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Hunger reaches levels never seen in New York City | The State

According to the Council, there are 2 million New Yorkers who cannot afford to eat.

Edwin Martínez / Impremedia

He council president from the city, Corey Johnson, together with several organizations that are linked to the assistance of vulnerable families, raised the mayor Bill de Blasio to reauthorize emergency funding for hungry New Yorkers in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to figures from the Municipal Council, before the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, 1 million people lived under the threshold of food insecurity. At the moment that number has doubled and there are 2 million New Yorkers who face difficulties to pay for their food.

In an open letter to de Blasio, Johnson, the CEO of Met Council, David Greenfield, and the president of United Way from New York City, Sheena wright, demand the reauthorization of $ 25 million of emergency funds, as it did in May of last year, when the mayor assigned that amount to finance the operation of the food pantries.

The document illustrates the case of families who, due to the pandemic, have lost a provider at home, especially among the black and Hispanic communities that are struggling economically. Adding to this picture are undocumented New Yorkers who have been left out of federal aid and now depend on emergency food providers for their nourishment.

“Mayor de Blasio must act again. Millions of New Yorkers still need this support. We have lost family, friends, neighbors, and loved ones in the fight against COVID-19 and its many devastations. Millions of New Yorkers are out of work. Our older people are confined and isolated. Children are out of school and away from their friends and teachers, while their parents struggle to put food on the table, ”the document highlights.

He Met Council on Housing, which defends tenant rights and the New York affiliate of United Way (UWNYC) a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping low-income New Yorkers, note in the letter that they seek to rebuild a city where all New Yorkers can thrive, but right now residents are hungry and struggling to meet their basic needs.

There is more demand for food

Demand in pantries and other free food initiatives such as the Supplemental Food Assistance Program (SNAP) increased by more than 55%, while the De Blasio Administration approved $ 170 million of investment to combat hunger during the pandemic, according to data from the Human resources management.

According to Department of Social Services, there are 1,000 pantries and dining rooms in the city’s five boroughs.

Fortunately, the signatories stress, the availability and flexibility of the city’s emergency funds helped avert a larger hunger crisis in New York City, allowing providers to open additional pop-up sites, purchase PPE and equipment. necessary, and do whatever is necessary to ensure that those in need have access to nutritious food.

The Met Council and United Way worked closely with the Office of Food Policy the mayor, the councilors, Catholic Charities, City Harvest, Food Bank for New York and other organizations.

The document denounces that the demand for food has never been so immense or the situation so dire to the point that parents are reducing their own meals to feed their children.

There are thousands of elderly New Yorkers, including Holocaust survivors and people with disabilities, who are homebound and vulnerable to the COVID-19. There are taxi drivers and college students in need of support, as well as small business owners who have sunk into this challenging economic and social environment, the letter concludes.


Big Story Coronavirus COVID-19

Norway lifts ban on flights from Britain introduced due to virus variant

OSLO (Reuters) – Norway is lifting its ban on flights from Britain, introduced to stop the spread of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus, the health ministry said on Friday, with planes allowed to land from January 2 at 1600 GMT.

Following the lead of other European nations, Norway on December 21 halted travel from Britain after news that the new variant of the virus was rapidly spreading.

Oslo announced on Thursday it would introduce from Jan. 2 mandatory Covid-19 tests for all people arriving in the Nordic country from abroad, either directly upon arrival or up to 24 hours after.

“If this strain should spread in Norway, it will probably mean a full lockdown of society,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Thursday.

Norway’s 14-day cumulative number of Covid-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants was down to 113.6 as of Wednesday, the fourth lowest in Europe behind Iceland, Greece and Finland, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has said.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

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Ajay Devgn: I am a seasoned player, I have seen so many highs and lows, accolades and brickbats

2020 was his year, going by the professional high he achieved. Ajay Devgn’s Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior remains the only highlight for Bollywood in a year which saw it being affected massively by the Covid-19 pandemic.

After opening to a glowing word-of-mouth and box-office collections amounting to Rs 280 crores in India, making it the sole blockbuster of 2020, no other film managed to match up to it theatrically, until theatres were forced to shut down in March. The 51-year-old was also among the first few A-listers to get back to work with his next directorial MayDay.

Excerpts from an interview:

Not only was Tanhaji a career high for you, but it also changed the way we look at historical epics. Were you anticipating this kind of response? 

I’m ecstatic with the box office of our film. No, I wasn’t expecting it to break records. It is my 100th film. In a career spanning 29 years, I have seen so many highs and lows, accolades and brickbats, that I never go into a film thinking it will break records or that it will become a blockbuster. I’m a seasoned player. I do a film because I believe in it. The box office or the bounty that comes is a blessing from my fans, the audience, my parents and the Almighty.


Coming to the bit on Tanhaji changing the way we as an industry look at historical, I’m proud to have been a part of this magnum opus. When we embarked on it, I knew we had a strong story to tell, good dialogue and a bunch of effective actors. I then combined it with spectacular VFX, done by my company. The idea was to make a film that is visually advanced and tells a story that can tug at your heartstrings. The only thing about a historical is that you need a huge budget because VFX costs a lot of money. It takes away more than a price of two to three solid A-grade actors! Once that bit is sorted, you can set out to make your 3-D epic.

What do you think was it about Tanhaji that really clicked? 

It combined a good story of bravery and valour with spectacular VFX. That made it work.


2020 was quite an eventful year. How would you sum it up?

I don’t know what to call 2020. You can it eventful or you can call it uneventful. By the time we adjusted to the lens through which to look at the pandemic, our viewpoints changed. Through the year, I had many reasons to be happy. For example, January gave me Tanhaji, December gave me MayDay (my next directorial). In between, like the global fraternity, I had moments of anxiety and frustration. Work came to a stand through the months of April to October. My family life was disrupted. My daughter, Nysa studies in Singapore so she is away from me. Kajol is with her. My son Yug and I are together with my mother. It was a complete mix of emotions.

It was a big change, from Hindi film industry’s business point of view as well. Do you agree?

As far as our Hindi cinema industry goes, we took a big hit because theatres closed. So, business came to a halt. My own chain of theatres up North is bleeding.

I say a prayer each day for the industry and for our business. It is not for me alone but for the thousands whose direct means of livelihood come from cinema. It’s a worldwide thing. I don’t know how soon we will recover. I hope we are able to bring back the blockbuster days to the box office because it will take many blockbusters to infuse life into our failed economy.

Interact with the author on Twitter/ @RishabhSuri02

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Rasika Dugal: I almost feel guilty that many positive things happened for me at work in 2020, when it wasn’t so for many around me

Work got stuck, dynamic of showbiz changed, but for actor Rasika Dugal, 2020 was a prolific year. A lot of her work released on OTT platforms, and each one got her noticed. But when you ask her to describe it, the actor says 2020 feels like a “year out of a dystopian novel”.

She explains, “It also reinstated my faith in humanity. I was very moved by how civil society rose to the occasion and there were timely and sensitive initiatives to help people who were hit worst by the pandemic.”

Because there was so much misery around, Dugal almost felt “guilty”, she confesses, and adds, “There were so many positive things happening for me on the work front when it wasn’t the case for many around me.”

The 32-year-old was amazed by how quickly people reinvented themselves during this phase.


“Before I knew it, I was dubbing for A Suitable Boy (ASB) from home, promoting Lootcase online, and recording for an audio series. Then Mirzapur 2 and A Suitable Boy released on the same day. Two different genres on different platforms and two completely distinct roles for me. I felt thrilled about getting an opportunity to be two completely different people Savita (from ASB) and Beena Tripathi (from Mirzapur 2). And to receive how both were perceived by the audience,” beams the actor.

That was not all. Lootcase, her film with Kunal Kemmu was meant for a theatrical release, which opted for a digital route, and managed to become one of the most liked films of the year.

“With Lootcase and Banana Bread — a short film I co-created and shot entirely from home during the early days of lockdown — I felt happy that I could be part of bringing some cheer and light heartedness to people’s lives (and to my own) in gloomy times,” says Dugal.

Awards were aplenty, too. Her web show Delhi Crime won an International Emmy, and that naturally is a high point for her. She gushes, “I was honoured and grateful that Delhi crime got the recognition that I felt it deserved. But beyond awards and accolades, Delhi Crime will always hold a special place in my heart. Because of the skill and sensitivity with which it tells a very important story. I will be eternally grateful to have had the opportunity to collaborate with Richie Mehta, Shefali Shah, Rajesh Tailang and the entire cast and crew.”

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Abhishek Bachchan’s ‘silver lining’ to 2020: Completing 20 years in Bollywood, Ludo and Breathe: Into The Shadows

Completing 20 years in the Hindi film industry, making his web debut, and topping it off with good reviews for his direct to OTT film Ludo — Abhishek Bachchan was on a roll in 2020.

A low point was of course him getting diagnosed with Covid 19, but since it was his year— he emerged victorious in that battle as well. We get talking to the man himself, who was also among the first crop of actors to step out and resume work amid the pandemic:

Breathe and then Ludo, both fetched you good reviews and became talking points. How would you sum up the year for you?

I’m very grateful that I got to do some work and it released. I’m grateful to makers, the cast, and obviously above all, the audience. You feel very blessed and lucky. At the end of the day, we work for the audiences, for their acknowledgement and appreciation. What more can you ask for, than you being able to do your job and them liking it? That’s fantastic! Especially in these unprecedented times. 


Did the fact that all this happened in the 20th year of your Bollywood innings make it even more special?

I never thought of it like that, it just happened. I actually started working on Breathe in 2018, at that point of time, there wasn’t any timeline as to when we’d release it. Incidentally, I also started working on Ludo that year. Once you make a film, there are so many other aspects that got for releasing it. After principal photography, there’s a whole lot of post production, release plan, which we honestly don’t have a say in. You leave it to the producers and studio. Is it more special? Now that you ask me, I’d put it that way, it was sort of a silver lining to this year.

How was the entire phase for you where you were fighting with Covid 19?

I was more filled with concern for my family than anything else. My father (Amitabh Bachchan), wife (Aishwarya) and daughter (Aradhya) got it too, thankfully the rest of the family did not. Obviously, you’re concerned about your loved ones and want them to be alright. There’d little that you can do I’ve to thank all the doctors and nurses who cared and worked so hard. I never actually had time to sit and contemplate. At that time, energies and concentration is all on your loves ones. After recuperating, I was back to work.


Of course, you completed work on two full fledged films, Bob Biswas and The Big Bull. Were there any apprehensions, considering you had just got back on your feet?

Anybody would be inhuman to say I had no apprehensions at the back of my mind. There’s a concern at the back of your mind, but it wasn’t for me, but who I’m getting back home to. I live with my entire family, my parents are of a certain age group. If I’m going to be all out day working, and come home in the evening, you get concerned about the people you’re interacting with. Somewhere, I have the confidence that if I’m going to take care, chances of anything untoward happening are reduced. I was very happy to get back to work. Ours is also an industry which literally came to a grinding halt, the content industry. We support thousands by giving them work, and a part of our industry is still shut, the exhibition sector. Cinemas have been reopened, but at a reduced capacity.

Interact with the author on Twitter/ @RishabhSuri02

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Kunal Kemmu on whether OTTs are more democratic than films: It’s too early to pass a judgment, add a ‘so far’ to it

A lot of actors, of late, have claimed that the online space is much more liberating, and gives an equal chance to makers and artistes. And indeed, with everything served on the same platter, it is an equaliser. However, Kunal Kemmu wants to add a ‘so far’ to the fact that OTTs are more democratic than films.

“It’s too early to just pass a judgement on the fact that everything is great. It’s definitely more democratic and in a way, content driven space. The business model is not box office, but subscription driven,” he reasons.

The actor adds that the platforms keep a close tab on the viewing habits of the audience, but don’t reveal it.

“They don’t just keep a track of who started watching something, but who finished it too. They are able to track what was the attention to every single episode, though these numbers are not shared. People making them have that. The most important, democratic way of functioning on OTT is you have an equal window when you open an app, be it a big star’s show or film right next to a smaller star’s show. People can decide on the basis of what they want to watch after 10-15 minutes,” explains Kemmu who film Lootcase was released directly on an OTT platform due to shutdown of theatres. 


The fact that people have the power to skip and leave a show/ film midway is of course liberating for viewers, but doesn’t it also mean that since the attention span is so small, the plethora of options at hand will lead to each project not getting it’s due?

Kemmu says that’s the ‘nature of the beast’. “We earlier said ‘we can’t make three hour films’ and brought it down to two, songs running into seven-eight minutes now last for two minutes. As we are evolving, our TV screens have come down to 5.5 inches, a lot of content is consumed on phone,” says the actor, who garnered a lot of praise for his web series Abhay, whose season 2 released this year.

He says that to any purist of cinema, that is ‘unacceptable’. “I used to think ‘how will you watch a film, when the whole experience of watching one is about going to a theatre, and watching it with surround sound and on a 70mm screen?’ All that is changing. At the end of the day, everything is being done to deliver to audiences, supply and demand works this way. There will always be a market for each and everything, genres,” concludes the actor.

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Big Story Coronavirus COVID-19

UK scientists probe new coronavirus variant’s spread in children

Scientists in the UK are investigating the impact of a new mutant variant of coronavirus, named VUI-2020 12/01, on children and whether its faster transmission in parts of England is down to the younger segment of the population.

The government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) is monitoring the data to analyse this arc of the variant, which has led over 40 countries, including India, to suspend travel to and from the UK in order to try and contain the more infectious mutation. Earlier strains of coronavirus found it harder to infect children than adults, with one explanation being that children have fewer of the doorways called the ACE2 receptor the virus uses to enter a human body’s cells.

Professor Wendy Barclay, from Nervtag and Imperial College London, said the mutations to the virus appeared to be making it easier to breach those doorways.

“Therefore children are equally susceptible, perhaps, to this virus as adults, and therefore given their mixing patterns, you would expect to see more children being infected,” she explained.

Experts do not believe that the new version is any greater threat to children’s health and the scientist behind the world’s first approved vaccine against Covid-19 has said the Pfizer/BioNTech jabs will work against the strain, though further investigation remains underway.

“The likelihood that our vaccine works… is relatively high,” said Ugur Sahin, chief executive of the German co-developer of the vaccine BioNTech.

Speaking on ‘Bild TV’ in Germany, Sahin said his company would investigate the mutation in the coming days and that he viewed the matter “with a degree of soberness”.

His message of some confidence comes as the UK reached the half a million milestone for vaccinations of the jabs, delivered to the elderly and most vulnerable sections of the country’s population.

“I can today announce that over half a million people, more than 500,000 people in the UK, have now received their first dose,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced at a 10 Downing Street briefing on Monday evening.

“I find that a reason for hope and for confidence,” he said.

His address came as nearly 1,500 lorries piled up on the borders as France sealed off the UK amid fears of the new rapid spreading variant. Government ministers have been working to get the block lifted, with mass testing of the drivers being one option in order for the flow of goods to resume and truckers able to get back home in time for Christmas.

“Testing of some sort is part of the discussions that the transport secretary is having with his counterpart in France right now,” UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said.

“Getting those tests up and running can happen pretty quickly, but in terms of the details of that, that is something both the transport secretary and his counterpart will be discussing,” she said.

From initial reports of the new variant being more confined to London and southern parts of England, the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, has now confirmed that it is to be found “everywhere”. This would mean that a more nationwide stay-at-home lockdown might be on its way to add to the millions already under the Tier 4 level of the most stringent curbs and shutdown of businesses and activity.

Scotland Yard issued a statement urging the public to comply with the measures, which ban different households from mixing to try and curb the rapid spread of the deadly virus.

“Our message is clear. Anyone who thinks the rules are there to be broken, ignored, or do not apply to them is very mistaken. The rules are that you should stay at home. It is for your safety, the safety of your family and friends, and the safety of your communities,” said Commander Alex Murray, the Metropolitan Police lead for Covid.

The police forces across the UK have the authority to impose hefty fines for breaches of the rules and the most egregious cases can also lead to arrest.

The warnings come as the UK registered a daily infections total of 33,364 on Monday, with the death rate from Covid-19 mounting to 67,616.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

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Anurag Basu on rave reviews Ludo got: I was anxious as it is my first direct-to-OTT release

Anurag Basu is a content man these days. His directorial, Ludo has released to glowing reviews from both the critics and audiences. “This is what every maker wants. I was a little anxious as it was my first time with a direct-to-OTT release. It’s all been good, and the response is increasing every day,” shares an excited Basu.

The 50-year-old started his career on television, and made his debut as a film director with Saaya (2003), and then went on to helm Life… in a Metro (2007), Kites (2010), Barfi! (2013), among more films. None of them have been remakes, and that Basu says is a conscious choice.

“There are many directors like me who don’t make remakes. When you have a story to tell, or an idea, it’s better to attempt that, because making a remake makes it easier, and faster, you can churn out more films. You don’t have to write a screenplay as your structure is ready. But there’s no fun, we thrive on creating something new when we go on set,” he reasons.


Talking about his latest film, Ludo, it’s a story with four different tracks, all converging in the climax. Basu reveals that the idea was there with him right after Life in a Metro, which again involved different stories. He reveals, “I wanted to attempt this, but then I moved on to other projects like Barfi! But it was always there at the back of my mind and taking shape.”

That it would have to let go a theatrical release due to Covid-19 pandemic was something he also didn’t see coming though. He did want one, he admits. Theatres had started reopening in parts of the country from October 15. Did Basu and the producers attempt to release it in theatres after the news came in?

He tells us, “Not really, with the number of people coming to theatres being very less. The decision for OTT was taken way back in August. We thought it would take a year for normal footfall in theatres, and didn’t want to wait that long.”

Designed for a theatre experience, he adds, “We write the story and structure keeping the interval in mind, I would have made Ludo a little different if it was direct for OTT, but we had already shot so no regrets.”

What came as a surprise for the viewers was Basu himself making an appearance in the film as the narrator. It all happened because of the pandemic, the director chuckles.

“It was not an afterthought, we wanted to shoot the narrator part after I finished editing the whole film, so I could correct or edit out any portions. Unfortunately, by that time Covid had hit us and there was lockdown. I got a window of only a day to shoot this, with a lot of difficulty and small unit. There was no option for any other actor to be cast!,” he concludes.

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Big Story

Air travel demand is higher than ever in Australia, Jetstar says

Qantas Airways Ltd.’s low-cost carrier Jetstar said it will operate a record number of flights in Australia early next year as demand rebounds to higher than pre-pandemic levels.

With fewer than 50 active Covid-19 cases, Australia is experiencing a domestic holiday boom as internal travel restrictions ease. The scale of the recovery suggests air passenger traffic, which has been smashed globally by the crisis, can quickly recover if the threat of infection subsides.

Jetstar said Tuesday it plans an unprecedented 850 return flights a week on 55 routes by the end of March, more than 110% of its schedule before Covid-19. Airbus SE A320 planes that usually fly to Bali, Singapore and other overseas destinations will operate the extra services.

Jetstar is stoking demand for flights from mid-January onward with a sale of 300,000 seats, some of them as cheap as A$29 ($22). Almost 90% of Australians plan to travel domestically in 2021, the airline said, citing its own survey of 1,500 people.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

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Juhi Chawla: There is no need to panic, I am ready to go out and work outdoors

Even as the number of Covid 19 positive cases continue to rise, Bollywood has been steadily getting back on it’s knees. The risk is quite evident, as we have seen, with the latest example being Neetu Kapoor and Varun Dhawan catching the virus while shooting for their film Jug Jug Jeeyo in Chandigarh.

Juhi Chawla is still all for working. “I am ready to go out and work, and fine with working outdoors. I would not like to be inside one studio. There were so many things we were battling there, like unhygienic conditions, not realising what we were up against,” she says.

Precautions of course are something that the 53-year-old will be keeping in mind. The actor continues, “There is no need to panic. I already went for the shoot of a commercial, and instead of a 100 odd people, the unit was scaled down to 60 people, and the work got done very efficiently. Everybody feels strongly about it, just proper hygiene is required, and arrange it in a way. We will be fine. I am not really paranoid (about working full time).” 

The actor had also been inn Dubai, for the Indian Premiere League cricket tournament, as her team Kolata Knight Riders had been one of the teams.

On the overall situation currently shaping up, Chawla has different opinions. In fact, as she herself puts it, they are “radical views”.

She explains, “One feels suffocated in masks… before that (covid 19), suffocation and carbon dioxide will get us. What is this? I feel very happy, proud and strong in saying I have Ayurveda, yoga, pranayama, homeopathy, what am I scared of? I advocate to everyone around me, do simple home remedies every day. Kya Covid kya virus kuch nahi hoga. I have another bent of mind.”

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