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Hello Kitty celebrates 40th birthday

Hello Kitty (centre), a one-day manager of the Mitsukoshi department store in Tokyo's glitzy Ginza district, poses with clerks during a morning meeting before the opening on November 1, 2014

Tokyo (AFP) – Hello Kitty, Japan’s global icon of cute, marked her 40th anniversary on Saturday with a human-size version of the feline character regaling fans at an upscale Tokyo department store and a theme park.

The moon-faced creation that adorns everything from pencil cases to pyjamas the world over, began her birthday as a one-day manager of the Mitsukoshi department store in Tokyo’s glitzy Ginza district.

Clad in pink from head to toe — including a child-like bow — a human-size Kitty showed up at an in-house meeting at the store, drawing cheers and applause from a horde of employees.

As she bowed, the employees bowed.

The mouthless character did not speak but waved and struck poses, sending many on the floor blurting out “kawaii!” (Japanese word for cute).

As the store opened, she greeted the first wave of customers, many of whom hugged the character and posed for pictures.

Kitty, dubbed the eternal “girl” by her creator, also celebrated her birthday with fans at Sanrio Puroland, a theme park west of Tokyo.

Surrounded by hundreds of fans, she made dance performances with other characters including her twin sister Mimmy.

On the other side of the Pacific, a Hello Kitty Convention in the Little Tokyo district near downtown Los Angeles has opened for a four-day run through the weekend, expecting to draw some 25,000 fans. 

The first merchandise with Kitty was a coin purse launched in Japan in 1975.

She now appears on more than 50,000 products in 130 countries and territories — including a dress made for pop diva Lady Gaga.


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CAF meet over Ebola-clouded Cup of Nations

Algeria's Islam Slimani (R) clashes with Malawi's goalkeeper during their 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match at the Mustapha Tchaker stadium on October 15, 2014 in Blida

Johannesburg (AFP) – When and where the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations will be staged should be resolved within days amid pleas from hosts Morocco to postpone the tournament over the Ebola epidemic.

The virus has claimed almost 5,000 lives this year, almost all in west African countries Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Morocco fear a potential influx of several hundred thousand supporters from the other 15 finalists could spread the epidemic.

African football body CAF will hold a meeting of their executive in Algeria on Sunday and 24 hours later president Issa Hayatou will lead a delegation to Morocco for further talks.

CAF are then expected to issue a statement clarifying the situation after weeks of wild media speculation.

A senior African football official, who requested anonymity, told AFP there were three likely scenarios:

– Morocco back down and agree to original January 17-February 8 hosting dates.

– CAF agree to postpone tournament to mid-2015 or early 2016.

– Talks collapse, Morocco withdraw, and CAF seek new hosts.

Unconfirmed reports of midweek meetings involving Hayatou and Moroccan officials led Moroccan daily As-Sabah to claim a deal had been struck to delay the Africa Cup.

This report was swiftly denied by a CAF spokesman as “completely untrue”. 

Of the countries approached as possible emergency hosts, Nigeria and Ghana are reportedly undecided while Algeria, Egypt, South Africa and Sudan declined.

The Cup of Nations is crucial to CAF as each tournament generates $11.7 million (9.3 million euros) from TV and marketing rights.

It is the biggest cash injection into the Cairo-based confederation with the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup club competitions earning a combined $10.2 million (8.1 million euros) yearly.

Only hosts Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia competed in the first tournament 57 years ago, but under Hayatou the Africa Cup has grown from eight to 16 teams and stamped its mark on the international calendar.

World-class, high-definition TV coverage is broadcast worldwide, showcasing the skills of Manchester City and Ivory Coast midfield dynamo Yaya Toure plus many other Europe-based stars.

But Moroccan sports minister Mohammed Ouzzine insists health must come before finances or football.

“Our demand for a postponement is motivated by the latest WHO report, which contains alarming numbers regarding the extent and spread of the virus,” he stressed.

“Morocco are facing a historical responsibility as there has never been such a deadly Ebola epidemic.”

Quizzed regarding Morocco being happy to stage the FIFA Club World Cup this December but not the Cup of Nations, the minister said the difference was the numbers of visiting supporters.

Ouzzine said far more were expected for the Cup of Nations, “possibly 300,000 or even more.

“We are not equipped for that and I cannot see other countries being able to ensure checks and controls for such a large number.”

Concern has also been expressed by European managers with African footballers in their squads, including Roberto di Matteo of German outfit Schalke.

“It is worrying. I know it is dangerous,” said the Bundesliga boss of crack Gabon striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

CAF seem worried about setting a precedent, saying that “since the first edition of the Africa Cup in 1957, the tournament has never been delayed or cancelled”. 

The continental body would also have welcomed support from FIFA this week with the global football federation praising how CAF have handled the Ebola crisis.

Measures taken include ordering Guinea and Sierra Leone to stage group qualifiers abroad. Liberia were eliminated at the preliminary stage.


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Canada’s new human rights museum shares oral histories

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights on the shores of the Red River in Winnipeg, Manitoba, October 11, 2014

Winnipeg (Canada) (AFP) – A new museum in Canada’s western prairies has amassed a unique collection of personal stories from genocide survivors, human rights defenders and others, and wants to share them.

Dedicated to the 60-year-old notion of human rights, a singular but intricate ideal, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba will open its doors on November 11.

It was conceived by now-deceased mogul Izzy Asper, who once controlled CanWest Global Communications Corp, one of the world’s largest media empires.

Over the past 15 years, the project has attracted both praise and protests, mostly from groups disappointed that their stories would not be included. 

A third of the museum’s staff including curators quit ahead of its grand opening, complaining that its content had been sanitized, while administrators struggled with staggering cost overruns and funding shortfalls.

But since the museum started previewing a handful of its 11 galleries in September, the criticism has faded.

“We’re not a collections-based museum. Our main focus is to tell stories,” spokeswoman Maureen Fitz said.

“But there are more stories than we can tell.”

“Most rights museums commemorate specific events,” she added. “Our focus is on human rights as an aspirational idea, using the stories of defenders, victims and others to illustrate it.”


- 250,000 visitors -


The Can$351 million (US$312 million) museum designed by American architect Antoine Predock is one of the most anticipated works of architecture in Canadian history.

Built of polished concrete, basalt rock, limestone and alabaster wrapped in a wall of glass that “weaves light through darkness,” it seeks to frame how an expected 250,000 visitors each year will think about human rights by “offering multiple perspectives from different angles, which is also important in exploring human rights,” Fitz explained.

The site in downtown Winnipeg was chosen for the city’s legacy at the crossroads for labor rights, suffrage, minority language rights and indigenous people’s land rights in Canada.

Visitors are presented with interactive videos, photographs and text chronicling Canadian and world history’s “dark and bright spots” as they meander up a 23-story spiral pathway.

There are 181 oral histories of survivors of mass atrocities and people who fought rights violations.

Displays cover the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide and other atrocities recognized by Ottawa, and identify patterns in them.

Tales are told of the First World War internment of Ukrainians, of the Japanese immigrant steamship Komagata Maru being turned away from Canadian shores in 1914, and of the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike.

Along the path, visitors can probe a smattering of artifacts, including a ballot box from Nelson Mandela’s 1994 presidential run, wedding photos of gay couples, and the dress worn by Mareshia Rucker to the first racially integrated prom at the Wilcox County school in the US state of Georgia last year.

They may also peruse one of the original prints of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or retry pivotal court cases.

On the latter, Angela Cassie, who has been with the museum since its inception, noted that the case law shows “how one’s rights might infringe on another’s.”

Visitors can also take a bit of their experience home. The gift shop sells an unusual array, including jewelry made from disarmed nuclear weapons.

- Defining human rights -


The notion of rights believed to belong to every person is now largely established, but continues to evolve.

“There are so many definitions of human rights,” said museum research manager Jodi Giesbrecht.

“Some things we now take for granted were not always considered human rights.”

Contemporary rights issues tend to provoke the most controversy, but some historical events also continue to be contentious.

“We try to offer a lot of different perspectives, and invite people to add to the general discussion,” said Giesbrecht.


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