Author: Uponent

Oscar and Emmy-Winning Actress Cloris Leachman Dies at 94

Cloris Leachman, an Oscar winner for her portrayal of a lonely housewife in “The Last Picture Show” and a comedic delight as the fearsome Frau Blücher in “Young Frankenstein” and neighbor Phyllis on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” has died. She was 94. Leachman died in her sleep of natural causes at her home in Encinitas, California, publicist Monique Moss said Wednesday. Her daughter was at her side, Moss said. FILE – Cloris Leachman poses with her Emmy award for outstanding single performance by an actress in “A Brand New Life” at the Emmy Awards presentation in Los Angeles, May 21, 1975.A character actor of extraordinary range, Leachman defied typecasting. In her early television career, she appeared as the mother of Timmy on the “Lassie” series. She played a frontier prostitute in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” a crime spree family member in “Crazy Mama,” and Blücher in Mel Brooks’s “Young Frankenstein,” in which the very mention of her name made horses whinny. In 1989, she toured in “Grandma Moses,” a play in which she aged from 45 to 101. For three years in the 1990s, she appeared in major cities as the captain’s wife in the revival of “Show Boat.” In the 1993 movie version of “The Beverly Hillbillies,” she assumed the Irene Ryan role as Granny Clampett. She also had an occasional role as Ida on “Malcolm in the Middle,” winning Emmys in 2002 and 2006 for that show. And in 2008, she joined the ranks of contestants in “Dancing with the Stars,” not lasting long in the competition but pleasing the crowds by wearing sparkly dance costumes, sitting in judges’ laps and cussing during the live television broadcast. FILE – Gavin MacLeod, from left, Valerie Harper, Cloris Leachman, Betty White and Ed Asner, of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, reunite in Los Angeles, March 21, 1992.Although she started out as Miss Chicago in the Miss America Pageant, Leachman willingly accepted unglamorous screen roles. “Basically, I don’t care how I look, ugly or beautiful,” she told an interviewer in 1973. “I don’t think that’s what beauty is. On a single day, any of us is ugly or beautiful. I’m heartbroken I can’t be the witch in ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ But I’d also like to be the good witch. Phyllis combines them both. “I’m kind of like that in life. I’m magic, and I believe in magic. There’s supposed to be a point in life when you aren’t supposed to stay believing that. I haven’t reached it yet.” 
 

more

Presidential Pet Tradition Returns to White House

With Joe Biden as president, pets are back in the White House after a break in the longtime tradition during his predecessor’s time in office. Elena Wolf has the story, narrated by Anna Rice.Camera: Natalia Latukhina, Dmitrii VershininMasha Morton contributed.

more

Auschwitz Survivors Mark Anniversary Online Amid Pandemic

Tova Friedman hid among corpses at Auschwitz amid the chaos of the extermination camp’s final days.
Just 6 years old at the time, the Poland-born Friedman was instructed by her mother to lie absolutely still in a bed at a camp hospital, next to the body of a young woman who had just died.
As German forces preparing to flee the scene of their genocide went from bed to bed shooting anyone still alive, Friedman barely breathed under a blanket and went unnoticed.
Days later, on Jan. 27, 1945, she was among the thousands of prisoners who survived to greet the Soviet troops who liberated the camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.
Now 82, Friedman had hoped to mark Wednesday’s anniversary by taking her eight grandchildren to the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial site, which is under the custodianship of the Polish state. The coronavirus pandemic prevented the trip.
So instead, Friedman will be alone at home in Highland Park, New Jersey, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Yet a message of warning from her about the rise of hatred will be part of a virtual observance organized by the World Jewish Congress.
Across Europe, the victims were remembered and honored in various ways.
In Austria and Slovakia, hundreds of survivors  were offered their first doses of a vaccine against the coronavirus in a gesture both symbolic and truly lifesaving given the threat of the virus to older adults. In Israel, some 900 Holocaust survivors died from COVID-19 out of the 5,300 who were infected last year, the country’s Central Bureau of Statistics reported said Tuesday.
Pope Francis warned from the Vatican that distorted ideologies can “end up destroying a people and humanity.” Meanwhile, Luxembourg signed a deal agreeing to pay reparations and to restitute dormant bank accounts, insurance policies and looted art to Holocaust survivors.
Institutions around the world, including the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial museum in Poland, Yad Vashem in Israel and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. have online events planned. The presidents of Israel, Germany and Poland were among those planning to deliver remarks of remembrance and warning.
The online nature of this year’s commemorations is a sharp contrast to how Friedman spent the 75th anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation  last year, when she gathered under a huge tent with other survivors and dozens of European leaders at the site of the former camp. It was one of the last large international gatherings before the pandemic forced the cancellation of most large gatherings.
Many Holocaust survivors in the United States, Israel and elsewhere find themselves in a state of previously unimaginable isolation due to the pandemic. Friedman lost her husband last March and said she feels acutely alone now.
But survivors like her also have found new connections over Zoom: World Jewish Congress leader Ronald Lauder has organized video meetings for survivors and their children and grandchildren during the pandemic.
More than 1.1 million people were murdered by the German Nazis and their henchmen at Auschwitz, the most notorious site in a network of camps and ghettos aimed at the destruction of Europe’s Jews. The vast majority of those killed at Auschwitz were Jews, but others, including Poles, Roma and Soviet prisoners of war, were also killed in large numbers.
In all, about 6 million European Jews and millions of other people were killed by the Germans and their collaborators. In 2005, the United Nations designated Jan. 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, an acknowledgement of Auschwitz’s iconic status.
Israel, which today counts 197,000 Holocaust survivors, officially marks its Holocaust remembrance day in the spring. But events will also be held Wednesday by survivors’ organizations and remembrance groups across the country, many of them held virtually or without members of the public in attendance.
While commemorations have moved online for the first time, one constant is the drive of survivors to tell their stories as words of caution.
Rose Schindler, a 91-year-old survivor of Auschwitz who was originally from Czechoslovakia but now lives in San Diego, California, has been speaking to school groups about her experience for 50 years. Her story, and that of her late husband, Max, also a survivor, is also told in a book, “Two Who Survived: Keeping Hope Alive While Surviving the Holocaust.”
After Schindler was transported to Auschwitz in 1944, she was selected more than once for immediate death in the gas chambers. She survived by escaping each time and joining work details.
The horrors she experienced of Auschwitz — the mass murder of her parents and four of her seven siblings, the hunger, being shaven, lice infestations — are difficult to convey, but she keeps speaking to groups, over past months only by Zoom.
“We have to tell our stories so it doesn’t happen again,” Schindler told The Associated Press on Monday in a Zoom call from her home. “It is unbelievable what we went through, and the whole world was silent as this was going on.”
Friedman says she believes it is her role to “sound the alarm” about rising anti-Semitism and other hatred in the world, otherwise “another tragedy may happen.”
That hatred, she said, was on clear view when a mob inspired by former President Donald Trump attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Some insurrectionists wore clothes with anti-Semitic messages like “Camp Auschwitz” and “”6MWE,” which stands for “6 million wasn’t enough.”
“It was utterly shocking and I couldn’t believe it. And I don’t know what part of America feels like that. I hope it’s a very small and isolated group and not a pervasive feeling,” Friedman said Monday.
Still, the mob violence could not shake her belief in the essential goodness of America and most Americans.
“It’s a country of freedom. It’s a country that took me in,” Friedman said.
In her recorded message that will be broadcast Wednesday, Friedman said she compares the virus of hatred in the world to COVID-19. She said the world today is witnessing “a virus of anti-Semitism, of racism, and if you don’t stop the virus, it’s going to kill humanity.”

more

With Biden at Helm, Pets Return to White House

With Joe Biden as president, pets are back in the White House after a break in the longtime tradition during his predecessor’s time in office. Elena Wolf has the story, narrated by Anna Rice.Camera: Natalia Latukhina, Dmitrii VershininMasha Morton contributed.

more

Buccaneers, Chiefs to Face Off in Super Bowl

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs have advanced to face off in the National Football League’s Super Bowl. The game, which is one of the most-watched television programs in the United States each year, will take place February 7 in front of a restricted crowd of about 22,000 people due to the coronavirus pandemic. Tampa Bay will also be the first team to play a Super Bowl in its home stadium since the event began in 1967. The Buccaneers are led by 43-year-old quarterback Tom Brady, who is in his first year with the team after a hall-of-fame career with the New England Patriots.  Tampa Bay advanced by beating the Green Bay Packers 31-26 in Sunday’s National Football Conference championship game. On the other side of the field will be 25-year-old quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who last year was named the most valuable player as he led the Chiefs to a Super Bowl win.  He will be trying to become the first quarterback to win two consecutive Super Bowls since Brady did so with the Patriots nearly 20 years ago. Kansas City earned its Super Bowl berth with a 38-24 win over the Buffalo Bills. The game could be a high-scoring affair. It features the top offense in the league this year in the Chiefs, with the Buccaneers ranking seventh. Kansas City defeated Tampa Bay 27-24 in late November, and oddsmakers have made the Chiefs the early favorite to win the Super Bowl by 3.5 points. 

more

South African Jazz ‘Giant’ Jonas Gwangwa Dies Aged 83

South Africa jazz trombonist and composer Jonas Gwangwa, whose music powered the anti-apartheid struggle, died Saturday aged 83, the presidency said.President Cyril Ramaphosa led the tributes to the legendary musician who was nominated for an Oscar for the theme song of the 1987 film “Cry Freedom.”
 
“A giant of our revolutionary cultural movement and our democratic creative industries has been called to rest,” Ramaphosa said.
 
“The trombone that boomed with boldness and bravery, and equally warmed our hearts with mellow melody has lost its life force” the president added.
 
There were no immediate details on how or where Gwangwa died.
 
He passed away on the third anniversary of the death of the “father of South African jazz” Hugh Masekela and the second anniversary of the death of Zimbabwean musical legend Oliver Mtukudzi. January 23 had become “the day the music died,” the South African and other media outlets said.
 
Gwangwa was born in October 1937 in Soweto and went on to have a career spanning 40 years.
 
“He delighted audiences in Sophiatown until it became illegal for black people to congregate and South African musicians were jailed merely for practicing their craft,” the presidency’s statement said.
 
He was awarded the Order of Ikhamanga, South Africa’s highest national award presented for achievements in art and culture, in 2010.
 
The award recognized his work as composer, arranger and musical director of the Amandla Cultural Ensemble, a cultural group formed by activists from the African National Congress in the 1970s.  

more

US Television Host Larry King Dies Aged 87: CNN

Larry King, who quizzed thousands of world leaders, politicians and entertainers for CNN and other news outlets in a career spanning more than six decades, has died at age 87, CNN reported Saturday, citing a source close to the family.  King had been hospitalized in Los Angeles with a COVID-19 infection, according to several media reports. He had endured health problems for many years, including a near-fatal stroke in 2019 and diabetes.  He had been hospitalized at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles for more than a week, CNN reported.  Millions watched King interview world leaders, entertainers and other celebrities on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” which ran from 1985 to 2010. Hunched over his desk in rolled-up shirt sleeves and owlish glasses, he made his show one of the network’s prime attractions with a mix of interviews, political discussions, current event debates and phone calls from viewers.  Even in his heyday, critics accused King of doing little pre-interview research and tossing softball questions to guests who were free to give unchallenged, self-promoting answers. He responded by conceding he did not do much research so that he could learn along with his viewers. Besides, King said, he never wanted to be perceived as a journalist.  “My duty, as I see it, is I’m a conduit,” King told the Hartford Courant in 2007. “I ask the best questions I can. I listen to the answers. I try to follow up. And hopefully the audience makes a conclusion. I’m not there to make a conclusion. I’m not a soapbox talk-show host … So, what I try to do is present someone in the best light.” 
 

more

Baseball Legend Henry ‘Hank’ Aaron Dies at 86

The Atlanta Braves Major League baseball team announced Friday Hall of Famer Hank Aaron has died at the age of 86.
 
The team says Aaron died peacefully in his sleep Thursday.  
 
Aaron spent all but two years of his 23-year major league baseball career with the Braves organization.  
 
In a statement on the Braves web site, Chairman Terry McGuirk said the team was “devasted” at news of Aaron’s death. “Henry Louis Aaron wasn’t just our icon, but one across Major League Baseball and around the world.”
 
Aaron was known as the all-time greatest hitter, but he is best known for breaking Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record in 1974. By the time he retired two years later, he had 755 home runs, a record that stood until 2007 when it was broken by Barry Bonds. Aaron remains in second place.
 
Aaron joined the then-Milwaukee Braves in 1954 and moved with the team in 1965 to Atlanta, where he played until 1974. He played his final two seasons back in Milwaukee, with the Brewers before retiring in 1976.  
 
In his career, Aaron was always among baseball’s best. He was the National League (NL) Most Valuable Player in 1957 — the same year the Braves won the World Series — and he was a two-time NL batting champion, a three-time Gold Glove winner for his defensive play as a right fielder and a record 25-time All-Star.
 
He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982, and in 1999, MLB created the Hank Aaron Award, given annually to the best hitter in both leagues.
 
Off the field, Aaron was an activist for civil rights, having been a victim of racial inequalities. He was born in Mobile, Alabama, and didn’t play organized high school baseball because only white students had teams.  
 
During the buildup to passing Ruth’s home run mark, threats were made on his life by people who did not want to see a Black man break the record.
 
After his retirement, as an executive with the Braves, Aaron worked to help find Black players meaningful employment after their playing days were over.
“On the field, Blacks have been able to be super giants,” he once said. “But once our playing days are over, this is the end of it, and we go back to the back of the bus again.”

more

Vaccination Uncertainty in Japan Casts Doubt Over Olympics

Japan is publicly adamant that it will stage its postponed Olympics this summer. But to pull it off, many believe the vaccination of its 127 million citizens for the coronavirus is key.  
    
It’s an immense undertaking in the best of circumstances and complicated now by an overly cautious decision-making process, bureaucratic roadblocks and a public that has long been deeply wary of vaccines.  
    
Japan hopes to start COVID-19 vaccinations in late February, but uncertainty is growing that a nation ranked among the world’s lowest in vaccine confidence can pull off the massive, $14 billion project in time for the games in July, casting doubt on whether the Tokyo Olympics can happen.
    
Japan has secured vaccines for all its citizens, and then some, after striking deals with three foreign pharmaceutical makers – Pfizer Inc., AstraZeneca and Moderna Inc. Its swift action was seen as proof of its resolve to stage the games after a one-year postponement because of the pandemic.  
    
The country needs foreign-made vaccines because local development is only in its early stages.
    
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, in a speech this week, said vaccines are “the clincher” in the fight against the pandemic and vowed to start vaccinations as soon as late February, when health ministry approval of the Pfizer vaccine, the first applicant, is expected.
    
Suga pledged to provide “accurate information based on scientific findings, including side effects and efficacy,” an attempt to address the worries of vaccine skeptics.  
    
Under the current plan, inoculations will start with 10,000 front-line medical workers. Then about 3 million other medical workers will be added ahead of high-risk groups such as the elderly, those with underlying health conditions and caregivers. The rest of the population is expected to get access around May or later, though officials refuse to give an exact timeline.
    
Japan is under a partial state of emergency and struggling with an upsurge of infections. There have been about 351,000 cases, with 4,800 deaths, according to the health ministry.  
    
Many people are skeptical of the vaccination effort, partly because side effects of vaccines have often been played up here. A recent survey on TBS television found only 48% of respondents said they wanted a COVID-19 vaccination. In a Lancet study of 149 countries published in September, Japan ranked among the lowest in vaccine confidence, with less than 25% of people agreeing on vaccine safety, importance and effectiveness.  
    
Many Japanese have a vague unease about vaccines, said Dr. Takashi Nakano, a Kawasaki Medical School professor and vaccine expert. “If something (negative) happens after inoculation, people tend to think it’s because of the vaccine, and that’s the image stuck in their mind for a long time.”  
    
The history of vaccine mistrust in Japan dates to 1948, when dozens of babies died after getting a faulty diphtheria vaccine. In 1989, cases of aseptic meningitis in children who received a combined vaccination for measles, mumps and rubella, or MMR, prompted lawsuits against the government, forcing it to scrap the mix four years later.  
    
A 1992 court ruling held the government liable for adverse reactions linked to several vaccines, while defining suspected side effects as adverse events, but without sufficient scientific evidence, experts say. In a major change to its policy, Japan in 1994 revised its vaccination law to scrap mandatory inoculation.  
    
While several Japanese companies and research organizations are currently developing their own coronavirus vaccines, Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. will distribute the Moderna vaccine and produce the Novavax vaccine in Japan.
    
Masayuki Imagawa, head of Takeda’s Japan vaccine business unit, said his company last year considered developing its own vaccine. But instead, it decided to prioritize speed and chose to import Moderna’s product and make the Novavax vaccine at Takeda’s factory in Japan. He said the decision was not influenced by the Olympics.
    
Experts also worry about running into logistical challenges and bureaucratic roadblocks in staging a massive inoculation project that involves five government ministries along with local towns and cities. The government has budgeted more than $14 billion for the vaccine project.
    
Thousands of medical workers would have to be mobilized to give the shots, monitor and respond in case of any problems. Securing their help is difficult when hospitals are already burdened with treatment of COVID-19 patients, said Hitoshi Iwase, an official in Tokyo’s Sumida district tasked with preparing vaccinations for 275,000 residents.  
    
While vaccines are considered key to achieving the games, Prime Minister Suga said they won’t be required.
    
“We will prepare for a safe and secure Olympics without making vaccination a precondition,” Suga said Thursday, responding to a call by opposition lawmakers for a further postponement or cancellation of the games to concentrate on virus measures.
    
Uncertainty over vaccine safety and efficacy make it difficult to predict when Japan can obtain wide enough immunity to the coronavirus to control the pandemic.
    
“It is inappropriate to push vaccinations to hold the Olympics,” said Dr. Tetsuo Nakayama, a professor at Kitasato Institute for Life Sciences. “Vaccines should be used to protect the people’s health, not to achieve the Olympics.” 

more

Young Poet Draws Spotlight at Biden Inauguration

Twenty-two-year-old poet Amanda Gorman made headlines and dominated inauguration talk on social media Wednesday after speaking at President Joe Biden’s inauguration.Her poem, in part:“We, the successors of a country and a time,Where a skinny black girl,Descended from slaves and raised by a single mother,Can dream of becoming president,Only to find herself reciting for one.” Young Poet Amanda Gorman to Read at Biden Inaugural When she reads next Wednesday, 22-year-old will be continuing tradition — for Democratic presidents — that includes such celebrated poets as Robert Frost and Maya AngelouGorman, who was named the Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles at just 16, is by far the youngest to have read an inaugural poem in recent U.S. history.In a nod to the late poet Maya Angelou, who read a poem at former President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993, Gorman wore a caged bird ring gifted to her by media mogul Oprah Winfrey.“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise!” Winfrey wrote on Twitter.  I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise! Brava Brava, @TheAmandaGorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I. pic.twitter.com/I5HLE0qbPs— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) January 20, 2021Gorman’s poem, “The Hill We Climb,” also included a nod to the popular musical “Hamilton,” prompting public praise from its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda.“You were perfect. Perfectly written, perfectly delivered,” the composer wrote on Twitter.You were perfect. Perfectly written, perfectly delivered. Every bit of it. Brava! -LMM— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) January 20, 2021In an interview with The New York Times, Gorman said she had written just a few lines of the poem when a pro-Trump riot stormed the Capitol on January 6. Gorman said that after the violent event, she finished the poem in one night. Earlier in the ceremony, pop icon Lady Gaga gave a theatrical performance of the national anthem. Country singer Garth Brooks sang “Amazing Grace,” and Jennifer Lopez performed a medley of “This Land is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful,” interjecting lines from the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish. 

more