Dec 12

“A Day with Dolly”: The country icon stops by “Sprout House” for new children’s special

Universal Kids, NBCUniversalYou can spend A Day with Dolly starting on Tuesday, as the entertainment icon stars in a new Sprout House special that premieres at 11:05 a.m. ET on Universal Kids.

Dolly will perform songs like “A Friend Like You,” “You Can Do It” and “Together Forever,” all from her first-ever children’s album, I Believe in You. She’ll also be joined by the show’s host, Carly, as well as the loveable puppy puppet, Snug.

A Day with Dolly will re-air both Wednesday and Thursday at 9:55 a.m. ET, before also premiering on the Sprout YouTube channel on Thursday.

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Dec 12

Luke Bryan locks in his 19th #1, pays tribute to Lionel Richie

ABC/Paula LoboLuke Bryan brings home the 19th #1 of his career this week, as “Light It Up” ascends to the top of the country chart.

“Light It Up” is the lead single from the Georgia native’s new What Makes You Country album. He’ll perform the track “Most People Are Good” Tuesday on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Check your local listings to see when the syndicated show airs in your area.

Last week, Luke also recorded another high-profile TV appearance, this time in Washington, D.C. He’ll pay tribute to his fellow American Idol judge Lionel Richie during this year’s 40th Annual Kennedy Center Honors. You can catch his performance Tuesday, December 26, when the show airs at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.

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Dec 12

Chris Stapleton takes “Volume 2” to #1, as the second “From A Room” set debuts

ABC/Image Group LAChris Stapleton captures the top spot on Billboard’s country albums chart this week, with the second volume of his recordings From A Room.

The CMA Male Vocalist of the Year sold 116,000 copies of From A Room:  Volume 2, with a total that increases to 125,000 units when you account for album-equivalent units. By comparison, May’s first set moved 219,000 in its initial week.

On the all-genre Billboard 200, Chris couldn’t quite make it to #1, thanks to a little rock band named U2 and their latest effort, Songs of Experience.  From A Room:  Volume 2 comes in at #2, just ahead of Taylor Swift, who drops to #3 with Reputation after three weeks at the top.

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Dec 12

Come to the compound: Florida Georgia Line envisions new headquarters in Music City

ABC/Image Group LANext up for Florida Georgia Line, the duo will build their own creative compound not far from Nashville’s Music Row.

Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley envision a garden-sanctuary environment that will be made up primarily of three ventures: FGL’s publishing company Tree Vibez Music; Brian’s wife Brittney’s clothing brand, Tribe Kelley; and a new meeting and event space called meet + greet. The new location is at 1910 21st Avenue South, in the Hillsboro Village neighborhood.

“Passionate people inspire other passionate people,” Brian says. “We thrive on letting our imaginations run wild and can’t wait to see what this city dreams up together.”

Earlier this year, Brian and Tyler opened their own bar and restaurant, FGL House, in downtown Nashville. They’re currently working on their fourth studio album as their duet with pop star Bebe Rexha, “Meant to Be,” climbs the chart.

You can find out more about FGL’s new venture at MeetGreetNashville.com.

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Dec 12

Matt Barnes, 37, retires from the NBA

Vivien Killilea/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — After 14 years in the NBA, forward Matt Barnes is calling it a career. The 37-year-old, who had not played this season, made the announcement on his Instagram Monday.

“Had a cool 15yr run!!” he wrote. “Traveled the world met alota cool people, some will be brothers for the rest of my life! BUT NOW…. You telling me I can dress like this for business meetings & make more money off the court than I made ON?? & spend more time with my kids??!! … Let’s Do it! Love me or HATE ME, I DID IT MY WAY!”

Barnes certainly did things his way over his 14 years in the league, playing for ten different NBA teams after being drafted out of UCLA in the second round by Memphis Grizzlies in 2002. He played for the Golden State Warriors last season, his second stint with the team, and won the NBA championship.

Barnes wasn’t know for his scoring, and usually came off the bench to provide a physical and emotional spark for his team. He was also involved in a feud with former Lakers player and Knicks head coach Derek Fisher, who is dating Barnes’ ex-wife, Gloria Govan.

Off the court, Barnes has been running a foundation that helps raise money for cancer patients, and says he is working with his alma mater to help establish a scholarship for children who conquer cancer and want to attend college.

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Dec 12

Saudi Arabia to reopen cinemas that have been banned since the 1980s, says crown prince

iStock/Thinstock(RIYADH, Saudi Arabia) — Cinemas are set to open in Saudi Arabia in March 2018 for the first time since they were banned in in the early 1980s, according to the Saudi minister of culture.

“It’s a beautiful day in Saudi Arabia!” tweeted Haifaa al-Mansour, the first female Saudi director of a feature film, the acclaimed “Wadjda”.

 This is the second major social reform, after the lifting of the ban on women driving, announced in recent months as part of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s “Vision 2030”, a socioeconomic program aimed at modernizing the Saudi economy and shepherding the conservative kingdom into the 21st century.

“This is the best news! I’ve been waiting for it for 33 years” said Nahar Alhamrani, a self-described movie fanatic from Jeddah. “It will spark creativity and help build a change in people’s mindset.”

Cinemas existed in Saudi Arabia until they were banned in the early 1980s after a puritanical religious establishment gained control over social and educational affairs in the country.

“Today, the organized Islamist undercurrents that thrived in the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s no longer have influence in society,” said Mohammed Alyahya, a nonresident fellow at The Atlantic Council.

Back then, “young and old people traded DVDs, downloaded movies and visited Bahrain to watch movies. The reintroduction of movie theaters is long overdue” added Alyahya.

A multimillion-dollar bootleg industry flourished as a result. Saudis amassed large collections of pirated DVDs of the latest Hollywood blockbusters, circumventing both the ban and censorship. It’s this revenue that the decision today also aims to recapture.

“Opening cinemas will act as a catalyst for economic growth and diversification,” said Minister of Culture Awwad Alawwad. “By developing the broader cultural sector, we will create new employment and training opportunities, as well as enriching the kingdom’s entertainment options”

The Saudi cinema industry is still nascent but has been receiving more attention over recent years with breakthrough movies like “Wadjdah” and “Barakah meets Barakah.”

In September, it was announced that Saudi actress Ahd Kamel will star in the Netflix series “Collateral.”

“Born a King,” a coming-of-age story about the teenager who would become King Faisal, wrapped filming last month. It is the first Saudi English-language feature film officially licensed to be shot in the kingdom.

The announcement by the ministry of culture did not specify whether seating in cinemas would be gender-segregated as most public spaces are in Saudi Arabia or how heavily censored movies will be. Films are usually greatly censored with pixelation added to cover the chest and legs of actresses, as seen on a recent Saudi Airlines flight. Regulations are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

Multiple malls currently being built had already received licenses to build multiplexes before today’s announcement.

By 2030, over 300 cinemas with 2000 screens are expected to have opened across Saudi Arabia.

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Dec 12

NYC explosion suspect self-inspired from ISIS online propaganda: Sources

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A man accused of detonating an explosive in the New York City subway system Monday morning had the bomb strapped to him while he rode in from Brooklyn to Manhattan before the attack, a law enforcement source said.

The explosion occurred in an underground passageway near the Port Authority Bus Terminal and, despite the rush-hour crowds, only three people suffered minor injuries, officials said. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the explosion “one of our worst nightmares.” 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo  called the explosion “one of our worst nightmares.” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called it an “attempted terrorist attack.”

Cuomo said on CNN that the homemade device only partially detonated, explaining that the bomb was in a pipe that itself did not explode.

Authorities called it an “improvised low-tech explosive device” that was attached to the suspect with hook-and-loop fasteners and zip ties.

A law enforcement source said the bomb was built from a 12-inch long pipe, black powder and rigged with a 9-volt battery and a wire that came from a Christmas light. Because it was strapped to the suspect, the assumption is he had been prepared to die a suicide bomber, the source said. The pipe had nails stuffed into it, the source said, and it had the ability to impose more injuries than it did.

“This could have been worse,” a law enforcement source told ABC News.

However, the pipe did not fully shatter and a 6-inch piece was discovered fully intact. 

The 27-year-old suspect, Akayed Ullah, is in the hospital, badly injured in the arm and torso from the device that went off in his arms, sources said. Ullah, originally from Bangladesh, told authorities he is self-inspired from ISIS online propaganda, sources said.

Ullah entered the United States from Bangladesh seven years ago on a family-based visa and has an address in Brooklyn, sources said. The explosive was assembled in his apartment, sources said.

Authorities called the explosive an “improvised low-tech explosive device” that was based on a pipe bomb and was attached to the suspect with Velcro and zip ties.

Video of the incident, shot by a surveillance camera, shows commuters’ walking in the passageway when the explosion erupts. The camera screen filled with smoke as people scattered.

Christina Bethea, 29, told ABC News she was in the passageway on her way to work next to the terminal when she heard a bang, saw smoke and ran.

“If I didn’t believe in God, I believe in God today,” she said, adding that she commuted from Yonkers, New York.

Alfonso Chavez — brother of Veronica Chavez, who was hospitalized after today’s attack — told ABC News that his sister is doing better but still feeling the after-effects of the explosion. Veronica Chavez was on her way to work when the bomb detonated. She told her brother that she first heard the explosion and then saw dust and smoke.

When the smoke settled, she saw two to three bodies on the floor along with some debris, her brother said she told him. She froze for a second, then ran, falling to the ground as she went before finally reaching an exit, Alfonso Chavez said.

The explosion in the subway system — ridden by 6 million people each day — occurred at about 7:20 a.m.

Port Authority Police Department Officer Jack Collins, who was undercover at the time looking for children being trafficked at the bus terminal, apprehended Ullah, with the help of three other officers: Sean Gallagher, Anthony Manfredini and Drew Preston.

Manfredini noticed alarmed commuters running from the suspect, who was already on the ground after having detonated the device, said Robert Egbert, a spokesman for the Port Authority police union.

The officers then reached the wounded suspect and saw what appeared to be wires coming out of his clothing, Egbert said. Ullah appeared to be reaching for a cellphone, Egbert said, and the officers held him at gunpoint and cuffed him after a brief struggle. The officers didn’t fire their weapons, Egbert said.

On Monday evening, Port Authority Police Benevolent Association President Paul Nunziato praised the officers for their quick action. “Those four guys are heroes,” he told ABC news.

“Thank God the perpetrator did not achieve his ultimate goals,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

New York City has long been a target of terrorist attacks. Since Sept. 11, about 26 “plots” in New York City have been prevented, officials said this morning.

There are no credible and specific threats against New York City at this time, officials said.

The bus terminal was temporarily closed but has since reopened. Subways were bypassing the terminal and Times Square stations.

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement, “The Department of Homeland Security is taking appropriate action to protect our people and our country in the wake of Monday’s attempted terrorist attack.”

“We will continue to assist New York authorities with the response and investigation and we urge the public to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity,” Nielsen said. “More broadly, the administration continues to adopt significant security measures to keep terrorists from entering our country and from recruiting within our borders.”

Monday’s explosion comes less than two months after a native of Uzbekistan plowed a truck into a crowd on a lower Manhattan bike path, killing eight. He was allegedly inspired by ISIS videos he’d watched on his cellphone.

President Donald Trump said in a statement that Monday’s attack “once again highlights the urgent need for Congress to enact legislative reforms to protect the American people.”

“America must fix its lax immigration system, which allows far too many dangerous, inadequately vetted people to access our country,” Trump said. “Today’s terror suspect entered our country through extended-family chain migration, which is incompatible with national security. My executive action to restrict the entry of certain nationals from eight countries, which the Supreme Court recently allowed to take effect, is just one step forward in securing our immigration system. Congress must end chain migration.

“Congress must also act on my administration’s other proposals to enhance domestic security, including increasing the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, enhancing the arrest and detention authorities for immigration officers, and ending fraud and abuse in our immigration system,” he said.

Trump also added “those convicted of engaging in acts of terror deserve the strongest penalty allowed by law, including the death penalty in appropriate cases. America should always stand firm against terrorism and extremism, ensuring that our great institutions can address all evil acts of terror.”

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Dec 12

NYC terror suspect’s family ‘heartbroken’ by attack

Stephanie Keith/Getty Images(NEW YORK) —  The family of the man accused of detonating an explosive in the New York City subway system Monday morning said they are “heartbroken” by the allegations.

The explosion occurred in an underground passageway near the Port Authority Bus Terminal, sending commuters scrambling to evacuate a major transit hub just blocks from Times Square. Despite the rush-hour crowds, only five people suffered minor injuries, officials said.

The 27-year-old suspect, Akayed Ullah, is in the hospital, badly injured in the arm and torso from the device that went off in his arms, law enforcement sources said.

“We are heartbroken by the violence that was targeted at our city today, and by the allegations being made against a member of our family,” the family said in a statement, which was read in front of the Ullah family’s home in Brooklyn by Albert Fox Cahn, legal director for Council on American-Islamic Relations-New York.

“But we are also outraged by the behavior of law enforcement officials who have held children as small as 4 years old out in the cold and who held a teenager out of high school classes to interrogate him without a lawyer, without his parents,” the statement continued. “These are not the sorts of actions that we expect from our justice system, and we have every confidence that our justice system will find the truth behind this attack and that we will, in the end, be able to learn what occurred today.”

It’s not clear who the children and the teenager referred to in the statement are.

Ullah, originally from Bangladesh, told authorities he is self-inspired from ISIS online propaganda, sources said. Ullah told authorities no one directed him to carry out the attack and he talked about the plight of Muslims over the years, a law enforcement source said.

Ullah entered the United States from Bangladesh seven years ago on a family-based visa and has an address in Brooklyn, sources said. The explosive was assembled in his apartment, sources said.

Video of the incident, shot by a surveillance camera, shows commuters walking in the passageway when the explosion erupts. The camera screen filled with smoke as people scattered.

Christina Bethea, 29, told ABC News she was in the passageway on her way to work next to the terminal when she heard a bang, saw smoke and ran.

“If I didn’t believe in God, I believe in God today,” she said, adding that she commuted from Yonkers, New York.

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Dec 12

Huge California wildfire in Ventura, Santa Barbara counties has charred 230,000 acres

ABC News(LOS ANGELES) — The Thomas Fire, the worst of five wildfires currently burning in California, grew by more than 50,000 acres on Sunday, making it the fifth-largest wildfire in the state’s history, fire officials said.

The inferno just north of Los Angeles in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties is being fought by about 6,400 firefighters.

It’s been a witch’s brew fueled by lush vegetation, powerful Santa Ana winds and the region’s extremely warm weather and dry conditions.

So far, officials estimate the Thomas Fire has charred about 230,500 acres, the equivalent of about 360 square miles. It has consumed 794 structures and damaged about 190 others, with 18,000 buildings still at risk.

The peril of the blaze, which has burned wildly for a week, has prompted the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents.

In Santa Barbara County alone, more than 30,000 residents were forced from their homes under evacuation warnings.

Perhaps most critical is that the Santa Ana winds persist, keeping firefighters struggling with gusts at around 35 to 45 mph, Cal Fire officials confirmed.

However, in a promising turn, despite the fire’s perimeter spreading over the weekend, the Thomas Fire is now back to 15 percent contained — up slightly from Sunday evening.

The state has spent more than $34 million on efforts to suppress the Thomas fire, which has also knocked out electricity for thousands of area residents, authorities said.

 “[We’re] facing a new reality in the state,” California Gov. Jerry Brown said Saturday as he surveyed damage in Ventura County. “It’s a horror and a horror we need to recover from.”

He said drought and climate change have exacerbated the wildfires.

 From now on in California, Brown said, fires are going to be more “intense” and a greater danger to lives and property.

“Individuals need to come together to make our communities livable,” he said.

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Dec 12

Court ruling: Transgender individuals can enlist in the military beginning Jan. 1

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) —  The Pentagon is preparing to allow transgender individuals to enlist in the U.S. military beginning Jan. 1 in compliance with a federal court ruling from two weeks ago.

On Monday, the court denied an emergency stay issued by the Trump administration to delay that court order. While the administration continues appealing that decision, the Pentagon is preparing in the meantime to let transgender individuals join the military if they meet certain guidelines.

The Pentagon’s compliance only applies to allowing transgender individuals seeking to join the military to enlist. Separate court actions have temporarily halted the implementation of the Trump administration’s reinstatement of a ban on transgender service members that was to have been phased into place this spring.

“As required by recent federal district court orders, the Department of Defense recently announced it will begin processing transgender applicants for military service on January 1, 2018,” said a Defense Department statement issued Monday. “This policy will be implemented while the Department of Defense appeals those court orders.”

The Pentagon will comply with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia’s order that it implement the guidelines issued by former Defense Secretary Ash Carter in 2016 when he lifted the ban on transgender service members in the military.

Under those guidelines, applicants will be allowed to join if a medical provider certifies they have been stable without “clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning” for 18 months.

Similarly, a licensed medical provider must certify that an applicant “has completed all medical treatment associated with the applicant’s gender transition, the applicant has been stable in the preferred gender for 18 months, and if presently receiving cross-sex hormone therapy post-gender transition, the individual has been stable on such hormones for 18 months.”

Applicants who have completed sex reassignment or genital reconstruction surgery must have a licensed medical provider certify that “a period of 18 months has elapsed since the date of the most recent surgery, no functional limitations or complications persist, and no additional surgeries are required.”

“Transgender individuals receiving hormone therapy also must be stable on their medication for 18 months.”

“As of right now, they are simply complying with a court order and a previous policy to remain in compliance,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said during Monday’s White House briefing. “The Department of Justice is currently reviewing the legal options to ensure that the president’s directive can be implemented, and for anything further, any specifics on both of those matters, I refer you to the Department of Defense and Justice.”

The lawsuit moving through federal court was filed on behalf of transgender service members two weeks after President Trump tweeted in July that transgender individuals would not be allowed in the U.S. military “in any capacity” because of the “tremendous medical costs and disruption.”

On Aug. 25, Trump formally signed a memorandum directing the Pentagon to ban transgender individuals from serving. The directive gave the Department of Defense six months to develop an implementation plan that will go into effect on March 23, 2018.

Former defense secretary Ash Carter lifted the ban on transgender service members in June 2016 and put in place a one-year review of how transgender recruits could join the military by the following summer.

Current defense secretary James Mattis extended that study in July of this year by six months, however, Trump’s new policy directive has put into question what will happen to current transgender service members and those individuals hoping to serve.

As recently as last week, Chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said the Pentagon was continuing with its panel that would provide recommendations to Mattis, by February, for how to handle the cases of transgender individuals already in uniform.

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