Kirstie Alley, Emmy-Winning ‘Cheers’ Star, Dies at 71

Kirstie Alley, who won an Emmy for her role on “Cheers” and starred in films including “Look Who’s Talking,” died Monday. She was 71. 

Alley died of cancer that was only recently discovered, her children True and Lillie Parker said in a post on Twitter. Alley’s manager Donovan Daughtry confirmed the death in an email to The Associated Press. 

“As iconic as she was on screen, she was an even more amazing mother and grandmother,” her children’s statement said. 

She starred opposite Ted Danson as Rebecca Howe on “Cheers,” the beloved NBC sitcom about a Boston bar, from 1987 to 1993. She joined the show at the height of its popularity after the departure of original star Shelley Long. 

Alley would win an Emmy for best lead actress in a comedy series for the role in 1991. She would take a second Emmy for best lead actress in a miniseries or television movie in 1993 for playing the title role in the CBS TV movie “David’s Mother.” 

She had her own sitcom on the network, “Veronica’s Closet,” from 1997 to 2000. 

In the 1989 comedy “Look Who’s Talking,” which gave her a major career boost, she played the mother of a baby whose inner thoughts were voiced by Bruce Willis. She would also appear in the 1990 sequel “Look Who’s Talking Too.” 

John Travolta, her co-star in both films, paid her tribute in an Instagram post. 

“Kirstie was one of the most special relationships I’ve ever had,” Travolta said, along with a photo of Alley. “I love you Kirstie. I know we will see each other again.” 

She would play a fictionalized version of herself in the 2005 Showtime series “Fat Actress,” a show that drew comedy from her public and media treatment over her weight gain and loss. 

And in recent years she appeared on several reality shows, including “Dancing With the Stars.” 

A native of Wichita, Kansas, Alley attended Kansas State University before dropping out and moving to Los Angeles. 

Her first television appearances were as a game show contestant on “The Match Game” in 1979 and Password” in 1980. 

She made her film debut in 1982’s “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.”

Bob McGrath, ‘Sesame Street’ Legend, Dies at 90

Bob McGrath, an actor, musician and children’s author widely known for his portrayal of one of the first regular characters on the children’s show “Sesame Street” has died at the age of 90. 

McGrath’s passing was confirmed by his family who posted on his Facebook page on Sunday: “The McGrath family has some sad news to share. Our father Bob McGrath, passed away today. He died peacefully at home, surrounded by his family.” 

Sesame Workshop tweeted Sunday evening that it “mourns the passing of Bob McGrath, a beloved member of the Sesame Street family for over 50 years.”

McGrath was a founding cast member of “Sesame Street” when the show premiered in 1969, playing a friendly neighbor Bob Johnson. He made his final appearance on the show in 2017, marking an almost five-decade-long figure in the “Sesame Street” world. 

The actor grew up in Illinois and studied music at the University of Michigan and Manhattan School of Music. He also was a singer in the 60s series “Sing Along With Mitch” and launched a successful singing career overseas in Japan. 

“A revered performer worldwide, Bob’s rich tenor filled airwaves and concert halls from Las Vegas to Saskatchewan to Tokyo many times over,” Sesame Workshop said. “We will be forever grateful for his many years of passionate creative contributions to Sesame Street and honored that he shared so much of his life with us.” 

He is survived by his wife, Ann Logan Sperry, and their five children. 

‘Wakanda Forever’ Is No. 1 for 4th Straight Weekend

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” kept the box-office crown for the fourth straight weekend, and the comic holiday thriller “Violent Night” debuted with $13.3 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. But the biggest talking point on the weekend was a movie conspicuously absent from theaters.

Had Netflix kept Rian Johnson’s whodunit sequel “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” in theaters, it would have been one of the weekend’s top draws. Last weekend, the streamer — in its first such pact with North America’s top chains — released “Glass Onion” in about 600 theaters. While significantly less than the 4,000-plus theaters most big movies open in, the Netflix film reportedly grossed about $15 million — an enviable total for a medium scaled release.

Netflix declined to release ticket sales and pulled “Glass Onion” on Tuesday, preferring to keep its release limited to a one-week sneak-peak theatrical run before debuting on the streaming service Dec. 23. Netflix’s focus, its executives have said, is driving subscribers to its streaming service. On Wednesday, Reed Hastings, chief executive of Netflix, acknowledged the company left “lots” of money on the table in the move.

So instead of feasting on “Glass Onion,” as ticket buyers did after Thanksgiving in 2019 when Lionsgate released “Knives Out,” moviegoers were fed mostly leftovers this weekend.

For four weeks, the Walt Disney Co.’s “Wakanda Forever” has ruled the box office. Ryan Coogler’s Marvel movie has totaled $733 million globally, including $339 million in overseas sales.

“Violent Night” was the only new wide release in cinemas. Starring David Harbour as a not-so-saintly Saint Nick, the Universal release got off to a good start. “Violent Night,” which earned a B+ CinemaScore from audiences, cost about $20 million to make.

Though “Avatar: The Way of Water” and other holiday releases like “Puss in Boots 2,” “Babylon” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” loom in the coming weeks, theaters continue to see fewer films in wide release than they did pre-pandemic. David A. Gross, who publishes the box-office subscription newsletter FranchiseRe, says that while there were 58 franchise films released in 2019, there have been only 32 in 2022.

There’s also been a dearth of family releases in theaters. After a muted debut last weekend, Disney’s big-budget animated fantasy adventure “Strange World” dipped to third place with a mere $4.9 million in its second week. Some of the season’s notable kid-friendly movies are streaming, instead.

The Roald Dahl adaptation “Matilda the Musical,” starring Emma Thompson, was made jointly by Netflix, Sony Pictures and Working Title Films. Netflix has worldwide distribution rights to the film except for the United Kingdom and Ireland, where Sony put the film into theaters last weekend. For two weeks, “Matilda” has been the top film at the U.K. box office, grossing $9.7 million over that stretch. In the U.S., “Matilda” begins steaming on Christmas.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

  1. “Wakanda Forever,” $17.6 million.

  2. “Violent Night,” $13.3 million.

  3. “Strange World,” $4.9 million.

  4. “The Menu,” $3.6 million.

  5. “Devotion,” $2.8 million.

  6. “I Heard the Bells,” $1.8 million.

  7. “Black Adam,” $1.7 million.

  8. “The Fabelmans,” $1.3 million.

  9. “Bones and All,” $1.2 million.

  10. “Ticket to Paradise,” $850,000.

George Clooney, Gladys Knight Among Kennedy Center Honorees

Performers such as Gladys Knight or the Irish band U2 usually would be headlining a concert for thousands but at Sunday’s Kennedy Center Honors the tables will be turned as they and other artists will be the ones feted for their lifetime of artistic contributions.

Actor, director, producer and human rights activist George Clooney, groundbreaking composer and conductor Tania Leon, and contemporary Christian singer Amy Grant will join Knight, and the entire crew of U2 in being honored by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The organization honors a select group of people every year for their artistic influences on American culture. President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and their respective spouses are slated to attend.

The 61-year-old Clooney — the actor among this year’s musically leaning group of honorees — has television credits going back to the late 1970s but became a household name with the role of Doug Ross in the television show ER.

From there he starred in movies such as “Batman & Robin,” “Three Kings,” “Ocean’s Eleven” (and Twelve and Thirteen), and his most recent movie “Ticket to Paradise.” He also has extensive directing and producing credits including “Good Night, and Good Luck.” He and his wife, humanitarian rights lawyer Amal Clooney, created the Clooney Foundation for Justice, and he’s produced telethons to raise money for various causes.

“To be mentioned in the same breath with the rest of these incredible artists is an honor. This is a genuinely exciting surprise for the whole Clooney family,” said Clooney in a statement on the Center’s website.

Knight, 78, said in a statement that she was “humbled beyond words” at receiving the Kennedy honor. The Georgia-born Knight began singing gospel music at the age of 4 and went on to a career that has spanned decades.

Knight and family members started a band that would later be known as “Gladys Knight & The Pips” and produced their first album in 1960 when Knight was just 16. Since then, she has recorded dozens of albums with such classic hits as “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Midnight Train to Georgia.” Along the way she has acted in television shows and movies. When Knight and the band were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Mariah Carey described Knight as “… a textbook you learn from.”

Sometimes the Kennedy Center honors not just individuals but groups; “Sesame Street” once got the nod.

This year it’s the band U2. The group’s strong connection to America goes back decades. They performed in Washington during their first trip to America in 1980. In a statement the band — made up of Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jr. — said they originally came to America with big dreams “fueled in part by the commonly held belief at home that America smiles on Ireland.”

“And it turned out to be true, yet again,” read the statement. “It has been a four-decade love affair with the country and its people, its artists, and culture.”

U2 has sold 170 million albums and been honored with 22 Grammys. The band’s epic singles include “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” “Pride (In the Name of Love)” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” Lead singer Bono has also become known for his philanthropic work to eradicate poverty and to raise awareness about AIDS.

Christian music performer Amy Grant said in an interview with The Associated Press that she had never even been to the Kennedy Center Honors even though her husband, country musician Vince Gill, has performed during previous ceremonies. Grammy winner Grant is well known for crossover pop hits like “Baby, Baby,” “Every Heartbeat” and “That’s What Love is For.” She has sold more than 30 million albums, including her 1991 record “Heart in Motion,” that introduced her to a larger pop audience.

Composer and conductor Tania Leon said during an interview when the honorees were announced that she wasn’t expecting “anything spectacular” when the Kennedy Center initially reached out to her. After all, she has worked with the Kennedy Center numerous times over the years going back to 1980 when she was commissioned to compose music for a play.

But the 79-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner said she was stunned to learn that this time the ceremony was going to be for her.

Leon left Cuba as a refugee in 1967 and eventually settled in New York City. She’s a founding member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem and instituted the Brooklyn Philharmonic Community Concert Series.

Asian Faiths Try to Save Sacred Swastika Corrupted by Hitler

Sheetal Deo was shocked when she got a letter from her Queens apartment building’s co-op board calling her Diwali decoration “offensive” and demanding she take it down.

“My decoration said ‘Happy Diwali’ and had a swastika on it,” said Deo, a physician, who was celebrating the Hindu festival of lights.

The equilateral cross with its legs bent at right angles is a millennia-old sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism that represents peace and good fortune. Indigenous people worldwide used it similarly.

But in the West, this symbol is often equated to Adolf Hitler’s hakenkreuz or the hooked cross – a symbol of hate that evokes the trauma of the Holocaust and the horrors of Nazi Germany. White supremacists, neo-Nazi groups and vandals have continued to use Hitler’s symbol to stoke fear and hate.

Over the past decade, as the Asian diaspora grew in North America, calls to reclaim the swastika as a sacred symbol became louder. These minority faith communities are being joined by Native Americans whose ancestors used it in healing rituals.

Deo believes she and people of other faiths shouldn’t have to sacrifice or apologize for a sacred symbol simply because it is often conflated with its tainted version.

“To me, that’s intolerable,” she said.

Yet to others, redeeming the swastika is unthinkable.

Holocaust survivors could be re-traumatized by the symbol that represents a “concept that stood for the annihilation of an entire people” and the horrors they experienced, said Shelley Rood Wernick, managing director of the Jewish Federations of North America’s Center on Holocaust Survivor Care. Her grandparents met at a displaced persons’ camp in Austria after World War II.

“I recognize the swastika as a symbol of hate,” she said.

Steven Heller, author of Swastika: Symbol Beyond Redemption?, said it is “a charged symbol for so many whose loved ones were criminally and brutally murdered.” Heller’s great-grandfather perished during the Holocaust.

“A rose by any other name is a rose,” he said. “For many, it creates a visceral impact.”

The symbol itself dates back to prehistoric times. The word “swastika” has Sanskrit roots and means “the mark of well being.” It has been used in Hindu prayers, carved into the Jains’ emblem, marked Buddhist temple locations, and represented the four elements for Zoroastrians.

The symbol is ubiquitous in India today. It also has been found in the Roman catacombs as well as various places in Greece, Iran, Ethiopia, Spain and Ukraine.

The symbol was revived during the 19th century excavations in the ancient city of Troy by a German archaeologist, who connected it to Aryan culture. Historians believe this is what made it appealing to the Nazi Party, which adopted it in 1920.

In North America, in the early 20th century, swastikas made their way into architectural features, military insignia and team logos. Coca-Cola issued a swastika pendant. The Boy Scouts awarded badges with the symbol until 1940.

The Rev. T.K. Nakagaki said he was shocked when he heard the swastika referred to as a “universal symbol of evil” at an interfaith conference. The New York-based Buddhist priest thinks of swastikas as synonymous with temples.

In his 2018 book titled The Buddhist Swastika and Hitler’s Cross: Rescuing a Symbol of Peace from the Forces of Hate, Nakagaki posits that Hitler referred to it as the hooked cross or hakenkreuz.

“You cannot call it a symbol of evil or (deny) other facts that have existed for hundreds of years, just because of Hitler,” said Nakagaki, who believes more dialogue is needed.

The Coalition of Hindus of North America is among several faith groups leading the effort to differentiate the swastika from the hakenkreuz. They supported a new California law that criminalizes the public display of it, making an exception for the sacred swastika.

Pushpita Prasad, a spokesperson for the Hindu group, called it a victory, but said the legislation unfortunately labels both the sacred symbol and Hitler’s as swastikas.

It’s led to self-censorship. Vikas Jain, a Cleveland physician, said his family hid images containing the symbol when they had visitors because of the lack of understanding. Jain says he stands in solidarity with the Jewish community, but is sad that he cannot freely practice his Jain faith.

Before WWII, the name “Swastika” was popular in North America, including for housing subdivisions in Miami and Denver, an upstate New York hamlet and a street name in Ontario. Some have been renamed while others continue to carry it.

The Oregon Geographic Names Board will soon vote to rename Swastika Mountain in Umpqua National Forest.

The mountain’s name, taken from a nearby ranch that used a swastika cattle brand, made news in January when hikers were rescued off the butte, said Kerry Tymchuk, the Oregon Historical Society’s director. A Eugene resident questioned the name, spurring the vote, he said.

For the Navajo people, the symbol represents the universe and life, said Patricia Anne Davis, an elder of the Choctaw and Dineh nations. She said Hitler took a spiritual symbol “and made it twisted.”

In the early 20th century, traders encouraged Native artists to use it on their crafts. After it became a Nazi symbol, several tribes banned it.

“I understand the wounds and trauma that Jewish people experience when they see that symbol,” Davis said. “All I can do is affirm its true meaning. …It’s time to restore the authentic meaning.”

Jeff Kelman, a New Hampshire-based Holocaust historian, believes the hakenkreuz and swastika were distinct. Kelman, who takes this message to Jewish communities, is optimistic about the symbol’s redemption.

“When they learn an Indian girl could be named Swastika and she could be harassed in school, they understand how they should see these as two separate symbols,” he said. “No one in the Jewish community wants to see Hitler’s legacy continue to harm people.”

Greta Elbogen, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor whose family members were killed at Auschwitz, said learning the swastika is sacred to so many is a blessing and feels liberating. Elbogen, born in 1938 when the Nazis forcibly annexed Austria, went into hiding in Hungary before immigrating to the U.S.

Elbogen said she no longer fears the symbol: “It’s time to let go of the past and look to the future.”

For many, the swastika evokes a visceral reaction unlike any other, said Mark Pitcavage, an Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism researcher who maintains the group’s hate symbols database.

The ADL explains the sanctity of the swastika in many faiths and cultures, but Pitcavage said Hitler polluted the symbol: “While I believe it is possible to create some awareness, I don’t think that its association with the Nazis can be completely eliminated.”

Polynesian Pride: 3-Day Canoe Voyage in Mid-Pacific

The causes are worthy, the course is daunting – almost 500 kilometers across a stretch of the Pacific Ocean in a large canoe.

It’s the Hoki Mai Challenge, which started Saturday in Rapa Nui, a territory in the Pacific that is part of Chile and is better known as Easter Island.

The event consists of a canoe voyage in which nine Rapanuis, two Chileans and one Hawaiian seek to raise awareness about the importance of women in the world, urge protection of the environment, and celebrate the union of the islands of Polynesia.

The 12 athletes have been training six days a week since mid-September, preparing for a voyage that will take them from Rapa Nui to Motu Motiro Hiva, another island in the mid-Pacific that belongs to Chile.

“It won’t be easy,” said Gilles Bordes, coordinator of Hoki Mai. “Three days and three nights.”

Bordes moved to Rapa Nui earlier this year, but he has lived in Polynesia for three decades, devoting much of his time to rowing.

“I am very grateful to all the Tahitians for teaching me their culture and how to row,” he said. “I came from France, but they accepted me and allowed me to share this with them.”

Hoki Mai pursues three goals. The first is to honor canoeing in Polynesia, which has been practiced for centuries. The second relates to the environment. Motu Motiro Hiva — also called Salas y Gómez — is an uninhabited island, but its land and the surrounding waters have been affected by pollution.

The third purpose relates to gender equality. The team will carry a small female moai – one of the ancient statues for which Easter Island is famous — to raise awareness about the importance of women in the world. A bigger statue — carved by a local artisan for Hoki Mai — will be taken to Motu Motiro Hiva in March.

During the voyage, rowing will be done in relays: groups of six will row for about four hours, then be replaced by the next shift. Those who need to rest will do so in a Chilean navy ship escorting the canoe.

“The training has been hard, especially for those of us who are less experienced,” said Konturi Atan, a 36-year-old historian.

Atan said a crewmember invited him to join a few months ago while he was out paddling a one-person canoe.

“He told me: I need you to come on Tuesdays and Thursdays to help us; we’re lacking enough people to train,” said Atan, who rowed with them, shared a meal, then agreed to join the challenge.

On training days, they often started before dawn to get accustomed to the darkness they will face during much of the Hoki Mai.

“We practiced rowing at night, we practiced getting little sleep, we practiced training every day. Gym, rowing, gym, rowing, gym, rowing. Except for Sunday, when we rest,” Atan said.

Spirituality and sacredness are pervasive in Rapa Nui, including cooking rituals and songs about their history. Sports also incorporate spirituality.

Several days before the trip, the canoe built for Hoki Mai was blessed with a “umu,” which involves cooking underground with hot stones in a sacred ceremony.

“We did it with a white chicken,” Atan said. “It is something spiritual. Eating a piece is a connection to our roots.”

Their cultural legacy is also linked to the moai, like the one they’ll carry with them to Motu Motiro Hiva.

The moai are perhaps the most recognizable symbols of Rapa Nui.

Carved in volcanic stone between 1000 and 1600 AD from the slopes of the Rano Raraku volcano, they represent the ancestors of the various clans whose descendants still inhabit Rapa Nui. They were placed on ceremonial platforms called “ahus” with their torsos facing the island to provide protection. They attracted international attention in October after a fire damaged dozens of them.

Ahus were built in some other places in Polynesia, but moais are exclusive to Rapa Nui. The bond between neighboring islands is still strong. Rapa Nui, Tahiti, Hawaii and even New Zealand share language similarities and other features.

Now, with Hoki Mai, there’s also an expectation that those ties expand beyond Polynesia. That’s why the Rapanui and the Hawaiian will row with two “continental” Chileans, as the locals identify those who come from the Chilean mainland in South America.

“The idea of the canoe is also union,” said Gilles Bordes. “Six people doing the same thing to go forward. The union of cultures. That is why people from Chile are going to row, to show that together we can move towards a better future.”

For Many Hawaiians, Lava Flows Are a Time to Honor, Reflect

When Willette Kalaokahaku Akima-Akau looks out at the the lava flowing from Mauna Loa volcano and makes an offering of gin, tobacco and coins, she will be taking part in a tradition passed down from her grandfather and other Native Hawaiians as a way to honor both the natural and spiritual worlds.

Akima-Akau said she plans to take her grandchildren with her and together they will make their offerings and chant to Pele, the Hawaiian deity of volcanoes and fire, who her grandfather used to pay reverence to as a kupuna, a word that can mean ancestor.

“This is the time for our kupuna, for our people, and for our children to come and witness what is happening as history is being made every day,” she said, adding that today’s experiences will be added to the next generation’s stories, songs, dances and chants.

For many Native Hawaiians, an eruption of a volcano like Mauna Loa has a deep yet very personal cultural significance. For many it can be an opportunity to feel a connection with creation itself through the way lava gives birth to new land, as well as a time to reflect on their own place in the world and the people who came before them.

“A volcanic eruption is a physical manifestation of so many natural and spiritual forces for Hawaiians,” said Ilihia Gionson, a Hawaii Tourism Authority spokesperson who is Native Hawaiian and lives on the Big Island. “People who are unfamiliar with that should understand that it’s a very personal, very significant thing.”

To be sure, not all Native Hawaiians will feel the need to make a trek to see the lava, but among those who do, some may chant, some may pray to ancestors and some may honor the moment with hula, or dance.

“Some people may be moved to just kind of observe in silence, meditate, you know, commune with their higher power or their kupuna in their own ways,” Gionson said.

Kainani Kahaunaele said as a Native Hawaiian, she feels moved to honor the moment and will take her children, nieces, nephews and close friends as close to the lava flow as possible. There they will chant to Pele.

“Our hookupu will be our voice,” she said, using the Hawaiian word for offering. “It’s not for any kind of show. It’s a connection that we’re making to Pele, to the land, to Mauna Loa.”

Many Hawaiians are practicing family traditions that have been passed down from elders.

Akima-Akau, who lives in Kawaihae on the west side of the Big Island, remembers hearing stories about how her grandfather would fly from Maui or Oahu whenever there was a Big Island lava flow to honor Pele.

“He would jump on a plane and come to Hawaii Island to give his hookupu,” offerings of gin, silver dollars and tobacco, she said.

Her grandfather died before she was born, so she doesn’t know exactly why he chose those items, but he wasn’t alone. She said she grew up knowing others who offered the same items, so that is what her family will bring. She said the children will offer Pele a ti leaf lei.

Hawaiians have different relationships with the spirituality of lava, said Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner Kealoha Pisciotta. To Pisciotta, the lava “brings good mana” — which can mean supernatural or divine power — “and cleanses where it needs cleansing.”

There are also different relationships and connections to Pele, who some refer to as a god or goddess. Pele has great significance in Hawaiian culture, representing all the phenomena related to volcanoes — the magma, steam, ash, acid rain.

“Her primary form is the lava, not necessarily that she is a female, human person. But the image of her function is creation, which happens to be a very feminine image,” said Kekuhi Kealiʻikanakaʻole, a cultural practitioner in Hilo.

Pisciotta calls her “Tutu Pele,” using the word for grandparent, because deities “are more ancient than we are.”

Manua Loa’s spectacular show is drawing thousands of people seeking nighttime views of the lava flowing down the mountain’s northeast flank, clogging the main east-west road on the island. Among them are those coming to pay their respects, leaving altars or shrines along the roadway.

Cultural practitioners like Pisciotta want lava gawkers to be mindful of those who are chanting, praying or gathering in ceremonies amid the eruption: “Give them some space and respect.”

“If a person doing something wants to invite somebody to participate or watch, there will be an invitation,” said Gionson, the tourism official. “And if not, respect that and keep a respectful distance.”

So far, the tourism authority hasn’t received any complaints about people getting in the way of cultural practices, he said, adding that the agency focuses on educating tourists in general about being respectful and behaving appropriately when visiting the islands.

Kahaunaele, who teaches Hawaiian language and music at the University of Hawaii’s Hilo campus and planned to gather with her family on Thursday night, knows that visitors to the island might be curious when they see and hear her family chanting.

“Don’t film us. Don’t even ask for permission, just don’t,” she said. “That even goes for locals. Don’t infringe upon anybody else’s moment.”

For Generation Z, It’s Travel Now, Work Later

Generation Z is the name given to people born between 1997 and 2012, and the oldest of them are well into adulthood. But for many, the traditional signs of adulthood — a steady job and home ownership — aren’t yet part of the plan. Karina Bafradzhian has the story.

World Cup Redemption for Japan Coach 29 Years Later in Qatar

The “Agony of Doha” came 29 years ago, and Hajime Moriyasu experienced it firsthand as a midfielder on Japan’s national soccer team.

He’s now the coach, and he’s made amends.

Japan won its World Cup group Thursday after beating 2010 champion Spain, 2-1, at the Khalifa International Stadium. Last week, the team defeated 2014 champion Germany by the same score at the same venue.

As time was winding down against Spain, Moriyasu was thinking about that game in Qatar against Iraq in 1993 that cost the team a spot in the next year’s tournament.

“About one minute before the end,” Moriyasu said, after the win over Spain, “I remembered the tragedy in Doha.”

Leading 2-1 in the team’s final qualifier and knowing one goal for the opposition would spell the end, Japan conceded in stoppage time. Their World Cup hopes were dashed, and so were Moriyasu’s chances of playing at the biggest soccer tournament in the world.

This time it was different. This time the defense held it together. This time the 54-year-old Moriyasu got his Hollywood ending by winning Group E.

“I could feel that the times have changed,” Moriyasu said, praising his team’s aggressive defending. “They are playing a new kind of soccer, that’s how I felt.”

Japan’s resistance on the field was typified by 34-year-old captain Maya Yoshida. The veteran central defender reacted fastest when a loose ball in the 90th minute bounced in the goalmouth, up in front of a gaping empty net, after goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda blocked a shot by Jordi Alba.

Yoshida twisted his body to beat Marco Asensio to the ball and clear the danger. When Spain forward Dani Olmo took control seconds later, Gonda blocked his shot with a smothering dive.

On the offensive side, Japan scored in the 48th and 51st minutes. Against Germany, the goals came in the 75th and 83rd.

“In 10 minutes, we were dismantled,” Spain coach Luis Enrique said.

Up next is Croatia, a team that reached the final four years ago in Russia. Another victory on Monday would put Japan in the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time.

“We,” the coach said, “are gifting this win to the people of Japan.”

Christine McVie, Fleetwood Mac Singer-Songwriter, Dies at 79

Christine McVie, the British-born Fleetwood Mac vocalist, songwriter and keyboard player whose cool, soulful contralto helped define such classics as “You Make Loving Fun,” “Everywhere” and “Don’t Stop,” has died at age 79. 

Her death was announced Wednesday on the band’s social media accounts. No cause of death or other details were immediately provided, but a family statement said she “passed away peacefully at hospital this morning” with family around her after a “short illness.” 

“She was truly one-of-a-kind, special and talented beyond measure,” the band’s statement reads in part. 

McVie was a steady presence and personality in a band known for its frequent lineup changes and volatile personalities — notably fellow singer-songwriters Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. 

Fleetwood Mac started out as a London blues band in the 1960s and evolved into one of the defining makers of 1970s California pop-rock, with the combined talents of McVie, Nicks and Buckingham anchored by the rhythm section of founder Mick Fleetwood on drums and John McVie on bass. 

During its peak commercial years, from 1975 to 1980, the band sold tens of millions of records and was an ongoing source of fascination for fans as it transformed personal battles into melodic, compelling songs. McVie herself had been married to John McVie, and their breakup — along with the split of Nicks and Buckingham — was famously documented on the 1977 release “Rumours,” among the bestselling albums of all time. 

Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. The group’s many other hit singles included Nicks’ “Dreams,” Buckingham’s “Go Your Own Way” and McVie’s “Little Lies.” One of McVie’s most beloved works, the thoughtful ballad “Songbird,” was a showcase for her in concert and covered by Willie Nelson, among others. 

McVie, born Christine Perfect in Bouth, Lancashire, had been playing piano since childhood, but set aside her classical training once she heard early rock records by Fats Domino and others. 

While studying at the Moseley School of Art, she befriended various members of Britain’s emerging blues scene, and in her 20s joined the band Chicken Shack as a singer and piano player. Among the rival bands she admired was Fleetwood Mac, which then featured the talents of blues guitarist Peter Green, along with the rhythm section of Fleetwood and McVie. By 1970, she had joined the group and married John McVie. 

Few bands succeeded so well as Fleetwood Mac, against such long odds. Green was among the many performers who left the group, and at various times, Fleetwood Mac seemed on the verge of ending or fading away. More recently, Buckingham was kicked out, replaced on tour by Mike Campbell and Neil Finn. 

McVie herself left for years, only to return for good in 2014. 

 

UN Puts Baguette on Cultural Heritage List

The humble baguette — the crunchy ambassador for French baking around the world — is being added to the U.N.’s list of intangible cultural heritage as a cherished tradition to be preserved by humanity.

UNESCO experts gathering in Morocco this week decided that the simple French flute — made only of flour, water, salt, and yeast — deserved U.N. recognition, after France’s culture ministry warned of a “continuous decline” in the number of traditional bakeries, with some 400 closing every year over the past half-century.

The U.N. cultural agency’s chief, Audrey Azoulay, said the decision honors more than just bread; it recognizes the “savoir-faire of artisanal bakers” and “a daily ritual.”

“It is important that these craft knowledge and social practices can continue to exist in the future,” added Azoulay, a former French culture minister.

With the bread’s new status, the French government said it planned to create an artisanal baguette day, called the “Open Bakehouse Day,” to connect the French better with their heritage.

Back in France, bakers seemed proud, if unsurprised.

“Of course, it should be on the list because the baguette symbolizes the world. It’s universal,” said Asma Farhat, baker at Julien’s Bakery near Paris’ Champs-Elysee avenue.

“If there’s no baguette, you cant have a proper meal. In the morning you can toast it, for lunch it’s a sandwich, and then it accompanies dinner.”

Despite the decline in traditional bakery numbers, France’s 67 million people still remain voracious baguette consumers — purchased at a variety sales points, including in supermarkets. The problem is, observers say, that they can often be poor in quality.

“It’s very easy to get bad baguette in France. It’s the traditional baguette from the traditional bakery that’s in danger. It’s about quality not quantity,” said one Paris resident, Marine Fourchier, 52.

In January, French supermarket chain Leclerc was criticized by traditional bakers and farmers for its much publicized 29-cent baguette, accused of sacrificing the quality of the famed 65-centimeter (26-inch) loaf. A baguette normally costs just over 90 euro cents (just over $1), seen by some as an index on the health of the French economy.

The baguette is serious business. France’s “Bread Observatory” — a venerable institution that closely follows the fortunes of the flute — notes that the French munch through 320 baguettes of one form or another every second. That’s an average of half a baguette per person per day, and 10 billion every year.

Although it seems like the quintessential French product, the baguette was said to have been invented by Vienna-born baker August Zang in 1839. Zang put in place France’s steam oven, making it possible to produce bread with a brittle crust yet fluffy interior.

The product’s zenith did not come until the 1920s, with the advent of a French law preventing bakers from working before 4 a.m. The baguette’s long, thin shape meant it could be made more quickly than its stodgy cousins, so it was the only bread that bakers could make in time for breakfast.

The “artisanal know-how and culture of baguette bread” was inscribed at the Morocco meeting among other global cultural heritage items, including Japan’s Furyu-odori ritual dances, and Cuba’s light rum masters.

Women Enter World of Breakdancing

Breakdancing is breaking new ground with the sport’s inclusion in the 2024 Paris Olympics, and scores of women are entering the traditionally male-dominated activity. Aron Ranen has the story from New York City.

Afghan Refugee Opens Store in Texas to Keep Culture Alive

Ajmal Zazai, who fled Afghanistan after the Taliban’s takeover, now runs a store in San Antonio, Texas, selling traditional Afghan clothes and carpets For VOA, Zabiullah Ghazi has the story, narrated by Nazrana Yousufzai. Roshan Noorzai contributed.

Protester With Rainbow Flag Runs onto Field at World Cup 

A protester ran onto the field Monday carrying a rainbow flag and wearing a blue Superman T-shirt that said, “SAVE UKRAINE” on the front and “RESPECT FOR IRANIAN WOMAN” on the back during a World Cup match between Portugal and Uruguay.

Security officials chased the protester down, and the flag was dropped on the field before the person was escorted off the field. The referee then picked up the flag and left it on the sideline, where it stayed for a few moments before a worker came and collected it.

The spectator was ushered away through a tunnel. It wasn’t immediately clear if the protester faced any charges or had been detained by police.

In the first week of the tournament in Qatar, seven European teams lost the battle to wear multicolored “One Love” armbands during World Cup matches. Fans also complained they weren’t allowed to bring items with rainbow colors, a symbol of LGBTQ rights, into the stadiums of the conservative Islamic emirate.

Qatar’s laws against gay sex and treatment of LGBTQ people were flashpoints in the run-up to the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East. Qatar has said everyone was welcome, including LGBTQ fans, but that visitors should respect the nation’s culture.

The incident occurred during the second half of the game at Lusail Stadium.

Vintage Magazines Tell Tale of Turkish City’s Literary Past

An exhibition in Turkey’s southeastern city of Diyarbakir gives viewers an in-depth look at local periodicals and other publications that are more than a century old. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan has the story, narrated by Bezhan Hamdard. Videographer: Mahmut Bozarslan

Monkeys in Central Thailand City Mark Their Day With Feast 

A meal fit for monkeys was served on Sunday at the annual Monkey Feast Festival in central Thailand.  

Amid the morning traffic, rows of monkey statues holding trays were lined up outside the compound of the Ancient Three Pagodas, while volunteers prepared food across the road for real monkeys — the symbol of the province around 150 kilometers north of Bangkok. 

Throngs of macaque monkeys ran around, at times fighting with each other, while the crowds of visitors and locals grew.  

As the carefully prepared feast was brought toward the temple, the ravenous creatures began to pounce and were soon devouring the largely vegetarian spread. 

While the entertainment value of the festival is high, organizers are quick to point out that it is not just monkey business. 

“This monkey feast festival is a successful event that helps promote Lopburi’s tourism among international tourists every year,” said Yongyuth Kitwatanusont, the festival’s founder. 

“Previously, there were around 300 monkeys in Lopburi before increasing to nearly 4,000 nowadays. But Lopburi is known as a monkey city, which means monkeys and people can live in harmony.” 

Such harmony could be seen in the lack of shyness exhibited by the monkeys, which climbed on to visitors, vehicles and lampposts. At times the curious animals looked beyond the abundant feast and took an interest in other items.  

“There was a monkey on my back as I was trying to take a selfie. He grabbed the sunglasses right off my face and ran off on to the top of a lamppost and was trying to eat them for a while,” said Ayisha Bhatt, an English teacher from California working in Thailand. 

The delighted onlookers were largely undeterred by the risk of petty theft, although some were content to exercise caution. 

“We have to take care with them, better leave them to it. Not too near is better,” said Carlos Rodway, a tourist from Cadiz, Spain, having previously been unceremoniously treated as a climbing frame by one audacious monkey.

The festival is an annual tradition in Lopburi and held as a way to show gratitude to the monkeys for bringing in tourism. This year’s theme is “monkeys feeding monkeys,” an antidote to previous years where monkey participation had decreased due to high numbers of tourists, which intimidated the animals. 

Lewandowski Scores at World Cup, Poland Beats Saudis 2-0

Robert Lewandowski at last scored a goal in a World Cup match Saturday, helping Poland beat Saudi Arabia 2-0 and boosting his team’s chances of reaching the knockout stages.

Lewandowski shed tears after scoring in the 82nd minute. He raced toward the corner with his arms outstretched, then slumped on the field as teammates rushed to congratulate him. He got up, rubbed his face, and blew a kiss to the crowd.

“Today everything I had inside, the dreams, the importance of the occasion, all those dreams from my childhood came through,” Lewandowski said. “It was so significant.”

One of the best forwards in the world, Lewandowski’s barren streak at the World Cup was somewhat puzzling. Now, in his fifth match at the tournament, it’s over.

Against Saudi Arabia, Lewandowski also set up the opener in the 40th minute when he kept the ball in play after goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais’ initial block, then laid it back for Piotr Zielinski to knock in.

Poland was scrambling for long periods at the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, as enthusiastic fans pushed the Saudi team forward in what seemed like a home game. The frustration was clear on Lewandowski’s face as Poland’s yellow cards mounted.

Saudi Arabia had a chance to equalize at the end of the first half, but Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny saved Salem Al-Dawsari’s penalty kick. He then blocked Mohammed Al-Burayk’s shot from the rebound.

Szczesny was also called upon in the second half, when Saudi Arabia created several good chances.

“There is some part during the game, you must be more efficient,” Saudi Arabia coach Hervé Renard said.

Renard’s team had 16 attempts at goal, twice as many as Poland.

“Like I said before, we are still alive,” the French coach said. “This is the most important.”

Poland will next face Argentina, while Saudi Arabia will meet Mexico in their last Group C games.

Australia 1, Tunisia 0

Mitchell Duke celebrated scoring Australia’s winning goal by forming a “J” with his fingers in a tribute to his son Jaxson, who was in the stands.

Coach Graham Arnold dragged injured winger Martin Boyle — on crutches — into the celebratory huddle as fans sang merrily along to Men at Work’s “Down Under,” blaring over the stadium speakers after the final whistle, in Al Wakrah, Qatar.

Later, Arnold wiped away tears.

It was an emotion-filled day for Australia, which beat Tunisia 1-0 Saturday for only its third win in 18 World Cup matches.

Duke gave Australia the lead midway through the first half with a header.

“I actually was messaging some of my family, saying that I was going to score today, and I told my son that I was going to be able to share this moment with him and get that celebration,” Duke said. “I haven’t seen it yet but apparently he did it back to me from the stadium, which was a really special moment that I’m going to treasure for the rest of my life.”

Australia hadn’t won at the World Cup since beating Serbia in 2010 and it means the Socceroos still have a chance to qualify for the round of 16, despite losing to defending champion France 4-1 in their opening match.  

In the final round of group games on Wednesday, Tunisia will play France and Australia will meet Denmark. 

‘Fame’ and ‘Flashdance’ Singer-Actor Irene Cara Dies at 63

Oscar, Golden Globe and two-time Grammy winning singer-actress Irene Cara, who starred and sang the title cut from the 1980 hit movie “Fame” and then belted out the era-defining hit “Flashdance … What a Feeling” from 1983’s “Flashdance,” has died. She was 63.

Her publicist, Judith A. Moose, announced the news on social media, writing that a cause of death was “currently unknown.” Moose also confirmed the death to a reporter for The Associated Press Saturday. Cara died at her home in Florida. The exact day of her death was not disclosed.

“Irene’s family has requested privacy as they process their grief,” Moose wrote. “She was a beautifully gifted soul whose legacy will live forever through her music and films.”

During her career, Cara had three Top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, including “Breakdance,” “Out Here On My Own,” “Fame” and “Flashdance … What A Feeling,” which spent six weeks at No. 1. She was behind some of the most joyful, high-energy pop anthems of the early ’80s.

Tributes poured in Saturday on social media, including from Deborah Cox, who called Cara an inspiration, and Holly Robinson Peete, who recalled seeing Cara perform: “The insane combination of talent and beauty was overwhelming to me. This hurts my heart so much.”

Movie fame started with the movie ‘Fame’

Cara first came to prominence among the young actors playing performing arts high schoolers in Alan Parker’s “Fame,” with co-stars Debbie Allen, Paul McCrane and Anne Mear. Cara played Coco Hernandez, a striving dancer who endures all manner of deprivations, including a creepy nude photo shoot.

“How bright our spirits go shooting out into space, depends on how much we contributed to the earthly brilliance of this world. And I mean to be a major contributor!” she says in the movie.

Cara sang on the soaring title song with the chorus — “Remember my name/I’m gonna live forever/I’m gonna learn how to fly/I feel it coming together/People will see me and cry” — which would go on to be nominated for an Academy Award for best original song. She also sang on “Out Here on My Own,” “Hot Lunch Jam” and “I Sing the Body Electric.”

Three years later, she and the songwriting team of “Flashdance” — music by Giorgio Moroder, lyrics by Keith Forsey and Cara — accepted the Oscar for best original song for “Flashdance … What a Feeling.”

The movie starred Jennifer Beals as a steel-town girl who dances in a bar at night and hopes to attend a prestigious dance conservatory. It included the hit song “Maniac,” featuring Beals’ character leaping, spinning, stomping her feet and the slow-burning theme song.

“There aren’t enough words to express my love and my gratitude,” Cara told the Oscar crowd in her thanks. “And last but not least, a very special gentlemen who I guess started it all for me many years ago. To Alan Parker, wherever you may be tonight, I thank him.”

Career started on Broadway

The New York-born Cara began her career on Broadway, with small parts in short-lived shows, although a musical called “The Me Nobody Knows” ran over 300 performances. She toured in the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” as Mary Magdalene in the mid-1990s and a tour of the musical “Flashdance” toured 2012-14 with her songs.

She also created the all-female band Irene Cara Presents Hot Caramel and put out a double CD with the single “How Can I Make You Luv Me.” Her movie credits include “Sparkle” and “D.C. Cab.”