San Francisco’s Chinatown: Forged by discrimination, now a cultural treasure

America’s oldest Chinatown sustains traditions even as members of the Chinese diaspora continue to spread out and evolve. Matt Dibble has the story from San Francisco, California.

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Los Angeles’ suburban Chinatown grows with new waves of immigrants

Los Angeles’ Chinatown has undergone many changes, as immigrants from mainland China join those from Hong Kong, Taiwan and other parts of Southeast Asia. As Mike O’Sullivan reports, the growing community has also expanded to the suburbs, where recent arrivals find much that is familiar. Mo Yu contributed.

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National Spelling Bee reflects the economic success and cultural impact of immigrants from India 

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‘Furiosa,’ ‘Garfield’ lead slowest Memorial Day box office in decades

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Globe-trotting archeologist who drew comparisons to Indiana Jones has died

MADISON, Wis. — Schuylar Jones, a globe-trotting American adventurer whose exploits drew comparisons to iconic movie character Indiana Jones, has died. He was 94.

Jones’ stepdaughter, Cassandra Da’Luz Vieira-Manion, posted on her Facebook page that Jones died on May 17. She said she had been taking care of him for the last six years and “truly thought he might live forever.”

“He was a fascinating man who lived a lot of life around the world,” she wrote.

Da’Luz Vieira-Manion didn’t immediately respond to messages from The Associated Press on Saturday.

Jones grew up around Wichita, Kansas. His younger sister, Sharon Jones Laverentz, told the Wichita Eagle that her brother had visited every U.S. state before he was in first grade thanks to their father’s job supplying Army bases with boots.

He wrote in an autobiography posted on Edinburgh University’s website that he moved to Paris after World War II, where he worked as a photographer. He also spent four years in Africa as a freelance photographer. In his 1956 book “Under the African Sun,” he tells of surviving a helicopter crash in a marketplace in In Salah, Algeria, the Wichita Eagle reported. After the helicopter crashed he discovered he was on fire; gale-force winds had reignited the ashes in his pipe.

“Camels bawled and ran, scattering loads of firewood in all directions,” Jones wrote. “Children, Arabs and veiled women either fled or fell full length in the dust. Goats and donkeys went wild as the whirling, roaring monster landed in their mist … weak with relief, the pilot and I sat in the wreckage of In Salah’s market place and roared with laughter.”

He later moved to Greece, where he supported himself by translating books from German and French to English. He decided to drive through India and Nepal in 1958. He said he fell in love with Afghanistan during the trip and later enrolled at Edinburgh to study anthropology.

“He was more interested in the people and cultures he was finding than he was in photography and selling those,” his son, archeologist Peter Jones, told the Wichita Eagle.

After graduating he returned to Afghanistan and began study natives living in the country’s remote eastern valleys. He parlayed that research into a doctorate at Oxford University and went on to become a curator and later director at that university’s Pitt Rivers Museum. Upon retirement, he was awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire award, one step below knighthood.

Similarities between Jones and George Lucas’ Henry “Indiana” Jones Jr. character are striking. Aside from the name and the family business — Indy’s father, Henry Sr., was an archaeologist, just like Schuyler Jones’ son, Peter, are archeologists — they were both adept at foreign languages and wore brown fedoras.

And like Indy, Schuylar Jones believed artifacts belonged in museums, Da’Luz Vieiria-Manion told the Wichita Eagle. Eric Cale, executive director of the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum, told the newspaper that Jones permanently donated his grandfather’s artifacts to the museum. Jones wrote in his 2007 book “A Stranger Abroad” that he wanted to find the Ark of Covenant and donate it to a museum, which is exactly what Indy accomplished in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” — at least until the U.S. government seized the relic and hid it away again at the end of the movie.

Pat O’Connor, a publisher who worked with Jones, told the newspaper that Jones had a “low tolerance” for slow-witted and pretentious people.

“I’ve never met a man so talented and capable and at the same time approachable,” O’Connor said. “But if you transgressed . . . by trying to present yourself as somewhat above your station intellectually, then that is the end.”

Jones wrote in “A Stranger Abroad” that he first heard of Indy in the 1980s when a museum director in Madras asked him if he was the real-life version. He wrote that he had no idea what she was talking about, but later thought the comparison was driving more students to attend his lectures at Oxford.

Jones was married twice, first to Lis Margot Sondergaard Rasmussen, and then to Da’Luz Vieria-Manion’s mother, Lorraine, who died in 2011. He later began a relationship with actress Karla Burns, who died in 2021, the Wichita Eagle reported.

He is survived by his son, three daughters, a sister, six grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild, the newspaper reported.

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US independent booksellers continued to expand in 2023

NEW YORK — Three years ago, Erin Decker was a middle school librarian in Kissimmee, Florida, increasingly frustrated by the state’s book bans and worried that she couldn’t make a difference remaining in her job.

So, she and fellow librarian Tania Galiñanes thought of a way to fight back.

“We just put our heads together and decided a bookstore would help make sure students could get to books that were being pulled from shelves,” says Decker, whose White Rose Books & More opened last fall in Kissimmee. The store is named for a resistance group in Nazi Germany and features a section — ringed by yellow “caution” tape — dedicated to such banned works as Maia Kabobe’s Gender Queer, Jonathan Evison’s Lawn Boy and John Green’s Looking for Alaska.

White Rose Books is part of the ever-expanding and diversifying world of independent bookstores. Even as industry sales were slow in 2023, membership in the American Booksellers Association continued its years-long revival. It now stands at 2,433, more than 200 over the previous year and nearly double since 2016. Around 190 more stores are in the process of opening over the next two years, according to the ABA.

“Our numbers are really strong, and we have a solid, diverse pipeline of new stores to come,” says Allison Hill, the book association’s CEO. She cites a range of reasons for people opening stores, from opposing bans to championing diversity to pursuing new careers after the pandemic.

“Some are opening to give back to their community. And some still just love books,” she said during a phone interview this week.

Recent members include everyone from the romance-oriented That’s What She Read in Mount Ayr, Iowa; to Seven Stories in Shawnee, Kansas, managed by 15-year-old Halley Vincent; to more than 20 Black-owned shops.

In Pasadena, California, Octavia’s Bookshelf is named for the late Black science fiction author Octavia Butler and bills itself as “a space to find community, enjoy a cup of coffee, read, relax, find unique and specially curated products from artisans from around the world and in our neighborhood.” Leah Johnson, author of the prize-winning young adult novel You Should See Me In a Crown, was troubled by the surge in book bans and by what she saw as a shortage of outlets for diverse voices. Last year, she founded Loudmouth Books, one of several independent sellers to open in Indianapolis.

“I’m not a person who dreamed of opening a bookstore. I didn’t want to be anybody’s boss,” Johnson says. “But I saw a need and I had to fill it.”

Most of the new businesses are traditional “brick and mortar” retailers. But a “bookstore” can also mean a “pop-up” business like Loc’d & Lit, which has a mission to bring “the joy of reading to the Bronx,” the New York City borough that had been viewed by the industry as a “desert” for its scarcity of bookstores. Other new stores are online only, among them the Be More Literature Children’s Bookshop and the used books seller Liberation Is Lit. Nick Pavlidis, a publisher, ghost writer and trainer of ghost writers, launched the online Beantown Books in 2023 and has since opened a small physical store in suburban Boston.

“My goal is to move into a larger space and create a friendly place for authors to host events,” he says, adding that he’d like to eventually own several stores.

Independent bookselling has never been dependably profitable, and Hill notes various concerns — rising costs, dwindling aid from the pandemic and the ongoing force of Amazon.com, which remains the industry’s dominate retailer even after the e-book market stalled a decade ago. Last month, the booksellers association filed a motion with the Federal Trade Commission, seeking to join the antitrust suit against Amazon that the FTC announced in 2023. The motion states in part that Amazon is able to offer prices “that ABA members cannot match except by forgoing a sustainable margin, or incurring a loss.”

Just opening a store requires initiative and a willingness to take risks. Decker says that she and Galiñanes had to use retirement money because lenders wouldn’t provide credit until they were actually in business. The owner of Octavia’s Bookshelf, Nikki High, is a former communications director for Trader Joe’s who relied on crowdfunding and her own savings to get her store started.

“Even with tons of planning, and asking questions and running numbers, it’s been very difficult,” High says. “I don’t know that I could have prepared myself for what a shrewd business person you have to be to making a living out of this.”

High cites a variety of challenges and adjustments — convincing customers they don’t have to order items from Amazon.com, supplementing sales by offering tote bags and journals and other non-book items. Knowing which books to stock has also proved an education.

“I would read a book and think it’s the best thing ever and order a bunch of copies, and everybody else is like, ‘No, I don’t want that book,'” she explains. “And when we started, I wanted to be everything for everybody. We had a ton of different categories. But I found out that short stories and poetry almost never sell for us. People want general fiction, bestsellers, children’s books. Classics sell very well, books by James Baldwin and Toni Morrison and bell hooks and June Jordan.”

“It’s incredibly important to listen to your customers.”

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Hundreds in Peru mark Clown Day

LIMA, Peru — With their unmistakable red noses, extravagant shoes, colorful outfits and unique makeup, hundreds of clowns Saturday gathered in the streets of Peru’s capital to mark Clown Day. They have sought for years to gain official recognition of the day.

The colorful parade in Lima, which includes awards for the best costumes, makeup, routine and improvisation, takes place every year on May 25.

“In Peru, there is Lawyer’s Day, Ceviche Day, and we also want a Clown Day because it would open doors for us to have support from the State and from the municipalities,” said Marcos Chininín, known as the clown “Chalupa.”

Chininin said the official recognition would give clowns access to government funds and performance spaces overseen by municipalities and local communities, as well as open the possibility of establishing schools to teach the art of clowning.

Members of Parliament have not yet discussed a proposed bill to create the holiday. Chininín, 42, estimated that about 200,000 people across Peru work as clowns, including at children’s events and the circus.

Miguel Ara Stein participated in Saturday’s parade dressed as his character “Chuchurro.” He said establishing the holiday would also be an acknowledgement of the talents that clowns must have.

“You have to have the gift of acting, the gift of character, of improvising,” Ara, 57, said. “We are all born for something and making people laugh is a gift.”

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Richard Sherman, who with his brother penned classic Disney tunes, dies

NEW YORK — Richard M. Sherman, one half of the prolific, award-winning pair of brothers who helped form millions of childhoods by penning the instantly memorable songs for Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang — as well as the most-played tune on Earth, It’s a Small World (After All) — has died. He was 95.

Sherman, together with his late brother Robert, won two Academy Awards for Walt Disney’s 1964 smash Mary Poppins — best score and best song, Chim Chim Cher-ee. They also picked up a Grammy for best movie or TV score. Robert Sherman died in London at age 86 in 2012.

The Walt Disney Co. announced that Sherman died Saturday in a Los Angeles hospital of an age-related illness.

“Generations of moviegoers and theme park guests have been introduced to the world of Disney through the Sherman brothers’ magnificent and timeless songs. Even today, the duo’s work remains the quintessential lyrical voice of Walt Disney,” the company said in a remembrance posted on its website.

Their hundreds of credits as joint lyricist and composer also include the films Winnie the Pooh, The Slipper and the Rose, Snoopy Come Home, Charlotte’s Web and The Magic of Lassie. Their Broadway musicals included 1974’s Over Here! and stagings of Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in the mid-2000s.

“Something good happens when we sit down together and work,” Richard Sherman told The Associated Press in a 2005 joint interview. “We’ve been doing it all our lives. Practically since college we’ve been working together.”

Their awards include 23 gold and platinum albums and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They became the only Americans ever to win first prize at the Moscow Film Festival for Tom Sawyer in 1973 and were inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in 2005.

President George W. Bush awarded them the National Medal of Arts in 2008, commended for music that “has helped bring joy to millions.”

Most of the songs the Shermans wrote — in addition to being catchy and playful — work on multiple levels for different ages, something they learned from Disney.

“He once told us, early on in our career, ‘Don’t insult the kid — don’t write down to the kid. And don’t write just for the adult.’ So we write for Grandpa and the 4-year-old — and everyone in between — and all see it on a different level,” Richard Sherman said.

The Shermans began a decade-long partnership with Disney during the 1960s after having written hit pop songs like Tall Paul for ex-Mouseketeer Annette Funicello and You’re Sixteen, later recorded by Ringo Starr.

They wrote more than 150 songs at Disney, including the soundtracks for such films as The Sword and the Stone, The Parent Trap, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Jungle Book, The Aristocrats and The Tigger Movie.

It’s a Small World — which accompanies visitors to Disney theme parks’ boat ride sung by animatronic dolls representing world cultures — is believed to be the most performed composition in the world. It first debuted at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair pavilion ride.

The two brothers credited their father, composer Al Sherman, with challenging them to write songs and for their love of wordsmithing.

The Shermans teased songs out of each other, brainstorming titles and then trying to top each other with improvements. “Being brothers, we sort of short-cut each other,” Richard Sherman said. “We can almost look at each other and know, ‘Hey, you’re onto something, kiddo.'”

Away from the piano, the two raised families and pursued their own interests, yet still lived close to each other in Beverly Hills and continued working well into their 70s.

Richard Sherman is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, and their two children: Gregory and Victoria. He also is survived by a daughter, Lynda, from a previous marriage.

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US rapper Nicki Minaj freed after Netherlands arrest

The Hague, Netherlands — U.S. rapper Nicki Minaj was detained at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport on suspicion of possessing soft drugs before being released with a fine, Dutch media reported Saturday.

The singer was to perform a show in Britain later Saturday and posted images on social media of her being questioned by officials.

Police confirmed to AFP that they had detained a 41-year-old American woman but declined to confirm that it was Minaj, as per their usual policy.

“We never confirm the identity of a person in custody, but I can confirm we have arrested a 41-year-old woman suspected of trying to export soft drugs to another country,” Robert Kapel, a military police spokesman, told AFP.

Kapel later told AFP the suspect had been released after the payment of a “reasonable” fine.

“There’s no reason for us to keep her in custody any longer. We have all the information for our file. Case closed,” he told AFP.

The rapper posted on X that authorities told her they had found cannabis in her luggage, which she said belonged to her security personnel.

A common misconception outside the Netherlands is that marijuana is legal in the country, home to world-famous coffee shops (which actually sell pot) that are a huge draw for cannabis smokers.

The consumption of small quantities of cannabis is technically illegal but police choose not to enforce the law as part of a tolerance policy in place since the 1970s.

Transporting the drugs to another country is illegal.

Minaj was due to perform in Manchester on her Pink Friday 2 World Tour, and the hashtag #FREENICKI was trending on X.

The Manchester concert originally scheduled for Saturday night has now been postponed.

Promoter Live Nation said the performance will be rescheduled and tickets will be honored.

“Despite Nicki’s best efforts to explore every possible avenue to make tonight’s show happen, the events of today have made it impossible,” the promoter said in a statement. “We are deeply disappointed by the inconvenience this has caused.”

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France’s secularism increasingly struggling with schools, integration

MARSEILLE, France — Brought into the international spotlight by the ban on hijabs for French athletes at the upcoming Paris Olympics, France’s unique approach to “laïcité” — loosely translated as “secularism” — has been increasingly stirring controversy across the country.

The struggle cuts to the core of how France approaches not only the place of religion in public life, but also the integration of its mostly immigrant-origin Muslim population, Western Europe’s largest.

Perhaps the most contested ground is public schools, where visible signs of faith are barred under policies seeking to foster national unity. That includes the headscarves some Muslim women want to wear for piety and modesty, even as others fight them as a symbol of oppression.

“It has become a privilege to be allowed to practice our religion,” said Majda Ould Ibbat, who was considering leaving Marseille, France’s second-largest city, until she discovered a private Muslim school, Ibn Khaldoun, where her children could both freely live their faith and flourish academically.

“We wanted them to have a great education, and with our principles and our values,” added Ould Ibbat, who only started wearing a headscarf recently, while her teen daughter, Minane, hasn’t felt ready to.

For Minane, as for many French Muslim youth, navigating French culture and her spiritual identity is getting harder. The 19-year-old nursing student has heard people say even on the streets of multicultural Marseille that there’s no place for Muslims.

“I ask myself if Islam is accepted in France,” she said.

Minane also lives with the collective trauma that has scarred much of France in the aftermath of Islamist attacks, which have targeted schools and are seen by many as evidence that laïcité (pronounced lah-eee-see-tay) needs to be strictly enforced to prevent radicalization.

Minane vividly remembers observing a moment of silence at Ibn Khaldoun in honor of Samuel Paty, a public school teacher beheaded by a radicalized Islamist in 2020. A memorial to Paty as a defender of France’s values hangs in the entrance of the Education Ministry in Paris.

For its officials and most educators, secularism is essential. They say it encourages a sense of belonging to a united French identity and prevents those who are less or not religiously observant from feeling pressured.

For many French Muslims, however, laïcité is exerting precisely that kind of discriminatory pressure on already disadvantaged minorities.

Amid the tension, there’s broad agreement that polarization is skyrocketing, as crackdowns and challenges mount.

“Laws on laïcité protect and allow for coexistence — which is less and less easy,” said Isabelle Tretola, principal of the public primary school across from Ibn Khaldoun.

She addresses challenges to secularism daily — like children in choir class who put their hands on their ears “because their families told them singing variety songs isn’t good.”

“You can’t force them to sing, but teachers tell them they can’t cover their ears out of respect for the instructor and classmates,” Tretola said. “In school, you come to learn the values of the republic.”

Secularism is a fundamental value in France’s constitution. The state explicitly charges public schools with instilling those values in children, while allowing private schools to offer religious instruction as long as they also teach the general curriculum that the government establishes.

Government officials argue the prohibition against showcasing a particular faith is necessary to avoid threats to democracy. The government has made fighting radical Islam a priority, and secularism is seen as a bulwark against the feared growth of religious influence on daily life, down to beachwear.

“In a public school, the school for everyone, one behaves like everyone else, and should not make a display,” said Alain Seksig, secretary general of the Education Ministry’s council on secularism.

For many teachers and principals, having strict government rules is helping confront multiplying challenges.

Some 40% of teachers report self-censoring on subjects from evolution to sexual health after the attacks on Paty and another teacher, Dominique Bernard, slain last fall by a suspected Islamic extremist, said Didier Georges of SNPDEN-UNSA, a union representing more than half of France’s principals.

Like him, Laurent Le Drezen, a principal and a leader of another education workers union, SGEN-CFDT, sees a nefarious influence of social media in the growth of Muslim students challenging secularism at school.

His classroom experience in Marseille’s Quartiers Nord — often dilapidated suburbs with projects housing mostly families of North African origin — also taught him the importance of showing students that schools aren’t coming after them for being Muslim.

At Marseille’s Cedres Mosque, next to the projects, Salah Bariki said youth are struggling with exactly that sense of rejection from France.

“What do they want us to do, look at the Eiffel Tower instead of Mecca?” Bariki quipped. Nine of 10 young women in the neighborhood are now veiled, “for identity more than religion,” he added.

To avoid a vicious cycle, more — not less — discussion of religion should be happening in schools, argued Haïm Bendao, rabbi at a conservative synagogue in a nearby neighborhood.

“To establish peace, it’s a daily effort. It’s crazy important to speak in schools,” said Bendao, who has gone to both Ibn Khaldoun and the Catholic school across from it, Saint-Joseph, which also enrolls many Muslim students.

Several families at Ibn Khaldoun said they chose it because it can support both identities instead of exacerbating all-too-public doubts over whether being Muslim is compatible with being French.

“When I hear the debate over compatibility, that’s when I turn off the TV. Fear has invaded the world,” said Nancy Chihane, president of the parents’ association at Ibn Khaldoun.

At a recent spring recess where girls with hijabs, others with their hair flowing in the wind, and boys all mingled, one headscarf-wearing high-schooler said transferring to Ibn Khaldoun meant both freedom and community.

“Here we all understand each other, we’re not marginalized,” said Asmaa Abdelah, 17.

Nouali Yacine, her history and geography teacher, was born in Algeria — which was under French colonial rule until it won independence in 1962 after a violent struggle — and raised in France since he was 7 months old.

“We are within the citizenry. We don’t pose that question, but they pose it to us,” Yacine says.

The school’s founding director, Mohsen Ngazou, is equally adamant about respecting religious and education obligations.

He recalls once “making a scene” when he saw a student wearing an abaya over pajamas — the student code prohibits the latter alongside shorts and revealing necklines.

“I told her she wasn’t ready for class,” Ngazou said. “The abaya doesn’t make a woman religious. The important thing is to feel good about who you are.”

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All-women rock band jams out as conservative Saudi society loosens up

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Leaning into the microphone in Saudi Arabia’s capital, Nora let loose a primal scream. Guitars wailed and drums throbbed behind her as part of a set with her bandmates during a recent show.

The performance by Seera, an all-women psychedelic rock band that blends traditional Arabic melodies with the resurgent psychedelia of bands like Tame Impala, would have been unthinkable just years earlier in the kingdom.

But as Saudi Arabia liberalizes some aspects of its society, Seera represents the way women now are finding their voice and expressing themselves through the arts in a nation long associated with ultraconservative Islam and the strict separation of the sexes.

“We didn’t know how people would react,” said Meesh, the band’s bassist, who like other members asked to be identified by their stage names. “We believe strongly in self-expression. To our surprise, they really had open arms for us.”

The band’s name, Seera, can mean “life” or “biography” in Arabic. Band members say they try to embrace the multiple meanings one can draw from a word in the language in its sound, whether through the driving drums and cymbals or the synthesizer backing the guitars.

Seera’s music style revolves around the life experiences of the four-member band, who are all Saudi nationals. They sing in the Saudi dialect of Arabic, while drummer Thing wears a traditionally embroidered red face covering.

“I thought this would be great as a reflection of the culture, the heritage and the roots,” she said. “At the same time it would be a cool representation between the traditional and the modern and the expression of it. That’s also within our sonic identity as well.”

Seera is quick to point out they aren’t the first female band in the kingdom. Instead, they say that goes to The Accolade, which formed in 2008 and could only play underground. Things have changed radically in the kingdom in recent years since the accession of King Salman and his assertive son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

In 2018, women gained the right to drive. Movie theaters and other entertainment centers opened. Women are no longer required to wear the fully cloaking black abaya.

Clear limits still remain on speech and any political activity in the tightly governed kingdom. But in the arts space, Saudi Arabia is slowly opening up, as could be seen by Seera’s show earlier this month at The Warehouse, a live music space in Riyadh’s Diriyah neighborhood.

There, dozens of youths in leather jackets and black rock T-shirts swayed and danced to the music. One young man with heavy eyeliner wore a shirt declaring: “I HATE LIFE.” The fashion choices resembled any other punk show at a club in the West, though there was an absence of smoking or any alcohol in the dry kingdom.

“Things have become definitely better, more towards inclusivity and in a broader perspective and in a broader way,” Thing said. “There’s definitely room for more growth.”

Seera plans to release their debut album later this year. They’ve also booked their first international concert in Dubai, where they’ll get their first chance to perform outside of Saudi Arabia.

Nora said she wanted the band to be “an inspiration for the younger generation” to express themselves.

“It’s OK to look, act, behave the way you want as long as you’re not harming anyone,” she said.

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Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, who skewered fast food industry, dies at 53

NEW YORK — Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, an Oscar nominee whose most famous works skewered America’s food industry and who notably ate only at McDonald’s for a month to illustrate the dangers of a fast-food diet, has died. He was 53. 

Spurlock died Thursday in New York from complications of cancer, according to a statement issued Friday by his family. 

“It was a sad day, as we said goodbye to my brother Morgan,” Craig Spurlock, who worked with him on several projects, said in the statement. “Morgan gave so much through his art, ideas, and generosity. The world has lost a true creative genius and a special man. I am so proud to have worked together with him.” 

Spurlock made a splash in 2004 with his groundbreaking film “Super Size Me,” which was nominated for an Academy Award. The film chronicled the detrimental physical and psychological effects of Spurlock eating only McDonald’s food for 30 days. He gained about 25 pounds, saw a spike in his cholesterol and lost his sex drive. 

“Everything’s bigger in America,” he said in the film. “We’ve got the biggest cars, the biggest houses, the biggest companies, the biggest food, and finally: the biggest people.” 

In one scene, Spurlock showed kids a photo of George Washington and none recognized the Founding Father. But they all instantly knew the mascots for Wendy’s and McDonald’s. 

The film grossed more than $22 million on a $65,000 budget and preceded the release of Eric Schlosser’s influential “Fast Food Nation,” which accused the industry of being bad for the environment and rife with labor issues. 

Spurlock returned in 2017 with “Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!” — a sober look at an industry that processes 9 billion animals a year in America. He focused on two issues: chicken farmers stuck in a peculiar financial system and the attempt by fast-food chains to deceive customers into thinking they’re eating healthier. 

“We’re at an amazing moment in history from a consumer standpoint where consumers are starting to have more and more power,” he told The Associated Press in 2019. “It’s not about return for the shareholders. It’s about return for the consumers.” 

Spurlock was a gonzo-like filmmaker who leaned into the bizarre and ridiculous. His stylistic touches included zippy graphics and amusing music, blending a Michael Moore-ish camera-in-your-face style with his own sense of humor and pathos. 

“I wanted to be able to lean into the serious moments. I wanted to be able to breathe in the moments of levity. We want to give you permission to laugh in the places where it’s really hard to laugh,” he told the AP. 

After he exposed the fast-food and chicken industries, there was an explosion in restaurants stressing freshness, artisanal methods, farm-to-table goodness and ethically sourced ingredients. But nutritionally not much had changed. 

“There has been this massive shift and people say to me, ‘So has the food gotten healthier?’ And I say, ‘Well, the marketing sure has,’” he said. 

Not all his work dealt with food. Spurlock made documentaries about the boy band One Direction and the geeks and fanboys at Comic-Con. One of his films looked at life behind bars at the Henrico County Jail in Virginia. 

With 2008’s “Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?” Spurlock went on a global search to find the al-Qaida leader, who was killed in 2011. In “POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” Spurlock tackled questions of product placement, marketing and advertising. 

“Being aware is half the battle, I think. Literally knowing all the time when you’re being marketed to is a great thing,” Spurlock told AP at the time. “A lot of people don’t realize it. They can’t see the forest for the trees.” 

“Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!” was to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 2017 but it was shelved at the height of the #MeToo movement when Spurlock came forward to detail his own history of sexual misconduct. 

He confessed that he had been accused of rape while in college and had settled a sexual harassment case with a female assistant. He also admitted to cheating on numerous partners. “I am part of the problem,” he wrote. 

“For me, there was a moment of kind of realization — as somebody who is a truth-teller and somebody who has made it a point of trying to do what’s right — of recognizing that I could do better in my own life. We should be able to admit we were wrong,” he told the AP. 

Spurlock grew up in Beckley, West Virginia. His mother was an English teacher who he remembered would correct his work with a red pen. He graduated with a BFA in film from New York University in 1993. 

He is survived by two sons — Laken and Kallen; his mother Phyllis Spurlock; father Ben; brothers Craig and Barry; and former spouses Alexandra Jamieson and Sara Bernstein, the mothers of his children.

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Thai American soccer player dazzles on the pitch

Women’s soccer in the U.S. has been on the rise, bringing more girls than ever into the fold. Thai American Madison Casteen embraced soccer at a young age and aims to be one of the few Asian Americans to break into the professional leagues. Warangkana Chomchuen has the story, narrated by Neetikarn Kamlangwan.

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India determined to end World Cup title drought

NEW DELHI — In the ever-growing Twenty20 cricket landscape, India boasts the richest and most-watched league in the world. Yet all that investment and attention hasn’t translated into international success for India’s national team.

Rohit Sharma’s India squad travels to the T20 World Cup in the United States and Caribbean in search of a second title to end a long drought.

Undoubtedly, the Indian Premier League is flush with cash and talent, attracting the best cricketers from across the world.

Since the advent of IPL, though, India hasn’t lifted the World Cup trophy. 

After winning the inaugural T20 World Cup in South Africa in 2007, India has only reached one more final — losing to Sri Lanka in 2014.

The title drought crosses formats, too. India last won an International Cricket Council title in 2013 – the Champions Trophy in England. It last lifted the Cricket World Cup in the 50-over format in 2011.

Last year was an exceptional one in that sense – India lost the World Test Championship final to Australia in England and, a few months later, also lost the 50-over World Cup final to Australia, this time on home soil.

That caused major anguish in a cricket-mad country of 1.4 billion, considering India was on a 10-0 winning streak and a hot favorite going into the final.

Seven months later, Sharma and star batter Virat Kohli are leading the campaign in what in all probability will be their last T20 tournament in India’s blue.

Sharma has been a part of every Indian squad at the T20 World Cup. Kohli made his debut in the 2012 edition, making this his sixth attempt at the title.

Kohli has scored 1,141 runs at an average of 81.50 and strike-rate 131.30 in his 27 games at the tournament. Sharma has scored 963 runs in 39 games at a strike rate of 127.88.

Both players missed all of India’s T20 internationals between the 2022 semifinal loss in Australia and January of this year, leading to some speculation they’d miss out on the 2024 World Cup starting June 1.

That was dispelled by both BCCI secretary Jay Shah and chief selector Ajit Agarkar. Now, there will be big focus on their contributions – in terms of runs and strike-rate.

Sharma only managed 417 runs for Mumbai Indians in the club’s unsuccessful 2024 IPL campaign. Kohli, meanwhile, topped the run charts for Royal Challengers Bengaluru with with 741 runs runs in 15 matches, avering 61.75. But his strike-rate earlier in the season was criticized by some TV broadcast analysts.

In a news conference to confirm the India squad, Agarkar brushed off any concerns regarding Kohli’s strike-rate.

“There’s a difference between IPL and international cricket,” Agarkar said. “You need experience as the pressure of a World Cup game is different. You (only) try to take positives from what is happening in the IPL.”

Kohli opens the batting for his IPL franchise but goes in at No. 3 for India in T20s. It has led to a significant debate over his batting position for the World Cup because it holds the key to India’s XI.

Should Kohli continue to bat at No. 3, Yashasvi Jaiswal will open the innings with Sharma. India will then have to play with only four specialist batters including Suryakumar Yadav, the world’s top-ranked T20 batter.

Allrounder Hardik Pandya and first-choice wicketkeeper-batter Rishabh Pant would slot in next, with bowling allrounders to follow.

If Kohli opens with Sharma, it allows for an extra batter in the middle order and likely makes room for Shivam Dube, who has impressed selectors with his power hitting in the IPL and strike rate of 162.29.

Dube can also bowl useful medium pace if needed, and could provide backup to Pandya.

Pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah will lead a bowling attack that will contain four spinners, including left-arm all-rounders Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel. Wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzendra Chahal complete the line-up.

“I asked for four spinners,” Sharma explained. “Most of our matches will start at 10-11 a.m. (and) we expect all-rounders to do a job for us. It gives us a variety of combinations to explore depending on the opposition.”

India begins its World Cup campaign against Ireland on June 5, then faces fierce rival Pakistan in New York on June 9 in what could be the highlight of the group stage. India will play the U.S. on June 12 and Canada on June 15.

While it is a seemingly straight-forward road for India in the first round, the tension to end a prolonged title drought will grow once it reaches the West Indies for the Super Eight stage.

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Video link spanning New York City to Dublin reopens after temporary shutdown

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Judge in Tennessee blocks effort to put Elvis Presley’s former home Graceland up for sale 

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Tennessee judge on Wednesday blocked the auction of Graceland, the former home of Elvis Presley, by a company that claimed his estate failed to repay a loan that used the property as collateral. 

Shelby County Chancellor JoeDae Jenkins issued a temporary injunction against the proposed auction that had been scheduled for Thursday this week. Jenkins’ injunction essentially keeps in place a previous restraining order that he had issued after Presley’s granddaughter Riley Keough filed a lawsuit to fight off what she said was a fraudulent scheme. 

A public notice for a foreclosure sale of the 13-acre estate in Memphis posted earlier in May said Promenade Trust, which controls the Graceland museum, owes $3.8 million after failing to repay a 2018 loan. Keough, an actor, inherited the trust and ownership of the home after the death of her mother, Lisa Marie Presley, last year. 

Naussany Investments and Private Lending said Lisa Marie Presley had used Graceland as collateral for the loan, according to the foreclosure sale notice. Keough, on behalf of the Promenade Trust, alleged in her lawsuit that Naussany presented fraudulent documents regarding the loan in September 2023. 

Neither Keough nor lawyers for Nassauny Investments were in court Wednesday. 

“Lisa Maria Presley never borrowed money from Naussany Investments and never gave a deed of trust to Naussany Investments,” Keough’s lawyer wrote in a lawsuit. 

Kimberly Philbrick, the notary whose name is listed on Nassauny’s documents, indicated that she never met Lisa Marie Presley nor notarized any documents for her, the court filing said. 

Graceland opened as a museum and tourist attraction in 1982 as a tribute to Elvis Presley, the singer and actor who died in August 1977 at age 42. It draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. A large Presley-themed entertainment complex across the street from the museum is owned by Elvis Presley Enterprises. 

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