South Sudan Holds Peace Olympics to Foster Reconciliation

South Sudan has held a peace Olympics to help reconcile communities divided by conflict. The “Twic Olympics” this year marked its 20th anniversary in Twic County. 

At this Olympics opening ceremony, a spiritual leader blesses athletes to protect them from injury while a goat represents the belief that power comes from nature. 

This is not the winter Olympics in Beijing. It’s the Twic Olympics in northern South Sudan. 

The annual two-weeks of games in January attracts athletes from six communities to compete in traditional Olympic and team sports.  The aim: to reduce communal conflict. 

Volleyball player Ring Aguek Ring knows violence firsthand. 

“In May they came to raid our cattle and in the process of protecting them I was shot and at last I succeeded to get my cows back. As I am still in the games, I am an injured person but who still can play because I see it as a unifying factor,” Ring said.

More than 700 athletes participated in this year’s 20th anniversary games, which also promoted health issues such as preventing COVID, HIV, and waterborne diseases.   

Twic Olympics founder Acuil Malith Banggol says the games have a mission. 

“Peace does not come without agenda.  You cannot tell people to remain peaceful without them being active on something that is keeping them away from bad activities.  We are building an avenue for communicating and interacting with the youth,” Banggol said.

South Sudan is the world’s youngest country at 11 years of independence, but it has never been fully at peace.   

Twic Olympics Association secretary Chol Ajing says involving youth in the games can help end conflicts.    

“In South Sudan, the crises of 2013 and 2016 were fueled because young people responded,” Ajing said. “What about if young people didn’t engage in activities like this and do not think about joining the politicians and fuel the war?” 

These South Sudanese athletes prefer ‘Tug of War,’ and are urging those still fighting real battles to drop their weapons and join them in the glory of sport. 

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Report: Anti-corruption Fight Is Stalled, COVID Not Helping

Most countries have made little to no progress in bringing down corruption levels over the past decade, and authorities’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic in many places has weighed on accountability, a closely watched study by an anti-graft organization found Tuesday.

Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index, which measures the perception of public sector corruption according to experts and business people, found that “increasingly, rights and checks and balances are being undermined not only in countries with systemic corruption and weak institutions, but also among established democracies.”

Among other issues over the past year, it cited the use of Pegasus software, which has been linked to snooping on human rights activists, journalists and politicians across the globe.

The report said the pandemic has “been used in many countries as an excuse to curtail basic freedoms and sidestep important checks and balances.”

In Western Europe, the best-scoring region overall, the pandemic has given countries “an excuse for complacency in anti-corruption efforts as accountability and transparency measures are neglected or even rolled back,” Transparency said. In some Asian countries, it said, COVID-19 “also has been used as an excuse to suppress criticism.” It pointed to increased digital surveillance in some nations and authoritarian approaches in others.

The report ranks countries on a scale from a “highly corrupt” 0 to a “very clean” 100. Denmark, New Zealand and Finland tied for first place with 88 points each; the first two were unchanged, while Finland gained three points. Norway, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany completed the top 10. The U.K. was 11th with 78.

The United States, which slipped over recent years to hit 67 points in 2020, held that score this time but slipped a couple of places to 27th. Transparency said it dropped out of the top 25 for the first time “as it faces continuous attacks on free and fair elections and an opaque campaign finance system.”

Canada, which slid three points to 74 and two places to 13th, “is seeing increased risks of bribery and corruption in business,” the group said. It added that the publication of the Pandora Papers showed Canada as “a hub for illicit financial flows, fueling transnational corruption across the region and the world.”

The index rates 180 countries and territories. South Sudan was bottom with 11 points; Somalia, with which it shared last place in 2020, tied this time with Syria for second-to-last with 13. Venezuela followed with 14 — then Yemen, North Korea and Afghanistan tied with 16 apiece.

Transparency said the control of corruption has stagnated or worsened in 86% of the countries it surveyed in the last 10 years. In that time, 23 countries — including the U.S., Canada, Hungary and Poland — have declined significantly in its index, while 25 have improved significantly. They include Estonia, the Seychelles and Armenia.

Compiled since 1995, the index is calculated using 13 different data sources that provide perceptions of public sector corruption from business people and country experts. Sources include the World Bank, the World Economic Forum and private risk and consulting companies.

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At Least Eight People Dead in Stampede at Cameroon Sports Stadium 

Several people are dead in Cameroon after football fans crammed the gates of a new stadium to watch the home country play a match in the African Cup of Nations tournament. 

State broadcaster CRTV says eight people were killed as thousands of fans attempted to enter Yaounde Olembe Stadium in the capital Yaounde Monday to see Cameroon take on Comoros in a round of 16 game. 

Scores of other people were injured in the stampede and taken to nearby hospitals. 

The Confederation of African Football, which runs the African Cup, issued a statement saying it is “currently investigating the situation in order to obtain more details” about the stampede, and was in “constant communication” with Cameroonian authorities. 

Officials had intended to cap the amount of people allowed inside the 60,000-seat stadium to around 80 percent capacity due to concerns about the COVID-19 concerns.  

Monday’s tragedy comes just a day after at least 17 people were killed and eight others injured  in a nightclub fire in Yaounde.   

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.  

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To Stream or Not to Stream? COVID Turns Film Industry Upside Down

Just as studios were resuming theatrical releases at the end of last year, the omicron variant of the coronavirus rolled in, forcing a return to streaming or a theater release-streaming hybrid. Now that the traditional way of viewing new releases has changed, the film industry faces a crucial question: In the era of COVID-19, how does one measure box office success? Penelope Poulou has more.

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French Fashion Designer Thierry Mugler Dies Aged 73

French designer Thierry Mugler, who reigned over fashion in the 1980s and died on Sunday, was as famous for his fantastical couture as for his blockbuster fashion shows. He was 73.

Mugler’s daring collections came to define the decade’s power dressing, with his clothes noted for their structured and sophisticated silhouettes, showcased by his extravagant shows.

“I always thought that fashion was not enough on its own and that it had to be shown in its musical and theatrical environment,” he once said.

In later years, he dressed Beyonce and Lady Gaga — and in 2019 came out of retirement to create Kim Kardashian’s Met Gala look.

“We are devastated to announce the passing of Mr Manfred Thierry Mugler on Sunday January 23rd 2022,” said a post on the designer’s official Facebook account.

His agent Jean-Baptiste Rougeot, who said the designer had died of “natural causes,” added he had been due to announce new collaborations early this week.

Born in Strasbourg in December 1948, as a young teen Mugler joined the Opera du Rhin’s ballet company before studying at the School of Decorative Arts.

From a young age he created his own clothes, adapting items bought at nearby flea markets. He moved to Paris aged 20, initially to work with another ballet company — but was more successful with his own wardrobe.

Mugler soon became a freelance stylist and worked for various fashion houses in Paris, London and Milan.

In 1973, he took the plunge and created his own label “Café de Paris”, before founding “Thierry Mugler” a year later.

His designs exacerbated and celebrated women’s forms: shoulders accentuated by padding, plunging necklines, constricted waists and rounded hips.

“Dancing taught me a lot about posture, the organization of clothing, the importance of the shoulders, the head carriage, the play and rhythm of the legs,” said Mugler.

A showman at heart, he organized spectacular presentations of his creations pioneering the modern spectacle of the 21st century fashion show.

“Today’s fashion shows are a continuation of what Mugler invented. The collections were pretexts for fashion shows,” recalled Didier Grumbach, former CEO of Thierry Mugler.

He had showmanship in his blood: for the 10th anniversary of his label in 1984, he organized the first public fashion show in Europe with 6,000 attending the rock concert-like show.

But nothing compared to the 20th anniversary celebration in 1995, staged at the Cirque d’Hiver.

Models including Jerry Hall, Naomi Campbell, Eva Herzigova and Kate Moss paraded alongside stars such as Tippi Hedren and Julie Newmar with the spectacle culminating in a performance from James Brown.

The 1992 launch of his company’s first perfume “Angel” — in collaboration with Clarins, which acquired a stake in the company before taking control in 1997 — was a runaway success.

Clarins shuttered Thierry Mugler ready-to-wear in 2003, a year after the designer reportedly left the brand, but continued the scent business with “Angel” rivalling Chanel’s No.5 for the top spot in sales.

Renowned for his work with celebrities, he counted Grace Jones and Hall among his muses, and had a long-running creative collaboration with David Bowie — even dressing him for his wedding to Iman.

Despite seemingly retiring from fashion’s frontlines in the early 2000s, Mugler continued to impact culture and worked with Beyonce on her “I am…” world tour. 

In later years the designer suffered a series of accidents requiring facial surgery and rebuilt his body with intensive bodybuilding while engaging in meditation and yoga.

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UNESCO Lists Viking-Era Wooden Sailboats on Heritage List 

For thousands of years, wooden sailboats allowed the peoples of Northern Europe to spread trade, influence and sometimes war across seas and continents.

In December, the U.N.’s culture agency added Nordic “clinker boats” to its list of traditions that represent the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden jointly sought the UNESCO designation.

The term “clinker” is thought to refer to the way the boat’s wooden boards were fastened together.

Supporters of the successful nomination hope it will safeguard and preserve the boat-building techniques that drove the Viking era for future generations as the number of active clinker craftsmen fades and fishermen and others opt for vessels with cheaper glass fiber hulls.

“We can see that the skills of building them, the skills of sailing the boats, the knowledge of people who are sailing … it goes down and it disappears,” said Søren Nielsen, head of boatyard at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, west of Copenhagen.

The museum not only exhibits the remains of wooden vessels built 1,000 years ago, but also works to rebuild and reconstruct other Viking boats. The process involves using experimental archaeological methods to gain a deeper, more practical understanding of the Viking Age, such as how quickly the vessels sailed and how many people they carried.

Nielsen, who oversees the construction and repair of wooden boats built in the clinker tradition, said there are only about 20 practicing clinker boat craftsmen in Denmark, perhaps 200 across all of northern Europe.

“We think it’s a tradition we have to show off, and we have to tell people this was a part of our background,” he told The Associated Press.

Wooden clinker boats are characterized by the use of overlapping longitudinal wooden hull planks that are sewn or riveted together.

Builders strengthen the boats internally by additional wooden components, mainly tall oak trees, which constitute the ribs of the vessel. They stuff the gaps in between with tar or tallow mixed with animal hair, wool and moss.

“When you build it with these overlaps within it, you get a hull that’s quite flexible but at the same time, incredibly strong,” explained Triona Sørensen, curator at Roskilde’s Viking Ship Museum, which is home to the remains of five 11th-century Viking boats built with clinker methods.

Nielsen said there is evidence the clinker technique first appeared thousands of years ago, during the Bronze Age.

But it was during the Viking Age that clinker boats had their zenith, according to Sørensen. The era, from 793 to 1066, is when Norsemen, or Vikings, undertook large-scale raiding, colonizing, conquest and trading voyages throughout Europe. They also reached North America.

Their light, strong and swift ships were unsurpassed in their time and provided the foundations for kingdoms in Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

If “you hadn’t had any ships, you wouldn’t have had any Viking Age,” said Sørensen. “It just literally made it possible for them to expand that kind of horizon to become a more global people.”

While the clinker boat tradition in Northern Europe remains to this day, the ships are used by hobbyists, for festivities, regattas and sporting events, rather than raiding and conquest seen 1,000 years ago.

The UNESCO nomination was signed by around 200 communities and cultural bearers in the field of construction and traditional clinker boat craftsmanship, including Sami communities.

The inscription on the Intangible Cultural Heritage list obliges the Nordic countries to try to preserve what remains of the fading tradition.

“You cannot read how to build a boat in a book, so if you want to be a good boat builder, you have to build a lot of boats,” the Viking Ship Museum’s Nielsen said. “If you want to keep these skills alive, you have to keep them going.”

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San Francisco’s Chinatown Opens for Cautious Lunar New Year Revelry Despite Omicron 

George Chen’s high-end China Live restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown has lost 90% of its Lunar New Year bookings made by company parties and big families fearing the spread of COVID-19 as the omicron variant rampages across the United States. Three of his 100 employees have gotten the disease since the omicron surge began. 


But his three-floor restaurant is not turning away dine-in customers like a year ago. No state or local government has ordered shutdowns. Smaller parties can still come in for informal, private meals, and Chen hopes to see more of those gatherings ahead of the global Chinese population’s major annual holiday, which falls on February 1 this year. 


“Last year I think we were in the middle of a shutdown – during that time we couldn’t even [be] allowed to do outdoor seating, forget indoors,” Chen told VOA on Tuesday. “This year is tough. … We’ll keep our fingers crossed and hopefully people will feel more comfortable, get vaccinated and come out and enjoy themselves.” 


The 64-year-old career restaurateur’s story serves as a microcosm for San Francisco, keeper of the best-known Chinatown in the United States, as the Year of the Tiger approaches. 

Countless individuals have decided on their own to stay home, auguring thin crowds, but San Francisco’s signature Chinese New Year Festival and Parade are scheduled to roll floats and feature lion dances in densely populated hilly streets lined with red-festooned Chinese-owned shops. The city’s annual Chinese New Year street fairs are on, as well. 


“This year because of the vaccinations, because we have a better understanding of the variants and the pandemic, we are cautiously optimistic to proceed forward with a live parade,” parade organizer spokesperson William Gee said. “We’re hoping to bring back a lot of the iconic memories and performances that people remember by just coming out and watching the parade.” 


Event organizers ask that everyone there be vaccinated or come with proof of a negative COVID-19 test a few days ahead. 


Locals told VOA say they’ve had enough of staying indoors. 


Lin Wei, 50, for example, says he plans to go out. The sanitation worker came from Guangdong province 11 years ago for work and misses the energy of a live Lunar New Year celebration. Lunar New Year in China involves large, extended family reunions, weeks of fireworks and the equivalent of a formal spring cleaning for each household. 


“The last two years (the celebrations) stopped, so this year there might be a bit more, and if I’ve got time I’ll show up,” Lin said. On the chance of catching COVID-19, he said, “I’ve grown numb to that over the past two years.” 


But Lin said he would avoid taking his family to the festivities as a health precaution. 


Sherwin Won, 69, a retired university clinical lab scientist, plans to shun the traditional large family reunion and focus on spring cleaning. As a family, the San Francisco native said, “we talked about it and discussed it and said, ‘we’re going to celebrate it six months later.’” 

 Like Chen’s restaurant, open events and spaces in San Francisco’s Chinatown generally are expected to draw thin crowds as people decide to stay home and avoid the risk of contagion. Chen estimates that 50% of the district’s stores have closed during the pandemic, possibly for good. 


Paper goods and variety stores in San Francisco did only sporadic business this week as supplies of holiday decorations became sparse. Holidaymakers normally buy Lunar New Year paper scrolls to hang on their front doors and red envelopes for cash that will be gifted to children in the family. 


The Buddha Exquisite Corp. paper goods shop has turned to airmail to import most of its made-in-China 2022 supplies because normal marine shipping takes “a lot longer than usual,” store operator Rebecca Cheung said, adding that prices on such goods have risen. 


COVID-19 restrictions and rising consumer demand have snarled marine shipping in much of the world. 

Elsewhere in the United States, Chicago’s Chinatown is ready for an annual Lunar New Year parade and lion dances. The Seattle Chinatown International District has postponed its Lunar New Year celebration event until April 30. 


Events in Los Angeles and Houston are expected as well, while Washington, D.C., canceled its 2022 program. 

Michelle Quinn, Matt Dibble, Michael O’Sullivan contributed to this report.

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New Approach to Teaching Race in School Divides New Mexico 

A proposal to overhaul New Mexico’s social studies standards has stirred debate over how race should be taught in schools, with thousands of parents and teachers weighing in on changes that would dramatically increase instruction related to racial and social identity beginning in kindergarten. 

The revisions in the state are ambitious. New Mexico officials say they hope their standards can be a model for the country of social studies teaching that is culturally responsive, as student populations grow increasingly diverse. 

As elsewhere, the move toward more open discussion of race has prompted angry rebukes, with some critics blasting it as racist or Marxist. But the responses also provide a window into how others are wrestling with how and when race should be taught to children beyond the polarizing debates over material branded as “critical race theory.” 

The responses have not broken down along racial lines, with Indigenous and Latino parents among those expressing concern in one of the country’s least racially segregated states. While debates elsewhere have centered on the teaching of enslavement of Black people, some discussions in New Mexico, which is 49% Hispanic and 11% Native American, have focused on the legacy of Spanish conquistadors. 

“We refuse to be categorized as victims or oppressors,” wrote Michael Franco, a retired Hispanic air traffic controller in Albuquerque who said the standards appeared aimed at categorizing children by race and ethnicity and undercutting the narrative of the American Dream. 

The New Mexico Public Education Department’s proposed standards are aimed at making civics, history, and geography more inclusive of the state’s population so that students feel at home in the curriculum and prepared for a diverse society, according to public statements.

“Our out-of-date standards leave New Mexico students with an incomplete understanding of the complex, multicultural world they live in,” Public Education Secretary Designate Kurt Steinhaus said. “It’s our duty to provide them with a complete education based on known facts. That’s what these proposed standards will do.” 

The plan calls for students to learn about different “identity groups” in kindergarten and “unequal power relations” in later grades. One part of the draft standards would require high school students to “assess how social policies and economic forces offer privilege or systemic inequity” for opportunities for members of identity groups. In a first for the state, ethnic studies and the history of the LGBT rights movement also would be introduced into the curriculum. 

An Albuquerque pastor, Rev. Sylvia Miller-Mutia, welcomed the change in her written comment, arguing children see race early, and that learning about it in school can dismantle stereotypes early. When her eldest child was 3, she said that her Filipino dad wasn’t American because he has dark skin, while her mother was American because she has light skin. 

“Already, a cultural script that said to be American is to be light-skinned had somehow seeped into my preschooler’s consciousness,” Miller-Mutia said in an interview. 

Many Democratic-run states across the country are looking to diversify those cultural scripts, while Republican-run ones are putting up guardrails against possible changes. California was among the first states last year to make ethnic studies a graduation requirement. Texas passed a law requiring teachers to present multiple perspectives on all issues and one Indiana lawmaker proposed that teachers be required to take a “neutral” position. 

The education department in New Mexico is reviewing over 1,300 letters on the proposed standards along with dozens of comments from an online forum in November. The standards were written with input from 64 people around the state, mostly social studies teachers, and are to be published next spring with revisions. 

Among the authors was Wendy Leighton, a Santa Fe middle school history teacher. As a leader of the revisions for the history section of the standards, she said the goal was to take marginalized groups like indigenous, LGBTQ and other people “that are often not in textbooks or pushed to the side and making them kind of more closer to the center.” 

Identity was the center of a class she taught in December, where students learning about the Salem witch trials identified which groups were at the center of power — clergy, men — and which were on the margins — women, servants. 

“What’s a marginalized group in America today?” she asked the class. 

State Republicans have argued that parents should teach their children sensitive topics like race and that there are bigger priorities in a state that ranks toward the bottom in academic achievement. 

“The focus that I feel is urgent is math, reading and writing. Not social studies standards,” said state Rep. Rebecca Dow, one of six candidates for the Republican nomination for governor next year, hoping to unseat Democratic incumbent Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. 

Some parents who wrote public comments said they would rather homeschool their children than have them learn under the proposed standards. 

“Struggle and adversity have never been limited to one specific race or ethnicity. Neither has privilege,” wrote Lucas Tieme, a father of five public school students, who are white. 

Tieme, a bus driver for Rio Rancho public schools, said his wife was homeschooled so they’d be ready to take their kids out of school if it came to that. 

Some parents who support the changes generally are skeptical of introducing race for the youngest students. 

Sheldon Pickering, 41, has two adopted children who are Black, and has seen casual racism against his kids escalate as they reach adolescence in Farmington, near the southeast corner of Utah and the eastern part of the Navajo Nation. He has had “the talk” with his Black son, instructing him how to interact with police. But Pickering, who is white, worries about schools introducing too much too soon. 

“If we start too early, we rob kids of this rare time in their life that they have just to be kids,” said Pickering, a cleaning business owner. “They just get to be these amazing little kids and enjoy life without preconceived notions, without context.” 

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Cameroon Hosts Influx of Football Fans from Neighboring Gabon, Equatorial Guinea

Cameroon says that within four days, at least 1,500 football supporters have entered the country from neighboring Equatorial Guinea and Gabon to support their teams that have advanced to Round 16 in the Africa Football Cup of Nations, or AFCON. Gabon battles Burkina Faso Sunday, while Equatorial Guinea plays against Mali Wednesday. Tournament organizers require all fans to have COVID-19 tests before entering stadiums.]

Cameroon’s immigration police said Saturday that buses carrying at least 900 football fans from Gabon and Equatorial Guinea have entered the central African state within 48 hours. Gabon and Equatorial Guinea are Cameroon’s southern neighbors. 

The immigration police said about 600 other football fans from Gabon and Equatorial Guinea arrived in Cameroon by sea and by air this week.

Cameroon says the influx came after Gabon and Equatorial Guinea qualified for the knockout stage of the Africa Football Cup of Nations, or AFCON, in Cameroon. Gabon played a 2-2 draw Tuesday against Morocco in Yaoundé, and both teams advanced.

Equatorial Guinea sealed their place after a 1-0 win against Sierra Leone in a group  match played at Limbes Omnisport Stadium in Cameroon’s English-speaking South West region Thursday. 

Thirty-year-old Prosper Ebang is among the 1,500 supporters from Gabon and Equatorial Guinea Cameroon police say have entered Cameroon. Ebang says he wants to be part of a continental soccer event in which his country’s national football team, the Panthers of Gabon, are doing well.

Ebang says no citizen who loves Gabon can be indifferent when the Panthers are making Gabon proud with the excellent football exhibited in Cameroon during AFCON. He says he is certain that Gabon will reach the AFCON final if Cameroon continues providing a conducive environment for the games.

Felix Nguele Nguele is the governor of Cameroon’s South region that borders Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. He says Gabon and Equatorial Guinea officials have informed him that hundreds of other supporters are still on their way to Cameroon.

Ngueles says he has asked police and military in Cameroon’s southern border to ensure the safety of football fans and supporters from Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. He says he knows that people with evil intentions may want to disturb the visiting supporters since tensions mounted between Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea in November.

On November 30, 2021, Cameroon said Equatorial Guinea was deporting thousands of Cameroonians who were living in the neighboring state illegally, citing national security concerns. Authorities in the capital, Malabo, said the Cameroonians fled conflict in western Cameroon, where government troops have been fighting anglophone separatists.

Videos from Cameroonians deported from Equatorial Guinea flooded social media platforms including Facebook and WhatsApp. In the video, Cameroonians claiming to have been forcibly sent out of Equatorial Guinea promised to chase football fans from the neighboring country visiting Cameroon for AFCON from January 9 to February 6.

Kisito Esua is president of the nongovernmental organization South West Youth League, headquartered in Limbe, an English-speaking southwestern town. Esua says the league is teaching youths to be hospitable to fans coming to Cameroon to support their football teams. He spoke via a messaging app from Limbe.

“The influx of fans and supporters from Gabon and Equatorial Guinea is so massive,” said Esua. “The fans have been coming in in their numbers by air, land and sea and we think that the turnout tomorrow will be something spectacular. So, we have made sure that the environment is so friendly, convivial and conducive.”

Cameroon’s Public Health ministry says the supporters who have arrived within the past 48 hours must respect COVID-19 restriction guidelines imposed by the Confederation of African Football. CAF says people must provide negative COVID-19 test results that are not more than 24 hours old as well as proof they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 to gain access to stadiums for AFCON matches.

The embassies of Gabon and Equatorial Guinea in Yaoundé say all the visiting fans have agreed to respect Cameroonian laws and COVID-19 restrictions instituted by Cameroon and CAF during their stay.


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Climate, COVID, China: Takeaways from Online Davos Event 

Government and business leaders have urged cooperation on the world’s biggest issues — climate change, the coronavirus pandemic and the economic recovery — at the World Economic Forum’s virtual gathering. 

Speeches and discussions from the likes of Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres moved online this week after COVID-19 concerns delayed the forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Critics regularly fault the Davos event for hosting elites touting high-minded but often empty goals deemed out of touch with regular people. 

As usual, big ideas were debated, but no concrete deals emerged. The forum announced Friday that it plans to have its in-person gathering May 22-26 after two years of delays. 

Here are some takeaways from the online event: 

Climate change 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz vowed to use his country’s Group of Seven presidency to have industrial nations lead a “paradigm shift in international climate policy.” 

The new head of Europe’s biggest economy said Wednesday that the “climate club” would agree on “joint minimum standards.” Its goals are already part of the Paris climate accord, including limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels. 

Scholz said the club could seek to achieve those goals “by pricing carbon and preventing carbon leakage” — designed to stop companies from shifting carbon-heavy industries to countries with looser emissions rules. 

Others urged help for developing nations. Guterres called for debt relief to wean them off coal, and Latin American leaders said funding for green agendas is critical.

Saying Africa is “the most negatively affected” by climate change though the continent contributes “the least” to it, Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo asked Friday for developed nations to remain committed to their pledge of providing $100 billion annually to support climate efforts in developing countries. 

Meanwhile, a panel with U.S. climate envoy John Kerry and billionaire Bill Gates touted that innovations not invented or used widely yet would help slash emissions. That idea is popular in some circles but also divisive because technologies like carbon capture are expensive and energy intensive. 

COVID-19 Pandemic 

The World Health Organization’s head of emergencies said that quickly addressing huge inequities in vaccinations and medicines could mean the worst of the pandemic — deaths, hospitalizations and lockdowns — would end soon. 

Dr. Michael Ryan said the virus may never be over, but “we have a chance to end the public health emergency this year if we do the things that we’ve been talking about.” 

WHO has called the COVID-19 vaccination imbalance between rich and poor countries a catastrophic moral failure. Just more than 10% of Africa’s population is fully vaccinated. 

Limited resources would mean the full rollout of vaccines “may take several years,” Nigeria’s vice president said Friday, and support is needed for donations and local production of doses. 

China’s president announced plans Monday to send an additional 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine to other countries, including a donation of 600 million doses to Africa. 

In another panel, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said the vaccine maker was working on a single-shot booster for both COVID-19 and the flu, saying it could be ready in some countries next year.

The global economy 

Top economic issues were rising consumer prices and likely interest rate hikes by the U.S. Federal Reserve this year, which would have ripple effects worldwide because of the role played by the U.S. dollar.

Many of the poorest countries face debt trouble as their economic recovery lags that of the developed world, International Monetary Fund managing director Kristalina Georgieva warned in a panel discussion Friday. The Fed’s moves could strengthen the dollar, making debts bigger in local currencies.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a separate address that the Biden administration’s pandemic relief and infrastructure plans have boosted economic growth. She underlined the necessity of a global minimum corporate tax that more than 130 countries have backed at a time when tax burdens have shifted to middle-class workers. 

European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde said the 19 countries using the euro were at a different stage of recovery than the U.S. and suggested temporary factors like high energy costs may be fueling inflation in Europe. 

During the economy panel, she said the bank was “trying to figure out how long it will last” and that it would act to counter high inflation, including through interest rate hikes, once certain “criteria are satisfied.” 

The bank plans to phase out its efforts to boost the pandemic-hit economy in March. Compared with the U.S., Europe lacks “excessive demand” following major lockdowns that would push up prices longer term, she said. 

China’s talking points 

While urging the world to share vaccines, fight climate change and promote development, Xi also took a veiled swipe at the United States in a recorded speech.

“We need to discard Cold War mentality and seek peaceful coexistence and win-win outcomes,” Xi said through a translator. “Protectionism and unilateralism can protect no one. … Even worse are the practices of hegemony and bullying, which run counter to the tide of history.”

Those are terms Beijing has used to describe U.S. policy and actions amid tensions over Taiwan, human rights and other issues. Xi touched on standard themes, including responding to trading partners’ complaints by promising to open China’s state-dominated economy wider to private and foreign competition.

He also said China “stands ready to work with” other countries on climate change but announced no new initiatives and offered no resources. He said it was up to developed countries to provide money and technology. 

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Louie Anderson, Comic, Emmy Winner for ‘Baskets,’ Dies at 68

Louie Anderson, whose four-decade career as a comedian and actor included his unlikely, Emmy-winning performance as mom to twin adult sons in the TV series “Baskets,” died Friday. He was 68.

Anderson died at a hospital in Las Vegas of complications from cancer, said Glenn Schwartz, his longtime publicist. Anderson had a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Schwartz said previously.

“‘Baskets’ was such a phenomenal ‘second act’ for Louie Anderson. I wish he’d gotten a third,” Michael McKean said on Twitter. George Wallace wrote: “You’ll be missed, Louie. What an awesome friend. One in a million.” Gilbert Gottfried posted a photo of himself, Anderson and Bob Saget, who died Jan. 9, with the caption: “Both good friends that will be missed.”

“You were as gracious and kind as you were funny. Rest well!! Keep ’em laughing in Heaven,” Viola Davis said on Twitter.

The portly, round-faced Anderson used his girth and a checkered childhood in Saint Paul, Minnesota, as fodder for his early stand-up routines.

In a 1987 interview with The Associated Press, Anderson compared himself to another comedian who mined his childhood for comedy.

“Bill Cosby and I had similar goals,” Anderson told AP. “I wanted parents to be able to bring their children and children to be able to bring their parents to my concerts. I feel a family that can laugh about family problems is better off. The difference between Cosby and myself is that he sees it from an adult perspective and I tell it from a child’s viewpoint.”

He had a life-long battle with weight, but said in 1987 that he’d put a stop to using his size as stage material.

“I’ve always been big,” he said. “But I don’t do fat jokes anymore.”

In later years, his life as one of 11 children in a family headed by a troubled father and devoted mother was a deeper source of reflection and inspiration for Anderson, both in his screen work and in his best-selling books.

His latest book, 2018’s “Hey Mom,” was a tribute in letters to the lessons he learned from her and how-to tips on facing life’s challenges. He also gave the late Ora Zella Anderson a shout-out for the “Baskets” role.

“I just started writing with one letter, saying, ‘Hey Mom, I’m playing you on TV. I hope you see it. I hope you’re a part of it…” Anderson told AP that year.

He won the best supporting actor Emmy in 2016 for his portrayal of Christine Baskets, mother to twins played by Zach Galifianakis, in FX’s “Baskets.” Anderson, who received three consecutive Emmy nods for the role, played it with restraint and with specific touches he credits to his mom.

“Nuance is what I go for, tiny rather than bigger things. Mom did things with her eyes or her grimace or her disappointed lips — or her passive-aggressiveness,” he told the AP in 2015, laughing. “Rolling eyes were big in our family.”

Anderson, born March 24, 1953, was the 10th of 11 children for Ora and William Anderson. His father played trumpet with musical great Hoagy Carmichael and, Anderson has said, was an alcoholic.

After his father’s death, Anderson learned of how difficult his childhood had been and forgave him, he told People magazine in 2018.

Louie Anderson’s early jobs included counseling troubled children. He changed course after winning a 1981 Midwest comedy competition, where he was spotted by veteran comic Henny Youngman, who hosted contest, according to Schwartz.

Anderson worked as a writer for Youngman and then gained onstage experience while crisscrossing the United States. His big break came in 1984 when Johnny Carson, known for showcasing promising comedians on “The Tonight Show,” brought him on to perform.

He was a familiar face elsewhere on TV, including as host of a revival of the game show “Family Feud” from 1999 to 2002, and on comedy specials and in frequent late-night talk show appearances.

Anderson voiced an animated version of himself as a kid in “Life With Louie.” He created the Humanitas Prize-winning cartoon series, which first aired in prime time in late 1994 before moving to Saturday morning for its 1995-98 run. Anderson won two Daytime Emmy Awards for the role.

He made guest appearances in several TV series, including “Scrubs” and “Touched by an Angel,” and was on the big screen in 1988′s “Coming to America” and in last year’s sequel to the Eddie Murphy comedy.

In a magazine interview, Anderson recounted getting the role after he spotted Murphy, who he knew from working in comedy clubs, at a Los Angeles restaurant. Anderson said hello, then made a costly decision that paid off.

″Take Eddie Murphy’s check and put it on my credit card, but don’t tell him until after I leave,″ Anderson recalled telling a waiter. He ended up with a $600 charge, but Murphy called to thank him and offered to write a part for him in “Coming to America,” Anderson said.

His books included “Dear Dad – Letters From An Adult Child, ” a collection of letters from Anderson to his late father; “Good-bye Jumbo… Hello Cruel World,” a self-help book, and “The F Word, How To Survive Your Family.”

His survivors include sisters Lisa and Shanna Anderson.

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‘Bat Out of Hell’ Singer Meat Loaf Dies at 74

Meat Loaf, the U.S. rock star who rose to global fame with his Bat Out of Hell album, has died at the age of 74.

The American singer and actor, otherwise known as Michael Lee Aday, had a career spanning six decades, and sold more than 100 million albums worldwide.

His hits included the near 10-minute-long title track from Bat Out of Hell, Paradise by the Dashboard Light from the same album, and I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That) from 1993 album Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell.

“From his heart to your souls … don’t ever stop rocking!” the statement posted on his own Facebook page said.

“Our hearts are broken to announce that the incomparable Meat Loaf passed away tonight with his wife Deborah by his side.” 



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Brazilian Samba Singer Elza Soares Dies at 91

Elza Soares, one of the most revered singers in Brazilian samba music, died at her home in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday, aged 91.

She died of natural causes, her press representative said in a statement. “An icon of Brazilian music, considered one of the best artists in the world, the singer chosen as Voice of the Millennium [by the BBC] had a tremendous, intense life, who moved the world with her voice, her strength and her determination,” said the statement.

Born in a favela slum in Rio de Janeiro to a washerwoman and a factory worker in 1930, Soares rose from poverty to record 36 albums and perform at the 2016 Olympic opening ceremony in Rio.

The mayor of Rio has declared three days of mourning for the legendary singer.

Her raspy voice struck a chord with audiences around the world in concert hall performances of songs that touched on the hardship of life in Rio, justice for women and racism in Brazilian society.

She became a fierce champion of Black feminism and an outspoken voice against violence against women.

“Racism still continues, but we are going to fight it and we will make progress. Racism is a sickness,” Soares told Reuters in an interview last year.

In 1966, Soares married soccer star Mane Garrincha, a striker who helped Brazil win the 1958 and 1962 World Cups along with the legendary Pele.

Their tumultuous 17-year relationship ended when Soares left Garrincha after he struck her during an argument. He died of cirrhosis in 1983. She died on the same day 39 years later. 



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