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Weekend strike to shut Acropolis at height of tourist season

A two-day strike by Greek Culture Ministry employees protesting staff shortages will shut the Acropolis and other ancient sites and museums in Athens this weekend at the height of the tourist season.

But the strike will not affect the Acropolis Museum outside the ancient citadel, museum officials said.

The ministry workers' union said Wednesday it wants the government to honor a pledge to hire some 230 archaeologists and guards, replacing employees who have retired in recent years.

Yet under the terms of Greece's international bailouts, only a fraction of the civil servants who retire can be replaced by new hires.

The union said the strike will apply to archaeological sites and state-run museums in Athens and the surrounding province of Attica.

Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has book deal

Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has a book deal.

Henry Holt and Co. told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Abrams' "Minority Leader: How to Lead from the Outside and Make Real Change" is scheduled for next spring. According to Holt, her book will combine her life story with "real-world, how-to advice" for women and minorities "who must grapple with the implications of race, class, gender and otherness." Abrams, a Democrat, is hoping to become the country's first black woman governor. She is calling her book "'Lean In' for the rest of us."

"This is a book about how potent and compelling being the minority can be and how it can transform your destiny when properly harnessed," she said in a statement.

Her candidacy was endorsed this week by Georgia congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis. Abrams, 43 years old and an attorney from Atlanta, has been active in voter registration and often joined Lewis as a surrogate for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she ran for president in 2016.

Four Republicans and two Democrats are in the 2018 race in Georgia to replace Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican limited to two terms.

Michael Phelps defends Shark Week 'race' against great white

The winningest athlete in Olympic history was bested by two seconds Sunday night in "Phelps vs. Shark: Great Gold vs. Great White." The race didn't pit Phelps against a real shark, but rather a computer-simulated fish based on data on the swimming speed of sharks.

Phelps responded to critics in a Facebook Live video Tuesday. He notes that a shark doesn't swim in a straight line and suggested that a side-by-side race with the predator would be impossible. He later added that he made it clear before the show aired that he wouldn't be racing a real shark.

Items from Auschwitz death camp to tour Europe, America

An exhibit of some items from the former Nazi German death camp of Auschwitz are going on a tour of Europe and North America to bring its tragic truth about the Holocaust to a wider audience.

The exhibit — called "Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away" — will be the first-ever traveling show done by the museum and will include 600 original items. Most of them will come from the Auschwitz museum, but also from other collections, like Israel's Yad Vashem, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., and from survivors.

"Today, when the world is moving in uncertain directions," the exhibition can be a "great warning cry for us all" against building a "future on hatred, racism, anti-Semitism and bottomless contempt for another human being," museum chief Piotr M.A. Cywinski said.

The exhibit aims to tell victims' stories through their personal items. It will also show an original barrack from the Auschwitz-Monowitz part of the camp and a German freight train wagon that the Nazis used to bring inmates to the camp in.

Some items, like an SS military belt buckle, are linked to the perpetrators, the German SS- men who built and operated the camp in occupied Poland during World War II.

The project will visit seven cities in Europe, starting in Madrid later this year, and seven in North America. The names of the cities in North America have not been released yet.

Some 1.1 million people, mostly Europe's Jews, but also Poles, Roma and Soviet prisoners of war, were killed in the camp's gas chambers or died of hunger, disease and hard labor during World War II.

The state museum was established in 1947 to preserve the memory of the victims and be a warning to future generations. In 2016, a record number of over 2 million people visited the Auschwitz museum.

Toni Morrison, Joan Didion among those in PEN online archive

Toni Morrison moderating a discussion about writing in the Soviet Union. Joan Didion defending Salman Rushdie against an Iranian death decree. Pablo Neruda explaining the role of the Latin America author.

PEN America, the literary and human rights organization, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that it had assembled more than 1,500 hours of audio and visual material for a digital archive featuring many of the world's leading writers and public thinkers of the past half-century. The website,, is the culmination of a 5 1/2 year project drawing upon materials stored at Princeton University.

"Over nearly 100 years, PEN America has convened America's leading literary and intellectual lights in debates and dialogues that have framed the most pressing social, cultural and political issues of the time," Suzanne Nossel, the organization's executive director, said in a statement. "With the release of the PEN America Digital Archive, these essential voices have been brought back to life, brimming with personality, passion, opinion and sometimes bombast. Hearing directly from these greats will offer information and inspiration to writers, scholars and free-expression advocates for generations to come."

The archive covers subjects ranging from the hostage crisis in Iran to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to such ongoing issues as racism, censorship and the author's place in society. They also document the evolution of literary culture from a more formal time, when many writers were born without a television in their home, to the rise of the internet. During a 1966 panel, the Scottish politician and intellectual Douglas Young sounded like an old schoolmaster as he moderated a discussion about writers "in the electronic age," or what he called life under "electronic circuitry."

"The modern mass media make the general physiognomy of a writer known to the public," he said. "They may be surprised that, in most respects, we are quite ordinary guys."

PEN's mission of support for besieged writers and of building a literary community was especially urgent in February 1989, when Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called for Rushdie's death for the alleged blasphemy of the novel "The Satanic Verses." A week after the decree, or "fatwa," PEN staged a reading in New York of Rushdie's work that was attended by Doctorow, Don DeLillo and many others.

"Today we are all Salman Rushdie," announced one reader, author Robert Stone.

One of PEN's most star-studded — and controversial — assemblies, the 1986 International Congress, is documented extensively. Norman Mailer was the chief organizer and he enraged many attendees when he invited President Ronald Reagan's secretary of state, George P. Schulz, as a keynote speaker. Mailer was also criticized for including few women besides Susan Sontag on panel discussions and replied that "there are not that many women, like Susan Sontag, who are intellectuals first, poets and novelists second."

But the 1986 gathering also illustrated PEN's history of attracting the cultural elite and addressing the intersection of literature and politics. An opening-day press conference with Schulz included a call from PEN for the abolishment of the Cold War era McCarren-Walter act, which had prevented those suspected of communist sympathies from entering the United States. (The act was repealed in 1990.) Morrison, Rushdie, Sontag and Derek Walcott were among those addressing a forum on "Alienation and the State."

At the press conference with Schulz, PEN International President Per Wastberg promised the next few days would offer "dinners, parties, gossip, gossipy chats, glitter," along with discussions about censorship and imprisoned writers.

"I see no real dichotomy," he said, "in that by fighting for the freedom of those friends and colleagues prevented from speaking their mind, we express our wish to see them seated around our tables, by candlelight, in deep conversation, or joking at the absurdity of life. PEN, after all, is about meeting other writers, across any kind of frontier."


Corrects website address.



Drake, Robert Pattinson, Daniel Craig

It looks like Drake just got a new tattoo! ... of Lil Wayne's face. Now, it's not confirmed, but check it out for yourself! It wouldn't be too far fetched - after-all, Lil Wayne is the one who signed Drake to his Young Money contract in 2009. Billboard

Before Robert Pattinson got famous from Twilight, he was a kid in school with a not-so-savory side job! He used to steal naughty magazines and sell them to his friends at school:

"I used to go in and take like one or two and put them in my bag...I was in my school uniform when I was doing it, so it was kind of risky. But, then at the end, I got so cocky that I would take the entire rack and I got caught," E! Online

Despite rumors, Daniel Craig WILL be returning as James Bond! After the last film wrapped up, Daniel said “I’d rather break this glass and slash my wrists,” than return as Bond. Now he says that he was just tired and exhausted in the interview. We're guessing money had something to do with his newfound, refreshed desire to return. The next Bond-movie is scheduled for November 2019. MORE HERE

Venus Williams is officially denying responsibility in the wrongful death suit filed against her following a deadly car wreck. Initially, police said that Venus was at fault for being in an intersection with a red light when another car crashed into her SUV, killing a passenger. However, police now say that security footage shows Venus entering the intersection lawfully. E! Online

Blind Aboriginal musician dies in Australia aged 46

A blind Aboriginal musician renowned for singing in his native Yolngu language with a heart-rending voice and a unique guitar-playing style has died, his recording label said Wednesday. He was 46.

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, whose is now referred to by local media as Dr. G. Yunupingu because of cultural sensitivities among northern Australian Aborigines around naming the dead, died Tuesday after a long illness in a Darwin Hospital, west of his ancestral country known as Arnhem Land, Darwin-based Skinnyfish Music said in a statement.

"Yunupingu is remembered today as one of the most important figures in Australian music history, blind from birth and emerging from the remote Galiwin'ku community on Elcho Island off the coast of Arnhem Land to sell over half a million copies of his albums across the world, singing in his native Yolngu language," the statement said.

His debut album "Gurrumul" released in 2008 hit triple platinum in Australia, silver in Britain and topped charts in other countries.

He released another two top-five studio albums —"Rrakala" and "The Gospel Album" — and performed around the world for audiences including former President Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth II.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull tweeted that Yunupingu was "a remarkable Australian sharing Yolngu language with the world through music."

Turnbull's predecessor, Tony Abbott, tweeted: "A hauntingly beautiful voice is now still."

More comfortable speaking in his native language than in English, Yunupingu avoided media interviews and lived most of his life on remote Elcho Island.

He first picked up a guitar as a 6-year-old, learning to play it upside down because he was left handed. He suffered years of ill health, having contracted Hepatitis B as a child, which left him with liver and kidney disease.

In 2012, he had to cancel a number of European performances due to illness, including performing at the London Olympic Games.

Friend Vaughan Williams took Yunupingu to the hospital last week over concerns he may not have been receiving renal treatment more than 500 kilometers (320 miles) away at Elcho Island.

Williams said he felt the death was "preventable," which made it more crushing.

"I feel he was trapped in the same cycle of bad health that so many indigenous people are trapped in," Williams told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Aborigines are the most disadvantaged ethnic group in Australia. They die younger than other Australians and suffer higher incarceration and jobless rates.

Skinnyfish managing director Mark Grose declined to detail Yunupingu's health problems, which he described as "quite complex."

"His health issues are issues that have come from childhood illness," Grose told reporters. "His early childhood is really what's marked him out for passing away early."

'Wonder Woman 2' sets December 2019 release date

"Wonder Woman 2" is set to storm theaters on Dec. 13, 2019.

Warner Bros. announced the date late Tuesday.

"Wonder Woman" star Gal Gadot is set to reprise her role as Diana of Themyscira. But a director has yet to be set. Patty Jenkins is still in negotiations for the job.

Jenkins' "Wonder Woman" is still chugging along at the box office, with over $389.7 million from North American theaters. It recently surpassed "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" to become the top domestic earner of the summer movie season and the second-highest of the year, behind "Beauty and the Beast."

"Detroit" director, stars hope film spurs talk about race

The actors and filmmakers from "Detroit" walked the red carpet ahead of the film's premiere in its namesake city Tuesday evening and talked about their hope that it will spur conversation about attitudes toward race.

"(The film) created an opportunity to humanize the unthinkable and out of that, hopefully, creates empathy. And out of the empathy, perhaps, meaningful conversation can begin toward healing," director Kathryn Bigelow said of the drama about the deadly 1967 Detroit riot.

"Detroit" focuses on the Algiers Motel incident, a little-remembered event that took place almost exactly a half-century ago amid the uprising of African-Americans sparked by a police raid of an after-hours club — and a reaction to what some considered a long history of oppression. The riot, among the largest in U.S. history, left 43 dead and led to the deployment of National Guardsmen to a city in flames.

"I think largely what happened in Detroit 50 years ago is forgotten, so I hope that people go see this movie and remember where we were, see where we are and from this point do something different," said actor Anthony Mackie, who also appeared in 2009's "The Hurt Locker," which earned Bigelow the Academy Award for best director. 

"Detroit" tries to lay out the historical context and individual reality of the unrest. At the Algiers Motel, three unarmed black males were killed in an encounter with police.

Will Poulter portrays one of the officers, a character he acknowledges is particularly unsavory.

"My responsibility in this film I think was to expose a racist individual, and I'm grateful to have that opportunity," Poulter said ahead of the screening at Detroit's historic Fox Theatre. "But there's no sense of enjoyment or relish in that. You just try and do it as honestly as possible."

"Detroit" is due to be released Aug. 4.

Artist uses Iraq refugees, war veterans in radio project

In 2016, an Iraqi-American artist sat down with Bahjat Abdulwahed — the so-called "Walter Cronkite of Baghdad" — with the idea of launching a radio project that would be part documentary, part radio play and part variety show.

Abdulwahed was the voice of Iraqi radio from the late 1950s to the early 1990s, but came to Philadelphia as a refugee in 2009 after receiving death threats from insurgents.

"He represented authority and respectability in relationship to the news through many different political changes," said Elizabeth Thomas, curator of "Radio Silence," a public art piece that resulted from the meeting with Abdulwahed.

Thomas had invited artist Michael Rakowitz to Philadelphia to create a project for Mural Arts Philadelphia, which has been expanding its public art reach from murals into new and innovative spaces.

After nearly five years of research, Rakowitz distilled his project into a radio broadcast that would involve putting the vivacious and caramel-voiced Abdulwahed back on the air, and using Philadelphia-area Iraqi refugees and local Iraq war veterans as his field reporters. It would feature Iraqi music, remembrances of the country and vintage weather reports from a happier time in Iraq.

"One of the many initial titles was "Desert Home Companion," Rakowitz said, riffing on "A Prairie Home Companion," the radio variety show created by Garrison Keillor.

Rakowitz recorded an initial and very informal session with Abdulwahed in his living room in January 2016. Two weeks later, Abdulwahed collapsed. He had to have an emergency tracheostomy and was on life support until he died seven months later.

At Abdulwahed's funeral, his friends urged Rakowitz to continue with the project, to show how much of the country they left behind was slipping away and to help fight cultural amnesia.

Rakowitz recalibrated the project, which became "Radio Silence," a 10-part radio broadcast with each episode focusing on a synonym of silence, in homage to Abdulwahed.

"The voice of Baghdad had lost his voice," Rakowitz said, calling him a "narrator of Iraq's history."

It will be hosted by Rakowitz and features fragments of that first recording session with Abdulwahed, as well as interviews with his wife and other Iraqi refugees living in Philadelphia.

Rakowitz and Thomas also worked with Warrior Writers, a nonprofit based in Philadelphia that helps war veterans work through their experiences using writing and art.

The first episode, on speechlessness, will launch Aug. 6 is. It will be broadcast on community radio stations across the country through Prometheus Radio Project.

One participant is Jawad Al Amiri, an Iraqi refugee who came to the United States in the 1980s. He said silence in Iraq has been a way of life for many decades.

"Silence is a way of survival. Silence is a decree by the Baath regime, not to tell what you see in front of your eyes. Silence is synonymous with fear. If you tell, you will be put through agony," he said at a preview Tuesday of the live broadcast. He said he saw his own sister poisoned and die and wasn't allowed to speak of it.

When he came to the U.S. in 1981, his father told him: "We send you here for education and to speak for the millions of Iraqis in the land where freedom of speech is practiced."

Lawrence Davidson is an Army veteran who served during the Iraq War and works with Warrior Writers also contributed to the project. He said the project is a place to exchange ideas and honestly share feelings with refugees and other veterans.

The project kicks off on July 29 with a live broadcast performance on Philadelphia's Independence Mall — what Rakowitz calls the symbolic home of American democracy. It will feature storytelling, food from refugees and discussions from the veterans with Warrior Writers.

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