A+E Networks Pays Tribute To Jennifer Bulvanoski, VP Of Distribution

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January 19, 2021 11:50am

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A+E Networks paid tribute to Jennifer Bulvanoski, who died on January 11 after an illness. She served as Vice President of Distribution and made significant contributions to Distribution and Digital Content Licensing.

A statement released by A+E said: “A+E Networks grieves the deep loss of one of their family. A beautiful person who was a bright star in our lives, Jennifer Bulvanoski, passed away last week following a year-long illness.”

They added, “Jen was a cherished teammate and a dearly beloved friend for so many of her colleagues at the company. An exceptional executive whose warmth, humor and vibrancy were contagious. Her contributions at A+E Networks, and more specifically to Distribution and Digital Content Licensing, where she served as Vice President of Distribution, will live on for years to come. Jen will be greatly missed.”

“The A+E Networks family’s heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to Jen’s family, including her daughter and son, Macy and Riley; their father, Travis; and her mother, Jane.”

Friends of Bulvanoski also honored her on Facebook. In a post, a group of friends writes: “It is with heavy hearts that we share news of the passing of our beloved friend, Jennifer Bulvanoski on January 11, 2021. Jen fought valiantly for several months after being diagnosed with a serious illness earlier last year. It is not often that life brings us someone as special as Jen. She was a remarkable and loving mother, beloved daughter, and cherished friend. Her warmth, kindness, humor, determination and enthusiastic spirit made its mark on those who knew her and her smile will continue to be unforgettable. There are simply no words to adequately express our sorrow.”

‘Euphoria’: Second Of Two Special Episodes To Premiere Early On HBO Max

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January 19, 2021 11:34am

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The second of two special episodes of the Emmy-winning HBO drama series Euphoria will get an early premiere on HBO Max. The episode, titled “F*ck Anyone Who’s Not A Sea Blob,” will stream on HBO Max beginning Friday, January 22 at 9 PM ET/6 PM PT ahead of its premiere on HBO Sunday, January 24 at 9 PM ET/PT.

Directed by Euphoria creator Sam Levinson, the second special episode follows Jules, played by Hunter Schafer, over the Christmas holiday as she reflects on the year. Schafer serves as co-executive producer on the second special episode, which she co-wrote with Levinson. Both special episodes were produced under COVID-19 guidelines.

The first special episode, “Trouble Don’t Last Always,” debuted December 6 on HBO and had an early streaming premiere on HBO Max starting December 4. It was the No. 1 most social program on premium cable throughout that weekend, according to Nielsen Social.

Euphoria was honored with three Primetime Emmys this year, including Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series for Zendaya, along with Outstanding Contemporary Makeup (Non-Prosthetic) and Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics for Laberinth.

Euphoria is written by Levinson based on the Israeli series of the same name created by Ron Leshem and Daphna Levin, from HOT. Levinson also serves as executive producer alongside Kevin Turen, Ravi Nandan, Zendaya, Drake, Future the Prince, Hadas Mozes Lichtenstein, Ron Leshem, Daphna Levin, Tmira Yardeni, Mirit Toovi, Yoram Mokady and Gary Lennon. Will Greenfield serves as a co-executive producer. The series is produced in partnership with A24.

You can watch a trailer for the second special episode above.

A Nationwide Mask Mandate Could Add $1 Trillion To The US GDP, According To UCLA Analysis

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January 18, 2021 12:47pm

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Implementation of a nationwide mask mandate, combined with complementary public health measures, could reduce the coronavirus’ spread to essentially zero and have a potential $1 trillion impact on the U.S. GDP, according to UCLA Fielding School of Public Health researchers.

The team’s research “makes clear that even as vaccines are developed and new variants, like B.1.7.7, are being discovered, the power to protect ourselves remains in our hands, as individuals,” said co-author Anne Rimoin, a UCLA Fielding School professor of epidemiology.

“Wearing a mask is one of the simplest, most effective, and cheapest ways to do exactly that — and it’s been proven by the history of epidemiology over the past century, going back to the 1918-19 influenza pandemic and even before,” she said.

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“Reducing disease spread requires two things: limiting contacts of infected individuals via physical distancing and other measures and reducing the transmission probability per contact,” said co-author Christina Ramirez, a Fielding School professor of biostatistics. “The preponderance of evidence indicates that mask wearing reduces transmissibility per contact by reducing transmission of infected respiratory particles in both laboratory and clinical contexts.”

The findings — published in the January edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed journal — were the work of an international team of 19 specialists from UCLA and more than a dozen other universities and research centers, including Oxford University, the University of Cape Town, Peking University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of San Francisco.

R0, pronounced “R naught,” is a mathematical term that indicates how contagious an infectious disease is. It’s also referred to as the reproduction number. As an infection is transmitted to new people, it reproduces itself. Reducing reproduction to zero, in turn, could add $1 trillion to the U.S. GDP, the authors said.

“When used in conjunction with widespread testing, contact tracing, quarantining of anyone that may be infected, hand washing and physical distancing, face masks are an invaluable tool to reduce community transmission,” Rimoin said. “All of these measures, through their effect on R0, have the potential to reduce the number of infections. As governments exit lockdowns, keeping transmissions low enough to preserve health care capacity will be critical until vaccines can be developed and widely provided.”

To come to their conclusions, the team examined a wide range of new and existing studies and research, including work going back to a 1910 outbreak of plague in northeastern China. Even then, according to the researchers, scientists fighting the plague recognized that the cloth mask was “the principal means of personal protection.”

There is also ample evidence from the current pandemic, said study co- author Jeremy Howard, a research scientist at the University of San Francisco.

“By the end of June 2020, nearly 90% of the global population lived in regions that had nearly universal mask use, or had laws requiring mask use in some public locations, and community mask use was recommended by nearly all major public health bodies,” Howard said. “This is a radical change from the early days of the pandemic, when masks were infrequently recommended or used.”

The researchers came to a variety of conclusions, including:

-masks were 79% effective in preventing transmission, if they were used by all household members prior to symptoms occurring;

-the use of masks was strongly protective, with a risk reduction of 70% for those that always wore a mask when going out;

-transmission was 7.5 times higher in countries that did not have a mask mandate;

-the difference between U.S. states with mask mandates and those without found that the daily growth rate was 2 percentage points lower in states with mask mandates, estimating that the mandates had prevented 230,000 to 450,000 COVID-19 cases by last May 22;

-face masks have a large reduction effect on infections and fatalities, with a potential impact on U.S. GDP of $1 trillion if a nationwide mask mandate were implemented; and

-the marginal benefit per cloth mask worn to be in the range from $3,000 to $6,000.

City News Service contributed to this report.

Joe Biden’s Inauguration United We Serve Concert Lineup Includes Diane Warren, Chesca, Andra Day And Yo-Yo Ma

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January 18, 2021 12:33pm

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Flags are placed on the National Mall, looking towards the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial, ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
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Joe Biden’s inauguration concerts continue tonight with one tied to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, with a lineup that includes Yo-Yo Ma, Andra Day and Bebe Winans.

The event, scheduled to start at 8 PM ET, will feature a video from songwriter Diane Warren and Chesca’s performance of “El Cambio” (The Change), which Warren wrote and originally debuted during the Biden campaign and became an anthem. Adam Rifkin directed the video and Leah Sydney produced it.

Also on the bill for the concert, called United We Serve: A Celebration of the National MLK Day of Service, are Aloe Blacc, Rep. Sharice Davids, Rosario Dawson, Bernie King, Martin Luther King III, Rev. Al Sharpton, Sean Patrick Thomas and Lynn Whitfield.

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On Sunday, the Biden inaugural committee held a virtual concert that featured Cher and Barbra Streisand, among others, with most of the performers stressing unity amid political divisions. Warren told Deadline that she was looking forward to the next administration as Biden offers “a sense of hope and sanity, and intelligence, compassion and empathy.”

Biden’s inaugural committee also announced an additional slate of programming for Tuesday night, including three events highlighting diversity. They include the AAPI Inaugural Ball: Breaking Barriers, celebrating the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities; We Are One, celebrating Black Americans; and Latino Inaugural 2021: Inheritance, Resilience, and Promise.

The AAPI Inaugural Ball will feature Michelle Kwan, Kal Penn, John Cho, Kumail Nanjiani and Chloe Bennet, with performances by Japanese Breakfast, Ari Afsar and Raja Kumar. Also appearing will be Neera Tanden, nominated to be the next director of the Office of Management and Budget, along with Rep. Ami Bera, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Rep. Andy Kim and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi.

Terrence J will host We Are One, with performances including Tobe Nwigwe, DJ D-Nice, The O’Jays, Rapsody, Step Afrika, the String Queens and the Texas Southern University Debate Team. Also appearing will be Leslie Jones, Frankie Beverly, Stacey Abrams, Rep. James Clyburn, Cedric Richmond, Rep. Joyce Beatty, Sen. Cory Booker, Senator-elect Raphael Warnock, Kim Fields, Erika Alexander and Jason George. The event also will feature a “battle of the bands,” including a number of college marching bands.

Latino Inaugural 2021: Inheritance, Resilience, and Promise will be hosted by Eva Longoria and feature Lin-Manuel Miranda, John Leguizamo, Rita Moreno, Edward James Olmos, Ivy Queen and Becky G. There also will be performances from Gilberto Santa Rosa and Gaby Moreno, featuring David Garza, Emilio Estefan and All-Star Tejanos United – Stefani Montiel, Jose Posada, Shelly Lares, DJ Kane and Mariachi Nuevo Santander from Roma High School. Emilio Estefan produced a performance of One World, One Prayer by the Wailers, featuring Skip Marley, Farruko, Shaggy and Cedella Marley.

Juno Films Acquires Sundance Doc ‘The Most Beautiful Boy In The World’

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January 18, 2021 12:00pm

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Bjorn Andresen, ‘Death in Venice’ (1971)
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Juno Films has acquired U.S. and Canadian rights to the documentary The Most Beautiful Boy in the World, the Kristina Lindstom and Kristian Petri film set to premiere in the World Documentary Competition at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Produced by Stina Gardell’s Stockholm-based Mantaray Film, the film follows former child star Björn Andrésen who played Tadzio in Luchino Visconti’s 1971 film adaptation of Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice. Juno Films will release the film in theaters in May 2021.

The new film follows Andrésen, who was thrust to international stardom at the age of fifteen based on his iconic looks, as he wistfully reflects on his stardom. In 1969, Visconti traveled throughout Europe looking for the perfect boy to personify absolute beauty in the film, and a year later discovered Andrésen, a shy Swedish teenager whom he brought to international fame overnight and led to spend a short but intense part of his turbulent youth between the Lido in Venice, London, the Cannes Film Festival and the so-distant Japan.

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In 1971 at the London premiere of Death in Venice, the director proclaimed his Tadzio as “the world’s most beautiful boy.” Fifty years after the premiere, Andrésen takes us on a remarkable journey made of personal memories, cinema history, stardust and tragic events in what could be his last attempt for him to get his life on track.

“We filmed The Most Beautiful Boy in the World during five years in Stockholm, Copenhagen, Paris, Budapest, Venice, and Tokyo, following in Björn’s footsteps,” says director Kristian Petri. Co-director Kristina Lindstrom adds “It is a story about obsession with beauty, about desire and sacrifice, about a boy whose life was changed forever when the film director Luchino Visconti declared him to be the, ‘World’s most beautiful boy.’ Who was this boy and what happened to him? This film lets us listen to the boy’s own story. He, who was made into an image by others, an icon, a fantasy, which took over his young life.”

The deal was negotiated by Elizabeth Sheldon, founding partner and Chief Executive Officer of Juno Films. Film Boutique recently announced that they have acquired Worldwide Sales Rights.

 

Disneyland Paris Reopening Delayed Until April, Possibly Longer

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January 18, 2021 11:57am

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Disneyland Paris announced on Monday that the park’s reopening would be delayed until at least April 2. The park, which closed for a second time on October 29, had planned to reopen on February 13. The park was previously closed from March-July 2020, reopened, and then closed down again in April 2020.

The new start date will pertain, “if conditions permit,” according to the statement. The company then noted that in “the current context our plans continue to evolve” with the ebb and flow of the pandemic.

France stood on the verge of 3 million infections on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University. That makes it the 6th most-infected country in the world. The country, which has seen just over 70,000 deaths due to the pandemic, went under a 6 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew this weekend due to fears about the spread of B.1.17, the UK variant of the virus thought to be 50% more transmissible than the more common form of Covid-19.

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In a statement posted to Twitter, the company wrote:

Due to the prevailing conditions in Europe, Disneyland Paris will not reopen on the 13th of February as initially planned.

If conditions permit, we will reopen Disneyland Paris on the 2nd of April, 2021 and will welcome reservations from that date forward. Given the current context our plans continue to evolve, but please know that we will make every effort to provide updates as soon as it is possible.

Due to the prevailing conditions in Europe, Disneyland Paris will not reopen on the 13th of February as initially planned. If you have a booking with us during the closing period, please check our website for our latest commercial conditions: https://t.co/3c0DbxYPLC pic.twitter.com/yom7cB4it3

— Disneyland Paris EN (@DisneyParis_EN) January 18, 2021

Theme parks have been among the very hardest hit entertainment segment in the pandemic era along with movie theaters and live events. At Disney, Parks and Resorts has traditionally made up about a third of the company’s revenue, with the division seeing sales fall 61% in fourth-quarter 2020 from the year earlier.

Walt Disney said in November that it would terminate a total of 32,000 employees, mainly in its Parks, Experiences and Resorts division — including 28,000 already announced — in the first half of its fiscal 2021, meaning by March.

Other Disney parks that remain closed include Hong Kong Disneyland and the original Disneyland in Anaheim. A parking lot at the latter park has been turned into a mass vaccination site. Disneyland shut down its annual pass program this month citing “continuing uncertainty” created by the pandemic.

Walt Disney World in Orlando remains open, with Covid-related precautions in place. Ditto Shanghai Disneyland.

Maria Bartiromo, Brian Kilmeade and Trey Gowdy Among Rotating Hosts For New 7 PM Fox News Opinion Show

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January 18, 2021 11:51am

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Maria Bartiromo, Brian Kilmeade and Trey Gowdy are among the list of rotating hosts who will anchor Fox News Primetime, set for its debut in the 7 PM hour as part of a plan to fill the slot with opinion programming.

Last week, Fox News announced that the newscast The Story with Martha MacCallum would be moved to 3 PM. A permanent host will fill the 7 PM hour at some later date, but Kilmeade will launch the show with tonight’s telecast.

Also planned among the rotating hosts will be Katie Pavlich, Rachel Campos-Duffy and Mark Steyn. Gowdy, Pavlich and Campos-Duffy are regular contributors to the network; Steyn is a regular guest.

Back in October, Fox News said that they were planning new formats “as appropriate after the election.” But since election day, much has been made of the growth of Newsmax’s viewership, particularly in the 7 PM hour, as Greg Kelly Reports was a platform for pro-Trump guests to advance unfounded claims of election fraud. Fox News topped other cable networks in viewership last year, but CNN has seen gains post election. In the first week of January, CNN topped primetime with an average of 4.18 million viewers, to 3.78 million for MSNBC and 3.19 million for Fox News.

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Bartiromo, a fixture on Fox Business and Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures, has featured guests on her show such as Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, two of the highest profile figures advancing conspiracy theories post election. In December, Bartiromo, along with Lou Dobbs and Jeanine Pirro’s shows, telecast what amounted to a fact check of claims that had been made on their programs about Smartmatic, the election systems company. Smartmatic has threatened legal action against Fox News, Newsmax and One America News Network.

Bartiromo has defended her show, telling the Los Angeles Times last month, “This is the sitting president of the United States, and his attorneys, which up until recently included Powell, have a right for their side to be heard and state their case.” The Times was the first to report the news about her selection as one of the rotating hosts, something that would put her as a lead in to Fox News’s primetime opinion hosts, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. The Times was the first to report on the rotating hosts.

 

Netflix Earnings Preview: How Will Streaming Leader Fare Amid Rising Competition?

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January 18, 2021 11:04am

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Netflix will report fourth-quarter earnings Tuesday afternoon, closing the book on a coronavirus-altered 2020 and setting the tone for a more competitive marketplace in 2021.

The streaming leader has recently been the first entertainment company to report quarterly results, kicking off each weeks-long earnings season. Parents of new streaming rivals like Disney+, HBO Max, Apple TV+, Peacock and Discovery+ will soon also report numbers and shed some light on their progress.

As the global kingpin with 14 years of streaming under its belt, Netflix comes into earnings day with 195 million subscribers, more than double the count for fast-rising Disney+ and other competitors. The company projects it will add 6 million total subscribers in the fourth quarter, reaching 201 million. That would be an improvement over the 2.2 million it added in the third quarter and would be up 3% on a sequential basis. That is just half the rate of improvement in late-2019, when the company posted a 6% rise from the third to the fourth quarters.

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As to financial results, Netflix projects fourth-quarter revenue of $6.6 billion and earnings per share of $1.35. Programming highlights in the quarter include the fourth season of The Crown, the debut of left-field hit The Queen’s Gambit and original movies like The Christmas Chronicles 2 and Oscar hopefuls like Mank.

Investors have lately hit the “pause” button on Netflix shares. They have dipped 6% to start the year, ending last Friday at $497.98, a good amount below the 52-week high of $575.37 established last July. While bulls clearly outweigh bears on Netflix, many skeptics point to its recent price hikes and flattening growth in the U.S. as sources of concern. For years, the company had abundant running room as a pioneer, but now customers have a burgeoning array of choices, and other services are loading up with prestige titles, some of which are popular library titles taken back from Netflix.

Many Wall Street analysts have estimates slightly north of the company’s guidance, despite a “pull-forward” of subscribers during Covid-19 earlier in 2020. The company added 26 million subscribers in the first half of last year, nearly as many new customers as it signed on in all of 2019.

Morgan Stanley’s Benjamin Swinburne reiterated his “overweight” rating on Netflix shares, with a $12 month price target of $650. In a note to clients, he highlighted “ample free cash flow generation in 2022 and beyond” as well as a surge of more than 70 original feature films, which should reinforce pricing power. The company’s investment in local original programming around the world also offers a “long runway” for continued addition of subscribers.

Doug Anmuth of J.P. Morgan also reiterated his “overweight” rating, with a $628 price target. “Netflix is a key beneficiary and driver of the ongoing disruption of linear TV, with the company’s content performing well globally and driving a virtuous circle of strong subscriber growth, more revenue, and growing profit,” he wrote in a research note. “We expect Netflix to continue benefiting from the global proliferation of Internet-connected devices and increasing consumer preference for on-demand video consumption over the Internet, with Netflix approaching 300 million global paid subs by 2024.”

Disney has estimated similar numbers by then with Disney+, but churn and revenue per user are at inferior levels to Netflix thus far. HBO Max, meanwhile, is eyeing 75 million to 90 million subscribers by 2025, about two-thirds of them in the U.S.

One media veteran, Citibank analyst Jason Bazinet, recently recommended Disney as a better vehicle for streaming investment than Netflix. He maintains a “neutral” rating on Netflix shares and last week boosted his price target to $580 from $450.

“We prefer Disney for two reasons,” Bazinet wrote in a note to clients. “First, as a late entrant, we think Disney has a quicker and easier path to sub growth over the next three years. Second, we suspect Netflix may have some hiccups over the next few quarters as price hikes potentially dampen quarterly net adds, tactically disappointing the Street. Disney, on the other hand, is apt to keep prices relatively stable.”

Noted Netflix bear Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities recently issued a surprisingly upbeat assessment, at least by his usual standards. He said the company could be “on a path to sustainable free cash flow,” but he still sees its shares as overvalued. His 12-month price target is $235, with a rating of “underperform.”

While Pachter expects only 5 million new subscribers in the fourth quarter, well below company guidance, he says revenue should meet expectations due to price hikes. The most popular U.S. subscription plan went to $14 a month from $13.

He also noted the movie push to put more than one marquee new movie on the platform each week, which he called an “ambitious and costly goal.” Nevertheless, global expertise and a big head start managing originals and library fare have “resulted in the company maintaining its content quantity lead over its competitors,” he conceded. “We expect that lead to be sustained for the foreseeable future.”

‘American Masters’ Filmmakers On Historical Importance & Overlooked Contributions Of Black Performers – Guest Column

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January 18, 2021 11:16am

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(L-R) Lena Horne and Pam Grier from “American Masters: How It Feels To Be Free”
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Editor’s note: Yoruba Richen is the director and Mehret Mandefro and Lacey Schwartz Delgado are executive producers of American Masters: How It Feels to Be Free, a documentary that looks at the historical importance and overlooked contributions of Black performers. Focusing on Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson and Pam Grier, the docu — also executive produced by Alicia Keys — airs tonight on PBS in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Richen, Mandefro and Schwartz Delgado wrote this guest column for Deadline.

As we honor Martin Luther King Jr. this weekend and the nation prepares to inaugurate our 46th president, let us remember the Black women our Vice President-elect Kamala Harris described as “too often overlooked, but so often prove that they are the backbone of our democracy.” Specifically, let’s consider the all-too-often overlooked Black female performers, who have long used their art to challenge representations about Black people at a time when America was awakening to a new consciousness about what it means to be free. They sought to inspire Americans to see one another beyond stereotypes and showed Black audiences how to see themselves unencumbered by the burden of racism. We have made it the focus of our work to help bring to light the overlooked contributions of artists like Lena Horne, Nina Simone, Mahalia Jackson, Bernice Johnson Reagon and Marian Anderson, who advanced civil rights through the roles they played, the songs they sang and the influence they exerted over the political process and leaders.

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Yoruba Richen
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These and other Black women have stoked citizen engagement and encouraged everyday people to reimagine what is possible and helped make arts and culture essential to the Black freedom struggle. As the late American hero Congressman John Lewis said: “Without the arts, without music, without drama, without photography, the Civil Rights movement would have been like a bird without wings.” The singer, songwriter and scholar Bernice Johnson Reagon, an original member of the Freedom Singers, whose tours were planned and funded by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), sang songs to politically awaken the masses and to educate the Black community about their rights. One of their popular Civil Rights songs, “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around,” prods people to continue fighting for their freedoms. “Ain’t gonna let nobody, turn me around. Turn me around, turn me around. Ain’t gonna let nobody, turn me around. Keep on a-walking, keep on a-talking. Gonna build a brand new world.” Reagon described how singing these kinds of songs “not only pulled us together, but became our articulate collective testimony to all who stood within the sound.”

Mehret Mandefro, left, Lacey Schwartz Delgado
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What people see in theaters, on TV and in films is another uniquely powerful cultural force that shapes how Americans see each other, ourselves and the world. When Lena Horne, the first African-American signed to a Hollywood studio contract, insisted it include a clause that said she would not play the role of a Black domestic worker, she was using her art to reshape societal expectations about Black people. This revolutionary act was as transformative for Black audiences, as it was for the more general audience that had grown accustomed to stereotypical representations of Black people in movies. Cicely Tyson took this further by forging an entire career made of carefully selected roles like Rebecca Morgan in Sounder (1972), where she played a Depression-era poor Black mother for which she was nominated for an Academy Award, and the title role in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974), where she plays a character who begins her life as a slave and lives to see the end of segregation as a 110-year-old woman. Tyson imbued these characters with dignity and authenticity that was unparalleled in its depiction of humanity and described her work in Sounder as “the first Black-positive film which shows us as human beings and says something about the unity of the Black family.” Similarly, other artists like Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone and Pam Grier made cultural work that wrestled deeply with issues of representation and communicated the hopes and dreams of Black people in ways that transformed audiences.

For Black audiences that long existed largely outside of any mainstream gaze, these artists performed for them and to them in ways that changed the way Black people saw themselves. Nina Simone’s 1972 performance of “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” to four Black children on Sesame Street, while wearing an African gown, was a clear expression of her desire to use the song as a way “to make Black children all over the world feel good about themselves forever.” Where Simone was using her music to say something positive to Black children, Diahann Carroll’s performance as a single mother of six on welfare in the film Claudine (1974) was a critique of the welfare system and communicated to those in power that the ways in which welfare administrators policed Black households was unjust. Both representations were equally important in filling voids in the cultural landscape for Black people to be portrayed in more complicated and real ways.

These Black female entertainers exerted influence not only on their audiences, but also over important political figures. Mahalia Jackson, perhaps the greatest gospel singer of all time, often accompanied Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at his speaking events, opening for him, and prepared crowds to receive his words. So close was their relationship that when Mahalia famously yelled at the 1963 March on Washington, “Tell them about the dream, Martin!” it inspired Dr. King to ad-lib the most memorable section of that speech.

That was not the first time Martin had stood on those steps inspired by a singer. Another performer at the March on Washington was Marian Anderson, the pioneering contralto, who, on being barred by the Daughters of the American Revolution from performing at Constitution Hall because of her skin color, then performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday in 1939. Among the 75,000 in attendance for the free concert that day was a 10 -year-old Martin Luther King Jr., who heard Anderson perform her opening soul-stirring rendition of “America (My Country Tis of Thee)”, a stunning choice given the circumstances of her performance. The impression she left on young Martin Luther King would become clear when he cited her performance five years later in his first public speech at a high school speaking contest he won. The speech was entitled “The Negro and The Constitution,” and a section was devoted to Anderson’s performance. “She sang as never before, with tears in her eyes. When the words of ‘America’ and ‘Nobody Knows de Trouble I Seen’ rang out over that great gathering, there was a hush on the sea of uplifted faces, Black and white, and a new baptism of liberty, equality, and fraternity.” Singing to a nation that had literally denied her the stage, Anderson created an altogether new one that became hallowed ground for the civil rights movement and inspired one of its leading architects.

All of these examples demonstrate how culture helps us conjure new possibilities to practice freedom above and beyond what our individual horizons and collective circumstances allow us to see. In the words of writer-filmmaker Toni Cade Bambera, cultural work “makes the revolution irresistible,” and we believe this work is vital for our present precarious times. Let us turn toward culture to bind our nation’s wounds and do the everyday work of healing.

Sen. Josh Hawley Book Dropped By Simon & Schuster Lands At Conservative Regnery Publishing

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January 18, 2021 11:06am

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Conservative publishing house Regnery has picked up Sen. Josh Hawley’s upcoming book The Tyranny of Big Tech that was dropped by Simon & Schuster after the Jan. 6 siege on the Capitol. The Missouri Republican had repeatedly supported and gave voice to President Donald Trump’s disinformation campaign about vote tampering and election results leading up to the deadly attack.

Hawley, who was photographed giving a clenched fist salute to Capitol protestors shortly before the gathering turned violent, was dropped by Simon & Schuster on Jan. 7, with the publisher citing Hawley’s “role in what became a dangerous threat.”

Today, Regnery president and publisher Thomas Spence called Simon & Schuster’s decision an example of blacklisting. In a column published in The Wall St. Journal, Spence wrote, “We’re proud to publish Mr. Hawley’s book, which his original publisher has made more important than ever. We don’t have to agree with everything—or anything—Mr. Hawley does. We ask only if his book is well-crafted and has something true and worthwhile to say. The answer is yes.”

Spence, whose company publishes books by Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz, wrote, “Reasonable people can disagree whether [Hawley’s] act was noble or cynical, courageous or rash, but no one can reasonably argue that he intended to incite that afternoon’s invasion of the Capitol by a lawless mob.”

Simon & Schuster had planned on releasing the book in June, but reversed course after, the company said, “witnessing the disturbing, deadly insurrection…”

Hawley called Simon & Schuster’s decision “Orwellian” and “an assault on the First Amendment,” descriptions that were factually inaccurate. Both Orwell’s 1984 and the First Amendment address governmental control of speech.

 

‘Canvas’ Director Frank E. Abney III Talks First Time Seeing Himself On Screen, Crafting “Therapeutic” Animated Short & His Mission In Transitioning To Features

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January 18, 2021 11:00am

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With his first large-scale, animated short, Canvas, director Frank E. Abney III channeled the pain of a major loss early in his life into a work of art.

Emerging from a moment when Abney found himself stuck in a “creative rut,” the film centers on a wheelchair-bound grandfather who lives in solitude, following the loss of his beloved wife. In the aftermath, the one-time artist must summon the strength to return to his work as a painter, reconnecting with his family, and also with his one true love, on the canvas of his latest piece.

For Abney, creating Canvas was not only a form of therapy, allowing him to process a profound life experience. It was also an opportunity to amplify the voices of Black artists in animation, both on screen and behind the scenes.

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After working at Pixar for seven years—his last credit as an animator being Pete Docter and Kemp Powers’ Soul—Abney found in the short the opportunity to transition to Netflix, cementing his relationship with the streamer, with an animated feature he’s currently directing for it.

Below, the up-and-coming helmer reflects on the years-long process of bringing Canvas to the screen, and the kinds of projects he wants to take on, going forward.

DEADLINE: Can you tell us a bit about your trajectory in the world of animation, and how it led you to direct Canvas?

FRANK E. ABNEY III: As a kid growing up, I always loved to draw. My mom tells me I’ve been drawing since I was around two. I was always watching cartoons and movies, and I was captivated by the magic of animation, seeing these characters come to life that are made from your hand.

But what made me actually want to do it was The Lion King. I lost my dad when I was five years old, and I didn’t know why at the time, but I would watch it every single day after school, no exaggeration. That was the first time I really connected with a story on a deep level, because seeing Simba losing his father, and having those fears of oncoming responsibilities as an adult, that was me. That was the first time I really saw myself. I didn’t know I wanted to be an animator at that time, but that really launched everything for me, in terms of wanting to pursue this as a career.

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In terms of it leading to Canvas, there was a period of my life some years ago where I was in a rough space, trying to navigate the industry and questioning my part in it, and around that time, I was spending time with family. Kids have this carefree spirit about them, and watching my niece—how she navigated a room, free of all the burdens of the world—was really inspiring. It allowed me to take some of that and release some of this burden, and just shake it off, and kind of reinspire myself through that.

So, I was reinspired and invigorated to create something, but I wanted it to be something special. I learned, getting into this business, the power in creating stuff that’s personal to us, as artists, and with that, I wanted to pull from this loss that I experienced, and my whole family experienced. Through that loss, I was watching my mom and how she navigated [it], and I always questioned if there was something there that she may have lost, in the loss of my father.

During that time, I was also around my grandfather, and he was very quiet and withdrawn. And I was wondering, what’s the backstory of that, as well? So, just having these experiences with my mom and grandfather, and my own experience with loss, and my experience with my niece all allowed Canvas to start to take shape.

DEADLINE: The idea of finding ways to create art, even in the midst of great pain, feels particularly timely right now.

ABNEY: Yeah. That’s why I always encourage my students, or just people on social media to create, especially during this time, because it really is therapeutic. Animation, and just creating in general, it’s been my voice. It’s been my way of taking in everything from the world and expressing how I interpret that.

DEADLINE: What were your earliest thoughts, as far as how you wanted the film to look? What inspired you to bring the worlds of 2D and 3D animation together?

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ABNEY: Creating any project right now, I’ve been really trying to focus on making sure I’m creating something to represent my culture and where I come from, characters that look like me. We don’t see a whole lot of that in animation, so I wanted to make sure that I honor my responsibility, as a Black artist in this field.

So, I wanted to create characters that represent me. Also, with the main character, the grandfather, being bound by a wheelchair, I could have gone another route, having him walking and talking, and everything. But I wanted to do something that was, again, something that we don’t usually see in animation, and also something to tie in with his journey in the story of being withdrawn, and broken down by loss. [At the same time], in the film later on, when we’re suspended in that kind of dream sequence, he’s being lifted in spirit. But also, he’s able to lift himself out of this chair to greet his wife.

For the overall look, I love live-action films, and there’s a lot of reference that I pulled from live-action, in terms how of we handle the camera, and just the look of it, as well. I wanted to take some techniques, and some of the visual language in lighting, and transfer that into animation, so I linked up with DP Morgan Cooper. He’s from the live-action side of things, so we just talked about the camera, and lighting, and how he can handle that, and it was really beneficial for bringing something unique to Canvas.

As far as the 2D aspect, that was what I fell in love with, when I got into animation. So, that was my way of paying respect to 2D animation, by incorporating it into Canvas. Also, going back to that feeling that I’d had about that magical something, in seeing drawings come to life, I chose to use that medium for those sequences where it is either a memory, or some kind of dreamlike state—where it’s just something magical.

DEADLINE: How did you go about integrating 2D elements into the short?

ABNEY: It was all done digitally, using 2D animation software. The canvas texture, I added as an effect afterward, to have that quality, like it was on a canvas. That was something that I wanted to do early on, just as a tie-in to the grandfather being a painter.

DEADLINE: Was there a learning curve in tackling your first major short? What were the biggest challenges of the process?

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ABNEY: I’d say the biggest challenge was trying to navigate working on this film while everyone was working [elsewhere] full-time. I was working full-time, as well, so it was all off-hours. And when I started the film, I didn’t have any kids. [By the time] we finished, I had two, and so that was another aspect of navigating trying to create this film, was wanting to be present at home. I would wait until the kids go to sleep and then I would work on this, whether it was a few hours or 30 minutes—any bit of progress I can get.

DEADLINE: How big was your crew? And how long did it take to bring the short to fruition?

ABNEY: It was around 30 artists. [But] we grew some in the post-production process, and we had a lot of very talented musicians in, scoring the film. The film actually took around five to six years to make. There was the conception of the idea, and then there was a little bit of a pause, trying to work out how to do this, and start off getting some visuals together, so I can be able to recruit other artists. I went to friends, and then I went to social media, people online whose work I admired, and just reached out so we could try and get it started. It was really slow going in the beginning, but then after we started releasing artwork and getting more interest, it started to pick up.

DEADLINE: How did the film land at Netflix?

ABNEY: When I initially released the characters—I believe on Twitter and Instagram—just early design work, showing the models and what I was up to, I got a message [from] Netflix, just really showing support for what I was doing. So, I kept in touch over the years, just to keep them informed about the short. I knew in the beginning, with the work that Netflix was doing, that I thought it would be a really good partnership, if that came to be, and then it ended up working out.

DEADLINE: What were the highlights of your experience with Canvas?

ABNEY: I’d say it starts at home, seeing how my family reacts to it. That’s always going to be a part of me, wanting to make family proud, and I always have this image in my head of seeing my two-year-old daughter watch it, and how she was so engaged. I was surprised, with her being so young, and then after, when I’m showing it again, how she turned back and looked at me with her eyes bright, just this excitement. So, that was a major highlight for me, just my kids being able to enjoy something that I made.

DEADLINE: I know you’re currently directing an animated feature for Netflix. What can you tell us about your ambitions going forward, as a feature director?

ABNEY: As a director I want to make films that center on character and real experiences. Whether it’s sci-fi, or any other genre, it has to be rooted in something true to our humanity. I love character and character-based stories, so digging more into character and bringing something honest to the screen that can make you think, and take you somewhere through a lived experience [is the goal].

Garth Brooks To Perform At Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ Swearing-In Ceremony

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January 18, 2021 10:23am

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Garth Brooks will perform at Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday, joining Jennifer Lopez and Lady Gaga among the entertainers on the bill.

“In our household, this is not a political statement, this is a statement of unity,” Brooks said in a virtual press conference.

Brooks performed at a Lincoln Memorial inaugural concert in 2009, and told reporters that he was asked to perform for Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017 but had a prescheduled tour date.

Brooks, a Republican, said that incoming First Lady Jill Biden asked him over the weekend to perform.

He did not say what music selection he would be singing, but said that it would probably not be We Shall Be Free because he sang it at the Obama event in 2009.

The selection of Brooks signaled a desire among Biden’s inauguration team to feature a performer with a substantial fan base across the partisan divide. To reporters, Brooks stressed the desire for unity amid deep distrust in politics, saying, “I’m so tired of being divided.”

“There’s a common theme in every presidential election,” Brooks said. “New beginnings. New starts. We’re all together in this one, but truly I think the word unity, the word love, the word that we belong to each other. … We can’t just take extreme left and extreme right, because there’s a silent majority in the middle. It’s going to dwarf both of those.”

Brooks will be performing on the same stage that, just two weeks earlier, was the scene of a riot among pro-Trump demonstrators who, convinced that the election was stolen from him, stormed the Capitol. Five people were killed.

“It was disturbing. It was sad. Try to remember that we are the human race, so I’m always going to find sunny sides in there. …The fact that we do make choices very much on the spur of the moment. I deal in music. I deal in raw emotion. That is what music is all about, and all that passion, guided, misguided as it is, I think that you saw the human race at a time that, for me as a person, seemed to reflect some other country’s deadline, if that makes any sense. But it’s here, and all I can do is beg and plead for everybody to take that second, that moment, take a breath and think about it. Think about your family. Think about what the mark you’re going to leave on this planet as a human being, and with the children that you raise, and then make your decision.”

“So I think what happened was we saw people in the heat of the moment, and we’ve seen it on television before, but I’m with you. I felt like it was in some other country, but it was here. And now we deal with it, take responsibility, we claim it, and now we do our best to make sure something like that doesn’t happen again.”

Brooks will be performing for a vastly scaled back in-person audience than there was for the Obama 2009 inaugural events. But he called the opportunity to perform an “honor.” He’ll be seen by a viewership stretching across TV networks and online platforms.

“I might be the only Republican at this place, but it’s about reaching across and loving one another,” he said.

Riz Ahmed’s Productive Year: The “Tremendous Gift” Of ‘Sound Of Metal’, ‘Mogul Mowgli’ & New Album ‘The Long Goodbye’

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January 18, 2021 10:11am

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In a year that has stymied many of his peers, Riz Ahmed has been incredibly prolific, with two 2020 feature releases—Darius Marder’s Sound of Metal and Bassam Tariq’s Mogul Mowgli—as well as an album, The Long Goodbye, which came with a powerful short imagining life in a racist, post-Brexit Britain. If The Long Goodbye is a showcase for the sometime musician’s eloquent wordplay, the two movies offer some of his finest acting work yet, as a heavy metal drummer coming to terms with his sudden deafness in Sound of Metal and as a rapper struck down by an autoimmune disease in Mogul Mowgli.

DEADLINE: Your recent choices turned out to be quite prescient this year: both Sound of Metal and Mogul Mowgli feature characters whose lives change when they are forced to face their mortality.

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Sound of Metal
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RIZ AHMED: Well, the ideas I’ve been really interested in recently, and I guess the ones I’ve been grappling with throughout my whole career—my whole life, really—are the ideas about how art and identity interact. So out of choice and out of circumstance, it has been just an area that I’ve either been interested in or been forced to be interested in, or to try and engage in. And I guess nothing really poses the question about the role of art, or the limitations and possibilities of identity, like mortality does. Our identities are made, and often we make art as an attempt to immortalize those identities, and I guess there’s something just so kind of humbling about living with death by your side, right? Because it can take these lofty illusions of artistic endeavor or personal identity and just dash them. The shadow of mortality is something that just throws both of those concepts into sharper relief.

DEADLINE: What appealed to you about Sound of Metal? It’s a very challenging, physical role, not just in terms of playing the drums, but in terms of sign language too.

AHMED: It was just a brilliant script. It’s pretty straightforward, really. My agents sent it to me. I loved the script, met Darius, loved him, and he told me this whole idea of learning the drums and learning sign language. I loved the idea of that. Of course, when I started down the road, there was some stuff to not love, alongside all the stuff to love.

It was a big challenge. It was quite grueling in many ways, but, by the end of the process, I’m able to look back and say, “It was just a tremendous gift.” Learning the drums, learning sign language—it just opened me up in different ways as a person, as an actor. It expanded and it enriched me, particularly being able to be immersed in some way in deaf culture, building those relationships. I often say that Jeremy Stone, my sign instructor, taught me the meaning of listening, taught me the meaning of communication. Listening isn’t something you just do in your ears. It’s something you do with your whole body, your attention, your energy. Communication, when you’re not hiding behind words, can often be more connected. I found myself getting much more emotional communicating in ASL at times than I did speaking about things. Jeremy warned me of this—he said that deaf people think of hearing people as emotionally repressed, because they hide behind words.

DEADLINE: How long did you train for it?

AHMED: It was seven or eight months, from February until September [2018], I think.

DEADLINE: Were you doing other things at that time? How did you fit that in with your work schedule?

Sound of Metal
Amazon Studios

AHMED: I moved to New York and just told myself, “This is what I’m going to do.” I’d drum for two and-a-half hours a day, sign for a couple of hours a day, and work on the script with Darius. It was one of those projects where you’re like, “All right, this is all in.” You can’t really dial this in. And not just because of the technical aspects, but also because Darius’s writing always has a way of plumbing such emotional depth. You see that in The Place Beyond the Pines. You see that in Blue Valentine as well. He’s baring his soul, opening a bit of a vein. So, you have to meet his words with that energy.

DEADLINE: Did you go straight from that to Mogul Mowgli?

AHMED: No. Actually, the one other thing that I was doing while I was in New York is that I was intermittently meeting up with Bassam [Tariq], and we’d talk about it. Like, what is this film? What are we going to do? It wasn’t really fully clear to us, even though we had a script. When I wrapped on Sound of Metal at the end of October, I went back to London, collapsed for a bit, and then we flew out to Pakistan, because we were going to make the film partly in Pakistan. We went there, met some people, filmed some interesting stuff, and when we came back, I was like, “Actually, I don’t think this is right. That’s not what this film is.” That was February. So, we just banged out a new script at the end of February and shot the film in April. The whole thing was similar in a way [to Sound of Metal], in that it was a very long period of gestation with a very concentrated burst of crystalizing the idea and then executing it.

DEADLINE: Was it a very demanding experience?

AHMED: With both projects, there was a lot of emotional stuff to mine. That’s true of any project, but what was interesting about Mogul Mowgli was the weight loss. You may or may not notice it, but basically, I’m playing a guy who is fit and healthy and ready to go on tour who is suddenly barely able to walk. We didn’t make a big thing of it and show lots of closeups of my ribcage, although you do start making out some of the weight loss, I think, towards the end, when my character argues with his family. I lost 10 kilos in three weeks for that film.

Mogul Mowgli
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That was part of the big challenge there, and it was really intense. I read about other actors going on that journey, and, obviously, it’s an emotional journey to go on with that kind of weight loss, but I didn’t realize that other people do it in five months with nutritionists and stuff. It was an almost micro-budget film—we were like, “F— it, let’s just do it.” I don’t think I’d attempt that again. I wouldn’t advise anyone to attempt that. Because it does take you emotionally to some really dark places. It’s crazy, actually. It just makes you realize how much we live in our bodies. If you deprive your body of nutrition, to a certain extent, your mind goes to some absolutely bat-s–t crazy places.

DEADLINE: How do you balance indie movies with franchise movies? Why do they interest you?

AHMED: The way I think about is, does it stretch me, and does it stretch culture in some way? Is it trying, in some way, to contribute to stretching the boundaries of genre, or people’s expectations of it, and rearranging their mental furniture? That’s one side. And then the other side is, will I learn and grow from it? And going from doing films like Shifty, to stuff like Rogue One, you absolutely learn. You learn about different kinds of filmmaking. You learn about how to do a marathon rather than a sprint. You learn all kinds of things.

DEADLINE: Do you keep the door open for those bigger projects? Could you return to the Star Wars universe?  

AHMED: I haven’t had any conversations with anyone about it directly, but… I try and keep the door open to everything. I think part of the terror and the joy of life as an actor is you have to surrender a little bit to the waves. And you never know which direction they’re going to take you. I try and leave the door open to everything.

DEADLINE: You also released an album and a short film this year, The Long Goodbye. What would you like to say about that project?

AHMED: The Long Goodbye was directed by Aneil Karia who’s one of our brightest new talents, I think, in Britain as a filmmaker. Mogul Mowgli allowed me to put all my toys in one box, take the music—both rap music and Qawwali music— my British and Pakistani heritage, my Urdu and English, and put it into a film. I’m interested in that idea. I’m interested in hybridity as a person, but also now more and more as a performer. And that’s what The Long Goodbye was about. It was a chance to take the spoken word, rap, film, some of my, I guess, more social political opinions, but also personal feelings and put them all in one place.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo Won’t Attend Inauguration; “My Place Is In New York” Given Protest Risk At State Capitol

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January 18, 2021 9:59am

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he had planned to attend Joe Biden’s inauguration but won’t now, preferring to stay close in case of demonstrations at the state Capitol building in Albany.

At a press briefing Monday, Cuomo also said New York’s Covid-19 cases are falling after a holiday surge. But clamor for the vaccine is rising – after the Federal government expanded eligibility, but without shipping more doses — so he’s asked NY-based Pfizer if the state could purchase them directly.

Authorities in all 50 states are on high alert for possible unrest on Inauguration Day Wednesday by pro-Trump demonstrators following the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6 to disrupt the electoral count.

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“I was planning to go to the inauguration. I will not be going. There is talk about demonstrations at state Capitols, and advisories … We have made preparations here with the state police. I think my place is to stay in New York State,” he said. “If there’s a possible situation here at the Capitol, I want to be at the Capitol. I sent my best wishes to President-elect Biden… It’s going to be a great day.”

In welcome news, he said the Covid-19 positivity rate in New York is falling – Manhattan is a very contained 3.48% — and hospitalizations slowing. But he slammed outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar for promising but not delivering more doses after the federal government “created expectations” by expanding vaccine eligibility to anyone 65 or over.

They “created a wave of expectation. They said there would be more supply to meet the wave they were creating, and now they did a total 180 on whether or not there will be more allocation. If you look at what are getting, it has not gone up,” Cuomo said. He asked the CEO of pharma giant Pfizer, which happens to be based in New York, to sell the state doses directly.

“We are in a footrace with the virus, and we will lose unless we dramatically increase the number of doses getting to New Yorkers. After myself and seven other governors called on the Trump Administration to release more doses, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said that relief was on the way. To date, however, the federal government has not acted on that promise — in fact, New York will receive just 250,000 doses this week, 50,000 fewer than the week prior. Because you are not bound by commitments that Moderna made as part of Operation Warp Speed, I am requesting that the State of New York be permitted to directly purchase doses from you,” said the letter to Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla.

“Shifting guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention drove the number of New Yorkers eligible and prioritized for the vaccine from 5 million to 7 million practically overnight. The federal administration essentially opened up a floodgate while cutting our supply — leading to confusion, frustration, and dashed hopes.”

Cuomo said that despite NY’s gains against Covid, three new, more infectious strains identified in the U.K., South African and Brazil are worrisome. “Any of these strains could be a second wave,” he said.

Steve Martin Takes Covid-19 Vaccine: “I’m Having No Fide Resects”

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January 17, 2021 1:02pm

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Comedian and actor Steve Martin reported today via social media on his experience with the COVID-19 vaccine.

As you might expect, it wasn’t the usual sanctimonious, virtue signaling celebrity report.

“Good news/bad news,” tweeted Martin. “Good news: I just got vaccinated! Bad news: I got it because I’m 75.”

“Thank you all, and thank you science,” Martin wrote.

Martin is a New York resident and reported that he waited in person at the Javits Center to receive his jab.

He also claimed that the vaccine has had no side effects. Perhaps.

Good news/Bad news. Good news: I just got vaccinated! Bad news: I got it because I’m 75. Ha! The operation in NYC was smooth as silk (sorry about the cliché @BCDreyer!) and hosted to perfection by the US Army and National Guard. Thank you all, and thank you science.

— Steve Martin (@SteveMartinToGo) January 17, 2021

I signed up ON line through an NYC dot gov website (sorry I don’t have the exact site), and waited IN line at the Javits Center. https://t.co/Ohp3frxy6i

— Steve Martin (@SteveMartinToGo) January 17, 2021

Right now, I’m having no fide resects. https://t.co/SUYyvOexeW

— Steve Martin (@SteveMartinToGo) January 17, 2021