Category: Entertainment

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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.”

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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.” 

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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. 

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Meghan Seeks Court Ruling over ‘Serious Breach’ of Privacy

Lawyers for the Duchess of Sussex asked a British judge on Tuesday to settle her lawsuit against a newspaper before it goes to trial by ruling that its publication of a “deeply personal” letter to her estranged father was “a plain and a serious breach of her rights of privacy.”
Meghan’s latest attempt to protect her privacy laid bare more details of her fraught relationship with her estranged father, who claims he has been “vilified” as a dishonest publicity-seeker.
The former Meghan Markle, 39, is suing Associated Newspapers for invasion of privacy and copyright infringement over five February 2019 articles in the Mail on Sunday and on the MailOnline website that published portions of a handwritten letter to her father, Thomas Markle, after her marriage to Britain’s Prince Harry in 2018.
Associated Newspapers is contesting the claim, and a full trial is due to be held in the autumn at the High Court, in what would be one of London’s highest-profile civil court showdowns for years.
The duchess is seeking a summary judgment that would find in her favor and dismiss the newspaper’s defense case. Her lawyer, Justin Rushbrooke, argued that the publisher had “no real prospect” of winning the case.
“At its heart, it’s a very straightforward case about the unlawful publication of a private letter,” he said at the start of a two-day hearing, held remotely because of coronavirus restrictions.
Lawyers for the duchess say Thomas Markle, a retired television cinematographer, caused anguish for Meghan and Harry before their May 2018 wedding by giving media interviews and posing for wedding-preparation shots taken by a paparazzi agency. In the end, he didn’t attend the wedding ceremony after suffering a heart attack.
Rushbrooke said Meghan’s letter, sent in August 2018, was “a message of peace” whose aim was “to stop him talking to the press.”
He said the duchess took steps to ensure the five-page, 1,250-word letter wouldn’t be intercepted, sending it by FedEx through her accountant to her father’s home in Mexico. The letter implored Thomas Markle to stop speaking to the media, saying: “Your actions have broken my heart into a million pieces.”
The last sentences, read out in court, were: “I ask for nothing other than peace. And I wish the same for you.”
Rushbrooke said the fact that the duchess is a public figure “does not reduce her expectation of privacy in relation to information of this kind.”
He said “the sad intricacies of a family relationship … is not a matter of public interest.”
Lawyers for Associated Newspapers argue that Meghan wrote the letter knowing it would eventually be published. They say it came into the public domain when friends of the duchess described it in anonymous interviews with People magazine.
Thomas Markle says he allowed the Mail to publish portions of the letter to “set the record straight” after reading the People article.
In a written witness statement submitted by the defense, he said the article “had given an inaccurate picture of the contents of the letter and my reply and had vilified me by making out that I was dishonest, exploitative, publicity-seeking, uncaring and cold-hearted, leaving a loyal and dutiful daughter devastated.”
“I had to defend myself against that attack,” he said.
“The letter was not an attempt at a reconciliation. It was a criticism of me,” Markle added. “The letter didn’t say she loved me. It did not even ask how I was. It showed no concern about the fact I had suffered a heart attack and asked no questions about my health. It actually signaled the end of our relationship, not a reconciliation.”
In October, judge Mark Warby agreed to Meghan’s request to postpone the trial, scheduled to begin this month, until October or November 2021. He said the reason for the delay should remain secret.
Meghan, an American actress and star of TV legal drama “Suits,” married Harry, one of the grandsons of Queen Elizabeth II, in a lavish ceremony at Windsor Castle in May 2018. Their son, Archie, was born the following year.
A year ago, Meghan and Harry announced they were quitting royal duties and moving to North America, citing what they said was the unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media. They recently bought a house in Santa Barbara, California.

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Fashion Illustrator Thanks NYC Nurses Through Art

New York City-based fashion illustrator and writer Rebecca Moses decided to turn a quarantine art project into a gift to all New York City nurses. Nina Vishneva has the story, narrated by Anna Rice.
Camera: Natalia Latukhina, Alexander Barash

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Garth Brooks Joins Lineup of Entertainers at Biden Inaugural

Add Garth Brooks to the lineup of entertainers at the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
“This is a great day in our household,” the country music superstar said during a virtual press conference Monday, two days before Biden is to be sworn in. “This is not a political statement. This is a statement of unity.”
Brooks, who joins Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez among others, performed during the inaugural celebration of President Barack Obama in 2009. He turned down a chance to play for President Donald Trump in 2017, citing a scheduling conflict.
Invited by incoming first lady Jill Biden, Brooks has known the Bidens for more than a decade, when Joe Biden was Obama’s vice president.
Brooks said that for this week’s inaugural, he will perform solo doing “broken down, bare-bones stuff,” and hinted at covering material by songwriters from outside the U.S.
He does not plan to sing his socially conscious “We Shall Be Free,” which he performed at the Obama inaugural.
Brooks praised the Bidens for being “hellbent on making things good” and said he welcomed the chance to help the country heal.
“I want to spend the next 10 years of my life not divided. I’m so tired of being divided,” he said.

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Phil Spector, Famed Music Producer and Convicted Murderer, Dies at 81 

Phil Spector, the eccentric and revolutionary music producer who transformed rock music with his “Wall of Sound” method and who later was convicted of murder, has died. He was 81.California state prison officials said he died Saturday of natural causes at a hospital.Spector was convicted of murdering actress Lana Clarkson in 2003 at his castle-like mansion on the edge of Los Angeles. After a trial in 2009, he was sentenced to 19 years to life.Clarkson, star of “Barbarian Queen” and other B-movies, was found shot to death in the foyer of Spector’s mansion in the hills overlooking Alhambra, a modest suburban town on the edge of Los Angeles.Until the actress’ death, which Spector maintained was an “accidental suicide,” few residents even knew the mansion belonged to the reclusive producer, who spent his remaining years in a prison hospital east of Stockton. Decades before, Spector had been hailed as a visionary for channeling Wagnerian ambition into the three-minute song, creating the “Wall of Sound” that merged spirited vocal harmonies with lavish orchestral arrangements to produce such pop monuments as “Da Doo Ron Ron,””Be My Baby” and “He’s a Rebel.”He was the rare self-conscious artist in rock’s early years and cultivated an image of mystery and power with his dark shades and impassive expression.Tom Wolfe declared him the “first tycoon of teen.” Bruce Springsteen and Brian Wilson openly replicated his grandiose recording techniques and wide-eyed romanticism, and John Lennon called him “the greatest record producer ever.” The secret to his sound: an overdubbed onslaught of instruments, vocals and sound effects that changed the way pop records were recorded. He called the result, “Little symphonies for the kids.” 

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COVID Lockdown Turns Family Quartet Into Instagram Sensation

A family of four in Brooklyn, New York, has tried to make the most of their time together – and for some 300 days in a row they have been posting funny videos of their music rehearsals. Anna Nelson has the story of the Hochman family, narrated by Anna Rice.
Natalia Latukhina contributed.

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Phil Spector, Famed Music Producer and Murderer, Dies at 81 

Phil Spector, the eccentric and revolutionary music producer who transformed rock music with his “Wall of Sound” method and who later was convicted of murder, has died. He was 81.California state prison officials said he died Saturday of natural causes at a hospital.Spector was convicted of murdering actress Lana Clarkson in 2003 at his castle-like mansion on the edge of Los Angeles. After a trial in 2009, he was sentenced to 19 years to life.Clarkson, star of “Barbarian Queen” and other B-movies, was found shot to death in the foyer of Spector’s mansion in the hills overlooking Alhambra, a modest suburban town on the edge of Los Angeles.Until the actress’ death, which Spector maintained was an “accidental suicide,” few residents even knew the mansion belonged to the reclusive producer, who spent his remaining years in a prison hospital east of Stockton. Decades before, Spector had been hailed as a visionary for channeling Wagnerian ambition into the three-minute song, creating the “Wall of Sound” that merged spirited vocal harmonies with lavish orchestral arrangements to produce such pop monuments as “Da Doo Ron Ron,””Be My Baby” and “He’s a Rebel.”He was the rare self-conscious artist in rock’s early years and cultivated an image of mystery and power with his dark shades and impassive expression.Tom Wolfe declared him the “first tycoon of teen.” Bruce Springsteen and Brian Wilson openly replicated his grandiose recording techniques and wide-eyed romanticism, and John Lennon called him “the greatest record producer ever.” The secret to his sound: an overdubbed onslaught of instruments, vocals and sound effects that changed the way pop records were recorded. He called the result, “Little symphonies for the kids.” 

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Elvis Presley’s Graceland Starting Live Virtual Tours

Elvis Presley’s Graceland is now offering live online tours for fans around the world, including those who can’t travel to the Tennessee tourist attraction during the coronavirus pandemic.Graceland said the two-hour guided tours will take virtual visitors into Presley’s former Memphis home, which has been turned into a museum, and through the Meditation Garden, where he is buried. The singer and actor died in Memphis on Aug. 16, 1977.Also included in the $100 ticket is a tour of Presley’s jet and a walk through the entertainment complex, which houses exhibits and artifacts related to Presley. Viewers will be able to ask questions during the tours.Elvis Presley’s Jewelry, Clothing Sold at Graceland Auction

        Jewelry, clothing and other Elvis Presley-related memorabilia have been sold at auction in Tennessee.

Elvis Presley Enterprises says the auction at The Guest House Graceland netted more than $600,000 Tuesday on what would have been his 84th birthday. The Guest House is a hotel located steps from the Graceland home, where the singer lived in Memphis.

Graceland says a red velvet shirt likely worn on stage by Presley at a 1956 show in Tupelo, Mississippi, sold for $37,500. A gold and diamond ring that…
Graceland typically hosts hundreds of thousands of visitors a year. But the tourist attraction has seen a drop in visitors during the coronavirus outbreak. Graceland was closed for several weeks last year and is now open for limited-capacity, in-person tours.Virtual tours are scheduled for Jan. 27, Feb. 25, and March 25, with more dates expected.

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