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President Biden signs $1.7 trillion government spending bill

President Joe Biden on Thursday signed a $1.7 trillion government spending bill, averting a government shutdown. The bill includes more aid to Ukraine and funding for his domestic priorities.

The White House said Thursday that the bill ‘caps off a year of historic bipartisan progress for the American people:’  The bill will advance cutting-edge research on cancer and other diseases, make communities safer, deliver for our veterans, prioritize mental health care, improve access to high quality health care for Indian country, and strengthen worker protections for pregnant women. It also provides the resources needed to support Ukraine, provides the highest funding level for the Violence Against Women Act in history, and takes long overdue action to shore up our democracy and preserve the will of the people by reforming the Electoral Count Act.

Biden tweeted“Today, I signed the bipartisan omnibus bill, ending a year of historic progress. It’ll invest in medical research, safety, veteran health care, disaster recovery, VAWA funding – and gets crucial assistance to Ukraine. Looking forward to more in 2023.”

The bill was approved last week by the Senate and House of Representatives after a speech by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy before Congress in a plea for funding to “guarantee the future of our common freedom.” The spending package will provide an additional $45 billion in emergency assistance for Ukraine The spending plan includes $772.5 billion for domestic priorities, and $858 billion for defense. The bill also includes roughly $40 billion in disaster relief for communities recovering from hurricanes, wildfires, drought and other natural disasters. It also includes reforms to the Electoral Count Act, and a ban of the use of TikTok on government phones, among other projects for lawmakers.

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Brazilian soccer legend Pelé dies at age 82

Brazilian soccer icon Pelé has died after battling cancer, his family announced Thursday on social media. He was 82.

Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, the man widely known as Pelé died at the Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Pelé’s cancer was discovered when he underwent colon tumor removal surgery in 2021. He was admitted to the hospital Nov. 29 for a respiratory infection, and was re-evaluated for the chemotherapy treatment. The hospital said last week that his colon cancer had progressed and continued to impact his kidney and heart function, saying in a news release: “The Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein regretfully confirms the death of Pelé, today, December 29, 2022, at 3:27 p.m, due to multiple organ failure, a result of the progression of colon cancer associated to his previous clinical condition. Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein sympathizes with “the family and everyone who suffers from the loss of our dear King of Football.”

Pelé was a three-time World Cup champion, scoring 12 times in 14 career appearances at the tournament. Additionally, he scored nearly 1,300 goals over his professional career. Pelé’s daughter, Kely Nascimento, wrote on Instagram: “Everything we are is thanks to you. We love you infinitely. Rest in peace.” In addition, a message posted to Pelé’s Instagram account read: “Inspiration and love marked the journey of King Pele, who peacefully passed away today. On his journey, Edson enchanted the world with his genius in sport, stopped a war, carried out social works all over the world and spread what he most believed to be the cure for all our problems: love. His message today becomes a legacy for future generations. Love, love and love, forever.”

Tributes to Pelé flooded social media Thursday afternoon, with messages from the Brazilian Football Confederation and other national teams, and players from around the world including Neymar Jr., Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo wrote on Instagram: “My deep condolences to all of Brazil, and in particular to the family of Edson Arantes do Nascimento.  A mere ‘goodbye’ to the eternal King Pelé will never be enough to express the pain that the entire football world is currently embracing. An inspiration to so many millions, a reference yesterday, today and forever. The love you always showed me was reciprocated in every moment we shared even from distance. He will never be forgotten and his memory will live forever in each and every one of us football lovers. Rest in peace King Pelé.”

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Country Daypop

The Highwomen honor Amy Grant at Kennedy Center Honors

During the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony, The Highwomen – comprised of Natalie Hemby, Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires, and Maren Morris —were among the featured performers of the night which payed tribute to the five Kennedy Center honorees— Amy Grant, George Clooney, U2, Gladys Knight, and Tania León. The ceremony took place on Dec. 4 in Washington, D.C. Elsewhere in the night were tributes by Garth Brooks and Patti LaBelle to Gladys Knight; tributes to George Clooney from Julia Roberts and Matt Damon; and more.

To honor Grant, aka the “Queen of Christian Pop,” The Highwomen performed Grant’s 1997 release “Somewhere Down The Road.” Hemby said of Grant: “Thank you for being a porch light at our crowded table,” after the supergroup applied their four-part harmony to the track, while staying true to Grant’s original version.

Brandi Carlile wrote on social media prior to the broadcast: “This was such a beautiful experience. Congratulations @amygrant and @U2 on this well-deserved honor. I loved getting to sing with my sisters @TheHighwomen to honor Amy Grant and my dear friend @Hozier and @jamala to honor U2. What a night Tune in to watch tonight on CBS.”

Grant said of the honor: “Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine ever receiving this prestigious Kennedy Center Honors. Through the years, I’ve watched so many of my heroes serenaded by colleagues and fellow artists, always moved by the ability of music and film to bring us together and to see the best in each other. I cannot wait to celebrate with my fellow honorees, friends, and family. Thank you for widening the circle to include all of us.”

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Country Daypop

All-star collaborations are revealed for ‘New Year’s Eve Live: Nashville’s Big Bash’

All-star collaborations have been revealed for ‘New Year’s Eve Live: Nashville’s Big Bash’, the star-studded special hosted by country music stars Jimmie Allen and Elle King, and Entertainment Tonight‘s Rachel Smith. The five-hour broadcast will feature 50 back-to-back performances and cross multiple time zones live from Nashville; and will count down with the East Coast at midnight, keeping the party going through midnight Central Time with the city’s renowned Music Note Drop.

Collaborations throughout the night will include Jimmie Allen And Flo Rida, Kelsea Ballerini And Wynonna Judd, Sheryl Crow And Ashley McBryde, Steve Miller With King Calaway, Thomas Rhett With Riley Green, and Zac Brown Band With The War And Treaty.

The full lineup of artists set to perform includes Jason Aldean, Jimmie Allen, Kelsea Ballerini, Dierks Bentley, Brooks & Dunn, Kane Brown, Luke Bryan, King Calaway, Sheryl Crow, Flo-Rida, Riley Green, Wynonna Judd, Elle King, Little Big Town, Ashley McBryde, Steve Miller, Thomas Rhett, Darius Rucker, Lainey Wilson, The War And Treaty, and Zac Brown Band.

‘New Year’s Eve Live: Nashville’s Big Bash’ will air live from Music City on Saturday, December 31st from 8-10 pm ET/PT and 10:30 pm-1:30 am ET/PT on the CBS Television Network, and stream live and on demand on Paramount+.

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Entertainment Daypop

‘Top Gun: Maverick’ breaks Paramount+ record to become most watched movie premiere

Top Gun: Maverick was already this year’s No. 1 theatrical release with a global box office of $1.48 billion, and now after debuting over the Christmas holiday it has officially become the most-watched movie premiere ever on the Paramount+ streaming service. According to an official announcement by Paramount, the blockbuster sequel now stands as the most watched movie, globally, with its premiere weekend streaming on Paramount+ (Dec. 22 through Dec. 25).  Maverick surpassed the previous record held by Sonic the Hedgehog 2 by some 60 percent; and the film’s success also increased streaming viewership for the original Top Gun movie by nearly 400 percent, in addition to Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible franchise entries enjoying a 140 percent increase.

Paramount Pictures CEO Brian Robbins said in a statement: “The runaway success of this film across theatrical, digital and now in streaming is an undeniable proof point demonstrating the power of Paramount’s multi-platform release strategy  Across all our 2022 titles, and now with Top Gun: Maverick, our studio has unlocked the value of variable windowing that streaming provides to augment a film’s overall success.”

Tanya Giles, Chief Programming Officer, Paramount Streaming, added: “We are thrilled to see a continuation of the film’s massive record-breaking success by becoming the No. 1 most-watched movie premiere on Paramount+. We continue to benefit from the highly anticipated theatrical hits from Paramount Pictures that come to the service delivering fans a new way to continue to watch and re-watch their favorite movies.”

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Entertainment Daypop

Fashion designer and punk icon Vivienne Westwood dies at 81

Dame Vivienne Westwood, the fashion designer and activist who was considered an icon of Britain’s punk movement in the 1970s, has died at age 81.  A message posted to Westwood’s Twitter read: “Vivienne Westwood died today, peacefully and surrounded by her family, in Clapham, South London. The world needs people like Vivienne to make a change for the better.”

Westwood was born Vivienne Isabel Swire on April 8th, 1941 in Derbyshire, England. She briefly attended University of Westminster (then Harrow Art School), but would go on to become a primary school teacher making her own jewelry on the side, which she sold on London’s Portobello Road. In the mid-1960s, Westwood met artist Malcolm McLaren, who would shortly thereafter become manager of Sex Pistols. Together, Westwood and McLaren managed the store SEX, where they sold the clothing they designed. SEX increased in popularity and became a hub for London punks after Sex Pistols were seen wearing Westwood and McLaren’s designs.

Westwood is largely credited for helping push the punk movement towards the mainstream, as well as unifying the fashion and music industries. Westwood was also vocal about numerous causes and movements, notably climate change awareness, and often incorporated her political activism into her designs.

Westwood is survived by her husband, Andreas Kronthaler, and two sons: Ben Westwood, born 1963, and Joseph Corré, born 1967.

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U.S. to require negative Covid test for travelers arriving from China

The Biden administration announced on Wednesday that travelers from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau will need to submit a pre-departure negative COVID-19 test before entering the United States, starting on Jan. 5. The new policy comes amid a surge in Covid cases in China and fears that a new, concerning variant could emerge. China is reporting more than 250 million positive cases in the first 20 days of December.

Under the new rule, travelers older than 2 must submit a negative COVID-19 test taken within two days of departing for the United States. Nationality and vaccination status will not have any bearing on whether a test must be provided. The policy also applies to travelers who have connecting flights in China. Passengers who tested positive 10 days before their flight can provide documented proof of recovery instead of a negative test.

The CDC warned that new variants of the COVID-19 virus are likely to emerge and go unidentified for longer due to China’s reduced testing and case reporting, saying in a press release: “Pre-departure testing and the requirement to show a negative test result has been shown to decrease the number of infected passengers boarding airplanes, and it will help to slow the spread of the virus as we work to identify and understand any potential new variants that may emerge.” 

The U.S. State Department issued a level-three travel advisory for China on Dec. 23, urging travelers to reconsider plans to visit the country “due to the surge in COVID-19 cases, arbitrary enforcement of local laws, and COVID-19-related restrictions.”

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Ringleader of plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer sentenced to 19 1/2 years in prison

47-year-old Barry Croft Jr., who was convicted of playing a key role in the plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, was sentenced to 19 1/2 years in prison Wednesday. Croft and co-defendant Adam Fox, 39, were convicted in August of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and to use a weapon of mass destruction to attack Whitmer, who drew the hatred of far-right groups for her efforts to curb the spread of Covid in 2020. Fox was sentenced to 192 months (16 years) in prison by U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker, and Croft was sentenced to 235 months in a Grand Rapids.

Jonker stopped short of issuing a life sentence sought by prosecutors, but the judge largely agreed with the government’s stance that Croft fueled the plot with dangerous rhetoric. Jonker said: “I do think of Mr. Croft as the more seriously culpable … more so than even Mr. Fox … I think he was the person who gave Mr. Fox something to grab on to,” calling Croft the “idea guy” who egged on co-conspirators with “wrong” and “twisted” ideology.

A jury in April failed to arrive at verdicts against Fox and Croft, forcing a judge to declare a mistrial before a second trial proved decisive. Gov. Whitmer, who won re-election last month, was the focal point of far-right rage in 2020 when she imposed various lockdowns aimed at curbing the spread of Covid. A representative for Whitmer on Wednesday said the governor had no comment beyond a statement she made when the Croft and Fox were convicted, insisting that plots “against public officials and threats to the FBI are a disturbing extension of radicalized domestic terrorism that festers in our nation, threatening the very foundation of our republic.”

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Country Daypop

Lainey Wilson releases two new songs on Spotify

Lainey Wilson has dropped two new Spotify singles — a reimagining of her original song “Middle Finger,” and a cover of Rick Derringer’s “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo.”

Said Wilson on Instagram: “It was awesome to have my band join me in Jay’s studio for the first time to record these Spotify Singles. We reimagined my song “Middle Finger” and put our own spin on Rick Derringer’s “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo” – the band’s go-to pre-show anthem. Check ‘em out on @spotify now! #bellbottomcountry #countrywithaflare”

Wilson added: “I got to bring my whole band into the studio for the first time for these Spotify singles. ‘Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo’ is the song my band gets pumped up to before every show, so we were really excited to get in the studio with Jay Joyce and put our own flare on it. The song just feels so good. Same with ‘Middle Finger’ – it’s an anthem we can all sing along to and feel a little better. That song has been a fan-favorite since it came out on my EP in 2018, and I’m excited for it to have another chance as a refreshed, rerecorded Spotify Single.”

Wilson released her critically acclaimed album Bell Bottom Country and made her acting debut in the season five of Paramount Network’s hit series Yellowstone in a role created specifically for her by creator Taylor Sheridan.  In January 2023, Wilson will embark on her first headlining tour, the Country With A Flare Tour. 

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Country Daypop

Kacey Musgraves helps raise $100,000 for therapy dog for children’s hospital

Kacey Musgraves and her boyfriend Cole Schafer have helped to raise money so the Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt can add a second therapy dog at the facility. Last year, the pair created the Teddy Bear Ball to raise money (and teddy bear) for the patients at Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, and this year hosted the 2022 Teddy Bear Ball at The American Legion in Nashville.

Musgraves wrote on Instagram: “This year, our goal was to raise enough funds to help get @vumcchildren a second therapy / rehabilitation facility dog that will walk the floors and do visits, boosting morale and calming families and kiddos before they’re wheeled into surgery. Any animal lover can attest to the multitudes of healing they can bring someone in need.” The couple had donated 300 teddy bears to the hospital in addition to raising more than $100,000 for another therapy dog for the hospital.

Kacey Musgraves Hosts Teddy Bear Ball to Raise Funds for Local Children’s Hospital Support Dog

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