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Will Smith says sorry over Oscars slap as Academy launches probe******
Actor Will Smith offered apologies Monday to Chris Rock for smacking the comedian during the Oscars ceremony, as the body that oversees the awards said it was launching a formal review of the incident.
Smith – who was named best actor on the night – marched onto stage during the glitzy Hollywood ceremony and hit Rock over a joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith's hair.
"I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be," the "King Richard" star wrote on Instagram.
"Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behavior at last night's Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable," Smith said.
"Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada's medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally."
Pinkett Smith suffers from alopecia, a condition that causes hair loss, and had a closely cropped head at Sunday's ceremony.
The 94th Academy Awards was in its final hour when actor and comedian Rock quipped that Pinkett Smith appeared ready to star in "G.I. Jane 2" – a putative sequel to a film about a female soldier who has a shaved head.
After at first appearing to laugh at the joke, Smith walked onto the stage and smacked Rock with an open hand.
He then returned to his seat and shouted: "Keep my wife's name out of your fucking mouth."
Smith tearfully apologized to his fellow nominees and the Academy – but not Rock – a few minutes later as he accepted his historic Oscar.
"Love will make you do crazy things," he said.
On Monday, he repeated that apology.
"I would also like to apologize to the Academy, the producers of the show, all the attendees and everyone watching around the world.
"I would like to apologize to the Williams Family and my King Richard Family. I deeply regret that my behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us.
"I am a work in progress."
Smith's mea culpa came hours after the Academy condemned his behavior and said it was looking at possible sanctions.
"We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our Bylaws, Standards of Conduct and California law," a statement said.
Celebrities from Tinseltown and beyond reacted with shock and stunned amazement to Smith's outburst, with some defending him and others condemning a display of "toxic masculinity."
"He could have killed him. That's pure out of control rage and violence," filmmaker Judd Apatow said in a tweet he later deleted.
"Stand-up comics are very adept at handling hecklers. Violent physical assault... not so much," "Star Wars" icon Mark Hamill chipped in.
The comedy world was quick to rally to Rock's side, complaining that Smith's outburst could spark copycat behavior, endangering other stand-ups.
Emmy Award-winning Rosie O'Donnell called out a "sad display of toxic masculinity from a narcissistic madman," while Kathy Griffin added: "Now we all have to worry about who wants to be the next Will Smith in comedy clubs and theaters."
Booker prize-winning author Bernadine Evaristo suggested that Smith had not just wrecked what should have been his greatest triumph, but had also sullied his legacy.
"Only the fifth black man in nearly 100 years to win an Oscar for male lead, and the first in 16 years, resorts to violence instead of utilizing the power of words to slay Chris Rock. Then he claims God and Love made him do it," she said.
Smith went from the Oscars to the Vanity Fair after party, where he and his family posed for photos.
Inside, he was filmed dancing and singing along to his 1991 smash "Summertime."
Some celebrities came to Smith's defense, with singer Nicki Minaj saying that as her husband, Smith was privy to the pain Pinkett Smith endures.
"You just got to witness in real time what happens in a man's soul when he looks over to the woman he loves & sees her holding back tears from a 'little joke' at her expense," she tweeted.
"This is what any & every real man feels in that instant. While y'all seeing the joke he's seeing her pain."
Some social media users called for Smith to be stripped of his Oscar, but Academy governor and Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg said that would not happen.
"We're not going to take that Oscar from him," she said on daytime TV show "The View."
"There will be consequences I'm sure, but I don't think that's what they're going to do."
One Academy voter, who wished to remain anonymous, said it was frustrating how the incident had dominated coverage.
"I would have preferred the story being about the great diversity of the Awards show, which now seems secondary," the person told AFP.
"A female director won, an actor from the disabled community won, as did an actress of the LGBTQ community."
US actor Will Smith (R) approaches US actor Chris Rock onstage, and US actor Will Smith (R) slaps US actor Chris Rock onstage, during the 94th Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on March 27, 2022.
China's natural gas output up 7.1 pct in September******
BEIJING, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) -- China saw an increase in its natural gas output in September, official data showed.
The country's natural gas output totaled 15.7 billion cubic meters last month, rising 7.1 percent year on year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
The volume rose 15.2 percent from that in September 2019, putting the two-year average growth at 7.3 percent.
In the first nine months, China's natural gas output amounted to 151.8 billion cubic meters, increasing 10.4 percent from a year earlier, the NBS said.
Imports of natural gas rose 22.7 percent from a year earlier to 10.62 million tonnes in the same period. Enditem
Prince Andrew settles sex assault lawsuit with Virginia Giuffre******
In this file photo taken on May 21, 2019, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (left) and Prince Andrew, Duke of York, arrive for a garden party in the grounds of Buckingham Palace in central London.
Prince Andrew and his longtime accuser Virginia Giuffre have settled a sexual assault lawsuit for an undisclosed sum, a US court filing showed on Tuesday, sparing the disgraced British royal the public humiliation of a trial.
In a letter sent to a New York judge on behalf of both parties, Giuffre's lawyer David Boies wrote that they "have reached an out-of-court settlement," without revealing the financial terms.
As part of the agreement, the British royal will make a "substantial donation" to a charity established by Giuffre that supports sex-trafficking victims, Boies said.
Giuffre has said she had sex with Andrew when she was 17 and a minor under US law after meeting him through the late US financier Jeffrey Epstein, who committed suicide in prison while awaiting trial for sex crimes.
The prince has not been criminally charged and has denied the allegations.
The settlement means the civil case will not go to a jury trial. It also means Andrew, 61, will no longer be questioned under oath by Giuffre's lawyers, who had been due to travel to London next month.
Boies said in the document filed in a Manhattan court that the respective parties would file a stipulation dismissing the case within 30 days upon "receipt of the settlement."
The letter makes no mention of Giuffre's accusations. Neither does it admit any guilt on behalf of Andrew or refer to the repeated denials he has made.
It said that Andrew "regrets his association with Epstein, and commends the bravery of Ms Giuffre and other survivors in standing up for themselves and others."
"Prince Andrew has never intended to malign Ms Giuffre's character, and he accepts that she has suffered both as an established victim of abuse and as a result of unfair public attacks.
"He pledges to demonstrate his regret for his association with Epstein by supporting the fight against the evils of sex trafficking, and by supporting its victims," the letter added.
The controversy has embarrassed the British monarchy and overshadowed Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee year in which she marks 70 years on the throne.
Last month, Andrew was stripped of his honorary military titles and charitable roles after US judge Lewis Kaplan denied his plea to dismiss Giuffre's case.
Former prosecutor-turned-law professor Bennett Gershman said the settlement was "very good news" for Andrew because it gets him out of testifying while not having to acknowledge any improper conduct toward Giuffre.
"His relief must be palpable," Gershman told AFP.
Lawyer Lisa Bloom, who represents eight of Epstein's victims, hailed the settlement as a "victory" for Giuffre, however.
"She has accomplished what no one else could: getting Prince Andrew to stop his nonsense and side with sexual abuse victims," Bloom tweeted.
Giuffre, now 38, alleged that Andrew sexually assaulted her at the London home of socialite and Epstein friend Ghislaine Maxwell after a night out dancing in March 2001.
She sued the prince last year for unspecified damages under New York's Child Victims' Act, alleging that she was trafficked to him by Epstein and Maxwell.
In December, Maxwell was convicted of recruiting and grooming young girls to be sexually abused by Epstein, exposing a murky world of sex trafficking among the rich and powerful.
As well as the London allegations, Giuffre also said Andrew assaulted her at Epstein's home in New York, and on Epstein's private island in the US Virgin Islands.
Epstein, 66, was a high-profile financier who befriended countless celebrities.
His death in a Manhattan jail in August 2019 was ruled a suicide by New York's chief medical examiner but sparked conspiracy theories that he had been killed to protect wealthy associates.
Andrew, Queen Elizabeth II's second son, withdrew from public life as a royal in 2019 after a widely ridiculed BBC interview where he defended his relationship with Epstein and sought to vindicate himself of Giuffre's accusation.
The conciliatory language in Tuesday's statement was in stark contrast to October, when Andrew's lawyers accused Giuffre of seeking to profit from a "baseless lawsuit."
A spokesperson for Andrew said he would not be commenting beyond the court documents.