Top 5 Songs for Week Ending April 1

We’re lighting up the five most popular songs in the Billboard Hot 100 Pop Singles chart, for the week ending April 1, 2017.

As has been the case, we welcome one new song this week…and it’s a big jumper.

Number 5: The Weeknd & Daft Punk “I Feel It Coming”

The Weeknd and Daft Punk surge seven slots to fifth place with “I Feel It Coming.” 

Here’s an item to pique your curiosity: on March 14, mastering engineer Rob Small went on social media to publicize an upcoming Daft Punk release. It’s about nine weeks away. It will appear on a French label and it will be available on vinyl.

Number 4: Zayn & Taylor Swift “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever”

Meanwhile, our next artist is dealing with a family tragedy.

Zayn and Taylor Swift tread water in fourth place with “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever.” Please join me in sending condolences to Zayn and his family, following the death of his five-year-old cousin, Arshiya. She reportedly succumbed to a brain tumor on Tuesday. Zayn was said to be close to his cousin, and has yet to comment.

Number 3: Migos Featuring Lil Uzi Vert “Bad And Boujee”

Slipping a slot to third place go Migos and Lil Uzi Vert, with with their former Hot 100 champ “Bad And Boujee.”

Record Store Day happens on April 22 – it’s a day dedicated to independent music retailers. Lil Uzi Vert is offering his 2016 mix tape “Lil Uzi Vert Vs the World” in a deluxe purple vinyl edition limited to 2,700 copies.

Number 2: Bruno Mars “That’s What I Like”

Bruno Mars jumps into the runner-up slot with “That’s What I Like,” and as he eyes a possible championship, it’s time to ask: do you remember when he last hit the jackpot with a solo single? 

Mars last topped the Hot 100 in 2014 with “Uptown Funk,” but that was Mark Ronson’s release and Mars was a featured artist. When did Mars last hit the top as a solo artist? It happened back in early 2013, with “When I Was Your Man.”

Number 1: Ed Sheeran ” Shape of You”

Your man at the top continues to be Ed Sheeran, posting an eighth total week at number one with “Shape Of You.”

A woman in England has been jailed for eight weeks, after using “Shape Of You” in a campaign of noise harassment against her neighbors. Sonia Bryce, 36, reportedly played the song on repeat at high volume, but defended herself in court by saying she really doesn’t like Sheeran that much.

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Опалювальний сезон у Києві завершиться 1 квітня – влада

Київська влада вирішила завершити опалювальний сезон у столиці України з 1 квітня, повідомляє прес-служба Київської міської державної адміністрації.

Розпорядження про це 31 березня підписав міський голова Віталій Кличко.

Як заявив заступник голови КМДА Петро Пантелеєв, прогноз погоди свідчить про те, що з 1 квітня і в наступні дні середньодобова температура буде більше восьми градусів тепла, і періодів різкого похолодання не буде.

«Ми отримали майже три тисячі звернень від киян, які просять уже вимкнути опалення, оскільки вартість цієї послуги – надзвичайно висока. Тому ми використовуємо кожну можливість для економії киян. Цього року опалювальний сезон завершиться ще раніше в порівнянні з попереднім роком», – сказав Пантелеєв.

Завершення опалювального сезону, так як і його старт, триває близько семи днів, додали в КМДА.

Опалювальний сезон в Україні зазвичай триває від 15 жовтня до 15 квітня.


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EU Commission Chief Warns Against Championing Brexit, Populist Movements in Europe

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has criticized those, including U.S. President Donald Trump, who praise Britain’s secession from the European Union (EU), and champion similar movements in other member nations. Leaders of the European People’s Party met on Malta Thursday, a day after Britain triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, officially starting the process known as Brexit. Zlatica Hoke has more.

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Cargo Vessels Evade Detection, Raising Fears of Huge Trafficking Operations

Hundreds of ships are switching off their tracking devices and taking unexplained routes, raising concern the trafficking of arms, migrants and drugs is going undetected.

Ninety percent of the world’s trade is carried by sea. Every vessel has an identification number administered by the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization or IMO. But crews are able to change the digital identity of their ship, making it possible to conceal previous journeys.

The Israeli firm Windward has developed software to track the changes. Its CEO, Ami Daniel, showed VOA several examples of suspicious shipping activity, including one vessel that changed its entire identity in the middle of a voyage from a Chinese port to North Korea.

“It’s intentionally changing all of identification numbers. Also its name, and its size, and its flag and its owner. Everything that’s recognizable in its digital footprint. This is obviously someone who is trying to circumvent sanctions [on North Korea],” says Daniel.

Transfers at sea

In a joint investigation with the Times of London newspaper, Windward showed that in January and February more than 1,000 cargo transfers took place at sea. Security experts fear traffickers are transporting drugs, weapons, and even people.

Suspicious activity can be highlighted by comparing a vessel’s journey with all its previous voyages. In mid-January a Cyprus-flagged ship designed to carry fish deviated from its usual route between West Africa and northern Europe to visit Ukraine, deactivating its tracking system on several occasions.

“It’s leaving Ukraine, transiting all through the Bosphorus Straits into Europe, then drifting off Malta,” explains Daniel, as the Windward system plots the route of the reefer [refrigerated] vessel on the screen. “On the way it turns off transmission a few times … then it comes into this place east of Gibraltar. This area is known for ship-to-ship transfers and smuggling, because of the proximity to North Africa.”

Under global regulations all vessels must report their last port of call when arriving in a new port.

“But as you can understand, when it does ship-to-ship transfers here, it doesn’t actually call into any port, right, because it’s the middle of the ocean. So it’s finding a way to bypass what it already has to report to the authorities,” Daniel said.

Finally the vessel sails to a remote Scottish island called Islay, but again it anchors around 400 meters off a tiny deserted bay. The specific purpose of this voyage hasn’t yet been identified.

Lack of political will

Daniel shows another example of a vessel leaving the Libyan port of Tobruk before drifting just off the Greek island of Crete, raising suspicions that it is involved in people smuggling.

But he says using information like this to investigate suspicious shipping activities requires political will as well as technological advances.

“Regulation, coordination, legislation. And then proof in the court of law. And not all of this necessarily exists. The high seas, which means 200 nautical miles onwards by definition, are not regulated right now. The U.N. is still working on it.”

Meanwhile the scale of smuggling around the United States’ coastline was underlined this month, as the Coast Guard intercepted 660 kilos of cocaine off the coast of Florida, with a street value of an estimated $420 million.



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Cargo Vessels Evade Detection, Raising Fears of Trafficking Operations

Hundreds of ships are switching off their tracking devices and taking unexplained routes, raising concern that the trafficking of arms, migrants and drugs is going undetected. New technology enables authorities to follow the routes of suspect vessels, but security experts say taking on the smugglers will require greater coordination. Henry Ridgwell reports.

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The Zookeeper’s Wife Looks at Heroism in the Face of Persecution

During World War II, the Warsaw Zoo in Poland’s capital became a hideout for Jews escaping Nazi persecution. Niki Caro’s film, The Zookeeper’s Wife, chronicles this true story, highlighting the courage and compassion of Jan and Antonina Zabinski, a couple who risked their lives and the life of their son to protect those in danger.

The film opens with Antonina Zabinski, an empathetic animal lover, making her morning rounds in the zoo to check on the animals. Dark clouds of war are gathering over Poland.

Watch: ‘The Zookeeper’s Wife’ a Tale of Heroism During the Holocaust

The idyllic life of the zookeepers ends abruptly with a Nazi air raid over Warsaw, which hits the zoo and kills the majority of its animals. Filmmaker Niki Caro delivers a powerful scene of helpless caged animals dismembered and killed by the bombing. This heart-breaking waste of life is a forewarning of the Nazi attacks on human life.

Nazis invade

The Nazis invaded Poland September 1, 1939, and immediately started rounding up Jewish inhabitants in Warsaw, placing them in a ghetto to be starved, harassed, and exposed to the elements.

The film, script written by Angela Workman, is based on Diane Ackerman’s novel by the same title. The novel, a more detailed account of the zookeepers’ struggle was a challenge to condense to a two-hour film, Workman said.

She says the film was a labor of love by a team of women.

“Kim Zubek, our lead producer, was a person who carried this on her shoulders for years to get this made,” Workman said. “She worked really hard. I was involved with it for eight or nine years. Niki has been involved with it for years. Jessica (Chastain) stuck around when we didn’t know whether we’d be able to get it made. We’ve had some really fierce women working on this. I’m very proud of that.”

The largely female cast reflects the feminine point of view, said novelist Ackerman, who made Antonina Zabinski her central character. 

“She endangered her own life, the life of her child, but she felt it was the right thing to do.” Ackerman said. “Her husband was heroic in more traditional ways. He was head of an underground cell. She risked her life every single day, but she didn’t hold a gun and shoot at anybody. Her form of heroism was compassionate heroism. It’s something that I think people do every single day on our war-torn planet, but we don’t hear about it.”

Filmmaker Niki Caro echoes Ackerman’s viewpoint.

“Femininity has often been equated with weakness,” she said. “But a character like Antonina shows us that you can be both very soft and very strong.”

Manipulating Nazis to save Jews

The story pivots on Nazi official Lutz Heck, who’s eyeing the remaining rare zoo animals and Antonina.

Guided by greed and lust, Heck, played by Daniel Bruhl, offers assistance to Antonina by offering to take the remaining animals to Germany for safekeeping. And Heck is an historic figure.

“He was Hitler’s chief zoologist,” Workman said. “His family, I think, still breeds Heck cattle, and everything we see in the movie about him is true. He has feelings for Antonina; he would walk in whenever he wanted (in the zoo.) He controlled them. He had very strong animal instincts, and I think that he was a predator in a way.”

Though fearful, Antonina manipulated Heck’s feelings to convince him to let her and her husband keep the zoo open. Under Heck’s nose, Antonina and her husband smuggled about 300 Jews out of the Warsaw ghetto using the vaults of the zoo as a way station for the refugees throughout the war.

Jessica Chastain interprets Antonina and the “gift she had in being able to communicate with all living creatures.

“Actually, we tried to showcase that in our film,” Chastain said, “and the idea what it means to possess another living thing. What does it mean to be in a cage?”

At a red carpet event at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, Workman said that though her script is based on Ackerman’s novel, it was also informed by her own family history.

“I am so emotional to be in this museum because I spent an enormous amount of time here when I was writing. I feel like my family’s faces are on the walls of this museum. It’s such an honor to be here.”

Message for today

Chastain said the film sends a message about today’s refugee crisis.

“I was shocked to learn that Anne Frank’s family was denied a visa to the United States twice,” she said. “Antonina was a refugee. She was born and raised in Russia, and she found her safe place in Warsaw and then from there she created a sanctuary for others. I hope that people will see the film and be inspired by her compassion and kindness, and will do what they can to help others.”

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‘The Zookeeper’s Wife’ a Tale of Heroism During the Holocaust

During WWII, the Warsaw Zoo became a refuge for Jews hiding from Nazi persecution. Niki Caro’s film “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” chronicles this true story, highlighting the courage and compassion of zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski, a couple who risked their lives and the life of their son to protect those in danger. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

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Afghans Find Distraction From War in Mixed Martial Arts

In a custom-built arena in Kabul, crowds cheered as young Afghan men punched, kicked and wrestled in the country’s first professional mixed martial arts league, a welcome distraction to the violence besetting the country.

While cricket and football more commonly grab public attention in Afghanistan, fighters and fans see martial arts not just as entertainment but as a constructive pastime for youths in a country torn by war and economic malaise.

Against a soundtrack of booming music and shouts of encouragement, sweat and blood mixed inside the cage. Each match, however, ended in a hug.

Outlet for frustration

“I think it provides a very good platform for the social frustrations that we have here in Afghanistan,” said Kakal Noristani, who a year and a half ago helped found the Snow Leopard Fighting Championship.

To date, only men have competed in the handful of competitions, but organizers say they are training women fighters. The walls of the club feature posters of American martial arts competitor Ronda Rousey.

Noristani and his partners want to develop mixed martial arts as a professional sport in Afghanistan, hoping to host foreign fighters and send Afghan competitors abroad.

“We’ve just begun here in Afghanistan,” Noristani said. “The professional structure was nonexistent before this.”

That’s helped some fighters dream of national and international glory.

“This is the wish of every fighter: To reach the highest level and be able to fight abroad,” said Mir Baba Nadery, who won his match that night.

Diversion from the war

Outside the cage, spectators expressed gratitude for a diversion from the country’s woes.

“Coming to these kind of events takes your mind off of our problems,” said Nadia Sina. “We are happy to see such an organization encouraging sportsmen and improving the sport in the country.”

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First Afghan Women’s Orchestra Tries to Change Attitudes

Afghanistan’s first – and only – all-female symphony is trying to change attitudes in a deeply conservative country where many see music as immoral, especially for women.


The symphony’s two conductors show how difficult that can be, but also how satisfying success is.


One of them, Negin Khpolwak, was supported by her father when she joined the Afghanistan National Institute of Music and then became part of its girls’ orchestra, called Zohra. But the rest of her family was deeply against it. Her uncles cut off ties with her father.


“They told him he is not their brother anymore,” said Khpolwak, now 20. “Even my grand-mother disowned my father.”


Khwolpak had learned about the music institute at the orphanage in Kabul where she spent most of her life. Her father sent her to the orphanage because he was afraid for her safety in their home province of Kunar in eastern Afghanistan, an area where Taliban militants are active.


The institute is one of the only schools in Afghanistan where girls and boys share classrooms, and it draws its students from the ranks of orphanages and street children, giving them a chance at a new life. Khpolwak studied piano and drums before becoming the orchestra’s conductor.


First international tour

More than 30 girls aged 12 to 20 play in Zohra, which is named after a goddess of music in Persian literature. In January, the orchestra, which performs traditional Afghan and Western Classical music, had its first international tour, appearing at the World Economic Forum in Davos and four other cities in Switzerland and Germany.


“The formation of the orchestra is aimed at sending a positive message to the community, to send a positive message to the girls, to encourage families and girls to join the music scene of the country,” said Ahmad Naser Sarmast, the institute’s founder and director.


Sarmast has experienced firsthand the militants’ hatred of music. In 2014, a Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up at a concert Sarmast was attending. He was wounded and a German man in the audience died.


The Zohra orchestra was created in 2014 when one of the institute’s students, a girl named Meena, asked Sarmast if there could be a group where girls could play together. Sarmast leaped at the idea.


Since then, Meena has disappeared. Last year, the 7th grader told the school she had to attend her sister’s wedding in her family’s village in eastern Nangarhar province. She never returned, a sign of how tenuous people’s situation is in a country where war rages, communications are poor and poverty is rife. Sarmast said the school has not been in contact with her, but he’s hopeful she’ll return to the school and Zohra.


The orchestra’s other conductor, 18-year-old Zarifa Adiba, faced resistance from her family just as Khpolwak did.


Societal barriers

When she joined the school in 2014, she only told her mother and step-father, not her four brothers and her uncles, because she knew they would disapprove. Her mother and step-father tried to tell them about the importance of music – without mentioning Adiba – but they weren’t convinced.


“If my brothers and uncles had known about me learning or playing music, they 100 percent would have stopped me because they had a very negative view toward music,” Adiba said.


Her family’s opposition to music was so intense she hesitated to join the orchestra’s trip to Davos. But she ended up going, and as one of the conductors she was widely interviewed in the media there and appeared on TV.


When she returned, her uncles were the first to congratulate her. Two of her brothers are still not happy about her involvement with music but now she has the support of the rest of the family, she has more courage, and she said she is sure her brothers will eventually come around.


“I changed my family, now it is time for other girls to change their families because I am sure that slowly all Afghanistan will change,” she said.

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Following the Footsteps of Generations Along Natchez Trace

In addition to visiting the hallowed battlesite grounds at Vicksburg National Military Park, national parks traveler Mikah Meyer also had the chance to visit several other national park sites in Mississippi, each with its own unique history.

Natchez National Historical Park

Natchez National Historical Park, in the southern part of the state, protects the sites and structures associated with the people of Natchez and its surrounding area — from its earliest inhabitants through the modern era. 

The name is derived from the Natchez American Indians who lived along the Mississippi River at the time of European exploration.

But the area is also known for its pre-Civil War history.

Pre-Civil War South

Mikah, who’s on a mission to visit all of the more than 400 national parks, was able to learn about that history and other aspects of life in the antebellum South through many of the city’s preserved properties.

“It’s a historical park, so it’s kind of like the other historical parks in that it’s basically the old portion of the town of Natchez and a bunch of various sites,” he explained.

William Johnson House

Among those sites is the home of William Johnson, who was a free black barber.



“It was interesting to learn about his story,” Mikah recounted. “He lived in Natchez before the Civil War as a free black man and had his own house and his own business as a barber.”

According to the National Park Service, Johnson used bricks from buildings destroyed in the infamous tornado of 1840 to construct the State Street estate and commercial business area. The family lived in the upper stories of the house, while the first floor was rented out to merchants. The house allows visitors to learn more about the life of free African Americans in the pre-Civil War South.

After the fall of Vicksburg in 1863, the Union Army occupied the city of Natchez, enforced the Emancipation Proclamation – which freed all slaves in the rebellious states, and put an end to the tragic sale of enslaved people at the Forks of the Road, one of the largest slave markets in the South.

Subsequently, thousands of formerly enslaved men from the Natchez area joined the U.S. Army and Navy.

Driving through history

It would seem unlikely that a modern-looking expressway would be considered a site worth preserving, but that’s exactly what the National Park Service has done with Natchez Trace Parkway. The 715-kilometer roadway once was the main way settlers and travelers reached Natchez from the Tennessee area.

Driving north on that scenic parkway, Mikah said he understood why the Park Service had chosen to preserve it.

“I drove mile zero of that, all the way up to mile 15, just to get a taste of what that was like,” Mikah recounted. “It’s what a highway in America would look like if there were no Dairy Queens or gas stations on it. It’s just the road, grass and trees, so it’s really pretty — a really beautiful driving experience.”

While it was cold and wintry up north, the grass along the parkway was a vibrant green. “The trees were starting to bloom, so I can only imagine it in peak spring,” Mikah added.

Alongside much of the parkway is the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail, a historic forest trail that roughly follows sections of the paved road through the states of Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee.

Also known as the “Old Natchez Trace,” the trail was created and used for centuries by Native Americans, and later, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, by European and American explorers, traders and emigrants.

Today, visitors like Mikah can still walk those trails and experience the area’s natural beauty.

The “Sunken Trace”

Picturesque land and waterscapes near the trail offer visitors recreational opportunities like hiking, biking, horseback riding and camping.

And Mikah said you can literally see history when you walk the trail, worn down by hundreds of thousands, even millions, of footsteps.

“One of the ways that distinguishes this is there are paths that are very clearly beaten down in that you have essentially a wall on either side of you.”

In the space of a few days, Mikah immersed himself in several fascinating aspects of his country’s history. He says he looks forward to exploring more of it when he visits two more national park sites in the northern part of Mississippi sometime in the near future.

In the meantime, he invites you to learn more about his travels across America by visiting his website, Facebook and Instagram.

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