Top 5 Songs for Week Ending Sept. 30

We’re liberating the five most popular songs in the Billboard Hot 100 Pop Singles chart, for the week ending September 30, 2017.

Last week featured a rare treat: a Hot Shot Debut single in the Top Five. We’re happy to announce that this week, history repeats itself.

Number 5: Sam Smith “Too Good At Goodbyes”

It happens in fifth place, where Sam Smith re-surfaces.

Sam tallies his sixth Top 20 – and his third Top Five – hit, “Too Good At Goodbyes”. Back home in the U.K., the news is even better, where it becomes Sam’s sixth number one. This is the opening single from his upcoming second album. It’s been three years since he dropped “In The Lonely Hour.” Sam says he wants the album to update us on his love life… which according to him is still terrible.

Number 4: Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee Featuring Justin Bieber “Despacito”

Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, and Justin Bieber aren’t suffering too terribly with “Despacito”: the former 16-week champ weakens a slot in fourth place.

Fans of Daddy Yankee are helping him aid victims of natural disasters. Last week, he went on social media to elicit donations for those devastated by Hurricane Maria in the Caribbean, and the massive earthquake in Mexico. Working with several charities, he collected donations of diapers, batteries, bottled water and other essentials. Daddy Yankee also joined forces with Feeding America, which will bring food donations to 78 municipalities in Puerto Rico.

Number 3: Logic Featuring Alessia Cara & Khalid  “1-800-273-8255”

Logic bumps it up two slots to third place with “1-800-273-8255” featuring Alessia Cara and Khalid.

This is now the highest-charting single in Hot 100 history with a telephone number as its title. Back in 1982, the rock band Tommy Tutone peaked at number four with “867-5309/Jenny.” Actually, no fewer than seven songs bearing phone number titles have made it into the Hot 100.

Number 2: Cardi B “Bodak Yellow (Money Moves)”

Cardi B remains a strong contender at number two with “Bodak Yellow (Money Moves).” 

Cardi recently said she was going to push back her album, originally slated for an October release. Posting on Twitter, rapper J Cole advised her not to pressure herself to release an album…just keep dropping strong singles.

Number 1: Taylor Swift “Look What You Made Me Do”

Taylor Swift stays strong atop the Hot 100 for a third week with “Look What You Made Me Do.”

Did you know Taylor threw a Halloween party last year? Naturally, it drew top celebs: model Gigi Hadid was there along with Camila Cabello, who dressed as a “Grandma Who Couldn’t Find Her Cat Because She Sat On It.”

We’ll find our way to number one next week and we hope you’ll join us.


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Istanbul Taxi Cameras Prompt Surveillance Concerns

In Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, cameras are being installed inside taxis in a move city authorities claim will provide security for both drivers and passengers. But with the ongoing crackdown over last year’s failed coup locking up more than 60,000 people and purging nearly 200,000 from their jobs, fears are growing that the measure is the latest effort to extend surveillance and control over the people.

An advertisement touts the benefits of Istanbul’s Itaxi. New taxis will be fitted with GPS tracking to allow drivers to find the quickest and cheapest route, as well as equipment to pay by credit card – all measures, the advert assures, aimed at enhancing passengers’ experiences.

The new taxis were announced to great fanfare. But the installation of a large digital camera in each vehicle, which authorities say will protect both drivers and passengers, is sparking controversy.

When you get in a taxi, the camera is clearly visible. What is unclear is whether it records sound as well as images, and where the images go. A driver VOA spoke to was more than happy with the device, although he admits he does not know who is watching.

” The new system is what is needed. I had an incident on Sunday night. I was attacked by a customer. If this system had been active, I would have been saved right away or the attacker wouldn’t have dared to attack,” the driver said. “There is a camera system and a panic button now.”

Not everyone in Istanbul appears so convinced. Another person VOA talked to questioned the motives behind the initiative.

“Some bad guys are stealing money from the taxi drivers or taxi drivers sometimes do violence against the women in the cabs, things like that, I think,” said the person who did not want to be identified. “If they do this for the real criminals then it’s not a bad idea. But we have doubts about [whether] our government, or policemen are doing this about the real criminals or not. A witch hunt is happening in Turkey now. So if they are using [this] for things like that, then of course it’s not a good idea to have things like that in the cabs.”

Failed coup attempt

Nearly every week there are trials for people accused of being involved in last year’s failed coup. Currently over 60,000 people languish in jail on coup plotting charges. Last year, 4,000 were prosecuted for defaming the president. Under emergency powers introduced following the botched military takeover, sweeping new electronic surveillance has been introduced, according to law professor Yaman Akdeniz of Istanbul’s Bilgi University. He has been studying the rise of surveillance culture, and warns concerns over the new taxis may be well-founded.

“Nowadays, something like this looks very suspicious because we have no idea where the data is transferred to or whether they have face recognition technology or voice recognition technology,” Akdeniz said. ” A lot of people are being investigated and prosecuted for allegedly defaming the president of Turkey. Because increasingly people are under surveillance and people don’t know what sort of technology or what sort of things are deployed by the government to monitor the citizens and it will get worse.”

There is a growing sense of concern seeping into Turkish society regarding surveillance. With the ongoing government crackdown and continuing prosecutions for insulting the president, any new innovation involving surveillance technology seems destined to be viewed with suspicion.

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Russian Opposition Leader Detained by Police

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was detained by police as he left his Moscow home Friday to attend a pre-election rally in a provincial town.

Russia holds a presidential election in March that incumbent Vladimir Putin is widely expected to contest. Navalny hopes to run despite Russia’s central election commission declaring him ineligible because of a suspended prison sentence that he says was politically motivated.

Navalny said on social media Friday that police had detained him in the lobby of his apartment block and told him they wanted to interview him at a police station.

The press service of Moscow’s interior ministry was cited by the TASS news agency as saying Navalny had been detained because of his “repeated calls to take part in unsanctioned public events.”

The authorities say opposition protests must be pre-approved by them, but Navalny has in the past said that the Russian constitution enshrines the right to freely hold such events.

On Friday, he denied the police’s latest allegations, writing on social media “I’ve never done that.”

Navalny had been scheduled to address a pre-election rally in the city of Nizhny Novgorod later Friday, part of a series of regional events he hoped would help him build support for his presidential run.

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U.S. Confirms Ambassador to Moscow at Crucial Time

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Jon Huntsman as the new U.S. ambassador to Russia, filling a void at a critical tie in U.S.-Russian relations.

Huntsman is a former governor of the U.S. state of Utah who previously served as ambassador to Singapore and China.

The confirmation was unanimous and swift, with Democrats and Republicans joining in a rare consensus to support President Donald Trump’s choice for the top U.S. diplomat in Moscow. The Washington Post quoted Democratic Senator Benjamin Cardin as saying Trump could not have made a better choice than Huntsman.

The new U.S. ambassador will arrive in Moscow as tensions remain high between the U.S. and Russia on issues that include allegations of Russian meddling in U.S. elections and interference in eastern Ukraine.

Trump has rejected allegations by political opponents that his campaign colluded with the Russians.

Huntsman testified this month before the Senate Foreign Relations committee and said there is, in his words, “no question” that Moscow interfered in last year’s presidential election.

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Actress Louis-Dreyfus Says She’s Battling Breast Cancer

Emmy-winning comedic actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus said Thursday that she was battling breast cancer, and she highlighted the case for universal health care in the United States.

Louis-Dreyfus, 56, who plays foul-mouthed fictitious former U.S. President Selina Meyer on HBO’s Veep, said, “1 in 8 women get breast cancer. Today, I’m the one,” in a short post on her social media platforms.

“The good news is that I have the most glorious group of supportive and caring family and friends, and fantastic insurance through my union. The bad news is that not all women are so lucky, so let’s fight all cancers and make universal health care a reality,” she wrote.

She did not give any further details of her health status.

Time Warner’s HBO network said Louis-Dreyfus received the diagnosis a day after the Emmy Awards this month, where she won a record sixth consecutive Emmy for comedy actress for her role as Meyer. The Emmys are U.S. television’s highest honor.

HBO added that her diagnosis played no part in its decision to end Veep after next season, and that writers would keep working on the final season while production would be adjusted around the actress’ schedule.

“Our love and support go out to Julia and her family at this time. We have every confidence she will get through this with her usual tenacity and undaunted spirit, and look forward to her return to health and to HBO for the final season of Veep,” HBO said in a statement.

Louis-Dreyfus achieved fame in the 1990s for her role as Elaine Benes on NBC’s Seinfeld, which also won her an Emmy.

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Was Hefner Oppressor or Liberator? Women Debate His Legacy

Oppressor or liberator? Feminist in a silk robe, or pipe-smoking exploiter? Opinions were flying a day after Hugh Hefner’s death over just what he did — and didn’t do — for women.

On one side, there were those who saw Hefner’s dressing women in bunny costumes with cottontails on their rears, or displaying them nude in his magazine with a staple in their navels, as simple subjugation of females, no matter how slick and smooth the packaging. On the other were those who felt the Playboy founder was actually at the forefront of the sexual revolution, bringing sexuality into the mainstream and advancing the cause of feminism with his stand on social issues, especially abortion rights.

“I think it’s disgusting,” said feminist author Susan Brownmiller, of the praise she’d been seeing on social media since Hefner’s death Wednesday at age 91. “Even some of my Facebook friends are hewing to the notion that, gee whiz, he supported abortion, he supported civil rights. … Yes he was for abortion, [because] if you convince your girlfriend to get an abortion because she got pregnant, you don’t have to think about marrying her! I mean, that was his point.”

Most offensive to Brownmiller was what she called Hefner’s equating the word “feminist” with “anti-sex.”

“It wasn’t that we were opposed to a liberation of sexual morality,” she said, “but the idea that he would make women into little bunnies, rabbits, with those ears. … That was the horror of it.”

It was Brownmiller, in fact, who confronted Hefner nearly a half-century ago on Dick Cavett’s talk show, saying to his face, “Hugh Hefner is my enemy.” As a startled Hefner fiddled with his pipe, she added: “The day that you are willing to come out here with a cottontail attached to YOUR rear end …” The audience roared.

Brownmiller attributed some of the glowing tributes to Hefner in part to “an American tradition of saying nice things about the departed.”

For Kathy Spillar, executive editor of Ms. Magazine, the accolades were a result of something deeper: a decades-long public relations strategy of Playboy to sanitize what she called an empire devoted to the subjugation of women.

“From the beginning, they tried to sell it as women’s liberation,” said Spillar, who also directs the Feminist Majority Foundation. “And so they made huge outreach efforts over the years to women’s rights groups.” But there was nothing liberating about it, Spillar said: “Those photographs of women certainly aren’t empowering of those women. They’re there for the pleasure of men.”

“He was right about one thing,” Spillar added. “Sex sells. But it sells to men. And to put women in those horrible costumes that Gloria Steinem wrote about! Talk about sexual harassment, talk a hostile work environment.” She was referring to the famous magazine expose that a young Steinem went undercover to write, training as a Playboy bunny in a New York club — bunny suit and all.

Hefner himself, obviously, saw it very differently.  “The truth of the matter is the bunnies were the pre-feminist feminists,” Hefner told the Associated Press in 2011. “They were the beginning, really, of independent women. The bunnies were earning more money than, in many cases, their fathers and their husbands. That was a revolution.”

To Kathryn Leigh Scott, a former bunny at the New York club, much of what Hefner said then rings true. Scott trained at the club in January 1963, at age 19, she says, with six other bunnies, one of them Steinem. She said she had fun, and made good money. She later wrote a book, The Bunny Years, to counter the view that Steinem portrayed in her article.

“I did not feel exploited,” Scott says now. “As a matter of fact, I felt that I was exploiting Playboy — because I was earning very good money in a very safe environment, certainly safer than that many of my friends were working in at the time.”

Did Hefner advance or exploit women? Scott says she can see both sides. “But when you think of what he did to support Roe v. Wade for example, and civil rights, and what I know from his treatment of me, he did a lot to help women,” she said.

In the wake of Hefner’s death, many celebrities tweeted affectionate messages. “Thank you for being a revolutionary and changing so many people’s lives, especially mine,” wrote television personality and former Playboy model Jenny McCarthy. “We’ve lost a true explorer, a man who had a keen sense of the future,” wrote writer-producer Norman Lear. “We learned a lot from you Mr. Hefner.”

For feminist author and blogger Andi Zeisler, the main question was why Hefner was getting so much credit.

“He’s getting a disproportionate amount of credit for the sexual revolution,” said Zeisler, founder of the nonprofit Bitch Media. “It was a confluence of factors. He had nothing to do with the development of oral contraception, which I could argue was really the main driver of the sexual revolution where women were concerned.

“I think it’s safe to say that anything progressive that Hugh Hefner was for, he was for because it also benefited white men,” Zeisler said.

As for Steinem, who briefly wore that bunny suit in the early `60s, she preferred not to comment so close to Hefner’s death.

“Obit time,” she wrote in an email, “is not the time for truth-telling. People will now be free to tell it, but later.”

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Hugh Hefner, Playboy Publisher, Dead at 91

Hugh Hefner, the publisher of Playboy Magazine has died at the age of 91. Famous for his smoking jacket, his magazine and his lifestyle Hefner singlehandedly changed the publishing industry, and maybe the world. VOA’s Kevin Enochs reports.

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‘Loving Vincent’ Brings Van Gogh’s Art Alive

You have seen his “Sunflowers” in a museum, sung along with Don McLean to “Vincent (Starry Starry Night)” and gawped at the tens of million of dollars his works have fetched at auction.

But you have never seen Vincent Van Gogh’s art quite like it is shown in the film “Loving Vincent.”

Seven years in the making and billed as the world’s first fully-painted feature film, “Loving Vincent” uses more than 130 of the Dutch artist’s own paintings to tell his own story.

Each of the 65,000 frames of the animated independent film, created by Polish artist and animator Dorota Kobiela, is an oil painting hand painted by 125 professional artists who traveled from around the world to be a part of the project.

“It looks like something completely different, and that doesn’t happen very often in our media-saturated world,” said Hugh Welchman, who co-wrote and directed the film with Kobiela.

“Loving Vincent,” showing in limited release in New York and Los Angeles and arriving in Europe in October, was first filmed with actors playing some of the people Van Gogh captured on canvas.

They include Saiorse Ronan as doctor’s daughter Marguerite Gachet and Chris O’Dowd as postman Joseph Roulin, who walk through and inhabit his paintings as his story unfolds.

Then came the hard part. Finding and training the painters to reproduce Van Gogh’s work.

More than 4,000 artists from around the world applied for the job and 125 were chosen and put through three weeks training.

“Even though we were hiring the very best oil painters, Vincent’s style look like it should be very easy but actually it’s difficult to do well,” said Welchman.

“Even after training there were still quite a few painters who really found it impossible to get to grips with his style,” Welchman said.

The $5.5 million production focuses on the last weeks of Van Gogh’s life before his death in 1890 in France at age 37 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Welchman said the film has triggered some unusual responses.

“We’ve had a lot of people in tears at screenings. People are sending poems or making cakes with intricate Vincent paintings on the cake,” he said.

He and Kobiela hope the film encourages audiences to discover more about Van Gogh.

“I’d like them to think there is more to his story than he went mad, cut off his ears, was a genius and did these incredibly colorful paintings that sell for lots of money.”

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Senegalese Music Start-ups Race to Be West Africa’s Spotify

Senegalese start-ups are testing a fledgling market for online music platforms in French-speaking West Africa, where interest in digital entertainment is growing but a lack of credit cards has prevented big players from making inroads.

Long celebrated in Europe for their contribution to “world” music – with Mali’s Salif Keita, Senegal’s Youssou N’Dour and Benin’s Angelique Kidjo household names in trendy bars – West African musicians have struggled to make money back home, where poverty is widespread and music piracy rampant.

Online music providers such as Apple’s download store iTunes and streaming service Spotify are either unavailable – no one can sign up for Spotify in Africa yet – or require a credit card or bank account, which most West Africans lack.

But smartphone use is surging and entrepreneurs say there is latent demand for platforms tailored to Francophone West Africa, whose Malian “desert blues,” Ivorian “zouglou” and Senegalese “mbalax” cross African borders but are only profitable in Europe, via download and streaming services.

“We started by saying, look, there is a void. Because digital distribution products are made in Europe or the U.S., for Europeans and Americans.” said Moustapha Diop, the founder and CEO of MusikBi, “The Music” in the local Wolof language, a download store launched in 2016.

MusikBi, like its rivals, is small and cash strapped, but with more than 10,000 users, Diop sees potential.

The company received a boost in May when Senegalese-American singer Akon bought 50 percent of it, which Diop says will allow the company to start a new marketing campaign.

MusikBi and rival JokkoText allow users to purchase songs by text message and pay with phone credit, mobile money or cash transfers. Both want to expand throughout West Africa.

Many of the new industry entrants like MusikBi and JokkoText are based in Dakar, which is an emerging tech start-up hub for Francophone West Africa, partly thanks to the fact it has enjoyed relative political and economic stability compared with most of its neighbors.

On the streaming front, Deedo, created by a Senegalese national in France and backed by French bank BPI, will launch in Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast and France next month, and will offer similar payment options. Senegalese hip-hop group Daara J plans o start a streaming platform next year.

There is scant industry presence elsewhere in the region except in Anglophone Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation.

Pirates to Payers

Every evening young people jog down Dakar’s streets with headphones in their ears. Most download music illegally online or buy pirated CDs and USB memory sticks in street markets.

Convincing them to pay for content is a challenge, but not an insurmountable one, analysts say.

“Experience shows that people are willing to pay for convenience,” said David Price, director of insight and analysis at London-based industry federation IFPI.

“If you give them something attractive and affordable, they stop pirating,” he said, adding that local platforms have gained followings in Latin America and India.

France’s Deezer has also targeted the region in partnership with mobile operator Tigo, but has not gained a large following. Deedo meanwhile plans to launch a version of its site in Pulaar, one of West Africa’s most widely spoken a languages, founder Awa Girard told Reuters.

Senegalese singer Sahad Sarr told Reuters he had sold some songs on MusikBi and was excited about Deedo, but added: “The culture here is not to buy music online. Change will be slow.”

Most of his listeners on Spotify and other platforms are Senegalese people living in Europe or North America, he said.

At Dakar’s main university, students showed Reuters the many websites they use to download music illegally.

Some said they would pay for a good service, but others were less convinced, like 22-year-old Macodou Loum. “Between two choices, free and not free, we will choose the free one,” he said.

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Turkey Says Would Release US Pastor in Exchange for Gulen

Turkey says it would release American Pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been detained for nearly a year, if the United States extradited Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for last year’s failed coup attempt.

“They say ‘give us the pastor’.  You have a preacher [Gulen] there. Give him to us, and we will try [Brunson] and give him back,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a televised speech.

Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for 23 years, and his wife, Norine, were arrested for alleged immigration violations in October 2016.  She was released, while his charges have been upgraded to supporting Gulen’s network, which Turkey has labeled a terrorist organization.

The couple ran a Christian church in the Aegean city of Izmir.

Norine met with U.S. Secretary of State of Rex Tillerson during his visit last month to Ankara. Tillerson said then that Brunson had been “wrongfully imprisoned”.

A decree last August gave Erdogan the power to extradite foreigners in exchange for Turkish prisoners abroad in “situations where it is necessary for national security or in the country’s interests.”  Turkey has repeatedly asked the United States to extradite Pennsylvania-based Gulen, accusing him of organizing the failed military coup last year.

U.S. relations with Turkey have soured recently over a number of issues, including what the U.S. sees as Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule.

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