Until recently, staffing shortages at Biggby Coffee were so severe that many of the chain’s 300-plus stores had to close early some days, or in some cases not open at all. But while hiring remains a challenge, the pressure has begun to ease, said Mike McFall, the company’s co-founder and co-chief executive. One franchisee recently told him that 22 of his 25 locations were fully staffed and that only one was experiencing a severe shortage.

“We are definitely feeling the burden is lifting in terms of getting people to take the job,” Mr. McFall said. “We’re getting more applications, we’re getting more people through training now.”

The shift is a welcome one for business owners like Mr. McFall. He said franchisees have had to raise wages 50 percent or more to attract and retain workers — a cost increase they have offset by raising prices.

“The expectation by the consumer is that you are raising prices, and so if you don’t take advantage of that moment, you are going to be in a pickle,” he said, referring to the pressure to increase wages. “So you manage it by raising prices.”

So far, Mr. McFall said, higher prices haven’t deterred customers. Still, he said, the period of severe staffing shortages is not without its costs. He has seen a loss in sales, as well as a loss of efficiency and experienced workers. That will take time to rebuild, he said.

“When we were in crisis, it was all we were focused on,” he said. “So now that it feels like the crisis is mitigating, that it’s getting a little better, we can now begin to focus on the culture in the stores and try to build that up again.”

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How Disability Misunderstandings And Stigma Impact Mental Well-Being

Disability experts say it’s common for doctors to misunderstand bodily autonomy, which can impact a person’s mental health.

CDC data shows about 26% of Americans live with a disability, whether it’s physical or mental.  

 Conditions like anxiety, spinal injury, ADHD, amputation, depression, cerebral palsy — these are just some examples.  

 Advocates say there’s a lot of misunderstanding about a person who has a disability. And that stigma not only runs deep — it can also have a huge impact on that individual’s mental health. 

Twenty-eight-year-old New Yorker Chloé Valentine Toscano knows beauty, from walking in fashion week to her Instagram reels to publishing in magazines like Allure. 

“I’m a writer. I’m someone who likes the color pink. I like butterflies. I like learning a lot about anyone and anything,” she said. “I think we all have differences, and I want to understand differences. … For me, beauty is just being open-minded,” she said.

She also has fought face-to-face with ugly mental health struggles caused by doctors who didn’t understand disability.  

“It is a journey,” Valentine Toscano said.

She lost motor function from her elbow down in 2014. She adapted and spent years living with — as she calls it — dead weight. She got into paralypmic swimming and started her career.  

Then, after years of researching and soul searching, she chose to amputate her arm. 

“I know amputation can be very traumatic because some people, a lot of people,will experience it through trauma,” she said. “But that wasn’t where I was in my case. So, it wasn’t traumatic talking about it, but it was traumatic playing a game with the yeses and the nos.”

Valentine Toscano spent three years fighting to get her procedure. She says some surgeons told her any elective amputation was too risky, even though she was healthy. Other rejections came after her surgery had been approved and scheduled. 

“The answer I got from one, he said, ‘Well, some people just need to learn to live with what they’ve got.’ That made me feel like someone else who wasn’t in my body was telling me what was better for me,” she said. “It felt very frustrating to have it and very offensive to have someone say that.”

Bodily autonomy — or the right to control what happens to your body — is a common struggle in the disability community. And disability experts say misunderstanding that is common, and can cause undue stress as well as impact a person’s mental well-being.  

In Valentine Toscano’s story, it happened a few times. 

She recounted that in one appointment: “I cried, I broke down and I felt like the minute I expressed that emotion, he sent me in for a psych evaluation, which felt like I was being punished for expressing emotion.” And then she described the examination, saying: “She was asking me, she said, ‘Do you find that you’re unattractive because of your arm and that you would be more attractive without it?’ And I was like, ‘It’s not about that at all. It’s never been about that.’ … I felt angry and belittled and just, not heard, because I was asking for one thing and being evaluated for something that wasn’t even remotely there.”

Clinical Psychologist Dr. Linda Mona has spent the past two decades working on disability and how it relates to health care.  

“If you haven’t been exposed to it personally — you have not been exposed to it through being a family friend, a lover, whoever that might be — And you’re not called to do it professionally and you don’t see it around you, you don’t think about it.”

She says, unfortunately, Valentine Toscano’s experience is all too common. Mental health experts with lived experience or expertise in disability are rare. 

“It can be quite challenging to find somebody,” Mona said. “The other thing to think about is the steps that come before that, which is that it’s very hard for people to access education if they have disability, let alone graduate school. And internship and fellowship…”

Sixty-one million U.S. adults, which is about one in 4, have some type of disability, according to the CDC.  

A 2021 anonymous survey of graduating medical students showed 7.6% identified as having a disability.  But data collected directly from medical schools show that only about 4% of medical students disclosed their disability.  

That stigma against disability —physical or mental — runs deep. 

From 1867 to 1974 U.S. cities had laws governing who could be in public. Codes included fining or jailing those deemed “diseased, maimed, mutilated, or anyway deformed.”

Mona says it’s federal bias favoring able-bodied people.

“You’re best at home. You’re best tucked away. Or, you’re best institutionalized out of the way of anybody else who is displeased with the way that you look,” she said.

She adds structural stigmas fueled misconceptions about disabled people’s decision-making about their own bodies. 

NEWSY’S LINDSEY THEIS: When we talk about bodily autonomy, what type of impact cannot have long term on someone’s mental well-being?  

LINDA MONA: Trying to bring that in and make your choices can have a huge effect on your mental health in the long run. … It also happens a lot with pregnancy and people with disabilities. Right? So, you know, somebody has some kind of cognitive mental difference or physical difference. There’s, you know, constant questioning about, you know, ‘you want to be pregnant? You know what that’s going to do to your body?’ … I don’t think anybody thinks those types of decisions are a simple decision. They’re complex. But you have to trust that somebody has made that made that decision with that context in mind and not assume that they’re uninformed.

In summer 2021, Valentine Toscano had her amputation surgery. She calls it a dream come true.  

“I just felt happy,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ I got this is like a huge step in my life. It just felt like one of those, like, huge dreams. I got there. I got a huge part of my personality back immediately.”

Valentine Toscano uses a prosthetic, as needed. It’s bright pink and purple with a lot of glitter.  

“If I could have decided to have been born with an arm with butterflies and sparkles on it, like right out of the womb, I would have picked that,” she said. 

 Valentine Toscano said her prosthetic cost $13,000.

“It’s something that’s very expensive,” she said. “I was fortunate to have it covered by health insurance. But that’s not something everyone has.”

Valentine Toscano continues to advocate and write, sharing her experience now from two different sides of disability. She’s also writing a book on the side.  

She says the ability to share those stories in her voice and having others listen is not only good for her well-being, it’s truly beautiful.

Source: newsy.com

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Swedish Program Aims To Fight High Youth Suicide Rate In Montana

In Montana, the youth suicide rate between 2011 and 2020 was more than double the national rate for the same age group.

Montana is known for its wide open spaces, craggy mountains and fresh, clear water. 

But for all its beauty, it’s also known for a devastating epidemic.  

The youth suicide rate in Montana between 2011 and 2020 was more than double the national rate for the same age group.  

The reasons behind the statistic are a complicated, cultural issue. A March 2022 report released by the state cites vitamin D deficiencies, altitude, social isolation and access to firearms as just a few of the reasons. It also shows 1 in 5 Montana kids live more than 100% below the federal poverty line. And the state has a high concentration of American Indians, who experience higher rates of suicide.    

Kelley Edwards is the program director for Youth Aware of Mental Health (YAM) at Montana State University’s Center for Mental Health Research and Recovery. She knows firsthand what teen suicide can do to a community.  

“I lived it. My co-workers lived it. My students lived it,” she said.

Edwards used to teach high school in Helena, Montana, where seven students in her school died by suicide in a three-year span.  

“It will never leave me what that was like,” Edwards said. 

Helena High School administrators knew something needed to happen, and they found the solution in Sweden, which is home to Youth Aware of Mental Health.  

“Helena School District was instrumental in bringing YAM to the United States, because they recognized the seriousness of the problem and wanted to do something about it,” Edwards said. 

YAM started in 2014 with the goal of bringing down teen suicide rates. 

A randomly-controlled trial with 11,000 participants showed it reduced suicide ideation and attempts by about 50%. New cases of depression fell by about 30% in kids participating.   

The program is in 16 countries and its trainers are traveling the world to expand even more. 

Edwards is a program manager and also teaches it.  

“I’ve had kids say right after a session either, ‘I’m really, really depressed,’ or possibly, even, they’ve said, ‘I’m suicidal.’ And they are. They’ve said, ‘I’m really, really worried about a friend,'” Edwards shared.

Designed for kids between 13 and 18 years old, the program consists of five five-hour sessions over three weeks, which dive into mental health literacy, role playing and identifying stressors and resources.  

“We need to get to the point where our students are comfortable with mental health knowledge, and what to do when your normal coping skills are not working or where it gets too severe that you would need professional help,” Edwards said.

But as Edwards knows, that’s not easy in rural places, like her native Montana — especially now.   

“I grew up in Denton, Montana. For students in rural areas that may not have access to anything … The best that we can provide at this point is starting with just having someone to talk to,” Edwards said. “It’s not ideal by any means. But that is where we’re at, unfortunately.”

Mary Windecker runs the advocacy group Behavioral Health Alliance of Montana. She, and so many other mental health professionals, are taking their concerns to state and federal leaders. They’re trying to get more attention and funding on this issue.    

“Overall in the United States, we’re failing our children. That’s true by every metric you could possibly measure,” Windecker said. 

And beyond Montana, people in the field of mental health are working to do what they can to help the next generation before it’s too late.

Newsy’s mental health initiative “America’s Breakdown: Confronting Our Mental Health Crisis” brings you deeply personal and thoughtfully told stories on the state of mental health care in the U.S. Click here to learn more.

Source: newsy.com

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World Leaders Head To London For Queen Elizabeth II Funeral

U.S. President Joe Biden and other dignitaries are arriving in London for the funeral.

Thousands of police, hundreds of troops and an army of officials made final preparations Sunday for the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II — a spectacular display of national mourning that will also be the biggest gathering of world leaders for years.

U.S. President Joe Biden and other dignitaries are arriving in London for the funeral, to which around 500 royals, heads of state and heads of government from around the globe have been invited.

Thousands of people continued to line up around the clock to file past the queen’s coffin as it lies in state at Parliament’s Westminster Hall, braving chilly overnight temperatures and waits of up to 17 hours. The queen’s eight grandchildren, led by heir to the throne Prince William, circled the coffin and stood with heads bowed during a silent vigil on Saturday evening.

The miles-long queue is expected to be closed to new arrivals later Sunday so that everyone in line can file past the coffin before Monday morning, when it will be borne on a gun carriage to Westminster Abbey for the queen’s funeral.

Among the foreign leaders in London was New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who told the BBC she was humbled to represent her nation at the funeral and to witness the national outpouring of grief and respect for the late queen.

“The thing that I will take away from this period is just the beauty of the public’s response, the kindness that you see from members of the public, the patience, the camaraderie, that has been, for me, the most moving tribute of all, has been the public response of the British people,” she said.

People across the U.K. are due to pause Sunday evening for a nationwide minute of silence to remember the queen, who died Sept. 8 at the age of 96 after 70 years on the throne. Monday has been declared a public holiday, and the funeral will be broadcast to a huge television audience and screened to crowds in parks and public spaces across the country.

Thousands of police officers from around the country will be on duty as part of the biggest one-day policing operation in London’s history.

Crowds also gathered Sunday near Windsor Castle, where the queen will be laid to rest at a private family ceremony on Monday evening.

“I think it’s been amazing,” said Anna Pettigrew, a 55-year-old teacher. “It’s been very emotional, and I think it’s been a very fitting tribute to a wonderful queen.”

Camilla, the new queen consort, paid tribute to the queen in a video message, saying the monarch “carved her own role” as a “solitary woman” on a world stage dominated by men.

“I will always remember her smile. That smile is unforgettable,” said Camilla, who is married to King Charles III.

A tide of people continued to stream into Parliament’s Westminster Hall, where the queen’s coffin is lying in state, draped in the Royal Standard and capped with a diamond-studded crown. The number of mourners has grown steadily since the public was first admitted on Wednesday, with a queue that stretches for at least five miles (eight kilometers) along the River Thames and into Southwark Park in the city’s southeast.

Honoring their patience, Charles and William made an unannounced visit Saturday to greet people in the line, shaking hands and thanking mourners in the queue near Lambeth Bridge.

Later, all the queen’s grandchildren stood by her coffin. William and Prince Harry, Charles’ sons, were joined by Princess Anne’s children, Zara Tindall and Peter Philips; Prince Andrew’s daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie; and the two children of Prince Edward — Lady Louise Windsor and James, Viscount Severn.

William stood with his head bowed at the head of the coffin and Harry at the foot. Both princes, who are military veterans, were in uniform. Mourners continued to file past in silence.

“You could see that they were thinking hard about their grandmother, the queen,” said Ian Mockett, a civil engineer from Oxford in southern England. “It was good to see them all together as a set of grandchildren given the things that have happened over the last few years.”

Before the vigil, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie issued a statement praising their “beloved grannie.”

“We, like many, thought you’d be here forever. And we all miss you terribly. You were our matriarch, our guide, our loving hand on our backs leading us through this world. You taught us so much and we will cherish those lessons and memories forever,” the sisters wrote.

The queen’s four children — Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward — held a similar vigil around the coffin on Friday.

The silence in the hall was briefly broken Friday when a man lunged at the coffin. London police said Sunday that a 28-year-old London man, Muhammad Khan, has been charged with behavior intended to “cause alarm, harassment or distress.” He will appear in court on Monday.

The lying-in-state continues until early Monday morning, when the queen’s coffin will be moved on a gun carriage pulled by 142 Royal Navy ratings to nearby Westminster Abbey for the funeral, the finale of 10 days of national mourning for Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.

After the service Monday at the abbey, the late queen’s coffin will be transported through the historic heart of London on the state gun carriage. It will then be taken in a hearse to Windsor, where the queen will be interred alongside her late husband, Prince Philip, who died last year.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Nonprofit Trains Black Barbers To Be Mental Health Advocates

Clean Is Mandatory barbershop partners with The Confess Project to teach barbers how to be mental health advocates for their Philly community.

People say getting their hair cut is like therapy. But in this Philadelphia barbershop, it’s not a joke. 

“Looking at your hair, you’re looking in the mirror, you just feeling good,” said Andre Scott, owner of Clean Is Mandatory. 

NEWSY’S BIANCA FACCHINEI: What is it about barbershops that make them an easy place to open up? 

ANDRE SCOTT: They see you week in, week out for years and you build a relationship.

Scott has been a barber for over three decades. In that time, he’s done much more than cut hair.  

“‘I’m just done. I’m ready to give up.’ When you hear that quitting, that anger … Those are some key words you need to jump on real fast,” Scott said. 

He has always has a good relationship with clients. But it was The Confess Project — a nonprofit that trains barbers to be mental health advocates — that helped him take it a step further.

“The more barbers we train, the more people we can get into counseling, get into a support group, or find other resources that we’ve been able to help people with — from housing, food and hunger and all the other things that come around mental and well-being challenges,” The Confess Project Founder Lorenzo Lewis said. 

Lewis was inspired to make a difference after his own journey with depression and anxiety. He says he knew right off the bat that barbershops were the right place to start.  

“I knew very well what it felt like to be in beauty shops and barbershops, and knowing that my first barber was my mentor, it played a huge, huge role in my childhood,” Lewis continued. 

It’s a theory backed by research.  

A study from Harvard says, “Barbers can engage communities at their grassroots levels and provide an important piece to a puzzle that in some cases can mean the difference between life and death.”

Scott says he couldn’t agree more. 

“I had a client come in my chair and ask for a haircut, a good haircut. So, he described to me the best haircut, and I said, ‘I got you. I’ll give you a good haircut any time.’ He said, ‘No, this is my last haircut.’ I figured he was moving or going to jail. I didn’t know what was going on. He enlightened me that he was going to take his own life,” Scott said. “I literally took off that day at work and was with him all day. All praises to God, he actually didn’t take his life. … That was definitely life-or-death because out of all the people in his life, he decided to open up to me.”

That’s one of many examples Scott gave to demonstrate the impact he’s had on his clients. But he acknowledges it’s a two-way street. 

“It’s not always the barber helping the client,” Scott said. “Sometimes it’s the client helping the barber.”

Newsy’s mental health initiative “America’s Breakdown: Confronting Our Mental Health Crisis” brings you deeply personal and thoughtfully told stories on the state of mental health care in the U.S. Click here to learn more.

Source: newsy.com

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The EPA Is Investigating The Jackson, Mississippi Water Crisis

The EPA will head to Jackson, Mississippi to collect data and conduct interviews as residents remain under a water boil notice.

After 40 days of boil water notices, Jackson, Mississippi’s water system is still a mess. 

People are still drinking out of bottles, the water is still coming out brown and residents are still getting “boil water” notices.

Earl Jackson, an 88-year-old New Orleans transplant, is an avid cook. He moved his family to the capital city after running away from Hurricane Katrina. The water comes out of his tap, but it’s nothing a person would want to cook with. One of Jackson’s weekly chores is to stock up on bottled water so he can put his seasonings to work. 

An independent watchdog in the Environmental Protection Agency is now investigating the water crisis. It will conduct interviews, gather data and analyze compliance with regulations and policies of the water system.

For now, Mississippi’s governor says crews have fixed one of two key pumps that help run the city’s water treatment plant, but some lawmakers are worried the quick fix won’t last.

“Some of our pipes throughout the city are one inch, and we need to two-inch lines,” said Hinds County Rep. Christopher Bell. “Those one-inch lines that we have already in the ground are going to burst.”

It’s estimated it will cost $1 billion to fix Jackson’s water system the right way. 

“There may be more bad days in the future,” said Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves. “We have, however, reached a place where people in Jackson can trust that water will come out of the faucet.” 

But “trust” is in short supply, so the bottles keep coming. 

The state’s emergency agency is still handing out cases of water. 

Shunquita Harris, with the Mississippi National Guard, lives in the same community, with the same water issues that many of the people she’s passing water out to face. 

“I think the beauty of it is making sure someone else is okay over myself, because I know at the end of the day I’ll be taken care of,” Harris said. 

That spirit is strong, but it doesn’t get Jackson past the cold hard truth: This city has never had enough money to run a functioning water treatment system, and finding $1 billion to make it work sounds like a pipe dream. 

It will take two rounds of clear samples in order to lift the boil water notice, which has been going on for about 40 days.

 The city is actively filling out paperwork to apply for funding to try and fix all the issues for the long term.  

The Biden administration says the governor needs to make a major disaster declaration in order for the federal government to step in and supply more funds to the city.

Source: newsy.com

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Updates: King Charles III Arrives in London as U.K. Prepares for New Era

LONDON — When Chris Levine, a Canadian artist, was commissioned to make a holographic portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, who died in Scotland on Thursday, he took an unusual approach to getting her to relax.

Levine burned incense in the Yellow Drawing Room in Buckingham Palace where the shoot was taking place, and installed a light sculpture to gently pulse soothing colors around the space. Later, he encouraged the queen to shut her eyes between shots and focus on her breathing as if she were in a meditation class.

“Looking back, it was quite surreal,” Levine said in an interview in February. “I was trying to get beyond the persona of the queen, through to the essence of her being,” he recalled of his meetings with the monarch. “That’s where the real beauty is.”

Levine’s methods may be unorthodox, but they produced several celebrated images of the queen, particularly “Lightness of Being,” which depicts her with her eyes closed, as if caught in a moment of spiritual reflection.

According to Levine, when Mario Testino, the fashion photographer, saw “Lightness of Being,” he said: “People need to see this. It’s the most beautiful image.” Levine said he expected the image to be shared widely on social media after the queen’s death.

Queen Elizabeth sat for hundreds of official portraits like Levine’s during her seven decades on the British throne. But what was it like for artists to meet her, and try to make a distinct image? We spoke to three artists behind key portraits of the queen to find out.

Here are edited extracts from those conversations.

Credit…Thomas Struth

‘Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Queen Elizabeth II,’ 2011

Thomas Struth, photographer

I did much more preparation than I normally would for a family portrait.

I looked at a ton of photographs that exist of her — hundreds — and thought, “People don’t look at her as a person, as a woman.” I wanted to show the queen and Prince Philip as an elderly couple who’re very close to each other and used to each other.

One of my requests was that I needed to choose the queen’s dress, because I didn’t want the danger that she’d show up in a bright yellow one that would make it impossible for me to make a good picture. When I’d looked at other portraits, so many had her wearing something bright, and it just makes her chest the dominant signal and her face look small.

On the day, my feeling was they were surprised everything was so well prepared. The queen’s dresser said, “You may touch the queen if necessary,” and after two or three exposures I realized a pillow behind her back was lining up badly, so I walked to her, moved her forward and changed its position. She found that somewhat surprising.

I exposed 17 plates and then knew I was done. I just sensed I had the image. I had 15 more minutes left, but I gave them that as a gift — some unprogrammed time.

I heard later that when they saw the picture in a museum, they stood in front of it for a long time. It’s quite big — eight feet wide and maybe six feet high — and it’s very, very sharp. You can see all her veins. Prince Philip said, “How did he do that?”

Credit…Justin Mortimer; Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts Manufacturers & Commerce; Bridgeman Images

‘The Queen,’ 1998

Justin Mortimer, painter

I was commissioned not long after Diana died.

I was 27, and do think they chose me because they were keen to modernize the public’s view of the monarchy, since they were being lambasted at the time as these inward-looking, irrelevant people.

It was a little overwhelming at the first sitting. When she walked in, I instantly addressed her the wrong way!

I started by taking some photos. She had a very, very straight gaze, and she never blinked, even though I was going closer and closer with my Polaroid camera. When I pulled back from her, I realized I’d shot all these Polaroids straight into her lap, which was embarrassing, but she was, like, “Don’t worry, dear. Lord Snowden used to shoot me all the time on these.”

I just remember thinking: “I’m in the presence of this human being who has met all the iconic people of the 20th century. Just down the corridor, she would have met Jackie and J.F.K., and Churchill and Idi Amin. Everyone from heroes to criminals.”

In my studio, the only way I could approach it was to paint her in the context of my other works at the time, and I did have these figures with disjoined limbs and slightly dismembered heads, so I ended up basically taking out her neck. It was a bit cheeky. I knew people would bring ideas, like, “Cut off her head!” to it.

I didn’t go in as a raging republican. I just wanted to suggest this vein of unease about the royal family at the time.

After it appeared, I had newspapers all around the world calling me and interviewing me, and people seemed really affronted by what I’d done. But the fact it’s still remembered shows the work has an almost iconic status.

I don’t know what the queen thought of it. But funnily enough, I was asked to do another portrait for the Royal Collection of Lord Chamberlain, who was this very grand old gentleman in the royal household. I’m wondering if that gives you an inkling of the queen’s sense of humor, getting me to “do the business” on this fellow.

Credit…Chris Levine (artist) and Rob Munday (holographer); Jersey Heritage Trust

Chris Levine

I was going to make a holographic portrait of her and was originally thinking of making a pulse laser hologram, which would have involved exposing Her Majesty under laser light. But I got nervous on health and safety grounds, that someone was going to say, “You’re kidding, aren’t you? You want to fire lasers at the queen?”

So we came up with a different approach, where we have a camera move along a track taking a series of 200 stills from left to right, and then making a hologram from each still.

I had an idea in my mind from the beginning — to get beyond all the noise and reduce her to a kind of essence. I wanted to make it really iconic, something that would resonate.

At the time, I was really getting into meditation and was almost evangelical about it. So when the camera had finished a run and was resetting, I asked Her Majesty to breathe. I had another camera in the middle of the track, and took the image that became “Lightness of Being” while she was resting.

I called the first portrait I made “Equanimity,” and I do think she developed this mechanism of being equanimous and not giving anything away, to protect herself almost.

I showed her the work in progress at Windsor Castle — just me, her and her corgis — and asked what she felt about the title and she said, cryptically, “Well, things aren’t always as they seem.”

We did talk about meditation, yes. She said her meditation was gardening at Balmoral.

Whatever indifference I might have had about the queen up until the commission, I felt a real affection for her by the end.

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‘The Rings Of Power’ Cast Discuss Hopes For The New Amazon Adaptation

Amazon invested $1 billion in its new “Lord of the Rings” adaptation, “The Rings of Power,” and its cast hopes it’ll bring longtime and new viewers.

“The Rings of Power” is the biggest gamble in TV and streaming history.

With a $1 billion investment from Amazon, the series based on the lore of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” series hopes to welcome both longtime fans and new viewers to Middle Earth.

“The beautiful thing about our show is that it’s a healthy balance of old and new,” said Nazanin Boniadi, who plays Bronwyn in “The Rings of Power.”

“It’s going to turn a whole new viewership on to Tolkien,” said Benjamin Walker, who plays the High King Gil-galad in “The Rings of Power.”

“It’ll spark up new forums, new conversations,” said Owain Arther, who plays Prince Durin IV in “The Rings of Power.”

The series is set thousands of years before the stories of “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings,” which have grossed more than $1.8 billion as a film franchise since the release of the 1978 animated movie.

The story’s foray into television will include five seasons, with the first season having eight episodes.

“I think the beauty of TV is that you have that intimate bond with the audience,” Boniadi said.

“We get to luxuriate in the worlds,” Walker said. “We get to be fully immersed in each little kingdom and each little fantastical world.”

But beyond its artistic ambitions, Amazon’s investments into “The Rings of Power” are part of the company’s strategy for streaming dominance.

While the platform found critical success with its superhero drama “The Boys” and its period comedy “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” Amazon is still competing against the larger libraries of prestige programming from Netflix, Disney+ and HBO Max.

Its biggest competitor in the fantasy world is most notably HBO Max’s “Game of Thrones” spinoff “House of the Dragon,” which garnered a record-breaking 10 million viewers when it debuted in August.

“The Rings of Power” premiered Sept. 1, and the first season will conclude on Oct. 14.

Source: newsy.com

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Taylor Swift Wins Top Prize, Announces New Album At MTV VMAs

The pop star’s upcoming album “Midnights” drops Oct. 21.

Taylor Swift took home the top prize at the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday before she closed out the show with a surprisingly big announcement: Her new album.

“I thought it would be a fun moment to tell you that my new album comes out Oct. 21,” said Swift after she won video of the year for her project “All Too Well: The Short Film” (10 minute version), which claimed best long form video and direction. “I will tell you more at midnight.”

Swift said on social media that her upcoming 10th studio album would be called “Midnights,” which she says will involve “stories of 13 sleepless nights scattered throughout my life.” Her upcoming album comes after she released “Folklore” and “Evermore.” Both projects came out five months apart two years ago. “Folklore” won album of the year at the 2021 Grammy Awards.

The pop star’s reveal came at the end of her acceptance speech where she praised the other women in the category — which included Doja Cat and Olivia Rodrigo.

“I know with every second of this moment that we wouldn’t be able to make this short film if it weren’t for you — the fans,” she said. “I wouldn’t be able to re-record my albums if it wasn’t for you. You emboldened me to do that.”

Swift spoke earlier about creating her first short film, giving thanks to several including actors Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien, who starred in the project.

“We put our entire hearts into this,” Swift said.

Rapper Jack Harlow made his mark throughout the entire show. He kicked off the show with a performance inside a mock airplane walking down the aisle while performing his hit song “First Class,” which samples Fergie’s “Glamorous.” The rapper was joined onstage by Fergie — who wore a sparkling silver dress with the red words “First Class” — while she sang her 2006 jam.

“Thank you to Fergie for coming out with me tonight and clearing this song,” said Harlow after “First Class” won the award for song of the summer later in the show. “The beauty of this song is that people don’t realize it’s so hip-hop because of the sampling. To bring Fergie into the mix in this way means the world to me. It’s truly full circle. ‘Glamorous’ was one of the most important songs of my childhood.”

During the show, Johnny Depp made a surprise appearance as the Moon Man nearly three months after the verdict in his defamation trial with his former wife Amber Heard. The 59-year-old actor appeared to float from the ceiling while wearing the iconic astronaut outfit with his face digitally inserted into the helmet.

“And you know what? I needed the work,” Depp told the audience at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

Lizzo had Taylor Swift dancing out of her seat while she performed her new single “2 Be Loved (Am I Ready).” Lizzo won the video for good award for “About Damn Time.”

Harlow’s name was called to come right back onstage to collect the show’s first award for his guest appearance on Lil Nas X’s song “Industry Baby,” which won for best collaboration, art direction and visual effects. Harlow, Lil Nas X and Kendrick Lamar each entered the awards tied for leading nominees with seven apiece.

“This one is for the champions,” said Lil Nas X before Harlow thanked him for the collaboration on the chart-topping single.

Harlow, in addition to performing and winning awards, joined LL Cool J and Nicki Minaj as the show’s hosts.

Minaj performed a medley of her career’s biggest hits: “Roman’s Revenge,” “Chun-Li,” “Moment 4 Life,” “Beez in the Trap,” “Anaconda” and “Super Bass.” After her set, the rapper accepted the show’s Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award, which MTV has said she’s receiving for her artistry, barrier-breaking hip-hop and status as a global superstar. 

During her acceptance speech, Minaj paid tribute to other music icons such as Jackson, Whitney Houston and Lil Wayne. She spoke about the importance of mental health.

“I wish people took mental health seriously, even when you think they have the perfect lives,” said Minaj, who later won best hip-hop for her song “Do We Have a Problem?” featuring Lil Baby.

Harry Styles won album of the year for “Harry’s House.” He was unable to attend the awards due to his show at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Bad Bunny performed his hit “Titi Me Pregunto” from Yankee Stadium after he won artist of the year.

“I have been saying it and I always believed from the beginning that I could become great,” he said. “That I could become one of the biggest stars in the world without having to change my culture, my language, my jargon. I am Benito Antonio Martínez from Puerto Rico to the whole world, thank you!”

Eminem and Snoop Dogg brought the metaverse to the VMAs as the duo performed “From the D 2 The LBC,” which was featured on Eminem’s greatest hits album “Curtain Call 2.”

The Red Hot Chili Peppers took the stage as the recipients of the Global Icon award after being introduced by Cheech & Chong as their “favorite band of all time.” The band — which consists of Anthony Kiedis, Flea, Chad Smith and John Frusciante — performed several songs including their classic “Can’t Stop” from the group’s 2002 album “By the Way” and their recent hit “Black Summer,” which won best rock.

Flea made a speech about his love for human beings along with cockroaches, trees and dirt. Smith, the band’s drummer, dedicated the award to Taylor Hawkins, the Foo Fighters drummer who died earlier this year.

“I dedicate this to Taylor and his family,” he said. “I love them and I miss him every day.”

Madonna, who is the most awarded artist in MTV history with 20 wins, became the only artist to receive a nomination in each of the VMAs’ five decades. She earned her 69th nomination for her 14th studio album “Madame X.”

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Mental Health Curriculum In Schools For Children

The Biden administration is working with state school districts to offer mental health services to children K-12.

The Biden administration is looking to make good on a multi-million dollar promise to address the nation’s mental health care crisis, starting with young people. This week, thousands of students are heading back to the classroom and officials want to make sure schools have all the supplies they need and that goes beyond pencils and paper.  

Monday in Delaware marked a call to action.   

“This is a 911 moment,” said Senator Lisa Blunt Rochester.

At Nemours Children’s Health in Wilmington, administration officials and members of Congress heard from the people at the center of the mental health crisis.   

“When my school counselors found out about the way that I was feeling, they provided me with weekly scar checks, instead of providing me with the counseling that I needed due to a lack of resources,” said Andrew Celio, a student.  

The event is among a series of stops across the country, bringing attention to the $140 million set aside for schools to hire additional mental health professionals; hoping to meet kids where they are.   

It was also a chance to hear some solutions being passed in the state, like a mental health curriculum for grades K-12.  

Valerie Longhurst is a Delaware state representative. 

“It starts in Kindergarten, if you provide the services as we understand them, we break that stigma. It is okay to not be okay,” Longhurst said.  

While mental health challenges among young people have been on the rise for some time, the past few years have brought unique challenges.  

“I remember what it felt like, Andrew, to be a teenager then, pre-social media, pre-pandemic, pre-George Floyd, us witnessing a murder in front of our eyes, bullying, cyber-bulling all of these things didn’t exist then and I knew how hard it was,” said Blunt Rochester.  

According to the CDC, in 2021, 37% of high school students reported they experienced poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 44% reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness during the past year. 

“Pretty clear message that we need help; we need you. We need you now. The beauty of what we heard is that we are listening,” said Xavier Becerra, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. 

Besides the need for mental health care officials in schools; there is a specific need for bilingual and minority health providers. Senator Chris Coons told Newsy they hope to encourage more diverse students to pursue higher ed degrees in mental health, a long term goal that starts with helping people pay off student loans.

“Part of this is public service loan forgiveness. There is robust loan forgiveness available, the state of Delaware already has the inspired grants that make a 4-year education at Delaware State University almost free but there is more we can and should do,” said Coons.  

Source: newsy.com

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