Category: Entertainment

entertainment news

Nat Geo First Female Photographer Talks About Her Decades-Long Career

Annie Griffiths, One of National Geographic’s first female photographers, has traveled to more than 150 countries taking pictures. During her 45 year career, she has been to every continent documenting nature, and collecting the stories of women she has met along the way. Maxim Moskalkov has the story.VIDEOGRAPHER: Sergey Sokolov  

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Phil Collins’ ‘In the Air Tonight’ Is Sales Hit Again After 39 Years, Thanks to Twins’ Reaction Video

Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” is officially a hit single again 39 years after its release, thanks to a pair of twins from Gary, Indiana, whose spontaneous reaction to the unexpected drum break in Collins’ ballad has caused it to be possibly the most memed song of August 2020. “In the Air Tonight” currently sits at No. 3 on the iTunes song sales chart, trailing only the brand-new releases “WAP” by Cardi B featuring Megan Thee Stallion and “Beers and Sunshine” by Darius Rucker. It’s not just a passing single-day phenomenon, either. Numbers provided by Alpha Data show that “In the Air Tonight” was the fourth biggest selling song of the week ending Aug. 8, up from No. 185 the week before. The Collins song may not make the same kind of splash on the overall songs chart, since its streaming numbers remain out of the league of those enjoyed by today’s top current artists. The fact that it’s making more of an impact on sales than streaming may indicate that it’s appealing to an older audience that is rediscovering its love for the song more than reaching a new one that, like the twins, is hearing it for the first time. But, of course, none of these charts take into account the number of listens that “In the Air Tonight” is getting just from fascinated viewers enjoying Tim and Fred Williams’ reaction video, which, as of this writing, is up to 3.2 million views. The 22-year-old brothers are certainly a hit unto themselves, as viewers entranced by their reaction to the Collins song, which was posted July 27, visit their YouTube channel to check out the hundreds of reaction videos they’ve posted before this. Their similar video reacting to Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” took on lesser meme status, with Parton herself tweeting about it Aug. 7, writing, “No point in begging. … Jolene already stole these two.” (Collins has not publicly responded so far.) “TwinsthenewTrend” now have 350,000 subscribers for their YouTube channel, which is about a year old. They told CNN they initially stuck with hip-hop reaction videos, then took a suggestion to try out Frank Sinatra, and have delved into multiple genres since then. They’ve reacted to everything from Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind” to Pantera, Lauryn Hill, Rage Against the Machine, the Carpenters, A-ha, the Allman Brothers Band, Marvin Gaye and Queens of the Stone Age. “Because we’re Black,” Fred Williams told CNN about the popularity of their videos, “and they don’t expect us to listen to that type of music.” Added Tim, “It’s just rare to see people open these days. People don’t open to step outside their comfort zone and just react to music they don’t know.” 
 

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Israeli Jeweler Makes $1.5m Gold Coronavirus Mask

An Israeli jewelry company is working on what it says will be the world’s most expensive coronavirus mask, a gold, diamond-encrusted face covering with a price tag of $1.5 million. The 18-karat white gold mask will be decorated with 3,600 white and black diamonds and fitted with top-rated N99 filters at the request of the buyer, said designer Isaac Levy. Levy, owner of the Yvel company, said the buyer had two other demands: that it be completed by the end of the year, and that it would be the priciest in the world. That last condition, he said, “was the easiest to fulfill.” He declined to identify the buyer, but said he was a Chinese businessman living in the United States.Isaac Levy, owner of Israeli jewelry company Yvel looks at a worker and parts of a mask in Motza near Jerusalem, Aug. 9, 2020. An Israeli jewelry company is working on what it says will be the world’s most expensive coronavirus mask.The glitzed-up face mask may lend some pizzazz to the protective gear now mandatory in public spaces in many countries. But at 270 grams — nearly 100 times that of a typical surgical mask — it is not likely to be a practical accessory to wear. In an interview at his factory near Jerusalem, Levy showed off several pieces of the mask, covered in diamonds. One gold plate had a hole for the filter. “Money maybe doesn’t buy everything, but if it can buy a very expensive COVID-19 mask and the guy wants to wear it and walk around and get the attention, he should be happy with that,” Levy said. Such an ostentatious mask might also rub some the wrong way at a time when millions of people around the world are out of work or suffering economically. Levy said that while he would not wear it himself, he was thankful for the opportunity. “I am happy that this mask gave us enough work for our employees to be able to provide their jobs in very challenging times like these times right now,” he said. 

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Report: Made in Hollywood, Censored by Beijing

As the Trump administration orders retaliatory bans on Chinese tech companies such as Tik Tok and WeChat, officials and civic groups have growing concerns about the influence China has over Hollywood.A new report says that Hollywood companies have been censoring films to avoid losing access to China’s lucrative box office market, adding that China was effectively influencing movies released in cinemas around the world.The 94-page report, published Wednesday, was compiled by the New York-based free speech organization Pen America, and said key players in Hollywood are increasingly making decisions about their films “based on an effort to avoid antagonizing Chinese officials who control whether their films gain access to the booming Chinese market.”It said that in some instances, filmmakers or directors have directly invited Chinese government censors onto their film sets to advise them on “how to avoid tripping the censors’ wires.”A new normThe report concluded that appeasing Chinese government investors and gatekeepers has “become a way of doing business in Hollywood.”Hao Jian, a visiting scholar at Harvard’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies and a former professor at the Beijing Film Academy, told VOA he agrees with that conclusion.“Because of long-term censorship, many production companies choose not to cross the red line when considering films for the Chinese market,” he said, “The Great Famine in 1959, the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989, the (Cultural) Revolution that lasted 10 years…all taboo topics.”According to the report, even if a foreign film has been released China, if the government doesn’t like certain lines or actors in the film, it could be banned, leaving the producers with no avenue for appeal.Hao used the 2012 Quentin Tarantino movie, “Django Unchained,” as an example. “One day after it was released in Chinese theaters, the American production company received a notice from China’s National Radio and Television Administration that the film would be immediately removed from theaters. No reasons given,” Hao told VOA.Actors Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Selena Gomez and Sharon Stone are presumed to be blacklisted for participating in films critical of China, the report says.  According to Hao, Hollywood companies will avoid casting these actors when preparing a movie for the Chinese market.Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow at Heritage Foundation who has done extensive research on China’s attempt to infiltrate American culture, said Hollywood studios should insist that any version of a film adapted for the Chinese market does not become the default version issued for global release.”At least to our audiences, Hollywood studios should be able to say to China, ‘No, we are not going to censor our content,’” Gonzalez said. “Especially when Hollywood feeds itself so much on its support of freedom in this country. It’s constantly saying it’s fighting for justice here in America, but then went along with injustice in China.”Banned, censored and cutChina has world’s second-largest market behind the U.S.According to the authoritative Hollywood Reporter, American films earned $2.6 billion in China last year, with “Avengers: Endgame,” making $629 million. Based on the Marvel Comics superhero team, the Avengers, the movie, produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, earned $2.795 billion worldwide.But not every film is welcomed in China. In 2016, “Deadpool” was banned for “excessive graphic violence and nudity [that] could not be removed without affecting the plot.” Two years later, “Christopher Robin” was banned because the main character, Winnie the Pooh, is a figure that Chinese netizens use to mock China’s President Xi Jinping. The list goes on.For favorable treatment by Chinese censors, Hollywood movies sometimes incorporate elements to appeal to Chinese audiences, altering characters and story lines, and casting Chinese actors in secondary roles.In 2012, the producers “Red Dawn” planned to feature Chinese troops invading the United States. Then China’s largest newspaper published editorials accusing Hollywood of “demonizing China” and the North Korean army invaded instead.In 2017, producers cut a kiss between two male androids in the 2017 movie, “Alien: Covenant.”Gonzalez said it is unacceptable that American audiences watch movies censored by a foreign power.“I would like to see a call for Hollywood studios to have, for best practices, to say in their credit, this movie has been submitted to Chinese censors, and we made changes” to conform to with their requests, he said.Meanwhile, U.S. officials are also speaking out about China’s attempt to spread pro-China propaganda in the world’s entertainment center.“In Hollywood, not too far from here – the epicenter of American creative freedom, and self-appointed arbiters of social justice – self-censors even the most mildly unfavorable reference to China,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a recent China-focused speech at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California.U.S. Attorney General William Barr last month blasted the movie business in a speech at the Gerald Ford Presidential Library and Museum in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He accused the industry of giving the Chinese Communist Party a “massive propaganda coup” by self-censoring content to appease Beijing censors.Meanwhile, Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas introduced legislation in June that would cut off U.S. government cooperation to American filmmakers unless they agree not to censor their movies to gain entry into the Chinese market.   

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Broadway Shows Won’t Return Until 2021

NYC’s famous Broadway shows were put on hold when the coronavirus pandemic hit the US. And though the bright signs with pictures of “Aladdin” and “The Lion King” are still there, the actors and audiences won’t come back into the beautiful halls to enjoy the performances until at least the winter of 2021. Evgeny Maslov has the story, narrated by Anna Rice.
Camera: Michael Eckels

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Grammy-Winning Producer Detail Accused of Sexual Assault

Grammy Award-winning music producer Detail was arrested Wednesday on more than a dozen charges of sexual assault, authorities said.
The 41-year-old producer was held on nearly $6.3 million bail, according to a statement from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Detail, whose real name is Noel Christopher Fisher, was charged on July 31 with 15 counts of sexual assault and five counts of felony assault, the statement said. He is accused of crimes between 2010 and 2018.
Detectives submitted the case to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office in January, the statement said. It didn’t provide other details.
“Mr. Fisher was just arrested some hours ago and I have not had an opportunity to speak to him or look at the charges. I am quite certain he will enter a not guilty plea and contest to the fullest all of these allegations,” his attorney, Irwin Mark Bledstein, said in an email late Wednesday night.
Detail won a Grammy in 2015 for co-writing the Beyonce and Jay-Z hit “Drunk in Love” and has also produced hits for Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj and Wiz Khalifa.
Last year, a model and aspiring singer was awarded $15 million in a Los Angeles lawsuit that accused the producer of abusing and raping her.
She is one of six women, some established professionals and others music-industry newcomers, who have spoken out publicly against what they said was Fisher’s sexual aggression.
At least two, both former assistants, have filed their own lawsuits. Fisher has said in court documents filed in those lawsuits that all the allegations against him are false, and have led to his losing all work and being evicted.

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What It’s Like to Encounter a ‘Karen’

When two strangers walking by stopped to accuse James “Jamie” Juanillo of defacing private property, the San Francisco man immediately took a defensive posture. He started recording the encounter, which eventually went viral, garnering more than 23 million views. “I came up recording not because I thought there was a potential for a viral video, but because I believed that I was going to need to prove my innocence, that they were going to accuse me of a crime,” says Juanillo, 50, a Filipino American. James “Jamie” Juanillo stands in front of the Black Lives Matter wall art that prompted a woman to question whether he was defacing private property at his San Francisco home. (Courtesy James Juanillo)His “crime” was chalking a Black Lives Matter message on the retaining wall in front of the Pacific Heights home he shares with his husband and some friends. In the video, the woman, identified as Lisa Alexander, along with her male partner, approach Juanillo and question whether he lives at the property. They say they know that he does not and suggest he is breaking the law. Juanillo is heard calmly refusing to answer any questions while challenging the woman’s apparent insinuation that a person who looks like him could not belong in the wealthy enclave. “What I experienced is this kind of polite, everyday, ubiquitous, accepted racism where it’s delivered gift wrapped and politely, stipulating your acceptance of their superiority and their supremacy,” Juanillo says. “The presumption is that they are entitled to whatever answers [to questions] that they feel like posing to a random person of color in whatever situation.” A white couple call the police on me, a person of color, for stencilling a James “Jamie” Juanillo stands in front of his San Francisco home. (Courtesy James Juanillo)Back in San Francisco, the police who responded to the call about Juanillo recognized him as a longtime resident and left without incident. Alexander and her partner released a public apology after the encounter went viral. Juanillo decided to release the video of his Karen moment to highlight what everyday racism can look like. “Racism just doesn’t mean being executed on the streets of America. Sometimes it just means being questioned for why you exist and where you exist,” Juanillo says. “Someone can call the cops — men with guns — on you for innocuous actions like designing chalk art on property that’s not theirs, that they have no vested interest in. They don’t feel threatened by you and yet, they’re still willing to bet your entire life.” The term and people who embody it will continue to exist, but people like Juanillo who might have previously felt helpless or vulnerable during such encounters, now have a powerful weapon of their own to deploy. “This is no longer a world where it’s ‘he said versus she said’ or ‘he said versus he said.’ It is now a world where technology is a great equalizer,” Juanillo says, “and we all have the ability and the technology to record the truth, and justice will be visually on our side.”

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Modi Lays Temple Foundation Stone Marking Victory for Hindu Nationalist Party 

In a ceremony watched by millions of Indians on television, Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered prayers and laid the foundation stone for a grand Hindu temple to be built in the northern town of Ayodhya on the site of a mosque demolished by Hindu radicals. 
 
The ceremony marks a historic triumph for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, whose rise to political prominence was propelled by the three-decade campaign to build a temple to honor the revered Hindu deity Rama. 
 
“It is an emotional moment for India. A long wait ends today,” Modi said after the ceremony that was held even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in India. 
 
The temple is being built on the exact spot Hindus believe is the birthplace of Lord Rama. The demolition of the 16th century mosque that stood there in 1992 sparked deadly Hindu-Muslim riots and became a deeply divisive issue in the Hindu-majority country, where many Hindus want the temple to be built. 
 
The Supreme Court approved the temple’s construction last November when it handed the bitterly contested plot of land to a Hindu group after a long legal battle.  
 
Modi said the site had been liberated and a “grand house” would be constructed for Lord Rama.  Devotees walk past the pillars that Hindu nationalist group Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) say will be used to build a Ram temple at the disputed religious site in Ayodhya, India, Oct. 22, 2019.Building the temple in Ayodhya has long been a rallying cry of the BJP, which critics accuse of pursuing a Hindu nationalist agenda. Wednesday’s groundbreaking ceremony coincided with the first anniversary of the scrapping of the special status for Muslim majority Kashmir — another core promise that was made by the party. 
 
The response of the Muslim community to the temple project has been muted with some saying it is time to “move on.” 
 
“Whatever happened are things of the past,” said Iqbal Ansari, one of the Muslim litigants in the Supreme Court case, who was invited to attend the ceremony.   
 
The small, sleepy town of Ayodhya was given a makeover for the ceremony. Saffron flags fluttered in the streets and houses got a splash of yellow paint, both believed to be auspicious colors.Policemen stand guard before the arrival of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of the foundation laying ceremony for a Hindu temple in Ayodhya, India, Aug. 5, 2020.Paramilitary soldiers guarded the streets as COVID-19 restrictions kept people indoors. Many, however, stood on rooftops in the pilgrim town dotted with temples.   
 
Wednesday’s ceremony marks the consolidation of Hindu nationalism under the BJP during its six-year rule, say analysts. 
 
“A constellation of forces has allowed them to take advantage now, they have a favorable court judgment and all groups have come to believe that let us resolve the issue,” says Sandeep Shastri, a political analyst and Pro Vice Chancellor of Jain University. “This also seems to be the voice in the minority Muslim community that in order to buy peace if this is what we need to agree to, it is all right.” 
 
The proposed five-domed temple spread over nearly 8,000 square meters, is expected to be completed in three-and-a-half years and could yield political dividends for the BJP when it faces the next general election in 2024. 
 
“This reinforces Modi’s persona, the halo, he is the man who has delivered the temple,” says political analyst Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay. “This is the moment of Hindu supremacy, and Muslims recognize, and there is very little they can do by law after the Supreme Court rejected their petition for a review of its judgment.” 
 
A prominent Muslim lawmaker questioned the prime minister’s attendance, though, at the ceremony, saying that it violated his constitutional oath in India. “Secularism is part of the Basic Structure of Constitution,” Asaduddin Owaisi wrote on Twitter. 
 
There is unease among the Muslim community and some fear the construction of a temple at Ayodhya could pave the way for similar demands in other towns where Hindu groups claim mosques have been built on sites holy to Hindus. 
 
“The larger question would be, would it end here or is this the starting point of other developments. That is the more serious question,” said Shastri.  People watch a live screening of the stone laying ceremony of the Ram Temple by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Ayodhya, in New Delhi, India, Aug. 5, 2020.Some questions also have been raised about holding the ceremony during a pandemic in India when there have been repeated warnings by health experts that large gatherings should be avoided. 
 
The venue of the ceremony, attended by about 175 prominent BJP leaders and Hindu priests, was cordoned off and chairs kept at a distance to maintain social distancing.   
 
The ceremony became a moment of celebration across many homes in the country, where the temple campaign turned into a deeply emotive issue. Hindus make up about 80 percent of the population. 
 
Devotees are reported to have sent silver and gold coins to pay for the temple’s construction. 

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In Heartland of French Impressionism, Locals Miss Americans

The roses, dahlias and daisies are in full bloom at the home of 19th-century artist Claude Monet. So are colorfully clad tourists, posing for pictures in front of Monet’s iconic lily pond.But one popular perennial is absent: the Americans.The coronavirus pandemic has put on indefinite pause a century-plus pilgrimage here by U.S. artists and tourists — the leading foreign visitors to this heartland of impressionist painting. Instead, it is mostly the French who are flocking to Monet’s home and garden amid the ongoing pandemic, as they rediscover their heritage.With coronavirus cases soaring in parts of the United States, polls show many Europeans, including French, do not want American tourists entering their countries right now. Chances are remote at any rate, current European Union restrictions bar travelers from the United States, along with many other countries.But in this tiny Normandy village, nestled between rolling hills and the Seine River, the Americans are sorely missed.Nestled between rolling hills and the Seine River, Giverny has long been a hub for American tourists. (Photo: Lisa Bryant/VOA)Giverny is the region’s second most popular tourist attraction after Mont Saint-Michel island. And Americans are among the top foreigners flocking here — accounting for one-fifth of those visiting Monet’s home alone.“They love everything from Normandy, everything that’s local— the aperitifs, the digestifs,” said Gregory Laisney, director of the nearby La Musardiere restaurant, who estimates U.S. diners made up 40 percent of his clientele last year.“The Americans,” he added, “come here to discover France.”The French are backMany French are wandering through Giverny’s streets and Monet’s garden, revisiting old memories. With the coronavirus battering France’s economy and sparking fears of further infection, some 70 percent of its citizens are spending the summer in-country, according to government estimates.“It’s been 20 years since I was last at Monet’s house and I’m rediscovering the garden,” said Anne-Marie da Silva, from the Val d’Oise department north of Paris, sporting a mandatory mask as she admired the flowers.Anne-Marie da Silva snaps a photo of Monet’s garden. French tourists like herself are rediscovering their heritage this summer. (Photo: Lisa Bryant/VOA)It’s a sharp U-turn from normality. U.S. visitors have long been a fixture here, braving August crowds that French residents would normally shun.Indeed, Americans arrived shortly after Monet moved to this village in 1883. The founder of the impressionist movement, with his 1872 masterpiece “Impression, Sunrise”—of a red sun burning through fog at Le Havre port— gardened and painted here until his death.It didn’t take long for the American acolytes who had moved to Paris to study painting, to follow him. They joined an artists’ colony established in the village, extending their visits beyond the summer months—even though Monet reportedly soon tired of them.Only a few, including celebrated portrait artist John Singer Sargent and Willard Metcalf, were allowed to paint with Monet and visit his grounds.A photo of Claude Monet in his kitchen. (Photo: Lisa Bryant/VOA)Today, the French impressionist would likely be horrified to see the hordes making his home a must-see stop on their way to D-Day beaches or the French capital.Good clientsThat’s not so for abstract painter Chantal Lallemand, who exhibits her work from a small gallery down the street.“The Americans buy quite a lot of my paintings, especially the big ones,” said Lallemand, who has two shows booked for New York and Florida, pending the coronavirus’s trajectory.“They love impressionism,” she added, “but we also feel there’s an opening to modern art.”The U.S. imprint on Giverny has endured in other ways. Monet’s paintings hang in nearly a dozen major American museums.The impressionist museum in Giverny – formerly known as the American museum. (Photo: Lisa Bryant/VOA)In 1992, an American art museum was founded in Giverny. Seventeen years later, the facility morphed into an impressionist museum under French control.Work from American artists like John Leslie Breck still hangs there. These days, however, there are few fellow citizens to admire it, except for a smattering of expatriates.Indeed, EstrellaGiverny-based artist Chanal Lallemand sells a lot of her work to American clients – but not this year. (Photo: Lisa Bryant/VOA)Garcia from Madrid counted among the few foreigners touring the museum one recent afternoon.“We’re here because we weren’t able to see Monet’s house,” she said. “We’re returning home without having had a chance to see it.”Tourists check out opening hours at Claude Monet’s house, which reopened in June following France’s two-month coronavirus lockdown. (Photo: Lisa Bryant/VOA)

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Notre Dame Cathedral’s Organ Getting 4-Year-Long Cleaning

Pipe by precious pipe, the organ that once thundered through Notre Dame Cathedral is being taken apart after last year’s devastating fire.The mammoth task of dismantling, cleaning and re-assembling France’s largest musical instrument started Monday and is expected to last nearly four years. It will take six months just to tune the organ, and its music isn’t expected to resound again through the medieval Paris monument until 2024, according to the state agency overseeing Notre Dame’s restoration.Amazingly, the 8,000-pipe organ survived the April 2019 fire that consumed the cathedral’s roof and toppled its spire. But the blaze coated the instrument in toxic lead dust that must now be painstakingly removed.And while the organ didn’t burn, it did suffer damage from a record heatwave last summer and has been affected by other temperature variations it’s been exposed to since the 12th-century cathedral lost its roof, the agency said.Experts started removing the organ’s keyboards Monday and will then take out its pipes in a dismantling process that will last through the end of this year, according to the restoration agency. The pieces will be placed in special containers inside the huge cathedral, where the cleaning and restoration will take place.The general who leads the agency said the organ, which dates from 1733, will next play again on April 16, 2024, marking five years since the fire.President Emmanuel Macron hopes the cathedral can reopen in time for the 2024 Olympics in Paris. But it’s taken more than a year to clear out dangerous lead residue and scaffolding that had been in place before the fire for a previous renovation effort, and reconstruction of the landmark has yet to begin. 

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