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NBC Removes “VOTE” Sign From Demi Lovato’s Billboard Performance

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  • After getting backlash over her new anti-Trump song “Commander in Chief,” Demi Lovato clapped back at people for trying to silence her, saying she did not care if it ruined her career. 
  • She performed the song at the Billboard Awards Wednesday in front of a sign that said “VOTE,” but NBC edited out the sign from the version it aired.
  • According to TMZ, which obtained the footage, sources said that because the song was a criticism of Trump, having “VOTE” in the background would signal for people to vote against him.
  • Many called it censorship, noting that NBC did this the same day it agreed to host Trump’s town hall at the exact same time Biden’s town hall was set to air on ABC.
  • That decision caused #NBCBlackout to trend on Twitter, with many calling for boycotts of the network, some denouncing the move, and others asking it to air the town hall at a different time.

Billboard Awards Performance

NBC faced renewed boycott calls Wednesday night after editing out a “VOTE” display during singer Demi Lovato’s performance of her new anti-Trump song at the Billboard Musc Awards.

The discrepancy was first reported by TMZ, which obtained and released the original footage. In it, the message played on the video board behind the singer while she delivered the final few verses of her ballad “Commander and Chief.”

In the version that aired on NBC, which hosted the event, the network zoomed in so only Lovato sitting at the piano could be seen in the frame.

The song, which Lovato dropped earlier in the day, takes aim at Donald Trump with lyrics like, “Commander in Chief, honestly/ If I did the things you do, I couldn’t sleep/ Seriously, do you even know the truth?/ We’re in a state of crisis, people are dying/While you line your pockets deep/ Commander in Chief/ How does it feel to still be able to breathe?”

Ahead of the release, Lovato posted a picture of the song’s cover art on Instagram, and encouraged people to vote.

While plenty of people responded to the post by praising her and thanking her for using her platform to denounce the president, many of the top comments came from people criticizing the singer. 

“Someone doesn’t know how the gov works,” one user wrote. “This is why you don’t listen to celebs on who to vote for… they don’t even have high school educations.” 

Lovato addressed the backlash on her Instagram story by sharing a screenshot of her response to someone who commented on the post.

“You do understand as a celebrity, I have a right to political views as well? Or did you forget that we aren’t just around to entertain people for our entire lives.. that we are citizens of the same country and we are humans with opinions as well?” she wrote.

“I literally don’t care if this ruins my career,” she continued. “This isn’t about that. My career isn’t about that. I made a piece of art that stands for something I believe in. And I’m putting it out even at the risk of losing fans. I’ll take integrity in my work over sales any day.”

Source: Demi Lovato

NBC Backlash & #NBCBlackout

NBC has not said why it chose to remove the “VOTE” sign from its broadcast of Lovato’s performance, but sources told TMZ that the network, “pulled the plug on the ‘VOTE’ message because the song itself was a slam on Trump and the ‘VOTE’ message was a call to vote against him.”

Following the news, many users took to social media to slam the move, arguing that NBC’s decision amounted to censorship.

Others also condemned the network for seeming to censor Lovato on the same day it agreed to host Trump’s town hall at the exact same time former Vice President Joe Biden was scheduled to hold his own on ABC.

Both candidates are set to hold competing events Thursday night to replace what was originally supposed to be the second presidential debate, which was canceled last week after the president refused to take part in the virtual debate requested by the Commission on Presidential Debates following his positive coronavirus diagnosis.

The Commission, for its part, said it would not have an in-person debate because Trump and his team were not being transparent about the president’s health. Instead, Biden’s team organized the ABC town hall in Philadelphia to answer voter questions that will air at 8 p.m. ET.

Shortly after, Trump’s team entered into talks with NBC about hosting a similar event in Miami, and on Wednesday, the network officially announced the plans.

The decision brought significant backlash, and prompted #NBCBlackout to trend top on Twitter Thursday morning, with many users calling for a boycott of NBC and its affiliates.

Others also accused the network of rewarding Trump for refusing to debate his opponent safely by essentially giving him a platform for another rally while detracting views from Biden’s town hall.

Letter to NBC Executives

In a letter to Comcast and NBCUniversal executives, over 100 top celebrities, producers, and showrunners echoed that sentiment and criticized the decision to broadcast Trump’s town hall at the same time as Biden’s.

“This is not a partisan issue,” the letter stated. “This is about the political health of our democracy.”

“President Trump refused to participate in the virtual debate scheduled for Thursday night by the Presidential Debate Commission,” it continued. “By agreeing to air his town hall as counterprogramming opposite Vice President Biden’s town hall on ABC, you are enabling the President’s bad behavior while undercutting the Presidential Debate Commission and doing a disservice to the American public.”

The letter, which was signed by prominent actors like Josh Gad, John Hamm, Aubrey Plaza, and Kumail Nanjiani among others, concluded by requesting that the town hall be broadcast at a different time. 

NBC has yet to respond to the demands, and as of Thursday afternoon, the network appeared to be going ahead with Trump’s town hall as scheduled.

See what others are saying: (Yahoo) (The Hollywood Reporter) (TMZ)

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Florida Cracks Down on “Vaccine Tourism”

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  • Florida is now requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 
  • The state has been hit with “vaccine tourism” as many people, predominantly wealthy individuals, fly to the state from other parts of the U.S. and abroad just to get the shot. 
  • So far, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses administered in Florida went to out-of-staters, though it is unclear if all those people were tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.

Florida Requires Proof of Residency

Florida is cracking down on “vaccine tourism” and requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get a COVID-19 shot.

Previously the state was allowing anyone 65 and older, including non-residents, to get the vaccine. This resulted in people flying to the Sunshine State from across the U.S. and abroad just for the purpose of receiving it. 

According to state data, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses Florida has administered have gone to out-of-staters. It is unclear if all these out-of-staters are tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents. 

Now, people must show a form of identification like a driver’s license or mortgage payment to receive it. Exceptions will be made for healthcare workers. 

Vaccine Supply Continues to Be Limited

Wealthy people in particular were quick to schedule travel plans to Florida for this reason. According to the Wall Street Journal, there was an influx of Canadians booking private jets to Florida. Some were looking to book flights there and back on the same day, leaving just enough time for them to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

Meanwhile, people in Florida and across the country are waiting in long lines and struggling to book appointments on glitching websites to get their shots. Vaccine supply continues to be incredibly limited and not everyone in high-risk groups have received them.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said this rule is not made to impact snowbirds, people who live in Florida during the winter to escape cold weather up north. 

“They go to doctors here or whatever, that’s fine, DeSantis said, according to CNN. “What we don’t want is tourists, foreigners. We want to put seniors first, but we obviously want to put people that live here first in line.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (CNN) (Travel + Leisure)

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Amanda Gorman Wows the Nation With “The Hill We Climb”

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  • Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, impressed the nation when she read “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration, making her the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history.
  • Gorman’s said the Jan. 6 attack on the nation’s Capitol inspired her to focus on a message of hope, community, and healing in her poem.
  • Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Anderson Cooper, Barack Obama, and Lin-Manuel Miranda have all praised her work.

Amanda Gorman Becomes Youngest Inaugural Poet

Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman wowed the nation on Wednesday as she spoke of healing, unity, hope, and what it means to be American while reading her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

At 22-years-old Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she was the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 at the age of 16. She then became the first national youth poet laureate in 2017. 

Now, her books are topping Amazon’s Best Sellers list and they are not even scheduled to be released until the fall.

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden became a fan of Gorman after watching her give a reading at the Library of Congress. She then suggested that Gorman be a part of the ceremony. 

“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped That even as we tired, we tried,” Gorman recited during inauguration. “That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.”

Like President Biden, Gorman has struggled with a speech impediment and has been open about her experience overcoming it. She actually used poetry as a tool to correct it. First, she used it as a way of expressing herself without having to speak. Then she used it to bring her poems to life.

“Once I arrived at the point in my life in high school, where I said, ‘you know what? Writing my poems on the page isn’t enough for me,” she told CBS News. “I have to give them breath, and life, I have to perform them as I am.’ That was the moment that I was able to grow past my speech impediment.”

What Inspired “The Hill We Climb”

Gorman said the inaugural committee gave her freedom and flexibility when it came to choosing what to write about. She was well on her way before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Those events then influenced her writing. 

“It energized me even more to believe that much more firmly in a message of hope, community and healing. I felt like that was the type of poem that I needed to write and it was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.  

That message came across clearly and the insurrection was depicted in part of “The Hill We Climb.”

“It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy and this effort very nearly succeeded,” she said. “But while democracy can be periodically delayed it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future history has its eyes on us.”

Nation Impressed by Gorman

“Wow…Wow, I just, wow you’re awesome,” Cooper said when closing his interview with her. “I am so transfixed.” 

Lin-Manuel Miranda also cheered Gorman on. “The Hill We Climb” notably references a line of scripture that appears in a “Hamilton” song. Gorman also said she used to sing the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” to help her say her R sounds and correct her speech impediment. 

“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise!” Oprah Winfrey wrote. “Brava Brava Amanda Gorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I.”

Winfrey also gave Gorman a ring with a caged bird on it—a reference to the famous Angelou poem— which Gorman wore during the inauguration. 

Actor Mark Ruffalo joined the onslaught of praise, saying that her words will lead the nation. 

Former President Barack Obama echoed that idea as well, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Gorman promised to run for president one day. 

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (New York Times) (Los Angeles Times)

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SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section

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  • The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June. 
  • The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
  • Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary. 
  • It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.

College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay

College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.

Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”

The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary. 

While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S. 

Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.

With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.

The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test

In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.

In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.

According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.

For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)

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