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Duluth actor Daniel Durant shows his stuff on ‘Dancing with the Stars’

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Duluth Actor Daniel Durant Shows His Stuff On ‘Dancing With The Stars’
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Actor Daniel Durant and his dance partner, Britt Stewart, earned cheers, both signed and audible, on Monday night as they danced the tango in the “Dancing with the Stars” season kickoff. Based on the scores of onscreen judges and votes from fans at home, they’re among the teams advancing to another week in the reality TV competition.

“That was amazing!” said judge Carrie Ann Inaba after the dance. “You are such a leading man. It was debonair. It was powerful. The lines were gorgeous and stunning. You brought us through all the shades of an amazing tango.”

Daniel Durant and his “Dancing with the Stars” partner, Britt Stewart. (Courtesy of ABC and Daniel Durant via Forum News Service)

With a score of 27, Durant and Stewart placed sixth among the 16 teams by the judges’ estimation. The early front-runner, to no one’s surprise, is Charli D’Amelio, a longtime competitive dancer who’s become a TikTok celebrity. D’Amelio and her partner, Mark Ballas, scored 32 out of a possible 40.

The two-hour episode, which was the first live show to air on the streaming service Disney+, was packed with performances and bios spanning all the teams. After a short introduction citing Durant’s acting career in projects including the Oscar-winning film “CODA,” viewers saw previously recorded video of Durant (along with his interpreter, Gabriel Gomez) meeting Stewart and beginning to rehearse.

“I’ve never had the opportunity to teach anyone that is deaf, so I’m going to have to find a new approach on how we communicate,” Stewart said on the show. “I don’t know ASL, but I want to learn.”

Performing in striking green outfits, Durant and Stewart performed a muscular tango to the actor’s choice of songs, “Barbra Streisand” by the electronic group Duck Sauce.

“When I first heard that song at the club,” said Durant, who has been deaf since birth, “I went right up to the speaker and I felt the bass all through my body.”

“If Streisand was watching, she would be very, very pleased, and so am I,” judge Bruno Tonioli said. “You are a magnetic performer.”

During the performance, Durant’s mothers, Duluthians Lori Durant and Mary Engels, were shown signing applause and love for their son. Together, Durant and Stewart have named themselves Team Sign To Shine.

“First, ‘CODA’ wins an Oscar. Next, I’ve got to get a Mirrorball,” Durant said on the show, referencing the “Dancing with the Stars” trophy. “It’ll happen.”

The next episode of “Dancing with the Stars” will stream live on Disney+ at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 26.

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Other voices: Is the pandemic (and the emergency) over or not?

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Other Voices: Is The Pandemic (And The Emergency) Over Or Not?
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President Biden finally dared to say it last week, declaring in an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes” that the “pandemic is over.” Various public-health eminences are saying he’s wrong, but his comments recognize the reality of the disease at this stage and the public mood. The trouble is that his Administration still hasn’t lifted its official finding of a COVID public-health emergency.

Eric Topol, the Scripps Research Translational Institute director who is one of America’s leading COVID scolds, tweeted “Wish this was true. What’s over is @POTUS’s and our government’s will to get ahead of it, with magical thinking on the new bivalent boosters. Ignores #LongCovid, inevitability of new variants, and our current incapability for blocking infections and transmission.”

But global COVID deaths in the first week of September were the lowest since March 2020 when the World Health Organization declared COVID a pandemic, and even Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last week said “the end is in sight.”

COVID has become significantly less lethal as most people in the U.S. and world have gained some level of immunity from vaccination or infection. About 400 Americans each day have been dying from COVID this summer; most are elderly or have other medical ailments. It’s still important to protect the vulnerable.

But for most Americans, COVID is no worse than a bad flu. “If you are up-to-date on your vaccines today, and you avail yourself of the treatments, your chances of dying (from) COVID are vanishingly rare and certainly much lower than your risk of getting into trouble with the flu,” White House COVID response coordinator Ashish Jha told National Public Radio.

But if that’s right, why hasn’t the President also declared an end to the public-health and national emergencies? If the pandemic is over, then so is the emergency. Yet the Administration continues to extend the public-health emergency that was first declared in January 2020.

The reason is almost certainly money. A March 2020 COVID law enables the government to hand out billions of dollars in welfare benefits to millions of people as long as the emergency is in effect. This includes more generous food stamps and a restriction on state work requirements. It also limits states from removing from their Medicaid rolls individuals who are otherwise no longer financially eligible. The Foundation for Government Accountability estimates these ineligibles cost nearly $16 billion a month.

Most outrageous, only weeks ago the Administration used a separate national emergency declaration related to the pandemic to legally justify canceling some $500 billion in student debt. An Education Department Office of the General Counsel memo says the pandemic and national emergency enable the Education Secretary to modify federal student aid requirements under the 2003 Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act.

Mr. Biden seems to want it both ways. He wants to reassure Americans tired of restrictions on their way of life that the pandemic is over and they can get on with their lives. But he wants to retain the official emergency so he can continue to expand the welfare state and force states to comply. COVID can’t be an emergency only when it’s politically useful.

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Yankees Notebook: Zack Britton back in action after being sidelined more than a year

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Yankees Notebook: Zack Britton Back In Action After Being Sidelined More Than A Year
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Zack Britton had a lot to get used to Saturday. It’s been 13 months since he had been on a big-league mound. The lefty had never used the PitchCom system before and he is still trying to find his finite command with his sinker.

“Very anxious, you know, warming up and stuff. Good to get that one out of the way,” said Britton, who had Tommy John surgery last year. “I felt fine afterwards. So now it’s about obviously putting together good outings and improving the command. The stuff was actually OK.

“Yeah, it’s about getting back to being who I want to be, throwing late in games and contributing, having good innings.”

Saturday was a little shaky for Britton, pitching in the sixth inning of the Yankees’ 7-5 win over the Red Sox at Yankees Stadium.

Britton walked Rafael Devers, gave up a single to Xander Bogaerts and struck out Alex Verdugo. He then walked Kike Hernandez and Triston Casas to bring in a run.

“That’s a hold situation. That’s a tight game. And you know, the heart of their lineup. That’s the situation I want to be in,” Britton said. “So, yeah, that was a really good test. Obviously, I want to be a lot better going forward. That’s the plan.”

Britton has a little over a week (11 games) now to get himself back into that shape and earn a spot on the postseason roster. It’s not as daunting a task as it seems with the Yankees bullpen needing someone to step up and take those late-game innings.

Former closer Aroldis Chapman has struggled and the Yankees have been reluctant to let him pitch to the heart of the lineup. Clay Holmes, who stepped in to be an All-Star closer in the first half, has lost that job. Wandy Peralta is on the injured list with a back issue. Scott Effross just got off the injured list.

Britton, whose sinker velocity ticked up to 94.7 mph Saturday, has extensive closing experience. The 34-year-old has 154 career saves and had a 1.89 ERA in 2020, his last full season. He is in the final year of a four-year, $53 million contract with the Yankees.

Right now, the Yankees are closing by committee.

“That is what it is. We’ve got Effross back today. Obviously, we got Britt back today. Those are two guys that have a chance to impact us,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I think especially because Scott’s had the season under his belt … so I’m excited to get him back. Real optimism about what Wandy’s is going to be in a week.

“We got no other choice. And this is an opportunity and the reality is we have really good arms and options down there and it’s an opportunity for somebody to grab a more significant role moving forward and we got to deal with that.”

Lou Trevino came in to strand Britton’s runners and get the Yankees out of the sixth with having allowed just that one run and preserving the 5-4 lead.

BADER BET

Harrison Bader continued to make an impact his first week in pinstripes. Saturday, he made a diving grab of Abraham Almonte’s shallow fly ball with one out and two runners on in the eighth inning to preserve the Yankees’ two-run lead.

“Baseball just inherently is a game where there are a lot of factors that you can’t control, but on defense, I think with regards to your positioning, understanding what the pitcher’s trying to do with the hitter, game situations, positioning, jumps off the bat, how much you practice it before the game all these things in my opinion are controllable factors,” Bader said. “So, I’m just ready to pull them out whenever I need to. And it showed up for us in the eighth … Clarke [Schmidt] did a really good job with that on his own. So when it’s put it in play, we want to make good plays behind it.”

The Yankees acquired Bader at the trade deadline from the Cardinals for left-handed starter Jordan Montgomery. The New York native was on the injured list at the time with plantar fasciitis and did not make his Yankee debut until Tuesday. He has reached base safely in all five games he has played, going 4-for-14 with a double, six RBI and a stolen base.

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Gophers deserve national respect with blowout road win at Michigan State

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Gophers Deserve National Respect With Blowout Road Win At Michigan State
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EAST LANSING, Mich. — Voters in the Associated Press top 25 poll had been warming up to the Gophers as the season has progressed, but they still appeared to be taking a wait-and-see approach after three runaway victories over winless nonconference foes.

Minnesota’s continued domination in a 34-7 win over previously ranked Michigan State on Saturday at Spartan Stadium should garner more national respect. The next AP poll comes out Sunday afternoon.

In the season-opening ranking, Minnesota had received 31 votes, but that dipped to 22 after the 38-0 win over New Mexico State on Sept. 1. It climbed to 37 votes after the 62-10 win over Western Illinois on Set. 10 and was up again to 48 after the 49-7 win over Colorado last week.

Michigan State had received 91 votes, nearly double Minnesota’s output, in this week’s AP poll. The Spartans had been ranked 11th in the AP poll before a 39-28 loss at Washington last week. MSU was No. 21 in the coaches poll this week.

The 25th ranked team in this week’s poll, Miami (Fla.), received 123 votes.

Minnesota hasn’t been ranked by the AP since Oct. 18, 2020, and promptly fell out after a 49-24 loss to No. 18 Michigan. That was the first week of the pandemic-delayed season.

SCHEDULING

Gophers Athletics Director Mark Coyle is headed to Chicago after Saturday’s game to meet with fellow Big Ten ADs to determine football schedules for the 2023 season.

Coyle said on the KFXN-FM pregame show that a few of the subjects to be figured out include the future of divisions and whether they keep nine-game conference schedules.

Minnesota’s future schedules previously were available online, but with the changes on the horizon in the conference, the U has taken them off its website.

Southern California and UCLA will join the conference in 2024, which will create more scheduling changes.

BRIEFLY

Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck improved to 2-4 in Big Ten openers. At Minnesota, he also improved to 1-1 against the Spartans. … Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren attended Saturday’s game.

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Magic training camp countdown: Will expectations, roles become clearer?

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Magic Training Camp Countdown: Will Expectations, Roles Become Clearer?
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With the 2022-23 NBA season approaching, the Orlando Sentinel is unveiling a five-part series of Orlando Magic storylines to keep an eye on heading into training camp, which tips off Tuesday at their new state-of-the-art AdventHealth Training Center. Part one addressed whether the Magic did enough to turn around their shooting woes, part two focused on injury-related questions, part three touched on the rookies and part four addressed lineup experimentation.

Part Five: Accountability

As a team stocked with young talent in the first full season of a rebuild, the Magic were in player-evaluation mode in 2021-22.

That’ll still be the case, with Orlando entering 2022-23 as the league’s second-youngest team, only behind the Oklahoma City Thunder.

But how the evaluations are made will be different.

Fourteen of the Magic’s 16 players signed to standard contracts were on last year’s team. The other two, Paolo Banchero and Caleb Houstan, are rookies.

The continuity and familiarity allowed coach Jamahl Mosley and his staff to have a better idea of each player’s strengths and areas for improvement.

Now, they can elevate the expectations.

“A lot of it was evaluation last year,” Mosley said on the Magic’s official podcast, Pod Squad. “Seeing what guys were capable of, not capable of, the different combinations we put on the floor. It’s going to be a little easier when you see the same group of men who’ve been with you since last year. Now, I won’t have to say the same thing three times because you heard it all last year.

“All the things we did last year, there were some very good parts in that process where guys grew and got better. Now it’s a matter of what are you really grasping it and I can hold you to a different standard because I told you all last year what we’re expecting.”

What that looks like: Cutting down on turnovers (14.4% turnover percentage for the league’s eighth-worst mark), taking better shots and not settling for bad ones and staying disciplined with the defensive gameplan.

Playing time — and roles — will be tied to who’s able to stick with the Magic’s principles more than last season.

“There’s a different level of accountability,” Mosley said. “They’re going to continue to learn. It’s not necessarily putting the foot on the gas. It’s, ‘Hey, this is what we’re expecting.’ And now you have this person right next to you who understands it a little bit differently than you. So until you get that, let’s put this person in place and it might speed it up for you for how fast you learn it. I don’t want to skip any steps. It’s all about the foundation being continued to be laid every day.”

The first layer of the foundation was laid last year.

Now, it’s time to build another level — possibly more. With that comes more defined roles.

The Magic’s young players will have chances to grow and explore their skillsets.

But they’ll be asked to focus more on areas in which they excel.

“What we’re continuing to try to do is show them the examples of it in other teams that have done it,” Mosley said. “I get it: Everybody wants to be the first ones shown or seen. We talk about doing it by committee. If we’re all successful, each individual successful in their own right.

“You take pictures from what Golden State did and how they grew it, Milwaukee and how they grew it, Boston and how they grew it. They pushed each other and they all won. For us to be successful, it has to be done by committee.”

This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Khobi Price at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.

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Yankees fan missed Judge’s 60th home run but survived stray bullet to the neck

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Yankees Fan Missed Judge’s 60Th Home Run But Survived Stray Bullet To The Neck
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He’s a die-hard Yankees fan who’s lucky to be alive.

Roody Nicolas, 39, had just driven his girlfriend home from last Tuesday night’s game in the Bronx when he took a stray bullet to the back of his neck, with doctors telling the fortunate victim he could easily be paralyzed or dead.

“I heard the gunshots, they were real close,” Nicolas told the Daily News on Saturday. “Then a gunshot shattered my back window and hit me in the neck. I felt like I was in another dimension. I kept screaming, ‘My head! My head!’

“And my girlfriend was wondering what was going on because she didn’t see any blood. Then the blood just started.”

Adding insult to his injury, the big Aaron Judge booster left Yankee Stadium before the ninth inning and missed the slugger’s historic 60th home run as the Bronx Bombers rallied for a 9-8 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“It was not a good night,” Nicolas told The News. “If I stayed, I could’ve avoided the bullet. It was a double-whammy.”

The Queens man, who works as a senior analyst for business intelligence at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, said everything happened quickly before the bullet struck him from behind shortly after midnight Wednesday while he was parked with his girlfriend outside her Brooklyn home.

“I mean, when they came on the scene no one saw anything,” he said. “It was just very quick. [My girlfriend] said she saw someone running after the shots.”

The NYPD said there were no arrests and the investigation into the shooting was ongoing.

Nicolas, who still has the bullet lodged between his first and second vertebrae, recalled a doctor at Kings County Medical Center explaining how fortunate he was to be alive and able to get around.

“The doctor told me if you get hit there, you’re either paralyzed or dead — but I’m neither,” he said. “Right now, they’re afraid to take it out. Since I’m fine now, I guess they don’t want to move it and something happens.”

The victim recounted how he and his girlfriend went to Yankee Stadium to watch the Yankees MVP candidate chase the American League home run record set by Bronx Bomber Roger Maris in 1961, only to whiff on seeing the slugger’s latest blast.

“We left at the bottom of the eighth, we missed it,” confessed Nicolas. “I wanted to get home early so I could go to work early in the morning … Missed the 60th home run and went home to that.”

Nicolas, currently wearing a neck brace and taking pain medications, managed to call 911, with EMS rushing the gunshot victim to the Brooklyn hospital where he’s due back for a check-up in 12 weeks.

“I’m happy I’m alive,” he said. “Sometimes you’ve just got to count your blessings. Just taking it one day at a time. … It was the wrong place, wrong time.”

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Protesters and supporters turn out at St. Paul library’s drag story hour

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People Hold Up Blankets On A Sidewalk.
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More than 100 people showed up to attend a drag story time at a St. Paul library Saturday morning despite reported threats to kill the librarians holding the event.

Librarians speaking at a city council meeting this week said they had received death threats from people claiming they would dress like ninjas and beat the librarians to death if the Drag Story Hour happened.

The story hour, created by Pedro Pepa, has been held more than 10 times in the Twin Cities, including performances at Powderhorn Park, Pillsbury House Theatre, Walker Art Center, The Loft Literary Center, Moon Palace Books and Wild Rumpus Books.

Organizers say the shows “are created with an empowering theme: resilience, kindness, self-love, friendship, etc.”

The event at the Arlington Hills Public Library was peaceful despite dozens who gathered outside—some protesting the event, others there to support the families that attended. At least a dozen police officers stood on a lawn nearby while other squad cars were staged in locations in the surrounding neighborhood.

Counter-protesters line the sidewalk outside the Arlington Hills Public Library holding blankets, tarps and quilts to shield children from people protesting Drag Story Hour on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in St. Paul. (Kristi Belcamino / Pioneer Press)

Library officials estimated about 30 protesters were gathered at the corner of the library’s driveway on Payne Avenue during the event while close to 100 counter-protesters supporting the event lined the sidewalk leading up to the front door holding blankets, tarps and quilts to shield the children from the protesters. They cheered as people with children arrived, escorting them from their cars or the street and welcoming them.

Katrina Dombrowsky brought her 3-year-old son to the story time specifically because it was performed by drag queens, she said.

“I wanted a fun outing for my family,” she said. “I wanted to come celebrate gender expression and have a good time.”

She said she wasn’t surprised to see the protesters but was “a little sad.”

However, when she saw the counter-protesters she got emotional.

“They showed up even stronger than the protesters. It made me feel heartened and welcomed,” she said. “I’m really glad the library is doing this. It’s important we have this program. It’s not only a window but a mirror. It’s a program that is inclusive of our diverse community so families can see themselves reflected and also experience learning about those who are different.”

‘NOT HERE TO BASH ANYBODY’

Many of the protesters stationed at Payne Avenue wore masks and many wore shirts and hats identifying themselves as members of the Proud Boys, known as a far-right, neo-fascist and exclusively male organization. They describe themselves differently, saying they are “members of a pro-Western fraternal organization for men who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world, aka Western Chauvinists.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated the Proud Boys a hate group. They say Proud Boys members have expressed white supremacist and racist rhetoric.

Most members of the group declined to give their names to reporters Saturday.

However, one man who identified himself as Mark Ninevah held a sign that read, “Don’t care about your gender ID, lifestyle preferences. Protect our children.”

He said the Proud Boys had “gays in our group and we have all races in our group.”

“We’re not here to bash anybody,” he said. “We don’t want to hate anybody. We’re here because we don’t think this is appropriate for children.”

‘KEEPING AN OPEN MIND’

Protesters And Supporters Talk.
People who who showed up to support the Drag Story Hour speak to members of the Proud Boys protesting the event Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, at Arlington Hills Library in St. Paul. (Kristi Belcamino / Pioneer Press)

Jack Byers was one of the counter-protesters holding up a blanket and cheering on families as they entered. He said he showed up to “support librarians and families and kids.”

“Education is about keeping an open mind. Those folks are narrow minded and they expect the world to conform to their point of view,” he said.

Interim Library Director Barb Sporlein said the library was aware of the planned protest and “coordinated with our partners to ensure a safe and successful event.”

In a written statement, Sporlein said the event was a ” joyful, family-friendly gathering where more than 100 people came to celebrate expansive gender expression and enjoy stories, music, dance, and art. Drag Story Hour performances are designed specifically for children and their caring adults and have universally empowering themes of resilience, kindness, and self-love.”

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter attended the event. On his way into the library, he stopped first to speak to members of the protest group. He thanked them for being there and told them he respected their right to express themselves.

A few of the protesters spoke to him while others derided him including one man with a megaphone who said, “I don’t want to hear anything you’ve got to say. Go on in there with the drag queen story hour that you are promoting. You’re a coward. You promote drag queens reading to children. You’re a coward.”

Then Carter moved on to greet the counter-protesters. He addressed them with a borrowed megaphone and thanked the crowd for being there.

“I respect everybody’s ability to come here and express who they are and what they believe. And if their goal is to be the only ones who get to do that then I don’t respect that very much. We don’t honor that,” he said. “If you are here to protect beauty in our community, if you are here to protect our identities and our abilities to express ourselves respectfully, then do all of these things.”

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