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Ancient Tomb Discovered in Egypt

An excavation team in Egypt has unearthed an ancient tomb containing a mummy believed to be 4,300 years old. It is among dozens of artifacts recently discovered.

After a year-long excavation, renowned archaeologist Zahi Hawass announced the findings at Gisr al-Mudir, also known as the Great Enclosure, one of the oldest known stone structures in Egypt. Among them – Khmumdjedef – a priest from the fifth dynasty, Meri, a palace official who held the title “keeper of the secrets,” and a man named Hekashepes.

“This mummy may be the oldest and most complete mummy found in Egypt to date,” Hawass said about Hekashepes, in a statement. Other major discoveries from the excavation included statues, amulets, and a well-preserved sarcophagus.

“I put my head inside to see what was inside the sarcophagus: A beautiful mummy of a man completely covered in layers of gold,” said Hawass.

Over the past week, researchers have made many other discoveries, such as dozens of burial sites from the New Kingdom Era, which dates from 1800 to 1600 B.C., near the southern city of Luxor.   

Additionally, a group of scientists from Cairo University announced details Tuesday about a previously uncovered mummified teenage boy. Through the use of CT scans, they were able to shed new light on the boy’s high social status by examining the intricate details of the amulets inserted in his mummified body as well as the type of burial he received.

The Egyptian tombs are a large tourist draw and the North African country often advertises them as a way to bring in more money. The number of visitors, however, has been negatively affected since an uprising in 2011, the coronavirus pandemic, and, most recently, the war in Ukraine. 

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.   

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Late Poet Credited with Rescue of Kashmiri Language 

The literary world of Indian-administered Kashmir is mourning the death of a beloved poet and champion of the Kashmiri language, which he is largely credited with rescuing from obscurity.

Abdur Rehman Rahi, an acclaimed writer and professor of literature who died earlier this month at age 97, is being hailed as a living testament to Kashmir’s literary prestige who helped establish a unique identity for the once-endangered language.

“With Rahi’s death, we have lost one of the crown jewels from Kashmir’s literary landscape. His death marks an end of an era,” remarked Shad Ramzan, himself a highly regarded writer and Kashmiri-language scholar.

Rahi’s talents were recognized with numerous awards, including India’s leading literary prize, the Jnanpith Award, in 2007 for his poetic collection Siyah Rood Jaeren Manz (In Black Drizzle), and India’s fourth-highest civilian honor, the Padma Shri, in 2000.

But his more lasting legacy will stem from his tireless efforts to preserve and popularize the Kashmiri language, which is spoken today by some 6 million people in the Kashmir Valley and surrounding region.

The native tongue had fallen into deep decline in the decades after the end of British rule in 1947, with the federal government discontinuing its teaching in elementary schools in 1955.

The language “has always been given less preference from the rulers of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. There is no mention from the political parties in their manifestos regarding the planning and development of the Kashmiri language,” says an article in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Linguistics, a publication of the University of Kashmir.

Ramzan says a key to Kashmiri’s renewed life was the establishment 1974 of a research cell for the study of the language at the University of Kashmir. Five years later, Rahi oversaw the conversion of the research cell into a full-fledged postgraduate department.

“Rahi introduced critical thinking of East and West poetry in the curriculum of the postgraduate program,” Ramzan said in an interview.

Continued agitation by Rahi and other scholars, social and cultural groups led to the language being taught more broadly, and by 2008, it had become mandatory in the former state of Jammu and Kashmir for students enrolled in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Outside the classroom, Rahi also worked to introduce the language to a global audience through his poetry. “He shifted the focus from the classical Kashmiri poetry that had previously dominated the literary landscape,” explained Salim Salik, an editor at the Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages.

Muhammad Maroof Shah, another Kashmiri writer, agreed that Rahi’s success lay in his ability to write Kashmiri-language poetry worthy of international attention in the contemporary idiom. He praised Rahi for presenting the Kashmiri tradition in terms that could be understood and appreciated universally.

Despite his unquestioned literary genius, Rahi was criticized at times for not applying his talents to the political tensions that bedevil Kashmir, the focus of a long-running insurgency and repeated wars between India and Pakistan.

“I felt that he observed self-censorship fearing reprisal from both state and non-state actors,” said Bilal A. Jan, an award-winning filmmaker from Srinagar who directed a biographical documentary on Rahi’s life and works titled, “The Poet of Silence.”

“Rahi shared some incidents with me when he was threatened for his work,” added Jan, who told VOA he believes Rahi’s poetry was influenced by Marxist ideology while focused on the human predicament and day-to-day life issues of humans.

One of Rahi’s colleagues at the University of Kashmir, Shafi Shauq, challenged the notion that Rahi avoided the most challenging issues, saying, “One of his best poems is ‘Thyanvi Ros Sadaa’ (A Call without Sound) which speaks of the contemporary situation.”

Rahi was essentially a distinguished poet who tried to create his own style by mixing personally coined words, archaisms, allusions and verbal rhythms, Shauq told VOA.

“Although his popularity is based on a few lyrics sung by our best singers, the serious poetry contained in his three collections is beyond the comprehension of common readers. His two collections of literary essays are in keeping with his individual notion of poetic composition.”

Rahi is survived by three sons, all of whom work in the medical profession, and a daughter who worked for a time at the Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages.

One of the sons, Dildar Ahmad, told VOA his father was a gentle and soft-spoken man who used to treat people equally irrespective of class, caste or age.

The daughter, Rubina Ellahi, said Rahi had been not only a father but also her best friend. “We used to discuss poetry for hours together,” she said in an interview. “He has left some unpublished work, which I will publish at an appropriate time.”

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Lloyd Morrisett, Who Helped Launch ‘Sesame Street,’ Dies

Lloyd Morrisett, the co-creator of the beloved children’s education TV series Sesame Street, which uses empathy and fuzzy monsters like Abby Cadabby, Elmo and Cookie Monster to charm and teach generations around the world, has died. He was 93.

Morrisett’s death was announced Monday by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit he helped establish under the name the Children’s Television Workshop. No cause of death was given.

In a statement, Sesame Workshop hailed Morrisett as a “wise, thoughtful, and above all kind leader” who was “constantly thinking about new ways” to educate.

Morrisett and Joan Ganz Cooney worked with Harvard University developmental psychologist Gerald Lesser to build the show’s unique approach to teaching that now reaches 120 million children. Legendary puppeteer Jim Henson supplied the critters.

“Without Lloyd Morrisett, there would be no Sesame Street. It was he who first came up with the notion of using television to teach preschoolers basic skills, such as letters and numbers,” Cooney said in a statement. “He was a trusted partner and loyal friend to me for over 50 years, and he will be sorely missed.”

 

Sesame Street is shown in more than 150 countries, has won 216 Emmys, 11 Grammys and in 2019 received the Kennedy Center Honor for lifetime artistic achievement, the first time a television program got the award (Big Bird strolled down the aisle and basically sat in Tom Hanks’ lap).

Born in 1929 in Oklahoma City, Morrisett initially trained to be a teacher with a background in psychology. He became an experimental educator, looking for new ways to educate children from less advantaged backgrounds. Morrisett received his bachelor’s at Oberlin College, did graduate work in psychology at UCLA, and earned his doctorate in experimental psychology at Yale University. He was an Oberlin trustee for many years and was chair of the board from 1975-81.

The seed of Sesame Street was sown over a dinner party in 1966, where he met Cooney.

“I said, ‘Joan, do you think television could be used to teach young children?’ Her answer was, ‘I don’t know, but I’d like to talk about it,’” he recalled to The Guardian in 2004.

The first episode of Sesame Street, sponsored by the letters W, S and E and the numbers 2 and 3, aired in the fall of 1969. It was a turbulent time in America, rocked by the Vietnam War and raw from the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. the year before.

Children’s programming at the time was made up of shows like Captain Kangaroo, Romper Room and the often-violent cartoon skirmishes between Tom & Jerry. Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was mostly teaching social skills.

Sesame Street was designed by education professionals and child psychologists with one goal: to help low-income and minority students aged 2-5 overcome some of the deficiencies they had when entering school. Social scientists had long noted kids who were white and from higher-income families were often better prepared.

The show was set on an urban street with a multicultural cast. Diversity and inclusion were baked into the show. Monsters, humans and animals all lived together peacefully.

It became the first children’s program to feature someone with Down syndrome. It’s had puppets with HIV and in foster care, invited children in wheelchairs, dealt with topics like jailed parents, homelessness, women’s rights, military families and even girls singing about loving their hair.

It introduced the bilingual Rosita, the first Latina Muppet, in 1991. Julia, a 4-year-old Muppet with autism, came in 2017 and the show has since offered help for kids whose parents are dealing with addiction and recovery, and children suffering as a result of the Syrian civil war. To help kids after 9/11, Elmo was left traumatized by a fire at Hooper’s store but was soothingly told that firefighters were there to help.

The company said upon the news of his death that Lloyd left “an outsized and indelible legacy among generations of children the world over, with Sesame Street only the most visible tribute to a lifetime of good work and lasting impact.”

He is survived by his wife, Mary; daughters Julie and Sarah; and granddaughters Frances and Clara.

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BBC Film About India’s PM Modi, 2002 Riots Draws Government Ire

Days after India blocked a BBC documentary that examines Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s role during 2002 anti-Muslim riots and banned people from sharing it online, authorities are scrambling to halt screenings of the film at colleges and universities and restrict clips of it on social media. Critics decry the move by as an assault on press freedom.

Tensions escalated in the capital, New Delhi, on Wednesday at Jamia Millia University where a student group said it planned to screen the banned documentary, prompting dozens of police equipped with tear gas and riot gear to gather outside campus gates.

Police, some in plain clothes, scuffled with protesting students and detained at least half a dozen of them, who were taken away in a van.

Jawaharlal Nehru University in the capital cut off power and the internet on its campus on Tuesday before the documentary was scheduled to be screened by a students’ union. Authorities said it would disturb peace on campus, but students nonetheless watched the documentary on their laptops and mobile phones after sharing it on messaging services like Telegram and WhatsApp.

The documentary has caused a storm at other Indian universities too.

Authorities at the University of Hyderabad, in India’s south, have begun a probe after a student group showed the banned documentary earlier this week. In the southern state of Kerala, workers from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party held demonstrations on Tuesday after some student groups affiliated with rival political parties defied the ban and screened the film.

The two-part documentary “India: The Modi Question” has not been broadcast in India by the BBC, but India’s federal government blocked it over the weekend and banned people from sharing clips on social media, citing emergency powers under its information technology laws. Twitter and YouTube complied with the request and removed many links to the documentary.

The first part of the documentary, released last week by the BBC for its U.K. audiences, revives the most controversial episode of Modi’s political career when he was the chief minister of western Gujarat state in 2002. It focuses on bloody anti-Muslim riots in which more than 1,000 people were killed.

The riots have long hounded Modi because of allegations that authorities under his watch allowed and even encouraged the bloodshed. Modi has denied the accusations, and the Supreme Court has said it found no evidence to prosecute him. Last year, the country’s top court dismissed a petition filed by a Muslim victim questioning Modi’s exoneration.

The first part of the BBC documentary relies on interviews with victims of the riots, journalists and rights activists, who say Modi looked the other way during the riots. It cites, for the first time, a secret British diplomatic investigation that concluded Modi was “directly responsible” for the “climate of impunity.”

The documentary includes the testimony of then-British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who says the British investigation found that the violence by Hindu nationalists aimed to “purge Muslims from Hindu areas” and that it had all the “hallmarks of an ethnic cleansing.”

Suspicions that Modi quietly supported the riots led the U.S., U.K. and E.U. to deny him a visa, a move that has since been reversed.

India’s Foreign Ministry last week called the documentary a “propaganda piece designed to push a particularly discredited narrative” that lacks objectivity and slammed it for “bias” and “a continuing colonial mindset.” Kanchan Gupta, a senior adviser in the government’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, denounced it as “anti-India garbage.”

The BBC in a statement said the documentary was “rigorously researched” and involved a wide range of voices and opinions.

“We offered the Indian Government a right to reply to the matters raised in the series — it declined to respond,” the statement said.

The second part of the documentary, released Tuesday in the U.K., “examines the track record of Narendra Modi’s government following his re-election in 2019,” according to the film’s description on the BBC website.

In recent years, India’s Muslim minority has been at the receiving end of violence from Hindu nationalists, emboldened by a prime minister who has mostly stayed mum on such attacks since he was first elected in 2014.

The ban has set off a wave of criticism from opposition parties and rights groups that slammed it as an attack against press freedom. It also drew more attention to the documentary, sparking scores of social media users to share clips on WhatsApp, Telegram and Twitter.

“You can ban, you can suppress the press, you can control the institutions … but the truth is the truth. It has a nasty habit of coming out,” Rahul Gandhi, a leader in the opposition Congress party, told reporters at a press conference Tuesday.

Mahua Moitra, a lawmaker from the Trinamool Congress political party, on Tuesday tweeted a new link after a previous one was taken down. “Good, bad, or ugly — we decide. Govt doesn’t tell us what to watch,” Moitra said in her tweet, which was still up Wednesday morning.

Human Rights Watch said the ban reflected a broader crackdown on minorities under the Modi government, which the rights group said has frequently invoked draconian laws to muzzle criticism.

Critics say press freedom in India has declined in recent years and the country fell eight places, to 150 out of 180 countries, in last year’s Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders. It accuses Modi’s government of silencing criticism on social media, particularly on Twitter, a charge senior leaders of the governing party have denied.

Modi’s government has regularly pressured Twitter to restrict or ban content it deems critical of the prime minister or his party. Last year, it threatened to arrest Twitter staff in the country over their refusal to ban accounts run by critics after implementing sweeping new regulations for technology and social media companies.

The ban on the BBC documentary comes after a proposal from the government to give its Press Information Bureau and other “fact-checking” agencies powers to take down news deemed “fake or false” from digital platforms.

The Editors Guild of India urged the government to withdraw the proposal, saying such a change would be akin to censorship.

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Pope Francis: Homosexuality Not a Crime 

Pope Francis criticized laws that criminalize homosexuality as “unjust,” saying God loves all his children just as they are and called on Catholic bishops who support the laws to welcome LGBTQ people into the church.

“Being homosexual isn’t a crime,” Francis said during an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press.

Francis acknowledged that Catholic bishops in some parts of the world support laws that criminalize homosexuality or discriminate against the LGBTQ community, and he himself referred to the issue in terms of “sin.” But he attributed such attitudes to cultural backgrounds, and said bishops in particular need to undergo a process of change to recognize the dignity of everyone.

“These bishops have to have a process of conversion,” he said, adding that they should apply “tenderness, please, as God has for each one of us.”

Some 67 countries or jurisdictions worldwide criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity, 11 of which can or do impose the death penalty, according to The Human Dignity Trust, which works to end such laws. Experts say even where the laws are not enforced, they contribute to harassment, stigmatization and violence against LGBTQ people.

In the U.S., more than a dozen states still have anti-sodomy laws on the books, despite a 2003 Supreme Court ruling declaring them unconstitutional. Gay rights advocates say the antiquated laws are used to harass homosexuals, and point to new legislation, such as the “Don’t say gay” law in Florida, which forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, as evidence of continued efforts to marginalize LGBTQ people.

The United Nations has repeatedly called for an end to laws criminalizing homosexuality outright, saying they violate rights to privacy and freedom from discrimination and are a breach of countries’ obligations under international law to protect the human rights of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Declaring such laws “unjust,” Francis said the Catholic Church can and should work to put an end to them. “It must do this. It must do this,” he said.

Francis quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church in saying gay people must be welcomed and respected, and should not be marginalized or discriminated against.

“We are all children of God, and God loves us as we are and for the strength that each of us fights for our dignity,” Francis said, speaking to the AP in the Vatican hotel where he lives.

Such laws are common in Africa and the Middle East and date from British colonial times or are inspired by Islamic law. Some Catholic bishops have strongly upheld them as consistent with Vatican teaching that considers homosexual activity “intrinsically disordered,” while others have called for them to be overturned as a violation of basic human dignity.

In 2019, Francis had been expected to issue a statement opposing criminalization of homosexuality during a meeting with human rights groups that conducted research into the effects of such laws and so-called “conversion therapies.”

In the end, the pope did not meet with the groups, which instead met with the Vatican No. 2, who reaffirmed “the dignity of every human person and against every form of violence.”

On Tuesday, Francis said there needed to be a distinction between a crime and a sin with regard to homosexuality.

“Being homosexual is not a crime,” he said. “It’s not a crime. Yes, but it’s a sin. Fine, but first let’s distinguish between a sin and a crime.”

“It’s also a sin to lack charity with one another,” he added.

Catholic teaching holds that while gay people must be treated with respect, homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.” Francis has not changed that teaching, but he has made reaching out to the LGBTQ community a hallmark of his papacy.

Starting with his famous 2013 declaration, “Who am I to judge?” when he was asked about a purportedly gay priest, Francis has gone on to minister repeatedly and publicly to the gay and trans community. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he favored granting legal protections to same-sex couples as an alternative to endorsing gay marriage, which Catholic doctrine forbids.

Despite such outreach, Francis was criticized by the Catholic LGBTQ community for a 2021 decree from the Vatican’s doctrine office that the church cannot bless same-sex unions “because God cannot bless sin.”

The Vatican in 2008 declined to sign onto a U.N. declaration that called for the decriminalization of homosexuality, complaining the text went beyond the original scope and also included language about “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” it found problematic. In a statement at the time, the Vatican urged countries to avoid “unjust discrimination” against gay people and end penalties against them.

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‘Everything Everywhere’ Tops Oscar Nominations With 11

The multiverse-skipping sci-fi indie hit “Everything Everywhere All at Once” led nominations to the 95th Academy Awards as Hollywood heaped honors on big-screen spectacles like “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Avatar: The Way of Water” a year after a streaming service won best picture for the first time.

Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan’s “Everything Everywhere All at Once” landed a leading 11 nominations on Tuesday, including nods for Michelle Yeoh and comeback kid Ke Huy Quan.

The 10 movies up for best picture are: “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” “The Banshees of Inisherin,” “The Fabelmans,” “Tár,” “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Avatar: The Way of Water,” “Elvis,” “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “Women Talking” and “Triangle of Sadness.”

A year after a streaming service won Hollywood’s top honor for the first time, big-screen spectacles are poised to dominate nominations to the 95th Academy Awards on Tuesday.

Nominations were announced Tuesday from the academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, California, by Riz Ahmed and Allison Williams.

If last year’s Oscars were dominated by streaming — Apple TV+’s “CODA” won best picture and Netflix landed a leading 27 nominations — movies that drew moviegoers to multiplexes after two years of pandemic make up many of this year’s top contenders.

The nominees for best actress are: Ana de Armas, “Blonde”; Cate Blanchett, “Tár”; Andrea Riseborough, “To Leslie”; Michelle Williams, “The Fabelmans”; Michelle Yeoh, “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”

The nominees for best actor: Brendan Fraser, “The Whale”; Colin Farrell, “The Banshees of Inisherin”; Austin Butler, “Elvis”; Bill Nighy, “Living”; Paul Mescal, “Aftersun”

The nominees for best supporting actress are: Angela Bassett, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”; Hong Chau, “The Whale”; Kerry Condon, “The Banshees of Inisherin”; Jamie Lee Curtis, “”Everything Everywhere All at Once”; Stephanie Hsu, “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”

The nominees for best supporting actor are: Brian Tyree Henry, “Causeway”; Judd Hirsch, “The Fabelmans”; Brendan Gleeson, “Banshees on Inisherin”; Barry Keoghan, “Banshees of Inisherin”; Ke Huy Quan, “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”

The nominees for international film are: “All Quiet on the Western Front” (Germany); “Argentina, 1985” (Argentina); “Close” (Belgium); “EO” (Poland); “The Quiet Girl” (Ireland).

The nominees for original screenplay are: “Everything Everywhere All at Once”; “The Banshees of Inisherin”; “The Fabelmans”; “Tár”; “Triangle of Sadness.”

The nominees for best original score are: Volker Bertelmann, “All Quiet on the Western Front”; Justin Hurwitz, “Babylon”; Carter Burwell, “The Banshees of Inisherin”; Son Lux, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”; John Williams, “The Fabelmans.”

The nominees for best animated film are: “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio”; “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On”; “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish”; “The Sea Beast”; “Turning Red.”

If last year’s Oscars were dominated by streaming — Apple TV+’s “CODA” won best picture and Netflix landed 27 nominations — movies that drew moviegoers to multiplexes make up many of this year’s top contenders.

Also at the front of the pack is “The Banshees of Inisherin,” Martin McDonagh’s Ireland-set dark comedy, which is set to score as many as four acting nods, including nominations for Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson.

Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans” struggled to catch on with audiences, but the director’s autobiographical coming-of-age tale is set to land Spielberg his 20th Oscar nomination and eighth nod for best-director. John Williams, his longtime composer, extended his record for the most Oscar nominations for a living person. Another nod for best score will give Williams his 53rd nomination, a number that trails only Walt Disney’s 59.

Last year’s broadcast drew 15.4 million viewers, according to Nielsen, up 56% from the record-low audience of 10.5 million for the pandemic-marred 2021 telecast. This year, ABC is bringing back Jimmy Kimmel to host the March 12 ceremony, one that will surely be seen as a return to the site of the slap.

But larger concerns are swirling around the movie business. Last year saw flashes of triumphant resurrection for theaters, like the success of “Top Gun: Maverick,” after two years of pandemic. But partially due to a less steady stream of major releases, ticket sales for the year recovered only about 70% of pre-pandemic business. Regal Cinemas, the nation’s second-largest chain, announced the closure of 39 cinemas this month.

At the same time, storm clouds swept into the streaming world after years of once-seemingly boundless growth. Stocks plunged as Wall Street looked to streaming services to earn profits, not just add subscribers. A retrenchment has followed, as the industry again enters an uncertain chapter.

In stark contrast to last year’s Academy Awards, this year may see no streaming titles vying for the Oscars’ most sought-after award — though the last spots in the 10-movie best-picture field remain up for grabs. Netflix’s best shots instead are coming in other categories, notably with animated film favorite “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” and the German submission, “All Quiet on the Western Front.”

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Lisa Marie Presley Mourned in Memorial Service at Graceland 

Hundreds of mourners gathered at Graceland on Sunday morning to pay their respects to singer Lisa Marie Presley in a memorial service at the mansion in Memphis, Tennessee, she inherited from her father, rock legend Elvis Presley.

Presley died on Jan. 12 at the age of 54. Earlier that day, she had been rushed to a Los Angeles-area hospital after reportedly suffering cardiac arrest at her home.

“Our heart is broken, Lisa, and we all love you,” her mother, Priscilla Presley, said at the service on the front lawn of Graceland. “Lisa Marie Presley was an icon, a role model, a superhero to many people all over the world.”

Singers Alanis Morissette, Billy Corgan and Axl Rose performed.

Lisa Marie Presley is survived by her daughters, actress Riley Keough and 14-year-old twins Finley and Harper Lockwood.

Two days before her death, she had appeared with her mother, Priscilla Presley, at the Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California, where actor Austin Butler won the best actor award for portraying her father in the film “Elvis.” Butler paid tribute to both women in his acceptance speech.

Presley began her music career in the 2000s with two albums, “To Whom It May Concern” and “Now What,” that made the top 10 of the Billboard 200 album chart.

She was married and divorced four times, including to pop star Michael Jackson and actor Nicholas Cage.

She was the only child of one of the greatest stars in American music, and was 9 years old when Elvis Presley died of heart failure at age 42 in 1977 at Graceland. The mansion is now a popular tourist attraction.

Elvis Presley and other members of his family are buried at Graceland’s Meditation Garden.

Lisa Marie Presley was buried there before the memorial service alongside the grave of her son, Benjamin Keough, who died in 2020 at age 27, a death ruled a suicide by the Los Angeles County coroner. In a recent essay, she had described herself as “destroyed” by her son’s death.

After the memorial service, mourners were due to form a procession past Lisa Marie Presley’s grave.

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Big Waves to Deliver Storied Hawaii Surf Contest The Eddie

One of the world’s most prestigious and storied surfing contests is expected to be held Sunday in Hawaii for the first time in seven years.

And this year female surfers will be competing alongside the men for the first time in the 39-year history of The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational.

The event — alternatively known simply as The Eddie — is a one-day contest held in Waimea Bay on Oahu’s North Shore only when the surf is consistently large enough during the winter big wave surfing season from mid-December through mid-March. The wind, the tides and the direction of the swell also have to be just right.

“Large enough” means 6 meters by Hawaii measurements. That’s equivalent to about 12 meters when measured by methods used in the rest of the U.S. Before this year, conditions have only aligned for it to be held nine times since the initial competition in 1984.

Organizer Clyde Aikau said at a news conference Friday that he was expecting waves to reach 7.6-9 meters by Hawaii measurements or 15-18 meters on the national scale.

“Yes, The Eddie will go on Sunday,” he said.

Other places around the world have big wave surfing events: Mavericks in California, Nazare in Portugal and Peahi on Hawaii’s Maui Island. But author Stuart Coleman says The Eddie is distinguished by how it honors Eddie Aikau, a legendary Native Hawaiian waterman, for his selflessness, courage and sacrifice.

“What makes this contest the most unique is that it’s in memory of a particular individual who really has transcended his time and place when he lived,” said Coleman, who wrote Eddie Would Go, a biography of Aikau.

Edward Ryon Makuahanai Aikau rose to prominence as the first lifeguard hired by Honolulu to work on Oahu’s North Shore and was revered for saving over 500 people during his career. He’s also famous for surfing towering waves that no one else would dare ride.

Aikau died in 1978 at the age of 31 during an expedition to sail a traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe from Honolulu to Tahiti. Just hours out of port, the giant double-hulled canoe known as the Hokulea took on water and overturned in stormy weather. Aikau volunteered to paddle several miles to nearby Lanai Island on his surfboard to get help for the rest of the crew but was never seen again.

The U.S. Coast Guard rescued the remaining crew a few hours later after being alerted by a commercial plane that spotted the canoe.

Coleman said The Eddie is about the best of big wave surfing and the best of Hawaiian culture.

“They always say at the opening ceremony, where they gather to launch the holding period, ’This is not just a contest. We’re not surfing against each other. We’re surfing in the spirit of Eddie,’” Coleman said.

This year organizers have invited 40 competitors and 18 alternates from around the world, including Kelly Slater, who has won a record 11 world surfing titles. John John Florence, who hails from the North Shore and who has won two back-to-back world titles, has also been asked to join.

Keala Kennelly of Kauai, a women’s big wave surf champion, is among the female invitees.

Mindy Pennybacker, a surf columnist for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and author of the upcoming book Surfing Sisterhood Hawaii: Wahine Reclaiming the Waves said there’s long been an assumption that Waimea was too dangerous for women and they couldn’t surf there.

She said they’ve had to fight to be included and have meanwhile shown that they could handle big waves in spots around the world.

“To see women — not only women surfing Waimea but women and men sharing the same event together, with mutual respect and equality — I’m just really thrilled at the thought,” Pennybacker said.

The contest is expected to attract tens of thousands of spectators to the two-lane highway winding through the North Shore and the small towns that dot the coastal community.

Kathleen Pahinui, the chairperson of the North Shore Neighborhood Board, said it will be good for businesses, restaurants and shops. She urged visitors to carpool and take the bus because the roads will be congested.

“I wish all the participants the best of luck,” she said.

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