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12/04/2021
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Britons Switch Off Coverage of Royal Death

Britons switched off their televisions Friday in record numbers, apparently frustrated with the blanket coverage of the death of Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth and the longest serving royal consort in British history. The BBC, the country’s taxpayer-funded public broadcaster, was flooded with so many complaints that it set up a dedicated complaints form on its website, where viewers recorded their irritation with the postponement of their favorite shows, including the soap drama “EastEnders,” “Gardeners’ World,” and the final episode of a popular TV cooking competition.“There’s only so much of the BBC being unctuous about royalty that a chap can bear,” best-selling historian Tom Holland tweeted. The noted author of books on ancient Roman and Greek history was not alone in his irritation of pre-recorded tributes to Philip and documentaries on the royal family.  Former BBC presenter Simon McCoy queried the scale of the coverage, tweeting, “I know this is a huge event. But surely the public deserves a choice of programming.”Former government minister Chris Mullin called the “North Korea-style” coverage a “big mistake.”  The BBC said its decision to simulcast across multiple channels for 24 hours was taken to mark Philip’s “life of extraordinary public service.” The prince, a former naval officer who served with distinction in World War II, is widely credited with having helped to modernize and guide the royal household. Sorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
download this video to view it offline.Download File360p | 11 MB480p | 15 MB540p | 21 MB720p | 42 MB1080p | 86 MBOriginal | 94 MB Embed” />Copy Download AudioBut the British public switched off — particularly notable as the country last week was gripped by poor weather and largely under a pandemic lockdown. Audience figures have shocked television executives, with all broadcasters, in addition to the BBC, recording plummeting ratings.  BBC Two saw a 64% drop in its audience compared to the previous Friday. BBC One’s viewership fell by 6% from the previous week, and ITV, the main commercial terrestrial competitor, suffered a 60% drop in its normal audience for a Friday. Commentators noted that 40 years ago, the televised wedding of Prince Charles and then-Lady Diana Spencer attracted 30 million British viewers, while a much-vaunted BBC documentary last Friday on Philip’s life, presented by popular journalist Andrew Marr, managed to attract just 2 million viewers.  UK Broadcaster Defends Plan to Air Princess Diana Recordings

        A British television channel on Monday defended its decision to broadcast recordings of Princess Diana candidly discussing her personal life, after some royal watchers called it a betrayal of the late princess' privacy.

Channel 4 said the video tapes, made in the early 1990s, are an “important historical source” and place Diana “front and center” in her own story as Britain marks 20 years since her death.
 
The channel said that although the recordings were made in private, “the subjects covered are…
At midday Friday, as Buckingham Palace released the news that Philip had died peacefully in his sleep at Windsor Castle, BBC television networks halted programming and faded the screens to black with the caption, “News Report,” before announcing the prince’s death. Moments before, the royal household followed tradition and posted the news outside the gates of Buckingham Palace, where hundreds quickly began laying floral tributes to the prince. Philip had a preexisting heart condition and had undergone heart surgery at a London hospital a few weeks ago. Opinion is divided on why there was a great television switch-off. Some observers suggest it is a sign of decreasing public affection for the royal family, which has been buffeted by scandals in recent years. Others suggest a generational divide, with older Britons identifying with a prince who came of age after World War I and saw military service in World War II. Some commentators and politicians blamed the excess media coverage. Others say the reporting was cloying, a claim rejected by former Conservative government minister Alastair Burt, who said he thought the BBC, in particular, had managed to get the pitch of its coverage perfect.  “The BBC has caught the mood well, and its public has responded,” Burt wrote Monday for the online magazine The Article.  He praised the BBC for collecting from ordinary Britons stories and anecdotes about Philip, who died two months short of his 100th birthday. World Leaders Offer Tributes to Britain’s Prince PhilipCharismatic consort to Queen Elizabeth left a deep impression on many of those he met “The response from so many members of the public has also left me somewhat awed,” Burt said. “Occasionally, those who have had the privilege to represent the British people — in my case for 33 years — can still be surprised by them. The anecdotes and memories of chance encounters with Prince Philip have been, by turns, humorous, poignant and sometimes damn moving,” he said. It created “a touching mosaic of today’s United Kingdom,” he added.Nonetheless, the plummeting audiences suggest that many Britons found the “mosaic” less than compelling. One social media user noted, “Wall to wall coverage on every single channel is annoying and unnecessary. There is other important news. And some people might appreciate some other TV. I’d bet Prince Philip would not have approved of such a fuss!” Prince Charles Pays Tribute to ‘My Dear Papa,’ Prince Philip, for Devoted Service Says the 99-year-old would have been amazed at touching reaction around the world to his deathPhilip was noted as a stoical and rather irascible character who preferred a no-nonsense approach to most things. A hatred of fuss, according to royal commentators, prompted him to reject the idea of marking his departure with a grand state funeral — a rite of passage he is due. In keeping with his wishes, he will have a simple royal ceremonial funeral on Saturday, which will be reduced in ceremony and attendees because of coronavirus restrictions.

12/04/2021
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William, Harry Remember Prince Philip’s Wit, Service to UK

Princes William and Harry paid tribute Monday to their grandfather, Prince Philip, remembering his wit, sense of duty and barbecue skills.
The brothers, who are at the center of a royal family rift, issued separate statements about Philip, who died last week at 99.
William, who is second in line to the throne, pledged “to get on with the job” of serving Queen Elizabeth II as he and his brother became the latest family members to honor Philip’s service to the nation and the monarch.
“My grandfather was an extraordinary man and part of an extraordinary generation,” William said in a statement. “Catherine and I will continue to do what he would have wanted and will support The Queen in the years ahead. I will miss my Grandpa, but I know he would want us to get on with the job.”
Prince Harry, who stepped away from royal duties last year and now lives in California, has arrived in the U.K. to attend Philip’s funeral service Saturday at Windsor Castle. His wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, is pregnant and was advised by her doctor not to make the long  journey.
Harry’s office also issued a statement Monday, describing Philip as a man who was “authentically himself.”
“He will be remembered as the longest reigning consort to the Monarch, a decorated serviceman, a Prince and a Duke,” Harry said. “But to me, like many of you who have lost a loved one or grandparent over the pain of this past year, he was my grandpa: master of the barbecue, legend of banter, and cheeky right ’til the end.”
William and his wife released a picture of Philip sitting in a carriage with his great-grandson, Prince George, their oldest child. Philip has the reins.”My grandfather was an extraordinary man and part of an extraordinary generation.”A message from The Duke of Cambridge following the death of The Duke of Edinburgh: https://t.co/lVCSPrG7uGpic.twitter.com/atiB8djxPO— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) April 12, 2021Philip’s royal ceremonial funeral at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle will be a slimmed-down service due the COVID-19 pandemic and will be closed to the public.
Philip, the queen’s husband of 73 years who was also known as the Duke of Edinburgh, took part in planning his own funeral and its focus on family was in accordance with his wishes.  
As preparations for the service continue, tributes to Philip are pouring in. In the House of Commons, which was recalled early from its Easter recess because of the prince’s death, lawmakers offered their condolences.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Philip “shaped and protected the monarchy through all the vicissitudes” of the past seven decades.  
“He gives us all a model of selflessness and of putting others before ourselves,” Johnson said. “He made this country a better place.”

12/04/2021
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US Recession Drama ‘Nomadland’ Wins Best Film at British Film Awards

U.S. recession drama “Nomadland,” about a community of van dwellers, was the big winner at Britain’s BAFTA awards on Sunday, scooping best film and prizes for its Chinese-born director Chloe Zhao and leading actress Frances McDormand.The British Academy of Film and Television Arts ceremony was held virtually over two nights, with nominees joining in by video, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.However, film stars Hugh Grant and Priyanka Chopra Jonas appeared in person at London’s Royal Albert Hall while Renee Zellweger and Anna Kendrick joined from a Los Angeles studio to present the awards.”Nomadland,” which has already picked up prizes this awards season, stars 63-year-old McDormand as a widow, who in the wake of the U.S. economic recession, turns her van into a mobile home and sets out on the road, taking on seasonal jobs along the way.”We would like to dedicate this award to the nomadic community who so generously welcomed us into their lives,” Zhao, who won the director category, said in her acceptance speech.”Thank you for showing us that aging is a beautiful part of life, a journey that we should all cherish and celebrate. How we treat our elders says a lot about who we are as a society and we need to do better.””Nomadland” also won for cinematography.Outstanding British film went to #MeToo revenge movie “Promising Young Woman,” which also won original screenplay.The academy also paid tribute to Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth’s husband, who died on Friday, at age 99. Philip was named BAFTA’s first president in 1959. His grandson Prince William is BAFTA’s current president.Following an outcry last year when BAFTA presented an all-white acting contenders list, more than half of this year’s 24 nominees were actors of color.Film veteran Anthony Hopkins won the leading actor category for portraying a man with dementia in “The Father.””I’m at a time in my life where I never expected to get this,” the 83-year-old told reporters of the award, adding his age had made making the movie “easy.”Youn Yuh-jung won supporting actress for “Minari,” in which she plays a grandmother who travels from South Korea to the United States to look after her grandchildren.The 73-year-old, who has won a Screen Actors Guild award and has been nominated for an Oscar for her performance, drew laughs in her acceptance speech when she jokingly said it was particularly meaningful to be recognized by “British people, known as very snobbish people.”Daniel Kaluuya, who has swept this awards season for his portrayal of late Black Panther activist Fred Hampton in “Judas and the Black Messiah,” won supporting actor.”Brokeback Mountain” and “Life of Pi” director Ang Lee received the BAFTA Fellowship, the academy’s top honor, for his contribution to film.
 

12/04/2021
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Matsuyama Becomes First Japanese Golfer to Wear Masters Green

Hideki Matsuyama won the 85th Masters in dramatic fashion Sunday, holding off Xander Schauffele to become the first Japanese man to capture a major golf title.Carrying the hopes of a nation on his shoulders, Matsuyama calmly grinded out clutch pars and struck for crucial birdies in a pressure-packed march at Augusta National, hanging on over the final holes for a historic one-stroke victory.Matsuyama took the green jacket symbolic of Masters supremacy, a top prize of $2.07 million (1.74 million euros) and a place for the ages in Japanese sports history.”I’m really happy,” he said through a translator. “Hopefully I’ll be a pioneer in this and many other Japanese will follow. I’m happy to open the floodgate and many more will follow me.”After seeing his seven-stroke lead with seven holes remaining shaved to two shots with three to go, Matsuyama watched Schauffele’s ball end up in the water off the 16th tee on the way to a triple-bogey disaster.”I felt like I gave him a little bit of a run and made a little bit of excitement for the tournament until I met a watery grave there,” Schauffele said. “I’ll be able to sleep tonight. It might be hard but I’ll be OK.”Matsuyama settled for a bogey but closed with par at 17 and a bogey at 18 to fire a one-over-par 73 and finish 72 holes on 10-under 278.”My nerves really didn’t start on the second nine,” Matsuyama said. “It was from the start today to the very last putt.”American Will Zalatoris was second in his Masters debut on 279 after a closing 70 with U.S. three-time major winner Jordan Spieth and American Schauffele sharing third on 281.”It was a fun week,” Zalatoris said. “I know I can play with the best players in the world.”Matsuyama became only the second Asian man to win a major title after South Korea’s Yang Yong-eun at the 2009 PGA Championship.No prior Japanese player had finished better than fourth at the Masters.Japan’s two previous major golf titles belonged to women, Chako Higuchi from the 1977 LPGA Championship and Hinako Shibuno at the 2019 Women’s British Open. 

11/04/2021
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Blackmore 1st Woman to Win Grand National Horse Race

A Hollywood fantasy turned into reality Saturday when Rachael Blackmore became the first female jockey to win Britain’s grueling Grand National horse race, breaking one of the biggest gender barriers in sports. Blackmore, a 31-year-old Irishwoman, rode Minella Times to victory at odds of 11-1 in the 173rd edition of the famous steeplechase at Aintree in Liverpool, northwest England “I don’t feel male or female right now. I don’t even feel human,” Blackmore said. “This is just unbelievable.” Blackmore is the 20th female jockey to compete in a race that has been a mud-splattered British sporting institution since 1839. Women have been allowed to enter the National as jockeys since 1975. “I never even imagined I’d get a ride in this race, never mind get my hands on the trophy,” Blackmore said. In the 1944 Hollywood movie “National Velvet,” a 12-year-old girl, Velvet Brown — played by a young Elizabeth Taylor — won the Grand National on The Pie, a gelding she won in a raffle and decided to train for the world’s biggest horse race. In the story, Brown was later disqualified on a technicality, having dismounted before reaching the enclosure. Even though Aintree was without racegoers because of the coronavirus pandemic, cheers rang out as Blackmore made her way off the course — still aboard Minella Times — and into the winner’s enclosure. She looked as if she couldn’t believe what she had done. “For all the girls who watched ‘National Velvet’!” tweeted Hayley Turner, a former female jockey. “Thank you Rachael Blackmore, we’re so lucky to have you.” Blackmore, the daughter of a dairy farmer and a schoolteacher, grew up on a farm and rode ponies. She didn’t have a classic racing upbringing, which makes her ascent in the sport all the more inspirational. A professional jockey since 2015, she rode the second most winners in Irish jump racing in 2018-19, the same season she won her first races at the prestigious Cheltenham Festival. She was already the face of British and Irish horse racing before arriving at Aintree, having become the first woman to finish as the leading jockey at Cheltenham three weeks ago. Now she’s won the biggest race of them all, one that even non-horse racing enthusiasts turn on to watch and one that first captured Blackmore’s imagination. Indeed, her first memory of horse racing is going over to a friend’s house and taking part in a sweepstake for the National. A beaming Blackmore had special words for her parents, who “took me around the country riding ponies when I was younger.” “I can’t believe I am Rachael Blackmore. I still feel like that little kid — I just can’t believe I am me,” she said. “I hope it does help anyone who wants to be a jockey. I never thought this would be possible for me. I didn’t dream of making a career as a jockey because I never thought it could happen.” The previous best performance by a female jockey in the National was Katie Walsh’s third-place finish on Seabass in 2012. Minella Times went out as the fourth favorite of the 40 horses in a race run over 4 1/4 miles (6.4 kilometers) and features 30 big and often brutal fences. Minella Times was always near the front of the field, and Blackmore timed the horse’s run for glory to perfection, easing past long-time leader Jett with around three fences to jump. The famous, draining run to the line — about 500 meters from the last fence — was a procession as Minella Times won by 6 1/2 lengths. “He was just incredible and jumped beautifully,” Blackmore said. “I tried to wait as long as I could. When I jumped the last and asked him for a bit, he was there.” One of the other two female jockeys in the race, Bryony Frost, was taken to the hospital after being unseated from her horse, Yala Enki. The Long Mile was destroyed after suffering an injury while running between two of the fences. It was the second equine fatality since safety changes to the race were introduced in 2013.

09/04/2021
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Rapper-Actor DMX, Known for Gruff Delivery, Dead at 50

DMX, the raspy-voiced hip-hop artist who produced the songs “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” and “Party Up (Up in Here)” and who rapped with a trademark delivery that was often paired with growls, barks and “What!” as an ad-lib, has died, according to a statement from his family. He was 50.
The Grammy-nominated performer died after suffering “catastrophic cardiac arrest,” according to the hospital in White Plains, New York, where he died. He was rushed there from his home April 2.
A statement from relatives said he died “with his family by his side after being placed on life support for the past few days.”
The rapper, whose real name is Earl Simmons, had struggled with drug addiction since his teenage years. His lawyer, Murray Richman, had earlier said he could not confirm reports that DMX overdosed.  
DMX made a splash in rap music in 1998 with his first studio album, “It’s Dark and Hell is Hot,” which debuted No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. The multiplatinum-selling album was anchored by several hits including “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem,” “Get At Me Dog,” “Stop Being Greedy” and “How It’s Goin’ Down.”
DMX followed up with four straight chart-topping albums including “… And Then There Was X,” “Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood,” “The Great Depression” and “Grand Champ.” He released seven albums, earned three Grammy nominations and was named favorite rap/hip-hop artist at the 2000 American Music Awards.
DMX arrived on the rap scene  around the same time as Jay-Z, Ja Rule and others who dominated the charts and emerged as platinum-selling acts. They were all part of rap crews, too: DMX fronted the Ruff Ryders collective, which helped launch the careers of Grammy winners Eve and Swizz Beatz, and relaunch The Lox, formerly signed to Bad Boy Records. Ruff Ryders had success on the charts and on radio with its “Ryde or Die” compilation albums.  
Along with his musical career, DMX paved his way as an actor. He starred in the 1998 film “Belly” and appeared in 2000’s “Romeo Must Die” with Jet Li and Aaliyah. DMX and Aaliyah teamed up for “Come Back in One Piece” on the film’s soundtrack.  
The rapper would later open Aaliyah’s tribute music video, “Miss You,” alongside her other friends and collaborators, including Missy Elliott, Lil’ Kim and Queen Latifah, after Aaliyah’s 2001 death in a plane crash at age 22.
The rapper also starred in 2001’s “Exit Wounds” with Steven Seagal and 2003’s “Cradle 2 the Grave” with Li.  
But while DMX made his mark as one of hip-hop’s most recognizable names for his rap artistry and as an actor, the rapper was personally stifled by his legal battles — he was repeatedly arrested and jailed within a decade — and drug addiction. His addiction first took hold at age 14 when smoked a marijuana cigarette that was laced with cocaine.
DMX pleaded guilty in 2004 after he posed as an undercover federal agent a nd crashed his SUV through a security gate at New York’s Kennedy Airport. He was arrested in 2008 on drug and animal cruelty charges following an overnight raid on his house in Phoenix. He tried to barricade himself in his bedroom but emerged when a SWAT team entered his home.  
In 2010, he was sentenced to a year in prison for violating terms of his probation. After he was admitted to rehab numerous times over the next year, he said he had finally beat his drug addiction.
First responders helped bring DMX back to life  after he was found in a hotel parking lot in New York in 2016. The rapper said he suffered from asthma.
A couple years later, DMX was sentenced to a year in prison for tax fraud. Prosecutors said he concocted a multiyear scheme to hide millions of dollars in income from the IRS and get around nearly $2 million in tax liabilities.
After his release, DMX planned a 32-date tour to mark the 20th anniversary of “It’s Dark and Hell is Hot.” But the rapper canceled a series of shows to check himself into a rehab facility in 2019. In an Instagram post, his team said he apologized for the canceled shows and thanked his fans for the continued support.
Besides his legal troubles, DMX took the initiative to help the less fortunate. He gave a group of Philadelphia men advice during a surprise appearance at a homeless support group meeting in 2017, and helped a Maine family with its back-to-school purchases a couple years later.
 
Last year, DMX faced off against Snoop Dogg in a Verzuz battle, which drew more than 500,000 viewers.
He is survived by his 15 children and mother.

09/04/2021
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Britain’s Prince Philip, Husband of Queen Elizabeth, Dies at 99

Prince Philip, the Greek-born consort to Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s longest sitting monarch, has died at the age of 99.  
 
In a statement released to the media and posted on the gates of Buckingham Palace Friday morning, the royal family said, “It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.”
 
“His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle. Further announcements will be made in due course. The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss.”It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle. pic.twitter.com/XOIDQqlFPn— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) April 9, 2021Prince Philip had spent several weeks in the hospital earlier this year for a pre-existing heart condition. He underwent surgery at London’s St. Bartholomew’s Hospital and was discharged in March.
 
The Duke of Edinburgh will be best remembered for his sense of duty to the queen, and also his sense of humor.
 
Philip Mountbatten was born on the Greek island of Corfu on June 10, 1921. His father was Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, and his mother, Princess Alice, was a great-granddaughter of Britain’s Queen Victoria.
 
Philip Mountbatten met Elizabeth in 1939 while he was a naval cadet and she a shy princess. Philip forged a distinguished naval career during World War II, receiving special mention for his role during the Battle of Cape Matapan off Greece, where he saved his ship from a night bomber attack.FILE – In this Aug. 1951 photo, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, then Princess Elizabeth, stands with her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, and their children Prince Charles and Princess Anne at Clarence House.Philip and Elizabeth married in 1947 in Westminster Abbey, the first royal wedding to be filmed.
 
When Elizabeth became queen on the death of her father, King George VI in 1952, Philip found it very difficult, says Philip Eade, author of the book “Young Prince Philip.”
 
“He had been an extremely successful, extremely highly regarded naval officer in the British navy, and he was tipped from the very top,” Eade told VOA. “He was tipped to become head of the navy and so to have to give that all up in order to become second fiddle to his wife. He was a very overtly masculine character and not one who is going to take easily to this sort of life of walking a couple of paces behind the queen.”  FILE – Britain’s Prince Philip waits for the bridal procession following the wedding of Princess Eugenie of York and Jack Brooksbank at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, England.When asked in an interview what he thought of his royal role, Philip replied, “I don’t.”
 
“He grew up with a very strong sense of duty,” Eade says, “and he realized that his duty was first and foremost to support the queen in her work, and that was really by far and away his most important, how he saw his role, that was what was at the top of his list.”  
 
Over seven decades, Prince Philip navigated the highs and lows of a Royal Family permanently in the public eye. He helped the family cope with difficult times in the 1990s, including the divorces of Prince Charles and Diana, and Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. Diana was killed in a Paris car crash in 1997 alongside her fiancé Dodi Fayed.
 
Philip was known for his wry sense of humor, which came in handy whenever he had to brush aside any suggestion of his role as a secondary figure.  He once said his best speech was in 1956, when he opened the Summer Olympics with eight words: “I declare open the Olympic games of Melbourne.”FILE – In this April 12, 1954, photo, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and her husband the Duke of Edinburgh leave Freedom Hall in Colombo, Sri Lanka, after opening parliament.His jokes on occasion caused offense but he had a serious and lasting effect on the monarchy, pushing it to change with the times, says Matthew Glencross, a royal historian at Kings College London.
 
“That is something Philip always saw for himself, is this idea that the monarchy must evolve. For example, he was very pro having the cameras in for Elizabeth the Second’s coronation in 1953. You’d think because of his reputation that he’d be one of the people who was quite conservative. Actually, no. He saw television as the future. People want to see more of their monarchy,” Glencross said.
 
Prince Philip retired from official royal duties in 2017. A year later, he was involved in a serious car accident while driving near the Royal Family’s country estate at Sandringham. His last public appearance was in July 2020 at Windsor Castle.FILE – Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II are seen with members of the British royal family.Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II had four children: Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. They have eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
 
Fulfilling his roles as consort and father, Prince Philip had a lasting effect on a 12-hundred-year-old institution, a monarchy that is more visible and relevant to its people as a legacy that he forged, effectively, from his place two steps behind. 

09/04/2021
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Britain’s Prince Philip Dies

Prince Philip, the Greek-born consort to Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s longest sitting monarch, has died at the age of 99. The Duke of Edinburgh is best remembered for his sense of duty to the queen, and also his sense of humor. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

09/04/2021
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Strasbourg Mosque a Lightning Rod for Broader French-Turkish Tensions

The cement skeleton of the unfinished Eyyub Sultan mosque in France’s eastern city of Strasbourg has become a repository for myriad grievances, ranging from local partisan wrangling to longstanding friction between Islam and this country’s staunchly secular creed.The grievances also reflect mounting fears within the European Union about Turkey’s growing international influence.Claiming concern over foreign — and specifically Turkish — meddling, a top French official launched legal proceedings this week against a decision by Strasbourg’s leftist government to subsidize the construction of the mosque, designed to be Europe’s largest.The move coincided with a rare visit by EU leaders to Ankara, where efforts to patch up longstanding differences were overshadowed by a seating spat.Underpinning both issues, analysts say, is the EU’s reliance on Turkey as a bulwark against another massive refugee influx — a reality underpinning a multibillion-dollar migrant deal with Turkey in 2016 which limits the bloc’s muscle-flexing options today.The EU nations “need Turkey — if Turkey opens its borders what will happen?” asked Muslim specialist Erkan Toguslu, a lecturer at KU Leuven University, even as he warned about Ankara’s growing influence in the region, spread through its nationalist brand of Islam.FILE – French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a press conference, in Paris, France, Feb. 25, 2021.That warning appears to resonate with French President Emmanuel Macron. He has racked up an especially bitter and personal feud with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, wrangling over issues from the conflicts in Libya and Syria, to Turkey’s exploration for oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean.More recently Macron’s focus has shifted closer to home. He warned Ankara last month against interfering in next year’s French presidential elections, and his government takes aim at Turkish groups it considers suspect.Foreign meddling or partisan politics?Last year, for example, France moved to ban a Turkish ultra-nationalist group called Grey Wolves, after its members were accused of defacing an Armenian genocide memorial near Lyon. Other European countries, including Germany, are considering similar steps.French lawmakers are also debating legislation against extremism, which would ban foreign funding of religious groups. Among those potentially in its crosshairs: Turkish association Milli Gorus, the main backer of the Strasbourg mosque.In an interview with French radio Tuesday, Macron’s hard-line interior minister Gerald Darmanin threatened to dissolve Milli Gorus and others he deemed “enemies of the Republic,” noting the Turkish association’s refusal to sign a new government charter against extremism.Newly appointed French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin arrives to attend the weekly Cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, July 7, 2020.Darmanin also took aim at Strasbourg’s Greens Mayor Jeanne Barseghian, finding it regrettable she supported providing nearly $3 million in financing for the mosque, roughly one-tenth of the total cost, “given what we know about political Islam and sometimes foreign meddling on our soil.”Berseghian has rejected Darmanin’s suggestions. Another leading Greens Party mayor said he was scandalized by Macron’s suggestion of Turkish meddling. Strasbourg city council must still vote again to release the construction funds, a move that may be compromised by the new legal proceedings launched against the financing.Milli Gorus officials did not reply to a request for comment. But in a recent statement, the group denied being fundamentalist and described itself as a staunchly French association “that has always acted with total transparency, in respect of the republic’s values.” The Strasbourg mosque, with a total price tag of about $38 million, has been in the works for several years, but was halted for lack of funding.For some analysts, the mosque financing spat, and Macron’s warning of possible foreign election interference, may be aimed mostly at French voters, as critics point to the president’s rightward shift ahead of next year’s vote.Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks in Ankara, Turkey, March 2, 2021.”That Mr. Erdogan today supports Islamist fundamentalism and acts like the enemy of French security today is certain,” far-right leader and leading opposition candidate Marine Le Pen told the Anglo-American Press Association in a recent interview. “But does he have the capacity to interfere with (French) elections? Not more than any other countries that are influential within their own diaspora.”Longstanding fearsStill the controversy digs up longstanding fears about the role of Islam in France, home to Western Europe’s largest Muslim community and battered by a series of terrorist attacks, as well as newer concerns about Turkey’s influence here.”The Green Mayor of Strasbourg is Subsidizing Political Islam,” right-wing magazine Valeurs Actuelle titled a recent headline. “Collaboration or Submission?””Should we be afraid of Turkish Islam?” France’s La Croix newspaper ask in an analysis of the evolving controversy.“The Turkish government wants to use this (Strasbourg) mosque and Milli Gorus as a kind of soft power,” said KU Leuven University’s Erkan Toguslu, describing Ankara’s aim as nationalist rather than religious. “It uses Turkish mosques, Turkish associations and the Turkish diaspora in Europe for its own policy, not to defend Muslim interests.”The quandary of foreign financing of local mosques is a longstanding one in France, where many local Muslim communities are too poor to bankroll construction and a 1905 law separating church and state prevents public financing of places of worship. The Strasbourg mosque doesn’t fall under these strictures because the larger Alsace region where it is located has a different set of rules.Past funding questions, and fears of foreign influence, have often centered on North African or Middle Eastern countries with sizable ethnic populations in France, and less on Turkey. The estimated 700,000 Muslims with Turkish roots here account for a fraction of France’s roughly 6-million-member Muslim community, and its geographically diverse factions are often at odds with each other. Like several other countries, Turkey also sponsors imams in France, making up for a dearth of local-born ones.Moreover, the Turkish religious community here is fragmented, experts say. Milli Gorus counts among several Muslim groups in France, including those sharply critical of the Erdogan government.Still, observers say, France’s Turkish community is increasingly influential and ambitious. Last year, its representatives captured the majority of seats on the French Council of the Muslim Faith, the main representative body, for the first time since its creation in 2003.”The threat is not about religion,” analyst Toguslu said. “The threat is about nationalism. Turkish nationalism.”

08/04/2021
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French Open Delayed Due to COVID-19

The French Open has been delayed by one week because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the governing body of the tennis tournament said Thursday.The French Tennis Federation said first-round matches will now begin on May 30 instead of May 23 because of sharp spikes in coronavirus infections in France. The postponement marks the second year in a row the French Open has been disrupted by the pandemic.The federation postponed last year’s tournament to September and limited daily attendance to 1,000 people.This year’s delay came as hospitals in France struggle to handle the surge in coronavirus cases. The government recently imposed new lockdown restrictions to contain the spikes, including a month-long domestic travel ban and a three-week school closure.The federation said the decision to delay was aimed at ensuring that “as many spectators as possible” would be able to safely attend the event.Federation president Gilles Moreton said public authorities, the governing bodies of global tennis events, broadcasters and other partners were first consulted before announcing the delay.The federation was roundly criticized for postponing last year’s French Open without first consulting with the top men’s and women’s events. 

07/04/2021
by Artist
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Will The Oscars Be A ‘Who Cares’ Moment As Ratings Dive?

George Bradley used to love watching the Academy Awards. The 28-year-old Brit now living in San Diego would stay up late back home just to tune in.
Though he’s now in the right time zone, he’s just not interested, and that’s due primarily to the pandemic.
“The rising dominance of the streaming services has taken the gloss off the Oscars for me,” he said. “You just don’t get the same warm fuzzy feeling from when you recognize a movie from the silver screen.”
Whether you watch out of love, because you love to hate or have given up like Bradley, awards shows have suffered since the coronavirus shuttered theaters and shut down live performances. But the ratings slide for awards nights began well before Covid-19 took over.
For much of this century, the Oscars drew 35 million to 45 million viewers, often just behind the Super Bowl. Last year, just before the pandemic was declared, the hostless telecast on ABC was seen by its smallest audience ever, 23.6 million viewers, down 20 percent from the year before.  
The pandemic-era Golden Globes a little more than a year later plummeted to 6.9 million viewers, down 64% from last year and barely besting 2008, the year a writer’s strike forced NBC to air a news conference announcing winners. Last year, pre-lockdown, the show had 18.4 million viewers, according to the Nielsen company.
In March, Grammy producers avoided the Zoom awkwardness of other awards shows and staged performances by some of the industry’s biggest stars — to no avail. The CBS telecast reached 9.2 million viewers, both television and streaming, the lowest number on record and a 51% drop from 2020, Nielsen said.
John Bennardo, 52, in Boca Raton, Florida, is a film buff, film school graduate and screenwriter, and runs a videography business for mostly corporate clients. This year is a no-go for the Oscars.
“I love the movies and aspire to be on that very Oscars stage receiving my own award some day,” he said. “I watch each year and take it in, enter contests where I try to pick winners and try to see all the films. But something has changed for this year.”
For starters, he hasn’t seen a single film nominated in any category.  
“Maybe I’ll watch Zach Snyder's Justice League' instead. It might be shorter," Bennardo joked about the Oscars show.
Like other awards shows, the Oscars telecast was pushed back due to pandemic restrictions and safety concerns. The show had been postponed three times before in history, but never so far in advance. Organizers last June scheduled it for April 25, as opposed to its usual slot in February or early March.  
Count that among other driving forces behind Oscars fatigue. Another, according to former fans of the show, is having to watch nominated movies on small screens and keeping up with when and where they are available on streaming and on-demand services. It's been one big blur to some.
Priscilla Visintine, 62, in St. Louis, Missouri, used to live for watching the Academy Awards. She attended watch parties every year, usually dressed all the way up for the occasion.
"Definitely the shuttering of the theaters created my lack of interest this year," she said. "I didn't get any sense of Oscar buzz."
Not all diehards have given up their favorite awards show.
In Knoxville, Tennessee, 50-year-old Jennifer Rice and her 22-year-old son, Jordan, have for years raced to watch as many nominated films as possible. In years past, it was their "February Madness," she said, and they kept charts to document their predictions. She even got to attend the Oscars in 2019 through her work for a beauty company at the time.
"My other two children, ages 25 and 19, have no interest in the Oscars. It's just something special for Jordan and I," Rice said. "The Oscars actually push us to watch movies that we may have never picked. I'm not as excited this year, but we're still trying to watch everything before the awards ceremony."
As real-life hardship has intensified for many viewers, from food insecurity and job disruption to the isolation of lockdowns and parenting struggles, awards shows offer less escapism and razzle-dazzle than in the past, often relying on pre-taped performances and Zoom boxes for nominees. In addition, data shows little interest among younger generations for appointment television in general.  
Lifelong lover of movies and a filmmaker himself, 22-year-old Pierre Subeh of Orlando, Florida, stopped watching the Oscars in 2019.
"We can barely stay put for a 15-second TikTok. How are we expected to sit through a dragged out, four-hour awards ceremony filled with ads and outdated offensive jokes? We're living in the time of content curation. We need algorithms to figure out what we want to watch and to show us the best of the best," he said.
As a Muslim, Middle Eastern immigrant, Subeh also sees little inclusion of his culture in mainstream film, let alone on the Oscars stage.
"We're only mentioned when Aladdin is brought up. I don't feel motivated to gather up my family on a Sunday to sit through a four-hour award ceremony that never has any sort of mention about our culture and religion. Yet as Muslims, we make up roughly 25% of the world population," he said.
Jon Niccum, 55, in Lawrence, Kansas, teaches screenwriting at Kansas State University. He's a filmmaker, went to film school and has worked as a film critic. He and his wife host an annual Oscar party, with 30 guests at its heyday, including a betting pool on winners for money and prizes. It will be family-only this year due to the pandemic, but the betting is on.  
And watching all the top films at home? For the most part, he said, "It was less satisfying." Less satisfying enough to dump the Oscars telecast?
"I haven't missed an Oscars since 45 years ago. I'll watch every single minute of it," Niccum said.
In Medford, New Jersey, 65-year-old Deb Madison will also be watching, as she has since she was a kid and her mom first took her to the movies.  
In 2018, while on an RV road trip with her husband, she made him bike into town with her in Carlsbad, New Mexico, to find a spot to watch. The ride back was in pitch darkness. Another year, when she was working reception at a huge party in Philadelphia on Oscars night, the coordinators laid cable and provided her with a tiny TV hidden under the welcome desk so she could tune in.
This year, trying to keep up with nominees from home has stifled her excitement, Madison said.
"I'm a sucker for the red carpet and the gowns and,
Oh my god, I can’t believe she wore that.’ Another thing is, I don’t particularly need to see these actors in their home environments,” she said with a laugh. “This year, if I missed it, it wouldn’t be tragic. Nobody would need to lay cable this year. But I still love the movies.”