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The Rev. Billy Graham, prominent Christian evangelist, dead at 99

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The Rev. Billy Graham , the Christian evangelist whose worldwide crusades and role as adviser to decades of U.S. presidents made him one of the best known religious figures of his time, died Wednesday at age 99 at his home in Montreat, N.C, Todd Shearer of DeMoss Associates told Fox News.

Graham, who had been in ill health for a number of years, was regularly listed in polls as one of the “Ten Most Admired Men in the World.”

Shearer told Fox News that Graham died from “natural causes.” 

His Christian crusades took him from the frenzy of Manhattan to isolated African villages and according to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website, he preached to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history.

U.S. evangelist Billy Graham spoke in the East Berlin Gethsemane Church, center of last year's uprising on March 9, 1990. Graham was due to address a rally on Saturday in front of the old Reichstag parliament building at the wall in West Berlin.  REUTERS/Juergen Schwarz    BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE - GF2E4480MIT05

U.S. evangelist Billy Graham spoke in the East Berlin Gethsemane Church, center of last year’s uprising on March 9, 1990.

 (REUTERS/Juergen Schwarz)

The BGEA put his lifetime audience at nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories, with “hundreds of millions more” viewing him on television, video, film and webcasts.

“My one purpose in life,” he said, “is to help people find a personal relationship with God, which, I believe, comes through knowing Christ.”

FILE - In this June 26, 2005 file photo, the Rev. Billy Graham speaks on stage on the third and last day of his farewell American revival in the Queens borough of New York.  A spokesman said on Graham has died at his home in North Carolina at age 99. (AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams)

In this June 26, 2005 file photo, the Rev. Billy Graham speaks on stage on the third and last day of his farewell American revival in the Queens borough of New York

 (AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams)

Graham was last hospitalized in 2011 at Mission Hospital in Asheville, N.C. for what was described as “evaluation and treatment of his lungs.” He was also hospitalized that year due to pneumonia.

William Franklin Graham Jr. was born Nov. 7, 1918 and raised on a dairy farm in Charlotte, N.C.

At 15, he made his personal commitment to Christ at a revival meeting in Charlotte. After attending Bob Jones College and the Florida Bible Institute, Graham was ordained a Southern Baptist clergyman in 1939.

Former U.S. presidents, George H.W. Bush (L), Bill Clinton (2nd L) and Jimmy Carter (R), pose with evangelist Billy Graham and Franklin Graham (2nd R) before the Billy Graham Library Dedication on the campus of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Charlotte, North Carolina May 31, 2007 . REUTERS/Chris Keane (UNITED STATES) - GM1DVJPRZLAA

Former U.S. President George W. Bush (L) signs a copy of his new book “Decision Points” for Billy Graham (R) at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina December 20, 2010.

 (REUTERS/Chris Keane)

In 1943, he graduated from Wheaton College, where he met fellow student Ruth McCue Bell, daughter of a medical missionary, who had spent the first 17 years of her life in China.

They married in August 1943 and had five children, 19 grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren.

Ruth Graham died in June 2007 after 64 years of marriage.

Graham vaulted to national prominence with his 1948 Los Angeles crusade, scheduled for three weeks and extended to eight.

Subsequent crusades in various cities around the globe also lasted far longer than scheduled – in New York, he ran nightly for four months at Madison Square Garden in 1957.

Rev. Billy Graham (L) sits with First Lady Hillary Clinton and President Bill Clinton at the head table during a prayer breakfast at the Washington Hilton hotel Feb 04, 1993.  The White House said today that President Clinton will support a United Nations peace plan for Bosnia if the parties to the conflict accept it.   REUTERS/Gary Cameron    (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - GM1E8161BBO01

Rev. Billy Graham (L) sits with First Lady Hillary Clinton and President Bill Clinton at the head table during a prayer breakfast at the Washington Hilton hotel Feb 04, 1993.

 (REUTERS/Gary Cameron)

In 1950, Graham founded the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, based in Minneapolis, Minn. until it relocated to Charlotte in 2003.

Through the BGEA he conducted his weekly “Hour of Decision” radio program and published “Decision” Magazine as well as producing television programs for Christian networks.

In addition, Graham wrote 33 books, including his autobiography “Just As I Am.” His last book, “Where I Am: Heaven, Eternity, And Our Life Beyond The Now” was published in 2015. 

In the 1960s, he ardently opposed segregation, refusing to speak to segregated audiences.

“The ground at the foot of the cross is level,” he once said, “and it touches my heart when I see whites standing shoulder to shoulder with blacks at the cross.”

Graham also was noted for consulting and praying with every U.S. president from Dwight Eisenhower to Barack Obama, who in April 2010 visited Graham at his mountaintop cabin in North Carolina. He also met with President Harry Truman in what was initially a contentious meeting after Graham spoke to the press, but the two men later viewed the episode as a humorous incident.

The White House later said Obama was “extraordinarily gratified” that Graham took the time to meet with him.

Graham presided over the graveside services for President Lyndon Johnson in 1973 and spoke at the funeral of President Richard Nixon in 1994.

On September 14, 2001 he led a national prayer service at Washington National Cathedral after the 9/11 attacks.

He and his wife were both awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1966.

But Graham found himself the target of criticism in 2002 and again in 2009 following the release of tapes of 1973 conversations he had with Richard Nixon that were critical of Jews.

He remained active well into his 70s but in recent years had been slowed by Parkinson’s Disease, which he’s had since 1992, and other medical problems.

His last crusade was in 2004. His elder son, Franklin, has long been expected to succeed his father as head of his ministry.

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Tom Cruise: Creator of Hollywood star’s viral deepfake warns people to ‘think twice’ over manipulated videos | Science & Tech News

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The creator of a series of deepfake Tom Cruise videos says he wants to make people more aware of what they are watching – and that it might not be real.

Viewed more than 11 million times, Chris Ume’s videos appear to show Cruise playing golf, doing a magic trick, and falling over while telling a story about former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

A deepfake usually involves an image or video in which a person or object is visually or audibly manipulated to say and do something that is fabricated.

Most people realised Ume’s videos were fake – but the 31-year-old says the speed the technology is advancing could pose problems in future.

Cast member Tom Cruise attends a news conference promoting his upcoming film "Mission: Impossible - Fallout" in Beijing
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The real Tom Cruise?

“I always try to make funny content, but at the same time, when people see these videos they realise and will learn what’s possible within the next few years,” he told Sky News.

“The tech is evolving rapidly and will get better and will become more accessible as time goes on.

“Twenty years ago you have Photoshop, you didn’t know about fake photos so they started editing photos, and now people realise – like photos – that videos can be misleading.

“So it’s important on my side to create awareness so people start thinking twice when they see similar videos.

“In a year from now people need to question what they’re looking at and it’s important for journalists to confirm their sources and where they got it.

“You will always have people misusing techniques, so you have to think twice when you look at something.”

The Cruise double, actor Miles Fisher, and Ume have worked together on a number of projects – but none as popular as this one.

Deepfake creator Chris Ume
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Ume says he wants to raise awareness so people ‘start thinking twice’

Ume told Sky News: “I’ve never had videos going viral as much as these have, so we were amazed. We really like the mystery around them and how they made people smile.

“To create a deepfake as realistic as this one you need two things.

“On one side a great actor who’s great at impersonating someone – Miles Fisher has been doing Tom Cruise for a while.

“And on the other side you need someone like me who specialises in deepfake and special effects and also the hardware.”

Other manipulated videos that have gained traction in recent years include a video produced by BuzzFeed featuring actor Jordan Peele’s realistic-looking impersonation of former President Barack Obama in 2018.

And last year, a deepfake Queen delivered a warning about misinformation and fake news in Channel 4’s alternative Christmas message.

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Eurovision 2021: Cyprus protesters demand withdrawal of ‘Satanic’ song El Diablo | World News

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Protesters in Cyprus are demanding the withdrawal of a Eurovision song they say promotes Satanism.

They gathered outside the state broadcaster with signs reading: “We’re protesting peacefully, no to El Diablo”, “Repent and return to Christ” and “Christ saves, Diablo kills”.

But according to the artist behind the track, entitled El Diablo, the song is not intended to turn people to the dark side, but is about an abusive relationship.

People protested outside Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation in Nicosia
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Protesters displayed signs including ‘Christ saves, Diablo kills’

Leaders from the island’s influential Orthodox church disagree and say it “praises the fatalistic submission of humans to the devil’s authority”.

They want El Diablo swapped with an entry that promotes Cyprus‘s history, culture and traditions.

The song, by Greek performer Elena Tsagrinou, includes the lyric: “I gave my heart to El Diablo… because he tells me I’m his angel.”

She says it tells the story of a woman pleading for help after falling for a “bad boy” known as El Diablo and that any other meaning is “unfounded”.

“In these Me Too movement times that message is extremely relevant and can be felt not only in Cyprus but also across Europe and beyond,” said Tsagrinou.

Despite the protests, the national broadcaster says the song won't be withdrawn
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Despite the protests, the national broadcaster says the song won’t be withdrawn. Pic: AP

The state broadcaster said the song would not be scrapped but that organisers could have done more to explain its meaning.

Last week, a man was charged by police over threats and a disturbance when he barged on to the broadcaster’s grounds to protest over the “blasphemous” track.

Cyprus’s government has even been dragged into the row, but refuses to intervene.

A government spokesperson said it “respects creative intellectual and artistic freedom that cannot be misinterpreted or limited because of a song’s title”.

Eurovision takes place on 22 May in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Last year’s contest was cancelled because of the coronavirus crisis.

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COVID-19: Greece invites Britons to start booking holidays as it targets 40 islands for vaccinations | UK News

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Greece’s tourism minister has said Britons hoping for a summer holiday in the country can start booking as it prioritises giving the COVID vaccine to the inhabitants of around 40 small islands.

The islands, which each have a population of less than 1,000 people, include Halki near Rhodes, Kastellorizo off the Turkish coast, Meganisi in the Ionian Sea and Kythira in the Peloponnese peninsula, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Larger destinations such as Mykonos, Santorini and Corfu will be targeted once Greece’s tiniest islands have been vaccinated, the newspaper said.

However, UK government has said the earliest date people from England can travel abroad for a holiday is 17 May – that is provided the four tests for easing lockdown are met.

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Halki island, Greece
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The island of Halki is among those being targeted for vaccinations in Greece

Greek tourism minister Harry Theoharis told the Telegraph: “If you’re going to send a medical team to an island with a small population, it makes sense to vaccinate not just the elderly and vulnerable, but everyone.

“We’re vaccinating everyone on islands that have a population of less than 1,000 inhabitants.”

Elderly people and the most vulnerable have been the first to be offered the COVID-19 vaccine in Greece, with Mr Theoharis telling the Telegraph it is now “a priority to vaccinate the tourist islands”.

“We want to vaccinate people working in the tourism sector, from hotel staff and waiters to tourist guides and drivers,” he added.

Mr Theoharis did not state when the vaccine rollout on the islands would be completed, saying the pace of progress “depends on how many vaccines we receive in a couple of months’ time”.

Meganisi island, Greece
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The inhabitants of the Greek island of Meganisi are being prioritised for vaccinations

He added that Britons wanting to enter Greece this summer will need one of the following: a certificate showing they have been vaccinated; proof that they have antibodies against the virus; or a test to show they are negative.

Mr Theoharis told the Telegraph that Greece would “try to make it as smooth and hassle-free as possible”, adding: “They can book flights and start choosing the places where they want to go.”

More than one million people in Greece have received the first jab of a coronavirus vaccine, with 356,000 people having had both doses, out of a population of 11 million people.

The number of coronavirus cases is still high in Greece, with 2,702 new infections recorded on Wednesday – a record daily figure so far this year.

Greece has eased restrictions for vaccinated Israelis and is discussing a similar arrangement with the UK.

The UK government is set to discuss with the EU the bloc’s proposals to create a vaccine passport that could allow people to travel more freely in time for the summer holidays.

The EU-wide “digital green pass” would provide proof a person has been vaccinated, as well as test results for those not yet inoculated and information on recovery for people who have had COVID-19.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the proposals for the pass, which will “respect data protection, security and privacy”, will be set out this month.

Compared to the UK, the EU’s rollout of coronavirus vaccines has been slow.

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EU leaders agreed last month to work on vaccine certificates, with southern European countries including Spain and Greece pushing to unlock tourism this summer.

However, a number of nations say before that, it needs to be established that vaccinated people cannot transmit COVID-19 to others.

Some countries, such as France and Belgium, have also expressed concern that easing travel only for inoculated people would be unfair.

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