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No joke: Indian comedian Vir Das under nationalist fire

An Indian comedian and actor has been forced to defend himself against online accusations of “insulting the country” after he performed a “two Indias” monologue in Washington.

Vir Das, one of India’s top satirical performers, is known for his willingness to critically observe his country.

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Critics say there has been rising intolerance against minority communities in India since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, and that freedom of speech is under threat in the world’s biggest democracy.

“I come from an India where we worship women during the day and gang rape them at night,” Das told a packed Washington, DC venue during his current world tour.

In an almost seven-minute long video posted Monday, he covered issues ranging from air pollution, journalism and Modi’s coronavirus relief efforts to cricket.

“I come from an India where we bleed blue every time we play green,” he said, referring to the sporting uniforms of his country and arch-rival Pakistan. “But every time we lose to green, we turn orange all of a sudden.”

Orange refers to muscular Hindu nationalism, often symbolized by the color saffron.

“I come from an India that will watch this and know there is a gigantic joke. It just isn’t funny,” he said.

Soon after Das released the video social media users accused him of insulting India on the global stage, and at least two police complaints were filed against him.

Leading Indian actress Kangana Ranaut slammed Das, calling the video “soft terrorism” and writing on Instagram: “Strict action should be taken against such criminals.”

Das took to Twitter insisting the video was a “satire about the duality of two separate Indias that do different things.

“Like any nation has light and dark, good and evil within it.”

The backlash against Das is not the first time an Indian comic has come under fire from right-wing Hindu groups and activists.

Comedian Munawar Faruqui was held in prison for more than a month after being accused of insulting Hindu gods and goddesses, and this month cancelled three shows in Mumbai after a Hindu right-wing group threatened to set the venue ablaze.

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Abraham Ancer completes wire-to-wire win in Saudi Arabia’s golf tournament


Abraham Ancer of Mexico closed with a 2-under 68 for a two-shot victory over Cameron Young in the Saudi International on Sunday.

Ancer capped off a wire-to-wire victory, which featured a majority of the Saudi-funded LIV Golf league. It was his third worldwide victory.

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Young, the PGA Tour rookie of the year, received a release to compete in the Asian Tour event. It was his sixth runner-up finish in the last 16 months.

He caught Ancer briefly on the front nine until a two-shot swing on eighth home — Ancer made birdie, Young made a bogey — that restored Ancer's two-shot lead.

Lucas Herbert of Australia had a 65 and finished third.

Young now heads to back-to-back elevated events on the PGA Tour in Phoenix and Los Angeles. Ancer, who joined LIV last summer, has two weeks off before LIV Golf begins its second season.

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Grammy awards: Will megastar Beyonce finally win top honor of best album?


Pop superstar Beyonce, winner of more Grammy awards than any other female artist, has never taken home the coveted album of the year trophy at the music industry’s highest honors.
That could change on Sunday, according to industry experts and awards pundits, although it is not a sure thing in a formidable, wide-ranging field that includes Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny, pop musician Harry Styles, singer and flutist Lizzo, and disco-era Swedish hitmaker ABBA.
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Winners will be announced during a ceremony that will be broadcast live on US broadcast network CBS and streamed on Paramount+ starting at 5 p.m. Pacific time/8 p.m. Eastern time (0100 GMT on Monday).
Beyonce heads into the show in Los Angeles with nine nominations, including an album of the year nod for dance-heavy album “Renaissance.” She has won 28 Grammys over her career, and she could break the all-time record of 31 on Sunday.
But the top prize has escaped her. The acclaimed 2016 album “Lemonade” was defeated by Adele’s “25,” prompting the British vocalist to say on stage that Beyonce deserved the honor.
Beyonce “is about to be the most-winningest Grammy award winner. There’s almost no way she’s not going to break the record," said Jem Aswad, deputy music editor for Variety.
“But she has never won album of the year, one of the top awards, and that’s just wrong,” he added.
Adele, who has claimed the album trophy twice, also is in the mix this year with “30.” It is possible that Adele and Beyonce voters could cancel each other out, Aswad said, opening a door for Styles to prevail with “Harry’s House.”
Beyonce’s other nominations include record and song of the year for “Break My Soul.” If she wins at least four awards, she will top the late classical conductor Georg Solti as the most-decorated artist in Grammys history.
The winners are chosen by roughly 11,000 members of the Recording Academy, which has faced complaints that it has not given Black talent proper recognition. The organization has worked to diversify its membership in recent years.
In the best new artist category, contenders include Italian rock band Maneskin, jazz artist Samara Joy, American bluegrass singer Molly Tuttle and TikTok phenom Gayle, who rose to fame with “abcdefu.”
Taylor Swift’s 10-minute version of her 2012 song “All Too Well” was nominated for best song. Swift’s latest album, “Midnights,” was released after this year’s eligibility window, which ran from October 2021 through September 2022.
Comedian Trevor Noah will host Sunday’s awards show. Scheduled performers include Styles, Lizzo, Sam Smith, Luke Combs and Bad Bunny. First lady Jill Biden is among the night’s presenters.
Like other awards shows, the Grammys have seen their television audience decline in recent years. Last year’s ceremony drew roughly 9 million viewers, the second-smallest on record.
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Lebanon hopes UNESCO danger listing could save Trpoli’s modernist fairground


Its arch is cracking and its vast pavilions lie empty, but the crubling Rachid Karami International Fair in Lebanon’s port city Tripoli now has hope of revival, having been added to the United Nations’ list of world heritage sites in danger.
Designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer in 1962, the collection of structures on the 70-hectare plot is considered one of the key works of 20th century modernism in the Middle East.

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But the fair park has slowly decayed due to repeated rounds of fighting over the last 60 years, poor maintenance and most recent-ly Lebanon’s crippling, three-year-old financial crisis.
“It was placed on the World Heritage List exceptionally, quickly and urgently –- and on the list of heritage in danger because it’s in a critical situation,” said Joseph Kreidi, UNESCO’s national pro-gram officer for culture in Beirut.
Its elegant arch is missing concrete in some parts, exposing the rebar underneath. Rainwater has pooled at the locked
entrances. One section is sealed off by a sign that reads, “Unsafe building entry.”
“Placing it on the World Heritage Danger List is an appeal to all countries of the world, as if to say: this site needs some care,” said Kreidi.
He said it was up to the Lebanese authorities to draw together a plan for the site’s protection and rehabilitation but that UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, could help search for funding and provide technical expertise.
Lebanon has five other sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, most of them citadels and ancient temples.
Niemeyer is recognized as one of the fathers of modern architeture and the site in Tripoli was an early foray into the Middle East.
Construction of the fairground began in the 1960s but was delayed when civil war erupted in Lebanon in 1975. Fighters used the site to stage operations and stored weapons underneath its concrete dome.
Mira Minkara, a freelance tour guide from Tripoli and a member of the Oscar Niemeyer Foundation’s Tripoli chapter, has fond — but rare –- memories of the fairground as a child.
For the most part, it was off-limits to Tripoli’s residents given safety concerns. But Minkara remembered her first visit during a festival of pan-African culture and crafts.
She hopes that UNESCO’s recognition could bring new festivals, exhibitions, and economic benefits to Tripoli –- already one of the poorest cities on the Mediterranean before Lebanon’s financial meltdown began.
Lebanon’s cultural heritage has been hit hard in recent years. The 2020 Beirut port blast tore through 19th-century homes in historic neighborhoods and power outages caused by the financial crisis have cut supplies to the national museum.
“We hope things change a little,” Minkara said. “It’s high time for this fairground to emerge from this long sleep, this almost-death.”

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