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News Making International Headlines: 1 April 2022

Bruce Willis Retires from Acting due to Aphasia Diagnosis

INTERNATIONAL: "Die Hard" franchise star Bruce Willis will retire from his acting career after being diagnosed with aphasia, a disease that is "impacting his cognitive abilities," his family said in a statement on Wednesday (March 30).

67-year-old Willis achieved initial fame for his role in the 1980s comedy-drama TV series "Moonlighting," before becoming most well known as the tough guy, action hero who shouted "Yippee Ki Yay" in five "Die Hard" films. The actor has appeared in around 100 films across his four-decade career, winning acclaim for roles in "Pulp Fiction" and "The Sixth Sense."

Willis has won one Golden Globe Award and two Emmys.

His family said in their statement that this is a really challenging time for them, and they will move forward as a strong family unit. They also thanked fans for the love, compassion, and support Willis continues to receive.

Aphasia is a condition that affects one's ability to comprehend or formulate language due to damage in specific regions of the brain. This includes the ability to speak, write and effectively communicate with others. Aphasia can occur following strokes or head injuries but can also arise over time due to brain tumors or degenerative diseases.

Willis had been especially active in recent years, appearing in eight movies released in 2021 alone. The satirical Razzie film awards gave Willis his own special category this year, nominating him eight times for "Worst Performance by Bruce Willis in a 2021 Movie." The Razzie Awards tweeted an apology on Wednesday after hearing about his diagnosis.

In 2006, Willis received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a Los Angeles landmark honoring legends of film, television, and music.

People Protest in Sri Lanka Over Electricity and Gasoline Shortage

INTERNATIONAL: Police in Sri Lanka's capital Colombo clashed with hundreds of protesters on Thursday (March 31), as public anger escalated against the government's handling of a worsening economic crisis.

Some protesters set fire to a bus in the first escalation of violence in Colombo since the economic crisis took hold in recent months. Another bout of violence broke out during a protest near the private residence of Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, which injured two journalists and four police officers.

Sri Lanka is turning off street lights to save electricity, a minister said on Thursday, as its worst economic crisis in decades brought more power cuts and halted trading on its main stock market.

The island of 22 million people has been struggling with rolling blackouts for up to 13 hours a day because the government states it does not have enough foreign exchange for fuel imports.

The power cuts add to the pain of Sri Lankans already dealing with shortages of essentials and rocketing prices. Retail inflation hit 18.7% and food inflation reached 30.2%.

A diesel shipment under a $500 million dollar credit line from India is expected to arrive on Saturday (April 2).

Water levels at reservoirs feeding hydroelectric projects have fallen to record lows, while demand has hit record highs during the hot, dry season.

The Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) cut daily trading to two hours from the usual four-and-a-half because of the power cuts during the rest of this week, but shares slid after the market opened on Thursday and the CSE halted trading for 30 minutes - the third time in two days - after an index tracking, leading companies dropped by more than 5%.

The crisis is a result of badly-timed tax cuts and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic coupled with historically weak government finances, leading to foreign exchange reserves dropping by 70% in the last two years.

Sri Lanka was left with reserves of $2.31 billion as of February, forcing the government to seek help from the International Monetary Fund and other countries, including India and China.

Taiwan Puppeteers Keeps the Art Alive by Turning to NFT

INTERNATIONAL: Taiwan’s longest-running traditional puppet television show is creating non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, to help bring their art form to a new modern audience and generate a fresh income stream.

NFTs are crypto-assets representing a digital item such as an image, video, or even land in virtual worlds, that exist on the blockchain and carries unique digital signatures that cannot be reproduced. The prices of some have risen so fast over the last year that speculators around the world sometimes "flip" them within days for a profit.

Pili International Multimedia, which makes films with puppets at its studio in central Taiwan's Yunlin County, says it wants to be a pioneer in using NFTs as another source of revenue.

Seika Huang, the studio's brand manager, said that the online world is developing so fast that they need to catch up by jumping straight in to fully understand.

Pili has thousands of glove puppet characters, a traditional part of Taiwanese street entertainment culture spinning colorful and highly-stylized stories of heroic courage and romance, often with martial arts.

The puppets are painstakingly created, and expertly maneuvered during the filming of the shows, with costumes that are sewn on and strands of hair meticulously put in place.

Pili said four of their puppet characters were made into digital versions and more than 30,000 of these have been sold as NFTs since their listing in early February. The company declined to reveal the profit-sharing with the market platform but said each NFT cost $40, translating to generated revenue of at least $1.2 million.

Huang, who said their initial listings had sold out seconds after launching on VeVe, is now working on transforming up to 50 other puppet characters into NFTs in the next two years - potentially another million-dollar revenue stream for the studio.

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