Maradona’s Death May Trigger Family Inheritance Battle

Diego Maradona’s tormented private life, with its tangled relationships and paternity suits, suggests distributing his inheritance will be a complex task for lawyers bracing for claims from a slew of children — those he recognized and those he didn’t.”There’s going to be a big fight. He didn’t leave a will,” according to a source close to the family who declined to be named.Maradona made and wasted millions over his years at the pinnacle of his fame with Barcelona, Napoli and Argentina, and he also made some shrewd investments. Some reports circulating since his death estimate his estate at $90 million.Angered over a dispute with his daughter Giannina last year, he threatened to donate all his wealth, including properties, luxury cars and sponsorship contracts, to charity.’I’m going to give it all away'”I know that now, as you get older, people are more concerned about what you leave behind than what you are doing,” he was quoted as saying at the time.”And I tell them all that I’m not going to leave them anything, that I’m going to give it all away. Everything I’ve got in my life, I’m going to give away,” he said.Under Argentine law, however, people can give away only a fifth of their assets. At least two-thirds must be left to the spouse or offspring of the deceased.Giannina, 31, had sparked the row by accusing the former star’s entourage of not taking proper care of him, which seems to have been a recurring theme of their relationship.Father and daughter had reconciled by his 60th birthday in October, with Giannina lauding him in a series of affectionate messages posted on social media with her sister, Dalma.”He is my great example of all the things to do and all the things not to do. I have admired him, yesterday, today and always. He taught me to forgive, to forgive myself,” Gianinna wrote.A fan mourns in front of flowers and posters left in tribute to Diego Maradona at the entrance of the Boca Juniors stadium known as La Bombonera in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov. 27, 2020. Maradona died Nov. 25 at age 60.Complex tiesClaudia Villafane was Maradona’s childhood sweetheart since age 15. His only wife, they divorced in 2003.Their two daughters, Dalma, 33, and Giannina, were the only children he recognized for many years.But there were others, spawning the joke that Maradona had fathered his own soccer team. It threatens to make the task of distributing his inheritance a complicated one for his lawyer, Matias Morla.The football icon had been forced to acknowledge three other children over the years, including Diego Junior, born a few months before Dalma.Conceived with Italian singer Cristiana Sinagra, and born in 1986, months after he captained Argentina to World Cup glory in Mexico, it took Maradona 29 years to acknowledge his paternity. Ill with COVID-19, Diego Junior was unable to travel from Italy to his father’s funeral.In 2008, the football legend recognized Jana, born in 1996 to Valeria Sabalain, the former girlfriend Maradona was closest to during the last months of his life.Another son, Diego Ojeda, was born in 2013 from his relationship with ex-girlfriend Veronica Ojeda.Other claimsBut others have staked paternity claims against Maradona, including at least three in Cuba where Maradona spent years in a drug rehabilitation program, according to his lawyer.Spats between the ex-partners and Maradona’s children have been a recurring theme of his life and have been given a full airing on social media and Argentine television channels.His eldest daughters and their mother appeared to be the ones in control of the funeral arrangements Thursday.However, the World Cup winner was in a legal dispute with his ex-wife over ownership of hundreds of items of memorabilia from his career.

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During the Pandemic, Santa Makes Video House Calls

This holiday season, the traditional visit with Santa Claus is going digital. Virtual visits with Santa Claus are being offered as a safer way for children to interact with Santa during the pandemic, as Tina Trinh reports.

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In Santa’s Mailbag, a Peek into Children’s Pandemic Worries

Jim, from Taiwan, slipped a face mask inside the greeting card he sent to Santa and marked “I (heart) u.” Alina, 5, asked in her Santa letter written with an adult’s help that he please use the front door when he drops in, because the back door is reserved for Grandma and Grandpa to minimize their risk of contamination.  And spilling out her heavy little heart to “Dear Father Christmas,” 10-year-old Lola wrote that she is wishing “that my aunt never has cancer again and that this virus no longer exists.”  “My mother is a care-giver and sometimes I am scared for her,” Lola explained, signing off her handwritten letter with, “Take care of yourself Father Christmas, and of the Elves.”  The emotional toll wrought by the pandemic is jumping off pages in the deluge of “Dear Santa” letters now pouring into a post office in southwest France that sorts and responds to his mail from around the world.  
 
Arriving by the tens of thousands, the letters, notes and cards — some mere scribbles, other elaborate labors of love in colored pens — are revealing windows into the tender minds of their young authors, and of adult Santa fans also asking for respite and happiness, at the tail end of a year of sickness and tumult.  Like this letter from young Zoe, who limited her requests to a music player and amusement park tickets because “this year has been very different from others because of COVID-19.”  “That’s why I am not asking you for many thing(s) to avoid infection,” Zoe wrote, signing off with “Merci!” and a heart.  In theory, and often in practice, any letter addressed “Pere Noel” — French for Father Christmas — and slipped into any post box around the world is likely to wend its way to the sorting office in France’s Bordeaux region that has been handling his mail since 1962. Toiling out of sight among vineyards, his secretariat of workers (who call themselves “elves”) spends the months of November and December slicing open envelopes decorated with hearts, stickers and colors, and spreading Santa magic by responding on his behalf.  From the first letters opened at the secretariat from Nov. 12, it quickly became apparent how the pandemic is weighing on children, says the chief elf, Jamila Hajji. Along with the usual pleas for toys and gadgets were also requests for vaccines, for visits from grandparents, for life to return to the way it was. One letter in three mentions the pandemic in some way, Hajji says.  “The kids have been very affected by COVID, more than we think. They are very worried. And what they want most of all, apart from presents, is really to be able to have a normal life, the end of COVID, a vaccine,” she says.  “The letters to Father Christmas are a sort of release for them. All this year, they have been in lockdowns, they have been deprived of school, deprived of their grandpas and grandmas. Their parents have been occupied by the health crisis and whatnot. So we, of course, can tell that the children are putting into words everything they have felt during this period.”  “We are like elf therapists,” she adds.  Replying to 12,000 letters per day, the team of 60 elves sets aside some that move them or catch the eye. Lola’s is among those that have stood out so far, with its heartfelt confession to Santa that “this year more than the others, I need magic and to believe in you.” The elves say their sense is that children are confiding worries that they may not have shared with parents.  Emma Barron, a psychiatrist specializing in the mental health of children and adolescents at the Robert Debré pediatric hospital in Paris, says landmark dates, including birthdays and holidays like Christmas, provide structure in childhood. Amid the pandemic’s uncertainty, the Dec. 25 anchor of Christmas is particularly important to kids this year.  “Children are quite surprising in that they can adapt to many things,” Barron says. “But rhythms, rituals and things like that are an integral part of children’s mental stability.”  As the letters flood in, it’s also clear that this goes beyond childhood. Santa is proving a beacon to adults, too, with some writing to him for the first time since they were kids.  One asked for “a pandemic of love.” A 77-year-old lamented that “lockdown is no fun! I live alone.” A grandparent asked Santa to “say ‘Hi’ to my two grandkids that I won’t be able to see this year because of the health situation.”  “Your mission will be hard this year,” wrote Anne-Marie, another adult suppliant. “You will need to sprinkle stars across the entire world, to calm everyone and revive our childhood souls, so we can dream, at last, and let go.”

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Tokyo Olympic Organizers Plan to Host 18 Test Events 

Local organizers on Friday announced a series of 18 test events set to begin in March and run into May.The Tokyo Olympics are set to open on July 23, 2021, after being postponed eight months ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic.The announcement in an online news conference came the same day that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government reported a one-day record of 570 new coronavirus infections in the capital.Although Japan has handled the pandemic better than most countries, cases have been surging recently with about 2,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in a country of 125 million.Officials said at least four of the test events will involve athletes from abroad, including tests in swimming, gymnastics, diving and volleyball.A track and field meet on May 9 at the new National Stadium is listed as test event. It is not clear if athletes from abroad will participate.Hidemasa Nakamura, the games delivery officer, said none of the test events will allow fans from abroad, although some events will permit an unspecified number of fans from Japan.“No, we will not have spectators from abroad,” Nakamura said.Several of the events will not even involve athletes, testing “operations” only as a way to cut back on spending.Japan has held sports events recently with fans. The final game of the Japan Series of professional baseball this week drew about 19,000 fans in a 38,000-seat stadium in Fukuoka. And a few thousand fans were allowed to attend an international gymnastics event earlier this month in Tokyo.“As for the number of spectators, we have to take the guidelines of the Japanese government into consideration,” said Yasuo Mori, who works with Nakamura on games delivery.The announcement by the Tokyo organizing committee is the latest in a campaign over the last several months to convince a global audience, sponsors and the Japanese public that the Olympics and Paralympics will take place despite the COVID-19 pandemic.Organizers are to announce a “toolbox” of preliminary countermeasures next month against COVID-19, although they are likely to be vague and subject to many changes going into next year.International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, who was in Tokyo this month to talk up the games, acknowledged much of the planning hinges around the availability of vaccines and rapid testing.He said they were not a “silver bullet” but certainly would be a help along with social distancing, masks and near-quarantine conditions in the Athletes Village.Bach said athletes would not be required to take a vaccine. He said young Olympic athletes were not a priority ahead of millions of health care workers, the elderly and other vulnerable populations.Bach suggested the IOC would cover some of the cost of the vaccine, but he gave no details as the cost continues to climb because of the postponement.Tokyo says it is officially spending $12.6 billion to organize the Olympics, although a government audit last year said it was probably twice that much.Games officials say a full complement of 11,000 Olympic athletes and 4,400 Paralympic athletes will be allowed into Japan, accompanied by ten of thousands of officials, judges, VIPs, sponsors, media and broadcasters.

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Amid Pandemic, Earlier Promotions Black Friday Takes New Shape

From Walmart Inc to Best Buy, retailers have overhauled Black Friday shopping, with some assigning clerks in orange vests to serve as traffic cops, taking shoppers’ temperatures and offering “grab-and-go” merchandise, including toys, bikes and kitchen appliances to discourage lingering in store aisles.Most major retailers closed on Thanksgiving this year in a nod to the stress endured by their workers during a global health pandemic. Walmart reopened stores at 5 a.m. on Friday, directing shoppers to turn right upon entering and proceed along main aisles to shop deals before paying at registers surrounded by plastic barriers.Best Buy is opening its doors at 5 a.m. and Target, which introduced contactless self-checkout and doubled the number of parking spots for its contactless “Drive Up” pick-up service this holiday season, set a 7 a.m. opening.Traditionally, Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, has launched the holiday shopping season in the United States, with retailers offering steep discounts and turning a significant profit.But during this pandemic-ridden year, major retailers from Target Corp to Kohl’s Corp and Walmart rolled out online winter holiday promotions in October to capture any holiday-related spending as early as possible.Overall, the National Retail Federation (NRF) forecasts U.S. holiday retail sales will increase between 3.6% and 5.2% over 2019, for a total of $755.3 billion to $766.7 billion. That compares with an average annual increase of 2.5% over the past five years.A Walmart spokeswoman said the world’s largest retailer was not selling traditional “hot-ticket doorbuster” items in stores this Black Friday. But even as health officials around the globe encouraged people to stay home and shop online, Walmart set aside some deals only for shoppers who came into its stores—advertising items including “in-store only” savings on $5 packs of Wonder Nation’s girls’ and boys’ underwear and socks. The spokeswoman declined to comment on the ads.Lindsey Cox, 43, of Thomasville, North Carolina, said she noticed Walmart’s advertised in-store price for Christmas gnomes was much lower than on Amazon.com Inc. But she said she doesn’t plan to visit Walmart stores on Black Friday.”I could not justify going into the store right now,” the stay-at-home mother of three told Reuters. The savings is “not worth the tradeoff” of her or her family potentially being exposed to people who may be infected with coronavirus, she said.On Nov. 19, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) deemed “going shopping in crowded stores just before, on, or after Thanksgiving” as a high-risk activity.More than half of U.S. shoppers expect to shop online on Black Friday, despite 75% of consumers taking advantage of seasonal sales, which started earlier this year, an Adobe Analytics survey predicts.However, 55% of consumers reported that sales on the Black Friday weekend feel less special due to promotions in the run up to the event, according to Adobe.Adobe expects Thanksgiving Day to come in below $6 billion in total sales, with Black Friday set to cross $10 billion in sales.The volume of Black Friday payment transactions in Britain as of 0900 GMT was down 13.2% versus last year, initial data from Barclaycard showed, with retailers of non-essential goods still shut and many in the sector spreading out online discounts throughout the month.The end of England’s second national lockdown on Dec. 2 is predicted to see a surge in transactions, surpassing Black Friday, Barclaycard, which processes nearly one pound ($1.33) in every three pounds spent in the United Kingdom, said.

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