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This concert ticket costs $18

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This spring, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order forbidding businesses from making their patrons prove that they have been vaccinated against the coronavirus. He also signed into law a bill to give the ban more teeth, threatening violators with fines in the thousands of dollars.

One Florida concert promoter thinks he has a workaround: offer $18 tickets to anyone who is vaccinated and charge $999.99 for everyone else.

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“I’m not denying entry to anyone,” said Paul Williams. “I’m just offering a discount.”

The governor’s office says the unorthodox pricing violates Florida’s rules: “Charging higher ticket prices for individuals who do not furnish proof of vaccination unfairly discriminates against people who have enumerated rights under Florida law,” said Christina Pushaw, press secretary for the Republican governor’s office, in an email to The Washington Post.

Williams said he figured his tactics were safe – the executive order carries limited penalties, and the new law does not go into effect until shortly after his small punk rock event planned for June 26 in St. Petersburg. But he said he was unprepared for the vitriol that followed: The anti-vaccination Facebook messages, the sudden spam calls, the misspelled email that warned the band their next show could be their “last” and said: “You’re fans are going to kill you.”

“I didn’t know that caring about my community would make me Hitler,” he said in an interview Saturday, declining to give his age out of concern for his privacy. He said he and the band are flagging the threatening email to law enforcement.

The backlash around a modest event for a couple hundred people underscores the deep divisions over what the United States’ return to normal should look like amid lingering resistance to vaccination. As the rate of shots slow, public health officials have warned that the country may not reach the oft-repeated goal of “herd immunity” against a virus that has killed nearly 600,000 people in the United States and slowed the economy. But some states including Florida have sought to limit businesses’ ability to check vaccinations after a year of coronavirus restrictions becoming politicized.

Asked Saturday whether he regrets the pricing move – which brought national news coverage – Williams said: “We’re still sticking to our guns.”

A few of the “discount” tickets were left as of Saturday afternoon, he said; headliner Teenage Bottlerocket’s website listed the St. Petersburg show as having sold out. None of the “standard” price tickets had sold.

Williams said attendees must present photo ID and a coronavirus vaccination card the day of the concert to enter at the lower price, which was reported by Creative Loafing: Tampa Bay.

Miguel Chen, the bassist for Teenage Bottlerocket, said in an interview that his group was eager to get back out after canceling international tour plans during the pandemic – a devastating time for many in the music scene. Chen said the band’s most recent show was in March 2020.

“It’s obvious that covid and music are going to kind of have to coexist for a while,” he said. “So we had this idea of … let’s contact these promoters and kind of spitball and come up with creative ways to do safe shows.”

Some events are moving outdoors. Others are limiting capacities. Then there was Williams’s idea.

“When we first heard it, we thought it was a joke,” Chen said. But band members had gotten their shots as soon as possible, he said, eager to protect their families and resume playing. They agreed that if Williams thought this was “the best way to safely throw a party in his town, then we back him and we support it,” Chen recalled.

Hailing from Texas – another Republican-led state where covid-19 restrictions have drawn pushback – Chen said he’s familiar with the divisions over vaccination and wants to respect people’s views.

But “I never in my life thought I’d be in a place where I’m getting threatened for trying to play music and spread joy,” he said.

Williams said he did not know of anyone turning to a similar pricing plan. Legal experts told The Post that others in Florida should be wary of following suit, especially when the state’s new law backed by fines takes effect in July.

Such a large price hike for the unvaccinated “violates the spirit” of Florida’s ban on requiring proof of immunization, said Andrew Zelmanowitz, a business lawyer based in Fort Lauderdale. It’s different, he said, from the modest incentive programs many businesses are using to encourage vaccination.

Eric Feldman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s law school who has expertise in health policy, agreed: “It’s basically saying unless you show us proof of vaccine status, we’re going to treat you really badly.”

Pushaw said that the governor’s office “cannot speculate on what will happen in any specific case” and that the concert would violate the spirit of the executive order.

“There are individuals who have medical issues or religious beliefs that don’t allow them to get vaccinated, and those individuals are members of protected classes,” Pushaw said in an email Saturday. “Also, the governor has been clear on his stance that no one should face discrimination due to vaccination status.”

The executive order says business in Florida may not require “any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or post-transmission recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or service from the business,” similar language to the new law. It says violators are ineligible for state-funded grants or contracts, and it directs state agencies to enforce compliance.

A spokeswoman for Teenage Bottlerocket, Vanessa Burt, said the band understands Williams is operating within the law by offering a discount and has “assured us that he will deal with any hang-ups.”

Williams and Chen said they have gotten support for their promotion of getting vaccinated – but also anger, underscoring the intensity of the country’s resistance to vaccination. The blowback, Williams said, has extended to the concert venue, a St. Petersburg post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

A man who answered the phone at Post 39 on Saturday said no one was available to talk, but the post seemed to respond to the furor Friday in a Facebook post: “The VFW does not promote any kind of discrimination, this is a place for combat veterans and their families to support each other.”

Dozens of upset people have contacted Williams through his promoter Facebook page, he said. Some are vulgar; some refer to the Holocaust, repeating much-criticized comparisons of vaccination requirements to Nazi persecution and murder of Jews. Williams said that he cannot be sure of the source of a sudden torrent robocalls, but that he was being targeted for his position on vaccinations.

“Your life is fine … and then and then your phone just blows up insane out of nowhere,” he said.

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‘Yellowstone’ Star Reveals Which Cast Member Is the Funniest

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Yellowstone is about as dramatic as a television show can get, but that doesn’t mean it’s always serious all the time. Though the smash Paramount Network show is hardly a comedy, actor Kelsey Asbille says there are quite a few moments of levity between takes — especially from one cast member in particular.

“It’s a really fun group, and we just really like spending time with each other,” Asbille — who portrays Monica Dutton on the show — tells Taste of Country in an interview to promote Season 4 of the smash hit show.

“Especially this past season, because we were kind of in a bubble,” she says. “We were one of the first shows to start production during the pandemic, so really, all we could see was each other.”

“It was lovely, man,” Asbille continues. “We have a great time. Nothing too exciting, we just like hanging out.”

Though the tone of the show is quite dark at times, Asbille reveals that there are plenty of fun moments that viewers don’t get to see.

“They should do a reel, honestly,” she says with a laugh. “There is a lot of laughter that you would not expect, especially with Luke [Grimes, who plays Asbille’s TV husband, Kayce Dutton]. Luke can get the whole crew laughing very easily. So yeah, I would say a lot of our outtakes … we have fun, despite the circumstances.”

Yellowstone‘s Season 4 has brought big changes to Monica, Kayce and their son, Tate (Brecken Merrill). Tune in to Yellowstone every Sunday night at 8PM ET on the Paramount Network to keep track of the latest, and stay tuned to Taste of Country as we provide week-to-week coverage of Yellowstone and the first season of the upcoming prequel 1883, including episode analysis, news on the shows, cast interviews and more.

As part of our comprehensive coverage, check out the new Dutton Rules podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

1883 is set to premiere on Dec. 19 and will air exclusively on Paramount+. Subscribe to the streaming service to make sure you don’t miss out.

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Exclusive: Trump’s social media venture seeks $1 billion raise – sources

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Dec 1 (Reuters) – Former President Donald Trump’s new social media venture is seeking to raise up to $1 billion by selling shares to hedge funds and family offices at several times the valuation it commanded in a deal with a blank-check acquisition firm in October, two people familiar with the matter said.

Trump Media & Technology Group, which has yet to roll out the social media app it says it is developing, already stands to receive $293 million if its deal to list in New York through a merger with blank-check firm Digital World Acquisition Corp (DWAC.O) is completed.

The deal valued Trump Media at $875 million, including debt. Trump Media is now seeking to raise up to an additional $1 billion at a valuation of close to $3 billion, to reflect Digital World’s share rally after Trump supporters and day traders snapped up the stock, the sources said.

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It is the clearest indication yet that Trump and the Digital World dealmakers are seeking to capitalize on the market euphoria around their venture, which has so far been fueled by its ambitious goals rather than a business that is up and running.

Digital World shares were valued at $10 each in the deal with Trump Media. Trump Media is now looking to secure a so-called private investment in public equity (PIPE) that would value Digital World shares closer to their recent price, the sources said.

The sources added that Digital World shares may be valued based on a 20% discount of their 10-day, volume-weighted average price.

The sources requested anonymity because the matter is confidential. Trump Media and Digital World did not respond to requests for comment. Bloomberg News reported last month that the companies were seeking to raise a PIPE without any details on its terms.

Digital World shares soared on Wednesday, as investors welcomed the news that the PIPE could dilute existing Digital World shareholders less than they expected by pricing at a level much higher than the customary $10 per share seen in most mergers with blank-check firms.

The shares, which had been trading down 6% before news of the $1 billion raise, rallied to close up 7% at $44.35 on Nasdaq, then extended gains in after-hours trade, rocketing up 31%, to $58.01.

Most PIPE transactions are inked before a deal to take a company public is rolled out, and it is far from certain that the companies will raise the entire $1 billion they are seeking following their deal announcement. Many Wall Street firms have snubbed the opportunity to invest, and many of the investors participating in the confidential road shows for the PIPE are hedge funds, family offices and high net-worth individuals, the sources said. Family offices manage the wealth of the very rich and their kin.

Weighing on the deal’s appeal is the reluctance of many investors to associate with Trump after he was banned from top social media platforms for encouraging his supporters to participate in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, which was based on unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud in last year’s presidential election.

Some hedge funds that backed the launch of Digital World, including Saba Capital Management and Lighthouse Investment Partners, have said they sold their shares to distance themselves from the Trump deal.

The deal also faces regulatory risk. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren asked Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Gary Gensler last month to investigate the planned merger for potential violations of securities laws around disclosure. The SEC has declined to comment on whether it plans any action. read more

Trump Media and Digital World have asked investors to finalize commitments to the PIPE by the middle of December, the sources said.

In a PIPE road show attended by one of the sources, investors were asked to commit between $10 million and $20 million. Neither Trump nor Digital World executives made an appearance, and the investor presentation was led by David Boral, the president of EF Hutton, an investment bank that advised Digital World on the deal, the source said. A Trump Media representative was also in attendance, the source added.

But Trump has been personally involved. He has been calling some investors to ask them to make a commitment to the PIPE of more than $100 million, the second of the sources said.

Investors attending the road show were shown a demo from the planned social media app, called TRUTH Social, which looked like a Twitter feed, the sources said.

BIG PLANS

Trump has said he is launching his own social media app to stand up against the companies that have barred him from their platforms. He had 89 million followers on Twitter, 33 million on Facebook and 24.5 million on Instagram at the time he was blocked, according to a presentation on his company’s website.

Since Trump was voted out of office last year, he has repeatedly dropped hints that he might seek the presidency for a third time in 2024.

Special purpose acquisition companies such as Digital World had lost much of their luster with retail investors before the Trump media deal came along. Many of these investors were left with big losses after the companies that merged with SPACs failed to deliver on their ambitious financial projections.

TRUTH Social is scheduled for a full rollout in the first quarter of 2022, and is the first of three stages in the Trump Media plan, followed by a subscription video-on-demand service called TMTG+ that will feature entertainment, news and podcasts, according to the news release.

In a slide deck on its website, the company envisions eventually competing against Amazon.com’s AWS cloud service and Google Cloud.

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Reporting by Krystal Hu in New York
Additional reporting by Echo Wang in New York
Editing by Greg Roumeliotis and Leslie Adler

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Genome sequencing finds no new Covid variant- The New Indian Express

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By Express News Service

DHARWAD: In a huge relief, genome sequencing found no new variant in any of the 113 samples from SDM Medical College.  As many as 306 students and a few medical staffers were infected with Covid-19 last week at SDM Medical College and Hospital in Dharwad. All the infected students are under treatment in their hostels, and staffers are quarantined in their houses.

Among the infected, six had mild infection and the remaining asymptomatic. Students with mild symptoms have now recovered. Among the 306 infected, 113 swab samples were sent to a laboratory in Bengaluru for genome sequencing. Deputy Commissioner Nitesh Patil confirmed that no new variant was traced in these 113 samples. 

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