Arts & Entertainment

Snow, Confetti Mix as Boston Celebrates Patriots Super Bowl Win

Hundreds of thousands of New England Patriots fans lined Boston’s streets on Tuesday, defying a driving snowstorm to cheer the team’s players in a parade celebrating their latest Super Bowl victory.

Stars including quarterback Tom Brady and wide receiver Julian Edelman waved from the cavalcade of flatbed trucks and amphibious vehicles known as duck boats. Blowing confetti mixed with snow as the team celebrated its fifth National Football League championship since 2002.

Head coach Bill Belichick, known for his taciturn manner, was uncharacteristically smiling and waving and team owner Robert Kraft hoisted one of several silver Vince Lombardi trophies held by team personnel as fans screamed their approval.

Security was high throughout the city, with sand-filled dump trucks blocking key intersections off the route to prohibit a vehicle-mounted attack. Boston has ratcheted up security at public events since the deadly 2013 bombing attack on the Boston Marathon.

Chants of “Brady, Brady” and “MVP” echoed through the streets as fans celebrated the 39-year-old quarterback’s fifth career Super Bowl ring. This one capped a season in which Brady had to sit out the first four games as a league-imposed punishment for using under-inflated footballs during the 2015 playoffs, a scandal nicknamed “Deflategate.”

The Patriots had trailed the Atlanta Falcons in Sunday’s Super Bowl by as many as 25 points before Brady rallied them to a 34-28 overtime victory.

“You couldn’t have written this script. It was just extraordinary,” said Daryl Collins, 59, of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, who said the victory was all the more meaningful because of Brady’s suspension, which many in Boston had regarded as a miscarriage of sporting justice.

Several fans wore goat masks or carried stuffed goats – a reference to the acronym GOAT – or greatest of all time, as they regard Brady.

The city has seen 10 “duck boat” parades in the past 16 years as Boston’s four major sports franchises collected a string of 10 championships, led by the Patriots.

“I’ve been to 10 of these in my lifetime,” said Bill Nugent, 23, who pulled his two children out of school for the event. “This is the best, because of Deflategate. As I get older, it gets better.”

The 31-foot (9.5-meter) duck boats normally carry sightseers through the city’s narrow streets and along the Charles River.

The city was expecting up to 1 million people for the parade, Boston Police Commissioner William Evans told WBZ-4 television.

Arts & Entertainment

Motion Picture Academy’s Leader Speaks in Support of Artistic Freedom

The head of the organization behind the Oscar awards has called for diversity and freedom of expression, saying the United States should not put barriers in the way of artists from around the world.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, told the 165 Oscar-nominated actors and filmmakers there was a “struggle globally today over artistic freedom that feels more urgent than at any time since the 1950s,” an apparent reference to the anti-communist blacklists of some in the movie industry at the time.

Speaking Monday at a luncheon in Beverly Hills for the 2017 nominees, Isaacs noted that there were “some empty chairs in this room, which has made Academy artists activists.”

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi and actress Taraneh Alidoosti, who stars in his foreign-language-nominated film “The Salesman,” said last week they would boycott the February 26 Academy Awards to protest President Donald Trump’s travel restrictions on Iranians and six other Muslim-majority countries.

Other Oscar nominees who expect to find difficulty traveling to Los Angeles for the ceremony include those behind documentary “The White Helmets,” which is about civilian Syrian rescue workers.

Isaacs did not directly mention the travel restrictions, but she said, “America should always be not a barrier but a beacon. … We stand up to those who would try to limit our freedom of expression.”

“When we speak out against those who try to put up barriers, we reinforce this important truth: that all artists around the world are connected by a powerful bond, one that speaks to our creativity and common humanity,” she said to loud applause.

Recent speeches

Isaacs’ address followed fiery speeches at recent awards shows and rallies by such celebrities as Meryl Streep, Madonna and Ellen DeGeneres condemning the travel ban, supporting civil and women’s rights, and criticizing Trump’s behavior.

Isaacs, who is African-American, also cited the Academy’s efforts to improve diversity in its ranks. After two straight years in which all 20 acting nominees were white, this year there are seven actors of color among the Oscar nominees.

“Wow! What a difference a year makes,” she said.

Some 683 new members — many of them women or people of color — have joined the Academy in the past 12 months in a bid to make the body that chooses the Oscar winners more representative.

“When we reach out to be inclusive, we set a shining example,” said Isaacs.

Silicon Valley & Technology

New Technology Allows The Paralyzed to Communicate

Psychologist Niels Birbaumer has spent a great part of his career dealing with people whose bodies have failed them. He published a paper in 2008 about the quality of life among people who have lost the ability to control their bodies, many of whom needed a breathing tube to live. In new research published this week, Birbaumer reports he has found a way to communicate with people who are literally trapped in their bodies. VOA’s Kevin Enochs has details.

Silicon Valley & Technology

YouTube Stars Can Live Stream from Mobile, Make Money from Fans

Alphabet’s YouTube said it was rolling out live streaming from mobile devices for users with more than 10,000 subscribers, adding a feature that will help them make money, as it takes on Facebook Live.

YouTube said in a blog post Tuesday it would roll out the feature to other contributors soon.

YouTube also launched Super Chat, allowing users to highlight their messages for a fee. “Super Chat is like paying for that front-row seat in the digital age,” YouTube said.

Any fan watching a live stream would be able to purchase chat messages that are highlighted in bright colors and stay pinned to the top of the chat window for up to five hours.

Live video is becoming a highly competitive feature on social platforms, with companies competing to stream major sports events and exclusive videos from high-profile events such as the Oscar and Grammy awards shows.

While YouTube has been supporting live streaming on its website since 2011, Facebook Live, which offers streaming video in real time, was launched in 2015.

Twitter started allowing live broadcasts from its mobile app last year.

The live videos will have all the same features as regular YouTube videos as they can be searched for, found via recommendations or playlists, and protected from unauthorized use, YouTube said.

Arts & Entertainment

This Day in History: America Catches ‘Beatlemania’ Just Over 50 Years Ago

On a cold day in February 1964, thousands of teenagers stood waiting at New York’s JFK International Airport for The Beatles — nicknamed the “Fab Four” — to arrive for their first tour of America.

As their heads poked out of a Pam Am airplane and they descended down a slim stairwell onto the tarmac, they were greeting by screaming fans, and by all accounts, near pandemonium.  

Escorted by policemen, The Beatles then fielded questions from the press, many of them about their hair. 

When asked by one reporter if they were “going to get a haircut at all,” George Harrison famously answered, “I had one yesterday.”

That same day, Chet Huntley of NBC News, who was among America’s most elite television journalists, noted “Beatlemania” in his evening newscast.

Two days later, The Beatles sang live on national television on the Ed Sullivan show, one of three appearances during their American tour.

This first official tour of North America saw The Beatles play a total 32 shows at 26 venues in 24 cities in just 33 days. 

During the tour, drummer Ringo Starr was quoted as saying:

“So this is America…They all seem to be out of their minds.”

Arts & Entertainment

If You Ghost Do You Throw Shade? US Dictionary Adds New Words

The next time someone throws shade at you for ghosting them so you can binge-watch a TV show or retreat to your safe space, you can let them know your behavior has been recognized by the United States’ leading dictionary publisher.

Merriam-Webster on Tuesday added more than 1,000 new words and definitions, ranging from conversational to scientific, to its website,, the dictionary’s most significant update in years, said Merriam-Webster spokeswoman Meghan Lungi.

The last time the dictionary updated its website and print edition was in 2014, when it added only 150 words, she said.

“Throwing shade,” for example, originated from black and Latino gay culture in the 1980s and has been popularized more recently through social media. It means to express contempt through indirect or subtle insults.

“Ghosting,” meanwhile, is to abruptly cut off contact with another person, usually a former friend or romantic partner.

Another new entry, “microaggression,” is a discriminatory comment or action that subtly – and sometimes unconsciously – expresses prejudice toward a member of a marginalized group.

Other terms include “binge-watch,” meaning to view many or all episodes of a TV series in quick succession; “prosopagnosia,” an inability to recognize faces; “arancini,” fried rice balls; and “safe space,” a place intended to be free of bias, conflict and criticism.

“This is a significant addition of words … and it reflects both the breadth of English vocabulary and the speed with which that vocabulary changes,” the dictionary’s chief digital officer and publisher, Lisa Schneider, said in a statement.

“Snollygoster,” an unprincipled but shrewd person, has also returned to the dictionary after being dropped in 2003 because it had “fallen nearly completely from use,” according to the dictionary’s website.

Originally used in the name-calling politics of 19th-century America, snollygoster was brought back into the mainstream due to conservative TV host Bill O’Reilly’s frequent use of in recent years.


Silicon Valley & Technology

Twitter Announces Steps to Curb Abuse

Twitter says it is stepping up efforts to prevent “abuse and harassment” on its microblogging platform.

On Tuesday, the company announced several steps it is taking.

First, Twitter says it will identify people who have been banned for online abuse and prevent them from creating new accounts.

Additionally, the company says it will create a “safe search” feature so that “tweets that contain potentially sensitive content and tweets from blocked and muted accounts” will be removed from search results. Those tweets will still exist, but Twitter says they will not clutter search results any longer.

The company also says it will begin “identifying and collapsing potentially abusive and low-quality replies so the most relevant conversations are brought forward.”

Twitter has been failing to keep up with other social media platforms such as Facebook. Twitter recently reduced staff and an attempt to sell the company failed.

The 10-year-old Twitter has never made a profit, and despite tweaks to the format, has continued to see its user base shrink.

Economy & business

Trump Reveals New Policies on Trade, Jobs

Trade agreements and jobs were two big issues on the minds of farmers and manufacturing workers during the 2016 Presidential campaign. Two weeks into President Donald Trump’s term has provided some insight into his plans to fulfill campaign promises that appealed to those voters who helped him win the White House. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more from rural Illinois.