upcoming “One Night in Miami,” is also Pixar’s first African American co-director. The film is lushly set in a sun-dappled Manhattan. You will even hear, for a moment, A Tribe Called Quest playing in the background of a barbershop. For an animation world that has almost always been colored white, this borders on radical. It's also joyous. Joe (Jamie Foxx) is a middle-school music teacher who has long pined for his own career as a jazz pianist. On the day his big shot finally comes — a chance to sit in with the revered saxophonist Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett) and her quartet — a stray step into an open manhole robs him of his dream. With his body laying comatose in a hospital, Joe's soul lands in a netherworld — and Pixar's animating ingenuity goes into overdrive. Faced with an escalator to The Great Beyond reminiscent of Powell and Pressburger's magnificent “A Matter of Life and Death,” Joe runs the other way and drops into The Great Before — a soft, pastel-colored purgatory where nascent souls find their “spark” before plunging to Earth. It's a rolling, blue-hued land of mentorship, overseen by benevolent figures elegantly outlined in Picasso-like two-dimension. Not everything is perfect in The Great Before. Some souls struggle to find their spark. Joe, posing as a Swedish psychologist to elude capture, is assigned to mentor number 22 (Tina Fey), a problem child who's already cycled through everyone from Mother Teresa to Muhammad Ali looking for her spark, her purpose.It's the elusiveness of purpose that “Soul” swirls around, tenderly examining what gives life meaning. For some, it might come as easily as the notes that pour out of Dorothea's sax. (The jazz scenes, curtesy of Jon Batiste, are brilliantly transportive, part of the film's rich musical life, as scored by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.) But even as “Soul” rhapsodizes the beauty of artistic creation, it ponders the value of life for souls of less premeditated determination. “Soul," a celebration of those less certain of their path in life, is a kind of corollary to Pixar’s “Ratatouille,” a portrait of a very purposeful young artist. This comes through not just in 22's journey but Joe's too, as he tries desperately to return to his life and realize his long-held ambition. In the end, Joe may remind some of Burt Lancaster's Archibald “Moonlight” Graham in “Field of Dreams," another who returns from beyond to get another swing at an unrealized dream — and in doing so only realizes how good he had it, in the first place.But the meaning of “Soul” also comes through in the pointillist realism of Pixar. As delightful as its imagery of the afterlife is, the best stuff might be back on Earth. It would spoil things to say too much, but Joe and 22 land back in New York in a body-swap twist that includes a therapy cat. Not all of this works, in the end; “Soul” is seeking such a high plane of sublimity that it's sometimes forcing Pixar-styled transcendence a little too much. But the landscapes of “Soul” are full of life. City streets teem with it. This is, undoubtedly, the best the Manhattan subway has ever looked. Little joys — pepperoni pizza, lollipops, helicopter seeds spiraling to the ground — steadily accumulate. And “Soul” turns out to be not an exploration of the afterlife but a wondrous whirligig of daily life. “Soul,” a Walt Disney Co. release, is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for thematic elements and some language. Running time: 100 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.___Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

Siberian students go to school as temperatures hit -51 degrees

TAIPEI (The China Post) — Oymyakon in Russia's Sakha Republic of north-eastern Siberia, also called the Pole of Cold, is one of the coldest...

AP sources | Biden to pick Katherine Tai as top trade envoy

WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Joe Biden is set to nominate Katherine Tai to be the top U.S. trade envoy, according to two people familiar with his plans.Tai, who is chief trade counsel for the House Ways and Means Committee, will be tapped as the U.S. Trade Representative, according to the two people, who spoke Wednesday on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about it.The role is a Cabinet position, and the Senate will vote on whether to confirm Tai for the position. Biden's selection of Tai, who is Asian American, reflects his promise to choose a diverse Cabinet that reflects the makeup of the country.Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, Tai earlier oversaw China trade enforcement for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, setting U.S. strategy in trade disputes with China. Biden’s trade representative will inherit a trade war with China, put on pause by an interim trade pact in January that left many of the hardest issues unresolved and U.S. taxes remaining on $360 billion in Chinese imports.As the top trade staffer at Ways and Means, Tai handled negotiations last year with the Trump administration over a revamped North American trade deal. Under pressure from congressional Democrats, Trump’s trade team agreed to strengthen the pact to make it easier for Mexican workers to form independent unions and demand better pay and benefits -- decreasing the incentives for U.S. firms to move south of the border to take advantage of cheap and compliant labor.The administration also dropped from the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement what Democrats considered a giveaway to pharmaceutical companies that could have kept drug prices high.Tai is considered a problem-solving pragmatist on trade policy, which often breaks down into an ideological divide between free traders and protectionists. In a letter to Biden on Nov. 24, California Democratic Rep. Judy Chu, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and nine other female House members praised Tai’s “experience and diplomatic abilities’’ and said she is “uniquely qualified’’ to deal with Canada and Mexico on the USMCA and with U.S.-China trade tensions.“Katherine would be the first Asian American and the first woman of color to serve in this role, breaking barriers and clearing the way for others to follow,” Chu added in a statement Wednesday.Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., ranking member on the finance committee, called Tai “an inspired choice” for the position.“Ms. Tai has the experience she needs to succeed as USTR, and her record of getting wins for American workers demonstrates she knows how to champion the values that matter to U.S. families,” Wyden said. “She worked closely with me and my staff to craft the strongest ever protections for American workers in a trade agreement, and pass them into law with bipartisan support.”He urged Senate Republicans to quickly confirm her.

Warwick Rowers unveil new naked calendar, urge gender equality

TAIPEI (The China Post) — The buff boys from Warwick Rowers can be found in all their glory throughout this Worldwide Roar 2021 calendar, an English...

Spokesman: Trump’s eldest son tests positive for coronavirus

WASHINGTON (AP) — A spokesman says President Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., has been infected with the coronavirus. The spokesman says the younger Trump learned his diagnosis earlier this week, has no symptoms and has been quarantining. Trump Jr. is the latest member of the president's family to become infected with the virus. The president, the first lady and their son Barron have recovered from the virus.

Astronauts board SpaceX rocket for night launch, no Musk

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Four astronauts climbed aboard a SpaceX rocket Sunday for a night ride to the International Space Station, with the...

Covid-19 vaccine expectations must be managed

The world breathed a collective sigh of relief early in the week as drug maker Pfizer announced a significant update regarding its coronavirus vaccine...