LGBTQ+ Pride Month culminates with parades in New York, San Francisco and beyond

New York — The monthlong celebration of LGBTQ+ Pride reached its exuberant grand finale on Sunday, bringing rainbow-laden revelers to the streets for marquee parades in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and elsewhere across the globe.

The wide-ranging festivities functioned as both jubilant parties and political protests, as participants recognize the community’s gains while also calling attention to recent anti-LGBTQ+ laws, such as bans on transgender health care, passed by Republican-led states.

“We’re at a time where there’s a ton of legislation, anti-LGBTQ+ legislation,” Zach Overton, 47, said at the New York parade. “It feels like we’re taking a step backwards in the fight for equality and so it’s a great moment to come out and be with our community and see all the different colors of the spectrum of our community and remind ourselves what we’re all fighting for.”

Thousands of people gathered along New York’s Fifth Avenue to celebrate Pride. Floats cruised the street as Diane Ross’ “I’m Coming Out” played from loudspeakers. Pride flags filled the horizon, and signs in support of Puerto Rico, Ukraine and Gaza were visible in the crowd.

This year, tensions over the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza are also seeped into the celebrations, exposing divisions within a community that is often aligned on political issues.

Protesters temporarily blocked the New York parade on Sunday, chanting: “Free, free, free Palestine!” Police eventually took some of them away.

Pro-Palestinian activists disrupted pride parades earlier in June in Boston, Denver, and Philadelphia. Several groups participating in marches Sunday said they would seek to center the victims of the war in Gaza, spurring pushback from supporters of Israel.

“It is certainly a more active presence this year in terms of protest at Pride events,” said Sandra Perez, the executive director of NYC Pride. “But we were born out of a protest.”

The first pride march was held in New York City in 1970 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Inn uprising, a riot that began with a police raid on a Manhattan gay bar.

Nick Taricco, 47, who was at the New York parade with Overton, said he attended Friday’s opening of the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center, where President Joe Biden spoke. Taricco said he has concerns about politics in the U.S., including the presidential election.

“Even given how old he is, I still think that’s the direction we need to go in,” Taricco said of Biden. “But it’s a very uncertain time in general in this country.”

Ireland Fernandez-Cosgrove, 23, celebrated at the New York parade.

“New York City is a great place to live, but this is one of the only days where you can come out and be openly queer and you know you’re going to be OK and safe about it,” she said. “I came out here today with my partner to be able to be ourselves in public and know that other people are going to be supporting us.”

In addition to the NYC Pride March, the nation’s largest, the city also played host Sunday to the Queer Liberation March, an activism-centered event launched five years ago amid concerns that the more mainstream parade had become too corporate.

Another one of the world’s largest Pride celebrations also took place Sunday in San Francisco.

Tens of thousands of revelers packed sidewalks along Chicago’s parade, a scaled-back event from previous years. City officials shortened the North Side route and the number of floats this year from 199 to about 150 over safety and logistical concerns, including to better deploy police into evening hours as post-parade parties have become more disruptive in recent years. Chicago’s parade, one of the largest in the U.S., routinely draws about 1 million people, according to the city. Sunday’s crowd estimates were not immediately available.

Additional parades were scheduled in Minneapolis and Seattle.

On top of concerns about protests, federal agencies have warned that foreign terrorist organizations and their supporters could target the parades and adjacent venues. A heavy security presence was expected at all of the events.

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‘A Quiet Place’ prequel scores at box office; Costner’s Western does not

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Want to follow swimming in Paris? Then get up to speed on WADA, doping and China

TOKYO — The Paris Olympics open next month and the agency that oversees doping enforcement is under scrutiny following allegations it failed to pursue positive tests of Chinese swimmers who subsequently won medals — including three gold — at the Tokyo Games in 2021.

The focus on the World Anti-Doping Agency and China’s swimmers raises questions for athletes about the fairness of the competitions and the effectiveness of doping control at the Olympics.

“It’s hard going into Paris knowing that we’re going to be racing some of these athletes,” American swimmer Katie Ledecky, a seven-time Olympic champion, said in a television interview. “I think our faith in the system is at an all-time low.”

Rob Koehler, who worked as a deputy director of WADA until 2018, offered a similar tone.

“Athletes have zero confidence in the global regulator and World Aquatics,” Koehler, the director general of athletes’ advocacy body Global Athlete, told The Associated Press. “Transparency is needed more than ever. Without it, the anti-doping movement will crumble and athletes will never feel they have a level playing field.”

The background

From January 1-3, 2021, 23 elite Chinese swimmers tested positive for the banned substance trimetazidine — a heart medication known as TMZ — while competing in the Chinese city of Shijiazhuang and staying in a local hotel.

Chinese authorities investigated but did not sanction the swimmers and said they had unwittingly ingested the banned substance. They blamed food/environmental contamination and said the drug had gotten into spice containers in the hotel kitchen.

The investigation was carried out by the Chinese Minister of Public Security, China’s national police force.

WADA accepted the explanation and argued, in part, it was not possible to send its own investigators to China during what officials said was a “local COVID outbreak.”

Several of those athletes later won medals at the Tokyo Olympics, including gold medals in three events.

Eleven of the 23 Chinese swimmers were named this month on the country’s national team to compete in Paris, including Zhang Yufei, who won gold in the 200-meter butterfly and the women’s 4×200 freestyle relay. She also won two silver medals in Tokyo.

Also on the list for Paris is 200 individual medley Olympic gold-medalist Wang Shun, and 200 breaststroke world-record holder Qin Haiyang.

The criticism of WADA

WADA has been criticized for seeming to look the other way at aspects of the Chinese anti-doping agency’s investigation and reporting. It has also not published any of the science behind its decision.

The Chinese agency, known as CHINADA, did not report the positive tests to WADA until mid-March. And in early April 2021 it told WADA it had begun an investigation. On June 15 of that year, it told WADA that environmental contamination was the cause and said it was not pursing an ADRV — an anti-doping rules violation.

Had an anti-doping rules violation been found, CHINADA should have filed a mandatory provisional suspension with a public disclosure forthcoming.

Many questions have been asked since the case became public this year, including by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators. Why did it take 2 1/2 months to report the findings, and why was the investigation begun even later? WADA attributes the “certain delays” to COVID restrictions.

Why was there an apparent delay in inspecting the hotel kitchen? Why was the residue still around, particularly in light of China’s tough sanitation rules during the pandemic? And where did the TMZ come from and how did it land in a spice container? Why were the national police involved in a sports doping case?

The New York Times and German broadcaster ARD broke the story in April of this year.

WADA’s defense

Basically, WADA says it had no grounds to challenge the findings of CHINADA. WADA did say, however, it did not agree with all of CHINADA’s investigation “for largely technical reasons.”

WADA says it accepted the contamination theory because: the levels of TMZ were very low; the swimmers were from different regions of China; and the swimmers were in the same place when the positive tests occurred. Also, competing swimmers stayed in another hotel. Three were tested and none tested positive.

Legally, WADA argued that it could have appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport but was advised not to by external lawyers. It would have been a narrow appeal that would not have kept the athletes from competing at the Tokyo Olympics.

WADA has appointed retired Swiss prosecutor Eric Cottier to review the handling of the case. Fairly or not, his impartiality has been questioned.

The banned medication

Trimetazidine is listed as a “metabolic modulator” and is banned by WADA — in competition and out of competition. It is believed to help endurance and recovery time after training. One of the best-known TMZ cases involved Chinese swimmer Sun Yang, who was suspended for three months in 2014 after testing positive for the substance. He also served a four-year suspension for a separate doping violation.

Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva tested positive for TMZ weeks before the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. She said the substance had belonged to her grandfather and had accidentally contaminated her food. She was allowed to skate in Beijing, but was was eventually handed a four-year suspension.

WADA said Valieva’s contamination scenario “was not compatible with the analytical results.” In the case of the Chinese swimmers, WADA said “the contamination scenario was plausible and that there was no concrete scientific element to challenge it.”

Strict Liability

The principle of “Strict Liability” — athletes are responsible for what they ingest — is at the heart of the WADA code, and is there to ensure all athletes are treated equally. Some question if the principle was followed in this case.

WADA’s rules specify that a “mandatory provisional suspension” should have taken place after the positive tests, which were carried out at a WADA-approved laboratory in Beijing. The local anti-doping agency — in this case, CHINADA — should have issued the suspension.

“CHINADA’s handling of the case, and WADA’s subsequent response, did not adhere to the most essential rule in the code — the principle of Strict Liability,” Steven Teitler, the legal director of the Netherlands doping agency, wrote in a white paper examining the case.

WADA further muddied the water in a fact sheet it published. It said “even for mandatory provisional suspensions there are exceptions.” It said there were multiple precedents for the decision to exonerate the Chinese athletes, precedents that did not seem to have been widely known.

This has raised more questions about how the agency follows its own rules.

The anti-doping system relies on national agencies like CHINADA to enforce the rules, which can clash with the wishes of high-profile athletes and the prestige they might bring to a country and its government.

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Parties, protests mark the end of Pride month in US and beyond

NEW YORK — The monthlong celebration of LGBTQ+ Pride reaches its exuberant grand finale on Sunday, bringing rainbow-laden revelers to the streets for marquee parades in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and elsewhere across the globe.

The wide-ranging festivities will function as both jubilant parties and political protests, as participants recognize the community’s gains while also calling attention to recent anti-LGBTQ+ laws, such as bans on transgender health care, passed by Republican-led states.

This year, tensions over the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza are also seeping into the celebrations, exposing divisions within a community that is often aligned on political issues.

Already this month, pro-Palestinian activists have disrupted pride parades held in Boston, Denver, and Philadelphia. Several groups participating in marches Sunday said they would seek to center the victims of the war in Gaza, spurring pushback from supporters of Israel.

“It is certainly a more active presence this year in terms of protest at Pride events,” said Sandra Pérez, the executive director of NYC Pride. “But we were born out of a protest.”

The first pride march was held in New York City in 1970 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Inn uprising, a riot that began with a police raid on a Manhattan gay bar.

In addition to the NYC Pride March, the nation’s largest, the city will also play host Sunday to the Queer Liberation March, an activism-centered event launched five years ago amid concerns that the more mainstream parade had become too corporate.

Another one of the world’s largest Pride celebrations will also kick off Sunday in San Francisco. Additional parades are scheduled in Chicago, Minneapolis, and Seattle.

On top of concerns about protests, federal agencies have warned that foreign terrorist organizations and their supporters could target the parades and adjacent venues. A heavy security presence is expected at all of the events.

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San Francisco store is shipping LGBTQ+ books to places where they are banned

SAN FRANCISCO — In an increasingly divisive political sphere, Becka Robbins focuses on what she knows best — books.

Operating out of a tiny room in Fabulosa Books in San Francisco’s Castro District, one of the oldest gay neighborhoods in the United States, Robbins uses donations from customers to ship boxes of books across the country to groups that want them.

In an effort she calls “Books Not Bans,” she sends titles about queer history, sexuality, romance and more — many of which are increasingly hard to come by in the face of a rapidly growing movement by conservative advocacy groups and lawmakers to ban them from public schools and libraries.

“The book bans are awful, the attempt at erasure,” Robbins said. She asked herself how she could get these books into the hands of the people who need them the most.

Beginning last May, she started raising money and looking for recipients. Her books have gone to places like a pride center in west Texas and an LGBTQ-friendly high school in Alabama.

Customers are especially enthusiastic about helping Robbins send books to places in states like Florida, Texas and Oklahoma, often writing notes of support to include in the packages. Over 40% of all book bans from July 2022 to June 2023 were in Florida, more than any other state. Behind Florida are Texas and Missouri, according to a report by PEN America, a nonprofit literature advocacy group.

Book bans and attempted bans have been hitting record highs, according to the American Library Association. And the efforts now extend as much to public libraries as school libraries. Because the totals are based on media accounts and reports submitted by librarians, the association regards its numbers as snapshots, with many bans left unrecorded.

PEN America’s report said 30% of the bans include characters of color or discuss race and racism, and 30% have LGBTQ+ characters or themes.

The most sweeping challenges often originate with conservative organizations, such as Moms for Liberty, which has organized banning efforts nationwide and called for more parental control over books available to children.

Moms for Liberty is not anti-LGBTQ+, co-founder Tiffany Justice has told The Associated Press. But about 38% of book challenges that “directly originated” from the group have LGBTQ+ themes, according to the library association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. Justice said Moms for Liberty challenges books that are sexually explicit, not because they cover LGBTQ+ topics.

Among those topping banned lists have been Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer, George Johnson’s All Boys Aren’t Blue and Nobel laureate Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.

Robbins said it’s more important than ever to makes these kinds of books available to everyone.

“Fiction teaches us how to dream,” Robbins said. “It teaches us how to connect with people who are not like ourselves, it teaches us how to listen and emphasize.”

She’s sent 740 books so far, with each box worth $300 to $400, depending on the titles.

At the new Rose Dynasty Center in Lakeland, Florida, the books donated by Fabulosa are already on the shelves, said Jason DeShazo, a drag queen known as Momma Ashley Rose who runs the LGBTQ+ community center.

DeShazo is a family-friendly drag performer and has long hosted drag story times to promote literacy. He uses puppets to address themes of being kind, dealing with bullies and giving back to the community.

DeShazo hopes to provide a safe space for events, support groups and health clinics, and to build a library of banned books.

“I don’t think a person of color should have to search so hard for an amazing book about history of what our Black community has gone through,” DeShazo said. “Or for someone who is queer to find a book that represents them.”

Robbins’ favorite books to send are youth adult queer romances, a rapidly growing genre as conversations about LGBTQ+ issues have become much more mainstream than a decade ago.

“The characters are just like regular kids — regular people who are also queer, but they also get to fall in love and be happy,” Robbins said.

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Taiwan singer urges awards audience to remember Tiananmen

taipei, taiwan — Taiwanese singer and activist Panai called Saturday — at one of the most prestigious entertainment events in the Chinese-speaking world — for people not to forget China’s bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square. 

Chinese artists in recent years have largely stayed away from Taiwan’s Golden Melody Awards given renewed tension between democratically governed Taiwan and China, which views the island as its own territory, and the reference to Tiananmen is unlikely to endear Beijing to the ceremony. 

Taking the stage after winning for best Taiwanese language album at the ceremony in Taipei, Panai said this was the 35th anniversary of the awards. 

“The Tiananmen Square incident is also exactly 35 years old, let’s not forget,” she said. 

Chinese tanks rolled into the square before dawn on June 4, 1989, to end weeks of pro-democracy demonstrations by students and workers. Public discussion of what happened is taboo in China, though it is freely talked about in Taiwan. 

China says it “long ago” reached a clear conclusion about the events of 1989, and China’s Taiwan Affairs Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Panai has campaigned for years for the rights of Taiwan’s Indigenous people. 

“Democracy is a lengthy and not an easy journey, we are pressured as we don’t know if we will be bullied by a ‘bigger’ power,” she told reporters backstage after her win. 

“The reason why I mentioned that event on stage is because Taiwan’s democracy is a process that all of us need to cherish; our freedom and freedom of speech is what we need to protect.” 

No Chinese singers attended this year’s awards, despite several high-profile nominations, including Xu Jun winning for best composer. 

Another Chinese singer, Jude Chiu, did arrive in Taiwan but returned to the country before the awards for health reasons, Taiwan’s official Central News Agency reported. 

While Taiwan has only 23 million people, its pop music scene has an outsized cultural influence across East Asia, especially in China, in part due to creativity unencumbered by censorship. 

The awards celebrate not only Mandopop but artists singing in Taiwanese — also known as Hokkien — Hakka and Indigenous languages like Bunun, a visible sign of the Taiwan government’s efforts to promote once suppressed tongues. 

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What is a Gutenberg Bible? And why is it relevant 500 years after its printing?

NEW YORK — It’s not just a book.

Back in the 1450s, when the Bible became the first major work printed in Europe with moveable metal type, Johannes Gutenberg was a man with a plan.

The German inventor decided to make the most of his new technology — the movable-type printing press — by producing an unprecedented version of the scripture for wealthy customers who could interpret Latin: leaders of the Catholic Church.

Though he planned on printing 150 Bibles, increasing demand motivated him to produce 30 extra copies, which led to a total of 180. Currently known as the “Gutenberg Bibles,” around 48 complete copies are preserved.

None is known to be kept in private hands. Among those in the United States, a paper Bible can be seen at the Morgan Library & Museum, in New York City. Two more copies in vellum lie in the underground vaults, next to 120,000 other books.

Why should anyone — religiously observant or not — feel compelled to see a Gutenberg Bible up close? Here’s a look at how its printing influenced the history of books and the religious landscape. And what a 500-year-old volume can still reveal.

What is a Gutenberg Bible?

The term refers to each of the two-volume Bibles printed in Gutenberg’s workshop around 1454.

Before that, all existing Bibles were copied by hand. The process could take up to a year, said John McQuillen, associate curator at the Morgan Library. In contrast, it is believed that Gutenberg completed his work in about six months.

Each Gutenberg Bible has nearly 1,300 pages and weighs around 60 pounds. It’s written in Latin and printed in double columns, with 42 lines per page.

Most were printed on paper. A few others on animal skin.

When a Bible came off the press, only the black letters were printed. Hand decorations and bindings were added later, depending on each buyer’s taste and budget.

Some ornamentations were added in Germany. Others in France, Belgium or Spain.

Therefore, each Gutenberg Bible is unique, McQuillen said.

Why were these Bibles a turning point?

Gutenberg’s invention produced a massive multiplication of complete copies of biblical texts.

The first impact was among scholars and learned priests who had easier access than ever before, said Richard Rex, professor of Reformation History from the University of Cambridge.

“This massive multiplication even led to the wider adoption of the term ‘Bible’ (Biblia) to describe the book,” Rex said. “Medieval authors and others do speak sometimes of ‘the Bible’, but more commonly of ‘scripture.'”

Psychologically, Rex said, the appearance of the printed text — its regularity, precision and uniformity — contributed to a tendency to resolve theological arguments by reference to the biblical text alone.

Later on, the printing of Bibles in vernacular languages — especially from Luther’s Bible (early 1520s) and Tyndale’s New Testament (mid 1520s) onwards — affected the way that ordinary parishioners related to religion and the clergy.

The limits of literacy still meant that access to the Bible was far from universal. Gradually, though, religious leaders stopped being its main interpreters.

“The phenomenon of lay people questioning or interpreting the biblical text became more common from the 1520s onwards,” Rex said. “Although the early Protestant Reformers, such as Luther, emphasized that they did not seek to create an interpretative ‘free for all,’ this was probably the predictable consequence of their appeal to ‘scripture alone.'”

More than a book

Three times per year, a curator from the Morgan Library turns the page of the Gutenberg Bible on display. It’s leaves not only tell a tale of scripture, but of those who possessed it.

A few years ago, by studying its handmade initials, McQuillen was the one to figure out the origin of its decoration: a German monastery that no longer exists.

Similarly, in the 2000s, a Japanese researcher found little marks on the surface of the Old Testament’s paper copy. Her findings revealed that those leaves were used by Gutenberg’s successors for their own edition, printed in 1462.

“For as many times as the Gutenberg Bible have been looked at, it seems like every time a researcher comes in, something new can be discovered,” McQuillen said.

“This book has existed for 500 years. Who are the people that have touched it? How can we talk about these personal histories in addition to the greater idea of what printing technology means on a European or global scale?” he said.

Among the thousands of Bibles that J. P. Morgan acquired, owners made various annotations. Individual names, birth dates, details that reflect a personal story.

“A Bible is now sort of a book on the shelf,” McQuillen said. “But at one point, this was a very personal object.”

“In a museum setting, they become art and a little bit distanced, but we try to break that distance down.”

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New Indigenous holiday comes of age in New Zealand

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — When Ngarauru Mako told her family she was calling off Christmas festivities in favor of celebrating Matariki, the Māori new year holiday that’s experiencing a renaissance in New Zealand, her children didn’t believe her.

“We grew up with Christmas because it was just what you did, but I realized it wasn’t my thing,” said Mako, who is Māori, a member of New Zealand’s Indigenous people. “I just decided myself to cancel Christmas, be the Grinch, and take on Matariki.”

Now in its third year as a nationwide public holiday in New Zealand, Matariki marks the lunar new year by the rise of the star cluster known in the Northern Hemisphere as the Pleiades. The holiday is seeing a surge in popularity, even as political debates about race in New Zealand have grown more divisive. Accompanying the holiday’s rise is a tension between those embracing Indigenous language and culture, and a vocal minority who wish to see less of it.

“For much of our past, since the arrival of settlers to this land, mostly out of Great Britain, we’ve really looked to mimic and build our identity off Great Britain,” said Rangi Mātāmua, professor of Mātauranga Māori -– Māori knowledge — at Massey University and an adviser to the government on Matariki.

“But I think as we’ve moved a number of generations on, Aotearoa New Zealand is starting to come of age in terms of our understanding of our identity,” he added, using both the Māori and English names for the country.

When New Zealand established the national day in 2022, it became the first nation in the world to recognize an Indigenous-minority holiday, scholars including Mātāmua believe. But many did not know what it was. Even so, 51% of people did something to mark the day, official figures show, and that number grew to 60% in 2023. Matariki falls on a different midwinter date each year based on the Māori lunar calendar; in 2024 it was officially celebrated June 28.


A 700-year-old tradition that fell out of observance in modern times — even among the 1 million Māori who make up New Zealand’s population of 5 million -– the fortunes of Matariki changed over the past few decades, as Māori language, culture and traditions saw a passionate resurgence.

“Māori culture has been oppressed for a long, long time. We lost our reo — our language — nearly, we nearly lost our identity,” said Poropiti Rangitaawa, a musician who performed Māori songs this month at a family Matariki celebration outside of Wellington, the capital city. “But with the hope of our people, our old people, our ancestors, they have brought it up and now it’s really strong.”

The carnival day at Wainuiomata where Rangitaawa played was one of many events New Zealanders of all ethnicities attended to mark Matariki. Some attended predawn ceremonies where steam from food is released to “feed the stars” and lists of names are read remembering the dead and those born since the last celebration.

Dotted around Wellington were remembrance spots — in the back room of a church, in a garden -– where visitors displayed notes to those they had lost: a dad, an aunt, a cat.

“It’s only just now that I’m realizing Matariki is about the stars, and I love the fact that they’ve got a star for the ones we’ve lost in the year,” said Casey Wick, attending a celebration with her family.

For many, a growing knowledge of the holiday has come through their children, which is typical of New Zealand’s Indigenous movement. Protests in the 1970s seeking recognition of the language gave rise to Māori language pre-schools whose first generation of graduates are fluent speakers.

Every elementary school in New Zealand now recognizes Matariki, and many this month hosted shared meals for families to celebrate. Children come home singing the names of the nine Matariki stars to the tune of the Macarena.

“I learn more from her about Matariki than I could ever give to her,” said Liana Childs, whose daughter Akaylia, 9, recited the stars of the cluster perfectly. The family is not Māori, Childs said, but they studied the Māori seasons, which guide the planting of crops and when to hunt.

“I think it’s just brought us closer together as a family,” she said.

The political climate for Māori language and culture, however, is complicated.

Words in the language are now commonplace in conversations, but Māori has its detractors, too. Matariki was established as a national day under New Zealand’s previous center-left government, which urged the country to embrace Māori culture. The government, however, was often decried for doing little to address woeful economic, health and justice issues for Māori that became entrenched after New Zealand was colonized in the 19th century.

A change of government last October meant a new era for Matariki. The party leading the current center-right coalition supports the day, but one of its coalition partners does not. The government has also pledged to scrap some policies recognizing Māori that were passed by its predecessors, getting rid of a Māori health agency that prioritized Indigenous New Zealanders, who die younger than people of non-Maori descent; reversing a movement to grant Māori names to government agencies, some of which have already reverted to their English titles; and halting plans for shared management of public utilities with Māori tribes.

One of the governing parties has provoked a fresh debate about New Zealand’s founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi -– signed between Māori tribes and the British Crown in 1840 -– with the suggestion that modern interpretations have given Māori too many rights. The rumblings about a revisited treaty have prompted protest marches.

“Governments will come and governments will go,” said Mātāmua, the professor. “Matariki existed before government, and it will continue to exist after the current government.”

Māori language and culture almost died out when earlier politicians opposed their expression, Mātāmua said, but in a nation where many are now enthusiastic about it, any government trying to curtail the celebration would learn “that perhaps trying to put this genie back in the bottle would be very, very difficult.”

At the Matariki celebration in Wainuiomata, Tash Simpson stood with friends at a stall that fused Māori and Kenyan crafts.

“We’re stronger now. Our people are more knowledgeable now,” she said of political threats to Māori. “But now we know what’s coming and we’re ready.”

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India thumps England by 68 runs, will face South Africa in T20 World Cup final

PROVIDENCE, Guyana — India thumped defending champion England by 68 runs to reach the final of the Twenty20 World Cup on Thursday.

India will face South Africa on Saturday at Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados in a battle of the two unbeaten teams of the tournament.

Captain Rohit Sharma’s (57) second half-century helped India compile 171-7 and Suryakumar Yadav also blunted the England pace and spin with a vital knock of 47 off 36 balls after more than 2-1/2 hours of second semifinal was lost due to rain and wet outfield.

Spinners Axar Patel and the Kuldeep Yadav then combined in for 6-42 through some sharp turners as England got bowled out for 103 in 16.3 overs on a skiddy, low pitch devoid of grass to bow out of the tournament.

“If bowlers and batters adapt, things fall in place,” a beaming Sharma said. “Axar and Kuldeep are gun spinners. (It was) tough to play shots against them in these conditions (and) they were calm under pressure.”

Captain Jos Buttler smashed four boundaries in his 23 off 15 balls, but once he top-edged reverse sweep off left-arm spinner Patel’s first ball inside the power play and lobbed a simplest of catches to wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant, England kept on losing wickets with regular intervals.

“I’ve bowled in the powerplay in the past many times,” Patel said after being adjudged player of the semifinal. “Knew the wicket was assisting and didn’t try too many things.”

England had collapsed to 88-9 when Liam Livingstone and Adil Rashid both got run out but Jofra Archer hit 21 off 15 balls before Jasprit Bumrah (2-12) finished off England by having Archer leg before wicket.

The win was sweet revenge for India, which got hammered by England by 10 wickets in the 2022 World Cup semifinal at Adelaide, Australia.

“India outplayed us,” Buttler said. “We let them get 20-25 runs too many on a challenging surface … they had an above-par total and it was always a tough chase.”

Earlier, Sharma and Yadav combined in a 73-run third wicket stand on a wicket where batters struggled to negotiate the variable bounce of pace and spin.

Virat Kohli’s below-par tournament continued after a wet outfield delayed the toss for 80 minutes and Buttler won the toss and elected to field.

Kohli took his run tally to disappointing 75 runs in seven games with run-a-ball knock of nine before Reece Topley cramped him for a big shot and hit the top of leg stump.

“We understand his (Kohli’s) class,” Sharma said in defense of his ace batter. “Form is never a problem when you’ve played for 15 years, probably saving for the final.”

Sharma continued his sublime form in the tournament on difficult pitches and countercharged on a yet another tough wicket for batters before heavy rain took the players off the field for another 73 minutes when India had reached 65-2 after eight overs.

Sharma reached his 50 after resumption of play with a swept six over fine leg off Sam Curran, and Yadav hammered the left-arm fast bowler to point for a six before both exited in successive overs.

Sharma was undone by a googly from Adil Rashid (1-25) in his last over and was clean bowled, while Yadav was deceived by Archer’s slower ball and ballooned a catch to long off.

Chris Jordan picked up 3-37 that included the wickets of Hardik Pandya (23) and Shivam Dube off successive balls, but India had piled up enough runs for its spinners to defend.

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Activists demand withdrawal of India’s plan to prosecute award-winning author

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Russian satellite breaks up, forces space station astronauts to shelter

WASHINGTON — A defunct Russian satellite has broken up into more than 100 pieces of debris in orbit, forcing astronauts on the International Space Station to take shelter for about an hour and adding to the mass of space junk already in orbit, U.S. space agencies said. 

There were no immediate details on what caused the breakup of the RESURS-P1 Russian Earth observation satellite, which Russia declared dead in 2022. 

U.S. Space Command, tracking the debris swarm, said there was no immediate threat to other satellites. 

The event took place about noon EDT (1600 GMT) Wednesday, Space Command said. It occurred in an orbit near the space station, prompting U.S. astronauts on board to shelter in their spacecraft for roughly an hour, NASA’s Space Station office said. 

Russian space agency Roscosmos, which operated the satellite, did not respond to a request for comment or publicly acknowledge the event on its social media channels. 

U.S. Space Command, which has a global network of space-tracking radars, said the satellite immediately created “over 100 pieces of trackable debris.” 

By Thursday afternoon, radars from U.S. space-tracking firm LeoLabs had detected at least 180 pieces, the company said.  

Large debris-generating events in orbit are rare but of increasing concern as space becomes crowded with satellite networks vital to everyday life on Earth, from broadband internet and communications to basic navigation services, as well as satellites no longer in use. 

The satellite’s breakup was at an altitude of roughly 355 km (220 miles) in low-Earth orbit, a popular region where thousands of small to large satellites operate, including SpaceX’s vast Starlink network and China’s station that houses three of its astronauts. 

“Due to the low orbit of this debris cloud, we estimate it’ll be weeks to months before the hazard has passed,” LeoLabs said in a statement to Reuters. 

The some 25,000 pieces of debris bigger than 10 cm (4 inches) in space caused by satellite explosions or collisions have raised concerns about the prospect of a Kessler effect — a phenomenon in which satellite collisions with debris can create a cascading field of more hazardous junk and exponentially increase crash risks. 

Russia sparked strong criticism from the U.S. and other Western countries in 2021 when it struck one of its defunct satellites in orbit with a ground-based anti-satellite (ASAT) missile launched from its Plesetsk rocket site. The blast, testing a weapon system ahead of Moscow’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, created thousands of pieces of orbital debris. 

In the roughly 88-minute window of RESURS-P1’s initial breakup, the Plesetsk site was one of many locations on Earth it passed over, but there was no immediate indication from airspace or maritime alerts that Russia had launched a missile to strike the satellite, space tracker and Harvard astronomer Jonathan McDowell said. 

“I find it hard to believe they would use such a big satellite as an ASAT target,” McDowell said. “But, with the Russians these days, who knows.” 

He and other analysts speculated the breakup more likely could have been caused by a problem with the satellite, such as leftover fuel onboard causing an explosion. 

What happens to old satellites?  

Dead satellites either remain in orbit until they descend into Earth’s atmosphere for a fiery demise years later, or in widely preferred — but less common — circumstances, they fly to a “graveyard orbit” some 36,000 km (22,400 miles) from Earth to lower the risk of crashing into active satellites. 

Roscosmos decommissioned RESURS-P1 over onboard equipment failures in 2021, announcing the decision the following year. The satellite has since appeared to be lowering its altitude through layers of other active satellites for an eventual atmospheric reentry. 

The six U.S. astronauts currently on the space station were alerted by NASA mission control in Houston late Wednesday evening to execute “safe haven” procedures, where each crew member rushes into the spacecraft they arrived in, in case an emergency departure is required. 

NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams boarded their Starliner spacecraft, the Boeing-built capsule that has been docked since June 6 in its first crewed test mission on the station. 

Three of the other U.S. astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut went into SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule that flew them to the station in March, while the sixth U.S. astronaut joined the two remaining cosmonauts in their Russian Soyuz capsule that ferried them there in September last year. 

The astronauts emerged from their spacecraft roughly an hour later and resumed their normal work on the station, NASA said. 

The prospects of satellite collisions and space warfare have added urgency to calls from space advocates and lawyers to have countries establish an international mechanism of managing space traffic, which does not currently exist.

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Drivers in cities around globe facing more traffic jams, study finds

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Boeing’s Starliner strands astronauts in space

Two NASA astronauts are stranded in space with no return date set. Plus, a new climate satellite launches into orbit, and a human-made creepy crawler looks to explore Mars. VOA’s Arash Arabasadi brings us The Week in Space.

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Cambodian rapper makes US debut as music festival headliner

Cambodian rapper VannDa was featured at a California festival of Asian music and culture called Sabaidee Fest. VOA’s Malis Tum and Chetra Chap report on this young rapper who’s shining a spotlight on Cambodian music, culture and history. Chetra Chap narrates.

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South Africa beats Afghanistan to reach Twenty20 World Cup final

TAROUBA, Trinidad — A long, tortuous World Cup title drought is closer than ever to ending for South Africa after a nine-wicket win over first-time semifinalist Afghanistan at the global Twenty20 cricket tournament on Wednesday.

Marco Jansen and Kagiso Rabada set the foundations for the lopsided victory with destructive opening bursts of pace bowling to have Afghanistan reeling at 20-4 in the fourth over, and eventually all out for a paltry 56.

The South Africans lost just one wicket in pursuit of its first semifinal win at a global men’s limited-overs tournament, with Reeza Hendricks hitting a six and a four on consecutive deliveries to lift South Africa to 60 for 1 in the ninth over.

Hendricks was unbeaten on 29 from 25 balls in an unbroken 55-run second-wicket stand with skipper Aiden Markram, who finished 23 not out.

The South Africans will face either defending champion England or India in the final at Barbados on Saturday.

“One more step — it’s an exciting challenge for us,” Markram said in a post-match TV interview. “We’ve never been there (in a final) before, and nothing to be scared of.

“It’s an opportunity that we’ve never had and, and we’ll be really excited about that opportunity.”

The South Africans lost six and tied one — against eventual champion Australia in 1999 — of their previous seven trips to the semifinals of a World Cup in either the one-day or T20 formats.

Markram said those stats belonged to the teams that played those matches, and his lineup was full of belief.

Afghanistan captain Rashid Khan won the toss and opted to bat in his team’s first appearance in a World Cup semifinal. Everything went South Africa’s way after that.

Jansen (3-16) took wickets in the first and third overs and Kagiso Rabada (2-14) opened with a double-wicket maiden as Afghanistan slumped to 20-4 after 3.4 overs.

The opening pair that had carried Afghanistan so well during the tournament was gone, exposing the middle and lower order to a South Africa bowling attack hitting form at the perfect stage.

Rahmanullah Gurbaz (0) faced three balls before he edged to slip and was out to Jansen in the first over. Ibrahim Zadran (2) was beaten by a Rabada inswinger and bowled on the first ball of the third over.

Anrich Nortje (2-7) chimed in with two wickets as the pacemen continued to rip through the Afghanistan innings before wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi took three wickets in 11 deliveries — all lbw decisions to balls keeping low — to finish off Afghanistan for 56 in 11.5 overs.

Azmattullah Omarzai top scored with 10, the only Afghan batter to reach double figures.

South Africa lost only opener Quinton de Kock — bowled by Fazalhaq Farooqi for five in the second over — in the run chase.

“We just wanted to come out in this game and hit our straps, the way we’ve been doing throughout the entire tournament,” Rabada said of South Africa’s bowling onslaught. “We just felt that we needed to continue in that vein.

“And today it just happened for us.”

Asked if this is the team to finally end South Africa’s World Cup drought, Rabada was confident: “We 100% believe that this is the team.”

Afghanistan was playing in the last four for the first time, and it entered the match with three of the five leading wicket takers in the tournament and two of the top three batters, based on runs scored.

The Afghan team’s run to the semifinals, particularly its first win in any format against Australia and against Bangladesh in the early hours of Tuesday in the Super Eight stage, inspired a generation of fans.

Rashid said knowing Afghanistan could beat the top-ranked teams and be among the world’s best was his highlight of the tournament.

“It was something very special for us,” he said. “And it’s just the beginning for us, you know, we got that kind of confidence we want and the belief that yes, we can beat any side on a day.

“So overall, it was a great tournament for us.”

South Africa remains unbeaten at the tournament, but had to endure tough contests and narrow wins over Nepal, Netherlands, Bangladesh and England and only beat West Indies with five balls to spare in the Super Eight stage.

“A lot of our games have been really close and I know there’s a lot of people back at home in the early hours of the morning, waking up and we’re giving them a lot of gray hair!” Markram said. “So hopefully this evening was a little bit more comforting for them.”

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Joy in Afghanistan as national team makes cricket World Cup semifinal debut

ISLAMABAD — Thousands of people in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan took to the streets Tuesday to celebrate their national team’s first-ever entry into the cricket World Cup semifinals by beating Bangladesh.

Video from several cities, many bordering Pakistan, showed joyous rallies in the streets early in the morning, with reports of celebratory gunfire by fans in some areas, including the capital, Kabul.  

The celebrations erupted shortly after the Afghan team completed a dramatic eight-run victory over the Bangladeshi side in a rain-affected, low-scoring match in St. Vincent in the West Indies late Monday.


“It’s something of a dream for us as a team…it’s unbelievable. I don’t have the words to describe my feelings,” Rashid Khan, the Afghan team captain, said after the match. “I’m sure it’s going to be a massive celebration back home. It’s a massive achievement for us. The country will be very proud.” 

Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi in Kabul telephoned Khan and congratulated him on the landmark victory, his office said on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

Authorities in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar officially ordered residents to celebrate the cricket team’s success inside their homes and avoid taking to the streets and roads for security reasons.

Hibatullah Akhundzada, the reclusive supreme leader of the Taliban, lives and governs the country from Kandahar, issuing edicts based on his strict interpretation of Islamic law, which includes restrictions on women’s and girls’ rights and freedom of movement.

Afghanistan scored 115 runs in their allotted 20 overs, but weather conditions led Bangladesh to chase a revised target of 114 runs in 19 overs under relevant cricketing rules.  

Khan and Afghan pacer Naveen ul Haq displayed a brilliant bowling performance, bagging four wickets each and dismissing the Bangladeshi team for 105 in 17.5 overs.  

Afghanistan will now face South Africa in the first semi-final in Tarouba, West Indies. Its historic semifinal appearance came two days after it surprised the world by scoring its first-ever victory over Australia, the cricketing superpower, in the Twenty20 World Cup jointly hosted by the United States and West Indies.  

The Afghan victory has eliminated Australia from the tournament. After losing its crucial match to India earlier on Monday, Australia needed Bangladesh to defeat Afghanistan to advance to the semifinals.

Cricket began to gain popularity in Afghanistan following the ouster of the Taliban in 2001 by a U.S.-led military invasion of the country. Afghans, who had been living in refugee camps in Pakistan, are credited with bringing the game to their impoverished South Asian nation.  

Afghanistan joined the International Cricket Council (ICC) in 2017. Since the Taliban returned to power in 2021, the national team has mostly trained and played outside the country.

The international community has not formally recognized the Taliban government mainly for restricting Afghan women’s access to education, employment, sports, and public life at large. The curbs have prompted some countries to boycott bilateral cricket competitions with Afghanistan.  

Australia has declined to play Afghanistan several times.  

This past March, Australian cricketing officials canceled a three-match series due to take place in the United Arab Emirates in August. They referenced government advice that the situation for women and girls was deteriorating in Afghanistan under Taliban rule.

The rare World Cup success of the national team and the resulting celebrations in Afghanistan contrast with the country’s deepening economic, humanitarian, and human rights crises caused by years of war and natural disasters.

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