Former President Barack Obama made a last-minute decision to significantly scale down his 60th birthday bash on Martha’s Vineyard this weekend, and several VIP guests didn’t make the cut.
Comedian Larry David and the talk show hosts David Letterman and Conan O’Brien were uninvited amid concern about the rapidly-spreading COVID-19 delta variant, The New York Times reported Friday. The majority of Obama’s former administration staffers, including top adviser David Axelrod, also got the axe, the Times reported.
“This outdoor event was planned months ago in accordance with all public health guidelines and with COVID safeguards in place,” Obama’s spokesperson, Hannah Hankins, said in a statement. “Due to the new spread of the delta variant over the past week, the President and Mrs. Obama have decided to significantly scale back the event to include only family and close friends.”
But several other celebrities, including Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Bruce Springsteen, Steven Spielberg, and George Clooney, made the pared-down list.
Some other high-profile guests made their own decision not to attend. President Joe Biden said he wouldn’t attend the party, but would find some other way to celebrate the former president’s birthday. Oprah Winfrey and filmmaker Ava DuVernay decided not to go amid concerns over delta, the Times reported.
The party, which will be held at the Obama’s 29-acre, $12 million mansion on the island, originally had a 475-person guest list. It’s unclear how many guests will attend the event, which will reportedly be held outdoors and will feature a meat-less, vegan menu put together by the musician Questlove.
Former President Barack Obama revealed in his new podcast with musician Bruce Springsteen that he once punched a school friend who called him a racial slur when they were kids.
Obama told the story during an episode of “Renegades: Born in the USA” focusing on race and explained how people use racial epithets to make themselves feel more important and assert power over others.
“When I was in school, I had a friend. We played basketball together,” Obama said. “And one time we got into a fight and he called me a c—.”
Obama went on to say: “And I remember I popped him in the face and broke his nose. And we were in the locker room.”
“Well done,” Springsteen replied.
Obama said he told the kid, “Don’t you ever call me something like that.”
The former president said there’s a similar psychology behind using a racial slurs and dehumanizing people in other ways.
“What it comes down to is an assertion of status over the other. The claim is made that, ‘No matter what I am – I may be poor. I may be ignorant. I may be mean. I may be ugly. I may not like myself. I may be unhappy. But you know what I’m not? I’m not you,'” Obama said. “That basic psychology that then gets institutionalized is used to justify dehumanizing somebody, taking advantage of ’em, cheatin’ ’em, stealin’ from ’em, killin’ ’em, raping ’em.”
The name of the podcast is a nod to Springsteen’s anthem “Born in the USA” and perhaps also a play on one of the most pervasive racist attacks on Obama: Donald Trump and other critics’ false claim that the first Black president might not have been born in the US.
Spotify announced new podcast partnerships and a subscription service for high-quality streaming on Monday during a virtual event called “Stream On.”
The production was filled with updates about new creator tools, podcast partnerships, and advertising options. It also highlighted several Spotify accomplishments, most notably the upcoming expansion into over 80 new markets and 36 new languages.
Monday’s updates mostly focused on Spotify’s podcasting segment and creators. But if you’re a Spotify traditionalist that only streams music on the app, you’re still in luck.
Spotify is expanding its customized playlists by adding new Daily Mixes. And later this year, the platform will begin offering “Spotify HiFi,” a subscription service that will offer listeners “CD-quality” audio. According to Spotify, this higher quality audio option has been a hotly requested add-on.
Now, Spotify is looking to accelerate its podcast growth even more through a list of newly announced partnerships that span a variety of genres, from narrated superhero tales to stories that amplify Muslim voices.
Last year, Spotify announced a multi-year partnership with Warner Bros and DC to bring beloved comic book characters like Superman, Harley Quinn, and Cat Woman into the podcasting universe. The partnership’s first project, “Batman Unburied,” will be released later this year, Spotify said
Spotify is also now working with AGBO, an entertainment production company founded by Anthony and Joe Russo, the brothers behind hits like “Avengers: End Game” and “Captain America: Civil War.” Now, they’ll be bringing their ideas from the big screen to Spotify’s podcasts through several years and series.
Spotify’s new podcasting partnerships also accommodate non-fiction fans.
The podcast, hosted by Misha Euceph, a Pakistani-American, amplifies Muslim voices across all fields, from activists to athletes. The new season will debut the first day of Ramadan.
Higher Ground and Spotify will also be releasing an eight-part series with Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen. The podcast will focus on their discussions about overarching life topics like personal relationships and the country.
The first series – based on Array’s Law Enforcement Accountability Project – will take a look at cases of police brutality against Black people in the United States, DuVernay said at the event. The podcast will discuss a new case every week by taking a deep dive into the “lack of repercussions and accountability” among police officers.
In other podcasting news, Spotify has also announced the renewal of its “Motherhacker” series. Furthermore, the platform will be globally expanding its podcasts from The Ringer, and will be bringing its Sound Up initiative supporting small podcast creators to 14 countries, up from six.
Updates for creators
Spotify also announced several new initiatives aimed at creators of both podcasts and music.
Spotify and Anchor, a podcast management system, have partnered with WordPress to turn written posts into Spotify podcasts. The streaming platform will also allow some of its podcast creators to integrate features like videos, polls, and question-and-answer forums.
In non-podcasting updates, more music creators will be able to access smaller programs like Canvas and Marquee. Spotify has also been testing the option to allow artists to post videos onto the app.
The platform also announced several advertising-related initiatives, including the Spotify Audience Network. When the network is complete, it will serve as a “marketplace” for advertisers to access more listeners tuning in to different types of content, including Spotify Originals and Exclusives, podcasts using Megaphone and Anchor, and “ad-supported” music.
Spotify will also be rolling out its Streaming Ad Insertion, which provides Megaphone and Anchor podcast creators with data and metrics for podcast advertising. In line with this big push in podcast advertising, the platform’s Spotify Ad Studio is now testing ad buying for podcasts as well.
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will take the oath of office in front of the US Capitol around 12 p.m. on January 20, joined by a slew of celebrities and speakers.
Biden’s inaugural committee announced on Thursday that plans for next week’s 59th inauguration include performances by singers Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez. The ceremony will begin with remarks from Father Leo J. O’Donovan, a longtime friend of the Biden family and former president of Georgetown University, and wrap up with a benediction from Reverend Dr. Silvester Beaman, also a close confidante of the Bidens.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, major political events, like last year’s national conventions, have been reimagined as a mix of virtual and in-person activities. Inauguration Day in 2021 will be no different. The festivities typically attract hundreds of thousands of people who flock to Washington, DC, to witness the historic transition of power. This year only about 2,000 attendees will be permitted.
In another break with tradition, President Donald Trump has said he won’t be there. Trump is the first outgoing president since 1869 to refuse to attend his successor’s swearing-in.
The inauguration will be part of a five-day program that comprises both online and socially-distanced in-person events. The theme is “America United.”
“This inauguration presents a unique opportunity to spotlight the resilience and spirit of an America United,” Presidential Inaugural Committee CEO Tony Allen said in a statement.
Biden and Harris will then address the nation in a televised special titled “Celebrating America,” which will begin at 8:30 p.m. ET. The 90-minute primetime program will be hosted by actor Tom Hanks and feature performances by Justin Timberlake, Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato, and Ant Clemons.
On Friday, the committee announced additional musical performances by the Foo Fighters, John Legend, and Bruce Springsteen.
It will air live on cable TV – channels include ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, and MSNBC – and be available to stream on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Twitch. Amazon Prime Video, Microsoft Bing, NewsNOW from Fox, and AT&T DIRECTV and U-verse will also carry live coverage of the program.
Other inaugural activities to take place next week include a “We the People” virtual concert on January 17, a “national day of service” on Martin Luther King Jr. Day on January 18, and a “COVID-19 memorial to lives lost” on January 19. Biden’s committee is also preparing to install around 200,000 American flags that will span across the National Mall to “represent the American people who are unable to travel to Washington, DC.” The traditional parade will also be shifted online.
Multiplenewsoutlets reported on Thursday that the National Mall will be closed to the public on January 20. Federal and cityofficials have said that they are tightening security measures amid possible threats of violence following last week’s deadly Capitol riots.
Biden’s transition team said on Wednesday that they are receiving daily briefings on security and logistics ahead of the inauguration to help ensure a smooth and safe transfer of power.