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31/12/2018
by MediaExpert
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A Big Build-Up to a Big Drop: The Times Square New Year’s Ball

An estimated 1 million people will pack New York City’s Times Square to watch the huge, brilliantly lighted, crystal ball drop to signal the start of the new year. It is an American New Year’s tradition that goes back more than a century. As VOA’s Kevin Enochs reports, lot of work goes into making sure that ball lights up the sky in spectacular fashion, exactly on time.

31/12/2018
by MediaExpert
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Young Libyan Women Play for Equal Rights on the Soccer Field

Young women looking to play the world’s most-popular sport have a place all their own in Libya. An all-girls soccer academy in the capital looks to break societal norms in the Muslim majority country that frown upon women wearing shorts or competing on the same fields as men. But it is not without criticism that coaches turn constructive. Arash Arabasadi reports.

31/12/2018
by MediaExpert
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New Year’s Eve Ball Drop to Honor Journalism

A group of journalists will usher in the New Year Monday in New York City’s Times Square as the time-honored tradition of the annual ball drop recognizes journalism and free speech.

Leading American reporters and editors will be on stage just before midnight to push the button that begins the countdown to the New Year.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 53 journalists were killed on the job in 2018 and another 251 were imprisoned around the world.

In another first, New York police will use a drone to monitor the crowds. The camera-carrying drone will be added to the arsenal of more than 1,200 fixed video cameras that will be deployed by the police.

The security plan also includes road closures, thousands of uniformed and plainclothes officers, sharpshooters on rooftops of surrounding buildings and the sealing of manhole covers.

On Sunday, officials did a test run of the 544-kilogram ball sliding down a pole. This year’s ball will feature 2,688 crystal triangles and is backlit with LED lights capable of producing a number of colors and patterns.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday that the city expecting “up to 2 million people in Times Square itself” for the celebration.

 

30/12/2018
by MediaExpert
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Elections, Films Help Effort to Ban Gay Conversion Therapy 

Activists urging more states to ban gay conversion therapy for minors are expecting major gains in 2019, thanks to midterm election results and the buzz generated by two well-reviewed films. 

 

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have already enacted laws prohibiting licensed therapists from trying to change a minor’s sexual orientation. Leaders of a national campaign to ban the practice are hopeful that at least four more states — Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts and New York — will join the ranks in the upcoming legislative sessions. 

 

“We’d be disappointed if we don’t get those this year — they’re overdue,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, one of the groups campaigning to impose bans in all 50 states. 

 

The campaign has gained momentum in recent months thanks to the national release of two films dramatizing the experiences of youths who went through conversion therapy — The Miseducation of Cameron Post and the higher-profile Boy Erased starring Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe. 

Joining ‘in droves’

Sam Brinton of the Trevor Project, another of groups leading the ban campaign, said thousands of people have signed up to assist the effort since Boy Erased was released on Nov. 2. 

 

“They’re recognizing this is still a problem and joining our campaigns in droves,” said Brinton, a child of Baptist missionary parents who has written about agonizing conversion therapy sessions experienced as an adolescent in Florida. 

 

Brinton recalls being bound to a table by the therapist for applications of ice, heat and electricity. 

 

Just four days after the Boy Erased release came the midterm elections, which altered the partisan political dynamic at several statehouses and boosted prospects for conversion therapy bans.  

In three of the states now being targeted, previous efforts to enact a ban gained some bipartisan support but were thwarted by powerful Republicans. In Maine, a bill was vetoed last year by GOP Gov. Paul LePage. In New York and Colorado, bills approved in the Democratic-led lower chambers of the legislature died in the Republican-controlled state senates. 

 

In January, however, a Democrat will succeed LePage as Maine’s governor, and Democrats will have control of both legislative chambers in New York and in Colorado, where gay Gov.-elect Jared Polis is believed eager to sign a ban. 

A lead sponsor of the New York ban bill, Democratic Sen. Brad Hoylman, predicted passage would be “straightforward” now that his party controls the Senate. 

 

“For a lot of my colleagues, they consider conversion therapy to be child abuse,” he said. 

Outlook in Massachusetts

 

In Massachusetts, both legislative chambers voted last year in support of a ban but were unable to reconcile different versions of the measure before adjournment. Chances of passage in 2019 are considered strong, and Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who was re-elected, is viewed as likely to sign such a measure given his strong support for LGBT rights. 

 

More Republican governors like Baker are getting behind the bans, reflecting activists’ belief that opposition to conversion therapy is increasingly bipartisan. 

 

Bills proposing bans are pending or anticipated in several GOP-controlled legislatures, including Florida, Ohio and Utah. LGBT activists are particularly intrigued by Utah because of the possibility that the powerful Mormon church, which in the past supported conversion therapy, might endorse a bill to ban the practice for minors. 

 

In Florida, the proposed ban faces long odds in the legislature in 2019, but activists note that about 20 Florida cities and counties have passed local bans — more than in any other state. 

 

In Ohio, supporters of a bill that would ban conversion therapy for minors realize they have an uphill fight in a legislature with GOP supermajorities.  

 

Still, Sen. Charleta Tavares, a Columbus Democrat, believes her proposal got “new legs” in November. That’s when the state board overseeing counselors, social workers, and marriage and family therapists warned the 40,000 professionals it regulates that anyone found practicing conversion therapy on LGBT patients could lose his or her license.  

 

“I am glad to see that our state boards are carrying this movement, regardless of the inaction by our General Assembly,” Tavares said.  

 

For now, LGBT activists are not seeking to ban conversion therapy for adults. A gay California legislator, Evan Low, withdrew a bill he introduced earlier this year that would have declared conversion therapy a fraudulent practice and banned commercial use of it for adults and minors. Some opponents had threatened to sue to block the bill, saying it would jeopardize free speech and free exercise of religion. 

​Model for movie

 

Low says he may try again after revising his bill. If so, his arguments could be bolstered by input from John Smid, the real-life model for the Boy Erased character who ran a coercive conversion therapy program. 

 

For years, Smid was director of Tennessee-based Love in Action, a ministry that operated such a program. Smid left the organization in 2008. He subsequently renounced the concept that sexual orientation could be changed and apologized for any harm he had caused. In 2014, he married his same-sex partner, with whom he lives in Texas. 

 

Smid recently cooperated with a law firm as it compiled a report about Love in Action for the Washington-based Mattachine Society, which studies past instances of anti-LGBT persecution. 

 

One of the report’s co-authors, Lisa Linsky, said Smid depicted Love in Action as “a complete and utter failure,” with none of its participants actually changing sexual orientation. 

29/12/2018
by MediaExpert
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Norman Gimbel, Prolific Songwriter, Dies at 91

Norman Gimbel, an Oscar- and Grammy-winning lyricist, has died at the age of 91.

The prolific songwriter is perhaps best known for writing the lyrics of “Killing Me Softly With His Song” and the English lyrics for “The Girl From Ipanema.”

Gimbel, along with his collaborator Charles Fox, won the Song of the Year Grammy in 1973 for Roberta Flack’s version of “Killing Me Softly.” Years later, The Fugees scored a hit with a hip-hop version of the song.

He also penned the English lyrics for one the world’s most recorded tunes, “The Girl From Ipanema,” which won the Grammy for record of the year in 1965.

Gimbel also wrote the English lyrics for Michel Legrande’s music for the film “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” starring Catherine Deneuve.

He shared an Oscar for original song with David Shire for “It Goes Like It Goes,” from the film “Norma Rae, starring Sally Field.

Gimbel and Fox also worked together on Jim Croce’s “I Got A Name,” released the day after Croce died in a plane crash, Sept. 20, 1973.

Gimbel and Fox also shared their talents with television productions, including writing the theme songs for “Happy Days” and “LaVerne and Shirley.”

Gimbel’s son Tony told The Hollywood Reporter that his father died Dec. 19 at his home in Montecito, California.

29/12/2018
by MediaExpert
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UK Honors Cave Rescue Divers, Twiggy, Monty Python’s Palin

British divers who rescued young soccer players trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand are among those being recognized in Britain’s New Year’s Honors List, along with 1960s model Twiggy and Monty Python star Michael Palin.

Twiggy, a model who shot to stardom during the Beatles era, will become a Dame — the female equivalent of a knight — while Palin, whose second career has seen him become an acclaimed travel documentary maker, receives a knighthood.

Jim Carter, who played the acerbic Mr. Carson in “Downton Abbey,” was also recognized, as was filmmaker Christopher Nolan, director of “Inception” and “Dunkirk,” and best-selling author Philip Pullman, creator of the Dark Materials trilogy.

The list released Friday also named 43 people who responded quickly to the extremist attacks in Manchester and London in 2017.

The honors process starts with nominations from the public, which are winnowed down by committees and sent to the prime minister before the various honors are bestowed by Queen Elizabeth II or senior royals next year.

The 92-year-old monarch has increasingly called on her children and grandchildren to hand out the coveted awards.

Divers

Divers Joshua Bratchley, Lance Corporal Connor Roe and Vernon Unsworth will be made Members of the Order of the British Empire for their roles in the risky Thai cave rescue last summer.

Four other British cave divers will receive civilian gallantry awards for their roles in the thrilling rescue of 12 boys and their coach, who were trapped in the cave for more than two weeks.

Richard Stanton and John Volanthen, the first to reach the stranded children and their coach, have been awarded the George Medal, while Christopher Jewell and Jason Mallinson received the Queen’s Gallantry Medal.

Twiggy​

Twiggy, whose modeling career lasted for decades, burst on the London Mod scene as one of the original “It” girls. She earned worldwide fame by 17 and went on to a career in theater and films.

“It’s wonderful, but it makes me giggle,” said Twiggy, 69, whose real name is Lesley Lawson. “The hardest thing has been keeping it a secret.”

Michael Palin

Palin’s knighthood recognizes his contribution to travel, culture and geography. He said the news had not sunk in yet but noted “I have been a knight before, in Python films. I have been several knights, including Sir Galahad.”

“I don’t think it will (sink in) until I see the envelopes addressing me as Sir Michael Palin,” said the 75-year-old. 

 

28/12/2018
by MediaExpert
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Revered Israeli Writer Amos Oz Dies at 79

Renowned Israeli writer Amos Oz, a passionate peace advocate whose stirring memoir A Tale of Love and Darkness became a worldwide bestseller, died Friday at age 79, his daughter said.

Fania Oz-Salzberger said on Twitter that her father had died and offered thanks to “those who loved him.”

“My beloved father, Amos Oz, a wonderful family man, an author, a man of peace and moderation, died today peacefully after a short battle with cancer,” she wrote.

Tributes poured in for Oz, including from Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon, who called his death “a loss for us all and for the world.”

While Oz’s writing is widely acclaimed, he is perhaps equally known as one of the earliest and most forceful critics of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands captured in the Six-Day War of 1967.

In recent years, Oz spoke out against the policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, shunning official Israeli functions abroad in protest at what he called the “growing extremism” of his country’s government.

Netanyahu on Friday celebrated Oz as “among the greatest writers from the state of Israel.”

“Despite our diverging views on numerous issues, I have deeply appreciated his contribution to the Hebrew language and the revival of Hebrew literature,” the premier said in a statement released by his office.

Oz was described as a “literary great” by Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin.

“A tale of love and light and henceforth, great darkness,” he wrote on Twitter.

28/12/2018
by MediaExpert
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50th-Anniversary Woodstock Event Set for 2019

Fifty years after the Woodstock music festival became one of the watersheds of hippie counterculture, an anniversary event will take place in August 2019 on the same field north of New York City.

The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts announced a three-day festival of “music, culture and community” that will celebrate “the golden anniversary at the historic site of the 1969 Woodstock festival.”

The Bethel Woods Center, a nonprofit that now owns the 37-acre (15-hectare) field that was the site of the 1969 Woodstock festival, said in a Facebook posting Thursday that the Aug. 16-18 festival will be a “pan-generational event.”

It will feature live performances from prominent and emerging artists across multiple genres and decades, as well as talks from leading futurists and tech experts. The festival is a joint venture with concert promoters Live Nation.

Details of performers, tickets and other participants will be announced at a later date, the Bethel Woods Center said.

The August 1969 Woodstock festival, billed as “three days of peace and music,” is regarded as one of the pivotal moments in music history and 1960s counterculture.

Over three sometimes-rainy days, more than 30 acts — including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who, The Band, and the Grateful Dead — performed around the clock to a 400,000-strong audience, most of whom watched for free and camped onsite in the mud. The festival was documented in the 1970 film Woodstock, which won an Oscar.

Although it was known as Woodstock, the festival actually took place in Bethel, some 70 miles (110 km) south of the village of Woodstock in upstate New York. Bethel is 90 miles (144 km) north of New York City.

“Fifty years ago, people gathered peacefully on our site inspired to change the world through music,” Darlene Fedun, chief executive of the Bethel Woods Center, said in a statement announcing the 50th-anniversary event.

“We remain committed to preserving this rich history and spirit, and to educating and inspiring new generations to contribute positively to the world through music, culture, and community,” Fedun added.

The Bethel Woods festival is not affiliated with Michael Lang, a promoter of the 1969 festival, who has also spoken of plans to organize a 50th-anniversary event but has yet to make any announcement. Woodstock anniversary festivals were also held in 1994, 1998 and 1999.

Many of the 1969 Woodstock artists are now dead. Surviving musicians who are still performing into their 70s include Joan Baez, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of The Who, and David Crosby, Neil Young, Graham Nash and Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

27/12/2018
by MediaExpert
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Tourism Group Gives Funds to Reopen Liberty Bell for 3 Days

Tourists in Philadelphia for the holidays will be able to see the Liberty Bell this weekend despite a partial federal government shutdown that closed many national parks throughout the country.

Most of the buildings in the Independence National Historic Park including Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center have been shuttered since Saturday morning because of the partial shutdown.

That was bad news for tourists and the city of Philadelphia, which sees the second highest attendance at the Liberty Bell during the weekend before New Year’s Day annually.

Officials at VISIT PHILADELPHIA, a tourism and marketing group, say they’re giving the park $32,000 to open Friday, Saturday and Sunday to let in the estimated 25,000 people who had planned to see the Liberty Bell this weekend.

 

27/12/2018
by MediaExpert
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RUSADA’s Chief Appeals to Putin Over Doping Data

The head of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency has asked for President Vladimir Putin’s help in getting Russian officials to hand over key doping data to World Anti-Doping Agency inspectors.

WADA reinstated the suspended RUSADA in September on the condition Russian authorities hand over lab data, which could help confirm a number of violations uncovered during an investigation that revealed a state-sponsored doping program designed to win medals at the 2014 Olympics and other major events.

WADA officials said earlier this month they were leaving Moscow empty-handed after Russian authorities prevented them from accessing data.

In a letter released Thursday, RUSADA chief Yuri Ganus appealed to Putin to reverse the decision and allow the data to be given to WADA inspectors. Ganus warned that refusal to do so would hurt Russia’s efforts to clean up its sports from doping.

WADA has previously said that Russia unexpectedly demanded its equipment be “certified under Russian law.” The deadline to turn over the data is Dec. 31.

27/12/2018
by MediaExpert
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Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball Gets Some New Sparkle

Preparations for New Year’s Eve in Times Square are taking shape, and some of those shapes are 192 new crystal triangles on the famous ball.

The new Waterford crystal triangles will join about 2,500 others Thursday on the big, sparkling sphere. Some new crystals are swapped in every year.

This year’s additions feature rosette cuts designed to make them appear to flow harmoniously into each other. That’s in keeping with this year’s “gift of harmony” theme.

The ball measures 3.5 meters (12 feet) in diameter and weighs almost 5,450 kg (nearly 12,000 pounds). It’s positioned atop One Times Square.