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Tearful reunions, music comebacks and pop freedom: 2021 showbiz stories

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From the return of cinema’s favourite spy to “Friends” reuniting, an array of stories dominated entertainment news headlines this year. Below are some of the biggest stories.

* After several delays, the release of James Bond movie “No Time To Die” gave pandemic-hit cinemas a much-needed boost.

Studios shuffled schedules and in some cases, films were released simultaneously in cinemas and on streaming platforms.

New York’s Broadway and London’s West End re-opened, albeit with COVID safety measures in place. Live music also returned.

* Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish took the top prizes at the Grammy Awards while Beyonce became the most awarded female artist in Grammy history, with a total 28 wins.

The Oscars saw “Nomadland” scoop best picture and best director for Chinese-born Chloe Zhao, making her the first Asian woman and only the second woman ever to win the prize.

* U.S. television network NBC dropped its broadcast of the 2022 Golden Globes after a backlash over the ethics of the HFPA group which hands out the annual film and television awards and its lack of diversity. The group has said it has made sweeping changes and will hold its ceremony in January.

* Now living in California, Prince Harry and wife Meghan sent shock waves when, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Meghan accused Britain’s royal family of raising concerns about how dark the skin of the couple’s first child would be.

She said the stress of life as a royal newlywed had pushed her to the brink of suicide.

* Pop star Britney Spears regained control of her personal life and money when a judge ended a 13-year conservatorship after a long legal battle.

* Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed when a gun held by actor Alec Baldwin fired off a live bullet on the set of Western “Rust”. Baldwin said the revolver went off when he was cocking the gun. The incident is being investigated.

* Ten people died in a stampede at Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival in Houston. Lawsuits were filed against the rapper and promoters.

* On television, the cast of “Friends” reunited for a tearful TV special. South Korean Netflix series “Squid Game” became a global sensation.

* In music, ABBA released their first album in 40 years. Adele stormed the charts with comeback record “30”. Swift released re-recorded albums to take back control of her early catalogue.

* Billionaire Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, now known as Ye, announced their divorce. Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck rekindled their romance after nearly 20 years.

* Criminal cases during the #MeToo era saw former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein extradited from New York to Los Angeles to face trial on rape and sexual assault charges.

Singer R. Kelly was convicted by a federal jury of sex trafficking.

* The world said goodbye to Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, actors Christopher Plummer, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Cicely Tyson, Helen McCrory and Olympia Dukakis, comedian Jackie Mason, rapper DMX, The Supremes co-founder Mary Wilson, TV interviewer Larry King, Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, fashion designers Alber Elbaz and Virgil Abloh and composers Stephen Sondheim and Mikis Theodorakis. Record producer Phil Spector died in prison.

 

(Compiled by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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Spotify removing Neil Young’s music after his Joe Rogan ultimatum

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Neil Young’s music is being removed from Spotify‘s streaming service after the singer-songwriter objected to his songs playing on the same platform that offers Joe Rogan’s podcast, the company and the musician said on Wednesday.

Earlier this week, Young had released a letter addressed to his manager and record label, Warner Music Group, demanding that Spotify no longer carry his music because he said Rogan spreads misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.

On Wednesday, the “Heart of Gold” and “Rocking In the Free World” singer thanked his record label for “standing with me in my decision to pull all my music from Spotify,” and he encouraged other musicians to do the same.

“Spotify has become the home of life threatening COVID misinformation,” he said on his website. “Lies being sold for money.”

The Swedish company said it worked to balance “both safety for listeners and freedom for creators” and had removed more than 20,000 podcast episodes related COVID-19 in accordance with its “detailed content policies.”

“We regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify, but hope to welcome him back soon,” Spotify said in a statement.

Rogan, 54, is the host of “The Joe Rogan Experience,” the top-rated podcast on Spotify, which holds exclusive rights to the program.

He has stirred controversy with his views on the pandemic, government mandates and vaccines to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Earlier this month, 270 scientists and medical professionals signed a letter urging Spotify to take action against Rogan, accusing him of spreading falsehoods on the podcast.

Young, 76, said Spotify accounted for 60% of the streaming of his music to listeners around the world. The removal is “a huge loss for my record company to absorb,” he said.

 

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Dawn Chmielewski in Los Angeles and Yuvraj Malik in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath and Alistair Bell)

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YouTube permanently bans Fox News host Dan Bongino

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Fox News Channel host Dan Bongino on Wednesday became among the most-followed conservative personalities to be permanently banned from YouTube, a week after the Google-owned video service said he had posted COVID-19 misinformation.

YouTube suspended one of Bongino’s YouTube channels on Jan. 20 after he posted a video where he questioned the effectiveness of using masks against the coronavirus, a violation of the company’s pandemic-related misinformation policy. His later attempt to circumvent that one-week suspension by posting from another channel triggered a permanent ban, YouTube said.

“When a channel receives a strike, it is against our Terms of Service to post content or use another channel to circumvent the suspension,” YouTube said in a statement. “If a channel is terminated, the uploader is unable to use, own or create any other YouTube channels.”

The video giant has added more rules around COVID-19 content as the pandemic has worn on. Last September, it banned conservative commentators such as Joseph Mercola and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for spreading misinformation about vaccines.

Bongino did not respond to a request for comment sent to his website on Wednesday. But he said on Twitter last week that the suspension did not surprise him and that he planned to continue posting videos on Rumble, a YouTube-style service popular among conservatives. Bongino wrote that he had double the number of followers on Rumble as on YouTube.

His Dan Bongino Show channel on YouTube had 882,000 subscribers and nearly 1,100 uploads since it was created in 2013, according to tracker Social Blade.

 

(Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

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Book the lynching and alert the media!: Sally Barnes | Commentary – Huntsville Doppler – Huntsville Doppler

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I’ve changed during and because of this pandemic. Sadly, so has my country.

Like so many others, thanks to a throng of scientific experts and lawmakers, I have become a recluse.

Our dining room—the scene of so many wonderful gatherings of family and friends over the years—is deserted. Candles remain unlit. Cherished dishes haven’t seen the light of day in months. Silverware cries out for polishing but who’s to see it or use it? Nobody. 

With the odd visitor we’re allowed, we eat at the kitchen table.

If this continues much longer I fear we will become “sink eaters”. I first heard that expression from a Maritime friend to describe how, following the death of her husband, she found herself skipping meals and eating at the sink as she mindlessly stared out the window.  

In my new life as a hermit, I ration my intake of news coverage and its endless account of death, destruction, and despotism. I avoid social media and its reminder of how bat-ass crazy some have become and the venom and hatred that skulks in the hearts and minds of many.  

Once an avid shopper, I have adopted a “grab and run” policy. Any necessities that can’t be delivered to my door, I gather by running into a shop, grabbing what we need, and getting out of there as quickly as I can. 

Sometimes, on my rare venture into the real world, I am approached by someone who greets me like a lifelong friend or associate and wants to chat. Damned if I can recognize them because of their mask. Some days I think they are maybe just lonely people hanging out in public places anxious to talk to anyone.

Here in Canada, because we are blessed with such resources, we will survive this pandemic. But I fear we will never be the same. Our weaknesses and failures as a society have been exposed, public confidence in our leaders and governments has been shaken, and you can cut with a knife the cynicism that exists about almost everything.

Every day we are reminded what a botch-up we’ve made of many of our democratic institutions and essential services.

The pandemic has exposed the fragility and shortcomings of our “world class” healthcare system and that it was a straw house just waiting to collapse under major pressure.

Overnight, so-called experts were brought in to respond to a pandemic, scrambled to do their best but neglected to consider what would happen if our schools were shut down or if we didn’t have the workers to staff the hospitals and stores and public services.    

The system for recruiting and training health care professionals is faulty and our immigration and regulatory policies are partly to blame. Thousands of additional nurses are needed while thousands of young people can’t get into nursing programs or others have foreign credentials ensnared in our bulging bureaucracies.

Education? Starved of funds for repair or replacement of crumbling infrastructure and the lack of measures like ventilation. Demand for reform and the new challenge of repairing the carnage of two years of online learning at all levels from kindergarten to our colleges and universities. 

Programs and facilities for the elderly are pathetic. Whom to blame?

The tsunami known as the Baby Boomers has had a major impact on society since the day this post-war generation came into the world. They have turned 75 and bring with them huge demand for costly health care and other social programs. 

Warnings that we were unprepared for the demands and needs of the aging population went unheeded and the first wave of the pandemic took a cruel toll on our seniors. Families stood by helplessly as parents and grandparents died isolated and afraid.

The pandemic has wrecked our economy, created a mountain of public debt, and exacerbated countless social problems such as addictions, family breakdown, mental health issues, joblessness, bankruptcies, domestic abuse, and criminal behaviour. It will take years to assess the damage caused by closing our schools.

The pandemic has left many of us scared and angry and seeking revenge.

It has set neighbour against neighbour and caused major rifts in families and workplaces.

Many of the rich got richer during this pandemic while most of the poor got poorer. People working for governments and their agencies kept their jobs and worked at home while family-owned businesses closed and many will never reopen.

We know that the pandemic has increased the spread of racism, misogyny, corporate greed, and lack of respect for our laws and standards of civility, the importance of public discourse, freedom of speech, and tolerance.

There is growing public anger with those who choose to remain unvaccinated and are driving virus-induced hospitalization all across Canada, holding the rest of us hostage in the battle to control and survive this pandemic.

Many of us know those whose diagnosis or treatment for serious illnesses have been postponed or cancelled because the unvaccinated have selfishly monopolized limited health care resources.  

A new poll out last week shows Canadians are in favour of harsh punishment for the unvaccinated. Maru Public Opinion found 37 per cent support denying them publicly funded health care and another 27 per cent say it’s okay to go as far as a short jail sentence.

C’mon people!  At the rate we’re going, can it be far off when lynching in the public square replaces movies on Netflix?

We need to distinguish between those who are vaccine hesitant and/or simply refuse the vaccinations and those who actively campaign against it, spread lies and conspiracy theories, threaten vaccine proponents and their families, harass politicians, media commentators and health care workers, and use other illegal means to further their selfish and deadly cause.

Extreme proposals like imposing special taxes on the non-vaccinated and denying them health care end up hurting the most vulnerable and will only widen prospects for opportunistic politicians to feed off public rancor.  

Every political party has its base of support and extreme measures are red meat for some politicians—especially those preparing for upcoming elections. 

Make no mistake—vaccine policy is a wedge issue that can win votes as it divides people and foments social unrest and loss of confidence in our democratic institutions. 

Here in this country, our political extremists are not as numerous, visible or obviously mad as in the U.S. but they are out there and influencing public policy.

Federal Conservative leader Erin O’Toole’s statement that the unvaccinated should be “reasonably accommodated” was at best a poor choice of words and at worst political stupidity. Laws, civility, and tolerance preserve our freedom to hold different opinions and to make different choices. But that freedom does not extend to endangering the health and well-being of others. Our courts seem to agree.

Rather than O’Toole’s appeasement and Justin Trudeau’s bad-mouthing of the unvaccinated, we need leaders who will do the heavier lifting of devising programs that actually work to get people vaccinated. 

Thanks to media coverage of our pandemic failings and high-profile issues such as residential schools, the world knows that we Canadians are not the ideal, polite and apology-seeking people as we were once known. 

But we remain a good people and a good country. A beacon of hope in a world gone mad.

The challenge is to learn from our mistakes and preserve our civility despite the challenges and pressure this damnable pandemic has imposed on us and our way of life.

It would be sad to win this battle but wake up from our hermit state to realize we are no longer the kind of society we and others thought we were.

That truly would be winning the battle and losing the war.

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