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Varsity Brands Deepens Commitment to Social and Emotional Learning as Schools Work to Reopen for the 2020-21 School Year – PRNewswire

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DALLAS, Sept. 8, 2020 /PRNewswire/ --Varsity Brands, the market leader in team sports, school spirit and achievement recognition, today released the first three episodes of season three of the "Believe in You" video series, which the company created free-of-charge to educate students and staff about the incredible power of believing in yourself, despite the challenges and trials life may present. Each episode is accompanied by free downloadable lesson plans and activity guides to take the conversation further and spark critical thinking. The series is hosted by Kevin Atlas, a renowned motivational speaker and the first Division 1 basketball player to play with one arm.

This resource exemplifies Varsity Brands' commitment to provide resources for school leaders, administrators and coaches to help meet the social and emotional needs of students heading back to school an acute challenge made more pressing by COVID-19's impact on back-to-school protocols. Most notably, the company's work in this respect includes its Impact Now initiative, under which Varsity Brands is hosting a free webinar for school administrators, "Social & Emotional Learning Tools for Your Students," at 6pm CST today to educate them about social and emotional learning ("SEL"). Presented by Aaron Hart, co-author of several nationally recognized curriculum programs, the webinar will focus on the ways administrators can establish a solid foundation for social and emotional growth within their students and staff. Administrators can register to attend the webinar here.

Adam Blumenfeld, CEO of Varsity Brands, stated, "As schools work to reopen for the 2020-21 school year, the social and emotional needs of students, teachers and school staff members has never been greater. Extended periods of isolation, lack of interaction with peers, and stressful events and images have contributed to dislocation that must be addressed in order for teaching and learning to be effective. Varsity Brands understands the power of SEL tools for kids and students, and we are committed to doing what we can to help young people build resilience and other critical skills for lifelong success."

Season 3 of "Believe in You" was produced to help students navigate their current school and social climate. Over nine episodes, released in three monthly installments, the series will tackle topics including maintaining school spirit and the power of diversity and will feature people from around the country who have overcome personal challenges to accomplish the extraordinary. As an extension of the Believe in You Program, Varsity Brands has also created Student Empowerment Journals for grades 3-12 to build upon the free video series. Available for purchase here, Empowerment Journals feature daily writing prompts that focus on exploration of emotions, learned optimism, and developing a growth mindset.

About Varsity Brands With a mission to inspire achievement and create memorable experiences for young people, Varsity Brands elevates the student experience, promotes participation and celebrates achievement through three unique but interrelated businesses: BSN SPORTS; Varsity Spirit; and Herff Jones. Together, these businesses promote personal, school and community pride through their customizable products and programs to elementary and middle schools, high schools, and colleges and universities, as well as church organizations, professional and collegiate sports teams and corporations. Through its 9,000 dedicated employees and independent representatives, Varsity Brands reaches its individual and institutional customers each year via e-commerce sites, catalogs, telesales, and direct sales channels.

About BSN Sports Dallas-based BSN SPORTS is the leading marketer, manufacturer and distributor of sporting goods apparel and equipment. A division of Varsity Brands, BSN SPORTS markets and distributes its products to over 100,000 institutional and team sports customers in colleges and universities, middle and high schools, and recreational programs throughout the United States via catalog, e-commerce, and direct sales. Focused on providing game changing solutions through local partnerships, multi-brand selection and one-stop shopping for equipment and uniforms, BSN SPORTS' more than 3,000 employees have been helping elevate participation in team sports since 1972. For more information about BSN SPORTS please visit

About Aaron HartAaron is the creator and author of the Varsity Brands Believe In You SEL curriculum tools and Student Empowerment Journals. He has co-authored several nationally recognized curriculum projects and specializes in web-based content delivery. Additionally, he is the Executive Director of OPEN the Online Physical Education Network driven by Varsity Brands and BSN SPORTS. Aaron's passion for equity of access and community empowerment began over 20 years ago and has continued to guide his professional journey. He began his teaching career as a New York City public school teacher and is currently a part-time faculty member in SUNY Cortland's Physical Education Department.

About Kevin AtlasAt nearly seven feet tall with his left arm discontinued just below his elbow, Kevin faced his fair share of adversity in his early life. Born and raised in the Bay Area of California, Kevin grew up in a split custody household, overcame the early death of his father, and faced a legion of critics prior to his success. After a local AAU basketball coach reached out to invite Kevin to join his elite squad and provided the mentorship Kevin needed to believe in his abilities, he became one of the top high school basketball players in his home state, sported the cover of Sports Illustrated, and went on to earn a full athletic scholarship to Manhattan College and becoming the first disabled player in NCAA history to receive a full Division I athletic scholarship in his sport. After a successful college career, Kevin went on to play professionally in Asia and has since committed to sharing his story with youth, becoming one of the top young professional speakers in the nation. Kevin has since partnered with BSN SPORTS' parent company, Varsity Brands, on developing inspiring programs and content for America's schools.

MEDIA CONTACTSamantha Coulombe Rubenstein PR [emailprotected] 212-805-3081

SOURCE Varsity Brands


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Varsity Brands Deepens Commitment to Social and Emotional Learning as Schools Work to Reopen for the 2020-21 School Year - PRNewswire

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September 10th, 2020 at 7:53 pm

Why we love Megan Thee Stallion – RU Daily Targum

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Photo by Wikimedia | The Daily Targum

Megan Thee Stallion is a Houston-native rapper that's known for her phrase "hot girl summer" and her music, which includes hits like "Girls in the Hood" and "WAP."

Unless youve been living under a rock, youve heard of the name Megan Thee Stallion. She's a 25-year-old rapper who entered the music scene in 2017 with her debut album Make It Hot and is now known for her hit single Savage, which catapulted into a viral TikTok dance.

The dance relieved thousands of people from the stresses of the impending pandemic and even landed in the consciousness of Beyonc, who delivered a remix just as successful as its predecessor. It grabbed the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and gave rise to a new dance routine on TikTok.

Stallion is a new albeit important force in the music industry. The Houston native started out as a teenager posting raps on SoundCloud and went on to launch social trends and garner hit singles like Savage, Hot Girl Summer and Girls in the Hood.

She's known for exhibiting her sexuality and inner confidence through impressive freestyles. But, her success didnt come without personal loss. She lost both her mother, who had introduced her to hip-hop, and her grandmother in March 2019, just as she was reaching the brink of her success. Stallion said it was difficult balancing her booming career with such a grave loss that she and her family were shouldering, according to Rolling Stone.

Soon after, she coined the gender-neutral catchphrase hot girl summer, which was an ode to her fanbase, the Hotties, and signified loving who you are, living unapologetically and disregarding what anyone else thinks. Anybody, regardless of gender, can have a hot girl summer. The phrase was a declarative movement in 2019, inspiring Instagram captions and a collaboration with Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $ign.

This past summer, Stallion teamed up with fellow exuberant rapper Cardi B on WAP, a celebration of their bodies and female sexuality. The stars exchanged bars filled with sexual innuendos over a blaring beat. WAP was embraced by pop-music lovers, but critiqued by men who were offended by their sexual bluntness, which sparked yet another conversation about double standards that persist between male and female rappers.

Stallion had this to say in response to the backlash: Although we have so many incredible women in hip-hop killing it right now and in the past, theres still a shift (that needs to happen) around the perception of a woman owning her sexuality. Powerful women who have agency over their bodies arent something to look down on.

We cant recognize her impact on pop culture without the grievances she, a young Black woman, has experienced and witnessed in the past few months.

Stallion revealed back in July that she suffered gunshot wounds and had to get them surgically removed. She later alleged in an Instagram live that the person in question who shot her was rapper Tory Lanez, in efforts to dispel false rumors. She described it as the worst experience of her life and emphasized that Black women go unprotected in many situations in response to those that were mocking her.

What a lot of people dont know is that Stallion is also a part-time student, studying health care management at Texas Southern University. She has had research papers intermingled with photoshoots on the same day, but she is determined to finish her degree. The singer is also outspoken about human rights. Shes fought hard for the Black Lives Matter movement, consistently posting information and resources on social media, attending protests and donating to bail funds to aid Houston protestors.

The voices of Black women have always been salient, but are now being more popularly acknowledged and celebrated. Their experiences have long been repressed or discredited, but the impact Black hip-hop stars have had on culture and empowerment is undeniable. Stallion is someone who has accumulated incredible loss, but also strength and influence with her catchy raps and loud platform, which echoes through the waves of the music industry.

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September 10th, 2020 at 7:53 pm

Weakest, Most Fragile States Will Be Those Worst Affected by COVID-19 in Medium, Long Term, Humanitarian Chief Tells Security Council – World -…

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Top peacekeeping and humanitarian affairs officials warned the Security Council during a 9 September videoconference meeting* that wide-ranging implications of the COVID-19 pandemic could erode peace and push more conflictaffected nations onto its agenda.

Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, briefing the Council on the implementation of resolution 2532 (2020) that called for a global ceasefire amid the pandemic, said the weakest, most fragile and conflict-affected countries will be those worst affected by COVID-19 in the medium and long term. Woefully inadequate economic and political action will lead to greater instability and conflicts in the coming years; more crises will be on this Councils agenda, he said. While we may have been surprised by the virus, we cannot say the same of the security and humanitarian crises that most certainly lay ahead if we dont change course.

With more than 26 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally, he said the virus is everywhere. More than 860,000 people have died, roughly a third of these cases and fatalities in countries affected by humanitarian or refugee crises, or those facing high levels of vulnerability. Indirect effects of the crisis will be higher poverty, lower life expectancy, more starvation, less education and more child death. Likewise, given recent research findings, the risks of conflict, instability, insecurity, violence and population displacement are rising, he said, adding that the agenda of this Council, which you may think is big enough already, is set to grow; that may be one of the main lasting effects of the pandemic.

In addition, these indirect consequences are dwarfing the impact of the virus itself, he cautioned. Vaccination campaigns have been disrupted in 45 countries facing humanitarian or refugee crises or high levels of vulnerability from other causes, putting more than 80 million children under the age of one at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases. Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report that food insecurity is spiking, with 27 countries at risk. More than half a billion children in humanitarian crises and fragile contexts have been affected by school closures, many girls now unable to go to school will never go back and gender-based violence is increasing as services have been curtailed.

There is little dispute about what ought to be done, he said. While the Group of 20 and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations have adopted $10 trillion in domestic stimulus measures to protect their populations, low-income and fragile countries do not have the resources. They rely on support from elsewhere, but only 7 per cent of the $143 billion in financing from the international financial institutions has been committed to lowincome countries. This alarmingly low level of support increases the likelihood of the pandemic generating dangerous long-term consequences, he said, underlining the critical role international financial institutions can play. Indeed, recent experience has shown that costs to taxpayers are minimal because the resources can largely be generated off the international financial institutions own balance sheets.

Turning to the response of humanitarian agencies, he said the SecretaryGenerals launch in March of the United Nations coordinated Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19 now seeks $10 billion over the next six months to support 250 million people in 63 countries. Expressing appreciation at having raised around $2.4 billion since March, he outlined some ongoing efforts, including personal protective equipment for 730,000 health workers, information on the virus and protection instructions for more than 1 billion people in nearly 60 countries and distance learning for almost 100 million children. However, the Secretary-Generals repeated calls on Member States and others to facilitate the movement of humanitarian personnel and cargo have not been adequately heeded, violence against health workers is rising and aid workers are also vulnerable to the virus. The number of confirmed cases among United Nations staff alone runs into the thousands, and the death toll is mounting. Where possible, those who are most sick are evacuated to places where they can get good medical care, but, too often, that does not happen, he said, paying tribute to those taking extraordinary risks with their own welfare in the desire to help others.

Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, highlighting increased political risks during the pandemic, said the erosion of trust in public institutions increases fragility and has the potential to drive instability in settings where people perceive authorities have not addressed the pandemic effectively or have not been transparent about its impact.

The aggravation of certain human rights challenges also fuel conflict during the pandemic, she said, citing increased discrimination, gender-based violence and disproportionate impacts on women, as well as a rise in stigma and hate speech, especially against migrants and foreigners. Tensions are seen rising about decisions to postpone elections or to proceed with a vote, she said.

Despite these risks, she said that the dynamics of several ongoing armed conflicts have not changed as a result of COVID-19, with some situations having deteriorated largely due to other drivers. In the Sahel, the risk remains that parties to conflict use the uncertainty created by the pandemic to press their advantage.

In the short term, the pandemic could also derail fragile peace processes and conflictprevention initiatives due to restrictions on travel and in-person contacts, she continued. Our own ability to support political processes has certainly been limited by such restrictions, she admitted. With many of our engagements moving online, we have had to develop our digital skills and work even harder to nurture the trust and willingness to compromise that are at the heart of preventive diplomacy and mediation.

Turning to the status of the Secretary-Generals global ceasefire call on 23 March, she said that the initial response was encouraging, with several temporary truces announced, from Colombia to Ukraine, and from the Philippines to Cameroon. However, many expired without extensions, resulting in little improvement on the ground. Recalling the Security Councils backing for the ceasefire call in resolution 2532 (2020), she said leadership from the Council and the support of Member States with leverage are essential to changing the calculations of conflict parties, opening the space for dialogue and ending wars.

The United Nations has adapted operations amid the pandemic, including the creation of a joined-up support structure for missions. The cross-departmental field support group on COVID-19 has been working to strengthen United Nations risk management systems and to protect personnel and their capacity to continue critical operations, and missions are strongly committed to aid host countries in their COVID-19 response.

To mitigate COVID-19-related risks in situations of armed conflict and prevent the possible deterioration of other situations into instability and violence, the collective and individual engagement of Council members is indispensable, including in a follow up to the Secretary-Generals ceasefire call. The better the global response to the pandemic, the better our prospects for the prevention, management and resolution of armed conflicts around the world, she said.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, said the Councils ongoing support will be indispensable as the world continues to address challenges posed by the pandemic. Briefing on measures being taken to address challenges facing peacekeeping operations and the countries where they are deployed, he said the pandemic has had a significant impact and has complicated efforts to support national authorities and other actors while discharging mission mandates. With the guidance and support of United Nations Headquarters and the Security Councils unified and consistent backing, peacekeeping operations have quickly and effectively put in place a range of measures to ensure operational continuity and ongoing mandate implementation, he said, highlighting a strategy set up in April that focuses on supporting national authorities, protecting personnel, mitigating the virus spread and ensuring operational continuity.

However, he cautioned, many countries where peacekeeping operations are deployed suffer from a combination of weak health and governance structures and a lack of the resources required to effectively combat the pandemic. As such, the spread of COVID-19 can lead to exacerbated socioeconomic tensions, undermine governance and local institutions, slow down or derail fragile political processes, worsen alreadyvolatile security situations and contribute to a recurrence of intercommunal conflict. The overall effect can be to further destabilize these countries and erode peace gains. The pandemic has also given rise to hate speech, incitements to violence and harmful misinformation. Moreover, heavier burdens face Governments already under pressure to deliver on political processes. In South Sudan, a considerable slowdown of implementing a ceasefire agreement is partly due to an increased focus on COVID-19-related challenges, at a time when parties have been in a three-month-long deadlock over appointing governors and have yet to reconstitute Parliament.

While these combined effects of the pandemic can negatively impact the missions mandate implementation, he said that helping to prevent and contain the virus spread where peacekeeping operations are deployed is not only a moral imperative, but also a political priority and an operational requirement. Measures are already contributing to preventing and containing the spread among field personnel, he said, noting that, as of today, across all field missions and their more than 100,000 personnel, a total of 1,049 cumulative cases had been recorded, with 609 recovered, 440 active cases and 18 deaths. The rotation and repatriation of uniformed personnel have resumed in close coordination with both police- and troop-contributing countries, and all missions have been provided with a COVID-19 risk mitigation plan. Peacekeeping operations continue to find innovative and proactive ways to implement their mandates, including a recent agreement in Sudan among transitional authorities and participating armed groups.

As the COVID-19 crisis abates in certain parts of the world, he said, missions see opportunities to achieve more. In Cyprus, for example, the quarantine and closure of crossing points restricted movement between the north and south of the island, and now both sides are working on the reopening together. Missions also continue to prevent and respond to threats to civilians, which have not decreased in the past six months despite the Secretary-Generals global ceasefire call, including in the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mali. In operational terms, the pandemic has, however, affected the footprint of United Nations missions, and to a certain degree, their capacity to perform patrols or monitoring activities. Peacekeeping missions have been approaching their protection of civilians activities primarily through the lens of do no harm, prioritizing the need to prevent the virus from spreading among the local populations. Reductions in mission capacities have also affected the effectiveness of situational awareness tools, such as the use of air assets for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

During the pandemic, regular meetings have been held virtually, he said. The integrated effort by the Secretariat in support of peacekeeping operations is complemented by strengthened synergies with the United Nations country teams and sister organizations, including the World Bank, and with partner organizations on the ground, including the African Union and European Union. The role of women peacekeepers is key to addressing the COVID-19-related challenges to mandate implementation. As part of the response to the pandemic, the comprehensive performance assessment system has aided several missions in planning, tracking and showing the impact of their efforts to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their area of operations. This has strengthened their capacity both to support the host countries efforts and ensure continuing delivery of mandated activities.

Council members, commending peacekeepers and partners assisting in COVID-19 response plans, agreed that resolution 2532 (2020) is a step in the right direction, with many urging all parties to respect the Secretary-Generals call for a global ceasefire. Some shared concerns about escalating violence and the fragility of some States that are struggling to address the pandemic while brokering or building peace.

Tunisias delegate said that, while resolution 2532 (2020) marks the Councils clear engagement, two months after its adoption, more must be done to translate its provisions into concrete reality on the ground. Todays debate is a timely opportunity to reiterate the Councils resolve, but the ceasefire appeal needs stronger diplomatic efforts. On the humanitarian front, the impact of COVID-19 on conflict-affected settings has been much worse than expected, he said, adding that: If we fail to provide a coordinated international response to the pandemic, we would risk losing gains on health, poverty, education, womens empowerment, development and stability. Solidarity and unity at the international, regional and national level must guide the world though this volatile and unstable new phase, where assumptions about threats to international peace and security must evolve as humanity faces new types of enemies that are invisible, transboundary and global. To do this, he said, we cannot face such dangers using the same instruments we have inherited from the old times. As the nature and scope of threats evolve, it is imperative to rethink security and adapt approaches and tools. For its part, the Council must discuss these issues to be able to deliver on its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.

The representative of France said it is time for a collective awakening, with the top priority being the implementation of a cessation of hostilities and a humanitarian pause. Ending hostilities is an indispensable condition for an effective fight against the pandemic. While the Secretary-Generals appeal was supported by more than 180 countries, more than 20 armed groups and numerous regional and civil society organizations, much remains to be done, including in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan and the Sahel. The Council must continue to support peacekeeping operations by enabling them to fully implement their mandates despite the pandemic. Turning to other concerns, he said the Council must collectively support the full and complete implementation of the Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19. France will continue to work to that end, he said, calling attention to the European Unions efforts, including the coordination of more than 65 flights as part of a humanitarian airlift. Everything must be done to ensure safe and unimpeded humanitarian access and to protect aid workers and medical personnel. Stability and peace also depend on the resilience of health systems. The World Health Organization (WHO) must be strengthened in its normative, warning and coordinating role. Resolution 2532 (2020) recognizes the essential role that women play in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the negative and disproportionate effects that this health crisis has on women, girls, refugees and displaced persons, he said, noting that France and Mexico will organize the Generation Equality Forum in the first half of 2021, in partnership with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women).

The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines said resolution 2532 (2020) marked an important milestone for the Security Council and the wider multilateral system by successfully navigating divisions and divergent views to deliver a clear message of unity and hope. But, more must be done to preserve hard won gains across the peace-security-development nexus, especially since many parties have disregarded calls for a global ceasefire. Addressing COVID-19-related challenges will require the political will to fully implement resolution 2532 (2020). Approaches to managing the COVID-19 crisis must be conflict-sensitive and sovereignty supporting, she said, reiterating calls on all parties to abandon unilateral actions. She appealed for greater regional and international cooperation to better tackle arms trafficking, illicit exploitation and trade of natural resources and other activities that embolden armed groups and organized criminals. Only through a total cessation of hostilities will conflictaffected countries be able to manage this health crisis as they mend their social fabrics, advance peace processes and strengthen governance, she said, underlining the need to amplify calls for a global ceasefire and to strengthen capacities to assist those made most vulnerable.

The representative of the United States said that, in the early days of the virus, the Chinese Communist Party hid the truth about the outbreak from the world and prevented researchers from accessing vital information. The result was innumerable deaths that could have been prevented. The Party must answer to the parents around the world trying to home-school their children while working fulltime jobs from home, those mourning loved ones without the ability to honour them with a funeral and those who have lost their jobs or their businesses. WHOs failures in the early days of the pandemic also contributed to needless suffering and the worsening of this pandemic. The agency needs to reform, including by demonstrating its independence from China. Describing how significantly his country contributes to counter the pandemic, including the development of vaccines, he stressed that the Administration of United States President Donald J. Trump will continue to lead on this issue and will work hard to make the world safer and more secure from infectious disease threats.

Indonesias representative highlighted the need to step up calls for a global ceasefire, support the work of United Nations missions on the ground and ensure the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Council resolution 2532 (2020) is merely a first step in addressing the impacts of COVID-19 to international peace and security, he said, emphasizing the importance of following it up with concrete actions. In the longer term, it is essential to ensure that disruptions created by the virus will not reverse the gains achieved in countries in conflict and postconflict situations and think beyond pandemic response towards a comprehensive strategy. Indonesia, with five other United Nations Member States, took the initiative to launch the first General Assembly resolution on global solidarity to fight COVID-19, standing ready to contribute further in this concerted effort.

South Africas delegate said the Secretary-Generals call for a global ceasefire has not been broadly respected, the pandemic has burdened countries affected by conflict, and some armed groups and terrorists have taken advantage of the impact of the coronavirus to intensify activities and launch attacks. South Africa urges parties to conflict to heed the call for a ceasefire, prioritize efforts to consolidate durable peace and stability, and allow for the safe delivery of, and access to, humanitarian assistance. Noting improvements to fasttrack applications for humanitarian exemptions, he said the impact of sanctions and its resultant socioeconomic effects are preventing countries from effectively combating the pandemic, exposing alreadyvulnerable civilians. As such, he called on Council members to continue their efforts in this regard. He also supported the Secretary-Generals call to lift sanctions, given the broader impact of unilateral coercive measures. It is vital that the Security Council remains steadfast in its support of countries experiencing armed conflict, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has illustrated that it is imperative for countries to cooperate closely in the face of global public health and other emergencies.

The representative of Niger, Council President for September, spoke in his national capacity, saying that the adoption of a resolution is never an end in itself. In fact, the adoption of a resolution on the COVID-19 pandemic, which echoes the SecretaryGenerals call for a global ceasefire, calls for a sustained follow-up in more ways than one, because the political, economic, and above all, security repercussions will continue to manifest themselves in the years to come. In the Sahel, a region affected by climate change, armed conflicts and fragile health systems, the pandemic has added a new layer of challenges. The campaign of disinformation and stigmatization carried out by terrorist groups does not facilitate State efforts. The pandemic is seriously affecting the economies of African countries in general, and the Sahel in particular. Electoral processes under way in the region must receive greater support to avoid pre- and postelectoral crises. Resolution 2352 (2020) offers an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of international cooperation, multilateralism, the role of such global organizations as WHO and regional and subregional organizations in the fight against this pandemic. The cacophony and blame games at the beginning of the pandemic must give way to an awareness that all are potential victims unless stakeholders work collectively to find a vaccine against this dangerous virus. We hope that, once a cure is found, it will be accessible to the weakest and the less fortunate, he said, thanking China for its renewed commitment to this goal.

Also participating in the meeting were representatives of Belgium, China, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Germany, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and Viet Nam.

*Based on information received from the Security Council Affairs Division.

For information media. Not an official record.

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Weakest, Most Fragile States Will Be Those Worst Affected by COVID-19 in Medium, Long Term, Humanitarian Chief Tells Security Council - World -...

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September 10th, 2020 at 7:53 pm

Integrated Partners and Duffy Kruspodin, LLP Align to Create DK Wealth Management, LLC – GlobeNewswire

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September 09, 2020 12:08 ET | Source: Integrated Partners


Josh Bodenstadt, CPA

Kris Lindley, CFP

San Diego, CA, Sept. 09, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- IntegratedPartners,a national financial planning and registered investment advisory firm, is pleased to announce a partnership with Duffy Kruspodin (DK) LLP, a southern California accountancy. The combination of DK and Integrated is the latest union of financial specialists under theIntegrated CPA Alliance, a program that has aligned CPAs and financial advisors together since 1996 in service to high net worth and business owner clients.

The newly formed partnership is led by Josh Bodenstadt, CPA for DK, and Kris Lindley, CFP, for Integrated and will operate asDK Wealth Management, LLC.

When financial advisors and CPAs join forces for the benefit of their complex, high net worth and business-owner clients, its a win-win-win, saidPaul Saganey, founder and CEO, Integrated. A large part of the Integrated Partners model, if not the cornerstone of the entire model, is our unique ability to identify synergies between advisors and CPAs, and then to facilitate their ongoing collaboration on behalf of clients weve been doing it for twenty-five years.The benefits to all parties are undeniable.

The announcement of the partnership coincides with DKs celebration of thirty years in business.The CPA firm has consistently ranked among the top firms in southern California and has perennially earned high praise from business owner clients.

As CPAs for businesses and families with complex financial needs, suffice to say we take an immense amount of pride in our ability to serve those clients as true partners, saidJosh Bodenstadt, partner, DK. We dont refer clients to other professionals lightly and when we do, were watching like a hawk our reputation is of paramount importance. Integrated and Kris Lindley in particular impressed us from the outset, and they have delivered for us, and our most trusted client relationships.

Lindleyadds: I made the decision to join Integrated in large part because of the opportunity to partner with CPA partners when you are trusted to deliver for another firms longstanding clients, there can be no half-measures, nor nebulous promises.Failure is not an option.With Integrated riding shotgun and DK involved every step of the way, weve formed what I consider to be an elite team of financial professionals with one mission delivering the very best fiduciary client care available.

DK has offices in Woodland Hills, Beverly Hills, and the San Diego area, with one hundred and eighty (180) employees and fifteen partners.Integrated, headquartered in Boston, and with a regional sub-headquarters in San Diego, is home to one hundred and fifty (150) financial advisors and one hundred and twenty-seven (127) CPA firm partners.The Integrated CPA Alliance was formed in 1996 and has acted as an advisor/CPA growth-catalyst ever since.

Integrated is looking for advisors and CPAs in search of tangible, measurable growth, and true partnership.Our advisors maintain control of their businesses, while harnessing a variety of Integrateds growth-oriented service offerings.Our CPA partners trust us to deliver consistently for clients, and remove the trepidation typically associated with making a referral to an un-proven organization.

Media inquiries: Jason Lahita

To discreetly inquire about what joining our growth-oriented culture can look like for you as a CPA, or a financial advisor, please contact: Rob Sandrewrob.sandrew@integrated-partners.comor Keith


About Integrated Partners

Since 1996, Integrated Partners has been helping financial advisors to achieve their entrepreneurial vision.We offer comprehensive business building services, designed with the truly independent advisor in mind.With one hundred and fifty advisors, one hundred and twenty-seven CPAs and forty-five regional offices across the United States, and more than seven billion in brokerage and advisory assets, Integrated has built our reputation advisor by advisor, client by client.Constructed and grown upon a foundation of empowerment, integrity, and trust, we believe in the incredible power that financial advisors have to make a positive impact on peoples lives. Integrated supports advisors by offering a completely customizable open architecture business environment: technology, investment management, advanced planning, CPA partner program, family office platform, custody, marketing, public relations, M&A, succession planning and comprehensive business counsel.

About Duffy Kruspodin

Duffy Kruspodin, LLP has been providing personalized financial guidance to local individuals and businesses for more than 30 years. We hire seasoned tax and accounting professionals who are driven and dedicated to helping our clients plan for the future and succeed in their industries. With locations in both San Diego and Los Angeles, plus several international affiliations, our team of experts is committed to personally supporting your needs and financial goals to keep your business moving forward. We take the stress off your plate so you can concentrate on what you do best and continue to move with positive momentum.

Our firm was founded in 1990 and since then, weve grown into four locations with a team of more than 180 individuals. With multiple locations in Southern California, we are regional leaders and trusted advisors in financial, tax and accounting services and can provide personal, financial guidance with a local perspective.

The financial consultants of Integrated Partners are also registered representatives with, and securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Integrated Financial Partners, a registered investment advisor and separate entity.

We believe in advisors, and CPAs and have been connecting them successfully for twenty-five years.Weve proven it to them.Let us prove it to you.

# # #

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Integrated Partners and Duffy Kruspodin, LLP Align to Create DK Wealth Management, LLC - GlobeNewswire

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September 10th, 2020 at 7:53 pm

From live sessions to workout videos: Senior citizens take the e-route to stay fit amid pandemic – The Indian Express

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Written by Jayashree Narayanan | Pune | September 10, 2020 5:30:08 pm Many elderly have taken to online workout classes and videos amid pandemic. (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

On the suggestion of her US-based daughter-in-law, 72-year-old Harinder Ahluwalia finally started taking online fitness classes to lose weight when the coronavirus lockdown was first imposed in Delhi. Months later, Ahluwalia, a retired nurse with 38 years of experience, has managed to shed about 20 kilos. I initially thought it would be challenging to work out while continuously looking at a screen. But the trainer first demonstrates and makes sure practitioners understand the exercises before doing them, said Harinder, who attends one-hour-long exercise sessions of yoga and cardio, six days a week on HealthifyMes HealthifyStudio that offers curated live workout sessions catering to the special needs of senior citizens. On Sundays, there are half-hour sessions of chair exercises. This is coupled with one and a half hours of walk and a controlled diet.

I feel energetic when I work out. Given the pandemic, online classes are good. I enjoy group workouts since other people are there to interact and learn from, said Delhi-based Ahluwalia, who earlier used to practice yoga to ease knee pain.

Many senior citizens, aged 60 and above, suffer from chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, hypertension, and diabetes, which require long-term medication. In such a scenario, regular exercise is considered useful. In its health advisory for elderly population, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India stated that elderly people are at a higher risk of COVID-19 infection due to their decreased immunity and body reserves, as well as multiple associated co-morbidities like diabetes, hypertension, chronic kidney disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and the severity of the disease can be detrimental. It advised senior citizens to exercise and meditate.

According to experts, exercise can help boost the bodys immune functions, decrease inflammation, and also has mental and emotional benefits.

Rishabh Telang, fitness expert, Curefit, said, Exercise is important for people irrespective of age or fitness background purely because movement ensures increased blood flow in the muscles and joints and keeps one protected for a longer period of time besides providing many other benefits such as improved heart health. The idea of exercise is to ensure smooth functional movement patterns at any age and more and more people falling under the category of older adults have realised the benefits of engaging in exercises such as walking, yoga, basic strength training and more.

The Union Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry in April 2020 issued advisory for senior citizens to stay at home, avoid visitors, maintain one-metre distance, if necessary, but remain active inside their homes, including doing light exercises and yoga, given that they are considered more vulnerable to the respiratory infection.

In fact, in a short study published in JMIR Publications in May 2020, Impact of home quarantine on physical activity among older adults living at home during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Qualitative Interview Study, despite the decline in their participation in group physical activities before the quarantine, older adults expressed the need to perform physical activity at home. There is a need to help older adults integrate simple and safe ways to stay physically active in a limited space, observed the study.

ALSO READ | Exercise in middle, old age reduces time spent in hospital, says study

Call it the effect of such advisories, more time during the lockdown, or to keep themselves physically active, senior citizens have been taking online sessions. While most of them may not be new to exercising, it is the first time that they have gone online

Sixty-one-year-old Nasik-based Rajesh Shankarrao Girme had been working out in a gym set up for the past 35 years, but lockdown put a stop to that. However, instead of online classes, he used his Gold Gyms membership to avail workout videos that enabled him to continue doing functional training as well as yoga on alternate days for an hour. It is the motivation to keep staying fit, lockdown or not that pushed me to watch these videos and practice. Before the lockdown, I never ever practiced with a video playing in front of me, said Girme, who has been doing Mixed Martial Arts, yoga and crossfit among others.

Sarmila Bhowmik, 63, who flew to Kolkata from Pune just before the lockdown was announced in March 2020, was trying to figure out ways to keep herself active. A homemaker, who has been gymming for almost 25 years now, Bhowmik was initially not too happy with online workouts as she is used to hardcore gymming. But the sheer energy of a group workout motivated her to continue. We dont have any other activity at home. I dont feel inspired to exercise on my own. But with a group, it is far more streamlined. While being in a gym is an experience I miss, online classes have been a boon amid the lockdown, especially with no facilities available, remarked Sarmila.

Not just online platforms, but even yoga experts like Ira Trivedi, are conducting virtual workout sessions via Zoom to help senior citizens get back on their fitness routines. She limits her classes to 20-25 people to ensure personal attention and care.

Notably, The Seniors Covid-19 Pandemic and Exercise study undertaken by the University of Victoria and sponsored by the University of British Columbia is ongoing with an aim to evaluate different types of exercise programs (virtual group-based exercise program; personal exercise program; wait-list control) across 12-weeks on the physical and mental health of older adults during the current Covid-19 pandemic. The study is expected to be completed by September 30.

ALSO READ | International Yoga Day: In lockdown, yoga has emerged as a promising career, say experts

So, is a personal training module as part of a guided exercise module more effective than self-exercising? Ashish Rawat, founder, Oga Fit- an interactive digital workout platform, agrees. Immunity and ensuring a basic level of fitness is extremely crucial as one grows older. Given the current situation and the impact of Covid-19 on our immune system, it is paramount to be fit and healthy. For senior citizens, guided yoga and basic cardio exercises after consulting their doctor is crucial. Our platform allows users to choose workouts basis their fitness levels and pace. Our proprietary technology helps ensure that the movements are being done accurately. Physical and mental fitness can go a long way in making people stronger and healthier, described Rawat.

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From live sessions to workout videos: Senior citizens take the e-route to stay fit amid pandemic - The Indian Express

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September 10th, 2020 at 7:53 pm

Women in Tech: "You are the best author of your own career path" – JAXenter

Posted: August 29, 2020 at 7:58 am

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Aresearch studyby The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings, which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?

Three years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, wed like you to meet Kelly Mathieson, Chief Client Experience Officer at Digital Asset.

Kelly Mathieson is the Chief Client Experience Officer for Digital Asset, the creators of the DAML smart contract language and pioneers in the blockchain technology space. Prior to Digital Asset, Kelly spent 26 years at J.P.Morgan and 3 years at Goldman Sachs working in securities services, clearing and brokerage businesses. Kelly serves on the Greater NYC Board of the Susan J. Komen Foundation.

While I have been involved in technology for years and currently work at Digital Asset, a technology company, Im not actually a technologist. However, throughout my career in financial services, every role I have ever had heavily relied on the technology used in the operating environment, that is, the algorithms used to trade financial products, or the systems used to clear and settle trades, or the software used to serve customers.

In my career in financial services, I lived through seminal events from the 1987 crash, to the rise of online brokerages, to the initial Internet bubble and its demise, to 9/11 and the effects it had on global finance, and finally to the credit crunch of 2007 and 2008. In every one of these situations or crises, technology played a key, if not essential role.

After 30 years working in an industry that relied so heavily on technology, and suffered so greatly when technology didnt work as intended, I wanted to be part of a team that was changing how the business of finance was done, which is why I joined Digital Asset.

You are the grand sum of your experiences at any moment in time, and therefore, what youre capable of doing tomorrow is never going to be equal to what youre capable of doing today.

I consider myself to be one of those fortunate people who has established a strong network across geographies, roles and industries. My role models are my family, friends and colleagues that allow me to use them as a sounding board, either to improve my perspective or guide me in making an important decision by suggesting different angles by which to analyze the situation and form my opinion.

There was not a specific person or a moment in time that blocked me from moving in the direction I wanted to go professionally, but I do have a cautionary tale on getting pigeon-holed in your career. In 2008, following the market crisis, I was fortunate to be involved in some of the more transformative market and regulatory initiatives designed to stabilize financial services and ensure that such an event never happened again. I would never trade that experience. However, because I played such a prominent role, that experience came to define me in ways. It was assumed that I would remain in this role for the rest of my career. What I learned is that you must be willing to promote your brand and emphasize capabilities that position you beyond your current role. You are the grand sum of your experiences at any moment in time, and therefore, what youre capable of doing tomorrow is never going to be equal to what youre capable of doing today.

I am the Chief Client Experience Officer at Digital Asset. At the core of our service offering is DAML, an open source and platform-independent smart contract language that enables developers to write a distributed application once and deploy it to a variety of platforms, from distributed ledgers to traditional databases .

At Digital Asset, I lead the team that supports and enables customers to use Digital Assets technology and partner solutions to build the next generation of connected applications. This includes everything from forming a strategy on how to use DAML for a specific use case or a business issue, helping them visualize their first application prototype or demo, supporting how they engage and interact with third parties, such as regulators, market participants or their customers and helping them select from a range of solutions that we provide with our partners.

Throughout my 30-year plus career, diversity has been an industry issue, whether it was on trading floors in the late eighties and early nineties, breaking glass ceilings in financial services, or giving women more opportunities in leadership positions. Diversity in the workforce is as important to driving business success as it is to personal empowerment. It has been proven in countless studies that diverse workforces produce more competitive companies that deliver better products and services.

That being said, there are still many challenges that we must overcome. When women enter an organization that has low female representation in the technology roles, they are instantly branded as different rather than assessed for their actual skills and experience. This requires women at all levels to work harder to ensure theyre not seen as the female team member but rather as an outstanding performer. Women in technology must make sure that they are consistently distinguishing themselves, regardless of gender.

The obstacles we face as women in technology start early on in our education system.. Most technology, science, engineering and math programs tend to attract men over women, particularly at higher education levels. We must create curricula in these fields of study that appeal to both genders from elementary school through college and postgraduate programs.

As leaders in the technology industry, we need to have a real sense of responsibility for creating that path for girls beginning at the grade school level. We also need to make sure that the technology companies are purposely working to attract female applicants, principally by eliminating male dominant, tech bro cultures. This starts with how job descriptions are written and the types of career opportunities and career paths that are discussed with female employees. In addition, companies need to offer flexible work environments that support both working mothers and fathers so women have the same potential for career growth as their male counterparts.

From my own experience, companies must also consider alternative or diverse paths into senior technology roles. Computer science and mathematical degrees should not be prerequisites to attaining a senior technology role. I know many technology leaders who came from fields such as finance and customer support. Having a diverse professional background enables you to bring a unique perspective to an organization and one that can unite different areas of the company together in pursuit of the most practical and customer-centric technology solutions.

I firmly believe the world is a better place when people with diverse perspectives, backgrounds and experiences are brought together to solve a challenge or problem. Women introduce a fresh voice to any initiative if only because our perspectives are different.

We need to encourage students at the grade school level, at the middle school and the high school level, to define their own paths and help develop STEM topics and curricula that inspire them to pursue technology careers with passion and persistence. If we do that, in just a decade or generation, there will be social, economic, cultural impact of an indefinable positive quality, simply because we opened the door to a more diverse workforce that applies its intellectual force to solving the worlds biggest challenges.

A wise person once told me Kelly, you dont need to know everything. You just need to know where to go get it and who to ask.

Over the course of my career I have seen results, but clearly not enough to eliminate the debate and there is much more to do. As I said, I have been involved in discussions on gender diversity my whole professional life, and Ive long since stopped guessing on when they will no longer be necessary. Ive never been with a company that didnt need to focus on it and didnt benefit from doing so.

First of all, you must be prepared to work really hard. Dont let opportunities wait to present themselves to you, go pursue them. You are the best author of your own career path, so seek to define it actively and pursue it aggressively. You are the grand sum of your experiences, and you need to present yourself as such. Finally, it is very important to build your network of influencers. A wise person once told me Kelly, you dont need to know everything. You just need to know where to go get it and who to ask.

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August 29th, 2020 at 7:58 am

Dear Keith: Works from the Personal Collection of Keith Haring – FAD magazine

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Keith Haring Photographer unknown 1989. Courtesy of The LGBT Community Center National History Archive

Dear Keith: Works from the Personal Collection of Keith Haring in a dedicated online auction open for bidding from 24th September 1st October 2020 at Sothebys

Dear Keith will present 140+ works of art and objects from Harings personal collection, all on offer from the Keith Haring Foundation an organization established by the artist shortly before his death in 1990 from HIV/AIDS-related causes. Harings collection features works gifted to, purchased by and traded with Haring among friends and artists in his community, including Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kenny Scharf, and many more.

Gil Vazquez, Acting Director of the Keith Haring Foundation, said:

Dear Keith is an especially meaningful event in what is the 30th anniversary of Keiths passing. It feels as if Keith himself rallied his friends to make art for this specific purpose. It is rare that we as a foundation are able to address so many of the concerns that our founder deeply cared about in a single gift. The Center embodies so much of what Keith was about: community, empowerment, and the support of our future, the youth. We feel confident that this gift during this time for this purpose is the right thing.

Keith Haring Foundation. Polaroids, The Keith Haring Foundation Archives

All of the works will appear at auction this Autumn for the first time, together revealing never-before-told stories about Harings community and bringing to life the celebrated art scene of 1970s and 80s New York from the School of Visual Arts (SVA) and Club 57 to street art and beyond.

In keeping with the Keith Haring Foundations mission to sustain and expand the artists legacy of philanthropy, full proceeds from the auction will benefit The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center of New York (also known as The Center) an organization that empowers the queer community of New York to lead healthy, successful lives; celebrates the communitys diversity and advocates for justice and opportunity.

During his 10+ years living and working in downtown Manhattan, Haring was engaged in the queer / downtown art and activism scene. He executed one of his final large-scale murals, Once Upon a Time, in the second-floor mens bathroom at The Center in May 1989 for The Center Show a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots that featured works by LGBTQ artists commissioned by The Center. That mural stands to this day. Haring was devoted to all of his communities, from his family and friends to collaborators both in art and activism, and the Foundation is pleased to celebrate the enduring connection he had with The Center through this gift.

Harrison Tenzer, Head of Sothebys Contemporary Art Online Sales in New York, said:

Dear Keith spotlights the diverse community of artists whose unique visions inspired Keith throughout his life. The collection is remarkably autobiographical, just as any great collectors estate is a window into their individual perspective. We see the progression of Keiths life captured in these works, from those of his childhood friend Kermit Oswald, to SVA peers John Sex and Kenny Scharf, to fellow upstart Jean-Michel Basquiat, to graffiti writers Futura 2000 and Lee Quiones, to his heroes Andy Warhol, Pierre Alechinsky and William Burroughs, who he collaborated with during his meteoric rise to fame. Together they illuminate a culturally fertile era in which artists and activists worked closely together to create a world that was more inclusive than the one they were born into. I am deeply honored that the Keith Haring Foundation has entrusted Sothebys with this momentous opportunity to celebrate Keiths continuing legacy, and I am proud that the sale will benefit The Centers important work.

Dear Keith: Works from the Personal Collection of Keith Haring will be on view by appointment in Sothebys York Avenue galleries from 26th 30th September.

Fascinated by cartoons from an early age, Keith Haring was best known for striking graffiti-inspired drawings that took him from New York Citys streets and clubs to museums and public spaces around the world. While attending the School of Visual Arts in New York in 1978, Haring discovered a thriving art community of fellow emerging artists such as Kenny Scharf, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Tseng Kwong Chi. Haring created a singular graphic style based on the primacy of the line, peopling his compositions with such signature images as dancing figures, radiant babies, barking dogs and flying saucers, and infusing them with uncommon energy.

Between 1980 and 1989, Keith Haring achieved international recognition, participating in numerous group and solo shows and producing more than 50 public artworks from New York to Paris. By expressing universal concepts of birth, death, love, sex and war, Haring created lasting imagery that has been embraced around the world. Harings works can be found in the collections of many museums including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Albertina, in Vienna, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and many more.

Shortly before his death in 1990, Haring established the Keith Haring Foundation. The mission of the Foundation continues to be threefold: the support of organizations committed to enriching the lives of children, promoting care and education surrounding issues of HIV/AIDS, and furthering the legacy of his artwork.

Haring was greatly influenced by Andy Warhol, who was both a friend and artistic collaborator. In 1989 he told Rolling Stone:

Before I knew [Warhol], he had been an image to me. He was totally unapproachable. I met him finally through Christopher Makos, who brought me to the Factory. At first, Andy was very distant. It was difficult for him to be comfortable with people if he didnt know them. Then he came to another exhibition at the Fun Gallery, which was soon after the show at Shafrazi. He was more friendly. We started talking, going out. We traded a lot of works at that time.

The auction includes a number of such works, including an Untitled portrait of Haring with Juan DuBose a DJ as well as Harings partner and lover, who passed away due to HIV/AIDS in 1988 (pictured above, estimate $200/250,000). Haring and DuBose had a passionate on-and-off relationship for five years that was predominantly driven by physical attraction. The sale also features a significant group of works by artists associated with Club 57 the night club located in a church basement in New Yorks East Village that quickly became one of the most influential centers of the citys countercultural movement when it opened its doors in 1978.

Works by Jean-Michel Basquiat (pictured above: Basquiat, Untitled, estimate $100/150,000), Tseng Kwong Chi, Stefano Castronovo, Samantha McEwen, Kermit Oswald, Kenny Scharf, Bruno Schmidt and John Sex bear witness to a definitive downtown scene fueled by low rents, opposition to the Reagan administration, and the desire to experiment with new modes of art, performance, fashion, music, and exhibition.

Kenny Scharf was particularly close with Haring having become fast friends at the School of the Visual Arts, the two were roommates and collaborated often. The sale features works on paper by the artist, highlighted by his watercolor on paper in hand-painted frame Untitled (pictured above, estimate $18/25,000), as well as a number of hand-painted objects.The street art scene in which Haring worked in the 1970s and 80s is well represented, including pieces by John Crash Matos, Lady Pink, Lee Quiones, Rammellzee and Basquiat, whose work he greatly admired. In his essay Remembering Basquiat published in Vogue, Haring wrote:

His work had a kind of power which was unmistakably real. The intensity and directness of his vision was intimidating. Jean-Michel was maybe a little too real for us. He was uncompromising, disobedient, and rude if the situation required it. Not malicious, but honest.

Another close friend of the artist was George Condo, who often worked from Harings East Village studio. The sale includes an excellent grouping of early drawings and paintings done by the artist in the 1980s, including an Untitled work on paper featuring the inscription: For Keith in Paris, so it is once before a bum I am

Haring also owned a number of works by established artists whom he greatly admired, including Pierre Alechinsky, Jean Cocteau, Alberto Giacometti, Roy Lichtenstein and Pablo Picasso. The sale includes two Lichtenstein prints, including Forms in Space from 1985 which took pride of place above the fireplace in his home (pictured above, estimate $50/70,000). Lichtenstein attended Keiths first major exhibition in New York, as did Robert Rauschenberg and Sol Le Witt.

Mark Westall is the Founder and Editor of FAD magazine Founder and co-publisher Art of Conversation and founder of the platform @worldoffad

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August 29th, 2020 at 7:58 am

H&M collaborates with Beirut-based designer Sandra Mansour on empowering collection – Manila Bulletin

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Lifestyle / Fashion / H&M collaborates with Beirut-based designer Sandra Mansour on empowering collection H&M collaborates with Beirut-based designer Sandra Mansour on empowering collection Its launch was postponed as a result of port explosion in Lebanon

Fashion powerhouse H&M releases its first-ever fashion collaboration with a Lebanese brand. Sandra Mansour, a designer known to weave dreamy silhouettes and figures into ultra feminine frocks, finally unveils her latest work. This will transport us into her world of modern coolness aptly entitled Fleur du Soleil after getting inspired with the way a sunflower follows the sun from day into night.

The first things you notice about Sandra Mansours designs are the dreamy qualities and sheer beauty, but then you get further drawn into the craftsmanship, the storytelling, and the modern youthfulness, says Maria stblom, head of design womenswear at H&M. Theres also something empowering about the femininity. Were proud to be collaborating with such a trailblazer, and we look forward to launching the collection worldwide.

The Sandra Mansour x H&M collection boasts of a feminine and strong range of dresses, blouses and skirts, a tailored blazer, and a printed T-shirt and hoodie. Fit-and-flare shapes and ruffled hems are mixed with volume and statement details in an earthy color palette of mushroom greys, ivory, and black.

Sewn with a message of empowerment and hope for the people of Beirut, the collection embodies the true beauty of nature as inspired by strong female artists such as Toyen, Dorothea Tanning, Lena Leclercq and Bibi Zogb. The inspiration for the H&M collaboration was nature and natural elements. Especially the sunflower, which represents the cycle of life as seen in its dependence on sunlight, says the designer. Poetry and painters inspired the selection of fabric the dark laces, jacquards, and embroidered organza. With the Fleur du Soleil collection, I want to talk to women around the world by sending a message of hope, something we really need right now.

Due to the devastating events in Beirut, the Sandra Mansour collection that was supposed to be launched on Aug. 6 was postponed. In the wake of the explosions, H&M has donated $100,000 to Red Cross Lebanon to help rebuild countless lives affected by the catastrophe.

The Sandra Mansour x H&M collection is available at SM Megamall, SM Makati, and Greenbelt 4 starting today.


2020-08-27 13:48:36



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H&M collaborates with Beirut-based designer Sandra Mansour on empowering collection - Manila Bulletin

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August 29th, 2020 at 7:58 am

‘Nikah Halala’ Review: A Scathing Indictment of a Practice That Has No Quranic Sanction – The Wire

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For the past few years, journalist and author Ziya Us Salam has been releasing books at a surprisingly rapid pace.

Seen from the perspective of commercial success, nine titles in some 24 months not counting the ones translated into several Indian languages would definitely be considered an enviable pace. But then this is no list of potboiler novels.

Salams works are not just topical but frequently searing: the rise of fundamentalism in India; chronicles of the shocking mob lynchings of defenceless citizens in the name of cow protection and championing of Hindutva; an analytical look at madrasas today and yesterday; the fraught issue of welcoming women worshippers into mosques; the scriptural and legal angles of instant triple talaq; and the topic of the book under review, nikah halala, a notorious practice.

Though written more from a journalistic than a scholarly angle, these books will likely be studied by historians when they trace Indias transformation as the 20th century lurched uncertainly into the 21st. What was once a diverse and highly flawed but vociferously vocal democracy, with fierce political debates common even among the illiterate, is today a country of polarised communities where disinformation has been sharpened to a degree of weaponisation and fear of political reprisal is a tangible deterrent to free speech. In this downward spiral, perhaps no group has been more relentlessly attacked, both metaphorically and literally, its very right to existence questioned, than Indias Muslim citizens.

So Salams impressive run of new releases, a few of them bestsellers, even as he holds down a full-time job as a journalist, has no doubt also been an intensely personal and troubling journey too, an aspect occasionally touched upon in his writing.

How can Indian politics today be anything but a deeply personal tumult for any of us, as our individual choices in clothes, food, entertainment, colours, in ways to pray and live are hauled up and judged under the ugly glare of a frenzied mob mentality? But information and knowledge counter the downward spiral, and Salams body of work is an inspiration to the resilient.

Also read: Review: In New Novel,Taslima Nasreen Tackles Religious Persecution in Contemporary India

Salam has a journalistic penchant for finding a story that needs telling along with a reverence for Islam, which he tirelessly strives to explain and decode for an array of readers both those belonging to other religions and those of the Muslim faith. His frank critique of traditions that have crept into the day-to-day practice of Islam, particularly in India and the rest of the subcontinent, ensures that the oversensitive sometimes take offence at his raking up of unsavoury topics, such as why so many mosques dont create facilities for female worshippers, when the faith is already at the receiving end of so much bad propaganda.

Ziya Us Salam Nikah Halala: Sleeping with a Stranger Bloomsbury India, 2020

But if this author is devoted to Islam, he is as devoted to saying what needs to be said, and perhaps it is his stature as a devout, practising Muslim I have come to know this after working with him for close to two decades that qualifies him to speak about the subject, with a more persuasive voice than a mere intellectual scholar or a more pragmatic modernist.

The somewhat provocative subtitle of Nikah Halala is emblematic of the authors scathing view of a practice that he explains has no sanction according to the Quran or the hadiths but is nevertheless prevalent throughout many parts of the subcontinent and is a gross distortion of womens rights in marriage. Through examples taken from both legal cases and personal interviews of men and women off the public radar, Salam shows how women are first convinced that they have been divorced by their husband, and then forced to literally sleep with a stranger to become eligible to reunite with the husband who is now repentant and hopes for a reconciliation.

Say a man divorces his wife (by saying talaq out loud three times), but he regrets his words in a day or two, and the two decide to reconcile. The couple is frequently told that the woman can no longer just carry on being his wife, nor can she even formally marry him again, until and unless she first marries another man, consummates the marriage and then gets a divorce from the second husband.

Such a marriage is arranged for the woman by helpful relatives, sometimes by a maulana, and often by the frustrated husband himself, in the misguided belief that this experience will serve as his chastisement for losing his temper. A temporary groom is found, merely for the sake of going through a sham nikah, followed by sexual intercourse. Thus, the woman who had become haram for her legally married husband, becomes halal for him once she has slept with another man.

The author, drawing a parallel to prostitution, describes how money is frequently a part of this transaction, the groom being generously compensated for his services. If all parties stick to their word, the procedure is over within a few days. But sometimes the new husband is loath to give up his new bride, leading to further anguish. The reason many women submit to this abuse of their right over their own body, with no legal safeguards, notes Salam, is that they may have children from the first marriage and be desperate to get back together with the father. Husbands, brought up to believe that a wife is a possession that can be stolen and retrieved, too may shudder through this grisly turn of events for the sake of future stability.

Also read: Marriage And Its Discontents and the Vocal Debate on Muslim Personal Law

Nikah Halala makes it amply clear through references to verses and interpretations of scholars that this procedure has no sanction in the Quran and is a distortion of the Prophets intention. In the third chapter, The Islamic Perspective, the author, referring to Surah Baqarah, verse 229, writes, The Quran says, Divorce can be pronounced twice: then, either honourable retention or kindly release should follow.

A shot of the holy Quran in a mosque in Cairo. Photo: Al Hussainy Mohamed/Flickr CC BY 2.0

Further on in the same chapter, we learn that these two pronouncements of divorce are to be separated by at least a month. The wifes menstrual cycle is taken into account when prescribing the times when the husband can pronounce divorce, presumably because, in Islam, a divorce cannot take place while she is pregnant.

Elsewhere, the author writes:

After the first divorce, if he realises his mistake, and his wife agrees, he can either annul his divorce through word or action or marry her again with a fresh nikah after the expiry of the iddah period; no third persons involvement is needed. It is the same if he divorces her for the second time. She does not need to marry anybody else and it can be a direct reunion of the erring couple.

If the intention to divorce is repeated a third time however, the divorce becomes irrevocable. In this case, the couple does not have the option of indulging a change of heart. The woman officially becomes haram for her former husband and is free to choose another partner. Should she marry again, and should she by chance become a widow or divorcee, she is once more a woman free to choose a husband. In such a scenario, the first husband is allowed to be a prospective suitor too, says the author. In these circumstances, she has become halal for him once more.

It is this provision regarding the possibility that the womans second marriage might end too, allowing the former husband to be a suitor, that has been grossly misinterpreted to force women into nikah halala in so many instances in India. Instead of being considered an incidental circumstance that may or indeed may not lead to a woman remarrying her former husband, nikah halala gets turned into a precondition for a marriage to the first husband!

Also read: Changing the Lens Through Which We View Islam

Knitted in with the sham marriage is the sham divorce. Once it is clear that a couple may get divorced twice and revoke it twice, but the third divorce is irrevocable, there seems no scope to accept that talaq pronounced thrice in the same sitting also signifies an irrevocable divorce. However, this is regularly happening due to ignorance. And is followed up by the equally erroneous and unfair demand for nikah halala. The author states on page 40, In fact, the misuse and distortion of the halala practice in the Indian subcontinent stems from the practice of instant triple talaq. Halala takes place after an instant triple talaq and ends with an instant triple talaq.

Even after the Supreme Court ruled instant triple talaq as unconstitutional, and the government followed up with the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act of 2019 with provisions for a jail sentence for men divorcing their wives in this way, the practice has not ended. This is simply because legislation often has little effect on entrenched traditions as in the case of dowry, as the author points out. What is needed is social awareness and genuine empowerment of women so that they cannot be cheated of their rights as wives and are able to avoid being coerced into a sham marriage for the sake of halala.

Salams easy prose is quick to carve into the hypocrisy of a situation where under-educated maulanas serve as interpreters of the scriptures for a gullible, even less informed public.

Understandably, when such clerics get down to interpreting the religious texts for the masses, the message is clear and always the same: the masses are teetering on the brink of hell! And when they are through with their fearmongering, they interpret the Quran to suit the convenience of men, he writes with characteristic candour. It is easy to recall he spent the early part of his career as a features journalist and cinema critic and headed the North India features editions of The Hindu for sixteen years.

The book is full of eye-openers. Some denial in the community notwithstanding, nikah halala is sadly prevalent around much of rural Bharat, if not so much urban India, as the author points out. He also introduces us to perspectives in Pakistan, the US, UK and countries of West Asia. Although there is some amount of repetition that actually confuses instead of enlightening the reader, it is a useful text.

Also read: At Shaheen Bagh, Muslim Women Take Their Place as Heroes of the Movement

Like Salams book on divorce, Till Talaq Do Us Part: Understanding Talaq, Triple Talaq and Khula (Penguin Random House), Nikah Halala too can help dispel many a fallacy regarding Islamic injunctions relating to marriage, divorce and womens rights. Its accessible prose can also serve to empower potential victims of misinformation.

The conclusion ends on a note of caution, reiterating that reform is essentially a social phenomenon. Expressing faith that the apex court, like the other courts when handling matters of divorce and inheritance in Islam, followed the letter and spirit of the Quran and hadiths, he conjures a possible scenario that could be overlooked: What if a woman genuinely wants to remarry her first husband after her second husband has either divorced her or died?

If she is not allowed to marry her first husband again, would it not be an infringement of the Muslim communitys fundamental rights, as protected by the same constitution?

The question is a reminder that there are no easy solutions.

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'Nikah Halala' Review: A Scathing Indictment of a Practice That Has No Quranic Sanction - The Wire

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August 29th, 2020 at 7:58 am

Wafia’s new EP ‘Good Things’ explores the loss and liberation of growing up and relationships – Purple Sneakers

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Iraqi-Syrian artist Wafia has released a transfixing self-love EP Good Things. An ode to her personal experience with heartbreak, loss, and the cathartic freedom that followed, Wafia is a boss when it comes to creating upbeat danceable tracks that hold a personal message, with this EP being no different.

The RIAA Gold-certified artist lives up to her reputation in this sonically adventurous EP, sharing six ambient songs in which she mixes together high energy pop, expansive electronica, and soulful melodies. Exploring lost friendships, gut wrenching break ups, and moments of self-reflection, Good Things reminds us that after the storm the sun will shine again.

The sounds layered throughout Good Things are consistently liberating and atmospheric, amplified by Wafias undeniably stunning vocals. Hurricane is a reflective ballad with strumming guitars and an upbeat electronica tune that explores the fear of losing connections between friendships, while the lyrics in Pick Me are full of strong feminine empowerment, sharing the message to always put yourself first.With dancing electronic notes, bouncing beats, and warm atmospherics, its the self-love anthem we all need right now.

Performing the song earlier this month at the Lollapalooza virtual festival Butterflies is an electro-pop banger in which Wafia reflects on her past relationships, while the almost hypnotic quality of Flowers & Superpowers takes things to new heights with its addictive pop foundations. As for the title track, this song can only be described as high energy, with its punchy beat reminding us to focus on the brighter things in life. This song to me is a celebration of all the good that comes your way when you make the space for it, Wafia said about Good Things. How To Lose A Friend concludes the EP on an emotive and slow note with soft melodies and soulful vocals that explore the loss felt when you lose a close friend. This solemn track embodies the rawness of Wafias EP as it explores the deeply personal experiences in her life.

I shed a lot of heaviness in the last year, friendships and relationships that didnt serve me any longer. I grieved a lot and some days I still do but anything difficult comes with an opportunity for something better. This EP is about that, said Wafia in a statement about her EP.

As an EP of self-discovery, Wafia learns throughout each song how to handle loss, grief, and pain and turn it into something positive. Wafias Good Things EP embodies a personal message to all listeners that self-love is the most important love, and that sometimes the worst of times can bring out the best in a people.

Good Things is out now. Buy/stream here.

Words by Claudia Fallon Image by Drew Escriva










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Wafia's new EP 'Good Things' explores the loss and liberation of growing up and relationships - Purple Sneakers

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August 29th, 2020 at 7:58 am

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