Chipmaker TSMC Says Supplier Was Targeted in Cyberattack

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. said Friday that a cybersecurity incident involving one of its IT hardware suppliers has led to the leak of the vendor’s company data. 

“TSMC has recently been aware that one of our IT hardware suppliers experienced a cybersecurity incident that led to the leak of information pertinent to server initial setup and configuration,” the company said. 

TMSC confirmed in a statement to Reuters that its business operations or customer information were not affected following the cybersecurity incident at its supplier Kinmax. 

The TSMC vendor breach is part of a larger trend of significant security incidents affecting various companies and government entities. 

Victims range from U.S. government departments to the UK’s telecom regulator to energy giant Shell, all affected since a security flaw was discovered in Progress Software’s MOVEit Transfer product last month. 

TSMC said it has cut off data exchange with the affected supplier following the incident.

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FIFA Reveals Social Justice Armbands for Women’s World Cup

FIFA revealed eight different armbands highlighting social causes that sides will be able to wear at the women’s World Cup as world football’s governing body seeks to avoid a row that erupted at last year’s men’s World Cup.

Captains from a number of European countries, including England and Germany, planned to wear a “OneLove” armband in rainbow colors in Qatar in support of LGBTQ rights.

However, they abandoned that stance after being threatened with sporting sanctions just days before the tournament kicked off.

The armband had widely been viewed as a symbolic protest against laws in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.

The “unite for inclusion” armband for the women’s World Cup is similar in style to the one outlawed with the words alongside a heart shape in rainbow colors.

Other causes highlighted include gender equality, ending violence against women, hunger and the rights of indigenous people.

Captains will be able to wear a different armband for each match corresponding to the cause being promoted or support one cause for the entire tournament.

“Football unites the world and our global events, such as the FIFA Women’s World Cup, have a unique power to bring people together and provide joy, excitement and passion,” said FIFA President Gianni Infantino.

“After some very open talks with stakeholders, including member associations and players, we have decided to highlight a series of social causes – from inclusion to gender equality, from peace to ending hunger, from education to tackling domestic violence – during all 64 matches at the FIFA Women’s World Cup.”

The women’s World Cup, which will be hosted by Australia and New Zealand, begins on July 20.

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Alan Arkin, Oscar-Winning ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ Actor, Dies at 89

Alan Arkin, the wry character actor who demonstrated his versatility in everything from farcical comedy to chilling drama as he received four Academy Award nominations and won an Oscar in 2007 for “Little Miss Sunshine,” has died. He was 89.

His sons Adam, Matthew and Anthony confirmed their father’s death through the actor’s publicist on Friday. “Our father was a uniquely talented force of nature, both as an artist and a man,” they said in a statement.

A member of Chicago’s famed Second City comedy troupe, Arkin was an immediate success in movies with the Cold War spoof “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming” and peaked late in life with his win as best supporting actor for the surprise 2006 hit “Little Miss Sunshine.” More than 40 years separated his first Oscar nomination, for “The Russians are Coming,” from his nomination for playing a conniving Hollywood producer in the Oscar-winning “Argo.”

In recent years he starred opposite Michael Douglas in the Netflix comedy series “The Kominsky Method,” a role that earned him two Emmy nominations.

“When I was a young actor people wanted to know if I wanted to be a serious actor or a funny one,” Michael McKean tweeted Friday. ‘I’d answer ‘Which kind is Alan Arkin?’ and that shut them up.”

Arkin once joked to The Associated Press that the beauty of being a character actor was not having to take his clothes off for a role. He wasn’t a sex symbol or superstar, but was rarely out of work, appearing in more than 100 TV and feature films. His trademarks were likability, relatability and complete immersion in his roles, no matter how unusual, whether playing a Russian submarine officer in “The Russians are Coming” who struggles to communicate with the equally jittery Americans, or standing out as the foul-mouthed, drug-addicted grandfather in “Little Miss Sunshine.”

“Alan’s never had an identifiable screen personality because he just disappears into his characters,” director Norman Jewison of “The Russians are Coming” once observed. “His accents are impeccable, and he’s even able to change his looks. … He’s always been underestimated, partly because he’s never been in service of his own success.”

While still with Second City, Arkin was chosen by Carl Reiner to play the young protagonist in the 1963 Broadway play “Enter Laughing,” based on Reiner’s semi-autobiographical novel.

He attracted strong reviews and the notice of Jewison, who was preparing to direct a 1966 comedy about a Russian sub that creates a panic when it ventures too close to a small New England town. In Arkin’s next major film, he proved he could also play a villain, however reluctantly. Arkin starred in “Wait Until Dark” as a vicious drug dealer who holds a blind woman (Audrey Hepburn) captive in her own apartment, believing a drug shipment is hidden there.

He recalled in a 1998 interview how difficult it was to terrorize Hepburn’s character.

“Just awful,” he said. “She was an exquisite lady, so being mean to her was hard.”

Arkin’s rise continued in 1968 with “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter,” in which he played a sensitive man who could not hear or speak. He starred as the bumbling French detective in “Inspector Clouseau” that same year, but the film would become overlooked in favor of Peter Sellers’ Clouseau in the “Pink Panther” movies.

Arkin’s career as a character actor continued to blossom when Mike Nichols, a fellow Second City alumnus, cast him in the starring role as Yossarian, the victim of wartime red tape in 1970’s “Catch-22,” based on Joseph Heller’s million-selling novel. Through the years, Arkin turned up in such favorites as “Edward Scissorhands,” playing Johnny Depp’s neighbor; and in the film version of David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross” as a dogged real estate salesman. He and Reiner played brothers, one successful (Reiner), one struggling (Arkin), in the 1998 film “The Slums of Beverly Hills.”

“I used to think that my stuff had a lot of variety. But I realized that for the first twenty years or so, most of the characters I played were outsiders, strangers to their environment, foreigners in one way or another,” he told The Associated Press in 2007.

“As I started to get more and more comfortable with myself, that started to shift. I got one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever gotten from someone a few days ago. They said that they thought my characters were very often the heart, the moral center of a film. I didn’t particularly understand it, but I liked it; it made me happy.”

Other recent credits included “Going in Style,” a 2017 remake featuring fellow Oscar winners Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, and “The Kominsky Method.” He played a Hollywood talent agent and friend of Douglas’ character, a once-promising actor who ran an acting school after his career sputtered.

He also was the voice of Wild Knuckles in the 2022 animated film “Minions: The Rise of Gru.”

Arkin also directed the film version of Jules Feiffer’s 1971 dark comedy “Little Murders” and Neil Simon’s 1972 play about bickering old vaudeville partners, “The Sunshine Boys.” On television, Arkin appeared in the short-lived series “Fay” and “Harry” and played a night court judge in Sidney Lumet’s drama series “100 Centre Street” on A&E. He also wrote several books for children.

Born in New York City’s borough of Brooklyn, he and his family, which included two younger brothers, moved to Los Angeles when he was 11. His parents found jobs as teachers, but were fired during the post-World War II Red Scare because they were Communists.

“We were dirt poor so I couldn’t afford to go to the movies often,” he told the AP in 1998. “But I went whenever I could and focused in on movies, as they were more important than anything in my life.”

He studied acting at Los Angeles City College; California State University, Los Angeles; and Bennington College in Vermont, where he earned a scholarship to the formerly all-girls school.

He married a fellow student, Jeremy Yaffe, and they had two sons, Adam and Matthew.

After he and Yaffe divorced in 1961, Arkin married actress-writer Barbara Dana, and they had a son, Anthony. All three sons became actors: Adam starred in the TV series “Chicago Hope.”

“It was certainly nothing that I pushed them into,” Arkin said in 1998. “It made absolutely no difference to me what they did, as long as it allowed them to grow.”

Arkin began his entertainment career as an organizer and singer with The Tarriers, a group that briefly rode the folk musical revival wave of the late 1950s. Later, he turned to stage acting, off-Broadway and always in dramatic roles.

At Second City, he worked with Nichols, Elaine May, Jerry Stiller, Anne Meara and others in creating intellectual, high-speed impromptu riffs the fads and follies of the day.

“I never knew that I could be funny until I joined Second City,” he said.

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Chinese, Russian Firms to Build Lithium Plants in Bolivia

LA PAZ, BOLIVIA – Chinese and Russian companies will invest more than $1.4 billion in the extraction of lithium in Bolivia, one of the countries with the largest reserves of the mineral used in electric car batteries, the government in La Paz said Friday.  

China’s Citic Guoan and Russia’s Uranium One Group — both with a major government stake — will partner with Bolivia’s state-owned YLB to build two lithium carbonate processing plants, Bolivian President Luis Arce said at a public event.  

Lithium is often described as the “white gold” of the clean-energy revolution, a highly coveted component of mobile phones and electric car batteries.  

“We are consolidating the country’s industrialization process,” Arce said.

Bolivia, which claims to have the world’s largest deposits, in January also signed an agreement with Chinese consortium CBC to build two lithium battery plants.  

The country’s energy ministry said in a statement that each of the two new plants would have the capacity to produce up to 25,000 metric tons of lithium carbonate per year.  

Construction will begin in about three months.  

China and Russia are among Bolivia’s main lithium buyers.  

Lithium is mostly mined in Australia and South America. 

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California Screenwriters Continue Strike Costing Hollywood Millions Daily 

A screenwriters’ strike in Hollywood has been going on for two months,  grinding scripted TV production basically to a halt and costing California millions in losses each day. Angelina Bagdasaryan has more in this story, narrated by Anna Rice. Camera: Vazgen Varzhabetian        

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Meta Oversight Board Urges Cambodia Prime Minister’s Suspension from Facebook

Meta Platforms’ Oversight Board on Thursday called for the suspension of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen for six months, saying a video posted on his Facebook page had violated Meta’s rules against violent threats.

The board, which is funded by Meta but operates independently, said the company erred in leaving up the video and ordered its removal from Facebook.

Meta, in a written statement, agreed to take down the video but said it would respond to the recommendation to suspend Hun Sen after a review.

A suspension would silence the prime minister’s Facebook page less than a month before an election in Cambodia, although critics say the poll will be a sham due to Hun Sen’s autocratic rule.

The decision is the latest in a series of rebukes by the Oversight Board over how the world’s biggest social media company handles rule-breaking political leaders and incitement to violence around elections.

The company’s election integrity efforts are in focus as the United States prepares for presidential elections next year.

The board endorsed Meta’s 2021 banishment of former U.S. President Donald Trump – the current front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination – after the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol Hill riot, but criticized the indefinite nature of his suspension and urged more careful preparation for volatile political situations overall.

Meta reinstated the former U.S. president earlier this year.  

Last week, the board said Meta’s handling of calls for violence after the 2022 Brazilian election continued to raise concerns about the effectiveness of its election efforts.

Hun Sen’s video, broadcast on his official Facebook page in January, showed the prime minister threatening to beat up political rivals and send “gangsters” to their homes, according to the board’s ruling.

Meta determined at the time that the video fell afoul of its rules, but opted to leave it up under a “newsworthiness” exemption, reasoning that the public had an interest in hearing warnings of violence by their government, the ruling said.

The board held that the video’s harms outweighed its news value.

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UNESCO Expected to Accept US Return

Members of the U.N.’s cultural agency are gathering Thursday for the start of two days of meetings in Paris that are expected to include a vote to accept the return of the United States to the organization.

The United States withdrew in 2018 complaining of anti-Israel bias and mismanagement at the agency.

Before leaving, the U.S. was UNESCO’s largest single donor, providing about one-fifth of the agency’s overall funding.

U.S. officials said earlier this month that the desire to return to UNESCO was motivated by concerns about China’s influence in policymaking at the agency, particularly regarding artificial intelligence and technology education.

As part of the proposed return plan, the Biden administration has requested $150 million in funding for 2024 UNESCO dues and arrears.

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

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‘Godfather of AI’ Urges Governments to Stop Machine Takeover

Geoffrey Hinton, one of the so-called godfathers of artificial intelligence, on Wednesday urged governments to step in and make sure that machines do not take control of society.

Hinton made headlines in May when he announced he had quit Google after a decade of work to speak more freely on the dangers of AI, shortly after the release of ChatGPT captured the imagination of the world.

The highly respected AI scientist, who is based at the University of Toronto, was speaking to a packed audience at the Collision tech conference in the Canadian city.

The conference brought together more than 30,000 startup founders, investors and tech workers, most looking to learn how to ride the AI wave and not hear a lesson on its dangers.

“Before AI is smarter than us, I think the people developing it should be encouraged to put a lot of work into understanding how it might try and take control away,” Hinton said.

“Right now there are 99 very smart people trying to make AI better and one very smart person trying to figure out how to stop it taking over and maybe you want to be more balanced,” he said.

AI could deepen inequality, says Hinton

Hinton warned that the risks of AI should be taken seriously despite his critics who believe he is overplaying the risks.

“I think it’s important that people understand that this is not science fiction, this is not just fearmongering,” he insisted. “It is a real risk that we must think about, and we need to figure out in advance how to deal with it.”

Hinton also expressed concern that AI would deepen inequality, with the massive productivity gain from its deployment going to the benefit of the rich, and not workers.

“The wealth isn’t going to go to the people doing the work. It is going to go into making the rich richer and not the poorer and that’s very bad for society,” he added.

He also pointed to the danger of fake news created by ChatGPT-style bots and said he hoped that AI-generated content could be marked in a way similar to how central banks watermark cash money.

“It’s very important to try, for example, to mark everything that is fake as fake. Whether we can do that technically, I don’t know,” he said.

The European Union is considering such a technique in its AI Act, a legislation that will set the rules for AI in Europe, which is being negotiated by lawmakers.

‘Overpopulation on Mars’

Hinton’s list of AI dangers contrasted with conference discussions that were less over safety and threats, and more about seizing the opportunity created in the wake of ChatGPT.

Venture Capitalist Sarah Guo said doom and gloom talk of AI as an existential threat was premature and compared it to “talking about overpopulation on Mars,” quoting another AI guru, Andrew Ng.

She also warned against “regulatory capture” that would see government intervention protect the incumbents before it had a chance to benefit sectors such as health, education or science.

Opinions differed on whether the current generative AI giants, mainly Microsoft backed OpenAI and Google, would remain unmatched or whether new actors will expand the field with their own models and innovations.

“In five years, I still imagine that if you want to go and find the best, most accurate, most advanced general model, you’re probably going to still have to go to one of the few companies that have the capital to do it,” said Leigh Marie Braswell of venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins.

Zachary Bratun-Glennon of Gradient Ventures said he foresaw a future where “there are going to be millions of models across a network much like we have a network of websites today.”

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Cambodia’s Hun Sen Leaves Facebook for Telegram 

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA — Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, a devoted and very active user of Facebook — on which he has posted everything from photos of his grandchildren to threats against his political enemies — said Wednesday that he would no longer upload to the platform and would instead depend on the Telegram app to get his messages across. 

Telegram is a popular messaging app that also has a blogging tool called “channels.” In Russia and some neighboring countries, it is actively used both by government officials and opposition activists for communicating with mass audiences. Telegram played an important role in coordinating unprecedented anti-government protests in Belarus in 2020, and it currently serves as a major source of news about Russia’s war in Ukraine. 

Hun Sen, 70, who has led Cambodia for 38 years, is listed as having 14 million Facebook followers, though critics have suggested a large number of them are merely “ghost” accounts purchased in bulk from so-called “click farms,” an assertion the long-serving prime minister has repeatedly denied. The Facebook accounts of Joe Biden and Donald Trump by comparison boast 11 million and 34 million followers, respectively, though the United States has about 20 times the population of Cambodia. 

Hun Sen officially launched his Facebook page on September 20, 2015, after his fierce political rival, opposition leader Sam Rainsy, effectively demonstrated how it could be used to mobilize support. Hun Sen is noted as a canny and sometimes ruthless politician, and he has since then managed to drive his rival into exile and neutralize all his challengers, even though Cambodia is a nominally democratic state. 

Controversial remarks

Hun Sen said he was giving up Facebook for Telegram because he believed the latter would be more effective for communicating. In a Telegram post on Wednesday, he said it would be easier for him to get his message out when traveling in other countries that officially ban Facebook use, such as China, the top ally of his government. Hun Sen has 855,000 followers so far on Telegram, where he appears to have started posting in mid-May. 

It is possible, however, that Hun Sen’s social media loyalty switch has to do with controversy about remarks he posted earlier this year on Facebook that in theory could see him get at least temporarily banned from the platform very soon. 

In January, speaking at a road construction ceremony, he decried opposition politicians who accused his ruling Cambodian People’s Party of stealing votes. 

“There are only two options. One is to use legal means and the other is to use a stick,” the prime minister said. “Either you face legal action in court, or I rally [the Cambodian] People’s Party people for a demonstration and beat you up.” His remarks were spoken on Facebook Live and kept online as a video. 

Perhaps because of heightened consciousness about the power of social media to inflame and trigger violence in such countries as India and Myanmar, and because the remarks were made ahead of a general election in Cambodia this July, complaints about his words were lodged with Facebook’s parent company, Meta. 

Facebook’s moderators declined to recommend action against Hun Sen, judging that his position as a national leader made his remarks newsworthy and therefore not subject to punishment despite their provocative nature. 

However, the case was forwarded in March to Meta’s Oversight Board, a group of independent experts that is empowered to render an overriding judgment that could limit Hun Sen’s Facebook activities. They are expected to issue a decision on Thursday. The case is being closely watched as an indicator of where Facebook will draw the line in countries with volatile political situations. 

Hun Sen said his Facebook account would remain online, but that he would no longer actively post to it. He urged people looking for news from him to check YouTube and his Instagram account as well as Telegram and said he had ordered his office to establish a TikTok account to allow him to communicate with his country’s youth.

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White House Expanding Affordable High-Speed Internet Access

U.S. President Joe Biden says he wants to make sure that every American has access to high-speed internet. VOA’s Julie Taboh has our story about the United States’ more than $40 billion-dollar investment to expand the service. (Videographer:  Adam Greenbaum; Produced by Julie Taboh, Adam Greenbaum)    

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Generative AI Might Make It Easier to Target Journalists, Researchers Say

Since the artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT launched last fall, a torrent of think pieces and news reports about the ins and outs and ups and downs of generative artificial intelligence has flowed, stoking fears of a dystopian future in which robots take over the world.  

While much of that hype is indeed just hype, a new report has identified immediate risks posed by apps like ChatGPT. Some of those present distinct challenges to journalists and the news industry.  

Published Wednesday by New York University’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, the report identified eight risks related to generative artificial intelligence, or AI, including disinformation, cyberattacks, privacy violations and the decay of the news industry.  

The AI debate “is getting a little confused between concerns about existential dangers versus what immediate harms generative AI might entail,” the report’s co-author Paul Barrett told VOA. “We shouldn’t get paralyzed by the question of, ‘Oh my God, will this technology lead to killer robots that are going to destroy humanity?'” 

The systems being released right now are not going to lead to that nightmarish outcome, explained Barrett, who is the deputy director of the Stern Center.  

Instead, the report — which Barrett co-authored with Justin Hendrix, founder and editor of the media nonprofit Tech Policy Press — argues that lawmakers, regulators and the AI industry itself should prioritize addressing the immediate potential risks.  

Safety concerns

Among the most concerning risks are the human-level threats that artificial intelligence may pose to the safety of journalists and activists.  

Doxxing and smear campaigns are already among the many threats that journalists face online over their work. Doxxing is when someone publishes private or identifying information about someone — such as their address or phone number — on the internet.  

But now with generative AI, it will likely be even easier to dox reporters and harass them online, according to Barrett.  

“If you want to set up a campaign like that, you’re going to have to do a lot less work using generative AI systems,” Barrett said. “It’ll be easier to attack journalists.”  

Propaganda easy to make

Disinformation is another primary risk that the report highlights, because generative AI makes it easier to churn out propaganda.  

The report notes that if the Kremlin had access to generative AI in its disinformation campaign surrounding the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Moscow could have launched a more destructive and less expensive influence operation.  

Generative AI “is going to be a huge engine of efficiency, but it’s also going to make much more efficient the production of disinformation,” Barrett said.  

That bears implications for press freedom and media literacy, since studies indicate that exposure to misinformation and disinformation is linked to reduced trust in the media.  

Generative AI may also exacerbate financial issues plaguing newsrooms, according to the report. 

If people ask ChatGPT a question, for instance, and are happy with the summarized answer, they’re less likely to click on other links to news articles. That means shrinking traffic and therefore ad dollars for news sites, the report said.  

But artificial intelligence is far from all bad news for the media industry.  

For example, AI tools can help journalists research by scraping PDF files and analyzing data quickly. Artificial intelligence can also help fact-check sources and write headlines.  

In the report, Barrett and Hendrix caution the government against allowing this new industry to make the same mistakes as were made with social media platforms.  

“Generative AI doesn’t deserve the deference enjoyed for so long by social media companies,” they write.  

They recommend the government enhance federal authority to oversee AI companies and require more transparency from AI companies.  

“Congress, regulators, the public — and the industry, for that matter — need to pay attention to the immediate potential risks,” Barrett said. “And if the industry doesn’t move fast enough on that front, that’s something Congress needs to figure out a way to force them to pay attention to.” 

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Klimt Portrait Sets European Auction Record: $108 Million

A portrait of an unnamed woman by Austrian artist Gustav Klimt sold for 85.3 million pounds ($108.4 million) on Tuesday, setting a record price for any work of art sold at an auction in Europe, London-based auction house Sotheby’s said.  

The painting, which had been given a guide price of 65 million pounds ($82.9 million), was sold after a tense 10-minute bidding war as auctioneer Helena Newman, Sotheby’s head of impressionist and modern art, eked out the final bids in half-million pound increments.

Described by Newman as a “technical tour de force, full of boundary-pushing experimentation, as well as a heartfelt ode to absolute beauty,” the painting titled “Dame mit Fächer” (“Lady with a Fan”) was still on an easel in Klimt’s studio when he died in February 1918.

“It was created when he was still in his artistic prime and brings together all the technical prowess and creative exuberance that define his greatest work,” she said.

The fall of the hammer at 74 million pounds broke the tension, triggering a collective exhalation in the room and a round of applause. The total price includes fees.

The painting sold to a Hong Kong-based art advisory firm, bidding on behalf of a collector based there.

The previous highest price for a painting sold at auction in Europe was Claude Monet’s “Le Bassin Aux Nympheas” in 2008 at $80.4 million, while the record for any work of art sold at auction in Europe was set by Alberto Giacometti’s bronze “Walking Man I,” which went for $104.3 million in 2010.  

Sotheby’s said the painting was one of a small number of Klimt’s portraits in private collections. It is now the most expensive Klimt artwork sold at auction anywhere in the world.

It was last offered for sale nearly 30 years ago, when it was acquired by the family of the present owner for $11.6 million, according to the auction house.

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US Election Commission Not Acting on Deepfakes in Campaign Ads

The commission that enforces rules for U.S. elections is not regulating AI-generated deepfakes in political advertising ahead of the 2024 presidential election. Deana Mitchell has the story.

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Actor Julian Sands Died While Hiking on California Mountain, Authorities Confirm

Actor Julian Sands, who starred in several Oscar-nominated films in the late 1980s and ’90s including “A Room with a View” and “Leaving Las Vegas,” was found dead on a Southern California mountain five months after he disappeared while hiking, authorities said Tuesday.

An investigation confirmed that it was Sands whose remains hikers found Saturday in wilderness near Mount Baldy, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said. The 65-year-old actor was an avid and experienced hiker who lived in Los Angeles and was reported missing January 13 after setting out on the peak that rises more than 3,048 meters east of the city. Crews aided by drones and helicopters had searched for him several times but were severely hampered by wintry conditions that lasted through spring. No sign of him was found until the civilian hikers came upon him.

The chances of Sands being discovered alive had long since diminished to nearly nothing, but the Sheriff’s Department, which conducted an official search the day before he was found, emphasized that the case remained active.

An autopsy has been conducted, but further test results are needed before the cause of death can be determined, authorities said.

Sands, who was born, raised and began acting in England, worked constantly in film and television, amassing more than 150 credits in a 40-year career. During a 10-year span from 1985 to 1995, he played major roles in a series of acclaimed films.

After studying at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London, Sands embarked on a career in stage and film, playing small parts in films including “Oxford Blues” and “The Killing Fields.” He landed the starring role of George Emerson, who falls in love with Helena Bonham Carter’s Lucy Honeychurch while on holiday in Tuscany in the 1985 British romance, “A Room with a View.”

The film from director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant won the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award for best film, and was nominated for eight Oscars, winning three.

In the wake of its success, Sands moved to the United States to pursue a career in Hollywood.

He played the title role in the 1989 horror fantasy “Warlock” and its sequel. In the 1990 horror comedy “Arachnophobia,” with Jeff Daniels and John Goodman, Sands played an entomologist specializing in spiders.

The following year he appeared in director David Cronenberg’s surreal adaptation of the William Burroughs novel “Naked Lunch” in 1991. In 1993, Sands starred in the thriller “Boxing Helena.”

In 1995’s “Leaving Las Vegas,” Sands played an abusive Latvian pimp alongside Nicolas Cage and Elisabeth Shue. The film was nominated for four Oscars, with Cage winning best actor.

Sands touted his love of the outdoors in a 2020 interview with the Guardian, saying he was happiest when “close to a mountain summit on a glorious cold morning” and that his biggest dream was scaling “a remote peak in the high Himalayas, such as Makalu.”

The actor said in the interview that in the early 1990s, he was caught in an “atrocious” storm in the Andes and was lucky to survive when three others near his party didn’t.

After “Leaving Las Vegas,” the quality of the films Sands was cast in, and the size of his roles, began declining. He worked steadily, appearing in director Wim Wenders’ “The Million Dollar Hotel” and director Dario Argento’s “The Phantom of the Opera.”

Sands was born in Yorkshire, the middle child of five brothers raised by a single mother. He had three children of his own.

He had been married since 1990 to journalist Evgenia Citkowitz, with whom he had two adult daughters, Imogen Morley Sands and Natalya Morley Sands. His eldest child was son Henry Sands, whom he had with his first wife, journalist Sarah Harvey.

A few days before he was found, Sands’ family issued a statement saying, “We continue to hold Julian in our hearts with bright memories of him as a wonderful father, husband, explorer, lover of the natural world and the arts, and as an original and collaborative performer.”

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Italy Looks for Man Seen in Viral Video Carving Names Into Rome’s Almost 2,000-Year-Old Colosseum 

Italy’s culture and tourism ministers have vowed to find and punish a tourist who was filmed carving his name and that of his apparent girlfriend in the wall of the Colosseum in Rome, a crime that resulted in hefty fines in the past.

Video of the incident went viral on social media. The message reading “Ivan+Haley 23” appeared on the Colosseum at a time when residents already were complaining about hordes of tourists flooding the Eternal City in record numbers this season.

Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano called the writing carved into the almost 2,000-year-old Flavian Ampitheater “serious, undignified and a sign of great incivility.” He said he hoped the culprits would be found “and punished according to our laws.”

Italian news agency ANSA noted that the incident marked the fourth time this year that such graffiti was reported at the Colosseum. It said whoever was responsible for the latest episode risked $15,000 in fines and up to five years in prison.

Tourism Minister Daniela Santanche said she hoped the tourist would be sanctioned “so that he understands the gravity of the gesture.” Calling for respect for Italy’s culture and history, she vowed: “We cannot allow those who visit our nation to feel free to behave in this way.”

In 2014, a Russian tourist was fined $25,000 and received a four-year suspended jail sentence for engraving a big letter ‘K’ on a wall of the Colosseum.

The following year, two American tourists were also cited for aggravated damage after they carved their names in the monument.

Italian tourism lobby Federturismo, backed by statistics bureau ISTAT, has said 2023 is shaping up as a record for visitors to Italy, surpassing pre-pandemic levels that hit a high in 2019.

Outside the Colosseum on Tuesday, visitors called for such monuments to be protected and preserved.

“There is a rich history here. It helps us learn from the past,” Diego Cruz, an American student, said.

Güldamla Ozsema, a computer engineer visiting from Turkey, said his country also had difficulty protecting its monuments from disrespectful tourists.

“I really get angry with them, with this behavior,” Ozsema said.

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LogOn: Robot Jellyfish Aims to Explore the Oceans

Robot makers who want to explore the oceans are looking to one of Earth’s most successful sea creatures for design inspiration. Steve Baragona reports.

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Women’s World Cup Guide: How to Watch, Schedule and Betting Favorites

The United States will be playing for an unprecedented three-peat at this year’s Women’s World Cup. It won’t be easy for the No. 1 team in the world.

Co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, the quadrennial tournament kicks off on July 20 and features an expanded field of 32 teams, up from 24. There are 64 matches during the tournament.

That means more competition for the two-time defending World Cup champion U.S., which won the 2015 event in Canada and the 2019 tournament in France. The Americans have won four titles overall, most of any nation.

Schedule, location

The 32 teams are divided into eight groups of four teams each. Each team plays a three-game, round-robin group stage, running from July 20 to August 3.

The top finishers advance to the round of 16 from August 5 to 8. The quarterfinals are set for August 11 to 12, and the two semifinal matches will be played August 15-16. A third-place game is set for August 19 in Brisbane, ahead of the final in Sydney.

The final will air at 6 a.m. ET on August 20 in the United States.

The broadcast schedule is complicated by the time difference. The United States is playing in Group E with Vietnam, the Netherlands and Portugal. The opening match is against Vietnam on July 22 in Auckland, which because of the time difference, will air in the U.S. on July 21 at 9 p.m. ET.

A rematch of the 2019 final against the Netherlands is set for July 27 in Wellington, airing at 9 p.m. ET on July 26 in the U.S. The last group game against Portugal is set for August 1, airing at 3 a.m. ET that day.

Where to watch

Fox holds the English-language media rights in the United States for the Women’s World Cup. Telemundo holds the Spanish-language rights.

Fox will broadcast a record 29 matches on its main network. The rest of the games will be aired on FS1. All matches will be streamed on the Fox app.

FIFA struck a collective deal with the European Broadcasting Union in mid-June, ending a standoff with broadcasters in five major European television markets. The deal guarantees the games will air in France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Britain.

Players to watch

There are two distinct groups of players to watch at this World Cup: veteran superstars and talented younger players.

Canada’s Christine Sinclair leads a group of veterans that includes Brazil’s Marta, Australia’s Sam Kerr, France’s Wendie Renard and American Alex Morgan.

Sinclair, who is 40 and likely playing in her final World Cup, is international soccer’s all-time leading scorer, among women or men, with 190 career goals.

Young stars include 22-year-old U.S. forward Sophia Smith, 21-year-old Jody Brown of Jamaica and 19-year-old Melchie Dumornay of Haiti.

Smith doubled up last year as both the U.S. Soccer Player of the Year and the National Women’s Soccer League’s Most Valuable Player.

Teams to watch

The United States is ranked No. 1 in the world in the latest FIFA rankings. The Americans are a strong team despite recent injuries, but their dominance in international play will be challenged at this World Cup.

Germany, ranked No. 2, won back-to-back World Cups in 2003 and 2007. Third-ranked Sweden knocked the United States out of the 2016 Olympics in the quarterfinals. Seventh-ranked Canada won the gold medal at the Tokyo Games.

Considered a contender, England has been hit by a series of injuries to top players including Beth Mead, Fran Kirby and captain Leah Williamson. All three will miss the World Cup. France switched coaches in March after a trio of players threatened to skip the tournament.

Australia can’t be counted out as co-hosts. The Matildas, the country’s national team, will be boosted by Kerr, one of the world’s best players.

Betting guide

The United States is a +240 favorite to win the World Cup, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. England is next at +380, followed by Spain at +650.

There’s also a big group of teams the oddsmakers say have little chance of lifting the trophy, including Jamaica, Vietnam, Argentina, Zambia, Nigeria, Costa Rica, Morocco, Philippines, South Africa, Haiti and Panama. All are at +43,000.

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UNESCO Members to Decide on US Rejoining  

UNESCO member states meet later this week on the Biden administration’s bid to rejoin the Paris-based U.N. scientific and cultural body, a move that will inject hundreds of millions of welcome dollars into its coffers and give the United States a say in shaping programs ranging from climate change to education and artificial intelligence.

Few expect any surprises on the outcome of the deliberations, which will be held at an extraordinary UNESCO session Thursday and Friday. There have been no reports of serious objections by the agency’s 193 members, although China and Russia have offered some critical and cautionary remarks.

Yet even as many welcome Washington’s move to rejoin over concern that competitors like China are filling the void, some observers wonder how long that welcome will last. Next year’s U.S. presidential elections are looming, potentially ushering in another administration hostile to UNESCO’s policies and membership.

Still others suggest Israel, which similarly defunded and ultimately left the body, should follow Washington’s footsteps in returning.

UNESCO itself has given an enthusiastic thumbs up to the U.S. request to rejoin earlier this month. Secretary-General Audrey Azoulay — who has taken pains to erase perceptions UNESCO was biased against Israel and woo Washington back — called it “a historic moment.”

“The reason why the U.S. is coming back is a strong signal that UNESCO’s mandate is more relevant than ever,” said UNESCO’s New York office head, Eliot Minchenberg, in an interview, laying out a raft of UNESCO programs reflecting U.S. priorities including fighting antisemitism and Holocaust education.

“In the absence of the U.S., of course others have stepped up and helped, but it is definitely not the same as the U.S. presence and engagement — both financially, diplomatically and politically,” he added.

Also welcome are U.S. dues that once accounted for 22% of UNESCO’s budget. The Biden administration has proposed slowly paying off the $619 million in arrears, starting with $150 million in 2024 dues and back payments.

French baguettes and the Everglades

Located not far from the Eiffel Tower, the small agency — known officially as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization —runs a raft of programs from promoting education and free press, to fighting against climate change and antisemitism.

Many know it best for helping to preserve and showcase the cultural and physical heritage of member states. French baguettes, Tunisian harissa, Finnish sauna culture and Colombian marimba music have all landed on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

More than a thousand sites have also made UNESCO’s World Heritage List, including two dozen in the U.S., from the Statue of Liberty to the Everglades and Yellowstone national parks.

Even today, some U.S. universities and other private groups continue collaborating with UNESCO.

That includes the Massachusetts-based nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists, whose deputy director for climate and energy programs, Adam Markham, says without membership the U.S. cannot weigh in on key discussions around climate change and World Heritage sites.


“You’re seeing China taking a lot of leadership roles,” said Markham, who can still participate in scientific meetings as a member of a nongovernmental organization. “I’m not saying that’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s just changing the geopolitical relationships that the U.S. has with other UNESCO partners.”

The U.S. first quit UNESCO in 1984 under the Reagan administration, over corruption concerns and an allegedly pro-Soviet tilt. It rejoined under another Republican president, George W. Bush, then suspended dues under Democrat Barack Obama, when Palestine became a member.

In 2018, President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out altogether over perceived anti-Israel bias and management issues, with Israel following suit.

Now, politics are again driving America’s return — this time, over concerns Beijing may otherwise have an outsized say in sensitive programs like artificial intelligence.

“Joe Biden’s administration has realized that the empty chair policy is incompatible with the defense of the country’s interests and that its absence from this forum ends up serving those of its great rival, China,” wrote France’s Le Monde newspaper in an editorial — even as it warned against Washington’s “fickleness.”

“The succession of departures and returns can only raise questions about the durability of the…decision, less than two years before a presidential election that could bring the party of ultra-nationalist retreat back to the White House” it added, referring to the Trump administration.

Israel next?

China’s ambassador to UNESCO has indicated Beijing was ready to work with a newly rejoined Washington. But the state-backed China Daily was blunter.

“Whether the U.S. will play a positive role in the agency remains a conjecture,” it wrote in an editorial. “If… its return is just for regaining its own influence against that of China in the organization, the U.S. will likely just be a troublemaker.”

Russia’s foreign ministry said it, too, was willing to welcome back the U.S., but warned Washington needed to follow UNESCO’s rules and “should pay back its astronomical debt unconditionally and in full.”

In Israel, Michael Freund, a former communications advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, cast the U.S. return as a “fiasco” and UNESCO “as an appalling club,” in an opinion in The Jerusalem Post.

But the newspaper’s own editorial suggested Israel might consider rejoining the agency — picking which programs to support while boycotting others — to counter Palestinian “disinformation.”

Mixed reactions over UNESCO have been sounding in the U.S. as well.

“Returning to UNESCO is a waste of time and money, and not an effective riposte to China,” John Bolton, a former national security advisor under President Trump, wrote in the New York Post. He called on Congress, with the House of Representatives now controlled by Republicans, to block UNESCO funding and said no current Republican presidential candidate appeared to support rejoining the agency.

But Markham, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, says he saw a different reaction when he spoke recently to a group of historic preservationists in New Jersey.

“The one thing they burst out spontaneously in applause was when I said the US had announced it was going back to UNESCO,” he said. “And I’m certain there were Republicans as well as Democrats in that audience.”

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‘Emotional’ Elton John Closes Out Glastonbury Festival

Elton John gave the final concert at Britain’s legendary Glastonbury Festival on Sunday, bringing down the curtain on the annual spectacular with what could be his final U.K. performance.

“I never thought I’d ever play Glastonbury,” he told the crowd. “It’s a very special and emotional night for me — it might be my very last show in England, in Great Britain, so I’d better play well and entertain you.”

The 76-year-old pop superstar is winding down a glittering live career with a global farewell tour, having played his last concerts in the United States in May ahead of a final gig in Stockholm on July 8.

Glastonbury, Britain’s best-known music festival, has been hosted on a farm in southwest England for five decades.

Before John took to the main Pyramid Stage on Sunday night, anticipation was high among fans.

“Elton’s a legend,” Ph.D. student Giles Briscoe, 26, told AFP ahead of the set, wearing a replica of the iconic baseball outfit John wore at his famous 1975 concerts at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles. “The fact that he’s going to perform on such a big stage, at such a historic moment of his career, is such a big event.”

John did not disappoint, kicking the show off with “Pinball Wizard” — a role he memorably played in The Who’s rock opera “Tommy” — before reeling through some of his biggest hits, including “Candle in the Wind,” “Crocodile Rock” and an intense “I’m Still Standing.”

John dedicated “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” to his “friend” and “inspiration” George Michael, who died on Christmas Day in 2016, and who would have turned 60 on Sunday.

John’s husband, David Furnish, had told Sky News ahead of the concert that John would not stop making music after the farewell tour ends next month and would start work on a new studio album later this year.

He also teased Sunday’s performance, saying it would be “very special” and “not just another day in the office.”

Indeed, John was joined on stage by several surprise guests: first off, the London Community Gospel Choir and Jacob Lusk of the soul-pop group Gabriels.

Next up was Stephen Sanchez, with John singing one of the 20-year-old American’s songs.

He later shared the stage with Brandon Flowers of The Killers for “Tiny Dancer” and with Rina Sawayama for “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.”

He closed out the set with a soaring rendition of “Rocket Man,” complete with fireworks.

During the concert, John thanked his fans “for 52 years of amazing love and loyalty.”

“It’s been an incredible journey and I’ve had the best, best time. I will never forget you — you are in my head, my heart and my soul,” he said.

John’s U.K. swansong caps days of big-name performances in front of more than 200,000 fans at Glastonbury, including veteran U.S. rockers Guns N’ Roses, who were making their debut at the long-running festival in the coveted Saturday night headline slot.

They rocked through their extensive catalogue during a two-hour-plus set, playing hits including “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “November Rain.”

Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, whose band played a so-called secret slot Friday, joined them onstage to help play a special rendition of “Paradise City.”

Other acts playing this year included UK indie giants Arctic Monkeys, singer Lizzo, rapper Lil Nas X, post-punk icon Blondie and “rickroller” Rick Astley, highlighting Glastonbury’s eclectic ethos.

On Saturday, a supportive crowd sang along as Scottish singer Lewis Capaldi, who suffers from Tourette’s syndrome, struggled to finish his set.

He announced he would take a break, after previously cancelling gigs to recuperate over health concerns.

Dairy farmer Michael Eavis first organized the festival in 1970, the day after Jimi Hendrix died, and fans who came to see acts including Marc Bolan and Al Stewart paid £1 each for entry and received free milk from the farm.

It was held intermittently in the 1970s, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that it really began to acquire its cult status.

While able to draw the biggest performers from every genre and generation, it is equally known for hosting thousands of small acts and events across the huge Worthy Farm site, as well as for often rainy and muddy conditions.

That has not proved a problem this year, with Britain in the midst of a prolonged dry period leaving much of the country scorched.

More than 100,000 standard tickets for this year’s festival sold out in just over an hour, despite the price rising to $427 this year.

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International African American Museum, Reclaims Sacred Ground for Enslaved Kin

When the International African American Museum opens to the public Tuesday in South Carolina, it becomes a new site of homecoming and pilgrimage for descendants of enslaved Africans whose arrival in the Western Hemisphere begins on the docks of the Lowcountry coast.

Overlooking the old wharf in Charleston at which nearly half of the enslaved population first entered North America, the 150,000-square-foot (14,000-square-meter) museum houses exhibits and artifacts exploring how African Americans’ labor, perseverance, resistance and cultures shaped the Carolinas, the nation and the world.

It also includes a genealogy research center to help families trace their ancestors’ journey from point of arrival on the land.

The opening happens at a time when the very idea of Black people’s survival through slavery, racial apartheid and economic oppression being quintessential to the American story is being challenged throughout the U.S. Leaders of the museum said its existence is not a rebuttal to current attempts to suppress history, but rather an invitation to dialogue and discovery.

“Show me a courageous space, show me an open space, show me a space that meets me where I am, and then gets me where I asked to go,” said Dr. Tonya Matthews, the museum’s president and CEO.

“I think that’s the superpower of museums,” she said. “The only thing you need to bring to this museum is your curiosity, and we’ll do the rest.”

The $120 million facility features nine galleries that contain nearly a dozen interactive exhibits of more than 150 historical objects and 30 works of art. One of the museum’s exhibits will rotate two to three times each year.

Upon entering the space, eight large video screens play a looped trailer of a diasporic journey that spans centuries, from cultural roots on the African continent and the horrors of the Middle Passage to the regional and international legacies that spawned out of Africans’ dispersal and migration across lands.

The screens are angled as if to beckon visitors towards large windows and a balcony at the rear of the museum, revealing sprawling views of the Charleston harbor.

One unique feature of the museum is its gallery dedicated to the history and culture of the Gullah Geechee people. Their isolation on rice, indigo and cotton plantations on coastal South Carolina, Georgia and North Florida helped them maintain ties to West African cultural traditions and Creole language. A multimedia, chapel-sized “praise house” in the gallery highlights the faith expressions of the Gullah Geechee and shows how those expressions are imprinted on Black American gospel music.

On Saturday, the museum grounds buzzed with excitement as its founders, staff, elected officials and other invited guests dedicated the grounds in spectacular fashion.

The program was emceed by award-winning actress and director Phylicia Rashad and included stirring appearances by poet Nikky Finney and the McIntosh County Shouters, who perform songs passed down by enslaved African Americans.

“Truth sets us free — free to understand, free to respect and free to appreciate the full spectrum of our shared history,” said former Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley, Jr. who is widely credited for the idea to bring the museum to the city.

Planning for the International African American Museum dates back to 2000, when Riley called for its creation in a State of the City address. It took many more years, through setbacks in fundraising and changes in museum leadership, before construction started in 2019.

Originally set to open in 2020, the museum was further delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as by issues in the supply chain of materials needed to complete construction.

Gadsden’s Wharf, a 2.3-acre waterfront plot where it’s estimated that up 45% of enslaved Africans brought to the United States in the late 18th and early 19th centuries walked, sets the tone for how the museum is experienced. The wharf was built by Revolutionary War figure Christopher Gadsden.

The land is now part of an intentionally designed ancestral garden. Black granite walls are erected on the spot of a former storage house, a space where hunched enslaved humans perished awaiting their transport to the slave market. The walls are emblazoned with lines of Maya Angelou’s poem, “And Still I Rise.”

The museum’s main structure does not touch the hallowed grounds on which it is located. Instead, it is hoisted above the wharf by 18 cylindrical columns. Beneath the structure is a shallow fountain tribute to the men, women and children whose bodies were inhumanely shackled together in the bellies of ships in the transatlantic slave trade.

To discourage visitors from walking on the raised outlines of the shackled bodies, a walkway was created through the center of the wharf tribute.

“There’s something incredibly significant about reclaiming a space that was once the landing point, the beginning of a horrific American journey for captured Africans,” said Malika Pryor, the museum’s chief learning and education officer.

Walter Hood, founder and creative director of Hood Design Studios based in Oakland, California, designed the landscape of the museum’s grounds. The designs are inspired by tours of Lowcountry and its former plantations, he said. The lush grounds, winding paths and seating areas are meant to be an ethnobotanical garden, forcing visitors to see how the botany of enslaved Africans and their descendants helped shape what still exists today across the Carolinas.

The opening of the Charleston museum adds to a growing array of institutions dedicated to teaching an accurate history of the Black experience in America. Many will have heard of, and perhaps visited, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in the nation’s capital, which opened in 2016.

Lesser-known Afrocentric museums and exhibits exist in nearly every region of the country. In Montgomery, Alabama, The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration and the corresponding National Memorial for Peace and Justice highlight slavery, Jim Crow and the history of lynching in America.

Pryor, formerly the educational director of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, said these types of museums focus on the underdiscussed, underengaged parts of the American story.

“This is such an incredibly expansive history, there’s room for 25 more museums that would have opportunities to bring a new curatorial lens to this conversation,” she said.

The museum has launched an initiative to develop relationships with school districts, especially in places where laws limit how public school teachers discuss race and racism in the classroom. In recent years, conservative politicians around the country have banned books in more than 5,000 schools in 32 states. Bans or limits on instruction about slavery and systemic racism have been enacted in at least 16 states since 2021.

Pryor said South Carolina’s ban on the teaching of critical race theory in public schools has not put the museum out of reach for local elementary, middle and high schools that hope to make field trips there.

“Even just the calls and the requests for school group visits, for school group tours, they number easily in the hundreds,” she said. “And we haven’t formally opened our doors yet.”

When the doors are open, all are welcome to reckon with a fuller truth of the Black American story, said Matthews, the museum president.

“If you ask me what we want people to feel when they are in the museum, our answer is something akin to everything,” she said.

“It is the epitome of our journey, the execution of our mission, to honor the untold stories of the African American journey at one of our nation’s most sacred sites.”

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