Gaga, Hanks bring star power for Biden

An emotional Lady Gaga performed a dramatic version of the US national anthem, Garth Brooks sang a cappella, and Tom Hanks hosted a star-studded night-time celebration to cap President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

On a day marked by diversity and appeals for unity, Gaga wowed in a huge fuchsia Schiaparelli couture silk skirt and black top adorned by a large gold brooch of a dove carrying an olive branch as she sung “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Biden’s swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday.

Gaga at one point gestured to the US flag flying high over the Capitol, the seat of Congress that just two weeks ago was attacked by supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump seeking to overturn Biden’s election victory.

“She slayed it. I AM GAGA FOR GAGA!!!” actor Ed Helms wrote in a tweet.

Ahead of her performance, Gaga said on Twitter she wanted to “acknowledge our past, be healing for our present, and be passionate for a future where we work together lovingly.”

Country singer Brooks, a Republican, chose jeans and a black shirt and took off his black Stetson hat to sing an unaccompanied version of “Amazing Grace”, asking Americans at the ceremony and watching at home to sing the last verse along with him.

Afterward, before replacing his coronavirus mask, Brooks hugged or shook hands with Biden, former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, outgoing Vice President Mike Pence, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Jennifer Lopez, dressed in white pants and a long matching coat, performed a medley of “This Land is Your Land” and “America The Beautiful,” interjecting in Spanish the part of the US Pledge of Allegiance that says, “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

At just 22 years old, poet Amanda Gorman captured the mixed emotions of the past four years with a poem in which she referred to herself as a “skinny Black girl, descended from slaves and raised by a single mother (who) can dream of becoming president only to find herself reciting for one.”

The cultural celebrations continued on Wednesday night with a broadcast across television and social media, hosted by “Forrest Gump” actor Hanks, who is known as “America’s Dad.”

The events, bringing together some of the biggest white, black and Hispanic celebrities, marked a sharp contrast with Trump’s inauguration in 2017, which was low on star power.

Wednesday’s TV special, called “Celebrating America,” opened with Bruce Springsteen, standing alone with an acoustic guitar on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, singing “Land of Hope and Dreams.”

Standing nearby, Hanks acknowledged “deep division and a troubling rancour” in recent years, but said “tonight we ponder the United States of America … and the hopes and dreams we all share for a more perfect union.”

Other performers included John Legend, Demi Lovato and country singers Tim McGraw and Tyler Hubbard, who paired for a song about unity called “Undivided.”

Delivery drivers, healthcare workers and others also told stories of perserverence during the coronavirus pandemic. Foo Fighters singer Dave Grohl, the son of a public school teacher, dedicated a song to “all of our unshakeable teachers.”

The show concluded with Katy Perry, in a white gown with blue and red trim, singing her hit “Firework.” Biden and his wife, Jill, watched from the White House as fireworks lit up the sky around the capital city’s monuments.

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Tiger King star Joe Exotic doesn’t make list

Joe Exotic’s legal team was so confident the Tiger King star would get a pardon from President Trump that they had a limo parked near his prison — and hair and makeup at the ready.

But one of 2020’s most controversial figures is not being pardoned.

The White House this afternoon released details outlining the Executive Grants of Clemency – and Exotic wasn’t among them.

Mr Trump granted pardons to 73 individuals and commuted the sentences of an additional 70 individuals.

“This time tomorrow, we’re going to be celebrating,” Eric Love, who was leading Exotic’s bid for freedom, told in an interview Monday afternoon.

“We have good reason to believe it will come through,” he said of a presidential pardon for the Netflix star, who is serving 22 years for trying to hire a hit man to kill zookeeper rival Carole Baskin.

“We’re confident enough we already have a limousine parked about half a mile from the prison. We are really in action mode right now,” he said of a stretch limo near the Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth in Texas.

RELATED: Follow our live Inauguration Day updates here

Once word of a pardon was to come through, the driver would pick up the legal team as well as a team for the flamboyant star’s hair, makeup and wardrobe, Love told the Sun in a separate interview.

“We are not going to have any cameras with us. It’s going to be a very private moment,” Love said — but purely because Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, wants to be glammed up first.

“Joe is a very flamboyant person — Joe is a colourful personality. And if you look at someone when they’ve been incarcerated, they don’t look like that when they’re coming out,” Love told the Sun.

“So Joe’s got to have that platinum done, and well that’s what we got — hair, wardrobe and makeup. We’ve got the best in the business,” he said.

RELATED: Tiger King star’s tragic past revealed

Telling Metro that the Tiger King star’s hair was “the first order of business,” Love said they would then “probably go and get some pizzas, steak, maybe a McRib.”

They then planned to house him in a ranch just outside Fort Worth.

Love said they believed Trump would issue the high-profile pardon in part to “take most of the limelight away from President-elect Joe Biden” — and said they already had a thank you video recorded.

“We have it queued up and ready to go,” Love told Metro. “As soon as we get the word, we’re going to execute that video to the White House and thank them.”

Maldonado-Passage is a year into his sentence.

Trump previously said he would “take a look” at the pardon request.

This article originally appeared on the New York Post and is reproduced here with permission.

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Star reveals scary incident with director

Actress Toni Pearen has revealed a disturbing experience with an older director when she was a young girl when discussing how the industry has changed on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!

The star began by telling her female campmates how she felt seeing “suggestive” old headshots of herself from when she was about 12 years old.

“Recently, we were going through old photos at my dad’s house and we came across all these photos of me when I must have been 11 or 12. And they’re my headshots, but they’re really suggestive.

“Like, I’m in a swimsuit… with a pool cue… really suggestive. They had me in a like leopard-print leotard and I’m like crawling on the ground.”

RELATED: Tensions flare between Dipper and Denyer

“Oh, my God!” shrieked the other women, including former Bachelor star Abbie Chatfield and singer and actress Alli Simpson.

“I know! I know,” said Toni. “And I thought, ‘As a parent, if that happened to my child now,

“I would not be quiet about it.’”

But that wasn’t the worst of it. She then explained a scary incident she experienced with a director when she was only a young girl.

“I remember we were on location and it was midnight and the director turned up at my door and said, ‘I’m in love with your character. I’m not in love with you, but I’m in love with your character and I need to spend time with her.’”

This was obviously met with a lot of discomfort from her campmates.

“And what did you say?” they asked her.

“I just went, ‘I don’t think you’re thinking very straight. Sorry. And I think you need to go home.’”

To the camera, she explained further: “Sometimes you kind of walk away from an experience going, ‘Yeah, that didn’t quite feel right.’ But you’re so young you just don’t know.”

RELATED: Toni Pearen slammed for ridiculous outburst

Alli explained how different the industry is now, recounting her own story of an early experience filming a sex scene with an intimacy coach.

“I had a sex scene in a film I did with an older guy, which was like obviously super intense for me. And it was my first film. And the first scene that they wanted to shoot in the film

was the sex scene, because they wanted to get it out of the way.

“So my first ever scene in any movie ever was like this sex scene with a dad, basically. But there were so many rules. Like there was an intimacy coach, and she had to sit us both down individually. We both had to have a safe word during the scene. If one of us felt uncomfortable, you’d say, and they’d cut the scene immediately. There was like 25 to 50, like, actual steps we had to go through.”

“Some of the other people on set were saying like 5, 10 years ago there was none of this at all.”

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Veteran Sydney Sixers Twenty20 star Dan Christian brings up BBL’s first century

“It’s really good that there are so many [Indigenous players in the BBL] now and there is seemingly more and more each year,” he said. “So we are going in the right direction I think.”

Christian said the more players from diverse backgrounds that achieve success within the game, the more diversity we will see in the future.

Dan Christian celebrates his 100th BBL game.

“The more that we can keep having success and keep putting our names out there … young kids coming through can see that cricket is a viable career path and some kind of a dream that they can follow,” he said.

Though he is the oldest player on the Sydney roster, Christian has been one of the Sixers’ best this season and is a key reason why they sit on top of the ladder.

The Thunder, meanwhile, will be without big-hitting all-rounder Daniel Sams, who has been ruled out of the next three BBL games with a hand injury.

Thunder coach Shane Bond said on Thursday they had the depth to cover for the loss of Sams.

“It’s a real shame for Dan, he’s been playing outstanding cricket,” Bond said. “He’ll miss the next three games but, remember, I’ve always spoken about the depth of our squad.

“I think you can use Perth’s win over Brisbane without their all-rounder Mitchell Marsh [side strain] as an example of a team showing that the depth of their squad was important. It’s now up to the players in the team to step up to fill that void left by Dan.”

The Thunder have lost four of their past five games, but Bond said there was no reason to panic.

“We’ve lost a few on the bounce,” he said. “You’ve just got to realise that’s the nature of T20 cricket – teams win and lose at different times. Even though we’ve lost a few, we’re still amongst it. We have to win a couple of our last three games to finish anywhere from fourth to second – and then it is a matter of trusting what we do.”

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‘Normal People’ star Paul Mescal on set in the Southern Tablelands for new film | Goulburn Post

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The region was starstruck when Hollywood descended upon a small town in the Southern Tablelands yesterday. International stars, including Paul Mescal, were in Breadalbane on January 18 for their first day on set for Carmen. READ ALSO: Carmen, directed by Benjamin Millepied, is set to be a modern take on the classic opera. Paul Mescal, from the television series Normal People, will star as Don José with Melissa Barrera as the titular character. Publicist Tracey Mair for Goalpost Pictures said filming had now ceased at Breadalbane. She said the cast and crew were only in the town for one day. Ms Mair said she was unable to share further information at this stage. Filming is set to continue for eight weeks. More to come.


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Bobi Wine: Uganda’s pop star politician makes plea to the world after being ‘made prisoner in his own home’ | World News

There is a road north of the capital, Kampala, that few Ugandans wish to follow.

It is a rough, potholed track which leads to the home of the opposition leader, Bobi Wine.

The 38-year old has not left his home since last Thursday, when he cast his vote in the general election. He came second in the presidential contest after the country’s long-time ruler, Yoweri Museveni, took 58% of the vote.

Mr Wine’s house is now surrounded by riot police and soldiers along with a set of metallic yellow spikes in case anyone was minded to drive their way in.

The opposition leader said the situation inside his home was ‘desperate’

Nonetheless, we met a pair of lawyers in a respectable looking car who told us they were determined to speak to their client.

George Musisi, a partner in a firm in Kampala, said Mr Wine’s home had been turned into a de facto prison.

“We know that his home is not a detention centre, we know that it is a private property, so we are going to see how we can access it,” he said.

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Wine and reporters flee from gun-toting soldiers

The lawyers, who accuse the government of trying to muzzle the popular politician, edged slowly towards the police barricade.

Lawyer Benjamin Katana tried to reason with policeman in charge.

“[Bobi Wine] has rights, like access to his lawyers especially now he is under detention, we need instructions from him, this is standard,” he said.

The commander looked decidedly uncomfortable and left them to make a phone call.

He came back to tell the lawyers that no one was getting in.

“You can contact the police department’s spokesman if you want.”

The lawyers chuckled.

“This is futile, even people in police cells can access their lawyers,” said an exasperated Mr Musisi.

KAMPALA, UGANDA - NOVEMBER 03: Bobi Wine parades though the streets through crowds of supporters on November 03, 2020 in Kampala, Uganda. Popular singer Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, better known by his stage name of H.E. Bobi Wine, is set to appear before the Independent Electoral Commission this morning to be nominated to stand against incumbent Yoweri Museveni in the upcoming Presidential elections in Uganda. He will be join candidate two former military Generals, Mugisha Muntu and Henry Tumuku
Bobi Wine said his wife was assaulted by the military when she tried to pick food from their garden

Bobi Wine, who captured the imagination of younger voters during the campaign, was contacted by phone and he said the situation inside the cordon was desperate.

“We have run short of food supplies but when my wife tried to go to our garden to pick food she was assaulted by the military,” he said.

“The only practical plan now is to inform the world to see that fellow citizens of the world can help us.”

He told Sky News he has even been targeted with bullets and tear gas.

The Ugandan authorities have done this before. Five years ago, prominent opposition leader Kizza Besigye was detained for 40 days after the election. He told me it was part of a long-standing pattern of harassment.

“How many times were you arrested?” I asked.

“Frankly I cannot count how many times I was arrested, because I lost count. Sometimes it was every day,” said Mr Besigye.

“How many times did you go to court?” I inquired of Mr Besigye, who stood against President Museveni in four elections.

“Again very many… I was charged with rape, treason, terrorism and illegal possession of guns all in one go [at the beginning of the 2006 presidential campaign].

“I was tried [and cleared] of rape but the judgement didn’t come out until after the election. Many cases are still in court.”

Mr Besigye said he experienced strong sense déjà vu watching the Bobi Wine campaign and warns that the authorities will not leave him alone.

Yet the people of Uganda will need the 38-year-old, along with every other opposition-minded citizen, if they are going to overturn Mr Museveni’s rule.

“It’s difficult to [physically] gather, it’s difficult to work together but it doesn’t mean people won’t challenge his regime,” said Bobi Wine.

“They are determined, trust me – so watch this space.”

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Broncos lash NRL star Haas after arrest

Brisbane have slammed an “ashamed” Payne Haas for his latest off-field indiscretion after the NRL forward was arrested and charged with abusing and intimidating police.

The NSW Origin and Australian representative was arrested about 10pm on Saturday when he allegedly abused police officers in Tweed Heads.

The 21-year-old was detained by police and taken to Tweed Heads police station where he was charged with “with offensive language and intimidate police officer”.

He was granted conditional bail to appear at Tweed Heads local court on February 2, with the matter now being investigated by the NRL’s integrity unit.

The incident came after the Brisbane squad started their day with a training session on the Gold Coast.

While a rising star of the game, it won’t be the first time Haas has been summoned by the NRL’s behavioural watchdog.

Haas was fined $20,000 and suspended for the opening four rounds of the 2019 NRL season for failing to comply with an NRL integrity unit investigation over a matter involving members of his family.

Broncos CEO Paul White said in a statement on Sunday that Haas was “ashamed and extremely remorseful”.

“It’s disappointing and not acceptable – we do set the highest standards for the behaviour of our players, they understand that and Payne knows this is well short of those standards,” White said.

“Payne knows he has done the wrong thing and is prepared to take ownership of his actions.

“As a club, we will continue to work with Payne to ensure he understands what he must do to improve, and also ensure he continues to receive the support and education that he needs.”

The two-Test forward is one of rugby league’s most talented big men and has been named the Broncos’ best player the past two seasons.

A shining light of an otherwise historically bad 2020 season, Haas last week expressed his desire to help rejuvenate the side.

“The trust that Kev’s put in us; we know what talent we’ve got here and it’s a good chance for us to redeem ourselves and return to winning ways,” he said.

“You can see how the boys are training; it’s pretty competitive.

“The motivation here is to bring the club back to what it was and we have just left what happened last year right there and dusted.”

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‘It’s a critical situation:’ Dragon’s Den star Arlene Dickinson on struggle of small business to survive the second lockdown

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A “mind-blowing” third of Ontario businesses are not expected to survive this second lockdown.

Dragon’s Den star and Venture Communications founder Arlene Dickinson talks with Financial Post’s Larysa Harapyn about what small businesses, their communities and the government need to do improve those odds.

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Broncos and NSW Origin star Payne Haas arrested after alleged abusive behaviour

Brisbane Broncos and NSW State of Origin star Payne Haas has been arrested for being allegedly verbally abusive towards police on Saturday night.

At 10pm, police were patrolling at the Jack Evans Boat Harbour, in Tweed Heads in northern NSW, when they spoke to Mr Haas, 21, and a woman.

It’s alleged Mr Haas became verbally abusive towards police.

He was arrested and taken to Tweed Heads police station where he was charged with offensive language and intimidating a police officer in execution of duty.

He was granted conditional bail to appear at Tweed Heads Local Court on February 2.

An NRL spokesman said it was aware of the alleged incident involving Mr Haas and that the Integrity Unit was liaising with both NSW Police and the Broncos.

More to come.

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James O’Connor’s blunt message for star Queensland Reds recruit Suliasi Vunivalu

For Vunivalu, returning to rugby after featuring in Melbourne’s 2017 and 2020 NRL premierships was a matter of attending to “unfinished business”.

“I’ve done my time in rugby league and I’ve achieved what I wanted to achieve. It’s something different, a new challenge and I’m looking forward to it,” he said.

When Vunivalu speaks about unfinished business, he’s referring to childhood dreams ignited by the England team which won the 2003 Rugby World Cup on Australian soil.

Despite being born and raised in Fiji before moving to New Zealand as a 16-year-old, it was fellow cross-code star Jason Robinson who Vunivalu wanted to emulate as a child.

Like Robinson, Vunivalu wants to dominate on the international stage. But before he can worry about Wallabies duties, he has a pre-season under Reds coach Brad Thorn to work through.


That shouldn’t be too much of a mountain to climb, given Storm coach Craig Bellamy is notorious for running the hardest pre-seasons in the NRL.

“Storm’s [pre-seasons] are really tough but it’s a different sport. We focus more on ruck speed and all of that (at the Reds),” Vunivalu said. “You have stop-start. League is pretty much full on. Training wise, it’s hard but it’s a different sport.”

Vunivalu spent about one month with the Wallabies squad as they completed their Tri Nations campaign at the end of last year.

The 25-year-old was never a hope of making his Test debut at the end of last year. He was brought in simply to begin the process of transitioning from rugby league back to rugby – a sport he dominated as a star schoolboy for famous New Zealand nursery St Kentigern’s College.

The best player in recent years to have made the transition from rugby league winger to rugby winger is a fellow Fijian who followed the same path from the Storm to the national side – Marika Koroibete.

“That’s what I did when I went into Wallabies camp – I was just watching how he positioned himself,” Vunivalu said. “He’s everywhere around the field. He’s got a good engine. I need to work on mine.

“That was really good. My focus going into that camp was just trying to get rugby back into me so when I started here at the Reds, I knew a couple of things rather than coming here and starting all over again.

“That was helpful for me and I got a big focus on the work ons I need to improve.”

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