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Gwen Stefani responds to cultural appropriation claims over ‘Harajuku Girls’

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Gwen Stefani has responded to long-running claims of cultural appropriation over her ‘Harajuku Girls’ dancers.

The former No Doubt singer has also been accused of appropriating South Asian, Black, and African cultures, and perpetuating stereotypes of Native American culture at various points throughout her career.

When Stefani was still a member of No Doubt, she wore a bindi in music videos including ‘Just A Girl’, while the group’s 2012 reunion saw them pull a video for the track ‘Looking Hot’ over its depiction of “cowboys and Indians”.

In her solo career, she has also faced backlash for appropriating Black culture in her fashion and videos, as well as African culture during a performance on The Voice. Stefani’s use of Japanese culture in her work is perhaps most famous of all, thanks to her ‘Harajuku Girls’ dancers who joined her during her ‘LAMB’ era. She also released a ‘Harajuku Lovers’ fragrance line and ‘Harajuku Mini’ fashion range.

Gwen Stefani AMAs Harajuku Girls
Gwen Stefani and Harajuku Girls at the 2004 AMAs CREDIT: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Speaking to Paper, the star said she had a “deep fascination” with Japan and was “inspired” by the culture.

“If you read the actual lyrics [in ‘What You Waiting For?’], it talks about being a fan of Japan and how if I do good, I get to go back there,” Stefani said. “I never got to have dancers with No Doubt. I never got to change costumes. I never got to do all of those fun girl things that I always love to do.

“So I had this idea that I would have a posse of girls – because I never got to hang with girls – and they would be Japanese, Harajuku girls, because those are the girls that I love. Those are my homies. That’s where I would be if I had my dream come true, I could go live there and I could go hang out in Harajuku.”

When comedian Margaret Cho’s criticism of Stefani’s dancers, comparing them to a minstrel show, was put to the singer, she responded: “If we didn’t buy and sell and trade our cultures in, we wouldn’t have so much beauty, you know?

“We learn from each other, we share from each other, we grow from each other. And all these rules are just dividing us more and more… I think that we grew up in a time where we didn’t have so many rules. We didn’t have to follow a narrative that was being edited for us through social media, we just had so much more freedom.”

Last month, Stefani teamed up with Saweetie for an updated version of her latest single ‘Slow Clap’. It arrived a month after the original, which was co-written with songwriter/producer Ross Golan and songwriter Luke Niccoli.

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Omicron Covid variant ‘present in Europe at least 10 days ago’ | Coronavirus

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The Omicron variant of Covid-19 was present in Europe at least 10 days ago, before South African health experts alerted the world to their concerns around the transmissibility of the newly identified variant.

The Dutch health authority said it had found the Omicron variant in two local cases going back 11 days, showing it was already in western Europe’s heartland before the reports came out of South Africa on 24 November.

The RIVM health institute said it found Omicron in samples dating from 19 and 23 November. Those findings predate the positive cases found in passengers returning from South Africa last Friday and tested at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.

Despite the global worry, doctors in South Africa are reporting patients are suffering mostly mild symptoms so far, but warn that it is early. Also, most of the new cases are in people in their 20s and 30s who generally do not get as sick from Covid-19 as older patients.

As countries around the world disclosed scattered instances of Omicron, from Scotland to Hong Kong, Japan and France, the behaviour of the variant appeared to be following previous patterns of dispersal and identification that have seen health authorities race to play catchup, with most cases related to travel to southern Africa.

The disclosure of the presence of Omicron in Europe earlier than previously believed came as the European Union’s medical agency chief said on Tuesday it was ready to deal with the Omicron variant, and that it would take two weeks to have an indication whether the current Covid-19 vaccines would be able to deal with it.

Emer Cooke, the executive director of the European Medicines Agency, said if it did require a new vaccine to counter Omicron, it would take up to four months to have it approved for use in the 27-nation bloc.

“We are prepared,” Cooke told EU lawmakers, adding that cooperation with the medical industry was already ongoing to prepare for such an eventuality. “We know that at some stage there will be a mutation that means we have to change the current approach.”

The emergence of the variant, which features an unusually large number of mutations on its spike protein, has prompted travel bans and new restrictions in a number of countries, as others – including the UK – moved to accelerate vaccination programmes.

While the overwhelming majority of current coronavirus cases behind the winter surge in infections across Europe remain the Delta variant, some experts fear Omicron could escape the protections of vaccines and compete with Delta for dominance.

As of Tuesday, 42 cases of the Omicron variant have been identified in 10 European countries, according to the head of the EU’s public health agency.

Authorities in the bloc were analysing another six “probable” cases, Andrea Ammon, who chairs the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), told an online conference, adding the confirmed cases were mild or without symptoms, although in younger age groups.

“For the assessment whether [Omicron] escapes immunity, we still have to wait until the investigations in the laboratories with sera from people who have recovered have been carried out. These are expected in a couple of weeks,” she said.

Passenger tested for Omicron variant at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam.
Coronavirus test lane at Schiphol airport for travellers from South Africa. Photograph: Remko de Waal/EPA

The variant has been detected in two Israeli doctors, one of whom returned from a conference in London in the past week. The physician who had returned from Britain had probably infected his colleague, a spokesperson for Sheba Medical Centre near Tel Aviv said, adding that the pair had received three doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and so far had shown mild symptoms.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned the global risk from the Omicron variant is “very high” based on early evidence, saying it could lead to surges with “severe consequences”.

Japan confirmed its first case on Tuesday, in a visitor who recently arrived from Namibia, a day after banning all foreign visitors as an emergency precaution against the variant.

A government spokesperson said the patient, a man in his 30s, tested positive upon arrival at Tokyo’s Narita airport on Sunday. He was isolated and is being treated at a hospital.

The new variant was first identified last week by researchers in South Africa.

WHO said there are “considerable uncertainties” about the Omicron variant. But it said preliminary evidence raised the possibility that the variant had mutations that could help it both evade an immune system response and boost its ability to spread from one person to another.

WHO stressed that while scientists were hunting for evidence to better understand the variant, countries should accelerate vaccinations as quickly as possible.

Agencies contributed to this report

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Tensions Rise As Russia Seems to Plot against Ukraine with Troops, Coup

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By Jonny Lupsha, Current Events Writer

A crisis between Ukraine and Russia, which has loomed since 2014, continues to escalate. Two separate incidents—an escalation of Russian troops near Ukraine and a coup plot against Ukraine—came to light throughout November. How did these countries get here?

For several weeks in November, the United States, NATO, and Ukraine have reported an unusual spike in Russian troops near the Ukrainian border. Additionally, Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Friday that two Russians were caught on tape plotting to enroll Ukraine’s richest businessman, Rinat Akhmetov, in a coup to overthrow the Ukrainian government. The Kremlin has dismissed both claims.

Relations between Ukraine and Russia have diminished since 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. In his video series A History of Eastern Europe, Dr. Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, Lindsay Young Professor of History at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, explained the extraordinary lead-up to this event.

A Nation in Flux

According to Dr. Liulevicius, between world wars, Ukrainians found themselves divided by borders. Most lived in the Soviet Union, with others in Poland, Romania, and Czechoslovakia. The Soviet Union brought the Terror Famine, or Holodomor, to Ukraine in the 1930s, cracking down on its cultural leaders and bringing mass murders. Ukraine didn’t fully gain independence until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Unfortunately, its government got off to a rocky start. Corruption and an energy dependence on Russia didn’t help.

“Over time, disappointment with insider politics as usual produced a popular movement called the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004,” Dr. Liulevicius said.

Fueled by the political campaign of Viktor Yushchenko, who ran as an opposition candidate to the government, the Orange Revolution boiled over when Yushchenko was poisoned and nearly killed. The government returned fraudulent election results declaring his loss.

“One in every five Ukrainians went out in protest in the Orange Revolution, but there were contrasts; there was [a] divide between east and west,” Dr. Liulevicius said. “One in three people in the west protested, but fewer than one in 20 in the eastern part of the country.”

Part of this divide was because the western part of the country had been more recently “Sovietized” and could remember a past without the heavy influence of Russia. Their spirit of a solely-Ukrainian identity inspired them. However, little progress was made during Yushchenko’s time in office.

Russia Re-Enters the Picture

“In 2010, Viktor Yanukovych was elected president, with most of his support based in the eastern regions, and also with the support of Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin,” Dr. Liulevicius said. ” Yanukovych also jailed his opponent, Yulia Tymoshenko, a co-leader of the Orange Revolution and a former prime minister, accusing her of corruption in office.

“At the end of 2013, when Yanukovych bizarrely first negotiated and then refused to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union, again mass protests erupted in Kiev, Lviv, and other cities.”

The government tried to quell the protests, but by February 2014, Yanukovych believed his power was crumbling and he fled to Russia. Putin declared his ouster and the subsequent change of government illegitimate, while Russian media called the protesters neofascists and Nazis.

“Russian forces moved into Crimea,” Dr. Liulevicius said. However, Russia denied the unknown troops were Russian, refusing to take responsibility for them or the violence they exacted on those who opposed annexation.

“Russia then annexed Crimea officially, over international protests. Later, in March 2015, Putin proudly admitted openly what his government had earlier denied—that he had masterminded the annexation of Crimea from the start. It was not a spontaneous response to calls for help from locals, but a plan, and the annexation in fact had been ordered weeks before the referendum was staged under the watchful eyes of gunmen.”

Since then, Russia’s influence in and around Ukraine has only increased.

Edited by Angela Shoemaker, The Great Courses Daily

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Euphoria Season 2: Release Date, Trailer, Cast, Spoilers For Zendaya's HBO Max Drama – Parade Magazine

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Euphoria Season 2: Release Date, Trailer, Cast, Spoilers For Zendaya’s HBO Max Drama  Parade Magazine

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