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18 Nov
2019

Madrid hosts first revamped Davis Cup finals

SPAIN (WNF) - Novak Djokovic has confirmed his participation in the revamped 2019 Davis Cup Finals in Madrid, adding star power in a year that will test the recent decision of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to radically alter the 119-year-old competition. Not everyone is happy with the changes.
Andy Murray and Djokovic are among the stars to have reacted positively to the creation of an annual season-ending event, which will have a total purse of US $20 million. In contrast, Tennis Australia said it was “extremely disappointed with the radical changes,” and French legend Yannick Noah accused the ITF of selling the soul of the Davis Cup.

The new finals format will see 18 teams heading to Madrid in November for a tournament that has been converted into a World Cup-style event, with a group stage and knockouts played over one week. The new format will have the usual five sets reduced to three.

In the expiring format, national teams played five best-of-five-sets matches in four weeks spread over a stretch of months at sites around the world.

The ITF announced in September that the new format will also see the creation of a Davis Cup World Group I and World Group II immediately below the top tier of the competition, replacing the regional Group I and Group II ties currently being played in the Americas, Asia/Oceania and Europe/Africa. As part of these changes, the ITF will introduce an additional play-off round for both World Group I and World Group II that will be held alongside the Davis Cup Qualifiers in Mar 2020.

Founded in 1900, the Davis Cup has suffered in recent years because so many top players have opted out of playing the three-day ties during the regular season.

Croatia clinched a 3-1 victory over France in 2018 in the last outing of the Davis Cup’s traditional format. #23281 Published: 09/27/2019

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19 Nov
2019

The Prado art gallery turns 200 – unshackled

SPAIN (WNF) - The Museo del Prado turns 200 as a top tourist magnet for Madrid and with long-awaited freedom to choose its own path. One of Spain’s national museums, it is marking the bicentenary with an ambitious redevelopment project and special exhibitions of its prized works.
The Prado opened in 1819 as a gallery to exhibit the collection of Ferdinand VII, a monarch who possessed the best art from the European countries over which Spain once reigned.

Political headwinds buffeted the museum until a law was passed in 2003 that gave it substantial autonomy. In an interview with Art Newspaper about the bicentenary, Prado Director Miguel Falomir Faus explained that at one time directors came and went with each political quarrel. “The Prado was sometimes a weapon,” he explained, “used by one political party against the other.”

He credits former director Miguel Zugaza with shepherding the Prado’s transformation from a sleepy museum with a rich Old Master collection, an uninspired exhibition program and a shabby building into what has become a vibrant place that welcomes millions of visitors each year.

“It had a tiny, tiny education department,” Falomir recalls, and “most of the time the shows were ‘Velázquez, Goya and El Greco’ and then ‘El Greco, Goya and Velázquez.’”

A major redevelopment project is aimed at extending the transformation. The British architect Sir Norman Foster is designing the €45m refurbishment of the the Salón de Reinos (Hall of Realms), which was once part of the royal palace complex and more recently Spain’s Museum of the Army. Government financing, fundraising and ticket sales are paying for the project.

In imperial-era Spain, the Hall of Realms displayed large history paintings, which included The Surrender of Breda by Velázquez and royal equestrian portraits. Many of these pictures will return to the redeveloped spaces, alongside great works now in storage. #23062 Published: 04/01/2019

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19 Nov
2019

Pope Francis makes fourth visit to Asia

THAILAND & JAPAN (WNF) - Pope Francis visits Asia with an agenda that bridges activism and his interfaith mission. He is expected to speak out against poverty and human trafficking during the Thai visit, and reiterate his opposition to nuclear weapons in Japan. The Pope called for a nuclear weapons ban in his 2015 speech to the United Nations General Assembly.
His other Asian visits took him to South Korea in 2014, Sri Lanka and the Philippines in 2015, and Myanmar and Bangladesh in 2017.

In Bangkok he will meet King Maha Vajiralongkorn at Amphorn Royal Palace and government figures and religious leaders who include Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and the Supreme Buddhist Patriarch. Meetings with Catholic leaders and young people are on his itinerary, and there will be a Mass in the National Stadium.

In Japan, his route takes in Tokyo, then the cities destroyed by United States atom bombs at the end of World War II, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A meeting with victims of the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster in 2011, which followed a magnitude-9 earthquake and catastrophic tsunami in March 2011, is included on his itinerary. #23288 Published: 10/07/2019

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20 Nov
2019

Shinzo Abe becomes longest-serving Japanese prime minister

JAPAN (WNF) - Shinzo Abe surpasses Katsura Tarō as the longest-serving prime minister in the history of Japan’s constitutional government, but he reaches the milestone with a setback. His Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) coalition lost its supermajority in the Upper House election of Jul 21, a loss of ground that weakens Abe’s position and sets back his long-held quest to revise the country’s pacifist constitution.
Abe, a member of a prominent political family, won a seat in the lower house of the Diet (parliament) in 1993, and was named secretary general of the LDP in 2003. In 2006 he became the country’s first prime minister to have been born after World War II and its youngest since the war when he succeeded Koizumi Junichiro, who had reached a term limit. He lost his job after an LDP electoral defeat in the upper house in 2007 Upper House, then regained it in Dec 2012 following the landslide victory of the LDP in Lower House elections. #23044 Updated: 10/06/2019 UPDATED OCT 5 TO REFLECT JULY ELECTION RESULTS

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22 Nov
2019

Renowned novelist George Eliot born 200 years ago

UNITED KINGDOM (GN) - George Eliot, one of Britain’s most renowned novelists, was born on this date 200 years ago. The author of Middlemarch, described by Virginia Woolf as “one of the few English novels written for grown-up people”, threw herself into the political, theological and philosophical life of the Victorian era, and scandalised society by living out of wedlock.
Born Mary Ann Evans on Nov 22, 1819, Eliot embarked on her writing career at the relatively mature age of 32, working for the Westminster Review, a radical London periodical. In 1859, her first novel, Adam Bede, was published to critical acclaim and she went on to produce a further six further titles, including The Mill on the Floss (1860) and her most famous work, Middlemarch, which was published in eight installments between 1871–72. Her books were celebrated for their realism and insights into the messy complexity of human relationships.

Mary Ann, also known as Marian, adopted the male pseudonym “George Eliot” to retain her anonymity. From 1853 she was romantically involved with a married man, the writer George Henry Lewes, and although he was separated from his wife, their relationship was regarded as improper. Eliot was also sensitive about her physical appearance, her long, pale face having been described as “horse-like”. Her pen-name allowed her novels to be judged on their own merits, rather than focusing attention on both her awkward social position and unconventional looks.

Lewes died in 1878 and in May 1880 Mary Ann married John Cross, 20 years her junior, finally becoming a respectable married woman at the age of 61. But the marriage was short-lived – she became ill within months and died on Dec 22 of the same year.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, George Eliot was extremely wary of being photographed, but the National Portrait Gallery in London holds most of the few known images of her, five of which are included in an exhibition marking the bicentenary of her birth. #23290 Published: 10/16/2019

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22 Nov
2019

G20 foreign ministers deaf to key issues for host Japan?

JAPAN (WNF) - The meeting of G20 foreign ministers in Nagoya City closes out Japan’s year at the helm of a forum that can’t move the needle on several key issues for the host country. They include nuclear disarmament: Japan is the only country that has experienced a nuclear attack.
The helm passes to Saudi Arabia after the meeting.

Japanese Foreign Minister Tarō Kōno led his speech to counterparts at their meeting in Buenos Aires in 2018 by stressing the necessity of maintaining and strengthening the international nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime centered on the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons) and the early entry into force of the CTBT (Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty).

The NPT is holding, but its future isn’t clear because of the recent withdrawal of the United States from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia. Foreign Policy magazine points out that before the United States killed it, the INF Treaty didn’t just stem the arms race with Russia – it stopped the spread of nuclear weapons around the world. The CTBT, meanwhile, appears no closer to ratification by the United States and other holdouts.

The Japanese foreign minister is also likely to press for multilateralism, one of several themes in his speech in Buenos Aires, and for the reform of the United Nations Security Council. He charges that the body does not reflect the realities of the international community.

The speech also stressed the need “to take multilateral initiatives in the areas of licit and regulated trade in conventional arms, combating corruption, cyber and climate change.”

The ministers can also be expected to take up the implications of Britain’s painful efforts to exit the European Union, the rise of populism and the apparent trend of the United States toward isolationism.

The G20 is made up of 19 countries and the European Union. The 19 countries are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. #23064 Published: 04/01/2019

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23 Nov
2019

Mainland China boycotts Taipei’s 2019 Golden Horse Awards Ceremony

TAIWAN (WNF) - The annual Golden Horse Awards Ceremony in Taipei, which honors Chinese-language cinema, opens in 2019 without films and talent from mainland China. Chinese authorities ordered a boycott because of an award-winner’s speech in 2018 that advocated Taiwanese independence. The boycott also aims to add pressure from the mainland ahead of Taiwan’s election.
China’s own Golden Rooster Awards will take place on the same day, Nov 23, in Xiamen, directly across the Taiwan Strait.

China considers self-governing Taiwan as part of its rightful territory, and the awards speech by 2018 documentary award winner Fu Yue in favor of Taiwanese independence upset Beijing. The National Film Administration ordered the ban on Chinese participation in August. Tensions between Beijing and Taipei have also increased since pro-independence Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen became the front runner in the 2020 election.

There have been unconfirmed reports that any films taking part in this year’s awards will be barred from release in mainland China and that stars attending the event will be placed on a mainland blacklist.

Beijing has increased economic pressure on the island ahead of the election, announcing it would stop issuing individual travel permits for Taiwan to Chinese travellers. Taiwan’s tourism industry will take a significant hit from the move.

Variety reports that while Hong Kong is not directly a part of the tussle between the People’s Republic and Taiwan, its own political unrest of the past three months has made the Golden Horse Awards another source of friction. The magazine notes that numerous Hong Kong stars and films have withdrawn from the 2019 Taipei event.

In normal years the Golden Horse Awards welcome annual entries from Taiwan, Hong Kong, China and other Chinese speaking areas. The nominations and results of 23 awards are decided by a group of jurors consisting of film professionals; their deliberations take place after they view every single film. Apart from the official awards, there is also an Audience Choice Award and a Fipresci Award. The Lifetime Achievement Award and Special Contribution Award are recommended by film societies and decided by the Executive Committee of the Festival. #23285 Published: 09/27/2019

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23 Nov
2019

Vote on Bougainville sovereignty a path to peace?

PAPUA NEW GUINEA (WNF) - The referendum to decide whether the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (ABG) should become a sovereign entity will be held between Nov 23 and Dec 7. It could result in the island cutting the last ties with the national Papua New Guinea (PNG) government. Bougainville Island’s mineral wealth has fuelled civil strife that predates PNG independence on Sep 16, 1975.
The vote has been delayed twice in 2019, with the need to create a more credible electoral roll being given as a reason for the delay. Reuters reports that more than 202,000 people are now enrolled to vote in the referendum. According to the news service, the outcome of the referendum, which analysts expect to support independence, will be subject to ratification by PNG’s parliament.

The referendum is a primary requirement of the 2001 peace agreement brokered by New Zealand, which ended a full civil war dating from the 1980s. Reuters reports that Bougainville Island was roiled in that period by a campaign of sabotage by landowners angry about the distribution of benefits from the giant Panguna copper mine. The mine has remained closed since then, according to the news service, with Rio Tinto relinquishing ownership last year. Mining elsewhere on the island has been banned since the 1970s due to concerns over revenue-sharing and potential environmental damage.

In Apr 2018 Bougainville President John Momis appealed for unity ahead of the referendum.

Radio New Zealand reported in Sep 2017 that tensions are rising again with the national government and within the ABG. The PNG government has accused Bougainville of being slow to meet the terms of the peace agreement, and the island accused Port Moresby of holding back on the resources it needs to meet its obligations to the pact. #22900 Updated: 10/06/2019 UPDATED 6 OCT TO REFLECT NEW DATES AND PREVIOUS DELAYS

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25 Nov
2019

ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit to include North Korean leader?

SOUTH KOREA (WNF) - South Korea hosts leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for a summit that celebrates the 30th anniversary of Seoul’s relations with the bloc and spotlights South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s outreach to North Korea and to the ASEAN 10. The North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, might join the gathering.
Regardless of whether the North Korean leader attends, the summit offers the South Korean president a chance to burnish his credentials as a regional leader. He has visited all 10 ASEAN countries – Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam – in pursuit of his signature New Southern Policy, which was initiated to diversify the country’s diplomatic and economic ties.

South Korea is a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum, which consists of the 10 ASEAN states and 17 others that include Russia, the United States, Australia and Canada.

According to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, sources at the presidential Blue House expressed optimism about a Kim visit to the South despite a lack of inter-Korea dialogue in recent months. If Kim visits Seoul, he would be the first North Korean leader to cross the Demilitarization Zone (DMZ) since the war ended in 1953.

The South Korean president said in Nov 2018 that when the leaders met two months earlier in Pyongyang the North Korean leader had told him he would visit Seoul within the year. Analysts have described Moon’s statement as evidence of his determination to push ahead with diplomacy to resolve the nuclear issue with the North. He has facilitated a series of high-level United States-North Korea exchanges, including the meeting of U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim at the DMZ in Jun 2019.

Moon has faced growing outside skepticism over whether his engagement policy will eventually settle the nuclear standoff. Many conservatives in South Korea and the United States say North Korea has no intention of fully giving up its nuclear program and only wants to buy time to perfect its weapons. #23287 Published: 10/07/2019

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