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Diddy’s US homes raided by US federal agents

Diddy’s US homes raided by US federal agents

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Diddy's US homes raided by US federal agents

 Homes belonging to Sean “Diddy” Combs were raided by federal agents Monday, with the US hip hop mogul at the center of sex trafficking claims and sex assault lawsuits.

Armed agents from the Department of Homeland Security entered luxury properties on both East and West Coasts of the United States, with video footage showing helicopters circling overhead and a huge law enforcement presence on the ground.

“Earlier today, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York executed law enforcement actions as part of an ongoing investigation, with assistance from HSI Los Angeles, HSI Miami and our local law enforcement partners,” the agency said.

A source confirmed to AFP that Combs was the target of the raids.

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Media in Los Angeles carried aerial footage of a massive presence at a swanky Holmby Hills residence associated with Combs — an artist and producer also known as Puff Daddy.

Heavily armed agents could be seen all around the sprawling property, with footage showing unidentified individuals being detained at the scene.

Entertainment title TMZ said pictures appeared to show the rapper’s sons Justin and King Combs in handcuffs.

The outlet said it also had footage of a raid on a luxury waterside property in Miami connected to Combs.

There was no immediate official confirmation about what precipitated the raids, but the involvement of Homeland Security in large, coordinated raids in two locations suggests serious allegations.

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The development comes with legal pressure increasing on the rapper, who has faced at least four lawsuits from people who say he sexually abused them, with allegations dating back decades.

Last year Combs was sued by former girlfriend Casandra Ventura, who performed under the stage name Cassie and was signed to his Bad Boy label.

The suit alleged he had forced her to perform sexual acts with multiple men over a number of years in cities across the United States.

The suit said that as a result of stops in these different locations, which necessitated crossing state lines, Ventura was the victim of sex trafficking, a federal offence.

That suit was settled, but was followed by others, including one in December by a woman who accused Combs of sexual assault, alleging he and others gang-raped her when she was 17.

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Combs and other men, the suit said, plied her with drugs and alcohol before violently raping her repeatedly.

Douglas Wigdor, a lawyer who represents two of the women who have accused Combs of abuse, told AFP on Monday: “We will always support law enforcement when it seeks to prosecute those that have violated the law.

“Hopefully, this is the beginning of a process that will hold Mr. Combs responsible for his depraved conduct.”

Combs has vehemently denied all accusations against him.

Combs, 54, founded the Bad Boy record label in 1993, and was a major figure in hip-hop’s commercialization over the decades that followed. His proteges included the late Notorious B.I.G. and Mary J. Blige.

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He is among the industry’s billionaires, not least due to his ventures in the liquor industry.

But contrary to a public image of suave businessman, lawsuits describe Combs as a violent man who used his celebrity to prey on and intimidate women. 

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Amir Khan’s £11.5m luxury wedding venue finally opens for guests

Amir Khan’s £11.5m luxury wedding venue finally opens for guests

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Amir Khan's £11.5m luxury wedding venue finally opens for guests

After a series of delays, Amir Khan’s extravagant £11.5 million wedding venue has finally witnessed its first marriage ceremony.

The grand “Dubai-style” Bolton tower made its debut on May 18, 2024, with a spectacular celebration as the venue’s inaugural bride and groom marked their special day in lavish style.

Amir Khan missed the grand opening of the venue as he was in Saudi Arabia for the Undisputed Heavyweight Title fight between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk.

Dubbed “The Balmayna,” the venue is situated across from a car wash and a fly-tipping spot, drawing previous criticism for its resemblance to an office building and being labeled as “tacky.”

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In January 2024, broken fridges, sofas and dirty mattresses were seen dumped around the venue, sparking criticism from locals.

One said: “The venue is walled off, but all around it is full of fly-tipping.

“It is absolutely awful and needs cleaning up. It is disgusting. There are black bin bags with rubbish spilling out of them as well as old matrasses and everything else, including broken furniture.

But images from the wedding showed how staff had quickly managed to fix these issues as the building’s lavish marble floors and chandeliers were on display for all guests to see.

A Balmayna spokesperson said: “The first love story at the Balmayna.

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“So elegant, so magical, simply a dream.
“We wish our bride and groom the most happiest of blessings. Such a stunning backdrop for your memories.”

Work on the venue has taken far longer than expected, with Amir Khan investing an initial £5 million since plans were first revealed in 2013.

He invested more money into the project and blamed the delays on “unprofessional management”.

But now, the venue is open for couples wanting to get married and it promises a “royal experience” and “a touch of magnificence and excellence in every celebration”.

The Balmayna features a waterfall and palm trees inside, along with a floral design.

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In another posh room with red velvet sofas and an armchair, books about designers Chanel and Louis Vuitton plus butterflies in a domed display case can be seen.

There are also candles and pamphlets about The Balmayna – which translates as Enamelled in Arabic.

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Gary Oldman talks sobriety and ‘Harry Potter’ at Cannes

Gary Oldman talks sobriety and ‘Harry Potter’ at Cannes

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Gary Oldman talks sobriety and 'Harry Potter' at Cannes

 British actor Gary Oldman, who plays a washed-up alcoholic writer in new Cannes film “Parthenope”, said Wednesday he is celebrating 27 years sober.

  about his role in the “Harry Potter” films, which upset some fans of the boy wizard.

Oldman made the remarks at a press conference at the Cannes Film Festival after the premiere of Paolo Sorrentino’s “Parthenope”. The Italian coming-of-age drama, inspired by mythology, traces a beautiful young woman as she drifts through Naples and Capri.

Oldman appears briefly as famed novelist John Cheever, who in real life struggled with severe alcoholism — a part that Oldman said was not much of a stretch. “I just celebrated 27 years of sobriety,” he said, to applause.

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“My wife actually found a quote where (Cheever) says, ‘My shaking hand reaches for the phone to ring Alcoholics Anonymous, and instead it remains at the whiskey, the gin, the vermouth,’” Oldman continued.

“I’ve been there. I know what that means. So coming to this role, there were things that I just instinctively understood. “When Paolo said to me, ‘I want you to play this sad, melancholic, drunken poet,’ I went, ‘Yeah, I kind of know what that is!’”

In the film, Cheever strikes up a bond with Parthenope, who adores the author’s books but has grown disenchanted with her life.

Actors always ‘hyper-critical’

Oldman was also asked about negative comments he recently made about his own performance as Sirius Black in film adaptations of J. K. Rowling’s beloved Potter books.

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Addressing why he had called the role “mediocre”, Oldman clarified that he did not mean to “disparage anyone out there who are fans of Harry Potter and the films”.

Instead, he regretted that he had not already learnt the character’s tragic fate in later books when he first took on the role in 2004 movie “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”.

“Had I known from the very beginning — if I had read the five books and I had seen the arc of the character — I may have approached it differently,” he said. “I may have looked at it differently and I may have painted in a different colour.”

Besides, Oldman said, actors are “always hyper-critical” of their own work. “If I watched a performance of myself and thought ‘My god, I’m fantastic in this,’ that would be a sad day. Because my best work is next year.”

Reviews of “Parthenope” ranged from “exquisite” to “utterly vacuous”, though most critics praised Oldman’s fleeting appearance. 

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Palestinian films ‘more important than ever’, directors say in Cannes

Palestinian films ‘more important than ever’, directors say in Cannes

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Palestinian films 'more important than ever', directors say in Cannes

Veteran Palestinian film director Rashid Masharawi was abroad when the Gaza war broke out last year, so he decided to hand over the camera to other filmmakers still inside the besieged territory.

“They are the story” of Masharawi’s project, which he presented at the Cannes Film Festival in France, more than seven months after the conflict erupted. “They were fighting to protect their lives, their families, to search for food, for wood to make a fire,” said Masharawi

The result is a collection of short films called “Ground Zero” recounting the Israeli bombardment of Gaza and ensuing humanitarian disaster from the perspective of civilians on the ground.

In one, a mother displaced by the conflict plops her daughter in a large white bucket and, with a clean Turkish coffee pot, gently pours water over her to bathe her. In another, a man recounts his 24-hour ordeal under rubble after the building he was in collapsed.

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Masharawi directed the 20 teams in Gaza from abroad — a process he described as “very, very, very difficult”.

“Sometimes we needed to wait one week to 10 days just to be in contact with somebody, or just to have internet to upload material,” said Masharawi, who was born in Gaza.

At other times, teams were busy searching for a tent, finding insulin for a director’s mother, or “an ambulance to go and save some kids”.

The films are part of several Palestinian tales screening at the festival, including Mehdi Fleifel’s Athens-set refugee drama “To A Land Unknown”.

‘Gatekeepers’

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Palestinian militant group Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, resulting in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

The militants also took 252 hostages, 124 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the Israeli army says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed more than 35,000 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry. Thousands of miles away from the conflict, Israel’s pavilion in Cannes is promoting its filmmaking.

Palestinian cinema does not have its own tent at the event, but Algeria has made space for its filmmakers at the other end of the international market in Cannes. “Our narrative and storytelling is more important than ever,” Norway-based Palestinian director Mohamed Jabaly said.

He finished filming his latest project, “Life is Beautiful”, just before the war started. A close friend who shot the last scene of the film has not survived the war. “He was killed while waiting for food aid,” said Jabaly.

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Munir Atallah, of US-based Watermelon Pictures, is hoping to bring the quirky family portrait to North American audiences, saying Palestinians have “for too long been shut out by the gatekeepers of the industry”.

One Palestinian who has already found viewers in the United States is Cherien Dabis, who made 2009 film “Amreeka” and co-directed hit Hulu series “Ramy”. But the shooting of her latest film — a historic epic — was disrupted by the Gaza war.

One of the crew on the ground in the occupied West Bank town of Ramallah, Ala Abu Ghoush, has responded by making a documentary about the stalled project, which they are calling “Unmaking Of”.

“The film is really asking the question: What is the importance of doing films and art in this kind of situation, in this war?” said Abu Ghoush. 

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