Business Entertainment

‘SNL’ finale brings back Chris Rock, name-checks Morgan Wallen, Mike Pence’s fly in sarcastic recap

The “Saturday Night Live” cast and premiere host Chris Rock kicked off the show’s season finale with an emotional reflection on the events that shaped the sketch-comedy show’s 46th run. 

Between the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 election and the return to Studio 8H after several episodes from the previous season were filmed remotely, “SNL” writers had plenty of real-world material to use for satire.

“The Queen’s Gambit” star Anya Taylor-Joy hosted the last episode with Lil Nas X as the musical guest but before they made their appearances, one thing had to be established: “This year was crazy,” Aidy Bryant said.  

More ‘SNL’:Cecily Strong’s Judge Jeanine Pirro makes a splash on Weekend Update

Bowen Yang recalled how they finished the previous season doing “weird” “SNL at Home” shows and kicked off the most recent season with “terrifying” episodes in 30 Rock. 

“Everyone else was fleeing New York but (executive producer) Lorne Michaels was like ‘We should go back for comedy,’ ” Ego Nwodim said.

The season was described as both a “perfect environment” for comedy and “unusual circumstances” for laughs.

Kyle Mooney sarcastically asked: “Was every sketch perfect? Yeah, pretty much, we crushed it. Every sketch was a 10.”

‘My favorite night of my career’:Lil Nas X rips his pants onstage at ‘SNL’

"Saturday Night Live" stars Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon, Cecily Strong and Kenan Thompson reflected on the show's "crazy" pandemic season.

Rock made a surprise cameo to take a look back on Season 46, noting he opened the season as host. 

 “This is how messed up the world was when I hosted,” Rock said. “I wanted Kanye (West) to be the musical guest and he couldn’t do it because he was running for president.” 

Bryant, Kate McKinnon, Cecily Strong and Kenan Thompson offered a more serious note, acknowledging the lives lost to the coronavirus pandemic, including the show’s music producer Hal Willner, who died in April 2020 from complications of COVID-19. 

“This was the year we realized we’re more than just a cast,” McKinnon said, holding back tears. “We’re a family.” 

“Thank you for staying with us through an election, an insurrection and an objection that there was an insurrection,” said Strong. 

 “It was one wild ride, baby,” McKinnon added. 


Author: Elise Brisco

Business General

AT&T signs deal to combine media business with Discovery

NEW YORK – AT&T would combine its massive media operations, including CNN, HBO, TNT and TBS, in a $43 billion deal with Discovery, the owner of lifestyle networks including the Food Network and HGTV.

Faced with cord-cutting and incursions by streaming services, major broadcast media companies have retrenched and sought strength through mergers.

The deal announced Monday would create a separate media company as households abandon cable and satellite TV, looking instead at Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube.

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AT&T pushed into the streaming sector through HBO Max, a direct competitor with Netflix, Apple, Disney and Comcast. Discovery launched a standalone streaming service called Discovery Plus this year.

The deal to give up its media business marks a major shift by AT&T, which fought hard to push a transaction through in 2018 to buy Time Warner for $85.4 billion. The Justice Department tried to block the deal, citing anti-competitive reasons.

The deal with Discovery is likely to close by the middle of next year.



Suns win in return to playoffs, beating Lakers 99-90

Devin Booker scored 34 points, Deandre Ayton had 21 points and 16 rebounds and the Phoenix Suns won their first playoff game in 11 years, beating the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers 99-90 on Sunday.

It was the first playoff game for several Suns players, including Booker, Ayton and Mikal Bridges, but they didn’t look like postseason rookies against LeBron James and the Lakers. They helped Phoenix offset a tough game for veteran All-Star point guard Chris Paul, who didn’t look healthy after a right shoulder injury in the second quarter.

But Booker kept making shots and Ayton was a force on the glass, finishing with eight offense rebounds and shooting 10 of 11 from the field. The Lakers never got within striking distance in the final minutes.

James finished with 18 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. Anthony Davis shot just 5 of 16 from the field and had 13 points. The Lakers shot 7 of 26 (27%) from 3-point range.

Game 2 is Tuesday night in Phoenix.

It was an eventful first half that saw the Suns take a 53-45 lead.

James hit two early 3s but Phoenix responded with its own flurry from long range. Jae Crowder’s 3-pointer made it 24-17 with 4:18 left in the first quarter and Lakers coach Frank Vogel called his second timeout. Phoenix had a 32-25 lead after the first.

But the festive atmosphere in Phoenix turned to a stunned silence early in the second quarter when Paul bumped into teammate Cameron Johnson and fell to the floor in obvious pain while holding his right shoulder. He was down for a couple minutes — surrounded by players from both teams — before slowly walking off the floor with a towel over his head.

The 36-year-old star returned a few minutes later to a huge roar from the crowd, but didn’t look right. He was dribbling mostly with his left hand and missed the only shot he took before halftime.

Booker had 17 points before the break on 8-of-14 shooting and Ayton added 14.

The Lakers needed to beat Golden State on Wednesday in the play-in tournament just to earn the No. 7 seed in the playoffs. But they still came into the series as the slight betting favorites over the second-seeded Suns, according to FanDuel.


Vogel said his team expects to reach the 85% COVID-19 vaccination threshold Monday. He added that he didn’t expect much to change other than the team’s restaurant options might be expanded.


The Suns announced capacity for Sunday’s game was 11,000, but it felt like more were in an arena that holds a little more than 18,000. It was the first time there was more than 10,000 allowed in the newly-renovated arena.


Lakers: The Lakers shot 19 free throws before the Suns shot their first. The Lakers finished just 17 of 28 on free throws. … Vogel confirmed that guard Ben McLemore was in a recent car accident but was uninjured and available to play on Sunday.

Suns: The Suns were essentially fully healthy for Game 1. Forward Abdel Nader (knee) was the only player unavailable, but he’s been out for the past couple months.

Source: Fox News

General Politics

Kamala Harris has gone 61 days without a news conference since being tapped for border crisis role

Vice President Kamala Harris, who was tapped by President Biden to lead the administration’s response to the historic migrant crisis, has gone 61 days without visiting the U.S.-Mexico border and has not held a news conference on the issue. 

Her defenders say it is not her job to visit the border. They say she is more interested in scoring a diplomatic victory with countries in the Northern Triangle—where many of these migrants are fleeing. Her critics say she clearly does not want to be tied to the crisis that has little chance of being resolved and can be a political liability for her future ambition to be president.

Her silence on the matter seems to be doing little to improve the conditions at the border. On Sunday, a Fox News Flight Team captured a group of about 40 migrants rushing the southern border into La Joya, Texas. About 15 to 20 of the migrants were taken into custody and the others assumedly managed to flee.

Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the GOP, took to Twitter on Sunday to accuse the Biden administration of enacting an open-border agenda.

“ICE has released over 29,000 illegal immigrants into American communities since Biden took office,” she tweeted. “That is in addition to the 61,000 illegal immigrants caught and released by CBP. Biden’s agenda= open borders.”

McDaniel tweeted on Saturday that in the time that Harris has been tasked with solving the crisis, “border encounters increased 900% over last April.”

Harris is scheduled in June to visit officials in Mexico and Guatemala regarding the “root causes” of migration – and has been holding both in-person and online meetings with Latin American officials and others in preparation for her trip.

Source: Fox News

General Travel and Adventure

Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Carnival cruise lines announce plans to resume cruising this summer in Alaska, Florida, Texas

Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Corp. lines Princess Cruises, Holland America Line and Carnival Cruise Line announced plans to resume cruising this summer, including some voyages to Alaska after the U.S. Senate passed a bill last week that could help save the state’s upcoming cruise season.

Congress has voted to let large cruise ships sail directly from Washington state to Alaska without stopping in Canada, a step that could clear the way for cruises later this year.

The legislation approved by the House on Thursday goes to President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it.

A longstanding federal law prohibits foreign-flagged ships — typically the big cruise liners — from carrying passengers between two U.S. ports without stopping in another country. With Canada forbidding any cruise operations through next February, the law threatened to eliminate Alaskan voyages on large ships this year.

“This legislation is literally a lifeline for so many of Alaska’s small businesses that were struggling, and it means jobs for more Alaskans this summer,” said Sarah Leonard, president of the Alaska Travel Industry Association.

Tourism is an important industry in Alaska, particularly for many southeast Alaska communities heavily reliant on cruise ship passengers. The tourism sector was hard hit by the pandemic last year, with sailings canceled.

Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises to sail in July with COVID vaccine requirement

Royal Caribbean Group announced Friday that its cruise lines Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises will plan to sail from Seattle to Alaska on round-trip itineraries starting in July. Celebrity set a date of July 23, but other restart dates were not specified. 

All passengers over 16 will be required to have been vaccinated to board the sailings. Starting Aug. 1, every passenger over age 12 will be required to be fully vaccinated to board.

“We are so pleased that Congress unanimously voted to pass legislation enabling cruise ships to sail to Alaska this season,” Richard D. Fain, Royal Caribbean Group chairman and CEO, said in the announcement.

Carnival, Princess, Holland America to resume, require COVID vaccines on initial sailings

Carnival Corp. said Thursday in a statement provided by spokesperson Roger Frizzell, that the plans to resume sailing with paying passengers came based on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent guidance, collaboration with Alaskan officials.  

Each cruise line will resume with one ship sailing round trip. 

To board, passengers will be required to show proof that they have been vaccinated 14 days ahead of the cruise’s start date. Carnival Corp. hasn’t announced a decision on whether vaccines will be required more broadly. 

“Our highest responsibility and top priority are always compliance, environmental protection, and the health, safety and well-being of our guests, the people in the communities we touch and serve, and our shipboard and shoreside personnel,” Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corp., said in a statement.

► Princess Cruises will resume sailings in Alaska July 25, and seven-day cruises on the Majestic Princess will run through Sept. 26 visiting ports, glaciers and other attractions, such as Glacier Bay National Park, Skagway, Ketchikan and Juneau.

► Holland America Line will start Alaska seven-day sailings on the Nieuw Amsterdam with port calls at Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan departing July 24 with 10 Saturday departure dates scheduled to run through Oct. 2.

► Carnival Cruise Line, Carnival Corp.’s flagship line, will have one ship, the Carnival Miracle sail from Seattle for seven-day cruises with departures starting July 27 and running through Sept. 14 with port calls in Skagway, Ketchikan, Juneau and scenic cruising in Tracy Arm Fjord. The Sept. 14 departure is for an eight-day cruise and will include an extra stop in Icy Strait Point.

Carnival is also working on finalizing plans for Carnival Horizon to sail from Miami, and for Carnival Vista and Carnival Breeze to sail from Galveston in July with final details expected next week.

Norwegian to resume cruises in July with COVID vaccine required
Tickets are on sale for Alaska itineraries on the company's Norwegian Bliss ship for August through the end of the season.

Norwegian, which announced a vaccine requirement for all passengers and crew on all of its ships in April, expressed its commitment to safety and to working with the CDC when ticket sales were announced.

“We remain optimistic that by working with the CDC and local port and government authorities in the destinations we visit that we will be able to resume safe cruising in the U.S. this summer,” a Norwegian Cruise Line spokesperson said to Alaska’s News Source on Tuesday.

Tickets are on sale for Alaska itineraries on the company’s Norwegian Bliss shipfor August through the end of the season. The statement from the cruise line did not specify what the end of the season would be. In the past, ships have visited southeast Alaska into September.

Source: USA Today

Author: Morgan Hines

Business Technology

Ford F-150 Lightning joins flurry of electric pickups: Will these EV trucks be a hit?

After years of rolling out compact electric vehicles that haven’t sold particularly well, the U.S. auto industry is pairing EV technology with a body style that fits Americans’ lifestyle a little bit better: pickups.

The Ford F-150 Lightning is poised to make its debut tonight, making a splash as the first electric version of the nation’s best-selling vehicle.

On one hand, Ford is late to the party, as several of the automaker’s competitors have already revealed electric pickups.

On the other hand, it’s just on time, since none of those EV pickups are actually available for delivery quite yet.

But will Americans actually buy them?

“How well do they sell? What is the market? Who are the buyers for those? Are EV pickup truck buyers the same as traditional pickup truck buyers?” asks Michelle Krebs, executive auto analyst at car-buying site Autotrader. “There’s so many questions about that pickup truck market.”

Source: USA Today

Author:Nathan Bomey

Business General Life Skills Technology

Technology shares sink broader market although Dow has gain

Technology companies dragged indexes lower on Wall Street Tuesday, pulling the market further from its recent all-time highs.

The S&P 500 fell 0.7%, erasing its gains from last week. Big technology companies like Apple and Microsoft fell as the sector declined for the sixth straight day. Losses in communications stocks and companies that rely on consumer spending also weighed on the market, offsetting gains by financial, industrial and materials stocks. Treasury yields fell slightly.

Investors continue to focus on corporate earnings and on gauging the economic recovery’s progress. Earnings and most economic indicators have been signaling a steady improvement, but investors remain concerned about the lingering threat from COVID-19, inflation and other factors that could crimp progress.

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A key concern has been the recovery in the employment market. Investors will get another update with this week’s jobs report.

“The entire market is down, but the tech stuff is down way more,” said Ross Mayfield, investment strategist at Baird. “If you look at the broad picture, the earnings beats are strong and we’re expecting a big” jobs number on Friday, he said.

Before this week, stocks had been grinding higher on expectations of an economic recovery and strong company profits this year as large-scale coronavirus vaccination programs help people return to jobs and normal activities after more than a year of restrictions. Massive support from the U.S. government and the Federal Reserve, and increasingly positive economic data, have also helped put investors in a buying mood, keeping stock indexes near their all-time highs.

More than half of the companies in the S&P 500 have reported their results so far this earnings season, which show profit growth of 54%, according to FactSet.

On Monday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the economic outlook has “clearly brightened” in the United States, but the recovery remains too uneven.

Still, a key concern is whether the economy is strengthening so quickly that it will force the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates to combat inflation, signs of which are already cropping up as higher prices for oil, lumber and other commodities.

Remarks by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen Tuesday morning appeared to stoke those worries. At an economic seminar, Yellen said interest rates may have to rise to keep the economy from overheating. The selling on Wall Street accelerated following her remarks, which she later downplayed during an interview with the Wall Street Journal after the markets closed.

“That is why the sell-off hit tech stocks, especially,” said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial. “Many would argue they were overbought and due for a pullback, and anything in this particular environment suggesting that rates could move higher is a negative for Big Tech.”

Technology stocks have had a strong runup over the past year. With the market near its recent record highs, the prospect of higher interest rates, which can slow the economy by making the cost of capital more expensive, makes tech stocks look particularly vulnerable.

Apple fell 3.5% and Facebook slid 1.3%. Google’s parent company dropped 1.5% and Amazon lost 2.2%. The declines exacerbated Monday’s drop in tech shares, which caused the Nasdaq to end in the red.

Bond yields fell. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note dropped to 1.59% from 1.60% the day before.

Investors will get a closely watched jobs report on Friday. Economists expect that U.S. employers hired 975,000 workers last month as the economy accelerated out of the pandemic and vaccines rolled out nationwide. The unemployment rate is expected to drop to 5.8% from 6%.

Also Tuesday, Saudi Aramco said its profits soared by 30% in the first-quarter of the year, compared to last year, on the back of higher crude oil prices and recovering demand as major economies claw their way out of recession.

Source: USA Today

Author: Damian J. Troise and Alex Veiga

Entertainment General Social Media

Oscars producer Steven Soderberg addresses that awkward, controversial ending

Ending this year’s Oscars on the award for best acting was a decision made prior to the academy announcing nominees, show producer Steven Soderberg said in a new interview.

When the April ceremony made a rare pivot to ending the annual award show with best actor, rather than best picture, as it had for all but one of the past 73 Oscars, viewers assumed it was a plot to wrap up on an emotional note: The late Chadwick Boseman was favored to win for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” all but ensuring a memorable, tearful acceptance speech from his widow, Simone Ledward Boseman. 

But then Anthony Hopkins’ name was called. The 83-year-old U.K.-based “The Father” actor was not present and the showrunners ruled against members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences giving remote speeches (a decision Soderberg stands by, he said to the Los Angeles Times), which led to an awkward, abrupt ending some criticized as a “massively bad idea.”

“That was something we were going to do well before the nominations came out — we talked about that in January,” Soderberg, who directed “Ocean’s Eleven,” told the L.A. Times in an interview published Tuesday.

More:Anthony Hopkins speaks out after Oscars viewers say Chadwick Boseman was ‘robbed’ of posthumous statue

Sir Anthony Hopkins in "The Father."

“It’s our belief — that I think is not unfounded — that actors’ speeches tend to be more dramatic than producers’ speeches. And so we thought it might be fun to mix it up, especially if people didn’t know that was coming. So that was always part of the plan,” Soderberg said. “And then when the nominations came out and there was even the possibility that Chadwick could win posthumously, our feeling was if he were to win and his widow were to speak on his behalf, there would be nowhere to go after that. So we stuck with it.”

Soderberg added that his team didn’t assume Boseman would win, but “if there was even a possibility that it would happen, then you have to account for that.” 

“I said if there was even the sliver of a chance that he would win and that his widow would speak, then we were operating under the fact that was the end of the show,” he said. “That would have been such a shattering moment, that to come back after that would have been just impossible.” 

He deserved more:Why Chadwick Boseman’s posthumous Oscar loss stings so much

"Black Panther" and "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" star Chadwick Boseman died in August 2020.

Some critics, including USA TODAY’s TV critic Kelly Lawler, took issue with other aspects of the “excruciatingly long, boring” production, held this year at Los Angeles’ Union Station instead of the usual Dolby Theater.

“I wasn’t aware of that, ‘cause I don’t read reviews,” Soderberg said of the criticisms. “So if you’re telling me that’s the case, not a lot I can do about that. You have to understand this show was very much viewed by us and by the academy as an opportunity to try some really different stuff. And the understanding was always, there are going to be some things that work and some things that don’t, things that people like, things that people don’t. That’s the point.” 

More:How the first (and hopefully last) pandemic Oscars went so terribly wrong

Ratings this year hit another all-time low, plunging to 10.4 million viewers, according to final Nielsen estimates. That’s down 56% from last year’s pre-pandemic 23.6 million viewers, then a record-low that was down by 6 million from 2019. Ever since COVID-19 disrupted awards shows (along with life in general), other recent awards ceremonies have also hit record lows.

The producer said his ultimate goal was “to really do something different” this year and applauded the support of the academy and network. 


Author: Hannah Yasharoff.


Buying a home? Tips to improve your credit score

With mortgage rates low and spring homebuying season upon us, many Americans are looking to buy their first home or hunting for a new one.

But before you fall in love with that white colonial down the block, you’ll need to go over your finances. And a key part of that process is checking your credit score, which determines what kind of rate you’ll get on a home loan. 

A credit score is a number between 300 and 850 that shows a consumer’s creditworthiness based on their bill payment history, current debt and other financial information. A high score could mean lower interest rates on a loan as lenders feel more confident that a person will repay their future debts.

A score of 800 or above is considered excellent, and most consumers have credit scores that fall between 600 and 750, according to Experian, a credit reporting agency.

On you are entitled to a free annual credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies. These agencies include Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the agencies are offering free credit reports every week through April 2022 so people can stay in control of their finances.

Here are tips for improving your credit:

Check your credit report

Getting an annual credit report will help you spot errors and fraudulent accounts. If you spot mistakes or errors, write to the credit reporting agency and information provider, such as your bank or credit card company, detailing the errors. They are required to investigate.

Find a sample dispute letter and get detailed instructions on how to report errors. 

Pay down your debt

If you’re behind on your bills, bringing them current could help. While a late payment can remain on your credit report for up to seven years, having all your accounts current can be good for your scores. It also stops further late payments from being added to your credit history as well as additional late fees, according to Experian.

How a single Mom raised her credit:Here’s what she did.

credit report showing score of 765

Pay your bills on time

Make sure you don’t miss loan or credit card payments by more than 29 days. Payments that are at least 30 days late can be reported to the credit bureaus and hurt your credit scores.

“If you consistently can make payments on time, it just shows that you’re a reliable borrower, and it shows that you’re a less risky individual,” says Andy Taylor, general manager at Credit Karma.

More:Just bought a home? What projects should you tackle first?

Avoid balloon payments

When you get the bill from your credit card, pay what you can. Don’t wait until you have the full amount.Get the Coronavirus Watch newsletter in your inbox.

Stay safe and informed with updates on the spread of the coronavirusDelivery: VariesYour Email

“Make smaller payments as you can for over the course of the month, rather than the 15th or the first of the month,” says Taylor. “At the end, if can keep that credit card utilization down, and that will actually increase your credit score.”

Don’t open up too many credit cards

If you apply for too many cards over a short period of time, you might look like a greater risk.  

“To a lender, it might appear that you’re a greater risk, because if It looks like you’re looking for cash, and maybe you’ve got a big purchase coming up, or maybe you’re kind of hurting for cash, you’re open up a bunch of credit cards,” says Taylor.

Source: USA TODAY.

Author: Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy.

General Technology

One buried Google Maps setting you need to change now

Remember the old GPS units we used to get around back in the day? Before that, maybe you printed directions from MapQuest or another site. And before that, we relied on actual maps that no one knew how to fold quickly.

Today, you open up your phone and click an app. It’s easy, sure, but you might not think much about how much information you’re giving away with every trip and every search. 

Speaking of searches, it’s high time you cleared out your browser search history. If you don’t do this regularly, start now. Tap or click for steps in all the major browsers.

Before you use Google Maps to get somewhere, there’s one simple change you can make to take back at least a piece of your privacy.

See everywhere you’ve gone

Did you know Google Maps works even if you don’t have a Google account associated with it? You won’t get all the features, though. Signing in allows you to save locations, like your home and work, and remember your preferred routes.

Like any navigation app, Google Maps uses the GPS location on your phone to determine where in the world you are. Every time you navigate somewhere, your location is stored in your profile.

That might not seem so bad. After all, your navigation app needs to know where you are. But all that info is seldom deleted from your account. You can check where you were on this day five years ago, for instance.

It is eye-opened to check this list. Maybe it’ll feel like a fun walk down memory lane. Or perhaps it will creep you out.

DONE WITH BIG TECH? Google Search alternatives that respect your privacy

Here’s how to see your history:

  • When signed in, click on your profile picture to open your Google Account or go to your Google Account page.
  • On the left, click on Data & Personalization.
  • Under “Activity Controls,” click on Location History.
  • At the bottom, click Manage activity

You will see a map that includes details like your saved home and work locations and all the recorded trips you’ve made over the years. You can use the Timeline box in the top left corner to search by year or down to a specific day.

Try going back a few years. If there are trips recorded, you’ll see a blue bar you can click. Select it to get highlights, like visits you made, places you traveled to, and the exact route you took. You’ll even see how long it took you to get there.

RELATED: Police have them. You should have one too. Here’s a list of the best affordable dash cams.

You can turn this tracking off

After you’re done exploring, you can choose to stop Google from keeping track of your movement in this way.

  • Open your Google Account page.
  • On the left, click on Data & Personalization.
  • Under “Activity Controls,” click on Location History.
  • You can toggle this off. Note: Google saves where you go even when you aren’t using a specific Google service.

Switching this off stops tracking in the future, but it will retain a copy of your history.

To completely delete your location history data, click on the Auto-delete option. You can choose to auto-delete the data older than three months, older than 18 months or older than 36 months. You can still manually delete anything before that.

If you turn this setting off, Google warns you may not see recommendations based on your history or tips to, say, make your commute easier. Your location may also still be saved when you use other Google services, like Google Photos.

Source: Fox News