Rock band Queen plus Adam Lambert open first hostless Oscars in 30 years

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Adam Lambert, left, and Brian May of Queen perform at the Oscars on Sunday at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
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Best Foreign Language Film nominee for "Capernaum" Lebanese director Nadine Labaki (C), her husband producer Khaled Mouzanar (3rd L) and members of the cast arrive for the 91st Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on February 24, 2019. (AFP / Mark Ralston)
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Rami Malek arrives at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
Updated 27 February 2019

Rock band Queen plus Adam Lambert open first hostless Oscars in 30 years

  • Despite the celebrity names, all eyes are on the best picture prize in one of the most eclectic Oscar line-ups for years
  • The winners are chosen by the 8,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

LOS ANGELES: British rock band Queen, featuring “American Idol” star Adam Lambert as lead vocalist, opened the first hostless Oscars show in 30 years on Sunday with a rollicking performance that brought the Dolby Theatre’s celebrity crowd to its feet.

The two active, surviving musicians from Queen’s original lineup — guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor — joined Lambert, filling in as frontman for the late Freddie Mercury, to play two of the band’s greatest hits: “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions.”

The familiar guitar and drum riffs brought the star-studded theater audience out of its chairs, with many of the Hollywood luminaries seen singing along.

Queen and Mercury are the subject of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a hit film nominated for best picture and in the running for a total of five categories at this year’s Academy Awards, the 91st edition of the film industry’s highest honors.

Launching the ABC telecast with a live rock band was a virtually unprecedented choice that came about after comedian Kevin Hart, originally picked to host the show, bowed out after a furor over past homophobic material in his standup act and tweets.

Hart’s withdrawal in December left the Oscars without a master of ceremonies for the first time since 1989. That year, the broadcast opened with an 11-minute song-and-dance number, widely derided by critics, featuring Rob Lowe and an actress dressed as Snow White.

In recent years, the opening monologue of the Oscar host has become a platform for gags and jokes lampooning politicians and many of the stars in attendance.

But the Queen performance set the stage for a night that was expected to include a flurry of big musical moments and presentations from such recording luminaries as Bette Midler, Jennifer Hudson, Jennifer Lopez, and record producer Pharrell Williams.

Lambert first appeared with Queen’s May and Taylor in 2009 as a contestant on the hit talent show “American Idol” when he performed two of the band’s hits on that program. The trio went on to collaborate occasionally in 2011 and have since toured repeatedly together as Queen + Adam Lambert.

Oscar producers, anxious to boost viewership after a record low US TV audience in 2018, also are under pressure to keep the telecast from running over its three-hour designated time slot.

One short-lived plan to cut down on time, by handing out four of the two dozen Oscar trophies during commercial breaks, was scrapped after a backlash from movie industry heavyweights to the idea.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences also quickly abandoned an ill-fated proposal to create a new category of best “popular” movie as a way of boosting Oscar ratings.

Despite the lack of an official show host, Maya Rudolph got in some jabs as she took the stage with two fellow actress- comedians — Tina Fey and Amy Poehler — to present the night’s first award, to Regina King as best supporting actress for her role in “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

“So just a quick update for everybody in case you’re confused: There is no host tonight, there won’t be a popular movie category and Mexico is not paying for the wall,” Rudolph deadpanned, skewering the academy as well as US President Donald Trump’s promise to build a southern US border wall at Mexico’s expense. 

* * * * *

Celebrities began arriving on the Oscars red carpet under sunny skies for an Academy Awards ceremony filled with suspense over the movie industry’s biggest prize and a night of what could be history-making firsts.

Without a host for the first time in 30 years, there’s also curiosity over whether organizers can return the Academy Awards to a must-see television event after a record low audience in 2018.

Lady Gaga, Bette Midler and Jennifer Hudson are all set to perform, along with rock band Queen featuring “American Idol” star Adam Lambert. Tennis champion Serena Williams and talk show host Trevor Noah will also appear on the Dolby Theatre stage in Hollywood in a bid to broaden the show’s appeal beyond movie fans.

Despite the celebrity names, all eyes are on the best picture prize in one of the most eclectic Oscar line-ups for years.

Disney’s “Black Panther,” the first superhero movie ever nominated for best picture, will compete against popular musicals “A Star is Born” from Warner Bros and 21st Century Fox film “Bohemian Rhapsody,” along with racially themed “Green Book” and “BlacKkKlansman” from Universal Pictures.

Black-and-white Mexican film “Roma,” quirky 18th century Fox Searchlight comedy “The Favourite” and independent political satire “Vice” round out the competition

After two months of intense and costly campaigning, award watchers say the winner is anyone’s guess.

“Best picture is probably a toss up between ‘Roma’ and ‘Green Book,’ and I can maybe see ‘BlacKkKlansman’ sneaking in to win,” said Alison Willmore, critic and culture writer at BuzzFeed News.

The winners are chosen by the 8,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

A victory for “Roma,” director Alfonso Cuaron’s sentimental journey back to his childhood, would mark the first Oscar best picture win for Netflix and a sign that streaming services can not only compete with traditional Hollywood studios, but beat them at their own game.

“Roma,” shot entirely in Spanish and with 10 Oscar nominations, is also considered the frontrunner in the foreign language category. No foreign language film has ever won best picture, and no movie has ever won both.

“’Roma’ is a little art-house movie that is impressionistic. It doesn’t have much plot but it does follow the recent pattern of art-house movies winning, like ‘The Shape of Water’ and ‘Birdman’,” said Tom O’Neil, founder of awards website GoldDerby.com.

Lady Gaga is widely expected to take home her first Oscar for her hit song “Shallow,” which she will perform on Sunday in a much-anticipated live duet with co-star and best actor nominee Bradley Cooper.

Gaga is also competing for best actress for her role as a struggling singer in “A Star is Born.” Pundits, however, expect that statuette to go to Glenn Close for “The Wife,” who would finally clinch an Oscar on her 7th attempt.

It could be a momentous night for diversity. Spike Lee is vying to become the first black director to win an Oscar for his explosive take on US race relations in “BlacKkKlansman“; Rami Malek, who has Egyptian heritage, could be named best actor for his performance as the late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody;” Regina King (“If Beale Street Could Talk“) and Mahershala Ali (“Green Book“) are also seen as strong contenders in the supporting actor races.

The Academy Awards will be televised live on ABC television starting at 8 p.m. EST/5 p.m. PST (0100 GMT on Monday).


Osama bin Laden’s son takes up painting

Updated 07 March 2021

Osama bin Laden’s son takes up painting

  • Omar’s works include landscapes of the mountains of Tora Bora in Afghanistan
  • His creations including vivid depictions of the US, a country he has never visited

LONDON: Osama bin Laden’s son Omar has reportedly taken up painting as a method of coping with lockdowns introduced to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Omar, the 39-year-old fourth son of the former Al-Qaeda leader, lives in Normandy in northern France with his wife Zaina, a painter from Cheshire in the UK.
His creations including vivid depictions of the US, a country he has never visited and against which his father waged a terrorist insurgency for many years, including the 9/11 attacks, culminating in his assassination in 2011.
Omar’s works also include landscapes of the mountains of Tora Bora in Afghanistan, where his father hid from US forces for many years.
He told Vice News that he had suffered for many years with post-traumatic stress disorder, following a childhood that saw him uprooted from his family home outside Jeddah to resettle in Sudan and war-torn Afghanistan as his father pursued his campaigns.
Omar later rejected his father and left Afghanistan following his experiences of the conflict there.
“I want the world to learn that I have grown; that I am comfortable within myself for the first time in my life; that the past is the past and one must learn to live with what has gone by,” he said. “One must forgive if not forget, so that one may be at peace with one’s emotions.”

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What We Are Reading Today: Why Not Default? by Jerome E. Ross

Updated 05 March 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Why Not Default? by Jerome E. Ross

The European debt crisis has rekindled long-standing debates about the power of finance and the fraught relationship between capitalism and democracy in a globalized world.

Why Not Default? unravels a striking puzzle at the heart of these debates — why, despite frequent crises and the immense costs of repayment, do so many heavily indebted countries continue to service their international debts?

In this compelling and incisive book, Jerome Roos provides a sweeping investigation of the political economy of sovereign debt and international crisis management, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.

He takes readers from the rise of public borrowing in the Italian city-states to the gunboat diplomacy of the imperialist era and the wave of sovereign defaults during the Great Depression.

He vividly describes the debt crises of developing countries in the 1980s and 1990s and sheds new light on the recent turmoil inside the Eurozone— including the dramatic capitulation of Greece’s short-lived anti-austerity government to its European creditors in 2015.


What We Are Eating Today: O’Dolma

Updated 05 March 2021

What We Are Eating Today: O’Dolma

O’Dolma is an Iraqi restaurant in Jeddah that offers dolma, a signature Middle Eastern dish of vine leaves, vegetables stuffed with rice, and meat.
Dolma comes in a variety of styles and flavors, with many regional specialties. O’Dolma offers the Iraqi version, which is prepared by Iraqi chefs according to an original recipe.
It is an ideal warming dish to enjoy in winter.
The restaurant’s signature dish, dolma royal, consists of layers of rolled-up dolma and vegetables filled with rice and seasoning, covered with a layer of fresh lamb ribs.
Vine leaves fattah — a layer of yogurt sauce over rows of vine leaves — is another mouthwatering choice offered by the restaurant.
The restaurant offers some trendy twists in packaging, taste and presentation. Each order is packaged in a durable box, which can be put on your dining table as a main or taken on trips.
O’Dolma has three branches in Jeddah in the North Obhur, Al-Rawdah and Al-Safa districts.


Egyptian child with SMA receives most expensive medicine in world

Updated 05 March 2021

Egyptian child with SMA receives most expensive medicine in world

CAIRO: Egyptian doctors have succeeded in treating a child with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) using the most expensive drug in the world, Zolgensma.

Nagia Ali Fahmy, professor of neurology and director of the Muscular and Neurology Unit at Ain Shams Medicine in Egypt, explained that Zolgensma, which has a value of $2.125 million per dose, is the first gene therapy of its kind in the world given to a patient intravenously in a single dose.

The drug was approved in May 2019 by the US Food and Drug Administration.

She added that the manufacturer, Novartis, offers 100 opportunities to obtain the drug free of charge in countries where it has not yet been registered, setting conditions for choosing the children who receive it, including that they should not be over two years old, and their mutation should be in the first gene. Accordingly, Ain Shams Medicine made eight applications for cases under their care, and Novartis selected one, a boy named Rayan from Alexandria, who is turning two in a few days.

SMA of the first and second types leads to the death of the child during the first two years of life as a result of the failure of respiratory functions.

Zolgensma was first clinically tested several years ago, and the first child to receive it is now five years old.

The drug treats breathing functions and motor impairment, and puts the child on a path to normal growth.

But the improvement happens gradually, during which physiotherapy and pulmonary rehabilitation therapy are performed.

Hani Aref, head of the neurology department at the Faculty of Medicine at Ain Shams University, said that SMA happens due to a genetic defect, as there is a defective gene in the body that does not allow the secretion of proteins responsible for feeding the cells connected to the muscles.

“This disease results in gradual, severe muscle weakness and it is divided into three stages depending on the severity in the gene,” he said.

“The first stage affects children immediately after birth in which the child’s condition is very difficult and the atrophy affects the breathing muscles gradually, which leads to death.

“The second stage affects children six months after their birth, and the third stage affects the child at an advanced age and results in severe muscle weakness,” he added.

“Symptoms begin with great difficulty moving, and the child cannot acquire motor skills; if he gains some of them, he will gradually lose them. Most of the children suffering from the disease are put on ventilators, but they eventually die.”


SpaceX Starship lands upright, then explodes in latest test

Updated 04 March 2021

SpaceX Starship lands upright, then explodes in latest test

  • The last two prototypes reached a similarly high altitude in December and February, but later exploded

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: SpaceX’s futuristic Starship looked like it aced a touchdown Wednesday, but then exploded on the landing pad with so much force that it was hurled into the air.
The failure occurred just minutes after SpaceX declared success. Two previous test flights crash-landed in fireballs.
The full-scale prototype of Elon Musk’s envisioned Mars ship soared more than 6 miles (10 kilometers) after lifting off from the southern tip of Texas on Wednesday. It descended horizontally over the Gulf of Mexico and then flipped upright just in time to land.
The shiny bullet-shaped rocketship remained intact this time at touchdown, prompting SpaceX commentator John Insprucker to declare, “third time’s a charm as the saying goes” before SpaceX ended its webcast of the test.
But then the Starship exploded and was tossed in the air, before slamming down into the ground in flames.
There was no immediate comment from SpaceX on what went wrong. But Musk looked on the bright side in a tweet: “Starship 10 landed in one piece!” RIP SN10, honorable discharge.”
He added: “SpaceX team is doing great work! One day, the true measure of success will be that Starship flights are commonplace.”
Musk plans to use Starships to send people to the moon and Mars.
The last two prototypes reached a similarly high altitude in December and February, but slammed into the ground at Boca Chica, Texas, and exploded.
Each of these last three test flights lasted 6 1/2 minutes.