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Fans Gather at Public Memorial, Celebrate Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds

Hundreds of fans and friends of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher gathered for a public memorial honoring the celebrated mother and daughter.

The two-hour ceremony Saturday was a mix of music and dance spliced with some never-before-seen footage of the mother-daughter duo reflecting on their lives. The poignant event was a laughter-filled memorial for the late actresses.

The ceremony was led by Todd Fisher, who lost his mother and sister one day apart in late December. Fisher said his mother didn’t like memorials, so he was calling it a show that would reveal his loved ones like never before.

Deaths a day apart

Fisher, 60, an actress and writer who starred as Princess Leia in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, died December 27 after suffering a medical emergency days earlier aboard a flight from London. Reynolds, 84, an Oscar-nominated actress who shot to fame after starring in “Singin’ in the Rain” at age 19, died the following day after being briefly hospitalized.

“She said, ‘I want to be with Carrie,’” Reynolds’ son, Todd Fisher, told The Associated Press after his mother’s death. “And then she was gone.”

 

People were granted attendance at the event, which was live-streamed, Saturday on a first-come, first-served basis.

The ceremony featured music by James Blunt and “Star Wars” composer John Williams and displayed Hollywood memorabilia that Reynolds collected throughout her life.

Moments included a dance tribute by performers from the dance studio Reynolds founded to music from “Singin’ in the Rain,” the classic film that made her a star.

The ceremony started with a video montage using “Star Wars” music to show Fisher from infancy, displaying tender moments with her and her mother interspersed with highlights from her career.

‘Star Wars’ remembrance

At the end of the montage, a working R2D2 unit came on stage and mournfully beeped at a picture of Fisher and at an empty director’s chair with Fisher’s name on it.

Actress Ruta Lee delivered a touching eulogy about Reynolds and her philanthropy. As with much of the ceremony, Lee sprinkled humor throughout.

Dan Aykroyd also cracked jokes, describing Fisher as a chatterbox who never let him speak during their relationship.

The ceremony also featured a new song Fisher’s friend James Blunt wrote in memory of her.

The back-to-back deaths of two prominent actresses were stunning, but they were made even more poignant by the women’s complex history. Fisher and Reynolds had a strained relationship that Fisher explored in her writing, but they later reconciled and became trusted confidantes brought closer by painful events in their lives.

Reynolds lost one husband to Elizabeth Taylor, and two other husbands plundered her for millions. Fisher struggled with addiction and mental illness, which she candidly described in books and interviews.

Fisher’s last role

Fisher died after finishing work on “The Last Jedi,” the eighth film in the core “Star Wars” saga. Disney CEO Bob Iger said this week that Fisher appears throughout the film, and her performance will not be changed.

Reynolds earned an Oscar nomination for her starring role in “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”

The actresses participated in an HBO documentary on their lives called “Bright Lights,” which aired in January.

Todd Fisher organized Saturday’s memorial to give fans an opportunity to honor his mother and sister. Fisher’s daughter, actress Billie Lourd, is expected to attend.

Stars including Meryl Streep, Tracey Ullman and Stephen Fry mourned the actresses at a private memorial in January.

Fans to Gather for Public Memorial for Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds

Stars and fans will gather Saturday for a public memorial to honor late actresses Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher nearly three months after their deaths. 

 

The ceremony honoring the lives of the mother-daughter duo will be at Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills, the storied cemetery that is their final resting place. People will be granted attendance at the event on a first-come, first-served basis, and it will be live-streamed beginning at 1 p.m. PDT. 

 

The ceremony is slated to feature music by James Blunt and “Star Wars” composer John Williams and display Hollywood memorabilia that Reynolds collected throughout her life. 

Deaths a day apart 

Fisher, 60, an actress and writer who starred as Princess Leia in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, died December 27 after suffering a medical emergency days earlier aboard a flight from London. Reynolds, 84, an Oscar-nominated actress who shot to fame after starring in “Singin’ in the Rain” at age 19, died the following day after being briefly hospitalized. 

 

“She said, ‘I want to be with Carrie,’” Reynolds’ son, Todd Fisher, told The Associated Press after his mother’s death. “And then she was gone.” 

The back-to-back deaths of two prominent actresses were stunning, but they were made even more poignant by the women’s complex history. Fisher and Reynolds had a strained relationship that Fisher explored in her writing, but they later reconciled and became trusted confidantes brought closer by painful events in their lives. 

 

Reynolds lost one husband to Elizabeth Taylor, and two other husbands plundered her for millions. Fisher struggled with addiction and mental illness, which she candidly described in books and interviews. 

Fisher’s last role

 

Fisher died after finishing work on “The Last Jedi,” the eighth film in the core “Star Wars” saga. Disney CEO Bob Iger said this week that Fisher appears throughout the film, and her performance will not be changed. 

 

Reynolds earned an Oscar nomination for her starring role in “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.” 

 

The actresses participated in an HBO documentary on their lives called “Bright Lights,” which aired in January. 

 

Todd Fisher organized Saturday’s memorial to give fans an opportunity to honor his mother and sister. Fisher’s daughter, actress Billie Lourd, is expected to attend. 

 

Stars including Meryl Streep, Tracey Ullman and Stephen Fry mourned the actresses at a private memorial in January. 

Ivory Coast Infant Separated From Parasitic Twin

Doctors at a Chicago-area hospital have successfully operated on a baby from Africa born with a parasitic twin and having four legs and two spines. VOA’s Bronwyn Benito reports the girl, known only as “Dominique” from Ivory Coast, is recovering well from the delicate and groundbreaking March 8 surgery and is expected to live a normal, fully functional life.

Some Elated, Others Frustrated by Health Care Bill’s Withdrawal

Some Americans breathed a sigh of relief, others bubbled with frustration, and nearly all resigned themselves to the prospect that the latest chapter in the never-ending national debate over health care would not be the last.

The withdrawal of the Republican-sponsored health bill in the face of likely defeat Friday in the U.S. House seemed to ensure that the deep divisions over the Affordable Care Act and its possible replacement would continue to simmer.

As news spread, Americans fell into familiar camps, either happy to see a Democratic effort live another day, or eager to see Republicans regroup and follow through with their “repeal Obamacare” promises.

“Yessssss,” elated artist Alysa Diebolt, 27, of Eastpointe, Michigan, typed on Facebook in response to the news, saying she was relieved those she knew on Affordable Care Act plans wouldn’t lose their coverage. “I’m excited, I think it’s a good thing,” she said.

Millions more shared her view, and #KillTheBill was a top trending topic on Twitter on Friday afternoon.

 

Among those who have long sought to see Obama’s health law dismantled, though, there was disappointment or chin-up resolve that they still could prevail.

“Hopefully, they’ll get it right next time,” said Anthony Canamucio, 50, owner of a barbershop in Middletown Township, Pennsylvania. He gave his vote to Trump in November and wanted to see Obama’s health law repealed, but found himself rooting for the GOP replacement bill to fail. He is insured through his wife’s employer and laments the growing deductibles and out-of-pocket costs, blaming Obama’s law even as health economists say those trends in employer-provided health coverage preceded the legislation.

Sticking with Trump

For Canamucio, the Republicans’ bill didn’t go far enough in dismantling the ACA. But he remains steadfast behind Trump and said he believes the president will still deliver.

Cliff Rouse, 34, a banker from Kinston, North Carolina, likewise was willing to give the president he helped elect a chance to make good on his promise. He sees Obama’s law as government overreach, even as he knows it could help people like his 64-year-old father, who was recently diagnosed with dementia but refused to buy coverage under a law he disagreed with. Rouse sees Trump’s moves on health care as hasty but believes the GOP will eventually come around with better legislation.

“They’ve not had enough time to develop a good plan,” Rouse said. “They should keep going until they have a good plan that Americans can feel confident in.”

 

It remained far more than a petty political debate, though, and some like Janella Williams, framed the issue as a question of life and death.

The 45-year-old graphic designer from Lawrence, Kansas, spent Friday in the hospital hooked up to an intravenous drip for a neurological disorder, getting the drugs that she says allow her to walk. Under her Affordable Care Act plan, she pays $480 a month for coverage and has an out-of-pocket maximum of $3,500 a year. If she were to lose it, she wouldn’t be able to afford the $13,000-a-year out-of-pocket maximum under her husband’s insurance. Her treatments cost about $90,000 every seven weeks.

As she followed the efforts to undo Obama’s law, Williams found herself yelling at the TV a lot. She wrote her senators, telling how she felt “helpless and out of control,” and how her hope was dwindling.

‘I am thankful’

After watching coverage on Friday while tethered to a port in an outpatient area, she said when the bill was withdrawn, “I am thankful. I hope that this makes Trump the earliest lame duck ever.”

Whatever comes of the developments, they became the latest chapter in a long-running policy debate — from Teddy Roosevelt’s call for national health insurance in 1912; through waves of New Deal and Great Society legislation that brought Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, but no comprehensive health system for all; to an unsuccessful attempt at universal coverage at the start of Bill Clinton’s administration. For now at least, Trump joins a list of American presidents who sought but failed to bring major health-related reform.

Trump has railed against the 2010 ACA since the start, and GOP leaders in Congress have rallied for its repeal with dozens of votes during the Obama years. Republicans won the chance to replace the health law with Trump’s win and control of both chambers of Congress.

“This is our opportunity to do it,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Friday. “We’ve talked about this thing since 2010. Every Republican … has campaigned, from dogcatcher on up, that they would do everything they could to repeal and replace Obamacare.”

ACA approval rises

Meantime, the Affordable Care Act has enjoyed growing approval with Obama’s departure from the White House and the emergence of details of Trump’s plan. For the first time, the law drew majority approval in a Pew Research Center poll last month, with 54 percent of Americans in favor.

Even some of Trump’s voters have come around to supporting the Obama law, or to a late realization that their coverage was made possible by it.

Walt Whitlow, 57, a carpenter from Volente, Texas, gave Trump his vote even as he came to view Obama’s law as “an unbelievable godsend.” He went without health coverage for nearly 20 years, but after the ACA passed, he signed up. Two months later, he was diagnosed with tongue cancer. He proclaims himself opposed to government handouts that he thinks people grow too dependent on, though he wouldn’t say what he hoped would happen with the GOP bill. Still, its withdrawal brought relief for a man who said his ACA coverage kept him from massive debt and maybe worse.

“It saved my life,” he said. “I really don’t know what to say.”

Kenya Releases Results of National TB Prevalence Survey

Kenya on Friday recognized World Tuberculosis Day by releasing results of a TB study by the country’s ministry of health  — the first of its kind since Kenya’s independence. TB remains high in Kenya, and experts say the country lags in the fight against the disease.

The survey represents a united front by many committed parties to determine the true burden of tuberculosis and how to best combat the fourth-leading cause of death in Kenya.

The survey is intended to provide an accurate estimate of Kenya’s TB burden, determine existing challenges in delivering TB testing and treatment, and identify people with TB not yet detected by the National TB control program. It was conducted to inform the government on how to effectively respond to TB control.

More than 63,000 people across 45 counties in Kenya were screened for the survey and, for the first time, there is accurate data on TB’s prevalence.

Dr. Enos Masini, the head of the National Tuberculosis, Leprosy and Lung disease program at the Ministry of Health, said the survey was driven by a need to know what the country was facing.

“We undertook to do this survey in the community to provide us with the exact data of the burden of the disease in Kenya, but also to go further and find out which groups of people are affected by the disease and what would be the best strategies for us to reach them,” he said.

The report states that there are more TB cases in Kenya than previously estimated, with a TB prevalence of 558 per 100,000 people.

TB was found to be higher in men between the ages of 25 and 34 years, urban dwellers, and women over the age of 65.

The majority (83 percent) of TB cases were HIV negative, suggesting that broad efforts at controlling TB in people with and without HIV are needed.

“For a long time, the estimates that we have used to accurately determine the burden of tuberculosis has been provided by the World Health Organization,” said Masini. “And this has been derived from the data we get from hospital records. We have always suspected that there could be a huge number of patients in the community that go untreated and undiagnosed and, therefore, fuel the transmission of the disease.”

Now, with the findings, he said the government and various stakeholders can deal with the disease effectively.

“Now we are not groping in the dark,” he said. “We know how much disease there is in this country. Secondly, we know that 40 percent of disease that occurs in this country remains undetected and untreated, and then we have a pretty good idea where people who are undetected, who are called missing TB cases, are.”

Masini said this information will help with planning. “We can … have strategic plans that really target people at most risk, people who are missed. And so we are able to find them and provide them with treatment.”

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided technical and scientific support to the government of Kenya in the design and implementation of the survey and $575,000 in funding to conduct it.

According to Kenya’s National Tuberculosis, Leprosy and Lung Disease Program, the major factor responsible for the large TB disease burden is the concurrent HIV epidemic.

Other contributing factors include poverty and social deprivation that have led to a mushrooming of peri-urban slums between cities and the countryside, and limited access to general health care services.

The survey findings also reveal that the current practice of screening for TB symptoms and using microscopy as the only test misses many cases. Using GeneXpert, an innovative technology for the diagnosis of TB, has led to the detection of 78 percent of TB cases among those screened, making it a more reliable and efficient test.

A statement from the Cabinet secretary of Health, Dr. Cleopa Mailu, said in part “the government was committed to making TB diagnostics accessible”  by expanding “the use of Chest X-rays to screen all persons presumed to have TB and make GeneXpert the first diagnostic test for all presumed TB cases.”

The government also said that it would increase engagement with the private sector, carry out targeted approaches through community-based action, and improve community awareness of TB symptoms in an effort to make TB everyone’s business.