‘SVU’ Boss Previews Barba’s Return, More ‘Surprise’ Guests: Sneak Peek

Barba is back! Raúl Esparza, who exited Law & Order: SVU after six seasons in 2018, returns during the Thursday, January 7, episode — and it doesn’t take long for him to get back into trouble.

In Us Weekly’s exclusive sneak peek of the winter return, Barba reunites with Carisi (Peter Scanavino), who immediately assumed that he returned to “taunt” him. In the clip, Barba asks Carisi about the case he’s landed, which he sees as a slam dunk.

However, Counselor Barba doesn’t see it the same. “I think the guy’s got a Purple Heart, titanium leg and PTS,” he tells Carisi, before noting that his charges are “negotiable.” With that, Carisi asks if Barba is representing the criminal. “I guess I am now,” he responds.

“We’d written earlier that Barba had been involved in political work last year, now that the election is (we hope) over, it was time for him to find a new purpose,” showrunner Warren Leight told Us exclusively about Barba’s return. “Many lawyers sell out and join a major firm, others go straight-up pro bono (say, working for the Innocence Project), but Barba I think both misses the action and likes the attention that this particular case brings.”

Raúl Esparza as Counselor Rafael Barba on ‘Law & Order: SVU’ NBC

The producer added that his exit wasn’t a normal one. “His departure was complicated,” Leight said. “Underneath his return there is I think a need for closure.”

Plus, bringing back Esparza, 50, was an easy task.

“Executive Producer Julie Martin and I ran into Raul on West 23rd Street, as we were leaving the stages,” the writer noted. “We asked him if he’d consider coming back. He said yes.”

It was one of the simpler tasks of the season, in fact, even though most of it has been “unbelievable complex,” he added, noting that the pandemic has affected the writing, prepping, casting, scouting, shooting and editing process. “We’ve all had to completely change every aspect of the way we work, often in mid-episode. We’re very fortunate to have an experienced team that’s been working on the show for as long as we all have. Every time a brick comes through the window (which on some days happens every ten minutes), the nearest person grabs a broom, sweeps up the glass, someone else replaces the pane, and we just keep going.”

Leight also added that there was a plan for Rick Fox to come back this season but “every time we make a plan, the COVID Gods laugh,” he told Us. “We still hope to see him back on our stage. In the meantime, fans will have to make do with Raul, Chris Meloni, Elizabeth Marvel, John Waters, Tamara Tunie, Wentworth Miller and a few other surprise returnees.”

Law & Order: SVU returns on NBC Thursday, January 7, at 10 p.m. ET.

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Abusive guests spell trouble for staff at ‘Harry Potter’ castle

The British castle that served as the exterior of Hogwarts in the first two “Harry Potter” films has been stupefied by the number of guests being rude to employees over its COVID-19 safety measures and is moving to crack down on the unruly guests.

Alnwick Castle, the second-largest inhabited castle behind Queen Elizabeth’s Windsor Castle, has traditionally attracted tourists from all over the world. But after reopening following its coronavirus-related shutdown, employees at the landmark castle say they’ve endured abusive behavior from guests who refuse to follow mandatory rules, such as wearing masks.

“We are sad to report that we are currently experiencing a high volume of verbally abusive behavior towards our stewarding staff,” said a statement on Almwick’s website.

“We understand visitors may be frustrated, but we cannot excuse abusive behaviour towards staff or other visitors.”

As a precaution, and to help stem the spread of COVID-19, certain areas of the castle have been closed and visitors must book their trip online before showing up. In addition to this new policy, masks must be worn at all times and visitors must practice social distancing.

Visitors who are heard being rude to staff or visitors will be asked to leave the castle grounds, management said.

“Abuse is not acceptable. If any visitors engage in this type of behavior, our Security team may ask you to leave the grounds.”

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Breaking New

Bears broke into a Tennessee cabin in search of food as guests hid upstairs

Michelle Eberhart told CNN that the bear opened a locked door and forced its way into the cabin on Friday morning. She and her friend were inside chatting while their husbands were out playing golf.

“She just looked up, and she was kind of making some motion and I couldn’t figure out what was going on,” Eberhart said. “So I kind of moved a little bit and saw what she was freaking out about.”

They ran upstairs and hid in a bedroom, while the bear wandered around the cabin. She said three other bears were milling around on the porch.

She thinks a second bear came inside at one point because their snouts were different colors in her pictures, but she saw only one inside at a time.

Eberhart said they didn’t have a good view of what was happening but said the bears were pretty active downstairs.

“It knocked over the trash, it knocked over a book, and it destroyed a couple of decks of cards and it scratched up a lot of stuff. There were scratches on walls and the floor,” she said. She said they didn’t damage or knock over the furniture.

The bears also ate a ton of candy and snacks that were sitting on the kitchen counter and took some of it outside.

They got away with five pounds of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, a pound of M&M’s, two pounds of Sour Patch Kids, two bags of potato chips, a tub of peanut butter pretzels and two bags of Dove salted caramel candy, Eberhart said. They also took two beers, two Diet Cokes and some of her allergy medicine.

She reached the rental cabin’s owner, who called police.

When an officer arrived and opened the door, the bear ran out of the house and jumped off a balcony, Eberhart said.

The officer shooed off the other three bears and made a temporary repair to the door, so it would stay locked until it could be fixed.

Eberhart said she saw 11 bears on Monday after their friends left. She and her husband also saw scratches on the side of the house where bears had climbed up and knocked over a grill.

She said they heard another bear trying to get into the house early Tuesday morning. Her husband scared it off.

“I did not sleep at all. It was very nerve-wracking,” she said.

They decided to get up early and drive back home to Indiana, Eberhart said.

Brown bear seen for first time in 150 years in northern Spanish park

She said they hadn’t left any food out or done anything to encourage the bears.

Rare for bears to enter homes

Matthew Cameron with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency told CNN that it is rare for bears to enter homes, but it does happen.

Cameron said the bears were probably yearling siblings that learned to look for human food from their mother.

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This time of year, he said, bears are surviving on emerging green vegetation, flowers, budding leaves, insects and their larvae.

“Unfortunately, this lack of available, natural food drives some bears to seek out human foods and engage in nuisance behavior,” he said. “This aggressive behavior will continue until the summer berries begin to ripen, but that’s still over a month away.”

Authorities haven’t had any similar reports in the area, but they have put out some traps for the bears.

Cameron said they would probably relocate the animals if they catch them.

“There is no ‘Stay at Home Order’ for wildlife during this pandemic and black bears are very active right now due to the lack of available, natural food sources,” he said in an email.

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Breaking New

4 ‘older’ guests have died on a cruise ship where 2 people tested positive for coronavirus

The statement did not provide a cause of death or say when exactly the guests died.

As of Friday, 138 people — 53 guests and 85 crew members — had reported flu-like symptoms, Holland America said in its statement. There are 1,243 guests and 586 crew members on board the ship, which is now off the coast of Panama.

On Thursday, a “number of patients with respiratory symptoms” tested for coronavirus, Holland America said, and two people were positive.

The ship is currently about eight miles off the west coast of Panama, according to the Panamanian government. Holland America said it plans to transfer healthy passengers from Zaandam to the Rotterdam ship, a sister ship, following CDC protocols. The ships exchanged medical supplies Thursday evening.

“Only those who have not been ill will be moved, and health screenings will be conducted before transferring,” the company said. Once onboard the Rotterdam, guests will remain inside their rooms until disembarking.

The Panama Canal announced Friday on Twitter the Zaandam will not be able to use the canal to get to Florida.

“If a vessel has individuals who have tested positive for Covid-19 on board, it cannot make any port operations or transit the canal,” said the statement.

The transit of any ship requires canal personnel to board the vessel to ensure a safe passage throughout the waterway, the statement says. All vessels have to comply with health regulations and the “prevention of contagious diseases,” according to Panama’s Canal and health authorities.

The cruise line’s news release said that when the ship first saw guests report flu-like symptoms on March 22, the crew took protective measures and asked all guests to self-isolate in their rooms. All guests and crew members received face masks Thursday.

Clifford Kolber, a passenger on the ship, told CNN Friday he and his wife have been in isolation on the Zaandam since Sunday. He and his wife have pre-existing conditions.

“We just want the ports in the country to help us because don’t want more people to die,” Kolber said.

Ship left Buenos Aires on March 7

The cruise line said the Zaandam departed Buenos Aires on March 7 and was originally scheduled to end its cruise at San Antonio, Chile, on March 21. The cruise line decided to end its current cruises in progress.

No one has been off the ship since March 14 in Punta Arenas, Chile, the cruise line said.

The Zaandam is not the only cruise ship in limbo because of the coronavirus. Cruise Lines International Association said at least 14 ocean-going ships worldwide are completing journeys or awaiting disembarkation.

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