Jackie Mason, Comic Who Perfected Amused Outrage, Dies at 93

Jackie Mason, a rabbi-turned-comedian whose feisty brand of standup comedy led him to Catskills nightclubs, West Coast talk shows and Broadway stages, has died. He was 93. Mason died Saturday at 6 p.m. ET at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan after being hospitalized for more than two weeks, celebrity lawyer Raul Felder told The Associated Press. The irascible Mason was known for his sharp wit and piercing social commentary, often about the differences between Jews and gentiles, men and women and his own inadequacies. His typical style was amused outrage. “Eighty percent of married men cheat in America. The rest cheat in Europe,” he once joked. Another Mason line was: “Politics doesn’t make strange bedfellows, marriage does.” About himself, he once said: “I was so self-conscious, every time football players went into a huddle; I thought they were talking about me.” Religious rootsMason was born Jacob Maza, the son of a rabbi. His three brothers became rabbis. So did Mason, who at one time had congregations in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Comedy eventually proved to be a more persistent calling than God.  “A person has to feel emotionally barren or empty or frustrated in order to become a comedian,” he told The Associated Press in 1987. “I don’t think people who feel comfortable or happy are motivated to become comedians. You’re searching for something and you’re willing to pay a high price to get that attention.” Mason started in show business as a social director at a resort in the Catskills. He was the guy who got everybody up to play Simon Says, quiz games or shuffleboard. He told jokes, too. After one season, he was playing clubs throughout the Catskills for better money.  “Nobody else knew me, but in the mountains, I was a hit,” Mason recalled.  In 1961, the pint-sized comic got a big break, an appearance on Steve Allen’s weekly television variety show. His success brought him to The Ed Sullivan Show and other programs.  He was banned for two years from the Sullivan show when he allegedly gave the host the finger when Sullivan signaled to him to wrap up his act during an appearance on Oct. 18, 1964.  Mason’s act even carried him to Broadway, where he put on several one-man shows, including Freshly Squeezed in 2005, Love Thy Neighbor in 1996 and The World According to Me in 1988, for which he received a special Tony Award. “I feel like Ronald Reagan tonight,” Mason joked on Tony night. “He was an actor all his life, knew nothing about politics and became president of the United States. I’m an ex-rabbi who knew nothing about acting and I’m getting a Tony Award.”  Mason called himself an observer who watched people and learned. From those observations he said he got his jokes and then tried them out on friends. “I’d rather make a fool of myself in front of two people for nothing than a thousand people who paid for a ticket,” he told the AP.  A reliable presenceHis humor could leap from computers and designer coffee to then-Sen. John Kerry, former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Donald Trump. He was able to articulate the average Joe’s anger, making the indignities of life seem funny and maybe just a little bit more bearable. “I very rarely write anything down. I just think about life a lot and try to put it into phrases that will get a joke,” he said. “I never do a joke that has a point that I don’t believe in. To me, the message and the joke is the same.”  On TV, Mason was a reliable presence, usually with a cameo on such shows as 30 Rock or The Simpsons or as a reliable guest on late night chat shows. He performed in front of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, and his show Fearless played London’s West End in 2012.  He portrayed a Jewish ex-pajama salesman in love with an Irish-Catholic widow portrayed by Lynn Redgrave in a series called Chicken Soup in 1989, but it didn’t last. During the O.J. Simpson murder trial, the British Broadcasting Corp.’s Scottish service hired Mason as a weekly commentator. Mason’s humor sometimes went too far, as when he touched off a controversy in New York while campaigning for GOP mayoral candidate Rudolph Giuliani against Democrat David Dinkins, who was Black. Mason had to apologize after saying, among other things, that Jews would vote for Dinkins out of guilt.  Felder, his longtime friend, told the AP that Mason had a Talmudic outlook on life: “That whatever you would say to him, he would start an argument with you.”  He is survived by his wife, producer Jyll Rosenfeld, and a daughter, Sheba. 

Thousands Around Globe Protest COVID-19 Shots, Lockdowns

Tens of thousands of people protested in Australia, France, Italy and Greece on Saturday, sparking clashes with police as they railed against COVID-19 measures and government sanctions against the unvaccinated aimed at prodding more people into getting their shots.Dozens of protesters were arrested after an unauthorized march in Sydney, with the city’s police minister calling those who took part “morons.”Organizers had dubbed the protest a freedom rally. Attendees carried signs and banners reading “Wake up Australia” and “Drain the Swamp.”In France, where police deployed tear gas and a water cannon against some protesters, an estimated 160,000 took to the streets in nationwide protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s health pass that will drastically curtail access to restaurants and public spaces for unvaccinated people.’Don’t touch our children'”Freedom, freedom,” chanted demonstrators in France, carrying placards denouncing “Macron, Tyrant,” “Big Pharma shackles freedom” or saying “No to the pass of shame.”The demonstrations highlight the conflict globally between the advice of the World Health Organization and other public health agencies and people who for one reason or another refuse to be vaccinated.In Indonesia and the United Kingdom, governments have eased pandemic restrictions even in the face of surging cases of coronavirus infection.Meanwhile, around 5,000 people demonstrated in Athens, carrying placards touting slogans such as, “Don’t touch our children,” according to an AFP journalist at the scene.Thousands of people protested in at least 80 cities across Italy as Rome tries to slow an upturn in COVID-19 infections. Most were not wearing masks.The Green Pass, an extension of the EU’s digital COVID certificate, will be required starting Aug. 6 for anyone who wants to enter cinemas, museums, indoor swimming pools or sports stadiums, or eat indoors at restaurants.It will serve as proof bearers have either been vaccinated, undergone a recent negative COVID-19 test, or recovered from a coronavirus infection.The decision Thursday to make the pass mandatory for many activities saw a boom in vaccine bookings, up 200% in Italy’s smaller regions, according to COVID-19 emergency chief Francesco Figliuolo.Half of Australia in lockdownEarlier in Sydney, demonstrators pelted officers with potted plants and bottles of water as they defied a monthlong stay-at-home order, a day after authorities suggested the restrictions could remain in place until October.New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she was “utterly disgusted” by the protesters whose “selfish actions have compromised the safety of all of us.”Police said they issued nearly 100 fines and arrested 57 people.In Melbourne, six people were arrested. police said.New South Wales Police Minister David Elliott said a team of detectives would be scouring footage to identify and charge as many people as possible in the coming days.”Sydney isn’t immune from morons,” he said.Sydney, a city of more than 5 million people, is struggling to contain an outbreak of the delta variant, first identified in India and now spreading globally.After escaping much of the early pandemic unscathed, about half of Australia’s 25 million people are now in lockdown across several cities.There is growing anger at the restrictions and the conservative government’s failure to provide adequate vaccine supplies.Just 11% of the population is fully vaccinated.Harder to put off shotsIn France, as elsewhere in Europe, the government is making it harder for reluctant citizens to put off getting their shots.Legislation now being considered by lawmakers will make vaccinations compulsory for certain professions, while the controversial health pass will severely restrict social life for holdouts starting at the end of this month.There were signs the tougher measures announced on July 13 were having the desired effect: 48% of the population were fully vaccinated as of Friday, up 8 percentage points from July 10.While more than three-quarters of French people backed Macron’s measures, according to a July 13 Elabe poll for BFMTV, a sizeable and vocal minority do not.Elodie, 34, a care assistant at a Strasbourg nursing home, denounced “the blackmail of caregivers who were at the front line” during the first wave and who are now threatened” with “no more pay” and even being fired.”They’ve been lying to us since the beginning,” she said. 

45% of Unvaccinated Americans Say They Will Definitely Not Get the Vaccine

Forty-five percent of the Americans who have not been inoculated with COVID-19 vaccines say they definitely do not have any plans to get the shots, according to a new poll.Another 35% are a little less sure and say they will probably not get the vaccines, the survey, conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research said.Meanwhile, 3% of those polled said they would definitely get the shots, while 16% say they would probably get the vaccines.In addition, 64% of the unvaccinated Americans who participated in the survey told the pollsters that they had little to no confidence that the vaccines are effective against the COVID-19 variants, including the highly transmissible delta variant. Eighty-six percent of those vaccinated believe the vaccines work.U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky recently called the current U.S. surge in cases “a pandemic of the unvaccinated” because nearly all current patients and those who have recently died from the coronavirus are unvaccinated.Kay Ivey, the governor of Alabama, says it is “time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks” for the current surge in cases.  The Republican governor said the vaccines are “the greatest weapon we have to fight COVID.” She said the unvaccinated “are letting us down.”The European Union’s main drug regulator has given its nod for the use of the Moderna vaccine for use in children 12-17 years old.  The Moderna vaccine is already authorized for people 18 and older.  The European Medicines Agency said in a statement that the protocol for the use of the vaccine with children would be the same as with adults — “two injections in the muscles of the upper arm, four weeks apart.”  The European Commission must give the final approval.Thousands of people have staged an anti-lockdown rally in Sydney, Australia, in defiance of the city’s stay-home order to curb a COVID-19 outbreak. The Associated Press reported that “mounted police and riot officers” were on the scene and several demonstrators were arrested. AP reported that New South Wales police said the demonstration was a breach of public health orders.Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported early Saturday that there are more than 193 million confirmed global COVID cases with more than 4 million deaths.Some information for this report came from the Associated Press. 

US Buys 200 Million More COVID-19 Vaccine Doses

The United States says it is buying 200 million more doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to anticipate future needs, including the possibility of booster shots as well as doses for children under 12 if regulators approve its use.White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday the additional doses would be delivered between this fall and spring of next year.She said the Biden administration is “going to prepare for every contingency” and wants to have “maximum flexibility” to deal with future possibilities.The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve any COVID-19 vaccine for children under 12, but drugmakers have been testing their vaccines’ efficacy and safety in that age group.Health officials have begun to discuss the possibility of booster shots, but so far have said that Americans who are fully vaccinated do not need them at this time.In Europe, regulators Friday recommended approval of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for 12- to 17-year-olds. The European Medicines Agency has already approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use by teens.The approval paves the way for the European Commission and individual European governments to follow suit and allow the vaccine for teens.In another development Friday, the World Health Organization called for all countries to work together to investigate the origins of COVID-19, a day after China rejected plans by the WHO for another investigation.WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic said another investigation is not about “politics” or a “blame game.” He said it is “about basically a requirement we all have to try to understand how the pathogen came into the human population.”The top Republican on the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul, called Friday for a congressional investigation into the origins of COVID-19, saying he has more evidence that the virus was leaked from a Chinese laboratory.China has repeatedly rejected that theory.Commuters crowd a bus promoting the use of face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 23, 2021.The vice minister of the Chinese National Health Commission, Zeng Yixin, said Thursday the WHO’s proposal to reopen its investigation into a Chinese lab leak as the source of the global outbreak lacked “respect for common sense and an arrogant attitude toward science.” He said China “can’t possibly accept such a plan.”An investigation China and the WHO conducted earlier this year concluded it was “extremely unlikely” that a Wuhan lab leak was the source of the virus. Some international experts say, however, that Chinese scientists wielded too much influence in determining the results of the investigation.In Japan on Friday, after a one-year pandemic delay, the Tokyo Olympics formally opened.The event is being held amid tens of thousands of empty seats in Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium, with only about 900 dignitaries and other officials attending because of COVID-19 precautions.The Japanese public is broadly opposed to holding the Games, fearing they will worsen Japan’s already deteriorating pandemic situation.In New Zealand, officials announced the suspension of the country’s quarantine-free travel arrangement with Australia, as that country struggles to bring an outbreak of the highly contagious delta variant under control.“This is not a decision we have taken lightly, but it is the right decision to keep New Zealanders safe,” the country’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said Friday.India’s health ministry said Friday it had recorded more than 35,000 new COVID-19 cases and 483 deaths in the previous 24-hour period.In the United States, some local health officials recommended reinstituting mask mandates because of the spread of the delta variant. Washington state’s top epidemiologist, Dr. Scott Lindquist, recommended that everyone wear a mask in crowded indoor places regardless of whether they have been vaccinated.Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards on Friday cited increasing hospitalizations across the state in encouraging people to wear masks indoors if they could not socially distance.According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, worldwide cases of COVID-19 have reached nearly 193.2 million. Global deaths stand at 4.14 million.

Somali-American Designer Debuts Hijabs at Nordstrom 

A Somali-American fashion designer is launching a line of headscarves with a major North American retailer to give Muslim women more options and to make hijabs more visible to U.S. shoppers. VOA Somali’s Maxamud Mascadde has our story from the Midwest state of Minnesota, narrated by Radhia Adam.

Cleveland’s Major League Baseball Team Goes from Indians to Guardians

Known as the Indians since 1915, Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team will be called Guardians.The ballclub announced the name change Friday — effective at the end of the 2021 season — with a video on Twitter narrated by actor and team fan Tom Hanks. The decision ends months of internal discussions triggered by a national reckoning by institutions and teams to drop logos and names considered racist.The choice of Guardians will undoubtedly be criticized by many of the club’s die-hard fans, some of whom quickly went on social media to vent.The organization spent most of the past year whittling down a list of potential names that was at nearly 1,200 just over a month ago. But the process, which the club said included 140 hours of interviews with fans, community leaders, front office personnel and a survey of 40,000 fans.Owner Paul Dolan said last summer’s social unrest, touched off by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, spurred his intention to change the name.Dolan is expected to provide more details on the choice and background on the change at a news conference at Progressive Field before the Indians host the Tampa Bay Rays.Dolan said the new name mirrors the city and its people.”Cleveland has and always will be the most important part of our identity,” he said in a statement. “Therefore, we wanted a name that strongly represents the pride, resiliency and loyalty of Clevelanders. ‘Guardians’ reflects those attributes that define us.””It brings to life the pride Clevelanders take in our city and the way we fight together for all who choose to be part of the Cleveland baseball family. While ‘Indians’ will always be a part of our history, our new name will help unify our fans and city as we are all Cleveland Guardians.”The change comes as the Washington Football Team continues to work toward a similar makeover. The franchise dropped its Redskins name before the 2020 season. Washington recently said it will reveal a new name and logo in 2022.Cleveland’s new name was inspired by two large landmark stone edifices near the downtown ballpark — referred to as traffic guardians — on the Hope Memorial Bridge over the Cuyahoga River.The team’s colors will remain the same, and the new Guardians’ new logos will incorporate some of the architectural features of the bridge.In 2018, the Indians stopped wearing the contentious Chief Wahoo logo on their jerseys and caps. However, the team continues to sell merchandise bearing the smiling, red-faced caricature that was protested for decades by Native American groups.FILE – In this Jan. 29, 2018 file photo, foam images of the MLB baseball Cleveland Indians’ mascot Chief Wahoo are displayed for sale at the Indians’ team shop in Cleveland.Numerous Native American groups have protested Cleveland’s use of the Wahoo logo and Indians name for years, so the latest development brought some comfort.”It is a major step towards righting the wrongs committed against Native peoples, and is one step towards justice,” said Crystal Echo Hawk, executive director and founder of IllumiNative, a group dedicated to fighting misrepresentations of Native Americans.The name change has sparked lively debate among the city’s passionate sports fans. Other names, including the Spiders, which is what the team was called before 1900, were pushed by supporters on social media platforms.But Guardians does seem to fit the team’s objective to find a name that embodies Cleveland’s hard-working, loyal, Midwestern-valued ethos while preserving the team’s history and uniting the community.
The rebranding comes as the Indians, who have one of baseball’s lowest payrolls, try to stay in contention despite a slew of injuries as the July 30 trading deadline approaches.”This is a historic moment for our franchise, and we are excited for our players and staff to debut our new team name and look in 2022,” said Chris Antonetti, the club’s president of baseball operations. “We look forward to our team proudly representing the city of Cleveland as the Guardians.”Guardians is the fifth name in franchise history joining the Blues (1901), Bronchos (1902), Naps (1903-1914) and Indians (1915-2021).

UN Chief Calls on Warring Parties to Observe Olympic Truce

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on all warring parties to observe the traditional Olympic truce during the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games in Japan, and to pursue cease-fires and lasting peace after the competitions end.The U.N. chief said in a video message Thursday that athletes from around the world have had to overcome “enormous obstacles” to participate in the games in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.”We need to show the same strength and solidarity in our efforts to bring peace to our world,” he said.”Seeking peace and uniting around common goals is even more important this year,” Guterres said, “as we strive to end the pandemic and build a strong, sustainable and inclusive global recovery.”The Olympic truce began in ancient Greece to allow free passage of athletes and spectators from often-warring city-states to the original games every four years. But even that tradition was broken when the Greek city of Elis attacked the neighboring town of Pisa while it was hosting the Festival of Zeus and the Olympic Games.This summer’s Olympic Games will be held from July 23 to Aug. 8, followed by the Paralympic Games from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.Guterres recalled “the traditional call to silence the guns while the games proceed,” and expressed hope that it can lead to an end to conflicts.