In Israel, Miss Universe says pageant no place for politics

In Israel, Miss Universe says pageant no place for politics
Andrea Meza, the reigning Miss Universe from Mexico, said the long-running beauty pageant shouldn’t be politicized, even as its next edition is being held in Israel and contestants have faced pressure to drop out in solidarity with Palestinians. (AP)
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Updated 17 November 2021

In Israel, Miss Universe says pageant no place for politics

In Israel, Miss Universe says pageant no place for politics
  • The 70th Miss Universe pageant is being staged in the southern Israeli resort city of Eilat in December
  • The pageant is in the spotlight for being held in Israel amid boycott calls against the country over its treatment of Palestinians

JERUSALEM: The reigning Miss Universe said Wednesday the long-running beauty pageant shouldn’t be politicized, even though its next edition is being held in Israel amid pressure on contestants to drop out in solidarity with the Palestinians.
The 70th Miss Universe pageant is being staged in the southern Israeli resort city of Eilat in December. Dozens of contestants from around the world will arrive there in the coming weeks to compete in national costumes, evening gowns and swimwear. They’ll also have their public speaking prowess tested with a series of interview questions.
But the pageant is in the spotlight for being held in Israel amid boycott calls against the country over its treatment of the Palestinians. At least one country has already called off their participation.
“Everyone with different beliefs, with different backgrounds, with different cultures, they all come together and when you are in there you forget about politics, about your religion,” Andrea Meza, the current Miss Universe, told The Associated Press ahead of a tour of Jerusalem’s Old City, the epicenter of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “It’s just about embracing other women.”
Meza, 27, represents Mexico and was crowned in May, during a COVID-delayed ceremony in Florida, where contestants accessorized their sparkling gowns with face masks. She hands over the crown in Eilat on Dec. 12.
Hosting the show is a coup for Israel, which for years has been confronting a grassroots Palestinian-led international campaign calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions. Israel hopes the pageant will help draw tourists and project an image of Israel as a safe destination during the pandemic.
Paula M. Shugart, president of the Miss Universe Organization, has said Israel has been on the shortlist of host countries “due to its rich history, beautiful landscapes, myriad of cultures and appeal as a global tourist destination.”
But contestants are facing pressure to boycott the event and set aside hopes for the crown to make a political statement.
PACBI, a Palestinian activist group and founding member of the boycott movement, called on contestants to “do no harm to our struggle for freedom, justice and equality by withdrawing from the pageant.”
Citing COVID, Malaysia has announced it won’t send a contestant. And South Africa’s government said it was withdrawing support for the country’s representative over her participation in the event.
“The atrocities committed by Israel against Palestinians are well documented,” the government said in a statement, adding that it “cannot in good conscience associate itself with such.”
Both countries are strong supporters of the Palestinians.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment and requests for comment to the country’s Tourism Ministry, which hosted Meza’s visit to the Old City on Wednesday, were unanswered.
The boycott movement’s impact has been a mixed bag. It has notched a number of successes over the years, with major artists like Lorde and Lana Del Ray canceling appearances because of Israel’s policies. But big stars still have made stops in Israel and major events like the Eurovision song contest — which included a performance by Madonna — have been held in the country despite high-profile boycott calls.
The Miss Universe pageant will draw contestants from Morocco and the United Arab Emirates — Arab countries that recently normalized ties with Israel.
The boycott movement, known as BDS, promotes boycotts, divestment and sanctions of Israeli institutions and businesses in what it says is a nonviolent campaign against Israeli abuses against Palestinians.
Israel says the campaign is an effort to delegitimize and even destroy the country, and claims its motives are anti-Semitic. BDS leaders deny allegations of anti-Semitism, saying their campaign is against Israeli policies.
Meza said she didn’t fault women who wanted to sit out this year’s contest but she said she had no problem with the competition being held in Israel.
Jerusalem’s Old City, home to sensitive Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites, lies at the heart of the decades-long conflict. Israel captured east Jerusalem, including the Old City, along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war.
Israel later annexed east Jerusalem — a move not internationally recognized — and considers the entire city its capital. The Palestinians seek all three territories for a future independent state, with east Jerusalem as their capital.
Wearing a flowing, full-length dress with flat sandals, Meza meandered through the mostly empty cobblestoned alleyways of the Old City, stopping to peek into shops as a media scrum followed. Vendors, unaccustomed to seeing throngs since the onset of the pandemic, stared and wondered aloud about the attention Meza was drawing.
Meza, who is a software engineer, said she was “just a girl,” from a small town in Mexico who was not a “perfect and flawless” beauty queen. She said she had worked hard to become Miss Universe and that the competition wasn’t only about parading women in bikinis but also about testing their intelligence.
Asked if she could offer a solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, she said she didn’t believe in violence and that communication was key.
“People have to make compromises and I really hope that we can make this through talking and conversation,” she said.


Flamethrower used to torch Pan-African flag flying on pole in Florida

Flamethrower used to torch Pan-African flag flying on pole in Florida
Updated 8 sec ago

Flamethrower used to torch Pan-African flag flying on pole in Florida

Flamethrower used to torch Pan-African flag flying on pole in Florida
  • Group likens attack to the massacre of 10 Black people at a supermarket Buffalo, New York in May

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida: A person using a flamethrower set fire Saturday to a Pan-African flag flying on a pole outside the headquarters of the Uhuru Movement, a Black international socialist group based in Florida.
Security video released by the group shows the driver of a white Honda sedan pulling up outside the group’s St. Petersburg headquarters, removing a flamethrower from the trunk and shooting a tower of fire at the flag flying about 30 feet (9 meters) above the ground. The group says the man stopped when a worker inside the building yelled at him. The video shows him putting the flamethrower back in the trunk and then driving away. A photo supplied by the group shows the flag with a large hole.
St. Petersburg police said they are investigating the fire and are working to identify a suspect.
The Uhuru Movement is part of the African People’s Socialist Party, which says it is “uniting African people as one people for liberation, social justice, self-reliance and economic development.”
Akile Akai, the group’s director of agitation and propaganda, said the attack is in the same vein as the May killing of 10 Black people at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket. Police say the arrested suspect in the Buffalo massacre is a white nationalist.
Akai said such attacks are caused by the decline of a “social system and facade of normalcy based on oppression, colonialism and exploitation.”

 

 


3-year-old boy dies after fall from 29th floor NYC apartment

3-year-old boy dies after fall from 29th floor NYC apartment
Updated 03 July 2022

3-year-old boy dies after fall from 29th floor NYC apartment

3-year-old boy dies after fall from 29th floor NYC apartment
  • Officers found the injured toddler lying on a 3rd floor scaffolding after receiving a 911 call at 11:09 a.m

NEW YORK: A 3-year-old boy died after falling from a 29th floor balcony of a New York City apartment building on Saturday morning, police said a preliminary investigation shows.
Officers found the injured toddler lying on a 3rd floor scaffolding after receiving a 911 call at 11:09 a.m. The boy was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.
“We believe the child exited through a window, but exactly how that occurred is under investigation at the time,” a police spokesperson told The Associated Press. The apartment is located in the Taino Towers residential complex in Harlem.
New York City law requires owners of buildings with three or more apartments to install window guards if a child age 10 years or younger lives there or if a tenant or occupant requests them. It’s unclear whether window guards were installed in this particular apartment.
The spokesperson said the child’s death is under “active investigation” and police are speaking with two individuals who were inside the apartment when the boy fell.
Nidia Cordero, who lives on the 34th floor of the building, told the New York Post that she suddenly heard what she believes was the mother of the child screaming.
“And I looked,” she said, “and the baby was in the scaffolding.”
Richard Linares told the New York Daily News he was outside the apartment complex when the toddler fell.
“We heard a big bang,” he said. “My boy that was here ran to the front. He ran up the scaffold to find the baby. The baby was still crying and breathing when he got there.”
He later added: “By the time the paramedics brought him down, they had a towel over his face.”
Tanjelyn Castro, a neighbor, described to the Daily News a frantic scene as police and residents tried to reach the child.
“Everybody that was outside was running, climbing,” she said. “Every man you saw was trying to get to the scaffold. It was a whole bunch of emotion.”


British daredevil shares clip of stunt atop Dubai skyscraper

British daredevil shares clip of stunt atop Dubai skyscraper
Updated 01 July 2022

British daredevil shares clip of stunt atop Dubai skyscraper

British daredevil shares clip of stunt atop Dubai skyscraper
  • Lockwood, 21, posed as a construction worker to reach the top of the building

LONDON: British free-climber and Instagram star Adam Lockwood has released a video on YouTube showing him climbing and hanging off a Dubai skyscraper.

Lockwood, 21, posed as a construction worker to reach the top of the building — the 390-meter residential apartment block Il Primo in Downtown — and had to evade genuine laborers on the way up.

In his video, the Manchester native is seen being challenged by a site worker and attempting to explain using Google Arabic Translate he had forgotten something in the building.

He is told to leave by the site worker.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ΛDΛM (@nuisance69_)

Instead, Lockwood used a different staircase to continue his ascent to the 77th floor, stopping at certain levels to wet his head with water from taps to cool himself down.

Once at the top, he hung off a crane and does one-handed stunts with no safety equipment, with the Burj Khalifa visible in the background.

Of the experience, Lockwood said it was “surreal” but “almost peaceful” as his “brain is blank” while he carries out his stunts, the Independent reported.

On his Instagram channel, which has more than 21,000 followers, Lockwood has videos of him performing stunts in the San Siro Stadium in Milan, climbing the glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris and walking the edges of buildings in London’s Canary Wharf.

Dubai Police have issued warnings to daredevils in the past against scaling buildings and performing stunts that could endanger themselves and other members of the public.


Rock star Randy Bachman reunited with beloved stolen guitar

Rock star Randy Bachman reunited with beloved stolen guitar
Updated 01 July 2022

Rock star Randy Bachman reunited with beloved stolen guitar

Rock star Randy Bachman reunited with beloved stolen guitar
  • Bachman said all guitars are special, but the orange 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins he bought as a teenager was exceptional
  • When it was stolen from the Toronto hotel in 1977, “I cried for three days. It was part of me,” he said

TOKYO: Canadian rock legend Randy Bachman’s long search came to an end Friday when he was reunited in Tokyo with a cherished guitar 45 years after it was stolen from a Toronto hotel.
“My girlfriend is right there,” said Bachman, 78, a former member of The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, as the Gretsch guitar on which he wrote “American Woman” and other hits was handed to him by a Japanese musician who had bought it at a Tokyo store in 2014 without knowing its history.
He said all guitars are special, but the orange 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins he bought as a teenager was exceptional. He worked at multiple jobs to save money to buy the $400 guitar, his first purchase of an expensive instrument, he said.
“It made my whole life. It was my hammer and a tool to write songs, make music and make money,” Bachman told AP before the handover at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo.
When it was stolen from the Toronto hotel in 1977, “I cried for three days. It was part of me,” he said. “It was very, very upsetting.” He ended up buying about 300 guitars in unsuccessful attempts to replace it, he said.
Bachman talked frequently about the missing guitar in interviews and on radio shows, and more recently on YouTube programs on which he performed with his son, Tal.
In 2020, a Canadian fan who heard the story of the guitar launched an Internet search and successfully located it in Tokyo within two weeks.
The fan, William Long, used a small spot in the guitar’s wood grain visible in old images as a “digital fingerprint” and tracked the instrument down to a vintage guitar shop site in Tokyo. A further search led him to a YouTube video showing the instrument being played by a Japanese musician, TAKESHI, in December 2019.
After receiving the news from Long, Bachman contacted TAKESHI immediately, and recognized the guitar in a video chat they had.
“I was crying,” Bachman said. “The guitar almost spoke to me over the video, like, ‘Hey, I’m coming home.’”
TAKESHI agreed to give it to Bachman in exchange for one that was very similar. So Bachman searched and found the guitar’s “sister” — made during the same week, with a close serial number, no modifications and no repairs.
“To find my guitar again was a miracle, to find its twin sister was another miracle,” Bachman said.
TAKESHI said he decided to return the guitar because as a guitar player he could imagine how much Bachman missed it.
“I owned it and played it for only eight years and I’m extremely sad to return it now. But he has been feeling sad for 46 years, and it’s time for someone else to be sad,” TAKESHI said. “I felt sorry for this legend.”
He said he felt good after returning the guitar to its rightful owner, but it may take time for him to love his new Gretsch as much as that one.
“It’s a guitar, and it has a soul. So even if it has the same shape, I cannot say for sure if I can love a replacement the same way I loved this one,” he said. “There is no doubt Randy thought of me and searched hard (for the replacement), so I will gradually develop an affection for it, but it may take time.”
Bachman said he and TAKESHI are now like brothers who own guitars that are “twin sisters.” They are participating in a documentary about the guitar on which they plan to perform a song, “Lost and Found” together.
They also performed several songs at Friday’s handover, including “American Woman.”
Bachman said he will lock the guitar up in his home so he will never lose it again. “I am never ever going to take it out of my house again,” he said.


Biden touts Switzerland — woops, Sweden — in NATO expansion

Biden touts Switzerland — woops, Sweden — in NATO expansion
Updated 30 June 2022

Biden touts Switzerland — woops, Sweden — in NATO expansion

Biden touts Switzerland — woops, Sweden — in NATO expansion
  • Quickly realizing his stumble, Biden said: ‘Switzerland, my goodness. I’m getting really anxious here about expanding NATO,’ he joked, before adding for the record: ‘Sweden’
  • Biden, 79, has long been known for his verbal gaffes during a political career spanning half a century

MADRID: NATO’s latest expansion momentarily got really interesting with even Switzerland about to join — at least for a second in a Joe Biden verbal slip Thursday.
At a press conference marking the end of the NATO summit in Madrid, the US president recounted the behind-the-scenes talks putting militarily non-aligned Finland and Sweden on track to join the Western alliance in a major rebuff to Russia.
Except he misspoke, saying there was a plan to call the leader of famously neutral Switzerland about joining.
Quickly realizing his stumble, Biden said: “Switzerland, my goodness.”
“I’m getting really anxious here about expanding NATO,” he joked, before adding for the record: “Sweden.”
Biden, 79, has long been known for his verbal gaffes during a political career spanning half a century.