South African Jazz ‘Giant’ Jonas Gwangwa Dies Aged 83

South Africa jazz trombonist and composer Jonas Gwangwa, whose music powered the anti-apartheid struggle, died Saturday aged 83, the presidency said.President Cyril Ramaphosa led the tributes to the legendary musician who was nominated for an Oscar for the theme song of the 1987 film “Cry Freedom.”
 
“A giant of our revolutionary cultural movement and our democratic creative industries has been called to rest,” Ramaphosa said.
 
“The trombone that boomed with boldness and bravery, and equally warmed our hearts with mellow melody has lost its life force” the president added.
 
There were no immediate details on how or where Gwangwa died.
 
He passed away on the third anniversary of the death of the “father of South African jazz” Hugh Masekela and the second anniversary of the death of Zimbabwean musical legend Oliver Mtukudzi. January 23 had become “the day the music died,” the South African and other media outlets said.
 
Gwangwa was born in October 1937 in Soweto and went on to have a career spanning 40 years.
 
“He delighted audiences in Sophiatown until it became illegal for black people to congregate and South African musicians were jailed merely for practicing their craft,” the presidency’s statement said.
 
He was awarded the Order of Ikhamanga, South Africa’s highest national award presented for achievements in art and culture, in 2010.
 
The award recognized his work as composer, arranger and musical director of the Amandla Cultural Ensemble, a cultural group formed by activists from the African National Congress in the 1970s.  

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US Television Host Larry King Dies Aged 87: CNN

Larry King, who quizzed thousands of world leaders, politicians and entertainers for CNN and other news outlets in a career spanning more than six decades, has died at age 87, CNN reported Saturday, citing a source close to the family.  King had been hospitalized in Los Angeles with a COVID-19 infection, according to several media reports. He had endured health problems for many years, including a near-fatal stroke in 2019 and diabetes.  He had been hospitalized at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles for more than a week, CNN reported.  Millions watched King interview world leaders, entertainers and other celebrities on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” which ran from 1985 to 2010. Hunched over his desk in rolled-up shirt sleeves and owlish glasses, he made his show one of the network’s prime attractions with a mix of interviews, political discussions, current event debates and phone calls from viewers.  Even in his heyday, critics accused King of doing little pre-interview research and tossing softball questions to guests who were free to give unchallenged, self-promoting answers. He responded by conceding he did not do much research so that he could learn along with his viewers. Besides, King said, he never wanted to be perceived as a journalist.  “My duty, as I see it, is I’m a conduit,” King told the Hartford Courant in 2007. “I ask the best questions I can. I listen to the answers. I try to follow up. And hopefully the audience makes a conclusion. I’m not there to make a conclusion. I’m not a soapbox talk-show host … So, what I try to do is present someone in the best light.” 
 

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Vaccination Uncertainty in Japan Casts Doubt Over Olympics

Japan is publicly adamant that it will stage its postponed Olympics this summer. But to pull it off, many believe the vaccination of its 127 million citizens for the coronavirus is key.  
    
It’s an immense undertaking in the best of circumstances and complicated now by an overly cautious decision-making process, bureaucratic roadblocks and a public that has long been deeply wary of vaccines.  
    
Japan hopes to start COVID-19 vaccinations in late February, but uncertainty is growing that a nation ranked among the world’s lowest in vaccine confidence can pull off the massive, $14 billion project in time for the games in July, casting doubt on whether the Tokyo Olympics can happen.
    
Japan has secured vaccines for all its citizens, and then some, after striking deals with three foreign pharmaceutical makers – Pfizer Inc., AstraZeneca and Moderna Inc. Its swift action was seen as proof of its resolve to stage the games after a one-year postponement because of the pandemic.  
    
The country needs foreign-made vaccines because local development is only in its early stages.
    
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, in a speech this week, said vaccines are “the clincher” in the fight against the pandemic and vowed to start vaccinations as soon as late February, when health ministry approval of the Pfizer vaccine, the first applicant, is expected.
    
Suga pledged to provide “accurate information based on scientific findings, including side effects and efficacy,” an attempt to address the worries of vaccine skeptics.  
    
Under the current plan, inoculations will start with 10,000 front-line medical workers. Then about 3 million other medical workers will be added ahead of high-risk groups such as the elderly, those with underlying health conditions and caregivers. The rest of the population is expected to get access around May or later, though officials refuse to give an exact timeline.
    
Japan is under a partial state of emergency and struggling with an upsurge of infections. There have been about 351,000 cases, with 4,800 deaths, according to the health ministry.  
    
Many people are skeptical of the vaccination effort, partly because side effects of vaccines have often been played up here. A recent survey on TBS television found only 48% of respondents said they wanted a COVID-19 vaccination. In a Lancet study of 149 countries published in September, Japan ranked among the lowest in vaccine confidence, with less than 25% of people agreeing on vaccine safety, importance and effectiveness.  
    
Many Japanese have a vague unease about vaccines, said Dr. Takashi Nakano, a Kawasaki Medical School professor and vaccine expert. “If something (negative) happens after inoculation, people tend to think it’s because of the vaccine, and that’s the image stuck in their mind for a long time.”  
    
The history of vaccine mistrust in Japan dates to 1948, when dozens of babies died after getting a faulty diphtheria vaccine. In 1989, cases of aseptic meningitis in children who received a combined vaccination for measles, mumps and rubella, or MMR, prompted lawsuits against the government, forcing it to scrap the mix four years later.  
    
A 1992 court ruling held the government liable for adverse reactions linked to several vaccines, while defining suspected side effects as adverse events, but without sufficient scientific evidence, experts say. In a major change to its policy, Japan in 1994 revised its vaccination law to scrap mandatory inoculation.  
    
While several Japanese companies and research organizations are currently developing their own coronavirus vaccines, Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. will distribute the Moderna vaccine and produce the Novavax vaccine in Japan.
    
Masayuki Imagawa, head of Takeda’s Japan vaccine business unit, said his company last year considered developing its own vaccine. But instead, it decided to prioritize speed and chose to import Moderna’s product and make the Novavax vaccine at Takeda’s factory in Japan. He said the decision was not influenced by the Olympics.
    
Experts also worry about running into logistical challenges and bureaucratic roadblocks in staging a massive inoculation project that involves five government ministries along with local towns and cities. The government has budgeted more than $14 billion for the vaccine project.
    
Thousands of medical workers would have to be mobilized to give the shots, monitor and respond in case of any problems. Securing their help is difficult when hospitals are already burdened with treatment of COVID-19 patients, said Hitoshi Iwase, an official in Tokyo’s Sumida district tasked with preparing vaccinations for 275,000 residents.  
    
While vaccines are considered key to achieving the games, Prime Minister Suga said they won’t be required.
    
“We will prepare for a safe and secure Olympics without making vaccination a precondition,” Suga said Thursday, responding to a call by opposition lawmakers for a further postponement or cancellation of the games to concentrate on virus measures.
    
Uncertainty over vaccine safety and efficacy make it difficult to predict when Japan can obtain wide enough immunity to the coronavirus to control the pandemic.
    
“It is inappropriate to push vaccinations to hold the Olympics,” said Dr. Tetsuo Nakayama, a professor at Kitasato Institute for Life Sciences. “Vaccines should be used to protect the people’s health, not to achieve the Olympics.” 

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Baseball Legend Henry ‘Hank’ Aaron Dies at 86

The Atlanta Braves Major League baseball team announced Friday Hall of Famer Hank Aaron has died at the age of 86.
 
The team says Aaron died peacefully in his sleep Thursday.  
 
Aaron spent all but two years of his 23-year major league baseball career with the Braves organization.  
 
In a statement on the Braves web site, Chairman Terry McGuirk said the team was “devasted” at news of Aaron’s death. “Henry Louis Aaron wasn’t just our icon, but one across Major League Baseball and around the world.”
 
Aaron was known as the all-time greatest hitter, but he is best known for breaking Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record in 1974. By the time he retired two years later, he had 755 home runs, a record that stood until 2007 when it was broken by Barry Bonds. Aaron remains in second place.
 
Aaron joined the then-Milwaukee Braves in 1954 and moved with the team in 1965 to Atlanta, where he played until 1974. He played his final two seasons back in Milwaukee, with the Brewers before retiring in 1976.  
 
In his career, Aaron was always among baseball’s best. He was the National League (NL) Most Valuable Player in 1957 — the same year the Braves won the World Series — and he was a two-time NL batting champion, a three-time Gold Glove winner for his defensive play as a right fielder and a record 25-time All-Star.
 
He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982, and in 1999, MLB created the Hank Aaron Award, given annually to the best hitter in both leagues.
 
Off the field, Aaron was an activist for civil rights, having been a victim of racial inequalities. He was born in Mobile, Alabama, and didn’t play organized high school baseball because only white students had teams.  
 
During the buildup to passing Ruth’s home run mark, threats were made on his life by people who did not want to see a Black man break the record.
 
After his retirement, as an executive with the Braves, Aaron worked to help find Black players meaningful employment after their playing days were over.
“On the field, Blacks have been able to be super giants,” he once said. “But once our playing days are over, this is the end of it, and we go back to the back of the bus again.”

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Young Poet Draws Spotlight at Biden Inauguration

Twenty-two-year-old poet Amanda Gorman made headlines and dominated inauguration talk on social media Wednesday after speaking at President Joe Biden’s inauguration.Her poem, in part:“We, the successors of a country and a time,Where a skinny black girl,Descended from slaves and raised by a single mother,Can dream of becoming president,Only to find herself reciting for one.” Young Poet Amanda Gorman to Read at Biden Inaugural When she reads next Wednesday, 22-year-old will be continuing tradition — for Democratic presidents — that includes such celebrated poets as Robert Frost and Maya AngelouGorman, who was named the Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles at just 16, is by far the youngest to have read an inaugural poem in recent U.S. history.In a nod to the late poet Maya Angelou, who read a poem at former President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993, Gorman wore a caged bird ring gifted to her by media mogul Oprah Winfrey.“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise!” Winfrey wrote on Twitter.  I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise! Brava Brava, @TheAmandaGorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I. pic.twitter.com/I5HLE0qbPs— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) January 20, 2021Gorman’s poem, “The Hill We Climb,” also included a nod to the popular musical “Hamilton,” prompting public praise from its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda.“You were perfect. Perfectly written, perfectly delivered,” the composer wrote on Twitter.You were perfect. Perfectly written, perfectly delivered. Every bit of it. Brava! -LMM— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) January 20, 2021In an interview with The New York Times, Gorman said she had written just a few lines of the poem when a pro-Trump riot stormed the Capitol on January 6. Gorman said that after the violent event, she finished the poem in one night. Earlier in the ceremony, pop icon Lady Gaga gave a theatrical performance of the national anthem. Country singer Garth Brooks sang “Amazing Grace,” and Jennifer Lopez performed a medley of “This Land is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful,” interjecting lines from the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish. 

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