Elton John to play Glastonbury as epic tour draws to close

Elton John to play Glastonbury as epic tour draws to close

LONDON (AP) — Elton John is scheduled to perform at the Glastonbury Festival in June, in what organizers say will be his farewell show in Britain.

The festival announced Friday that the star will play the 2023 festival’s final night on June 25.

The festival tweeted: “We are incredibly excited to announce that the one and only @EltonOfficial will headline the Pyramid Stage on Sunday night at Glastonbury 2023, for what will be the final U.K. show of his last ever tour.”

Glastonbury draws upwards of 200,000 people to Worthy Farm in southwest Engand to see dozens of the world’s biggest stars. Last year’s lineup included Billie Eilish, Ziggy Marley, Foals, Kendrick Lamar, Olivia Rodrigo and Paul McCartney — at 80 the festival’s oldest-ever headliner.

John will be 76 when he plays Glastonbury.

John ended the North American leg of his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour last month with a show at L.A.’s Dodger Stadium — the site of two career-highlight gigs in 1975 — that featured guests including Dua Lipa, Kiki Dee and Brandi Carlile.

The valedictory tour began in September 2018 in Pennsylvania with the first of 300-plus dates scheduled worldwide. It was suspended in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and resumed in 2021 in New Orleans.

The final leg of the tour will include dates in Australia, New Zealand and Europe next year. It is set to conclude in Stockholm, Sweden in July.

FILE – Elton John performs on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Friday, Sept. 23, 2022. Elton John is scheduled to perform at the Glastonbury Festival in June, in what organizers say will be his last-ever show in Britain. The festival announced Friday, Dec. 2, 2022 that the star will play the 2023 festival’s final night on June 25 (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

New Nassau county area code to launch in January

New Nassau county area code to launch in January

The new Nassau county 363 area code is set to launch in January
Phone service carriers can begin assigning 363 to the start of new phone numbers issued in Nassau County at some point after the area code goes into service Jan. 20.
For more than 70 years, 516 has been the only area code assigned to Nassau County. Now, the public has a new set of numbers to learn: 363.
The new area code became necessary once it was determined that all 10-digit phone numbers in the 516 area code would soon be depleted.

Suffolk gas tax holiday expires

Suffolk gas tax holiday expires

Gas in Suffolk County could go up now that the county’s gas tax holiday is no longer in effect.

The tax break started in June when gas prices were around $5 per gallon.

The holiday was saving drivers a few cents on each gallon of gas.

Tax breaks from New York state and Nassau County are both still in effect, but they are set to expire at the end of the year.

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Congress votes to avert rail strike

Congress votes to avert rail strike

WASHINGTON (AP) — Legislation to avert what could have been an economically ruinous freight rail strike won final approval in Congress on Thursday as lawmakers responded quickly to President Joe Biden’s call for federal intervention in a long-running labor dispute.

The Senate passed a bill to bind rail companies and workers to a proposed settlement that was reached between the rail companies and union leaders in September. That settlement had been rejected by four of the 12 unions involved, creating the possibility of a strike beginning Dec. 9.

The Senate vote was 80-15. It came one day after the House voted to impose the agreement. The measure now goes to Biden’s desk for his signature.

“Congress’ decisive action ensures that we will avoid the impending, devastating economic consequences for workers, families, and communities across the country,” Biden said in a statement after the vote.

“Communities will maintain access to clean drinking water. Farmers and ranchers will continue to be able to bring food to market and feed their livestock. And hundreds of thousands of Americans in a number of industries will keep their jobs,” Biden said. “I will sign the bill into law as soon as Congress sends it to my desk.”
The Senate voted shortly after Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg emphasized to Democratic senators in a meeting at the Capitol that rail companies would begin shutting down operations well before a potential strike would begin. The administration wanted the bill on Biden’s desk by the weekend.

FILE – A CSX freight train travels through Alexandria, Va., Sept. 15, 2022. The Biden administration is saying the U.S. economy would face a severe economic shock if senators don’t pass legislation this week to avert a rail worker strike. The administration is delivering that message personally to Democratic senators in a closed-door session Thursday, Dec. 1. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf, File)

MTA could raise subway and bus fares

MTA could raise subway and bus fares

The MTA proposed a $19.2 billion budget Wednesday that requires massive cost-cutting and fare increases that could potentially see the cost of a subway or bus ride rise above $3.

The agency would still have a $600 million budget gap with the plan.

Ridership on subways and buses are still only about 60% of pre-pandemic levels.

(AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

House votes to avert rail strike, impose deal on unions

House votes to avert rail strike, impose deal on unions

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. House moved urgently to head off the looming nationwide rail strike on Wednesday, passing a bill that would bind companies and workers to a proposed settlement that was reached in September but rejected by some of the 12 unions involved.

The measure passed by a vote of 290-137 and now heads to the Senate. If approved there, it will be signed by President Joe Biden, who urged the Senate to act swiftly.

“Without the certainty of a final vote to avoid a shutdown this week, railroads will begin to halt the movement of critical materials like chemicals to clean our drinking water as soon as this weekend,” Biden said. “Let me say that again: without action this week, disruptions to our auto supply chains, our ability to move food to tables, and our ability to remove hazardous waste from gasoline refineries will begin.”

Business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Farm Bureau Federation have warned that halting rail service would cause a devastating $2 billion per day hit to the economy.

The bill would impose a compromise labor agreement brokered by the Biden administration that was ultimately voted down by four of the 12 unions representing roughly 115,000 employees at large freight railroads. The unions have threatened to strike if an agreement can’t be reached before a Dec. 9 deadline.

Lawmakers from both parties expressed reservations about overriding the negotiations. And the intervention was particularly difficult for Democratic lawmakers who have traditionally sought to align themselves with the politically powerful labor unions that criticized Biden’s move to intervene in the contract dispute and block a strike.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to that concern by adding a second vote Wednesday that would add seven days of paid sick leave per year for rail workers covered under the agreement. However, it will take effect only if the Senate goes along and passes both measures. The House passed the sick leave measure as well, but by a much narrower margin, 221-207, as Republicans overwhelmingly opposed it, indicating that prospects for passage of the add-on are slim in the evenly divided Senate.

Business groups and the Association of American Railroads trade association praised the House vote to block the strike but urged senators to resist adding sick time to the deal.

“Unless Congress wants to become the de facto endgame for future negotiations, any effort to put its thumb on the bargaining scale to artificially advantage either party, or otherwise obstruct a swift resolution, would be wholly irresponsible,” said Ian Jefferies, head of the AAR.

On the other hand, the Transportation Trades Department labor coalition that includes all the rail unions praised the vote to add sick time and told lawmakers who voted against it they had “abandoned your working class constituents.”

The call for more paid sick leave was a major sticking point in the talks along with other quality-of-life concerns. The railroads say the unions have agreed in negotiations over the decades to forgo paid sick time in favor of higher wages and strong short-term disability benefits.

Jefferies said Tuesday that railroads would consider adding paid sick time in the future, but said that change should wait for a new round of negotiations instead of being added now, near the end of three years of contract talks.

The unions maintain that railroads can easily afford to add paid sick time at a time when they are recording record profits. Several of the big railroads involved in these contract talks reported more than $1 billion profit in the third quarter.

“Quite frankly, the fact that paid leave is not part of the final agreement between railroads and labor is, in my opinion, obscene,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass. “It should be there and I hope it will be there at the end of this process.”

Most rail workers don’t receive any paid sick time, but they do have short-term disability benefits that kick in after as little as four days and can replace some of their income for a year or more. Rail workers also receive vacation and personal leave days, but workers say it’s difficult to use those for illnesses because they must typically be approved far ahead of time.

Republicans also voiced support for the measure to block the strike, but criticized the Biden administration for turning to Congress to “step in to fix the mess.”

“They’ve retreated in failure and they kicked this problem to Congress for us to decide,” said Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo.

Republicans criticized Pelosi’s decision to add the sick leave bill to the mix. They said the Biden administration’s own special board of arbitrators recommended higher wages to compensate the unions for not including sick time in its recommendations.

“Why do we even have the system set up the way it is if Congress is going to come in and make changes to all of the recommendations?” Graves said.

Pelosi sought to position Democrats and the Biden administration as defenders of unions and slammed the rail companies, saying they’ve slashed jobs, increased worker hours and cut corners on safety. But she said Congress needed to intervene.

“Families wouldn’t be able to buy groceries or life-saving medications because it would be even more expensive and perishable goods would spoil before reaching shelves,” Pelosi said.

The compromise agreement that was supported by the railroads and a majority of the unions provides for 24% raises and $5,000 in bonuses retroactive to 2020 along with one additional paid leave day. The raises would be the biggest rail workers have received in more than four decades. Workers would have to pay a larger share of their health insurance costs, but their premiums would be capped at 15% of the total cost of the insurance plan. The agreement did not resolve workers’ concerns about schedules that make it hard to take a day off and the lack of more paid sick time.

On several past occasions, Congress has intervened in labor disputes by enacting legislation to delay or prohibit railway and airline strikes.

FILE – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., right, listens as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., left, speaks to reporters at the White House in Washington, Nov. 29, 2022, about their meeting with President Joe Biden. Congress is moving swiftly to prevent a looming U.S. rail workers strike. Lawmakers are reluctantly intervening in a labor dispute to stop what would surely be a devastating blow to the nation’s economy if the transportation of fuel, food and other critical goods was disrupted (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Christine McVie, Fleetwood Mac singer-songwriter, dies at 79

Christine McVie, Fleetwood Mac singer-songwriter, dies at 79

NEW YORK (AP) — Christine McVie, the British-born Fleetwood Mac vocalist, songwriter and keyboard player whose cool, soulful contralto helped define such classics as “You Make Loving Fun,” “Everywhere” and “Don’t Stop,” has died at age 79.

Her death was announced Wednesday on the band’s social media accounts. No cause of death or other details were immediately provided, but a family statement said she “passed away peacefully at hospital this morning” with family around her after a “short illness.”

“She was truly one-of-a-kind, special and talented beyond measure,” the band’s statement reads in part.

McVie was a steady presence and personality in a band known for its frequent lineup changes and volatile personalities — notably fellow singer-songwriters Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.

Fleetwood Mac started out as a London blues band in the 1960s, and evolved into one of the defining makers of 1970s California pop-rock, with the combined talents of McVie, Nicks and Buckingham anchored by the rhythm section of founder Mick Fleetwood on drums and John McVie on bass.

During its peak commercial years, from 1975-80, the band sold tens of millions of records and was an ongoing source of fascination for fans as it transformed personal battles into melodic, compelling songs. McVie herself had been married to John McVie, and their breakup — along with the split of Nicks and Buckingham — was famously documented on the 1977 release “Rumours,” among the bestselling albums of all time.

Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. The group’s many other hit singles included Nicks’ “Dreams,” Buckingham’s “Go Your Own Way” and McVie’s “Little Lies.” One of McVie’s most beloved works, the thoughtful ballad “Songbird,” was a showcase for her in concert and covered by Willie Nelson, among others.

McVie, born Christine Perfect in Bouth, Lancashire, had been playing piano since childhood, but set aside her classical training once she heard early rock records by Fats Domino and others.

While studying at the Moseley School of Art, she befriended various members of Britain’s emerging blues scene and, in her 20s, joined the band Chicken Shack as a singer and piano player. Among the rival bands she admired was Fleetwood Mac, which then featured the talents of blues guitarist Peter Green along with the rhythm section of Fleetwood and McVie. By 1970, she had joined the group and married John McVie.

Few bands succeeded so well as Fleetwood Mac, against such long odds. Green was among the many performers who left the group, and at various times Fleetwood Mac seemed on the verge of ending, or fading away. More recently, Buckingham was kicked out, replaced on tour by Mike Campbell and Neil Finn.

McVie herself left for years, only to return for good in 2014.

FILE – Christine McVie from the band Fleetwood Mac performs at Madison Square Garden in New York on Oct. 6, 2014. McVie, the soulful British musician who sang lead on many of Fleetwood Mac’s biggest hits, has died at 79. The band announced her death on social media Wednesday. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)

Christine McVie, Fleetwood Mac singer-songwriter, dies at 79

Christine McVie, Fleetwood Mac singer-songwriter, dies at 79

NEW YORK (AP) — Christine McVie, the British-born Fleetwood Mac vocalist, songwriter and keyboard player whose cool, soulful contralto helped define such classics as “You Make Loving Fun,” “Everywhere” and “Don’t Stop,” has died at age 79.

Her death was announced Wednesday on the band’s social media accounts. No cause of death or other details were immediately provided, but a family statement said she “passed away peacefully at hospital this morning” with family around her after a “short illness.”

“She was truly one-of-a-kind, special and talented beyond measure,” the band’s statement reads in part.

McVie was a steady presence and personality in a band known for its frequent lineup changes and volatile personalities — notably fellow singer-songwriters Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.

Fleetwood Mac started out as a London blues band in the 1960s, and evolved into one of the defining makers of 1970s California pop-rock, with the combined talents of McVie, Nicks and Buckingham anchored by the rhythm section of founder Mick Fleetwood on drums and John McVie on bass.

During its peak commercial years, from 1975-80, the band sold tens of millions of records and was an ongoing source of fascination for fans as it transformed personal battles into melodic, compelling songs. McVie herself had been married to John McVie, and their breakup — along with the split of Nicks and Buckingham — was famously documented on the 1977 release “Rumours,” among the bestselling albums of all time.

Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. The group’s many other hit singles included Nicks’ “Dreams,” Buckingham’s “Go Your Own Way” and McVie’s “Little Lies.” One of McVie’s most beloved works, the thoughtful ballad “Songbird,” was a showcase for her in concert and covered by Willie Nelson, among others.

McVie, born Christine Perfect in Bouth, Lancashire, had been playing piano since childhood, but set aside her classical training once she heard early rock records by Fats Domino and others.

While studying at the Moseley School of Art, she befriended various members of Britain’s emerging blues scene and, in her 20s, joined the band Chicken Shack as a singer and piano player. Among the rival bands she admired was Fleetwood Mac, which then featured the talents of blues guitarist Peter Green along with the rhythm section of Fleetwood and McVie. By 1970, she had joined the group and married John McVie.

Few bands succeeded so well as Fleetwood Mac, against such long odds. Green was among the many performers who left the group, and at various times Fleetwood Mac seemed on the verge of ending, or fading away. More recently, Buckingham was kicked out, replaced on tour by Mike Campbell and Neil Finn.

McVie herself left for years, only to return for good in 2014.

FILE – Christine McVie from the band Fleetwood Mac performs at Madison Square Garden in New York on Oct. 6, 2014. McVie, the soulful British musician who sang lead on many of Fleetwood Mac’s biggest hits, has died at 79. The band announced her death on social media Wednesday. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)

Big Duck lighting postponed due to weather

Big Duck lighting postponed due to weather

The annual Big Duck lighting in Flanders originally scheduled for tonight has been postponed until Thursday due to weather.

The holiday tradition will take place at the same time from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

This is the 34th year the tradition is taking place.

Photograph by Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net)

Big Duck lighting postponed due to weather

Big Duck lighting postponed due to weather

The annual Big Duck lighting in Flanders originally scheduled for tonight has been postponed until Thursday due to weather.

The holiday tradition will take place at the same time from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

This is the 34th year the tradition is taking place.

Photograph by Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net)