Slow Reopening for India’s Taj Mahal After 6-Month COVID Shutdown

India’s iconic 17th century Taj Mahal monument reopened Monday after its longest shutdown even as the country grapples with rising coronavirus cases.The reopening of the famed white marble Mughal-era monument in Agra town after six months is a signal that the world’s second-worst hit nation by the pandemic will steadily ease restrictions to bring its devastated economy back on track and restore lost livelihoods, observers say.The long, snaking lines that could seldom be skipped at the Taj Mahal were missing. A visitor from Taiwan and a family from New Delhi were among the first to enter the monument that was sanitized before being opened, according to officials.Only 5,000 visitors will be allowed a day with restrictions that have become the norm amid the pandemic. “Masks are mandatory to enter the monuments and all tickets must be purchased online. Ticket counters will not be open,” according to Vasant Kumar Swarnkar, superintendent at the Archaeological Survey of India in Agra.Group photos, one of the highlights for families or friends who posed in the lawns outside with the iconic Taj Mahal in the backdrop, will not be allowed to ensure that physical distancing norms are followed, say authorities.The pandemic led to the monument’s longest shutdown in history – it was briefly closed during the Second World War, in 1971 when India and Pakistan fought a war, and in 1978 when Agra city was flooded.The Taj Majal’s reopening has brought a glimmer of hope to a tourism-dependent town whose economy revolves around the monument. The major draw for international tourists to India, it attracts seven million visitors a year that include foreign dignitaries.  U.S. President Trump made a visit during an official trip to India in February.“The monument’s reopening is a start at least and we hope it will help people overcome the fear that the pandemic has created about traveling. Initially we only expect to see domestic visitors who can drive in their own vehicles from nearby places,” according to Rajiv Tewari, president of the Federation of Travel Association of Agra.As in most countries, the travel and tourism industry has been battered the worst. In Agra, hotels and restaurants are struggling to stay open, several shops that sold curios and handicrafts have downed shutters and tens of thousands have lost livelihoods.A health worker takes temperature of a patient at a makeshift COVID-19 care center in New Delhi, India, Sept. 19, 2020.For Mohammad Shakeel Khan, who made a living as a tour guide, the monument’s reopening has rekindled some optimism, but he said he is unlikely to get work until foreign visitors return. “I have been at home for six months, but until international travel returns to normal, it will be difficult for my work to come back.”It is the plight of millions like Khan that is prompting India to return to business as usual although it has been reporting the world’s biggest daily jump in cases for some time. India now has nearly 5.5 million infections, according to the Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the global outbreak. More than 4 million of these cases have been added in the last two months, according to Indian officials.Markets, businesses and restaurants have opened in most Indian cities, and public transport and domestic flights have largely been restored although international travel is still restricted.India had imposed the world’s strictest and longest lockdowns in March, hoping it could avert being devastated by the virus, but cases started rising after the restrictions were eased and travel resumed. Although as a proportion of its 1.3 billion population, India’s numbers are still small compared to countries like the United States and Brazil, it is expected to eventually become the worst-hit country by the pandemic. 

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Few Visitors as India’s Taj Mahal Reopens After Longest Shutdown

India’s iconic 17th century Taj Mahal monument reopened Monday after its longest shutdown even as the country grapples with rising coronavirus cases.The reopening of the famed white marble Mughal-era monument in Agra town after six months is a signal that the world’s second-worst hit nation by the pandemic will steadily ease restrictions to bring its devastated economy back on track and restore lost livelihoods, observers say.The long, snaking lines that could seldom be skipped at the Taj Mahal were missing. A visitor from Taiwan and a family from New Delhi were among the first to enter the monument that was sanitized before being opened, according to officials.Only 5,000 visitors will be allowed a day with restrictions that have become the norm amid the pandemic. “Masks are mandatory to enter the monuments and all tickets must be purchased online. Ticket counters will not be open,” according to Vasant Kumar Swarnkar, superintendent at the Archaeological Survey of India in Agra.Group photos, one of the highlights for families or friends who posed in the lawns outside with the iconic Taj Mahal in the backdrop, will not be allowed to ensure that physical distancing norms are followed, say authorities.The pandemic led to the monument’s longest shutdown in history – it was briefly closed during the Second World War, in 1971 when India and Pakistan fought a war, and in 1978 when Agra city was flooded.The Taj Majal’s reopening has brought a glimmer of hope to a tourism-dependent town whose economy revolves around the monument. The major draw for international tourists to India, it attracts seven million visitors a year that include foreign dignitaries.  U.S. President Trump made a visit during an official trip to India in February.“The monument’s reopening is a start at least and we hope it will help people overcome the fear that the pandemic has created about traveling. Initially we only expect to see domestic visitors who can drive in their own vehicles from nearby places,” according to Rajiv Tewari, president of the Federation of Travel Association of Agra.As in most countries, the travel and tourism industry has been battered the worst. In Agra, hotels and restaurants are struggling to stay open, several shops that sold curios and handicrafts have downed shutters and tens of thousands have lost livelihoods.A health worker takes temperature of a patient at a makeshift COVID-19 care center in New Delhi, India, Sept. 19, 2020.For Mohammad Shakeel Khan, who made a living as a tour guide, the monument’s reopening has rekindled some optimism, but he said he is unlikely to get work until foreign visitors return. “I have been at home for six months, but until international travel returns to normal, it will be difficult for my work to come back.”It is the plight of millions like Khan that is prompting India to return to business as usual although it has been reporting the world’s biggest daily jump in cases for some time. India now has nearly 5.5 million infections, according to the Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the global outbreak. More than 4 million of these cases have been added in the last two months, according to Indian officials.Markets, businesses and restaurants have opened in most Indian cities, and public transport and domestic flights have largely been restored although international travel is still restricted.India had imposed the world’s strictest and longest lockdowns in March, hoping it could avert being devastated by the virus, but cases started rising after the restrictions were eased and travel resumed. Although as a proportion of its 1.3 billion population, India’s numbers are still small compared to countries like the United States and Brazil, it is expected to eventually become the worst-hit country by the pandemic. 

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‘Succession,’ ‘Watchmen,’ ‘Schitt’s Creek’ Take Top Emmys

Quirky comedy “Schitt’s Creek,” media family saga “Succession,” and dystopian drama “Watchmen” dominated the Emmy Awards on Sunday in a show where the coronavirus pandemic meant most celebrities took part from their sofas and backyards dressed in a variety of gowns, hoodies and sleepwear.”Hello, and welcome to the PandEmmys!” said Jimmy Kimmel, opening the show, which had multiple skits and jokes about life under lockdown.HBO’s “Succession,” the wickedly juicy tale of a fractious media family, was named best drama series, while Jeremy Strong won best actor for his role as a downtrodden son.”Succession” also won for writing and directing.The biggest shock of the night came when former Disney Channel actress Zendaya, 24, was named best drama actress for playing a teen drug addict in HBO’s “Euphoria,” beating presumed favorites Laura Linney (“Ozark”) and Jennifer Aniston (“The Morning Show.”)“Schitt’s Creek,” a sleeper hit on the small Pop TV network about a wealthy family that is forced to live in a rundown motel, won seven Emmys, including best comedy series and acting awards for Canadian stars Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, Daniel Levy and Annie Murphy.It was the first time in the Emmy Awards’ 72 years that a comedy won all seven categories in the same year, organizers said.HBO’s alternative-reality show “Watchmen,” infused with racial themes, won for best limited series, while actress Regina King won for her performance as the show’s top-notch police detective and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II took best supporting actor. “Watchmen” also won for writing.Creator Damon Lindelof dedicated the Emmy to the victims and survivors of the 1921 massacre of the Black community in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which partly inspired the series.The coronavirus pandemic meant no red carpet and no physical audience for the show, which was broadcast live on ABC. Instead, producers sent camera kits and microphones to all the nominees, scattered in 125 places around the world, who chose how and where they wanted to be seen. 

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Tadej Pogacar Wins COVID-defying Tour de France

In a stunning performance for the ages, Tour de France rookie Tadej Pogacar won cycling’s showpiece race Sunday on the eve of his 22nd birthday.Pogacar became the second-youngest winner of the 117-year-old event that this year braved, and overcame, France’s worsening coronavirus epidemic.Turning him from promising prodigy into cycling superstar, Pogacar became the youngest winner since World War II and the first from Slovenia.His victory was incredible, too, for the way in which he sealed it: at the last possible moment, on the penultimate stage before Sunday’s finish on Paris’ Champs-Elysees.In a high-drama time trial on Saturday, he left the race breathless by snatching away the overall lead from Slovenian countryman Primoz Roglic.Their 1-2 is the first for one country since British riders Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome went 1-2 at the 2012 Tour. Australian Richie Porte rounded out the podium, at age 35, after his brilliant time trial that hoisted him from fourth to third overall.With jets trailing plumes of red, white and blue smoke above the riders as they raced toward the finish, the Tour was also celebrating a victory — over the coronavirus.None of the 176 riders who started, or the 146 finishers who raced into Paris, tested positive in multiple batteries of tests, validating the bubble measures put in place by Tour organizers to shield them from infection.

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First Volume of Barack Obama’s Memoir Coming Nov. 17

The first volume of former President Barack Obama’s memoir is coming out Nov. 17, two weeks after Election Day. It’s called “A Promised Land” and will cover his swift and historic rise to the White House and his first term in office.  
The publication date for the second volume has not yet been determined.  
“I’ve spent the last few years reflecting on my presidency, and in ‘A Promised Land’ I’ve tried to provide an honest accounting of my presidential campaign and my time in office: the key events and people who shaped it; my take on what I got right and the mistakes I made; and the political, economic, and cultural forces that my team and I had to confront then — and that as a nation we are grappling with still,” Obama said in a statement Thursday.
“In the book, I’ve also tried to give readers a sense of the personal journey that Michelle and I went through during those years, with all the incredible highs and lows. And finally, at a time when America is going through such enormous upheaval, the book offers some of my broader thoughts on how we can heal the divisions in our country going forward and make our democracy work for everybody — a task that won’t depend on any single president, but on all of us as engaged citizens.”
Obama’s book, like his previous ones, will be released by Crown.  
The 768-page book is the most anticipated presidential memoir in memory, as much or more because of the quality of the writing than for any possible revelations. He has been called the most literary president since Abraham Lincoln and has already written two highly praised, million-selling books: “Dreams from My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope,” both of which have been cited as aiding his presidential run in 2008 and making him the country’s first Black president.  
Even with a substantial list price of $45, “The Promised Land” is virtually guaranteed to sell millions of copies. But it will face challenges far different from most presidential memoirs, and even from former first lady Michelle Obama’s blockbuster book, “Becoming,” which came out two years ago. Because of the pandemic, the former president will likely be unable to have the spectacular arena tour that Michelle Obama had.  
Barack Obama also may find his book coming out at a time when the Nov. 3 election is still undecided and the country is far more preoccupied with who the next president will be than with events of the past.

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Former Global Athletics Chief Sentenced for Corruption Over Russian Doping Scandal

A Paris court has sentenced former World Athletics chief Lamine Diack to four years in prison on charges of corruption, money laundering and abuse of confidence.  The charges stemmed from a Russian doping scandal, and for accepting Russian money to finance the 2012 election campaign of a Senegalese president.
 
The judgment has 87-year-old Senegalese Lamine Diack, ex-World Athletics, or IAAF chief, serving two years in jail, with an additional two-year suspended sentence. The court also fined him nearly $600,000, the maximum under French law.  
 
Diack’s lawyers say they will appeal what they describe as a profoundly unfair verdict. Either way, Diack appears unlikely to go to jail. The presiding judge predicted a conditional release, given his age.  
 
Diack’s Dakar-based son, Papa Massata Diack, got a tougher sentence in absentia — five years in prison, along with a nearly $1.2 million fine. The younger Diack is accused of overseeing a vast network of corruption as a former IAAF marketing adviser.  
 
Papa Massata Diack refused to attend the Paris trial. Speaking to reporters in Dakar earlier this week, he insisted he was innocent. In addition, an investigation against him is underway in Senegal.  
 
During the Paris trial, the senior Diack also denied corruption. He admitted to slowing the handling of Russian doping allegations, but he said it was to snag lucrative Russian sponsorship deals that would help shore up the organization’s finances.  
 
Furthermore, the senior Diack denied charges of taking Russian funds to finance the successful 2012 election campaign of Senegalese President Macky Sall.   
 
Trial observers say Diack’s testimony was often confusing. One of Diack’s lawyers urged leniency, saying it was important he die in dignity in his native land. Prosecutors argued Diack’s behavior deeply tarnished the IAAF.  
 
A once-powerful figure in the sports world, Diack headed the IAAF for 16 years, before stepping down in 2015. Olympic gold medalist Sebastian Coe took over as head of the organization, which has been renamed World Athletics.  
 

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Gender Reveal Events Grow in Popularity, Risk

The massive El Dorado wildfire in the U.S. state of California was reportedly started by a reveal party, a growing trend in the United States in which couples come up with increasingly elaborate ways to announce the gender of their expected child. For some couples, the revelation of the baby’s gender has become an important milestone, like a baby shower. But some are saying reveal parties have gotten out of control, as couples vie for the most dramatic reveal and the accompanying social media attention. FILE – A helicopter prepares to drop water at a wildfire in Yucaipa, Calif., Sept. 5, 2020. The blaze is being blamed on a gender reveal party, when a pyrotechnical device sparked a wildfire that has burned thousands of acres.Jenna Karvunidis, whom the media call the inventor of the reveal party, says social media influencer clout and the money that can generate is pushing couples to extremes. “The problem is that it’s monetary,” she told the Daily Beast. “The platforms are rewarding this more extravagant content because that’s how you get the sponsorship opportunities. … And so, they have to up the ante with more and more spectacles.” It’s not clear if Karvunidis is, in fact, the inventor of the gender reveal party, but her 2008 post to social media helped cause the trend to go viral. Her idea was simple by today’s standards: Invite a few friends and family members over, bake a modest cake with pink icing in the center to indicate the unborn baby is a girl and post some photos on a blog. Karvunidis told the Daily Beast that her reveal party wasn’t to get attention from strangers but rather to celebrate a healthy pregnancy and get her estranged mother excited. Cakes no longer seem to cut it. One expecting couple hollowed out a watermelon, filled it with blue jello and then had an alligator chomp on it to reveal the gender. Another couple hired a small plane to dump small colored balls on attendees.Another aviation-themed reveal caused a plane crash when a small aircraft that was supposed to dump 1,300 liters of pink water flew too low and crashed. Luckily, no one was injured. Some are jumping out of planes to add to the drama. In one case, a man parachuted from a plane toward event guests with a smoke canister emitting colored smoke to reveal the gender. Yet another couple built a complex Rube Goldberg machine to reveal the gender of their coming baby. Some of the events have produced painful viral video, including a recent video of a Massachusetts man accidentally firing an explosive canister of blue smoke directly into his crotch. Flare hits dad-to-be in the crotch at a gender reveal party pic.twitter.com/tpkpNN9qOd— The Sun (@TheSun) September 13, 2020But now, the parties may be causing massive damage like the El Dorado fire, which started east of Los Angeles and has burned around 5,600 hectares so far. A massive 2018 fire in Arizona is also blamed on a gender reveal event gone wrong. It’s unclear if the fires will cause a pause to the gender reveal trend, but a quick online search reveals numerous resources for parents wanting to plan their event, and it’s likely most parties don’t involve gators, planes or explosive devices. There are also signs the trend is going global with a couple recently lighting up the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, in blue to announce they were expecting a boy. Karvunidis, however, says she has had enough. “Stop it. Stop having these stupid parties,” she wrote on Facebook. 
 

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‘Uighurs Are the Real Mulan,’ Uighur Advocates Say

“Mulan” has been one of Jewher Ilham’s favorite movies since she was a little girl. She says she remembers sitting with her dad and watching Disney’s 1998 animated version of the tale of a Chinese woman who disguises herself as a man and wins acclaim as a warrior.“I was so excited about the live-action remake, until one of my favorite actresses, Liu Yifei, publicly supported the Hong Kong police against pro-democracy protesters,” she said. Liu, the leading actress and a naturalized U.S. citizen, posted a pro-police comment on Chinese social media platform Weibo in 2019 that was welcomed by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.Cast member Liu Yifei poses at the European premiere for the film “Mulan” in London, March 12, 2020.It’s not only Liu’s remarks that disappointed Jewher. The live-action “Mulan” filmed some of its scenes in Xinjiang, and Disney thanked eight local government bodies in its credits, including the Turpan Municipal Bureau of Public Security, which was sanctioned by the U.S. Commerce Department for administrating the internment camps in Xinjiang.“Because I have relatives and friends in the concentration camps. They might be in a camp near where the movie was shot,” she said.Jewher’s father, Ilham Tohti, is a Uighur economist and former university lecturer who in 2014 was sentenced to life in prison in China on separatism-related charges. Officials accused him of using his lectures to incite violence and overthrown the Chinese Communist Party leadership.Washington-based lawyer Rayhan Asat is advocating for the release of her brother Ekpar Asat, a Uighur entrepreneur who disappeared upon returning to China from a U.S. State Department program.Rayhan said Disney’s actions amount to indirect funding of the Communist Party institutions that imprison Uighurs and has violated corporate social responsibility standards.To her, the rollout of “Mulan” marks the latest example of Hollywood’s hypocrisy and willingness to sacrifice values to do business in China.“Disney is publicly endorsing the Xinjiang government in thanking them in credits. Disney wants to profit by a movie that empowers woman, but it’s praising governments who are committing crimes against woman, against humanity. It’s so hypocritical,” she told VOA.“In my eyes, the Uighur women who are voicing out for their parents, brothers, sisters, and loved ones, they are the real Mulan,” she added.”Mulan” has become a political flashpoint since it was released on Disney+ in the U.S. on September 4. #BoycottMulan is trending on Twitter. Senator Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, last week published a letter addressed to Disney CEO Bob Chapek, accusing the company of “whitewashing” the “ongoing Uighur genocide.” Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, also requested the company explain why it chose to film part of the movie in Xinjiang.Children play next to a poster of the Disney movie “Mulan” outside a cinema in Beijing on September 11, 2020.Disney’s CFO Christine McCarthy last Thursday acknowledged that the film’s ties to China had created “a lot of issues” for the company, yet Disney declined to comment further on the current controversy.Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Friday said it’s “very normal for the film to thank the convenience provided by the government of Xinjiang.” He also praised lead actress Liu Yifei, calling her the real “daughter of the Chinese nation.” China has maintained that the camps in Xinjiang at the center of the controversy are training facilities aimed at combating terrorism in the region.Officials and civic groups have growing concerns about the influence China has had over Hollywood in recent years.A new report by Pen America accused Hollywood of censoring films to avoid losing access to China’s lucrative box office market. It said key players in Hollywood are increasingly making decisions about their films “based on an effort to avoid antagonizing Chinese officials who control whether their films gain access to the booming Chinese market.”It said that in some instances, filmmakers or directors have directly invited Chinese government censors onto their film sets to advise them on “how to avoid tripping the censors’ wires.”Beijing has the world’s second-largest box market behind the U.S. According to the Hollywood Reporter, American films earned $2.6 billion in China last year.Despite the political backlash, “Mulan” premiered as the top movie in China last week, where theaters are open. Preliminary estimates show “Mulan” grossed $23.2 million, which some considered a disappointment.The film received lukewarm reviews online, scoring only 4.9 out of 10 on the country’s movie rating site Douban. Users criticized the film’s handling of feminism and its portrayal of Chinese culture.In other markets, Disney canceled plans to release “Mulan” in theaters because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The company hasn’t revealed how many people have purchased the movie since it became available September 4 in the U.S.

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‘Uighurs Are the Real Mulan,’ Fleeing Uighur Women Say

“Mulan” has been one of Jewher Ilham’s favorite movies since she was a little girl. She says she remembers sitting with her dad and watching Disney’s 1998 animated version of the tale of a Chinese woman who disguises herself as a man and wins acclaim as a warrior.“I was so excited about the live-action remake, until one of my favorite actresses, Liu Yifei, publicly supported the Hong Kong police against pro-democracy protesters,” she said. Liu, the leading actress and a naturalized U.S. citizen, posted a pro-police comment on Chinese social media platform Weibo in 2019 that was welcomed by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.Cast member Liu Yifei poses at the European premiere for the film “Mulan” in London, March 12, 2020.It’s not only Liu’s remarks that disappointed Jewher. The live-action “Mulan” filmed some of its scenes in Xinjiang, and Disney thanked eight local government bodies in its credits, including the Turpan Municipal Bureau of Public Security, which was sanctioned by the U.S. Commerce Department for administrating the internment camps in Xinjiang.“Because I have relatives and friends in the concentration camps. They might be in a camp near where the movie was shot,” she said.Jewher’s father, Ilham Tohti, is a Uighur economist and former university lecturer who in 2014 was sentenced to life in prison in China on separatism-related charges. Officials accused him of using his lectures to incite violence and overthrown the Chinese Communist Party leadership.Washington-based lawyer Rayhan Asat is advocating for the release of her brother Ekpar Asat, a Uighur entrepreneur who disappeared upon returning to China from a U.S. State Department program.Rayhan said Disney’s actions amount to indirect funding of the Communist Party institutions that imprison Uighurs and has violated corporate social responsibility standards.To her, the rollout of “Mulan” marks the latest example of Hollywood’s hypocrisy and willingness to sacrifice values to do business in China.“Disney is publicly endorsing the Xinjiang government in thanking them in credits. Disney wants to profit by a movie that empowers woman, but it’s praising governments who are committing crimes against woman, against humanity. It’s so hypocritical,” she told VOA.“In my eyes, the Uighur women who are voicing out for their parents, brothers, sisters, and loved ones, they are the real Mulan,” she added.”Mulan” has become a political flashpoint since it was released on Disney+ in the U.S. on September 4. #BoycottMulan is trending on Twitter. Senator Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, last week published a letter addressed to Disney CEO Bob Chapek, accusing the company of “whitewashing” the “ongoing Uighur genocide.” Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, also requested the company explain why it chose to film part of the movie in Xinjiang.Children play next to a poster of the Disney movie “Mulan” outside a cinema in Beijing on September 11, 2020.Disney’s CFO Christine McCarthy last Thursday acknowledged that the film’s ties to China had created “a lot of issues” for the company, yet Disney declined to comment further on the current controversy.Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Friday said it’s “very normal for the film to thank the convenience provided by the government of Xinjiang.” He also praised lead actress Liu Yifei, calling her the real “daughter of the Chinese nation.” China has maintained that the camps in Xinjiang at the center of the controversy are training facilities aimed at combating terrorism in the region.Officials and civic groups have growing concerns about the influence China has had over Hollywood in recent years.A new report by Pen America accused Hollywood of censoring films to avoid losing access to China’s lucrative box office market. It said key players in Hollywood are increasingly making decisions about their films “based on an effort to avoid antagonizing Chinese officials who control whether their films gain access to the booming Chinese market.”It said that in some instances, filmmakers or directors have directly invited Chinese government censors onto their film sets to advise them on “how to avoid tripping the censors’ wires.”Beijing has the world’s second-largest box market behind the U.S. According to the Hollywood Reporter, American films earned $2.6 billion in China last year.Despite the political backlash, “Mulan” premiered as the top movie in China last week, where theaters are open. Preliminary estimates show “Mulan” grossed $23.2 million, which some considered a disappointment.The film received lukewarm reviews online, scoring only 4.9 out of 10 on the country’s movie rating site Douban. Users criticized the film’s handling of feminism and its portrayal of Chinese culture.In other markets, Disney canceled plans to release “Mulan” in theaters because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The company hasn’t revealed how many people have purchased the movie since it became available September 4 in the U.S.

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Father Springsteen Advises Students During COVID

At the start an otherwise dreary academic year for many college freshmen because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Boston College — a Jesuit Catholic university — treated incoming freshmen to a pep talk from one of the biggest stars in American music. “If you completed your assignment and read my book, you will know I got into rock ‘n’ roll for the sex, the drugs and the sex,” drawled Bruce Springsteen, winner of numerous awards, seller of a gazillion downloads, and the father of Boston College graduate Evan Springsteen, Class of 2012.“Oh wait, that’s the wrong speech. Let’s start again.”Springsteen, 70, delivered his remarks September 10 by livestream to the incoming class of freshmen, who, like millions of other among the Class of 2024, have not enjoyed the same initiations and orientations of most new freshmen. The COVID-19 pandemic has closed schools or limited the typical ways new students interact in person because of social distancing. But the megastar quickly turned philosophical and fatherly, consoling them over their limitations and dubbing these post-GenZers the “coronial generation,” a play on the coronavirus.“The life of the mind is a beautiful thing. Along with your spiritual life, it’s the apotheosis of human experience,” he said. “You can waste it, you can half-ass your way through it, or you can absorb every minute of what you’re experiencing, and come out on the other end: an individual of expanded vision, of intellectual vigor, of spiritual character and grace, fully prepared to meet the world, on its own terms.”Despite mentioning a few times that he’d lapsed from formal religious views learned in eight years of Catholic school in central New Jersey, Springsteen often returned to mentions of faith and spirituality. “My faith was something I thought I could walk away from after those eight formative years in Catholic school, but I was wrong. … My faith remained with me, informing my writing … incorporating biblical language. I consider myself primarily a spiritual songwriter,” he said. “I make music that ultimately wants to address the soul. I made my peace with my Catholic upbringing, for better or for worse. And I have had to nod to the fact that I wouldn’t exactly be who I am without it.”Freshman Danny Giunta of Massachusetts asked the mega-star how he avoided conformity in his youth and gained confidence as a fledgling artist. “How did I maintain my confidence? Ah …” Springsteen pondered. “I am a rambling mess of towering insecurities, even to this day …” But after a decade of performing in “bars, union halls, firehouses, fairs, weddings, high school dances [and] bar mitzvahs” — before he signed his first recording contract that launched worldwide adoration and wealth — he had learned and worked to gain confidence in his skills.  Money, which is a frequent theme in his work, “is great. But alone, it ain’t gonna do it. Everybody wants to do well, but don’t just do well, as they say, do good. Choose something that makes you happy and makes you want to get up and go to work in the morning and allows you to rest easy at night,”  he saidWhen asked by BC student Heidi Yoon about the importance of friendship near the end of his 30-minute address, the singer-songwriter lit up.“Imagine this: The people you’re going to school with right now? Forty-five years later, you’re working with those exact same people! Forty-five years later, those same people are still with you,” he said, laughing and shaking his head. “You’re gonna fight, you’re gonna love, you’re gonna argue, you’re gonna hate this about the other guy, he’s gonna hate this about you. But … we held the value of our friendship, higher than any of our personal grievances or disputes,” he said of the E Street band, assembled in 1972 and maintaining the same members for most of its duration.Springsteen gave several minutes to encouraging his young viewers to participate in the upcoming presidential election, and their role in civic duty.“Your country needs you: your vision, your energy and your love. Yes, your love,” he said. “Love your country, but never fail to be critical. When it comes to your country’s living up to your and its ideals. Listen to the voices calling you from our founding documents and keep faith with them. And vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Only half of all Americans vote. It’s a sin.”Jesuit education is notable for its intellectual rigor, critical thinking and volunteerism. There are numerous Jesuit educational institutions around the world, with 27 universities in the U.S., including Boston College and College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, Georgetown University in Washington, Loyola University of Maryland, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Chicago, Gonzaga University in the state of Washington, and Spring Hill College in Alabama. “You are already wisened by this experience,” Springsteen said about the COVID pandemic and resultant restrictions and limitations. “So appreciate the underappreciated: sporting events, getting together with your friends, concerts. Remember those?” Springsteen said, whose concert tickets to stadium performances sell out in minutes. “We will soon look to you for answers for a safer and better world.” 

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A Fatherly Springsteen Advises Students During COVID

At the start an otherwise dreary academic year for many college freshmen because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Boston College — a Jesuit Catholic university — treated incoming freshmen to a pep talk from one of the biggest stars in American music. “If you completed your assignment and read my book, you will know I got into rock ‘n’ roll for the sex, the drugs and the sex,” drawled Bruce Springsteen, winner of numerous awards, seller of a gazillion downloads, and the father of Boston College graduate Evan Springsteen, Class of 2012.“Oh wait, that’s the wrong speech. Let’s start again.”Springsteen, 70, delivered his remarks September 10 by livestream to the incoming class of freshmen, who, like millions of other among the Class of 2024, have not enjoyed the same initiations and orientations of most new freshmen. The COVID-19 pandemic has closed schools or limited the typical ways new students interact in person because of social distancing. But the megastar quickly turned philosophical and fatherly, consoling them over their limitations and dubbing these post-GenZers the “coronial generation,” a play on the coronavirus.“The life of the mind is a beautiful thing. Along with your spiritual life, it’s the apotheosis of human experience,” he said. “You can waste it, you can half-ass your way through it, or you can absorb every minute of what you’re experiencing, and come out on the other end: an individual of expanded vision, of intellectual vigor, of spiritual character and grace, fully prepared to meet the world, on its own terms.”Despite mentioning a few times that he’d lapsed from formal religious views learned in eight years of Catholic school in central New Jersey, Springsteen often returned to mentions of faith and spirituality. “My faith was something I thought I could walk away from after those eight formative years in Catholic school, but I was wrong. … My faith remained with me, informing my writing … incorporating biblical language. I consider myself primarily a spiritual songwriter,” he said. “I make music that ultimately wants to address the soul. I made my peace with my Catholic upbringing, for better or for worse. And I have had to nod to the fact that I wouldn’t exactly be who I am without it.”Freshman Danny Giunta of Massachusetts asked the mega-star how he avoided conformity in his youth and gained confidence as a fledgling artist. “How did I maintain my confidence? Ah …” Springsteen pondered. “I am a rambling mess of towering insecurities, even to this day …” But after a decade of performing in “bars, union halls, firehouses, fairs, weddings, high school dances [and] bar mitzvahs” — before he signed his first recording contract that launched worldwide adoration and wealth — he had learned and worked to gain confidence in his skills.  Money, which is a frequent theme in his work, “is great. But alone, it ain’t gonna do it. Everybody wants to do well, but don’t just do well, as they say, do good. Choose something that makes you happy and makes you want to get up and go to work in the morning and allows you to rest easy at night,”  he saidWhen asked by BC student Heidi Yoon about the importance of friendship near the end of his 30-minute address, the singer-songwriter lit up.“Imagine this: The people you’re going to school with right now? Forty-five years later, you’re working with those exact same people! Forty-five years later, those same people are still with you,” he said, laughing and shaking his head. “You’re gonna fight, you’re gonna love, you’re gonna argue, you’re gonna hate this about the other guy, he’s gonna hate this about you. But … we held the value of our friendship, higher than any of our personal grievances or disputes,” he said of the E Street band, assembled in 1972 and maintaining the same members for most of its duration.Springsteen gave several minutes to encouraging his young viewers to participate in the upcoming presidential election, and their role in civic duty.“Your country needs you: your vision, your energy and your love. Yes, your love,” he said. “Love your country, but never fail to be critical. When it comes to your country’s living up to your and its ideals. Listen to the voices calling you from our founding documents and keep faith with them. And vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Only half of all Americans vote. It’s a sin.”Jesuit education is notable for its intellectual rigor, critical thinking and volunteerism. There are numerous Jesuit educational institutions around the world, with 27 universities in the U.S., including Boston College and College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, Georgetown University in Washington, Loyola University of Maryland, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Chicago, Gonzaga University in the state of Washington, and Spring Hill College in Alabama. “You are already wisened by this experience,” Springsteen said about the COVID pandemic and resultant restrictions and limitations. “So appreciate the underappreciated: sporting events, getting together with your friends, concerts. Remember those?” Springsteen said, whose concert tickets to stadium performances sell out in minutes. “We will soon look to you for answers for a safer and better world.” 

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Taylor Swift Returns to ACM Awards for ‘Folklore’ Premiere

Country-turned-pop star Taylor Swift is coming back to her roots with a performance at this year’s Academy of Country Music Awards.The nine-time ACM award winner will perform from the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tennessee, where the awards show will be broadcast Wednesday on CBS.Swift will perform “Betty” from her new album “Folklore,” which has held the top spot for six weeks on the Billboard 200 Albums chart. The song, which is being played on country radio stations, has reached No. 6 on Billboard’s Hot Country song chart.This marks the first time in seven years that the two-time ACM entertainer of the year has performed at this awards show and will be her world premiere performance for any song from her “Folklore” album.Other performers scheduled for the show include Miranda Lambert, Eric Church, Luke Bryan, Maren Morris, Blake Shelton with Gwen Stefani, Carrie Underwood and Dan + Shay.

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