Archive Month: May 2022

Ray Liotta, the actor best known for playing mobster Henry Hill in “Goodfellas” and baseball player Shoeless Joe Jackson in “Field of Dreams,” has died. He was 67.

A source at the Dominican Republic’s National Forensic Science Institute who was not authorized to speak to the media confirmed the death of Ray Liotta and said his body was taken to the Cristo Redentor morgue. The Hollywood Reporter and NBC News cited representatives for Liotta who said he died in his sleep Wednesday night. He was in the Dominican Republic to film a new movie.

The Newark, New Jersey, native was born in 1954 and adopted at age six months out of an orphanage by a township clerk and an auto parts owner. Though he mostly grew up playing sports, including baseball, during his senior year of high school, the drama teacher at the school asked him if he wanted to be in a play, which he agreed to on a lark. And it stuck: He’d go on to study acting at the University of Miami. After graduation, he got his first big break on the soap opera “Another World.”

Liotta’s first big film role was in Jonathan Demme’s “Something Wild” as Melanie Griffith’s character’s hotheaded ex-convict husband Ray. The turn earned him a Golden Globe nomination. A few years later, he would get the memorable role of the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson in “Field of Dreams.”

His most iconic role, as real life mobster Henry Hill in Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” came shortly after. He, and Scorsese, had to fight for it though, with multiple auditions and pleas to the studio to cast the still relative unknown.

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British prosecutors said Thursday they have charged actor Kevin Spacey with four counts of sexual assault against three men. 

The Crown Prosecution Service said Spacey “has also been charged with causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent.” 

The alleged incidents took place in London between March 2005 and August 2008, and one in western England in April 2013. The alleged victims are now in their 30s and 40s. 

Rosemary Ainslie, head of the service’s Special Crime Division, said the charges follow a review of evidence gathered by London’s Metropolitan Police. 

Spacey, a 62-year-old double Academy Award winner, was questioned by British police in 2019 about claims by several men that he had assaulted them. The former “House of Cards” star ran London’s Old Vic Theatre between 2004 and 2015. 

Spacey won a best supporting actor Academy Award for the 1995 film “The Usual Suspects” and a lead actor Oscar for the 1999 movie “American Beauty.” 

His celebrated career came to an abrupt halt in 2017 when actor Anthony Rapp accused the star of assaulting him at a party in the 1980s, when Rapp was a teenager. Spacey denies the allegations. 

The charges were announced as Spacey was testifying in a courtroom in New York City in the civil lawsuit filed by Rapp. He was on the witness stand Thursday and not immediately available for comment. 

A criminal case brought against him, an indecent assault and battery charge stemming from the alleged groping of an 18-year-old man at a Nantucket resort, was dismissed by Massachusetts prosecutors in 2019. 


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K-pop superstars BTS will head to the White House next week to address hate crimes targeting Asians and people of Asian descent with U.S. President Joe Biden, the White House said in a statement on Thursday.

Biden would host the global phenomenon musical group on Tuesday and would “discuss Asian inclusion and representation, and to address anti-Asian hate crimes and discrimination which have become more prominent issues in recent years,” it said.

The seven members of the South Korean boy band are known for their upbeat songs and dances and have built a loyal global fan base, winning the IFPI Global Recording Artist of the Year crown in February for the second straight year.  

The meeting comes as May’s recognition of Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) month comes to a close amid a sharp upswing in hate crimes against Asian Americans in the past year. Attacks against people of Asian descent have escalated as some politicians and pundits have encouraged Americans to blame China for COVID-19, amid other tensions.

Just this month, a man was charged with allegedly shooting three women of Asian descent at a hair salon in Dallas, while another man in California was accused of killing one person and wounding five others in a shooting at a Taiwanese-American church. Authorities are investigating both incidents as potential hate crimes.

The K-pop stars are also known for using their lyrics and social campaigns aimed at empowering youngsters since debuting in 2013.

“Biden and BTS will also discuss the importance of diversity and inclusion and BTS’ platform as youth ambassadors who spread a message of hope and positivity across the world,” the White House said in its statement.

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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine appears to be having an unanticipated impact in cyberspace — a decrease in the number of ransomware attacks. 

“We have seen a recent decline since the Ukrainian invasion,” Rob Joyce, the U.S. National Security Agency’s director of cybersecurity, told a virtual forum Wednesday. 

Joyce said one reason for the decrease in ransomware attacks since the February 24 invasion is likely improved awareness and defensive measures by U.S. businesses. 

He also said some of it is tied to measures the United States and its Western allies have taken against Moscow in response to the war in Ukraine. 

“We’ve definitively seen the criminal actors in Russia complain that the functions of sanctions and the distance of their ability to use credit cards and other payment methods to get Western infrastructure to run these [ransomware] attacks have become much more difficult,” Joyce told The Cipher Brief’s Cyber Initiatives Group. 

“We’ve seen that have an impact on their [Russia’s] operations,” he added. “It’s driving the trend down a little bit.” 

Just days after Russian forces entered Ukraine, U.S. cybersecurity officials renewed their “Shields Up” awareness campaign, encouraging companies to take additional security precautions to protect against potential cyberattacks by Russia itself or by criminal hackers working on Moscow’s behalf. 



And those officials caution Russia still has the capability to inflict more damage in cyberspace. 

“Russia is continuing to explore options for potential cyberattacks,” the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s Matthew Hartman told a meeting of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last week. 

“We are seeing glimpses into targeting and into access development,” Hartman said, noting Russia has for now held back from launching any major cyberattacks against the West. “We do not know at what point a calculus may change.” 

FBI cyber officials have likewise voiced concern that it could be a matter of time before the Kremlin authorizes cyberattacks targeting U.S. critical infrastructure, including against the energy, finance and telecommunication sectors. 



U.S. and NATO officials on Wednesday also cautioned that it would be a mistake to think that just because there have been few signs of “catastrophic effects” that Russia has not tried to leverage its cyber capabilities to its advantage. 

“It has been happening and it’s still happening,” said Stefanie Metka, head of the Cyber Threat Analysis Branch at NATO. “There’s a lot of cyber activity that’s happening all the time and probably we won’t know the full extent of it until we turn the computers back on.”  

Said the NSA’s Joyce: “If you look at Ukraine, they have been heavily targeted. What we’ve seen are a number of wiper viruses, seven or eight different or unique wiper viruses that have been thrown into the ecosystem of Ukraine and its near abroad.” Wiper viruses are viruses that erase a computer’s memory.

These included a cyberattack against a satellite communications company, which hampered the ability of Ukraine’s military to communicate and had spillover effects across Europe. 


But with help from the U.S. and other allies, Ukraine was able to mitigate the impact, Joyce said. 

“The Ukrainians have been under threat and under pressure for a number of years, and so they have continued to adapt and improve and develop their tradecraft to the point where they mount a good defense and, equally as important, they mount a great incident response,” he said.  

Some cybersecurity experts say that ability to respond might be one of the biggest take-aways, so far, from the invasion. 

“Resiliency matters,” said Dmitri Alperovitch, the founder of the Silverado Policy Accelerator and the former chief technology officer of cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, at Wednesday’s virtual forum. “The Ukrainians have gotten really, really good at rebuilding networks, quickly mitigating damage.” 

Another key lesson, he said, is the limitations of cyber. 

“If you’ve got kinetic options, if you can create a crater somewhere, take out a substation, take out a communication system, that’s what you’re going to prefer to use,” Alperovitch said. “That’s what’s easiest [to do] to get lasting damage.” 


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Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February, Western nations have sidelined a raft of Russian artists, dancers and musicians with links to President Vladimir Putin. That includes star opera singer Anna Netrebko, who was dropped by the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Netrebko, however, is making a comeback of sorts with an appearance Wednesday night in Paris — underscoring a broader debate over the limits of cultural boycotts.

Soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska received a standing ovation starring earlier this month in Puccini’s Turandot. The Ukrainian singer took her curtain call at New York’s Metropolitan Opera draped in her country’s flag. 

Celebrated Russian sorprano Anna Netrebko was originally tapped for the role. But the war in Ukraine changed that. Netrebko has condemned the conflict, but not Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

She publicly endorsed Putin’s reelection in 2012, although not in 2018. In 2014, she was photographed alongside a Russian-backed separatist leader from Ukraine’s Donbas region. She recently told Le Monde newspaper her intentions hadn’t been political, and said she was uninformed about the area’s history. 

Now Netrebko is back on stage — singing at the Paris Philharmonic with another Russian, mezzo-soprano Elena Maximova. Beyond a last-minute appearance in Monaco, the event is considered her formal return to the Western stage.

The Paris Philharmonic declined an interview request. But in a statement, it said that while it has canceled artists formally linked to the Russian government, it aims to keep ties whenever possible with those who are not. After Netrebko’s criticism of the war, it noted, Russia’s Duma, the lower house of parliament, called her a traitor. 

The Paris institution has a different position from the Metropolitan’s, where Netrebko will not be singing for the foreseeable future. 

Russian singers aren’t the only ones under Western scrutiny. Dancers and other Russian artists are being boycotted for their ties to Moscow. It’s a very different situation from Cold War days, when artists from the United States and the former Soviet Union were often welcomed on each other’s stages. 

“The two superpowers were in a competition for hearts and minds the world over, and they were attempting to demonstrate to the world and to one another’s populations that theirs was the superior system,” said Kenneth Platt, a professor of Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. “So from the perspective of each of the superpowers, it was their interest to showcase their culture and to engage their cultural exchanges.”

Today, it will be hard for Russia to overcome Western revulsion over its reported atrocities in Ukraine. Still, Platt is one who does not support a blanket boycott of Russian artists.  

“My basic position on canceling and national identities is if you want to cancel people, cancel them because they are in support of the war, or aligned with this inimical Russian state or because their books and films are pro-war.  Not because they are Russians, or their books are Russian,” he said.

That’s also the position of Ukrainian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa, who spoke to France 24 TV at the Cannes Film Festival going on now. The festival has banned Russians with official ties to the Kremlin and slotted time for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to speak at the venue via video link. 

“Yet I do not agree with excluding those Russian authors, artists, filmmakers who are against this war, who are just like the rest of the civilized world — just trying to fight against the evil,” he said. 

Loznitsa is not in lockstep with some of his compatriots who back a broader ban of Russian artists. 

Meanwhile, the University of Pennsylvania’s Platt has his doubts about Netrebko’s operatic return. 

“I think Ms. Netrebko has a prominent public voice,” he said. “I would want her to see her using that voice far more vociferously to condemn this war and Putin’s dictatorial regime in the strongest possible terms — much more so than she has done — before welcoming her back into the limelight.” 

The Paris Philharmonic has also welcomed Ukrainian musicians who fled the war in their homeland, It’s working with the head of the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra to place them in various French orchestras. Some have already performed in concerts in recent weeks.

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Gallaudet University in Washington hosted its first undergraduate commencement ceremony since the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020. Gallaudet is the only university in the world where deaf, deaf-blind and hard-of-hearing students live and learn bilingually in American Sign Language and English. Keynote speaker Apple CEO Tim Cook and Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin, among others, addressed the graduating students. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has the story

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Meta, the company that owns Facebook, is hosting its second annual Africa Day campaign to promote Africans who are making a global impact.

The content producer for the film project, South African filmmaker Tarryn Crossman, said Meta identified eight innovators, creators and businesspeople on the continent whose stories the company wanted told for the “Made by Africa, Loved by the World” campaign.

Crossman’s company, Tia Productions, teamed up with Mashoba Media to find four fellow filmmakers in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Their job was to make two- to three-minute documentaries about the subjects.

“So, for example we did Trevor Stuurman here in South Africa,” Crossman said. “He’s a visual artist and his line was, I just loved so much, he says: ‘Africa’s no longer the ghost writer.’ We’re telling our stories and owning our own narratives. That’s kind of the thread amongst all these characters. They all have that in common.”

Nairobi-based filmmaker Joan Kabangu made a movie about Black Rhino VR, a Kenyan virtual reality content producing company which has worked with international brands.

“They are the pioneers around creating VR content, 360 content, augmented mixed reality kind of content in Kenya, in the wider Africa. And it’s a company which is run by a young person and everybody who is working there is fairly young. And they are really getting into how tech is being used to elevate the way we are creating content in 2022, going forward,” Kabangu said.

Of Meta’s Africa Day campaign she said, “I feel it’s celebrating the good in Africa.”

In Ghana, Kofi Awuah’s movie making has been delayed by floods in the capital, Accra. But he is determined to finish. His innovator is designer Selina Beb, whose work can be seen on Instagram and is sold online, often to buyers in the U.S. and Britain.

“She’s very unique,” Awuah said. “Based on material she uses and even the processes she uses are kind of things that tell a Ghanian or African story. For instance, she uses a certain kind of stone that you can find only in the northern parts of Ghana.”

Awuah said being a part of the campaign is the chance of a lifetime.

“My manager called me to tell me that we gotten a contract from Meta and I almost, like I had a heart attack,” she said. “When that call came, I felt this is the moment for me to express myself to the millions or billions of people who are using Facebook, who are using social media.”

Meta will also be hosting free virtual training sessions throughout the week. These include training on monetization, cross-border business and branded content.

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 Facebook parent Meta said it will start publicly providing more details about how advertisers target people with political ads just months ahead of the U.S. midterm elections. 

The announcement follows years of criticism that the social media platforms withhold too much information about how campaigns, special interest groups and politicians use the platform to target small pockets of people with polarizing, divisive or misleading messages. 

Meta, which also owns Instagram, said it will start releasing details in July about the demographics and interests of audiences who are targeted with ads that run on its two primary social networks. The company will also share how much advertisers spent in an effort to target people in certain states. 

“By making advertiser targeting criteria available for analysis and reporting on ads run about social issues, elections and politics, we hope to help people better understand the practices used to reach potential voters on our technologies,” Jeff King wrote in a statement posted to Meta’s website. 

The new details could shed more light on how politicians spread misleading or controversial political messages among certain groups of people. Advocacy groups and Democrats, for example, have argued for years that misleading political ads are overwhelming the Facebook feeds of Spanish-speaking populations. 

The information will be showcased in the Facebook ad library, a public database that already shows how much companies, politicians or campaigns spend on each ad they run across Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp. Currently, anyone can see how much a page has spent running an ad and a breakdown of the ages, gender and states or countries an ad is shown in. 

The information will be available across 242 countries when a social issue, political or election ad is run, Meta said in a statement. 

Meta collected $86 billion in revenue during 2020, the last major U.S. election year, thanks in part to its granular ad targeting system. Facebook’s ad system is so customizable that advertisers could target a single user out of billions on the platform, if they wanted. 

Meta said in its announcement Monday that it will provide researchers with new details that show the interest categories advertisers selected when they tried to target people on the platform. 

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One of the most prominent events in the world of contemporary African art is kicking off in the Senegalese capital after a four-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 14th edition of the Dakar Biennale features the work of hundreds of artists from around the world, ranging from immersive installations to costumed performances.

About 100 spectators gathered on Dakar’s ocean walkway as dancers outfitted in traditional West African costumes gyrated to the sound of djembes. One dancer, dressed as a broomstick, twirled about, while another, donning a mythical lion costume, approached those filming on cellphones to offer a roar. Behind them, a young woman covered in mud held still as an artist covers her in powdered pigments.

The event is one of hundreds set to take place in Dakar over the next month.

The official 2022 biennale selection includes 59 artists from some 30 countries, but hundreds of other spaces, both in Dakar and throughout Senegal, are showcasing art. Even restaurants and hotels have converted their walls into miniature museums.

“The Dakar biennale is unique because it brings together the great majority of audio-visual creators from around the African continent and its diaspora,” said Khalifa Dieng, a scenographer for the National Gallery exhibit. The gallery is hosting works by Senegalese painter El Hadji Sy for the event.

Nigerian painter Tyna Adebowale traveled from her home base in the Netherlands to show her work. She completed an artist residency in Dakar and said she was inspired by the sense of community she found.

“I love the creative vibe of Senegal as a whole,” Adebowale said. “There’s no ego, it’s towards one goal, which is art and culture for the sake of the whole country, the community, the people. I love the collective support that I see. It’s a very beautiful spirit, very vibrant. I really admire it.”

The energy at the festival is perhaps more amplified this year as the 2020 event was postponed due to COVID19, making this the first biennale in four years.

This year’s theme is “Ndaffa,” which means to forge out of the fire in Serer, one of the languages spoken in Senegal.

It refers both to the need to recalibrate as we emerge from the pandemic into a new world, as well as to the history of African creation and its influence on contemporary African art.

Lou Mo is one of four official international curators. Her exhibit, “Havana: Forge of the South,” seeks to link Havana with Dakar via shared themes of migration, race and creolization. Dakar, she said, has become one of Africa’s leading art hubs.

“Both with the biennale that’s now 32 years old, to different institutions, different artists,” she said. “And I think there’s definitely an international trend of raising the importance of African art. So, I think there’s many possibilities for Dakar in the future.”

The event will continue through June 21.

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