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Arts & Entertainment

Cameroon Claims African Nations Soccer Cup Title, Beating Egypt 2-1

Cameroon beat seven-time champion Egypt 2-1 in the final match of African Nations Football Cup in Libreville, Gabon, Sunday. It is the fifth time for Cameroon to claim the trophy.

Egypt’s midfielder Mohamed Elneny put his team ahead when he scored in the 25th minute of the first half.

Watch: Egyptians Gather in a Cairo Narrow Alley to Watch the Game:

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi telephoned the team during the half-time break to voice his support after Elneny netted the goal, Egyptian media reported.

In the second half, Cameroon’s  Nicolas Nkoulou leveled the score with a brilliant header, then Vincent Aboubakar scored the decisive goal about three minutes before the final whistle.

Support for the Egyptian team was little noticed as the majority of the nearly 40,000 soccer fans who packed up the stadium in Gabon’s capital, Libreville, supported Cameroon.







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Silicon Valley & Technology

Women Thriving in Computer Science at California College

In a computer lab at Harvey Mudd College in California, a small robot performs the graceful movements of tai chi, an ancient Chinese meditation exercise. Student Jane Wu writes instruction codes from a nearby computer, showing a visitor a simple form of robotics and artificial intelligence.

Wu is a third-year student in mathematics and computer science at the college, a leader in attracting women to high technology.

“I think the moment for me was during my freshman robotics elective [class] that I took, called Autonomous Vehicles,” she said of her decision to pursue a computer science career, “and in that class we got to make our own autonomous robots from scratch.”

Harvey Mudd College, with just 800 students, stresses engineering, and is part of an educational cluster called The Claremont Colleges, in the eastern suburbs of Los Angeles. It was named after a mining engineer who helped to found the school.

The school overhauled its computer science program a decade ago to make the discipline less intimidating to those with little background in computers. The effort has yielded results: last year more than half of the college’s graduates in computer science were women. Students are initially placed in academic streams based on their knowledge of computers to reduce the intimidation factor, and many later come to understand that computer science is “a beautiful intellectual discipline,” says professor Ran Libeskind-Hadas, “but also, or course, a useful and practical one.”

Taste of coding

The introductory computer class, a requirement for all students, sparked the interest of senior Veronica Rivera, who is majoring in computer science and mathematics.

“It was a very balanced class,” she said, “and I think the professors also do a very good job of making sure everyone feels welcome, regardless of their coding ability.” 

Rivera hopes to develop computer applications to help people with motor impairments.

Women were prominent coders in the early days of computers when Grace Hopper, who was later became a U.S. Navy rear admiral, helped invent programming languages, says Jim Boerkoel, an assistant professor who oversees the robotics lab.

“She [Grace Hopper] is the original coder,” Boerkoel said. “It was only in later decades, the 1980s and 90s, that computer games and the idea of computer programming got heavily marketed toward boys rather than girls.”

Women technologists

At Harvey Mudd, some women who come to study engineering rediscover programming, and each year, dozens attend the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, the world’s largest conference of women technologists.

“With coding, I can just have my computer, have some programming language I’m working in, and I can make almost whatever I want,” said computer science major Emilia Reed, who is helping create computer apps to enhance the productivity of workers and students.

Internships in industry are part of the training, and third-year student Samantha Andow will intern at Microsoft in Redmond, Washington, later this year. 

“I’m really excited to see all the problems that computer science is working on right now,” she said.

Computers are integral to all areas of life, and the field needs the best and the brightest, notes Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd.

“If we don’t manage to get a more diverse community into technology,” she said, “we’re not going to get as good solutions, as much progress as we need on the problems facing the world, whether it’s climate change or education, health care.”

Klawe says today’s challenges require the creativity that diversity brings, and that the field needs more on women and minorities — both underrepresented in the high-tech industry — as future programmers.

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Arts & Entertainment

Super Bowl A Hit With Thousands of Fans

Kickoff is just around the corner for Super Bowl LI (51). The city of Houston, Texas hosts the big game, but for thousands of fans the sideshow to the spectacle of the Super Bowl is a way to spend family time without breaking the bank.

The Super Bowl is a show so big that fans of all shapes, sizes and… species can’t help but get in the game.

“I think they have a lot of fun coming out here. I think they really enjoy just coming out of the house and doing something different. You know, getting the experience for them; something new, something different. It’s really nice,” said Esmeralda, a Houston resident.

It’s also free to enter this fan festival, which likely sounds good to most families.

“Oh it’s amazing. A lot of people are going to spend upwards of $5,000 on a ticket alone, so being able to come out in my community and actually experience it for a reasonable cost is great,” said Baytown resident Patrick.

There’s a street-party feel to all of this.

“You have to be in the atmosphere. You really do, because I’m not one that even would have ever went to a Super Bowl, but now, it seems like every city it’s in, I want to go there, because it’s exciting. It’s nothing like being here,” said Houston resident Tonya.

Tonya isn’t going to the game, but Chris and his wife spent nearly $10,000 for their tickets to the Super Bowl.

“Just really the energy and the vibe… it’s good.We like it.Just ready to experience everything. Tomorrow tailgating and then going into the game.It’s kind of a compressed weekend, but we’re excited,” said Christ, who lives in Denton.

The game is now just hours away.But as anyone who’s seen a Super Bowl can tell you, between multi-million-dollar commercials and spectacular halftime performances, there is much more to the Super Bowl than just football.

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Arts & Entertainment

It’s Super Bowl and Party Time in Houston Texas

It’s party time in Houston, Texas.

The New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons take the field here Sunday for Super Bowl LI (51) — the championship game of the National Football League.

But Saturday, out here on Discovery Green, it’s a family-friendly festival as far as the eye can see.

It’s hard to imagine that this place used to be just a couple of parking lots.

At the heart of the fun is the Animal Planet-sponsored Puppy Bowl. It’s both as cute and as ridiculous as it sounds.

Nathaniel, a boy his dad holds in his arms, explains it best. “The Puppy Bowl is a Super Bowl for puppies.”

Those same puppies gently bite the hand of any camera-wielding journalist who steps on their turf. Trust me.

Marcus from Houston, with his son on his shoulders, is just thankful for family fun day.

“It’s pretty nice, you know,” he said. “It’s something different. It’s something to do; something to get us out of the house, you know? It’s pretty awesome.”

Patrick, wearing sunglasses and a backwards baseball hat, holds his daughter and says, “It’s great. It’s another thing to do on Saturday. You kind of get out and see something new.”

He tilts his head toward his daughter.

“I definitely love to bring her out and experience everything. This is something that we don’t get to do too often.”

A band tunes up for an evening performance. Journalists, we learn the hard way, are not allowed on stage during the sound check as security kindly escorts us to the grass.

So we wander to the rows of food trucks and drink tents.

It’s here that we meet Chris. He’s got a beard, a Patriots’ baseball cap, and a beer sitting on the table in front of him. He also spent $9,200 for his and his wife’s tickets to the big game.

“We’re on the Patriots’ sideline. We’re about 10 rows up, so it’s not bad. We got some pretty good seats,” he said.

Most people can’t shell out that kind of money for a game, but that’s what drives the cost of a 30-second TV ad in the 2017 Super Bowl to $5 million and up.

But, hey, with nearly 1-in-5 Americans saying ads are the best part of the game, it may not be a bad idea to avoid the crowds and save a few thousand bucks by just catching the game at home with your own puppies.

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Arts & Entertainment

‘La La Land’ Wins at Directors Guild; Next Stop Oscars

La La Land director Damien Chazelle waltzed off with the top honor at the Directors Guild of America Awards, Saturday.

It’s the latest stop on the ebullient musical’s journey to the Oscars, but it wasn’t all song and dance at the annual awards ceremony in Beverly Hills. The evening also took on a more somber, urgent note as many directors and presenters also grappled with President Donald Trump’s refugee and immigration ban. 


“I wanted to celebrate the act of dreaming and what art means. Art does connect people and transcend borders,” Chazelle said. “I want to be part of that transnational dialogue of movies.” 


At 32-years-old, Chazelle, a first-time nominee, is the youngest ever recipient of the DGA feature film award, which all but guarantees an eventual Oscar win February 26.


Rarely has the DGA winner not gone on to win the directing prize at the Academy Awards. La La Land recently won the top honor at the Producers Guild Awards and is nominated for a record-tying 14 Oscars. 


Earlier in the evening La La Land stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling presented Chazelle with the directing medallion. While singing his accolades, like the fact that he shot the musical in 40 days using 35mm film, 93 locations and 1,600 extras, Gosling also joked that Chazelle “directed his own birth in a single take.” 


Chazelle was up against Barry Jenkins for Moonlight, Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea, Garth Davis for Lion, and Denis Villeneuve for Arrival. All but Davis are also nominated for the Oscar.


Davis did win the first time director award for Lion, however. Starring Dev Patel and newcomer Sunny Pawar, Lion tells the true story of an Indian man who was lost as a 5-year-old and 25 years later used Google Earth to retrace his steps to his hometown and his birthmother, not knowing the name of either.


“I had the first half of the film relying on a 5-year-old child who did not speak English,” Davis said. “This movie demanded that the whole cast and crew make this film from their hearts.”


Nate Parker was also nominated for the first time feature award for The Birth of a Nation — the only major awards recognition for his film.

Documentaries win 

The Directors Guild also recognizes excellence in directing in documentaries, live, scripted and reality television and commercials. Ezra Edelman won the documentary award for O.J.: Made in America, which he called a labor of labor’


Other winners included Steven Zaillian for The Night Of, Tina Mabry for An American Girl Story — Melody 1963: Love Has to Win, Miguel Sapochnik for Game of Thrones and Becky Martin for Veep. 


Lifetime award

Sir Ridley Scott was also given the 35th Directors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Christopher Nolan, Billy Crudup and Michael Fassbender. 


Fassbender described Scott as, “direct, generous, loyal, competitive … and a bit of a loner who prefers the company of dogs to most people.”


Beyond the self-congratulatory air typical of a Hollywood awards season event, many were compelled to address the refugee and immigration ban as it relates to the entertainment industry and the art it creates. 


Davis said he’s spoken to “a lot of refugees who have said that this film has given them the courage to find their families.”


Chazelle praised Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, an Oscar-nominee for his film The Salesman who said he will not attend this year’s Academy Awards because of a travel ban imposed by Trump. 


Farhadi, Chazelle said, “comes from a country my government tells me I shouldn’t be in dialogue with.” 


Chazelle said that the business of excluding filmmakers or voices is “inherently anti-art.” 

Politics and no politics 

So prevalent were politics throughout the evening that even the absence of a political statement required acknowledgement. 


Ridley Scott said, “I’m not going to talk about politics because there have been a lot of references to politics tonight and I’m best off not talking about it.” 


But for the most part, directors were eager to condemn the ban. Falling in line with statements from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Writers Guild of America, DGA President Paris Barclay said “transcending borders is kind of what we live for.” The DGA, he noted, was founded by immigrants and said that even Billy Wilder was a refugee.


“The DGA will always be a home for all directors,” Barclay said. 

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Silicon Valley & Technology

Women Thrive in Computer Science at California College

Women are underrepresented in high tech industries, and at American universities, they make up only 1 in 6 students of computer science. That’s changing on some campuses, as Mike O’Sullivan reports from Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, near Los Angeles, where more than half of last year’s graduates in computer science were women.

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Silicon Valley & Technology

A Step Toward a Large-scale Quantum Computer

Quantum computers, once they become available, are likely to help us solve problems too complex for the fastest computers today. So far, several laboratories around the world say they have created small quantum chips as the proof of concept. Scientists in Britain now say they have created the first blueprint for a large-scale quantum computer. VOA’s George Putic reports.

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