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Armenia's Oscars submission imagines a world without war

Armenia's foreign-language film submission to the Academy Awards for this year invites viewers to imagine a world without war, according to its director.

Anahid Abad, the director of "Yeva," said at the Iranian premiere of her debut movie on Thursday, "The world without any war is much more beautiful, even for warmongers."

The film tells the story of a young woman who escapes her influential in-laws with her daughter, Nareh, after her husband's tragic death and takes refuge in a village in the Karabakh region.

Criticizing war, Abad said its consequences are long lasting. "I was not directly in frontline of any war, but war was a part of my life," said Abad.

Abad has a long track record working in Iranian cinema as an assistant director.

Her film is a joint production between the National Cinema Center of Armenia and the Iranian Farabi Cinema Foundation in Tehran, where the Iranian premiere was held.

The foundation also submitted Iran's foreign-language film entry to the Academy Awards for this year, another anti-war film by a female director, Narges Abyar's "Nafas (Breath)."

Alireza Tabesh, the managing director of the foundation, told The Associated Press that both countries submitting anti-war films by female directors this year was "an invaluable coincidence".

"Launching co-production projects with countries in the region... is one of the main goals of this foundation", Tabesh said, "It offers the opportunity of entering into new markets and enables film producers to share their visions."

Iran has one of the largest Armenian communities in the world.

Colin Kaepernick surprise guest at 'Unthanksgiving Day' on Alcatraz

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made a surprise appearance at the Alcatraz Indigenous People's Sunrise Gathering on Thursday, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.

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A tradition in California since 1975, the annual dawn festivities, also known as Unthanksgiving Day, commemorate the occupation of Alcatraz by American Indians from November 1969 to June 1971, Newsweek reported. During that time, 89 American Indian activists and leaders occupied the island and former penitentiary and demanded it be turned into an Indian cultural center and school.

Kaepernick, who remains an unsigned free agent, spoke to the thousands gathered on the island, the Chronicle reported. His words evoked cheers and applause.

“Our fight is the same fight,” Kaepernick told the crowd, in a message he also posted on Twitter. “We’re all fighting for our justice, for our freedom. And realizing that we are all in this fight together makes us all the more powerful.”

Kaepernick has been criticized by President Donald Trump for refusing to stand during the national anthem as a protest against racism in the U.S.

UK bookmaker suspends bets on when Prince Harry will marry

A major London bookmaker has suspended betting on whether Prince Harry will marry American actress Meghan Markle in 2018 amid rumors an engagement may be announced soon.

Jessica Bridge of Ladbrokes said Friday that it seems an engagement announcement "is to be confirmed imminently."

The bookmaker has stopped taking bets on a 2018 royal wedding after Markle was seen shopping in London this week.

The British press has reported that Markle has already met in private with Harry's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II.

The couple has been dating for more than a year and Harry has asked the press to grant them a certain amount of privacy.

Markle is believed to be in the process of moving to London.

Palace officials say they will not comment on the rumors.

Tom Baker to make cameo appearance in lost 'Doctor Who' episode

Tom Baker, who starred in “Doctor Who” from 1974 to 1981, is returning to the BBC’s cult television series in a cameo role in a completed version of an episode that was never finished, the New Musical Express reported.

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Baker, 83, will appear in “Shada,” an episode that was left unfinished 38 years ago. Baker starred as the fourth Doctor in the long-running series.

Baker said the Doctor character “probably never left me.”

“That’s why I can’t say away from it, it was a lovely time of my life,” he told the BBC.

“Shada” is available to buy as a digital download and is set for release on DVD and Blu-ray on Dec. 4, the New Musical Express reported.

Johnny Cash boyhood home considered for historic nomination

The boyhood home of country music icon Johnny Cash is being considered as a nominee for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program's review board is to meet Wednesday to consider 14 state properties for nomination to the list of the nation's historic places, including the Cash home that was built in 1934 in Dyess in northeastern Arkansas, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of Memphis, Tennessee.

The house and 40 acres (16 hectares) were provided to the Cash family as part of a federal government economic recovery program during the Great Depression.

Preservation Program spokesman Mark Christ told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that a final decision on whether the property is included on the list will be made by the National Park Service.

"They go through a rigorous internal determination of eligibility before going to the (Arkansas) board, so if a nomination makes it through both of those processes, it's definitely a property that should be listed," he said in an email to the newspaper.

The home, which is under the control of Arkansas State University, would not have qualified for nomination without the completion in 2014 of a restoration project that brought it back to its 1934 appearance, said Ruth Hawkins, director of ASU's Heritage Sites.

The home was sold by the Cash family in 1954, and subsequent owners installed paneling, wallpaper and modern tile flooring, which had to be torn out, Hawkins said. She added that most of the original material was still there.

"The house retains much of its original 1930s vernacular/Colonial Revival design," the nomination form says. "The property retains the feeling of a farmhouse from the 1930s-era Dyess Colony."

Cash was born in 1932 in Kingsland, Arkansas, according to the official website devoted to the musician. His family later moved to Dyess.

He began his music career as a rockabilly singer in Memphis on the same Sun Records label as Elvis Presley and is a member of both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

___

Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

George Avakian, jazz producer and scholar, dies at 98

George Avakian, a Russian-born jazz scholar and architect of the American music industry who produced essential recordings by Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis and other stars has died at age 98.

Avakian's daughter, Anahid Avakian Gregg, confirmed that her father died Wednesday morning at his home in Manhattan. No further details were immediate available.

Avakian, an executive at Columbia Records and Warner Bros. among other labels, helped popularize such consumer standards as liner notes, the long-playing album and the live album.

Few could claim as many milestones as Avakian, who started out as an Ivy League prodigy rediscovering old jazz recordings and became a monumental industry figure and founder of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, presenters of the Grammys. Through the artists he promoted and the breakthroughs he championed, Avakian helped shape the music we listen to and the way we listen to it.

"The innovations Avakian brought or helped bring to the recording industry are so fundamental and taken for granted today that most people under the age of 70 would find it hard to imagine there was ever a time when they didn't exist," DownBeat magazine declared in presenting Avakian a lifetime achievement award in 2000.

His contributions date back to the late 1930s, when he was an undergraduate at Yale and a jazz fan frustrated by the limited availability of his favorite music. He wrote to numerous companies and finally convinced Decca to let him compile "Chicago Jazz," widely regarded as the first jazz album and among the first jazz records to include liner notes, written by Avakian.

"Decca said in essence, 'We don't know quite what jazz in those cities is about but you seem to know so why don't you go ahead and produce them,'" Avakian told JazzWax in 2010.

Avakian was soon working on new and old music, documenting and making history, and jazz's stature was changing from popular entertainment to art. He prepared a series of reissues at Columbia that featured recordings by Armstrong, Ellington and Bessie Smith and helped launch the inclusion of alternate takes of individual songs. He produced the classic "Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy" and one of Dave Brubeck's most popular albums, "Dave Digs Disney." He also signed up Davis for Columbia and co-produced "Miles Ahead," the 1957 album that began Davis' collaborations with arranger Gil Evans and established him as among the first jazz superstars of the post-World War II era.

"I saw him as the best trumpet ballad player since Louis Armstrong," Avakian told The Wall Street Journal in 2005.

The music business was rapidly changing in the 1940s and '50s, thanks in part to Avakian. Columbia was the industry leader in issuing classical recordings as albums and Avakian, as head of Columbia's pop division, oversaw the landmark 1948 release of 100 long-playing records for pop and jazz. Featuring Frank Sinatra, Dinah Shore and other artists, they were pressed on vinyl that was thinner than the traditional 78 rpm "shellac" records and played at what became the standard speed, 33 1-3 rpm.

In the 1950s, Avakian supervised two historic live recordings: "Benny Goodman Live at Carnegie Hall 1938" and "Ellington at Newport." The Goodman concert, released in 1950, was among jazz's first double albums, first live albums and first to sell a million copies. "Ellington at Newport," featuring a sensational 27-chorus solo by tenor saxophone player Paul Gonsalves on "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue," captured the 1956 performances that revived the middle-aged Ellington's career.

Avakian's other achievements ranged from producing Bob Newhart's Grammy-winning debut "The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart" and Sonny Rollins' comeback album "The Bridge" to managing Keith Jarrett and teaching, at Columbia University, one of the first courses on jazz. In 1958, he was among the founders of the recording academy, which in 2009 presented him a Trustees Award for lifetime achievement. His other honors included an advocacy award from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Commandeur des Arts et Lettres from France and the Soviet Union's highest honor, the Order of Lenin.

Avakian, essentially retired from the music industry since the 1970s, was a breeder of race horses in recent years, notably the champion pacer President Ball. Avakian was married to the violinist Anahid Ajemian, with whom he had three children. She died on June 13, 2016, at age 92.

He was born in 1919 in the Russian city of Armavir, the child of wealthy Armenians who fled from the civil war that followed the 1917 revolution. Once settled with his family in New York, Avakian fell in love with jazz listening to the radio, on low volume, so his parents wouldn't know he was still awake. When he entered Yale, jazz was still a relatively new and popular genre and few sensed it had lasting value.

Avakian was barely out of his teens when he met Armstrong. While at Yale, he helped unearth tracks from Armstrong's foundational Hot Five and Hot Seven sessions from the 1920s. After serving in the infantry during World War II, when Avakian was based in the Philippines, he was hired by Columbia and was soon back in touch with Armstrong.

"Louis remains the artist I most admired and most enjoyed recording, by a distinct though relatively narrow margin," Avakian told JazzTimes in 2000, "narrow because it was also an enormous pleasure working with Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Mahalia Jackson, Erroll Garner, Sonny Rollins, Dave Brubeck and a host of others who were not just great artists, but among the best friends I have ever had."

Britain cries foul as EU nixes its Capital of Culture bid

U.K. politicians expressed dismay Thursday after the European Union booted Britain out of the contest to become European Capital of Culture because of Brexit.

Britain was due to hold the title in 2023, and five British cities and regions were competing to be chosen.

But the European Commission said that since Britain is due to leave the bloc in 2019, its participation "will not be possible." It said the decision was "one of the many concrete consequences" of Brexit.

Britain had previously advised U.K. candidate cities that their eligibility would depend on the outcome of exit negotiations with the EU, which are still underway. While the capital of culture designation is an EU project, cities in non-member states Norway, Iceland and Turkey have held the title, and Novi Sad in aspirant member Serbia has been awarded the accolade for 2021.

Designation as a capital of culture typically brings attention, investment and a tourism boost to the host cities.

Britain's Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said it was "deeply disappointed" by the EU decision and was holding "urgent discussions with the commission on the matter."

U.K. contenders for the title were Nottingham, Leeds and Milton Keynes in England, Dundee in Scotland and — in a joint bid — Belfast, Londonderry and Strabane in Northern Ireland.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was "absolutely dismayed by the news" and blamed Britain's Conservative government. The U.K. as a whole voted to leave the EU in a referendum last year, but Scotland voted by a wide margin to remain.

"Dundee's European Capital of Culture bid looks as if it is going to be the latest victim of the Tories' obsession with taking this country out of the European Union against our will, and they should hang their heads in shame," Sturgeon said.

Macy's Thanksgiving parade revels on amid tight security

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade featured balloons, bands, stars and heavy security in a year marked by attacks on outdoor gathering spots.

With new faces and old favorites in the lineup, the Americana extravaganza made its way through 2 ½ miles (3.22 kilometers) of Manhattan on a cold morning.

"The crowds are still the same, but there's a lot more police here. That's the age we live in," Paul Seyforth said as he attended the parade he'd watched since the 1950s.

"Not a lot's changed — the balloons, the bands, the floats — and that's the good thing," said Seyforth, 76, who'd flown in from Denver to spend his 50th wedding anniversary in New York and see this year's parade.

The televised parade was proceeding smoothly, though about midway through, a gust of wind on a largely calm day blew a candy-cane balloon into a tree branch, and it popped near the start of the route on Manhattan's Upper West Side. No one was injured.

In 2005, one of the parade's signature giant balloons caught a gust, hit a Times Square lamppost and injured two people. The candy cane was smaller than the giant balloons.

Timothy McMillian and his wife, their 9-year-old daughter and his in-laws started staking out a spot along the route at 6:30 a.m. They'd come from Greensboro, North Carolina, to see in person the spectacle they'd watched on TV for years.

McMillian, a 45-year-old schoolteacher, booked a hotel months ago, but he started to have some concerns about security when a truck attack on a bike path near the World Trade Center killed eight people on Halloween.

"With the event being out in the open like this, we were concerned," he said. "But we knew security would be ramped up today, and we have full confidence in the NYPD."

Authorities say there is no confirmation of a credible threat to the parade, but they were taking no chances after both the truck attack and the October shooting that killed 58 people at a Las Vegas country music festival.

Four activists jumped over barriers and briefly sat down in the street at about 9:10 a.m. to protest the end of a program that extended protections to immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children, according to a spokesman for activist group Cosecha. Police quickly escorted them back. No one was arrested and the parade was not delayed.

New York Police Department officers with assault weapons and portable radiation detectors were circulating among the crowds, sharpshooters were on rooftops and sand-filled city sanitation trucks were poised as imposing barriers to traffic at every cross street. Officers also were escorting each of the giant balloons.

The mayor and police brass have repeatedly stressed that visitors shouldn't be deterred. And Bekki Grinnell certainly wasn't.

"When your kid from Alaska is marching in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, you come," said Grinnell, whose daughter was marching with the band from Colony High School in Palmer, Alaska. Grinnell said she wasn't worried about security because of the police presence: "I think we're in a safe spot."

Other paradegoers also showed their appreciation for police: The NYPD marching band and a group of mounted officers got some of the biggest cheers from spectators lined up as many as 15 deep along barricades. Among other crowd favorites: as did the SpongeBob SquarePants balloon.

The 91st annual parade featured new balloons including Olaf from the Disney movie "Frozen" and Chase from the TV cartoon "Paw Patrol" will be among the new balloons Thursday, along with a new version of the Grinch of Dr. Seuss fame.

Smokey Robinson, The Roots, Flo Rida and Wyclef Jean were among the stars celebrating, along with performances from the casts of Broadway's "Anastasia," ''Dear Evan Hansen" and "SpongeBob SquarePants." The lineup included a dozen marching bands, as well as the high-kicking Radio City Music Hall Rockettes — and, of course, Santa Claus.

"This is my favorite thing ever," musician Questlove told The Associated Press as he got ready to ride the Gibson Guitars float with his bandmates in The Roots and late-night host Jimmy Fallon of "The Tonight Show," where The Roots are the house band. Questlove said being in the parade is "probably my favorite perk" of the job.

"To go from being a spectator to being up here, it's kinda cool," he said.

Added singer-songwriter Andy Grammer as he got on the Homewood Suites float: "It's kind of like being at the center of Thanksgiving."

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Associated Press radio correspondent Julie Walker and Associated Press writer Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.

David Cassidy’s younger brother Shaun offers touching tribute on Twitter

Teenage heartthrobs run in the Cassidy family. David Cassidy’s younger brother, Shaun Cassidy, who was also a teen idol and singer in the 1970s, remembered his late brother with a touching tribute on Twitter after the pop culture icon’s death Tuesday from organ failure.

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“When I was a little boy and my big brother would come to visit, the first call of business would be a punishing pillow fight. During the battle, he would regale me with hysterical stories of our father, often culminating in his taking a giant leap off my top bunk,” Cassidy posted on Twitter, along with a black and white photo of the boys as children.

“I tried to catch him of course. I always tried to catch him. But I never could. Now, I will carry him, along with all of the funny/sad/extraordinary days we shared, none more filled with love than these last few at his side.”

>> Related: ‘Partridge Family’ star, ‘70s teen idol David Cassidy dead at 67

Eight years younger than David, Shaun was the oldest son of Jack Cassidy and Shirley Jones, while David was Jack’s only child with his first wife, Evelyn Ward. In addition to being his step-mother, Shirley Jones played David Cassidy’s on-screen mother in the ‘70s musical sit-com “The Partridge Family.”

The relationship between Cassidy and his family was strained over the past years over his battle with alcoholism. Several months before his death, a video of Cassidy struggling to perform at a live show raised concerns about his well-being. Family and fans thought he had relapsed, instead he revealed he was suffering from dementia.

Regardless of past estrangements, his family rushed to his side after hearing of his hospitalization. A source told People magazine, Cassidy “was delighted to see them … There’s been total resolution within the family. They will always be there for him.”

David Cassidy passed away in a Florida hospital on Nov. 21. at the age of 67.

An outpouring of tributes came from celebrities, including Danny Bonaduce — who played David’s television brother — John Stamos, Marie Osmond and Carnie Wilson.

>> Related: Music legend and 'Touched by an Angel' star Della Reese dead at 86

Cassidy is survived by half-brothers Shaun, Patrick and Ryan; daughter Katie Cassidy and son, actor Beau Cassidy.

Jimmy Fallon, Maroon 5 pull street performing prank in NYC subway station

An oddly familiar-looking band of street musicians treated New York subway commuters to a jam session, and it turns out it was made up of Maroon 5’s Adam Levine and James Valentine and “The Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon in disguise. Disguised as buskers -- people who perform in public for donations -- the trio performed a rousing rendition of Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender” and the Maroon 5 hit. “Sugar” at the 50th Street subway station

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The commuters weren’t in on the joke, and their reactions when the subway musicians’ revealed their true identities were priceless.

This isn’t the first time Fallon has pulled this busking prank. Previously, he went undercover with his good friend, Miley Cyrus, to surprise a bunch of rowdy tourists. 

After devising new identities — with Cyrus becoming “Charlene” and Fallon playing “Bart” — the pair donned their disguises and headed to the Rockefeller Center subway station. “No one knows that this is going to happen,” Fallon told viewers before he began busking with Cyrus. “No one knows that it’s Miley Cyrus. Let’s do this.”

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