Eurovision chiefs insist Ukraine cannot host 2023 show

Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra performs during the benefit concert Embrace Ukraine at the Museumplein park in Amsterdam, on Tuesday. (AFP)
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Updated 23 June 2022

Eurovision chiefs insist Ukraine cannot host 2023 show

  • Ukraine's Kalush Orchestra last month won the world's biggest live music event
  • The European Broadcasting Union said the war-torn country would not be able to host the 2023 show

GENEVA: The Eurovision Song Contest’s organizers confirmed Thursday that the 2023 edition cannot be held in Ukraine due to the Russian war, despite angry protests from Kyiv.
Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra last month won the world’s biggest live music event, and by convention, the country should host the kitsch annual pop extravaganza next year.
But on June 17, the European Broadcasting Union said the war-torn country would not be able to host the 2023 show — triggering upset among fans across the continent and demands from the Ukrainian government to reverse the decision.
“The EBU fully understands the disappointment that greeted the announcement that the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest cannot be staged in Ukraine, this year’s winning country,” it said in a statement.
“The decision was guided by the EBU’s responsibility to ensure the conditions are met to guarantee the safety and security of everyone working and participating in the event, the planning of which needs to begin immediately,” it explained.
The EBU said more than 10,000 people are usually accredited to work on Eurovision, including crew, staff and journalists.
“A further 30,000 fans are expected to travel to the event from across the world. Their welfare is our prime concern,” it said.
Kalush Orchestra won the Eurovision final on May 15 in Turin, thanks to the votes from national panels of judges and the general public, with European audiences demonstrating their solidarity with Ukraine in the face of Russia’s invasion.
The EBU said Eurovision’s rules clearly state that an event can be moved in situations such as an ongoing war.
The union said the severe risk of air attacks and the high risk of a mass casualty event factored into the decision, while the conflict would make delegations and participants reluctant to go to Ukraine.
As for hosting the contest in a border location within Ukraine, the specifications of suggested venues and the lack of surrounding infrastructure, do not meet Eurovision’s needs.
“All this contributes to the EBU’s overall assessment that in terms of security and operational guarantees, the necessary requirements for hosting... are not met.”
The EBU said it would keep searching for a suitable location for the next Eurovision, but said earlier this month that it was considering the possibility of the contest being held in Britain, which finished second.
Founded in 1950, the Geneva-based EBU is the world’s biggest public service media alliance. It has 112 member organizations in 56 countries, plus 31 associates in Asia, Africa and the Americas.


Rock star Randy Bachman reunited with beloved stolen guitar

Updated 18 sec ago

Rock star Randy Bachman reunited with beloved stolen guitar

TOKYO: Canadian rock legend Randy Bachman’s long search came to an end Friday when he was reunited in Tokyo with a cherished guitar 45 years after it was stolen from a Toronto hotel.
“My girlfriend is right there,” said Bachman, 78, a former member of The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, as the Gretsch guitar on which he wrote “American Woman” and other hits was handed to him by a Japanese musician who had bought it at a Tokyo store in 2014 without knowing its history.
He said all guitars are special, but the orange 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins he bought as a teenager was exceptional. He worked at multiple jobs to save money to buy the $400 guitar, his first purchase of an expensive instrument, he said.
“It made my whole life. It was my hammer and a tool to write songs, make music and make money,” Bachman told AP before the handover at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo.
When it was stolen from the Toronto hotel in 1977, “I cried for three days. It was part of me,” he said. “It was very, very upsetting.” He ended up buying about 300 guitars in unsuccessful attempts to replace it, he said.
Bachman talked frequently about the missing guitar in interviews and on radio shows, and more recently on YouTube programs on which he performed with his son, Tal.
In 2020, a Canadian fan who heard the story of the guitar launched an Internet search and successfully located it in Tokyo within two weeks.
The fan, William Long, used a small spot in the guitar’s wood grain visible in old images as a “digital fingerprint” and tracked the instrument down to a vintage guitar shop site in Tokyo. A further search led him to a YouTube video showing the instrument being played by a Japanese musician, TAKESHI, in December 2019.
After receiving the news from Long, Bachman contacted TAKESHI immediately, and recognized the guitar in a video chat they had.
“I was crying,” Bachman said. “The guitar almost spoke to me over the video, like, ‘Hey, I’m coming home.’”
TAKESHI agreed to give it to Bachman in exchange for one that was very similar. So Bachman searched and found the guitar’s “sister” — made during the same week, with a close serial number, no modifications and no repairs.
“To find my guitar again was a miracle, to find its twin sister was another miracle,” Bachman said.
TAKESHI said he decided to return the guitar because as a guitar player he could imagine how much Bachman missed it.
“I owned it and played it for only eight years and I’m extremely sad to return it now. But he has been feeling sad for 46 years, and it’s time for someone else to be sad,” TAKESHI said. “I felt sorry for this legend.”
He said he felt good after returning the guitar to its rightful owner, but it may take time for him to love his new Gretsch as much as that one.
“It’s a guitar, and it has a soul. So even if it has the same shape, I cannot say for sure if I can love a replacement the same way I loved this one,” he said. “There is no doubt Randy thought of me and searched hard (for the replacement), so I will gradually develop an affection for it, but it may take time.”
Bachman said he and TAKESHI are now like brothers who own guitars that are “twin sisters.” They are participating in a documentary about the guitar on which they plan to perform a song, “Lost and Found” together.
They also performed several songs at Friday’s handover, including “American Woman.”
Bachman said he will lock the guitar up in his home so he will never lose it again. “I am never ever going to take it out of my house again,” he said.

Biden touts Switzerland — woops, Sweden — in NATO expansion

Updated 30 June 2022

Biden touts Switzerland — woops, Sweden — in NATO expansion

  • Quickly realizing his stumble, Biden said: ‘Switzerland, my goodness. I’m getting really anxious here about expanding NATO,’ he joked, before adding for the record: ‘Sweden’
  • Biden, 79, has long been known for his verbal gaffes during a political career spanning half a century

MADRID: NATO’s latest expansion momentarily got really interesting with even Switzerland about to join — at least for a second in a Joe Biden verbal slip Thursday.
At a press conference marking the end of the NATO summit in Madrid, the US president recounted the behind-the-scenes talks putting militarily non-aligned Finland and Sweden on track to join the Western alliance in a major rebuff to Russia.
Except he misspoke, saying there was a plan to call the leader of famously neutral Switzerland about joining.
Quickly realizing his stumble, Biden said: “Switzerland, my goodness.”
“I’m getting really anxious here about expanding NATO,” he joked, before adding for the record: “Sweden.”
Biden, 79, has long been known for his verbal gaffes during a political career spanning half a century.


Airbnb makes ban on parties permanent

Updated 30 June 2022

Airbnb makes ban on parties permanent

  • In 2019, Airbnb began imposing much stricter limits, starting with a global ban on so-called “party houses”

LONDON: Airbnb Inc. said on Tuesday it will make permanent its ban on parties in homes listed on its platform after seeing a sharp drop in reports of unauthorized gatherings since the prohibition was put in place in August 2020.
The company announced seeing a 44 percent year-after-year drop in the rate of party reports since implementing the policy.
This comes after the San Francisco-based company introduced and extended the party ban to halt the spread of COVID-19 infections. Now the company wants to make the ban permanent as the summer travel season begins.
“This is an issue where I don’t know if I’d say there’s a finish line,” said Ben Breit, a spokesperson for the company, adding that Airbnb will keep working to address the issue.
The company said it will also remove its 16-person limit, allowing larger homes listed on the platform to be booked to full occupancy.
In 2019, Airbnb began imposing much stricter limits, starting with a global ban on so-called “party houses” or listings that create persistent neighborhood nuisance.
Airbnb has also updated its policies considering the pandemic, removing both the “event friendly” search filter and “parties and events allowed” house rules.
More than 6,600 guests and some hosts were suspended in 2021 for attempting to violate the party ban, the company said.
In May 2022, the company reported revenue was up 70 percent from the previous year bringing in $1.5 billion in the first quarter of 2022. The company also projected revenue to be above market estimates for the second quarter of the year, expecting to bring in between $2.03 billion and $2.13 billion.


Owners distraught as historic Nile houseboats are removed

Updated 29 June 2022

Owners distraught as historic Nile houseboats are removed

  • Many of the elegant two-story houseboats have been moored for decades

CAIRO: Owners of the Nile’s famous houseboats in the heart of Egypt’s capital are having their homes demolished and towed away as authorities impound what they say are unlicensed dwellings.
The boats, many of them elegant two-story structures with verandas, have been moored for decades along the tree-lined banks of the Nile between the island of Zamalek and Giza, just west of central Cairo.
They have featured in films and literature, such as Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz’s novel Adrift on the Nile.
Last week, owners of about 30 houseboats were served with notices saying that their boats would be impounded. Egypt’s water and irrigation ministry said on Tuesday that 15 had been removed, with the rest to be dealt with over the next few days.
The ministry posted pictures of the boats being smashed by diggers on barges and being towed away by tugs.
The water and irrigation ministry could not be reached for comment.
Ikhlas Helmy, 87, whose houseboat was still standing on Wednesday, said she had invested her savings in it and could not bear to leave.
“I was born in a houseboat, this is my entire life,” she said. “My husband loved the Nile like me. He died before he could refurbish the houseboat, so I did it.”
Authorities say the removals follow warnings to owners, presenting them as part of efforts to maintain the river and prioritize commerce and tourism.
In comments to local media Ayman Anwar, an official responsible for the protection of the Nile, compared the houseboats to polluting old cars.
Owners say they had been challenging sharp increases in mooring fees, but had continued to pay other fees for use of the river bank and navigation rights.
They and their supporters on social media say the removal of the boats is the latest in a series of assaults on places of beauty or historic interest in the capital.
Officials have not said what development might be planned after the boats are gone.
On the eastern bank of the same stretch of the river, Egypt’s military has led the construction of a concrete walkway dotted with shops and cafes.
Elsewhere in Cairo, residential blocks, trees and parts of old cemeteries have been uprooted to make way for a network of new roads and bridges.
Ahmed el-Hosseiny, whose houseboat was towed away on Tuesday, described emptying it after being served with an eviction notice.
“We started to collect our possessions, our stories, our history, our hearts, our memories, and our feelings and place them into boxes,” he said.


Greek state TV mocked for gasoline theft ‘tips’

Updated 25 June 2022

Greek state TV mocked for gasoline theft ‘tips’

  • Video also points out where a car’s fuel tank can alternatively be pierced to steal the contents

ATHENS: Greece’s state TV was mocked Thursday over a segment that showed viewers how to siphon gasoline from cars as fuel prices soar.
“It’s not something terribly complicated... you don’t even need a special tube, even a hose for balconies will do,” the station’s reporter Costas Stamou said during ERT’s morning news program Syndeseis on Wednesday.
After demonstrating the method, a car repairman then points out where a car’s fuel tank can alternatively be pierced to steal the contents.
“Are you guys in your right mind? Giving people tips on stealing gasoline?” commented one user on Twitter.
“After the tutorial on two ways to easily steal gasoline, ERT is now preparing new how-to’s on how to open locks and steal wallets,” jibed another.
A video mixed by Greek satirical website Luben had been viewed over 170,000 times by Thursday. Another 32,500 saw the original segment on Twitter.
Fuel prices have steadily climbed in Greece in recent months, with simple unleaded at over 2.37 euros ($2.50) per liter on average in Athens on Wednesday, and over 2.50 euros on Rhodes and neighboring islands.
Greek authorities have resisted calls to cut tax on fuel, opting instead for 30-50 euro subsidies to less well-off car and motorcycle owners.