Broadway Bares: Rock Hard! Set For Hammerstein Ballroom

first_imgOK, Broadway, time to rip off those clothes and start head banging! Broadway Bares: Rock Hard! will amp up this spring with a tribute to rock ‘n’ roll’s iconic music and moments from the past 60 years. As previously reported, the 24th annual benefit will be held at the Hammerstein Ballroom on June 22. Proceeds from the steamy evening will go to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. View Comments Broadway Bares was created by Tony winner Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots), who also serves as executive producer. Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is one of the nation’s foremost industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organizationscenter_img Broadway Bares: Rock Hard!, directed by Nick Kenkel, will feature more than 150 of New York’s sexiest dancers as they disrobe for a good cause. Special guests for the evening will be announced at a later date. Since 1992, the annual benefit has raised more than $11.3 million for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.last_img read more

London In the Heights Star Sam Mackay on Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton & More

first_img View Comments Sam Mackay in ‘In the Heights'(Photo: Johan Persson) Londoner Sam Mackay might seem an unexpected choice to inherit Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway role of the bodega-owning Usnavi for the British premiere of In the Heights, but Mackay earned raves for the production that won three Olivier Awards. He took time before a recent matinee to talk to about Manhattan neighborhoods, rapping at the Royal Opera House and—of course—Hamilton.You’re a Londoner playing a Latino character whose family is from the Dominican Republic. Were you surprised to find yourself in this role?Not really. I’d grown up listening to New York hip hop and rapping, and I feel like nowadays we have such access to that material and that culture in any case. I may be white and British, but I can flow with the best of them, man.Did you wonder whether the show would find a London audience?I’d always been of the school of thought that this would work here and never even questioned it, maybe because it’s right up my street; if I wasn’t in the show, I would be there watching it! But I knew there was hesitation from various producers about whether they would be able to cast it since London doesn’t have so big a Latino community, but I think they did well to introduce it in a small venue [Southwark Playhouse] and then transfer it to a bigger venue [King’s Cross Theatre].So you saw the universality in a potentially niche musical/Hip hop for me transcends so many ethnicities now: it’s a worldwide phenomenon that isn’t just for black New Yorkers. I mean, if people here can get a show about the French Revolution or Mormons, why can’t they jump into a story about a contemporary neighborhood in New York? At the end of the day, it’s the storytelling that matters, and this is a great story told in a fresh way.What do you think of Usnavi?Or UKs-navi, as I’ve been dubbed here in London! Every day I feel like I try to be a little more Usnavi. He’s such a warm, reliable character, and I love the way that he’s a real cornerstone of the community. He may not be the coolest, but he has this love and passion that I admire greatly.Did you know a lot about the musical before it came here?Oh, yes! I had done musical theater earlier in my career and then taken a few years out to move toward straight acting, but there was one show and one part that I said to my agent, “Wherever I am or whatever I am doing at the time, I’ve got to do it!” I had long had my eyes on this role.Have you ever been to Washington Heights [where the show is set]?I never got a chance because I was broke, but now that money is coming in again, I’m in a good place. As soon as I finish this run, I’m going to fly to the Dominican Republic: I want to kick back on the beach there, going via New York and “The Heights,” so I can have one last goodbye to the show.What about the title: do audiences here know what “The Heights” refers to?We get a lot of people calling it Into the Heights. That’s the most common thing as if it’s some sort of parody of Into the Woods. The funniest is when you see people who haven’t got a clue and then it starts and they’re hit with this rap narrative and you see them go from confused to slightly startled and huge grins and a slow nodding of the head, as if to say, “Oh, I like that—who knew?”Were the Olivier Awards fun?Can I just say, I RAPPED AT THE ROYAL OPERA HOUSE! That actually happened! If I had told the 15-year-old me that would have happened, I don’t know what his reaction would be. I kind of walked offstage going, “Did that just happen?” It was crazy, crazy, crazy.Have you had much contact with Lin-Manuel Miranda?He missed the original run at Southwark, but he did come and meet with us after it had finished. He flew over and said hello and we had some nice drinks with him and [Miranda’s wife] Vanessa, who was pregnant at the time. He’s a lovely guy.Did he give you any pointers about the role?It wasn’t as if he was imparting any wisdom but more about being appreciative and on the level. He wanted to share in our love of the show, and we gave him a hell of a lot of love because our company adores the show. It made us feel as if we were part of this really cool family, so it was like saying hello to another member of that family.What about Hamilton, which is due in London during 2017?God, I would love to audition for that show—to be a part of that. When I first heard the cast album, I had it fleetingly popping in and out of the background; it wasn’t until I sat down to listen to it from start to finish that I was just blown away and thought, “This is genius.”Have there been discussions yet on Hamilton?Well, as much as this is a great showcase for me to put myself in contention to be in on the auditions, there’s no guarantee yet. I’m sure everyone in our company would love to be part of Hamilton in London. People who’ve watched our show have said to me, “That’s it; you’re going to be Hamilton,” which is very lovely—but as a performer you’ve just got to say, “Thanks, cool” and put it to one side.It sounds whatever happens as if this has been a win-win scenario.The great thing is that this is not a difficult show to convince people to come and watch. Harvey Weinstein has been in and [film director] J.J. Abrams; there’s no shortage of people wanting to see it. It’s opened some wonderful doors and, as they say, put me in the right place. In terms of opportunities, this has opened incredible doors.last_img read more

The Great Lumberjack Shortage

first_imgHere’s a fun fact: It takes eight years of full time apprenticeship to become a cooper, those artisans who build whiskey barrels out of American white oak. It only takes seven years to become a doctor. I think that’s pretty telling. At least, that’s what my tour guide told me at the Tennessee Stillhouse, a whiskey distillery in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She seemed smart, so I’m gonna go with it.Here’s another fun fact: There’s a shortage of barrels right now because of the boom in whiskey producers. We have too much whiskey, and not enough barrels to put it in. There’s even a shortage of lumberjacks to chop down the American white oak trees to make those barrels. These are the things that keep me up at night—the lumberjack shortage. What if the whiskey stops because there are no more barrels? I know climate change is a top concern, but could we please address this issue pronto? Let’s get the lumberjack business booming again. Maybe develop some sort of standardized test to identify promising lumberjacks and coopers out of high school. Marvel Comics, please create a lumberjack superhero so our children will dream of wearing flannel and swinging an axe one day. The children are our future. Whiskey drinkers everywhere implore you.As for the whiskey that I tasted on that tour of Tennessee Stillhouse, it’s top notch. It’s a young distillery, so they’re sourcing from the old Seagrams warehouse until they can get their own hooch up to age. They’re completely honest about it, and the barrels that they chose from the Seagrams stock are tasty, especially their 1816 Cask, a high proof bourbon that smells like a candy factory. It has some heat for sure (it’s 113 proof), but there’s so much intense flavor in this barrel proof whiskey, that the burn gets lost in a world of oak, vanilla and toffee.I’m excited to see what Tennessee Stillhouse can do with their own whiskey in a few years, but this 1816 Cask will hold me over until then. Assuming there are enough barrels for aging at that time. And enough lumberjacks to provide the American white oak. Readers, please buy your children flannel shirts and tiny axes. Let’s produce a generation of lumberjacks. My whiskey supply just might depend on it.last_img read more

The Incident: What’s Your Positive?

first_imgThe Todericos make it a point to refer to the event as an incident and not an accident.  “We are survivors, not victims.”As Denise Gorondy-Toderico and Ben Toderico decorate their living room for the holidays, the doors leading to the back yard are left open as their two boys, Gavin (6 at the time) and Cormac (4 at the time) play in the cool winter air as the afternoon shifts from day to night.One of the boys calls inside, “Mom, Dad! Come here quick and see!” Denise and Ben go to see what their, “savage little monkeys,” as they like to call them, were up to. Look left. No sign of them. Look right. Nothing. “We’re up here!” Look up, and the parents find their little monkeys nearly thirty to forty feet up in their tree.It was a simple and silly family moment they will remember forever. It was a moment that almost didn’t have Denise in it due to an incident that happened just a year earlier. A moment they fought with everything they had to have.The Incident On June 5, 2016, Denise goes out for her Sunday morning run. The same run she has done for the past thirteen years after sunrise. While wearing her reflector vest, bright colors, and being sure to run facing oncoming traffic, she is struck from behind by an SUV that crosses the double yellow line, traveling at over 60 mph. Denise is thrown in a farmer’s field and left to die.Over an hour later, a passing cyclist sees car debris scattered across the road which leads him to notice Denise lying motionless in the field. He calls for help and she is med-flighted to VCU Medical Center. Doctors immediately check for head injury where they discover two types of bleeding in her brain and injuries to the arteries that supply it.The vast amount of injuries to her entire body made it difficult to find a place to insert critical lines of medicine she needed. With Ben at her side, she spends forty long days in the hospital with constant monitoring of her cognitive responses and motor reflexes, which both are limited.Denise’s injuries from the event include:Severe TBISevere Brachial Plexus InjuryMultiple StrokesSubdural hematomaSubarachnoid hemorrhageBilateral dissected carotidsC7, T8, T9, and L5 fracturesRib fracturesBilateral PneumothoraxBruising and lacerations to kidney and adrenal glandRight Olecranon fractureRight open fractures of tibia and fibulaInfectionDenise Gorondy-Toderico in the hospital only a few days after the incidentRecovery & HealingPhysical“Ever forward. Even if it’s just a little bit,” becomes the Toderico’s mantra and reality through each step.Almost every day, something improves, usually a small something, but something none the less. These improvements usually being movements or twitches that were slightly better than the last. It’s important for doctors to constantly be checking that to keep the brain active enough to hopefully get Denise back.Ben is constantly at Denise’s side. Every day he sat talking with her and whispering in her ear, “I can’t do anything for you right now, but if you just make it through this part, I’ll carry you on my back through rehab. I need you to pull through.”The doctors were impressed with how much Ben was at the hospital with his wife.After fourteen days of constant monitoring and Denise remaining unconscious, doctors see if she is ready to breathe on her own. She successfully does so. After twenty days she is able to get her orthopedic injuries repaired. Soon after she starts working with the rehabilitation team to try and get her mobility and cognitive status’s improved, though they were of much concern. After many days of difficult speech, she is speaking full sentences. Denise is coming back, slowly but surely and of course, ever forward.The first day she was cleared to bear weight on her leg, she walked ten steps. “It was like the breaks were taken off and now we could go as fast and as far as we wanted,” says Ben.After being discharged, Denise continues to recover with VCU’s Neuroscience, Orthopedic, and Wellness Center until she is able to work at her own gym. She walks in with a cane on her first day and since then, unknowingly becomes an inspirational icon at her local YMCA, and eventually, the whole community.“I never wanted to be famous, especially not for being hit by a car,” Denise slightly chuckles, “but if we can inspire people to do better…that’s a good thing.”People begin coming up to her and expressing their admiration and the motivation seeing her there gives them to finish their own workouts.Denise continues to recover from several strokes, traumatic brain injury, a brachial plexus injury, several broken vertebrae in her neck and back, and other orthopedic and internal traumas. She has come a very long way. Today, her main issue is the nerve damage in her arm which the couple refers to as “the bugger of all injuries.”  The healing and nerve regrowth is slow, unfortunately, leaving Denise in constant pain every day. But she hasn’t let any of that stop her. “I learned early on that you can achieve desired outcomes by working hard for it.” -Denise A Plexfit Sling holds Denise’s still healing arm as she does most everything she used to with her family: running, tandem biking, downhill skiing, swimming, horseback riding.The Todericos have built a very strong and admirable mindset for themselves that they credit with being the main ingredient to their success.“It takes a lot of reframing. It’s overwhelming to look at everything,” explains Denise,. “You can’t find a reason to why it happened but you can find benefits in the situation like helping and inspiring others to improve.”“Sometimes your mind will wander to those dark places, and that’s okay,” adds Ben, “you just have to be a tourist to those dark places and come out on the other side looking forward, building on each and every one of those positives you find.”Denise feels that strength is “the fortitude to keep going and when things get hard, try harder.” Ben adds, “For me, I can’t picture strength because it’s an evolving concept to me. I before all this I used to think ‘true strength lies within self-reliance, but it’s so not. I’ve learned that a form of strength is knowing when to ask for help and taking it.”Denise and BenThe couple met at Virginia Tech while they were both working as lifeguards. Ben was wearing a Virginia Tech Swim sweatshirt that caught Denise’s eye since she knew many people from there. When Ben told her he used to swim for Virginia Tech, she snarkily responded, “Oh I know a bunch of people who used to swim for Tech.” Ben was attracted to her confidence and spunk, and she was attracted to his quirkiness.“He had a special walk to him,” says Denise as she recalls seeing him walking into their gym with somewhat goofy workout attire. “Everything I wore had practical use!” Ben claims.Denise has always been a strong athlete and go-getter. She has fully embraced the outdoor lifestyle as a triathlete, runner, cyclist, hiker, and skier. Through her high involvement in these sports and her occupation as an equine veterinarian, Denise lives a life inspiring and touching the hearts of many in her community.“She’s my strength, I rely on her for so much,” says Ben, “She grounds me. She makes me a better person. A better father.”Ben has devoted his life to helping people as well. He spent eighteen years working for the Richmond Police Department and has resigned/retired in October 2018 to pursue creating a facility that would help others in Denise’s situation thrive. He is a strength and conditioning professional who continues to guide and push Denise throughout her long road of recovery.“He’s a very humble person and doesn’t give himself enough credit but he has been my personal life coach through all of this,” says Denise.Ben (sitting), Cormac (sitting in Ben’s lap), and Ben’s dad Frank nicknamed The Colonel (standing behind Ben) visiting Denise in the hospitalThe Boys – What’s your positive?The boys, now seven and five years old, have a good grasp on the situation. Ben and Denise make it a point to be open and honest with the boys throughout their journey, answering any questions they have along the way. The boy’s parents admire Gavin’s and Cormac’s acceptingness and understanding to change.“I think it teaches them grit, perseverance, compassion, empathy,” says Ben. “We started a practice that every night at dinner, we ask ‘what’s your positive?’ Then we go around the table and we all say our positive of the day.”“The boys say soulful and meaningful things, even at five and seven,” Denise adds. “Sometimes its simple things from that day that they talk about their appreciation for.”The Rest of the StoryThe Family and Community“The VCU medical staff were seamless and incredible,” says Ben, “though there were big things that started wrong, they were one of the many things that went right.”The day of the incident Ben calls a friend on the Team who called the Team Commander, a friend, the executive officer, and Ben’s “big brother” on the Team. The Team then had at least one member at the hospital twenty-four-seven for two weeks.“Many officers in the department donated their own vacation time, some donated 100 hours, to allow me to stay home with pay after my vacation time ran out in August of 2016,” Ben was overwhelmed with gratitude for the support.Denise’s sister, a mother of three of her own, and other family members move down to help around the house and especially with the boys.Community members, friends, neighbors, and even strangers all contribute something. People bring groceries and cooked meals, mow the lawn, start fundraisers to help pay medical expenses, pave the gravel driveway so that it wasn’t a hazard for Denise, car maintenance since the family was driving around five thousand miles just for medical services, and so much more to ensure that the Toderico’s focus and energy are put into their epic journey of recovery and healing.The DriverFinding the driver is another one of many ways the community comes together to help the situation. One neighbor has surveillance footage of a car passing their house on the same road of the incident.  Once there is a description of the vehicle, word spreads quickly through neighbors and strangers of those country roads to find him. The driver is found around 7:00 p.m. on the night of the incident, after attempting to hide at home and disguise the vehicle.“He became background noise,” says Ben, “dwelling on him would get us nowhere and I knew that making a positive environment for her and my family was going to be the key to getting through it all.”“It wasn’t an accident, it was an incident. Because we are not victims.” – Denise and Ben TodericoWhat the Todericos are doing now – Thriving“We’re not done,” Says Ben, “She’s accomplished a lot and has inspired and defied the odds and she’s still not done doing things.”Ben has begun a personal training program out of his fitness studio in his garage called BT Fitness, LLC. The couple is in the process of creating a facility where people in similar situations as Denise can have the complete support and guidance through their journeys of recovery. It will be called Recovery to Thriving.“We want to create a facility that has a general fitness population alongside a program that serves polytrauma survivors, adaptive athletes, and the deconditioned,” Ben explains. “We would guide the participants to increase their physical capacity on their path from recovery to thriving.”last_img read more

Is your credit union telecom strategy outdated?

first_imgVoice communications are extremely important to your credit union. From your call centers to your collections office, your members and staff rely on solid voice capabilities.  In fact, voice/telecom systems are often listed as critical during the Business Impact Analysis (BIA).  Yet each week I see credit union’s still bogged down in complex legacy on-premise phone systems supported by traditional telecom trunks and lines.The growth of cloud computing and “managed services” is not exclusive to the mail server and core application world. Your voice communications rely on the same basic requirements (hardware, software, communication) that any other “application” and smart credit union CIO’s are taking advantage of the newer platform to radically reduce vendor costs and improve productivity. Let’s look at some of the advantages of ditching your PBX:Ditch the hardware – Getting rid of the hardware and all those wiring closets should be liberating! You will also be freeing up valuable IT resources to focus on more business aligned goals such as data mining and new product innovations. continue reading » 10SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrlast_img read more

Plague outbreak highlighted ongoing problem in Africa

first_img Like boomtowns of the past, a city of 7,000 people mushroomed around the mine, which lies deep in the forest, an hour’s walk from the town of Zobia. Then the plague arrived, felling miners and mothers alike. The Ituri region is the most active focus of human plague in the world, he said. He worries that the next outbreak will find footing in a big city in the region. For example, the city of Bunia now has a refugee camp teeming with 12,000 people, many of them children. Some people worry that the developed world’s interest in bioterrorism dilutes attention to natural outbreaks. However, one expert says concerns about terrorist-caused outbreaks can lead to responses relevant to natural outbreaks as well. Perhaps because plague is so rare in the United States, there is a tendency to minimize its impact, according to Peters. “It’s important that people realize that plague is a worldwide problem,” he said. “There were many reasons for coughing,” Bertherat said. Without sufficient investigation, “It was difficult to say if it was the flu or the plague.” “People are working hard for rapid tests,” Peters said. Beyond the problem of developing them, diagnostic tests pose challenges in production, distribution, and user education. Investigators found myriad rodents near the mining camp, but no bubonic plague. “It was like a slum in the middle of the forest,” he said. People had to carry clothes, batteries, and other goods from Zobia. There was no clean drinking water. The plague spread beyond the mining camp, claiming the life of a young mother from Zobia. After a long scramble, doctors found a 4-month supply of milk for her 6-month-old baby and gave it to the father, Bertherat said. The pull of diamonds was so powerful that it was difficult to get miners to take preventive medication, and an isolation ward that was set up in the mine camp sat empty. No one wanted to stay there when they could be finding diamonds. “The index case was imported from somewhere else,” Bertherat said. The victim might have been a miner from a plague-prone part of the Ituri region. The samples were shipped to eight laboratories in several countries to bolster research on up to 15 different plague diagnostic tests, Bertherat said. The samples enable labs to compare testing techniques. Sensitive rapid field tests are the key to stopping outbreaks. Feb 18, 2004, CIDRAP News story “Pneumonic plague outbreak in Congo sparks WHO response” Panic had made the outbreak harder to control, he said. When miners fell sick, hundreds of people fled the site, which sparked fears that the outbreak might spread widely. Some died along forest trails. Initial reports suggested there might be hundreds of plague cases. That number dwindled to 124 confirmed, suspected, or probable cases, with 56 deaths. In addition, some people who felt sick and fled might have been suffering from something other than plague. Like a 19th-century American gold rush, news of the discovery of diamonds in a remote northeastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in November 2004 sparked an influx of adventurers hoping to strike it rich. And despite the focus on plague as a potential bioterror weapon in the developed world, it remains to be seen how the recent attention will help address this age-old problem. “These rapid tests are frequently not economically viable,” he said. Bioterrorism preparedness efforts could bolster that process: if a good, reasonably priced rapid test for plague is created, it could be stockpiled, he added. In addition, experts hope to deepen the pool of existing antibiotics used to treat plague. Gentamicin works well, Peters said, but having other treatments is important to biodefense interests. A peculiar outbreakPlague is endemic in parts of the DRC’s Ituri region, but this outbreak was unusual, Bertherat said. The Zobia area is 400 kilometers from previous known plague-endemic areas, and all the cases were pneumonic. Overall, only about 2% of plague cases are pneumonic; most are bubonic, spread by rodents carrying infected fleas. People can contract pneumonic plague by inhaling the pathogen, Yersinia pestis, in aerosol form. Bertherat, who worked in the same DRC province in 1999 on a Marburg hemorrhagic fever outbreak, predicted the plague would recur there soon. The outbreak smoldered for 11 weeks. Healthcare workers at the scene knew that gentamicin works well and they used it quickly, helping limit the outbreak. The onset of the dry season also caused the mine camp population to dwindle to about 2,500 people, because water is necessary for diamond mining. What worries Eric Bertherat, MD, MPH, MSc, a World Health Organization (WHO) doctor whose team helped stop the outbreak, is history’s tendency to repeat itself. Bertherat said in a recent phone interview from Geneva that he is certain the conditions that led to 124 cases of pneumonic plague and 56 deaths earlier this year will resurface in the DRC—probably soon. CIDRAP overview of plague May 27, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – The plot of the world’s latest pneumonic plague outbreak echoes with history. When it heard about a serious outbreak, the WHO sent a team to Zobia. Bertherat and his colleagues flew to the DRC on Feb 19, heading for the Ituri region, which has seen chronic and dramatic humanitarian crises since 1998. A United Nations helicopter ferried them partway; then the team hiked to the camp. “Sanitary conditions have decreased” in the region, he said. “We try to sound the alert, but in terms of plague . . . there is no interest by the donors,” meaning wealthy countries. Another area with potential for crossover is vaccines, Peters said. The US Army has produced a plague vaccine, although it hasn’t yet been tested. Despite the return of the rainy season in March, the DRC has not seen any new plague cases so far, he said. See also: Anticipating more episodesThe WHO team left Zobia March 12, nearly at the end of the outbreak. They took something valuable with them: about 120 blood and sputum samples from patients. Dual-purpose researchPlague is rare in the United States, with only 20 cases recorded between 1999 and 2003, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although the nation conducts some plague surveillance and research, the focus is chiefly on the potential for bioterrorism, C.J. Peters, MD, director of biodefense and professor of pathology, microbiology, and immunology at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, told CIDRAP News. Yet research on tests, vaccines, and treatments can serve both interests, in his view.last_img read more

Police search home of French writer accused of raping a minor

first_imgFrench police on Thursday searched the home of a writer accused of raping a minor and who repeatedly described relationships with young teens in his work, a source said.Gabriel Matzneff, who has never made any secret of his preference for sex with adolescent girls and boys, is to stand trial this year on a charge of justifying paedophilia.Specialist investigators are looking for written passages that never appeared in any of Matzneff’s published work, a source told AFP following a raid a day earlier at his Paris-based publisher Gallimard. The safe had been “located” by investigators, according to the Mediapart investigative website.Matzneff has long been tolerated, admired and even protected in Paris literary circles. In 2013, he won the prestigious Renaudot prize.But Gallimard said in January it was halting the sale of his works, and Matzneff risks losing two major state honours.He said in an interview with French television in January that he “regrets” his trips to Asia to have sex with minors, claiming that at the time “no one ever said it was a crime”.On Tuesday, police launched an appeal for witnesses and victims to come forward in the case.A source told AFP that investigators were also interested in Christian Giudicelli, Matzneff’s editor at Gallimard and travel companion to the Philippines.In a separate legal case, Matzneff will be tried on September 28, 2021, for “justification” of paedophile acts in statements he made in the media in response to Springora’s allegations.Charges against him were brought by anti-paedophilia group l’Ange Bleu (Blue Angel).Topics : Prosecutors on January 3 launched a rape investigation after a bombshell book by publisher Vanessa Springora claimed she had a sexual relationship with the author three decades ago, starting when she was 14.In her book “Le Consentement” (Consent), Springora described how her experiences with Matzneff, now 83, left lasting scars.In the mid-1970s, he published a notorious essay called “Les Moins de Seize Ans” (The under 16s).In an interview in 2008, he said he had “self-censored” certain portions of his writing he feared would be judged “especially scandalous”, and hid these away in a bank safe.last_img read more

China threatens retaliation over US ‘bullying’ of state media

first_imgVisa weapon China on Feb. 19 ordered three reporters from The Wall Street Journal — two US nationals and an Australian — out of the country in its harshest move against international media in years.China said it took action because the newspaper had not apologized for a “racially discriminatory” headline that read “China is the Real Sick Man of Asia” and appeared on an opinion column about the nation’s fight against the coronavirus.The three journalists were not involved in writing the opinion piece.Two of them left the country last week, but the third has been reporting in Wuhan, the central Chinese city that has been under quarantine since late January to contain the deadly coronavirus epidemic.In its annual report released Monday, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China said Beijing was using visas as a weapon to intimidate foreign press “like never before” and feared it was preparing to kick out more reporters.It said China had also been reducing the time journalists can stay, with at least 12 correspondents issued credentials for half a year or less — more than double the number from a year earlier.A US State Department official said five Chinese media outlets, which last month were reclassified by the United States as foreign missions, would be allowed to employ a maximum 100 Chinese nationals as of March 13, down from around 160 now.The organization most affected by the new restriction will be the state news agency Xinhua, which will be allowed to keep 59 Chinese staff in the US, according to the official. “Out of a Cold War mindset and ideological bias, the US State Department uses groundless reasons to politically oppress Chinese media organizations based in the US,” Zhao said at a regular press briefing.He said the move exposes “the hypocrisy of the United States’ so-called freedom of the press as blatant double standard and hegemonic bullying”.Saying China reserves the right to react and take further action, Zhao added: “It was the US who broke the rules of the game first, China can only follow suit.” China threatened Tuesday to retaliate against US “bullying” after Washington imposed staff cuts on Chinese state media, two weeks after expelling three Wall Street Journal reporters. The US said its decision Monday to require Beijing’s state-run media to cut the number of Chinese nationals employed in the US was based on levelling numbers between the countries rather than hitting back over content.Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said China “strongly opposes and condemns” the US announcement, adding that it effectively means the expulsion of Chinese journalists.center_img Topics :last_img read more

Global coronavirus deaths top half a million

first_imgThe death toll from COVID-19 reached half a million people on Sunday, according to a Reuters tally, a grim milestone for the global pandemic that seems to be resurgent in some countries even as other regions are still grappling with the first wave.The respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus has been particularly dangerous for the elderly, although other adults and children are also among the 500,000 fatalities and more than 10 million reported cases.While the overall rate of death has flattened in recent weeks, health experts have expressed concerns about record numbers of new cases in countries like the United States, India and Brazil, as well as new outbreaks in parts of Asia. More than 4,700 people are dying every 24 hours from COVID-19-linked illness, according to Reuters calculations based on an average from June 1 to 27.That equates to 196 people per hour, or one person every 18 seconds. (To see a Reuters interactive, open this link in an external browser: one-quarter of all the deaths so far have been in the United States, the Reuters data shows. The recent surge in cases have been most pronounced in a handful of Southern and Western states that reopened earlier and more aggressively.The number of cases in Latin America on Sunday surpassed those diagnosed in Europe, making the region the second most affected by the pandemic, after North America. The first recorded death from the new virus was on Jan. 9, a 61-year-old man from the Chinese city of Wuhan who was a regular shopper at a wet market that has been identified as the source of the outbreak.In just five months, the COVID-19 death toll has overtaken the number of people who die annually from malaria, one of the most deadly infectious diseases.The death rate averages out to 78,000 per month, compared with 64,000 AIDS-related deaths and 36,000 malaria deaths, according to 2018 figures from the World Health Organization.Changing burial ritesThe high number of deaths has led to changes to traditional and religious burial rites around the world, with morgues and funeral businesses overwhelmed and loved ones often barred from bidding farewell in person.In Israel, the custom of washing the bodies of Muslim deceased is not permitted, and instead of being shrouded in cloth, they must be wrapped in a plastic body bag. The Jewish tradition of Shiva where people go to the home of mourning relatives for seven days has also been disrupted.In Italy, Catholics have been buried without funerals or a blessing from a priest. In New York, city crematories were at one point working overtime, burning bodies into the night as officials scouted for temporary interment sites.In Iraq, former militiamen have dropped their guns to instead dig graves for coronavirus victims at a specially created cemetery. They have learned how to conduct Christian, as well as Muslim, burials.Elderly at riskPublic health experts are looking at how demographics affect the death rates in different regions. Some European countries with older populations have reported higher fatality rates, for instance.An April report by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control looked at more than 300,000 cases in 20 countries and found that about 46% of all fatalities were over the age of 80.In Indonesia, hundreds of children are believed to have died, a development health officials have attributed to malnutrition, anemia and inadequate child health facilities.Health experts caution that the official data likely does not tell the full story, with many believing that both cases and deaths have likely been underreported in some countries.center_img Topics :last_img read more

Dutch Cabinet to review pensions bills after political support wanes

first_imgIt also criticised the Cabinet for ignoring signals from the pensions sector that the accrual decrease would fail to achieve the predicted €6bn in savings for the national budget.The opposition in the Senate also poured scorn on the government’s claim the reduced accrual still allowed for an adequate pension of 70% of the average salary.Kees Kok, senator for the Freedom Party (PVV), said: “The government’s assumption that employees keep on working until the official retirement age, and that there would be a full indexation for at least 40 years, is dubious.”The other bill – which provides tax relief on 0.1% of workers’ income of up to €100,000 and 1.85% of income exceeding this amount – gained no traction in the Senate at all.Although the VVD and the PvdA approved the proposal in the Lower House, their senators said they could not support the bill in its current form.VVD senator Willem Bröcker said: “The costs of implementation are too high for this marginal additional scheme.”He said he doubted whether pension providers would be willing to offer such arrangements anyway, “as providers also have a care duty”. The Dutch Cabinet is to review its plans to change tax-friendly pensions accrual after it became clear its two bills on the issue lacked sufficient support in the Senate.Only the coalition parties of VVD and PvdA – which have a slight majority in the Lower House but depend on opposition support in the Senate – expressed support for the bill to decrease tax-facilitated accrual from 2.15% to 1.75%.The PvdA in particular argued that a reduced pensions accrual must lead to lower contributions.However, in the opinion of the opposition, the bill does too little to guarantee that pension funds will lower their premiums.last_img read more