PM says Britain uniting around Brexit

16 Apr

Prime Minister Theresa May said Sunday that Britain was beginning to unite behind Brexit, 10 months after the divisive referendum that saw the country narrowly vote to leave the European Union.”This year, after a period of intense debate over the right…

Qatar and Philippines sign ‘$200m contracts’: minister

16 Apr

Qatar and the Philippines have signed trade agreements worth $200 million during the final leg of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Gulf tour, Manila’s trade and industry secretary told reporters in Doha Sunday.Ramon Lopez said 6,000 jobs would be created in…

Key proposals by leading candidates in French election

16 Apr

The five main contenders in France’s presidential election span the ideological spectrum from hard left to far right. A week before the first round of voting, here are their main proposals:- Marine Le Pen: France first — Negotiate France’s exit from t…

Hijack threat prompts high alert at Indian airports

16 Apr

Three major international airports in India are on high alert after police received an email warning of a threat to hijack aircrafts. Security at Mumbai, Chennai, and Hyderabad airports has been increased as officials investigate the pote…

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Chinese fans fume as injured Tevez visits Disneyland

16 Apr

The world’s highest-paid footballer, Carlos Tevez, has come under fire from Shanghai Shenhua supporters after being spotted at Disneyland the same day he missed an important match due to injury.The Argentinian striker, who’s been earning a 38-million-e…

Pope’s Easter address marked by heightened security

16 Apr

Pope Francis began his traditional Easter mass in Rome on Sunday with thousands of the faithful being subjected to heightened security measures.The Easter mass, the highlight of the Christian calendar, started at 0800 GMT under a cloudy sky where worsh…

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Mourinho summons strength for Chelsea ambush

16 Apr

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho must rally a fatigued and foundering team this weekend as he rekindles an increasingly thorny rivalry with his former club Chelsea, the Premier League leaders.United have drawn five of their last six home games a…

Le Pen: far-right heir aiming to take down EU

16 Apr

Marine Le Pen was a daddy’s girl growing up, and she wept for joy when her father — the bogeyman of French politics — beat his Socialist rival for a spot in the final of the 2002 presidential election.But while Jean-Marie Le Pen never seemed to truly…

Erdogan says referendum is vote for Turkey’s future

16 Apr

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said the tightly-contested referendum on expanding the powers of the head of state was a vote for the future of Turkey.”We carried out some referendums (in the past) but this referendum is a choice of ch…

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Syria evacuees bomb attack death toll rises to 112: monitor

16 Apr

The death toll in a suicide car bomb attack on buses carrying Syrians evacuated from two besieged government-held towns has risen to at least 112, a monitoring group said Sunday.The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that 98 evacuees from the nor…

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Musicians chase fame on west Africa’s musical islands

16 Apr

Every April, the tiny island capital of Cape Verde is taken over for a week by musicians of all stripes, trailing dreams of record deals and sold-out stadiums.

Two events, the Atlantic Music Expo (AME) and the more established Kriol Jazz Festival, draw talent from as far away Haiti and Brazil, intent on showing what they have to offer to international producers on an archipelago famed for its own rich musical heritage.

“During this fifth edition of the AME, foreign producers showed a lot of interest towards Cape Verdian artists like Lucibela and Os Tubaroes,” said Jose da Silva, the festival’s executive director, as the week drew to a close.

Da Silva knows the world music industry better than most, having spotted the talent of Cesaria Evora, Cape Verde’s “barefoot diva”, who made the island nation’s bittersweet “morna” ballads internationally famous.

He describes Lucibela, a young artist who has been likened to Evora, as the hottest ticket at the festival so far, along with South Africa’s Tribute “Birdie” Mboweni, whose honeyed tones blend seamlessly with a jazz/soul vibe.

“I want to continue what Cesaria started,” Lucibela told AFP. “I want to sing Cape Verde’s own musical styles like “morna” and “coladeira” all over the world, but I want to be known for my own talent.”

No style is discounted at the Atlantic Music Expo, but its African roots are proudly out front, with more than 500 music professionals attending, among them Afrojazz, soul, R&B, rap and traditional folk artists.

For many, it is a unique opportunity to perform and network in the beautiful island setting of Praia, the ordinarily sleepy capital.

“We hope to meet tour organisers, because they are the ones who will allow us to show our music all over the world,” said Pamela Byesadjogo, a Gabonese Afrojazz singer who also made waves at the event.

– ‘Full of joy’ –

Singing, drumming and dancing are not limited to the performers in a nation that prides itself on producing some of world music’s biggest stars, despite being home to fewer than 500,000 people miles off mainland Africa.

“Normally I play behind closed doors because jazz concerts are usually intimate affairs,” said Sylvain Luc, a French guitarist performing at the Kriol Jazz Festival.

“But what I see here is a public which is full of life, full of joy, and that’s great,” he said.

Local heroes of international renown such as Lura and Bulimundo were also present to play old favourites to the crowds.

After giving birth just months ago, traditional Cape Verdean artist Lura said the crowds and new motherhood had electrified her performance.

“I have more energy in my body since I became a mother,” she said following a show where the applause barely stopped.

“My new album will continue my mission — to sing about Cape Verde, everyday life here and its traditions, blended with sounds from across the world.”

Hybrids come naturally to a nation that has historical links to Portugal and Brazil, and has long been a stopping point for traders on their passage across the Atlantic.

What remains is to export more of its artists for audiences who cannot make it to see them on the archipelago, said Culture Minister Abraao Vicente.

“The intention of the government is now to work on ways of facilitating, in terms of costs, travel for these artists abroad,” he told AFP.

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40 dead as massive floods hit Iran (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

16 Apr

At least 40 people were killed and at least 5 are missing as torrential rains caused intense flooding and landslides in northwestern Iran, according to MEHR news agency. Footage posted on social media shows the apocalyptic aftermath of th…

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Peace along the border despite N. Korean threats

16 Apr

One soldier enjoys a cigarette, another sits reading quietly on the riverbank: seen from the Chinese side of the border, North Korea’s army does not appear to be on a war footing despite all the bellicose language.Dandong city is the main crossing poin…

North Korea missile test fails

16 Apr

A fresh North Korean missile test failed when it exploded after launch Sunday, the US military said, a day after Pyongyang defiantly showcased its ballistic arsenal at a giant military parade.

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Barker wins women’s points race gold at Track Cycling Worlds

16 Apr

Britain’s Elinor Barker won the women’s points race at the Track Cycling World Championships after a gripping duel with America’s Sarah Hammer on Sunday.The Olympic team pursuit gold-medallist crucially picked up 20 points for lapping the field with ju…

Indian metro probes porn screened at busy station

16 Apr

Hardcore pornography that flashed onto a giant screen at one of Delhi’s busiest metro stations has prompted red-faced rail authorities to launch an investigation, an official said Sunday, after footage of the incident was shared widely online.Commuters…

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Crusaders march on as Stormers Super Rugby run ended

16 Apr

New Zealand’s Canterbury Crusaders are the only unbeaten team left in Super Rugby after the Golden Lions ended the Western Stormers’ winning start to the season this weekend.The Johannesburg-based Lions downed the Stormers in a bonus-point 29-16 win in…

Hope fades for Sri Lanka missing, garbage toll hits 21

16 Apr

Hopes of finding anyone alive under a collapsed mountain of garbage in Sri Lanka’s capital faded Sunday as the death toll reached 21, police said.Hundreds of soldiers were digging through the rubbish and the wreckage of some 145 homes that were destroy…

Kerr wins LPGA Lotte Championship

16 Apr

American Cristie Kerr capitalized on a back nine stumble by Jang Su-Yeong to come-from-behind and capture the Lotte Championship on Saturday.The 39-year-old overcame a three-shot deficit heading into the final round to fire a bogey-free 66 for her firs…

Terrorism jokes no laughing matter for Spain’s judges

16 Apr

When she posted jokes on Twitter about a 1973 assassination committed by Spain’s Basque separatist group ETA, Cassandra Vera never for one moment thought they would land her a one-year jail sentence.But last month, one of Spain’s top criminal courts fo…

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Refugees bring dying Italy village back to life

16 Apr

In the foothills of the Aspromonte mountains in southern Italy, the silence of a once-dying village is broken by the laughter of a small group of refugees.Tiny Sant’Alessio has been welcoming families and vulnerable migrants here for three years in a p…

Modern life intrudes on Ethiopia’s ancient salt trade

16 Apr

Every morning, hundreds of men converge on a dry lakebed in a remote corner of Ethiopia, where they cleave the ground open with handaxes to extract salt, just as their fathers and grandfathers once did.They toil under the gaze of a caravan of camels wh…

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Tense Turkey votes in crunch referendum on Erdogan powers

16 Apr

Turkey on Sunday began voting in a referendum on expanding the powers of the head of state under President Tayyip Erdogan that will determine its future political destiny but whose outcome remains in doubt after a bitterly-contested campaign.Over 55.3 …

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‘Islamic’ kindergartens cause a stir in Austria

16 Apr

A debate is raging in Austria after a study suggested that Islamic kindergartens in Vienna were helping to create “parallel societies” or even produce the dangerous homegrown radicals of the future.According to its author, Ednan Aslan, a Turkish-born A…

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Tears and cheers greet China’s new economic zone

16 Apr

Business owner Hu Weibing weeps at the prospect of losing everything, including his home, after China’s surprise announcement to transform a rural spot outside Beijing into a modern metropolis nearly three times the size of New York City.Hu’s family ru…

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Iraq: The battle for Mosul

16 Apr

Six months since Iraqi forces launched a vast operation to oust the Islamic State group from second city Mosul, they have recaptured its east and are battling for the west.Here are key dates in offensive:- The battle begins — October 17: Iraqi forces …

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The bus mafia controlling Nepal’s smog-choked capital

16 Apr

Nepal’s government is trying to tackle rising pollution levels in the smog-choked Kathmandu Valley, but standing in the way is a powerful bus mafia that controls the capital’s roads.The rulers of Kathmandu’s streets are a web of transport syndicates ma…

Global carmakers converge on China as rare slowdown looms

16 Apr

Global carmakers converge on China for the Shanghai auto show this week, with the industry bracing for a sharp sales slowdown and potential price war as competition stiffens in the world’s biggest car market.Manufacturers have reaped a windfall as the …

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As Moscow expands, property boom sparks local ire

16 Apr

Property developers are racing to build up prime land in Moscow’s leafy outskirts with plans that involve razing entire villages and felling acres of forest.Now determined locals are fighting back to stop the developers in their tracks and preserve the…

Can Prosecco help Italy unlock China wine market?

16 Apr

On paper it seems as obvious a pairing as a glass of spicy Gewurztraminer with crispy duck and pancakes.Yet Italy, the world’s biggest wine producer, is lagging in the fight for sales in China, tipped to become the world’s second biggest importer of wi…

Iraq forces make Mosul gains, but anti-IS war far from over

16 Apr

Iraqi forces made major gains in the six months since launching the operation to retake Mosul, but the battle for Iraq’s second city and the war against the Islamic State group are far from over.Tough close-quarters fighting in heavily-populated areas …

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Tense Turkey braces for crunch referendum on Erdogan powers

16 Apr

Turkey on Sunday votes in a referendum on expanding the powers of the head of state under President Tayyip Erdogan that will determine its future political destiny but whose outcome remains in doubt after a bitterly-contested campaign.Over 55.3 million…

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‘Skinny bundles’ step up challenge to US Big Cable

16 Apr

For years, US cable operators got rich by offering fat “bundles” of hundreds of channels and raising prices regularly for television consumers.

Now the “skinny bundle” is disrupting that model with internet-delivered packages offering live and on-demand programs.

Google’s YouTube TV is the latest to enter this market with its bundle of around 40 channels for $35 monthly, challenging slim packages from Sony’s PlayStation Vue, Dish Network’s Sling TV and AT&T’s DirecTV Now.

More entrants are expected including one from streaming service Hulu.

These services offer easy interfaces like those of on-demand services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, let viewers digitally store programs in the internet “cloud,” and toss in a limited selection of live channels to sate news and sports or other interests.

Skinny offerings are aimed at young viewers and “cord cutters” loath to pay $100 or more to be force-fed hundreds of channels in hefty bundles and accustomed to streaming shows they want, when they desire.

A Parks Associates survey last month found 20 percent of American consumers dissatisfied with their pay TV service, leaving the market ripe for change.

Analyst Glenn Hower at Parks said the market is in flux, with some consumers taking advantage of the easy sign-up for skinny packages, even though some cancel just as quickly.

In addition to lower prices, he said, “you don’t have to worry about sending out a technician, you don’t have to worry about getting the equipment back.”

BTIG Research analyst Richard Greenfield, in a research note titled “the big bundle is doomed,” says he expects skinny bundles to eat away at the established pay-TV providers.

Established media companies are focusing too hard on “protecting their legacy business model” instead of giving consumers the flexibility they want, Greenfield wrote this month.

Leichtman Research Group found that the top US cable companies lost 277,000 subscribers in 2016, while internet-delivered services like Sling TV and DirecTV Now added about 845,000.

These shifts could lead to a huge upheaval in the television ecosystem, allowing more choices and lower costs for consumers in many cases, while leaving smaller, independent cable channels out in the cold.

The skinny bundles “have made inroads in the past year,” said Leichtman Research president Bruce Leichtman.

– Digital platforms rise –

Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey said Google’s entry into the business is significant because “for the first time, the broadcasters are letting a powerful digital platform have the keys to its treasure room: live, first-run TV shows.”

He noted that major tech firms like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft “have tried to cozy up to TV for many years now, and all of them have been rebuffed” until now.

“The digital platforms are indeed taking over the world, this time with permission from their former adversaries,” he said in a blog post.

While many consumers use on-demand options like Amazon and Netflix, they often keep cable or satellite subscriptions for live sports and local news. But live channels will make streaming options more attractive.

At the same time, popular channels such as HBO and sports programmer ESPN have been offering standalone subscriptions to allow consumers to watch without a bundle from cable or satellite.

But independent television analyst Alan Wolk argues that the major pay TV firms remain in good shape despite these challenges.

Some like AT&T already have a “skinny” offering, and others such as Comcast and Verizon are expected to enter the market to give consumers a choice.

Wolk said consumers don’t appear to be flocking to skinny bundles because “they pay 30 percent less dollars but get 70 percent less content.”

He added that “a lot of people think they want to cut back but when you ask them which channels they want to eliminate they have trouble cutting back to the bare minimum.”

– Striking back –

Wolk noted that the large pay TV operators have an advantage because they offer broadband internet, and in some cases are the dominant provider in a region. This allows them to offer incentives which bundle internet and television.

The large operators can also squeeze out rivals by using data caps or other means to favor their own streaming service, and will not likely face regulatory impediments from doing so in the current political environment, he said.

Operators are also keeping customers with “TV everywhere” which allows subscribers to watch the same content on mobile devices or while traveling, he noted.

One impact from the shift to streaming is that providers will know more about customer habits, to be able to deliver advertising targeted to each user.

That’s positive for marketing, but could be a privacy worry as tech firms build up detailed profiles on consumers.

Google in particular can refine its ad model by using data on viewing habits, analysts note.

With streaming, Wolk said, Google and others “get a ton of data about users and what they are up to, and they can cross-reference that with your browsing habits.”

Serial executions take toll on executioners too, critics say

16 Apr

Putting a prisoner to death “stays with you for a long time,” says Ron McAndrew.The former warden of Florida State Prison says his own mental health had begun to deteriorate by the time he left his position in 1998 after taking part in eight executions…

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Syria’s Assad is an ‘arch-terrorist’: British FM

16 Apr

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is an “arch-terrorist” and it is time Russia realised he is “literally and metaphorically toxic”, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Sunday.Johnson said Assad’s ally Moscow still had time to be on the “right s…

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