Chris Gutierrez to Fight Andrew Ewell in UFC’s Upcoming UFC 258 Event

Chris Gutierrez is stepping up, and stepping in…

The 29-year-old Guatemalan and Colombian American mixed martial artist will face off against Andrew Ewell in UFC’s UFC 258.

Chris Gutierrez

Gutierrez and Ewell were called up after a the UFC cancelled a scheduled bantamweight contender bout on Saturday between Pedro Munhoz and Jimmie Rivera due to a coronavirus-related issue, the UFC announced.

Sources said the promotion is attempting to rebook the matchup as soon as later this month.

In its place, Gutierrez and Ewell will meet in a 140-pound catchweight bout. Ewell was pulled from last Saturday’s UFC Fight Night due to a positive COVID-19 test that he said was a false positive.

Gutierrez has a 15-4-2 mixed martial arts record, including a draw in his last fight in August 2020 against Cody Durden.

Leslie Grace Teams Up with Meek Mill for Bacardi’s Remake of Gloria Estefan’s Iconic Song “Conga”

Leslie Grace is letting her body do the conga…

The 26-year-old Dominican American singer-songwriter has joined voiced with rapper Meek Mill to release a reimagining of Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine’s smash hit single “Conga.”

Leslie Grace & Meek Mill

The new version, which gives the ‘80s party banger a rhythmic-pop-urban twist, is part of Bacardi‘s “Conga Feat. You” campaign that launched in November.

“Bacardi presented this amazing plan, where they wanted me to recreate ‘Conga,’” Leslie Grace tells Billboard. “I couldn’t believe it was possible but they assured me that both Gloria and Emilio [Estefan] were on board. They wanted to entrust me with this project and I couldn’t pass on the opportunity.”

Calling the process “innovative,” Grace explained that the project originally began at the end of 2019 but was put on pause because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

“I went into the studio pre-Covid with Boi-1da. We immediately hit it off. I had written the first verse and the pre onto a loop he had sent me,” she notes. “Everything else was basically done remotely. Meek Mill jumped on the track later on after listening to the structure we built.”

The Estefans were also part of the process “every step of the way.”

Grace adds: “Everyone was really focused on maintaining the essence of this iconic track. Having their support and suggestions was beautiful. They approved every single thing on the project. This was really a labor of love and really intentional every step of the way with the original creators involved.”

“Conga” was the first Billboard Hot 100 hit for Gloria and Miami Sound Machine, peaking at No. 10 in February 1986. The song also hit No. 1 on Dance Singles Sales for one week in November 1985, and No. 7 on Dance Club Songs. The new version, at the helm of Grace, Mill, and Boi-1da, marks the first and only official remake of the original Latin dance classic in over 30 years.

“I’m a nineties baby, my generation grew up with ‘Conga’ and I grew up listening and dancing to the song in my living room,” Grace recounts. “Gloria is an inspiration to me. She’s one of the first artists I saw singing in both languages. I feel so honored and blessed to do this with Boi-1da and Meek Mill.”

Francisco Lindor Agrees to $22.3 Million Deal with New York Mets

Francisco Lindor has Mets his match…

The New York Mets have agreed to one-year contract with the 27-year-old Puerto Rican professional baseball shortstop to avoid salary arbitration.

Francisco Lindor

Lindor, who’ll earn $22.3 million, was acquired from Cleveland Indians last week along with starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco in a blockbuster trade that excited Mets fans.

New York parted with young infielders Andres Gimenez and Amed Rosario plus two minor leaguers in a deal that signaled the club is serious about paying for star players and contending immediately under new owner Steve Cohen.

The next step will be trying to keep Lindor beyond this year. The four-time MLB All-Star shortstop said he’s not opposed to signing a long-term contract with the Mets. He said he wouldn’t want to negotiate after the start of spring training, though.

Lindor had a down year at the plate during the coronavirus pandemic-shortened season. He batted .258 with eight homers, 27 RBI and a .750 OPS while starting all 60 games and earning just more than $6.48 million prorated from his $17.5 million salary.

Michael Conforto has also agreed to a deal with the Mets…

The 27-year-old half-Puerto Rican professional baseball outfielder will get $12.25 million in his final year before potentially becoming a free agent.

Conforto, who turns 28 in March, has become a steady and productive staple in the middle of New York’s dangerous lineup. He batted a career-best .322 in 54 games last season with nine homers, 31 RBIs and a .927 OPS. The slugging right fielder also scored 40 runs, played solid defense and was selected second team All-MLB. He made $2,962,963 prorated from an $8 million salary.

Conforto was drafted 10th overall by the Mets in 2014 out of Oregon State and helped them reach the World Series as a rookie the following season. The 2017 All-Star can become a free agent after the upcoming season and is represented by Scott Boras. Tthe Mets have said they’re interested in talking to Conforto about a long-term contract — and he sounded open to the idea. But this late in the game, reaching an agreement before he hits the open market could prove challenging.

Edwin Díaz has agreed to $7 million in his second year. Seth Lugo agreed to $2,925,000.

The hard-throwing Díaz was so awful in 2019 during his first season with the Mets that he lost his job as closer and got booed repeatedly at Citi Field. He got off to a rough start again last year but rediscovered the nasty fastball-slider combination that helped him lead the majors with 57 saves as a 2018 MLB All-Star for the Seattle Mariners.

The right-hander finished 2-1 with a 1.75 ERA and six saves in 26 appearances. He struck out a whopping 50 batters against 14 walks in 25 2/3 innings, reclaiming his ninth-inning role. Perhaps most important, he gave up only two home runs after serving up 15 in 58 innings the year before.

Díaz, who turns 27 in March, made $1,888,889 in prorated pay last season from his $5.1 million salary.

Lugo wound up back in an injury-depleted rotation last season because the Mets needed help there. The versatile right-hander prefers to start but has been more effective as a reliever the last few years. He went 3-4 with a 5.15 ERA and three saves in 16 games, including seven starts.

The 31-year-old Puerto Rican baseball player, a 34th-round draft pick out of Centenary College in Louisiana, earned a prorated $740,741 from his $2 million salary last season. Until the Mets finish assembling their pitching staff, it’s uncertain whether Lugo will be in the bullpen or rotation to begin the season.

Javy Baez Avoids Arbitration with Chicago Cubs with $11.65 Million Deal

Javy Baez has 11 million reasons to smile…

The Chicago Cubs avoided arbitration with the 28-year-old Puerto Rican professional baseball shortstop, nicknamed “El Mago,” who will be a free agent after 2021.

Javy Baez

Baez settled with the team for $11.65 million.

He’s coming off subpar 2020 campaign. Baez hit .203 with eight home runs.

Baez is likely to stick with the Cubs long term before he hits the open market. He was negotiating with the team last March before the league shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic. Those talks have not reignited yet but should pick up again in spring training.

The Cubs also settled on a 2021 salary for catcher Willson Contreras for $6.65 million.

Manuel Garcia-Rulfo to Star in Netflix’s Drama Series “The Lincoln Lawyer”

Manuel Garcia-Rulfo is ready to represent…

Netflix has given a series order to The Lincoln Lawyer, a drama based on Michael Connelly’s series of bestselling novels, starring the 39-year-old Mexican actor.

Manuel Garcia-Rulfo

Hailing from David E. Kelley and A+E Studios, this is a new incarnation of the project, which originally was set up at CBS with a series production commitment last season.

Garcia-Rulfo has been tapped to play the titular character in the Netflix series as it honors the story’s Latinx origins.

“I’m excited to announce that after a bit of a journey, Mickey Haller will come to life once again on screen — this time in the TV series adaptation of The Lincoln Lawyer coming to Netflix and starring the wonderful and talented Manuel Garcia-Rulfo,” Connelly said in blog post tied to the pickup.

With the casting of Garcia-Rulfo, Mickey Haller will stay true to the character as depicted in Connelly’s books. (In the CBS version, the role was to be played by Logan Marshall-Green; in the 2011 movie, the character was portrayed by Matthew McConaughey.)

“Manuel is the ideal Mickey Haller, who is following in the footsteps of his attorney father with the showmanship of his Mexican movie star mother,” Connelly wrote. “He brings a powerful dynamic and dimension to the role — one that aligns with the books and brings authenticity to the Latinx heritage and roots of this Los Angeles-based story.”

The 10-episode first season is based on the second book in The Lincoln Lawyer series, The Brass Verdict.

Written and executive produced by Kelley and showrunner Ted Humphrey used this source for the story of The Lincoln Lawyer revolves around Mickey Haller (Garcia-Rulfo), an iconoclastic idealist, who runs his law practice out of the back seat of his Lincoln Town Car, as he takes on cases big and small across the expansive city of Los Angeles.

The Lincoln Lawyer series will be adapted to serve up the complex and mysterious arcs fans know and love with a mix of light-hearted humor and a dose of family dynamics,” Connelly said.

The creative team of the project remains the same as it was for the CBS version, with Kelley and Humphrey executive producing alongside Connelly and Ross Fineman (Goliath, Big Sky).

On-screen, two roles are being recast: Mickey and Lorna, his second ex-wife and constant confidante, who was to be played by Kiele Sanchez on CBS. A search is underway for a director.

At CBS, The Lincoln Lawyer was picked up to pilot, which was days away from starting production when the coronavirus pandemic shut down all filming in March. After CBS’ surprise May decision not to go forward with the high-profile project, A+E Studios immediately took it it out to streamers. (The show’s serialized storytelling was considered better suited for a digital platform than a traditional network.)

While different suitors were rumored, including Amazon Prime Video, which has the long-running series Bosch, centered on Mickey’s half-brother, serious conversation with Netflix started over the summer.

The Lincoln Lawyer reunites Garcia-Rulfo with Kelley and Fineman after he had a major recurring role on Prime Video’s Goliath, co-created/exec produced by Kelley and exec produced by Fineman. The Lincoln Lawyer and Goliath are two of the many legal series Kelley, an attorney by trade, has created/co-created. The list also includes the Emmy-winning The Practice and Ally McBeal

Garcia-Rulfo is best known for his role as Vasquez in The Magnificent Seven remake and Gallo in Sicario: Day of the Soldado. He recently was seen in features Greyhound and 6 Undergroundand his television credits also include From Dusk to Dawn: The Series.

The Lincoln Lawyer book series launched in 2009. The latest, sixth installment, The Law of Innocence, was published in November, seven years after the fifth novel.

Pope Francis to Receive COVID-19 Vaccination

Pope Francis is next in line to get a COVID-19 vaccination…

The 84-year-old head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State has announced that the Vatican will begin COVID-19 vaccinations next week and that he’ll receive the shot.

Pope Francis

The pontiff made the comments during an interview with Italy’s Canale 5 channel, set to air on Sunday night.

“It is an ethical duty to take the vaccine, here in the Vatican we will start next week, I am also in line to take it,” he said, according to a news anchor for the channel in a preview of the interview, which was released Saturday.

The full interview, which took place in the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican, will air on Sunday at 2.40 p.m. ET (8.40 p.m. local time), according to a press release.

In December, the Vatican deemed that it was morally acceptable to be vaccinated against COVID-19, after some anti-abortion groups raised concerns about how the vaccines were manufactured.

Some groups had suggested the coronavirus vaccines were made using cells from aborted fetuses. The cells are actually engineered and grown in labs from tissue acquired many decades ago, and are not made directly from aborted fetuses.

“It is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process,” the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said in a note approved by Francis.

The statement was issued and signed by the head of the Congregation in response to several requests for guidelines regarding the use of the vaccine.

The pontiff used his recent Christmas message to say that coronavirus vaccines must be available for all, and pleaded with states to cooperate in the race to emerge from the pandemic.

Eva Noblezada Among Broadway Stars to Guest Star on NBC’s “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” While Curtains Remain Closed

There’s some law and order in Eva Noblezada’s future…

The half-Mexican American actress and Broadway star will appear on next week’s episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

The Tony Award-nominated Hadestown actor is among several Broadway stars who will appear on the long-running series.

“We are trying to hire every Broadway actor we can while we and they wait for the curtains to rise again,” says showrunner Warren Leight to Deadline.com.

“We know how hard the community has been hit here. The goal is to get as many jobs to as many theater actors as we possibly can.”

The National Endowment for the Arts recently released figures indicating that while the overall unemployment rate has averaged 8.5 percent, the average among actors was 52 percent. (The figures do not distinguish between Broadway, film and TV performers.)

The NBC New York-based Law & Order franchise has long been known as a steady source of employment for the city’s theater performers – rare is the stage actor whose Playbill credits don’t include at least one of the L&O series – but the coronavirus pandemic has pushed Leight’s team to ramp up even those efforts for the current Season 22.

Stage actors already cast in parts for this season include the Tony-winning Adriane Lenox, Elizabeth Marvel, Jane Bruce, Jelani Alladin, Michael Mastro and Betsy Aidem.

Even Raúl Esparza, a four-time Tony nominee known to the wider television audience for his six-season SVU run as Assistant D.A. Rafael Barba, is making a temporary franchise comeback to reprise the role for this week’s episode “Sightless in a Savage Land.”

Leight says the Broadway-filled roles range in scope from one-day parts to more substantial turns, but have an important practical impact for the actors, adding to the work day minimums required for Actors Equity-Broadway League health insurance.

The casting offers a significant logistical benefit to the show as well: casting New York actors is the more practical and efficient option during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the prospect of long-distance flights from Hollywood and required quarantine protocols can complicate using Los Angeles-based actors.

“In the past we’ve done what you could call Hollywood stunt casting,” Leight says, “but a lot of those players aren’t going to be willing to get on a plane and quarantine right now. We realized early on that we’ll have to cast locally much more.”

The Broadway shutdown also allows the show to get around the planning issues that Broadway’s usual performance schedule demands: Coordinating a shoot around the identical eight-performance weeks of working stage actors is daunting. There’s only so much guest-starring that can be crammed into a dark Broadway Monday.

President-Elect Joe Biden Nominates Miguel Cardona to Serve as U.S. Secretary of Education

Miguel Cardona could soon be helping the nation’s children get back into the classroom…

President-elect Joe Biden has nominated the Puerto Rican educator and politician to serve as U.S. Secretary of Education in his cabinet, calling the Puerto Rican politician, Connecticut’s education commissioner, “brilliant” and saying he’ll play a key role in his administration’s efforts to reopen schools forced online amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Miguel Cardona

Cardona, whose parents moved from Puerto Rico to Connecticut, would be another high-profile Latino in the Cabinet if confirmed by the US Senate.

Biden said Cardona “understands that the deep roots of inequity that exist as a source of our persistent opportunities gaps. He understands the transformative power that comes from investing in education.”

Cardona said that as an education commissioner, a public school parent and a former public school classroom teacher, he understands how challenging this year has been for students, educators and parents.

“It’s taken some of our most painful, longstanding disparities and wrenched them open even wider,” Cardona said, speaking publicly for the first time as Biden’s nominee. He said that “for too many students, your zip code and your skin color remain the best predictor of the opportunities you’ll have in your lifetime.”

He added, “Though we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, we also know that this crisis is ongoing, that we will carry its impacts for years to come and that the problems and inequities that have plagued our educational system since long before Covid will still be with us even after the virus is gone.”

Biden on Wednesday reiterated that reopening schools safely would be a national priority for his administration and spoke of the challenges that students, educators and administrators have faced amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“They worry. They’re under stress. They stretch local budgets that have left educators out of work,” Biden said.

Cardona was appointed Connecticut’s commissioner of education by Democratic Governor Ned Lamont in August 2019. He came to the role with two decades of experience as a public school educator from the city of Meriden, according to the state’s government website, after beginning his career as an elementary school teacher and later serving for 10 years as a school principal.

In 2013, Cardona became the assistant superintendent for teaching and learning.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus had urged the President-elect to select him.

Xavier Becerra Emerges as Contender to Lead Department of Health and Human Services

Xavier Becerra could be heading to The District in the coming year…

The 62-year-old Mexican American politician and current California Attorney General has emerged as a key contender to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, according to sources familiar with the process, as President-elect Joe Biden weighs who to tap for a role that will be critical to his administration’s efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Xavier Becerra

The HHS secretary position has been a source of intrigue and confusion this week, with New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo being mentioned as contenders. Raimondo has said she’s no longer a candidate and Lujan Grisham’s status is now unclear.

 

But on Friday people close to the matter said Becerra has emerged as a “contender of interest” for the post. He’s also a top candidate for attorney general.

 

Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm has also been mentioned as a potential pick to lead Health and Human Services, but the sources said she is being eyed for other posts as well.

 

News of Becerra’s emergence comes as Biden faces increasing pressure to deliver on his promise to build out a diverse Cabinet. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has said it wants Lujan Grisham to be Biden’s HHS secretary and has pushed Biden to select Becerra or Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez as attorney general. Members of the caucus expressed frustration in a meeting with leaders of Biden’s transition team on Thursday over how they believe Lujan Grisham has been treated in the Cabinet selection process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki said earlier Friday that the transition team will announce key members of the President-elect’s health team early next week.

 

Bad Bunny to Release “El Último Tour del Mundo,” His Third Album of 2020

And the music just keeps coming from Bad Bunny

The 26-year-old Puerto Rican Latin trap and reggaeton singerhas announced his third album of 2020: the 16-track El Último Tour del Mundo.

Bad Bunny

The new album follows March’s YHLQMDLG and May’s Las Que No Iban a Salir. The record will debut on Friday, November 27, and features songs with Rosalía, Jhay Cortez, and ABRA.

2020 has been a banner year for Bad Bunny. Back in January, before dropping YHLQMDLG, he shared the Kobe Bryant tribute song “6 Rings.”The following month, he played in the 2020 NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. Soon after, YHLQMDLG debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200and became the highest-charting Spanish-language albumever.

In April, once the coronavirus sent the world into lockdown, Bad Bunny participated in a Saturday Night Live sketch called “Big Papi Cooking Show.” He played “Big Bunny” and tried to sell viewers “big ass pots” and sweatpants.

Later in the year, in September, Bad Bunny performed an excellent livestream concert on Univision’s Uforia platform. Soon after, he brought Ivy Queen and Nesi with him to the Billboard Music Awards to perform “Yo Perreo Sola.” He then performed “Bichiyal” and “Si veo a tu mamá” at the 2020 Latin Grammy Awards, where he won Best Reggaeton Performance. Bad Bunny was set to sing “Dákiti” at the American Music Awards, but was forced to cancel his performance after testing positive for COVID-19.

Earlier this week, Bad Bunny was nominated for Best Latin Pop or Urban Album (YHLQMDLG) and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance (“Un Día (One Day)”) at the 2021 Grammy Awards.