#Metoo, Phase 2: Documentary Explores Heavy Burden on Women of Color

It may have been plagued with controversy after Oprah Winfrey pulled out as executive producer, but “On the Record” has moved on. The the new #MeToo documentary about rape accusations against hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons is a powerful look at one woman’s agonizing decision to go public, and an exploration of misogyny and sexual harassment in the music industry. Most importantly, though, it shines a light on the unique burden faced by women of color, who are often not believed or accused of being traitors to their own community if they come forward with accusations. The film premieres Wednesday on the new streaming service HBO Max.  There’s an elegant, almost poetic silence to one of the most compelling scenes of “On the Record,” a powerful new documentary about sexual violence that knows just when to dial down to a hushed quiet.In the early morning darkness of Dec. 13, 2017, former music executive Drew Dixon walks to a coffee shop and buys the New York Times. On the front page is the story in which she and two others accuse the powerful hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, her former boss, of rape. Dixon examines the article, carefully folds the paper back up, puts on a wool cap as if for protection — and crumples into silent tears.They are tears of fear, surely, about the ramifications of going public — but also, clearly, relief. It feels as if the poison of a decades-old toxic secret is literally seeping out of her.  “It saved my life,” she now says of that decision.”On the Record,” by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, provides a searingly intimate portrayal of the agonizing process of calculating whether to go public. Beyond that, it shines an overdue light on the music industry, where sexual harassment is “just baked into the culture,” in the words of Sil Lai Abrams, another Simmons accuser featured in the film.Most importantly, it puts a spotlight on women of color, and the unique and painful burden they often face in coming forward.The project also has been associated with controversy, of course, due to Oprah Winfrey’s well-documented withdrawal as executive producer just before the Sundance Film Festival, scuttling a distribution deal with Apple. Winfrey later acknowledged Simmons had called her and waged a pressure campaign, but said that wasn’t why she bailed.But the film has moved on. It opened at Sundance anyway to cheers and two emotional standing ovations, and was soon picked up by HBO Max, where it premieres Wednesday.For Dixon, vindication at Sundance was sweet.”Just standing there, on our own, and realizing that we were enough,” she said in an interview last week along with Abrams and accuser Sherri Hines, of the premiere. “That our courage was enough. That none of us waffled. None of us buckled. That we were strong enough to defend ourselves and each other.”Less than two years earlier, Dixon had been plagued by doubt. She’d expected that the film, which began shooting before she decided to go public, would be a general look at #MeToo and the music industry. But then the directors wanted to focus more on her journey.”The idea of being blackballed by the black community was really scary,” she says. “But I also felt this pressure, this responsibility to be brave, to highlight the experience of black women as survivors. The opportunity might never come again.”Dixon was in her 20s when she got her dream job at Simmons’ Def Jam Recordings. The daughter of two Washington, D.C. politicians — her mother, Sharon Pratt, was mayor — she attended Stanford University, then moved to New York to join the exciting world of hip-hop.As her star rose at Def Jam, she assumed that would immunize her from what she describes as Simmons’ constant harassment. He would come into her office, lock the door and expose himself.  But he wasn’t violent. Until the night in 1995 when, she says, he lured her to his apartment with the excuse of a demo CD she needed to hear. He told her to get it from the bedroom, she says, and then came in wearing only a condom, and raped her.Simmons has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex.The film weaves together Dixon’s and multiple other accusations against Simmons with key voices of women of color like Tarana Burke, who founded the #MeToo movement, and law professor Kimberle Williams Crenshaw.”A lot of black women felt disconnected from #MeToo initially,” Burke says. “They felt, ‘that’s great that this sister is out there and we support her, but this movement is not for US.'”When black women do seek to come forward, they risk not only not being believed, but being called traitors to their community, both Burke and Dixon explain.”There’s this added layer in the black community that we have to contend with, like, ‘Oh you’re gonna put THIS before race?'” says Burke. “You let this thing happen to you, now we have to pay for it as a race? And we’re silenced even more.’Dick and Ziering, who’ve made several films about sexual assault, say they saw it as essential to go beyond the current #MeToo discussion and focus on the experience of black women.”Now you can come forward — but what about women of color? What do they face?” asks Ziering. “There are so many impediments.”For Dixon, coming forward was clearly worth it. It’s more complicated for Abrams. Even as the audience was applauding at Sundance, Abrams, who attempted suicide after her alleged rape by Simmons, was weeping next to her young adult son, worrying about him as he learned the full details for the first time, she says.  Abrams also says that “as a result of coming forward, my career has stalled. Everything just dried up.”Dixon says it remains to be seen whether she will be punished within the music industry. She says she recently was up for a job, things were going well, and suddenly all went quiet. “They must have Googled me,” she says.But she feels, most importantly, like she rescued a part of herself: her creativity, her drive, her very sense of who she is.For more than 20 years, she says, “I had banished the young woman who came to New York City prepared to work really hard in a man’s game, to prove she could do it, but not expecting that she would be raped.””In order to banish the pain I banished part of her light,” she says. “When I said it out loud, those parts of me lit up again.”Her message to any other survivors out there — and she hopes they will come forward: “Facing it frees parts of yourself that you don’t even know you’ve missed.”  

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JK Rowling Publishing New Story Online

J.K. Rowling is publishing a new story called The Ickabog, which will be free to read online to help entertain children and families stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic. The Harry Potter author said Tuesday she wrote the fairy tale for her children as a bedtime story over a decade ago. Set in an imaginary land, it is a stand-alone story “about truth and the abuse of power” for children from 7 to 9 years old and is unrelated to Rowling’s other books. Rowling said the draft of the story had stayed in her attic while she focused on writing books for adults. She said her children, now teenagers, were “touchingly enthusiastic” when she recently suggested retrieving the story and publishing it for free.  “For the last few weeks I’ve been immersed in a fictional world I thought I’d never enter again. As I worked to finish the book, I started reading chapters nightly to the family again,” she said.  “‘The Ickabog’s first two readers told me what they remember from when they were tiny and demanded the reinstatement of bits they’d particularly liked (I obeyed).”The first two chapters were posted online Tuesday, with daily installments to follow until July 10.The book will be published in print later this year, and Rowling said she will pledge royalties from its sales to projects helping those particularly affected by the pandemic.  

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Macau Gambling Tycoon Stanley Ho Dies at Age 98

Stanley Ho, the man credited with transforming Macau from a sleepy former Portuguese colony into one of the world’s gambling meccas, has died at the age of 98. His daughter, Pansy, said Ho died Tuesday at a hospital in his native Hong Kong. The son of a once-influential and wealthy Hong Kong family who lost their fortune in the Great Depression of the 1930s, Stanley Ho escaped to Macau during World War Two when Japanese forces captured Hong Kong.  He built his fortune smuggling luxury goods from Macau to China, turning that into a successful trading company.  Ho’s gambling empire began when he successfully bid for a casino monopoly from Portuguese authorities in 1962.  He built a harbor to ferry high-stakes gamblers from Hong Kong to his casino, and also had stakes in numerous businesses in the enclave, including department stores, luxury hotels and horse racing tracks.   By the time China gained control of Macau and opened it to foreign competition in 2002, Ho had become notorious not only for his wealth but his flamboyant lifestyle, his love of ballroom dancing and the 17 children he fathered with four wives.  He was forced to restructure his business in 2012 after a legal battle broke out within the family. Ho was also dogged by allegations that he had ties to Chinese criminal gangs known as triads, which he denied.  

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William Small, ‘Hero to Journalism’ at CBS, NBC, Dies at 93 

Longtime broadcast news executive William J. Small, who led CBS News’ Washington coverage during the civil rights movement, Vietnam War and Watergate and was later president of NBC News and United Press International, died Sunday, CBS News said. He was 93. Small, whose career spanned from overseeing the news operation at a small radio station to testifying in Congress about press freedom, died in a New York hospital after a brief illness unrelated to the coronavirus, the network said. During a six-decade career, Small supervised, guided and in some cases hired generations of some of the best-known reporters and anchors in television news, among them: Dan Rather, Eric Sevareid, Daniel Schorr, Connie Chung, Diane Sawyer, “60 Minutes” correspondents Ed Bradley and Lesley Stahl and “Face the Nation” anchor Bob Schieffer. “He was heroic and steadfast, especially during Watergate, when it seemed we were getting angry calls from the White House every night,” Stahl said in a statement. “He made us want to be better — and nobody wanted to disappoint him.” Small hired the current CBS News president, Susan Zirinsky, to her first job at the network when she was 20. She remembered Small as a “hero to journalism” and said, “every one of us carries Bill Small’s legacy with us — it’s the core to who we are as journalists.” Picture showing the logo of the NBC Television in front of the Channel building in Burbank, Calif., Oct.11, 2006.Small, born in 1926 in Chicago, broke into broadcasting after fighting in the Army in World War II, including stints as news director at WLS-AM in Chicago and WHAS-TV in Louisville. Less than a year after he arrived, the Kentucky station was honored in 1957 as the nation’s top news operation by the organization that is now known as the Radio Television Digital News Association. Impressed by Small’s work in Louisville, CBS executives hired him in 1962 to be assistant news director of the network’s Washington bureau. He was promoted to bureau director within a year and “put together a TV News bureau the likes of which Washington had never known,” reporter Roger Mudd wrote in his 2009 book, “The Place to Be: Washington, CBS, and the Glory Days of Television News.” JFK assassinationEarly in his tenure, Small presided over the network’s coverage of the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, scrambling cameras to the White House and Capitol Hill and turning a station wagon into a makeshift broadcast truck so they could get live pictures from Vice President Lyndon Johnson’s home. Small didn’t leave the bureau for four days, “from the shooting to the burial,” he told The Associated Press in 2013. “When I finally got home, I asked my wife, What was it like?' She said,There was no one on the streets. Everyone was watching television.'” Kennedy’s assassination marked a seminal moment for television, then still in its nascence, as a source of news and solace — from CBS anchor Walter Cronkite’s tearful announcement of the president’s death to live, wall-to-wall coverage of the funeral procession to Arlington National Cemetery. There would be others on Small’s watch, including clashes over civil rights legislation, bitter divides over the Vietnam War and the 1972 Watergate break-in that prompted myriad legal and journalistic inquiries into President Richard Nixon’s involvement and ultimately led to his resignation. “Backed by the mystique of Murrow’s CBS and his own uncanny judge of talent, Small helped attract a stream of reporters, analysts and producers whose learning, talent, skill and experience were without precedent in news broadcasting,” Mudd wrote, calling him a “sophisticated judge of journalistic horseflesh.” Small remained in charge of the Washington bureau until 1974, when CBS moved him to a senior position at its New York headquarters. Testified before Congress in 1978The promotion put him next in line to become president of CBS News, but after he testified before Congress in 1978 urging strong limits on police entering newsrooms, the network instead assigned him to be its chief lobbyist in Washington. Small defected to NBC in 1979, becoming president of the network’s news division and hiring away several CBS reporters, including Mudd and Marvin Kalb. In 1982, he became president of the UPI wire service. Small and his late wife, Gish, had two daughters and six grandchildren. He is the author of two books on the role of the media in politics and society, taught communications and media management at Fordham University and was on the sociology faculty at the University of Louisville. Small spent the last decade of his career as chairman of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which hands out Emmy Awards for television news and documentaries, retiring in 2010. In 2014, the organization honored Small with its lifetime achievement award. In its presentation, it recognizing him as a television news icon whose work in Washington was “paramount in the dramatic evolution of network news that continues today.”  

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Jimmy Cobb, ‘Kind of Blue’ drummer for Miles Davis, dies

Jimmy Cobb, a percussionist and the last surviving member of Miles Davis’ 1959 Kind of Blue groundbreaking jazz album that transformed the genre and sparked several careers, died Sunday. His wife, Eleana Tee Cobb, announced on Facebook that her husband died at his New York City home from lung cancer. He was 91. Born in Washington, D.C., Cobb told The Associated Press in 2019 he listened to jazz albums and stayed up late to hear disc jockey Symphony Sid play jazz in New York City before launching his professional career. He said it was saxophonist Cannonball Adderley who recommended him to Davis, and he ended up playing on several Davis recordings. Cobb’s role as a drummer on the Kind of Blue jam session headed by Davis would forever change his career. That album also featured Adderley and John Coltrane. FILE – The “Kind of Blue” album cover is on display at Bull Moose record store in Portland, Maine, August 17, 2019, the 60th anniversary of the album’s release.Kind of Blue, released on Aug. 17, 1959, captured a moment when jazz was transforming from bebop to something newer, cooler and less structured. The full takes of the songs were recorded only once, with one exception, Cobb said. Freddie Freeloader needed to be played twice because Davis didn’t like a chord change on the first attempt, he said. Davis, who died in 1991, had some notes jotted down, but there weren’t pages of sheet music. It was up to the improvisers to fill the pages. “He’d say, ‘this is a ballad. I want it to sound like it’s floating.’ And I’d say, ‘OK,’ and that’s what it was,” Cobb recalled. The album received plenty of acclaim at the time, yet the critics, the band and the studio couldn’t have known it would enjoy such longevity. Cobb and his bandmates knew the album would be a hit but didn’t realize at the time how iconic it would become. “We knew it was pretty damned good,” Cobb joked. Kind of Blue has sold more than 4 million copies and remains the best-selling jazz album of all time. It also served as a protest album for African American men who looked to Davis and the other jazz musicians to break stereotypes about jazz and black humanity.  Cobb would also work with such artists as Dinah Washington, Pearl Bailey, Clark Terry, Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Wynton Kelly and Stan Getz. He’d also release a number of albums on his own. He performed well into his late 80s and played in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 2017, as part of the New Mexico Jazz Festival. Jazz fans from throughout the American Southwest came to pay their respects in what many felt was a goodbye.  Cobb released his last album, This I Dig of You, with Smoke Sessions Records in August 2019. 

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Morgan Wallen Arrested After Ejection from Nashville Bar

Country music singer Morgan Wallen apologized Sunday following his weekend arrest on public intoxication and disorderly conduct charges.
Wallen, 27, was arrested Saturday night after he was kicked out of Kid Rock’s bar in downtown Nashville, news outlets reported.
Wallen said on Twitter that he and some friends were “horse-playing” after a few bar stops.
“We didn’t mean any harm, and we want to say sorry to any bar staff or anyone that was affected,” Wallen tweeted. “Thank you to the local authorities for being so professional and doing their job with class. Love y’all.”
Wallen’s hits include “Whiskey Glasses” and “Chasin’ You.” He competed on “The Voice” in 2014 and co-wrote songs for Jason Aldean and Kane Brown.

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US Muslims Balance Eid Rituals With Coronavirus Concerns

With no congregational prayers or family gatherings, Salsabiel Mujovic has been worried that this year’s Eid al-Fitr celebration will pale. Still, she’s determined to bring home holiday cheer amid the coronavirus gloom.  Her family can’t go to the mosque, but the 29-year-old New Jersey resident bought new outfits for herself and her daughters. They are praying at home and having a family photo session. The kids are decorating cookies in a virtual gathering and popping balloons with money or candy inside — a twist on a tradition of giving children cash gifts for the occasion.”We’re used to, just like, easily going and seeing family, but now it’s just like there’s so much fear and anxiety,” she said. “Growing up, I always loved Eid. … It’s like a Christmas for a Muslim.”Like Mujovic, many Muslims in America are navigating balancing religious and social rituals with concerns over the virus as they look for ways to capture the Eid spirit this weekend.  Eid al-Fitr — the feast of breaking the fast — marks the end of Ramadan, when Muslims abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset. Just like they did during Ramadan, many are resorting to at-home worship and relying on technology for online gatherings, sermons and, now, Eid entertainment.  This year, some Muslim-majority countries have tightened restrictions for the holiday which traditionally means family visits, group outings and worshippers flooding mosques or filling public spaces.  The Eid prayer normally attracts particularly large crowds. The Fiqh Council of North America, a body of Islamic scholars, encouraged Muslims to perform the Eid prayer at home.  “We don’t want to have gatherings and congregations,” Sheikh Yasir Qadhi, who prepared the council’s fatwa, or religious edict, said in an interview. “We should try to keep the spirit of Eid alive, even if it’s just in our houses, even if we just decorate our houses and wear our finest for each other.”Qadhi, resident scholar at East Plano Islamic Center in Texas, has been dreading delivering an Eid sermon broadcast online with no worshippers.”It’s going to be very strange to dress up in my Eid clothes and to walk to an empty place and to deliver a sermon to an empty facility,” he said before the start of the holiday. “It’s going to be very, very disheartening.”But, he said, it’s the wise decision.  Even as restrictions have eased, the mosque is still closed to worshippers, he said. Like a few others, it is holding a drive-by Eid ceremony to safely distribute thousands of bags of sweets and goodies to children in cars.  While some are eager for mosques to reopen, Qadhi said, “We don’t want to be a conduit for the situation exacerbating. We need to think rationally and not emotionally.”A woman accept treats during a drive-through Eid al-Fitr celebration outside a closed mosque in Plano, Texas, May 24, 2020.The North Texas Imams Council, of which he is a member, has recommended mosques remain closed. He said he expected the majority of mosques to stay closed to the public, though he worries about smaller mosques re-opening.In Florida, the Islamic Center of Osceola County, Masjid Taqwa is holding the Eid prayer outdoors in the parking lot with social distancing rules in place.  Guidelines posted online include worshippers bringing their own prayer rugs, wearing mandatory masks and praying next to their cars while staying at least six feet apart. Participants are told not to hug or shake hands and to listen to the sermon from their cars.  “Eid is important but more important is the health of the people,” said Maulana Abdulrahman Patel, the imam. “We’ve been taking a lot of precautions,” and not acting on “sentiments or emotional feelings,” he said, adding they have been consulting with health and other officials.  Major Jacob Ruiz, the major of administration at Osceola County Sheriff’s Office, said he and the sheriff met with Patel before the celebration.  “They wanted to have something, and they felt it was important, but they wanted to do it with pretty much the blessing and the guidance of the sheriff’s office and the sheriff,” he said. “Everybody was in agreement that it’s going to be something that’s gonna be successful for them.”  The Muslim community in the county “has been very receptive and proactive in ensuring that they keep safety guidelines,” he said.The Masjid Taqwa prayer is for men only, the mosque said, citing “constraints.” Plans for men-only prayers announced by at least one other mosque prompted objections by some about excluding women. For Masjid Taqwa, the decision to include just men was taken because having families together would make crowd control more difficult, Patel said.In Michigan, the Michigan Muslim Community Council is organizing a televised Eid ceremony. It will include the Eid sermon, greetings from local elected officials and members of Muslim communities. “People will be at home seeing each other instead of gathering in large numbers,” said council chairman Mahmoud Al-Hadidi.”It’s just to keep people connected,” he said, adding that “we’re trying to avoid any spread of the coronavirus.”Normally, Eid is an all-day celebration with large gatherings over meals and a carnival for kids, he said. “Eid is a huge thing here.”Back in New Jersey on the holiday’s eve, Mujovic and two of her daughters joined friends and others online to decorate cookies. Squeezing icing out and spreading it on cookies shaped like Ramadan lanterns or spelling out the word “EID,” the girls stopped to lick their fingers or munch on the treats.As children waved, squealed and showed off their creations, it started to feel like Eid for Mujovic. “It was nice seeing happy faces,” she said. 

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Drive-In Movie Theaters Make Comeback in US in Coronavirus Era

The drive-in movie, dismissed by many as a relic of an earlier time in America, is making a comeback as entertainment seemingly designed for the coronavirus era.
 
Beth Wilson, who owns the Warwick Drive-in about an hour’s drive from Manhattan, says it has been sold out since May 15, the first day drive-ins were allowed to operate under New York’s reopening plan.
 
The drive-in has struck a chord with Americans who have been largely confined to their homes since March watching the death toll from COVID-19 accumulate on their TV screens.
 
Customers come “just to be out and for some form of entertainment that is not streaming on their TV,” said Wilson, adding she hopes the Warwick Drive-In can help people reconnect.
 
“I just want to see their happiness, their well-being.”
 
The drive-in experience is virtually tailor-made for the pandemic. Patrons control their close social interactions and any contact with other people happens outdoors, which is seen as lower risk for infection than indoors.
 
The Four Brothers Drive-In in Amenia, New York, which like Warwick has halved its capacity to put more distance between cars, is selling into next week after running out of tickets for the Memorial Day weekend.
 
“It’s a lot of first-time people that are inquiring and coming,” John Stefanopoulos, whose family owns the drive-in and an adjacent restaurant. “People want to get out of their house.”
 
Stefanopoulos sees a chance for the industry, which has shrunk by some 90% from a peak decades ago, to grow out of the crisis. He has received inquiries about developing drive-in theaters from England, Ireland and across the United States.
 
Some outsiders are looking to capitalize on the trend.
 
The Bel Aire Diner in the New York City borough of Queens propped up a screen in its parking lot and has been holding movie nights, serving food to customers in their cars while they watch classics like “The Princess Bride” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
 
In perhaps the most ambitious plan, one businessman said he was organizing a “drive-in on steroids” event to be held almost nightly in a parking lot of Yankee Stadium after July 4th. Marco Shalma, co-owner of the MASC Hospitality Group, said the evenings would include food, performances and a feature film, and he sees them as a way to reinvigorate New York.
 
“We make something out of nothing in New York,” Shalma said.
 
“It’s going to be epic.”
 

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Religious Communities Cautious as Trump Calls for Houses of Worship to Reopen 

President Donald Trump is calling on the nation’s governors to immediately reopen churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship, characterizing them as “essential places that provide essential services” during the pandemic. “At my direction, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is issuing guidance for communities of faith,” Trump said Friday. Trump admonished governors who have “deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential but have left out churches and other houses of worship” and threatened to override any governors who continue to keep houses of worship closed for safety reasons. “Ministers, pastors, rabbis, imams and others faith leaders will make sure that their congregations are safe as they gather and pray,” Trump said. The sign for First Presbyterian Church of Annapolis, Md., displays information for online services, May 22, 2020.Cool reception While Trump claimed that Americans are “demanding to go to church and synagogue or their mosque,” religious communities are reacting cautiously to the president’s announcement. The In this March 24, 2020, photo, a man walks past the First Baptist Church in America in Providence, R.I.The survey also shows that readiness to return to houses of worship differs across religious traditions and race. Of the white evangelical Protestants who attended services before the pandemic, 63% say they would likely return to the pews if public health officials advised lifting those restrictions, compared with 50% of Muslims, 47% of white Catholics, 46% of white mainline Protestants, 46% of black Protestants, 38% of Hispanic Catholics and 33% of Jews. The decision to return to worship collectively may also be partisan. A recent poll by ABC News/Ipsos shows 73% of Republicans are likely to start attending church, compared with 20% of Democrats. The Trump administration has consulted with religious leaders, mostly evangelical Christians to draft the guidelines. Earlier this month White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx listens during an event in the Oval Office of the White House, May 6, 2020, in Washington.Discretion of religious leaders Speaking after Trump in the same briefing Friday, White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said that the decision to reopen houses of worship is at the discretion of governors and religious leaders. “I think each one of the leaders in the faith community should be in touch with their local health department so they can communicate to their congregants. Certainly people that have significant comorbidities, we want them protected. I know those houses of worship want to protect them,” Birx said.  It is not immediately clear how Trump plans to enforce his call or override governors’ orders limiting public gatherings that, under the U.S. federalist system, fall under the jurisdiction of the country’s 50 states.  When asked what legal basis Trump has to implement a nationwide push to reopen houses of worship, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president will “strongly encourage every governor to allow their churches to reopen.” 

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In Virus Chaos, Some Find Solace, Purpose in Helping Others

In April, as the coronavirus was ravaging New York, Susan Jones learned her older brother had been diagnosed with a blood cancer.
His supervisor at work launched a GoFundMe page to help with costs, and Jones shared it on Facebook. What happened next stunned her.  
While Jones, who works as principal ballet mistress at American Ballet Theatre, was confident her closest friends would help, she was stunned to see scores of colleagues — some she didn’t even know that well, and didn’t even know she had a brother — donating, despite their own economic challenges in a struggling dance community.  
Jones found herself asking: Would the response have been the same just two months earlier, before the pandemic? She’s fairly certain it wouldn’t. Instead, she thinks the instinct to help shows, along with simple kindness, how people are striving to make a difference. At a time of helplessness, she says, helping others makes a mark on a world that seems to be overwhelming all of us.
“People everywhere are trying to keep control of their lives, grasping at anything to preserve who they are,” Jones says.  
That helping others can feel good is not just an anecdotal truth but an idea backed by research, says Laurie Santos, psychology professor at Yale University and teacher of the school’s most popular course to date: “Psychology and the Good Life.”
“The intuition that helping others is the key to our well-being right now fits with science,” Santos says. “There’s lots of research showing that spending our time and money on other people can often make us happier than spending that same time or money on ourselves.”
“Taking time to do something nice for someone else,” she says, “is a powerful strategy for improving our well-being.”
One recent day, Damien Escobar, a contemporary violinist based in New York whose touring gigs have been halted by the pandemic, was heading into a neighborhood chain drugstore when he saw a homeless man begging outside.  
Escobar rifled through his pockets and found a dollar or two before he realized what the man was really seeking: a mask, so he could enter the store and buy water and essentials.
“That blew my mind,” says Escobar, 33, who himself was homeless less than a decade ago, sleeping on the subways. He also found that employees at a nearby parking garage were asking for spare masks.  
“There was a huge need here,” he says. He’d already been getting protective equipment to first responders, raising $50,000 from a charity concert, but pivoted to a new campaign,  “Masks for the Masses,” to get masks to the homeless and low-income families.  
Escobar is clear about the benefits not only to those on the receiving end, but to himself.  
“I’m essentially unemployed. I make my money on the road. If I weren’t doing this I’d probably be stuck at home battling a bout of depression,” he says. “They say once you get out of the world and into the world of someone else, your problems don’t really exist anymore.”
In her practice, psychologist Catherine Lewis has often found people are happier when they can take action.  
“In the work of trauma, we know that people who have good outcomes are the people who are doing something — mobilizing, fighting back,” she says. “The hardest piece is when you are stuck, confined, frozen.”
When the pandemic struck, Blake Ross, a 37-year-old mother of a toddler in New York, was testing the waters to re-enter the job market — in the field of event programming, as it happens. During her break, she’d been enjoying the company of other young mothers. Like many Manhattanites, it was the very density of the city that had led to her greatest pleasures there.  
Suddenly “all that was taken away, very swiftly.” Ross wondered how she could remain connected with the world — not just with friends and family, but also people she didn’t know, those random, fortuitous encounters that make city life appealing for many. She hit on the idea of a website to connect people who wanted to help with those who need it.
Taking a cue from her theater-industry background, she called her site “Kindness of Strangers” after the line in Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Some 500 people from New York and around the world have signed on.
“It’s been everything from ‘I just want a friendly face to laugh with’ to offering one-on-one yoga instruction, to an energy healer, offers to buy groceries, job-search coaching, tutoring children and reading stories,” Ross says. The service connected a choir teacher who wanted to keep the music going with a singer, and a librarian in Michigan with a librarian in Alaska.
Ross has partnered with Enlivant, which runs senior homes in 20 states, and has set up an adopt-a-grandparent program.
“The essence of volunteering is that you feel wonderful after giving of yourself,” Ross says. “You certainly get as much as you give.”
There are many such initiatives, from more organized ones to simple scrawled signs in apartment elevator banks, from younger residents offering to go shopping for older ones. That doesn’t mean, however, that traditional philanthropy is in good shape.
“Sure, individuals and some nonprofits are stepping forward to help,” says Marcia Stepanek, a professor in Columbia University’s Nonprofit Management Program. But for the most part, she says, recent surveys of nonprofits show that donations are dropping precipitously because donors are “skittish about the economy as well as the job market.”
“COVID-19 is upending the sector,” she says.
Be that as it may, many individuals are finding, in the process of reaching out to others, not only satisfaction and purpose but also perhaps a means of asserting their identity. That’s how Jones, the ballet mistress, sees it. Friends and colleagues have contributed nearly $6,000 to her brother’s care.
“This virus has robbed us of our identities,” she says. Giving, she says, “makes one feel included, not alone, and lends us a sort of new identity.”
She adds: “I’m feeling deeply touched to be on the receiving end of that.”

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COVID-19 Dampens Eid Festivities

Just before Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the Islamic observance of Ramadan, customers in Pakistan rushed to finish shopping in bazaars that opened after a nearly two-month lockdown because of the coronavirus.In many places, crowds simply ignored warnings and guidelines to protect against the pandemic.”I don’t think it’s such a big deal,” said Rozeena Abbasi, who roamed around in an overcrowded market in Islamabad without wearing a face mask. “I want people to continue with their lives and routines as usual. Whatever is fated to happen will happen.”Despite her nonchalance, she acknowledged that Eid is going to be different this year.Women buy jewelry at the Baghbanpura Bazaar ahead of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr festival in Lahore, Pakistan, May 21, 2020.Eid al-Fitr, the most festive Muslim holiday, is marked with celebrations, friends and family reunions, and a lot of feasting. This year, the coronavirus is threatening to dampen that spirit.”This Eid is not just a little different, it’s entirely different. We used to go to each other’s houses, everyone used to cook, the whole week used to be one long festival. Not this time,” said Sehrish Lodhi of Islamabad.Unlike Pakistan, shops and shopping malls in many other countries remain closed. Eid al-Fitr marks the biggest shopping season in most Muslim countries. But this year, many businesses will feel the pain of lost income.”Last year, there were clients, there was movement. We were able to work. There was a source of income. Now, there is no income, there is no season. We do not feel the season. We do not feel the Eid,” said Karem Mohamed, 19, a shoe salesman in Cairo.Sorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
People travel by boat to their hometown in remote islands, ahead of Eid al-Fitr celebrations which mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, May 21, 2020.In Aceh, the only Indonesian province with Islamic sharia law, public Eid prayers will still be performed inside and outside mosques, with physical distancing protocol in place. But the public takbir and the province’s iconic parade of decorated vehicles will not occur this year.”We are so sad, because we can’t hold the takbir. It’s part of the tradition, just like meugang,” Muhammad Al Kausar told VOA.Meugang is the Acehnese tradition that is believed to have emerged with the spread of Islam in Aceh in the 14th century. Cattle are slaughtered, cooked and eaten in a meal that brings families together to feast on various meat dishes at the end of Ramadan.In Central Java, residents have erected barriers on village borders to stop out-of-towners from entering to control the spread of COVID-19.In Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, the government and clerics are urging people to pray at home. The kingdom has declared a 24-hour curfew from Saturday until Wednesday to stem the spread of the virus.Its rival nation, Iran, and some other countries, have taken a more relaxed approach and will allow Eid prayers, but only in open spaces with social distancing.Among all the restrictions, the Eid celebrations and outings that people have grown accustomed to will not be around this year.Creative alternatives”The normal ritual is that after the morning prayer on that day, people go out to visit friends and families. But this time, there will be minimal interaction,” said Hajiya Rukayat Usman, of the city of Jos in Nigeria.This has led many to think of creative ways to bring some normalcy to this abnormal situation. Technology is expected to play a big role.”This will be a kind of digital Eid,” said Lodhi in Islamabad. “People will wish each other [a happy Eid] on phone calls or video calls. I think everyone will get ready and make videos but won’t be able to do much else.”People wait outside a bakery and pastry shop named “The Baker” and known as “El Khabaz,” for traditional Eid al-Fitr festivities sweets and biscuits, amid concerns over the coronavirus disease, in the Cairo suburb of Maadi, Egypt, May 21, 2020.People with children are particularly concerned with creating a festive atmosphere at home, said Samy Mahmud in Cairo.”The most crucial thing is that we do not make our young children feel this catastrophe. They can put on their new clothes as usual. We can bring them balloons at home, create for them an atmosphere of joy and happiness of the Eid, so they don’t feel like we are in a catastrophe,” he said.In Teaneck, New Jersey, in the U.S. northeast, the first Muslim American to be elected mayor in Bergen County has come up with a unique plan.”For us in Teaneck, I’m going to have front yard parties,” said Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin. “So basically, everyone can go out [in)] the front yard, set up your chairs and your table, and if you want to, people can drive by. And that’s the way we’re all going see each other.”One thing is certain — this year’s Eid al-Fitr will long be remembered as one of hardship and restrictions.Hamada Elrasam from Cairo; Saba Shah Khan from VOA’s Urdu service, Washington; Eva Mazrieva from VOA’s Indonesian service, Washington; and Ifiok Ettang from Jos, Nigeria, contributed to this report.

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Hollywood Couple Agrees to Plead Guilty in College Admissions Scandal 

A Hollywood actress and her fashion-designer husband have agreed to plead guilty in a university admissions scandal in which their daughters were falsely portrayed as a sports champion.Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli have agreed to plead guilty to charges of conspiracy to secure “fraudulent admission” of their two children to the University of Southern California (USC), according to the U.S. Department of Justice.The Justice Department stated that Loughlin agreed to two months in prison, a $150,000 fine and two years of supervised release with 100 hours of community service. Giannulli’s plea agreement includes five months in prison, a $250,000 fine and two years of supervised release with 250 hours of community service.Loughlin, 55, and Giannulli, 56, both of Los Angeles, have long fought the charges that they fabricated their daughters’ skill at rowing through an admissions’ fixer to gain her entry to the prestigious USC. Earlier this month, a federal judge refused to drop charges against the couple who had alleged that the Justice Department fabricated evidence.The couple was accused of paying $500,000 to William “Rick” Singer for his help securing them slots at USC through a sports recruiter. In a video on social media, their daughter, Olivia Jade, talked about being more interested in the social rather than scholastic aspects of attending USC.The Justice Department stated that Loughlin will “plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, while Giannulli will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and honest services wire and mail fraud.”Loughlin and Giannulli are the 23rd and 24th parents to plead guilty in the college admissions case.Prosecutors: College Scam Takes Cheating to Whole New LevelParents Spend Up to Millions to Boost Student ProfilesEarlier this week, a Chinese mother who lives in Canada was sentenced for bribing a fixer to get her son admitted to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) as a soccer recruit.Xiaoning Sui, 48, of Surrey, British Columbia, was sentenced to five months’ time served during a videoconference hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock.She was ordered to pay a fine of $250,000 in addition to forfeiting the $400,000 she paid to Singer, according to Justice Department.The U.S. Department of Justice conducted a multilevel, years-long investigation it dubbed Operation Varsity Blues. 

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