Category Archives: Entertainment

Uruguay’s Independence Day

On behalf of the Government of the United States of America, congratulations to the people of Uruguay on their 193rd anniversary of independence.

For over 150 years, our nations have enjoyed a strong history of cooperation. Our shared commitment to peacekeeping efforts has forged a close partnership between our nations. Uruguay’s democratic traditions and consistent support for the international rule of law have led to a relationship built on a shared commitment to economic prosperity, global security, and democracy.

The United States values this longstanding friendship and wishes the Uruguayan people a happy Independence Day celebration.

Source: U.S. State Department

‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Breaking Stereotypes, Box Office

Crazy Rich Asians, a romantic comedy by filmmaker Jon Chu, showcases lavish sets and beautiful, rich people. Set against the exotic and ultramodern backdrop of Singapore, the film rewards its audience with an uplifting modern day fairy tale. But what makes this Hollywood film stand out, is its all Asian cast and the clear message: Not all Asians are the same.

Based on Kevin Kwan’s book of the same title, the film starts with a young Asian couple in New York. Rachel Chu, played by Constance Wu, an Asian American economics professor at New York University. Nick Young is from Singapore. Having dated for over a year, the couple is starting to get serious about each other but have yet to take the next step. NIck, played by Henry Golding, invites Rachel to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore. Nick’s idea is to introduce Rachel to his family.

As the couple sets out for Singapore, what Rachel does not know is that Nick is the scion of one of the city-state’s wealthiest families and one of its most eligible bachelors. Before she even gets there, her picture has gone viral on social media, and as soon as she arrives, she becomes the target of many wealthy young women who aspire to marry Nick.

Nick’s formidable mother Eleanor Young, played by Michelle Yeoh, feels that American-born Rachel, played by Constance Wu, is not suitable for her son. She rejects the young woman’s American values of independence and self-determination as an affront to Singapore’s traditionalist values.

Rachel’s and Nick’s relationship unfolds against the sophisticated backdrop of the Asian island’s exotic landscape, and mouthwatering culinary creations. Their relationship is tested but grows despite the antagonism and cruelty Rachel faces from Nick’s mother and her snobbish friends.

Throughout the bitter sweet roller coaster, the cast features funny, quirky, and serious characters, among them, Hip Hop artist Awkwafina. She plays Peik Lin Goh, Rachel’s former roomate and friend from the States now living in Singapore. Peik Lin helps navigate Rachel through various cultural hurdles and provides comic relief. The cast is impeccably dressed, impossibly rich, and all of them, Asian.

Lead actress Constance Wu touts the all Asian international cast of the film. “I love the fact that we have Asians from Australia, from England, from Costa Rica, from America, from Singapore, from Malaysia, we have Asians from all over.”

Wu says the film moves away from the cliched image of the Asian as a disenfranchised minority in the US. “So frequently Hollywood thinks that Asians are this one monolith. Like there isn’t a difference between Asian Asians and Asian-Americans. Or British Asian, or Australian Asians. And there is a difference! Because there is a cultural difference. The fact that this movie really differentiates that, it’s something that doesn’t happen a lot.”

The film’s message and its lavish cinematography appears to have paid off. Crazy Rich Asians has become a box office hit – elevating the hopes of cast and fans that Asian actors are finally becoming part of Hollywood’s mainstream. A day after the film’s premiere in Singapore, Victoria Loke, who plays wealthy socialite Fiona Cheng, spoke to VOA about the film’s success.

“During filming,” she said, “we never really thought about how big an impact that was going to make. So many Asian-American audiences have messaged us separately as actors, our director, our producers, thanking us for having a stake and being a part of this representation of the Asian American community.”

Despite the film’s box office success, Loke said it also has had its share of criticism.

“There has been a lot of conversation in Singapore and Asia about how this film only represents the 1 percent of Singapore: she said. “There are a lot of people who don’t relate to that. This is about Crazy Rich Asians, it’s about a very small niche, and of course there will be lot of fair criticism about the fact that it doesn’t represent fully the entire population. “

Representative or not, the film has played to sold out theaters in Asia and the U.S. And Victoria Loke confirmed that the film has already been green-lighted for a sequel.

Source: Voice of America

Passing of Former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee

On behalf of the people of the United States of America, I extend my heartfelt condolences to the people of India on the recent passing of Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

We know that many Indians will reflect on Prime Minister Vajpayee’s many contributions that led to India’s rise as a global and economic power. He championed tirelessly for his country’s development and demonstrated a devotion to improving the lives of every Indian. Standing before the United States Congress in 2000, he famously characterized U.S.-India ties as a natural partnership of shared endeavors.” He recognized early on that the United States and India, based on their shared democratic values, could develop a partnership that would contribute to the economic prosperity and security of the region and the world. Today, our two countries and our bilateral relationship continue to benefit from Prime Minister Vajpayee’s vision, which helped promote expanded cooperation.

The American people and I stand with the people of India as we mourn Prime Minister Vajpayee’s passing. Today, we hold the people of India in our thoughts and prayers.

Source: U.S. State Department

UN AGENCIES AID THOUSANDS AFFECTED BY FLASH FLOOD IN LAOS

VIENTIANE, As relief operations continue in flooded villages of Attapeu province of southern Laos, UN agencies are working with the government and humanitarian partners to bring in clean water, food, shelter and medical aid for the more than 13,000 people affected by the floods.

Tropical storm Son-Tinh caused heavy rains and flooding in 13 provinces and unprecedented flash floods in Attapeu Province, the largest national tragedy in the country’s recent history.

In order to address the most pressing needs, the Humanitarian Country Team in Laos has activated eight priority clusters, namely water, sanitation and hygiene, health, food security and nutrition, shelter, protection, education, logistics and early recovery, Lao News Agency (KPL) reported on Monday.

These clusters are coordinating response activities among key stakeholders including the government, UN agencies, international non-government organizations, donors and other partners.

The United Nations in the Lao PDR, in close coordination with the government, continues to provide food and non-food items such as water, sanitation and hygiene supplies, water taps, electric pumps, tents, mosquito nets and medical items to the over 6,000 affected people living in camps.

A joint Disaster Response Plan has been developed by the Humanitarian Country Team and presented to the government, with generous contributions by donors already made.

As expressed by the government at a recent press conference last week, four priority areas require support: research and rescue of those missing; rehabilitation of roads and bridges that have been damaged; food supplies and utensils; and medical equipment and supplies, including vaccination to prevent disease outbreaks, ambulances and mental health support.

“The priority of the United Nations is to provide immediate emergency relief to address the needs of the affected populations while working on a medium and longer-term response plan,” said UN Resident Coordinator Kaarina Immonen.

Thirty UN staff from eight agencies are on the ground to support the ongoing operation. A team of experts from headquarter and regional offices specializing in emergency assessment, rapid initial assessment, logistics support, risk communications, displacement management, health and camp coordination has also arrived, according to the KPL report.

Source: NAM News Network

CEGGA Advisory Board Holds Meeting on Citizen Engagement

The Advisory Board of the Programme to Promote Citizen Engagement for Good Governance, Accountability and the Rule of Law (CEGGA) came together for their first annual meeting in Vientiane on Aug 8, 2018.

The board meeting was chaired by Vice Minister of Home Affairs Khammoune Viphongxay, and co-chaired by the Ambassador of the European Union (EU) to the Lao PDR Leo Faber.

During the meeting, participants discussed and endorsed the CEGGA Programme Document as the conceptual framework and for incorporating additional EU funding of up to EUR 3 million to the multi-donor governance programme, bringing the total joint contribution of the EU, Germany and Switzerland to EUR 17 million for the duration of 2017- 2020.

Germany was represented by Ambassador Mr Jens Luetkenherm and Switzerland by Mr Tim Enderlin, Regional Director of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

The CEGGA Advisory Board also provided guidance for implementation with regard to the agreed key milestones envisaged to be achieved during the upcoming year within the three CEGGA Programme Components providing technical assistance in the fields of civil society engagement, of the National Assembly and Provincial People’s Councils, as well as of the rule of law and human rights obligations.

In their remarks, both chair and co-chair underlined the importance of continued joint efforts and synergies across Programme Components to reach the ambitious CEGGA objectives.

They highlighted the good collaboration among involved Lao state institutions and development partners to date, namely the Ministry of Home Affairs, the National Assembly, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Planning and Investment, the EU, Germany, Switzerland, and the Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

The overall objective of the CEGGA Programme is to increase citizens’ engagement in the national development process of the Lao PDR, through the promotion of good governance, human rights and the rule of law. To this end, specific objectives are to promote an environment that enables civil society engagement for sustainable development and good governance, to increase and broaden participation through the National Assembly and Provincial People’s Assemblies, and to enhance the implementation of the rule of law and human rights obligations.

CEGGA will contribute to the effective implementation of the 8th National Socio-Economic Development Plan (NSEDP) and the attainment of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 by the Lao PDR that aims at promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

The CEGGA Advisory Board comprises representatives from all local partner institutions. Its mandate is to review overall progress of the CEGGA Programme in light of developments in the governance sector and to provide orientation for implementation.

Source: Lao News Agency

Recent Events in Zimbabwe

The United States government is gravely concerned by credible reports of numerous detentions, beatings, and other abuses of Zimbabweans over the past week, particularly targeting opposition activists. There should be no role for violence, intimidation, or harassment in the new Zimbabwe.

We are also deeply concerned that Zambia chose to hand over former Minister of Finance Tendai Biti to the Zimbabwean authorities, and in the face of a reported Zambian court order blocking his expulsion from Zambia.

This decision is particularly disheartening given the courage that Zambia showed in sheltering thousands of Zimbabwean freedom fighters from Rhodesian aggression in the days of Zimbabwe’s independence struggle. We will be discussing this matter with Zambia’s leaders and reviewing certain aspects of our cooperation with the Zambian government.

The Government of Zimbabwe is now responsible for Tendai Biti’s safety and welfare. We call on Zimbabwe’s leaders to guarantee Mr. Biti’s physical safety and ensure his constitutional and human rights are respected, consistent with the rule of law and Zimbabwe’s international obligations and commitments. In Washington, the United States has convoked the ambassadors of both Zimbabwe and Zambia to register our gravest concerns.

While Zimbabwe had a historic opportunity to move the country toward a brighter future for all its citizens, an electoral process marred by violence that does not respect constitutional rights and procedures is not a step toward that future.

Source: U.S. State Department

Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations Pete Marocco Travels to Morocco, Egypt, and Tunisia

Deputy Assistant Secretary Pete Marocco will travel to Rabat, Morocco; Cairo, Egypt; and Tunis, Tunisia August 9-14.

In Rabat, he will meet with civil society implementing partners. In Cairo, he will meet with Arab League officials to discuss a capacity-building program on conflict resolution. During his time in Tunis, he will meet with Libyan grantees who work on local stabilization.

Source: U.S. State Department

Issuance of Death Notices in Syria

The Syrian regime’s recent notices confirming the deaths of thousands of political prisoners in its custody affirms what the international community has long suspected and can never forget: the regime has systematically arrested, tortured, and murdered tens of thousands of Syrian civilians in response to their legitimate and nonviolent calls for their freedom, rights, and political reforms. Since the Syrian uprising began in 2011, at least 117,000 Syrians have been detained or forcibly disappeared, according to numerous human rights organizations. The vast majority of them are believed to be in regime custody, across a network of prisons where regime officials torture and murder civilians to intimidate and silence any opposition to Assad’s rule. Extensive documentation and other evidence of this torture and murder is being collected by international organizations, and support the world’s continued condemnation of the Syrian regime and prosecution of culpable officials in various courts. The United States strongly reiterates its condemnation of the Assad regime’s cruel actions and calls on it to adhere to international laws and norms pertaining to the treatment of prisoners, including by allowing access for independent monitors. We will continue to work with the international community to investigate and shed light on these nefarious activities and work to hold those responsible accountable.

Source: U.S. State Department