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23 Aug

Angola votes without President Jose Eduardo dos Santos in contention

ANGOLA (WNF) - The election for the 220-seat National Assembly will test whether Angola can open up to democracy without igniting another civil war. The winning party chooses the president, who doubles as head of the government, and for the first time in 38 years that choice won’t be Jose Eduardo dos Santos.
He has announced he won’t stand for election, but remains head of the ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). The party is on track to win another term in government.

Oil-producing Angola has been hit hard by falling global crude prices, which opens the way to unrest. Reuters observes that most of the country’s 22 million people live in grinding poverty and they have become increasingly frustrated in recent years as low crude prices hammered growth. The situation might spur a bolder attempt from the opposition to break the MPLA stranglehold on power in the country’s fourth election since independence in 1975. MPLA dominates the political arena, having won in 1992, 2008 and 2012 with a parliamentary majority. The election will test the ruling party’s willingness to tolerate any serious challenge to its power.

The MPLA fought a 27-year-civil war against the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). Up to 1.5 million lives may have been lost - and 4 million people displaced - during a quarter century of fighting. The death of UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi in 2002 ended UNITA’s insurgency and cemented the MPLA's hold on power. UNITA is now the main opposition party, but holds only 32 parliamentary seats against 175 for the MPLA. The Broad Convergence for the Salvation of Angola (CASA-CE) and two small parties hold the remaining seats.

The MPLA has chosen Defence Minister Joao Lourenco as its presidential candidate. Its main rival is UNITA, which has chosen Isaias Ngola Samakuva as its candidate. Abel Epalanga Chivukuvuku is the CASE-CE candidate. #22175 Published: 05/22/2017

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25 Aug

Finland sets the table for feast marking 100 days until 100th birthday

FINLAND (WNF) - The Let’s Eat Together festival, aimed at changing Finland’s eating habits, starts the 100-day countdown to the 100th anniversary of the country’s independence from Russia on Dec 6, 2017.
The idea for the event, billed as the world’s largest village festival, grew from the realization that Finns eat together more rarely than other citizens of member countries of the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development). The festival web explains that half of Finns don’t go visiting each other, and friends or relatives are invited over only a few times each year. “At work, 25 per cent of us have their lunch or coffee break in solitude. We’re always busy – at school, at work and at home. Still, nearly all of us wish for more chances for eating.”

Hundreds of big names in the food sector throughout the country have responded to the appeal to set the country right on eating. Special village festivals will be held in national parks, in the open air, in garrisons, in schools and in restaurants.

Events that bring people together will be organized for the 6th day of each month until Independence Day. #21933 Published: 11/23/2016

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26 Aug

Big-money Mayweather-McGregor bout set for Las Vegas View graphic

UNITED STATES (WNF) - Undefeated boxer Floyd Mayweather and mixed martial arts champion Conor McGregor come to blows in Las Vegas, Nevada, in a bout hailed as the “biggest fight ever.”
Ahead of the fight they are trading jabs and insults on a promotional tour.

Britain’s Telegraph reports that the event is expected to generate more than half a billion dollars. It has every chance of breaking the pay per view record of 4.5 million buys, set when Mayweather met Manny Pacquiao in May 2015, according to the newspaper.

Mayweather is coming out of retirement for the fight – at 40 – with a boxing record of 49 wins and no losses. McGregor, a two-weight world champion with the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) has not boxed competitively since the age of 16, and he turns 29 shortly before the Nevada bout. The Telegraph reports that he has to get a boxing license in order to fight in Nevada.

The Nevada bout has became a major sporting fixture for oddsmakers. They made Mayweather an 11-1 favorite because the fight will take place in a boxing ring and be governed by boxing rules, with the weight set at 154 pounds. However, a significant number of bets backing a McGregor win suggest that many enthusiasts don’t see him as the underdog. #22226 Published: 06/29/2017

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27 Aug

China’s quadrennial National Games a winner or a loser?

CHINA (WNF) - The organisers promise innovation at the 13th National Games in Tianjin. Reports following the 12th Games suggest that innovation won’t fix the quadrennial event, which rivals the Olympics in scale.
China is a dominant presence at the Olympic Games, and the National Games serves as a proving ground for Olympic contenders. Reporting on the Rio Olympics in 2016, the BBC noted that Chinese athletes have won more than 200 Olympic gold medals since returning to the Games in 1984.

The promised innovation for Tianjin comes in the form of a "sports feast of mass participation.” Some 7,000 “ordinary people” will be able to compete with professional athletes in 126 competitions in 19 sports, according to the organisers. Under the theme of Benefiting People, Healthy China, they have designated dragon boat, skateboard and rock climbing among the mass sports events. They report that construction of competition venues is going smoothly, with the construction of the 81 buildings finished by the end of May.

Everything in the official description of the Tianjin event suggests it will be bigger than ever, but its over-reaching ambition is one of the criticisms levelled against the Games in a 2013 editorial in the South China Morning Post. The 2013 National Games had three more events and almost as many athletes as the Olympics, but the two sporting occasions differ in direction, according to the editorial. “While the Olympic charter speaks of promoting friendly competition, gamesmanship and fitness, the Chinese equivalent has strayed from its original purpose - so far that it should either be reformed or scrapped.”

The editorial observes that the Games, launched in 1959 with the aim of getting the nation healthy through sport, have evolved into an extravaganza of spending excess, one-upmanship and unfairness since the late 1980s. A win-at-all-costs attitude has led to “bad sportsmanship, allegedly biased refereeing and cheating,” it adds.

China Daily and other publications cite scandals and incidents that illustrate the arguments in the editorial.

A report from a People’s Daily article in 2015, cited by Britain’s Daily Mail, points to extravagance and excess spending. The huge urban centre built in Shenyang to hold the 2013 National Games for 13 days is now a ghost town, the article says. Planners decided to build an entire infrastructure of businesses and homes around the event, and instead of being transformed into a thriving boom town after the Games, the area was abandoned.

The forerunner of the Games was the Chinese National Games, first held in 1910 during the Qing Dynasty. This ran until 1948 and the competition was re-launched under its current name in 1959, following the formation of the People's Republic of China. #22161 Published: 05/12/2017

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30 Aug

New Queensferry Crossing opens after delays View graphic

UNITED KINGDOM (GN) - When the record-breaking Queensferry Crossing in Scotland opens after several delays, it will carry the M90 motorway across the Firth of Forth.
The 1.7-mile (2.7km) structure will be the longest three-tower, cable-stayed bridge in the world and also the largest to feature cables which cross mid-span. It forms part of the east coast transport corridor and runs alongside the venerable Forth Rail Bridge and Forth Road Bridge, which will be dedicated to public transport, cycling and walking.

The completion date for the structure was postponed from December to May, and then to July or August. The contractors blamed the delays on adverse weather conditions.

In total, the overall Forth Replacement Crossing scheme is 13.7 miles (22km) long, including major motorway upgrades to the north and south of the bridge and also the first ever use in Scotland of variable mandatory speed limits to smooth traffic congestion via an Intelligent Transport System.

Over 23 million vehicles per year use the Forth Road Bridge. Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, is situated south of the Firth of Forth. #22187 Published: 06/12/2017

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30 Aug

Iranians to return to Hajj after dispute settled

SAUDI ARABIA (WNF) - After a one-year absence, tens of thousands of Iranians will be among the 2 million pilgrims at Mecca for the annual Hajj. Riyadh and Tehran have settled their dispute over security and logistics that kept Iranian pilgrims away in 2016.
In 2015 a stampede at Islam’s holiest site that left 464 Iranians dead, killing more than 2,000 pilgrims in total. The accident, which Iran blamed on the incompetence of the Hajj organizers, precipitated the dispute.

Politics added heat to the argument. Riyadh and Tehran have no diplomatic relations, and Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia repeatedly accuses Iran of supporting armed Shia movements in the region. Al-Jazeera notes that Iran boycotted the Hajj for three years between 1988 and 1990 after clashes between Iranian pilgrims and Saudi police in 1987 left some 400 people dead.

Mecca is no stranger to tragedies. A crane toppled into the Grand Mosque days before the 2015 stampede, leaving 107 people dead and injuring many more. In 2006, a stampede killed at least 363 people. That incident, like others, happened during a ritual in which the pilgrims stone a symbolic devil. Hundreds were killed in stampedes in 2004 and 1998, and 1,426 died in 1990.

There are also worries every year about violence and epidemics: the massive crowd is an attractive target for militants and an efficient medium for spreading viruses.

To avoid new tragedies and increase security, Saudi Arabia is issuing pilgrims with electronic bracelets, using more surveillance cameras at the shrine and tightening crowd control. The Grand Mosque has been enlarged to improve the flow of people. Saudi Civil Defense authorities will provide security during rites, deploying some 17,000 officers.

The Hajj occurs two months and 10 days after Ramadan ends, during the Islamic month of Dhul-Hijjah. Islam requires every Muslim who is physically and financially able, to make the journey to Mecca at least once in his or her life. #22113 Published: 03/23/2017

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30 Aug

74th Venice Film Festival a prompt for retrospective of 1932 classics

ITALY (WNF) - The Venice International Film Festival started 85 years ago. It survived a few missing years and the early taint of Fascism to become one of the top events of its kind. Screenings for the 74th festival take place at the historic Palazzo del Cinema on the Lungomare Marconi.
They will be followed by the award ceremonies on the final night. American actress Annette Bening chairs the jury that will choose the winners of the Golden Lion for Best Film, Silver Lion for the Grand Jury Prize, Silver Lion for Best Director and the Best Actor and Best Actress awards.

The opening of the then-called 1st International Film Festival of the Art Biennial preceded the period when it was interrupted for several years and co-opted for political purposes. The line-up of films and stars introduced dazzle at a level seldom seen since. The first film in the festival, screened on Aug 6, 1932, was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Rouben Mamoulian. Some of the greatest stars of the pre-war era were present, including Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Fredric March, Wallace Beery, Norma Shearer, James Cagney, Ronald Colman, Loretta Young, John Barrymore, and Joan Crawford, not forgetting Italian idol Vittorio De Sica and the great Boris Karloff, remembered for his role as the monster in the first Frankenstein.

The 85th anniversary of the event recognized as the world’s first film festival invites a retrospective of the 1932 classics. They included: Forbidden, by American director Frank Capra; Grand Hotel, by Edmund Goulding; The Champ, by King Vidor, and the first and unmatched Frankenstein, by James Whale. #22234 Published: 07/07/2017

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