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25 May
2018

Han Solo the star in the new Star Wars spinoff View graphic

UNITED STATES (WNF) - Lucasfilm releases Solo: A Star Wars Story, a spinoff about Han Solo from the 40-year-old original. The film about the irreverent smuggler captain of the Millennium Falcon had a rough start.
The film will premiere in a special screening at the Cannes Film Festival ahead of its global premiere.

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Ron Howard was called in to direct the film after the previous team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller was fired. In June Variety Magazine reported that the duo were seen as overstepping their remit by going off-script with comedic touches.

Production began on Feb 20 at Pinewood Studios in London. American actor Alden Ehrenreich plays a young Han Solo, reprising the role that made Harrison Ford a superstar. Joonas Suotamod plays Han’s Wookie friend, Chewbacca. Other stars are Donald Glover, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Thandie Newton, Michael K. Williams and Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

Howard has made some of the biggest hits and most critically-acclaimed movies of the modern era. Among his many films are Lucasfilm’s Willow, Apollo 13, and A Beautiful Mind (winner of four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director). He remains a TV icon for his roles in The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days. #22230 Published: 06/29/2017

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25 May
2018

Irish Republic holds vote on loosening its strict abortion laws

IRISH REPUBLIC (WNF) - The Irish government holds a referendum on repealing the country’s Eighth Amendment, which gives equal rights to a pregnant woman and an unborn child.
The public will decide if abortion should be legalized “in almost all cases.” If Ireland votes in favour of repeal, the government has said it will introduce legislation permitting unrestricted abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

New rules came into effect in 2013 under Ireland’s Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act. It allows abortion when there is a real and substantial risk to a woman’s life, but the ban remains in place for cases of rape, incest, inevitable miscarriage and fatal fetal abnormality.

Britain’s Independent notes that Ireland has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe. The Eighth Amendment became law at a time when contraception was also illegal in Ireland, according to the newspaper.

A woman convicted of having an illegal abortion faces up to 14 years in jail. Women are allowed to travel abroad for terminations.

Irish cities have seen regular demonstrations both for and against repealing the amendment in the majority Catholic country. #22322 Updated: 03/31/2018 UPDATE MAR 31 TO SHOW FIRM DATE

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25 May
2018

European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation in force

EUROPEAN UNION (WNF) - A new privacy law called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force. It aims to give EU citizens control over their personal data and to simplify the regulatory environment for international business.
The New York Times describes the GDPR, which replaces the 1995 EU Data Protection Directive, as the most significant piece of European data protection legislation in 20 years.

GDPR standardizes data protection law across all 28 EU countries and imposes strict new rules on controlling and processing personally identifiable information (PII).

GDPR applies to all organizations holding and processing EU residents’ personal data, regardless of geographic location. Data giants Facebook and Google, which have European users, have committed to compliance.

Regulation of the same kind might spread to the United States in the aftermath of a Facebook scandal. Recent revelations that Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm used by President Donald Trump’s campaign before the 2016 election, secretly harvested personal data from millions of Facebook users have focused extreme attention on the need for data protection. The U.S. Congress is considering controls on how data can be used.

Bruce Shapiro, writing in March in The Nation, noted that the tech industry “is built on the idea that an individual’s data is a commodity to be mined, without regulation, like bauxite or titanium.” He believes the Cambridge Analytica crisis may have finally put an end to that school of thought. #22585 Published: 04/10/2018

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26 May
2018

Alfred Nobel patented dynamite 150 years ago

UNITED STATES (WNF) - Alfred Nobel, a man once dubbed the Merchant of Death, patented dynamite 150 years ago. His bequest, which founded the prestigious Nobel Prizes, might be seen as a penitential gesture.
A Swedish chemist and businessman, Nobel went on to patent another explosive, gelignite, which became widely used by both armies and terrorists. He owned the arms company Bofors and many others.

When his brother Ludvig died, in 1888, according to Foreign Policy, one newspaper mistook him for the more famous Alfred, and published an obituary under the headline: “The merchant of death is dead.” Mortified, the scientist left his fortune to found the Nobel Prizes, which were and remain the richest awards in the world. The magazine observes that perhaps he thought the gesture would do something to atone for the massive carnage and destruction that his inventions had already caused by the time of his death in 1896.

Both the invention – patent no. 78,817, May 26, 1868, for an “Improved Explosive Compound” – and the Nobel Prizes have succeeded on a monumental scale. Other inventors picked up where Nobel left off, patenting ever-more lethal explosives. His invention didn’t cause the wars and terrorism of the subsequent 150 years, but it has contributed to their deadliness.

The Nobel Prizes, meanwhile, have increased in stature since they began on Dec 5, 1901, the fifth anniversary of Nobel’s death. Winners of the international award receive an 18-karat gold medal and a check of nearly US $1 million. If one prize has multiple winners, the cash reward is split. #22332 Published: 10/09/2017

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26 May
2018

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa at 100 days – can he deliver?

SOUTH AFRICA (WNF) - President Cyril Ramaphosa marks 100 days in office. Elected by ruling party legislators on Feb 15, he promised a “new dawn” for South Africa following the forced resignation over corruption charges of his predecessor, Jacob Zuma.
According to News24, Ramaphosa has invited opposition parties, the media and the public to hold him accountable to the commitments he makes. The South African publication plans to take him at his word, and promises to use the Cyril100.site “to track every kept and broken promise, to hold the president to his word” and to keep readers updated on his performance.

Ramaphosa’s first task is cleaning up the reputation of his scandal-plagued African National Congress (ANC), which has ruled since the end of apartheid. He has promised to fight rampant corruption and revitalize the economy, a message hailed by foreign investors.

A veteran trade unionist and businessman, Ramaphosa has to tackle near-record levels of unemployment and political instability severe enough to prompt credit rating agencies to cut South Africa to “junk.”

He was elected ANC party leader in Dec 2017 in a close vote against Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a former cabinet minister and Zuma’s ex-wife. Reuters pointed out when he was elected that the party once led by Nelson Mandela is now deeply divided.

The 65-year-old union leader who became a businessman and is now one of South Africa’s richest people is likely to retain the presidency after elections in 2019. Dlamini-Zuma is expected to be his main opponent. #22584 Published: 04/10/2018

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27 May
2018

French Open sees Rafael Nadal bidding for 11th championship

FRANCE (WNF) - Rafael Nadal will be playing for his 11th French Open Championship and Serena Williams for her fourth at Roland Garros in Paris. The clay court venue is undergoing upgrades for its 90th birthday.
Nadal’s chance of winning an 11th title received a boost when Roger Federer withdrew from this year’s event.

Williams’ break from competition tennis for motherhood might be a handicap. If she is back on form, she is likely to represent a formidable challenge to the league of young women players who have made their mark during her absence.

The defending women’s champion is Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko, who entered the 2017 tournament as an unseeded player. Ahead of the 2018 contest, she has moved up to No. 5 in the Women's Tennis Association rankings.

The upgrades at Roland Garros, timed for the 90th birthday, include more seating for the fans and more prize money for the players. French Open organizers have confirmed the overall prize fund will be €39,197,00 (US $48,127,645) for 2018. The most significant increases are in the qualifying rounds and first rounds but there is a 4.6 per cent rise from 2017 on the sum the winner takes home.

Roland Garros, the venue, was inaugurated in 1928 for a David Cup rematch. The previous year, four French tennis champions, Jacques Brugnon, Jean Borotra, Henri Cochet and Rene Lacoste, had defied the odds to win the 1927 Davis Cup on American soil. It is named after Roland Garros, a French aviator and war hero. #22580 Published: 04/05/2018

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29 May
2018

Starbucks closes all U.S. stores for afternoon of racial-bias training for staff

UNITED STATES (WNF) - Starbucks plans to close all its coffee shops and corporate offices in the country on the afternoon of May 29 to conduct racial-bias training for employees, a plan triggered by the controversial arrest of two African-American men at one of the chain’s locations in Philadelphia.
Staff at the shop called the police when the men, who had bought nothing, asked to use the restrooms. Despite explaining that they were waiting for a friend, the men were arrested. The friend arrived later.

The incident was recorded and spread across the Internet, with calls for a boycott of the coffee chain.

Starbucks' executive chairman Howard Schultz has apologized to the men, and announced plans to provide anti-bias training for his work force. The New York Times observes that the training will test whether training can eliminate biases. #22588 Published: 04/19/2018

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30 May
2018

St. Isaac’s cathedral a bone of contention between locals and Orthodox Church

RUSSIA (WNF) - Vast St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg will turn 160 in May as a fully functioning Orthodox Church – unless locals win the fight to preserve it as a museum.
Above-ground construction of the immense, golden-domed cathedral, which dominates the skyline of historic St. Petersburg, began in 1818. French-born Auguste Montferrand designed it to accommodate 14,000 standing worshipers and to be one of the most impressive landmarks of the Russian Imperial capital. It was consecrated on May 30, 1858, then converted to a museum in Soviet times. Now a UNESCO heritage site, it is a main tourist attraction that brings in some 4 million paying visitors per year. Church services are held at St. Isaac’s on major ecclesiastical occasions.

Locals, who have been holding demonstrations to protest against the plan to restore St. Isaac’s to church ownership, are reported to be driven by fears that access will be limited if it is fully restored to religious use.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that an online petition opposing the move has garnered more than 200,000 signatures, and the heads of major Russian museums such as the Kremlin and the Hermitage have publicly begged the church to calm public unease by withdrawing the request for its return.

Reuters notes that faith runs deep in Russia after the fall of the officially atheist Soviet Union. Putin has looked to the largest religion in Russia for support since he began his third term as president after a wave of protests against his rule. He is reported to be restoring churches and monasteries expropriated during the years of official hostility to religion. #22278 Published: 08/11/2017

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