The New York Times 2024-02-18 10:39:39


From Frigid Cells to Mystery Injections, Prison Imperiled Navalny’s Health

Aleksei A. Navalny portrayed himself as invincible, consistently using his hallmark humor to suggest that President Vladimir V. Putin couldn’t break him, no matter how dire his conditions became in prison.

But behind the brave face, the reality was plain to see. Since his incarceration in early 2021, Mr. Navalny, Russia’s most formidable opposition figure, and his staff regularly suggested his conditions were so grim that he was being put to death in slow motion.

Now his aides believe their fears have come true.

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Thailand Paroles an Influential Former Prime Minister

Thailand’s ousted former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, a leader once seen as a threat to the country’s wealthy elite, was released on parole on Sunday, after spending only a fraction of his original eight-year prison term in detention — in a hospital.

Mr. Thaksin, who was removed in a coup and spent years in exile, made a stunning return to Thailand last year. He had been convicted in absentia on charges of corruption and abuse of power, and promptly sentenced when he was back in the country. But days later, the king commuted Mr. Thaksin’s sentence to one year, fueling speculation that he had struck a deal with powerful royalists. Last week, the authorities said he would be paroled soon.

A billionaire businessman, Mr. Thaksin remains one of Thailand’s most influential politicians. Analysts say he is unlikely to formally re-enter politics but could still play a significant role behind the scenes in the governing political party, Pheu Thai, the third incarnation of one of Mr. Thaksin’s political parties.

On Sunday morning, television footage showed Mr. Thaksin, in a neck brace, leaving the Police General Hospital in a car, along with his two daughters. A banner with the words “Welcome home” and “We’ve been waiting for this day for so, so long” was seen hanging at the front gate of his house in western Bangkok.

For many Thais, Mr. Thaksin’s parole was just the latest example of the two-tier justice system in the country, where the wealthy enjoy special treatment not given to the ordinary people. In a statement, the opposition Move Forward Party said Mr. Thaksin’s release raised questions of “double standards” and “supporting the privilege of a certain person over the rule of law.”

Move Forward officials have also questioned how much sway Mr. Thaksin would have over the current government. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin suggested he remains in charge.

“The Thai constitution only allows one prime minister at a time,” he told reporters on Sunday, adding that he plans to see Mr. Thaksin in due course.

For decades, Mr. Thaksin’s name invoked bitter divisions in Thailand. The country was split between the pro-Thaksin “red shirt” protesters from the rural north and the anti-Thaksin “yellow shirt” faction made up of royalists and the urban elite, which battled each other in the streets of Bangkok. Both the wealthy aristocrats and the military viewed him as a threat.

Mr. Thaksin was ousted in 2006 after about five years in office. Through his 15 years in self-exile, the political parties he founded consistently won the most votes in every election — except last year when the progressive Move Forward Party clinched a surprise victory. Many Thais, especially in the rural northern parts of Thailand, associate Mr. Thaksin with economic prosperity — he ushered in a universal health care system and implemented other policies that improved their livelihoods.

Last August, he returned to Thailand, arriving just hours before Parliament selected Mr. Thavisin as prime minister. Mr. Thaksin was quickly taken into custody and told by a court that he had to serve an eight-year sentence in connection with three cases of corruption and abuse of power.

But about a week later, Thailand’s king commuted Mr. Thaksin’s prison sentence to a year. On Tuesday, the justice minister said that Mr. Thaksin, 74, was among 930 prisoners who met early parole-criteria, which include having serious illnesses, being disabled, or older than 70. The justice minister, Tawee Sodsong, added that this group of prisoners would be released “after six months automatically.”

On Mr. Thaksin’s first night in jail, the authorities said he was transferred to a police hospital because of chest pains, high blood pressure and low blood oxygen. He remained there for the rest of his sentence.

Many Thais who supported Mr. Thaksin say they are now disillusioned by him and Pheu Thai, believing that a quid pro quo arrangement was made with the conservative establishment to ensure that he would not be heavily punished in exchange for keeping the military and royalists in power.

But Mr. Thaksin’s legal troubles might not be over. Earlier this month, the Thai authorities said he still faces a criminal charge of defaming the monarchy dating back to 2016 over comments that he made in an interview with the Chosun Ilbo newspaper in Seoul. The attorney general has not decided yet if Mr. Thaksin should be indicted.

Pirada Anuwech contributed reporting.

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Large Antigovernment Protest Returns to Tel Aviv, as Criticism of Netanyahu Mounts

Large Antigovernment Protest Returns to Tel Aviv, as Criticism of Netanyahu Mounts

The demonstrations took a pause after the Oct. 7 attacks, but the anger at the Israeli leadership never went away.

reporting from Tel Aviv

Thousands of antigovernment protesters on Saturday filled a central Tel Aviv thoroughfare, the same street where demonstrations riled the nation before the start of the Israel-Hamas war, in the largest show of anger toward Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in months.

In the immediate aftermath of the Hamas-led attacks on Oct. 7, in which some 1,200 people were killed, according to Israeli officials, the nation was in shock and the antigovernment protests were put on pause. The protesters said at the time that they felt a need to be unified as a nation, and many demonstrators were called up to the military reserves or volunteered to help the war effort.

But as the war has passed the four-month mark, protests against the government have been strengthening. On Saturday, calls for an immediate election were heard above a deafening din of air horns. A red flare was lit in the middle of a drum circle that beat out marching tunes. Flag-wielding demonstrators stared down half a dozen police officers on horseback.

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Risking Arrest, Russians Mourn Navalny in Small Acts of Protest

For the second day in a row, mourners walked purposefully along Moscow’s snow-heaped Garden Ring on Saturday carrying bouquets to lay at one of the improvised memorials to Aleksei A. Navalny, the Russian opposition figure who perished in a prison colony the day before.

The flowers, wrapped in paper to shield them from the icy wind, were not only a symbol of mourning. They also served as a form of protest in a country where even the mildest dissent can risk detention. And the people who laid bouquets at the Wall of Grief, a monument to the victims of political persecution during the Stalin era, shared the conviction that the Russian state was behind Mr. Navalny’s death.

“He didn’t die, he was killed,” said Alla, 75, a pensioner who declined to give her last name because of possible repercussions.

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Avdiivka, Longtime Stronghold for Ukraine, Falls to Russians

Ukraine ordered the complete withdrawal from the decimated city of Avdiivka before dawn on Saturday, surrendering a position that had been a military stronghold for the better part of a decade, in the face of withering Russian assault.

“Based on the operational situation around Avdiivka, in order to avoid encirclement and preserve the lives and health of servicemen, I decided to withdraw our units from the city and move to defense on more favorable lines,” Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, Ukraine’s top military commander, said in a statement issued overnight.

The fall of Avdiivka, a city that was once home to some 30,000 people but is now a smoking ruin, is the first major gain Russian forces have achieved since May of last year. After rebuffing a Ukrainian counteroffensive in the summer and fall, Russian forces in recent weeks have been pressing the attack across nearly the entire length of the 600-mile-long front.


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Burglars Hit Movie Director’s Home, Then Deliver a Cinematic Plot Twist

When the thieves broke into the country home of a renowned film director in southern India, taking gold, silver and cash, they made a clean getaway. But days later, a small plastic bag appeared outside the house’s gates, stitched shut with thin sticks and containing something wrapped in a white handkerchief.

Inside was a medal for a prestigious national award that the director, M. Manikandan, had won in 2021 for one of his films.

With it was a brief note handwritten in Tamil, a regional language.

“Sir, please forgive us,” the note read. “Your hard work belongs to you alone.”

The burglary and partial return, with its small-town intrigue and big-hearted absurdity, could have figured in the kind of movies Mr. Manikandan and other filmmakers in India’s south make.

While Bollywood gets much attention and recognition outside the country, some of India’s most endearing and creative films come from its diverse regional cinemas, in languages such as Tamil and Malayalam.

Mr. Manikandan broke through with a film about two egg-stealing, slum-dwelling brothers with a single goal — to do whatever it took to taste pizza. The film for which he won the purloined medal, “Kadaisi Vivasayi” or “The Last Farmer,” was a commentary on the difficulties of farming in India. But its surreal twists also laid bare the absurdities of the nation’s bureaucracy.

When an elderly farmer refuses to give up his plot of land, he is falsely accused of a crime. The courts recognize his innocence, but he must still remain behind bars for weeks for the bureaucratic process to run its course, so a police officer is tasked with taking care of his small plot.

“What will I do with the money?” the farmer says in the film, rejecting any notions of giving up farming or selling his land. “Use it as a pillow when I sleep?”

The thieves who came for Mr. Manikandan’s country home clearly had ideas about what to do with money. But also a conscience, or maybe respect for art.

Sathish Kumar, a head constable who is part of the intelligence-gathering team of the local police unit investigating, said the house, in the town of Usilampatti, was broken into via the front door last week. Taken was about $1,200 in local currency, 40 grams of gold chains and silver ornaments with a total weight of about a kilogram.

It is a one-bedroom property, with an office and a garden. Mr. Manikandan is there only occasionally, living mostly in Chennai, the state capital, about 300 miles away.

“A pug guards the place while servants come in and out to feed him and clean the place,” Mr. Kumar said.

Thefts are frequent in the town, though most have been solved with help of CCTV footage, Mr. Kumar said. But in the burglary at Mr. Manikandan’s place, there were no clues.

When the film director’s manager found the plastic bag with the medal on the east side of the property four days after the burglary, he called the police at once, according to Mr. Kumar. Mr. Kumar and his team took the bag and the medal into police custody, hoping they finally had a lead on the culprits. But the fingerprints collected have resulted in no matches.

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With Prison Certain and Death Likely, Why Did Navalny Return?

There was one question that Russians repeatedly asked the opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny, who died in a remote Arctic penal colony on Friday, and he confessed that he found it a little annoying.

Why, after surviving a fatal poisoning attempt widely blamed on the Kremlin, had he returned to Russia from his extended convalescence abroad to face certain imprisonment and possible death? Even his prison guards, turning off their recording devices, asked him why he had come back, he said.

“I don’t want to give up either my country or my beliefs,” Mr. Navalny wrote in a Jan. 17 Facebook post to mark the third anniversary of his return and arrest in 2021. “I cannot betray either the first or the second. If your beliefs are worth something, you must be willing to stand up for them. And if necessary, make some sacrifices.”

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‘Dictators Do Not Go on Vacation,’ Zelensky Warns Washington and Europe

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine called on world leaders not to abandon his country, citing the recent death of a Russian dissident as a reminder that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia would continue to test the international order, and pushing back against the idea of a negotiated resolution to the war.

Mr. Zelensky, speaking on Saturday at the Munich Security Conference, said that if Ukraine lost the war to Russia, it would be “catastrophic” not only for Kyiv, but for other nations as well.

“Please do not ask Ukraine when the war will end,” he said. “Ask yourself why is Putin still able to continue it.”

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Five Places Russia Is Fighting to Break Through Ukrainian Lines


Russian gains since Dec. 1
Russian-controlled area

Ukraine is engaged in a desperate fight to hold back the Russian onslaught.

Russian forces captured the longtime Ukrainian stronghold of Avdiivka before dawn on Saturday, Moscow’s first major battlefield gain since it took Bakhmut last May.

But across the entire 600-mile long front, Ukraine is short on ammunition without renewed American military assistance, and it is struggling to replenish its own depleted forces after two years of brutal fighting.

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The Father, the Son and the Fight Over Their King

Old World
Young Africa

The Father, the Son and the Fight Over Their King

The riot police appeared out of nowhere, charging furiously toward the young protesters trying to oust King Mswati III, who has ruled over the nation of Eswatini for 38 years. The pop of gunfire ricocheted through the streets, and the demonstrators started running for their lives.

Manqoba Motsa, a college student, and his fellow Communists quickly slipped into disguise, pulling plain T-shirts over their red hammer-and-sickle regalia. They ducked down a sloped street and raced away, thinking that, somehow, they had escaped.


The map locates Eswatini in southern Africa. It is bordered by the country of South Africa to the north, west, south, and southeast.

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What to Know About the Fall of Avdiivka

Ukrainian troops have withdrawn from the eastern frontline city of Avdiivka, Ukraine’s top general, Oleksandr Syrsky, said on Saturday, allowing Moscow to score its biggest battlefield victory in months and dealing a blow to Ukraine’s stretched and outgunned forces as the two-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion approaches.

General Syrsky said he had ordered the retreat “in order to avoid encirclement and preserve the lives and health of servicemen.” Avdiivka — once a city of 30,000 people before being reduced to ruins — sat in a pocket surrounded by Russian troops to the north, east and south. In recent months, they had been slowly advancing through relentless assaults, in a pincer movement.

“The ability to save our people is the most important task for us,” President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said Saturday at the Munich Security Conference. He added that Ukrainian troops had been hindered by a shortage of ammunition because of declining Western military assistance.

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Aleksei Navalny’s Allies Confirm His Death as Russia Detains Mourners

Aleksei A. Navalny’s political allies on Saturday confirmed his death, saying that his mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, had received an official notification that her son died on Friday afternoon. The confirmation came as Russian officials detained hundreds of people mourning his death.

Mr. Navalny’s family was still waiting for officials to release the body. Kira Yarmysh, Mr. Navalny’s spokeswoman, said in a statement on X that Russian investigators had transferred Mr. Navalny’s body from a penal colony in the Arctic to the town of Salekhard, where it was being examined.

“We demand for Aleksei Navalny’s body to be released to his family immediately,” Ms. Yarmysh said in her statement.

The detentions of Mr. Navalny’s mourners signaled that the Kremlin wanted to prevent his death from turning into a political event. At least 400 people in 36 cities had been detained since the death was announced on Friday, according to OVD Info, a rights group that tracks such arrests.

In Moscow, hundreds of Russians came to the Wall of Grief monument honoring victims of political repression in Russia. They were met with a heavy police presence. Overnight, Moscow city authorities removed piles of flowers that people had left to commemorate Mr. Navalny.

Mr. Navalny’s mother and one of his lawyers arrived on Saturday morning at the penal colony in the Kharp settlement, Ms. Yarmysh said in a video statement. She and others had to wait for two hours before a prison official came out to say that Mr. Navalny’s body had been transferred to Salekhard.

Ivan Zhdanov, the head of Mr. Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, said in a post on X that they were told in the penal colony that he died because of the “sudden death syndrome.”

In Salekhard, a regional center close to the penal colony, Mr. Navalny’s mother and his lawyer found the local morgue closed. When they called, the officials said that Mr. Navalny’s body was not there, Ms. Yarmysh said. Another lawyer was told, she said, that an “additional histology” had been performed to determine the cause of Mr. Navalny’s death, and that its results should be ready next week.

“They lie and they do everything not to give out the body,” Ms. Yarmysh said.

In a separate video address, Ms. Yarmysh accused Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, of killing Mr. Navalny.

“Three and a half years ago Putin tried to kill Aleksei,” Ms. Yarmysh said, referring to Mr. Navalny’s poisoning with a nerve agent in 2020. “Yesterday, he killed him.”

Ms. Yarmysh is a member of a team of Mr. Navalny’s allies. Working from outside Russia, they have continued to carry out his work after his poisoning and his subsequent imprisonment, publishing his statements and organizing political events.

Prison authorities said Mr. Navalny fell unconscious and died after a walk at the penal colony, where he had been transferred at the end of December.

In their statement about his death, the prison authorities said that its causes were “being determined.” Local investigators said that they had begun a “procedural check” into Mr. Navalny’s death. They said “a set of investigative and operative measures is being carried out aimed at establishing all circumstances of the incident.”

Yevgeny Smirnov, a Russian lawyer, said that means a forensic medical examination is probably being conducted on Mr. Navalny’s body. Relatives can retrieve the body for burial only after the cause of death is officially determined, Mr. Smirnov said.

According to Public Verdict, a Russian rights group, such medical examinations usually give only very general causes of death.

“Such investigations absolutely cannot be trusted,” the group said in a statement.

Upon retrieving the body, relatives can bury it at a cemetery, the group said. Mr. Navalny’s family members have not commented on the possible burial arrangements.

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‘Shawshank’ in China, as You’ve Never Seen It Before

When a stage production of “The Shawshank Redemption” opened recently in China, it was cast entirely with Western actors speaking fluent Mandarin Chinese. But that may have been the least surprising part of the show.

That the show — an adaptation of the Stephen King novella that became one of the most beloved movies of all time — was staged at all seemingly flew in the face of several trends in China’s cultural sphere.

Chinese audiences’ interest in Hollywood films is fading, with moviegoers turning to homegrown productions. China’s authoritarian government has stoked nationalism and cast Western influence as a political pollutant. Censorship of the arts has tightened.

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Israelis, Newly Vulnerable, Remain Traumatized and Mistrustful

Steven Erlanger reported from Jerusalem, Army Base Julis, Tel Aviv, and Beersheba to try to get a sense of Israel’s mood four months into the war against Hamas.

After the Hamas invasion on Oct. 7, Doron Shabty and his wife and their two small children hid in Sderot, near the border with Gaza, and survived. A reservist in the infantry, he went into the army the next day.

He just returned after more than 100 days in Gaza, having lost friends. Mr. Shabty, 31, who sees himself on the political left, said he felt no sense of revenge, even if other soldiers did. Nor did he justify every act of the Israeli military, expressing sorrow over the many thousands of Gazans killed in the fight against Hamas.

But he said he felt certain that to restore Israelis’ faith in their country’s ability to protect them, there cannot be a return to the situation of Oct. 6. “We can’t live with an armed Gaza — we just can’t do that,” he said. “And in order to disarm Gaza, you need to pay a terrible price.”

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An English City Gave Soccer to the World. Now It Wants Credit.

As far as the man in the food truck is concerned, the patch of land he occupies in Sheffield, England, is about as humdrum as they come. To him, the spot — in the drab parking lot of a sprawling home improvement superstore, its facade plastered in lurid orange — is not exactly a place where history comes alive.

John Wilson, an academic at the University of Sheffield’s management school, looks at the same site and can barely contain his excitement. This, he said, is one of the places where the world’s most popular sport was born. He does not see a parking lot. He can see the history: the verdant grass, the sweating players, the cheering crowds.

His passion is sincere, absolute and shared by a small band of amateur historians and volunteer detectives devoted to restoring Sheffield — best known for steel, coal and as the setting for the film “The Full Monty” — to its rightful place as the undisputed birthplace of codified, organized, recognizable soccer.


Map locates Sheffield, Manchester and London in England. It also shows where Wembley Stadium is in northwest London.

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How John Travolta Became the Star of Carnival

Jack Nicas and Dado Galdieri reported this article among the giant puppets of the Carnival celebrations in Olinda, Brazil

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It was near the start of one of Brazil’s most famous Carnival celebrations, in the northern seaside city of Olinda, and the town plaza was jammed with thousands of revelers. They were all awaiting their idol.

Just before 9 p.m., the doors to a dance hall swung open, a brass band pushed into the crowd and the star everyone had been waiting for stepped out: a 12-foot puppet of John Travolta.

Confetti sprayed, the band began playing a catchy tune and the crowd sang along: “John Travolta is really cool. Throwing a great party. And in Olinda, the best carnival.” (It rhymes in Portuguese.)

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‘This Is Where I Want to Be’

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When Ayelet Khon moved back to the Kfar Azza kibbutz with her husband two months after the brutal Hamas-led attack of Oct. 7, the first thing she did was hang a string of rainbow-colored lights up on the front patio.

At night, when darkness drenches this community, the twinkling colors are the only lights visible.

“We are going to keep these lights on and never turn them off — even if we’re out for the evening — they are lights of hope,” Ms. Khon said she told her husband, Shar Shnurman.

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Manhattan or Pulau Rhun? In 1667, Nutmeg Made the Choice a No-Brainer.

Richard C. Paddock and

Richard C. Paddock and Muktita Suhartono, along with the photographer Nyimas Laula, spent three days on Pulau Rhun to document life on the remote island.

The isles of Manhattan and Pulau Rhun could hardly be farther apart, not just in geography, but also in culture, economy and global prominence.

Rhun, in the Banda Sea in Indonesia, has no cars or roads and only about 20 motorbikes. Most people get around by walking along its paved footpaths or up steep stairways, often toting plastic jugs of water from the numerous village wells or sometimes lugging a freshly caught tuna.

But in the 17th century, in what might now seem one of the most lopsided trades in history, the Netherlands believed it got the better part of a bargain with the British when it swapped Manhattan, then known as New Amsterdam, for this tiny speck of land.


Map locates the Maluku Islands in eastern Indonesia. It also locates Pulau Rhan, an island in the Banda Island group, which is part of the Maluku Islands.

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Discontent and Defiance on the Road to Pakistan’s Election

Christina Goldbaum and

The reporters traveled along a famed highway in Pakistan’s most heated political battleground to understand how Pakistanis are feeling before a national election on Thursday.

The highway is the most politically charged slice of a politically turbulent country. It winds 180 miles from Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, through the fertile plains of Punjab Province to Lahore, the nation’s cultural and political heart.

For centuries, it was known only as a sliver of the Grand Trunk Road, Asia’s longest and oldest thoroughfare, linking traders in Central Asia to the Indian subcontinent. But in Pakistan, this stretch of the smog-drenched highway has become the stage for major rallies and protests led by nearly every famed civilian leader the country has had.

As Pakistan heads into national elections on Thursday, the road is buzzing. Politics dominates the chatter between its vendors and rickshaw drivers, their conversations seeped in a culture of conspiracy, cults of political personality and the problems of entrenched military control.


The map highlights the Grand Trunk Road from Islamabad to Lahore in Pakistan . The towns of Gujar Khan, Jhelum, Wazirabad and Gujranwala along the road are also located.

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Architect Embraces Indigenous Worldview in Australian Designs

Jefa Greenaway will never forget the first time he heard his father’s voice. It was in 2017, when he was watching a documentary about Indigenous Australians’ fight to be recognized in the country’s Constitution.

“It was poignant, surreal,” Mr. Greenaway recalled. “In one word: emotional.”

In the film, his father, Bert Groves, an Indigenous man and a civil rights activist born in 1907, recounts how he was prevented from pursuing an education because of the size of his skull, a victim of phrenology, the pseudoscience that lingered in Australia into the 20th century.

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The Friar Who Became the Vatican’s Go-To Guy on A.I.

Before dawn, Paolo Benanti climbed to the bell tower of his 16th-century monastery, admired the sunrise over the ruins of the Roman forum and reflected on a world in flux.

“It was a wonderful meditation on what is going on inside,” he said, stepping onto the street in his friar robe. “And outside too.”

There is a lot going on for Father Benanti, who, as both the Vatican’s and the Italian government’s go-to artificial intelligence ethicist, spends his days thinking about the Holy Ghost and the ghosts in the machines.

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Cleaning Latrines by Hand: ‘How Could Any Human Do That?’

When he came to fully realize exactly what his parents and older brother did for a living, and what it likely meant for his own future, Bezwada Wilson says he was so angry he contemplated suicide.

His family members, and his broader community, were manual scavengers, tasked with cleaning by hand human excrement from dry latrines at a government-run gold mine in southern India.

While his parents had tried hard to hide from their youngest child the nature of their work as long as they could — telling Mr. Bezwada they were sweepers — as a student Mr. Bezwada knew his classmates viewed him with cruel condescension. He just didn’t know the reason.

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A Child of Another War Who Makes Music for Ukrainians

When the owner of an underground club in Kyiv reached out to Western musicians to play in Ukraine, long before the war, there were not so many takers.

But an American from Boston, Mirza Ramic, accepted the invitation, spawning a lasting friendship with the club’s owner, Taras Khimchak.

“I kept coming back,” Mr. Ramic, 40, said in an interview at the club, Mezzanine, where he was preparing for a performance during a recent tour of Ukraine.

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A Woman Who Shows Age Is No Barrier to Talk Show Stardom

Pushing a walker through a television studio in central Tokyo earlier this week, Tetsuko Kuroyanagi slowly climbed three steps onto a sound stage with the help of an assistant who settled her into a creamy beige Empire armchair.

A stylist removed the custom-made sturdy boots on her feet and slipped on a pair of high-heeled mules. A makeup artist brushed her cheeks and touched up her blazing red lipstick. A hairdresser tamed a few stray wisps from her trademark onion-shaped hairstyle as another assistant ran a lint roller over her embroidered black jacket. With that, Ms. Kuroyanagi, 90, was ready to record the 12,193rd episode of her show.

As one of Japan’s best-known entertainers for seven decades, Ms. Kuroyanagi has interviewed guests on her talk show, “Tetsuko’s Room,” since 1976, earning a Guinness World Record last fall for most episodes hosted by the same presenter. Generations of Japanese celebrities across film, television, music, theater and sports have visited Ms. Kuroyanagi’s couch, along with American stars like Meryl Streep and Lady Gaga; Prince Philip of England; and Mikhail Gorbachev, the former leader of the Soviet Union. Ms. Kuroyanagi said Gorbachev remains one of her all-time favorite guests.

Ms. Kuroyanagi, who jokes that she wants to keep going until she turns 100, is known for her rapid-fire chatter and knack for drawing out guests on topics like dating, divorce and, now, increasingly, death. Even as she works to woo a younger generation — the Korean-Canadian actor and singer Ahn Hyo-seop, 28, appeared on the show this month — many of her guests these days speak about the ailments of aging and the demise of their industry peers.

Having survived World War II, she broke out as an early actor on Japanese television and then carved out a niche as a feel-good interviewer with a distinctive style that is still instantly recognized almost everywhere in Japan. By fashioning herself into a character, rather than simply being the person who interviewed the characters, she helped establish a genre of Japanese performers known as “tarento” — a Japanized version of the English word “talent” — who are ubiquitous on television today.

“In some ways she really is like the embodiment of TV history” in Japan, said Aaron Gerow, a professor of East Asian literature and film at Yale University.

Ms. Kuroyanagi is distinguished above all by her longevity, but she was also a trailblazing woman in an overwhelmingly male environment.

When she started as a variety show host in 1972, if she asked a question, “I was told I should just keep my mouth shut,” she recalled in a nearly two-hour interview in a hotel near the studio where she had taped three episodes earlier in the day.

“I do think Japan has changed from that era,” she said.

She has championed the deaf and is a good-will ambassador for UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund. Yet critics say that despite her pioneering career, she has done little to advance women’s causes. “She is an icon for prosperous, good-old” Japan, wrote Kaori Hayashi, a professor of media studies at the University of Tokyo, in an email message.

In the interview, Ms. Kuroyanagi did not dwell on the indignities of being the sole woman in many rooms. She said that in her 30s and 40s, men in the television industry asked her on dates or proposed marriage — offers that she implied were often unwelcome — and that she treated comments that might now be considered inappropriate as jokes.

In a society that she said retained “feudalist” elements in gender relations, she advised women to bootstrap their way through their careers.

“Don’t ever say you can’t do anything because you are a woman,” she said.

Although she said she entered television because she wanted to appear in children’s programming to prepare for motherhood, she never married or had children. “With a unique job, it’s better to stay single,” she said. “It’s more comfortable.”

Her first memoir, about her childhood attending an unusual progressive elementary school in Tokyo, Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window, published in 1981, has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide. Last fall, she published a sequel recounting the harsh conditions in Japan during World War II, when some days all she had to eat were 15 roasted beans, and she and her mother cowered in a dugout to shelter from air raids over Tokyo.

She said she was inspired to write the sequel in part by the images she saw coming out of Ukraine after the Russian invasion. Ms. Kuroyanagi plumbed her own memories of a wartime childhood, when her mother evacuated the family out of Tokyo to northern Japan.

“Even though I haven’t said war is bad,” she said, “I want people to understand what it was like for a child to experience the war.”

Ms. Kuroyanagi maintains a childlike quality herself. For the interview, she switched out of her signature onion hair bun, concealing her own hair under an ash-blond Shirley Temple-style curly bob wig, secured with an enormous black velvet bow.

It is all part of a nonthreatening persona she has cultivated over the decades. “She’s kind of adorable and cute,” said Kumiko Nemoto, a professor of management in the School of Business Administration at Senshu University in Tokyo, where she focuses on gender issues. “She doesn’t criticize anything or bring up anything political or say any negative things.”

That may be why, Gorbachev aside, Ms. Kuroyanagi has avoided interviews with politicians. “It’s too difficult for them to really tell the truth,” she said. “And I can’t make all of them all look good.”

Although sometimes compared to Barbara Walters, the groundbreaking American newswoman, Ms. Kuroyanagi does not push her interview subjects too hard. Producers ask guests in advance what topics they want to avoid or promote, and Ms. Kuroyanagi tends to oblige.

During the taping this week, her guest was Kankuro Nakamura VI, a sixth-generation Kabuki actor whose father and grandfather were also regular visitors on Ms. Kuroyanagi’s couch. Mr. Nakamura seemed to anticipate some questions about his family before they scrolled on to the teleprompter.

“What I put the highest priority on is that I control the situation with guests so that the audience will not think the guest is a weird or bad person,” Ms. Kuroyanagi said. “If possible I want the audience to realize, ‘Oh, this person is quite nice.’”

When Mr. Gorbachev appeared on her show in 2001, Ms. Kuroyanagi avoided politics. “It would have been a big deal for him,” she said. Instead, she asked him about his favorite poets, and he recited “The Sail,” by the 19th-century romantic poet Mikhail Lermontov. “I said I wished that if I asked such a question of any Japanese politician, it would be great if there was even one politician who could do that,” she said.

As she has grown older, she has forthrightly faced the challenges of her own generation on the sound stage at TV Asahi, the home of her show for 49 years. Before his death in 2016, for example, Ms. Kuroyanagi interviewed Rokusuke Ei, the lyricist of the song “Sukiyaki.” He appeared in a wheelchair, clearly showing symptoms of advanced Parkinson’s disease. Ms. Kuroyanagi frankly discussed his illness with him.

“Old people are definitely encouraged by her presence,” said Takahiko Kageyama, a professor of media studies at Doshisha Women’s College of Liberal Arts in Kyoto.

With her speech noticeably slowed, Ms. Kuroyanagi said she was motivated to keep working to inspire older audiences. “To show that a person can appear on TV until I am 100 with a body that is OK and my mind still works,” she said, “if I can show that, I think that would be an interesting experiment.”

Hisako Ueno and Kiuko Notoya contributed reporting from Tokyo.

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Playing Soccer in $1.50 Sandals That Even Gucci Wants to Copy

The wealthy pros of Ivory Coast’s national soccer team were resting in their luxury hotel last week, preparing for a match in Africa’s biggest tournament, when Yaya Camara sprinted onto a dusty lot and began fizzing one pass after another to his friends.

Over and over, he corralled the game’s underinflated ball and then sent it away again with his favorite soccer shoes: worn plastic sandals long derided as the sneaker of the poor, but which he and his friends wear as a badge of honor.

Shiny soccer cleats like his idols’? No thanks, said Mr. Camara, a lean 18-year-old midfielder, as he wiped sweat from his brow.

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Russian Skaters Stripped of Olympic Gold, Setting Up New Fight for Medals

International skating’s governing body on Tuesday sought to put an end to a two-year-old controversy by revising the disputed results of a marquee figure skating competition at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. But in stripping Russia of its victory in the team event, awarding the gold medal to the United States and denying Canada the bronze it had been expecting, the sport may have only set the stage for yet another protracted legal fight.

The revised finishes were announced by the skating body, the International Skating Union, one day after the teenage Russian star Kamila Valieva was banned for four years for doping. Disqualifying Valieva, a 15-year-old prodigy who had led Russia to an apparent victory, had the most immediate effect on the Olympic team standings: elevating the U.S. to gold and Japan to silver, while, surprisingly, dropping Russia just enough that it could still claim the bronze.

Within hours, Russia’s Olympic committee, already furious about Valieva’s ban, announced that it would appeal any outcome that denied it the team gold. Canadian officials quickly threatened to appeal the ruling as well. That left skating officials and the International Olympic Committee, which had chosen not to award medals in the team event until Valieva’s doping case was resolved, wondering how they could at last arrange a “dignified Olympic medal ceremony” for an ugly dispute that appeared nowhere near its end.

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FIFA Convictions Are Imperiled by Questions of U.S. Overreach

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Nearly a decade after police officers marched world soccer officials out of a luxury hotel in Zurich at dawn, revealing a corruption scandal that shook the world’s most popular sport, the case is at risk of falling apart.

The dramatic turnabout comes over questions of whether American prosecutors overreached by applying U.S. law to a group of people, many of them foreign nationals, who defrauded foreign organizations as they carried out bribery schemes across the world.

The U.S. Supreme Court last year limited a law that was key to the case. Then in September, a federal judge, citing that, threw out the convictions of two defendants linked to soccer corruption. Now, several former soccer officials, including some who paid millions of dollars in penalties and served time in prison, are arguing that the bribery schemes for which they were convicted are no longer considered a crime in the United States.

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Depardieu Sexual Assault Suit Dropped Over Statute of Limitations

A sexual assault lawsuit filed against Gérard Depardieu by a French actress has been dropped because it was past the statute of limitations, prosecutors in Paris said on Monday, but the French actor is still under investigation in a separate case.

In the lawsuit that was dropped, the actress Hélène Darras had accused Depardieu of groping her on the set of “Disco,” a comedy released in 2008. Her suit had been filed in September but was made public only last month, shortly before she appeared in a France 2 television documentary alongside three other women who also accused Depardieu of inappropriate comments or sexual misconduct.

The documentary, which showed Depardieu making crude sexual and sexist comments during a 2018 trip to North Korea, set off a fierce debate in France that prompted President Emmanuel Macron and dozens of actors, directors and other celebrities to defend Depardieu, splitting the French movie industry.

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An Olympic Dream Falters Amid Track’s Shifting Rules

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Maximila Imali, a top Kenyan sprinter, did not lose her eligibility to compete in the Paris Olympics because she cheated. She did not fail a doping test. She broke no rules.

Instead, she is set to miss this year’s Summer Games because she was born with a rare genetic variant that results in naturally elevated levels of testosterone. And last March, track and field’s global governing body ruled that Ms. Imali’s biology gave her an unfair advantage in all events against other women, effectively barring her from international competition.

As a result, Ms. Imali, 27, finds her Olympic dream in peril and her career and her livelihood in limbo.

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Alexéi Navalny, crítico de Putin, muere en prisión, según las autoridades rusas

Andrew E. Kramer y

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Alexéi Navalny, activista anticorrupción que durante más de una década lideró la oposición política en la Rusia del presidente Vladimir Putin, murió el viernes en una prisión en el círculo polar ártico, informaron las autoridades rusas.

Su muerte fue anunciada por el Servicio Penitenciario Federal de Rusia, que declaró que Navalny, de 47 años, perdió el conocimiento el viernes luego de dar un paseo en la prisión a la que fue trasladado a finales del año pasado. La última vez que se le vio fue el jueves, cuando compareció en una audiencia judicial por videoconferencia; sonreía tras los barrotes de una celda y hacía bromas.

[El video a continuación muestra imágenes del medio de comunicación ruso SOTA en donde aparece Alexéi Navalny riendo y haciendo bromas entre rejas durante su última comparecencia ante el tribunal a través de una conexión de video].

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Ucrania afirma que Rusia utilizó por primera vez un nuevo misil hipersónico

Ucrania dijo tener pruebas de que Rusia utilizó por primera vez un nuevo misil de crucero hipersónico en un ataque la semana pasada, algo que, de confirmarse, podría plantear otro nuevo desafío a las ya abrumadas defensas aéreas del país.

Un análisis preliminar de fragmentos de misil realizado por el Instituto de Investigación Científica y Peritaje Forense de Kiev, organismo dirigido por el gobierno, concluyó que se había utilizado un misil 3M22 Zircón en un ataque llevado a cabo el 7 de febrero contra ciudades de toda Ucrania. Según el instituto, en los escombros se encontraron marcas típicas del misil.

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Rusia oculta su número de bajas. Estas son las pistas que tenemos

El verdadero número de bajas en Rusia por su invasión a Ucrania es un secreto a voces. El Kremlin mantiene una política de silencio y muchos rusos no hablan públicamente por miedo a las repercusiones.

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Pero se cree que el número de rusos heridos en combate es abrumador.

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En Venezuela, un día eres crítico y al siguiente estás detenido

De todos los críticos del gobierno, pocos pensaban que Rocío San Miguel sería la que iba a desaparecer.

San Miguel, de 57 años, durante mucho tiempo ha sido una de las expertas en seguridad más conocidas de Venezuela, una mujer que se atrevió a investigar al gobierno autoritario de su país incluso cuando otros huían. También es moderada, cuenta con reconocimiento internacional y parecía tener fuertes contactos en el hermético mundo del ejército venezolano, cualidades que sus colegas pensaban que podrían protegerla.

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Pero a finales de la semana pasada, San Miguel llegó al aeropuerto de las afueras de Caracas con su hija, con destino a lo que un familiar calificó como un viaje corto a Miami, cuando fue detenida por agentes de contraespionaje. Poco después, su familia también empezó a desaparecer. La hija, dos hermanos y dos antiguas parejas sentimentales. Desaparecidos.

Durante cuatro días, la única información pública sobre San Miguel procedió del fiscal general de Venezuela, que afirmó en redes sociales, sin aportar pruebas, que San Miguel había sido vinculada a un complot para asesinar al presidente del país, Nicolás Maduro.

Finalmente, el martes por la noche, sus abogados dijeron que había aparecido, y que estaba recluida en un centro de detención conocido por su crueldad. Su familia también estaba bajo custodia estatal.

La detención de San Miguel, directora de una modesta pero influyente organización sin fines de lucro que monitoreaba a las fuerzas armadas, ha desencadenado un pequeño terremoto en los círculos de derechos humanos de Venezuela, donde hace solo unos meses muchos observaban con cautelosa expectativa cómo Maduro firmaba un acuerdo con la oposición del país, donde prometía trabajar para lograr unas elecciones presidenciales libres y justas este año.

El cambio político, aunque todavía era una posibilidad lejana, parecía un anhelo digno de consideración.

Ahora, el pequeño grupo de activistas, trabajadores humanitarios, críticos, analistas, periodistas y otros que han podido resistir dentro del país —a pesar de años de represión y crisis económica— ven cómo se reducen aún más los estrechos espacios de actuación disponibles para ellos.

Como resultado, el camino hacia la democracia parece tan arduo como siempre.

Una nueva ley propuesta por el partido de Maduro pretende regular estrictamente las organizaciones sin fines de lucro, prohibiéndoles participar en acciones “que amenacen la estabilidad nacional”, lo que hace temer que se utilice para criminalizar a estos grupos.

La principal candidata de la oposición del país, María Corina Machado, ha sido inhabilitada para presentarse a las elecciones presidenciales, varios miembros de su equipo han sido detenidos y una violenta banda afín al gobierno interrumpió recientemente uno de sus actos, ensangrentando a sus partidarios.

“Si esto le ocurrió a Rocío San Miguel, ¿qué le queda a los demás?”, dijo Laura Dib, que dirige el programa sobre Venezuela en la Oficina en Washington para Asuntos Latinoamericanos.

El encarcelamiento de personas que el gobierno de Maduro considera una amenaza no es nuevo. En Venezuela hay 263 presos políticos, según un grupo de vigilancia, Foro Penal, muchos de los cuales llevan años recluidos sin juicio.

Lo que distingue el caso de San Miguel no es solo lo conocida es y lo bien relacionada que estaba, sino que las autoridades detuvieron a toda su familia y luego los mantuvieron a todos sin comunicación durante días, táctica conocida en el derecho internacional como “desaparición forzada”.

En conjunto, estas medidas forman parte de un cambio notable en la represión, dijo Gonzalo Himiob, de Foro Penal, en el que el gobierno busca casos que atraigan la atención de los medios de comunicación y tácticas de detención que puedan aumentar el miedo entre quienes lo desafían.

“El gobierno está cruzando líneas que no había cruzado antes”, dijo.

En el centro de estas acciones parece estar el propio miedo de Maduro. El chavismo, el movimiento que lidera, ha gobernado Venezuela desde que su predecesor, Hugo Chávez, ganó las elecciones presidenciales en 1998.

Chávez, y luego Maduro, dirigieron una revolución de inspiración socialista que al principio sacó a muchos de la pobreza. Pero en los últimos años, la mala gestión gubernamental del sector petrolero, así como la corrupción y las sanciones estadounidenses, han devastado la economía.

Una crisis humanitaria al interior del país ha desbordado sus fronteras, con millones de venezolanos que buscan refugio fuera de él.

Maduro quiere que Estados Unidos retire las sanciones, algo que podría ayudar a mejorar la situación financiera del país, y que Washington ha dicho que hará si Maduro toma medidas para apoyar la democracia.

En octubre, con cautelosos elogios de Estados Unidos y sus aliados, Maduro firmó un acuerdo con la oposición para celebrar elecciones presidenciales.

Días después, la principal candidata de la oposición, Machado, ganó unas primarias con una participación que superó las expectativas y que se consideraron una señal de la debilidad de Maduro.

Las detenciones de San Miguel y su familia, dijo Dib, son un “mensaje a la sociedad civil de que no van a conseguir lo que quieren”. Es decir, unas elecciones de verdad.

Maduro, añadió, “no está dispuesto a perder el poder”.

San Miguel, que tiene doble nacionalidad, venezolana y española, es la directora de Control Ciudadano, que ha publicado una investigación sobre el número de personas asesinadas por las fuerzas de seguridad del Estado y ha criticado una ley venezolana que permite el uso de fuerza letal durante las protestas.

La mañana del 9 de febrero, San Miguel había llegado al aeropuerto en las afueras de Caracas con su hija de 26 años, según Minnie Díaz Paruta, tía de la hija.

San Miguel fue abordada por agentes del gobierno y detenida.

Aterrorizada, la hija volvió a Caracas. Un día después, regresó al aeropuerto para recuperar su equipaje, pero desapareció al poco tiempo y dejó de contestar a los mensajes, dijo la tía. Los hermanos y exparejas de San Miguel fueron detenidos por esas fechas, según Díaz y otros informes.

Dos días después, el fiscal general de Venezuela, Tarek William Saab, anunció en la plataforma de redes sociales X que San Miguel estaba detenida por el Estado, acusada de participar en una operación que, según él, buscaba el asesinato de Maduro.

Aseguró que la detención se había producido de acuerdo con “las normas nacionales e internacionales de protección de los derechos humanos”.

(El gobierno de Maduro afirma con frecuencia haber descubierto complots de asesinato contra el presidente).

A los abogados de San Miguel no se les permitió verla ni se les dijo dónde estaba.

Un grupo de activistas de derechos humanos recorrió algunos de los centros de detención del país con la esperanza de encontrarla, dijo Dib, sin éxito. No está claro cómo dieron con ella finalmente.

La embajada estadounidense para Venezuela, que se encuentra en la vecina Colombia, dijo que las detenciones seguían “una tendencia preocupante de detenciones aparentemente arbitrarias de actores democráticos”.

El Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU, que en 2020 afirmó que Maduro había cometido “crímenes contra la humanidad” en sus esfuerzos por silenciar a la oposición, emitió una declaración similar.

Saad dijo el 13 de febrero que San Miguel había comparecido en una audiencia celebrada la víspera, acusada de traición, conspiración y terrorismo. Sus abogados dijeron que no estuvieron presentes.

Más tarde ese mismo día, un miembro de su equipo de defensa anunció en internet que la habían localizado: estaba en el Helicoide, un edificio de la década de 1950 construido como centro comercial que desde entonces se ha convertido en un conocido centro de detención.

La misión de las Naciones Unidas que examina las violaciones de derechos humanos en el país ha entrevistado a detenidos del Helicoide y afirma que han denunciado torturas, incluidas palizas y el uso de descargas eléctricas.

La misión también informó, en 2022, que el director de la principal agencia de inteligencia del país, que ostenta un poder significativo en el Helicoide, recibía órdenes directas de Maduro.

El abogado de San Miguel dijo que una de sus exparejas, Alejandro González, estaría recluido en otro centro, y que ambos permanecerían bajo custodia.

Los otros cuatro miembros de la familia, Miranda Díaz San Miguel, Víctor Díaz Paruta, Miguel San Miguel y Alberto San Miguel, serían puestos en libertad con la condición de que no salieran del país ni hablaran con los medios de comunicación.

La noticia de las detenciones se difundió rápidamente. Jairo Chourio, de 46 años, que vive en la ciudad de Maracaibo, dijo que se enteró de la detención de San Miguel en un grupo de Telegram, donde recibió información del partido socialista del país. Celebró las detenciones, que debían ser “bien merecidas”.

Otros dijeron que las detenciones eran señales angustiosas del estado de la democracia del país.

“En mi familia, todos tenemos miedo de opinar”, dijo Andrea Bracho, de 28 años, también de Maracaibo.

Bracho solo había decidido hablar con una periodista, dijo, “porque ya mañana me voy”.

“Por ahora, no tengo esperanzas”, continuó. “Y lo siento mucho”.

Sheyla Urdaneta colaboró con reportería desde Maracaibo, Venezuela.

Julie Turkewitz es la jefa del buró de los Andes, que cubre Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Perú, Surinam y Guyana. Antes de mudarse a América del Sur, fue corresponsal de temas nacionales y cubrió el oeste de Estados Unidos. Más de Julie Turkewitz


El Carnaval de Brasil solo empieza cuando llega John Travolta (el que mide 4 metros)

Jack Nicas y Dado Galdieri reportaron este artículo entre los gigantescos muñecos de las celebraciones de Carnaval en Olinda, Brasil

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Era casi el comienzo de una de las celebraciones más famosas del Carnaval en Brasil, en la ciudad costera de Olinda, al norte del país, y la plaza de la ciudad estaba repleta de miles de asistentes. Todos esperaban a su ídolo.

Justo antes de las 9 p. m., las puertas de un salón de baile se abrieron de par en par, una banda de música se abrió paso entre la multitud y salió la estrella que todos habían estado esperando: un muñeco de John Travolta de cuatro metros.

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