At just 16 years old, Black-ish actress Marsai Martin has an impressive resume that includes countless acting roles and even a gig as an executive producer on a film in which she starred. Now, she’s ready to use her platform to lift up the voices of people even younger than her, explaining to Yahoo Entertainment that the perspective of youth is just what the world needs.
“Kids just wanna do what they love and really use their creative minds for the greater good. And for me, that’s all that I stand for and that’s what I love to do the most,” Martin says.
In her latest project, with the creators of the famous “Got milk?” campaigns, Martin is encouraging kids of all ages — including the Shirley Temple King — to share their perspective of the world in a video series called “Glass Half Full News.” With this, Martin hopes that the younger generations can learn what she’s discovered about the importance of using their voices. She explains that she came to this understanding herself as she used her acting platform to share issues that she cares most about.
“Wow, I can really do something like this and use my voice for positivity and do it more often so other kids can see that it’s not hard, it’s not bad,” she says, reflecting on her own experiences. “Just be comfortable in who you are and do what makes you happy.”
She admits that finding the confidence to speak out about certain issues, and to do so confidently, may be easier said than done, especially during a time characterized by uncertainties — caused both by the pandemic and the ongoing fight for racial justice. “What do I do next?” she asks herself a lot. “With 2020 itself, it’s very tough to figure out what’s next for the world. Or, I mean, for America.”
It’s during this difficult period, however, that Martin says she’s learned to focus most on her mental health and the things that make her happy — a necessary reminder for the young working actress.
“Sometimes you kinda feel lost. But being with your friends and family actually reminds you where you came from and actually remembering why you’re doing the things that you’re doing,” she explains. “The waves may crash at you, but you just gotta beware that you keep your balance and that you always keep a good balance for yourself mentally.”
Video produced by Gisselle Bances
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Conjoined twins are successfully separated after being locked in embrace
After Phil and Alyson Irwin found out she was pregnant with their second child, they thought “a very big boy” was going to follow their first daughter, Kennedy. But in February 2019, at the 20-week checkup, they learned they were expecting identical twin girls — who were conjoined at the chest.
The odds were at least 1 in 50,000, and with a Google search that night, the parents from Petersburg, Michigan, quickly learned that most conjoined twins are either stillborn or die shortly after birth.
“I had the hardest time wrapping my head around the numbers,” Phil Irwin, 32, told TODAY.
After getting the news, the Irwins were referred to specialists at the University of Michigan, who thought they might be able to help.
“It went from being very devastating to, ‘Well, maybe there’s a chance,’ at least in my head,” Phil said. “It felt like no hope to at least a glimmer of hope that things could go well.”
Around when Alyson was 25 weeks pregnant, an echocardiogram revealed that separation of their twin daughters would be possible.
“They were able to tell that the hearts were very, very close, but they were separate,” Alyson Irwin, 33, told TODAY. “That was the deciding factor for a lot of people. That they had separate hearts, it was a possibility.”
Still, it was unclear if the girls would be able to breathe normally, if separated. The Irwins were initially told their daughters might “only be able to survive on a ventilator,” Alyson recalled, but then, Dr. George Mychaliska, a fetal and pediatric surgeon at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, said he thought he could help.
“It just felt like the biggest roller coaster,” Alyson added. “(It was) like an emotional whiplash day. … There was a huge possibility of stillbirth or not making it to full term, so for me it was hard to get too excited or too hopeful.”
Sarabeth and Amelia Irwin were born via cesarean section in June 2019 with separate hearts and digestive tracts but connected livers. They spent the next 85 days in Mott’s intensive care unit, and the separation surgery was scheduled for February 2020. But the girls got sick the week before, so it had to be canceled. Then the coronavirus outbreak hit.
“From the girls being born until February, I feel like we were mentally preparing ourselves for that day,” Phil said. “Then when everything else happened, we went back home and we had a pretty good pandemic at home.”
“We had a lot of really good family time together,” he continued. “We got to watch the girls grow and get so strong and so healthy that it made me feel really, really good leading up to the second scheduling of their surgery.”
For the medical team at Mott, the months leading up to the surgery on Aug. 5 were “a long journey,” Mychaliska told TODAY. “Dozens of people from seemingly obscure areas of the health system (participated) in this project. … We had to innovate in terms of all of the monitoring and data capture to have two patients in one room, which is obviously highly unusual.”
Mychaliska added that the “biggest unknown” was whether they could reconstruct the girls’ chest walls in a way that allowed them to breathe independently. But thanks to titanium plates covered with soft tissues and skin, the end result worked “beautifully,” he said.
The successful separation surgery, which took 11 hours, is the first of its kind at Mott and, it’s believed, in Michigan history, according to University of Michigan Medicine.
The twins stayed at the hospital for a month following surgery, and went home in early September. In that short time, the Irwins have gotten to watch their daughters develop as individuals. The parents always knew the twins’ had distinct personalities, but watching Sarabeth “shine” has been the “biggest surprise,” Phil said.
“Amelia is a little bit of a princess or a diva,” he joked. “She wears all of her emotions right on her sleeve. There’s no hiding how Amelia feels. … Now that they’re separate, it’s so funny to see Sarabeth’s quirky personality … just physically, emotionally and mentally, how goofy that little girl really is.”
Conjoined twins who survive separation surgeries often fall behind on developmental milestones, but Mychaliska said that they’re catching up quickly and “look fantastic. … It still seems a bit surreal that they’re separated. It’s overwhelming but in a very positive way.”
The girls are already “so fast” with their crawling and scooting, Phil said. “It was like they’d been weight training for 15 months, carrying double the body weight.”
According to Mychaliska, Sarabeth and Amelia’s current prognosis is “very favorable for a normal life.”
Or in their dad’s words? “If you didn’t know the girls before August, you’d have a hard time believing that they had been conjoined,” he said.
China to let in more foreigners as virus recedes
BEIJING (AP) — Foreigners holding certain types of visas and residence permits will be permitted to return to China starting next week as the threat of coronavirus continues to recede.
The new regulation lifts a months-long blanket suspension covering most foreigners apart from diplomats and those in special circumstances.
Beginning Monday, foreign nationals holding valid Chinese visas and residence permits for work, personal matters and family reunions will be permitted to enter China without needing to apply for new visas, according to the regulation.
Those whose permits have expired can reapply. Returnees must undergo two weeks of quarantine and follow other anti-epidemic measures, the regulation said.
Some exceptions may still be made, with the foreign ministry communicating to some journalists that the regulation may not apply to them. Journalist visas have recently opened up as a new front in the diplomatic confrontation between Washington and Beijing.
The announcement was made jointly by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Immigration Administration on Wednesday.
China announced seven new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, all of them imported, marking 39 days since the country has reported a case of domestic transmission. China has confirmed 85,314 cases of COVID-19 since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
In other developments around the Asia-Pacific region:
— India reported another 86,508 new coronavirus cases, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi sees little merit in imposing even short local lockdowns. India now has confirmed more than 5.7 million cases, the second-most in the world. The Health Ministry also said Thursday that 1,129 more people have died, for a total of 91,149. India’s junior Railways Minister Suresh Angadi died on Wednesday, nearly two weeks after he was admitted to a New Delhi hospital with COVID-19. He was the first federal minister and the fourth Indian lawmaker to die from the disease. Modi on Wednesday decried short, local lockdowns imposed in some places and said the country needs to not only keep fighting the virus, but also move ahead boldly on the economic front. He asked states to focus on testing, tracing, treatment and surveillance. He said lockdown restrictions hit smooth movement of goods and services, including medical supplies.
— Auto executives have flown in early to wait out a coronavirus quarantine ahead of the Beijing auto show, the year’s biggest sales event for a global industry that is struggling with tumbling sales and layoffs. Others plan to hold news conferences by video link from their home countries during the show, which begins Saturday. Brands are going ahead with plans to unveil new models in a sign of the importance of China’s market, the world’s biggest. Sales have revived while U.S. and European demand remains weak. Organizers say they will impose intensive anti-disease controls on crowds and monitor visitors and employees for signs of infection.
— Leaders from nations large and small are criticizing the haphazard response to a microscopic virus that unleashed economic havoc and has taken nearly 1 million lives while continuing to claim more. Kazakhstan’s president called it “a critical collapse of global cooperation.” The coronavirus pandemic and its consequences topped the list of concerns shared Wednesday at the General Assembly’s first virtual high-level meeting.
Trump bars Americans from staying at 400+ Cuban hotels believed to be under government control
Americans visiting Cuba are going to be prohibited from staying at 433 hotels that are believed to be owned or controlled by the government or “certain well-connected insiders,” the State Department announced Wednesday.
The order was taken as part of a broader effort announced by President Donald Trump to tighten restrictions on the Cuban government, a sharp reversal from the more open policies toward the island nation under President Barack Obama.
“Today we reaffirm our ironclad solidarity with the Cuban people and our eternal conviction that freedom will prevail over the sinister forces of communism and evil in many different forms,” Trump said in remarks meant to honor veterans of the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, in which Cuban exiles attempted to launch an invasion of their homeland. “Today we declare America’s unwavering commitment to a free Cuba.”
The sanctions come amid a tight race for the presidency ahead of the Nov. 3 election in the critical swing state of Florida where Cuban-Americans are an important voting bloc.
In announcing the list of hotels, the State Department said the profits from them “disproportionately benefit the Cuban government, all at the expense of the Cuban people, who continue to face repression at the hands of the regime.”
Instead, the department urged travelers to stay at casas particulares, private accommodations owned by “legitimately independent entrepreneurs.”
The order will likely encourage more Cubans to rent rooms or residences through services like Airbnb, said John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council in New York.
In addition, it could entice the Cuban government to sell hotels to some of the foreign companies that currently have management contracts to run them, taking them off the list and thus making them able to book U.S. visitors again, Kavulich said.
But with the list limited the number of accommodations for Americans in Cuba, it may force airlines to cut their flight schedules there as well, he added.
The order also prohibits Americans from bringing home Cuban rum or cigars.
The Trump administration has taken several steps to isolate Cuba. In June 2019, it stopped cruise ships from visiting the island, which had been allowed since 2016 following the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries two years earlier. That October, it banned flights to all Cuban cities but the capital, Havana. Earlier this summer, it ordered Marriott to close its Four Points Sheraton hotel in Havana.
Legally, U.S. travelers can still visit Cuba under specific conditions:
Official U.S. government business
Professional research and meetings
Educational activities (like those from U.S. academic institutions and secondary schools)
Support for the Cuban people
The battle for Florida: Trump courts Latino votes in Miami as campaigns enter final stretch
Marriott exits Cuba: Trump administration orders Marriott to shutter Cuba hotel by end of August
Visiting Cuba: How can you still go to Cuba despite new U.S. travel restrictions?
Contributing: Jayme Deerwester and David Oliver, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Cuba: Trump bars American travelers from more than 400 hotels
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