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by MediaExpert

LeBron James Joins Other Celebrities Who Launched Schools

With the launch of a public school in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, LeBron James has joined a long list of celebrities who have sought to leave their mark on education centers.

The NBA star, who recently left the Cleveland Cavaliers and signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, was on hand Monday to welcome children to the I Promise School, built in a partnership with the LeBron James Family Foundation and Akron City Schools. The school launches with a group of third- and fourth-graders and plans to expand to serve first through eighth grades by 2022.

James has said the school, with a non-traditional schedule and year-round programming, can have a lasting impact for children facing the kinds of challenges he faced during a rough childhood. James grew up without a father, and he missed a lot of school because he and his mother lacked transportation.

Here is a look at some of the other celebrities who have been involved in creating schools, sometimes with mixed results:

Deion Sanders

The NFL Hall of Famer co-founded a multi-campus charter school called Prime Prep Academy in Texas in 2012. He coached there and served in other capacities but had a rocky relationship with administrators and was twice fired and rehired. The school’s enrollment slid amid financial and administrative problems, and it closed in early 2015.


The singer has funded at least a half-dozen schools for children in her native Colombia over the past two decades with her foundation, Pies Descalzos, which means Barefoot in Spanish. Those institutions included a $6 million school she dedicated in 2009 in her hometown, Barranquilla, on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. She said then that her foundation’s work is about “breaking the myth that quality education is the privilege of the few.”

Magic Johnson

The Lakers legend announced in 2011 that he was partnering with for-profit EdisonLearning Inc. to lend his name and business skills to promote dropout recovery centers. The effort expanded to at least 17 Bridgescape schools in six states within a couple years with the goal of reducing school dropout rates in urban areas. The company and Johnson parted ways after five years, but EdisonLearning says four Bridgescape Learning Academies still operate with the Chicago Public Schools.

Tony Bennett

The singer and his wife, teacher Susan Benedetto, founded the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in 2001 in New York, naming it after the legendary singer, who was Bennett’s best friend. The public performing arts high school in Queens, which gets support from Bennett’s nonprofit group, admits students based on auditions. It boasts a high graduation rate, with alumni who have gone on to study at a variety of top arts colleges. 

Will Smith

The actor-rapper and his actress wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, founded the private New Village Academy in the Los Angeles area in 2008. Pinkett Smith said she was moved to start the school after developing home-schooling programs for their own children, but it was embroiled in controversy over rumors the curriculum used instructional methods developed by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. The couple and school leaders denied any connection to the church. The school reportedly closed in 2013. Representatives for the couple couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Andre Agassi

The tennis great ran the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy for at-risk youth in his hometown, Las Vegas. In 2016, the academy was turned over to an out-of-state operator, and it has been rebranded Democracy Prep at Agassi Campus. The school change was compelled by a Nevada state initiative that targeted low-performing schools. The Andre Agassi Foundation for Education also is tied to an investment fund that helps charter school operators get access to buildings and facilities around the country.

Sean “Diddy” Combs

The performer and entrepreneur added another role in 2016 as founder of the Capital Preparatory Harlem Charter School in the New York neighborhood where he was born. He said it was a dream come true to create the school, which is part of a group of schools aimed at supporting historically disadvantaged students.


The rapper, whose real name is Armando Christian Perez, has been a celebrity ambassador for the Sports and Leadership Academy, which has locations in Miami and Henderson, Nevada. He’s appeared at ceremonies for the schools, which focus on sports medicine, marketing, business and management. The academy is overseen by the Sports and Leadership Academy Foundation, and he is not a financial donor.


The pop star founded the charity Raising Malawi in 2006 to help vulnerable children in that impoverished southern African nation. Its work has included helping to build schools there. It also funded a children’s wing at a hospital that opened last year.

by MediaExpert

Draft Poster for ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ Sells for $26,400

A rare draft poster for the “Star Wars” sequel “The Empire Strikes Back” has sold at auction for $26,400.

Heritage Auctions says a long-time pop culture collector who wished to remain anonymous made the winning bid Sunday in the Dallas auction.


The poster features Han Solo and Princess Leia in an embrace similar to one from a “Gone With the Wind” poster featuring Rhett Butler carrying Scarlett O’Hara while surrounded by flames.


Grey Smith, Heritage’s director of vintage posters, says the draft poster for the 1980 movie “The Empire Strikes Back” is unique because it shows Roger Kastel’s complete artwork in the original color palette.


After final revisions, the poster had a darker color scheme than the draft’s vibrant reds and oranges. It was also more streamlined with fewer characters.

by MediaExpert

Israel Jails Arab Poet for Online ‘Incitement to Terrorism’

An Israeli court jailed an Israeli Arab poet for five months on Tuesday after convicting her of incitement to terrorism for a poem and remarks she posted on social media during a wave of Palestinian street attacks.

Dareen Tatour, 36, posted on Facebook and YouTube a video of herself reading out her poem “Resist, My People, Resist”, as a soundtrack to footage of masked Palestinian youths throwing stones and firebombs at Israeli soldiers.

Tatour published her poem in October 2015 during a spate of deadly Palestinian stabbing, shooting and ramming attacks on Israelis. She was arrested a few days later, and prosecutors said her post was a call for violence. She denied this.

Her case became a cause celebre for freedom of speech advocates in Israel and abroad. It drew attention to the advanced technology used by Israeli security agencies to trawl through social media to identify and arrest users suspected of incitement to violence, or of planning attacks.

Tatour said her poem was misunderstood by the Israeli authorities as it was not a call for violence, rather for non-violent struggle.

U.S.-backed negotiations on a Palestinian state in territory Israel captured in a 1967 war have been stalled since 2014.

Tatour was also charged with supporting a terrorist group. Prosecutors said she had expressed support for the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad’s call for an uprising.

“I wasn’t expecting justice to be done. The case was political from the start, because I am Palestinian and support freedom of speech,” she told reporters at the Nazareth Magistrate’s Court in northern Israel.

Arab minority

Tatour belongs to Israel’s Arab minority, which comprises mainly descendants of the Palestinians who remained on their land after the 1948 Arab-Jewish war that surrounded the creation of the state of Israel. Hundreds of thousands fled or were driven from their homes.

The court added a six-month suspended sentence to Tatour’s jail time, according to the official minutes distributed by the Justice Ministry. Her lawyer, Gaby Lasky, said Tatour would appeal both the verdict and the sentence.

Israel says the string of Palestinian attacks that began in 2015 was fueled by online incitement and it has launched a legal crackdown to curb it.

Indictments for online incitement have tripled in Israel since 2014. Prosecutions by the Israeli military have also increased in the occupied West Bank – most of those charged are young Palestinians.

The campaign against alleged incitement has raised questions about the balance between security and free speech.

On July 18 the Israeli parliament was set to pass legislation that would have empowered the justice system to order Internet providers, such as Facebook and Google, to take down social media posts in Israel deemed as incitement.

But hours before the scheduled vote Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shelved the bill. An adviser to Netanyahu, Jonatan Urich, said the law was open to a too-wide interpretation that could allow cyber-censorship and harm freedom of speech.


by MediaExpert

50 Years on, McDonald’s and Fast-Food Evolve Around Big Mac

McDonald’s is fighting to hold onto customers as the Big Mac turns 50, but it isn’t changing the makings of its most famous burger.

The company is celebrating the 1968 national launch of the double-decker sandwich whose ingredients of “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions and a sesame seed bun” were seared into American memories by a TV jingle. But the milestone comes as the company reduces its number of U.S. stores. McDonald’s said Thursday that customers are visiting less often. Other trendy burger options are reaching into the heartland.

The “Golden Arches” still have a massive global reach, and the McDonald’s brand of cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets and french fries remains recognizable around the world. But on its critical home turf, the company is toiling to stay relevant. Kale now appears in salads, fresh has replaced frozen beef patties in Quarter Pounders, and some stores now offer ordering kiosks, food delivery and barista-style cafes.

The milestone for the Big Mac shows how much McDonald’s and the rest of fast-food have evolved around it.

“Clearly, we’ve gotten a little more sophisticated in our menu development,” McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook said in a phone interview.

As with many of its popular and long-lasting menu items, the idea for the Big Mac came from a franchisee.

In 1967, Michael James “Jim” Delligatti lobbied the company to let him test the burger at his Pittsburgh restaurants. Later, he acknowledged the Big Mac’s similarity to a popular sandwich sold by the Big Boy chain.

“This wasn’t like discovering the light bulb. The bulb was already there. All I did was screw it in the socket,” Delligatti said, according to “Behind the Arches.”

McDonald’s agreed to let Delligatti sell the sandwich at a single location, on the condition that he use the company’s standard bun. It didn’t work. Delligatti tried a bigger sesame seed bun, and the burger soon lifted sales by more than 12 percent.

After similar results at more stores, the Big Mac was added to the national menu in 1968. Other ideas from franchisees that hit the big time include the Filet-O-Fish, Egg McMuffin, Apple Pie (once deep-fried but now baked), and the Shamrock Shake.

“The company has benefited from the ingenuity of its small business men,” wrote Ray Kroc, who transformed the McDonald’s into a global franchise, in his book, “Grinding It Out.”

Franchisees still play an important role, driving the recent switch to fresh from frozen for the beef in Quarter Pounders, Easterbrook says. They also participate in menu development, which in the U.S. has included a series of cooking tweaks intended to improve taste.

Messing with a signature menu item can be taboo, but keeping the Big Mac unchanged comes with its own risks. Newer chains such as Shake Shack and Five Guys offer burgers that can make the Big Mac seem outdated. Even White Castle is modernizing, recently adding plant-based “Impossible Burger” sliders at some locations.

A McDonald’s franchisee fretted in 2016 that only one out of five millennials has tried the Big Mac. The Big Mac had “gotten less relevant,” the franchisee wrote in a memo, according to the Wall Street Journal.

McDonald’s then ran promotions designed to introduce the Big Mac to more people. Those kind of periodic campaigns should help keep the Big Mac relevant for years to come, says Mike Delligatti, the son of the Big Mac inventor, who died in 2016.

“What iconic sandwich do you know that can beat the Big Mac as far as longevity?” said Delligatti, himself a McDonald’s franchisee.

by MediaExpert

Lindsay Lohan to Make US TV Comeback in MTV Reality Series

Lindsay Lohan, whose promising movie career crashed in a string of legal woes and substance abuse, is returning to U.S. television in a reality series about her night club ventures in Greece.

MTV said on Monday that “Lohan Beach Club” will follow the actress as she works to expand a recently launched nightclub and restaurant business in Greece.

The TV network said the show, expected to air in 2019, will see Lohan, 32, lead a team of “brand ambassadors” who will help promote her business “while striving to rise above the temptations the Mykonos night life scene has to offer.”

Lohan, once one of Hollywood’s most-sought after young actresses after starring roles in “The Parent Trap” and “Mean Girls,” went to rehab six times between 2007 and 2013, and was in and out of jail and court repeatedly for offenses ranging from theft to drunken driving and drug possession.

Her last feature movie was the 2013 low-budget thriller “The Canyons” after which she moved to London, and later Dubai. Her biggest acting job since then is dark British TV comedy “Sick Note,” in which she plays a supporting role in the second season that began airing last week.

The Mykonos beach club is Lohan’s third business venture in Greece following the 2016 opening of a nightclub bearing her name in Athens and a beach house in Rhodes which is due to open this summer.

by MediaExpert

Madonna Launches $60,000 Malawi Fundraiser to Mark 60th Birthday

Madonna on Monday launched a $60,000 fundraiser to support her work with children in Malawi, and had already raised more than $10,000 in the first 24 hours.

The “Rebel Heart” singer, who has adopted four children from the African nation in the past 10 years, said 100 percent of every contribution would go directly to her Raising Malawi foundation’s rural orphanage, Home of Hope.

She launched the fundraiser, which will run throughout August, through her Facebook page to mark her 60th birthday on Aug. 16.

“For my birthday, I can think of no better gift than connecting my global family with this beautiful country and the children who need our help most,” Madonna wrote.

“Every dollar raised will go directly to meals, schools, uniforms and healthcare,” she added.

According to her website, more than 200 people had contributed almost $11,000 of the $60,000 target on the first days of the project’s launch.

Madonna established the non-profit Raising Malawi in 2006 to provide health and education programs, particularly for girls.

In 2017 she adopted four-year-old twin Malawi girls, Esther and Stella, and opened a children’s hospital in the country’s second-biggest city, Blantyre.

Madonna’s family also includes Malawi children David Banda and Mercy James, and biological children Lourdes and Rocco from her previous relationships.

by MediaExpert

Chile Art Initiative Eye Opener for Blind

A new initiative in the Chilean capital of Santiago is making some of the city’s dramatic street murals more accessible to visually disabled people by offering them a tactile representation of the artwork. VOA’s Mariama Diallo has more.

by MediaExpert

CBS Investigates Sexual Misconduct Allegations Against CEO 

CBS said Friday it is investigating sexual misconduct allegations against Les Moonves, the company’s 68-year-old chairman and CEO.

The claims were detailed Friday on the website of The New Yorker magazine in an article written by Ronan Farrow.

Farrow won a Pulitzer Prize last year for an article in the same magazine about the sexual allegations against powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

In his latest article, Farrow said that he interviewed six women who said they had been sexually harassed by Moonves between the 1980s and the late 2000s.

“Four described forcible touching or kissing during business meetings,” he wrote. “Two told me that Moonves physically intimidated them or threatened to derail their careers.”

All of them, Farrow said, continue to fear “speaking out would lead to retaliation from Moonves, who is known in the industry for his ability to make or break careers.”

Janet Jones, a writer, told Farrow that Moonves “has gotten away with it for decades.” She said she had to push Moonves off of her after he “forcibly kissed” her at a work meeting.

Moonves said in a statement published in The New Yorker: “I recognize that there were times decades ago when I may have made some women uncomfortable by making advances. Those were mistakes, and I regret them immensely. … I have never misused my position to harm or hinder anyone’s career…”

Farrow said 30 current and former CBS employees told him that the sexual misconduct allegations at CBS include not only Moonves, but also extend “to important parts of the corporation, including CBS News and 60 Minutes, one of the network’s most esteemed programs.”

Under Moonves, Farrow wrote, “men at CBS News who were accused of sexual misconduct were promoted, even as the company paid settlements to women with complaints.”

Last year, Moonves was one of the founders of Hollywood’s Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, chaired by Anita Hill.

Moonves’ wife, a CBS TV producer and personality, Julie Chen, said on Twitter:

by MediaExpert

Next ‘Star Wars’ Film to Use Unreleased Fisher Footage

Carrie Fisher is not done with Star Wars after all. Lucasfilm says unreleased footage of the actress will be used in the next installment of the science fiction saga to draw her character’s story to an end.

The studio and writer-director J.J. Abrams announced Friday that footage of Fisher shot for 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be used in the ninth film in the space opera’s core trilogies about the Skywalker family that includes Fisher’s character, Leia. 

Filming is scheduled to begin Wednesday at London’s Pinewood Studios.

Mark Hamill, who plays Luke Skywalker, will also appear in the film, which for the moment is simply called Episode IX. It is scheduled to be released in December 2019.

Fisher died in December 2016 after she finished work on the middle installment in the trilogy, The Last Jedi. Director Rian Johnson opted not to alter her storyline, leaving Leia’s fate to be handled by Abrams.

“We desperately loved Carrie Fisher,” Abrams said in a statement. “Finding a truly satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker saga without her eluded us.”

He said recasting Fisher or re-creating her using computer graphics, as was done in a spinoff film, Rogue One, was not an option.

“With the support and blessing from her daughter, Billie, we have found a way to honor Carrie’s legacy and role as Leia in Episode IX by using unseen footage we shot together in Episode VII,” Abrams said.

Friday’s announcement also confirmed that Billy Dee Williams will be returning to the franchise as Lando Calrissian, a hero of the rebellion who hasn’t been seen in the latest trilogy.

by MediaExpert

New Baby for Brigitte Nielsen, Age 54, Opens Debate on Older Mothers

How late is too late to become a mother? Actress Brigitte Nielsen has had her fifth child at 54, reopening debate on the growing number of women using IVF to have babies later in life.

Fertility experts say the average age of mothers is steadily rising across the world, with women increasingly turning to fertility treatments to extend their childbearing years.

Some have renewed calls for women to prioritize having children in their younger and more fertile years, but others said health providers needed to take into account the pressures that led women to put off starting a family.

“We should trust women to make this decision for themselves,” Katherine O’Brien, head of policy research at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), a charity.

“What we need is a health care service that supports their decisions rather than trying to cajole women into children at a time that’s not right for them,” she told Reuters.

Nielsen said she conceived using eggs she had frozen in her 40s, an increasingly popular choice among women seeking to extend their fertile years.

Given that the quantity and quality of eggs declines with age, most women trying to conceive in their mid-40s or above would be advised to consider using donor eggs taken from a younger woman.

A recent analysis of fertility treatments in 1,279 institutions across Europe found almost a third of births through egg donation in 2014 were to women aged 40 or older.

One Indian woman thought to be in her 70s gave birth last year using a donor egg, according to Britain’s Guardian newspaper, a case that promoted debate over the ethics of older women using treatment to conceive.

“There is a global trend for women choosing to have their children later in life,” said Richard Kennedy, the president of the International Federation of Fertility Societies.

“Certainly, in the UK and western Europe it’s personal choices: It’s lifestyle, it’s women pursuing their professions and [they] are making lifestyle choices to delay having families to until their late 30s or early 40s,” he said.

Kennedy said pregnancies of women in their 50s or older “is not something that should necessarily be encouraged,” citing the heightened risks of cardiac and other health problems during pregnancy.

“I think that women should be conscious of their fertility,” he added. “A woman should be encouraged to consider that when she is making decisions around her career and personal life.”

O’Brien, however, said much of the debate around fertility “just ignores the reality of women’s lives.”

She pointed to research by BPAS that found women were aware that fertility declined with age, but were often waiting to have children for practical reasons — such as concern over their financial stability or the impact on their careers.

“The fact that women are able to have children at that stage of their life should be celebrated,” she said. “All this finger-wagging is directed solely at women and that ignores that this is largely a decision taken by two people.”

by MediaExpert

Demand for Diversity in US vs. What Interests Chinese Fans

Whether it’s in movies, comic books or video games, fans say there is diversity in the superhero universe.

At the international Comic-Con convention that ended July 22, Emmeline Ye, a Chinese-American from San Diego, is dressed up in a Wonder Woman costume. She said her next costume will be of her favorite character in the video game, “Overwatch.”

“I appreciate that they put a Chinese character in that game, and the fact that she’s a scientist and she’s smart. She’s helping save the world,” Ye said.

For many African-American movie fans, the film “Black Panther,” released this year, was a milestone.

“When ‘Black Panther’ came out, I was so excited to see my future children have something to look up to,” said Shanice Souvenir, who also attended Comic-Con dressed as Princess Shuri of Wakanda, a character in the movie.

Diversity in comics

In recent years, superheroes in comic books and American popular culture have become increasingly diverse. But fans and creators say more work needs to be done, especially on the big screen, to fully represent American society.

“Print, I think, tends to be able to get away with that first and kind of test the waters,” said freelance comic book writer Vita Ayala.

University of Oregon director of comics and cartoon studies Ben Saunders agreed that initial risks can be taken with comics, a medium that can be more experimental than big-budget Hollywood films. But he said comic book superheroes have not always been so diverse.

“The initial wave of superheroes of the 1930s and ’40s was predominantly male and always exclusively white,” Saunders said.

Nonwhite characters at the time were stereotypes, said Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson, granddaughter of Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, founder of DC Comics.

“African-Americans were always drawn with big white lips, which is just horrible. And the Asian characters’ skin tone was usually yellow, which is just weird. And so, they were usually the menace. They were usually the evil bad guy,” she said.

​First nonwhite heroes

The first nonwhite superheroes did not quite look human and took the form of the green Hulk and The Thing, who is orange.

“The Hulk is readily sort of understandable as a kind of complicated allegory for race, as a sort of figure through ideas of monstrosity,” Saunders said.

In 1966, in the midst of the U.S. civil rights movement, Black Panther became the first black superhero in the Marvel universe, which Hollywood has embraced.

“We actually saw ‘Black Panther’ a couple of different times on opening day because it was so good,” said comics and pop culture fan Rosemary Matthew. “And we were really glad to see that something that was related to somebody that we could relate to was done really well.”

“Black Panther” opened strong in China, earning $66.5 million during the first three days in theaters. Reviews in China have been lukewarm.

“A lot of the times, I do hear that China doesn’t want to see black people or other people of color. Hollywood doesn’t think that diverse stories could sell overseas, so they make less of it, and they don’t give chances to diverse stories that could be good,” said Chinese-American Alice Mei Chi Li, who works as a freelance illustrator.

In May, Marvel released its first Chinese superheroes in print.

The Black Panther, the Hulk and other superheroes appear together in the latest Marvel film, “Avengers: Infinity War.” It has become Marvel’s most successful superhero movie in China and was granted a 30-day extended run.