Thursday, December 31, 2020

WSJ Editorial Blasts Trump’s Electoral College 'Hustle'

The Wall Street Journal is the latest publication to deliver a sharp critique of outgoing president Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the election. An opinion piece from the editorial board published Thursday calls his quest “embarrassing.”

The op-ed details the “last and worst shot” at upending the election results by laying out how some Republican lawmakers plan to object when the Senate moves to certify the Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden next week. The board wrote that those elected officials who have already said they’ll do so are on a “kamikaze mission.”

“But how could lawmakers justify throwing out electors for Mr. Biden?” the board asked. “Although Mr. Trump keeps tweeting claims of massive vote fraud, his lawsuits have been rejected in court, sometimes by his own conservative appointees.”

Dozens of lawsuits brought by Trump’s legal team have, in fact, been thrown out. He has yet to concede the election or acknowledge that Biden is president-elect.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp owns the Journal, as well as the New York Post, which published its own editorial on the matter earlier this week.

The Post called on Trump to concede Sunday night, surprising readers enough that the paper trended on Twitter, reports The Wrap.

Gallup: Americans Remain Distrustful of News Media

  • 9% in U.S. trust mass media "a great deal" and 31% "a fair amount"
  • 27% have "not very much" trust and 33% "none at all"
  • The percentage with no trust at all is a record high, up five points since 2019

At a time when Americans are relying heavily on the media for information about the coronavirus pandemic, the presidential election and other momentous events, the public remains largely distrustful of the mass media. Four in 10 U.S. adults say they have "a great deal" (9%) or "a fair amount" (31%) of trust and confidence in the media to report the news "fully, accurately, and fairly," while six in 10 have "not very much" trust (27%) or "none at all" (33%).

Gallup first asked this question in 1972 and has continued to do so nearly every year since 1997. Trust ranged between 68% and 72% in the 1970s, and though it had declined by the late 1990s, it remained at the majority level until 2004, when it dipped to 44%. After hitting 50% in 2005, it has not risen above 47%.

The latest findings, from Gallup's annual Governance poll conducted Aug. 31-Sept. 13, are consistent with all but one recent trust rating -- in 2016, a steep decline in Republicans' trust in the media led to the lowest reading on record (32%).

Republicans' trust has not recovered since then, while Democrats' has risen sharply. In fact, Democrats' trust over the past four years has been among the highest Gallup has measured for any party in the past two decades. This year, the result is a record 63-percentage-point gap in trust among the political party groups.

Newsmax’s Website Records Traffic Spike in November

Newsmax recorded its biggest spike in traffic since TheRighting began tracking right-wing websites using Comscore data in 2018. According to TheRighting’s exclusive analysis of November 2020 mobile and desktop traffic based on Comscore data, Newsmax experienced a 330% increase in year-over-year (YOY) unique visitors to its website.

In November 2019, the site had 3,114,000 unique visitors. That number jumped to 13,378,000 in November 2020. The increase helped Newsmax become the second-most-visited conservative website in November 2020 as tracked by TheRighting.

“November was a triumph for the Newsmax website and it adds another halo to the red-hot Newsmax brand,” said Howard Polskin, President and Chief Curator, TheRighting. “Its strategy of positioning itself to the right of Fox News appears to be working in the post-election environment.” remained the most visited conservative website drawing 129,851,000 unique visitors in November 2020, a 37% increase compared to November 2019.

Among mainstream news websites followed by TheRighting in November 2020, generated 174,772,000 unique visitors, followed by The New York Times Brand (128,474,000 unique visitors) and the (113,685,000 unique visitors). TheRighting follows those three mainstream websites on a regular basis.

Traffic Leaders and Losers Among Top 20 Conservative Websites for November 2020 (by unique visitor percentage increase from year ago)

  1. (+619%)
  2. Newsmax (+330%)
  3. The Gateway Pundit (+323%)
  1. Daily Caller (-20%)
  2. Daily Wire (-7%)
  3. (-2%)
Parler Talk

TheRighting has begun tracking unique visitors to three conservative-friendly social media sites: Parler, Rumble, MeWe. The number of unique visitors for November 2020 are as follows:
  1. Parler (13,484,000; year ago numbers not available)
  2. Rumble (7,787,000; +14% vs year ago)
  3. MeWe (5,187,000; +368% vs year ago)
Each month, TheRighting examines Comscore data on dozens of prominent conservative websites that post original content. TheRighting ranks the top 20 conservative websites on the basis of unique visitors and also provides data on whether unique visitors have increased or decreased year over year. That information is posted on the Metrics section of TheRighting’s website.

TheRighting also publishes a listing of Who’s Who in Conservative Media as well as an A-Z Guide to Right-Wing Media and updates both of them regularly. The guides feature descriptions about prominent right-wing media personalities and websites.

Source: Comscore Media Metrix® Multi-Platform, Custom-defined list, including, but not limited to,,,,,, Total Digital Audience, November 2020, U.S.

It Was A Very Good Year For Video Streamers

The coronavirus pandemic has helped streaming services thrive in 2020, despite an influx of new competitors jockeying for viewership.

The top streamers, including Netflix, Disney Plus and Amazon’s Prime Video will finish the year with a total 50 percent more subscribers than they had a year ago, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Wall Street Journal graphics
With movie theaters, sports arenas and concert venues closed across the country, Americans have been turning to streaming options more than ever before.

Analyzing data from market-research firms MoffettNathanson and HarrisX, the Journal reported that streamers had a banner year, with consumers adding more subscriptions rather than choosing one over the other.

Netflix saw its subscriber numbers jump from 62.8 million in the first quarter of 2020 to 66.2 million by Q4. Prime Video, meanwhile, saw a similar jump from 45.9 million to 48 million over the same time frame, while Disney Plus climbed from 28 million subscribers to 37 million.

“Instead of a streaming war, there’s been streaming coexistence and parallel growth,” HarrisX CEO Dritan Nesho told the paper. “Disney+ did not displace existing services. It complemented them.”

The report showed that Netflix usage spiked at the beginning of the pandemic, and has remained strong since March, with the streaming giant adding hundreds of new programs to its library every month.

Netflix is also the service that users are most likely to pay for themselves, with 82 percent of subscriptions being funded by someone in the household. Apple TV+, on the other hand, gets 59 percent of its eyeballs from free subscriptions offered with purchases of Apple devices, reports The NY Post.

The AM Confidential: Good Riddance To 2020

As you might expect, the plague-infested year 2020 is going to go out like a damp squib tonight. The New York Times checked out the New Year's Eve plans for some of the world's great capitals:
  • In London, the fireworks show over the Thames River has been canceled, but Big Ben will chime at midnight.
  • In Rio de Janeiro, beach access will be blocked so that no one shows up to celebrate there as usual.
  • In New York, the ball will drop in Times Square, but no one is invited to watch it in person.
  • In Hong Kong, the fireworks display over Victoria Harbor is canceled and, for that matter, so is the traditional Lunar New Year festival in February.

McCONNELL CRUSHES HOPES FOR BIGGER CHECKS:  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell crushed hopes of an increase from $600 to $2,000 in the checks being sent to Americans struggling during the coronavirus pandemic, at least anytime soon. The Kentucky Republican said the Senate will consider only "smart targeted aid, not another fire hose of borrowed money." He has refused to bring the bill, approved by the House of Representatives, to the floor of the Senate as a standalone measure, offering it only in combination with two measures that he knows Democrats will not support.

➤CHALLENGE TO BIDEN'S VICTORY ASSURED: U.S. Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri has announced he will challenge President-elect Joe Biden's victory in Pennsylvania when Congress meets January 6th to certify the election. Hawley's move will force members of the House and Senate to go on the record for or against accepting Biden's victory. Senate Majority Leader McConnell reportedly wanted to avoid that scene. The challenge is widely considered to be doomed to failure.

➤SERIAL KILLER DIES IN PRISON: Samuel Little, believed to have been the worst serial killer in American history, has died at the age of 80. Little was serving multiple life sentences for three murders in Los Angeles in the 1980s, but later confessed to more than 90 murders across the nation.

➤NOT QUITE WARP SPEED: The government official in charge of Operation Warp Speed, which aimed to ship 100 million doses of the new Covid-19 vaccines nationwide by the end of the year, acknowledged yesterday that the results didn't live up to the name. Only about 14 million doses shipped, and about 2.6 million people were actually vaccinated. Moncef Slaoui, chief science adviser of the project, blamed the holidays, the weather, storage challenges and inexperience for the slow rollout. A better pace is expected by mid-January.

In Florida, elderly people and frontline healthcare workers camped out overnight for vaccinations offered on a "first come, first served" basis. The process of vaccination is being set by the states.

➤MINIMUM WAGE SET TO RISE IN 20 STATES: Minimum-wage workers in 20 states will see small increases in their paychecks after January 1st. The minimum wage increases range from a measly eight cents an hour in Minnesota to $1.50 an hour in New Mexico. The states raising pay rates include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, South Dakota, Vermont and Washington. Among those states, the highest pay rate, $14 an hour, is in California.

➤RECORD HIGH FOR STOCK PRICES: The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit another record high yesterday on the second to the last day of the trading year. The Dow gained nearly 74 points to close at 30,409. Market watchers say stock buyers are happy that the $600 stimulus checks are going out now, and hopeful about the prospects for an improved economy in 2021.

➤STUDY: TELLING YOURSELF TO FORGET SOMETHING HELPS TO MAKE ROOM IN YOUR BRAIN FOR MORE PRODUCTIVE THOUGHTS: Telling yourself to clear your mind, either out loud or in your head, can help your brain make room for more productive thoughts. U.S. researchers found that telling yourself to “clear” your mind, “suppress” a thought, or “replace” a thought with something else all successfully removed and manipulated unwanted information from one’s “working memory.” Your working memory is responsible for temporarily holding and processing information that comes into your brain, which is essential for cognition. The experts say that removing thoughts from this area of the brain is equally important. The new findings could inform new therapies for issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Professor Marie Banich at the University of Colorado adds, “[…] If you want to get something out of your mind quickly use ‘clear’ or ‘replace,’ but If you want to get something out of your mind so you can put in new information, ‘suppress’ works best.”

➤WHY SETTING GOALS IS GOOD FOR YOU (EVEN IF YOU DON’T ALWAYS MEET THEM): New Year’s is a time people often set goals for themselves for the upcoming year, and science has proven that setting goals—whether you reach them or not—improves your productivity, satisfaction and perspective. Mental health expert Emily Rivera says creating goals engages the reticular activating system within our brain, which organically promotes the engagement and attention necessary to recognize the steps and opportunities that help us reach our goals. If we don’t set goals we fail to get the benefits of using this part of our brain, and can therefore get more easily distracted and lose the motivation needed to create the life we want. Additionally, setting a goal helps establish a system of accountability as well as helps measure progress over time. If you do not meet your goal, that’s ok too. Rivera says failing makes us actively discern between what worked and what didn’t so we can try a different, more efficient way the next time. Also, licensed marriage and family therapist Jenny Black says failing and learning from it might provide more value than continually achieving as sometimes failing delivers us something we need rather than what we want—and teaches us an essential lesson in acceptance in the process.

➤DUNKIN’ INTRODUCING ‘EXTRA CHARGED COFFEE’ WITH 20% MORE CAFFEINE: Dunkin’ wants you to run even faster on its coffee with the new “Extra Charged Coffee.” It’s available at participating Dunkin’ locations now, and contains 20 percent more caffeine than regular coffee that comes from the addition of green coffee extract. For a limited time through January 26th, each Extra Charged Coffee drink will cost only $2. Dunkin’ is also introducing two completely new coffee blends: Dunkin’ Explorer Batch (a medium roast featuring “dark berry notes and a smoky finish”), and Dunkin’ Midnight (a dark roast with “inherent sweetness and bold, chocolatey flavor notes.”) The Explorer Batch is said to be the first in the brand’s new Limited Batch Series, while Dunkin’ Midnight will be replacing the chain’s current Dark Roast offering. Dunkin’ has also announced its latest snack items for 2021, including a Dunfetti Donut (basically a Funfetti cake doughnut) which is currently available at participating locations, and a gluten-free brownie option. Returning snack items to expect include: Croissant Stuffers, Stuffed Bagel Minis and Snackin’ Bacon.

🏈BADGER BUSTS BOWL: The Wisconsin Badgers captured the Duke's Mayo Bowl, but they're still going home empty-handed. Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz dropped the football-shaped hunk of Lenox crystal and shattered it into a thousand pieces while dancing around the locker room celebrating the team's 42-48 victory over Wake Forest yesterday. Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst was philosophical. "We just wanted everybody to have a piece of that trophy," he joked. Oh, these freshmen.

🏀NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS: Pro basketball has come out of the bubble and so far, so good. The NBA announced that 495 players have been tested for COVID-19 since December 24th, and none tested positive. The teams have resumed a modified version of their normal schedule after completing the 2019-2020 season in a Disney World bubble.

🏈DALVIN COOK TO MISS VIKINGS' FINALE: Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook will not play in Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions due to the death of his father, ESPN reports. He flew home to Miami on Tuesday to be with his siblings.

➤MICHIGAN OPENS DOOR TO COLLEGE ATHLETE PAY: Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed a bill that will allow college athletes to accept payment for sponsorships and advertising without risking their eligibility. The new law takes effect in 2023, the Detroit Free Press reports. Similar bills have been approved in California, Colorado, Florida, Nebraska and New Jersey, but other states still bar students participating in varsity sports from receiving anything of value other than scholarships.

🏎SIR LEWIS TO YOU: Formula 1 World Champion auto racer Lewis Hamilton has been awarded a knighthood by Great Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. The annual honors list was released last night. It has been a big year for Hamilton, who matched Michael Schumacher's record of seven F1 World Championship titles. You may now address him as Sir Lewis Hamilton.

Alden Global Capital Seeks to Buy Tribune Publishing

A hedge fund that owns a big stake in Tribune Publishing Co. is seeking to buy the newspaper chain behind titles including the Chicago Tribune and New York Daily News, according to The Wall Street Journal citing people familiar with the matter.

Alden Global Capital LLC, which is already Tribune’s largest shareholder with a 32% stake, could disclose an offer for the company as soon as Thursday, the people said. Details of the potential bid couldn’t be learned.

Tribune has a market value of roughly $470 million after a years-long slide as the prospects for local newspapers dim. Its shares are little changed this year.

A deal would have far-reaching implications for an industry beset by sharp declines in revenue over the past 20 years that have led to a wave of consolidation and cost cuts. Between 2008 and 2019, the industry shed 51% of its newsroom jobs, according to the Pew Research Center.

Tribune Publishing, one of the largest newspaper chains in the country by circulation, publishes nine larger-market daily papers, including the Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel and Hartford Courant.

Alden controls MediaNews Group, a private company that owns some 60 daily newspapers around the country, including the Denver Post, San Jose Mercury News and Orange County Register. The hedge fund has a reputation for making deep cost cuts at titles it acquires.

With the industry reeling from the economic impact stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, Tribune has laid off dozens of reporters and closed many of its newsrooms entirely to save on real-estate costs. Earlier in December, Tribune agreed to sell its e-commerce business, Best Reviews, to Nexstar Media Group Inc. for $160 million.

Amazon Music Makes Podcast Push

Amazon Music on Wednesday announced it will acquire West Hollywood-based podcast company Wondery that has produced programs including “Dr. Death” and “The Shrink Next Door.”

“Amazon Music launched podcasts in September 2020, and together with Wondery, we hope to accelerate the growth and evolution of podcasts by bringing creators, hosts, and immersive experiences to even more listeners across the globe, just as we do with music,” Amazon Music said in a statement. “This is a pivotal moment to expand the Amazon Music offering beyond music as listener habits evolve.”

Amazon Music said the deal has not yet closed. Financial terms were not disclosed, reports The L-A Times.

The acquisition announcement comes as large radio and music streaming companies are expanding their reach into podcasts. Starting last year, Spotify began investing a lot in the podcast space, buying up companies including Gimlet Media and Parcast.

This year, Spotify bought The Ringer, as well as podcast ad platform Megaphone. There are also podcasts exclusively on Spotify including The Michelle Obama Podcast.

Wondery has taken a different approach, with many of its podcasts available on multiple platforms. Amazon Music, a division of the Seattle-based e-commerce giant, said it plans to keep it that way.

“When the deal closes, nothing will change for listeners, and they’ll continue to be able to access Wondery podcasts through a variety of providers,” Amazon Music said.

Prior to Amazon’s announcement, Wondery remained one of the few remaining large independent podcast publishers. As the industry consolidated, speculation intensified that it would be acquired by a larger company.

The company, founded in 2016, has produced more than 50 podcasts with 16 shows in TV development. Wondery has worked with the L.A. Times on its true crime tale “Dirty John” and produced and marketed two other Times podcasts, “Man in the Window” and “Detective Trapp.”

Cincy Radio: Jon Laing Promoted to VP/MM For Cumulus

Jon Laing
CUMULUS MEDIA has announced that it has promoted Jon Laing to Vice President/Market Manager for Cumulus Cincinnati. 

Laing rises from his previous role as Vice President of Sales for Cumulus Cincinnati’s five radio stations, a position he has held since 2015. Prior to that, he was Sales Manager for Cumulus Cincinnati stations 92.5 the FOX (WOFX-FM) and 96 ROCK (WFTK-FM). He was also Sales Manager for Cumulus Lexington, KY, following more than 11 years as Sales Manager/Integrated Media Solutions Provider for Clear Channel/iHeartMedia. A native of Kettering, OH, Laing holds a B.A. in History from DePauw University. He takes the market leadership reins from Dave Crowl, who retires at year-end. 

Dave Milner, Executive Vice President, Operations, CUMULUS MEDIA, said: “Jon Laing has his finger on the pulse of Cincinnati, with deep experience and relationships in the market. Importantly, he knows how to leverage the power of great local radio across traditional and digital distribution channels, positioning our customers and stations for success in 2021 and beyond. Jon’s dynamic leadership and expertise make him a tremendous asset to Cumulus Cincinnati and to the community we serve.”

Laing commented: “Right now is an incredible time to be in radio/audio, and I am thrilled about the opportunity to lead the Cumulus Cincinnati team. These five stations have a strong tradition of serving the community, entertaining our large listener universe while providing extensive audio and digital marketing solutions for our advertising partners. It is an honor and privilege to have this responsibility. A sincere thanks to Mary Berner and Dave Milner for their support and leadership.”

CUMULUS MEDIA owns and operates Cincinnati radio stations WOFX-FM/The FOX 92.5 (Classic Rock); WNNF-FM/New 94.1 Cat Country (Country); WFTK-FM/96 Rock (Rock); WRRM-FM/Warm 98 (AC); and WGRR-FM/103.5 WGRR (Classic Hits).

Tampa Radio: Sports WDAE Team Ian and Jay

Ian and Jay WDAE Sports

iHeartMedia/Tampa has named Ian Beckles and Jay Recher as the new afternoon hosts on Sports WDAE-AM and W237CW 95.3 FM. The duo will continue hosting the afternoon drive program after the retirement of Tampa Bay radio icon Ron Diaz.

"We are thrilled to announce our new afternoon drive program featuring Ian Beckles and Jay Recher," said WDAE Program Director John Mamola. "Teaming Ian's long standing history in the market both as a player, entrepreneur and radio personality with the knowledge and passion for Tampa Bay sports from Jay Recher will provide a dynamic program for sports fans in Tampa Bay to embrace. This announcement further enhances and strengthens WDAE's standing as the voice for Tampa Bay sports fans."

Ian Beckles was a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Philadelphia Eagles during his eight year NFL career, thus joining WDAE in 2002. Jay Recher began his career at WDAE in 2014 and has served as Executive Producer of multiple programs including the previous "Ron and Ian Show". Recher also hosts a web series entitled "Bolts Breakdown" through the Tampa Bay Lightning, and well as part of the USF Football pre and post game shows.

Little Rock Radio: 106.7 FM Flips To Sports As Buz2

Signal Media of Arkansas has announced the launch of Buz2 on KHLR 106.7 FM, pending a call letter change to KBZU-FM, licensed to Benton, AR. 

The station will serve as a complement to the company’s long-standing sports powerhouse KABZ 103.7 The Buzz.  Buz2 will offer ESPN national programming through the day and evening hours with local sports broadcasts and programming mixed in, primarily in the evenings and on weekends.  

The new format will begin the morning of Monday, January 4. 

“We are thrilled to be able to offer central Arkansas sports fans another great option for sports information, breaking news, opinion and play-by-play,” said Justin Acri, General Manager of 106.7 Buz2 and 103.7 The Buzz.  “This also gives us another signal on which to air locally produced sports shows and game broadcasts to entertain our listeners.”

KHLR 106.7 FM (13 Kw)

106.7-FM is already home to Arkansas State Red Wolves Football, Little Rock Trojan Men’s Basketball and Benton High School Football.  Now, in cooperation with ESPN Radio, KBZU will be offering a wide variety of perspectives on sports from a national perspective throughout the week.  Current ESPN radio shows and broadcasts include Greeny with Mike Greenberg, The Max Kellerman Show as well as NBA, NFL and NCAA Football and Basketball.

In addition to the terrestrial signal, the KBZU online stream and station information can be reached through links at  Listeners can link to the audio content through the 103.7 The Buzz App.

ESPN Radio: Are You Ready For Some Football...?

ESPN’s postseason college football coverage reaches its peak with the exclusive presentation of the College Football Playoff, kicking off with the Semifinals on New Year’s Day, Friday, Jan. 1. The trio of College Football Playoff games will air on ESPN and ESPN Deportes, with alternate telecasts available across ESPN networks via ESPN’s MegaCast presentation. ESPN Radio will broadcast all three games. In addition, the rest of the New Year’s Six will also be live on ESPN and ESPN Radio.

New Year’s Day action starts with the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, as No. 9 Georgia and No. 8 Cincinnati go head to head in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mark Jones, Dvoracek and Kris Budden will team up for the TV call, while Dave O’Brien and Mike Golic Jr. will be on the headset for the ESPN Radio broadcast.

At 4 p.m., the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game presented by Capital One will be live from Arlington, Texas, with a stacked slate of commentators announcing No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Notre Dame. Sean McDonough, Todd Blackledge, Todd McShay and Allison Williams are set for the ESPN telecast, while the trio of Tessitore, Andre Ware and Rowe will be live on ESPN Radio.

At 8 p.m., the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl pits No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Ohio State against one another under the lights of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. ESPN’s lead Saturday Night Football crew of Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and Maria Taylor will be joined by Tom Rinaldi in New Orleans on ESPN, and Sean Kelley and Barrett Jones will team up for the ESPN Radio broadcast.

On Saturday, Jan. 2, the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl starts the action as No. 25 Oregon and No. 10 Iowa State kick off on ESPN. Dave Pasch, Mike Golic Sr. and Quint Kessenich will be on the ESPN call, with Marc Kestecher and Ben Hartsock announcing the action from Glendale on ESPN Radio.

To close out New Year’s Six action, the Capital One Orange Bowl will host No. 5 Texas A&M and No. 13 North Carolina in Hard Rock Stadium. Bob Wischusen, Dan Orlovsky and Katie George are set for ESPN, with Kelley and Jones announcing their second New Year’s Six on ESPN Radio.

Best News Bloopers From 2020

 A collection of the best tv news bloopers of 2020.

Hong Kong Media Mogul Back In Custody

Hong Kong’s top court has remanded media and publishing tycoon Jimmy Lai, the most high-profile person to be charged under the Chinese-ruled city’s national security law, in custody until another bail hearing on Feb. 1.

Reuters reports the Court of Final Appeal’s ruling comes a week after Lai, one of Hong Kong’s most prominent democracy activists who is accused of colluding with foreign forces, was released on HK$10 million ($1.3 million) bail along with extensive restrictions that included barring him from using social media.

Prosecutors immediately appealed against the bail decision.

Beijing imposed the legislation on the former British colony in June that critics say aims to crush dissent and erode freedoms in the semi-autonomous, Chinese-ruled city - charges that authorities in Hong Kong and China reject.

Lai, a critic of Beijing who had been a frequent visitor to Washington, is widely believed to be a target of the new legislation.

R.I.P.: Dawn Wells, Who Played Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island

The cast of Gilligan's Island

Dawn Wells, the actress who radiated all-American wholesomeness, Midwestern practicality and a youthful naïve charm as the character Mary Ann on the hit 1960s sitcom “Gilligan’s Island,” died on Wednesday at a nursing home in Los Angeles. 

She was 82, according to The NY Times. Her publicist, Harlan Boll, said the cause was related to Covid-19.

Debuting on CBS in 1964, “Gilligan’s Island” followed an unlikely septet of day trippers (on a “three-hour tour,” as the theme song explained) who ended up stranded on a desert island.

There, shipwrecked alongside a movie star (who spent most of her time in evening gowns), a science professor, a pompous, older rich couple, and two wacky crew members was Mary Ann Summers (Ms. Wells), a farm girl from Kansas who had won the trip in a local radio contest.

Dawn Wells 1938-2020
The character had a relatively scant back story — it was said that she worked at the hardware store back home and had a boyfriend — but Mary Ann’s persona alone made her memorable. Gingham blouses, short shorts, double ponytails and perky hair bows were all parts of her signature look.

The first version of the show’s theme song mentioned five of the characters “and the rest,” but the lyrics were soon changed to name the professor (Russell Johnson) and Mary Ann as well. The others in the cast were Bob Denver (Gilligan), Alan Hale Jr. (the Skipper), Jim Backus and Natalie Schafer (as the couple Thurston Howell III and Lovey Howell), and Tina Louise (as the actress, Ginger). Ms. Louise is the last surviving member of the original cast.

That the premise of “Gilligan’s Island” was pretty much implausible and its humor simplistic made no difference to the show’s millions of fans or its producers, who would discover in the years to come that they had spawned a cultural phenomenon.

Though “Gilligan’s Island” lasted only three seasons, canceled in 1967, it hardly slipped from the horizon. Endless reruns ensued, and the cast members had a series of encore performances. Ms. Wells, for one, reprised her role as Mary Ann in three reunion TV movies: “Rescue From Gilligan’s Island” (1978), “The Castaways on Gilligan’s Island” (1979) and “The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island” (1981).

In 1982, she did the voices of both her character and Ms. Louise’s movie star for “Gilligan’s Planet,” an animated spinoff series. And she went on to play Mary Ann in episodes of at least four other (unrelated) shows: “Alf” (1986), “Baywatch” (1989), “Herman’s Head” (1991) and “Meego” (1997). “Gilligan’s”-themed episodes had a certain camp value.

Even her career as an author related directly to the series. “Mary Ann’s Gilligan’s Island Cookbook,” which included Skipper’s Coconut Pie, was published in 1993. “What Would Mary Ann Do? A Guide to Life,” a memoir she wrote with Steve Stinson, appeared in 2014.

Mary Ann’s advice in the book included this thought: “Failure builds character. What matters is what you do after you fail.” The San Francisco Book Review called the book “a worthwhile mix of classic values and sincerity.

R.I.P.: Alto Reed, Member Of Bob Seger's Silver Bullet Band

Alto Reed (1948-2020)

Alto Reed, who played saxophone for multiplatinum Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band for nearly half a century, died Wednesday of colon cancer. 

He was 72, according to Deadline

Seger posted a note about his “lifelong friend and bandmate” on social media: “He was amazing – he could play just about anything,” he wrote. “In our band, he was the rock star.”

Born Thomas Cartmell in Detroit in 1948, Reed was known for his showmanship onstage and his signature sax riff on “Turn the Page.” He first started playing with Seger in the early 1970s, played on its Back in ’72 albums and joined the band for its first headlining arena shows at Detroit’s Cobo Hall. By 1974, he was a full-fledged member of the Silver Bullet Band, which was about to break nationally with “Live” Bullet (1976), which was recorded at Cobo Hall and featured a scorching version of the Reed-fueled “Turn the Page” that remains a staple on classic rock radio. Metallica covered the song on its 1998 album Garage Inc., with a guitar riff subbing for the sax.

Reed joined Seger and several other longtime bandmates for a 2018-19 farewell tour, during which he played the familiar guitar riff from “Mainstreet” on sax. His horn also helped drive such Seger classics as “Rock and Roll Never Forgets” and the 1978 hit “Old Time Rock and Roll.”

He was part of the band during its 1970s and ’80s heyday, playing on the multiplatinum albums Beautiful Loser, Night Moves, Stranger in Town, Against the Wind — which was No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for six weeks in 1980 — and the 1981 live set Nine Tonight. The single “Against the Wind” won the group it only Grammy, for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group, and also scored a second nom that year.

Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band also racked up seven Top 10 singles, ranging from the 1976 classic “Night Moves” to the group’s lone chart-topper, “Shakedown,” from the 1987 film Beverly Hills Cop II. The title cut from Like a Rock peaked at No. 12 in 1986 but became nearly as familiar as any of the group’s songs as the featured cut in a long-running TV ad campaign for Chevrolet trucks during the 1990s and early 2000s.

A Look Back At 2020

This past Sunday, CBS' Sunday Morning aired a lengthy retrospective on those we lost during the year 2020:

December 31 Radio History

➦In 1910...Actor Dick Kollmar was born in Rigewood NJ. He starred as 'Boston Blackie' in the long-running radio show, and co-hosted a WOR New York chat show with his wife, gossip columnist Dorothy Kilgallen.  On TV he hosted the series Broadway Spotlight & Guess What. He died Jan. 7 1971, an apparent suicide at age 60.

➦In 1914...Roy Rogers’ sidekick Pat Brady was born in Toledo Ohio. He appeared in more than 100 episodes of TV’s Roy Rogers Show, after hooking up with Roy in films & on radio.   He also sang with the western group Sons of the Pioneers. He died in a car accident Feb. 27 1972 at age 57.

➦In 1920...cowboy actor & narrator Rex Allen was born on a ranch in Arizona. Although he sang on radio’s WLS National Barn Dance, published over 300 songs, and starred in 19 Republic western movies, he is best remembered today for his distinctive narration of dozens of Disney films & TV shows.  He died Dec 17, 1999 just days short of his 79th birthday, after being accidently run over in his own driveway.

➦In 1923...In London,, the BBC began using the distinctive Big Ben chime ID.

➦In 1923...the first transatlantic radio broadcast of a voice occurred between Pittsburgh and Manchester, England.

➦In 1926...KOMO signed on the air in Seattle at AM 980.  Today the longtime Fisher Broadcasting outlet has an all-news format at AM 1000.

KOMO Control circa 1948 (Photos courtesy of

In July 1926, KOMO was founded on Harbor Island as KGFA 980 by two owners: Birt F. Fisher, whose lease on Seattle radio station KTCL was about to run out, and the Fisher brothers of Fisher Flouring Mills, who had been on the island since 1911. (The Fisher Brothers and Birt Fisher were not related.) In preparation for the switch to the new station, Birt Fisher changed KTCL's call sign to KOMO.

In December, his lease ended, and he took the call letters with him to KGFA. KOMO 980's first broadcast was December 31, 1926. The studios moved to Downtown Seattle in 1927. The station also began a long-running affiliation with NBC Radio that year as well, primarily with the Red Network, but also with the short-lived West Coast NBC Orange Network from 1931 to 1933. Over the following years, KOMO's frequency would go from 980 to 1080, back to 980, down to 920, up to 970, then back to 920, and settled at 950 after the NARBA frequency shakeup in 1941.

Circa 1948

Fisher's Blend Station, owner of KOMO, bought NBC Blue Network affiliate KJR from NBC in 1941. In 1944, KOMO switched frequencies with KJR (then at 1000 kHz) and sold KJR off two years later. At its new frequency, KOMO began broadcasting with 50,000 watts of power from its current transmitter site on Vashon Island in 1948. New studios at the corner of Fourth and Denny, near what is now the Seattle Center, were dedicated in February 1948.

➦In 1928...For the first time Auld Lang Syne was played by Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians to bring in 1929, during the band’s annual New Year’s Eve Party at  New York’s Hotel Roosevelt Grill. The event was heard on the CBS radio network, and became the longest running annual special program in broadcast history.

➦In 1940...ASCAP prevented the radio industry from playing any ASCAP-licensed music. The ban lasted for ten months. It was in reaction to a dispute between the radio networks and ASCAP, the American Society of Composers and Publishers.

➦In 1943...Country singer John Denver was born Henry John Deutschendorf.  Denver was killed AT age 53 on Oct 12, 1997, when his home-built high-performance aircraft he was piloting over Monterey Bay, California. crashed.

➦In 1961...LA radio station KFWB hired the Beach Boys for $300, appearing under that name for the first time, to perform at their Ritchie Valen’s Memorial Dance in Long Beach.   Previously the group had played California nightclubs as The Pendletones, as Kenny and the Cadets, and as Carl and the Passions.

➦In 1963...The "Dear Abby Show" premiered on the CBS Radio network. The 5-minutes program aired for 11 years.

➦In 1967...Radio stations across the nation had to comply with an FCC mandate that AM/FM outlets in major cities had to air non-duplicated programming.  The limit was 50 percent for simulcasts. Here's a NY Times story dated December 31, 1966 concerning NYC stations...

➦In 1970...Paul McCartney filed a suit against the rest of The Beatles to dissolve their partnership.

➦In 1972..., “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” aired for the first time on NBC-TV. The annual Times Square special moved to ABC-TV two years later. Three Dog Night, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Helen Reddy, and Al Green, performed.

➦In 1982...the "CBS Mystery Theater" aired its final episode after 8 years on radio.

➦In 1982...the NBC Radio network cancelled practically all of it's daily features.

➦In 1985...singer Rick Nelson was killed when fire broke out aboard a private plane that was taking him to a New Year’s Eve performance in Dallas. His fiancee and five other people were also killed. the fire was caused by a malfunctioning gas heater.

Nelson was 45.

➦In 1989...The final edit was added to the traditional WLS Music Montage.

Every New Year's Eve, the "Top 89" songs of the year were counted down on WLS-AM (and FM). After the #1 song was played at about 4 minutes before Midnight.

Each year added about a minute of the previous top songs in Chicago. The montage originally started short, as you can guess, and ultimately ended up as this 27+ minute marathon.

After WLS-AM changed to all-talk in 1989, this montage was no longer heard in Chicago. But thanks to Scott Childers, this version can be heard exactly as it was played every year. Kudos to Scott for putting this together!

This is an appreciation to the production work that Scott, Tommy Edwards (the originator) and the production staff created over the years.

Thanks to Scott Childers for the permission to post this. Check out his site at

Bob Grant
➦In 2013...Veteran talk radio personality Bob Grant died at age 84. His career spanned more than 60-years.

Grant began working in radio in the 1940s at the news department at WBBM-AM in Chicago, as a radio personality and television talk show host at KNX-AM in Los Angeles, and as an actor. During the Korean War, he served in the Naval Reserve.

He later became sports director at KABC-AM in Los Angeles, where after some substitute appearances he inherited the talk show of early controversialist Joe Pyne in 1964 and began to build a following. Grant hosted three shows on KABC-AM in 1964 titled, "Open Line," "Night Line," and "Sunday Line."

Grant was approached to come to New York by executives at WMCA 570 AM when the station was beocming a talk station. He was recommended to them by broadcast executive Jack Thayer, who had been the station manager of KLAC. Grant was opposed to the move, as he hated what he knew about New York i.e. the subways, crime, and congestion. He also had four children and a home in Los Angeles.

Grant was convinced to come to New York when an executive said to him at the end of a meeting, "It's just too bad that the number-one talk-show host in America doesn't want to come to the number-one market in America."  Grant came to New York and did his first show on WMCA on September 21, 1970, where he worked for station manager R. Peter Straus.

 After being in New York for a short time, Grant wanted to go back to Los Angeles. He was contacted by the former news director at KLAC, who was now a program director at another station to join his station, but Grant declined, because he had signed a two-year contract with WMCA.  Grant's unhappiness being in New York led to him becoming angry with the callers. He hoped to get fired by R. Peter Strauss, however his ratings soared as he got angrier.

  • Actor Anthony Hopkins is 83. 
  • Bebe Neuwirth is 62
    Actor Tim Considine (“My Three Sons”) is 80. 
  • Actor Sarah Miles (“The Big Sleep”) is 79. 
  • Actor Barbara Carrera (“Never Say Never Again”) is 79. 
  • Guitarist Andy Summers of The Police is 78. 
  • Actor Ben Kingsley is 77. 
  • Actor Tim Matheson is 73. 
  • Singer Burton Cummings of The Guess Who is 73. 
  • Actor Joe Dallesandro (“The Limey”) is 72. 
  • Bassist Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith is 69. 
  • Actor James Remar (“Dexter”) is 67. 
  • Actor Bebe Neuwirth (“Madam Secretary,” “Cheers”) is 62. 
  • Singer Paul Westerberg is 61. 
  • Actor Val Kilmer is 61. 
  • Guitarist Ric Ivanisevich of Oleander is 58. 
  • Guitarist Scott Ian of Anthrax is 57. 
  • Actor Lance Reddick (“Fringe,” ″The Wire”) is 51. 
  • Singer-actor Joe McIntyre of New Kids on the Block is 48. 
  • Cellist Mikko Siren of Apocalyptica is 45. 
  • Singer Psy is 43. 
  • Drummer Bob Bryar (My Chemical Romance) is 41. 
  • Drummer Jason Sechrist of Portugal. The Man is 41. 
  • Actor Ricky Whittle (“American Gods”) is 41. 
  • Actor Erich Bergen (“Madam Secretary,” ″Jersey Boys”) is 35. 
  • Musician Drew Taggart of The Chainsmokers is 31.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Amazon Music Acquires Wondery Podcast Network

UPDATED:  12/30/20 2:00 PM...Amazon announced Wednesday that it’s acquiring podcasting company Wondery, expanding its catalog of original audio content.

As part of the deal, Wondery will join Amazon Music, the e-commerce giant’s music streaming business. Amazon Music in September added podcasts to its platform, looking to carve out a share of the increasingly competitive podcasting market, in which Spotify, Apple and others have gained ground.

Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment. Wondery declined to comment. The possibility of a deal was first published earlier this month.

Wondery, founded in 2016, has produced some of the most popular podcasts in recent years, including true crime series like “Dirty John,” “Dr. Death” and “Over My Dead Body.” The podcast producer and network says it counts more than 10 million unique listeners each month.

Amazon released the following statement:

We’re pleased to announce that Wondery—an innovative podcast publisher with a track record of creating and producing top-rated podcasts—has signed an agreement to join Amazon Music. Wondery is an innovative podcast publisher with a track record of creating and producing top-rated podcasts that entertain and educate listeners, including “Dirty John,” “Dr. Death,” “Business Wars,” and “The Shrink Next Door.” Wondery is already delighting listeners with its collection of immersive podcasts, and the company is evolving this entertainment medium into a truly new and exciting experience. When the deal closes, nothing will change for listeners, and they’ll continue to be able to access Wondery podcasts through a variety of providers. With Amazon Music, Wondery will be able to provide even more high-quality, innovative content and continue their mission of bringing a world of entertainment and knowledge to their audiences, wherever they listen.

Amazon Music launched podcasts in September 2020, and together with Wondery, we hope to accelerate the growth and evolution of podcasts by bringing creators, hosts, and immersive experiences to even more listeners across the globe, just as we do with music. This is a pivotal moment to expand the Amazon Music offering beyond music as listener habits evolve. Our commitment to podcasts, our focus on high quality audio with the Amazon Music HD tier, and our recent partnership with Twitch to bring live streaming into the app, make Amazon Music a premiere destination for creators.

Together with Wondery, we will continue to bring more customers to streaming as we expand selection and ensure we are a destination for our customers to find, discover, and listen to the creators and artists they enjoy.

Listen to shows from Wondery and other podcasts on Amazon Music at

Podcasting 2020: An Industry Takes Shape

by Bill Rosenblatt, Forbes

2020 was a pivotal year in the development of podcasting as an industry. The major business models, players, and axes of power are coming into focus as the industry matures.

Prognostications about the future of podcasting often boil down to a simple question: will podcasting will end up looking more like digital music or digital television? In the music industry, people have access to the same enormous catalog of music (more or less), through several different services, either for a monthly subscription fee or free with ads. In television, there is no single place to get “all” TV shows; instead there’s a growing number of mostly paid subscription digital platforms with distinct (if slightly overlapping) subsets of the universe of content.

The events of the past year tell us that the answer to that question is some of each. Podcasting looks like it’s headed towards a two-tiered future, where the lower tier looks like YouTube or Spotify Free and the higher tier looks like Netflix or Hulu.

The first tier follows the original path of podcasting toward ubiquity and ad revenue: publishing as many podcasts as possible, getting them onto as many podcast apps as possible, and selling as many ads as possible. The kings of this strategy are iHeartMedia and National Public Radio. Both have podcast playing apps, but both are mainly about developing and promoting podcasts and monetizing them through ads and sponsorships. Both have had decades’ worth of head starts over newer competitors owing to their roots in broadcast radio, ad/sponsorship sales, and syndicated programming.

iHeart and NPR have for years been jockeying back and forth between the No. 1 and No. 2 slots in the Podtrac podcast publisher rankings. Their U.S. monthly audience numbers, both in the 25 to 30 million range, are more than double the No. 3 publisher, the New York Times. The Times’s The Daily is the No. 1 podcast by listenership, followed by two NPR podcasts: NPR News Now, a podcast version of NPR’s hourly newscasts, and Up First, a daily early morning show. iHeart spent 2020 as it did the previous few years: bulking up on inventory at a breathtaking pace. It has been adding hundreds of new podcast titles per year, more than one per week on average.

This year iHeart put itself on a trajectory to be majority-owned by Liberty Media, which also owns Pandora and Sirius XM satellite radio. Sirius XM itself acquired Stitcher—with its stable of hundreds of podcasts and a major podcast ad sales network—in October. Especially with the possibility of all those satellite radio shows spinning off podcasts, the resulting company will become the biggest player in America in ad-based podcasting (not to mention broadcast radio).

The risk in the ubiquity strategy is in the limits of advertising. iHeartMedia in particular risks developing a huge stable of podcasts that sound like AM/FM talk radio on demand, with large loads of slickly produced third party ads replacing the homespun host-read ads that have been endemic to podcasting (and, of course, were endemic to broadcast radio several decades ago) and turning listeners off. Signs of this are already starting to appear with jarring out-of-context ads playing during breaks on certain iHeart podcasts.

The higher tier in podcasting belongs to the big content-platform companies that have decided to invest in podcast content: Spotify and Amazon. The strategy for each of them is to bundle podcasts with music under a single monthly paid subscription plan. Spotify started out on this path in 2019 by buying up a few large independent podcast publishers and the podcast publishing platform Anchor.

Christmas Hits Podcasts Downloads

Podcasters knew last week would bring a dip in downloads with the Christmas holiday disrupting normal media habits. The only question was how big an impact there would be. Podtrac reports among publishers and podcasts it measures, overall downloads dropped 12% for the week of December 21-27 compared to the prior week. But illustrating how much growth strides the industry has had during the past year, Podtrac also says last week’s downloads were up 31% compared to the corresponding week a year ago.

Despite a down week for downloads, the holiday week was not without growth among podcasting’s largest show categories. Podtrac says the History genre posted a ten percent week-to-week increase in downloads last week. The Education category was even with the week before, while True Crime just barely crossed into negative territory with a 1% decrease in downloads among podcasts in that genre.

Other were off by more. One of the biggest drops was for News podcasts as many Americans took a break from current events for Christmas. Podtrac says News downloads were off 18% last week compared to the prior week. But it was sports – which had a 20% drop in week-to-week downloads – that fell the most. Other declines were recorded for the Comedy and Business genres – both were down 10% – with Science (-8%), Arts (-7%), and Society and Culture (-5%) also in the red. However each genre was firmly in growth mode when compared to its download numbers a year ago.

Podtrac earlier reported the iHeartPodcast Network was the biggest podcast publisher in November. It was followed by NPR, the New York Times, Wondery, and ESPN/ABC.

Overall, the average U.S. unique monthly audience for the top ten publishers grew one percent from October to November. Podtrac said nine of the top 20 podcast publishers saw an increase in their U.S. monthly audience from November.

The AM Confidential: Senate's McConnell Stalls Stimulus Payments

The Senate adjourned for the day yesterday without taking any definitive action on a House measure that increases the planned $600 direct payment to Americans to $2,000 as part of the coronavirus relief package. As expected, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked a Democratic-led move for an immediate vote on the measure. He has given no signal as to whether or how he will allow a vote on the increased checks. He introduced one measure that combined the bigger check with a repeal of social media legal immunity and creation of an election fraud panel. This combines several demands from President Donald Trump and is seen as having zero chance of approval.

President Trump has managed to get Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to introduce a bill calling for a complete repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, stripping tech giants of immunity from liability for what users post, according to Politico. The move seems, however, to be more political theater aimed at mollifying Trump than anything real. McConnell paired the repeal with a proposed increase in stimulus payments, something Republicans seem unlikely to support.

$600 CHECKS START GOING OUT: The $600 payments to most Americans that were approved as part of the coronavirus relief act started going out last night to those who have direct deposit, according to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. The payments will continue into next week. The payments are based on income reported to the IRS for the 2019 tax year. Every adult who earned less than $75,000 is eligible for the full $600. Couples with incomes up to $150,000 will receive $1,200. Parents of dependent children will get an additional $600 per child. The payments are phased out at higher income levels. There is no payment to individuals who made above $87,000 in 2019.

➤NEW STRAIN OF VIRUS CONFIRMED IN U.S.: The new and more easily transmitted variant of COVID-19 has reached the U.S. Colorado Governor Jared Polis said yesterday that a state laboratory has confirmed that a man in his 20s has contracted the variant, known as B.1.1.7., and is in isolation in Elbert County. The mutant virus was first detected in Great Britain and has since been identified in 18 other nations. The vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna are both expected to be effective against the new and old versions of the virus.

Strict stay-at-home orders have been extended into the new year in California's southern and central regions, state officials announced. Some hospitals are so overflowing with patients that they are being treated in hallways, gift shops and tents, The New York Times reports. No date has been set for the restrictions to expire, as ICU capacity is being monitored daily.

➤AN INAUGURATION LIKE NO OTHER: Construction of the viewing platform in front of the U.S. Capitol is already underway in advance of the January 20th inauguration, but many of the traditional flourishes will not be seen this time. The Presidential Inaugural Committee, a joint committee of Congress, has announced that President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be sworn in via "a historic ceremony that includes vigorous health and safety protocols." Anyone inclined to show up to watch is urged to stay home and see it on television.

➤CONGRESSMAN-ELECT DIES OF COVID-19: Luke Letlow, a Congressman-elect from Louisiana's 5th Congressional District, died last night of complications from COVID-19. He was 41 and is survived by his wife and two young children. He served as chief of staff for Republican Representative Ralph Abraham, who formerly held the seat Letlow was elected to.

THE MOST ADMIRED LIST: President Trump is the man Americans admire most, according to a new Gallup poll. This is his first outright win in the annual survey, which last year had him tied with former President Barack Obama, who came in second this year. Others in the top 10 include Joe Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Pope Francis, Tesla founder Elon Musk, Senator Bernie Sanders, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, NBA star LeBron James and the Dalai Lama. The list of most admired women is topped by Michelle Obama, followed by Kamala Harris. Also in the top 10 are Melania Trump, Oprah Winfrey, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Queen Elizabeth II, Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett and environmental activist Greta Thunberg.

➤FLIGHT TO SUBURBIA: Home prices in the U.S. rose in October to a level not seen in six years, and the number of available properties for sale dropped to a record low. That pushed prices up 7.9% in October compared to a year earlier, according to the Case-Shiller home price index released yesterday. The dominant trend, according to the report, is a new flight to the suburbs. Spurred by the coronavirus pandemic, many are leaving apartments in crowded cities for more spacious homes in the suburbs, preferably with home offices.

➤DRONES IN THE AIR: The Federal Aviation Administration has issued new safety rules for commercial use of drones. The new guidelines are expected to lead the way to greater use of drones for delivering packages. Amazon and UPS are among the companies that have been testing use of unmanned drones for years, but regulatory delays stymied any substantial rollout.

➤BOEING 737 FLIES AGAIN: American Airlines Flight 718 flew from Miami to New York yesterday, marking the first time a Boeing 737 Max was used on a commercial U.S. flight since March 2019. The jetliner was grounded after two crashes revealed flaws in the flight control system. A Congressional investigation faulted Boeing for manufacturing and management errors and the Federal Aviation Administration for inadequate oversight.

➤SABOTEURS CUT OFF ASPEN'S HEAT:  A coordinated attack shutting off the gas lines to Aspen, Colorado left thousands of people without heat on Saturday night. According to utility officials and ABC reporters, approximately 3,500 customers lost service. The restoration process is grueling, as crews have to go to each individual customer’s natural gas meter, turn it off manually, and then relight the pilot light. As Aspen police distributed approximately 6,000 portable space heaters, utility officials expressed uncertainty about how long remedying the situation will take. Meanwhile, temperatures were expected to fall almost to zero on Tuesday night. The county commissioner used the word terrorism to describe what he fears is an attempt to destroy the mountain community in the midst of the holidays. As the FBI joined the investigation, police announced that three Black Hills Energy gas line sights had been struck, calling it a coordinated attack. While their investigation is still underway, some physical evidence has been uncovered, including footprints and potential indicators that radical environmental advocates could have been behind the attack. “Earth First!” was written on one of the sabotaged pipes. No security cameras were present at the sites. While no injuries have been reported, the impact this will have on the people of Aspen may be severe.

The new year is looking pretty sweet from here. On Monday, Hershey announced its 2021 Valentine’s Day and Easter product lineup, which includes a chocolate Build-A-Bunny. Many fan favorites, like Reese’s eggs, will be returning. But there will also be some exciting new additions, including a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup topped with marshmallow and a chocolate Build-A-Bunny. Based on similar products that the massive multinational company has released in the past, including "Build-A-Snowman" and "Build-A-Santa,” the Build-A-Bunny is a chocolate bunny with pieces that can be broken off and rearranged in a variety of ways. While the Build-A-Bunny is certainly exciting, Michael Resse, the Hershey senior brand manager for holidays, noted that the Mallow-Top Peanut Butter Cup will be the company’s premiere Easter treat. He claims that they have managed to combine the key Easter flavors, milk chocolate, marshmallow, and Reese’s peanut butter, into the perfect holiday cup—even going as far as calling it a “new seasonal masterpiece.” Additional 2021 releases will include rose-shaped chocolates, chocolate teddy bears, and numerous candy-boxes. These new takes on classic items promise to be perfect for the holidays, regardless of how the coronavirus pandemic impacts them next year.

🏈DeVONTA SMITH IS PLAYER OF THE YEAR: The Associated Press has named Alabama Crimson Tide's DeVonta Smith as Player of the Year. Smith is the first wide receiver to get the award. Smith and teammate Mac Jones are among the finalists for the Heisman Trophy, which will be awarded next week to either Trevor Lawrence of the Clemson Tigers, Kyle Trask of the Florida Gators, Smith or Jones.

🏀KEVIN LOVE IS OUT FOR A WHILE: Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers will be out for three to four weeks after aggravating a calf injury during Sunday's game against the Philadelphia 76ers.

🏒BLACKHAWKS CAPTAIN OUT INDEFINITELY: Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is not joining his team at training camp. He reports he has been feeling "drained and lethargic" and is working with doctors to find out what's wrong. The 2021 NHL season begins January 13th.

🏈RUSSELL OKUNG'S GOT THE BITCOIN BUG: Carolina Panthers offensive lineman Russell Okung has been bitten by the bitcoin investing bug. He demanded and got half of his $13 million base salary for the 2020 season in cryptocurrency. If the investment doesn't work out, he'll probably be okay. He has earned $108 million in his NFL career since starting out in 2010, according to Spotrac.

➤SNOW, FLOODS THREATEN NEW YEAR'S EVE CELEBRATIONS IN US: New Year’s Eve celebrations across the United States will be disrupted by blizzards and thunderstorms—a fitting capstone to a historically disappointing year. In the Midwest, south, and east, a storm system will bring heavy rain, cold temperatures, and potential flooding, according to the National Weather Service. This comes just a week after the east coast was buried under inches of snow and blizzards hit Minnesota, Ohio, Iowa and the Dakotas.

In the Deep South, heavy rainfall is expected on New Year’s Eve, and it is possible that damaging wind and tornadoes will blow through. Florida expects to see more cold weather on New Year’s Eve, with freeze warnings remaining in place since Christmas. 

Up in New York City, rainfall and temperatures in the 40s are expected; incidentally, the city’s renowned Times Square celebrations have already been reimagined to be held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. On the other side of the country, the Northwest will also see showers and possible snow on both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. While this nationwide inclement weather would be disappointing and disruptive any year, it is an especially painful blow at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, as people will not be able to celebrate more safely outdoors.