Arts & Entertainment

Ariana Grande Returns to Manchester to Honor Victims With Concert

Ariana Grande returned to the city to pay tribute with an energetic, all-star concert featuring Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and Liam Gallagher two weeks after a suicide bombing killed 22 of her fans and injured dozens of others in Manchester, England.


Grande was emotional and teary-eyed throughout the One Love Manchester concert Sunday, which the British Red Cross said raised more than 10 million pounds ($13 million) for the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund, created for those affected by the attack at Grande’s May 22 show.  


She closed the three-hour-plus event with a cover of “Over the Rainbow,” crying onstage at the song’s end as the audience cheered her on.


“Manchester, I love you with all of my heart,” Grande said before the performance, and just after singing “One Last Time” with Miley Cyrus, Pharrell and more of the show’s performers standing behind her in solidarity.


Gallagher, formerly of Oasis, earned loud cheers from the audience as he emerged in his home town in surprise form. He sang and offered encouraging words to the crowd, who held inspirational signs in their hands.


One of the most powerful moments was when the Parrs Wood High School Choir performed Grande’s “My Everything” with the singer. The 23-year-old pop star held the young lead performer’s hand, both with tears in their eyes, as the rest of the singers joined in.


Perry also left a mark with her resilient performance: She sang a stripped down version of her hit, “Part of Me.” Backed by two singers and a guitarist, she delivered the song wearing all white, singing, “Throw your sticks and your stones, throw your bombs and your blows, but you’re not gonna break my soul.”

“I encourage you to choose love even when it’s difficult. Let no one take that away from you,” she said.


Bieber shared similar words onstage, even coming close to crying when he spoke about God and those who died at Grande’s show.


“[God] loves you and he’s here for you. I wanna take this moment to honor the people that were lost, that were taken,” he said. “To the families, we love you so much. … Everybody say, ‘We honor you, and we love you.’”


Coldplay were also a crowd favorite, performing well-known songs like “Viva La Vida” and “Fix You.”


Grande performed throughout the show, singing her hits from “Side to Side” to “Break Free.” She even collaborated with others onstage: She sang Fergie’s verse on the Black Eyed Peas hit, “Where Is the Love” along with the group; she performed a duet with Cyrus; and she sang her debut song, “The Way,” with rapper Mac Miller.


Cyrus said she was “so honored to be at this incredible event” and performed “Happy” alongside Pharrell, who also sang “Get Lucky.”


“I don’t feel or smell or hear or see any fear in this building. All we feel here tonight is love, resilience, positivity,” Williams said.


Take That, who are from Manchester, followed with fun energy that the crowd danced to.


“Our thoughts are with everyone who has been affected by this,” singer Gary Barlow said. “We want everyone to stand strong.”


Robbie Williams also performed, changing some of his lyrics of “Strong” to honor the Manchester victims.


“Manchester we’re strong … we’re still singing our song,” he sang with the audience of 50,000.


The Manchester concert came the day after attackers targeted the heart of London, killing seven people. Authorities have said the attack started with a van plowing into pedestrians and then involved three men using large knives to attack people in bars and restaurants at a nearby market.


The One Love Manchester concert aired across the globe. Other performers included Little Mix, Niall Horan, Imogen Heap and Victoria Monet.

Science & Health

Quickly Reporting Cancer Complications May Boost Survival

If you’re being treated for cancer, speak up about any side effects. A study that had patients use home computers to report symptoms like nausea and fatigue surprisingly improved survival – by almost half a year, longer than many new cancer drugs do.


The online tool was intended as a quick and easy way for people to regularly report complications rather than trying to call their doctors or waiting until the next appointment. Researchers had hoped to improve quality of life but got a bonus in longer survival.      


“I was floored by the results,” said the study leader, Dr. Ethan Basch. “We are proactively catching things early” with online reporting.


Patients were able to stick with treatment longer because their side effects were quickly addressed, he said.


People shouldn’t assume that symptoms are an unavoidable part of cancer care, said Dr. Richard Schilsky, chief medical officer of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.


“You want to be able to reach your provider as early and easily as possible,” because a sign like shortness of breath may mean treatment isn’t working and needs to be changed, he said.


The study was featured at the cancer group’s annual meeting in Chicago on Sunday and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.


Earlier studies suggest that doctors miss about half of patients’ symptoms.


Catching problems sooner

Much of this happens between visits when patients are out of sight and out of mind,” said Basch, a researcher at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.


Sometimes patients just put up with a problem until their next exam.


“The spouse will say, `My husband was laid up in bed, exhausted or in pain,’ and I’ll say `Why didn’t you call me?’” Basch said.


The study tested whether the online tool could catch problems sooner. It involved 766 people being treated for various types of advanced cancers at Sloan Kettering. Some were given usual care and the rest, the online symptom tool.


Patients were as old as 91, and 22 percent has less than a high school education, but using a computer proved easy. “The older patients really grabbed onto it very quickly,” Basch said.


The online group was asked to report symptoms at least once a week – sooner if they had a problem – and given a list of common ones such as appetite loss, constipation, cough, diarrhea, shortness of breath, fatigue, hot flashes, nausea or pain.


Doctors saw these reports at office visits, and nurses got email alerts when patients reported severe or worsening problems.


“Almost 80 percent of the time, the nurses responded immediately,” calling in medicines for nausea, pain or other problems, Basch said.


Six months later, health-related quality of life had improved for more of those in the online group and they made fewer trips to an emergency room. They also were able to stay on chemotherapy longer – eight months versus six, on average.


Median survival in the online group was 31 months versus 26 months for the others.


A larger study will now test the online reporting system nationwide.


A colon cancer patient, 53-year-old James Sylvester of New York, is using a version of the one tested in the study to report any problems to his doctors at Sloan Kettering. He hasn’t had many side effects, but a rash led to referral to a dermatologist to see if it was related to his cancer medicine.


“The main benefit is they go holistically all over your body” with the list, asking about things that folks may not realize could be due to cancer, such as a rash or trouble with balance, he said.


“Some of the things you might not tell your doctor, or you might forget,” Sylvester said. The tool ensures the doctor has that information ahead of time, “so when you have that face time, it’s more focused.”

Silicon Valley & Technology

Facebook Vows Steps to Create ‘Hostile Environment’ for Terrorists

Facebook said it wanted to make its social media platform a “hostile environment” for terrorists in a statement issued after attackers killed seven people in London and prompted Prime Minister Theresa May to demand action from internet firms.

Three attackers rammed a rental van into pedestrians on London Bridge and stabbed others nearby on Saturday night in Britain’s third major militant attack in recent months.

May responded to the attack by calling for an overhaul of the strategy used to combat extremism, including a demand for greater international regulation of the internet, saying big internet companies were partly responsible for providing extreme ideology the space to develop.

Facebook on Sunday said it condemned the London attacks.

“We want Facebook to be a hostile environment for terrorists,” said Simon Milner, Director of Policy at Facebook in an emailed statement.

“Using a combination of technology and human review, we work aggressively to remove terrorist content from our platform as soon as we become aware of it, and if we become aware of an emergency involving imminent harm to someone’s safety, we notify law enforcement.”

May has previously put pressure on internet firms to take more responsibility for content posted on their services. Last month she pledged, if she wins an upcoming election, to create the power to make firms pay towards the cost of policing the internet with an industry-wide levy.

Twitter also said it was working to tackle the spread of militant propaganda on its platform.

“Terrorist content has no place on Twitter,” Nick Pickles, UK head of public policy at Twitter, said in a statement, adding that in the second half of 2016 it had suspended nearly 400,000 accounts.

“We continue to expand the use of technology as part of a systematic approach to removing this type of content.

Arts & Entertainment

Gospel Artist Fundraises for Malawi’s Only Children Cancer Ward

A renowned gospel singer in Malawi has raised more than $20,000 in donations for the country’s only pediatric cancer ward. Patience Namadingo donated the money to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital during the event Saturday at the hospital in Blantyre.

Music by a Malawi police brass band graced the street march that gospel singer Patience Namadingo and his fans organized before the check presentation ceremony with hospital officials.

The event marked the end of Namadingo’s 40-day campaign known as “Song for a Penny” in which he was performing in people’s homes and work places for $4 a song, per person to meet the needs of the cancer ward.

At the final count, Namadingo raised $21,000. He said this is beyond his expectation.

“This is overwhelming. The feeling is just exciting. You do not see these things happening everyday, maybe in other people’s lives it does not happen at all. So it is a once in life time achievement, so I thank God.”

Initially Namadingo planned to raise $1,700 in 40 days, but he reached his target in just four days after big companies, like the National Bank of Malawi and Telecom Networks Malawi invited him to perform for their workers.

This forced him to increase his target to $7,000. He reached this target six days later.

Namadingo says the response to the initiative has given him motivation to do more charity work.

“This is just the beginning. It has proven that Malawians are warm hearted people. So this is not the only problem Malawi is facing. Malawi is facing a lot of problems. So we are going back on the table and we plan on where is the next solution.”

More than 300 children with cancer seek treatment at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital every year.

The ward has just a 25-bed capacity.

Hospital officials say the facility lacks sheets, needles and other supplies.

Linley Chewere, the Deputy Director for the hospital, told VOA the donation will also help meet other pediatric needs.

“The donation will not only assist the cancer ward, but it will extend to other children’s ward. We are planning to rehabilitate the Higher Dependency Unit for children where very sick children are admitted. From there, they move to different wards.”

Namadingo enlivened the occasion with a live performance to fans and well-wishers who patronized the two-hour event.


Economy & business

White House Looks at Sanctions on Venezuela’s Oil Sector

The Trump administration is considering possible sanctions on Venezuela’s vital energy sector, including state oil company PDVSA, senior White House officials said, in what would be a major escalation of U.S. efforts to pressure the country’s embattled leftist government amid a crackdown on the opposition.

The idea of striking at the core of Venezuela’s economy, which relies on oil for about 95 percent of export revenues, has been discussed at high levels of the administration as part of a wide-ranging review of U.S. options, but officials said it remains under debate and action is not imminent.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the United States could hit PDVSA as part of a “sectoral” sanctions package that would take aim at the OPEC nation’s entire energy industry for the first time.


Complicating factors

But they made clear the administration is moving cautiously, mindful that if such an unprecedented step is taken it could deepen the country’s economic and social crisis, in which millions suffer food shortages and soaring inflation. Two months of anti-government unrest has left more than 60 people dead.

Another complicating factor would be the potential impact on oil shipments to the United States. Venezuela is the third largest oil supplier for the U.S. after Canada and Saudi Arabia. It accounted for 8 percent of U.S. oil imports in March, according to U.S. government figures.

“It’s being considered,” one of the officials told Reuters, saying aides to President Donald Trump have been tasked to have a recommendation on oil sector sanctions ready if needed. “I don’t think we’re at a point to make a decision on it. But all options are on the table. We want to see the bad actors held to account.”

The U.S. deliberations on new sanctions come against the backdrop of the worst protests faced yet by socialist President Nicolas Maduro, who critics accuse of human rights abuses in a clampdown on the opposition.

Since Trump took office in January, he has stepped up targeted sanctions on Venezuela, including on the vice president, the chief judge and seven other Supreme Court justices. He has pressed the Organization of American States to do more to help resolve the crisis.

While Trump has taken a more active approach to Venezuela than his predecessor Barack Obama, he has so far stopped short of drastic economic moves that could hurt the Venezuelan people and give Maduro ammunition to accuse Washington of meddling.

The two administration officials said the United States is also prepared to impose further sanctions on senior officials it accuses of corruption, drug trafficking ties and involvement in what critics see as a campaign of political repression aimed at consolidating Maduro’s rule.

Oil sanctions big step

But broad measures against the country’s vital oil sector, for which the United States is the biggest customer, would significantly ratchet up Washington’s response. The United States has imposed sectoral sanctions against Russia’s energy, banking and defense industries over Moscow’s involvement in Ukraine’s separatist conflict.

The officials declined to specify the mechanisms under consideration and said the timing of any decision would depend heavily on developments on the ground in Venezuela.

Possibilities could include a blanket ban on Venezuelan oil imports and preventing PDVSA from trading and doing business in the United States, which would have a severe impact on PDVSA’s U.S. refining subsidiary Citgo.

A more modest approach, however, could be to bar PDVSA only from bidding on U.S. government contracts, as the Obama administration did in 2011 to punish the company for doing business with Iran. Those limited sanctions were rolled back after the 2015 international nuclear deal with Tehran.

The Venezuelan government and PDVSA did not respond to requests for comment.

U.S. officials recognize, however, that oil sanctions on Venezuela could exacerbate the suffering of the Venezuelan people without any guarantee of success against Maduro, who accuses Washington and Venezuelan opposition of fomenting an attempted coup.

Given the potential for regional spillover, any decision on oil sanctions would require consultation with Venezuela’s neighbors, the officials said.

“The concern we have is that it will be a very serious escalation,” one official said. “We’d have to be prepared to deal with the humanitarian consequences of essentially collapsing the government.”

Arts & Entertainment

Refugee Chef Builds His Future With Flavors From His Past

Chef Majed cracks eggs into a mixer and blends mayonnaise when we meet in Washington. He tosses fresh greens in a food processor, and he seasons the mix. It’s part of a thick, yellow sauce he’ll use to coat chunks of chicken skewered for kabobs, just like his mom used to make.

“The kitchen plays a big role for every family in Syria,” he tells me. “My mother is an excellent cook. I used to help her and learn from her. … I haven’t seen her in five years. I wish I can see her and taste her cooking, because I consider her the greatest.”

Majed, who asked VOA not to use his last name, began his journey to America when his parents urged him to leave Syria amid constant war.

Watch: Aspiring Chefs Thrive at Washington Restaurant Incubator

First stop, Jordan

He found refuge in Jordan where he stayed for three years. But social media reminded him of why he fled.

“My hometown was subject to shelling and strikes. We weren’t able to see or go back to our house. I … started to see my city and my home in pictures on Facebook and on the internet. I saw pictures of my home in ruins. … It hurts me to think about it now.”

Meanwhile, he struggled to find a job.

“The Jordanian police prohibited me from working, and there was no help from the government. I was living in a house, and I had to pay rent.”

When he ultimately found work, he found new challenges.

“I had to keep it a secret. In a secret place. In any moment I could have been taken away by the police, deported back to Syria or taken to a camp.”

Love and marriage

But as in many great stories, love happened, and Majed got married.

“I wasn’t able to prove my marriage for eight months in the Jordanian court,” he says with a smile. “It was problematic yet comical at the same time. My wife was pregnant and about to give birth at any moment, and we weren’t married by law. And in our countries this is a very big problem.”

But then his phone rang, and his life was again about to change. He and his fledgling family, he now had two daughters, were going to the U.S. as refugees.

“I was so happy,” he says.


Chef Majed now cooks for an online restaurant called Foodhini that works with immigrant and refugee chefs who prepare traditional dishes from the lands they fled.

Owner Noobstaa Philip Vang is a refugee from Laos who came to the U.S. with his parents after the Vietnam War.

“I … was just really missing some of my mom’s home cooking and wished I could just go to auntie or grandma in the neighborhood and just buy some of their food,” he says.

And so, Foodhini was born. It’s one of 70 food businesses growing at Union Kitchen in what’s called a “food incubator,” where fledgling businesses without the means for a brick-and-mortar operation rent space in a professional kitchen.

And while the kitchen, the country and the language are new, Majed’s cooking transports him back to the old life that he knew.

“Any dish I make reminds me of Syria. Reminds me of my country, my family, my mother. Every dish is a reminder.”

Seemingly worlds away from the ravages of war back home, Majed now optimistically looks toward the future.

“Like any father I have a dream for my girls that they have a bright future. I have worked to give them a generous life so that they wouldn’t be in need of anything … whether it be schools, university, or anything. When they told me I would be coming to America, I dreamed like anybody else that I would live with my wife and kids a bountiful life. And God willing, life will be good and I will be able to provide.”

Economy & business

Aspiring Chefs Thrive at ‘Restaurant Incubator’

The restaurant business can cause serious heartburn. It’s a mixed salad of bureaucracy, money, and paperwork that keeps some chefs from ever selling that first plate of food. But there may be hope as “restaurant incubators” offer chefs an alternative menu for success. Arash Arabasadi reports from Washington.

Economy & business

Oregon Wineries Branch Out to Legal Marijuana

Diversification is a growing trend in some sectors of the agriculture industry. Some winemakers in the northwestern state of Oregon are branching out into marijuana as a new business venture. Faith Lapidus reports.