Jennifer Garner Leads People Magazine’s Beautiful List

Actress, businesswoman and children’s advocate Jennifer Garner is featured on the cover of People magazine’s annual beautiful issue, the magazine said on Tuesday.

People said it chose the 47-year-old “Alias” actress for balancing her career and charitable work with the raising of her three children with ex-husband Ben Affleck.

In addition to film and TV roles, Garner co-founded organic baby food company Once Upon a Farm and works as an ambassador for advocacy group Save the Children.

Garner told People that she never considered herself “one of the pretty girls” when she was growing up in West Virginia. She described her style at the time as “band geek-chic.”

Her current “uniform” more often than not is workout clothes, or jeans, a sweater and sneakers, if she is not dressed up for a red carpet or photo shoot.

When she does get glammed up, Garner said her kids will ask “‘Can you wash your face? Can you put your hair in a ponytail and put your glasses and sweats on?'”

“And I see the compliment in that,” she said. “They just want me to look like Mom.”

People’s beautiful issue will hit newsstands on Friday.

Critics Gush Over Spectacle, Story of ‘Avengers: Endgame’

Film critics unleashed overwhelmingly positive reviews on Tuesday of “Avengers: Endgame,” the highly anticipated final installment in a decade-long superhero story from Walt Disney’s Marvel Studios.

As of Tuesday afternoon, all but one of 56 “Endgame” reviews collected by the Rotten Tomatoes website were rated as positive.

USA Today’s Brian Truitt called the three-hour film “Marvel’s glorious greatest-hits package” with callbacks to previous adventures that will thrill fans who have faithfully followed characters such as Iron Man and Thor.

“It’s also a singular, sprawling and hugely satisfying tale that begins with a brutal, emotional gut punch and takes you on quite the trip with the original Avengers crew,” Truitt said.

Highest-grossing franchise

“Endgame” concludes a story that has unfolded over 21 previous films since 2007 and become the highest-grossing franchise in movie history. It picks up where last year’s “Avengers: Infinity War” left fans hanging when several beloved heroes appeared to turn to dust.

CNN’s Brian Lowry said “Endgame” delivered a worthy finale.

“The filmmakers have sought to reward movie-goers with a spectacle that’s epic in every way,” Lowry said.

“The overall journey not only produces several genuine surprises — no small feat in this context — but plenty of humor, with an assortment of lighter moments to augment the stir ring and, yes, emotional ones,” he added.

A.O. Scott of The New York Times said the movie provided the “sense of an ending,” even though many characters are expected to return in future films, and “a chance to appreciate what has been done before the timelines reset and we all get back to work.”

“We’ve lived with these characters and the actors playing them for more than a decade,” Scott wrote. “For the most part, it’s nice to see them again, and a little sad to say goodbye.”

Box office experts say “Endgame” may break the opening weekend record for ticket sales in the United States and Canada, which now stands at $257.7 million for “Infinity War.”

Egypt to Turn to Private Sector to Restore Historic Buildings

Egypt’s government is drawing up a plan to turn over as many as 150 crumbling historic buildings to the private sector to refurbish and lease out for profit, the Minister of Public Enterprise said on Tuesday.

The plan could potentially save an eclectic mix of neo-classical, beaux arts, art nouveaux, art deco and early modern styles built mostly in the first half of the 20th century then nationalized in the early 1960s.

It could also revitalize important tourism districts in central Cairo, Alexandria and Port Said on the Suez Canal. The buildings have fallen into various degrees of disrepair for lack of funding and maintenance, with many tenants paying tiny sums for units that have remained rent controlled for more than half a century.

‘Revenue-sharing basis’

Public enterprise minister Hesham Tawfik said the government would follow the model of privately owned Al Ismaelia for Real Estate Investment, which has been slowly renovating 23 historic buildings it has bought in downtown Cairo.

“They take the buildings, they settle with individuals or companies who are renting these apartments, they do the necessary renovations, inside and outside, and they simply rent them to the private sector. And they are making some decent return on their investment,” Tawfik said.

“We intend to do this by offering parcels of buildings, and by parcels I mean four to five buildings per transaction, for the private sector to repeat what Ismaelia did, on a revenue-sharing basis,” he said at business conference.

The plan was being studied at the state Insurance Holding Co. which along with the state insurance company owns 350 buildings, 150 of which are classified as historic.

“Probably they will come up with something very soon to offer to private developers, who we will insist be Ismaelia-style, with the right social background to be able to make sure that the development is done at the right level,” Tawfik said.  

Repaying debts

The government was also preparing to sell about 2 million square meters of unused land owned by state holding companies to help pay back more than 38 billion Egyptian pounds ($2.22 billion) in debts owed to other public entities, he said.

These include the National Investment Bank, the Ministry of Petroleum, the Ministry of Electricity, pension funds and the tax authority.

Once paid, any extra proceeds will be used to finance restructuring plans for companies under the ministry, including 21 billion pounds for textile industry and 5 billion pounds for chemical and metallurgical industries, Tawfik said.

 

FC Bayern Opens 1st African Soccer School in Ethiopia

German champion football club Bayern Munich has signed an agreement to open its first soccer school in Africa, locating it in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

FC Bayern Munich told VOA’s Horn of Africa Service that it is inspired by the young football players and fans in Ethiopia, which is ranked 150th worldwide, according to the international soccer governing body, FIFA.

“Two-thirds of the Ethiopian population is younger than 25 years. We will support the Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF) in terms of young development and coaches education programs,” Holger Quest, team leader of media operations at FC Bayern Munich, told VOA. 

Last week, Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Soeder, other state officials and FC Bayern executive board members traveled to Addis Ababa to sign the agreement.

Soeder told Ethiopian media the agreement would bring Bavarian expertise in football to the sports-hungry nation of Ethiopia. 

“That is a good basis for a promising partnership,” he said.

The international FC Bayern Youth Cup tournament took place in Nigeria in 2018 and 2019. The success of the tournament led to the idea to give young athletes around the world a way to showcase their talents, and include those players from disadvantaged areas.

FC Bayern Munich has developed many world-class players in their academy, including Thomas Mueller, Mats Hummels and Toni Kroos Kolgers. 

“We want to share our knowledge to help football grow across all continents and nations,” FC Bayern media head Quest said.

Speaking to VOA Horn by telephone from Addis Ababa, EFF President Esayas Jira said Ethiopia would benefit from the coaching and training to be offered by FC Bayern.

The soccer school would accept 30-40 young athletes ages of 8-10, with their training costs covered by Bayern Munich, Jira said.

“The kids would have a chance to join Bayern Munich youth academy” once they successfully completed school training,” he added. 

In the agreement, Bayern Munich said it would also finance the school training and education. FC Bayern coaches would lead youth coaches to train local players in Addis Ababa starting May 3, Jira told VOA.

FC Bayern’s club mission states their programs help equip children with the tools to play football, and combines FC Bayern strategy of football with the lessons of “our philosophy and mentality, which typifies qualities like ambition, respect, ‘fair play’ and a strong team spirit that are beneficial both on and off the pitch.”

Bayern Munich’s football school provide young athletes three days of weekly training “to give youngsters a sense of what it is like to train like a professional football (player),” Jira said.

The FC Bayern club also hopes the new school increases exposure to the team in Africa.

When Bayern officials and Bavarian Prime Minister Soeder met with Ethiopia’s first female president, Sahle-Work Zewde, to discuss the details of the agreement, they presented her with a Bayern Munich shirt with “Sahle-Work 1” on the back.

FC Bayern has also established football schools in China, Thailand, Japan, Singapore and the United States as well. 

Half of Americans Back Stronger Role of Religion in Society

Around half of Americans favor religion playing a greater role in U.S. society, while 18 percent oppose that idea, according to a Pew Research Center study published Monday.

Despite there being a separation of church and state, religion plays a significant part in daily U.S. life: the president traditionally is sworn in using a Bible, while “In God We Trust” is printed on bank notes.

France, Sweden and the Netherlands, meanwhile, posted almost opposite results: 47 percent, 51 percent and 45 percent respectively were opposed to religion playing a key role in society.

Among the 27 countries surveyed in 2018, France (20 percent) and Japan (15 percent) were the countries with the lowest proportion of citizens favoring strengthening religion’s role in society.

Indonesia (85 percent), Kenya (74 percent) and Tunisia (69 percent) came out as the countries most in favor of a bigger place for religion.

The study did not make a distinction between different religions.

In the U.S., the proportion rose to 61 percent among people aged 50 and over, but dropped to 39 percent among 18- to 29-year-olds.

The study was carried out with a representative sample of at least 1,000 people in each country.

Scouts BSA Girl Troops Gaining Popularity in US

It’s a cold, windy day in Washington, D.C., but that’s not stopping a group of about 20 girls from taking a 5-mile hike in Rock Creek Park.

As the girls in their khaki uniforms walk through the woods, they said they are happy to be in the first all-girls Boy Scout troop in the nation’s capital. Olivia Hurley, whose brother is a Boy Scout, said she always wanted to be one. 

“I think I’m going to get life skills and community service opportunities,” said the teenager. “I like being with all girls because it gives us an opportunity to learn and empower each other.”

The Washington troop was formed on Feb. 1, when the 109-year-old Boy Scouts of America allowed girls ages 11 to 17 to join all activities. Now called Scouts BSA, boys and girls are placed in separate troops. Girls were able to join the younger Cub Scouts program last year. 

​According to the Boy Scouts of America, approximately 15,000 girls have joined about 2,000 new Scouts BSA troops in the United States. There are about 40 troops in the Washington metropolitan area.​

Outdoor focus

The girls in the Washington troop said they like the challenge of learning and doing the same things as the boys, including leadership and outdoor activities. Today, they are learning to build a campfire, which Sophie Schell discovered is easier said than done as the wind kept extinguishing the flames. 

“I thought it would be a cool opportunity to practice my leadership skills, so I get better at leading and being more in the outdoors,” she said. “I also know some pocketknife safety, and I’ve swung an ax, which is pretty awesome.”

Dressed in a traditional Boy Scouts uniform, Scoutmaster Craig Burkhardt is leading the girls. Scouting is a tradition in his family, and he hopes it will continue with his daughter, who asked to join Scouts BSA. 

“Scouting is a very adaptable program for girls,” he said, despite critics who think girls should not be in the Boy Scouts. “The girls in my troop jumped into it with more enthusiasm than I’ve ever seen in any of the boy troops.”

Girl Scouts program

Perhaps not surprisingly, Girl Scouts of the USA is critical of the all-girl Scouts BSA troops, calling Girl Scouts the world’s single best leadership development program for girls. The group has a trademark infringement lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America for changing Boy Scouts to Scouts BSA.

Samantha Hermoza said she joined Scouts BSA because Boy Scouts do a lot more outdoor activities than Girl Scouts.

“The Girl Scouts is a good organization,” she said, “but I prefer being outdoors with nature.”

In the Washington suburb of Arlington, Virginia, another girls troop is reciting the Scouts BSA oath at their monthly meeting in a local church basement. Today, they are learning first aid, how to properly fold an American flag, and how to tie different kinds of knots.

‘Pioneers’

Scoutmaster Meghan Thomas said the girls have jumped into the program. 

“They’re excited to be pioneers by being part of an all-girl troop,” she said.

Her daughter Corbett joined Scouts BSA, but also remains in the Girl Scouts. 

“They both have different activities that they do, so I enjoy both of them,” Corbett explained. “And I didn’t want to quit one just to join the other.”

Her sister Sophie preferred Scouts BSA. 

“It gives more opportunity to show that just because we’re girls, we can go hiking or camping, and things like that,” Sophie said.

Assistant Scoutmaster Mark Sprulls hopes each of his three daughters will become a coveted Eagle Scout, which is the highest rank in scouting, like him. 

“I want them to have the same opportunity and learn the same types of skills that I learned. I would like them to be confident in themselves, and be able to handle any situation, and not think that they have to rely on a man to help them,” he said.

Women’s Football in Nigeria Struggles for Funds

Nigeria’s women’s football [soccer] team, the Super Falcons, has dominated the African Women’s Championship, winning nine titles since 1991. But the players have complained of low salaries, delayed paychecks, and being treated as second-class players to the men’s team.

Thirty-one-year-old Toochukwu Oluehi is the Number One goalkeeper on the Nigerian women’s national team – the Super Falcons. 

The team has won almost every African Women’s Championship since 1991, taking nine out of 11 recognized titles. 

But despite their record, Oluehi and her teammates say they are too often overlooked and underpaid. 

“We’re the people bringing glory to the land. So, they should look into the females and try and concentrate more on the females and leave the boys. The boys are earning more than the girls,” Oluehi said.

The women’s team is more dependent on government funding than the men’s team, the Super Eagles, which has won three African titles. The men receive more corporate sponsorships and higher attendance at matches.

Even so, the women are not happy with the pay inequity. 

Players on the men’s team receive bonuses of up to $5,000 each for winning a big match, while members of the women’s team rarely see bonuses of more than $1,500. The men also receive higher daily stipends.

The Sports Ministry’s Usman Haruna says while public demand and corporate sponsorship affect salaries, the women are better paid than they used to be. 

“I know what it used to be for the Falcons in terms of remuneration after a game. But this present administration, to be sincere with you, has lifted them from nowhere to where they are, which is by far more comfortable and better in the African context,” Haruna said.

Despite the challenges at home, Nigeria’s Super Falcons are preparing for this summer’s Women’s World Cup in France, says head coach Thomas Dennerby.

“Everything is good, all players are fit, no injuries at all, and that is a good start,” Dennerby said.

Nigeria’s women’s team has been to every World Cup since 1991, but only once made it to the quarterfinals. 

Monir Farmanfarmaian, Prominent Iranian Artist, Dies At 97

Prominent Iranian artist Monir Farmanfarmaian has died in her home in Tehran at the age of 97, the semiofficial ISNA news agency reported Sunday.

Farmanfarmaian, known for her mirror mosaics and reverse glass paintings, had her first solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2015.

The Monir Museum, devoted to her life and work, opened in the Iranian capital in 2017 at the historic Negarestan Museum Park Gardens. The museum displays 51 works by Farmanfarmaian.

“All my inspiration has come from Iran. It has always been my first love,” Farmanfarmaian told The Guardian in 2017 on the eve of the opening of the museum.

“When I traveled the deserts and the mountains, throughout my younger years, all that I saw and felt is now reflected in my art,” she said.

Born in Ghazvin in northwestern Iran, she studied at the Faculty of Fine Art of Tehran University.

She later traveled to New York, where she attended Parsons School for Design and Cornell University.

Farmanfarmaian’s art has been exhibited in Iran, Europe, the United States and in the Middle East.

She was forced into exile following the 1979 revolution, when some of her works and art collection were confiscated.

She returned permanently to Iran in 2004.

With reporting by The Guardian, ISNA, The New York Times and Harper’s Bazaar.

Boy Scout "Girls" Troops Gain Popularity in the United States

It is a tradition in some families for boys to join the Boy Scouts of America. And now it’s becoming a tradition for girls, too. In February, girls were officially allowed to join all activities in the Boy Scouts, now called Scouts BSA to reflect the change. But the girls and boys are in separate troops. VOA’s Deborah Block visited two all-girl troops in the Washington area to see how they are liking scouts so far.

Adele and Husband, Simon Konecki, Separate

Adele and her husband, Simon Konecki, have separated.

The pop singer’s representatives Benny Tarantini and Carl Fysh confirmed the news Friday in a statement to The Associated Press.

“Adele and her partner have separated,” the emailed statement said. “They are committed to raising their son together lovingly. As always they ask for privacy. There will be no further comment.”

Adele gave birth to their son, Angelo, in 2012.

The Grammy-winning British superstar has been private about her relationship, but confirmed she married Konecki when she won album of the year at the 2017 Grammys. In her acceptance speech, she said: “Grammys, I appreciate it. The Academy, I love you. My manager, my husband and my son — you’re the only reason I do it.”

Konecki co-founded Life Water, an eco-friendly brand of bottled water in the U.K. Funds from the company assists the charity that Konecki runs, Drop4Drop, which provides clean water to countries in need.

A representative for Konecki could not be reached.