Month: July 2017

Deputy PM: Luxembourg’s Space Mining Mission Begins Tuesday

When Luxembourg’s new law governing space mining comes into force on Tuesday, the country will already be working to make the science-fiction-sounding mission a reality, the deputy prime minister said.

The legislation will make Luxembourg the first country in Europe to offer a legal framework to ensure that private operators can be confident about their rights over resources they extract in space.

The law is based on the premise that space resources are capable of being owned by individuals and private companies and establishes the procedures for authorizing and supervising space exploration missions.

“When I launched the initiative a year ago, people thought I was mad,” Etienne Schneider told Reuters.

“But for us, we see it as a business that has return on investment in the short-term, the medium-term, and the long-term,” said Schneider, who is also Luxembourg’s economy minister.

Luxembourg in June 2016 set aside 200 million euros ($229 million) to fund initiatives aimed at bringing back rare minerals from space.

While that goal is at least 15 years off, new technologies are already creating markets that space mining could supply, said Schneider.

He said firms could soon make carrying materials to refuel or repair satellites economically feasible or supply raw materials to the 3-D printers now being tested on the International Space Station.

Lifting each kilogram of mass from Earth to orbit costs between 10,000 and 15,000 euros ($11,000 to $18,000), according to Schneider, but firms could cut these costs by recycling the debris of old satellites and rocket parts floating in space.

The small European country, best known for its fund management and private banking sector, will on Tuesday begin the work of making such deals, with the security of a legal framework in place, said Schneider.

Luxembourg has already managed to attract significant interest from pioneers in the field such as U.S. operators Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, and aims to attract research and development projects to set up there.

A similar package of laws was introduced in the United States in 2015 but only applies to companies majority owned by Americans, while Luxembourg’s laws will only require the company to have an office in the country.

“I am already in discussions with fund owners for more than 1 billion euros which they want to dedicate to space exploration over here in Luxembourg,” Schneider said. “In 10 years, I’m quite sure that the official language in space will be Luxembourgish.”

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Sam Shepard, Pulitzer-winning Playwright, Dead at 73

Sam Shepard, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Oscar-nominated actor and celebrated author whose plays chronicled the explosive fault lines of family and masculinity in the American West, has died. He was 73.

 

Family spokesman Chris Boneau said Monday that Shepard died Thursday at his home in Kentucky from complications related to Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

 

The taciturn Shepard, who grew up on a California ranch, was a man of few words who nevertheless produced 44 plays and numerous books, memoirs and short stories. He was one of the most influential playwrights of his generation: a plain-spoken poet of the modern frontier, both lyrical and rugged.

 

In his 1971 one-act “Cowboy Mouth, which he wrote with his then-girlfriend, musician and poet Patti Smith, one character says, “People want a street angel. They want a saint but with a cowboy mouth” — a role the tall and handsome Shepard fulfilled for many.

 

“I was writing basically for actors,” Shepard told The Associated Press in a 2011 interview. “And actors immediately seemed to have a handle on it, on the rhythm of it, the sound of it, the characters. I started to understand there was this possibility of conversation between actors and that’s how it all started.”

Shepard’s Western drawl and laconic presence made him a reluctant movie star, too. He appeared in dozens of films — many of them Westerns — including Terrence Malick’s “Days of Heaven,” “Steel Magnolias,” “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” and 2012’s Mud.” He was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as pilot Chuck Yeager in 1983’s “The Right Stuff.” Among his most recent roles was the Florida Keys patriarch of the Netflix series “Bloodline.”

But Shepard was best remembered for his influential plays and his prominent role in the Off-Off-Broadway movement. His 1979 play “Buried Child” won the Pulitzer for drama. Two other plays — “True West,” about two warring brothers, and “Fool for Love,” about a man who fears he’s turning into his father — were nominated for the Pulitzers as well. All are frequently revived.

 

“I always felt like playwriting was the thread through all of it,” Shepard said in 2011. “Theater really when you think about it contains everything. It can contain film. Film can’t contain theater. Music. Dance. Painting. Acting. It’s the whole deal. And it’s the most ancient. It goes back to the Druids. It was way pre-Christ. It’s the form that I feel most at home in, because of that, because of its ability to usurp everything.”

 

Samuel Shepard Rogers VII was born in Fort Sheridan, Illinois, in 1943. He grew up on an avocado ranch in Duarte, California. His father was an alcoholic schoolteacher and former Army pilot. Shepard would later write frequently of the damage done by drunks. He had his own struggles, too; long stretches of sobriety were interrupted by drunk driving arrests, in 2009 and 2015.

 

Shepard arrived in New York in 1963 with no connections, little money and vague aspirations to act, write or make music.

“I just dropped in out of nowhere,” he told the New Yorker in 2010. But Shepard quickly became part of the off-off-Broadway movement at downtown hangouts like Caffe Cino and La MaMa. “As far as I’m concerned, Broadway just does not exist,” Shepard told Playboy in 1970 — though many of his later plays would end up there.

 

His early plays — fiery, surreal verbal assaults — pushed American theater in an energized, frenzied direction that matched the times. A drummer himself, Shepard found his own rock ‘n roll rhythm. Seeking spontaneity, he initially refused to rewrite his drafts, a strategy he later dismissed as “just plain stupid.”

 

As Shepard grew as a playwright, he returned again and again to meditations on violence, masculinity and family. His collection “Seven Plays,” which includes many of his best plays, including “Buried Child” and “The Tooth of Crime,” was dedicated to his father.

 

“There’s some hidden, deeply rooted thing in the Anglo male American that has to do with inferiority, that has to do with not being a man, and always, continually having to act out some idea of manhood that invariably is violent,” he told The New York Times in 1984. “This sense of failure runs very deep — maybe it has to do with the frontier being systematically taken away, with the guilt of having gotten this country by wiping out a native race of people, with the whole Protestant work ethic. I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s the source of a lot of intrigue for me.”

 

Shepard was married from 1969 to 1984 to actress O-Lan Jones, with whom he had son Jesse Mojo Shepard.

 

His connection to music was constant. He joined Bob Dylan on the 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue tour of 1975, and co-wrote the song “Brownsville Girl” with him. Shepard and Patti Smith were one-time lovers but lifetime friends.

“We’re just the same,” Smith once said. “When Sam and I are together, it’s like no particular time.”

Shepard’s movie career began in the late ’70s. While making the 1982 Frances Farmer biopic “Frances,” he met Jessica Lange and the two remained together for nearly 30 years. They had two children, Hannah Jane and Samuel Walker. They separated in 2009. Lange once said of Shepard: “No man I’ve ever met compares to Sam in terms of maleness.”

 

Shepard worked occasionally in movies (among other things, he wrote Wim Wenders’ 1984 Texas brothers drama “Paris, Texas”) but took acting gigs more frequently as he grew older. One movie, he said, could pay for 16 plays.

 

Besides his plays, Shepard wrote short stories and a full-length work of fiction, “The One Inside,” which came out earlier this year. “The One Inside” is a highly personal narrative about a man looking back on his life and taking in what has been lost, including control over his own body as the symptoms of ALS advance.

 

“Something in the body refuses to get up. Something in the lower back. He stares at the walls,” Shepard writes. “The appendages don’t seem connected to the motor — whatever that is — driving this thing. They won’t take direction _ won’t be dictated to — the arms, legs, feet, hands. Nothing moves. Nothing even wants to.”

Shepard’s longtime editor at Alfred A. Knopf, LuAnn Walther, said Shepard’s language was “quite poetic, and very intimate, but also very direct and plainspoken.” She said that when people asked her what Shepard was really like, she would respond, “Just read the fiction.”

 

In Shepard’s 1982 book “Motel Chronicles,” he said that he felt like he never had a home. That feeling, he later, acknowledged, always remained.

 

“I basically live out of my truck,” Shepard said in 2011. “I feel more at home in my truck than just about anywhere, which is a sad thing to say. But it’s true.”

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Los Angeles Reaches Deal with Olympic Leaders for 2028 Games

Los Angeles reached an agreement Monday with international Olympic leaders that will open the way for the city to host the 2028 Summer Games, while ceding the 2024 Games to rival Paris, officials announced Monday.

 

The arrangement would make LA a three-time Olympic city, after hosting the 1932 and 1984 Games.

 

With the agreement, the city is taking “a major step toward bringing the Games back to our city for the first time in a generation,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement.

 

He called it a “historic day for Los Angeles, for the United States” and the Olympic movement.

 

The agreement follows a vote earlier this month by the International Olympic Committee to seek a deal to award the 2024 and 2028 Games.

aris is the only city left to host the 2024 Games.

The Los Angeles City Council and U.S. Olympic Committee board of directors will consider the agreement for approval in August. If approved, the IOC, LA and Paris may enter a three-part agreement, clearing the way for the IOC to simultaneously award the 2024 Games to Paris, and the 2028 Games to LA. The IOC vote is scheduled for September, in Lima, Peru.

 

In embracing what amounted to the second-place prize and an 11-year wait, LA will receive a financial sweetener.

 

Under the terms of the deal, the IOC will advance funds to the Los Angeles organizing committee to recognize the extended planning period and to increase youth sports programs leading up to the Games. The IOC contribution could exceed $2 billion, according to LA officials. That figure takes into account the estimated value of existing sponsor agreements that would be renewed, as well as potential new marketing deals.

 

LA and Paris were the last two bids remaining after a tumultuous process that exposed the unwillingness of cities to bear the financial burden of hosting an event that has become synonymous with cost overruns.

LA was not even the first American entrant in the contest. Boston withdrew two years ago as public support for its bid collapsed over concerns about use of taxpayer cash. The U.S. bid switched from the east to the West Coast as LA entered the race.

 

But the same apprehensions that spooked politicians and the local population in Boston soon became evident in Europe where three cities pulled out.

 

Uncomfortably for IOC President Thomas Bach, whose much-vaunted Agenda 2020 reforms were designed to make hosting more streamlined and less costly after the lavish 2014 Sochi Games, the first withdrawal came from his homeland of Germany.

 

The lack of political unity for a bid in Hamburg was mirrored in Rome and Budapest as support for bids waned among local authorities and the population. It was clear they did not want to be saddled with skyrocketing bills for hosting the Olympics without reaping many of the economic benefits anticipated.

 

Just like in the depleted field for the 2022 Winter Games which saw Beijing defeat Almaty, the IOC was left with only two candidates again.

 

With two powerful cities left vying for 2024, Bach realized France or the U.S. could be deterred from going through another contest for 2028 if they lost. Bach floated the idea in December of making revisions to the bidding process to prevent it producing “too many losers,” building support that led to LA and Paris being able to figure out themselves how to share the 2024 and 2028 Games.

 

The dual award of the games relieves the IOC of having to test the global interest in hosting the Summer Olympics for several years until the 2032 Games are up for grabs.

 

Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson called the agreement a “win-win-win scenario.”

 

The opportunity to host the Games “is a golden occasion further strengthening Los Angeles — not just through bricks and mortar, but through new opportunities for our communities to watch, play and benefit from sport,” Wesson said.

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Chemical Industry and US Call for Global Culture of Chemical Security

Securing petrochemical plants and keeping chemicals out of the hands of terrorists were the topics of discussion at a recent Chemical Sector Security Summit in Houston, Texas. Security experts say the countries that are producing chemicals are shifting and that is one of many reasons developed and developing nations need to share best security practices. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee reports from Houston, a petrochemical hub in the United States.

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Online Suicide Searches Spike After Netflix Released ’13 Reasons Why’

Online searches about suicide and suicide methods spiked in the weeks following the release of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, a show that dramatizes the suicide of a teenage girl, according to a U.S. study released Monday.

Google searches about suicide were 19 percent higher than average in the 19 days following the show’s release on March 31, translating into 900,000 to 1,500,000 more searches, researchers reported in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine. 

The study did not examine whether the actual number of suicides increased following the series’ release, but researchers said the internet search trend is troubling.

Google search volumes for things like “how to commit suicide,” “commit suicide” and “how to kill yourself” all decisively spiked during the 19-day window after the show’s release. A 2009 study suggested “suicide search trends are correlated with actual suicides,” according to a letter accompanying the study in JAMA.

Many mental health experts concluded that Netflix acted unethically by releasing the series. In it, a high school girl leaves behind 13 cassette tapes that explain the decision to take her own life. The series, which some argue glamorizes suicide, has been renewed for a second season.

The San Diego State University researcher who led the study, John Ayers, called on Netflix to reconsider the show and the effects it is having on its teenage-skewing audience.

“Psychiatrists have expressed grave concerns because the show ignores the World Health Organization’s validated media guidelines for preventing suicide,” Ayers told VOA in an email. “Tragically, it is unsurprising then that we find the show has increased suicidal thoughts.

“The show’s makers must swiftly change their course of action, including removing the show and postponing a second season. If not, subscribers should consider canceling their subscriptions so not to support programming that can cause premature death. I am no longer a subscriber.”

Currently, the most violent episodes are prefaced with warnings. Netflix has also created a website equipped with suicide hotlines for each of the countries in which it can be streamed. In a statement, Netflix defended 13 Reasons Why, saying that the show has spurred an important conversation.

“We always believed this show would increase discussions around this tough subject matter,” Netflix said. “This is an interesting quasi-experimental study that confirms this. We are looking forward to more research and taking everything we learn to heart as we prepare for season two.”

The study analyzed Google trends between March 31, 2017, and April 18. They halted their research on that date because former National Football League player Aaron Hernandez committed suicide on April 19, a development that might have skewed the data.

Researchers used the period between January and March 2017 as a control to determine the expected volume of suicide-related Google search queries.

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Italian Poster for "Casablanca" Attracts $478,000 at Auction

The only known surviving Italian issue poster for the classic movie “Casablanca” has sold for $478,000 in Dallas at a public auction of vintage movie posters.

 

The firm Heritage Auctions says the price ties a record for the highest amount paid for a movie poster at a public auction.

 

The 1946 Italian poster — four years after the Oscar-winning movie was made and first shown in the U.S. — measures 55.5 inches (1,409.7 millimeters) by 78.25 inches (1,987.55 millimeters). It previously was owned by a collector in London.

Auction spokesman Eric Bradley says the buyer Saturday chose to remain anonymous.

 

Bradley said Sunday the price equaled the record amount paid in 2014 for a poster for “London After Midnight,” a 1927 silent movie where Lon Chaney played a vampire.

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Child Advocates Urge Back-Seat Alarms as 2 Die in Arizona

A proposed new law that would require carmakers to build alarms for back seats is being pushed by child advocates who say it will prevent kids from dying in hot cars.

The law also would streamline the criminal process against caregivers who cause the deaths – cases that can be inconsistent but often heavier-handed against mothers.

The latest deaths came in Arizona on triple-digit degree days over the weekend, with two baby boys found forgotten in vehicles in separate incidents.

More than two dozen child and road safety groups are backing the Senate bill introduced last week aimed at preventing those kinds of deaths by requiring cars to be equipped with technology that can alert drivers if a child is left in the back seat once the vehicle is turned off. It could be a motion sensor that can detect a baby left sitting in a rear-facing car seat and then alert the driver, in a similar way that reminders about tire pressure, open doors and seat belts now come standard in cars.

“The technology would help because if you’re in a vehicle, your child is in the back seat, and you ignore that alarm: Go jail. Do not pass go. You had a chance,” said Janette Fennell of the advocacy group Kids and Cars. “You talk to any of the judges, they’ll tell you, they’re beyond the hardest things they have to deal with.”

Police say 1-year-old Josiah Riggins was in the car for hours Saturday, discovered dead only after his father drove roundtrip, twice, between their suburban home and a Phoenix church to drop off the mother and a sibling.

Zane Endress, who was 7 months old, died Friday in Phoenix after being left in the car in the driveway at home, as his usual daycare drop-off routine was lost by his grandparents.

“A simple sensor could save the lives of dozens of children killed tragically in overheated cars each year, and our bill would ensure such technology is available in every car sold in the United States,” bill sponsor Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, said in a statement. “It can take mere minutes on a hot day for a car to turn into a deathtrap for a small child.”

No charges have been filed against the caregivers in either Arizona case, as police say the death investigations are underway. Detectives will determine criminality based on the caregiver’s neglect, intent and mindset, while also being sensitive to the family’s deeply felt loss of a child, Phoenix police Sgt. Mercedes Fortune said.

“Those are the very difficult questions. Each case is different. I can’t tell you there’s a set answer for any case because there really isn’t,” Fortune said.

Kids and Cars, which has tracked more than 800 children who have died in this way since 1990, said criminal cases vary greatly, even when the circumstances are identical. Fennell said 90 percent of cases involve pure accidents, most likely a child forgotten by an adult.

In this month alone, a Tennessee couple was charged in the death of their 11-month-old daughter. A nearly 2-year-old boy was found dead in his father’s BMW in south Florida.

The nonprofit’s analysis shows charges are filed about half of the time, though very rarely are the parents found guilty objectively because it was proven that the child was left behind to be harmed. There is also a noted gender bias: Mothers are more often charged than fathers, and among the convicted, women caregivers receive longer prison sentences than men, the study found.

“I think society feels sort of like moms are in charge, and they’re supposed to do everything,” Fennell said. “It’s also a defense mechanism. If I make monsters out of these people, then it could never happen to me.”

 

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Mongolian Melody: Hip-hop Duo Splices Traditional Singing and Urban Beats

Ulaanbaatar’s urban music scene is buzzing with a new vibe created by a hip-hop duo mixing into their sound the traditional art of throat singing, or “Khoomei,” as Mongolians refer to it.

Rap group Fish Symboled Stamp, named for a fish-shaped seal traditionally used to brand horses in the landlocked nation, incorporates the nearly 1,000-year-old vocal tradition of communities across Siberia and Central Asia.

Khoomei means “pharynx”, and performers imitate the sounds of nature, emitting a melody of harmonics alongside a continuous drone, UNESCO, which added the art form to its intangible heritage listing in 2009, says on a website describing it.

Lead bass vocalist Sanjjav Baatar, 32, founded the group with rapper Battogtokh Odsaikhan, 30, in 2010, when they started experimenting with music styles.

Finding the voice that best suited them took some time.

“I couldn’t understand what voice I should use,” Baatar said. “One day my partner said, ‘Why don’t you rhyme with your Khoomei voice?’ I tried it out, and it sounded really good.”

Odsaikhan believes the cultural reference sets Fish Symboled Stamp apart from other Mongolian hip hop groups.

“Mongolian hip hop is no different from that in the West. It’s just copy and paste,” he said.

The pair say they were inspired by Mongolian folk religion and frequent childhood visits to the vast steppe undulating in every direction.

Mongolia’s climate and environment contributed to the development of Khoomei, said Lhamragchaa, a throat singing teacher at a private school in Ulaanbaatar.

 

“Our ancestors were herding their cattle in the open grasslands and were hearing the sounds of nature, like wind blowing, and trying to imitate them,” said Lhamragchaa, who has only one name, like many Mongolians.

Bataar and Odsaikhan are proud of their culture, nationalism and Mongolia’s historical legacies, which predominate in their lyrics.

Fish Symboled Stamp represented Mongolian art at the recent opening of an art gallery, drawing favourable comment for their skills in folding together traditional and modern music.

“Such performances can make Mongolians proud of their cultural heritage,” said Otgonbileg, a 50-year-old teacher.

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Celebrated Photo Editor John Morris Dies at 100 in Paris

John Morris, a celebrated American photo editor who brought some of the most iconic photographs of World War II and the Vietnam War to the world’s attention, has died at 100.

His longtime friend, Robert Pledge, president and editorial director of the Contact Press Images photo agency, told The Associated Press that Morris died Friday at a hospital in Paris, the city where he had been living for decades.

Among his proudest achievements, Morris edited the historic pictures of the D-Day invasion in Normandy taken by famed war photographer Robert Capa in 1944 for Life magazine. In addition, as picture editor for The New York Times, he helped grant front-page display to two of the most striking pictures of Vietnam War by Associated Press photographers Nick Ut Cong Huynh and Eddie Adams.

During a career spanning more than half a century, Morris played a crucial role in helping to craft a noble role for photojournalism. He also worked for The Washington Post, National Geographic and the renowned Magnum photo agency.

His job as a photo editor included sending photographers to war zones or other reporting sites, advising them on the angles of their photographs, choosing the best shots in the stream of images transmitted and staging the selected images for the news outlets.

Describing himself as a Quaker and a pacifist, Morris was also known for his political commitment, backing the Democratic Party and being an early support for Barack Obama. Even at his advanced age, Morris had closely followed the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign and had been “appalled” by the election of Donald Trump, his friend Pledge said.

Morris felt his fierce anti-war convictions did not contradict his work with photographers covering war zones.

“He believed that photography could change things,” Pledge said in a phone interview from his New York office. “Morris was convinced that images of horrors, devastations, damage to minds and bodies could prompt a movement of hostility to war in the public and eventually help make the world wiser.”

Born in New Jersey in 1916 and raised in Chicago, John Godfrey Morris described himself as a journalist. His first major assignment in 1943, as picture editor for Life magazine in London, made him responsible for getting to the world the 11 famous, grainy black-and-white photos of the Allied invasion taken by Capa on Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944.

In a 2014 interview with The Associated Press for D-Day’s 70th anniversary, Morris recalled that Capa sent four rolls of negatives via couriers to his editors in London. But, because of an alleged mistake by a young dark-room assistant, three of the rolls were ruined.

“The first three, there was nothing just pea soup, but on the fourth there were eleven frames, which had discernible images, so I ordered prints of all of those,” he recounted.

For years, Morris blamed himself.

“I used to go around with a sad face saying I am the guy who lost Capa’s D-Day coverage. Now I say I am the one who saved it! It was, needless to say, an awkward moment,” he told the AP.

Years later during the Vietnam War, as a photo editor for The New York Times, Morris insisted that difficult pictures be published because they showed the horrors of the war.

On at least two memorable occasions, he got disturbing pictures published on the front page of the renowned paper.

The first one, by AP photographer Eddie Adams, showed a Saigon police chief executing a Vietcong prisoner at point-blank range in 1968 during the opening stages of the Tet Offensive. The second one, by AP photographer Nick Ut Cong Huynh, depicted a naked 9-year-old girl and other children fleeing a napalm bombing in 1972. Both photographs won Pulitzer Prizes.

Morris, who was married three times, is survived by his partner, Patricia Trocme, four children and four grandchildren, Pledge said. He was awarded the Legion of Honor, France’s highest award, in 2009.

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Pope’s Choir Tours US as It Recaptures Its Glory

The Vatican’s Sistine Chapel Choir is embarking on its first U.S. tour in 30 years, hoping to show audiences in New York, Washington and Detroit that it has abandoned the habits that earned it a reputation as the “Sistine Screamers.” 

 

The group of 20 adults and 30 boys, colloquially known as the “Pope’s Choir,” is the world’s oldest choir. It started singing for pontiffs about 500 years ago. Today, the choir performs regularly in the Sistine Chapel below Michelangelo’s masterpieces, at Masses the pope celebrates in St. Peter’s Basilica and for international concert appearances.

Return to early glory

 

Hearing the singers’ dulcet tones today, it’s hard to imagine they earned the nickname the “Sistine Screamers” a few years ago for their habit of belting out their numbers operatically, relying on volume instead of technique.

“Truly, they were singing in a manner that had no relation to the old music,” choir master Monsignor Massimo Palombella said.

 

To return the choir to its early glory in the 16th century, when the group attracted the best singers in Europe, Palombella did extensive research. He sifted through the Vatican archives, studying music manuscripts and analyzing the handwriting of Renaissance composers. 

Members from many countries

 

These days, the choir once again is drawing talent. Its current members include singers from Poland, Britain, Brazil and Argentina. Diegogaston Zamediom says being the first Argentine singer in the choir of the first Argentine pope is the “maximum of the maximum.”

 

Palombella, who was named choir master in 2010 and was recently reconfirmed, hopes the concerts in the U.S. will effectively “communicate the image of God and spirituality that this music brings with it.”

 

Enrico Torre, a 27-year-old alto, said he is looking forward to visiting New York so he can catch a Broadway musical.

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