Freddie Mercury to live forever in South Korea statue

Freddie Mercury to live forever in South Korea statue
Business owner Baek Soon-yeob and Kim Pan-jun, Chairman of “Queen Forever” South Korea Queen fan club, pose with a statue of British rock group Queen’s lead singer Freddie Mercury, that was unveiled on Thursday. (AFP)
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Updated 21 April 2022

Freddie Mercury to live forever in South Korea statue

Freddie Mercury to live forever in South Korea statue
  • The music of British rock band Queen is popular in South Korea
  • "I started emailing Queen's company in 2014 asking for a rights approval" to erect the statue, Baek told AFP

JEJU, South Korea: A die-hard Queen fan unveiled a life-size bronze statue of Freddie Mercury on Thursday on South Korea’s resort island of Jeju, after an eight-year quest to honor his late hero.
The music of British rock band Queen is popular in South Korea, a country more associated with home-grown K-pop dance bands, including global megastars BTS.
Jeju businessman and Queen superfan Baek Soon-yeob, 57, used to listen to bootleg recordings of Freddie Mercury — who died of AIDS-related complications in 1991.
Queen’s music was banned in South Korea in the 1970s by then-military dictator Park Chung-hee’s regime, which considered it “unsuitable” in an era when men were also barred from growing their hair.
Mercury’s songs “kept me going despite many hurdles along the way,” Baek told AFP, adding it had been an emotional eight-year effort to build the statue.
“I started emailing Queen’s company in 2014 asking for a rights approval” to erect the statue, Baek told AFP.
He wrote an email every month but did not get a reply for seven years.
In early 2020, he finally received a response ahead of Queen’s first ever South Korean concert — band members and label officials were prepared to meet him in Seoul.
That concert was a result of South Korea’s recent fervent embrace of Queen, after nearly 10 million people watched the 2018 Oscar-winning biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” starring Rami Malek.
In a country of 51 million people, that means approximately a fifth of the population watched the movie in cinemas, where it grossed $70 million and sat atop box office lists for weeks.
After receiving approval in 2020, Baek spent 50 million won ($40,000) commissioning the 177-centimeter statue of Mercury clenching his fist, which was finally unveiled Thursday on the scenic Jeju coast.
It is the second statue of the late singer approved by Queen’s label — the first is in Montreux, Switzerland, where Mercury lived and recorded Queen albums.
Despite Queen’s popularity in South Korea, Baek faced protests over his project, with some people complaining about him erecting a “statue of a homosexual.”
Although the 2018 biopic was not censored in cinemas, local TV station SBS was in hot water last year when it deleted a scene in which actor Malek kisses a man.
Baek said he hoped the statue would help “make those critical of sexual minorities reconsider their perceptions.”
South Korean Queen fans made a pilgrimage to Jeju Island to attend the Thursday event.
“I am very honored to be here today to mark the unveiling of the world’s second statue of Freddie,” said Kim Pan-jun, who runs a Queen-themed bar in Seoul.
“I am sure Freddie is giving his blessing from up there in heaven.”
Queen guitarist Brian May, clutching a model of the statue Baek had sent him, told fans via video message that he was with them “in spirit” on Jeju, and that Mercury would like the tribute.
“I know he would be happy with it,” he said.


Faisal Al-Mosawi defies the odds by becoming the world's fastest diver

Faisal Al-Mosawi defies the odds by becoming the world's fastest diver
Updated 1 min 26 sec ago

Faisal Al-Mosawi defies the odds by becoming the world's fastest diver

Faisal Al-Mosawi defies the odds by becoming the world's fastest diver
  • The most important message Mosawi wishes to convey to the world is the social inclusion of disabled people

KUWAIT: Faisal Al-Mosawi, an Iraqi resident of Kuwait, was a promising football player at the Salmiya Sporting Club until a serious car accident left him paralyzed in the lower half of his body.

After a series of operations, Mosawi has accepted his disability and has defied the odds by becoming the world's fastest diver.

“Today, I am proud to say that I challenged myself and set a world record as the fastest 10-kilometer scuba diver. I am also a motivational speaker with more than 500 trainees per month,” Mosawi told the Kuwaiti Times.

“I decided two years after my accident to join university and earned a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) diploma in 2007. I continued my studies and began my bachelor’s degree in finance, which helped me get involved in social life again, but I was still feeling frustrated after I lost my dream of becoming a professional football player.“After several operations in the hope to walk again, I realized it was a big mistake to link my happiness to things that may not come back, especially since it cost me time in which I could do something more useful,” Mosawi added.

Mosawi also told Kuwaiti Times about the turning point in his life that led him to pursue an alternative career path.“Every year on my birthday, I was hoping I would be able to walk again. But every year nothing happened, which made me very disappointed,” he said.

“During one of my birthdays, I realized I wanted to change people’s lives and become an inspiration for them, especially after I heard about many disabled people who tried to commit suicide due to their frustrations in life.

“After two years, I decided to either be a new person looking for a new dream that could change my life, or forever remain a useless person, and this was my turning point in becoming a new person with new hopes and dreams.

"This changed my life in all aspects. In 2009, I decided to start learning to dive, I contacted the Swimming and Diving Center at Kuwait Science Club and obtained my first diving license from PADI (scuba diving certificate), while overcoming my fears, one of which was my phobia of the sea.

“After that I got several more diving licenses, such as an open-water license, adventure license, advanced license and night rock diver license,” he added.

After he realized his dream of diving, he decided to become the fastest diver in the world.

“In 2018, I became a Guinness World Record holder as the fastest 10km scuba diver in the world with a time of 5 hours and 24 minutes, breaking a record that was set in 2011 by a scuba diver with no disability,” he said.

Regarding diving techniques, Mosawi explained to the Kuwaiti times that wears diving gloves which he adjusts to the strength of his upper body. He said his biggest challenge was training for over five hours underwater every day.

Mosawi emphasized that the most important message he wishes to convey to the world is the social inclusion of disabled people. He hoped that his accomplishments would demonstrate to the world that people with disabilities are just as capable of success as anyone else.

“The hope that I gave to parents of disabled children makes me more persistent and determined to spread the message to the world. After the accident, doctors told my parents that it will be impossible for me to get married and have kids, but with hope and prayers, I married a special girl. I now have a beautiful daughter, and she is the most precious gift I ever got,” Mosawi said.


Charity cash donations from Qatari sheikh ‘followed correct processes’: Prince Charles

Charity cash donations from Qatari sheikh ‘followed correct processes’: Prince Charles
Updated 27 June 2022

Charity cash donations from Qatari sheikh ‘followed correct processes’: Prince Charles

Charity cash donations from Qatari sheikh ‘followed correct processes’: Prince Charles
  • The Prince of Wales's Charitable Fund (PWCF) received the payments

LONDON: The heir to the British throne Prince Charles said on Sunday donations in cash to his charities from the former prime minister of Qatar followed all “correct processes.”

Following reports in UK media that the Prince of Wales accepted a suitcase of cash as a charitable donation from Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani, Clarence House issued a statement.

“Charitable donations received from Sheikh bin Jassim were passed immediately to one of the prince’s charities, who carried out the appropriate governance and have assured us that all the correct processes were followed,” it said.

The Sunday Times reported that three bundles of cash were given as charitable donations from Sheikh Hamad to the Prince of Wales.

The three lots, which totalled €3 million ($3.16 million), were handed to the prince personally between 2011 and 2015, the paper reported.

According to the report, Sheikh Hamad, 62, presented the prince with €1m packed into carrier bags from the luxury department store Fortnum & Mason.

The Prince of Wales's Charitable Fund (PWCF) received the payments, according to the report, including an entity that bankrolls the prince's private projects and his country estate in Scotland.

The British royal family’s guidelines do not outline rules for cash donations. However, members of the royal family can accept a cheque as a patron of, or on behalf of, the charities with which they are associated.


Greek state TV mocked for gasoline theft ‘tips’

Greek state TV mocked for gasoline theft ‘tips’
Updated 25 June 2022

Greek state TV mocked for gasoline theft ‘tips’

Greek state TV mocked for gasoline theft ‘tips’
  • Video also points out where a car’s fuel tank can alternatively be pierced to steal the contents

ATHENS: Greece’s state TV was mocked Thursday over a segment that showed viewers how to siphon gasoline from cars as fuel prices soar.
“It’s not something terribly complicated... you don’t even need a special tube, even a hose for balconies will do,” the station’s reporter Costas Stamou said during ERT’s morning news program Syndeseis on Wednesday.
After demonstrating the method, a car repairman then points out where a car’s fuel tank can alternatively be pierced to steal the contents.
“Are you guys in your right mind? Giving people tips on stealing gasoline?” commented one user on Twitter.
“After the tutorial on two ways to easily steal gasoline, ERT is now preparing new how-to’s on how to open locks and steal wallets,” jibed another.
A video mixed by Greek satirical website Luben had been viewed over 170,000 times by Thursday. Another 32,500 saw the original segment on Twitter.
Fuel prices have steadily climbed in Greece in recent months, with simple unleaded at over 2.37 euros ($2.50) per liter on average in Athens on Wednesday, and over 2.50 euros on Rhodes and neighboring islands.
Greek authorities have resisted calls to cut tax on fuel, opting instead for 30-50 euro subsidies to less well-off car and motorcycle owners.
 


For Iraqi amputees football team, healing is the goal

For Iraqi amputees football team, healing is the goal
Updated 24 June 2022

For Iraqi amputees football team, healing is the goal

For Iraqi amputees football team, healing is the goal
  • Today, at age 22, Ali is a member of an all-amputee football team, made up entirely of players
  • The team has some 30 players and has qualified for the Amputee Football World Cup to be held in Turkey in late 2022

BAGHDAD: As a seven-year-old boy in Baghdad, Mohamed Ali dreamt of becoming a goalkeeper — until a car bomb in the central Tahrir Square ripped away his left arm.
The child had become another casualty of the sectarian blood-letting that raged in Iraq in the years after the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
“I was deprived of playing football,” he said, recalling the traumatic event of 2007 that also ended his time with the junior football team of the Air Force Club in Baghdad.
Today, at age 22, Ali is a member of an all-amputee football team, made up entirely of players who lost arms or legs in Iraq’s many years of war and turmoil.
“The creation of this team brought me back to life,” he said. “It helped me regain my self-confidence.”
The team has some 30 players and has qualified for the Amputee Football World Cup to be held in Turkey in late 2022.
Its founder Mohamed Al-Najjar was studying in England when he discovered a Portsmouth amputee team and decided to replicate the experience.
Back in Iraq, he posted an announcement on social networks.
“Applications started pouring in and we formed the team in August 2021,” recalls the 38-year-old lawyer.
Najjar’s right leg was amputated after he was wounded in 2016 “while taking part in the fight against the Daesh group.”
At the time Najjar, like several of his teammates, was fighting with the pro-Iranian Hashed Al-Shaabi, a paramilitary force that has since been integrated into Iraq’s regular forces.
Three times a week, he now meets up with the group to train on one of the fields of the brand new Al-Chaab complex in Baghdad.
Using crutches, one-legged players warm up by sprinting in the green jersey of the national team, then practice penalty kicks.
The goalkeeper, his left arm amputated, intercepts the ball by blocking it with his stomach.
Before they found the camaraderie of the team, Najjar said, “most of the players were suffering from severe depression.”
“Some even had thought of suicide because they had lost a limb and they had been professional players before.
“But we overcame these psychological problems,” he said, adding that it pleased him to now see his players “posting their pictures with the team on social networks.”
In the official competition, matches are played in teams of seven on fields measuring 60 by 40 meters (about 200 by 130 feet).
The goals are two meters high and five meters wide — smaller than the 2.4 by 7.3 meter goals used in traditional football.
The Iraqi state offers financial aid to victims of attacks and of battles against jihadists. The players receive monthly allowances of between $400 and $700.
Most make ends meet by working as day laborers in the markets, said Najjar.
But a major obstacle for the team is a lack of official recognition, and therefore funding, from Iraqi sports bodies.
The Poland-based International Amputee Football Federation is not part of the International Paralympic Committee.
The Iraqi team therefore receives no state subsidies, said Aqil Hamid, the head of the parliamentary committee on disability sports.
For equipment and transport, the team depends on donations from associations, said Najjar. There is also occasional help from some Hashed bodies.
“They helped us with a trip to Iran, they paid for the plane tickets,” said Najjar, adding that he hoped for “wider support.”
Another team member, Ali Kazim, lost his left leg to a Baghdad car bomb in 2006, which abruptly ended his professional football career with the Air Force Club.
“I couldn’t pursue my ambitions, I stayed at home,” said the 38-year-old.
Today, his four children are his biggest supporters.
“They are the ones who pack my sports bag,” he said. “They tell me: ‘Daddy, go train’. My morale has totally changed.”


Girls arrested for removing hijab at Iran skateboarding event: media

Girls arrested for removing hijab at Iran skateboarding event: media
Updated 24 June 2022

Girls arrested for removing hijab at Iran skateboarding event: media

Girls arrested for removing hijab at Iran skateboarding event: media
  • A video purporting to show Tuesday's "Go Skateboarding Day" event went viral in Iran on social media
  • Shiraz governor Lotfollah Sheybani said the event was "held with the intention of breaking social, religious and national rules and norms"

TEHRAN: Iranian police have arrested several teenage girls for not wearing headscarves at a skateboarding day in the southern city of Shiraz, along with some of the event’s organizers, state media reported Friday.
A number of girls “removed their hijab at the end of the sports event without observing the religious considerations and legal norms,” state news agency IRNA quoted Shiraz police chief Faraj Shojaee as saying.
“With the coordination of the judiciary, a number of perpetrators and people related to this gathering were identified and arrested on Thursday,” he said.
A video purporting to show Tuesday’s “Go Skateboarding Day” event went viral in Iran on social media.
“Holding any mixed sports or non-sports gathering without observing the religious and legal norms is prohibited... and the organizers will be dealt with according to the law,” Shojaee added.
Shiraz governor Lotfollah Sheybani said the event was “held with the intention of breaking social, religious and national rules and norms,” IRNA reported.
Under Islamic law in force in Iran since its 1979 revolution, women must wear a hijab that covers the head and neck while concealing the hair.
But many have pushed the boundaries over the past two decades by allowing their head coverings to slide back and reveal more hair, especially in Tehran and other major cities.
Iranian media on Sunday reported that police had arrested 120 people for alleged “criminal acts” including drinking alcohol, mixed-sex dancing and uncovering the hijab at a party in the forest in the country’s north.
Under Iranian law, only non-Muslim citizens are permitted to consume alcohol for religious purposes, while dancing with the opposite sex is forbidden.