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Brazilian transgender dancer shatters Carnival parade taboo

Transgender godmother Camila Prins, representing the Colorado do Bras samba school, performs at Carnival in the Sambadrome in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Photo: AP)When dancer Camila Prins entered Sao Paulo’s Carnival parade grounds, a costume of feathers clinging to her sinuous body, she fulfilled a dream of feminine beauty nearly three decades old.Prins says she first realized she wanted to be a woman at a Carnival party at age 11, when, like the other boys, she was allowed to dress like a girl as part of the burlesque festivities. Now, in the final minutes of Saturday, she became the first transgender woman to lead the drum section of a top samba school in either of the renowned Carnival parades put in Sao Paulo and Rio de JaneiroPrins, 40, was hand-picked to be “godmother” of the Colorado do Brás samba school’s drum section, an iconic role fought over by dozens of models and TV celebrities. Her duty was to dance infectiously for 65 minutes in front of the drummers, using her legs to drive their rhythm while judges assessed the school’s parade.“Gorgeous women wanted to be here. I’m very excited because this shows we can be anywhere. We can be godmother of the drummers, we can be owners of a samba school,” Prins told The Associated Press before the parade. “Soon they will see many other transgender girls, who will find it easier than I did.”Colorado do Brás, which rose to Sao Paulo’s top samba league only two years ago, made a bold decision in picking Prins for the role, despite Brazil’s Carnival being a party at which few things have never been tried.Transgender people remain something of a taboo among Brazilians, even in Sao Paulo, the country’s most cosmopolitan city and host to the world’s largest gay pride parade. Brazil has more slayings of transvestites and transgender people than any country in the world. In 2019, 124 were killed, 21 of them in Sao Paulo state.As godmother of the drum section, Prins teamed up with a drum queen who has a si...

Chinese people confined to homes eager to get hair cut

Volunteer barbers provide haircut service for medical workers at Chengdu First Peoples Hospital in Chengdu, capital of southwest Chinas Sichuan Province, Feb. 19, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)Demand for haircuts is climbing in China ahead of the Dragon Head-Raising Day on Monday, when cutting ones hair is believed to bring good luck for the following year.After being stuck at home for one whole month since efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreak were intensified, Chinese people are eager to shed their overgrown locks and are making plans to go to the barbershop on Monday.The Dragon Head-Raising Day, or Er Yue Er, is celebrated on the second day of the second lunar month, which falls on February 24 this year. People usually have their hair cut on this day due to a traditional belief that it will bring good luck for the upcoming year.While most barbershops nationwide are being urged to stay closed, some have already started business after meeting local government requirements for epidemic prevention and control.According to a guideline on operating services for the hair and beauty industry during the outbreak of novel coronavirus pneumonia that the Beijing Bureau of Commerce issued on Friday, in addition to routine temperature checks and sanitary measures, barbershops have to ensure each service area be at least 2.5 square meters, and hair that falls on the ground and seat must be cleaned, disinfected and disposed of in a bag after each (???) service.Some thirty barbershops in Beijing have been given permission to open, according to an announcement made by the Beijing Hairdressing and Beauty Association on Thursday.To satisfy the large customer demand on the coming Monday and prevent large crowds from gathering indoors, some barbershops have even introduced online appointment systems to make sure customers do not gather in barbershops waiting to get their hair cut, reported guancha.cn, a Chinese domestic news website.A...

BTS’s new album inspires Chinese fans with positive message

K-pop group BTS. (Photo: IC)The newest album from South Korean boy group BTS swept global social media and video platforms immediately after its release on Friday, including Chinas Twitter-like Sina Weibo. Similar to previous releases, members of ARMY, the official name of the BTS fandom, have been captivated by the heart-stirring and meaningful lyrics of the songs.Map of the Soul: 7, a comprehensive 20-song collection, had sold more than 4 million in presales and on the first day of its release it immediately topped the iTunes charts in 93 countries and regions, setting a new record for the K-pop industry.The number seven in the albums name has two meanings, referring to the seven members of the group and the seven years that have passed since their debut. The title hints that the album is meant to be a record of the bands journey and how they have grown since their debut.In a video for Chinese fans posted on BTSs official Sina Weibo account, leader Rap Monster said that the album showcases the members current feelings.Member Jungkook said in the clip that the songs in the album display what the band had hidden from the public. He noted that these hidden aspects are also a part of BTS and that they have endeavored to accept as they continue their journey.The album has been well received by members of the Chinese ARMY."You need to listen to them from the heart if you want to understand what they are trying to say. Their lyrics are beautiful and positive like Begin with tininess but end with greatness, which has inspired me so much," one of the bands Chinese fans told the Global Times on Sunday.This message in their songs has been a key point for fans."BTSs music tells true stories and directly faces the pain that comes with growth, striking a chord among young people," Fan Zhihui, a music industry analyst, told the Global Times.Fan said that the bands songs encourage young people...

German, Dutch carnival parades called off due to weather

Hundreds of fools of the Elzacher Schuttig walk through the main street during the traditional Schuttig jump carnival parade in Elzach, Germany, Sunday, Feb 23, 2020. (Photo: AP)Several cities in western Germany canceled their traditional carnival parades at short notice Sunday, citing severe weather conditions including gusty winds and heavy rains.In Cologne, the famous school and neighborhood parades were abandoned and in nearby Duesseldorf the carnival celebrations on the city’s glitzy Koenigsallee boulevard were also called off.“In order to protect all participants along the route, the parades cannot take place,” Cologne city officials said in a statement.Some of the parades’ participants were already on the way to the celebrations when parts of their costumes were blown away by the wind, the city statement said, explaining its last-minute decision to cancel the parades. About 8,000 people were supposed to participate in the Cologne parades, not including tens of thousands of spectators.Other cities across Germany also called off their carnival activities because of the storm, including Emmerich, Essen and Salzkotten in the west as well as Heiligenstadt in Thuringia in central Germany. In Fulda in central Germany, the traditional children’s parade with around 1,000 participants and up to 30,000 spectators was also canceled.In the Netherlands, the gusty winds also led to dozens of parade cancellations.For Monday, meteorologists are predicting calmer weather conditions and most of the big street parades with dozens of huge floats, brass and samba bands, dancers and candy-throwing “carnivalists” and hundreds of thousands of visitors are expected to take place.

UK pianist Alexis Ffrench bids to change image of classical music

British composer and pianist Alexis Ffrench, a rising black star in the overwhelmingly white world of classical music, is on a mission "to change the narrative" that the genre is stuffy and outdated.(Photo: AFP)The 48-year-old, who is set to release his latest album next month, is trying to counter what he sees as a false perception by using his fresh take on the music and growing status to reach new audiences.Ffrenchs 2018 hit record "Evolution" propelled him to wider recognition after topping Britains classical music charts for three weeks and spending around three months in the top 10.He now boasts nearly two million regular listeners on Spotify and has to date garnered around 200 million streams online, while also hosting a weekly show on new classical music digital station Scala Radio."Classical music is under-represented in certain echelons of society, no doubt about that," he told AFP during a practice session this week at legendary piano-maker Steinway and Sons central London store."Im determined to use whatever profile, influence, I can to help young people who are certainly disadvantaged in one way or another," he added.Ffrench was poised to dash from the interview to Londons famous Abbey Road studios to continue working with a group of British youngsters not typically identified with classical music.The scheme is a collaboration between his record label Sony and the Princes Trust, a charity helping people aged 11 to 30 get into jobs, education and training.Ffrench, who will embark on a European tour in April, also uses his radio show to "talk about classical music in a new and exciting ways" and play music sometimes only loosely inspired by the traditions of the genre."I talk about Childish Gambino and all manner of hip hop artists and what classical music can learn from that," he added, referring to the US rapper Donald Glover."I think my duty is to change the ...

Weinstein jury indicates it is split on most serious counts

Harvey Weinstein leaves a Manhattan courthouse during his rape trial, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in New York. (Photo: AP)The jury in Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial indicated Friday that it is deadlocked on the most serious charges against the once powerful Hollywood mogul, but the judge told the panel it must keep working.In a note to the judge late in the fourth day of deliberations, jurors asked if it was permissible for them to be hung on one or both counts of predatory sexual assault while reaching a unanimous verdict on the other charges.Weinstein’s lawyers said they would accept a partial verdict, but prosecutors said no and Judge James Burke refused to allow it. He sent jurors back to deliberate for a few more minutes before letting them go home for the weekend. They’ll resume Monday morning.“It is not uncommon for a jury to have difficulty initially in reaching a unanimous verdict, and it is not uncommon for a jury to believe that they will never be able to reach a unanimous verdict,” Burke said, reading instructions to the jurors. “But after further deliberations, most jurors are able to reach a unanimous verdict.”The jury posed its deadlock question in hypothetical fashion, writing: “We the jury request to understand if we can be hung on (Count) 1 and/or (Count) 3 and unanimous on the other charges? Thank you.”One reason for that phrasing could be that the verdict sheet — which lays out the charges — doesn’t include instructions for what to do if they can’t agree on a particular count, only how they’re supposed to proceed once they’ve reached a verdict of guilty or not guilty.The way the sheet is designed, jurors are supposed to first reach a unanimous verdict on the predatory sexual assault counts, which carry a maximum penalty of life in prison, before they can even consider the other three counts.Law professor Cheryl Bader said the note suggests the jury is split on a key aspect of both predatory sexual assault counts — “Sopranos” actress Annabella Sciorra...

Helicopter sharpshooters to kill Grand Teton nonnative goats

In this July 15, 2016, file photo, a mountain goat leads its kid across the Mount Evans Scenic Byway just below the summit near Idaho Springs, Colo. (Photo: AP)A disputed effort to help native bighorn sheep in Grand Teton National Park was scheduled to start Friday with a helicopter buzzing over rugged peaks with sharpshooters aboard tasked with killing nonnative mountain goats.Park officials closed off a large portion of the Teton Range to the public for the eradication effort and planned to begin the flights in the afternoon, park spokeswoman Denise Germann said.The operation was scheduled despite opposition from Wyoming officials including state Game and Fish Department Director Brian Nesvik, who protested Friday in a call with acting Grand Teton Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail. Emails sent to Germann Friday afternoon asking whether the hunt had begun were not immediately returned.“We again asked them not to use this method of removal. We were told, ‘Thank you for your comments, this is what we’re going to do,’” department spokeswoman Rebekah Fitzgerald said.Department officials aren’t opposed to shooting the goats, Fitzgerald said, just doing so from a helicopter.The 100 or so goats in the park are descended from animals introduced near the western Wyoming park decades ago. They could spread pneumonia to a herd of about 100 native bighorn sheep, officials have said.The goats also compete with the bighorns for food and habitat on the steep slopes of the famous craggy mountains.The park’s plan to eradicate the goats also calls for using sharpshooters on the ground. The National Park Service has been keen to go after the goats before they become too numerous to be easily eliminated from the nooks and crannies of the rugged backcountry.Winter in some ways is an ideal time because few park visitors venture into the Tetons in winter compared to the busy summer tourist season. Friday’s weather in the Tetons was a chilly 18 degrees (-8 Celsius) but clear and calm.Foul w...

Nearly 1 million devotees celebrate Hindus' biggest festival Maha Shivaratri

Holy men (Sadhus) are seen at Pashupatinath Temple on Maha Shivaratri festival in Kathmandu, Nepal, February 21, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)Hundreds of thousands of Hindu devotees from across the world thronged into Pashupatinath Temple on Friday to celebrate their biggest festival, Maha Shivaratri.Shivaratri is celebrated annually in devotion of lord Shiva on a new moon day in the Nepali lunar month of Falgun by offering prayers to Shiva, who is regarded as the God of immense power and destruction.The Hindu festival, which literally translates to "great night of Shiva" and is largely celebrated in Nepal as well as in India, marks a remembrance of "overcoming darkness and ignorance" in life and the world.According to Pashupati Area Development Trust, it has expected the flow of at least one million devotees from Nepal and other countries at the holy shrine Pashupatinath temple, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site based in central Kathmandu.Celebrations last till midnight"Though the major day is today, but the devotees will continue to visit the temple area for couple of days. We are expecting the flow of around one million people for this festival," said Pradeep Dhakal, member secretary of the Trust.Stating that 1.1 million people had visited the temple in the festival last year, Dhakal informed that more than seven million Nepalese Rupees (about 60,900 US dollars) has been allocated for organizing the festival this time.Over 4,000 security personnel have been mobilized in the area to manage the crowd.The Trust informed that the main gates of the historical temple were opened at 3 a.m. Friday, while the devotees will continue to offer prayers throughout the day till midnight.Nepal government provides a public holiday every year to mark the festival, during which the Hindu temples across the country are decorated with lights and colorful decorations.Holy rituals performed with music and danceOn this particular day, devotees ...

Unscripted 'Friends' reunion special to launch with HBO Max

In this Sept. 22, 2002 file photo, the stars of "Friends," from left, David Schwimmer, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, Courteney Cox Arquette, Jennifer Aniston and Matt LeBlanc pose with the award for outstanding comedy series at the 54th annual Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. (Photo: AP)A reunion has been long-sought by fans of the NBC series, which ended its 236-episode run in 2004. HBO Max will also carry every episode of the sitcom, which has proved enduringly popular, including with young audiences who discovered the show when it was available on Netflix.The show made Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and David Schwimmer into household names and won six Emmy Awards.“Guess you could call this the one where they all got back together — we are reuniting with David, Jennifer, Courteney, Matt, Lisa, and Matthew for an HBO Max special that will be programmed alongside the entire ‘Friends’ library,” said Kevin Reilly, HBO Maxs chief content officer.The special is being called a “celebration of the beloved show” and will be shot on the same Burbank, California, soundstage where the series filmed.The stars posted identical Instagram posts of an old publicity photo of all them with the caption, “Its happening.” LeBlancs post kept the same message but went farther back in TV history — he used a “M-A-S-H” cast photo instead.The shows stars and its co-creator, Marta Kauffman, have long fielded questions about a possible reunion. Rumblings of an unscripted reunion special picked up after the WarnerMedia announced it would launch its HBO Max service into the crowded streaming landscape.It was also announced Friday that cable channel TBS will air the shows entire run weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Cast of hit sitcom 'Friends' reuniting for 25th anniversary

File photo: Warner Bros.Its finally happening!The cast of the hit US sitcom "Friends" is reuniting for a 25th anniversary special, much to the delight of fans.Acelebration of the beloved show which ended its run in 2004, stars Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer will return to the comedys original soundstage on the Warner Bros. Studio lot for an exclusive unscripted special on streaming platform HBO Max.Variety said each actor is expected to receive $2.5 million for taking part in the special, which will be available when HBO Max launches in May."Guess you could call this the one where they all got back together -- we are reunitingwith David, Jennifer, Courteney, Matt, Lisa and Matthew for an HBO Max special that will be programmed alongside the entire Friends library,"Kevin Reilly, chief content officer at HBO Max, saidin a statement."I became aware ofFriendswhen it was in the very early stages of development and then had the opportunity to work on the series many years later and have delighted in seeing it catch on with viewers generation after generation," he added."It taps into an era when friends -- and audiences -- gathered together in real time and we think this reunion special will capture that spirit, uniting original and new fans."The shows stars posted on their Instagram accounts a Rolling Stone magazine cover featuring the cast from the sitcoms early days, with the caption "Its happening....."Anistons post attracted nearly 4.8 million likes in three hours.Though the last episode aired 15 years ago, the shows popularity hasnt waned, with market researchers saying it is among the most-watched shows on Netflix.The sitcom, however, was reclaimed last year by WarnerMedias HBO Max, which will offer all 10 seasons of the show."Friends," seen on US te...

Roman Forum find could be shrine to Rome’s founder, Romulus

A view of the ancient Roman Forum where archaeologists found an underground chamber containing a 1.4-meter (55-inch) wide sarcophagus and what appears to be an altar dating back to the 6th Century B.C., in Rome, Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. (Photo: AP)Italian archaeologists unveiled to the press Friday an exciting new find from the Roman Forum, which they say could be the lost shrine dedicated some 2,600 years ago to Romulus, Rome’s legendary founder and first king.Visually, the discovery first announced Tuesday is not very remarkable: Peering down in an excavated space beneath the Curia Julia, or ancient senate house, one sees something resembling a washtub that archaeologists say is a sarcophagus, or stone coffin. There’s also a cylindrical stone block, a chunky stub of what might have been an altar.Both items are made of tuff, carved from the Capitoline Hill that overlooks the Forum, and which is home to today’s City Hall.The recently excavated area “represents a place, which in history and in the Roman imagination, speaks about the cult of Romulus,”said archaeologist Patrizia Fortini.Fortini says no one’s hypothesizing the sarcophagus actually ever contained the bones of Romulus who, with his twin Remus, established the city near the Tiber River around 753 B.C. and founded the kingdom of Rome. It likely dates to the 6th Century BC, some 200 years after Romulus’ time.“We don’t know whether Romulus physically existed” the way he was described in legends, Fortini said.But some ancient sources claimed that Romulus was buried in the area of the find, and the sarcophagus could have served as a memorial.Alfonsina Russo, the archaeologist in charge of the site, noted that according to some ancient traditions Romulus was killed and chopped to pieces, or ascended into heaven.“Therefore,this cannot be his tomb, but it is very likely, we believe, that this is a memorial site, a cenotaph,” Russo added.While excavations continue, authorities hope the public will be able to stroll u...

Bans hinder international student travel

Planes are seen parked at the terminal at LaGuardia Airport in New York City, Jan 25, 2019. (Photo: China Daily)US universities are using measures ranging from videoconferencing to online assignments to help Chinese students whose study plans have been disrupted by recent travel restrictions."The coronavirus affected three constituencies at NYU (New York University): students from China who were scheduled to study at our New York campus, students studying at our degree-granting NYU Shanghai campus and students planning a study-abroad semester in NYU Shanghai this spring," said Beth Kwon, associate director of the office of public affairs at NYU.Hindering some Chinese students from resuming their studies after the winter break are travel restrictions from the US government, visa issues and flight cancelations."We have had a small number of students (less than 30) withdraw for the semester because they were not able to return," said Chris Harris, senior director of strategic communications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.In early February, the US government enacted a travel restriction for all foreign nationals who were on the Chinese mainland in the two weeks prior to entering the US.The US embassy and consulates in China suspended all regular visa services earlier this month and sent home all "nonemergency personnel and family members of US government employees", leaving the facilities understaffed.Next came the cancelation of flights between China and the US. United, American and Delta airlines all announced they were suspending service between the two countries until late April. Airlines from other countries also significantly reduced the number of flights in and out of China.Kwon said that roughly 175 NYU students were unable to leave China before the travel restrictions began.The new semester started Jan 27, and the school has been "in contact with them individually to provide technological accommodations that...

Macao's star of spice

Macao restaurant Feng Wei Jus executive chef, Macao native Chan Chak-keong, prepares a Sichuan dish in the restaurant that wins two Michelin stars for the fourth consecutive year for its Sichuan fare. (Photo: China Daily)A restaurant focusing on fiery Hunan and Sichuan fare has won recognition from Michelin and diners.Most of the 90 restaurants awarded by the Michelin Guide Hong Kong Macao 2020 on Dec 17 serve Cantonese fare. But Sichuan-and-Hunan eatery Feng Wei Ju shone as an exception, taking two stars for the fourth consecutive year.The Michelin Guide inspectors recommend such Sichuan dishes as sauteed chicken with peanuts and chilies, and Hunan-style favorites like steamed carp head with chilies and hand-pulled noodles. The noodles double as tableside entertainment, as diners watch cooks shape them in the open kitchen.Feng Wei Jus executive chef, Macao native Chan Chak-keong, started his culinary explorations over 30 years ago, starting with Cantonese cuisine. He began learning about Sichuan fare over a decade ago, when it was difficult to find authentic offerings in Macao.The chef spent two years traveling through such mainland provinces as Hunan, Guangdong and Heilongjiang to learn about their respective cuisines before opening his restaurant in 2014.Chan spent eight days sampling everything from street food to fine dining in Sichuans provincial capital, Chengdu. He also visited rural destinations in the province to better understand the ingredients and seasonings used in the countryside."The Sichuan food Id eaten in Macao was quite different from what I had in Chengdu," he says.The special administrative region is a melting pot in every sense."Macao attracts people from around the world. So, its food is mixed," he explains."I want to bring Sichuan flavors to my hometown."Chans team has 25 chefs, including several from Sichuan and Guangdong, in addition to a noodle team."I not only bring my chefs to ...

US CDC reports 105 flu-related child deaths this winter

(Photo: AP)WASHINGTON, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- A total of 105 flu-associated child deaths were reported this winter as of Feb. 15, the second high number at this point since the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) started reporting in 2004, only smaller than that in the 2009-2010 flu pandemic.CDC announced Friday in a report that more than 13,000 had been hospitalized for influenza this winter in the United States. The overall hospitalization rates remained similar to this time during recent seasons, but rates among children and young adults were higher at this time than in recent seasons.CDC estimated that so far this season there had been at least 29 million flu illnesses, 280,000 hospitalizations and 16,000 influenza-related deaths from flu.Seasonal influenza-related deaths are deaths that occur in people for whom influenza infection is likely a contributor to the cause of death, but not necessarily the primary cause of death, according to CDC.The National Center for Health Statistics mortality surveillance data showed that 6.8 percent of the deaths occurring during the week ending Feb. 8 were due to pneumonia and influenza. This percentage was below the epidemic threshold of 7.3 percent that week.

Bear stirs commotion wandering Los Angeles foothill suburb

(Photo: AP)A bear wandered a Los Angeles foothill suburb early Friday, drawing curious onlookers and news media.The bear sluggishly ambled along streets and into backyards in Monrovia, which sits on the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains.The Monrovia Police Department said officers were monitoring the situation and state Department of Fish and Wildlife personnel were summoned.It was believed to be the same bear seen a day earlier in Monrovia, where it’s not uncommon for animals to wander out of the sprawling forest above the city.The city’s bear safetyweb pagenotes bears emerge from winter dens and return to the foothills in search of food when the weather warms up.That typically occurs in spring, but Southern California’s winter has been very mild. Temperatures climbed to 80 degrees (26.6 Celsius) in the San Gabriel Valley on Thursday.Monrovia’s most famous ursine visitor was Samson the Hot Tub Bear who took a liking to backyard pools in the 1990s. He eventually was sent to live out his life in the Orange County Zoo.

70th Berlin film fest opens amid shootings, diversity row

Europes first major film festival of 2020 opens in Berlin Thursday, with Helen Mirren and Hillary Clinton among those expected on the red carpet, even as a deadly shooting and diversity row threatened to mar festivities.Artistic director Carlo Chatrian (C), executive director of Berlinale International Film Festival Mariette Rissenbeek (R) and host Samuel Finzi observe a minute of silence in honor of victims of a shooting in Hanau as they attend the opening gala of the 70th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin, Germany, February 20, 2020. (Photos: VCG)The prestigious festival, in its 70th edition, is the first under new management team led by Mariette Rissenbeek as its executive director, and artistic director Carlo Chatrian.It was unveiled Thursday night with a screening of Philippe Falardeaus My Salinger Year, starring Sigourney Weaver and Margaret Qualley.The opening of the 11-day Berlinale was overshadowed by an an attack in the central city of Hanau, which left nine people dead, along with the killer and his mother.Festival organizers announced a minutes silence to mourn the victims during the opening ceremony on Thursday evening."The Berlinale stands against violence and racism," they said in a statement, after prosecutors said the suspect had held far-right beliefs.Yet, festival spokeswoman Frauke Greiner said the Berlinale had no plans to boost security measures.Organizers were in "constant exchange with the security authorities" and "able to adapt ... at short notice," Greiner said in a statement.Give room to diversityThe festival, which will showcase some 340 films from around the world, has also been forced to defend its commitment to female film-makers.Only six of the 18 films up for the top "Golden Bear" prize are directed by women, one fewer than last year.Sigourney Weaver walks to the stage during the opening gala of the 70th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berl...

US senator lauds thriving San Francisco-Shanghai sister-city link

Photo taken on Feb. 8, 2020 shows a parade celebrating the Chinese New Year in San Francisco. (Photo: Xinhua)Senior US Senator Dianne Feinstein Tuesday praised the growing sister-city relationship between the western US city of San Francisco and Chinas Shanghai by saying she is proud of the partnership.Feinstein, who was honored by the Bay Area Council for her outstanding leadership and commitment to the community at the councils annual celebration of Chinas Lunar New Year of the Rat, said she was proud to see that San Francisco and Shanghai had forged sister-city relations during her tenure as San Francisco mayor."When I became mayor of San Francisco, I thought here, this is the century of the Pacific, and we can shrink that vast Pacific Ocean into a river between us, so I thought the thing to do was to develop a sister-city relationship with the city of Shanghai," Feinstein said.The sister-city partnership has led to a large number of exchanges between China and the United States over the decades, she said.The 87-year-old US senator was the mayor of San Francisco from 1978 to 1988, and Shanghai became a sister-city of San Francisco on Jan. 28, 1980, one year after China and the United States established formal diplomatic relations.Feinstein hoped the San Francisco-Shanghai relationship will continue to grow stronger in the decades to come.Chinese Consul General in San Francisco Wang Donghua thanked Feinstein for her leadership and wisdom in helping build the sister-city relationship."Over the past 40 years, Shanghai and San Francisco have made lots of progress in advancing cooperation in different areas, making due contributions to the bilateral relations between China and the United States," Wang said.The cooperation at the sub-national level is an integral part of and the basis of bilateral relations between the two countries, Wang added.

‘Black in Space’ looks at final frontier of civil rights

In this Sept. 5, 1983, file photo, Guion Bluford, Jr., shuttle Challenger mission specialist, is shown in portrait on returning to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. (Photo: AP)In 1959, Ronald Erwin McNair walked into a South Carolina library. The 9-year-old aspiring astronaut wanted to check out a calculus book, but a librarian threatened to call the police if he didn’t leave. McNair was black.Years later, McNair was selected to become only the second African American to travel to space, overcoming segregation, poverty, and stereotypes in an intellectual act of resistance that inspired a generation. Tragically, McNair died in the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy.McNair’s story and those of other black astronauts are shared in a new documentary that looks at the final frontier of civil rights: getting black astronauts into space amid Jim Crow, danger, discrimination and the Cold War. Within four generations, they went from slavery to space.“Black in Space: Breaking the Color Barrier,” scheduled to air Monday on the Smithsonian Channel, examines the race to get black astronauts into the heavens while fighting for human rights onEarth.It shows how the astronauts surmounted racial barriers and hostile commanders to get close to the stars.“They really are the first of the first,” filmmaker Laurens Grant said. “And they are the elite of the elite.”Not only did these aspiring space travelers have to navigate the racial politics of their time, they also had to study cutting-edge science and engineering to compete with others, Grant said.And it didn’t always end happily.The road to get black astronauts into space in the US began under President John. F. Kennedy. His brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, pressured an Air Force program to make sure its astronaut project had a person of color.Air Force Capt. Ed Dwight was selected for a trainee program and became an overnight hero in the black press. However, the NASA program did not select him for the astron...

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