Brian Cooley | CNET.Com
Millions of people in the US have no home broadband or a really poor, pricey form of it at a time when being online has become almost as essential as having clean running water. Now what?
Two new home broadband options are hitting the market, offering service where it’s either not available or not competitive. Starlink is a new satellite ISPthat seeks to erase the often negative connotations of satellite internet and do so almost anywhere you can set up a small dish aimed at the sky. T-Mobile Home Internet is a 5G-based service providing broadband to the premise, not to the mobile devices that T-Mobile is known for. Each service creates Wi-Fi in your home so you don’t really have to care if it its powered by satellite or a 5G cellular network.
My CNET colleagues John Kim and Rick Broida did early tests of Starlink and T-Mobile Home Internet, respectively. In a nutshell, Starlink turned out to be a great new option for people who live in areas with little or no broadband access, while T-Mobile Home Internet adds competition to the limited ISP choice in most urban or suburban areas.
We normally think of a T-Mobile 5G node, like this one in New York City, as powering mobile devices, but home internet is one of 5G’s new tricks.
Eli Blumenthal, CNET
Watch their video conversation with me for a hands-on report on what it was like to use these new services; You’ll also learn which of my colleagues liked the service they tested so much they signed up for it in their own home.
Neither Starlink nor T-Mobile Home Internet are intended as a direct rival to something like cable internet, which will tend to offer a lot more speed for less money. And if you’re moving or verifying you have the best broadband service available in your area, visit our sister site AllConnect for a quick, comprehensive comparison of your options.
DONALD WOOD | TravelPulse.Com
Troy Warren #travel-all
As cruise lines prepare to return to service in the United States, there is a showdown brewing in Florida between Governor Ron DeSantis and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over COVID-19 vaccinations.
Governor DeSantis signed an Executive Order in April banning businesses operating in the state from asking for proof that customers received a COVID-19 vaccination, a ruling with major implications on Florida’s cruise industry.
Travel advisors and legal experts weighed in on the ongoing battle.
“I firmly believe that the CDC will be able to override Florida Governor DeSantis on the vaccine requirement,” Florida-based travel advisor Scott Lara told TravelPulse. “While I appreciate the Governor resisting so-called Vaccine Passports, we must keep cruise passengers healthy.”
Earlier this week, the CDC approved Celebrity Cruises to become the first cruise line to set sail with paying passengers on board. The ship is scheduled to depart from Fort Lauderdale on June 26.
Celebrity will no longer need to conduct the test sailings required by the CDC, as the cruise line revealed it would follow the mandate that 95 percent of passengers and crew members need to be vaccinated against coronavirus.
In response, DeSantis revealed cruise lines operating in the state that ask passengers for proof of vaccinations would be fined $5,000 per passenger. The Governor’s press secretary Christina Pushaw said the CDC’s vaccine guidance was “coercive” and a possible violation of state law.
“This is not driven from a motivation of safety,” Miami-based maritime attorney Mike Winkleman told the Washington Post. “If the motivation were safety, you would say, ‘Of course everyone has to be vaccinated.’ It’s kowtowing to a small minority that are a really vocal base for him.”
“But the idea that the federal government in general doesn’t have the authority to set the conditions for cruise ships and that Florida somehow has more authority over who comes in and out of the ports, that’s really an odd one,” Winkleman continued.
The battle between Florida and the CDC over COVID-19 vaccine requirements has caused companies such as Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. to threaten to pull their ships out of the state and operate other markets outside of Florida.
“I think ultimately it will be the CDC,” travel advisor John Maddox said. “Ultimately, public health trumps all. It’s difficult to see a ruling in favor of Florida. Especially since things are moving in a restart direction.”
In April, Florida announced it had filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government over the “unlawful” shutdown of the cruise industry.
By ANTHONY IZAGUIRRE, Associated Press
Troy Warren #local-all
Cost of first-class stamp likely to increase to 58 cents in August
All three of President Joe Biden’s nominees to the governing board of the U.S. Postal Service have been approved by the Senate, increasing Democratic influence over the agency as its leaders move to overhaul mail operations.
Lawmakers on Friday approved the nomination of Anton Hajjar, former general counsel of the American Postal Workers Union. Ron Stroman, a former deputy postmaster general, and Amber McReynolds, who leads the nonprofit National Vote at Home Institute, were approved earlier this month.
The additions mean that five of the board’s nine members are Democratic appointees.
The trio take their positions as Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and board Chairman Ron Bloom, a Democrat, pursue a sweeping 10-year overhaul of mail operations. Their planning is meant to protect the agency from a projected $160 billion loss during the next decade.
As part of that, the Postal Service announced Friday it has filed a request with the independent Postal Regulatory Commission commission to raise postage rates at the end of August. That would increase the cost of a first-class stamp from 55 cents to 58 cents.
DeJoy, a major donor to Donald Trump, was accused by Democrats during last year’s presidential campaign of hampering mail service — including delivery of mail-in ballots — to help the then-president’s failed reelection bid. DeJoy denied the allegations.
He was also criticized for a steep decline of on-time deliveries around the holiday season.
The Postal Service is considering relaxing delivery standards for first-class mail to the farthest reaches of its network, from a one-to-three-day benchmark to a one-to-five-day goal. Postal officials have said 70% of mail would still be delivered within three days.
The strategy also includes proposals to consolidate underused post offices and invest in new delivery vehicles.
The agency is seeking advisory opinions from the commission on potential changes to delivery standards and other initiatives. Democrats have blasted the 10-year plan as an unacceptable degradation of mail service and renewed calls for DeJoy to step down.
During a confirmation hearing before a Senate committee last month, Biden’s nominees stressed the need to restore public confidence in the agency through prompt delivery service.
BY PATRICK BRZESKI | HollywoodReporter.Com
Troy Warren #business-all
The WarnerMedia-Discovery merger and Amazon’s blockbuster deal for MGM have heightened industry curiosity about the future of Sony’s film and TV unit.
Sony Pictures is not for sale, nor will it be spun off as a stand-alone company anytime soon, says Sony Group CEO Yoshida Kenichiro.
The rapid consolidation seen across the screen sector — such as Amazon’s $8.45 billion acquisition of MGM and WarnerMedia’s high-profile merger with Discovery — has fueled industry speculation about Sony Pictures’ future. And the company’s strategic decision to act as a content supplier to established streamers rather than launching a flagship direct-to-consumer service of its own has made it something of an outlier in the streaming era. Meanwhile, the high price tag Amazon payed for MGM, which is a significantly smaller operation than Sony Pictures, underscored the enormous value Sony Group could potentially command for its film and television operations should it be open to parting with them.
“There is drastic realignment in the media industry, but I think our strategy of creating content as an independent studio while working with various partners will work,” Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida told the Financial Times on Wednesday.
Yoshida also was adamant that Sony Pictures should remain part of the Sony Group, rather than being spun off as some activists investors have advocated for in the past. During Yoshida’s tenure, Sony has pursued a strategy of linking and leveraging its various entertainment services across gaming, anime, music and film. Blockbuster PlayStation games like Unchartedand Twisted Metal are being developed into feature films, while anime properties like the blockbuster Demon Slayer franchise have proved money spinners across TV, film and music.
“The PlayStation project has tremendous momentum with the establishment of PlayStation productions and ten projects already in development,” said Sony Pictures Entertainment chief Tony Vinciquerra during an investor day presentation Thursday.
Central to Sony’s strategy are the two recently unveiled licensing deals with Netflix and Disney+. Beginning in 2022, Netflix will have exclusive first-pay-window rights to all Sony Pictures films following their theatrical and home entertainment windows. For their next window, the films will then shift to Disney-owned streaming services Disney+ and Hulu, as well as to Disney’s linear TV networks, including ABC, Disney Channels, Freeform, FX and National Geographic. Both deals cover Sony’s entire 2022-26 theatrical slate.
“I think the reason we were able to sign good deals with Netflix and Disney is because they were attracted to our PlayStation Productions pipeline. We can strengthen our ability to create content through such group-wide collaboration,” Yoshida said.
Vinciquerra added Friday that Sony has the capability to develop and produce far more films than the 12-15 theatrical titles that it typically releases annually. The SPE chief said the studio plans to exploit the streamers’ ravenous demand for content by producing a significant additional number of mid-budget titles for direct release over streaming platforms. In all cases, Sony will retain ownership of the films, licensing them for limited windows to its streaming partners.
Sony’s most anticipated upcoming theatrical tentpoles include Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Spider-Man: No Way Home, Ghostbusters: Afterlife and Morbius.
BY HILARY LEWIS, RYAN PARKER | HollywoodReporter.Com
Troy Warren #reviews-all
The host also took aim at stars with political ambitions, including Dwayne Johnson, Caitlyn Jenner and Matthew McConaughey.
Bill Maher made his return to HBO’s Real Time on Friday night after missing two weeks of shows when he tested positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated against the disease.
Taking the stage, the host thanked those who wished him well while admitting, “I can’t oblige you—I never was sick. I felt nothing.”
The remarks were illustrative of his matter-of-fact attitude about testing positive despite being vaccinated.
“I’m sorry I missed the last two weeks. I didn’t want to—you heard this, they said I had COVID,” Maher said at the top of his monologue. “This is, you know, it’s like when you go to the Jiffy Lube and they show you the air filter, and you go, ‘OK, you’re the expert.’”
Indeed, Maher is fully vaccinated against the disease and, as HBO said when it was announcedthat the taping of his May 14 show would be canceled when he tested positive during weekly checks of the show’s staff, the host was asymptomatic and felt “fine.”
Maher echoed that sentiment in a tweet posted the day the news broke and another on May 21, when HBO noted that Real Time would be off again that night and set to return on May 28.
“Thanks to all wishing me get well – hard to do since I feel perfectly fine, but I appreciate it! Most upset about ending my streak going back to 1993 of never missing a Politically Incorrect or Real Time episode. Oh well, even Cal Ripken had to sit one out at some point,” Maher wrote on May 13.
Last week he apologized for missing another show and wrote, “I assure – and thank – all well-wishers I was never sick and feel great (undoubtedly the shot) and will be back next week.”
Onstage Friday night, Maher said the vaccine “probably” helped him not get sick.
“Did it help? Probably? I don’t know. We don’t know. Yes, probably. I don’t know,” he said. “You know, most people who got the thing never got very sick. Less than four percent went to the hospital—I know media doesn’t like to talk about that! It’s something to be respected? Obviously, yes. And so, good. The point is, I had it!”
He also marveled at people wondering how he could have tested positive if he was vaccinated.
“It happens! They never said it was 100 percent effective,” Maher said.
Maher went on to joke about how the same week he he tested positive, a number of members of the New York Yankees tested positive despite being fully vaccinated. Maher quipped that the development supports his “theory that the virus comes from bats.”
Later in the show, Maher skewered celebrities with political ambitions, specially targeting Dwayne Johnson, Caitlyn Jenner, Matthew McConaughey and Randy Quaid.
“The last four years was a warning, not an inspiration,” Maher said of Donald Trump’s presidency. “You were supposed to see that and think, ’I guess high-level government jobs should go to people who have trained for it and know what they’re doing.’”
Johnson has mulled running for president while McConaughey is currently teasing a run for Texas governor. Quaid, a diehard Trump supporter, has speculated a run for California governor while Jenner is currently campaigning.
“I’m sure Caitlyn Jenner is a nice person, but as California governor, she would be in charge of the [world’s] fifth-largest economy based on her qualifications of being a background character in a reality show not about her,” he said of the Keeping Up With the Kardashians star.
Maher concluded with: “Let me put it bluntly to you and all of these show biz candidates. You’re not good enough, you’re not smart enough, and, dog on it, it completely doesn’t matter that people like you. They like you now because you’re an entertainer and thus largely uncontroversial. Governing is the opposite. If you think you can unite the country, you’re delusional.”
BY KIRSTEN CHUBA | HollywoodReporter.Com
Troy Warren #covid-all
Premieres for ‘Cruella’ and Pink’s new documentary marked the beginning of big events in L.A., but event planners expect future shindigs to be a mix of virtual and in-person.
As pandemic restrictions ease, in-person red carpets have begun their comeback. NYC’s Posepremiere April 29 served as an unofficial ribbon cutting to live events. It was followed in L.A. by a May 13 premiere for Starz’s Run the World, MTV’s Movie & TV Awards on May 16, a Hollywood Bowl celebration for the Amazon doc Pink: All I Know So Far on May 17, a Cruellacarpet on May 18 and the Billboard Music Awards on May 23.
“It’s a total collaboration to do this, and to change the mindset of how we did events prior to this,” says Maggie Swisher, the event producer behind the Pink premiere. In working with the city, county, venue, Amazon and the star, Swisher’s team opted to mandate testing, masks and face shields for red carpet reporters, with only four outlets offered spots. “At this stage of the game, where we’re just starting to come back into focus, we want to make sure that we’re taking every precaution possible,” she says.
With ever-changing COVID policies, studios and streamers have all approached the road back differently — Pose featured a fuller red carpet line but with plastic barricades in between each outlet, creating individual pods, and also required testing; Run the World hosted a rooftop event with a two-outlet carpet, with masks and a “mingling is not allowed” mandate. Cruella did not allow press inside but gave fans a look through the Disney film’s social media channels.
Though many are fully vaccinated at this point, vaccine passports have not yet been accepted for carpet access or as a way to bypass testing.
Plastic barriers separated reporters on the Pose red carpet. JAMIE MCCARTHY/GETTY IMAGES
Some event planners, though, expect the future of Hollywood events to be a mix of virtual and in-person since the pandemic revealed the vastly larger reach online events can have. Says event producer Tony Schubert, who assisted with the launch of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, “we saw over 100,000 people log on and try to watch the premiere,” a massive jump from the typical 500 to 1,000-person premiere guest list.
He adds, “It’s not to say that you couldn’t do a big Hollywood premiere with 500 or 750 people like you normally would, and then do a virtual premiere for people in New York or across the country that want to log on and watch it in real time when the premiere’s happening.”
June 15, the date set for California’s reopening, will serve as a go-ahead for more studios to return to the red carpet: “It’s a big date,” says Jodi Cohen of JOWY Productions, as she and her business partner Sarah Lowy plan for the future of premieres and afterparties, looking at outdoor venues and opting for served meals over buffets.
“The other thing is also with this whole dancing notion. People are like, ‘Can I dance?’” says Cohen. “If you wear a mask you can dance.”
From left: Run the World stars Amber Stevens West, Bresha Webb, Andrea Bordeaux and Corbin Reid. MICHAEL KOVAC/GETTY IMAGES
As one of the first to pull it off successfully, Swisher advises others to “undo the mindset that more is better. And that’s a really hard mindset to undo because we are in the business of packing houses full and packing carpets full and having activations that are interactive. We just have to reset our mindset and realize that we can have a really good event that is not busting at the seams.”
And down the line, she sees the days of the packed pre-pandemic events making a return.
Says Swisher, “I don’t see a world in which when it’s safe that we don’t go back to blowing it out for the right film.”
By Kiersten Willis, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Troy Warren #picks-all
Holiday weekends are usually the time to be mindful of stores’ and restaurants’ operating hours.
Memorial Day is no different.
Knowing where you can stop if you run out of paper plates or where to eat if you want to skip grilling is a must this weekend.
Here is a list of popular stores and eateries that will be open Monday, May 31, according to Good Housekeeping and Country Living. Be sure to contact your local stores and restaurants to verify individual location hours.
Aldi: Open limited hours at most locations.
Kroger: Location hours vary.
Publix: Hours are 8 a.m.-8 p.m. at most stores.
Sam’s Club: Most stores’ hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Target: Most location hours are from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Trader Joe’s: Hours may vary.
Walmart: Most locations are open from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Whole Foods Market: Location hours vary.
Bed Bath & Beyond: Contactless curbside pickup offered at some locations.
Best Buy: Contactless curbside pickup offered at some locations.
Ikea: Contactless curbside pickup offered at some locations.
Lowe’s: Contactless curbside pickup offered at some locations.
Macy’s: Contactless curbside pickup offered at some locations.
The Home Depot: Location hours vary.
Bahama Breeze: Open for takeout and dine-in
The Cheesecake Factory: Operating under normal hours for dine-in, pick-up, delivery and curbside.
Chili’s: Open for takeout, pickup and dine-in.
IHOP: Open; location hours vary.
LongHorn Steakhouse: Open
Olive Garden: Open
Outback Steakhouse: Open
Red Lobster: Open normal hours
TGI Fridays: Open