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‘Dreams do pay off’: Black Women Cheer Royal Engagement

For some black women, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s engagement was something more. One of the world’s most eligible bachelors has chosen someone who looks like them and grew up like them.

It’s the kind of storybook plot twist they don’t always experience.

“It’s that old ‘Cinderella’ tale,” said Essence Magazine Editor-in-Chief Vanessa K. DeLuca. “No matter what, we all have this fantasy of being swept off our feet by the prince. It’s validation that, of course, we can be princesses. … We need to see that as black women, that that’s possible. That’s something we don’t get to see enough of, and that’s what we’re responding to.”

Markle, whose mother is black and father is white, will be the first woman of color in modern history to join the British royal family. She joins famous black women like Serena Williams, rapper Eve and Janet Jackson who have recently found love outside of their race, with powerful men.

Ashley Mosley had been living in London this summer, across the street from Kensington Gardens. Engagement gossip between Markle and Prince Harry was all anyone could talk about at the black hair salon in her neighborhood. When the news broke this week, Mosley shrieked, “Oh my God!”

“‘Coming to America’ was fictional, but this is going to be real,” said Mosley, referring to the 1988 Eddie Murphy film that imagined an African prince finding a black wife in New York.

Though the celebrations this week have been wide and plenty, the royal engagement has not come without strife for Harry and Markle. After their relationship was announced this year, Harry lashed out at what he described as “racial undertones” in media coverage and overt racism on social media.

Markle this week called it “disheartening” to have to still deal with questions about her identity in 2017.

For Markle, some of the negative coverage marked a sad refrain. When Markle was growing up in Los Angeles, her black mother was mistaken for her nanny, and her father worked hard to shield her from bigotry. As an actress, she struggled with her dual backgrounds preventing her from landing both black and white roles.

The engagement mirrors broader trends in interracial marriage both in the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

According to a recent Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census data, among newlyweds, the share of recently married blacks with a spouse of a different race has more than tripled, from 5 percent in 1980 to 18 percent in 2015. Another study showed that more than 2 million people in England and Wales, or 9 percent of those in couples, were part of mixed-race relationships in 2011, up from 7 percent a decade earlier.

Still, African-Americans face more obstacles to marriage than other groups. In the U.S., blacks are the least likely racial group to marry, at 68 percent, compared with 90 percent of whites and 85 percent of Hispanics, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Blacks also tend to marry later, at an average age of 26.2, compared with 24.2 for whites and 23.8 for Hispanics.

Morgan Jerkins, a 25-year-old writer and editor who lives in New York, said the couple’s story is inspiring – especially Markle’s second chance at love as a divorced woman in her mid-30s.

“The odds were not in her favor,” said Jerkins, a black woman. “I’m all for seeing women of color who are loved publicly and tremendously. We’re bombarded all the time with messages about how unmarriageable we are. For this moment, we can say, ‘Not today.'”

It’s also just fun.

In a year full of unending bad headlines, often about minority communities, the engagement was a chance to escape, imagine and celebrate.

The news launched a thousand memes as people took to social media to contemplate the culture clash between black Americans and the British. Who, for instance, will wear the fanciest hats to the wedding?

Until this week, an African-American royal was as unlikely a prospect as a black president once seemed – and now both are happening in Mosley’s lifetime.

“I think it’s encouraging that women are independent and doing what makes them happy,” Mosley said. “When you follow your heart and your dreams, they do pay off. … You might end up with a prince on the other side of it!”

Prop From ‘The Ten Commandments’ Pulled From California Dune

Archaeologists working in sand dunes on the central California coast have dug up an intact plaster sphinx that was part of an Egyptian movie set built more than 90 years ago for Cecil B. DeMille’s epic The Ten Commandments.

The 300-pound sphinx is the second recovered from the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes.

Dunes Center Executive Director Doug Jenzen told the Santa Barbara news station KEYT-TV that it’s unlike other items found on previous digs because most of it is preserved with the original paint intact.

The set of the 1923 movie included more than 20 sphinxes. After filming, DeMille ordered everything buried in the dunes 175 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

They lay undisturbed for decades before recovery efforts began. The newly recovered sphinx is expected to go on display at the dunes museum next summer.

Beleaguered World Cup Gets Dreary Opener: Russia-Saudi Arabia

A World Cup shrouded in corruption controversies and struggling to attract sponsors could have the dreariest of starts on the field: a meeting of the lowest-ranked teams in the 32-team field.

Host Russia and Saudi Arabia play June 14 at Moscow in an opener lacking global appeal, but things pick up the next day when 2010 champion Spain and defending European champion Portugal meet in Sochi.

The Iberian neighbors were drawn into Group B at a Kremlin ceremony Friday. Morocco coach Herve Renard hoped to avoid the “two ogres” but will face them along with Iran.

“It’s a complicated group,” Spain coach Julen Lopetegui said. “It will be tough. Portugal is a great team. It is the defending European champion and has a squad filled with top players.”

None more so than Cristiano Ronaldo, who recently joined Argentina’s Lionel Messi as the only five-time winners of FIFA’s player of the year award. Messi’s quest for his first World Cup title begins the following day when Argentina takes on Iceland — at 334,000 the least-populous country to qualify for the World Cup.

Iceland coach Heimir Hallgrimsson already knows what he must tell his team: “Watch out for No. 10.”

The United States is missing from soccer’s top event for the first time since 1986 and four-time champion Italy will be watching from afar for the first time since 1958.

Germany remains the favorite. Its depth was clear when an experimental squad won the Confederations Cup in Russia in July. Germany opens against Mexico in its quest to become the first country to win back-to-back World Cup titles since Brazil in 1962. The Germans then face Sweden and South Korea in Group F.

“We got opponents that are not unknown to us,” Germany captain Manuel Neuer said. “That’s what I like best, when we know what to expect.”

Germany is hoping to be based in Sochi along with Brazil. The only five-time world champion does not intend to move its training camp despite a schedule that has none of its games in the Black Sea resort. The Selecao, beaten 7-1 at home by Germany in the 2014 semifinals, were drawn in Group E with Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia.

“Despite the distances, there are quick ways to get there,” Brazil coach Tite said.

England, eliminated in the group stage three years ago, was drawn into Group G along with newcomer Panama, Tunisia and Belgium. Gareth Southgate’s first World Cup game as a coach will be a repeat of his first as a player — Southgate made his World Cup debut in England’s 2-0 win over Tunisia in 1998.

“We’ve been good at writing off teams and then getting beaten by them,” Southgate said.

Roberto Martinez also will be making his World Cup debut. But the Belgium coach knows England well after spending two decades there as a coach and player.

“It is going to be one of those games with no secrets,” said Martinez, a former Everton manager. “We have 25 players in the British game. That brings that understanding. That brings that competitive level.”

Peru, the last of the 32 teams to qualify for Russia, is in Group C with 1998 champion France, Australia and Denmark.

“It could have been worse,” France coach Didier Deschamps said.

The only group without a former World Cup champion is H — Poland, Senegal, Colombia and Japan.

The Russians have been placed with the winners of the first World Cup — Uruguay — in Group A along with Egypt and Uruguay. At No. 65, Russia is the lowest-ranked team at the tournament, with Saudi Arabia only two places higher.

“I’ve never seen them,” Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov said.

Russian hosts

The ceremony was opened by Russian President Vladimir Putin, one day short of the seventh anniversary of the FIFA executive committee vote that awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar — the subject of bribe allegations against soccer executives brought up nearly daily in New York during a corruption trial against top soccer officials. Putin urged fans to visit and enjoy his “big and multifaceted” country, a rallying cry that comes amid concerns about racism and hooliganism.

“We will do everything to make it a major sporting festival,” Putin said, anticipating a World Cup of “friendship and fair play, values that do not change with time.”

The Olympic doping scandal surrounding Russia hung over the final countdown to the draw. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, head of the local World Cup organizing committee, defended himself against accusations he helped orchestrate state-sponsored doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

“Nowadays everyone is trying to make some kind of axis of evil out of us, just because we’re a great sporting power,” Mutko said.

The International Olympic Committee executive board will decide Tuesday whether to ban Russia from the upcoming Pyeongchang Olympics.

Top 5 Songs for Week Ending Dec. 2

We’re gathering the five most popular songs in the Billboard Hot 100 Pop Singles chart, for the week ending December 2, 2017.

The hit list seems comfortable with offering one new song a week, because that’s what we have once more.

Number 5: Cardi B. “Bodak Yellow Money Moves”

Let’s start in fifth place, where Cardi B slides two slots with “Bodak Yellow (Money Moves).”

The 2018 Grammy nominations came out on November 28, and Cardi competes in two categories. “Bodak Yellow” is nominated for both Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance. The 60th annual Grammy Awards ceremony will take place on January 28.

Number 4: Imagine Dragons “Thunder”

Imagine Dragons gains a slot in fourth place with “Thunder.” The Las Vegas band may win its second Grammy Award: “Radioactive” took Best Rock Performance in 2014, and “Evolve” is currently nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album.

Beyond that, the band’s music also appears in many advertisements. The song “Believer” alone currently has more than 32 placements, ranging from Nintendo and Microsoft to Jeep vehicles.

Number 3: Lil Pump “Gucci Gang”

Lil Pump places himself right in the middle of our countdown, as “Gucci Gang” jumps from 12th to third place. Hailing from Miami, Florida, Lil Pump – real name Gazzy Garcia – began uploading songs to SoundCloud last year. After earning millions of streams, he became a leader in “Soundcloud Rap,” a genre which also includes Lil Uzi Vert and Lil Yachty. Lil Pump’s self-titled debut mixtape hit third place on the U.S. pop album chart in October.

Number 2: Camila Cabello Featuring Young Thug “Havana”

Camila Cabello and Young Thug remain stuck in second place with “Havana.” However, it’s a different story on the Billboard Pop Songs chart, where it jumps to number one.

This is Camila’s second Pop Songs victory, following her collaboration with Machine Gun Kelly, “Bad Things.”

Number 1: Post Malone Featuring 21 Savage “Rockstar”

Up at number one, as you may have guessed, Post Malone and 21 Savage log a sixth straight week at the top with “Rockstar.” 

Speaking recently with Polish media, Post said words to the effect that whenever you want to feel something, don’t listen to hip-hop. Post later said he meant no disrespect to hip-hop, which he loves…he just meant to say that when he needs to reflect on life, Bob Dylan is his go-to artist.

We’re your go-to source for the biggest hits every week, so join us again in seven days!

Prince Harry, Meghan Markle Greet Fans in English City

Chanting “Harry, Harry!” and “Meghan, Meghan!” hundreds of people lined the streets of a central English city Friday to welcome Britain’s Prince Harry and his American fiancee, actress Meghan Markle.

The couple’s visit to Nottingham was their first official commitment since they announced their engagement on Monday. They plan to tour Britain over the next six months to give Markle an opportunity to learn about the country before their May wedding in the chapel at Windsor Castle.

Markle smiled and looked confident as she basked in the adoration of a crowd that had waited for hours in the cold to catch a passing glimpse of the couple. Dozens waved British and American flags.

A few were lucky enough to see the engagement ring up close as Markle shook hands. But the ring was old news for British commentators, who instead focused on her handbag — a Strathberry tri-color leather tote designed in Scotland and handcrafted in Spain.

The couple traveled to the east Midlands in England to visit to a youth project and to raise AIDS awareness. Their fans followed, including Irene Hardman, 81, who brought a gift bag with fridge magnets and candy for Markle.

Hardman wept with joy after handing the bag to the bride-to-be.

“I cried — she’s wonderful, and it’s fantastic,” Hardman said. “They’re so genuine.”

The trip was Prince Harry’s third to Nottingham since October 2016. The prince has long championed AIDS charities, following in the footsteps of his late mother, Princess Diana.

Holly Burdett, who is originally from West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire, but now lives in Sydney, Australia, returned home on the “gamble” that the couple would announce their engagement while she was there.

“I always thought I’d marry Harry, but you can’t win them all,” Burdett joked. “As long as they’re happy, that’s all that matters.”

Country Star Shelton Comforts Mourning Massachusetts School

Blake Shelton recorded a minute-long message that was included in a longer tribute video to the Quaboag Regional Middle/High School students who died in a November 6 car crash in West Brookfield.

Shelton’s brother died in a crash nearly three decades ago.

Shelton said in the message: “I can understand how you guys feel. It’s the worst possible feeling. It’s confusion. It’s anger. It’s just an overall brokenness that’s just gonna take a lot of time to heal.”

Shelton learned of the deaths through his mother, who grew up with the father of a member of Quaboag’s school committee.

The crash took the lives of 14-year-old Jaclyn Desrosiers, 15-year-old Christian Congelos and the driver, 16-year-old Lena Noonan.

Dozens of Runners Compete in Antarctica’s Only Marathon

Something extraordinary happened last week at the bottom of the world: 55 very determined, possibly crazy people participated in a marathon on the continent of Antarctica. VOA’s Kevin Enochs reports.

UN: 17 World Heritage Sites in Arab World in Danger

The new head of the U.N. cultural agency has called for greater protection for cultural heritage sites, especially in conflict zones.

Audrey Azoulay told a U.N. Security Council meeting Thursday that of 82 UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Arab world, 17 are on a danger list.

“All six Syrian World Heritage sites have been severely affected, including Palmyra and the fabled city of Aleppo, one of the oldest cities in the world, now reduced to rubble,” Azoulay said.

She also told the council that more that 100 cultural sites across Iraq have been damaged.

Azoulay said she was encouraged by the council’s adoption of a resolution in March condemning the unlawful destruction of cultural heritage and warning Islamic State, al-Qaida and other combatants that such attacks may constitute war crimes.

But she said countries need to do a lot more, including improving data collection and information sharing on trafficking routes, and better damage assessments.  

U.N. counterterrorism chief Vladimir Voronkov called for a stronger focus on investigations and cross-border cooperation, and on bringing in collectors, art dealers, auction houses and the tourism sector to stop the illegal trade in stolen cultural items.

Voronkov said the “looting and illicit trafficking of cultural objects leads to the financing of terrorism and criminal networks.”

Yury Fedotov, head of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, told the council that “the art market and museums should pay special attention to the provenance of cultural items that they are considering for acquisition, or with which they otherwise come into contact.”

Fedotov said there needs to be international cooperation in investigating, prosecuting and adjudicating cases related to trafficking cultural property.

“Only in this way can we protect precious cultural heritage from being lost forever,” he said.