Rock Legend Ringo Starr Turns 80 

Legendary rock musician and former drummer of the Beatles Ringo Starr turned 80 Tuesday and celebrated with an online concert. Starr made an appearance Tuesday — wearing a mask with peace signs on it and practicing social distancing — along with his wife, Barbara Bach, at the “Peace and Love” statue to promote his online birthday concert, the proceeds from which, among other causes, went to support the Black Lives Matter movement. The iconic drummer told reporters “peace and love around the world” was his birthday wish and he believes supporting the Black Lives Matter movement is part of that. He said, “You can’t say ‘peace and love’ with someone’s knee on your throat,” referring to the death of George Floyd while in custody of the Minneapolis police department. Starr looked fit and healthy as he spoke with reporters and was, asked if he had a secret. He said, “God blessed me with these good looks. I don’t know, I work out, I eat right, I just do the best I can for the body and the mind.” His online concert, “Ringo’s Big Birthday Show” was streamed live on YouTube and other online channels, and featured, among other acts, his former Beatle bandmate Paul McCartney, Joe Walsh, and Sheryl Crow, and included birthday wishes from celebrities.      

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Kanye West Breaks Ranks with Trump, Vows to Win Presidential Race

Rapper Kanye West signaled he no longer supported U.S. President Donald Trump and said he would enter the presidential race to win it, according to an interview published on Wednesday.West, previously a vocal supporter of Trump, announced on Saturday that he would run for president in 2020. West and his reality TV star wife Kim Kardashian West have visited Trump in the White House.”I am taking the red hat off, with this interview,” West told Forbes magazine, referring to Trump’s trademark red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap. “Like anything I’ve ever done in my life, I’m doing (this) to win.”Kanye West? The Girl Scouts? Hedge funds? All Got PPP LoansThe government’s small business lending program has benefited millions of companies, with the goal of minimizing the number of layoffs Americans have suffered in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet the recipients include many you probably wouldn’t have expectedHe said he would run under a new banner – the Birthday Party.There was no record of West filing any official paperwork with the Federal Election Commission. The deadline to add independent candidates to the ballot has not yet passed in many states.West denied that his aim was to split the Black vote and hurt the chances of Trump’s Democratic opponent, Joe Biden. It was “a form of racism and white supremacy” to suggest all Black people should support the Democrats, he said.Trump, who hosted Kanye West in a widely publicized visit to the Oval Office in 2018, said the rapper’s candidacy “would be a great trial run” and that he had a “real voice,” according to an interview Tuesday with Real Clear Politics news website.Kanye West Wants the Oval OfficeEntertainer says he’s running for presidentWhite House spokesman Hogan Gidley on Wednesday called Kanye’s announcement “a scathing indictment of the Democrat Party, not just their policies on abortion, the Planned Parenthood, but also the policies that disproportionately affected African Americans in a negative way.”West told Forbes he believed “Planned Parenthoods have been placed inside cities by white supremacists to do the Devil’s work.” The group provides reproductive health care and education, with most of that being preventive care.The rapper also said he had been ill in February with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and would be suspicious of any vaccines developed to prevent the infection. Reiterating false theories that link vaccines with child developmental disorders, he said: “So when they say the way we’re going to fix COVID is with a vaccine, I’m extremely cautious.”

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Depp Takes Stand in Libel Trial, Claims Amber Heard Hit Him 

Johnny Depp gave evidence in a London court on Tuesday, denying claims that he hit ex-wife Amber Heard and accusing her of assaulting him and depicting him as a “monster.” Depp sat in the witness box in a wood-paneled High Court courtroom on the first day of his libel case against The Sun over an article that branded him a “wife-beater.” The “Pirates of the Caribbean” star began by taking the court oath and giving his full name: John Christopher Depp II. Depp is suing the tabloid’s publisher, News Group Newspapers, and its executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an 2018 story alleging he was violent and abusive to then-wife Amber Heard. Depp strongly denies the claim. Depp said Heard had “said to the world that she was in fear of her life from me, and I had been this horrible monster if you will. Which was not the case.” Depp, 57, and model-actress Heard, 34, met on the set of the 2011 comedy “The Rum Diary” and married in Los Angeles in February 2015. They divorced in 2017, and now bitterly accuse one another of abuse. Amber Heard arrives at the High Court in London, Britain July 7, 2020.Depp and Heard arrived by separate entrances at the neo-Gothic court building on the first day of the three-week trial, one of the first to be held in person since Britain began to lift its coronavirus lockdown. Both wore face coverings over their noses and mouths. Proceedings have been spread over several courtrooms to allow for social distancing. Witnesses are likely to include Depp’s former partners, Vanessa Paradis and Winona Ryder, both of whom have submitted statements supporting the Hollywood star. Depp’s claim centers on an April 2018 story in the British tabloid headlined: “Potty – How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?” While Heard isn’t on trial, the case is also a showdown between the former spouses, who accuse each other of being controlling, violent and untruthful during their tempestuous marriage. Describing one incident in which Heard claims he hit her, Depp said the opposite was true. “As things tended to do, [it] escalated and got physical, ending with a bit of assault. Ms. Heard struck me,” he said. He painted himself as the peacemaker who tried to de-escalate things. “Whenever it would escalate I would try to go to my own corner, as it were … before things got out of hand,” he said. The Sun’s defense relies on Heard’s allegations of 14 incidents of violence by Depp between 2013 and 2016, in locations including Los Angeles, Australia, Japan, the Bahamas and on a private jet. He denies them all and says Heard attacked him with items including a drink can and a cigarette. He also claims Heard or one of her friends defecated on his bed. “She was the abuser, not him,” Depp’s legal team, led by barrister David Sherborne, said in a written statement. “She is a highly complex and aggressive individual who suffered extreme mood swings, would provoke endless circular arguments, and fly into violent rages.” Depp’s lawyers said the judge would have to decide between two starkly opposing accounts of the relationship. “There is no real room for a middle ground here,” they said. “One side is plainly lying, and to an extraordinary extent.”  The case is set to put the two performers’ complex private lives under a microscope. In pre-trial wrangling, the Sun’s lawyers tried to have the suit thrown out on the grounds that Depp failed to disclose text messages he exchanged with an assistant showing that he tried to buy “MDMA and other narcotics” while he was in Australia with Heard in 2015.  Heard alleges that Depp subjected her to “a three-day ordeal of physical assaults” while they were in the country after drinking and taking drugs. The newspaper’s lawyer, Adam Wolanski, said withholding the texts was a breach of a previous court order requiring Depp to provide all documents from separate libel proceedings against Heard in the United States. Depp is suing Heard for $50 million for allegedly defaming him in a Washington Post article about domestic abuse. That case is due to be heard next year. Last week, judge Andrew Nicol ruled that Depp had breached the court order, but said “it would not be just” to throw out the actor’s claim. He also rejected an attempt by Depp to force Heard to disclose evidence including communications with actor James Franco and Space-X founder Elon Musk, with whom she allegedly had affairs while involved with Depp. The judge said the issue of Heard’s extramarital relations was irrelevant to the central issue in the case, which is “whether Mr. Depp assaulted Ms. Heard.” 

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Country Rocker and Fiddler Charlie Daniels Dies at Age 83

Country music firebrand and fiddler Charlie Daniels, who had a hit with “Devil Went Down to Georgia,” has died at age 83.  A statement from his publicist said the Country Music Hall of Famer died Monday at a hospital in Hermitage, Tennessee, after he had a stroke, doctors said.  He had suffered what was described as a mild stroke in January 2010 and had a heart pacemaker implanted in 2013 but continued to perform. Daniels, a singer, guitarist and fiddler, started out as a session musician, even playing on Bob Dylan’s “Nashville Skyline” sessions. Beginning in the early 1970s, his five-piece band toured endlessly, sometimes doing 250 shows a year. “I can ask people where they are from, and if they say Waukegan,' I can say I've played there. If they sayBaton Rouge,’ I can say I’ve played there. There’s not a city we haven’t played in,” Daniels said in 1998. Daniels performed at White House, at the Super Bowl, throughout Europe and often for troops in the Middle East. He played himself in the 1980 John Travolta movie “Urban Cowboy” and was closely identified with the rise of country music generated by that film. FILE – Charlie Daniels Band: “The Essential” CD. Daniels started out as a session musician, and playe on Bob Dylan’s “Nashville Skyline” sessions. Beginning in the early 1970s, his five-piece band toured endlessly, sometimes doing 250 shows a year.”I’ve kept people employed for over 20 years and never missed a payroll,” Daniels said in 1998. That same year, he received the Pioneer Award from the Academy of Country Music. In the 1990s Daniels softened some of his lyrics from his earlier days when he often was embroiled in controversy. In “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” a 1979 song about a fiddling duel between the devil and a whippersnapper named Johnny, Daniels originally called the devil a “son of a bitch,” but changed it to “son of a gun.” In his 1980 hit “Long Haired Country Boy,” he used to sing about being “stoned in the morning” and “drunk in the afternoon.” Daniels changed it to “I get up in the morning. I get down in the afternoon.” “I guess I’ve mellowed in my old age,” Daniels said in 1998. Otherwise, though, he rarely backed down from in-your-face lyrics. His “Simple Man” in 1990 suggested lynching drug dealers and using child abusers as alligator bait. His “In America” in 1980 told this country’s enemies to “go straight to hell.” Such tough talk earned him guest spots on “Politically Incorrect,” the G. Gordon Liddy radio show and on C-Span taking comments from viewers. He hosted regular Volunteer Jam concerts in Nashville in which the performers usually were not announced in advance. Entertainers at these shows included Don Henley, Amy Grant, James Brown, Pat Boone, Bill Monroe, Willie Nelson, Vince Gill, the Lynyrd Skynyrd Band, Alabama, Billy Joel, Little Richard, B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eugene Fodor and Woody Herman. Daniels, a native of Wilmington, N.C., played on several Bob Dylan albums as a Nashville recording session guitarist in the late 1960s, including “New Morning” and “Self-Portrait.” Eventually, at the age of 71, he was invited to join the epitome of Nashville’s music establishment, the Grand Ole Opry. He was inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016. He said in 1998 that he kept touring so much because “I have never played those notes perfectly. I’ve never sung every song perfectly. I’m in competition to be better tonight than I was last night and to be better tomorrow than tonight.” Daniels said his favorite place to play was “anywhere with a good crowd and a good paycheck.” 

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National Gallery of Art Acquires Painting by Native American 

A painting by artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith is joining works by the legendary pop artists Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol at the National Gallery of Art.         Smith’s “I See Red: Target” is the first painting on canvas by a Native American artist to enter the collection. The gallery announced the purchase of the painting this week.          Smith, a Corrales resident and an enrolled Salish member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation in Montana, told the Albuquerque Journal she was shocked to be the first Native American painter to appear in the national museum.  
“Why isn’t Fritz Scholder or R.C. Gorman or somebody I would have expected?” included, she asked.         “On the one hand, it’s joyful; we’ve broken that buckskin ceiling,” she said. “On the other, it’s stunning that this museum hasn’t purchased a piece of Native American art” before.         Gallery spokeswoman Anabeth Guthrie said that while Smith’s work is the first painting by a Native American to be acquired, the museum owns two dozen works on paper by Indigenous artists.          The 11-foot-tall (3.3-meter-tall) mixed media painting addresses racism through the commercial branding of Indigenous American identity through Smith’s assemblage of ephemera and painterly touches.         “It’s Indians being used as mascots. It’s about Native Americans being used as commodities,” Smith said.         “I see Red: Target” belongs to a series about the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus in America. Smith was responding to the appropriation of Native American names by sports teams, specifically the Washington Redskins.         Historic photographs of Native Americans and red stripes form the body of the piece. Newspaper clippings, the Char-Koosta News (the official publication of the Flathead Reservation, where Smith was raised), a comic book cover, fabric and a pennant cover the work.         The piece was created in 1992.         “[Racism] is still happening with Black Lives Matter,” she said. “It’s been 25 years and I thought ‘Oh, this will be obsolete.’”         “I See Red: Target” is on view in the East Building pop art galleries, among works by Johns and Warhol, who also incorporated recognizable imagery into their signature styles.          Like another work in the gallery, Warhol’s “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,” Smith’s piece makes use of grid, repetition, photographic elements and painterly effects.     Smith’s roles as artist, teacher, curator and activist have resulted in hundreds of exhibitions across four decades. Her work hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the New Mexico Museum of Art and the Albuquerque Museum. 

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US Drive-In Theaters Making a Comeback Amid COVID Pandemic

Hungry for a night out of the house, people are turning to the nostalgia of drive-in movie theaters as a safe entertainment option amid coronavirus social distancing orders.Today’s total of Empty Haar’s Drive-in lot and large movie screen. (Photo courtesy Haar’s Drive-In Theater)Pop-ups
Traditional theaters like Haar’s are not the only type of drive-in growing in popularity. Pop-up theaters, true to their name, are popping up in many restaurant and venue parking lots, catering to the public’s drive to socialize.“In order to do a drive-in theater, there’s a lot of work, there’s a lot of expense,” Hardy said. “I’m a little disappointed that pop-ups are being permitted because that is taking away from the industry that started it.”Businesses that contribute to the pop-up theater sensation are busier than ever.One of these is the franchise FunFlicks, which delivers and sets up inflatable drive-in movie-theater-sized screens to any location. Often for birthday parties and church or company events, these pop-up screens recently have been in high demand. “It has surprisingly become significantly busier,” FunFlicks Mid-Atlantic General Manager Matthew Goon told VOA about early quarantine’s effect on business. “In comparison to usual, I’d say almost five times as much, just because so many people are looking to do something for the community.”FunFlicks has a variety of screen types including drive-in movie inflatable screens at either 32, 40 or 52 feet wide. None of these sizes, however, compares to the average screen size of 52 feet tall by 120 feet wide seen at most original drive-in theaters.Many of the events FunFlicks has set up in the past few months were not for private parties or events, but public places that wanted to use their space to host community events.“We’re doing a ballroom … that usually is a wedding venue, but since they can’t have any weddings … they are utilizing their parking lot for the drive-in. We’ve got a lot of requests from schools to do virtual graduations and things like that,” Goon said.“It’s a lot of community-oriented type of requests,” Goon said, such as Rotary clubs sponsoring community events for residents and local businesses.People watch the movie “Jaws” at The Tribeca Drive-In outside Rose Bowl stadium during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Pasadena, California, July 2, 2020.Social distancing challenges
One of FunFlicks Mid-Atlantic’s ongoing challenges is to follow different social distancing regulations among Maryland, Philadelphia, Delaware, New Jersey and the Washington areas.“It’s been a bit of false hope at times. We’ve gotten a ton of requests for events, but a lot of it is depending on what the individual governors say since we do operate through different states,” Goon said. “The different … mandates on social distancing are whether or not you can have bathrooms or food at these events. It’s been a lot of back and forth and waiting for someone else’s approval.”Despite these challenges, increased demand is exciting for pop-ups such as FunFlicks and established drive-ins such as Haars. It’s difficult to predict the longevity of the drive-in movie craze, but for the first time in recent years, these businesses are being recognized on a much larger scale.“I am very excited about the noticeability that drive-in theaters are getting now, because I always thought it was a great place to go,” Hardy said. “No matter what, you get to sit out under the stars with your family or friends and watch a movie on the biggest screen that you could have.” 

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Cosby Invokes Systemic Racism As he Fights #MeToo Conviction 

In a nearly empty Philadelphia courtroom in July 2015, a lawyer for Bill Cosby implored a federal judge to keep the comedian’s testimony in an old sexual battery lawsuit under wraps. It was sensitive. Embarrassing. Private.   U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno had another word for it.   The conduct Cosby detailed in his deposition was “perhaps criminal,” Robreno wrote five years ago Monday, in a momentous decision that released the case files to The Associated Press, reopened the police investigation, and helped give rise to the #MeToo movement.   FILE – Bill Cosby performs at the Stand Up for Heroes event at Madison Square Garden, in New York.Cosby, the Hollywood paragon of Black family values, was convicted of sexual assault in 2018 as the movement exploded and women across the globe shared personal histories of sexual harassment and abuse. He is serving up to 10 years in prison.   And now in the midst of another historic reckoning — this time addressing the treatment of African Americans and other people of color by police and the criminal justice system — the 82-year-old Cosby has won the right to an appeal.   He hopes to use the moment to his advantage.   “The false conviction of Bill Cosby is so much bigger than him — it’s about the destruction of ALL Black people and people of color in America,” Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt said when the court accepted the appeal late last month.   Cosby, who grew up in public housing in Philadelphia, has a complicated relationship with the Black community. He earned acclaim for his groundbreaking (and intentionally race-blind) performances on television in the 1950s; mingled, but rarely marched, with civil rights leaders and the Black elite in the 1960s; and solidified his wealth and power with his star turn as “America’s Dad,” on “The Cosby Show” in the 1980s.   All the while, he promoted education and gave millions to historically Black universities.   But his increasingly jarring comments on poverty, parenthood and personal responsibility offended younger Blacks in his later years, most famously in his 2004 “Pound Cake” speech — which he gave just months after the sexual encounter that would prove his downfall.   As he toured the country, Cosby argued that “the antidote to racism is not rallies, protests, or pleas, but strong families and communities,” as the essayist Ta-Nehisi Coates noted.   “Cosby’s gospel of discipline, moral reform, and self-reliance offers a way out — a promise that one need not cure America of its original sin in order to succeed,” Coates wrote in his 2008 piece in The Atlantic, “‘This Is How We Lost to the White Man’: The audacity of Bill Cosby’s Black conservatism.”     The appeal issues the court accepted don’t directly include racial bias, which Cosby’s legal team raised more often on the courthouse steps in Montgomery County than inside the courtroom. His defenders, however, say race permeates the case.   Cosby’s celebrity “does not change his status as a Black man,” said appellate lawyer Jennifer Bonjean, the latest of more than a dozen criminal lawyers on the case.   “It would be naïve to assume that his prosecution was not tainted by the same racial bias that pervades the criminal justice process in both explicit and insidious ways,” she said last week.   Cosby’s wife of 56 years has been more blunt.   FILE – Bill Cosby arrives with his wife, Camille, right, for his sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, April 24, 2018.In an interview last month with ABC-TV, Camille Cosby said the #MeToo movement ignores “the history of particular white women” who have “accused Black males of sexual assault without any proof.”   “We know how women can lie,” said Camille Cosby, who made only brief appearances at her husband’s trials, for defense closing arguments, and has not visited him in prison. She declined to speak to the AP last week.   The appeal hinges on two questions that have shaped the case from the start:   — Did Cosby have an ironclad deal with District Attorney Bruce Castor that Cosby could never be charged after Castor declined to arrest Cosby in 2005? Defense lawyers say Cosby relied on such a promise when he gave the 2006 deposition later unsealed in accuser Andrea Constand’s lawsuit — and used against him at trial. Castor agrees they did. But it was never put in writing, and Castor’s top deputy at the time, Risa Ferman, who helped run the initial investigation and reopened it in 2015 when she was district attorney, seemed not to know about it.   — And, how many other accusers should be allowed to testify before the scales of justice tip against the accused?   Cosby’s trial judge allowed just one other accuser in the first trial when the jury deadlocked, but five at the retrial a year later. The jury convicted Cosby on all three sex assault counts.   The state’s intermediate appeals court seemed unimpressed by either issue, rejecting Cosby’s first appeal.   “The reality of it is, he gives them drugs and then he sexually assaults them,” Superior Court Judge John T. Bender said at the arguments. “That’s the pattern, is it not?”   But Cosby appealed again, setting up the state Supreme Court arguments expected sometime next year.   Constand knew Cosby from her job at Temple University, where Cosby was a booster, alumnus and longtime trustee twice her age.   Bill Cosby accuser Andrea Constand, center, reacts after the guilty on all counts verdict was delivered in the sexual assault retrial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, April 26, 2018.Her trial testimony matched his deposition in many respects, the key distinction being her consent to what happened at his suburban Philadelphia estate. Both say that Cosby gave her three pills for stress before Cosby, in his words, engaged in “digital penetration.”   Constand, a former professional basketball player, who is white, said she was left semi-conscious and could not fight him off. (She thought she was taking a homeopathic supplement; Cosby later said it was Benadryl, while acknowledging he once gave a 19-year-old Quaaludes before sex.)   More than 60 women, mostly white but a few women of color, have made similar accusations against Cosby.   Cosby lawyer Bonjean, though, believes the #MeToo movement is fading, and that Cosby, if he wins a new trial, might avoid what she called “the mob-justice standards of a hashtag movement.”   Not long after the encounter with Constand, Cosby gave the “Pound Cake” speech to the NAACP, riffing about a scenario in which the Black community complains when someone is shot by police over a stolen piece of cake.   “Then we all run out and are outraged, ‘The cops shouldn’t have shot him.’ What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand?” Cosby asked.   A decade later, Black comedian Hannibal Buress took Cosby to task for his scolding.   “You rape women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple notches,” he said onstage in 2014.   Former prosecutor Kristen Gibbons Feden, who gave closing arguments at Cosby’s retrial, recognizes the good Cosby did for the Black community. She also believes that racial bias exists in the criminal justice system.   “It doesn’t make Cosby innocent,” said Feden, who is Black. “It means we need to fix the criminal justice system.”   Wake Forest University Dean Jonathan L. Walton, who teaches about African American social movements, said that Cosby undeniably boosted the representation of Blacks in American culture. Yet Walton said Cosby might not be the best messenger for today’s moment.   “One should agree with him as it relates to systemic racism and the injustices of the ‘justice system,’” said Walton, the divinity school dean, “while also being suspicious of what seems to be a pattern of his, of only identifying problems when they personally benefit him.” 

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Kanye West Wants the Oval Office

Kanye West announced on Twitter on Saturday that he intends to run for president of the United States this year.“We must now realize the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future. I am running for president of the United States,” the entertainer posted on his Twitter account with the hashtag #2020VISION.We must now realize the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future. I am running for president of the United States 🇺🇸! #2020VISION
— ye (@kanyewest) July 5, 2020It was not immediately clear if West, who is married to internet maven Kim Kardashian, is ready to actually mount a serious campaign against U.S. President Donald Trump and the presumptive Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, in the November election.West has previously been an outspoken supporter of Trump, even meeting with him in the Oval Office at the White House.West has mentioned on several occasions that he would like to run for the country’s highest office.West’s friend and car mogul Elon Musk has endorsed West: “You have my full support!,” Musk posted on Twitter.You have my full support!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 5, 2020

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Columbus Statue Decapitated in Waterbury Amid Protests

A statue of Christopher Columbus in Waterbury has been decapitated amid protests over racial injustice and the legacy of the 15th-century navigator.Columbus Statue Vndalized: ‘Stop Celebrating Genocide’A statue of Christopher Columbus in Rhode Island has been vandalized on the US holiday named for himThe Republican-American reports  that photos shot Saturday show the headless statue outside Waterbury’s City Hall.The statue had been the focus of a standoff earlier in the week between its supporters and Black Lives Matter protesters who wanted it removed.Changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day Gains National ApprovalFor many Americans, the annual Columbus Day holiday honors the heritage and contributions of the 17 million-plus Italian Americans living in the United States. But honoring navigator Christopher Columbus has long been considered by many as an affront to Native Americans who were in the so-called New World long before Columbus arrived in 1492. Several Columbus statues in Connecticut have been removed in recent weeks as anti-racism protesters have argued that the renowned explorer was responsible for the exploitation and genocide of Indigenous people.Crews removed a Columbus statue from its pedestal in Hartford on Monday, and city leaders said it would be placed in storage until a decision is made on what to do with it.  The Waterbury statue was donated to the city in the 1980s by UNICO, an Italian American organization. 

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Redskins to Have ‘Thorough Review’ of Name Amid Race Debate

The Washington Redskins began a “thorough review” of their nickname Friday, a significant step toward moving on from what experts and advocates call a “dictionary-defined racial slur.”Even though owner Dan Snyder had shown no willingness to change the name since buying the team in 1999, the recent national conversation on race has renewed opposition to the name and prompted sponsors to speak up. With support from the NFL, it may finally lead to a new moniker for the long-struggling storied franchise with long-ago Super Bowl success.Washington Redskins head coach Ron Rivera holds up a helmet during a news conference at the team’s NFL football training facility in Ashburn, Virginia, Jan. 2, 2020.”In the last few weeks, we have had ongoing discussions with Dan, and we are supportive of this important step,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said.In a statement, the team said recent events around the U.S. and feedback from the community prompted the formal review.”This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field,” Snyder said.  Washington Redskins Remove Racist Founder From Team Material George Preston Marshall refused to integrate his team until government forced him to do so in 1962Native American advocacy groups have tried for decades to force a change, and a peer-reviewed UC Berkeley study released earlier this year revealed 67% of those surveyed who strongly identify as Native agreed or strongly agreed the name was offensive. The death of George Floyd in Minnesota and other examples of police brutality against Black people in the U.S. sparked protests worldwide and changes to various brands considered racially insensitive.Asked last month about the name, a spokesman said the team had no comment. But this week marked a possible sea change on the issue with investors writing to FedEx, PepsiCo and other sponsors hoping they woould influence change.FedEx was the first to act publicly. The title sponsor of the team’s stadium in Landover Maryland, FedEx said Thursday, “We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name.” FedEx paid $205 million in 1999 for the naming rights to the stadium.Controversy Continues Over Washington Redskins Name

        A leading U.S. 

On Thursday night, Nike appeared to remove all Redskins gear from its online store. Nike did not respond to multiple messages seeking comment. PepsiCo did not immediately respond to an email Friday seeking comment.Coach Ron Rivera, who said in a recent radio interview now is not the time to discuss the name, called it “an issue of personal importance.” Rivera, who is of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent and is the only Hispanic head coach currently in the NFL, added he’d work closely with Snyder during the process.Washington mayor Muriel Bowser said recently the name was an “obstacle” to the team building a stadium in the District. The current lease at FedEx Field expires in 2027, and the old RFK Stadium site in Washington is one of several options for the team’s new headquarters, along with locations in Maryland and Virginia.The team in late June removed racist founder George Preston Marshall from its Ring of Fame. A monument of Marshall was also removed from the RFK Stadium site.Marshall’s granddaughter supported those moves and recently told The Associated Press she’s fine with the team changing its name.”I think if anybody’s offended that they should change the name,” Wright said. “I’ve always felt that way.”

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Legendary US TV Personality Hugh Downs Dies at 99

Legendary U.S. broadcaster Hugh Downs, who at one time held the record for the most hours appearing on American television, has died at 99.Downs’ daughter said her father died Wednesday of a heart ailment.Hugh Downs once described himself as “a jack of all trades and a master of none,” excelling at every broadcasting assignment during his 60 years on radio and television.Downs began in radio in his native Ohio, and after moving to Chicago and later New York, became one of television’s most familiar and welcomed faces.FILE – Hugh Downs hosts the Today show on NBC, March 10, 1966.With a smooth voice, warm demeanor and simple style, Downs announced variety shows, did commercials, narrated soap operas, joked around with puppets and hosted talk shows.He announced The Tonight Show with host Jack Paar and hosted the early morning news broadcast Today, while finding time to emcee the fondly remembered game show Concentration.Downs liked to say people woke up with him on Today, went to bed with him on Tonight, and played Concentration with him in between.Downs co-anchored the news magazine 20/20 from 1978 until his retirement in 1999. That job allowed Downs to indulge in such adventures as traveling to the North and South Poles, swimming with sharks and killer whales, diving for sunken treasure, and experiencing weightlessness on a NASA flight simulator.Downs estimated that he spent 10,000 hours on television, which earned him a one-time spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.  
 

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South Africa Theater Puts on a Show for the World With Online Season 

South Africa’s Market Theater is one of several African cultural institutions that has recently gone entirely online because of coronavirus restrictions that prevent large gatherings. But for this small institution often known as the “Theater of the Struggle” for its flouting of apartheid-era laws, obstacles are nothing new. Now, the theater hope its artistic message — which touches on local and global events — will resonate beyond the African continent.Johannesburg’s Market Theater is no stranger to struggle. It opened in 1976, at the height of South Africa’s racist apartheid system, and made a point of flouting segregation laws.  And so now, as a global pandemic has made live shows impossible, the institution’s artistic director, James Ngcobo says the show must go on — even if that means it goes online.  He told VOA the acclaimed theater, which has received 21 international awards for its work, is now seizing the opportunity to spread its stories well beyond this country, by streaming its entire season online.  Not only that — it is writing brand-new, topical shows that touch on the issues many South Africans — and people across the world — are facing right now. Ngcobo said he cooked up the plan shortly after South Africa’s government announced a strict total lockdown in late March, shuttering pretty much all non-essential businesses.   
“I then said to my team, ‘we are going on a long pause that we don’t know the pause is going to last for for how long. But our stories can never be on pause.’ And my team said to me. ‘So what do we do?’ And I said, ‘well, we are going to commission some of our finest playwrights to create works for us, that, at the moment, these short plays that are between 20 and 25 minutes, that we are producing for the virtual space.’” South African actor and playwright Paul Slabolepszy says it is more important than ever that art continues to be made. He spoke to VOA on the Google Hangouts platform.   “Without art, we are, we are nothing,” he said. “We explain ourselves, our conversations come through storytelling. If we were living just with the struggles that we have with no hope, life would be terrifying. We need stories all the time. We need to connect in any way we can to feel human.”  National theaters in Algeria and Egypt are also doing live shows online, and Somalia’s National Theater recently reopened for Independence Day celebrations —and hopefully more.   Meanwhile, major theaters on New York’s Broadway and London’s West End have also gone online. Ngcobo says the Market Theater has gotten an enthusiastic response to its online offerings from people in the U.S., Europe and other African countries.    But he laments that the continent’s artistic houses could do more. His theater is communicating with institutions in Ghana, Namibia and Zimbabwe to help them go online.  “In most places around the continent, it’s very sad because some places might not have the infrastructure that you find in other countries that I’ve mentioned, and South Africa. And so we are always looking at an idea of working with countries — especially Anglophone countries,” he said.At the small theater in central Johannesburg, the doors may be closed, and the lights may be off, but the curtain will still rise.  

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