2022 Oscar Contenders Reflect Turbulence, Needs of the Times

The new year signals the beginning of the Oscars race. Oscar nominees distinguish themselves in categories such as film direction, cinematography and acting. The message of these films is also significant, especially in relation to the times we live in. VOA’s Penelope Poulou looks at some of these promising contenders. …

New Year’s Eve Muted by Omicron; Many Hoping for Better 2022

Good riddance to 2021. Let 2022 bring fresh hope. That was a common sentiment Friday as people around the world got ready to welcome in the new year. In many places, plans for New Year’s Eve celebrations were muted or canceled for the second straight year due to a surge of coronavirus infections, this time…

Times Square Show Will Go on Despite Virus Surge, Mayor Says

New York City will ring in 2022 in Times Square as planned despite record numbers of COVID-19 infections in the city and around the nation, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday. “We want to show that we’re moving forward, and we want to show the world that New York City is fighting our way through…

Amanda Gorman Writes End-of-Year Poem, ‘New Day’s Lyric’

Amanda Gorman is ending her extraordinary year on a hopeful note.  The 23-year-old poet, whose reading of her own “The Hill We Climb” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration made her an international sensation, released a new work Wednesday to mark the end of 2021. “New Day’s Lyric” is a five-stanza, 48-line resolution with themes of…

NFL Hall of Fame Coach, Broadcaster John Madden Dies at 85

John Madden, the Hall of Fame coach turned broadcaster whose exuberant calls combined with simple explanations provided a weekly soundtrack to NFL games for three decades, died Tuesday morning, the NFL said. He was 85.  The league said he had died unexpectedly, and it did not provide a cause.  Madden gained fame in a decadelong…

US Catholic Clergy Shortage Eased by Recruits From Africa

The Rev. Athanasius Chidi Abanulo — using skills honed in his African homeland to minister effectively in rural Alabama— determines just how long he can stretch out his Sunday homilies based on who is sitting in the pews. Seven minutes is the sweet spot for the mostly white and retired parishioners who attend the English-language…

‘Spider-Man’ Surpasses $1B Globally, Holds North America Box Office Top Spot

The hit new “Spider-Man” became the first billion-dollar-grossing film of the pandemic era over the Christmas weekend, reaching the milestone while holding firmly to the North American box office top spot, industry watcher Exhibitor Relations said Sunday. “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” British star Tom Holland’s third solo outing in the wildly popular role, has grossed…

3 Members of K-Pop Sensation BTS Diagnosed with COVID-19

Three members of the K-pop superstar group BTS have tested positive for the coronavirus after returning from abroad, their management agency said. RM and Jin were diagnosed with COVID-19 on Saturday evening, the Big Hit Music agency said in a statement. It earlier said another member, Suga, tested positive for the virus on Friday. All…

A Cultural Gumbo: Immigrants Propel Evolution of Louisiana Cooking

“There is nothing in the world like the food you can find in Louisiana,” Chef Isaac Toups, owner of popular New Orleans restaurant Toups Meatery, told VOA. “It’s such a unique mix of so many different cultures that converged here from around the globe. They brought their ideas about food with them and made a…

President Biden, First Lady Visit Hospitalized Kids on Christmas Eve

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden brought some Christmas Eve cheer to hospitalized children who aren’t well enough to go home for holidays. It’s longstanding tradition for first ladies to visit Children’s National Hospital at Christmastime, but Joe Biden’s visit on Friday was a surprise. It marked the first time that a sitting…

On Broadway, a Playwright Becomes an Actor, Saving a Show

Keenan Scott II made his Broadway acting debut this week in “Thoughts of a Colored Man,” which is a remarkable milestone. It’s even more remarkable when you consider he also wrote it. The actor-turned-playwright was pressed into acting duties at the last moment Tuesday night to keep his show open while all around Broadway battles…

Novelist Writes About New Yorkers in 60-Second Snippets

For over four decades, novelist Dan Hurley has been writing 60-second-long stories about New Yorkers he met on the street. But apart from amusing passers-by with his literary talent, Hurley also happens to be an award-winning science writer. Anna Nelson met with Hurley on the streets of the Big Apple. Anna Rice narrates her story.…

In UAE Desert, Camels Compete for Crowns in Beauty Pageant

Deep in the desert of the United Arab Emirates, the moment that camel breeders had been waiting for arrived. Families hauled their camels through wind-carved sands. Servers poured tiny cups of Arabic coffee. Judges descended on desert lots. A single question loomed over the grandstand: Which camels were most beautiful? Even as the omicron variant…

Writer Joan Didion, Chronicler of Contemporary American Society, Dies at 87 

Author Joan Didion, whose essays, memoirs, novels and screenplays chronicled contemporary American society, as well as her grief over the deaths of her husband and daughter, has died at the age of 87.    The cause of death was Parkinson’s disease, her publisher Knopf said Thursday in a statement. Didion first emerged as a writer…

Pope Demands Humility in New Zinger-filled Christmas Speech

Pope Francis urged Vatican cardinals, bishops and bureaucrats Thursday to embrace humility this Christmas season, saying their pride, self-interest and the “glitter of our armor” was perverting their spiritual lives and corrupting the church’s mission. As he has in the past, Francis used his annual Christmas address to take Vatican administrators to task for their…

India Could Raise Marriage Age for Women from 18 to 21

In India, the government has proposed legislation to raise the minimum age of marriage for women from 18 to 21 years old, bringing it on par with men and saying it will empower women. But many women activists say the planned law would do little to address deep-seated societal problems that result in millions of…

NHL Players Will Not Compete at Beijing Olympics: Reports 

National Hockey League players will not compete in February’s Beijing Winter Olympics in the wake of 50 NHL games being postponed over COVID-19 issues, according to multiple reports Tuesday.  ESPN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today and other newspapers cited unnamed sources in saying the league and the NHL Players Association had…

Mormon Billionaire Leaves Faith, Rebukes LGBTQ Rights Stance

An advertising-technology billionaire has formally resigned his membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and rebuked the faith over social issues and LGBTQ rights in an unusual public move.  Jeff T. Green has pledged to donate 90% of his estimated $5 billion advertising-technology wealth, starting with a donation to a LGBTQ-rights group…

Fewer Police, Medics, so Mardi Gras Parade Routes Shortened 

New Orleans is shortening parade routes for the upcoming Mardi Gras season because there are fewer police officers, medics and other first responders to handle the crowds, officials said Tuesday.  The city canceled Mardi Gras parades this past February because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and 2020 parade crowds are considered a big reason that New…