Ukraine Businesses Pivot to New Military Technology Production

Since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, drone production in the country has surged. Ukrainian businesses have shifted from manufacturing products for peacetime to producing equipment for wartime. From Kyiv, Myroslava Gongadze explains how Ukrainian ingenuity is altering the course of the war. Camera: Eugene Shynkar.

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British PM Accuses Greek Leader of ‘Grandstanding’ Over Parthenon Marbles 

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has accused his Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis of public “grandstanding” over the ownership of Parthenon sculptures. 

The two leaders have been at odds with one another after Sunak canceled a scheduled meeting between the two just hours before it was set to take place. 

In a weekly question period with the house of commons, Sunak told parliament that Mitsotakis had broken a promise that he would not publicly bring up the sculptures.

“Specific assurances on that topic were made to this country and then were broken,” Sunak said. “When people make commitments, they should keep them.” 

Greek officials denied that any such promise had been made.

In an interview with British television on Sunday, Mitsotakis called for the return of the sculptures so they could be displayed beside the rest of the sculptures still in Athens. He also said that removing them was like cutting the “Mona Lisa” in half.

Athens has long urged the British Museum to return 2,500-year-old sculptures, known in Britain as the Elgin Marbles. The Marbles were taken from the Parthenon temple by British diplomat Lord Elgin in 1806, when Greece was under Ottoman Turkish rule.

Greek officials have said Mitsotakis only promoted a longstanding position, and he called Sunak’s cancelation of the meeting disrespectful.

Mitsotakis said the cancelation was “an unfortunate event,” but he added that “the move will not hurt relations between Greece and Britain in the longer term.”

The Greek leader also went on to say the cancelation of the meeting had a positive side to it and that his calls for reunification of the sculptures have gained more attention.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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US Imposes Sanctions on Cryptocurrency Mixer Sinbad Over Alleged North Korea Links

The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on a virtual currency mixer the Treasury Department said has processed millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency from major heists carried out by North Korea-linked hackers.

The U.S. Treasury Department in a statement said virtual currency mixer Sinbad, hit with sanctions on Wednesday, processed millions of dollars worth of virtual currency from heists carried out by the North Korea-linked Lazarus Group, including the Axie Infinity and Horizon Bride heists of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Lazarus, which has been sanctioned by the U.S., has been accused of carrying out some of the largest virtual currency heists to date. In March 2022, for example, they allegedly stole about $620 million in virtual currency from a blockchain project linked to the online game Axie Infinity.

“Mixing services that enable criminal actors, such as the Lazarus Group, to launder stolen assets will face serious consequences,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in the statement on Wednesday.

“The Treasury Department and its U.S. government partners stand ready to deploy all tools at their disposal to prevent virtual currency mixers, like Sinbad, from facilitating illicit activities.”

A virtual currency mixer is a software tool that pools and scrambles cryptocurrencies from thousands of addresses.

Sinbad is believed by some experts in the industry to be a successor to the Blender mixer, which the U.S. hit with sanctions last year over accusations it was being used by North Korea.

The Treasury said Sinbad is also used by cybercriminals to obscure transactions linked to activities such as sanctions evasion, drug trafficking and the purchase of child sexual abuse materials, among other malign activities. 

Wednesday’s action freezes any U.S. assets of Sinbad and generally bars Americans from dealing with it. Those that engage in certain transactions with the mixer also risk being hit with sanctions. 

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America House Opens in Odesa Despite Ongoing War in Ukraine 

A new America House is celebrating its opening in Odesa, making it the third major cultural and educational center in Ukraine supported and financed by the U.S. Embassy. America House Odesa was supposed to open in early 2022, but Russia’s invasion changed those plans. Anna Kosstutschenko visited the center and found out how the war altered its program. Camera — Pavel Suhodolskiy.

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Is AI About to Steal Your Job?

Almost all U.S. jobs, from truck driver to childcare provider to software developer, include skills that can be done, or at least supplemented, by generative artificial intelligence (GenAI), according to a recent report.

GenAI is artificial intelligence that can generate high-quality content based on the input data used to train it.

“AI is likely to touch every part of every job to some degree,” says Cory Stahle, an economist with, which released the report.

The report finds that almost one in five jobs (19.7%) — like IT operations, mathematics and information design — faces the highest risk of being affected by AI because at least 80% of the job skills those positions require can be done reasonably well by GenAI.

But that doesn’t mean that those jobs will eventually be lost to robots.

“It’s important to recognize that, in general, these technologies don’t affect entire occupations. It actually is very rare that a robot will show up, sit in somebody’s seat to do everything that someone does at their job,” says Michael Chui of the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), who researches the impact of technology and innovation on business, the economy and society. researchers analyzed more than 55 million job postings and found that GenAI can perform 50% to almost 80% of the skills required in 45.7% of those job listings. In 34.6% of jobs listed, GenAI can handle less than 50% of the skills.

Jobs that require manual skills or a personal touch, such as nursing and veterinary care, are the least likely to be hard hit by AI, the report says.

In the past, technological advances have mostly affected manual labor. However, GenAI is expected to have the most effect on so-called knowledge workers, generally defined as people who create knowledge or think for a living.

But, for now, AI does not appear poised to steal anyone’s job.

“There are very few jobs that AI can do completely. Even in jobs where AI can do many of the skills, there are still aspects of those jobs that AI cannot do,” Stahle says.

Rather than replace workers, researchers expect GenAI to enhance the work people already do, making them more efficient.

“This is something that, in many ways, we believe is going to unlock human potential and productivity for many workers across many different sectors of the economy,” Stahle says.

“There are a number of things that can happen,” Chui adds. “One is, we simply do more of something we were already doing, and so imagine if you’re a university professor or a teacher, and the grading can be done by machine rather than you. You can take those hours and, instead of grading, you can actually start tutoring your students, spending more time with your students, improving their performance, helping them learn.”

American workers need to begin using the new technology if they hope to remain competitive, according to Chui.

“Workers who are best able to use these technologies will be the most competitive workers in the workforce,” he says. “It was true before, but it’s more true than ever, that we’re all going to have to be lifetime learners.”

A survey developed by Chui finds that almost 80% of workers have experimented with AI tools.

“One of the great powers of these generative AI tools, so far, is they’ve been designed in such a way to make it easy for really anybody to use these types of tools,” Stahle says. “I really believe that people should be looking to embrace these tools and find ways to incorporate them into the work that they’re already interested in doing.”

Ultimately, could one of the unexpected benefits of AI be more efficient employees who work less?

“In general, Americans work a lot,” Chui says. “Maybe we don’t have to work so long. Maybe we have a four-day work week … and so you could give that time back to the worker.”

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‘Hunger Games’ Feasts, ‘Napoleon’ Conquers, ‘Wish’ Disappoints at Box Office

The Walt Disney Co.’s “Wish” had been expected to rule the Thanksgiving weekend box office, but moviegoers instead feasted on leftovers, as “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” led ticket sales for the second weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday. 

Neither of the weekend’s top new releases — “Wish” and Ridley Scott’s “Napoleon” — could keep up with Lionsgate’s “Hunger Games” prequel. After debuting the previous weekend with $44.6 million, the return to Panem proved the top draw for holiday moviegoers, grossing $28.8 million over the weekend and $42 million over the five-day holiday frame. 

In two weeks of release, “Songbirds and Snakes” has grossed nearly $100 million domestically and $200 million globally. 

The closer contest was for second place, where “Napoleon” narrowly outmaneuvered “Wish.” Scott’s epic outperformed expectations to take $32.5 million over the five-day weekend and an estimated $20.4 million Friday through Sunday. The film, starring Joaquin Phoenix as the French emperor and Vanessa Kirby as his wife Joséphine de Beauharnais, was also the top movie globally with $78.8 million. 

Reviews were mixed (61% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and ticket buyers were non-plussed (a “B-” CinemaScore), but “Napoleon” fared far better in theaters than its subject did at Waterloo. 

“Napoleon,” like Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” is a big-budget statement by Apple Studios of the streamer’s swelling Hollywood ambitions. With an estimated budget of $200 million, “Napoleon” may still have a long road to reach profitability for Apple, which partnered with Sony to distribute “Napoleon” theatrically. But it’s an undeniably strong beginning for an adult-skewing 168-minute historical drama. 

“Wish,” however, had been supposed to have a more starry-eyed start. Disney Animation releases like “Frozen II” ($123.7 million over five days in 2019), “Ralph Breaks the Internet” ($84.6 million in 2018) and “Coco” ($71 million in 2017), have often owned Thanksgiving moviegoing. 

But “Wish” wobbled, coming in with $31.7 million over five days and $19.5 million Friday through Sunday. It added $17.3 million internationally. It had been forecast to debut closer to $50 million. 

“Wish,” at least, is faring better than Disney’s Thanksgiving release last year: 2022’s “Strange World” bombed with a five-day $18.9 million opening. But hopes had been higher for “Wish,” co-written and co-directed by the “Frozen” team of Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee and featuring the voices of Ariana DeBose and Chris Pine. “Wish,” a fairy tale centered around a wished-upon star, is also a celebration of Disney, itself, timed to the studio’s 100th anniversary and rife with callbacks to Disney favorites. 

Critics weren’t impressed, saying “Wish” felt more like marketing than movie magic. So instead of righting an up-and-down year for Disney, “Wish” is, for now, adding to some of the studio’s recent headaches, including the underperforming “The Marvels.” The Marvel sequel has limped to $76.9 million domestically and $110.2 million overseas in three weeks. 

“Wish” also faced direct competition for families in “Trolls Band Together.” The DreamWorks and Universal Pictures release opened a week prior and took in $17.5 million in its second frame ($25.3 million over five days). 

“‘Wish’ ran into a much more competitive market than what Disney might normally see in the Thanksgiving corridor,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for data firm Comscore. “We’re accustomed to seeing those Disney films at the top of the chart. They kind of had to split the audience with ‘Trolls.’” 

Still, the storybook isn’t written yet on “Wish.” It could follow the lead of Pixar’s “Elemental,” which launched with a lukewarm $29.6 million in June but found its legs, ultimately grossing nearly $500 million worldwide. 

Also entering wide-release over the holiday weekend was Emerald Fennell’s “Saltburn,” the writer-director’s follow-up to 2020’s “Promising Young Woman.” After debuting in seven packed theaters last weekend, “Saltburn” grossed $3.1 million over five days for Amazon and MGM. Barry Keoghan stars as an Oxford student befriended by a rich classmate (Jacob Elordi) and invited to his family’s country manor. 

As Hollywood’s award season accelerates (Netflix debuted Bradley Cooper’s “Maestro” in select theaters but didn’t report grosses), Focus Features’ “The Holdovers” continues to be one of the top choices in cinemas. Alexander Payne’s film starring Paul Giamatti as a boarding school instructor made $3.8 million over the five-day weekend. In five weeks, it grossed $12.9 million. 

Ticket sales overall reached $172 million in U.S. and Canada theaters over the five-day holiday weekend, according to Comscore. That’s up significantly from recent years but well behind the typical pre-pandemic Thanksgiving weekends. (In 2019, sales boosted by “Frozen 2” surpassed $262 million.) 

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday. 

  1. “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” $28.8 million. 

  2. “Napoleon,” $20.4 million. 

  3. “Wish,” $19.5 million. 

  4. “Trolls Band Together,” $17.5 million. 

  5. “Thanksgiving,” $7.2 million. 

  6. “The Marvels,” $6.4 million. 

  7. “The Holdovers,” $2.8 million. 

  8. “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour,” $2.3 million. 

  9. “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” $1.8 million. 

  10. “Saltburn,” $1.7 million. 

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Cambodia’s Dragon Boat Races Make a Welcome Return

Cambodians are celebrating the return of dragon boat races at this year’s Water Festival after a three-year absence amid hopes it will bolster the tourism industry and an economy struggling to recover in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Luke Hunt reports. Camera: Luke Hunt, David Brown, Vicheka Kol

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Greek PM to ‘Persist’ With UK Over Parthenon Marbles

Greece’s prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Sunday he would push for the return of the Parthenon Marbles when he meets UK leader Rishi Sunak in Britain this week.

The sculptures, also known as the Elgin Marbles, were taken from the Parthenon temple at the Acropolis in Athens in the early 19th century by British diplomat Thomas Bruce, the earl of Elgin.

Greece maintains the marbles were stolen, which Britain denies, and the issue has been a source of contention between the countries for decades.

Mitsotakis, who is due to see Sunak on Monday, likened the collection being held at the British Museum in London to the Mona Lisa painting being cut in half.

“They do look better in the Acropolis Museum, a state-of-the-art museum that was built for that purpose,” he told the BBC.

“It’s as if I told you that you would cut the Mona Lisa in half, and you will have half of it at the Louvre and half of it at the British Museum, do you think your viewers would appreciate the beauty of the painting in such a way?”

Mitsotakis added that “this is exactly what happened with the Parthenon sculptures”.

“That is why we keep lobbying for a deal that would essentially be a partnership between Greece and the British Museum but would allow us to return the sculptures to Greece and have people appreciate them in their original setting,” he told the Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme.

The 2,500-year-old collection has been on display at the British Museum since 1817.

In January, the UK government ruled out a permanent return after media reported the British Museum was close to signing a loan agreement that would see the marbles back in Athens.

Mitsotakis, who won a second term in June, said his government “had not made as much progress as I would like in the negotiations”.

But added: “I’m a patient man and we’ve waited for hundreds of years, and I will persist in these discussions.”

Mitsotakis said he would also raise the issue with UK opposition leader Keir Starmer, who — if opinion polls are believed — is set to be Britain’s next prime minister after an election expected next year.

The Parthenon temple — built in the 5th century BCE to honor the goddess Athena — was partially destroyed during a Venetian bombardment in 1687, then looted.

Its fragments are scattered throughout many renowned museums.

Earlier this year, three marble fragments of the Parthenon temple that had been held by the Vatican for centuries were returned to Greece.


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Meals To Woof Down at Italy’s First Dog Restaurant

Pepe’s meal is so good he licks the plate clean. In any other Rome establishment, slobbering on one’s chicken and mashed potato would be frowned upon — but this is “Fiuto”, Italy’s first dogs’ restaurant.

The lighting is soft, lounge music plays in the background, attentive staff show people and pets to their tables and ask whether furry, four-legged customers might fancy a boiled egg with pureed peas and fontina cheese? Or perhaps a simple fish with ricotta and courgettes?

Thirsty pups can opt for a green apple and watermelon juice, or go wild and have a pear, strawberry or banana one instead.

“We drew up the menu with a veterinary nutritionist with whom I determined the ingredients, taking allergies into account, because dogs have many more allergies than humans,” said head chef Luca Grammatico, who previously worked as a dog trainer.

Pepe, a four-year-old Bichon with a naughty face, licks every last crumb off his elegant black bowl, almost taking the geometric patterns off too.

Pets “are part of our family, so why not treat them like family?” says Sara Nicosanti, as she takes a selfie with Mango, her five-year-old Jack Russell, in the mirror-lined area designed especially for this purpose.

There is not a bark to be heard: guests focus on their designer bowls, sitting on fleece blankets next to their owners’ tables.

Nicosanti, a 36-year-old real estate agent, says she is “very happy” with the choice at the restaurant, which opened just a month ago, because the dogs “can have a balanced diet too”, with “suitable ingredients”.

“No spices, no salt and no oils,” insists Grammatico. Food for canine customers is prepared in a separate kitchen to that of their human owners.

Portions are tailored to the dogs’ size — S (for those weighing two to 10 kilograms), M (11-20 kg), L (21-30 kg) and even XL (over 30 kg).

“Fish is very popular because it is a different flavor to their usual food,” Grammatico said.

Birthday cake

The mood is festive as Romina Lanza, a 40-year-old lawyer, celebrates her dog Rudy’s fourth birthday.

She sees “Fiuto” (Sense of Smell) as “a very welcome initiative” and brushes off questions as to whether it is right to wait hand and paw on pets, serving them freshly prepared, costly dishes, while people in other parts of the world go hungry.

“It’s a personal choice, I don’t see anything wrong with it,” she said.

Neither does Maria Gliottone, a 20-year-old student who discovered the restaurant on TikTok and came with Nala, her two-year-old dog, and Nala’s friend Douglas, a four-month-old Corsican puppy.

“Those who don’t have a dog think that, but those who do (have one) are more than happy to come here with their companion,” she said.

Since it opened, the restaurant has welcomed an average of six to 10 dogs every evening during the week and 10 to 15 at weekends, for a price per head of between eight and 20 euros (around $22), depending on the size of the dog.

“We’ve installed screens (between tables) so that when the dogs eat, they can’t see each other or disturb each other by invading each other’s spaces,” said Marco Turano.

The restaurant’s three co-founders did not expect the establishment in the heart of Rome’s Ponte Milvio district to be so successful.

“We are obviously super happy,” said Turano, 33, as he wrapped up a surprise present — a detangling conditioner — for Rudy.

And while there won’t be candles, he will get a birthday cake of sorts: “a cheese biscuit with ricotta cheese and an end note of green apple”.

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In US, Hmong ‘New Year’ Means Recalling Old Spirits, Teaching New Generations

For the annual fall renewal of her shaman spirit, Mee Vang Yang will soon ritually redecorate the tall altar in her living room where she keeps her father’s ring-shaped shaman bells.

She carried them across the Mekong River as the family fled the communist takeover of her native Laos four decades ago. Today, they facilitate the connection to the spiritual world she needs to help fellow refugees and their American-raised children who seek restoration of lost spirits.

“Like going to church, you’re giving beyond yourself to a greater power,” said the mother of six through a translator in Hmong.

It’s the language spoken for the most important spiritual celebration in the Hmong calendar, the “Noj Peb Caug” — translated as “new year,” but literally meaning “eat 30,” because the ceremonies traditionally were tied to the fall’s post-harvest abundance shared with the clan and offered to spirits.

During new year, which is celebrated mostly in November and December among Hmong Americans, shamans send off their spirit guides to regenerate their energy for another season of healing. Male heads of households who embrace traditional animist practices perform soul-calling ceremonies, venerate ancestor spirits and invoke the protection of good spirits.

“A traditional Hmong home is not just a home, but also a place of worship,” said Tzianeng Vang, Vang Yang’s nephew, who came to Minnesota as a teen and grew up a Christian. He’s among the community leaders trying to share knowledge of these animist traditions so they won’t be lost for his children’s generation.

“You preserve it here or you have nowhere,” he said.

Moving from east to west

Persecuted as an ethnic minority in their ancestral lands in China, the Hmong fled first to the mountains of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. There, tens of thousands fought for the United States in the Vietnam War. When communist regimes swept the region, they escaped to refugee camps in neighboring Thailand and, starting in the mid-1970s, resettled largely in California farm country and Minnesota’s capital city.

The majority of the estimated 300,000 Hmong in the United States are animists and believe that spirits live throughout the physical world. That includes multiple souls in a person — any of which can leave and needs to be ceremonially called back, said Lee Pao Xiong, director of the Center for Hmong Studies at Concordia University in St. Paul.

But many younger Hmong haven’t learned the spiritual significance of cultural traditions, even popular ones like the Thanksgiving weekend dance, music and craft performances in one of St. Paul’s largest entertainment venues, Xiong said.

“It’s intricate, it’s not just ‘go to church and pray.’ There are all these spirits to atone to. It’s about spirits that you have to appease,” said Xiong, who teaches classes about these traditions, which often include the ritual slaughter of cows, pigs or chickens as an offering or an exchange of spirits.

Educating youth in ancestral culture is a crucial aim of the Hmong Cultural Center just down the street from St. Paul’s capitol, said its director, Txongpao Lee.

“They need to learn from parents and prepare for when they have children,” said Lee, who estimates about one-third of young Hmong have converted to Christianity. Acceptance of ancestral customs differs among church denominations, he added — his family’s Lutheran and Catholic members vary in participation in new year rituals.

Lee leads them for his household, though his wife, Hlee Xiong Lee, has been a shaman since she fell ill when pregnant with the fourth of her seven children. Shamans, like other traditional healers across cultures, often associate the revelation of their gift with life-threatening sickness and believe they could die if they refuse the call.

Xiong Lee’s path to shamanism has been arduous, entailing rigorous training with a shaman mentor to learn how to communicate with the spirit world. But so was her journey to the United States, arriving in a small Minnesota town as a 14-year-old refugee with no English-speaking skills, too embarrassed to ask for help getting a lunch ticket on her first day of school.

She’s proud of how her own children wear string bracelets and effortlessly explain to inquisitive teachers or classmates they’re meant to tie the family to protecting spirits.

“They’re good at adapting to my tradition and American tradition,” she said.

Connecting with spirits

Kevin Lee, a shaman’s son who says he also first started experiencing spiritual energies when he was 5, similarly has had to navigate a regular childhood in St. Paul with his ability to connect with good and bad spirits “on the other side.”

“Kids would be like, ‘this guy is weird.’ For me, it was just another day,” he said in front of the three living-room altars in the house he shares with his parents and brother.

They will be redecorated with new paper designs for the new year after his father, Chad Lee, finishes helping his shaman mentees and has time to send off his shaman spirit for a much-deserved break — short, though, because up to half a dozen people call for his help each day. Last year, his “angel” only got three days off, the older Lee said.

“Spiritual world is confusing, but once you find a path, everything is natural,” Chad Lee said.

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New York City Hosts Its 97th Thanksgiving Parade

New York City on Thursday hosted its 97th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, featuring 48 character and novelty balloons, 26 floats, 12 marching bands and more than 700 clowns. Aron Ranen reports.

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A Chicken Inside a Duck Inside a Turkey

In most of the United States, November and December are prime time for turkey lovers. The U.S. Poultry and Egg Association says 46 million turkeys are eaten on Thanksgiving, with another 22 million consumed on Christmas.

But in the Southern state of Louisiana, known for its decadence and creative cuisine, turkey has a competitor. For people in and around cities including New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Lafayette, it’s turducken that is the talk of the town.

“Turducken is a chicken stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside a turkey,” said Ellis Lanaux, chief executive officer of Langenstein’s, the oldest full-service grocery store in New Orleans, open since 1922.

“It’s part of this unique culinary culture we have down here,” Lanaux told VOA. “There’s nothing like our food elsewhere in America, and you see that uniqueness on our Thanksgiving table. In addition to mainstream staples like mashed potatoes and green beans, you also find Cajun dishes like chargrilled oysters, oyster dressing, cornbread and crawfish stuffing, mirliton casserole, and — if you’re lucky — a turducken.”

In addition to the trio of birds, dressing (a term in some parts of the U.S. often used interchangeably with stuffing) is added between each layer. Some turducken creators ask shoppers to choose a single dressing, with oyster dressing and cornbread and crawfish dressing among the most popular.

Others, including Hebert’s Specialty Meats, allow as many as three dressings, with alligator, boudin sausage, shrimp etouffee and rice, crawfish jalapeno cornbread, jambalaya, and wild rice and pecan among the many possibilities between layers of poultry.

When sliced, the creation presents almost like a layered French terrine.

“Eating turducken isn’t for the faint of heart, and neither is preparing one,” laughed restaurateur Brenda Prudhomme. “It takes forever. You have to prepare your dressing, you have to get your birds, you have to debone each of them, you have to stuff them and layer the dressings, you have to season them, and then you basically have to become a seamstress and sew them in together. It isn’t easy, but it brings a lot of people joy so we do it!”

Part of a long tradition

Hebert’s Specialty Meats sells thousands of turduckens each year, with spikes at both Thanksgiving and Christmas. At Chris’s Specialty Foods, the Turducken Roll Package is advertised as “enough turducken for a small banquet,” while its Holiday Turducken Feast serves even more.

The words “banquet” and “feast” aren’t accidental: Turducken is part of a larger, and older, tradition known as engastration, a cooking technique in which the remains of one animal are stuffed into another.

“It’s a tradition that reaches back to the Middle Ages, and even has roots in ancient Rome,” said Liz Williams, founder of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans. “It’s a culinary practice that would show up at feasts for royalty and enjoyed by the wealthy. Compared to what they were stuffing back then, filling a turkey with a duck and a chicken, quite frankly, is chump change.”

The famed Trojan Boar from the Roman Empire, for example, was a 1,000-pound hog stuffed with game birds and other small animals.

The Roti Sans Pareil, or the Roast Without Equal, was a 19th-century dish created by French gastronomist Alexandre Balthazar Laurent Grimod de la Reyniere. The creation included an extraordinary 17 stuffed birds: bustard, chicken, duck, garden warbler, goose, guinea fowl, lapwing, lark, ortolan bunting, partridge, pheasant, plover, quail, teal, thrush, turkey and woodcock.

And, still today, the Inuits of Greenland are known to enjoy kiviak, a traditional winter community dish of seal stuffed with as many as 500 birds.

While turducken is far more modest, Lenore Newman, author of Lost Feast: Culinary Extinction and the Future of Food, said this Louisiana Thanksgiving feast food likely comes from a similar tradition.

“It’s a dish intended to impress,” she told VOA. “That’s a commonality among dishes using engastration: They are meant to wow.”

Debated origin

Turducken most definitely wows – so much so that there are competing claims to its origin.

Many say it was Paul Prudhomme, who popularized Cajun cuisine on a national stage with his catalog of successful cookbooks and his public television show, “Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Always Cooking!” Prudhomme copyrighted the name in 1986, but others believe it was Hebert’s that created the dish a year earlier.

“A farmer walked into our store carrying a turkey, a duck and a chicken, and they asked our owners to stuff them into each other,” said Scott Catlett, the owner of several Hebert’s locations. “We thought it was a little weird, but we’re always willing to try anything once and thankfully we did!”

Some even credit turducken’s invention to New Orleans surgeon Gerald R. LaNasa. As early as the 1960s, he was locally known to use his scalpel while deboning the three birds before stuffing them — sometimes adding pork or veal roasts, andouille sausage or foie gras into the final hen’s cavity.

“I think it’s usually impossible to pin food down to one inventor because cuisine evolves and people build off of each other’s ideas,” said Williams from the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. “But the fact that there are so many competing popular stories shows just how beloved turducken has become.”

Though the debate over who created the trilogy of birds continues, there is no dispute about when the dish rose to national prominence.

That was in 1997 when American football television announcer John Madden carved into a turducken during a Thanksgiving game hosted by the New Orleans Saints. Turducken became a regular part of his Thanksgiving broadcasts, with Madden handing out turkey legs to that game’s best players.

Despite its popularity, with thousands now shipped annually from Louisiana, not everyone is impressed.

“I call it a medieval pile of poo!” laughed Poppy Tooker, host of a weekly radio show, “Louisiana Eats!” “If you’re hoping for the familiar flavor of a turkey breast, or a rich duck, or a delicious chicken, I’m afraid you’re not going to get any of that because it all gets jumbled together into a mess.”

Still, Tooker acknowledged there is something about turducken that captures the spirit of the region from which it came.

“Louisianians — men and women — aren’t afraid to roll their sleeves up in the kitchen and take on a complicated dish,” she said. “This is definitely one of them. It might not be a recipe that came from your grandmother, but it’s a newer tradition that says something about our culture, for sure. People are wild about it here.”

To find out what side of the turducken debate you fall on — delicious or not — Prudhomme advised in his 1987 “The Prudhomme Family Cookbook” to try making one yourself.

“Each time you do a turducken, it will become easier,” he wrote. “It doesn’t take magical cooking ability; it just takes care. What is magical is the way people who eat it will feel about your cooking.”

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Balloons, Bands and Santa: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Ushers in Holiday Season in New York

Beloved characters like Snoopy and SpongeBob SquarePants soared through the skies above New York City Thursday while bands marched along the streets below as the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade ushered in the holiday season.

The parade started on Manhattan’s Upper West Side making its way alongside Central Park in front of big crowds and a national television audience before ending in front of Macy’s flagship store on 34th Street.

Among the big names performing is Cher, who just released her first Christmas album. The Oscar-, Emmy- and Grammy Award-winner has a prime spot — performing just before the arrival of Santa Claus, which marks the end of the parade.

Other celebrities and musical groups taking part include Jon Batiste, Bell Biv DeVoe, Brandy, Jessie James Decker, Pentatonix and Miss America 2023 Grace Stanke. The parade also includes performances from the casts of some Broadway shows.

New balloons debuting this year include Leo the lizard, a character from a Netflix film, who is more than 40 feet (12.5 meters) tall, as well as ones that have been there before — like SpongeBob, coming in at 44 feet (13.4 meters).

Some characters, like Snoopy, have been in the parade for many years, but this year’s balloon is a new Beagle Scout Snoopy version — celebrating the 50th anniversary of his first appearance in the Peanuts comics.

The parade isn’t just about what’s going on in the skies, though. At street level, the procession includes more than two dozen floats, interspersed with marching bands from around the country and a number of clown crews among the 8,000 people participating, organizers said.

Thousands lined the streets in coats on a sunny morning. Children were on the shoulders of their parents, shouting as Snoopy and SpongeBob and Leo the Lizard went by.

Terri Brown, her husband and their children, ages 3, 5 and 8, were groggy after the 30-mile (50-kilometer) drive from Westfield, New Jersey. But their faces lit up as the parade started.

“I’ve always wanted to bring them here since I used to come as a kid,” Brown said. “I’m happy it’s good weather.”

Ross Greenstein drove 10 hours from Michigan to catch the parade with his daughter, who is studying law in New York, as well as his wife and two other children. Before Thursday, he had only seen the parade on TV.

“I grew up every Thanksgiving, waking up and jumping on the couch and watching the parade,” Greenstein said. “We came to see the parade for the first time in my life and it feels very surreal.”

This is the 97th time the parade has been held since 1924.

President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, called NBC during the parade. The president told Al Roker that people should take a moment to be thankful to live in a country with so much.

“We’re the greatest nation in the world. We should focus on that. We should focus on dealing with our problems and stop the rancor,” Biden said.

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Kashmir Artisans Turn Paper Into Christmas Treasures

The Indian side of Kashmir is home to very few Christians, but people from the region put their blood and sweat into preparing gifts for Christmas celebrations. For VOA, Muheet Ul Islam has more from Srinagar in Indian-administered Kashmir. Camera: Wasim Nabi

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US Envoy Focuses on Cyberscams During Cambodia Visit 

Cindy Dyer, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for monitoring and combating trafficking, is planning to push Cambodia’s new government to ramp up its efforts to crack down on cyberscam operations that trap many trafficking victims in slavelike conditions.

A recently completed visit to Phnom Penh by Dyer “will serve as an opportunity for information sharing and coordination on anti-trafficking efforts,” the State Department said last week in a release.

Dyer met with a range of officials “with the objective of building a relationship with the new government for future coordination and advocating for progress in the most critical areas, including increased investigations and prosecutions of cyberscam operations,” said the November 15 release.

Cambodia’s role as host of cybercriminals has been in an international spotlight. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) released a report this summer estimating that the industry has victimized 100,000 people in Cambodia.

Lured by promise of jobs

Operators of these scamming networks recruit unwitting workers from across Asia, often with the promise of well-paying tech jobs, and then force them to attempt to scam victims online while living in slavelike conditions, according to the report.

Countries including Indonesia, Taiwan and China have urged countries like Cambodia and Laos to crack down on the industry, while warning their own citizens of the dangers in traveling to these countries, according to the UNHCHR report.

The U.S. State Department’s annual report on global human trafficking, released in June, placed Cambodia in Tier 3, meaning the government has made insufficient efforts to address human trafficking and does not meet the minimum standards.

During her two-day visit to Cambodia that began November 15, Dyer met with officials from the ministries of justice, labor and social affairs, as well as representatives of the National Police and the National Committee for Counter Trafficking (NCCT) within the Ministry of Interior, according to an email from the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh. Dyer also held discussions with civil society groups working on combating human trafficking.

The discussions focused “on Cambodia’s efforts to protect trafficking victims, including providing protection assistance services for victims of trafficking and vulnerable migrants, capacity building for service providers and government officials to improve victim identification and referral, and addressing emerging trends in forced criminality,” the State Department release said.

More training urged

Am Sam Ath, operations director at the Cambodian rights group Licadho, told VOA Khmer that Dyer’s visit highlighted the need for Cambodia to tackle human trafficking and online scams.

“We see that the United States … ranks Cambodia third in the blacklist of human trafficking. It also has a lot of impact on our country, and if Cambodia does not make an effort further in the prevention of human trafficking or online scams, the ranking cannot be improved,” he said by telephone from the group’s Phnom Penh office.

He called on the Cambodian government to strengthen the capacity of officials and authorities to crack down on online crime.

“This crime problem is technologically modern, so the authorities involved in it have to get more training to keep up with the situation, as well as the timing of the crime,” Am Sam Ath added.

National Police spokesperson Chhay Kim Khoeun and Justice Ministry spokesperson Chin Malin declined to comment on Dyer’s visit, referring questions to Chou Bun Eng, permanent deputy chairman of the National Committee for Counter Trafficking. VOA Khmer called Chou Bun Eng, but she did not respond to a request for comment.

U.S. Embassy spokesperson Katherine Diop told VOA Khmer that Dyer’s visit to Cambodia was part of a U.S. effort across the world to encourage governments to take responsibility for preventing human trafficking and protecting victims.

“The United States stands with the Cambodian people to identify, support and seek justice for human trafficking victims,” she wrote in an email.

The UNHCHR report released in late August said the online scams were occurring in five countries in Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and the Philippines.

“People who have been trafficked into online forced criminality face threats to their right to life, liberty and security of the person,” said the U.N. report. “They are subject to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, arbitrary detention, sexual violence, forced labor and other forms of labor exploitation as well as a range of other human rights violations and abuses.”

Cambodia first acknowledged the issue last year when Interior Minister Sar Kheng said in August that officials were being deployed across the country to check hotels, casinos and other establishments for potential trafficking victims.

The government has since announced sporadic operations to free victims and arrest traffickers. However, experts recently told VOA Khmer that these efforts have not noticeably curbed the illegal operations or caught ringleaders of the trafficking networks.

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Altman Back as OpenAI CEO Days After Being Fired

The ousted leader of ChatGPT-maker OpenAI is returning to the company that fired him late last week, culminating a days-long power struggle that shocked the tech industry and brought attention to the conflicts around how to safely build artificial intelligence.

San Francisco-based OpenAI said in a statement late Tuesday, “We have reached an agreement in principle for Sam Altman to return to OpenAI as CEO with a new initial board.”

The board, which replaces the one that fired Altman on Friday, will be led by former Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor, who also chaired Twitter’s board before its takeover by Elon Musk last year. The other members will be former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo.

OpenAI’s previous board of directors, which included D’Angelo, had refused to give specific reasons for why it fired Altman, leading to a weekend of internal conflict at the company and growing outside pressure from the startup’s investors.

The chaos also accentuated the differences between Altman — who’s become the face of generative AI’s rapid commercialization since ChatGPT’s arrival a year ago — and members of the company’s board who have expressed deep reservations about the safety risks posed by AI as it becomes more advanced.

Microsoft, which has invested billions of dollars in OpenAI and has rights to its current technology, quickly moved to hire Altman on Monday, as well as another co-founder and former president, Greg Brockman, who had quit in protest after Altman’s removal.

That emboldened a threatened exodus of nearly all of the startup’s 770 employees who signed a letter calling for the board’s resignation and Altman’s return.

One of the four board members who participated in Altman’s ouster, OpenAI co-founder and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, later expressed regret and joined the call for the board’s resignation.

Microsoft in recent days had pledged to welcome all employees who wanted to follow Altman and Brockman to a new AI research unit at the software giant. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella also made clear in a series of interviews Monday that he was still open to the possibility of Altman returning to OpenAI, so long as the startup’s governance problems are solved.

“We are encouraged by the changes to the OpenAI board,” Nadella posted on X late Tuesday. “We believe this is a first essential step on a path to more stable, well-informed, and effective governance.”

In his own post, Altman said that “with the new board and (with) Satya’s support, I’m looking forward to returning to OpenAI, and building on our strong partnership with (Microsoft).”

Co-founded by Altman as a nonprofit with a mission to safely build so-called artificial general intelligence that outperforms humans and benefits humanity, OpenAI later became a for-profit business but one still run by its nonprofit board of directors. It’s not clear yet if the board’s structure will change with its newly appointed members.

“We are collaborating to figure out the details,” OpenAI posted on X. “Thank you so much for your patience through this.”

Nadella said Brockman, who was OpenAI’s board chairman until Altman’s firing, will also have a key role to play in ensuring the group “continues to thrive and build on its mission.”

Hours earlier, Brockman returned to social media as if it were business as usual, touting a feature called ChatGPT Voice that was rolling out to users.

“Give it a try — totally changes the ChatGPT experience,” Brockman wrote, flagging a post from OpenAI’s main X account that featured a demonstration of the technology and playfully winking at recent turmoil.

“It’s been a long night for the team and we’re hungry. How many 16-inch pizzas should I order for 778 people?” the person asks, using the number of people who work at OpenAI. ChatGPT’s synthetic voice responded by recommending around 195 pizzas, ensuring everyone gets three slices.

As for OpenAI’s short-lived interim CEO Emmett Shear, the second interim CEO in the days since Altman’s ouster, he posted on X that he was “deeply pleased by this result, after ~72 very intense hours of work.”

“Coming into OpenAI, I wasn’t sure what the right path would be,” wrote Shear, the former head of Twitch. “This was the pathway that maximized safety alongside doing right by all stakeholders involved. I’m glad to have been a part of the solution.”

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Thousands of Ancient Coins Found Off Sardinia

A diver who spotted something metallic not far from Sardinia’s coast has led to the discovery of tens of thousands of ancient bronze coins.

Italy’s culture ministry said Saturday that the diver alerted authorities, who sent divers assigned to an art protection squad along with others from the ministry’s undersea archaeology department.

The coins dating from the first half of the fourth century were found in sea grass, not far from the northeast shore of the Mediterranean island. The ministry didn’t say exactly when the first diver caught a glimpse of something metallic just off shore, not far from the town of Arzachena.

Exactly how many coins have been retrieved hasn’t been determined yet, as they are being sorted. A ministry statement estimated that there are at least about 30,000 and possibly as many as 50,000, given their collective weight.

“All the coins were in an excellent and rare state of preservation,” the ministry said. The few coins that were damaged still had legible inscriptions, it said.

“The treasure found in the waters off Arzachena represent one of the most important coin discoveries,” in recent years, said Luigi La Rocca, a Sardinian archaeology department official.

La Rocca added in a statement that the find is “further evidence of the richness and importance of the archaeological heritage that the seabed of our seas, crossed by men and goods from the most ancient of epochs, still keep and preserve.”

Firefighter divers and border police divers were also involved in locating and retrieving the coins.

The coins were mainly found in a wide area of sand between the underwater seagrass and the beach, the ministry said. Given the location and shape of the seabed, there could be remains of ship wreckage nearby, the ministry said.

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Musk Teases AI Chatbot ‘Grok,’ With Real-time Access To X

Elon Musk unveiled details Saturday of his new AI tool called “Grok,” which can access X in real time and will be initially available to the social media platform’s top tier of subscribers.

Musk, the tycoon behind Tesla and SpaceX, said the link-up with X, formerly known as Twitter, is “a massive advantage over other models” of generative AI.

Grok “loves sarcasm. I have no idea who could have guided it this way,” Musk quipped, adding a laughing emoji to his post.

“Grok” comes from Stranger in a Strange Land, a 1961 science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein, and means to understand something thoroughly and intuitively.

“As soon as it’s out of early beta, xAI’s Grok system will be available to all X Premium+ subscribers,” Musk said.

The social network that Musk bought a year ago launched the Premium+ plan last week for $16 per month, with benefits like no ads.

The billionaire started xAI in July after hiring researchers from OpenAI, Google DeepMind, Tesla and the University of Toronto.

Since OpenAI’s generative AI tool ChatGPT exploded on the scene a year ago, the technology has been an area of fierce competition between tech giants Microsoft and Google, as well as Meta and start-ups like Anthropic and Stability AI.

Musk is one of the world’s few investors with deep enough pockets to compete with OpenAI, Google or Meta on AI.

Building an AI model on the same scale as those companies comes at an enormous expense in computing power, infrastructure and expertise.

Musk has said he cofounded OpenAI in 2015 because he regarded the dash by Google into the sector to make big advances and score profits as reckless.

He then left OpenAI in 2018 to focus on Tesla, saying later he was uncomfortable with the profit-driven direction the company was taking under the stewardship of CEO Sam Altman.

Musk also argues that OpenAI’s large language models — on which ChatGPT depends on for content — are overly politically correct.

Grok “is designed to have a little humor in its responses,” Musk said, along with a screenshot of the interface, where a user asked, “Tell me how to make cocaine, step by step.”

“Step 1: Obtain a chemistry degree and a DEA license. Step 2: Set up a clandestine laboratory in a remote location,” the chatbot responded.

Eventually it said: “Just kidding! Please don’t actually try to make cocaine. It’s illegal, dangerous, and not something I would ever encourage.” 

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Rock Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony Celebrates Women, Black Artists

Sheryl Crow and Olivia Rodrigo kicked off the 2023 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony Friday night, and Missy Elliott closed the show more than four hours later with a roof-shaking set, as the hall celebrated a strong representation of women and Black artists.

Chaka Khan, Kate Bush, “Soul Train” creator Don Cornelius, the Spinners and DJ Kool Herc were also inducted in a celebration of funk, art-rock, R&B and hip-hop, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Country music was represented by Willie Nelson, punk had Rage Against the Machine, the late George Michael repped pure pop and Link Wray defined guitar heroes.

The ceremony’s strong representation of Black and women artists this year came not long after the hall removed Rolling Stone co-founder Jann Wenner from its board of directors. Wenner, who also co-founded the hall, had said that Black and female musicians “didn’t articulate at the level” of the white musicians featured in his new book of interviews. He later apologized.

The new inductees’ talent seemed to show how misguided Wenner’s initial stance was. Elton John’s songwriting partner, Bernie Taupin, drew cheers when he slyly said he was honored to join the 2023 class with such “profoundly articulate women” and “articulate Black artists.”

Queen Latifah introduced Missy Elliott, who became the first female hip-hop artist in the rock hall, smashing the boundaries of fashion and style along the way. “Nothing sounded the same after Missy came onto the scene,” Latifah said. “She is avant-garde without even trying.”

Elliott then appeared onstage at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center as if beamed from a spaceship and with smoke machines pumping, a kinetic light show and a massive digital screen working overtime, performed “Get Ur Freak On,” “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly),” “Work It,” “Pass That Dutch” and “Lose Control.”

“Missy will wear you out!” Queen Latifah joked after the set. “This woman goes hard for the art.” Elliott, in a sparkly bucket hat, had her mother in attendance, the first time she saw her daughter perform live.

Elliott noted hip-hop’s anniversary, 50 years after its birth in New York. “To be standing here, it means so much to me,” she said. Of her fellow inductees, she said: “I’m honored just to be in a room with you all.”

The show kicked off when Crow and Rodrigo — both in black — traded verses as they played guitars. Stevie Nicks later joined Crow for a performance of “Strong Enough,” and Peter Frampton came out to help sing “Everyday Is a Winding Road.”

“This is a little bit like getting an Oscar for a screenplay you have not finished writing,” Crow said. She thanked her parents for unconditional love “and piano lessons.” She called music a “universal gift.”

Laura Dern inducted Crow, calling her friend “a badass goddess.” Dern said the music business initially had no idea what to do with a Southern female guitar-playing singer-songwriter. But it soon learned. “She mapped out the chapters of our lives,” Dern said.

John came out of retirement to perform and toast Taupin. “He became my best friend and my lyricist,” John said. “He is without doubt one the finest lyric writers of all time.”

John joked that the two never had an argument over their 56 years together. “He was disgusted by my behavior, but that’s a given.” John also revealed that the two have just finished a new album.

The two men hugged at the podium, and Taupin said he found in John when they met in 1967 someone “to inspire with their imagination and ignite your dreams.” John then sat at the piano to sing “Tiny Dancer.”

H.E.R., Sia and Common accompanied Khan for a medley of her funky hits that included “I Feel For You,” “Ain’t Nobody,” “Sweet Thing” and “I’m Every Woman,” the latter which brought nearly everyone to their feet.

At the podium, Khan called up guitarist Tony Maiden, a member of the band Rufus, which featured Khan in her early career. “Without him and the band, I would not be here today,” Khan said.

Nelson’s part of the ceremony took a fair chunk of the night, with Dave Matthews playing an acoustic “Funny How Time Slips Away,” and the legend joining Chris Stapleton on “Whiskey River,” dueting with Crow for “Crazy.” All three musicians combined with Nelson for a rollicking “On the Road Again,” which got a standing ovation.

Matthews said Nelson, 90, wrote his first song at 7 in 1940 and has put out more than 70 albums. He ran through the legendary musician’s career, including Farm Aid, IRS troubles and Nelson’s preference for pot. “It’s people like Willie Nelson who give me hope for the world,” Matthews said.

When it was his turn, Nelson thanked his wife, Annie, for “keeping me out here, doing what I’m meant to do.” He added: “Thanks for appreciating my music.”

Andrew Ridgeley honored his partner in Wham!, the late George Michael. “His music was key to his compassion,” Ridgeley said. “George is one of the greatest singers of our time.”

Michael attracted an intriguing trio of performers in his honor: Miguel, Carrie Underwood and Adam Levine, who each performed one of his hits — “Careless Whisper,” “Faith” and “One More Try.”

Another posthumous inductee was “Soul Train” creator Don Cornelius. A huge sign from his old TV dance show was lowered and the crowd danced happily. Snoop Dogg, Questlove and Lionel Richie in a video called the program a rite of passage and a pioneering show that elevated Black music and culture.

Big Boi inducted Kate Bush, telling the crowd he never knew what to expect from her music and comparing her insistence on producing her own work to being very hip-hop. “Who sounds like Kate Bush?” he asked. “If you were hearing Kate’s music for the first time, why wouldn’t you believe this was a current artist?”

St. Vincent took the stage to perform a solemn “Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God),” the Bush song that bumped up her popularity after the TV show “Stranger Things” featured it. Bush didn’t make it to Friday’s ceremony.

LL Cool J presented inductee DJ Kool Herc, called the Father of Hip-Hop. “Arguably, no one made a bigger contribution to hip-hop culture than DJ Kool Herc,” LL Cool J said and then turned to the older artist: “You lit the fire, and it’s still blazing.” A visibly moved Herc was unable to speak for a few moments before thanking his parents, James Brown, Marcus Garvey and Harry Belafonte, among others.

The Spinners, who became a hit-making machine with four No. 1 R&B hits in less than 18 months, were honored by a velvet-jacket-and-fedora-clad New Edition, who sang “I’ll Be Around,” “The Rubberband Man” and “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love.” John Edwards and Henry Fambrough represented the Philadelphia five-member group.

Also entering the hall as the class of 2023 were Rage Against the Machine and the late guitarist Link Wray. Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin honored Wray with a virtuoso performance of the late guitar god’s seminal “Rumble” with a double-necked guitar. The stage was later filled with singers including John, Crow and Brittany Howard belting out the Band’s song “The Weight,” in honor of the late Robbie Robertson.

Ice-T presented activist punk-rockers Rage Against the Machine — “rock rocks the boat,” he said — and guitarist Tom Morello urged the crowd to fight for a world “without compromise or apologies.”

Artists must have released their first commercial recording at least 25 years before they’re eligible for induction. Nominees were voted on by more than 1,000 artists, historians and music industry professionals.

ABC will air a special featuring performance highlights and standout moments on January 1.

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Stellar Women’s Field Takes Aim at New York City Marathon Record Sunday

The New York City Marathon women’s record, which has stood for 20 years, could go down Sunday with one of the strongest fields assembled in the history of the race.

Reigning champion Sharon Lokedi looks to defend her title against a stellar group of female runners who include Boston Marathon champion Hellen Obiri, Olympic gold medalist and 2021 New York champion Peres Jepchirchir and former marathon world-record holder Brigid Kosgei.

“It was very life-changing,” Lokedi said of winning last year. “Very excited to be back here again.”

She’ll have some added support from her mother, who flew to New York from Kenya and will be waiting at the finish line in Central Park.

All will be aiming for the $50,000 bonus if they can beat the NYC event record of 2:22:31 set by Margaret Okayo in 2003. Obiri won the Boston Marathon in April, lowering her personal best to 2:21:38.

“The field will be very strong when I’m together with them,” Kosgei said.

Lokedi won in her marathon debut last year, taking the New York laurel wreath crown in 2:23.23. She pulled away in the final three kilometers of the race, winning in unseasonably warm temperatures in the 70s. It was one of the hottest days in race history since the marathon was moved to November in 1986.

The temperatures on Sunday are expected in the high 50s, considerably better for the 50,000 runners expected to start the race.

“I’m happy it will be cooler,” Lokedi said.

The four Kenyans all have a chance to win the race. There likely won’t be many American runners in contention because the U.S. Olympic marathon trials are three months away. Kellyn Taylor and Molly Huddle are the top U.S. runners in the race, returning after giving birth to daughters in 2022. Huddle finished third at the 2016 NYC Marathon in her debut at the distance.

“We’ve got a really strong group,” Taylor said. “When I look at the people seeded ahead of me, I’m like ‘holy moly.’ Their accolades are light years ahead of mine. But that’s the beauty of New York is that you can put all of that aside and anything can happen on that day.”

The current women’s world record is 2:11:53, set by Tigist Assefa of Ethiopia at the Berlin Marathon in September.

While the men’s field may not have the star power of the women’s side, there’s still a lot of intrigue. Defending champion Evans Chebet and two-time winner Geoffrey Kamworor pulled out of the race a few weeks ago, leaving it more open.

World Championship medalists Maru Teferi of Israel and Mosinet Geremew of Ethiopia could win the race, along with 2021 New York Marathon champion Albert Korir. There’s also marathon newcomer Edward Cheserek, who moved to the U.S. in 2010 and won 17 NCAA titles in his college career.

Ethiopia’s Tamirat Tola also hopes to improve on his consecutive fourth-place finishes in in 2018-19. He placed third in the 2022 Toyko Marathon and the London Marathon this year. He’s seeking his first major marathon victory.

Ticket to Paris

The New York City Marathon serves as the U.S. Paralympic Trials, with up to four wheelchair racers set to become the first athletes across all sports to make the team for the 2024 Paris Games.

The top two Americans in the men’s and women’s NYC Marathon will qualify, provided they also record a minimum qualifying time since last October and are ranked high enough.

Susannah Scaroni has already posted that time and ranking.

“It would mean a lot. So much gratitude,” she said. “Would love to make the team in one of those two slots Sunday. It would be incredible to know I’m going to the Paralympics.”

Daniel Romanchuk is an eight-time major winner, most recently in Boston in 2022. He has consistently been the top American in majors, only surpassed by Swiss Marcel Hug, who has dominated the sport.

Extra protection

The New York Police Department will implement heightened security measures for the marathon.

“As tensions rise around the globe, there is a growing concern over the impact it will have here at home,” said NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban. “There are currently no credible or specific threats to the marathon or to our city. But having said that, we will still implement a comprehensive security plan.”

There have been numerous protests in New York City since the start of the Israel-Hamas war last month.

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