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31/03/2018
by MediaExpert
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Kids, Candymakers Look Forward to Easter Holiday

The Easter holiday is synonymous with symbols of spring, and for kids, it means candy in their Easter baskets. From Washington, VOA’s Jill Craig finds out how much sales increase over the holiday, and what the best sellers are.

31/03/2018
by MediaExpert
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Traditional Pakistani Bamboo Curtains Gaining Popularity

Traditional handicrafts from Pakistan are exported to many countries around the world. One item that appears to be gaining in popularity are the country’s hand-made bamboo curtains. VOA’s Saman Khan has more in this report from Lahore, Pakistan, narrated by Sarah Zaman.

30/03/2018
by MediaExpert
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Top 5 Songs for Week Ending March 31

We’re airborne with the five most popular songs in the Billboard Hot 100 Pop Singles chart, for the week ending March 31, 2018.

Last week, we had a big new addition to the Top Five … this week it’s the same lineup, just slightly shuffled.

Number 5: Post Malone Featuring Ty Dolla $ign “Psycho”

That comes in fifth place, where Post Malone and Ty Dolla $ign back off a notch with “Psycho.”

It’s Post’s second Top Five hit, and also the second for Ty … back in 2016, he topped out in fourth place as Fifth Harmony’s guest on “Work From Home.” If you’d like to see the video for this song, head to our Facebook page, VOA1TheHits.

Number 4: Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line “Meant To Be”

Taking over fourth place is the dynamite combination of Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line, with “Meant To Be.” 

That’s not all: It’s your Hot Country Songs champion for an incredible 17th week. Born to ethnic Albanian parents in New York City, Bleta “Bebe” Rexha won a “Best Teen Songwriter” contest sponsored by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences. That set her on her way to her recording career.

Both Bebe and Bruno Mars have been performing since they were little kids.

Number 3: Bruno Mars & Cardi B “Finesse”

This week, Bruno and Cardi B spend another week in third place with “Finesse.”

Esquire magazine recently took a close look at Bruno’s fashion choices. If you want to copy his look, go for silky track suits, bolo ties, sunglasses at all times, bold chains, and sequins. You can get a closer look by reading the article on our Facebook page.

Number 2: Ed Sheeran “Perfect”

Ed Sheeran may be permanently attached to second place, because that’s where you’ll again find “Perfect.”  He’s popular everywhere, but seems to hold a particular place in the hearts of his Australian fans.

Ed’s “Divide” album tops the Aussie album list for a 25th week. Only three albums have lasted longer at the top: Delta Goodrem’s “Innocent Eyes” at 29 weeks; Adele’s “21” with 32 weeks; and the all-time champion, “Brothers In Arms” by Dire Straits, which topped the ARIA album chart for 34 weeks.

Number 1: Drake “God’s Plan”

Meanwhile, Drake notches another frame atop the Hot 100 with “God’s Plan,” bringing his championship run to eight weeks. Drake just dropped a piece of news about his next album.

Last week, Drake went on Instagram to say he’s working on a new album …and Murda Beatz is among the producers. They’ve collaborated several times, most recently on Drake’s 2017 collection “More Life.”

We’ll have more hits next week, so join us if you can!

30/03/2018
by MediaExpert
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Jennifer Lopez Visits Alex Rodriguez During Opening Day

Alex Rodriguez received a special opening day visit during his first official broadcast with the ESPN Sunday night baseball team.

His girlfriend, Jennifer Lopez, dropped by the booth at Dodger Stadium on Thursday with her son.

Rodriguez was working with Matt Vasgersian and Jessica Mendoza when Lopez popped in.

Lopez gave Rodriguez a kiss and her son gave him a hug.

Rodriguez later said Lopez is a baseball fan and her father, who grew up a Mets fan, was also there for the Dodgers-Giants opener.

San Francisco beat Los Angeles 1-0.

30/03/2018
by MediaExpert
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Cosby’s Defense Strategy Hinges on Judge His Team Attacked

Bill Cosby’s lawyers first pressured the judge in his sexual assault retrial to quit, and now they are counting on him to make rulings critical to their plan to portray the accuser as a greedy liar who framed the comedian to get rich.

 

Judge Steven O’Neill could rule as early as Friday on whether the defense can call a witness who claims Andrea Constand spoke about falsely accusing a celebrity before going to police with allegations Cosby drugged and molested her at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.

 

Prosecutors said the theory that Constand wanted to set Cosby up is undermined by his testimony in a 2005 deposition that she only visited his home when invited and that he gave her pills without her asking.

 

The judge also will decide how much jurors will hear about Cosby’s financial settlement with Constand.

 

Cosby’s lawyers argued that the lawsuit and payment were the direct result of her scheming against him. Prosecutors said Cosby’s negotiators wanted to bar Constand from ever cooperating with law enforcement.

 

O’Neill presided over Cosby’s first trial, which ended in a hung jury last year.

 

O’Neill remained on the case after rejecting the defense’s assertions on Thursday that he could be seen as biased because his wife is a social worker and advocate for assault victims.

 

In arguing for the judge to step aside, Cosby’s lawyers pointed to a $100 donation made in his wife’s name to an organization that gave money to a group planning a protest outside of the retrial.

 

O’Neill said the contribution was made 13 months ago by the department where his wife works at the University of Pennsylvania and that Cosby’s lawyers held an antiquated view of marriage where spouses must agree on everything.

 

“How are my wife’s independent views of an independent woman connected to me?” O’Neill said. “She’s an independent woman and has the right to be involved in anything that she believes in.”

 

Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Monday and jurors will once again be sequestered at a hotel. Opening statements and testimony are not expected to get underway until April 9 at the earliest.

 

The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Constand has done.

 

30/03/2018
by MediaExpert
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Italian Market Offers Array of Items to Help Celebrate Easter

Easter, also known as Resurrection Sunday, commemorates Jesus’ resurrection, three days after his crucifixion. It’s preceded by Lent, 40 days of fasting, prayer and repentance. While Easter is a solemn holiday for Christians, it’s also a time for families to get together around the festival holiday table, one that has been influenced by the many cultures that make up American society. VOA’s Mariama Diallo visited an Italian market owned by Suzy and Bill Menard and filed this report.

30/03/2018
by MediaExpert
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Cosby Judge Won’t Step Aside as Attorneys Target Accuser

The judge in Bill Cosby’s retrial rejected demands Thursday from the comedian’s attorneys to step aside during a hearing in which they made clear they plan to attack his accuser as a greedy liar who falsely accused the comedian of sexually assaulting her to collect a payoff. 

Judge Steven O’Neill shot down what amounted to a last-ditch effort to postpone the trial by attorneys who lost their bid to overturn his ruling allowing up to five additional accusers to testify against Cosby.

Lawyers argued he should remove himself because his wife is a social worker and advocate for assault victims, pointing to a $100 donation made in her name to an organization that gave money to a group planning a protest outside the retrial.

O’Neill said that was made 13 months ago by the department where his wife works at the University of Pennsylvania and that he’s “not biased or prejudiced” by her work.

Jury selection starts April 2

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday as the 80-year-old Cosby faces charges that he drugged and molested former Temple University athletics administrator Andrea Constand at his home in 2004. 

While they sparred with the judge in court Thursday, Cosby’s attorneys are also counting on him to make critical rulings to bolster their defense that Constand is a money-grubbing liar.

They want O’Neill to let them call Marguerite Jackson, a woman who says Constand spoke of framing a celebrity before she went to police with allegations that Cosby drugged and molested her in 2004. They also want to let jurors know how much Cosby paid her in a 2006 civil settlement.

“Those are the bookends: I have a motive and I have a payoff,” attorney Kathleen Bliss argued. “The jury should be allowed to view the full context of that.”

Assistant District Attorney Kristen Fedden said that they doubted the discussion with Jackson happened.

O’Neill blocked Jackson from testifying at the first trial because he said her testimony would be hearsay. Prosecutors want him to do the same for the retrial.

Prosecutors say the theory that Constand wanted to set up Cosby is undermined by the comedian’s testimony in a 2005 deposition that she only visited his home when invited and that he gave her pills without her asking for them.

Prosecutors also argued the settlement is irrelevant to the criminal case, but that if it is allowed in, jurors should also hear about negotiations that led to the settlement.

Assistant District Attorney Stewart Ryan contended that Cosby’s negotiators initially asked that he be released from any criminal liability and tried to bar Constand from cooperating with law enforcement. He said that amounted to obstruction of justice.

“Those things are inconsistent with a person who believes he’s innocent,” Ryan said.

Judge’s wife

Thursday’s hearing started with arguments over the judge’s wife, Deborah O’Neill, a psychotherapist who coordinates a team that cares and advocates for student sexual assault victims. 

O’Neill said that the donation cited by Cosby’s lawyers didn’t involve her money or their joint assets.

“How are my wife’s independent views of an independent woman connected to me?” O’Neill said. “She’s an independent woman and has the right to be involved in anything that she believes in.”

O’Neill said Thursday that Cosby’s former attorneys raised the prospect of having him step aside in December 2016, but never followed through. He added that he could have rejected the recusal request simply because Cosby’s attorneys waited too long to ask.

He said they were aware of Deborah O’Neill’s work as far back as December 2016, but that they waited until getting several adverse rulings just before retrial to raise it as an issue.

O’Neill spoke glowingly about his wife and said it was difficult to have her accomplishments “trivialized” in a legal motion. He said Cosby’s attorneys had presented an antiquated view of marriage in which spouses must agree on everything.

Cosby’s attorneys could still appeal O’Neill’s decision to allow the other accusers to testify to the state’s Supreme Court.

Constand phone call

The pretrial hearing will continue Friday, including for arguments over whether jurors can hear about a 2005 phone call in which Constand says she told her mother about the alleged assault for the first time.

O’Neill agreed Thursday that the trial wouldn’t start until at least April 9 and that the jury chosen from suburban Montgomery County would be sequestered in a local hotel.

The AP does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Constand has done.

30/03/2018
by MediaExpert
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Ads Pulled from Ingraham Show After She Mocked Parkland Survivor

At least three companies said Thursday they were pulling advertisements from a Fox News show hosted by conservative pundit Laura Ingraham, heeding a call from a teenage survivor of the Florida school massacre whom Ingraham mocked on Twitter.

Parkland student David Hogg, 17, tweeted a list of a dozen companies that advertise on The Ingraham Angle and urged his supporters to demand that they cancel their ads.

Hogg is a survivor of the Feb. 14 mass shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the Parkland suburb of Fort Lauderdale. Since then, he and other classmates have become the faces of a new youth-led movement calling for tighter restrictions on firearms.

Hogg took aim at Ingraham’s advertisers after she taunted him Wednesday on Twitter, accusing him of whining about being rejected by four colleges to which he had applied.

On Thursday, Ingraham tweeted an apology “in the spirit of Holy Week,” saying she was sorry for any hurt or upset she had caused Hogg or any of the “brave victims” of Parkland.

“For the record, I believe my show was the first to feature David … immediately after that horrific shooting and even noted how ‘poised’ he was given the tragedy,” Ingraham tweeted, adding that Hogg was welcome back for another interview.

But her apology did not stop at least three companies from parting ways with her show. U.S. celebrity chef Rachael Ray’s pet food line Nutrish, travel website TripAdvisor and online home furnishings seller Wayfair Inc all said they were canceling their advertisements.

Wayfair

Wayfair said it supports open dialogue and debate, but “the decision of an adult to personally criticize a high school student who has lost his classmates in an unspeakable tragedy is not consistent with our values,” it said in a statement.

Nutrish

Replying to Hogg’s boycott call, Nutrish tweeted: “We are in the process of removing our ads from Laura Ingraham’s program.”

A representative for the pet food line did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

TripAdvisor

CNBC cited a TripAdvisor spokesman as saying the company does not condone “inappropriate comments” made by Ingraham that in its view “cross the line of decency.”

TripAdvisor representatives did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Ingraham’s show runs on Fox News, part of Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox Inc.

29/03/2018
by MediaExpert
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The 5 Other Accusers Chosen to Testify at Cosby’s Retrial

Prosecutors have selected the five additional accusers they plan to call to the witness stand at Bill Cosby’s April 2 sexual assault retrial.

The accusers, including model Janice Dickinson, were chosen from a group of eight women whose allegations date as far back as the early 1980s.

Prosecutors listed their selections in a letter to Judge Steven O’Neill that was made public on Wednesday.

O’Neill’s March 15 ruling cleared the way for prosecutors to broaden their case beyond the alleged assault of Andrea Constand in 2004 that led to Cosby’s only criminal charges. They want to show that he had a pattern of misconduct over a five-decade span.

At Cosby’s first trial, which ended in a deadlock, O’Neill allowed only one other accuser to take the stand. But that woman is not one of the five who will testify this time in support of Constand’s case.

In the letter to O’Neill and other filings, prosecutors have listed the women only by witness number. The Associated Press was able to identify them by cross-referencing the details of the allegations described in court filings with statements and other accounts they have made publicly.

The AP does not typically name people who say they are victims of sexual assault, but those named below have consented.

Attorneys for Cosby, who is now 80, have said the women’s memories are tainted at best and tried to get them barred from testifying, but their request was denied.

 ___

The criminal case

Andrea Constand

Ages then: She was 30; he was 66.

Constand told police in 2005 that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her a year earlier at his suburban Philadelphia estate. The Temple University basketball team manager said he gave her three unlabeled blue pills to “relax” as she discussed a career change. She said she was semi-conscious when he digitally penetrated her. Cosby, a Temple alumnus, booster and former trustee, is charged with sexually assaulting a person unable to give consent, a felony that could bring 10 years in prison upon conviction. The defense says her story has evolved and there were other times they were sexually intimate. Cosby has pleaded not guilty.

 ___

The five other accusers

Janice Dickinson

Ages then: She was 27; he was 45.

Dickinson met Cosby in 1982 and saw him as a trusted friend and mentor as she tried to broaden her career from modeling to music and television. Dickinson said Cosby arranged for her to fly to see him perform in Lake Tahoe and knocked her out with a pill he gave her after she had complained of stomach pain. She said she woke up in pain and found fluids between her legs. She never reported the encounter to authorities and has said she was afraid that if she did, her career would be damaged and Cosby would retaliate. Cosby lawyer Martin Singer said in 2014 that Dickinson’s allegations were a lie and a “glaring contradiction” to what she wrote in her book and what she had previously told the media.

 ___

Janice Baker-Kinney

Ages then: She was 24; he was 45.

Baker-Kinney, then a Harrah’s casino bartender in Reno, Nevada, went to a pizza party at a nearby home where Cosby was staying in 1982. He insisted that she take two pills, she said, before the backgammon game they were playing went blurry. She said she recalls seeing her blouse unbuttoned and his pants unzipped before she awoke naked with signs she had been sexually assaulted. The defense says her story is “nothing like Ms. Constand’s” because she only met Cosby once, “voluntarily” took quaaludes and apologized for passing out.

 ___

Heidi Thomas

Ages then: She was 24; he was 46.

Thomas’ agent sent the aspiring actress to meet Cosby for career advice at a Harrah’s hotel in Reno in 1984, but the limousine he sent instead took her to a private house where she said he gave her a drink so she could play the intoxicated person in a script he gave her. During intermittent bouts of consciousness, she said, she was naked and Cosby forced her to perform oral sex. The defense says she has given three versions of her story.

 ___

Chelan Lasha

Ages then: She was 17; he was 48.

The model and aspiring actress met and befriended Cosby in 1986. Lasha said he invited her to his Las Vegas hotel room to introduce her to a modeling agency representative and gave her a pill he described as an antihistamine and a double shot of almond liqueur to help fight a cold. At Cosby’s behest, Lasha said, she changed into a robe, wet her hair and posed for a few modeling shots. She said Cosby then directed her to the bed, where he pinched her nipple and humped her leg as she lay immobilized and unable to speak. She says she woke up naked.

 ___

Lise-Lotte Lublin

Ages then: She was 23; he was about 52.

Lublin was an aspiring actress when she met Cosby in 1989. She and her mother went for a run with Cosby, and he gave them show tickets before he invited her to the Elvis suite of the Las Vegas Hilton to practice acting improvisation. He prodded her to take two drinks to relax, which she ultimately did. She said she recalls seeing Cosby stroking her hair and walking down a hall before she woke up at home two days later. She said she believes she was sexually assaulted. The defense says Lublin assumes she is a victim based on other media accounts but can only remember Cosby stroking her hair.

28/03/2018
by MediaExpert
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US, Chinese Scientists Work Together to Reintroduce Pandas to Wild

There are fewer than 2,000 wild pandas in the world. However, as VOA’s David Byrd reports, a new documentary tells how scientists are working to introduce captive-bred panda cubs into the wild.

28/03/2018
by MediaExpert
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Sean Penn, Oscar Winner, Is Now a Novelist

Sean Penn, Oscar-winning actor, has other passions these days.

“I’m not in love with the job of acting anymore,” says Penn, whose films include “Milk,” “Mystic River,” “Dead Man Walking” and many others. “In fact, what I want to do is write books.”

Penn fears the world is so overwhelmed with “content” that even great movies are quickly forgotten. But he still believes in words. This week, Penn joins such literary heroes as Norman Mailer and Jack Kerouac, not to mention such acting peers as Ethan Hawke and James Franco, as an author of fiction.

Penn’s novel is called “Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff,” a title not out of place for someone whose off-screen adventures have led to encounters with everyone from Mikhail Gorbachev to El Chapo. “Bob Honey,” its volatile and alienated protagonist like/unlike the writer himself, is a hot tour of the United States and beyond as a Trump-like figure known as “The Landlord” rises to power and Bob Honey longs to be “Unbranded, unbridled and free.”

“Bob Honey” has an improvisational style and a trail of alliterations (“Quite intentionally, to a fault,” Penn acknowledges). The plot involves septic tanks, lethal mallets and fireworks for dictators. The book’s back story also follows a scattered path. Last year, Penn released a brief audiobook under the pseudonym Pappy Pariah. He expanded on it and published a hardcover under his own name, although he says that opinions contained within, including a poem that chastises the #MeToo movement, are not necessarily his own.

“A character’s thought pattern,” he says of such lines as “A platform for accusation impunity?/Due process has lost its sheen?”

During a recent interview with The Associated Press, the 57-year-old Penn talked about writing, movies, #MeToo and his changing tastes in books. He has more trouble in mind for Bob Honey, depending on whether he thinks the public will care. Some reviews have been rough (“Sean Penn The Novelist Must Be Stopped” reads a Huffington Post headline), but the novel has made the top 100 on Amazon.com and hit No. 1 in a category Penn should appreciate: absurdist fiction.

On why he wrote the novel:

“I needed to step away from the news cycle some time during 2015-2016. It was occurring to me more and more that the debates I had found even myself part of in the public arena had become that which were dividing us as a country more and more, that we entered the conversations now as 3-year-olds and to be in the conversation was to be a 3-year-old. The only way I felt I could respond to it was a kind of satire — to choose to laugh, instead of vent, or instead of rage.”

On some favorite authors from Mailer to Cormac McCarthy and what they have in common:

“I realized after I wrote this book that my reading of fiction has been, and I hadn’t thought about it before, almost entirely mono-cultural. It’s almost been entirely American men, the authors I have read. I’m anxious to change that. … My real history of going to bookstores and buying a book has been the rugged men tale tellers and I find that my interests do go beyond that.”

 “I was early on a reader of Louise Erdrich, but I haven’t read any of her writing in a long time. I’d like to go back and see what she’s been doing. I’m a big fan of Sharon Olds as a poet. Whenever she has a book out, I grab it.”

 

On #Metoo:

“One of the interesting things that I note has not come up in the discussion of sexual abuse, be it by a partner or a parent or a legal system, and it’s sort of surprising that there isn’t within any of these movements any express concern or dialogue when it comes to the age consent in this country.”

“Here we are talking about sexual abuse and you’re still seeing in this country teenagers being married. I think for a movement about protecting young people, about protecting women, that if we are to add to our empathy those who were exploited for their ambition, among the other things, which is not my business to say that that’s a fair thing to be protected from or not. The expectation for me in my adulthood was that I was responsible for that. We are all different and people have different strengths and weaknesses at different times in their lives. But when we’re talking about kids, it’s just clear.”

On a possible movie of `Bob Honey’:

“A couple of people have talked to me about that. I think that if one of these talented directors really wants to do it, then it would be a lot of fun to see them go do it. But I don’t want anything to do with it other than pay whatever it is to buy a ticket and see it.”