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Joyous parades and parties kick off New Orleans’ Mardi Gras

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Joyous parades and parties kick off New Orleans' Mardi Gras

The lead-up to New Orleans’ annual Mardi Gras season intensifies Friday with major nighttime parades down historic St. Charles Avenue and animal lovers gathering at a venerable French Quarter restaurant to pay tribute to four-legged faux royalty.

Galatoire’s Restaurant, a fine dining fixture on Bourbon Street, will relax its jackets-required dress code and temporarily ditch its no-pets policy to host the king and queen of the Mystic Krewe of Barkus — two silver Labrador retrievers — at a morning event heralding the Sunday pet parade.

On Friday night, three parades with marching brass bands and colourful floats with costumed riders are to step off in the Uptown area. Other Friday night parades are scheduled in neighbouring Metairie, and there will be more than two dozen celebrations almost nightly until Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, which this year falls on Feb. 21.

“If you think about the complex logistics, over multiple neighbourhoods, multiple krewes, multiple law enforcement agencies — this is like Times Square on New Year’s Eve for two weeks,” Kelly Schulz of New Orleans & Company, the city tourism industry’s trade association, said during a city news conference Thursday.

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Complicating that effort has been a rise in crime and a shortage of police officers, which somewhat muted the celebration’s comeback last year. Since parades in 2021 were cancelled because of security concerns and the pandemic, some of the routes for the 2022 parades were trimmed.

This year the original routes have been restored and the local police department is bolstered by a contingent of 125 troopers from other parts of the state to help keep order. By various estimates, the local police force has dwindled to about 900 members, which is hundreds fewer than what local experts say is needed.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell and other city officials said they are confident safety can be maintained.

Joe Bikulege — co-owner of Le Bon Temps Roule, a neighbourhood bar and music club on Magazine Street — said that businesses and residents welcome the restored routes. “People get traditions and routines based around seeing certain parades,” he said in a recent interview.

“That’s been taken away for three years,” he said.

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And, Schulz said, it appears tourists are planning to return in strong numbers.

“We are seeing strong hotel bookings so far,” Schulz said. “We are seeing a lot of pent-up demand for travellers to come back to New Orleans. For many this will be their first time, since before COVID, experiencing Mardi Gras.”

Mardi Gras is the culmination of Carnival season — which officially begins each year on Jan. 6, the 12th day after Christmas, known as King’s Day, in New Orleans and closes with the arrival of Lent on Ash Wednesday.

New Orleans’ raucous celebration is the nation’s most well-known, but the holiday is also celebrated throughout much of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. Mobile, Alabama, lays claim to the oldest Mardi Gras celebration in the country.

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Kareena ignores Shahid Kapoor at award show

Kareena ignores Shahid Kapoor at award show

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Kareena ignores Shahid Kapoor at award show

The Dadasaheb Phalke International Film Festival Awards (DPIFF) 2024 took place in Mumbai on Feb 20. 

On the red carpet, exes Kareena Kapoor Khan and Shahid Kapoor had an awkward encounter, which is now going viral on social media.

It looks like Kareena ‘royally’ ignored Shahid and went on to pose for the paparazzi.

The viral video, which is now doing the rounds, shows Shahid Kapoor holding a trophy in his hands and posing with director duo Raj and DK.

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As the photo session was underway, Kareena Kapoor arrived and greeted the directors as she moved past them to pose for the paparazzi.

Shahid Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor Khan’s past relationship has always made headlines.

The two worked in superhit films like ‘Jab We Met’ and ‘Udta Punjab’. In several interviews, they have spoken about sharing a cordial relationship after they moved on with their respective lives.

But, the recent video seems to indicate otherwise.

Work-wise, Kareena Kapoor Khan will be seen next in ‘The Crew’ and ‘Singham Again’. Shahid Kapoor’s upcoming release is ‘Deva’, which is currently under production.

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Faryal Makhdoom threatens to expose ITV after CBB axe

Faryal Makhdoom threatens to expose ITV after CBB axe

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Faryal Makhdoom threatens to expose ITV after CBB axe

Faryal Makhdoom has threatened to expose ITV after she was dropped from Celebrity Big Brother, just days before the show airs.

The wife of Amir Khan was reportedly signed up for the show.

However, Faryal later said Celebrity Big Brother axed her over her pro-Palestine views on social media.

On Instagram, Faryal said: “As many of you know, I was offered to do a show for which the producers had offered me a few years ago and I had previously refused.

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“This time, they made a very lucrative offer and after a lot of convincing, I finally agreed to sign for the show.

“I also wanted to do this show to make it more inclusive for the Muslim community.

“But it seems from my social media activity and being pro-Palestine is not appropriate for ITV and its sponsors.

“Mind you, ITV and this particular show has had many controversial people on it before, but for some reason, I was singled out.

“I was told to step down 10 days before going in.

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“I have never in my life been treated like this. It’s a violation of free speech.

“This is why cowards with a huge following (especially Muslims) refuse to speak on this issue because they deprive you of opportunities and so you have no choice but to support them and stand them.

“Bear in mind, I was offered substantial money not to speak on this issue but I rejected it.

“For me, no amount of money will ever stop me from speaking on the injustice happening in Palestine.”

ITV responded and denied Faryal’s claims, with a spokesperson saying: “We meet numerous prospective housemates when casting for Celebrity Big Brother, however the final lineup is not confirmed until closer to transmission.

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“As per our welfare protocols, we are unable to comment on the casting process for individual prospective Housemates, other than to say that suitability to participate is determined by a number of factors.”

Faryal hit back, sharing what appeared to be a screenshot of her contract between herself and Celebrity Big Brother producer Banijay.

She wrote: “Attempting to downplay a situation when I have my contract right here.”

In another post, she said: “Do better with the lies ITV.

“I had gone through all of the relevant and necessary assessments, including a mental health assessment.

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George Michael honoured with UK collectible coin

George Michael honoured with UK collectible coin

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George Michael honoured with UK collectible coin

Late British singer-songwriter George Michael is being honoured with a personalised collectible coin.

Britain’s Royal Mint said on Monday the new coin, which depicts Michael wearing his trademark sunglasses, pays tribute to the music star’s 1987 hit solo single “Faith”.

Officially approved by Michael’s estate, it was designed by artist and sculptor Sandra Deiana.

“From his debut with WHAM! to becoming one of the bestselling solo musicians of all time, George Michael is a global superstar whose work has inspired and influenced generations with his music and his unique style,” said Rebecca Morgan, director of Collector Services at The Royal Mint.

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“Loved by millions of fans worldwide, we are delighted to be introducing an official UK coin celebrating his life and legacy,” she said in a statement.

Michael, who rose to stardom in the 1980s with Wham! before embarking on a successful solo career, died on Christmas Day in 2016 at the age of 53.

Wham!’s enduring 1984 festive song “Last Christmas” finally secured the “Christmas Number 1” spot for the first time on the UK music charts in December, 39 years after its release.

The new coin is the latest addition to the Royal Mint’s “Music Legends” series, which has previously honoured David Bowie, Elton John and Queen with coins, and will be available to purchase from Monday.

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