PHOTOS: 17 Mummies Unearthed In Egypt

“2017 has been a historic year for archaeological discoveries,” Egyptian Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani (center) said Saturday.

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Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

Officials in Egypt say they’ve uncovered 17 mummies in an ancient burial site, most of which are intact.

Egyptology professor Salah al-Kholi of Cairo University said there may be as many as 32 mummies in the underground chamber, Reuters reports.

The burial site, which sits about 26 feet underground, was first discovered a year ago by students using radar. It’s located in the Tuna al-Gabal village in central Egypt, about 135 miles south of Cairo.

Salah al-Kholi, an Egyptology professor who led the mission, said up to 32 mummies could be in the chamber, including mummies of women, children and infants, Reuters reports.

Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

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Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

Archaeologists believe the mummies are from Egypt’s Greco-Roman period, Reuters reports, though they have not yet performed dating. The Greco-Roman period began in 332 B.C. after the Greek leader Alexander the Great took control of the country; it lasted for about 600 years.

The mummies were well-preserved, which means they likely were priests or officials, the AP reports.

Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

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Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

Egyptian Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani told reporters that it’s the “first human necropolis” discovered in the village, The Associated Press reports. He said the excavation is only beginning and that the find “will be much bigger.”

Egyptian officials are hoping the find will boost tourism, which has taken a hit since the beginnings of the Arab Spring in 2011.

Archaeologists found sarcophagi made of limestone and clay.

Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

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Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

“2017 has been a historic year for archaeological discoveries. It’s as if it’s a message from our ancestors who are lending us a hand to help bring tourists back,” al-Anani told reporters.

The site includes two papyri in Demotic script, two clay coffins and six sarcophagi, the antiquities minister said, according to the AP.

Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

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Richard Spencer Leads Group Protesting Sale Of Confederate Statue

Richard Spencer speaks at the Texas A&M University campus in December 2016.

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David J. Phillip/AP

White nationalist Richard Spencer led a group of protesters who gathered Saturday in Charlottesville, Va. to protest the sale of a statue of Robert E. Lee that stands in a local park.

Spencer led a procession of white-shirted demonstrators through the city during the day, banging a drum and carrying Confederate flags. Spencer was also among a group of torch-wielding protesters who gathered in Lee Park that evening, according to the Charlottesville Daily Progress.

Pro white group flash march in

— Jason Kessler (@TheMadDimension) May 13, 2017

“What brings us together is that we are white, we are a people, we will not be replaced!” Spencer yelled as part of the daytime protest. The procession and gathering was broadcast on Periscope.

Later, a group chanted “You will not replace us!” in a darkened park. But the evening’s protest was brief. “After about 10 minutes, Charlottesville police arrived at the scene following an altercation between protesters. The crowd quickly dispersed with no further incidents, according to police,” The Daily Progress reports.

— Richard 🐸 Spencer (@RichardBSpencer) May 14, 2017

According to the paper, the Charlottesville City Council voted to sell the Lee statue in April, but a judge put a six-month hold on the sale earlier in May.

Spencer is a University of Virginia graduate who has helped popularize the term “alt-right.” He became well-known as an Internet meme after he was punched in the face on camera in January during President Trump’s inauguration.

Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer condemned the rallies in a statement on his Facebook page:

“This event involving torches at night in Lee Park was either profoundly ignorant or was designed to instill fear in our minority populations in a way that hearkens back to the days of the KKK. Either way, as mayor of this City, I want everyone to know this: we reject this intimidation. We are a welcoming City, but such intolerance is not welcome here.”

Arguments over removing Confederate statues have been heated, to say the least.

Southern heritage groups have fought in court to stop the removal of Confederate monuments in Southern cities.

Last week, workers in New Orleans removed a Jefferson Davis statue, the second of four statues currently planned to be removed in the city, NPR’s Bill Chappell reported. But they had to do so at night, wearing masks, after receiving death threats, Laine Kaplan-Levinson of member station WWNO added.

In a statement, the Sons of Confederate Veterans called the statue’s removal a “catastrophe,” and part of an “ISIS-like effort to erase history and culture.”

But many others find Confederate symbols racist and applaud efforts to remove monuments and flags.

“It is about a certain way of life that people have a nostalgia about, and that’s always dangerous,” professor Randal Jelks of the University of Kansas told NPR’s Sarah McCammon. “Because as I tell my kids all the time, the good old days weren’t as good as people claim they were, they just imagine them to be.”

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Automakers Feeling Squeeze From Investors Despite Strong Sales

Hyundai Motor Co. vehicles sit on display for sale on the lot of in the Van Nuys neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, U.S.

Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

After seven years of growth, the auto market is seeing weakness.

In April, sales were off by 4.7 percent. That’s despite the continued robust sales of highly profitable SUVs and trucks. That’s no big deal for an industry that just got off of two record seasons, but not so for investors.

The pain is being felt across the auto world.

This week, Ford CEO Mark Fields took heat for the company’s stagnant share price at the company’s annual meeting. While the company is the number one seller of trucks and SUVs, investors have been upset over the stock price given the market.

Bill Ford Jr., the executive chairman of his namesake’s company, tried to reassure shareholders, according to The Detroit News.

“We’re as frustrated as you are by the stock price,” said Ford Jr. “Most of (the Ford family’s) net worth is tied up in the company, and stock price matters a lot to us. We’re frustrated, but our business is performing well. We’re making investments both for today and for tomorrow, and I believe that’s the right thing to do.”

Ford has spent billions investing in new technology to prepare for the advent of autonomous vehicles, along with most of its top rivals. Michelle Krebs with AutoTrader says the industry is feeling the squeeze as it tries to anticipate change.

The problem, Krebs says, is that carmakers like Ford “have to continue to operate the current business, and set the company up for the future by making some investments, but who knows when the pay day will come.”

The problems go beyond Ford

Volkswagen continues to be under investigation. Most recently, the company came under fire for payments to a labor union leader. And the company appears to be on the verge of another round of layoffs as VW tries to overcome years of scandal and billions in settlement payouts.

Executives at global giant Toyota are predicting a profit decline for the second year in a row.

“In an environment where sales are stagnating, it’s tough that we need to invest in areas which won’t generate profits due to paradigm shifts,” said Akio Toyoda, the company’s president last week.

Toyota has been hurt, in part, as it shifts to build more trucks and SUVs, as well as invest in billions in artificial intelligence and other technology in preparation for autonomous vehicles.

General Motors is facing a challenge by activist investor David Einhorn, the founder of Greenlight Capital. Einhorn, a major GM shareholder, has complained about the company’s performance. He’s proposing to split the company’s common stock:

“GM’s shares are barely trading above their 2010 IPO price despite an equity bull market, and there is a significant gap between the intrinsic value of GM and its stock price. Accordingly, GM has failed to create much long-term shareholder value. GM can fix this!”

The criticism from Einhorn discounts that GM has been consistently profitable, partly because of the billions the company has been bringing in selling highly profitable pickup trucks. GM’s CEO Mary Barra has been praised by the industry despite the apparent weakness of her company’s shares. Joann Muller of Forbes writes of Barra on the company’s stock price:

“GM shares don’t show it — they’re stuck at 2010’s post-bankruptcy IPO level — but General Motors is a different company under Barra. Gone are the empty promises and arrogant bluster. With Barra at the helm, there’s a quiet confidence that if GM just sticks to its plan, good will eventually come. It’s a classic case of under-promising and over-delivering, as in the first quarter, when GM soundly beat Wall Street’s expectations with a 33% jump in net income.”

Why all the shade from Wall Street? While truck profits are the present, autonomous or self driving car profits are somewhere in the future.

“This has happened before”, says AutoTrader’s Krebs. “There’s always been the question of profits now or investing in the future. But what happens when Apple, or Tesla upends the industry.”

She says when, or if, that happens, who was profitable this quarter will seem quaint.

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Repercussions Continue From Global Ransomware Attack

A screenshot of the warning screen ransomware attack, as captured by a computer user in Taiwan, seen Saturday.

Mark Schiefelbein/AP

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Mark Schiefelbein/AP

The ransomware attack unleashed on Friday has affected more than 100,000 organizations in 150 countries, according to Europe’s law enforcement agency Europol on Sunday.

The malware, which locks files and asks for payment to unlock them, hit businesses and institutions across the world, including shipper FedEx, train systems in Germany, a Spanish telecommunications company, universities in Asia, Russia’s interior ministry and forced hospitals in Britain to turn away patients.

More than 200,000 people around the world have been affected by the malware, Jake Cigainero reports for NPR’s Newscast.

“The recent attack is at an unprecedented level and will require a complex international investigation to identify the culprits,” Europol said in a statement.

As employees return to work on Monday and turn on their computers, the number of infections could rise, the agency said.

The malware, which has been called multiple names including WannaCry, Wanna Decryptor or WannaCrypt, creates a pop-up window informing users that their files are encrypted and are no longer accessible — without a payment. Screenshots of the malware show an initial request for $300 to be paid in bitcoin, with a timer that says the ransom amount will rise if it’s not paid within a certain time frame, and files will be lost after that.

The hacker’s total take from the global outbreak, however, appears to be much smaller than anticipated. Security researcher Brian Krebs wrote that as of Saturday, evidence showed about $26,000 in payments to the bitcoin accounts associated with the malware. “One of the nice things about Bitcoin is that anyone can view all of the historic transactions tied a given Bitcoin payment address. As a result, it’s possible to tell how much the criminals at the helm of this crimeware spree have made so far and how many victims have paid the ransom,” Krebs writes.

“A review of the three payment addresses hardcoded into the Wana ransomware strain indicates that these accounts to date have received 100 payments totaling slightly more than 15 Bitcoins — or approximately $26,148 at the current Bitcoin-to-dollars exchange rate.”

A “sinkhole” that saves

A young security researcher in the U.K., identified only as MalwareTech has claimed credit for stemming the initial outbreak.

The researcher wrote a blog post detailing the creation of a new domain as a “sinkhole” for the ransomware. The malware attempts “to connect to the domain we registered and if the connection is not successful it ransoms the system, if it is successful the malware exits,” MalwareTech wrote.

The researcher added:

“[B]ecause WannaCrypt used a single hardcoded domain, my registartion [sic] of it caused all infections globally to believe they were inside a sandbox and exit…thus we initially unintentionally prevented the spread and and further ransoming of computers infected with this malware. Of course now that we are aware of this, we will continue to host the domain to prevent any further infections from this sample.

“One thing that is very important to note is our sinkholing only stops this sample and there is nothing stopping them removing the domain check and trying again, so it’s incredibly importiant [sic] that any unpatched systems are patched as quickly as possible.”

Version 1 of WannaCrypt was stoppable but version 2.0 will likely remove the flaw. You’re only safe if you patch ASAP.

— MalwareTech (@MalwareTechBlog) May 14, 2017

The ransomware exploited a security flaw in Microsoft’s Windows operating system. Microsoft released a patch back in March, but many users and organizations had not updated their systems with the the fix.

That prediction seemed to be borne out Sunday. Cybersecurity researcher Darien Huss, whom MalwareTech credited with assisting in stopping the first outbreak, tweeted Sunday morning that a new outbreak could be oncoming, as likely copycats released an updated version of the ransomware, without the previously used “kill switch.”

This could be bad, new #WannaCry#ransomware with new kill switch domain, I bet someone other than original actors did this and released

— Darien Huss (@darienhuss) May 14, 2017

Worldwide lockout

Any halting of the initial spread, however, does not help with computers already infected.

Students at universities in China were locked out of their work, including dissertations and thesis papers, according to Chinese media and reported by The Associated Press.

In Germany, train operator Deutsche Bahn wrote on Twitter that signboards in stations were affected, though no train operations were affected. French automaker Renault had to temporarily shut down manufacturing at plants in northern France and Romania, Reuters reported. Among others affected, according to Reuters, include:

  • Hundreds of computers at a hospital in Jakarta, Indonesia
  • telecommunications companies in Spain, Portugal and Argentina
  • signs at malls in Singapore
  • hundreds of hospitals in the U.K.’s National Health Service

U.K. politicians are harnessing the attacks to criticize the U.K.’s Conservative Party of Prime Minister Theresa May, which made cuts to the NHS system, Willem Marx reports for NPR’s Newscast unit. The cuts made NHS computer systems “outdated and vulnerable” to attack, critics say.

“Defence Minister Michael Fallon told the BBC that British authorities are spending more than $60 million on safeguarding computer systems,” at the NHS, Marx adds. “Mr. Fallon said the government had already identified cyberattacks as one of the three greatest threats to Britain’s security, and had pledged almost 2 and a half billion dollars to protect IT infrastructure.”

Ransomware is big business

Ransomware works by hijacking a person’s files and threatening to delete them without payment. The latest outbreak seems to be the biggest by far, though security experts have been warning about the risks of ransomware, especially to businesses, for some time.

A report by IBM in December found 40 percent of spam emails contained ransomware attachments last year, up from less than 1 percent the previous year. The technology has been “increasingly rampant since 2014,” the study says, though the concept goes back to 1989, “when PC-locking malcode was snail-mailed to victims on floppy disks.” The average ransom request is $500, IBM found.

The FBI said victims incurred costs of $209 million in the first three months of 2009, Reuters reported. The U.S. government says more than 4,000 ransomware attacks happen every day.

The government recommends reporting ransomware immediately to the FBI or the U.S. Secret Service, and advises against paying ransoms, saying that payment is no guarantee of recovering data, and that it only encourages further attacks.

The IBM study found, however, that seven in 10 victims end up paying to get their data back. The FBI says the typical ransom runs between $200 and $10,000. Of the victims surveyed by IBM, more than half paid more than $10,000 in ransom.

The government recommends strong prevention measures as the best defense against ransomware attacks, including: strong spam filters, making sure software is patched and up to date, using anti-virus software, and regularly backing up data.

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'SNL' Host Melissa McCarthy Brings 'Spicey' Back To Troll An Already Bizarre Week

“Spicey” hides in the bushes from reporters during a White House briefing, led by Aidy Bryant’s impersonation of Spicer’s real-life stand-in last week, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Saturday Night Live via YouTube/Screenshot by NPR

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Saturday Night Live via YouTube/Screenshot by NPR

Sean Spicer is back. And so, too, is Melissa McCarthy’s impression of him as the bullying, prop-wielding, obfuscating “Spicey.”

Though, chances are, SNL was going to center on the the fan-favorite character whether or not the real Spicer returned to the podium this week. But the fact that the press secretary made some comical headlines upon his return left no doubt about it — which only heightened hype for Saturday’s show. In the end, perhaps, the bar was set too high for the sketch comedy staple, that was to follow an already bizarre series of news events.

“I know we think this every week, but this week was crazy,” says Colin Jost, in kicking off Weekend Update.

You could say the show began even before it went live coast-to-coast for the first time on Saturday. On Friday, social media captured Melissa McCarthy’s Spicey — who often lifts up his podium and uses it to intimidate reporters — rolling through Manhattan traffic via motorized podium, yelling at cars to get out of the way. The scene was later broadcast in a pre-taped sketch Saturday night.

In the cold open, Alec Baldwin returned as President Trump in a take on a NBC Nightly News interview with Michael Che as host Lester Holt. But to Baldwin’s character, he was “jazz man,” “OJ” and “Tupac.”

The two sat down to talk about the week’s biggest news story, President Trump’s surprising and suspiciously-timed dismissal of now former FBI Director James Comey.

“Your staff has been saying all week that you didn’t fire him because of his Russian investigation?” asks Holt, to which Trump admits he fired Comey “because of Russia.”

“Wait so, did I get him? Is this all over?” asks a baffled Holt. But the host then echoes a voice on the other end of his ear piece, “Oh no I didn’t? Nothing matters? Absolutely nothing matters anymore?”

“Are you trolling us?” Holt asks. Either way, it was SNL‘s turn to troll the Trump administration.

True passion.

— Saturday Night Live (@nbcsnl) May 14, 2017

In a White House press briefing spoof, an unsmiling Aidy Bryant plays Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who stood in for Spicer as press secretary last week. Recent reports have questioned Spicer’s job security.

“Can you just do this full time?” the press pool reporters plead. “You are articulate and charming, whereas Sean is bullish,” a reporter adds. That comment sets off “Spicey,” who emerges from his hiding spot in the bushes, in a reenactment of this week’s true-story narrative. The Washington Post captured the bizarre Tuesday night scene, in which “Spicer spent several minutes hidden in the darkness and among the bushes” before he emerged and agreed to take questions from reporters, so long as the cameras were off.

President Trump’s surprise dismissal of Comey left the White House staff scrambling for hours to explain why. Spicer was not prepared to brief reporters. He refuted the way the Post “falsely described the situation,” according to Politico. As a result, the newspaper ran an editor’s note, to clarify he was not in fact “in” but “among” the shrubbery.

But in this sketch, McCarthy’s character is back to torment White House reporters, taking a fire extinguisher to the “liar liar pants on fire” reporter’s nether regions and hurls a pillar at another reporter.

An impatient Spicey ousts Bryant’s Sanders at the podium to reluctantly take questions, mostly batting down inquiries about Russian collusion. When words aren’t enough, McCarthy turns to a Russian nesting doll to explain the White House’s rank and file.

“The only Russian thing is my dolly,” Spicey says, holding the biggest doll, President Trump. That’s followed by “James Comey” as Jake the Dog from Cartoon Network’s AdventureTime. The next doll up is Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, presented as “Hillary Clinton.” Inside Putin (“Oops,” McCarthy says, swiftly tossing that doll aside), follows “Steve Bannon,” or Slimer from Ghostbusters. Ultimately, Comey’s firing is traced to “Trump’s good friend” Jeff Sessions who’s symbolized by Pikachu.

When pressed if Trump is lying to him, Spicer insists “he wouldn’t do that, he’s my friend.” Driven to ease his insecurity, the press secretary leaves the briefing in search of his boss.

He rolls through Manhattan traffic via motorized podium, promising to “talk better.” His journey ends at a New York golf course where he asks Baldwin-as-Trump: “Have you ever told me to say things that aren’t true?”

“Only since you started working here,” Trump replies. The two share a passionate embrace before Trump says, “Sean, kiss me… I’m famous, it’s OK.”

“No! Is this like The Godfather where you kiss me and no one ever sees me again?” Spicer asks.

“Yes,” Trump says.

Comedians and Trump critics who’ve used the president as the subject of a same-sex joke have drawn accusations of homophobia — most recently, Late Showhost Stephen Colbert who alluded to the common Trump-as-Putin’s-puppet criticism with a joke painting a close sexual relationship between the two world leaders.

Next week is the show’s season finale, with Baldwin already locked down to play Trump. And if Sean Spicer’s future as press secretary is in jeopardy, SNL fans may also see less of McCarthy.

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Can't Pay Your Student Loans? The Government May Come After Your House

Graduate cap weight pulls a student down a mountain.

James Yang for NPR

On Adriene McNally’s 49th birthday in January, she heard a knock on the door of her modest row-home in Northeast Philadelphia.

She was being served.

“They actually paid someone to come out and serve me papers on a Saturday afternoon,” she says.

The papers were from a government lawsuit that represents something more than just an unwelcome birthday gift — it’s an example of a program the federal government has brought to 19 cities around the country including Brooklyn, Detroit, Miami and Philadelphia: suing to recover unpaid student loans, like the ones McNally owes.

Every day, 3,000 people default on their federal student loans — and those lack of payments amount to an unpaid bill of $137 billion for the federal government. For decades, the government has tried to get borrowers to pay up by hiring debt collection agencies to call and send letters. But now the government is trying this new lawsuit strategy.

McNally filed for bankruptcy in 2006 and cleared out all her creditors — except for student loans, which are nearly impossible to get rid of in bankruptcy. As she and many others have found out, it’s not easy escaping federal student loan debt.

“Your whole body heats up with frustration,” McNally says. “I’m so frustrated over all this. It’s been so many years that they’ve been sending me mail and threatening me on the phone.”

In the last two years, more than 3,300 student loan borrowers have been sued after defaulting, according to the Department of Justice. In nearly every one of those suits, the borrower loses and the government wins.

What does the government win? A lien on the borrower’s assets — meaning that the debt is now attached to his or her most valuable belongings, like a home.

Jennifer Schultz, an attorney with Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, says that a lien traps a person, like house-handcuffs.

“I describe a lien as a kind of marker on the house,” Schultz says. “Any time a person tries to do a transaction involving their house — a new mortgage, a refinance, or if they try to sell it — they’re going to be expected to clear up any debt that’s attached to that house.”

The government has long been able to garnish wages, take income tax returns and divert Social Security and disability benefits. But targeting property is a way of applying even more pressure to get former students to pay up.

“It’s to try to awaken the avoider from their slumber,” says Drew Salaman, a debt-collection attorney in Philadelphia.

Salaman doesn’t work with student loans, but he’s familiar with debt avoidance. He says some of the borrowers are playing “catch me if you can.” These lawsuits ensure that people take responsibility for their debts.

“After all,” he says, “if we don’t have systems in place to recover debts, how can credit be extended?”

The end result of these suits — the liens — can be seriously threatening to borrowers. For many it’s a matter of housing preservation, says Joanna Darcus, an attorney on the student loan team at the National Consumer Law Center.

“For folks already living on the margins financially, the fear of losing that house can be palatable,” Darcus says.

Once a lien is in place, the government can force the sale of a former student’s home. That’s “exceedingly rare,” officials say, but it does sometimes happen.

The federal lawsuit program is expected to keep expanding, and with more than 8 million people currently behind on their federal student loans, it doesn’t look like the private firms will run out of work any time soon.

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Salvador Sobral Of Portugal Wins Eurovision Song Contest

Salvador Sobral of Portugal smiles as he speaks at a news conference on Saturday after winning the Eurovision Song Contest with his song “Amar Pelos Dois” in Kiev, Ukraine.

Sergei Chuzavkov/AP

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Sergei Chuzavkov/AP

The performance by Salvador Sobral, this year’s winner of the Eurovision Song Contest, was different than the others.

Most of the performances are noted for a lot of glitz and being pretty cheesy.

Twenty-five competitors carried on that tradition this year — performing on a wide stage backed by flashing lights, bursts of flames and other effects.

Sobral took a different take in his performance on Saturday — singing from a small elevated circle in the middle of the crowd.

His Song “Amar Pelos Dois” — “Love For Both” — struck an intimate chord with the audience.

While accepting the award, Sobral said, “Music is not fireworks, music is feeling.”

Kristian Kostov of Bulgaria was runner-up and Moldova’s Sunstroke Project finished third.

The early favorite, Francesco Gabbani of Italy, finished sixth.

This is the 62nd year for Eurovision which was started to bring recently warring European countries together.

This year’s contest was hosted by Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, and it was not without controversy.

The Associated Press reports:

“Russia’s participation was scuttled by host Ukraine over the two nations’ diplomatic and military conflict.

“Russia is one of Eurovision’s heavy hitters, tied with Sweden for the most top-five finishes this century. But this year’s Russian entrant, Yuliya Samoylova, was blocked from competing by Ukraine because she had toured in Crimea after Russia’s 2014 annexation of the peninsula.

“In response, Russia’s state-owned Channel 1 television is refusing to broadcast the contest, replacing Saturday’s final with a screening of the film “Alien.”

“The Moscow-Kiev split is a headache for Eurovision’s producer, the European Broadcasting Union, which strives mightily to keep pop and politics separate. Overtly political flags and banners are banned, and lyrics are monitored for provocative content.

“In 2009, the EBU nixed the Georgian entry “We Don’t Wanna Put In,” a dig at Russian President Vladimir Putin. The union, however, has been criticized for not barring “1944” last year, allowing Russia-Ukraine tensions to fester.”

Eurovision has a major following, and it has helped to boost the careers of many performers — including Sweden’s ABBA which won in 1974 with the song “Waterloo.”

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