Arts & Entertainment

Female Artists in Rio Promote Women’s Rights Via Painting

Before leaving her home each day to teach art to children, Mariluce Maria de Souza must factor in extra time to account for the shootings and other eruptions of violence that occur daily in Alemao, Rio de Janeiro’s largest complex of slums, or favelas.

The 35-year-old mother sometimes has to cancel a session teaching painting to children because the journey to class is just too dangerous. Through the project called Favela Art, the self-taught artist requires that her students attend school and study hard in return.

Souza has become an example of empowerment for girls and women in the slum, who often face domestic violence and workplace discrimination.

“Sometimes the mothers, who are mother and father at the same time, don’t have the time to give the kind of attention that five, six or seven children need,” Souza said.

Like many Latin American countries, Brazil has deep problems with gender-specific violence. The Brazilian nonprofit Mapa da Violencia says nearly five in 100,000 women are killed each year, giving the country one of the world’s highest homicide rates for women.

The situation is even worse for black women, many of whom live in slums. Between 2003 and 2013, the annual number homicides of black women jumped 54 percent, according to Mapa da Violencia.

“We use the graffiti to demand the end of violence against women,” said Maiara Viana Rodrigues, a 25-year-old who said that as a teen she was sexually abused by a man in her neighborhood.

To make her point, the member of Afrograffitteiras, a group working to empower black women, on one recent afternoon painted graffiti exhorting: “Viva! You, Woman!” on a wall in a Rio suburb.

Along with rejecting physical violence, the female artists say they also want to shine a light on psychological abuse, unequal access to education and health care, and less pay for women doing the same job as men. 

Lya Alves, who recently painted a mural of a black woman on a wall in Rio’s renovated port area, says feminism has lost much of its meaning since the 1970s, when women fought against being considered sexual objects.

“Nowadays the media promotes” the sexual objectification of women, she said. “Is that helping to obtain a better education, a better salary?”

Silicon Valley & Technology

Nike to Launch High-tech Hijab for Female Muslim Athletes

Nike will launch a hijab for female Muslim athletes early next year, becoming the first major sports apparel maker to offer a traditional Islamic head scarf designed specifically for competition, the company said on Wednesday.

The head covering, marketed under the “Pro Hijab” brand, is designed to allow athletes to observe the traditional Islamic practice of covering the head without compromising performance.

Made from a lightweight, flexible material, the hijab is expected to hit stores shelves in early 2018, Nike said in a statement.

In recent years, the hijab has become the most visible symbol of Islamic culture in the United States and Europe. Many Muslim women cover their heads in public with the hijab as a sign of modesty, but some critics see it as a sign of female oppression.

With sensitivities over immigration and the perceived threat of Muslim extremism running high, the head scarf has led to attacks against Muslim women. At the same time, the hijab has evolved in a symbol of diversity that Nike has embraced.

The Women’s March on Washington, held the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, used the face of a woman wearing a hijab in an American flag pattern as its promotional image.

Muslim athletes visiting Nike’s headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, just outside of Portland, have complained about the difficulties of wearing a hijab while competing, according to the company.

The company consulted with Muslim women athletes from around the world, including Middle Eastern runners and cyclists, in the designing the hijab.

Other companies have also set their sights on hijab sales to Muslim athletes.

Last year, Danish sportswear company Hummel unveiled a soccer jersey with an attached hijab for the Afghanistan national women’s soccer team.

Non-professional women Muslim athletes have used athletic hijabs made by smaller companies.

But Nike’s annual net sales in the billions and its reach in popular culture can do more to bring Muslim athletes into the fold, said Amna Al Haddad, a Nike sponsored weightlifter from the United Arab Emirates who consulted on “Pro Hijab.”

“[It will] encourage a whole new generation to pursue sports without feeling there is a limitation because of modesty or dress-code,” Haddad said.

Arts & Entertainment

Nigeria’s Kaduna Rivals Lagos in Growing Hip-hop Culture

Lagos has long been known as Nigeria’s pop culture hub. It’s the home of Nigeria’s film industry, Nollywood, as well as many of the country’s top musicians and artists.

But a group of rappers and fashion designers is creating a scene of their own in Kaduna, in northern Nigeria, some 600 kilometers from Lagos. Kaduna’s is the new center of Nigeria’s growing hip-hop culture.


DJ Jakes Tudu is cranking out jams on his weekly radio show, playing the latest tunes from local rap artists.


Hip-hop music has taken over Nigeria’s pop music scene. Rappers like Morell, DJ AB, Kheengz, and Classiq are part of a new generation of rappers. They hail from Kaduna and they’re trying to put their city on the music map.  


On the surface, Kaduna is a quiet conservative city. But there’s another side of it. Here, music artists like Kevin Words are becoming local celebrities. DJ Jakes is a huge fan of Words.

WATCH: Inside Northern Nigeria’s Emerging Hip Hop Scene

“Stepping into the Kaduna music industry you have to listen to the likes of Kevin Words because a lot of people out there have this stereotype or this mindset that Kaduna artists or the Kaduna industry is full of mediocres, but when you hear people like Kevin Words, trust me, you want to sit up,” DJ Jakes says.

Ibrahim Ilyia, 28, is another rapper from the streets of Kaduna. He goes by the stage name IBI. One of his most recent hit songs, Alhamdulillah, fuses the local Hausa slang with American hip-hop style.  


“When I was young I used to listen to rap a lot and I fell in love with rap music and right now I do rap music because I love it,” Ilyia says.

Most rappers in Nigeria, Ilyia says, end up going to Lagos to make it but Lagos, in his opinion, is passe.


“I’m not actually against people going to Lagos, but if Kaduna people can just build themselves alone, reach a certain level, I mean Lagos is nothing. We’ll counter them.”

So, he works hard, putting pen to paper to write rhymes and trying out new lyrics with sample beats. He’s good at free-styling, too.


The music is just one part of hip-hop culture. Fashion is also important. Kaduna is fertile ground for young ambitious designers.

Hussena Raji is the CEO of Mummy’s Fashun. Her clothes are an edgy blend of urban and African.

“I decided to blend hip-hop because that’s what’s selling in the market. Almost everybody wants to wear and feel like it. So we try as much as possible to make everything look it,” says Raji.

Patrick Yamai, 24, is another designer combining different looks with his fashion label YKP Clothing.


‘I just felt there was a space in the fashion line that had been neglected. It’s either fully African or it’s fully English, or fully corporate, but I had this dream of fusing the two. Something you can wear to the club and still wear to the office. So I tried to fuse African and urban together to see if it can go and the reception has been wonderful. We’re doing clothes that are African but you can wear it with a sneaker and still look cool, that’s what we’re trying to do,” he said.


Yamai is an accounting graduate while DJ Jakes studied architecture in school. But they each found their calling in this local scene.

Silicon Valley & Technology

Tech Companies Respond to Alleged CIA Hacking Tools

Major technology firms say they are moving to fix any vulnerabilities in their operating systems, a day after WikiLeaks released documents pertaining to an alleged CIA hacking arsenal capable of spying on people through microphones in mobile phones and other electronic devices such as smart televisions.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Apple said it had already addressed many of the issues identified in the WikiLeaks documents, but said it would “continue work to rapidly to address any identified vulnerabilities.”

“We always urge customers to download the latest iOS to make sure they have the most recent security updates,” Apple said.


Samsung made a similar comment, saying it was aware of the report and “urgently looking into the matter.”

“Protecting consumers’ privacy and the security of our devices is a top priority at Samsung,” the South Korean electronics company said.

Security flaws

According to the WikiLeaks documents, the CIA identified weaknesses within the software used by Apple, Google, Microsoft and other U.S.-based manufacturers; but, instead of informing the companies of the vulnerabilities, the CIA “hoarded” the exploits, leaving people open to potential hacking.

“By hiding these security flaws from manufacturers like Apple and Google the CIA ensures that it can hack everyone; at the expense of leaving everyone hackable,” WikiLeaks said in a statement accompanying the release of the documents.

The CIA would neither confirm nor deny the legitimacy of the documents, although WikiLeaks boasts a nearly perfect record on the authenticity of the documents it publishes.

Economy & business

US Productivity Records Smallest Annual Gain Since 2011

The productivity of American workers grew at a slower pace in fourth quarter and last year recorded the smallest annual gain in five years.

The Labor Department said Wednesday that productivity grew at a 1.3 percent annual pace from October through December, down from 3.3 percent in the third quarter. For 2016, productivity eked out a 0.2 percent increase, the smallest since a 0.1 percent gain in 2011.

Labor costs, which account for changes in productivity, rose at a 1.7 percent annual pace in the fourth quarter. That’s up from a 0.7 percent increase from July through September.

The fourth-quarter numbers were unchanged from an original report in February.

Gains in productivity have slowed in recent years for reasons economists are struggling to understand. Since 2007, productivity has grown by an average 1.2 percent a year, compared to an average 2.6 percent from 2000 through 2007 and 2.1 percent from 1947 through 2016.

Productivity measures output per hour worked. Increases are crucial for economic prosperity. When their workers are more productive, employers can afford to pay them more. And productivity gains, along with growth in the number of people working, determine how fast the economy grows.

The U.S. economy grew at a sluggish annual 1.9 pace from October through December, down sharply from 3.5 percent growth in the third quarter.

President Donald Trump vowed during the election campaign to double growth to 4 percent a year through tax cuts, deregulation and increased government spending on infrastructure and defense. Economists are skeptical he can reach that goal – or even the target of 3 percent or better offered by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin – given the productivity slump and a slow-growing labor force.

Arts & Entertainment

‘Hamilton’ US Tour Led by Actor Who Vows a ‘Gritty’ Take

You may not particularly recall Nov. 16, but Broadway actor Michael Luwoye will never forget it.

It was a Wednesday and he certainly earned his salary that day. Luwoye played the title role in the mega-hit musical “Hamilton” at the matinee and then suited up a few hours later to play Aaron Burr that evening.

“I knew that this would happen, at some point. I was prepped and a little excited to do that. So it was one of those moments of just, ‘Let’s just go!'” he said. “It was much more exhilarating than I’d imagined it would be.”

Luwoye is the first person to play both pivotal roles on the same day, and audiences across the country will soon be getting a chance to see why he was entrusted with the responsibilities.

The 26-year-old Alabama native stars as Alexander Hamilton in the “Hamilton” national tour, which kicks off this month with a 21-week stand in San Francisco, followed by a 21-week engagement in Los Angeles.

“It’s incredible how much people love this show and they haven’t seen it. So it warms my heart to know that more people will be able to see it with this tour,” Luwoye said.

Luwoye is the fifth actor to play Hamilton and promises a strong take on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s striving Founding Father. “My Hamilton is pretty gritty. I feel like that fire that Hamilton has, I feel like I capture that very well,” he said.

Thomas Kail, the Tony Award-winning director of “Hamilton,” said he watched and listened to Luwoye audition for Hamilton with a memorable take on the striving song “My Shot.”

“It was one of those moments when you sit up straight in your chair and you know that you are witnessing something,” said Kail. “We throw a lot of material at people when we’re auditioning and there are certain people who rise to meet that. And he just rose to meet it.”

Miranda’s multiple award-winning take on the nation’s first U.S. treasury secretary has a varied score, ranging from pop ballads to rap battles to sexy R&B. It has been cheered for reclaiming the nation’s founding story with a multicultural cast.

Luwoye, born and raised in Huntsville, Alabama, went to the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa and decided to make performing a career as a junior in college. His credits include playing a Ugandan dreamer in off-Broadway’s “Invisible Thread” and Peter Tosh in a bio-musical of Bob Marley in Maryland.

When “Hamilton” was first being created downtown, he initially auditioned for the dual roles of Hercules Mulligan/James Madison. He didn’t get it – the roles went to Okieriete Onaodowan – but Luwoye kept auditioning, learning new characters and eventually impressing with his Hamilton and Burr.

Luwoye got the call that he’d won the part of the Hamilton alternate on Broadway when he was working as a caterer. “I was in the middle of putting on my tuxedo,” he said. “Once I hung up the phone, I was like, ‘I have a lot of words to learn.'”

Then came that pivotal winter day when on the same day he played both the chatty, workaholic Hamilton and his political nemesis, the sly and careful Burr, which he considers a harder part. Luwoye said doing both made the show more clear.

“Hamilton and Burr onstage mirror each other,” he said. “Hamilton gets to express a lot more and is very, very fast – that fire is lit under him and he just goes. Burr has the same drive but has to do it a lot slower. The story is not about him. He’s telling the story and so his moments are not the priority in the storytelling.”

Luwoye has packed up his Brooklyn apartment and flown to San Francisco where company members include Joshua Henry as Burr and Rory O’Malley as King George III. “I don’t really have words for this, to be very honest,” he said.

One thing is certain: His catering days are done.

“I think so,” he said with a smile. “I think so.”

Arts & Entertainment

Scarlett Johansson Files for Divorce from Romain Dauriac

A lawyer for Scarlett Johansson’s husband Romain Dauriac says he’s “shocked” that the star filed for divorce.


Johansson’s filing in a New York City court on Tuesday states that her marriage to Dauriac is “irretrievably broken.” The move follows a January announcement that the couple split last summer after less than two years of marriage.


Johansson asks for joint custody of the couple’s toddler daughter in the filing, but also wants the child to live with her. Dauriac’s lawyer, Hal Mayerson, says he’s taken aback by the request because he has been the “primary parent” for Rose while Johansson has been involved with her career.


Johansson’s representatives and attorneys didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.


Johansson was previously wed to actor Ryan Reynolds from 2008 to 2011.