Early Winners in Top Grammy Categories Announced


— Best alternative music performance: “Chaise Longue” by Wet Leg

— Best alternative music album: “Wet Leg,” Wet Leg

— Best rock album: “Patient Number 9,” Ozzy Osbourne

— Best rock performance: “Broken Horses” by Brandi Carlile

— Best rock song: “Broken Horses” by Brandi Carlile

— Best rap performance: “The Heart Part 5,” Kendrick Lamar

— Best rap song: “The Heart Part 5” by Kendrick Lamar

— Best melodic rap performance: “WAIT FOR U” by Future featuring Drake & Tems

— Best R&B album: “Black Radio III,” Robert Glasper

— Best R&B performance: “Hrs & Hrs” by Muni Long

— Best traditional R&B performance: “Plastic Off The Sofa” by Beyonce

— Best progressive R&B album: “Gemini Rights,” Steve Lacy

— Best audio book, narration and storytelling recording: “Finding Me” by Viola Davis

— Best traditional pop vocal album: “Higher,” Michael Buble

— Best solo country solo performance: “Live Forever,” Willie Nelson

— Best country duo/group performance: “Never Wanted To Be That Girl,” Carly Pearce and Ashley McBryde

— Best country album: “‘Til You Can’t,” Cody Johnson

— Best jazz vocal album: Samara Joy

— Best dance/electronic recording: “Break My Soul,” by Beyonce

— Best metal performance: “Degradation Rules” by Ozzy Osbourne featuring Tony Iommi

— Best engineered, non-classical album: “Harry’s House,” Harry Styles

— Best compilation soundtrack for visual media: “Encanto”

— Best score soundtrack for visual media: “Encanto,” Germaine Franco

— Best score soundtrack for video games and other interactive media: “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarok,” Stephanie Economou.

Amid Crisis, Haitians Find Unlikely Solace in Soup

For Wilfred Cadet, buying soup on Sunday is the equivalent of going to church.  

Seated on plastic chairs next to a street food stand tucked in an alleyway, the 47-year-old Haitian slurps orange-colored soup out of a metal bowl next to his 9-year-old son.

Haitians mill past them cradling larger plastic containers, each eager to get a giant spoonful of the stew boiling in two human-sized pots behind them.

Made of pumpkin, beef, carrots, cabbage – ingredients produced on the island – soup joumou is a cultural staple in Haiti.

And in a moment of deepening crisis in the Caribbean nation, it’s one of the few points of enduring national pride.

To this day, when you mention the soup, Haitians are quick to crack a smile.

“It’s our tradition, our culture. It makes people proud. No matter what happens (in Haiti), the soup is going to stay around,” said Cadet.

During the colonial period, slaves were banned from eating the spicy dish, and would have to prepare it for French slave owners.

But Haitians claimed soup joumou as their own in 1804 when they staged one of the biggest and most successful slave rebellions in the Western Hemisphere.

The uprising put an end to slavery in Haiti far before much of the region, and the dish gained the nickname “independence soup.”

In 2021 – the same year the country spiraled into chaos following the assassination of its president – the soup was added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List, the first cuisine Haiti has on the list.

“It is a celebratory dish, deeply rooted in Haitian identity, and its preparation promotes social cohesion and belonging among communities,” reads the UNESCO entry.

It’s traditionally eaten on Sunday mornings, and on Haitian Independence Day in early January.

That’s when customers begin filing through a pair of black metal gates into 50-year-old Marie France Damas’ makeshift restaurant at 7:30 a.m.

Tucked behind rows of parked cars, a brick wall with a painted sign reading “Every Sunday: Soup Joumou” and a pile of local pumpkins, Damas labors away over her two big pots just like she has for the past 18 years.

Her husband weaves between plastic tables taking orders while her daughter chops vegetables behind her. It’s a family affair, but Damas is clear.

“I’m the boss of the soup,” she said with a grin.

The business has allowed her to put her children through school and give a good life to her family in a place with some of the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the region.

To each Haitian, the cuisine means something different.

For Cadet and his son, it represents one moment of an escape from the day-to-day pandemonium of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

It has also allowed Cadet to pass on a cherished part of Haitian culture at a time when they’re slowly fading away. Celebrations like Carnival that once took center stage on the island have withered due to deep gang violence tearing apart the nation.

“The violence in the country is making everyone leave, and over time, we’re going to lose a lot of cultural traditions,” Cadet said. “My son, of course, (will go). Right now, he doesn’t like Haiti.”

He hopes that when his son goes, he’ll remember their Sunday mornings together.

To others, like 35-year-old Maxon Sucan, it’s a way to reconnect with family and home in the countryside.

He grew up in a rural town in western Haiti in a farming family cultivating the very vegetables used to make the soup.

He came to Port-au-Prince 13 years ago to support his family, and works as a manager at a nightclub.

He would once visit his family six to eight times a year, but because of kidnappings and gang control of the countryside, he’s now unable to go home.

So Sunday mornings, he drinks the soup just like he once did as a kid, and he thinks about his daughter who he sometimes goes weeks without speaking to.

“She’s 3 years old and it hurts me that I can’t see her,” Sucan said. “(When I eat soup joumou) I remember my family.”

As he gets ready to leave the restaurant alone, cradling a large Tupperware filled with steaming soup, he pauses.

“When I go home today, I’ll call her. And when I do, I’ll ask if she ate the soup,” he adds.

Через снігопад у Києві комунальники працюють у посиленому режимі – влада

«Просимо водіїв враховувати погодні умови та без нагальної потреби не виїжджати на власних авто, аби не заважати роботі снігоприбиральної техніки і не створювати заторів»

At Sunday’s Grammys, Will Beyonce Finally Win Top Honor of Best Album? 

Pop superstar Beyonce, winner of more Grammy awards than any other female artist, has never taken home the coveted album of the year trophy at the music industry’s highest honors.

That could change on Sunday, according to industry experts and awards pundits, although it is not a sure thing in a formidable, wide-ranging field that includes Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny, pop musician Harry Styles, singer and flutist Lizzo, and disco-era Swedish hitmaker ABBA.

Winners will be announced during a ceremony that will be broadcast live on U.S. broadcast network CBS and streamed on Paramount+ starting at 5 p.m. Pacific time/8 p.m. Eastern time (0100 GMT on Monday).

Beyonce heads into the show in Los Angeles with nine nominations, including an album of the year nod for dance-heavy album “Renaissance.” She has won 28 Grammys over her career, and she could break the all-time record of 31 on Sunday.

But the top prize has escaped her. The acclaimed 2016 album “Lemonade” was defeated by Adele’s “25,” prompting the British vocalist to say on stage that Beyonce deserved the honor.

Beyonce “is about to be the most-winningest Grammy award winner. There’s almost no way she’s not going to break the record,” said Jem Aswad, deputy music editor for Variety.

“But she has never won album of the year, one of the top awards, and that’s just wrong,” he added.

Adele, who has claimed the album trophy twice, also is in the mix this year with “30.” It is possible that Adele and Beyonce voters could cancel each other out, Aswad said, opening a door for Styles to prevail with “Harry’s House.”

Beyonce’s other nominations include record and song of the year for “Break My Soul.” If she wins at least four awards, she will top the late classical conductor Georg Solti as the most-decorated artist in Grammys history.

The winners are chosen by roughly 11,000 members of the Recording Academy, which has faced complaints that it has not given Black talent proper recognition. The organization has worked to diversity its membership in recent years.

In the best new artist category, contenders include Italian rock band Maneskin, jazz artist Samara Joy, American bluegrass singer Molly Tuttle and TikTok phenom Gayle, who rose to fame with “abcdefu.”

Taylor Swift’s 10-minute version of her 2012 song “All Too Well” was nominated for best song. Swift’s latest album, “Midnights,” was released after this year’s eligibility window, which ran from October 2021 through September 2022.

Comedian Trevor Noah will host Sunday’s awards show. Scheduled performers include Styles, Lizzo, Sam Smith, Luke Combs and Bad Bunny. First lady Jill Biden is among the night’s presenters.

Like other awards shows, the Grammys have seen their television audience decline in recent years. Last year’s ceremony drew roughly 9 million viewers, the second-smallest on record.

Psychedelic Churches in US Pushing Boundaries of Religion

The tea tasted bitter and earthy, but Lorenzo Gonzales drank it anyway. On that night in remote Utah, he was hoping for a life-changing experience, which is how he found himself inside a tent with two dozen others waiting for the psychedelic brew known as ayahuasca to kick in.

Soon, the gentle sounds of a guitar were drowned out by people vomiting — a common downside of the drug.

Gonzales started howling, sobbing, laughing and repeatedly babbling. Facilitators from Hummingbird Church placed him face down, calming him momentarily before he started laughing again and crawling.

“I seen these dark veins come up in this big red light, and then I seen this image of the devil,” Gonzales said later. He had quieted only when his wife, Flor, touched his shoulder and prayed.

His journey to this town along the Arizona-Utah border is part of a growing global trend of people turning to ayahuasca to treat an array of health problems after conventional medications and therapy failed. Their problems include eating disorders, depression, substance use disorders and PTSD.

The rising demand for ayahuasca has led to hundreds of churches like this one, which advocates say are protected from prosecution by a 2006 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. In that case, a New Mexico branch of a Brazilian-based ayahuasca church won the right to use the drug as a sacrament — even though its active ingredient remains illegal under U.S. federal law. A subsequent lower court decision ruled Oregon branches of a different ayahuasca church could use it.

“In every major city in the United States, every weekend, there’s multiple ayahuasca ceremonies,” said Sean McAllister, who represents an Arizona church in a lawsuit against the federal government after its ayahuasca from Peru was seized at the port of Los Angeles.

The pro-psychedelics movement’s growth has sparked concerns of a government crackdown. In addition to ayahuasca shipments being seized, some churches stopped operating over fears of prosecution. There are also concerns these unregulated ceremonies might pose a danger for some participants and that the benefits of ayahuasca haven’t been well studied.

It was dark as the Hummingbird ceremony began on a Friday night in October, except for flickering candles and the orange glow of heaters. Psychedelic art hung from the walls; statues of the Virgin Mary and Mother Earth were positioned near a makeshift altar.

Participants sat in silence, waiting for Taita Pedro Davila, the Colombian shaman and traditional healer who oversaw the ceremony.

A mix of military veterans, corporate executives, thrill seekers, ex-members of a polygamous sect and a man who struck it rich on a game show had turned up for the $900 weekend. Many appeared apprehensive yet giddy to begin the first of three ceremonies.

The brew contains an Amazon rainforest shrub with the active ingredient N, N-Dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, and a vine containing alkaloids that prevents the drug from breaking down in the body.

Those who drink ayahuasca report seeing shapes and colors and going on wild, sometimes terrifying journeys that can last hours. In this dreamlike state, some say they encounter dead relatives, friends and spirits.

“You were invited for a weekend of healing,” Davila told the group, before people lined up for their tea.

Locking eyes with each participant, Davila uttered a prayer over the cups before blowing on them with a whistling sound and handing them over to drink.

Gonzales and his wife, Flor, were among the ayahuasca newcomers.

They had driven from California, hoping for relief for 50-year-old Gonzales. He’d battled drug addiction for much of his life, was suffering the effects of COVID-19 and had been diagnosed with early stage dementia.

“My poor body is dying and I don’t want it to die,” said Gonzales, who rarely sleeps and is prone to fits of anger.

Maeleene Jessop was also a newcomer but grew up in Hildale, the Utah town where the ceremony was held. She is a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS, a polygamist offshoot of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Hildale was the group’s stronghold. The ceremony was held in a tent on the grounds of a house once owned by a former FLDS member.

Jessop, 35, left the church after its leader, Warren Jeffs, was arrested for sexually assaulting girls he considered brides. He is serving a life sentence in federal prison. Jessop has struggled to adapt to her new life, battling depression and haunted by the physical and sexual abuse she endured as a child.

The roots of ayahuasca go back hundreds of years to ceremonial use by Indigenous groups in the Amazon. In the past century, churches have emerged in several South American countries where ayahuasca is legal.

The movement found a foothold in the United States in the 1980s and interest has intensified more recently as celebrities like NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Hollywood actor Will Smit h talked about attending ceremonies.

Some spend thousands of dollars to attend five-star ayahuasca retreats in the Amazon. But in the U.S., the movement remains largely underground, promoted by social media and word of mouth, with ceremonies held in supporters’ homes, Airbnb rentals and remote areas to avoid law enforcement scrutiny.

Like many of these, Hummingbird won’t be mistaken for a traditional Western church.

It has no written text and relies primarily on Davila’s prayers, chants and songs to guide participants through the ceremony. Davila follows traditions learned from his grandfather.

Courtney Close, Hummingbird’s founder who credits ayahuasca with helping her overcome cocaine addiction and postpartum depression, believes the designation as a church helps show that participants are “doing this for religious reasons.” But when it comes to defining it as a religion, Close stressed that depends on individual participants’ experience.

“We just try to create a spiritual experience without any dogma and just let people experience God for themselves,” she said.

Back in California, Flor Gonzales is convinced ayahuasca is behind her husband’s improvement. “I just feel like we have a future,” she said.

Route to Super Bowl Dangerous for Mexico’s Avocado Haulers

It is a long and sometimes dangerous journey for truckers transporting the avocados destined for guacamole on tables and tailgates in the United States during the Super Bowl.

It starts in villages like Santa Ana Zirosto, high in the misty, pine-clad mountains of the western Mexico state of Michoacan. The roads are so dangerous — beset by drug cartels, common criminals, and extortion and kidnap gangs — that state police provide escorts for the trucks brave enough to face the 60-kilometer trip to packing and shipping plants in the city of Uruapan.

Truck driver Jesús Quintero starts early in the morning, gathering crates of avocados picked the day before in orchards around Santa Ana, before he takes them to a weighing station. Then he joins up with other trucks waiting for a convoy of blue-and-white state police trucks — they recently changed their name to Civil Guard — to start out for Uruapan.

“It is more peaceful now with the patrol trucks accompanying us, because this is a very dangerous area,” Quintero said while waiting for the convoy to pull out.

With hundreds of 10-kilogram crates of the dark green fruit aboard his 10-ton truck, Quintero’s load represents a small fortune in these parts. Avocados sell for as much as $2.50 apiece in the United States, so a single crate holding 40 is worth $100, while an average truck load is worth as much as $80,000 to $100,000.

Mexico supplies about 92% of U.S. avocado imports, sending north over $3 billion worth of the fruit every year.

But it’s often not just the load that is stolen.

“They would take away our trucks and the fruit, sometimes they’d take the truck as well,” Quintero said. “They would steal two or three trucks per day in this area.”

It happened to him years ago. “We were coming down a dirt road and two young guys came out and they took our truck and tied us up.”

Such thefts “have gone down a lot” since the police escorts started, Quintero said. “They have stolen one or two, one every week, but it’s not daily like it used to be.”

State police officer Jorge González said the convoys escort about 40 trucks a day, ensuring that around 300 tons of avocados reach the packing plants each day.

“These operations have managed to cut the (robbery) rate by about 90 to 95%,” González said. “We accompany them to the packing house, so they can enter with their trucks with no problem.”

Grower José Evaristo Valencia is happy he doesn’t have to worry if his carefully tended avocados will make it to the packing house. Packers depend on arrangements they have made with local orchards to fill promised shipments, and lost avocados can mean lost customers.

“The main people affected are the producers,” Valencia said. “People were losing three or four trucks every day. There were a lot of robberies between the orchard and the packing house.”

The police escorts “have helped us a lot,” he said.

Once the avocados reach Uruapan or the neighboring city of Tancitaro — the self-proclaimed avocado capital of the world that greets visitors with a giant cement avocado — the path to the north is somewhat safer.

The shipment north of avocados for Super Bowl season has become an annual event, this year celebrated in Uruapan. It is a welcome diversion from the drumbeat of crimes in the city, which is being fought over by the Viagras and Jalisco cartels.

On Jan. 17, Michoacan Gov. Alfredo Ramírez Bedolla “kicked off” the first Super Bowl avocado shipments, literally, kicking a football through tiny goalposts on an imitation football field.

Behind him, a big tractor trailer bore a huge sign reading “Let’s Go! Super Bowl 2023.”

It was an attempt by Michoacan growers to put behind them last year’s debacle, when the U.S. government suspended inspections of the fruit in February, right before the 2022 Super Bowl.

The inspections were halted for about 10 days after a U.S. inspector was threatened in Michoacan, where growers are routinely subject to extortion by drug cartels. Some Michoacan packers were reportedly buying avocados from other, non-certified states and trying to pass them off as being from Michoacan and were angry the U.S. inspector wouldn’t go along with that.

U.S. agricultural inspectors have to certify that Mexican avocados don’t carry diseases or pests that would harm U.S. orchards. The Mexican harvest is January through March, while avocado production in the U.S. runs from April to September.

Exports resumed after Mexico and the United States agreed to enact “measures that ensure the safety” of the inspectors.

“This season we are going to recover the confidence of the producers, growers and consumers. By increasing the export production, we hope to send 130,000 tons this season,” the governor said.

UK Mega-Lab Generates Weather to Test Homes of Future

The thermometer sinks below zero as a blizzard of fine snow descends on two houses freshly built inside a massive laboratory in northern England.

Despite the icy conditions, the two energy-efficient homes remain cozy and warm due to their use of cutting-edge heating and insulation technology.

Welcome to Energy House 2.0 — a science experiment designed to help the world’s housebuilders slash carbon emissions, save energy and tackle climate change.

The project, based in a laboratory resembling a giant warehouse on Salford University campus near the center of Manchester, opened last month.

Rain, wind, sunshine and snow can be recreated in temperatures ranging from 40 degrees Celsius to –20 Celsius, operated from a control center.

Replicating weather

“What we’ve tried to achieve here is to be able to replicate the weather conditions that would be experienced around 95% of the populated Earth,” Professor Will Swan, head of energy house laboratories at the university, told AFP.

The facility, comprising two chambers that can experience different weather at the same time, will test types of housing from all over the world “to understand how we deliver their net-zero and energy-efficient homes,” he added.

The two houses, which are quintessentially British and constructed by firms with U.K. operations, will remain in place for a few years.

Other builders will then be able to rent space in the lab to put their own properties under the spotlight.

The project’s first house was built by U.K. property firm Barratt Developments and French materials giant Saint-Gobain.

It is clad with decorative bricks over a frame of wood panels and insulation, with solar panels on the roof.

Scientists are examining the efficiency of several different types of heating systems, including air-source heat pumps.

In the living room, a hot-water circuit is located along the bottom of the walls, while further heat is provided via infrared technology in the molding and from a wall panel.

Mirrors also act as infrared radiators while numerous sensors monitor which rooms are in use.

Residents will be able to manage the technology via one single control system similar to Amazon’s voice-activated Alexa interface.

Builders estimate the cutting-edge tech will mean that the energy bill will be just one quarter of what the average U.K. home currently pays, a boon to customers reeling from sky-high energy prices.

It will also make an important contribution to Britain’s efforts to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050 to combat climate change.

A parliamentary report found that, in 2019, 17% of heating emissions from buildings came from homes — making their contribution similar to all the petrol and diesel cars driving on Britain’s roads.

Environmental campaigners have long called on the U.K. government to increase energy efficiency and insulation support for existing homes across Britain.

‘Alexa of home energy’

“One of the key technologies that we’re trying on this house is almost like a building management system for residential buildings,” said Tom Cox, U.K. technical director at Saint-Gobain.

“It’s almost like the Alexa of the home energy system — and that can be automated as much as the occupant wants.”

And now with their mega-laboratory, scientists and companies no longer have to wait for extreme swings in the weather.

“We can test a year’s worth of weather conditions in a week,” added Cox.

The “ultimate goal is to create that environment which is comfortable and cost effective and commercially viable to deliver,” added Cox.

“At the same time (we are) addressing the sustainability issues that we have in construction.”

Hasty Pudding Celebrates Coolidge as Its Woman of the Year

The White Lotus actress Jennifer Coolidge is being celebrated Saturday as the 2023 Woman of the Year by Harvard University’s Hasty Pudding Theatricals.

As the oldest theatrical organization in the nation and one of the oldest in the world, since 1951, Hasty Pudding Theatricals has bestowed this award annually on women “who have made lasting and impressive contributions to the world of entertainment.”

Coolidge, who saw a career resurgence following her Emmy-winning turn as Tanya McQuoid-Hunt in the acclaimed HBO series The White Lotus, headlined a parade through the streets of Cambridge Saturday afternoon. Dressed in a leopard print coat and donning a fluffy pink hat, she waved to the crowd that had come out despite unusually frigid temperatures.

Coolidge, who also played Stifler’s sultry mom in American Pie and sage manicurist Paulette in the Legally Blonde movies, grew up in the Boston area. Later in the evening, she will attend a roast where she will be presented with her Pudding Pot award.

“It is an absolute dream for us to honor Jennifer Coolidge as our Woman of the Year on the heels of her recent accolades for The White Lotus,” Producer Sarah Mann said in a statement. “We know our Pudding Pot will look phenomenal alongside her new Golden Globe, and we swear we won’t whisk her away to a palazzo in Palermo!”

Her other film credits include roles in Best In Show, A Mighty Wind and Shotgun Wedding, and she has appeared in multiple television shows, including Seinfeld, 2 Broke Girls and Nip/Tuck.

Previous winners of the Woman of the Year Award include Meryl Streep, Viola Davis and Debbie Reynolds.

On Thursday, award-winning actor and bestselling author Bob Odenkirk was honored as the 2023 Man of the Year. Odenkirk, best known as shady lawyer Saul Goodman on Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, received his Pudding Pot award at the celebratory roast ahead of a preview of Hasty Pudding Theatricals’ 174th production, COSMIC RELIEF!

Breast Cancer Is Leading Cause of Cancer Deaths Among Women

As it marks World Cancer Day, the World Health Organization is calling for action to tackle breast cancer, the most common and leading cause of cancer deaths among women.


Every year, more than 2.3 million women are diagnosed with breast cancer, and nearly 700,000 die of the disease, which disproportionately affects women living in low- and middle-income countries.


WHO officials say women who live in poorer countries are far less likely to survive breast cancer than women in richer countries.   


“Breast cancer survival is 50 percent or less in many low- and middle-income countries, and greater than 90 percent for those able to receive the best care in high income countries,” says Bente Mikkelsen, director of the Noncommunicable Diseases Department at the WHO.


She says the odds are stacked against women who live in poor countries, noting many must sell their assets to pay for the treatment they need.   


She notes that women also are discouraged from seeking and receiving a timely diagnosis for their condition because of the stigma attached to breast cancer.   


“A woman subjected to racial and ethnic disparities will receive lower quality care and be forced to abandon treatment,” she says.


WHO data show more than 20 high income countries have successfully reduced breast cancer mortality by 40 percent since 1990. It finds five-year survival rates from breast cancer in North America and western Europe is better than 95 percent, compared to 66 percent in India and 40 percent in South Africa.


Mikkelsen says by closing the rich-poor inequity gap, some 2.5 million lives could be saved over the next two decades.


“Time is, unfortunately, not on our side. Breast cancer will be a larger public health threat for tomorrow, and the gap in care will continue to grow.  


She says that “by the year 2040, more than 3 million cases and 1 million deaths are predicted to occur each year worldwide. Approximately 75 percent of these deaths will occur in low- and middle-income countries.”


Coinciding with World Cancer Day, the WHO is launching a global breast cancer initiative to tackle the looming threat. The initiative contains a series of best practices for addressing this significant public health issue.


The strategy rests on three main pillars: early-detection programs so at least 60 percent of breast cancers are diagnosed and treated as an early-stage disease; starting treatment within three months of diagnosis; managing breast cancer to ensure at least 80 percent of patients complete their recommended treatment.


Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO, says, “Countries with weaker health systems are least able to manage the increasing burden of breast cancer … so, it must be a priority for ministries of health and governments everywhere.


“We have the tools and the knowhow to prevent breast cancer and save lives,” he says.   


Benjamin Anderson, medical officer and lead of the WHO’s global breast cancer initiative, says one of the best ways to implement the initiative is through primary health care systems.   


“The patient pathway is the basis of the three pillars of the global cancer initiative framework. What we anticipate is that by using awareness, education in the public, combined with professional education, it sets us up for the diagnostic processes that must take place and the treatment that has to follow.”  


The World Health Organization warns failure to act now to address cancer in women, including breast cancer, will have serious intergenerational consequences.


It cites a study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer that reported that because of “the estimated 4.4 million women who died from cancer in 2020, about 1 million children became maternal orphans in that year,” 25 percent of which was due to breast cancer.


Mikkelsen observes, “the children whose mothers die from cancer experience health and educational disadvantages throughout their lives.”


WHO officials acknowledge the cost of drugs to treat breast cancer could be a matter of life or death. It notes the price of certain oral drugs is less than $1, while others range from $9,000 to $10,000.


As many countries are unable to negotiate prices, they say the WHO is working to increase the availability and affordability of breast cancer medication.

Thai Entrepreneur Who Bought Miss Universe Contest Says Brains and Beauty Drive Entrants’ Dreams   

“Helloooo! Hello the Universe! Whoo!” shouted Jakkaphong “Anne” Jakrajutatip, the latest owner of the Miss Universe contest, from a stage filled with beauty queens.

Jakkaphong, a Thai media tycoon and trans rights activist, bought the parent company, Miss Universe Organization (MUO), last year. She is the first non-American and first transgender woman to own the 7-decade-old pageant, which drew contestants to New Orleans from 83 countries last month.

The competition, launched in 1952, was once co-owned by former U.S. President Donald Trump, who bought it in in 1996 from ITT Corp., then sold it in 2015 to WME/IMG, a talent agency and entertainment company, according to Variety.

In October, Jakkaphong expanded her business, JKN Global Group, headquartered in Samut Prakan, Thailand, by taking over the MUO offices in New York City when she bought the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants for $20 million.

She’s cut a $12.2 million deal with organizers in El Salvador, which will host the Miss Universe competition in 2023 for the first time since 1975.

Jakkaphong saw the Miss Universe platform as a promising asset, one that will help her fulfill her goal of empowering women and promoting feminism by encouraging all women — transgender, married, pregnant, divorced — to enter the contest.

“I was born as a trans woman,” Jakkaphong told VOA’s Thai Service during an exclusive interview in New York last month.

“My life purpose here is to help other people to transform, to lead, to teach and to inspire people,” said the 43-year-old businesswoman educated in Australia who is a celebrity in Thailand. “I need to become the inspiration for a lot of people [like] ‘you don’t give up no matter what and nobody can bring you down once they see you are good.’ ”

Describing herself as having been born “without a golden spoon in my mouth,” Jakkaphong comes from a Thai Chinese upper-middle class family that ran a video rental store, which she inherited before starting her own foreign TV content import business. She founded JKN Global Group in 2013.

Jakkaphong advocates for transgender rights in Thailand through her Life Inspired for Thailand Foundation. Since 2019, the group has campaigned for a draft bill to address transgender rights, including recognizing legal gender title change for people who go through gender reassignment operations. The draft needs more signatures to move forward to the Thai parliament.

Although considered one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly Asian countries, Thailand’s laws do not grant equal rights to members of the LGBTQ+ community in title change and marriage.

Jakkaphong believes the Miss Universe pageant comes with enough influence that it may be able to help change the laws in Thailand and other countries that do not yet provide equal rights to LGBTQ+ people.

“I believe that politicians wishing to run as countries’ leaders will raise this [gender title change] issue and will make it happen for us… MUO is the platform that helps urge countries to look at this matter,” she said, adding that she will soon raise the issue with Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.

“The [Thai] government is occupied with so many things, and of course, we don’t even know [whether] we will have the same government or not. We will have the election coming up,” in May, said Jakkaphong. “But [gender title change] has to happen one day.”

Despite her belief that the pageant is a force for change, Jakkaphong said there’s no talk of politics on stage. “We talk about inspiration. We talk about the power of feminism and that is more important,” she said.

While Jakkaphong acknowledges that “many countries on the stage don’t get along with each other,” the contest is “about a dream of one woman. You cannot stop her dream no matter where she comes from. We cannot block anybody’s dreams, particularly young women’s.”

She sees those dreams as countering the notion that pageants impose rigid standards of beauty on contestants, standards that exclude rather than include, and objectify women.

Some 2.4 million people watched the Miss Universe 2022 final competition on January 14 on the U.S.-based, Spanish-language Telemundo network, according to ustvdb.com. This was the first year the streaming service Roku Channel broadcast the contest. It has yet to disclose viewing numbers.

Nielsen, the company that rates the popularity of American television shows, reported 2.7 million people watched the 2021 competition, a drop from 2019 when 3.8 million people watched the competition. In 2014, the last year of Trump’s involvement, 8.8 million people watched the contest, according to Nielsen.

On the final day of competition, January 14, Jakkaphong said, “We can elevate our women to feel strong enough, good enough, qualified enough, and never be objectified again,” before presenting the Transformational Leadership award to Thai entrant Anna Sueangam-iam, whose family collects garbage for recycling.

In New York Jakkaphong told VOA’s Thai Service that promoting inclusivity while recognizing beauty lets audiences “see the diversity… But the brain and the beauty must come together.”

Miss USA, R’Bonney Gabriel, who on January 14 won the first Miss Universe competition under Jakkaphong’s regime, is a fashion entrepreneur who designs a line of sustainable clothing.

Becoming an inspiration for others is central to the role of beauty queens, said Jakkaphong, adding that the Miss Universe pageant helps promote the message of “becoming the best version of oneself” and “becoming so beautifully confident that you would love to lift up the spirit of other human beings.”

Jakkaphong said the pageant under her ownership will continue to be different from its predecessors.

“This is the new paradigm of the beauty competition, which I don’t see as the beauty competition alone. It’s actually a female platform to raise awareness. Therefore, the whole world can listen to them.”

Spanish-born Fashion Designer Paco Rabanne Has Died at Age 88

Paco Rabanne, the Spanish-born designer known for perfumes sold worldwide and for metallic, space-age fashions, has died, the group that owns his fashion house announced Friday.     

“The House of Paco Rabanne wishes to honor our visionary designer and founder who passed away today at the age of 88. Among the most seminal fashion figures of the 20th century, his legacy will remain,” the statement from beauty and fashion company Puig said.   

Le Telegramme newspaper quoted the mayor of Vannes, David Robo, as saying that Rabanne died at his home in the Brittany region town of Portsall.   

Rabanne’s fashion house shows its collections in Paris and is scheduled to unveil the brand’s latest ready-to-wear designs during the upcoming Feb. 27-March 3 fashion week.   

Rabanne was known as a rebel designer in a career that blossomed with his collaboration with the family-owned Puig, a Spanish company that now also owns other design houses, including Nina Ricci, Jean Paul Gaultier, Caroline Herrera and Dries Van Noten. The company also owns the fragrance brands Byredo and Penhaligon’s.    

“Paco Rabanne made transgression magnetic. Who else could induce fashionable Parisian women (to) clamor for dresses made of plastic and metal? Who but Paco Rabanne could imagine a fragrance called Calandre – the word means ‘automobile grill,’ you know – and turn it into an icon of modern femininity?” the group’s statement said.   

Calandre perfume was launched in 1969, the first product by Puig in Spain, France and the United States, according to the company.   

Born Francisco Rabaneda y Cuervo in 1934, the future designer fled the Spanish Basque country at age 5 during the Spanish Civil War and took the name of Paco Rabanne.     

He studied architecture at Paris’ Beaux Arts Academie before moving to couture, following in the steps of his mother, a couturier in Spain. He said she was jailed at one point for being dressed in a “scandalous” fashion.   

Rabanne sold accessories to well-known designers before launching his own collection.   

He titled the first collection presented under his own name “12 unwearable dresses in contemporary materials.” His innovative outfits were made of various kinds of metal, including his famous use of mail, the chain-like material associated with Medieval knights.   

Coco Chanel reportedly called Rabanne “the metallurgist of fashion.”   

“My colleagues tell me I am not a couturier but an artisan, and it’s true that I’m an artisan. … I work with my hands,” he said in an interview in the 1970s.   

In an interview given when he was 43, and now held in France’s National Audiovisual Institute, Rabanne explained his radical fashion philosophy: “I think fashion is prophetic. Fashion announces the future.” He added that women were harbingers of what lies on the horizon.   

“When hair balloons, regimes fall,” Rabanne said. “When hair is smooth, all is well.”   

The president of the Association of Fashion Designers of Spain, Modesto Lomba, said Rabanne “left an absolute mark on the passage of time. Let’s not forget that he was Spanish and that he triumphed inside and outside Spain.”

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