December 26, 2017

The south facade of the White House will undergo a dramatic change this week: the historic Jackson Magnolia, a tree that has been in place since the 1800s, is scheduled to be cut down and removed.
The enormous magnolia, one of three on the west side of the White House and the oldest on the White House grounds, extends from the ground floor, up past the front of the windows of the State Dining Room on the first floor and beyond the second-level executive residence. The tree has had a long and storied life, yet has now been deemed too damaged and decayed to remain in place.
Specialists at the United States National Arboretum were brought in by the White House to assess the Magnolia grandiflora, as it is specifically termed. According to documents obtained exclusively by CNN, the tree must be removed, and quickly, despite efforts to preserve it over several decades. The documents read in part:
"The overall architecture and structure of the tree is greatly compromised and the tree is completely dependent on the artificial support. Without the extensive cabling system, the tree would have fallen years ago. Presently, and very concerning, the cabling system is failing on the east trunk, as a cable has pulled through the very thin layer of wood that remains. It is difficult to predict when and how many more will fail."
A White House official tells CNN the decision to remove the tree was ultimately made by first lady Melania Trump after she had viewed and assessed all of the professional information and accompanying historical documents. The tree is scheduled to be taken down later this week.
The first lady's office declined to comment.
Exclusive: Iconic White House tree to be cut down

History of the Jackson Magnolia

After a brutal presidential campaign in 1828, Andrew Jackson's wife, Rachel, died just days after his election; according to historians, Jackson believed the particularly divisive campaign contributed to his wife's untimely demise. When he took up residence in the White House as a widower following his inauguration, it is believed Jackson insisted on planting a sprout from Rachel's favorite magnolia tree from the couple's farm, Hermitage, in Tennessee.
That tree eventually grew into the sprawling magnolia the American public has come to know and recognize to this day. (A companion magnolia was planted on the opposite side of the South Portico years later for symmetry.) The official Jackson Magnolia has been in the background for numerous historic events, from state arrival ceremonies and Easter Egg Rolls, to thousands of photo ops, social and athletic activities, and countless Marine One departures and arrivals. Ironically, the tree stands directly behind where the press is currently penned during these occasions, now perilously close to the weakened giant.
Exclusive: Iconic White House tree to be cut down
Some highlights from the tree's lifetime:
  • From 1928 to 1998, the tree was featured prominently on the back of the $20 bill.
  • In 1994, a single-engine plane crashed onto the South Lawn of the White House, sending debris from the wreckage into the Jackson Magnolia, cutting off one of its larger branches.
  • Laura Bush commissioned a set of White House china inspired by the tree, called "The Magnolia Residence China," painted with magnolia leaves and blossoms.
  • Michelle Obama in 2009 took a seedling from the magnolia to the United States Department of Agriculture so that it could grow at the USDA's community garden.
  • In 2016, Obama also clipped a seedling as a gift to the people of Cuba; it was planted during the Obamas' visit there. Various other dignitaries and first ladies have gifted or replanted seedlings from the tree throughout history.

Exclusive: Iconic White House tree to be cut down

How did the tree die?
According to documentation seen by CNN, the bulk of the trouble with the Jackson Magnolia began as far back as five decades ago, when three "leaders," or trunks, emerged from its base, creating a mass of tangled and shared bark.
Around 1970, it's believed one of the leaders broke off from the other two and was removed, and its cavity was exposed, leaving the entire tree susceptible to decay. As such, the cavity was filled in with cement, a procedure not advisable today, but which at the time was deemed the proper course of action. The concrete did irretrievable damage and in 1981, it was removed and replaced with a large pole and cable system, which remain today, holding up the remaining leaders.
In person, while the tree and its trunks appear quite normal from the front side, from the back, the massive hulk of the tree is virtually hollow, with wood chipping away, in places crumbling to the touch.
The Arboretum experts agree the rigging in place is now itself greatly compromised. According to their report, "further cabling and support of the east leader is not an option due to the fragile, almost non-existent lower trunk. There is no longer a sound foundation, and the upper portion lacks sound wood for cabling. This half of the tree is considered a hazard. The west leader, on the other hand, could possibly be saved for a time, but will eventually succumb to the same fate. In addition, the high winds resulting from frequent helicopter landings complicates the future of the limb. It may fail in an unpredictable way."
The shiny green leaves themselves are thinning near the top of the canopy, a sign of lack of life, and what remains of the branches are simply too weak to hold more cables. In short, says the report presented to the first lady, "if this was any ordinary tree, it would have been removed long ago. We understand this is a historic tree, and all measures have been used to save it to this point in time. While we cannot comment on the need to preserve the tree as long as it stands, we believe eventually, the tree will fail."
Exclusive: Iconic White House tree to be cut down
The circle of life
However disappointing the removal of the Jackson Magnolia, the silver lining of its demise is that White House groundskeepers were prepared. For several months, at an undisclosed greenhouse-like location nearby, healthy offshoots of the tree have been growing, tended to with care and now somewhere around eight to 10 feet tall. CNN has learned the plan is that another Jackson Magnolia, born directly from the original, will soon be planted in its place, for history to live on.
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
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Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
Jan 02, 2024 15:29
The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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