December 30, 2017

Crowds of pro-government supporters demonstrated Saturday in Iran after two days of rare anti-government protests which spread to a number of cities.
Nearly 2,000 people gathered peacefully in the capital, Tehran, in support of the government's policies, an eyewitness there said.
State-run Iranian broadcasters showed demonstrators waving the Iranian flag at the pro-government rally, which had been scheduled before the anti-government protests broke out. Meanwhile, coverage of the anti-government protests was very limited on state-run media, which referenced them only in passing.
The protests -- described as the largest public display of discontent since the 2009 Green Movement in Iran -- have emerged against a backdrop of rising food and gasoline prices. Some arrests have been reported in Iranian media.
Iran's Interior Ministry has warned against "illegal" public gatherings, saying any groups wishing to gather must file an official request and be granted permission.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry also pushed back Saturday against US comments in support of anti-government protesters that urged respect for their rights and warned Tehran that the "world is watching."
A statement posted on the Foreign Ministry website said the Iranian people gave no credence to such "opportunistic" remarks by US President Donald Trump or his administration and described "Mr Trump's government" as the main source of ill will toward Iran.
Iranians rally for government after two days of protests
Demonstrations in the northeastern city of Mashhad on Thursday prompted protests that spread to cities across the nation on Friday.
They were documented in Tehran, Kermanshah, Arak, Qazvin, Khorramabad, Karaj and Sabzevar, according to First Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri, cited by official Iranian news agency IRNA.
Protesters have been heard on videos distributed on social media as chanting "Death to Rouhani," a reference to Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, who was reelected earlier this year, but CNN cannot independently verify the authenticity of the footage.
Some protesters in these videos also pointedly targeted their ire at Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei -- a rare display of dissent, and something not widely seen in the pro-reform Green Movement protests, which disputed the outcome of that year's presidential elections.
Poorer Iranians have been involved in the new round of protests in a way that wasn't seen in the 2009 Green Movement, an eyewitness in Tehran noted. Iran currently sits 120th on the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index, demonstrating the difficult economic situation in the country. The high youth unemployment rate is of particular concern for Iranians.
Iranians rally for government after two days of protests
US concern
The White House voiced its support for anti-government protesters in a statement Friday.
"There are many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with the regime's corruption and its squandering of the nation's wealth to fund terrorism abroad," said White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. "The Iranian government should respect their people's rights, including their right to express themselves. The world is watching."
US President Donald Trump subsequently tweeted the same message.

In a statement earlier Friday, the US State Department urged the international community to support the Iranian people's "demands for basic rights and an end to corruption."
"Iran's leaders have turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos," said spokeswoman Heather Nauert. "As President Trump has said, the longest-suffering victims of Iran's leaders are Iran's own people.
Relations between Washington and Tehran are currently tense, with the Trump administration critical of what it sees as Iran's growing regional influence and alleged involvement in conflicts including Yemen and Syria.
Rouhani won a landslide re-election in May after campaigning largely on social reform. His campaign also touted the merits of the 2015 nuclear deal with the United States, the European Union and other partners which has been rejected by Trump.
Foreign intervention claim
Iranian officials have pointed to foreign intervention as being behind the anti-government protests.
"Unfortunately, most of the people who participate in these gatherings are unsophisticated individuals who are not aware that these calls for protest are made by anti-revolution elements," Mohsen Hamadani, Tehran deputy governor in charge of security affairs, was quoted as saying by the semi-official news agency ILNA.
"Most participants are not aware that anti-revolution elements are calling people to demonstrate against social issues such as inflation but chant untrue slogans."
Protesters have been temporarily arrested for participating in "illegal demonstrations," according to Hamadani, who said the demonstrators had not officially applied for permits to demonstrate.
The New York Times' chief diplomatic correspondent Steven Erlanger told CNN that the demonstrations were to some degree against Iran's involvement in Syria and other places, with protesters saying that the money spent there would be better used at home.
But, he said, the discontent also seems to be being fomented by opponents of Rouhani, a liberal in the Iranian context who backed the 2015 nuclear deal on the promise that sanctions would be lifted and life would be better for all Iranians.
That promise has proven difficult to live up to, in part because of the Trump administration's opposition and partly because foreign companies are wary of being punished by the American banking system for doing deals in Iran, Erlanger said.
While sanctions against Iran were eased under the 2015 deal in exchange for curbs on Tehran's nuclear program, US sanctions imposed over non-nuclear activities continue to have an impact.
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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
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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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