Day: April 2, 2021

MLB Moving All-Star Game in Response to Voting Restrictions

Major League Baseball announced Friday it was moving this summer’s All-Star Game from Atlanta’s Truist Park, a response to Georgia enacting a new law last month restricting voting rights.MLB had awarded the game to Atlanta in May 2019 and the game was scheduled for July 13 as part of baseball’s midsummer break that includes the Futures Game on July 11 and Home Run Derby the following night.FILE – Cardboard cutouts of fans in the otherwise empty seats at Truist Park face the field during the sixth inning of a game between Atlanta and visiting Tampa Bay, July 30, 2020.Commissioner Rob Manfred made the decision to move the All-Star events and the amateur draft, which had been scheduled to be held in Atlanta for the first time. A new ballpark for this year’s events wasn’t immediately revealed.MLB’s announcement came eight days after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a sweeping Republican-sponsored overhaul of state elections that includes new restrictions on voting by mail and greater legislative control over how elections are run.Manfred made the decision after discussions with the Major League Baseball Players Association, individual players and the Players Alliance, an organization of Black players formed after the death of George Floyd last year.”I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s All-Star Game and MLB draft,” Manfred said in a statement. “Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box.””Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support,” Manfred said.Other sports have moved high-profile events because of social issues.In the early 1990s, the NFL shifted the Super Bowl out of Arizona after the state failed to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day an official holiday.The NBA moved the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, North Carolina, when the league took issue with a state law that cut anti-discrimination protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.The NCAA for years didn’t hold championships in states where the Confederate battle flag was officially recognized.This year’s All-Star Game will include honoring Hank Aaron, the the team’s Hall of Famer and former career home run champion who died on Jan. 22 at age 86.”We will continue with our plans to celebrate the memory of Hank Aaron during this season’s All-Star festivities,” Manfred said. “In addition, MLB’s planned investments to support local communities in Atlanta as part of our All-Star legacy projects will move forward. We are finalizing a new host city and details about these events will be announced shortly.”MLB canceled last year’s All-Star Game, which had been scheduled for Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, due to the late and shortened season caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic. The 2022 game will be played at Dodger Stadium.MLB has awarded the 2026 All-Star Game to Philadelphia as part of the celebration of the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.The 1972 All-Star Game was played at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, and the 2000 All-Star Game was at Atlanta’s Turner Field.

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Basketball Film ‘Boogie’ Defies Asian-American Stereotypes

“Boogie,” a recent film by Chinese American filmmaker Eddie Huang, addresses stereotypes Asian people face in the United States. Lead actor Taylor Takahashi spoke with VOA’s Penelope Poulou about his film character and Asian representation in the film.
Camera: Penelope Poulou      Producer: Penelope Poulou

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CDC Says Fully Vaccinated People Can Travel Safely in US

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Friday that fully vaccinated people can safely travel within the United States without getting tested before or after their journeys.CDC Director Rochelle Walensky announced the new guidelines during the White House COVID-19 response team briefing and was quick to add the CDC still does not recommend nonessential travel for people who are not fully vaccinated.FILE – Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 18, 2021.The CDC also recommends fully vaccinated travelers continue to wear masks, maintain 2 meters of social distance and wash their hands regularly.Walensky was asked if the new guidelines suggest she does not still feel the sense of “impending doom” she described earlier this week regarding the pandemic.The CDC director said the new travel guidelines are only for fully vaccinated people. And, she said, the average daily rate of new COVID-19 cases over the last seven days has continued to rise and is now around 62,000 new cases each day. She said Friday, there were 64,000 new cases, reflecting an 8% increase in the daily rate.Walensky said that with only 20% of the U.S. adult population fully vaccinated, she continues to worry that the United States still has a lot to do to control the pandemic.Meanwhile, top presidential adviser on COVID-19 Anthony Fauci was asked how he deals with personal attacks from the public and some members of Congress.On her Twitter account Thursday, Georgia Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Green called for Fauci to be fired, without giving a specific reason.Fauci said his job is too important to let those comments make him lose focus on the pandemic.
 

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‘Boogie’ Tells Story of Being Asian in America

“Boogie,” a recent film by Chinese American filmmaker Eddie Huang, addresses stereotypes Asian people face in the United States. Lead actor Taylor Takahashi spoke with VOA’s Penelope Poulou about his film character and Asian representation in the film.
Camera: Penelope Poulou      Producer: Penelope Poulou

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Ancient Coins May Solve Mystery of Murderous 1600s Pirate

A handful of coins unearthed from a pick-your-own-fruit orchard in rural Rhode Island and other random corners of New England may help solve one of the planet’s oldest cold cases.The villain in this tale: a murderous English pirate who became the world’s most-wanted criminal after plundering a ship carrying Muslim pilgrims home to India from Mecca, then eluded capture by posing as a slave trader.”It’s a new history of a nearly perfect crime,” said Jim Bailey, an amateur historian and metal detectorist who found the first intact 17th-century Arabian coin in a meadow in Middletown.That ancient pocket change — among the oldest ever found in North America — could explain how pirate Capt. Henry Every vanished into the wind.On Sept. 7, 1695, the pirate ship Fancy, commanded by Every, ambushed and captured the Ganj-i-Sawai, a royal vessel owned by Indian emperor Aurangzeb, then one of the world’s most powerful men. Aboard were not only the worshipers returning from their pilgrimage, but tens of millions of dollars’ worth of gold and silver.What followed was one of the most lucrative and heinous robberies of all time.Historical accounts say his band tortured and killed the men aboard the Indian ship and raped the women before escaping to the Bahamas, a haven for pirates. But word quickly spread of their crimes, and English King William III — under enormous pressure from a scandalized India and the East India Company trading giant — put a large bounty on their heads.”If you Google ‘first worldwide manhunt,’ it comes up as Every,” Bailey said. “Everybody was looking for these guys.”Until now, historians only knew that Every eventually sailed to Ireland in 1696, where the trail went cold. But Bailey says the coins he and others have found are evidence the notorious pirate first made his way to the American colonies, where he and his crew used the plunder for day-to-day expenses while on the run.The first complete coin surfaced in 2014 at Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown, a spot that had piqued Bailey’s curiosity two years earlier after he found old colonial coins, an 18th-century shoe buckle and some musket balls.Waving a metal detector over the soil, he got a signal, dug down and hit literal paydirt: a darkened, dime-sized silver coin he initially assumed was either Spanish or money minted by the Massachusetts Bay Colony.Peering closer, the Arabic text on the coin got his pulse racing. “I thought, ‘Oh my God,'” he said.Research confirmed the exotic coin was minted in 1693 in Yemen. That immediately raised questions, Bailey said, since there’s no evidence that American colonists struggling to eke out a living in the New World traveled to anywhere in the Middle East to trade until decades later.Since then, other detectorists have unearthed 15 additional Arabian coins from the same era — 10 in Massachusetts, three in Rhode Island and two in Connecticut. Another was found in North Carolina, where records show some of Every’s men first came ashore.”It seems like some of his crew were able to settle in New England and integrate,” said Sarah Sportman, state archaeologist for Connecticut, where one of the coins was found in 2018 at the ongoing excavation of a 17th-century farm site.”It was almost like a money laundering scheme,” she said.Although it sounds unthinkable now, Every was able to hide in plain sight by posing as a slave trader — an emerging profession in 1690s New England. On his way to the Bahamas, he even stopped at the French island of Reunion to get some Black captives so he’d look the part, Bailey said.Obscure records show a ship called the Sea Flower, used by the pirates after they ditched the Fancy, sailed along the Eastern seaboard. It arrived with nearly four dozen slaves in 1696 in Newport, Rhode Island, which became a major hub of the North American slave trade in the 18th century.”There’s extensive primary source documentation to show the American colonies were bases of operation for pirates,” said Bailey, 53, who holds a degree in anthropology from the University of Rhode Island and worked as an archaeological assistant on explorations of the Wydah Gally pirate ship wreck off Cape Cod in the late 1980s.Bailey, whose day job is analyzing security at the state’s prison complex, has published his findings in a research journal of the American Numismatic Society, an organization devoted to the study of coins and medals.Archaeologists and historians familiar with but not involved in Bailey’s work say they’re intrigued, and believe it’s shedding new light on one of the world’s most enduring criminal mysteries.”Jim’s research is impeccable,” said Kevin McBride, a professor of archaeology at the University of Connecticut. “It’s cool stuff. It’s really a pretty interesting story.”Mark Hanna, an associate professor of history at the University of California-San Diego and an expert in piracy in early America, said that when he first saw photos of Bailey’s coin, “I lost my mind.””Finding those coins, for me, was a huge thing,” said Hanna, author of the 2015 book, “Pirate Nests and the Rise of the British Empire.” “The story of Capt. Every is one of global significance. This material object — this little thing — can help me explain that.”Every’s exploits have inspired a 2020 book by Steven Johnson, “Enemy of All Mankind;” PlayStation’s popular “Uncharted” series of video games; and a Sony Pictures movie version of “Uncharted” starring Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg and Antonio Banderas that’s slated for release early in 2022.Bailey, who keeps his most valuable finds not at his home but in a safe deposit box, says he’ll keep digging.”For me, it’s always been about the thrill of the hunt, not about the money,” he said. “The only thing better than finding these objects is the long-lost stories behind them.” 

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Japan Scientist Given Nobel for ‘Revolutionary’ LED Lamp Dies

Japanese Nobel laureate Isamu Akasaki, who won the physics prize for pioneering energy-efficient LED lighting — a weapon against global warming and poverty — has died aged 92, his university said Friday.
 
Akasaki won the 2014 prize with two other scientists, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura. Together they developed the blue light-emitting diode, described as a “revolutionary” invention by the Nobel jury.
 
He died of pneumonia on Thursday morning at a hospital in the city of Nagoya, according to a statement on the website of Meijo University, where Akasaki had been a professor.
 
LED lamps last for tens of thousands of hours and use just a fraction of energy compared with the incandescent lightbulb pioneered by Thomas Edison in the 19th century.
 
Red and green diodes had been around for a long time, but devising a blue LED was the holy grail, as all three colors need to be mixed to recreate the white light of the Sun.
 
The trio made their breakthrough in the 1990s, after three long decades of dogged work, when they managed to coax bright blue beams from semiconductors.
 
“Their inventions were revolutionary. Incandescent light bulbs lit the 20th century. The 21st century will be lit by LED lamps,” the Nobel jury said in 2014.
 
As well as providing the missing piece of the puzzle for bright white lamps, their breakthrough also helped develop the color LED screens used in smartphones and a plethora of modern tech.
 
After winning the prize, Akasaki had advice for young researchers: “Don’t be fooled by fashionable subjects. Do whatever you like if it’s really what you want to do.”
 
“At first, it was said that this could not be invented during the 20th century. A lot of people left (the research project), but I never considered doing so,” he said.
 
Born in 1929 in Kagoshima in southern Japan, Akasaki graduated from the prestigious Kyoto University in 1952.
 
After working for several years as a researcher at Kobe Kogyo Corporation — now Fujitsu — he began his academic career at Nagoya University in 1959.
 
In an interview published by Meijo University in 2010, he described the trio’s struggle to earn recognition for their work.
 
“When we announced in 1981 results which were important at that time at an international conference, there was no reaction. I felt alone in the wilderness,” he said.
 
“But I was determined not to quit this research, even if I was alone.”
 

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‘Boogie’ Film Gives View of How It Feels to be Asian in America

“Boogie,” a recent film by Chinese American filmmaker Eddie Huang, addresses stereotypes Asian people face in the United States. Lead actor Taylor Takahashi spoke with VOA’s Penelope Poulou about his film character and Asian representation in the film.
Camera: Penelope Poulou      Producer: Penelope Poulou

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Israel’s Dilemma: Can the Unvaccinated Return to Workplaces?

After spending much of the past year in lockdown, Tel Aviv makeup artist Artyom Kavnatsky was ready to get back to work. But when he showed up for a recent photo shoot, his employer turned him away. The reason? He had not been vaccinated against the coronavirus.“He didn’t take me because I didn’t get vaccinated,” Kavnatsky said. “It’s discrimination, and it’s not all right.”The breakneck pace of Israel’s vaccination drive has made it one of the few countries able to return to much of its pre-pandemic routine. Bars and businesses, hotels and health clubs have all sprung back to life in Israel, where some 80% of the adult population is fully vaccinated and new infections and COVID-19 deaths have plummeted.While Israel provides a glimpse of what may be possible with high immunization rates, it also offers insight into the problems that lie ahead: Workplaces and schools are now grappling with what to do with those who refuse to get vaccinated as the next phase in the pandemic again pits public health concerns against individual rights and possibly new questions of equity. One case has already ended up in court, and others are expected to.Airlines are already considering if vaccination, or a recent negative test, might be required for travel, as is the European Union. Some officials in Britain and the United States are exploring if proof of immunization could help large-scale gatherings to return, though there remains significant resistance to such measures in the U.S. Whether a shot is necessary to go back to work or class is an even thornier question.In many countries, the decisions may raise the prospect of further dividing populations along the lines of wealth and vaccine access. While the vast majority of the 100,000 Palestinians who live in the West Bank and have Israeli work permits have been vaccinated, immunization drives in the West Bank and Gaza have lagged far behind.Many parts of the world have received few, if any, vaccines.So far, Israel has relied primarily on a series of incentives meant to encourage people to get a vaccine. It has established a “green pass” for the fully vaccinated whose holders can attend concerts, dine out, go to the gym or travel to popular vacation spots in places like Egypt, Cyprus and Greece. Those who do not have the pass are out of luck.The system has worked well in areas of leisure and entertainment. But now, it is moving into other realms. Health officials have recommended barring unvaccinated workers who have not recently tested negative for COVID-19 from schools, elder care facilities and other high-risk workplaces.Israel’s health care system has also mandated that all employees — doctors, nurses, administrators, and support staff alike — receive the coronavirus vaccine. If they refuse, they will be transferred to jobs that do not involve contact with high-risk patients.Rights groups have expressed concern that such regulations could jeopardize workers’ income.Similar concerns exist in education. Tel Aviv University, Israel’s largest, has found an uneasy balance for now.As the university resumes in-person classes, Eyal Zisser, its deputy rector, said that only students who are vaccinated can be physically present. Those who are not can continue to learn remotely.“In the initial stages, we are bringing back some of the students according to the green pass and making lessons accessible to the rest of the students,” said Zisser.Even with Israel’s success, hundreds of thousands of people remain unvaccinated — some who are opposed to vaccines in general but many who are hesitant to take a shot that was developed so quickly. U.N., U.S. and European health experts have said the vaccines authorized by Israel are safe and effective.Kavnatsky, the makeup artist, objects to vaccines and modern medicine more broadly, saying he doesn’t want to put “any needles in my body.” He is not alone. He is one of over 15,000 members of a Hebrew-language anti-vaccine Facebook group who are critical of what they see as forced immunization by the state.Rappeh, a political party headed by outspoken anti-vaccine advocate Aryeh Avni, garnered over 17,000 votes in last week’s recent parliamentary elections. That was not enough to get into parliament but illustrates the challenge for policymakers.Israel’s Health Ministry acknowledges its powers are limited.“We cannot force people to vaccinate,” said Einav Shimron, the ministry’s deputy director for international relations.The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, a nongovernmental organization that deals with labor issues, said that the long-term application of the green pass raises a potential civil rights issue, and has called on the government to pass legislation on the matter.“If there is going to be a policy that infringes on the right to employment and on the right for a person to choose what to do with his or her body in order to be employed, then it needs to go through the legislative process,” said spokeswoman Maya Fried. “There needs to be a public discussion.”In the meantime, the debate is already playing out in the courts.In the first major decision on the topic, a Tel Aviv labor court in March allowed a day care center to bar a teaching assistant who refused to get vaccinated or undergo coronavirus testing. The decision is expected to be appealed.Dr. Nadav Davidovitch, the head of Israel’s association of public health physicians, said he believes people have an obligation to get vaccinated, particularly given the evidence that the vaccine not only prevents the worst outcomes from COVID-19 but also may reduce the spread of the virus. Israel, with 9.3 million people, has recorded at least 6,188 deaths since the pandemic began.“We see vaccination as a solidarity act, not just an individual choice,” he said.Still, he said he opposes forced vaccinations or firing people for refusing. Instead, he favors alternative approaches, from education to persuasion. Those who continue to refuse can perhaps be given different jobs, work remotely or undergo frequent testing.Davidovitch, a former military epidemiologist, has experience with the issue. He said that well over 90% of Israeli recruits who did not want to be vaccinated when they enlisted ended up agreeing once they were educated by medical experts.“I think it’s a bad idea to move quickly to compulsion,” he said. “Most people are hesitant. They are not against vaccination in general.”

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India Has More Than 80,000 New Daily COVID Cases

India’s health ministry Friday reported 81,466 new COVID cases in the previous 24-hour period. The new tally is the South Asian country’s highest daily count in six months. The western state of Maharashtra has more than half of the new cases with 43,183.India has 12.3 million COVID infections. Only the U.S and Brazil have more cases, with 30.5 million and 12.8 million respectively, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Hopkins reports there are more than 129.6 million global infections.In Brazil’s largest city, gravediggers are exhuming bodies from old graves to make way for the latest victims of the coronavirus. Gravediggers in hazmat suits are working diligently in Sao Paulo’s Vila Nova Cachoeirinha cemetery to accommodate the growing number of bodies.The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Thursday that vaccine manufacturer Moderna will be allowed to place 15 doses of its COVID vaccine in the same size vial that the pharmaceutical company has been using to contain 10 doses.Moderna said in a statement on its website that “the 15-dose vials will begin shipping in the coming weeks.”Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said recently during a Royal Society of Medicine webinar that the coronavirus “is not going to go away.” He said, “We are going to have to manage it rather like we manage the flu. … We have to accept that.”The World Health Organization says Europe’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts are “unacceptably slow” in the face of a new surge of the virus and new, more contagious variants.Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO’s European director, issued a statement Thursday urging the continent’s leaders to “speed up the process by ramping up manufacturing, reducing barriers to administering vaccines, and using every single vial we have in stock, now.”The number of new infections across Europe had fallen below 1 million just five weeks ago, but the global health agency says those numbers have since surged to 1.6 million new cases, with nearly 24,000 deaths.Kluge said barely 10% of people across Europe have received at least one dose of a vaccine, with just 4% fully vaccinated.

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Pandemic Poised to Surge Again in California’s Silicon Valley

A California community that has been a bellwether of the coronavirus pandemic’s rampage across the United States warned on Thursday that the number of cases of more contagious COVID-19 variants is increasing to worrisome levels.”The region’s progress in curbing the pandemic remains precarious,” the health department in Santa Clara County, home to Silicon Valley, said.”County residents are therefore urged to avoid travel, quarantine if travelling, and consistently use face coverings.”The situation in Santa Clara, which was home to an early surge of coronavirus in California last year and the nation’s first death from COVID-19, offers a window into the pandemic’s progress across the wider United States.Several states, including Florida and Michigan, are struggling to contain a resurgence of the virus linked to new highly contagious variants.The seven-day daily average of cases across the United States has been increasing continuously since March 19, a Reuters analysis shows. Over the past 13 days, the average daily number of new COVID-19 cases has increased by about 17%, from 55,591 on March 19 to 64,814 on March 31. Total cases stand at more than 30 million, including more than 552,000 deaths.”We’re already seeing surges in other parts of the country, likely driven by variants,” Santa Clara Health Officer Sara Cody said in a statement. “Combined with the data we are seeing locally, these are important warning signs that we must continue to minimize the spread.”The rise in cases comes despite unprecedented efforts to vaccinate people worldwide and across the United States, where nearly 30% of the population had received at least one vaccine dose by Thursday, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).Many U.S. states are moving to ease pandemic public health restrictions, and people who have been vaccinated are starting to venture out after a year of staying mostly at home.But with most of the population still unvaccinated, experts warn that it could be a recipe for a deadly fourth wave of the disease.In California, the most populous U.S. state, with 40 million residents, about 5.6 million people, or 17.3% percent of the population, had received one vaccine dose, the CDC said.As cases have leveled off in recent weeks, state officials have reopened activities such as restaurant dining and are making plans to send children back to school.California Gov. Gavin Newsom, however, warned that with at least seven variants of the virus in circulation, the state is not close to achieving so-called herd immunity, which would require most residents to be inoculated.”Now is not the time to spike the ball,” said Newsom, who received his own vaccination on Thursday in Los Angeles. “Now is not the time to announce ‘Mission accomplished.’”In Canada, officials in the province of Ontario declared a limited lockdown beginning on Saturday, while French president Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday ordered his country into its third national lockdown.

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