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Lava flowing from Philippine volcano, thousands evacuated

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Lava flowing from Philippine volcano, thousands evacuated

The Associated Press
In this Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018, photo provided by Earl Recamunda, an orange glow is seen at the cloud-shrouded crater of Mayon volcano at Legazpi city, Albay province, about 340 kilometers (210 miles) southeast of Manila, Philippines. The Philippines' most active volcano rumbled back to life Sunday with lava rising to its crater in a gentle eruption that has prompted authorities to evacuate thousands of villagers. (Earl Recamunda via AP)

Nearly 15,000 people have fled from villages around the Philippines' most active volcano as lava flowed down its crater Monday in a gentle eruption that scientists warned could turn explosive.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology increased the alert level for Mount Mayon late Sunday to three on a scale of five, indicating an increased prospect of a hazardous eruption "within weeks or even days."

Lava flowed at least half a kilometer (less than half a mile) down a gulley from the crater on Monday morning and ash clouds appeared mid-slope as lava fragments rolled down, said Renato Solidum, who heads the volcano institute. It was hard to track down the lava flow given the thick clouds shrouding the volcano.

Molten rocks and lava at Mayon's crater lit the night sky Sunday in a reddish-orange glow despite the thick cloud cover, leaving spectators awed but sending thousands of residents into evacuation shelters.

Disaster-response officials said more than 14,700 people have been moved from high-risk areas in three cities and four towns in an ongoing evacuation. People in the danger area have put up huge white crosses in the past in their neighborhoods, hoping to protect their lives and homes.

"There are some who still resist but if we reach alert level four, we'll really be obligated to resort to forced evacuation," Cedric Daep, an Albay emergency official, told The Associated Press. Level four signifies the volcano could erupt violently within days.

Mayon lies in coconut-growing Albay province about 340 kilometers (210 miles) southeast of Manila.

Three steam-explosions since Saturday have spewed ash into nearby villages and may have breached solidified lava plugging the crater and caused lava to start gushing out, Solidum said.

With its near-perfect cone, Mayon is popular with climbers and tourists but has erupted about 50 times in the last 500 years, sometimes violently.

In 2013, an ash eruption killed five climbers, including three Germans, who had ventured near the summit despite warnings of possible danger.

Experts fear a major eruption could trigger pyroclastic flows — superheated gas and volcanic debris that race down the slopes at high speeds, incinerating or vaporizing everything in their path. More extensive explosions of ash could drift toward nearby towns and cities, including Legazpi city, the provincial capital, about nine miles (15 kilometers) away.

The bulletin sent Sunday night said a hazardous eruption was possible within weeks or even days. It said the glow in the crater signified the growth of a new lava dome and that the evacuation zone should be enforced due to the dangers of falling rocks, landslides or a collapse of the dome.

Airplanes have been warned not to fly close to the volcano.

Mayon's first recorded eruption was in 1616. The most destructive in 1814 killed 1,200 people and buried the town of Cagsawa in volcanic mud. The belfry of a Cagsawa church juts out of the ground in a reminder of Mayon's deadly fury and has become a tourist attraction.

———

Associated Press writer Jim Gomez contributed to this report.

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World

UAE says Qatar fighter jets intercept flight; Doha denies it

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UAE says Qatar fighter jets intercept flight; Doha denies it

The Associated Press
FILE- In this Aug. 17, 2017 file photo, released by the state-run Saudi Press Agency, Saudi King Salman, left, walks with Qatari Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al Thani, right, at the monarch's vacation home in Tangiers, Morocco. Exiled Sheikh Abdullah, once promoted by Saudi Arabia amid its ongoing dispute with Doha, appeared in an online video posted Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018, and aired by Doha-based satellite news network Al-Jazeera, claiming he's being held against his will in the United Arab Emirates, an allegation denied by an Abu Dhabi official. (Saudi Press Agency via AP)

The United Arab Emirates on Monday claimed that Qatari fighter jets intercepted one of its commercial airliners in international airspace on the way to Bahrain, an allegation promptly denied by a Doha official.

The UAE's two major airlines declined to immediately comment.

The claim could further escalate tensions between Qatar and the four Arab nations that have been boycotting it for months, among them the UAE, home to the world's busiest international airport. It also follows two complaints by Qatar to the United Nations about Emirati military aircraft allegedly violating its international airspace amid the diplomatic crisis.

The UAE's state-run WAM news agency made the claim on Monday, citing the country's General Civil Aviation Authority.

"The GCAA received a message from one of the UAE's national carriers on Monday morning that one of its aircraft on a flight to Manama on a normal route had been intercepted by Qatari fighters," the report said. "The flight was a regular, scheduled service on a known flight-path that met all the required and internationally recognized approvals and permits."

WAM did not identify the carrier involved, nor did it elaborate on details of the purported encounter.

Saif Al Thani, a Qatari government spokesman, denied the UAE's claim on Twitter, calling it "completely untrue." He promised a detailed statement would come later Monday.

The UAE is home to two major national carriers, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad and Dubai-based Emirates. Both airlines declined to comment when reached by The Associated Press.

U.S. Air Force Central Command, which is based at the sprawling al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar, also did not immediately have any report about any incident involving a commercial aircraft in the region, said Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, an Air Force spokesman. However, Pickart cautioned that U.S. forces don't routinely monitor the flights and operations of the Qatari air force.

The Qatar crisis began June 5 with Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE cutting off Doha's land, sea and air routes over its alleged support of extremists and close ties with Iran.

Qatar has long denied funding extremists. It recently restored full diplomatic relations with Iran, with which it shares a massive offshore natural gas field that made the country and its about 250,000 citizens extremely wealthy.

Recently, Qatar accused Emirati military jets of violating its air space in December and January in two incidents, filing a complaint to the United Nations.

On Sunday night, an exiled Qatari ruling family member once promoted by Saudi Arabia amid its ongoing dispute with Doha appeared in an online video, claiming he's being held against his will in the United Arab Emirates, an allegation denied by Abu Dhabi.

The video of Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al Thani, a little-known ruling family member until the Qatar crisis, also offered new fuel to the stalemated dispute. It also recalled the bizarre, now-reversed resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri while on a trip Riyadh, a Nov. 4 decision that was widely perceived as Saudi-orchestrated at the time.

———

Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellap . His work can be found at http://apne.ws/2galNpz .

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Entertainment

UKIP leader breaks up with girlfriend over racist texts

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UKIP leader breaks up with girlfriend over racist texts

The Associated Press
FILE – In this file photo dated Monday, Dec. 25, 2017, Meghan Markle fiancee of Prince Harry walks with members of the British Royal family for the traditional Christmas Day church service, at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, England. The U.K. Independence Party has suspended the membership of Jo Marney, the girlfriend of the party's leader, Sunday Jan. 14, 2018, after she reportedly made racist remarks about Markle.(AP Photo/Alastair Grant, FILE)

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The leader of the anti-EU U.K. Independence Party says he has broken up with his girlfriend after she made racist remarks about Prince Harry's fiancee, Meghan Markle.

Henry Bolton said Monday that "the romantic side" of his relationship with 25-year-old Jo Marney was over.

But the 54-year-old former soldier told ITV that he would not resign as party chief.

Marney, who describes herself as a model and actor, was suspended from UKIP after the Mail on Sunday newspaper published text messages to a friend in which she said Markle would "taint" the royal family.

Marney has apologized for the "shocking language," but says her words were taken out of context.

UKIP helped drive Britain's decision in 2016 to leave the European Union, but has struggled since then to retain support.

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World

East China Sea slick fire from sunken oil tanker burns out

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East China Sea slick fire from sunken oil tanker burns out

The Associated Press
In this Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018 photo provided by China's Ministry of Transport, smokes and frames from the burning Iranian oil tanker Sanchi in the East China Sea off the eastern coast of China. The fire from the sunken Iranian tanker ship in the East China Sea has burned out, a Chinese transport ministry spokesman said Monday, although concerns remain about possible major pollution to the sea bed and surrounding waters. (Ministry of Transport via AP)

The fire from a sunken Iranian tanker ship in the East China Sea has burned out, a Chinese transport ministry spokesman said Monday, although concerns remain about possible major pollution to the sea bed and surrounding waters.

The spokesman, who identified himself only by his surname, Zhao, said the fire ceased around noon. Earlier footage showed huge clouds of thick smoke rising from the oil slick that had been burning for more than a week.

Just three bodies from the tanker Sanchi's crew of 32, composed of 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis, have been recovered.

The cause of the Jan. 6 collision between the Sanchi and the Chinese freighter CF Crystal, which happened 257 kilometers (160 miles) east of Shanghai, remains unclear. All 21 crewmembers aboard the freighter were reported safe.

Rescuers boarded the Sanchi on Saturday morning to recover two bodies, but a large explosion shook the ship around noon on Sunday and it sank within hours. High temperatures had prevented rescuers from entering the crew quarters. Another body was recovered from the water earlier last week.

The ship was carrying a type of hydrocarbon liquid known as natural gas condensate and left a 10-square-kilometer (3.8-square-mile) area contaminated with oil, according to Chinese authorities. Condensate is highly toxic but readily evaporates or burns off in a fire. If trapped underwater, however, it could seriously harm the marine environment, while the ship's fuel source also poses a major threat.

The ship's voice data recorder, which functions like a "black box" on aircraft, was reportedly recovered on Saturday, possibly helping shed light on how the collision and resulting fire occurred.

Zhao, who is deputy head of the ministry's press office, said new photos and video footage showed the fire had gone out entirely and said an investigation into the disaster would be conducted according to the "strictest international standards."

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said rescue operations had been converted at noon to a search-and-recovery effort. Two ships were on the scene spraying foam detergents to dissolve oil remaining on the surface.

Ma Jun, director of the private Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs in Beijing, said the degree of environmental damage caused by the disaster depends on how much fuel was left in the tanker and the direction of winds and currents.

"The key issue is how much exactly the condensate oil has been left after all the burning and explosion, and how much of that sank together to the bottom of the sea," Ma said. "We need to keep an eye to prevent (toxins) being transferred to the fishing ground."

The disaster has transfixed an Iran still reeling from days of protests and unrest that swept the country at the start of the year.

Families of the sailors wept and screamed at the headquarters of the National Iranian Tanker Co. in Tehran, the company that owns the Sanchi. Some needed to be taken by ambulance to nearby hospitals as they were so overwhelmed by the news.

State TV earlier quoted Mahmoud Rastad, the chief of Iran's maritime agency, as saying: "There is no hope of finding survivors among the (missing) 29 members of the crew."

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei both expressed their condolences, with Rouhani calling on relevant government agencies to investigate the tragedy and take any necessary legal measures. The government also announced Monday as a nationwide day of public mourning over the disaster.

Chinese officials blamed poor weather for complicating their rescue efforts. Thirteen ships, including one from South Korea and two from Japan, had joined in the rescue and cleanup effort.

The Panamanian-flagged, 85,462-ton tanker has operated under five different names since it was built in 2008, according to the U.N.-run International Maritime Organization and the industry website Maritime Traffic.

It's the second collision for a ship from the National Iranian Tanker Co. in less than a year and a half. In August 2016, one of its tankers collided with a Swiss container ship in the Singapore Strait, damaging both ships but causing no injuries or oil spill.

———

Associated Press writers Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Mohammad Nasiri in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.

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World

Mezzanine inside Jakarta stock exchange tower collapses

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Mezzanine inside Jakarta stock exchange tower collapses

The Associated Press
Indonesian security stand near the ruin of a structure inside the Jakarta Stock Exchange tower in Jakarta, Indonesia, Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. A structure inside the Jakarta Stock Exchange tower collapsed Monday, injuring at least several people and forcing a chaotic evacuation. (AP Photo)

A mezzanine floor inside the Jakarta Stock Exchange tower collapsed on Monday, injuring nearly 80 people and forcing a chaotic evacuation.

Security camera footage circulated online showed the collapse, with a group of people plunging several meters (feet) to the ground as the structure gave way beneath them.

People fled the building through a lobby strewn with debris. Emergency personnel tended to the injured on the grass and pavement outside the tower.

National police spokesman Setyo Wasisto said most of the injured were college students from Palembang in Sumatra who were visiting the stock exchange as part of a study tour.

Wasisto ruled out terrorism as a cause of the collapse.

"There is no bomb element in the incident," he said.

Figures released by five hospitals showed 77 people were injured.

A spokeswoman for Jakarta's Siloam Hospital said it had received more than two dozen victims.

A college student from Palembang said she felt a tremor just before the floor collapsed.

"The structure suddenly collapsed, causing chaos," the student, identified as Ade, told MetroTV.

She said some of her friends were hit by debris and suffered head wounds and broken bones.

The stock exchange remained open for its afternoon trading session and its general manager, Tito Sulistio, asserted no one had been killed.

"I guarantee that there were no fatalities," he said. "I helped evacuate the victims to the park and as far as I know, the worst injuries are fractures."

He said the exchange will pay the students' medical costs.

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World

Report: Owners eye sale of C&A fashion chain to Chinese firm

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Report: Owners eye sale of C&A fashion chain to Chinese firm

The Associated Press
FILE – In this Nov. 14, 2016 file photo a C&A store in Duesseldorf, Germany, is photographed. German weekly Der Spiegel reports Sunday Jan. 14, 2018 that the owners of European fashion chain C&A are considering selling the company to a Chinese investor. Der Spiegel cited unnamed company sources saying a deal is close to completion. (Wolfram Kastl/dpa via AP,file)

German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel reported Sunday that the owners of European fashion chain C&A are considering selling the company to a Chinese investor.

Der Spiegel published a report online that cited unnamed company sources saying a deal was close to completion.

C&A operates hundreds of retail stores across Europe, Latin America and Asia. The company was founded in 1841 in the Netherlands by brothers Clemens and August Brenninkmeijer. The Brenninkmeijer family still owns C&A via Swiss-based Cofra Holding AG.

In a statement, the holding company said it was "fully committed to a successful, future-proof C&A business and as such at C&A we have embarked on a transformation and growth program."

Without addressing the reported sale directly, it said: "The ongoing transformation of C&A includes an investigation of ways to accelerate in high growth priority areas such as China, emerging markets and digital and that could potentially include partnerships and other types of additional external investment."

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World

Israel slams Palestinian leader Abbas for anti-Trump speech

Israel slams Palestinian leader Abbas for anti-Trump speech

The Associated Press
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, center, speaks during a meeting with the Palestinian Central Council, a top decision-making body, at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed,l)

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Monday that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had "lost his senses" following his fiery speech against President Donald Trump.

Lieberman told Israel's Army Radio that Abbas' address symbolized his giving up on the prospect of peace negotiations and opting instead for a confrontation with both Israel and the United States.

Abbas sharply escalated his rhetoric in a speech on Sunday, lashing out at Trump over recent policy moves, such as recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Abbas also slammed Trump's recent Twitter comment threatening to cut American aid and alleging the Palestinians are no longer willing to negotiate a peace deal with Israel.

"Since when did we reject negotiations?" Abbas told members of the Palestinian Central Council, a key decision-making body. "Shame," Abbas said, addressing Trump.

To laughter from the crowd, Abbas then added the phrase "Yekhreb Beitak," literally translated as "may your house be demolished."

In colloquial Palestinian Arabic, the phrase can have different connotations, from a harsh to a casual insult, but its use in a widely watched speech seemed jarring.

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the pro-settler Jewish Home Party, said the content and style of the speech represented Abbas' swan song.

"Abu Mazen is at the end of his road, toward the end of his rule and the end of his life," he told Army Radio, referring to Abbas by his nickname. "There appears to be no Palestinian partner and it is unlikely there will be."

Trump infuriated Palestinians and Muslims around the world when he announced late last year that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move its embassy there, upending decades of U.S. policy and countering an international consensus that the fate of Jerusalem should be decided in negotiations between the sides.

Abbas has said that by siding with the Israelis on a sensitive issue, the announcement had destroyed Trump's credibility as a Mideast peace broker.

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TV

‘Divorce’ Star Sarah Jessica Parker on Season 2’s Big Leap

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'Divorce' Star Sarah Jessica Parker on Season 2’s Big Leap

Sarah Jessica Parker on HBO's 'Divorce'

Co-stars Thomas Haden Church, Molly Shannon and Talia Balsam also talk to THR about the season two shift and what's ahead on Parker's HBO comedy.

[This story contains spoilers from the Jan. 14 episode of HBO's Divorce.]

Divorce rather definitively answered its biggest burning question heading into the second season: How long will the Sarah Jessica Parker HBO tragicomedy drag out the divorce between Frances (Parker) and Robert DuFresne (Thomas Haden Church)?

The answer: not long.

The second season opened its shortened eight-episode sophomore run on Sunday with Frances and Robert making their split official, marking their frustrations with a John Hancock and signing their divorce papers. "So, I'm divorced — now what?" Frances flippantly asks her therapist friend Dallas (Talia Balsam) when returning home to the suburbs of Hastings, New York. She successfully ignored Robert while riding home together, but apart, on the same New York City outbound train.

That question, Parker says, is the one she and new showrunner Jenny Bicks, who also worked on Sex and the City, set out to answer when plotting the brighter second season.

"There were lots of conversations about where we were picking up, lots of healthy debates," star and executive producer Parker tells The Hollywood Reporter. When Bicks came on board as showrunner, replacing the departed Paul Simms, Parker says the second season was accelerated and the writers had six weeks, instead of four or five months, before filming began. "We had to figure out: Are Frances and Robert divorced? Have they signed papers? Are we picking up 20 minutes later from the highway, or two weeks later? Just answering that question to our mutual satisfaction was the first hurdle."

Now with the papers signed, and Robert putting his mustachioed look behind him, the first episode is the start of a new phase for each of the central characters. Especially for Robert, who had called the police on Frances in the season one finale to falsely claim she had kidnapped their children.

"Robert has to kind of take a step back and say, 'Who can I be now?'" Church tells THR of shedding the darker side of his character, one of several reasons Bicks had promised a lighter feel this season. "At some point, he was a good father, husband, provider and leader; he was someone who watched out for everybody’s security and future. It just collapses so completely in the first season that no matter how cliche it is, you’ve got to pick yourself up. If you have any sense of resilience, self-dignity or honor for your family, then however deep you've got to dig, you have to be willing to do it. So that’s where he starts out."

Though Church says Robert and Frances will be forever conjoined as co-parents — and kids Lila (Sterling Jerins) and Tom (Charlie Kilgore) will have more screen time — the actor says Divorce has already explored the darker path and that this ex-husband and wife are ready to move on: "We’re not going down sitcom lane, but we want to figure out, how can things be more hopeful?"

Frances intends to throw herself into everything that doesn't have to do with Robert, but her attempts to refocus on her friends and two children fall heartbreakingly short. She discovers Dallas is having an affair with Robert's lawyer ("Dallas has been a little self-involved," says Balsam of her character's choice) and after dismissing her trampoline gift, Frances' own teen son watches on passively while his mother cuddles herself into a ball and cries at the end of the premiere.

Things will get better for Frances when she shifts her efforts to the art gallery she recently opened, and she'll even meet a new love interest as the season goes. "Jenny brought a lot of enthusiasm and energy that was very welcome," says Parker of the overall tonal shift. "It’s really a desirable gift, the quality of the comedy and the stuff that brings levity."

But Frances' post-divorce path, by design, will look different than Robert's. "Rather than calling this a 'season two,' it really feels like 'one and a half,' because what Frances imagined as liberation proves different in reality," explains Parker, who is notably a married and working mother of three. "Yes, she is now single. But so much of what is hard remains: You are in essence parenting a lot by yourself now; you’re still dealing with money issues as a new business owner, which you’ve never done before; your friendships are testing you in ways you didn’t expect; and your children have a lot of really strong opinions about the decisions you made, and may not see that you aren’t the villain in it."

She adds, "It's really halfway to what she actually imagined. Instead of being a season of hope, it really is one of promise — but it’s not what she imagined liberation would look like."

Parker produces Divorce under her Pretty Matches Productions banner with partner Alison Benson and, as an advocate of the Time's Up initiative, the timeliness of launching a show focusing on female stories is not lost on the Sex and the City icon.

"It’s always the right time to tell stories about women, but not just arbitrarily," says Parker. "You want meaningful, well-thought-out stories that share other lives and stories that are unfamiliar, and places that are unfamiliar."

When Bicks came on board, one of the big changes she knew she wanted to make was expanding the ensemble to further flesh out the storylines for Dallas and the show's other contentiously married pair, Diane (Molly Shannon) and Nick (Tracy Letts). "They really wrote a lot for me, which was so nice," Shannon tells THR of her season-two arc. "Even though Diane can buy anything and shop wherever she wants, she's feeling a little vulnerable and empty inside. She is a little lost this season. It’s interesting when you get to that age when things are kind of settled. You make choices in your life and I think she’s asking, 'Is this it? Is this enough?'"

Shifting the show from a story about a divorcing couple to one about how women and men handle life after a divorce creates more opportunities to highlight lesser-told stories about women like Dallas, a single and working empty-nester, and Shannon's wealthy yet blissfully unhappy Diane.

For Balsam, Dallas will be discovering what her "second act" looks like after her son heads off to college. "I don’t think there’s an answer for that," the actress tells THR. "It’s interesting to be at this point in your life and to say, 'If you don’t want to get married again, what do you want to do? What do you want that part of your life to be?'" After sending her own son off to school, Balsam says she found time to reconnect with old friends "because now I have space for that." She continues, "I would like to know what that space makes for Dallas. And also with the girls — excuse me, the women — Frances and Diane, because they are very different, but I think they will be continuous friends."

Shannon agrees with her co-star, and calls for more female-led shows like Divorce. "As far as I’m concerned, there aren’t enough," she says. "When you write stories about women and when they recognize and see themselves, they want to watch it. They’re hungry to see themselves onscreen. It’s funny because Divorce is a show that I would definitely be watching every week, so the fact that I’m on it is such a special treat."

All of those changes result in a series shift, and how the eighth episode ends will push open the door even further to future possibilities beyond the show's initial concept, should Divorce get a third season from HBO.

"Because we have such gifted actors, there’s a lot to explore," says Parker of the show's potential future. "You are divorced. It’s an identity, it defines you in certain ways. There is a lot to be said on the topic. I think it’s rich with potential." She adds, "We haven’t really discussed a lot of what that means if we do another season, but I certainly think that there does exist plenty to explore."

The second season of Divorce airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO. What did you think of the premiere? Sound off in the comments, below. Head to Live Feed for more show coverage.

Divorce
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World

The Latest: Iraq raises death toll in Baghdad attack to 38

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The Latest: Iraq raises death toll in Baghdad attack to 38

The Associated Press
Iraqi security forces gather near blood stains at the scene of a double suicide bombing in central Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. Interior Ministry spokesman says a double suicide bombing in central Baghdad has killed and wounded civilians. (AP Photo/Ali Abdul Hassan)

The Latest on the twin suicide bombings in Baghdad (all times local):

11:05 a.m.

Iraqi officials have raised the death toll from a twin suicide bombing in a Baghdad market to 38.

Two police officers and four health officials say Monday's early morning attack also wounded 105 other people. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release the information.

Earlier reports by spokesmen from the Health Ministry and the Interior Ministry had 26 killed and at least 16 dead.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but it bore the hallmarks of the Islamic State group, which has claimed many such attacks in the past. Militant attacks have decreased significantly in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq since the country's security forces retook nearly all territory once held by IS.

—Sinan Salaheddin in Baghdad;

———

8:30 a.m.

Iraq's Interior Ministry spokesman says a double suicide bombing in central Baghdad has killed at least 16 people.

Maj. Gen. Saad Maan says the rush-hour attack struck at the city's Tayran Square on Monday morning.

He says it was carried out by two suicide bombers and that the explosions also wounded at least 65 people. The area around the square is usually crowded by laborers seeking work.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but it bore the hallmarks of the Islamic State group, which has claimed such attacks before.

Militant attacks have decreased significantly in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq since the country's security forces retook nearly all territory once held by IS. Iraqi and U.S. officials have warned IS would continue with insurgent-style attacks.

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US moves ships, bombers toward Korea ahead of Olympics

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US moves ships, bombers toward Korea ahead of Olympics

The Associated Press
In this Jan. 8, 2018, photo released by the U.S. Air Force, a B-2 Spirit, assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing, Whiteman Air Force Base, taxis on the flightline at Andersen Air Force Base (AFB), Guam. The U.S. is beefing up its presence around the Korean Peninsula ahead of 2018 Winter Olympics by deploying stealth bombers, at least one extra aircraft carrier and a new amphibious assault ship to the region. (Staff Sgt. Joshua Smoot/U.S. Air Force via AP)

The U.S. is beefing up its presence around the Korean Peninsula ahead of next month's Winter Olympics by deploying stealth bombers, at least one extra aircraft carrier and a new amphibious assault ship to the region.

Coming after Washington agreed to postpone massive annual military maneuvers with South Korea until after the Games, North Korea says the U.S. is trying to put a chill on its renewed talks with Seoul.

"Such moves are an unpardonable military provocation chilling the atmosphere for improved inter-Korean relations," the North's ruling party said in a commentary published over the weekend.

Representatives of both Koreas held a second round of talks Monday near the Demilitarized Zone to try to pave the way for a North Korean delegation to join the Pyeongchang Games.

The U.S. has officially welcomed the talks and the moves represent routine training and scheduled upgrades, according to U.S. military officials.

Tensions remain high and the military deployments are significant.

Last week, the Pacific Air Forces announced three B-2 "Spirit" stealth bombers with approximately 200 personnel have been deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri to the Pacific island of Guam.

The statement said the deployment is intended to provide leaders with "deterrent options to maintain regional stability."

But the Guam deployment hits an especially sore nerve and plays on a key vulnerability for Pyongyang, which is probably the message Washington had in mind as it seeks to make sure nothing happens during the Olympics and also let Pyongyang know its decision to postpone the exercises is not a sign of weakness.

Last year, flights by B-1B bombers from Guam to the airspace around Korea were a major flashpoint, prompting a warning from North Korea that it had drawn up a plan to target the waters around the island with a missile strike that it could carry out anytime Kim gave the order.

The B-2 is more threatening.

It's the most advanced bomber in the Air Force and, unlike the B-1B, can carry nuclear weapons. It's also the only known aircraft that can drop the Air Force's biggest bomb, the 14,000-kilogram (30,000-pound) GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator.

The "MOP," capable of penetrating deep into the ground to destroy reinforced tunnels and bunkers, was explicitly designed with North Korea in mind.

The B-2 deployment came just days after the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier departed for the western Pacific in what the Navy called a regularly scheduled deployment. South Korean media reports say the carrier and its strike group will reach waters near the Korean Peninsula ahead of the start of the Games on Feb. 9.

The USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, whose home port is just south of Tokyo in Yokosuka, is also in the region, and North Korea has accused the U.S. of planning to send another carrier, the USS John Stennis from Bremerton, Washington.

The Marines announced on Sunday the arrival in southern Japan of the USS Wasp, an upgraded amphibious assault ship that can carry troops and launch the corps' new F-35B stealth fighters. It can carry 30-plus aircraft, including the F-35s, which are designed for vertical takeoffs and landings.

The ships and bombers could figure largely in a U.S. response to any military emergencies during the Games. North Korea may view them as a greater and more imminent threat.

Aircraft carriers, virtually impervious to any attack the North could mount, are floating platforms for sustained air assaults, while the F-35 fighters could be a key part of any potential strike on Kim Jong Un himself.

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Source – abcnews.go.com