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Lady Gaga wins three Grammys, Michelle Obama makes surprise appearance

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Childish Gambino’s searing “This is America” became the first hip-hop track to win a song of the year Grammy on Sunday, while Lady Gaga dominated the early awards and former U.S. first lady Michelle Obama made a surprise appearance at the event.

Lady Gaga’s hit song “Shallow” from the movie “A Star is Born” won two Grammys, while the musician-turned actress took a third Grammy home for her “Joanne (Where Do You Think You’re Going)”, which won for pop solo performance.

Already a show with a strong lineup of female performers and nominees, the Grammys sprung a surprise by including Obama in an opening segment that also featured Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, actress Jada Pinkett Smith and host Alicia Keys talking about the power of music.

“From the Motown records I wore out on the (Chicago) Southside to the ‘Who Run the World’ songs that fueled me through this last decade, music has always helped me tell my story,” Obama told the cheering celebrity audience in Los Angeles.

“It allows us to hear one another, to invite one another in,” Obama added.

Rapper Childish Gambino’s “This is America,” about police brutality and racism, won the first big award – song of the year – as well as best music video, and best rap performance.

But Gambino, alter ego of actor Donald Glover, as well as Canadian rapper Drake and Kendrick Lamar, were among several influential stars who were no shows at the biggest night in music.

Their absence was seen as a snub of an awards show that has often shut hip-hop artists out of its top prizes, despite rap’s dominance as the biggest music genre in the United States.

Cardi B, who was to perform later on Sunday, could break that trend and take home not only her first Grammy, but potentially become the first rapper since 2004 to win the coveted album of the year award for her “Invasion of Privacy.”

Cuban-born Camila Cabello kicked off the televised show with a dance heavy performance of her hit single “Havana” with Latin artists J Balvin, Ricky Martin and Young Thug.

Folk singer Brandi Carlile, 37, was also among the early winners, taking two Grammys for her Americana music single “The Joke” and another for her album “By the Way, I Forgive You.”

An absent Ariana Grande, who pulled out of the show last week after a dispute with producers, won her first Grammy, best pop vocal album for “Sweetener.”

Slideshow (32 Images)

“This is wild and beautiful. Thank you so much,” Grande tweeted.

Rappers Post Malone (“Beerbongs & Bentleys”) and Drake’s best-seller “Scorpion” are also vying for the top prize. Janelle Monae’s “Dirty Computer,” country singer Kacey Musgraves’ “Golden Hour,” Carlile’s “By The Way, I Forgive You,” newcomer H.E.R’s self-titled “H.E.R.”, and the “Black Panther” movie soundtrack round out contenders for album of the year, which will be announced at the end of the three and 1/2 hour telecast on CBS.

Grammy organizers this year expanded the top four categories – album, record, song of the year, and best new artist – to eight nominees from five in a bid to diversify the contest.

Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus. Editing by Bill Berkrot

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Trump allows attorney general to declassify information about origins of Russia probe

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FILE PHOTO – U.S. Attroney General William Barr passes President Donald Trump as he heads to the podium to speak during the presentation of Public Safety Medals of Valor to officers in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., May 22, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday issued an order allowing Attorney General William Barr to declassify any information Barr sees fit during his review of the events that prompted the FBI to open an investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The order also directed leaders of the U.S. intelligence community and other departments and agencies to cooperate with Barr during his review.

Reporting by Steve Holland and Makini Brice; Editing by David Alexander

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Botswana To Resume The Hunting Of Elephants : NPR

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Elephants eat foliage at Botswana’s Mashatu game reserve in 2010.

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Elephants eat foliage at Botswana’s Mashatu game reserve in 2010.

Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Botswana’s government is lifting a ban that protected its elephants from being hunted, part of a series of decisions that could have lasting impacts on the country’s conservation efforts.

In a letter to reporters, the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism referred to elephants as predators and said their numbers “appear to have increased.” It said a subcommittee found that conflicts between humans and elephants had risen, harming livestock and the livelihoods of Botswana’s people.

The announcement marked a sharp departure from the policies of former President Ian Khama, who suspended elephant hunting after data showed the population in decline. The ban took effect in 2014 but did not stop hunting in registered game ranches.

In May, Botswana’s newly elected president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, made international headlines for giving three African leaders stools made of elephant feet.

In June, he requested a review of the ban on hunting elephants.

His study group recommended “regular but limited elephant culling,” in addition to establishing elephant meat canning for pet food and other products. Among other conclusions, it recommended the government expand Botswana’s safari hunting industry.

Authorities said Thursday that the government accepted all recommendations except the regular culling of elephants and the establishment of meat canning. “This was rejected because culling is not considered acceptable given the overall continental status of elephants. Rather, a more sustainable method such as selective cropping should be employed,” the government said.

Conservationists around the world took to social media to denounce the government’s reversal on elephant hunting.

“Horrific beyond imagination,” said Paula Kahumbu, CEO of the Kenya-based WildlifeDirect. She said hunting was an archaic way to address the problems of living with mega fauna. “Africa, we are better than this,” she tweeted.

German organization Pro Wildlife wrote that hunting was a bloody sport, “#cruel, outdated, unethical and often undermining” conservation.

Other groups celebrated Botswana’s announcement, including Safari Club International, a U.S.-based organization that supports regulated trophy hunting.

President Paul Babaz called it “heartening” in a statement. “These findings clearly show that hunting bans actually hurt wildlife conservation; hunting is the key to providing the necessary revenue to fund anti-poaching efforts and on-the-ground conservation research,” he said.

Fewer than 400 elephant licenses will be granted annually, the government of Botswana announced on Twitter Thursday. It said it was planning for “strategically placed human wildlife conflict fences” and compensation for damage caused by wildlife. All migratory routes for animals that are not considered “beneficial” to Botswana’s conservation efforts will be closed, including an antelope route to South Africa.

Northern Botswana is home to Africa’s largest elephant population, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The population grew steadily from 80,000 in 1996 to 129,000 in 2014.

It happened as habitat loss and poaching devastated elephant populations across Africa. Between 2010 and 2012 alone, poachers slaughtered 100,000 African elephants, National Geographic reported.

Last September, the carcasses of 87 elephants were found close to a protected sanctuary in Botswana. They had been killed for their tusks.

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With both Houses of Parliament in place, it’s all eye…

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